Archive for February, 2009



28 February, 2009

Tom Waits’ speaking voice is even weirder than his singing voice… (Found out by listening to NPR All Songs Considered Live Podcast.)


Review: Bolt 3D (RATING: 8/10)

26 February, 2009

I’ve realised that my ratings are basically arbitrary. But I guess its more the content of the review that matters rather than the numerical value. On to that content.

This movie was in 3D. Which, as it was computer-generated, must have been relatively easy to do, since all the “distances” are already in the computer, you would, I assume, just have to put it into some rendering program and *poof* 3D. The ease of this process is why, I imagine, this movie didn’t gain much by being 3D. There were a very few scenes that had a large depth of field and looked pretty cool, but for most of it, you almost didn’t notice. I think Disney used a theory of “why not?” rather than “why” when making that decision. Still, 3D in general makes everything cooler, so it certainly didn’t detract from the movie, it just didn’t add much.

On to less concrete parts of the film. Well, not quite. The art was very good. i really liked the way this movie looked, and things like the fur (a central part of a movie about a dog) were, dare I say, realistic, despite the movie being cartoony. I liked the cartoony aspects of the movie—they didn’t try with humans, which is always a good thing to do (the awkward ones in Toy Story, remember, and the uncanny valley of Final Fantasy). Some characters (the hamster) were more cartoony than others, but so were their personalities, so it worked out well.

Plotwise, this was rather typical. There was the one gimmick of the dog thinking he had super powers, but, essentially, it turned into Homeward Bound. A dog, a cat, and a hamster travel across the country to find their (well, Bolt’s) owner. Despite this, it was very entertaining. It was funny enough, and Rhino the hamster was basically hilarious any time he was on screen. It’s made better by the fact that he is voiced not by an actor like everyone else in the movie, but by an animator who did the test voice. They liked it so much, they put him in the movie. Regardless of the simple, cliché, plot, and perhaps because of it, this was very fun and pleasant to watch.

And, since it’s a Disney movie, we once again have the question of morals. Which are almost exactly the same as in Ratatouille. Which, of course, makes me like this movie immensely. Despite finding out that he doesn’t actually have super powers, Bolt manages to do (with the help of his friends, aw) exactly what he set out to do. So, as in Ratatouille, you can do anything you put your mind to, essentially. Always a feel-good message.

My final thought: you don’t see it, but Bolt bleeds in this movie (it’s talked about, but not shown). How often do Disney characters bleed? It stood out to me at the time, and it still does now…

Anyway, go see this movie. Not necessarily in 3D, though (it’s released in both formats). Unless you like the COOL glasses.


A Quick Jaunt Into Economic Theory

25 February, 2009

This is the second of what I think will be a trio of semi-related articles (culminating in my review of the book Free Culture, of which I already have 515 words of notes on…) In class today, a guest professor was discussing the relations between ancient Egypt and the other kingdoms in the area. Now, in theory, this would not be at all related to something like buying free music online, and downloading versus stealing music. But, it brought up an interesting subject.

Apparently, the kings of the various regions would send gifts to each other. However, rather than actually being gifts, they were more like items of trade. The king of Babylon, say, would send five teams of horses and three pounds of lapis lazuli to the pharaoh, as a gift. But he would also send a messenger later, asking for a gift of a bunch of gold. And, he was perfectly within his rights back then to ask for more gold, if he needed more and the pharaoh gave only a little as a gift (and he did so, according to letters exchanged between the two kings). Now, today, this is unheard of. One would never receive a gift, and then ask for more. Rather, you would be grateful for what you were given, even if you gave the other person something of higher value.

But perhaps equating these kingly gifts to birthday presents and so on today is not the comparison that should be made. (Can you see where I’m going here?) I think that rather than actually being gifts, these transactions were just a different kind of trade than what we are used to. I’m going to give things names here, that may be actually used for something else, so let me know if they are. I’m going to term two types of trade “push trade” and “pull trade,” taking names from IMAP vs. POP (not important if you don’t know what this is)

Now, what we have today, for the most part, is what I’m calling a “pull trade.” We take what we want, and we give back the monetary value of the item. That is, we “pull” the item from the seller, and then give back money, or barter, or whatever we are using to pay. What the kings were doing, though, is participating in “push trade.” They gave an item, and then expected payment (in kind, in gold, or whatever) to come from the buyer. (Alternately, they gave a payment, and expected an item from the seller, which is another way to think about it). They “push” the item to the buyer, and payment is expected, but not necessarily required.

A push economy seems to me to give certain privileges to everyone involved. The seller gets the privilege to ask for a higher price than they received on an item, as well as giving the seller a moral obligation to pay (which is sometimes a stronger force than an economic or legal obligation, at least for people today). The buyer, in return, gets the choice of his own price, or even not to pay at all (although this is dependant on his morals). Now, does this system seem familiar at all? To me, the kings of the ancient world are using essentially the exact same system as bands like Girl Talk and Radiohead are using today to sell their albums. They push out their albums, and we are morally bound (but not legally bound) to give them money. The king of Babylon pushed out his lapis lazuli, and the pharaoh of Egypt was morally bound (but not legally bound) to give him more gold. Of course, this system was clearly not in use everywhere in the ancient world, and probably only for the very rich, but as a spark for an economic idea, it seems interesting.

Does the change towards free culture require a change in economic theory as well as economic behavior? Do companies have to learn to push rather than pull? Thoughts?



17 February, 2009

Why is PC in Battlestar Galactica? That is, the guy who plays PC in the Apple commercials is a random doctor in the latest BSG… Strange.


Monday Roundup 16!

16 February, 2009

Erm, normally there should be other posts in between the Roundups, but that’s okay… It’ll come eventually. I don’t have that many today, but what I have are pretty good. I hope.

[Current] The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act: Man, this would be awesome. Although would there still be a trade embargo? Because it would be awkward to be able to go but not be able to bring anything back…

[Random] George Takei Presents an Important Message About How to Pronounce “George Takei”: As with many of my links, exactly what it sounds like.

[Entertainment] Peterskirche Gigapixel Panaroma: This may be the coolest thing ever. You can just keep zooming in, and zooming in, and zooming in…

[Entertainment] Jane Austen and the undead, together again: I really need to read this. It’s weird that the publisher of the really entertaining worst-case scenario books are also obsessed with zombies. I guess my tastes play right into their hands…

[Humor] Classic Hits by Microsoft Songsmith: So, Microsoft Songsmith is this program that creates backing tracks for whatever you sing into it, in various styles. So, what do we do with this? Put old songs into it, of course! This one I’ve linked to is pretty entertaining, the others in the playlist are cool too. There’s also this version of Toxic by someone else, which is awesome but falls apart once the tempo changes at the chorus (and it doesn’t quite fit otherwise, but still worth listening to).

And, that’s all I got


Monday (Tuesday) Roundup 15!

10 February, 2009

Well, I’m one day closer to the day I should have posted than I was last week. Maybe next week it’ll actually be on Monday! That would be excited. So, I’ve got a bunch today, many of which were actually going to be in the roundup way back in March 2008, and I found the links I had saved, so I’ve brought them up to date!

[Random] Australia holds ‘pigeon smuggler’: I am impressed. So were the pigeons. Oh snap! Get it? Because the pigeons were sort of Smushed? Pressed? Impressed? Anyone? No one? I’ll go sit in a corner then…

[Entertainment] I LEGO N.Y.: Various scenes and parts of New York City made out of legos! Very abstract, very cool. Except for the fact that NYC is lame.

[Geeky] Mario Theme Played with RC Car and Bottles: I mean, it’s really just what it sounds like.

[Random] Best Rube Goldberg Ever: For those of you who don’t know, Rube Goldberg was this awesome cartoonist who, among other things, made these cartoons of really complicated machines that he invented to do simple things, like ring a doorbell, tie a show, things like that. They usually involved balloons popping, balls rolling, boots kicking, etc. Anyway, I used to be obsessed with these. Here’s a cool one in real life. I dunno if it’s the best, but…

[Random] Rural biblical plague disturbs Snakes On A Plane: Now, I have no idea where this article came from. It was in my folder of links for the March roundup, but it’s from 2006, so I don’t really know. It’s also one of the least well written things I have ever seen in my life. It makes essentially no sense. But, it’s entertaining.

[Random] 2 chickens break up rabbit fight!: Again, exactly what it sounds like.

[Tech] Boston Dynamics Big Dog: This robot walks really well. And you can kick it! And if you’re not paying attention, it looks like two guys in a robot dog suit. but it isn’t.

[Entertainment] Apple Mac Music Video: This is really cool. And must have taken forever…

[Current] 81% in Poll Say Nation is Headed on Wrong Track: This was more relevant a year ago, when it came out. Still, it’s cool to see how things change…

[Entertainment] Nunavut (Kronos Quartet and Tanya Tagaq: This individual video is not that interesting, it’s just sort of how they came up with the music. But Tanya Tagaq is awesome; she’s an Inuit throat singer. Go here for a full concert recording (I’m listening to it now…) as well as a bunch of other cool bands (I like Watcha Clan and Chicha Libre a lot too).

[Current] Barack Obama is tired of your motherfucking shit: This could easily be used for (hilarious) prank calls.

[Random] Wordle: Hopefully most of you know about this by now, but this is a pretty cool site where you can just put in an RSS feed, or copy and paste text, and it’ll make a cool picture out of the word frequency. More used words are larger. As an example, here’s one of my junior year paper i made last fall.

[Current] The Obameter: Tracks whether or not Obama has kept his promises, because somehow it kept track of every single one he made…

[Humor] David After Dentist: See, this is why I wanted laughing gas not just an injection when I got my wisdom teeth out.

[Humor] The Soup: It’s Me Or The Dog: Creepy.

[Current] Save the Words: A site that hopes to save words that are dying out of conversation. I hope this blog will be an igniparous agent to the fire of your helpfulness. Er, that was awkward. But I said I would use that word!

[Geeky] Muji Chronotebook: I’m always looking for better ways to keep organised. This seems like a good one.

[Current] Pic Shows Man Robbing Stores With Klingon Sword: Trekkies turned criminals? Who knew…


Best… Email… Ever.

6 February, 2009

Granted, it’s because I started following the account, and I think it’s an automatic response. But still.