Reason 23 to Avoid Hollywood Movies

As if there aren’t enough reasons to avoid your local multiplex:

While at the cinema yesterday, I read a notice posted by the box office that Paramount has intentionally silenced bits of the soundtrack of _Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull_ in order to deter and track piracy. The notice acknowledged that the momentary silences were annoying but that it was out of their control. Basically it said, please don’t bug the manager if the sound drops out, unless it lasts more than a minute.
[From Boing Boing: Paramount Silencing]

It’s like the film industry wants us to stop buying their product. If spending money on something doesn’t ensure a better experience than a pirated version than what incentive do I have to pay for that experience? You spend money going to see something at the movies because you want a certain type of experience and you expect a level of professionalism and quality that you don’t necessarily expect from a pirated avi version of a movie. But if they are going to screw around with what is supposed to be the best way to watch an exciting, over-the-top, action flick, then I saw we stop going to the damn movies until these idiots realize that punishing paying customers does nothing to reduce piracy.

Moving Beyond Object Fetishism

Ok, not really: I still want to have my cds & dvds & books & vinyl displayed in nicely neat, alphabetical or genre categories so that I can peruse & browse & yes, show them off.

Considering that I have roughly 475 cds and 500 books (here in my NY apt, I probably have another 400 – 550 books in my parents’ attic), these individual objects combine to create a collection, a library. And someday I’ll have the room to display them as such. For the immediate future, however, I’m going (almost) all digital: having spent most of Memorial Day weekend ripping cds, I plan to rip maybe 5 or 6 of my favorite movies (to supplement a number of already digitized movies & tv series that are sitting on my external hard drive), and pack up all my books (except for a few that are pertinent to the Living Theatre research paper I’m still working on – will probably get myself down to 2 boxes . . . ok, probably 3 boxes for the trip out to New Mexico), and then will store them at my parents’ house for, well, the foreseeable future. Depending on how well the iPhone might work as a pdf reader, the bulk of my upcoming book purchases may very well be digital as well.

Which is rather amazing if I stop to think about it. The ability to have all of that stuff on a hard drive that takes up less space then 10 cds may seem normal these days, but upon reflection it’s still pretty damn cool! And, in the end, I’m looking forward to not carrying all this stuff with me – although in part that is probably because I know that it is a temporary situation and that someday, hopefully in the next 5 years, I’ll find where I want to live and settled down to a place that has the room for my library of books and media to be displayed and categorized and organized. Till then, however, it’s a hard drive life.

With backups . . . oh yes, plenty of backups!!

Of Themes & Frustrations

My current theme doesn’t load properly in IE7. Now, I don’t use IE7 and don’t recommend that anyone use IE7, but I also don’t want to have people visiting my site and seeing it look like crap just because they are using a dumb browser that isn’t standards compliant.

So I’m on the search, for either finding someone to look at the CSS and help me fix it, or for a theme that loads properly across all the browsers.

The search for the perfect theme continues . . .

Of Things Read & Seen & Heard

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“Four And Twenty Blackbirds” (Cherie Priest)

Summary: Eden sees ghosts, but the three that haunt her life most are benevolent guardians killed in a tragedy long before Eden was born. When she goes on a quest to find out about the mother and father she never knew, Eden finds that her own story begins in the mid 1800s and is born out of blood and magic and death . . . and the story is far from over.

Response: Overall, I enjoyed this book and recommend it if you like ghost stories, but I have to admit that I started off expecting it to be a bit more moody and atmospheric than the story turns out to be. The first twenty or so pages primed me for something elegiac, a Bradburyesque story of ghosts and childhood, of fear and difference. And while there are some genuinely spooky moments throughout, the story takes a turn toward mystery/action that I found somewhat disconcerting. Ms. Priest offers no great twists or turns in this novel, and I found myself being slightly ahead of Eden when it came to figuring out what was going on. Still, Eden is a fun protagonist, tough and self-deprecating and sarcastic. A fun read, but not quite as introspective and interesting as I expected from the opening chapter.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

 

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Summary: Boy breaks piggy-bank, buys prostitute, is abandoned by uptight father and adopted by the old shop-owner across the street who teaches the boy about life and the Koran and then dies. Boy grows up to be shop-owner and thus the cycle continues.

Response: The acting is quite good, but the film just doesn’t really go anywhere new. Oh sure, the sixteen-year old buying his first sexual experience is cute, but the everything in the film feels so clean and well kept, despite the fact that Momo and his father are supposed to be living in a seedy area of town. The ending feels cheap and convenient. The structure felt jerky and haphazard and would have benefited by letting the audience know that the entire story was being “told” by the older version of himself (who is introduced only in the final scene). I found myself thinking “it’s Karate Kid with Islam instead of karate.” Partly because the kid playing Momo looked a little like Ralph Macchio and partly because the story of a dispossessed kid taken in by an older mentor was being painted pretty much by the numbers here.

The acting really was good though, and Omar Sharif is a joy to watch – so if you are a fan of his, I would totally recommend this movie. But if you aren’t, I wouldn’t bother.

Rating: 5 out of 10

 

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If you like Death Cab for Cutie, then you’ll like this album. If you don’t, then you probably won’t. And if you haven’t really listened to them much, I would probably recommend you start with either “Transatlanticism” or “Plans”, both of which I think are stronger albums. However, Narrow Stairs is a solid album and offers up Ben Gibbard’s typical themes of loss, loneliness and the desperate separation between people that are the staple of his songwriting. What puts him above many other songwriters in “hip” and “cool” alternative bands, is the attention to detail in his lyrics. This is apparent from the first track “Bixby Canyon Ridge” when he sings
I descended a dusty gravel ridge / Beneath the Bixby Canyon Bridge / Until I eventually arrived / At the place where your soul had died. / Barefoot in the shallow creek, / I grabbed some stones from underneath / And waited for you to speak to me.
Gibbard is most masterful when evoking scenes and images with this lyrics, bringing you along to the place of the song and not just the feelings of it. In fact, when he writes more broadly he looses a lot of his power and you get songs like “Talking Bird” and lines like:
And you’re kept in an open cage / So you’re free to leave or stay. / Sometimes you get confused / Like there’s a hint i am trying to give you. / The longer you think, the less you know what to do.
But while there are a few songs that don’t highlight Gibbard’s best, overall the album invites the listener into a series of scenes and lives that evoke recognition of those scenes and moments in our own lives when we are trying to reach out to people we’ve lost, or express ourselves to people we love, or admit to our own sense of mortality. Some of my favorite lines include:
“She holds her smile like someone would hold a crying child” (“Cath”) “I’ve been slipping through the years / My old clothes don’t fit like they once did / So they hang like ghosts / Of the people I’ve been” (“You Can Do Better Then Me”) “I guess you decided that that old queen holds more space than you would need. / Now it’s in the alley behind your apartment with a sign that says it’s free. / And I hope you have more luck with this than me.” (“Your New Twin Sized Bed”)
Musically there are no surprises here, although the band does enjoy contrasting melancholy lyrics with music that seems to be a bit more “up” than you would expect and they do this more effectively than a lot of other bands might. If you like your bands a bit ironic, your lyrics both poetic and specific, and your songs coming with a healthy dose of melancholy and full of imagery, Narrow Stairs will not disappoint.
Rating: 8 out of 10.

What is with people’s fascination with this chick? Sure, she’s pretty but I’ve never seen her do more than adequate as an actor and this album does not add to my impression of her.

She does an album of Tom Waits covers.

Tom Waits covers.

Does it work? In a word, “no.” In fact, my reaction to listening to this (which I did at imeem.com, for free thank god!) is that listening to Scarlett Johannson sing Tom Waits is a bit like listening to a ten-year-old reading the poems of Charles Bukowski, they both understand the words, but not the sense behind the words.

Give it a listen if you must, out of curiosity or fear, but don’t expect any worthwhile reinterpretations of Waits’ music.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

When the Doctor Disappoints

The recent Doctor Who episode, “The Doctor’s Daughter” is arguably the worst episode produced since the show’s return in 2005. So disappointing that I had to blog about it, even with the attendant risk that I might confirm the suspicions of people who don’t like the show. I mean, it’s one thing to complain about episodes with other fans. There is a safety there, an “all in the family” feeling that makes it ok to admit to the show’s failings, but I hate to give fodder to those who might judge the show without ever giving it a chance.

This episode was really, really bad. More than that, however, it was actually insulting to fans of the show as well as the show’s own mythology in a way that felt calculated and cynical.

Let me stop you here if you are watching the show on Sci-Fi in America. The British air dates are about four weeks ahead of you, so you should probably stop reading right now and come back to this entry after you have seen this episode. For those of you in Britain or who are getting the show through, ahem, other channels . . . click through to read the rest of this rant.

Continue reading

Darknote’s Notes on Doctor Who


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Darknote provides an excellent analysis of some of the problems and failures of the new Doctor Who series. If you are a fan, definitely give it a read.

In the history of the revived Doctor Who series, there have been ten multi-episode stories thus far. If we classify these multi-episode stories into three rough categories of “hits”, “misses”, and “neutrals”, most of them frustratingly fall into the category of misses than anything else. The most recent two-parter helps to further solidify a theory i have as to what makes more of these New Who multi-episode stories disappointing and also touches upon a fundamental problem with the series overall.

[From mutli-episode stories in the New Who » darkblog resonate ]

Of course, only fans get to critique the show like this. 😉

McCain Watch: Is A Holy War So Wrong?

Can someone explain to me why Obama gets dragged over coals because of his association with Reverend Wright and McCain proclaims this jackass a “moral compass” and the mainstream press just skip merrily on past the hypocrisy of someone like McCain pandering to a dangerous, religious ideologue who probably has more in common with Osama bin Laden than with Christ:

Of course if you want to see America become embroiled in a holy war against all of Islam, then by all means, vote McCain. Just don’t be surprised when the economy tanks, all of our constitutional rights are flushed down the toilet, and our use of violence breeds millions of enemies who see the US as a bully and a rogue nation.

Mac OS X Hints: Spring Load Your Dock

This is a great hint that can help make your workflow go a bit more smoothly. I especially like it when I’m uploading items via ftp. After you do the Terminal command, if you hover over a dock icon while dragging a file:

. . . the item will open and be shown. So if you hover over an app, it comes to the front and you can drop things onto its window. If you hover over a folder, you can drop into it. If you hover over a file, it will open the file and bring that window to the front. You could, for instance, drag an HTML page onto a web browser, and then to a previous tab to load that page in that particular tab. Or, you could drag an image file to drop into a rich text document at a particular location all in one fell swoop. [From macosxhints.com]