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Cat Shit One

I found it impossible to resist watching a trailer for a computer animated series billed as "Metal Gear Solid meets fluffy animals," and it absolutely delivered! Normally the intense action depicted in this sort of military setting is deadly serious and sobering, but somehow, seeing a rabbit knock down a guy and pump him full of lead with an assault rifle had me smiling gleefully. In fact, every fluffy death, while animated with perfect blood splatter and ragdoll, is giggle inducing. Irresistible.

Monsters vs Aliens

Monsters vs AliensIn short, this was a fantastically enjoyable movie. In somewhat more length, a really fun take on a classic theme mixed with some hip pop-culture references and really fantastic visuals (especially in 3D) and you have a can't miss formula for fun. /cliche

Alright, so it's basically a movie for kids with a nice soft PG rating, but like any good animated movie for kids, they've managed to inject enough adult-only jokes and references that no one in the audience should be bored. What surprised me was the "message" the movie is pushing. I was expecting something about how we should rejoice in our differentness, how there's nothing wrong with being a freak, and all that. But the message was actually more about having the strength to do what you want and being your own person and, you know, rejoicing in our differentness, etc. The main character is Susan (the ginormous woman you see in the trailers), and it's mostly about her realizing she doesn't need to be with the selfish career focused Derek that she was planning to marry. She has all the strenth and smarts and will she needs to be her own person and not part of "Team Deedle" as Derek would say. I guess an unexpected feminist breeze that I found quite refreshing presentation and overtness.

Negatives? Well, there were kids in the theater.

4/5

Falsettos

FalsettosFalsettos is a decent musical about a Jewish family going through some "rough spots," as they say. I emphasize the Jewishness because it seems to play an important part throughout the show. In fact, the opening song is about four Jews bitching. It wasn't really clear what they were bitching about or the extent of said bitching, but I guess it was important to set the tone that there are some disagreements in this Jewish family unit.

The basic premise of the story is that a man, leaves his wife and 11 year old son for another man (inexplicably named Whizzer). The wife starts seeing her ex-husband's psychiatrist, who she soon marries. The son is an insomniac struggling with what "love" means. It sounds complicated, but there didn't seem to be any real depth there. We're simply told how things are, but not really shown anything to make us feel what the characters must be feeling.

The music was fine, I mostly heard drums, piano, and clarinet. I usually like to hear some guitar in my musicals, but the lack of didn't really hurt it. The vocal performances were fine and I was very satisfied by the excellent balance of vocals and music so as to prevent one from overpowering the other.

The show ends with the son's bar mitzvah taking place around the hospital bed of the dying Whizzer. We're never really told of what he is dying, but it's clearly something gay people get. This act was set in 1981, so I wouldn't think the reference is to AIDS, but that or something similar seemed to be the implication. It all seemed too contrived for me to take it seriously. I'm not suggesting there needs to be reality for something like this, but it was contrived enough that I wasn't really buying into it and therefore had a difficult time getting into the whole thing emotionally. Sure, it was sad, but I didn't really feel moved.

3/5

The New BSG Nerd Anthem

If you love Battlestar Galactica and can appreciate semi-kooky electronic tributes, check out Jonathan Mann's Battlestar Galactica song from his song-a-day project. It does spoil events leading up to the finale, but does not mention events in or around the finale.

And only tangentially related, but still worth mentioning is Jonathon's Zombie Ponies song, which should earn a heartfelt "OMG PONIES!!!!!1" from everyone. Yes. EVERYONE.

Flexible Music Labels Find New Ways to Put Nails in Their Own Coffins

I've had SeeqPod on my cell phone for several months now. I haven't really found much use for it on a regular basis, but I really like the concept. In short, you punch in a band or artist name (or some similar search term) and SeeqPod will return you a list of individual tracks, whole playlists of tracks, or links to articles about that band, artist, or track on Wikipedia. Right from that returned list of search results you can queue up tracks into a playlist or just choose to play one of the returned playlists, streamed right over the Internet. The interface is slick, appealing, and customizable with different skins.

In what probably comes as no surprise to anyone, various music labels are suing SeeqPod for copyright infringement. In a rather daring and creative move, SeeqPod is now taking pre-registrations from anyone wanting to license their search engine technology and use it for their own (obviously nefarious) purposes.

As the Wired article points out, this didn't work so well for the music labels when they tried this strategy on P2P services like Napster. Taking action against these services forced P2P underground, making pursuit and monitoring significantly more difficult. I think it's fair to say that at this point, the labels have lost that particular battle. I have no idea if SeeqPod's strategy will save them, but you can rest assured that the number of services employing a similar search technology is going to explode, if for no other reason than because of the massive publicity this suit is going to rouse in the music-loving public.

UPDATE: It looks like some labels are working with similar service Project Playlist by licensing their libraries to the music search service. I have no idea why the labels choose these differing strategies for similar services. Obviously there is something here I'm not getting...

"Harry Potter" is a Zionist Plot to Indoctrinate Children Into Witchcraft

The core complaints aren't actually that uncommon as "witchcraft" quickly becomes equated with devil worship and satanism and so on in many western belief systems. Now we have Islamic scholars suggesting a, to my ears, baffling relationship between Zionism, "western cinema," and the Harry Potter stories that really ratchets it all up a notch on the absurdity scale.

Important take-away from this video, Harry Potter wasn't popular until the movies came out. And FYI, Harry Potter is the Messiah.

Notes and Thoughts on The Netherlands

Amsterdam CanalMy final three days of the trip were spent in the Netherlands. By this time, I was getting tired and less interested in taking pictures, also, the weather kind of sucked and didn't really lend itself to glorious images of, well, anything. So, things I noticed in Amsterdam: A) there are canals. Actually, there seemed to be canals everywhere we went. I realize that's a pretty well known fact, and I was certainly aware of it going in, but I think I was surprised by the massive infiltration of these canals. It wasn't just in the crop fields, these canals were everywhere, even the housing developments. To put this into perspective I tried to imagine the development where I grew up being crisscrossed by these canals. Playing around or even in them as a young child. Passing over them, biking beside them. But no, I couldn't. We had a creek running through the development, but that was directed by nature (roughly) and concealed by the trees that cloaked its journey through the neighborhood. B) The weather sucks. I didn't even remember England being that gloomy, but that was remembered through the foggy distorted glass of distant childhood. C) Everyone rides bikes. It doesn't matter, kids, adults, seniors, whole families, I even saw a lady riding a bike with two child seats mounted on it. And though people here do ride bikes, the thought of the majority of the population moving on these human powered vehicles is simply incomprehensible. It's as if someone had told me that a full grown elephant weighs six and a half fluid ounces. Like, first of all, that's not a measure of solid mass, and second, I can't picture "most people" around here riding bikes. And so we're clear, I don't think that's a good thing. It would be great if the default mode of transportation around here was the bicycle, but unfortunately, things aren't laid out to support that. And also, we're lazy Americans.


The BurchtInside the BurchtI think one of my favorite pictures (and sights) was De Burcht, which is basically a defensible wall crowning a hill in Leiden where people could shelter in case of flood. It also looked pretty wicked, hunched up on the hill like that, with a really creepy looking tree to keep it company. Standing up on the wall I snapped this second picture of the inside of De Burcht, which semi-clearly highlights the large tube of toothpaste and a nearby pile of expelled toothpaste. I have no idea what's up with that, but I explicitely avoided reading or even looking for an explanation for fear of there being some perfectly rational explanation. I much preferred the rather more colorful ideas my own mind concocted. For example:

Back in the olden days, an evil witch, sore about her cat being run over by a rogue bicycle messenger and then punted into a nearby canal, cast a spell on the queen and king turning them into a tube of toothpaste and expelled toothpaste respectively. No one at the time really understood what it all meant since, you know, they didn't have toothpaste or anything. But eight hundred years later it made somewhat more sense, except for the reason behind that peculiar transformation.
See, that's much more interested than something like "Donated by Mr. Npheldigger to the town of Leiden to remind people about proper oral hygiene."

The New ChurchThe final "new" place I visited was Delft. It looked a lot like Amsterdam and Leiden, really. We strolled around and visited "The Old Church" (which has a rather distinct lean to it) and "The New Church" pictured here. I've been told the upper section is blackened because everyone in Delft loves Cajun cooking. Though, I could have been confused, she may have said that it was damanged in a fire and never cleaned up. After that stroll around town we went back to Jochem and Tracy's and played some Munchkin and ate pizza and talked about nerdy sci-fi and fantasy books that I haven't read.


You can see the full Netherlands photoset as well as the now completed EuroTrip Collection over on my Flickr page.

Knowing

KnowingI wish this were some really cool existential statement on what it means to "know," but unfortunately it's about a crappy disaster movie. From Alex Proyas, the director of such entertaining movies as Dark City and The Crow comes this stinker about, I think, how much it sucks to know one's destiny. Other than that, I'm not sure there is a point. So, what are the issues with this movie? Badly written cardboard characters, stupid plot, weak acting, and atrocious writing. On the other hand, the pacing built nicely. Effects are pretty good, but that's pretty much standard these days. That's all I've got.

1/5

Battlestar Galactica Sails Off Into the Stars

The curtains have been drawn on one of the best shows on television. The finale episode aired tonight (well, technically last night) and it was a doozy. It tied up most of the loose ends and explained a lot of the big lingering questions. Not everything was neat and tidy, mind you, but I don't (yet) feel bothered by that. I guess I feel pretty good about it in general. No need for spoilers or anything, I don't really feel a need to burst out with the "OMG, how could they!" issues. It was big, it was flashy, it was sad and emotional and hopeful. It was good. It was really really good and I think they did a great job of tying up an extremely complicated show in a way that didn't insult the fans. Good job folks!

Sci-Fi Channel is Changing Its Name

Sci Fi Wire is reporting that the Sci-Fi Channel is changing its name and rebranding itself to: "SyFy" with the tagline "Imagine Greater." I am having a difficult time formulating a balanced response. Not because I hate it, I do understand the motivation and reasoning behind the change, but the name... While phonetically identical to "sci-fi", the word "SyFy" looks like the name of some goofy childrens' toy like silly putty or something. I guess it just seems a lot more difficult to take it seriously, you know?

As of this posting there are something like 675 comments in that linked thread and it looks like all of them are negative. Awesome.

What's more, I can feel a certain kinship with the SyFy folks as my company is also going through a rebranding process (no name changes, though). It always feels like some marketing/ad/branding company is getting tons of cash to come up with something that retarded neighbor kid could have barfed up for free.