Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Well, They Got The Moan Right

It seems Black Snake Moan, a film about Sam Jackson chaining a skinny Christina Ricci to a radiator is getting people worked up already, and, having seen the trailer, it's either an over-the-top satire of something or it's a horribly mis-judged mess, sort of like Starship Troopers with miscegenation in the place of huge bugs. Even the posters are in on it. I can't tell and now I'm vaguely intrigued.

Personally I'm hoping they get the Internet to write the dialogue again so we have SLJ shout "I'm tired of this mofo-ing white-chick tied to my mofo-ing radiator" or somesuch.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Saying Something Nice About The Departed

This Reuters article, Eulogy sex ban at Aussie funerals, really should have come with some anecdotes, there's got to be a few hilarious stories behind this:
"On not a few occasions, inappropriate remarks glossing over the deceased's proclivities (drinking prowess, romantic conquests etc) or about the Church (attacking its moral teachings) have been made at funeral masses," Pell's new guidelines say.

He said the comments often embarrassed the priest, the family and the congregation and become the focus of the service.

Oh come on! Do tell...

Too Little, Too Late

So, The Departed won best picture, does this mean that Infernal Affairs, a much richer more compact telling of the same story with greater visual flare, is some kind of ultimate achievement in movie making? I'd guess not.

Trust me, I was looking forward to The Departed, Scorsese making a crime drama about an insular community in a big city, who wouldn't be? And after watching it I felt it was a good film, but I had a hankering to rewatch Infernal Affairs afterwards and so I did and so it made me angry. It's simply better on every level, even with the atrocious dubbing work of the English version, Jack Nicholson's performance, rightly lauded as just the right side of scenery chewing, being an almost singular exception. Alec Baldwin also manages to do quite a lot with very little but that seems to be his modus operandi these days. Matt Damon is no Andy Lau and Leo isn't anywhere near being Tony Leung. There's a scene in TD where Leo is telling the psychiatrist just how tortured he is and his voice just goes really, really whiny. You are, I suppose, meant to feel some sympathy, but you just want to laugh in his face and tell the brat to grow a pair. Leung, on the other hand, manages to look tortured and conflicted with just a shrug. The less said about the ending the better, but the moral ambiguity, and hope for redemption, of IA is all but wiped out by a Hays Code ending.

In a review of Silent Hill, Penny Arcade opined:
"You might have seen people say that this was a good movie, or a faithful representation of the game, and I would urge you to disregard anything those people say in the future about movies or, indeed, any other subject."

I feel the same way about Infernal Affairs and The Departed, The Departed is a good film, and may even be the best American film of the year, but anyone who suggests it's an improvement on the original should have their views on movies, any movie, regarded as suspect from now on.

Scorsese seems to be becoming the Hollywood equivalent of Bob Dylan where each new work is hailed as is best since some critical milestone and the inadequacies of his recent work is suddenly exposed by this latest "return to form", leaving a long line over over-hyped mediocore product and disappointed fans.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Wikipedia: It Ain't All That

People are shocked that that Wikipedia is sometimes wrong. They are also shocked that students are using it as a resource. They shouldn't. QA place called Middlebury has banned citations of it in tests and papers and the Wikipedia co-founder agrees:
Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia and chairman emeritus of its foundation, said of the Middlebury policy, "I don’t consider it as a negative thing at all."

He continued: "Basically, they are recommending exactly what we suggested — students shouldn’t be citing encyclopedias. I would hope they wouldn’t be citing Encyclopaedia Britannica, either.

"If they had put out a statement not to read Wikipedia at all, I would be laughing. They might as well say don’t listen to rock ’n’ roll either."

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

It Passes The Time

It would have passed in any case. Yes, but not so rapidly.

Samegame2: Samegame now with hexagons.

It's a Clickomania variant that manages to be infuriating and addictive. What's more, the presentation is top notch.

Be Nice To The People You Meet On The Internet

Because they might track you down and kick the snot out of you:
Last October, in what The Times of London described as "Britain's first 'Web rage' attack," a 47-year-old Londoner was convicted of assault on a man with whom he had traded insults in a chat room. He and a friend tracked down the man and attacked him with a pickax handle and a knife.

I can see how that might be a disincentive to flame.

It strikes me, though, that the "online disinhibition effect", as the article has it, might, at times, be a good thing. In essence, they are saying that people are typing things out that they might not say aloud and sending them to the Internet. There are problems with this, as above, but surely it just means that in a new mode of social interaction previous form counts for very little.

It's not the one with the loudest voice or biggest presence that's calling the shots. That is, people who've not had to put up with other people's opinions before are getting frustrated because no-one cares about what they have to say. It's not that the playing field has levelled, the playing field has been changed completely.

One of the suggestions to, er, reinhibit people is to introduce video. Bringing back the old playing field, in effect. On the 'Net when you're just text you look like everybody else, people judge you not on your looks or charisma or whatever, but on the way you write and the way you reason. Put that writer on video and it's not just the message that the medium is passing on.

Flaming is always going to be a part of the Internet, the written parts especially, and a good flame can be good writing too. It's often to Internet discourse what raising your voice is to a pub chat. There are some figures on Usenet who exist just to flame and you can probably find some veteran out there who'll tell you of the great flamewar of alt.*.* in 199*. They'll no doubt tell you or their part in it too. You can look a lot of this stuff up on Google now, it was neither as acrimonious nor as long as the grey-beard thought it was with most of the posts in that particular thread being a seperate argument on the proper recipe for Chili (or something equally unanswerable and, dare it be said, petty), but anyway...
Flaming can be induced in some people with alarming ease. Consider an experiment, reported in 2002 in The Journal of Language and Social Psychology, in which pairs of college students — strangers — were put in separate booths to get to know each other better by exchanging messages in a simulated online chat room.

While coming and going into the lab, the students were well behaved. But the experimenter was stunned to see the messages many of the students sent. About 20 percent of the e-mail conversations immediately became outrageously lewd or simply rude.

I'm not sure what they're expecting here, but most of my conversations with friends have a tendency to get lewd or rude at some point, I can't see what it should be shocking that this happens when anonimity is brought in to the equation too.

There are many things that the Internet is and isn't and certain areas of it aren't good for the faint of heart or the easily upset or those prone to anger when no-one cares what they have to say. It's meant as a resource for everybody but that doesn't mean that it can or even should please all the people all the time.

Area Blog Links To Onion News Item Without Comment

Child-Safety Experts Call For Restrictions On Childhood Imagination

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Where There's A Wil...

There's another TNG review. This time it's Hide And Q.

Youth Literature is Filled with Scrotums

Or so it seems.

Apparently, some recent book aimed at youths started with a sentence that contained the word "scrotum", this enraged a number of school librarians so much that they pledged to hide the book from the eyes of children (see also the recent Hoohah hoohah).

If the author had just waited just a bit longer to use the word, or so the above linked to list suggests, the only outraged librarians would be those who could be bothered read more than the first page of their books.

To sum up: "[Y]ou won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature."

Via Blog of a Bookslut

Thursday, 15 February 2007

I Got Totally Lied To By My Cornflakes, Man!

The National Heart Forum has noticed that when a food label shows nutritional information it shows it in amounts not actually connected to what a normal person would eat or drink:
The guideline daily amounts given on a bottle of Tesco cola are calculated on the basis of 100ml. A typical serving is normally regarded as a 330ml can.

In the above example you can probably justify it, though. If all nutritional information is given in 100ml, and it is on the half litre bottle of Coke in front of me, then Tesco would be shooting themselves in foot by show information about 3 times that amount. People are only looking at the relative healthiness of a product rather that any kind of absolute. Plus, you know, if you're looking at the wholesomeness of a bottle of Coke chances are you're just not eating right anyway.

It's kind of like the standard stand-up thing about "meals for two" actually being equivalent to a single portion just because you don't want the checkout person (who really couldn't care less and I should know I did my bit for Tescos when I was at college) to know that you'll be eating home alone tonight.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Like, Whatever, You Know

Apparently, as a Britsh blogger, and an ex-pat at that, I'm supposed to summon up some outrage at the recent UN report that among the wealthy nations the UK is failing its children. But, well, the Guardian says:
The UK takes bottom place "by a considerable distance" for the number of young people who smoke, abuse drink and drugs, engage in risky sex and become pregnant at too early an age.

So who am I to harsh their buzz, know what I'm sayin'?

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Keep Talking Wesley

Wil Wheaton finally[1] gets around to reviewing another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, this time The Battle. Wil comes to a realisation:

Because that's not bad enough, Wesley comes in at a crucial point in the 3rd act, points out that he "glanced" at some brain scans which he doesn't "really know anything about" and magically deduced exactly what their origin is. To complete Wesley's perfectly brilliant introduction to the audience, they actually have him say, to himself after Troi and Dr. Crusher have left the scene, "You're welcome, ladies . . . Heh. Adults." [...]

The damage is done and it's irreparable; we've made our first impression on an already skeptical audience (who, don't forget, have had to endure some truly atrocious episodes) and we can't ever take it back. After watching this episode, I finally understand -- no, I grok -- exactly why so many people hated Wesley so much. Hell, I played him for seven years and probably have more invested in him than anyone else in the world, and even I hated him after this.

[1] I realise he's probably been very busy and he can review episodes of TNG whenever he damn well pleases. It has been well over a month since his last one, though.

Look At The Lawman Beating-up The Wrong Guy

In time for tonight's return of Life On Mars The Guardian looks at why we love Gene Hunt so much:
"There was fun in imagining someone with that freedom of manouevre. I would certainly love to drink as heavily as him and not worry about my liver. It would be nice to wake up in the morning with a stinking hangover, grab a bottle of scotch, neck a couple of large ones, say, 'Ah - I feel better for that,' and start my day"

It seems weird that the seventies are now seen as a period of, if not outright innocence, naivety. The decade couldn't have possibly been like that and Matthew Graham, the creator of Life On Mars, is certainly aware of the fantasy that he's peddling:
A little later in our conversation Graham goes even further than that: "The reality is that in real life, Gene Hunt would probably be an ugly racist. But you can't do that in a show where you want people to like the main characters. But certainly in the new series he's very lazy about race. That's where we go."

Go Donny go!

Ok, so I must admit that before yesterday I had no idea what the Johnston Paint Cup was. I still don't and I've been Googling all morning. That doesn't stop last night's match from being one of the most thrilling I've seen in quite a while.

I thought Rover's penalty was slightly dodgy, but the ref made Heffernan take it twice, so I guess that evens out. Crewe really didn't do enough to have been 2-0 up at half time, with Doncaster dominating play from the very start. You got the feeling, though, that if Donny could get one back then they'd be in with a shout. And so it turned out. Jason Price's last minute goal was a fitting finish to his industrious night.

Is Cardiff ready for Donny?

Monday, 12 February 2007

Bloggers "Bores In Bars" Shock!

Of course they are.

I think my initial aim in starting this blog was to have somewhere that my friends could check out so that they'd know what I'd be ranting about in the Irish Pub, which is officially re-opened now BTW, at the weekend. So I guess it was more Bar Bore Clarification than anything.

It's one of the voices operation in Blogdom, anyway. There are others, unlike in bars where a particularly vocal bore can drone on and on without anybody getting a word in edgeways. Voices drowned out by the droning, or just those voices you don't hear at all in bars, can be heard.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

BBC Finds Cheeses

Tiny interviewette with LBC on the BBC website

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 13

Play's Controversial Title Leads To Complaints, Change

What I don't quite get about this story is that the complaint was that the person had to explain to their niece what "Vagina" means. I don't see how changing the word to "Hoohah" helps at all. Of course, it does get the theatre in question a little more publicity especially when the article shows up on Fark.

Somehow this makes me want to link to Not The Nine O'Clock News having a go at the Two Ronnies.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Bright Lights New Issue

The latest issue of Bright Lights Film Journal is up on the Internet. It has a long article on one of the unfinished films of Orson Welles, The Other Side Of The Wind. As is often the case with interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Bogdanovich talks mostly about Peter Bogdanovich, but if you are remotely interested in Welles, and my DVD collection and book shelves would suggest that I am, then you should print it off and take a long leisurely read of it wherever you are most comfortable.

There's also a strange article on film titles that's pretty good once you get past the initial paragraphs, and a yet another article on Casablanca because there's no such thing as too much Casablanca:

Although there are more obvious examples of World War II propaganda films than Casablanca, no other film so intricately reflects the historical moment it was produced — the early days of World War II — and the psychological needs of yesterday’s, today’s, and tomorrow’s audiences. Not only does it capture the United States’ perception of itself in the 1940s — cynical yet altruistic, independent yet worldly, idealistic yet na├»ve — but it also provides twenty-first century Americans with an oasis of hope in a desert of arbitrary cruelty and senseless violence. Like Rick, we too can believe that despite our unyielding surface, we are moral within — capable of personal sacrifice in the name of freedom and democracy. For in Casablanca, there will always be a place where good triumphs over evil, and despite the "fight for love and glory," romance survives in a world gone mad.

There's plenty of other stuff too, so check it out. There's even a look at Casino Royale in time, I guess for the DVD release. It falls in to the quick overview category of Bond reviewing that I've noticed that Bond films seem to attract. Not content with merely reviewing the film, which here is relegated to a handful of sentences (eg. 'Daniel Craig makes a serviceable Bond, supposedly "more human."'), the reviewer instead places the various Bond incarnations in historical context and looks at the reviewers own reactions to those different incarnations. Not so much a history of Bond films as history related through Bond films as if, reasurringly, Bond is always there to help us out of world crisis after world crisis in spirit if not in body, or, at the very least, help us ignore theses crises with fantasies of shiny gadgets and superhuman spies. I guess that there's just something about Bond that makes us want to justify why we like him so much.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

What About The Control Group?

A German study has found that alcoholics don't have much of a sense of humour. They haven't got around to explaining the rest of Germany. Then again, given the example of a "joke", I might be an alcoholic German, too:
It was Mother's Day. Anna and her brother had told their mother to stay in bed that morning. She read her book and looked forward to breakfast. After a long wait she finally went downstairs. Anna and her brother were both eating at the table.

The subjects were given a choice of four punchlines:

a) Anna said: "Hi mum, we didn't expect you to be awake so early."
b) Anna picked up an egg and smashed it on her brother's head.
c) Her brother said: "We have a new teacher at our school."
d) Anna said: "It's a surprise for Mother's Day. We cooked our own breakfast."

Well, I guess "d" does make a bit more sense than the others.

Also alcoholics weren't that good at "mentalising" which must mean something other than what I think it does.

They add that "a lack of sense of humour can affect social skills and interpersonal relationships". You know, that explains a lot.

Randy Newman - A Few Words in Defense of Our Country

Yes, it seems Looking For The Next Best thing is turning into one of those Blogs that just links to any old guff on YouTube, except, well, this is Randy Newman and it's great.

Via Making Light.

Monday, 5 February 2007

I Can't Believe It's Not A Parody 2

Alan McGee who signed Oasis and managed the Libertines declares hip-hop past its prime.

It should be noted that the comments afterwards point out some very good recent stuff, including Ghostface Killah, MF Doom, Mad Libs, The Coup, most things Danger Mouse has been up to, Dizzee Rascal and Roots Manuva.


Wow. Prince on top form at the Superbowl.

The Bluesberries Second Ever Gig!

It was a friend of a friend's birthday party, and I suppose it was real our first gig proper as we had two sets and played for a good two hours without me needing to waffle on quite so much between songs. We did three songs by me: Vanilla Pudding Blues, 99 Secrets, and Love You As you Are (well I say by me, but I should also credit Markus for the music). We also did Prison Grove by Warren Zevon, so I got to honour one of my heroes. Anyway, here's some pics:

Not sure what was happening there, it looks like I just dropped the mic stand on my foot.

Markus cooly soloing.

Me forgetting the words, with obvious disapproval from Martin.

A couple of notes: yes, that is a Doncaster Rovers top and yes, I was using the wrong microphone -- it's a long story but suffice it to say I know that you shouldn't really use a condenser mic for performing...