Monday, October 20, 2008

Says who?

I like watching the Amazing Race. I haven't seen a full season in a while because I never know when it's on but I really enjoy seeing faraway lands and the fascinating local customs they have that are then trivialized and turned into games for dimwitted Americans to flub. There is one concern I do have, though.

The title.

The Amazing Race? Really? Who are they to tell me what kind of race this will be? I didn't sign up for this show just to have the producers editorialize in the title. Let me be the judge of the race's adequacy. From season to season, depending on the format and locations, some races are less amazing than others. Some seasons could be The Satisfactory Race, or The Excellent Race, or The Barely Tolerable Race, or if it's a particularly boring season, The Somnambulistic Race.

Hmmmm, I suppose the same logic could apply to this blog.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Simons says...eat sumfin!

A while back, there was a controversy over the Simons catalog for women. Apparently, all the girls in it were disgustingly skinny, as if they had just escaped from some POW camp and hadn't seen a decent meal since the last prisoner exchange. The outcry was so bad that Simons recalled the catalog and apologized.

Then the men's catalog came out.

If you haven't seen this thing, here's a link:

http://www.simons.ca/Catalogue/ToutesLesPages.aspx?ObjectID=8c4ba38b-7ea9-4493-925a-ef642588244e.

Not only is the guy in this catalog frail like an autumn leaf but his demeanour and dress make me think he was the prison guard keeping the women. Whose bright idea was it to dress this guy like he's a sociopath Nazi? In some of these pics, all he needs is a swastika on his sleeve and he could be goosestepping down the streets of Berlin. And then the photo on page 13 looks like he's leaving a murder scene that he committed. I assume it's the same look OJ had back in the day.

I urge anyone not to buy anything featured in this catalog. Not because the choice of model and poses was ridiculously ill-conceived, but because the clothes therein are so hideous. I like Simons and regularly buy clothes from there. I know they have nice stuff...so why not feature any of it in this magazine? Wow, what a miscalculation of their part. Who was the ad wizard behind this one?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Writing

Hey, faithful readers (if any!). I know I haven't written much of late, but that ust not true. I haven't written much on my blog. I have been writing a lot on my epic scifi novel book story sequence of pages. The first draft is nearly complete. I'll write more in this space as it moved forward.

Until then, keep checking up on me. If there's one thing I love, it's talking about myself. So please be interested!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Writer's block

Have you ever read a book and figured, "hey, this book is pretty terrible. How did it get published?" and then feel that you could write something better? Well I have and a little over a year ago, I decided to do something about it. So I plotted out a clever little story and once I was satisfied, I started writing.

Fast forward a year and a bit and all I have to show for it is 40,000 words and 135 pages. When you have a million little things to do, writing takes a back seat to most activities. However, by sneaking in little bouts of typing here and there, I am happy to report that my novel is almost done. I have but a few more chapters to go before my first draft is complete and I cannot wait for the day. Until then, here is a brief "back cover"-type synopsis to whet your appetites.

A journey through the stars forces a gang of outcasts to stop an evil robot plan to annihilate all sentient life in the galaxy. Along the way, they inadvertently stumble upon the secret nature of time and destiny.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Feeling old

Being an engineer, I revel in all things technogeeky. To wit, I love syncing my Xbox 360 to my computer to stream files, etc. In the same vein, I have it so that my Xbox Live account is linked to my Windows Live Messenger account, so that when I'm playing Xbox, I appear on Messenger with a message telling my contact what I'm playing.

Recently, I was playing some Xbox when a teenage fellow from my friends list sent me a message of surprise. He said that he doesn't know many adults who play Xbox.

Oof, that hit me like a stake through the heart. The dreaded A-word. In the eyes of this high school kid, I'm an adult. An old man. I might as well have a walker and one of those comically large horns in my ear to hear people talk (yell?) at me.

Long story short, that's the first time I've really felt old and I didn't care for it too much.

Oh and also, I don't know what "adults" this guy knows, but I only know "adults" who play video games. The average age of a gamer is apparently over 30. So nyuh! I'm below-average there.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hmmmm PANTS!

Quick observation.

Has anyone else noticed that the letter "A" in Samsung's logo looks like a pair of pants?

No? Just me?

Bah, forget it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Jonesing for Indiana

A lot has been said by now of the new Indiana Jones movie so I'll throw in my two cents.

Let me preface this by stating that I am a huge fan. I periodically watch the movies to refresh myself on them. There was a time when I was a kid where I'd watch a beat up old betamax tape of Temple of Doom almost every week. I virtually know that movie by heart (no pun intended). So you can tell that I've waited the majority of my life to see a new Indy adventure and here, 19 years after the last one, we get Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I won't spoil the plot for those who haven't seen it but suffice it to say that I wasn't expecting Indiana Jones meet the X-Files.

After seeing it, I can't believe that the majority of critics really liked this movie. Not to say it's good or bad, but the story seems to me tailor made to be hated by critics. Also, reading around the net, the opinion on the flick is very divided, with longtime fans loving it, hating it or thinking it was merely ok. As of right now, I fall into that last category. The movie had some good, some bad (maybe more bad than good), but in the end, seeing Indy on the big screen was enough to lift it to an ok rating in my book.

The good: I thought the action sequences were fun and inventive as usual. The movie started strong and then what followed had a hard time to live up to that. Movies don't normally film in sequence but I'm told that they filmed the beginning on the movie first and it shows. It takes a little while for Harrison Ford to get comfortable under the fedora but after a while, he's back in the saddle like he never left. His delivery is getting a bit slow in his old age but he still has the chops and most importantly the silly faces (like after the ride on the rocket sled). They even managed to keep true to some Indy staples. There are gross bugs, both real (scorpions) and CGI (ants!). Indy gets soundly beaten by a big tough henchman. There's the improvisation to get out of situations. There was a lot to like such as the little references to past Indy adventures, including one to the Young Indy tv show.

Using Russians as the baddies is the obvious way to go and I liked how they said Stalin was interested in developing psychic warfare, much like Hitler was obsessed with the occult. The villainess was good, too, as Cate Blanchett played the Russian accent for laughs, as if she was Natasha from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle shows.

The bad: I won't fault the out-there story at all. I find stories like this one interesting. Indy movies are supposed to be a reflection of the B-movies of the era in which they take place. Since this movie is set in 1957, you gotta look at what the B-movies of the time were and this is what you get. My problem is with the lazy direction. I read somewhere that it was directed as if Spielberg had "one eye on the exit". I like that line so I'll lift it here. Deliveries of lines were off, missing beats. At some places, you know that there was a joke delivered but the reading of the lines just didn't drive home the funny.

I also think the inclusion of Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark was a mistake. She really adds nothing and in fact I found she was pretty grating. In fact, there were too many characters. At one point, Indy is leading a team of 5 (including himself). I suppose they felt he's too old to carry the movie by himself so they surrounded him with allies but I disagree. I actually found the Mutt Williams character wasn't too bad. I thought from the onset that he'd be a horrible addition but he kind of grew on me. It should have been him and Indy running around.

Sean Connery would have been an improvement, too. It's obvious what role he was supposed to play and his inclusion would have brought a great deal of cred to the movie but since he insists on staying retired, we get a character we don't know doing things we don't necessarily care about.

Lastly, I fault Spielberg for the sometimes phony look of the movie. He insisted on filming the entire thing within the USA, instead of going on location like past Indy movies and it shows. To get the desired vistas for their locations, they relied on CGI and it shows. He did the same thing in this movie that ruined A.I. for me, namely going a few scenes too many. Indy 4 could very much have benefited from implying the ending and keeping some mystery. But it seems that Spielberg has lost his touch for subtlety and he went all out at the end, explicitly spelling out the terms of the deal. In addition to this, the original cinematographer of the Indy movies is in his 90s (he hasn't done a movie since Last Crusade). The new guy they brought on board is Spielberg's go-to cinematographer and he photographed this movie in a way that looks completely different than the others and it shows.

But to all the naysayers who complain that certain sequences are utterly unbelievable, I ask: have you even seen the other movies? Granted, Raiders is the most realistic of the bunch, but once you accept that Indy can jump out of a plane in an inflatable raft and survive, you gotta pretty much accept anything.

I enjoyed the 2 hours watching Indy 4. I laughed at times, I cringed at some gross things and creepy moments...and I also cringed at some embarrassingly bad sequences. But in the end, I had fun but it's just not as memorable as the original movies, due mostly to uneven dialogue and languid direction.

I read somewhere that Spielberg made Last Crusade to apologize to fans for Temple of Doom, which was hated in its day (but I personally love). I hope Spielberg and co. agree to make another Indy for the same reasons, but this time, bring him back to his archeology roots and not venture so far on the paranormal/supernatural side.

And to all you "worst movie ever!" reactionaries, I say please, it wasn't that bad.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Suitable Behaviour

It's incredible how the preconceptions of folks works. I was recently wearing a suit and you'd be surprised how incredible everyone treats you, especially in stores. If you walk into a store with a suit, people assume you are respectable (ie have money) and they will serve you immediately. For all they know, I could be a murderer walking around in a suit and the staff at stores wouldn't know.

The best is going into a Wal-Mart in a suit, which I have once done. A suit is so far beyond anything anybody wears there that it just confuses the employees. At Wal-Mart, as long as you're wearing pants and some kind of stitched cloth around your torso, then you're good to go. Wearing a suit to Wal-Mart is like swatting a fly using an atomic bomb. It's super-over-kill.

I think this would be a great sociological experiment. Take a criminal, dress him in a suit and parade him through stores and see the respect he'll get. And then on the other hand, bring Gandhi in wearing his robes and see how people avoid him.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's a riot!

We all joked about the possibility of a riot if the Habs won the series but I don't think anyone actually believed it. In retrospect, I'm glad that for Game 5, I parked in an underground garage, because if they won that night, there would have been riots and my car would have been wrecked. But I digress.

My point is riots for a sports team winning is stupid. I mean, your team won! Why are you destroying things? I mean, I could understand more if the team lost and you're pissed. But how is going Bruce Banner all over town related to your team's win? There's a huge disconnect right there. And worst of all, it's the first round! When did Montreal lower its standards of hockey to the point where we riot for a first round victory? Previously, we'd only celebrate the big win with looting and police cruiser burning.

Anyway, the cops are apparently going to review youtube videos and facebook photos to try to identify more rioters and I think that's a great use of a waste of time. These people shame the rest of the fans who aren't nutjobs. The rioters are not even real fans. They're just a bunch of drunken louts looking to cause trouble in a mob mentality.

I think cops should be allowed to shoot rioters. That'll put an end to it quickly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bonding with my dvds

I have so many dvds that I've bought and haven't watched, it's incredible. I made a conscious effort to dig into my backlog, starting with the Bond movies.
I have all of them, the first 20 in the Ultimate Edition box sets, and Casino Royale separately. First, let me tell you about the Ultimate Edition Bond box sets. Next to the extended edition Lord of the Rings box sets, these Bond ones are the most fantastic dvd productions I've seen. From packaging to booklets to the in-movie menus, everything is incredible. The picture quality for all the films has been cleaned up to the point that they look new. It's such an amazing job that they did. Let's not forget about the exhaustive extra features for every movie, as well. I was spending maybe 4-5 hours per movie (that's the film and the extras combined).
Anyway, I'm finally done watching them and I will render judgment. Since there are 21 Bond movies, I'll split it into thirds.

Top 007

  1. Casino Royale (best)

  2. Goldfinger

  3. GoldenEye

  4. From Russia with Love

  5. The Spy Who Loved Me

  6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service

  7. For Your Eyes Only


Bottom 007

  1. Moonraker

  2. You Only Live Twice

  3. A View to a Kill

  4. The Man with the Golden Gun

  5. The World Is Not Enough

  6. Diamonds Are Forever

  7. Licence to Kill (worst)


Now I'm all ready for Quantum of Solace, coming out October 31st. Bring it on!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Naked gold statues

I know you're all waiting with bated breath on my opinion on recent movies. This is the first year in which I've seen all 5 Best Picture nominees. Last year, I caught 4 of them, yet in 2005, I saw none...go figure.

Anyway, having seen all 5, I feel as an informed movie goer and part-time critic, I am qualified to give my opinions on them. Here they are, short and sweet, albeit a week late:

Atonement:
Yes, I know, most guys reading this will think it's not the type of movie they'd see. They probably think it's some romantic period piece...which it kinda is. But not really. It's about a girl in WW2-era England who makes a tragic mistake that pretty much screws over her sister's boyfriend and she tries to work the rest of her life to fix the problem. It was a pretty solid movie but I don't know if it should be Best Picture quality. The character of the girl was infuriating, though. It was purposeful but still. I didn't see the ending coming and what happens makes it all the more maddening.
Oscar-worthy moment: The long, sweeping, unbroken sequence when the soldiers arrive on the beach waiting for evacuation. That was really something.

Juno:
Juno is the little movie that could. Of the 5 nominees, it has made the most money of them all, which is something. This flick got crazy word of mouth and people falling over themselves loving it but if you really look at it, there are a bunch of faults. The "too hip for the room" dialogue is way over the top, at least for the first third of the movie. It's like nobody reviewed the script to space out all the catchphrases, resulting in a movie front-heavy with things people will never say anywhere ever. Not even fictional characters. "Honest to blog"? Really? "This is one diddle that can't be undone, Homeskillet."? Cmon...The opening scene with The Office's Rainn "Dwight Schrute" Wilson is almost unbearable. But the movie does get better and becomes enjoyable. Next, the music was trying way too hard to be quirky and indie. It's screaming "look at me! I'm hip! I'm with it!" and was highly manipulative in that way. Sure I liked the tunes but I still think it's too calculated for its own good. The supporting actors are really good, too. "George"-Michael Cera can do no wrong!
Oscar-worthy moment: Hmmm...I really can't pick a moment right now. Nothing is jumping out at me. I guess the final scene when they're playing guitar and the camera pulls back.

...Speaking of Michaels...

Michael Clayton:
George Clooney is always great (except for that movie there...with superheroes...Batman and something...ugh). This is a movie about a lawyer whose firm is defending a pharmaceutical company that is most likely in the wrong. The performances were pretty good all around (especially Tom Wilkinson) but I'm not sure that Tilda Swinton lady was deserving of her Oscar. She's really good in it but I didn't detect anything exceptionally special. The movie gets slow at times but if otherwise satisfying.
Oscar-worthy moment: The next to last scene when the lady's lip is quivering. That was great. In your face!

No Country For Old Men:
This is a tough movie. On the surface, it's about a guy who finds $2M and the other guy who is trying to kill him for it. But then, when the movie ends super abruptly, you're like what? You then realize that what you saw wasn't nearly as straight forward as it seemed. It's not a movie for casual audiences, who will undoubtedly hate the movie for its ending. I mean, Tommy Lee Jones opens that motel room door and the guy isn't there? What the hell was that? NCFOM is something that you'll think about for a while. The dialogue is really great, it's often bloody and has a whacked out ending but I was rapt with attention in every scene. Really good.
Oscar-worthy moment: When the killer is at the gas station and makes the guy call the coin flip. They both know they're deciding the guy's fate but neither of them overtly say it. It makes for a great, tense scene.

There Will Be Blood:
This is as close to an epic as we got this year. It follows the life of Daniel Plainview, a guy who strikes it rich in the oil biz and as his fortunes increase, his mental togetherness goes south. It's also the story of an equally ambition and greedy priest who's trying to leech onto Plainview and ride him for power and money. In the end. The titular blood refers to oil, ie the blood of the earth, however conventional blood does make an appearance in this 158 minute long movie. Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing in anything he does. It's a shame he doesn't make more movies. This movie also has a controversial ending, with many people saying it's not a satisfying cap to everything that came before it. I can understand that argument but I still loved this flick. There's something about the direction/cinematography/whatever that really captured my imagination. The music was also unconventional, reminding me of the awesome discordant score to tv's Lost. Is there a message to the movie? I'm not sure. It could just be a chronicle of this character's ups and downs. Regardless, I think it's great film that doesn't quite reach masterpiece. It would have been my pick for Best Picture. Food for thought, are Paul and Eli the same person? Discuss...
Oscar-worthy moment: Take your pick. Either the baptism scene ("I abandoned my boy!") or the final scene ("I drink your milkshake").

There you have it, folks. I'll hope to do the same this time next year, provided I see all of 2008's best movies. I hope you appreciated this.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cat Eyes

I feel I must give my two cents about this new eye makeup style girls seem to be sporting everywhere. Have you noticed girls lately have a line of colour extending away from the corners of their eyes? It's the cat eye makeup look and I am totally baffled by it. Unless you're Cleopatra, this look should be avoided. People, Amy Winehouse is not someone to whom you should aspire to be.

Firstly, people who wear this style look like they simply didn't know what they're doing and applied their makeup in a bus while it hit a bump in the road. Secondly, and most importantly, everyone is now wearing this style so if you're doing it this late in the game, then you're a complete and utter tool.

Exceptions may be made on a case by case basis, however. Please contact me with your photos for judgment.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Writers of the world, continue uniting!

As the writer's strike in Hollywood appears to be ending, I cannot help but feel a pang of sadness. When the strike began, I feared that the lack of my favourite shows would be a real blow to my (anti-)social life. How would I kill spend my time? But as the new episodes of shows dried up, I found myself experiencing a strange feeling of freedom. The strike proved to be my very own personal William Wallace. Suddenly, I had a lot of free time in the evening. So how did I fill this time?

Well, with many hours free to me, I finally got around to doing things I've been meaning to do for a long time. I read a bunch of books that I've had languishing on my shelf. I wrote on my novel some more and fleshed out more of the plot (for a hint of its plot, I was inspired by this album and especially its artwork). I turned to my ever increasing dvd collection and started making my way through the ones that I bought but never even watched. I began playing video games that I had bought or received as gifts but whose shrink wrap I never opened. I even started catching up on old seasons of tv shows I've been meaning to watch but never got around to. (I know there is a certain hilarity in that I deem it a success to watch more tv shows to fill in the time when my other shows are out of commission but you must understand that I'm OCD-esque like that. If I have anything outstanding on my mind, it'll bother me until it's done.)

Now that the strike appears to be ending soon, what will I do? I've been steadily making my way through all the Bond movies (in order!) that I bought long ago. Will the return of new episodes put a stop to that project? What of my long in development novel? Will it die on the vine? I am supremely grateful that we'll probably get a full season of Lost and 24 will come back at one point but having no new scripted shows opened my eyes. I liken myself to that Simpsons episode "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" where the Itchy & Scratchy show gets super lame and all the kids discover the outdoors and a world without tv. Or perhaps I'm the labouring children from Temple of Doom, escaping the slavery of network television for the freedom of a village soon to be blessed by the magical Sankara stones, or in this analogy, the freedom of doing basically anything else. In any case, my future leisure hours remain up in the air, to be divvied up as I see fit. Is less television in my future? Only time (and persuasive advertising) will tell.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

PS3: My Secret Shame

I'm no fan of Sony on the whole. This is mainly because of the smugness they keep displaying, shoveling out inferior products and then telling the masses to like it and if they don't, then it's because they don't understand the sheer brilliance of their stuff. There is a loooong laundry list of quotes from Sony brass condescending to their Playstation clients but I won't get into that right now. My point is that when WB decided to go Blu-ray, it seems more likely that it will win the HD disc fight over rival HD DVD. This development saddened me. I have a few HD DVD for my Xbox 360's HD add-on but now I felt that I would be shut out. All sorts of great stuff I'd like to see in HD would be coming for Blu-ray (Star Wars, HBO shows like Rome, Lord of the Rings...man, that would look sweet in HD) so what was I to do? Thanks to Kenny and his US address, I snagged a cheap, used, discontinued 20GB PS3 online and it works fine.

Now don't get me wrong. I didn't get this system for the games. There are very few things I want to play of PS that aren't available for Xbox (except MLB: The Show...that looks kinda sweet). The main reason I wanted this PS3 was that it remains the best Blu-ray player on the market, cheaper, more easily upgradeable and more advanced than stand-alone units. Why did I go for the 20GB? Well, it's discontinued and the hard disk is small, hence its cheapness online. It does have an advantage that the terrible 40GB model currently for sale doesn't: it features the PS2 chipset, meaning older games are straight up backwards compatible as opposed to software emulated, which the 40GB does shoddily, I'm told. Regardless, like I said, this machine isn't really for my gaming but for my movie watching.

I am ashamed to admit I bit at Sony's hook and I'll be dragged into the Blu-ray market by force. I suppose none of this will matter once they make it so movies download directly to the brain. But that's a long time off. For now, I have both my HD movie sources covered.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

HD Distribution

A lot of ink (and even more digital ink) has been spilled over the high def format wars. Will HD-DVD beat out Blu-ray (with WB ditching HD for Blu, it's looking less likely)? Having access to both formats, this doesn't really bother me anyway. What I find vastly premature is misinformed people saying the point is moot anyway since digital distribution will be here soon enough. Some "experts" are predicting that within a few years, everyone will just be downloading their HD movies from some internet service and watching them off hard disks in their entertainment system. I'm sorry but this won't happen for a very long time and I will itemize why.

1) Bandwidth. Currently, a high def movie (especially with complete TrueHD or 5.1 or DTS soundtrack) is many many GBs in size. People's download speeds are simply not up to snuff to acquire this with any expediency. Imagine having to decide what you want to watch...days before watching it. Then you'd have to spend hours and hours to get the download. On top of that, most people have very limiting download caps on their ISPs. A couple of movies would bust your monthly cap, incurring penalties. The entire infrastructure would have to change, as well as the monthly cap system, before this idea of consistently downloading movies could ever exist.

2) Storage. All these movies you'd be downloading would have to be stored somewhere. Some people have extensive movie collections have having a closed box with limited hard disk space is simply unmanageable. Also, there is something that is lost by not having a box to put on a shelf. Unlike music, which is way more disposable, movie boxes are much some useful, if only for information. A CD doesn't have a plot or technical specs that the user needs to know. A movie, on the other hand, has useful information on the box such as what sound formats the movie has, its length, the plot, actors, etc,, all indispensable information that someone might want to quickly see at a glance. Plus, dvd cases look pretty on a shelf.

3) Lending. A great thing about having a physical storage unit for a movie is its versatility. I can bring a movie to a friend's house easily and we can all watch it. Likewise, I can borrow or rent movies and enjoy them, as well. With a download, how is someone supposed to swap films? Its intangible quality doesn't lend itself this type of trading which is a major flaw.

There's a reason books have been around this long and will continue to exist for a long time. There is something comforting about a physical item that represents the entertainment that you are consuming. Having books or in this case, dvd cases, on a shelf also says something about you. If you want to show someone your collection, scrolling through a list on a hard disk isn't very ideal. I think the intangible quality to digital distribution is a big flaw but the major drawback at this point remains the lack of technology and infrastructure to implement it. Maybe in 10 or 15 years, the economics of ISPs will change but until then, expect to keep going to Best Buy and picking up the latest dvds.