Archive for December, 2007

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Merry Christmas!

24 December, 2007

Happy holidays, everyone! There’s no roundup today, because we should all be spending time with our families, and away from computers! Yay!

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Monday Roundup 5!

17 December, 2007

Hello again. I apologize for the infrequent updates; school obligations as well as my own health have really gotten in the way. The upcoming vacation should help both of those immensely. Without further ado…:

[Random] Places we don’t want to live: 9 buildings shaped like things: Am I weird if I think upside-down houses are cool?

[Current] Merriam Webster’s Word of the Year 2007: Yay vocabulary! Or should I say, w00t vocabulary!

[Current] Google Zeitgeist 2007: This is an interesting site (run by Google) showing the most popular searches in various categories throughout 2007. What’s more fun is that it shows graphs of searches over time, so you can pinpoint weird things that Britney Spears did, for example.

[Software] PowerOrgasm X: Geeky and awkward. Do we need any help in that department? Note: I have not tried this out; I’ve been too scared.

[Humor] The 2007 Holiday Guide to iCr@p: iPods are really cool. Many things designed for iPods are not.

[Current] Bali Climate Talks: Okay, so it’s not binding, and it’s nothing too severe. But the US finally agreed to a worldwide climate deal. We’re getting closer, people. Just not close enough…

[Tech] New billboard puts voices in your head: I do not like this one bit.

[Random] Smart Stool Is Listening: This is hilarious. I’m not sure if it’s intended to be or not…

As per usual, these links will be archived, however I have somewhat of a backlog at the moment, so it may take some time.

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Based on the…

11 December, 2007

Well, I haven’t written a post that wasn’t a review or a roundup in a while, so I’m going to try to get back into the swing of things.

Whatever happened to creativity? So many movies nowadays are not original; they’re either a remake, a sequel, or based on a TV show, true story, or book. Sure, there are always the great ones that aren’t, but those usually slip through the cracks, more so now than they have in the past. But whatever happened to wonders like Star Wars, or the Godfather, or… Well, once you think about it, many of the great movies of the past have been based on things too, like Lawrence of Arabia, or Schindler’s List. Ok, that one’s not too old.

Now we’re stretching further than we have. One of the top-grossing movie trilogies recently was Pirates of the Caribbean, which was based on an amusement park ride! How low can we really go, people! (Note: I loved this trilogy. Well, not the second one. But the first and last, so my commentary should really be a bit more tempered.)  So where has everyone gone? My family has a screenwriter friend, and his two most recent works were both rejected, and they were original concepts (well, one was a sequel but he wrote the first one so it doesn’t quite count).

I think many of the screenwriters must have gone to the smaller screen. Television has so many great shows on right now, and perhaps the talent from the film studios has gone to that medium.

But then again, a remake doesn’t have to be bad. One of my favorite shows, something that has been said to be the best drama on television numerous times, as well as winning many awards, is a remake. I’m talking about Battlestar Galactica, which was a hilariously tacky science fiction show from the 1970s and is now completely re-imagined into a new, wonderful, dramatic universe. The plot is essentially the same, but much more nuanced and a lot less of people simply blasting robots into slag. Yes, there is still a lot of it, but, in my opinion, it has a lot more meaning, a lot more depth. And that’s just one of the many remakes or “based on the…”s that I like.

So there’s hope. Even though an idea may not be new, what a writer does with it can be completely innovative and wonderful.  What are your thoughts? Is the writing industry going to hell in a handbasket? Are we running out of ideas? Or is it just harkening back to the past, learning from it, and creating things anew.

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Monday Roundup 4!

10 December, 2007

I’m just barely getting this in while it’s still Monday, but that doesn’t make the links any less interesting…

[Humor] How much punishment can a robot dinosaur take?: This is pretty hilarious. One of the newest toys out in time for Christmas (I believe) is Pleo, a robot dinosaur. The people over at DVICE want to break it. It reacts pretty much like a real creature, which is half funny and half scary. Decide for yourself.

[Current] US Opposes Climate Text at UN Conference: Another example of the US being stupid about global warming.

[Random] Sassy red automobile bares all: Ever wanted to see every single part of a car laid out? No, eh? Well, you still can. Here.

[Humor] Top 14 spurious productivity surveys: What it sounds like. Strange estimates like coughing costing Britain £875 million a year. Read through to the end, the guy’s sign off is funny.

[Humor] Hindu gods get summons from court: Another strange but awesome judge story.

[Entertainment] The Vegetable Orchestra: Well, you’ll see what it is. Further investigation of Youtube led me to the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. They are what you think they are, although a bit smaller. However, they also (although being kind of bad singers) do what is arguably the thing I like most in music, singing different melodies (from pop tunes, mostly) on top of each other and having them fit in. Here are their performances of David Bowie’s Life on Mars, and a medley starting with Handel (Hotel California is a bad choice, but the rest is good).

[Geeky] MacHeist: I really like macs. And, I really like scavenger hunts, both on and off line. However, most of the online ones require you to have a PC. Not this one. Also, you get free software! Everyone wins! Check it out, it’s only just begun, and it’s pretty fun.

[Current] Al Gore – Nobel Lecture: This is Al Gore’s speech that he gave when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize today. Incredible speech, in my opinion, and clearly an important topic to me (and the world). You really should read it, if just to please me. (I can see what you click on, you know.)

[Random] Mysterious mammal caught on film: These little guys are awesome. They can jump around like nothing else, and have huge ears. Strangely, their massive tails are not mentioned in the article, but nevertheless they are at least three times their body length.

[Science] Making Skin Cells Into Stem Cells Minus the Cancer: An update on the story I posted a few weeks ago.

[Science] Getting a Grip: Building the Ultimate Robotic Hand: A really interesting article on robots and how they learn. More captivating than you would think.

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Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) (RATING:9/10)

9 December, 2007

So, my review of the remake (although not the most recent one, with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig…) of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” This movie… blah blah blah… social commentary… blah blah blah… communism… blah blah blah. I apologize. Yes, I know that this movie has some deeper meaning that people often talk about (or at least they talk about the original as having it), but it’s really not important. This movie on its own is just great.

The plot is simple enough, and I think by now everyone knows it. People are getting replaced by aliens, who are grown in pods. No one believes the few main characters who have seen this first hand. Of course, it helps that all they say at first is that people are just “different.” Soon the world is taken over, and we just want to get our heroes out of harm’s way, which is — clearly — very difficult.

This is a very enjoyable movie to watch. The cinematography keeps you on edge all the time, showing you close-ups and strange angle shots of various detailed things, making sure that you pay attention to them. So you try to remember them for later, and maybe they come up, and maybe they don’t. And often, when they do, it’s not at all how you expected them to. (I’m thinking now of a specific scene, which was possibly the creepiest in the movie. I think you’ll know it when you see it.) And, it has a strangely sideburned Leonard Nimoy, a wonderfully mustachioed Donald Sutherland, and an incredibly young Jeff Goldblum. The latter two are great; so is Nimoy, but he’s a lesser character.

Effects-wise, “Invasion” varies. The first few scenes of the alien pods coming to earth are truly incredible, (although thats partly camera work and direction, not effects), and it is a great beginning to the movie. Some of the pods later on are a little iffy, but it doesn’t detract at all. The pod people are very creepy, and that’s certainly thanks to this sort of hair, sort of cellophane thing that surrounds them as they’re being… born? Is that the right word?

In terms of viewership, there is hardly anything here that would make me recommend someone not see it. There’s one bloody part, and there’s some random nudity near the end, but overall it’s very clean, and just plain scary. It’s good to see a movie nowadays that doesn’t really on blood and guts to creep you out (Saw, Hostel, etc.) but rather just puts you on edge because it’s so brilliantly written and acted.

See this movie. Now. And then set fire to all of your houseplants. You never know where those little flowers will show up…

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Monday Roundup 3!

3 December, 2007

Coming back (hopefully for good) from sick leave, I bring you many interesting tidbits from the web. A bunch of cell-phone-related stuff, as well as dinosaurs! zombies! a mission to mars! and… um… do-it-yourself eye surgery!
This sounds safe.

[Geeky] Cellphone’s slosh and rattle reveal its contents: While this is a pretty cool way to tell battery power or text message count, I feel like it would get annoying for other people really quickly…

[Random] LEGOs make the perfect Scrabble board: Two amazing things… combined!!!

[Science] NASA outlines manned Mars vision: Well, this is awesome. Finally. It’s still really far away, but at least there’s a plan.

[Humor] Judge suspended for jailing court: Hilarious. He was under stress in his personal life… I guess that accounts for it. Shouldn’t really be under humor, but…

[Tech] Apple Developing Mini CD/DVD-ROM Adapter For Slot Loading Drives: This has taken them far too long. Seriously, this should have been fixed a long time ago.

[Current] Ecospot: Grand Prize Winner: The Sky Is Falling: Funny video. Not funny topic.

[Software] Folder Quick Look Plugin: This little doohickey allows you to see the contents of a folder in Mac OS Leopard when you’re using Quick Look, instead of just a picture of the folder, which is pretty uninformative.

[Software] Wallpaper Clocks: For all operating systems, these are wallpapers that have a clock on them, which changes with the time. Pretty cool, I think. Especially the Patek Philippe one, in my opinion.

[Geeky] Eye Power device boasts point-and-shoot eyesight boost for the brave: Ummm… if you want to try this, go right ahead. Let me know how it works. I’m not going near it.

[Science] Scientists Create Zombie Cockroaches: They just keep walking, and following whoever leads them. Stolen chemicals from a wasp which leads them home for supper.

[Entertainment] Skycast.com — Star Wars v Star Trek: A pretty cool video made with lights and long exposures.

[Science] Rare Mummified Dinosaur Unearthed: Yay dinosaurs! Yay mummies! Yay… skin and muscle?

[Current] Co-worker, Not Cell Phone, Was Killer: This is the second part of a story which unfortunately overwrote the first part (the same web-link). A man was found dead with a melted cell phone battery in his shirt pocket, and large wounds to the chest. It was said that the cell phone had exploded, killing the man. This was found to be untrue, as you will read.

[Entertainment] Jelly Blobs of Doom: Wow. That is all I can say. An incredibly addictive game.

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Review: Top Gun (RATING:8/10)

2 December, 2007

Top Gun is clearly not a new movie. It was made in 1986, before I was born (be shocked!). But, I saw it for the first time the other day, through the magic of Netflix (seriously Netflix is awesome. Blockbuster online is, too, for that matter. Any of those services.), so I decided that it deserved a review. I really enjoyed this movie. Tom Cruise before he went insane (although you can see hints of it every now and then) and Val Kilmer are the most recognizable stars in the film, although there are a bunch of that-guys as well as Tom Skerritt, who is awesome in basically any role.

The plot is simple enough; Maverick (Tom Cruise) and his partner Goose (whose real name, as far as I noticed, is never actually said in the film) go to Fighter Weapons School, affectionately named Top Gun by its students. There they compete against the other top naval pilots for the coveted Top Gun Trophy (which, the government states, does not, and never did exist). And, there’s a love story thrown in there, too. So, the story is simple, but regardless, it is exciting. The dogfights, both the simulated ones against teachers at FWS and also the two encounters with enemy MiGs (bookending the film) are really enjoyable to watch, and probably would have given me vertigo if I had seen it on a bigger screen. This is a good thing, though—it means that I really felt in on the action. There is a tragedy in the plot, too, which I won’t go into so as not to ruin the movie, but you feel that, too. You are as sad as the characters are, and feel the same way they do about the particulars of what happened.

Why not 10/10? Well, there’s not much wrong with it. It was a great movie for what it was, however, as I said, the plot was pretty simple, and there were no twists and turns. There was a bit of a confusing back story about Tom Cruise’s father, which didn’t detract from the film, but it didn’t really add to it, either. I tend to prefer more complex movies with, lets face it, better actors than Tom Cruise (the other guys were great, but more relies on the main character, generally).

However, the dogfights were very fun to watch, and that’s really what this movie was about. Who doesn’t love a good aerial battle!