Archive for February 2010

 
 

Bio with Constraint

I read that a guy once wrote his biography without using the letter “e.”  So I gave it a go:   “I am a Dad.  I watch TV, Blu-Rays, podcasts, and DVDs.  I am a comics critic and pundit and analyst.  I favor a Wii to an XBox.   I program for a living.”   That was tough.   Then I read that guy’s biography.  It runs 3000 words, and ends on the letter “e,” perfectly presented.   Yikes!    

AI9: Girls Round of 12

What I learned from watching American Idol last night:   * Being a good singer isn’t good enough anymore.  The judges want David Cook and Adam Lambert.  They want full-fledged musicians who can rewrite every song they come across.  Man, it used to be enough just to belt out a final note to cover a shaky performance.  Those poor contestants…   * Nobody taught Ashley what a “plosive” is during her dress rehearsal.  (Hint: That’s the puffing sound you make when you hold an unprotected mic too close to your mouth and make the “p” sound.  That’s why those windscreens sit in front of microphones in recording studios.)   * Song selection, song selection, song selection.   * Ellen is taking seriously her vow that she’s there to tell contestants how comfortable they look on stage.  And, occasionally, that they’re cute.  She IS the new Paula.   * Kara taught us that it’s OK to say the “B” word twice during a family show.   * This year’s fashion choice: Leggings or tights.  Failing that, a short dress will do.  Double points for both.   * Hannah Storm’d fit right in.   * No, seriously, at one point the black girl wearing the white dress sang a Beatles song back-to-back with the white girl in the black dress.  I thought I was in that episode of the original “Star Trek” with The Riddler for a moment.   * Me, a geek?  No…   * We have our traditional red-headed dye job contestant.  The most successful of those so far have been Nikki McKibbin and Alison Iraheta.  Alison is scheduled to perform tomorrow night.  I don’t think this season’s red head is in for a terribly long run, though.   * Yes, we get it, Idol. You have clearances from The Beatles now.  We’re going to get hit over the head with Beatles songs now, aren’t we?  Hopefully, not every contestant will so completely lose the melody on the way to making the song “their own.”   * Can I get a job at that photo studio?  Looks cool.

The App Store Gets Slightly Cleaner

Funny thing: I was perusing the iPhone App store the other night.  Wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I hadn’t looked at the Top Apps lists in a while.  It seemed like a large number of the apps were for “Sexy Girls” and “Preferred Positions” and the like.   It was sad.  I’m so used to using the filter of Twitter and the blogosphere to point out the good stuff to me that I don’t normally see this default view that so many others rely on to point out the good stuff.  And it looked, well, cheap and tawdry.  How can you sell the utility of the App Store when it’s filled with this crap?   The App Store is filled with people looking to make a buck by pandering to the lowest common denominator, which is something Apple has never done.  You get “developers” who find a cheap way to put together a specific type of app, and they make as many copycats as they can.  Hey, if “Pretty Blondes in Bikinis” sells 1000 copies (sadly, that’s likely a low number) at 99 cents a shot, you can be “Pretty Brunettes in Bikinis” will be profitable, too.  And “Pretty Short-Haired Girls in Bikinis.”  And “Pretty Redheads in Bikinis.”  And “Pretty Girs with Their Pet Rhinos, Also In Bikinis.”  Etc., etc.  There is no oversight on stuff like this.  I bet you can populate those apps fairly cheaply using microstock imagery.  (It might take some Photoshop work to put the rhinos in the pictures, but the profit will still be there.)   Apple cracked down on it this week, delisting thousands of apps from the store.  While there is a hew and cry over this, I can’t help but feel that they’ve really only stripped three or four developers of their livelihoods with this.  They’re the factories that create this rubbish.   The big problem is that Apple looks bad for changing the rules in the middle of the game.  But, personally, as a non-developer, I don’t mind.  Let them clean up their house.  It’s worth it.

Link Dumpage

Need to get a few of these off my chest:

  • Haven’t done a hybrid car story here in a long time, but surely a Porsche hybrid calls for attention!
  • Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” movie to be a 3D motion capture CGI film? Sure, why not? Like the initial reports that Roland Emmerich was directing it didn’t lower our expectations far enough…
  • Hilarious bit of SEO: A story about Facebook logging-in techniques gets higher rankings on Google than your actual Facebook log-in page. Confusion ensues from the clueless who use Google to go everywhere. Seriously, there are still people who type Facebook into Google to go there, instead of just typing Facebook.com. Ugh
  • I think I might still be drooling over the Canon T2i. And it’s only the entry level camera. This is nuts.

Remembering Home Theaters of the Past

  • My first DVD player (03 July 1998) was a graphics card and drive for my IBM Aptiva computer. I watched movies on a 15 inch CRT screen and loved the heck out of it. I remember how impressive was it to see movies like “The Rock” for the first time in widescreen in the middle of a computer monitor. Even at such a tiny size, you still knew the picture quality was much greater than VHS.

So damned primitive, it was. Now, my 46″ widescreen television is too small for me, but I know there comes a point where one has to make a choice between art and finance. You can only afford so much. . .

  • My Commodore 64 monitor was used at one point as a TV, also. I had an older VCR hooked into it. I remember pausing through “Tiny Toons” learning to draw from that.

  • That first DVD player didn’t last long. Bought a standalone DVD player that Christmas for $199, I think. Maybe $299? Tough to recall. Looked much better on the 27 inch TV screen in the living room, complete with surround sound system that was a repurposed Cambridge Soundworks system sold normally for computer games, I guess. It wasn’t until 2001 that I bought a new Sony Trinitron TV that did anamorphic widescreen on a 4:3 CRT, and looked stunning. “Stunning” was by the standards of the time. Widescreen TVs were available at that point, but not yet practical. There wasn’t much at all on TV in 16:9 format, and HD was still years away.

  • We went through a few VCRs in my family from the time we got our first (I’m guessing 1985). What amazes me, in retrospect, was the different ways those VCRs marked time. Most of them measured time in what we called “blocks.” Our first had a physical counter — three scroll wheels that spun in time with the VHS tape. You could push a button to reset the counter to 0. So you knew the next episode of “Tiny Toons” started 100 blocks later.

Problem is, the next VCR had a new measuring scheme, and so your “blocks” were useless.

  • Perhaps the greatest limitation of the VCR was that you couldn’t watching something back from the beginning while you were taping it. Today, that’s the cornerstone of my DVR habit, which has prevented me from watching TV commercials for the past decade.

  • I got my first TiVo as a Christmas present in 2000, I believe it was. I quickly paid for the lifetime subscription. My parents are still using that unit. It’s made that $300 back and then some. I later upgraded to the Humax TiVo that included a DVD burner. Didn’t get as much use out of that DVD burner as I thought I might, but it came in handy a few times. Thankfully, I paid month to month on it, so I didn’t lose money on the deal.

  • The TV I grew up watching was on the floor, built into a piece of wooden furniture, on top of which sat the living room’s main lamp light and, of course, the cable box. We had several cable boxes, from ones that had thirteen switches across to ones that you slid a pointer along the line of channels to change stations. We were years away from a remote.

And the TV had a physical issue in it where the screen would suddenly and randomly get very dark. The brightness just dropped right off the scale. A simple slap to the side of the TV (often during “Cheers,” it seemed) did the trick to brighten it back up.

  • I remember MTV when it still had music, Nickelodeon when it ran black and white sit-comes in the middle of the afternoon (“My Three Sons,” “Mr. Ed,” et. al.), and HBO when it had “Fraggle Rock.” A cornerstone of my Sunday mornings was watching Hanna Barbera cartoons of the 70s on USA Network. Remember when cable TV didn’t really go past channel 27? Or 36?

Sorry, just had to write that all down. I was feeling old today.

Blu Rays for 02 Feb 2010

Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhardt? Sounds like fun. Spoiler alert: She disappears!

A classic. The last DVD restoration looked pretty good, though. Don’t know how much better you’re going to get, but I’m open to it.

This is pure linkbait. I don’t watch the series. No time for it. But I know lots of you do!

This is a legendary digital flop. The DVD was poor. The initial Blu Ray release was a bad upconvert of the DVD, from the looks of it. At last, they’re correcting it, and doing it right, we hope. The ironic part is that the film’s director, Martin Scorcese, goes around telling everyone how important it is to digitally preserve Hollywood’s past in the best possible way. Yet this movie of his has been an embarrassment.

It’s also the subject of the best Blu Ray review I’ve ever now read.

What, they didn’t bother with Part III? Interesting.

These are the two animated TV movies they did after the live action theatrical release.

And, really, isn’t this why digital preservation of films is so important?

I still have the first, unwatched, on DVD. So sad.

It follows the standard Hollywood auto-bio Oscar bait formula, but it’s still entertaining.

Woddy Harrelson. Zombies. Internet glee!

Next week: “The Phantom,” amongst others.

Star Trek (2009)

Last week, I talked about my initial Blu Ray thoughts from watching last year’s “Star Trek” movie. Now, let’s get to the movie, itself, in convenient blogger-friendly bullet point format:

  • I still get chills when they do the slow pan across the Enterprise for the first time in any given movie.

  • J.J. Abrams knows what the fans wants and throws in as many references as he can, from Kirk bedding green skinned alien women to the guy in the red shirt jumping to his death. Really, we all saw it coming and we all laughed when it happened. Oh, and Sulu is a swordsman! Excellent!

  • Chekov is a bit too much, though I did laugh at his inability to pronounce code words right. “Wictor Wictor.”

  • The guy playing McCoy sure gets DeForest Kelley’s cadence dead-on. I think it may be my favorite introduction to a character of all time, when Bones walks into the shuttle and sits next to Kirk.

  • Abrams didn’t change things as much as I thought he might. He amplified them. He created Spock to be just as much the rebel as Kirk. And those similarities help to amplify the fights between the two which, in the original series, felt almost jocular more often than not.

  • Uhura bedding Spock? Interesting. As I recall, the trailers were cut to make it look like she and Kirk were having a romp.

  • Pike eating a slug is Chekov getting the slug in his ear from “Wrath of Khan” right?

  • I’m a geek, I know.

  • Spock’s alternate reality speech is the nice way to consider this a franchise reboot, isn’t it?

  • My only problem with the movie? Kirk is handled as a cartoonish buffoon in two places: his blown-up hands, and running away from CGI Creature. Besides, My Captain Kirk (UGH) would have found a gigantic icicle and pierced the heart of that beast to save himself, not cower in fear and wait for a deus ex machina.

  • The movie really was like a Greatest Hits Star Trek film. They’ll need to expand beyond that for the next movie, though I have no doubt they will do so admirably.

  • Scotty has a cute alien creature buddy. Why? Is there a reason beyond the merchandising? Or was it because another human would have cost more money to pay an actor with lines for? I smell deleted scene. I need to get to that second disc filled with extras . . .

  • “I got your gun.” BWAH HA HA

  • Damn, he even sits in the captain’s chair like William Shatner.

  • Bruce Greenwood will forever be The Nowhere Man to me, but he does well as Pike, too.

  • In the end, the movie wears “Star Trek” like a badge on its sleeve, not something to be avoided or ashamed of. It revels in the fact, throws in as many in-jokes and well-remembered punch lines as possible, and then lets everyone know that the old Trek you knew and loved is still valid, but this is the new and modern revamped parallel version (minus a Romulan and Vulcan home world) that you may now enjoy.

Highly recommended.

Short Thoughts

So much stuff going on these days, no time to pull my thoughts together into a blog post. Seriously, follow me on Twitter to get the latest and greatest, but here’s a few thoughts off the top of my head:

  • Oscars: Just finished watching “Up” the other night. Had to watch it in two parts, a week apart. That’s just how my life rolls. And you know what? It’s the only Oscar-nomination film from 2009 that I’ve seen. I used to be culturally hip, you know.

I’m torn on who will win. Not who I “want” to win, but who I “think” will win. There’s two schools of thoughts here: a war movie like “Hurt Locker” is bound to activate the Hollywood insurgents into voting. But “Avatar” is seen as the movie which can save movies. So there’s a solid business reason to give that movie, even with its trite premise and cliche-addled scripts (from what I’ve read about it), the award, anyway. Hollywood must keep pushing 3-D down our throats, so “Avatar” must win. It’s pocketbooks versus politics at the Oscars this year.

  • I don’t buy that 3D is going to be the next big thing. I just don’t see it happening, even if it did take over CES this year.

  • “Up” is a heart-breaking movie. It’ll break your heart three times before the twenty minute mark, and then twice more near the end. Yet, you’ll love it and root for all the right people. It’s the heaviest PIxar movie to date, though.

And it looks very very cool on Blu Ray.

  • “American Idol” has been a lot of fun this year so far, and Hollywood Week is starting next week. The thing that continues to astound me about “Idol” each year is how many singing single mothers they can find to put on stage… It’s sad, but “Idol” is turning into the Olympics: 3 minutes of show biz surrounded by ten minutes of documentaries explaining how wretched this contestant’s life has been.

  • The iPad looks cool. It’s not going to pass the Finance Committee’s desk without a veto, so I won’t likely be getting one. But I do think it’s the ultimate comic book reader. The exciting thing is how it’ll look in a year. When the second generation model comes out, perhaps even with a price drop, it’ll be interesting to see how many apps are out there, how much content you can put on it, etc. But I’m excited for it.

  • Adobe Flash sucks. Period. It’s the Comic Sans of web technologies and it can’t go away fast enough.

  • ALF is on Twitter. Must reading, daily.

  • Grammys: I listened to even less music than I watched movies in the theater. On the other hand, I’ve been out of music touch for a while now, so there’s nothing new there. I enjoy podcasts too much to stop to listen to much music.