Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Last one from me today

After a long drought, it appears that I can't stop posting. So, last one from me. A great article in the NYTimes about new products designed to improve earning capability and basic tasks in developing countries:


See the actual exhibit here:


Turkey redux

I just finished Snow by Orhan Pamuk, a writer whom everyone says is "narrating his country into existence", or something like that. Evidently, a lot of people are reading this book, although I got it because GF gave it to me as a present.

It's a remarkable work, both for its immediacy as a political novel and the intimacy with which the grandly political is made insular and personal. There were a lot of dimensions to this book, but they cut along the lines of Islam versus secularism, radical Islam versus the West, city versus rural, poverty versus affluence, happiness versus unreasonable expectations, and love versus love. All well reflective of the social divergences I saw in Turkey when I was there two months ago. And given the recent protests, somewhat common knowledge now in the world more generally.

Which leaves me wondering several things about the book. First off, there was a line at the very end where a character asks the author (also named Orhan) to include his statement that readers shouldn't believe anything Orhan writes about them. That's not a real question, but something that leaves a pall over all my questions. Second, I wonder how genuine the conversations are, how reflective they are of what a secularist and an Islamist would say to each other given the chance. Because the interactions/discussions portrayed in the book oftentimes startling in their brutality, duplicity, and general lack of awareness. Pamuk (the real author) seems to place most of this onus on the Islamists, so I wonder how genuine this portrayal is or if it is a sign of his political sensibilities. In either case, the fifth chapter or so when the Director for Education is shot is an illuminating look into Turkish Islamism, or at least Pamuk's understanding of it.

And finally, was I supposed to hate all the characters about 3/4 of the way through? At that point, I wanted to throw up my hands, go to Kars (the setting for the novel), and straighten them all out, if only because a solution seemed so blindingly obvious. But, then I think Pamuk wanted readers to feel that way, because it sets up some greater tension and meaningful disappointment later on.

But overall, a great read, especially for knowing more about the tensions in a really interesting (and strategically important) country. Can't wait to read "My Name is Red."

Pirates 3

The short version of my review: it sucked. Not as badly as #2, but that's really not hard, since the second was a 2-hour trailer for the third.

Now the longer version. It was nice to see some of the various storylines coming together, but the missing element in all this was the interests each of them had in their...whatever it was they were doing (mostly screwing each other over - and btw, spoilers ahead). It wasn't clear, for example, why Orlando wanting to save his father necessarily goes against Keira Knightly. Or what the hell Jack Sparrow was after (immortality? legendary status?). As a result, you didn't get the banter or witticisms that came from Jack playing off all the characters against each other in the first and to a lesser degree the second.

Action was fine, and there were some really cool shots, but the lack of motivation for the characters really inhibited things. I think a big inhibiting factor is that no one has really ever made a successful naval battle shine on the screen (please correct me if I'm wrong, as I'd love to see it). It all boils down to what happens on deck, or in the tight framing of two ships going at it, but you don't get the grand sense of what's happening in the wider battle. Truth be told, this is probably the case in larger land battle films, but the particular nature of naval warfare (separate ships and all) makes it hard to film. I guess one could go the Alexander the Great-route (the movie with Colin Ferrell), but that style was just terrible.

Now, the ending. I actually liked the ambiguous nature of the ending, and how Will Turner and Elizabeth Turner (married in the middle of a naval battle in probably one of the worst contrived scenes ever made) could only see each other every ten years. It was much better than the saccarine tales where everyone lived happily ever after. But Duvall has sent me to


where I discovered that that was not, in fact, the ending. I would have vastly preferred the nominally more "heart-wrenching" ending, if only because it suits my sensibilities of responsibility and adulthood better, and it's a nice way to round off the series. But of course, that closes off the possibility of Pirates 4, which, unfortunately, I'm sure someone will drag me to see.

*sigh* The series started out with such promise, but it pulled a Matrix in the end.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

T Minus 10

Izicmo and her classmates at SVA just finished their first year, and have put on a show that I heartily endorse to those interested in graphic design (the thesis show is probably a good bet too). They're about social issues as toylines, in attractive packaging and done with more than occasional wit. Even the weakest ones have one or two items that are contenders for great ideas.

The good, the bad, and the not quite there as general categories are pretty much universal amongst most observers*. But final rankings end up may be exercises in taste, and it’s in the nitpicking that all the interesting talk happens.

My own contributions to such discussions are influenced by one of the quirks in my thinking, my faux-laymanism (what a terrible sounding –ism. I’ll replace it later.) Basically, there are a few exhibits that are middlebrow—as a category, not a pejorative. Meaning, hot topics the way “racism is bad” and “babies are cute” are hot topics. Nothing no one can’t get behind. I don’t mind that, though the thing is, if you present me a topic that don’t think I’m an expert in (as in virtually anything)**, and I think of something I don’t hear/or see commented on or considered, or in this case presented, then I think you didn’t try too hard. I’m pretty accepting of earnestness these days, just not lazy thinking. That’s pretty much what middlebrow is to me…anything I go with “yeah, and?” to. Still, I feel a little guilty when my judgment is more or less a huffy "not as smart as me."

My other tweak, and this is probably obvious, is that I prefer concept over execution, such that marginally different things, like the dim idea crappily executed, I find better than the no idea beautifully rendered. (I gather that the one I took as a dim exhibit may also have been a no idea one. But you got to give the participants authorial intent, or else you’re playing inside baseball—which isn't really part of this exercise and is playing off personality rather than work). So your reach can exceed your grasp, if you’ve got the nerves to talk something interesting. At least it'll be interesting.

I’m purposely not being too specific about the exhibits, because, well, there’s nineteen of them and I’m lazy and if you can you should see for yourselves. And if comic reviews are kinda awkward without pics, then this is an even steeper hill unless I turn it into a Slate shopping guide or I'll have to focus on one. May'be I'll try (oooh, another one for the wishful thinking bucket). Anyway, my criteria doesn't necessarily give you the best of graphic design (communication as creative problem solving?), but I do think my favorite of the exhibition, “Lone”, happens to be the most successful one too. Great execution coupled with subtle concepts. It should be a contender for everybody’s best, if not favorite.

If you folks check it out, look out for "Lone", the vinyl siding costume, the foie gras duck backpack (even if hanging them on the ceiling fan is a misfire), and the slutty virgin mary***, and give “Gloomy” time to grow on you.

* Of the sophisticated crew I was with. The rest of you unless I know you or you agree with me are all philistines.
** Except the Guardians of the Galaxy. I even wrote letters. One even got printed.
*** Bit of a gimme. But then, given the persistence of the Madonna/Whore thing, blunt is probably best.


I picked up Nova #2 today, because I felt consumery and I wanted to read something where post-Civil War Iron Man, oh how far you've fallen, and another character didn't talk like doofs. Other than Speedball looking like Spawn...when did Venom get eyeballs?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

bloglines + Heroes + filler

For those three of you who may read this,* may I direct you to several of esteemed content providers on the right? I should've when I added them, but am a fool.

Geoff Klock analyses comics and pop culture with intellectual rigor and discipline. I can only do that for things I don't. Recommendations are much cooler than snubs. Therefore Geoff Klock is much cooler than me, despite the villainous moniker.

Warren Peace reviews lots of promising comics. If they're good he'll tell you. And if they're not he'll tell you also. And he uses a scanner. So he blogs text and pictures practically everyday, which leads me to suspect he's a supernatural creature of some sort, or at least has one in his service.

Clean Plate Club catalogs places with good food in New York City. That probably makes it the most useful of the lot. And it's witty too.

Memes provides Hobs the space for Hobs to pontificate without my rude interruption. Actually thats not true, but it'd doubtless be a good thing if it were true.

And I don't think this merits its own post, so here it is, stuck to the bottom of the shoe: I saw part of Heroes last night, and I must say, I didn't realize that a full third of the people seem to have emo haircuts. And then I watched Volver and processed four thoughts: Penelope Cruz is really pretty. Pedro Almodolvar is really good. His sense of proportion regarding the beauty of pure emotions and personal responsibility (emotional concessions to social mores) seems off. (see also: Talk to Her) I would kill for wallpaper like the patterns that appeared during the credits.**


* Ahh, I'm behind on my reading list posts, huh? Naruto and Mushishi: not done. Bleach: coming up. I wonder how often I can change the template in a simulation of progress--or use these filler posts in a simulation of content production.
** Not a human being. Probably, just any animal you don't automatically anthropomorpize. I might maim though; I liked the patterns that much.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Every so often I get the buying bug, and that mostly means I pick up a video game or some books or - lately - components for my computer. And because I'm cheap, I agonize over every purchase: is this worth it? Do I really need this? How much will I really enjoy this? Wouldn't I be better served by just listening to more NPR? blah blah blah

To give you a sense of scale, I spent months selecting components for my PC (Duvall can attest to this) and, after living in my new city for over two years, I have only just gotten an Internet connection after much debate. My life has improved immeasurably because of it.

In the interests of letting you take part in this angst, I have a question. My current buying bug is focused on getting a DVD burner for my computer. I already have a DVD player, but sometimes I wonder whether it would be nice to play a CD and a movie at the same time. I would only really use the burner to copy some files on a DVD, which I could probably do at work. But the idea of having two appeals to me for some reason.

So, what do you all think? And if you think two players is a good thing, why? What could I do with them both?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Die Spinne III

Maybe I make too many concessions to adaptations, and perhaps I didn't think the second one was much better than the first, and therefore the apotheosis of comic book movie. I liked Spider-Man 3. I thought it handled itself well, and I think it was better for all the clutter than a smoother, simpler plot--which would've involved a lot more emotional hammering (that's what I think of the second one).

All the excesses and tics of the first two are present here, after all. Dead earnestness is always required for the melodrama, and while the effects have kept on improving, the character's have always been the most important part (which is probably why I don't mind not being in costume so much). Swinging only looks cool when he's falling anyway. I'm slightly annoyed with a butler scene.* Some scenes probably needed more breathing room, but I prefer the clunky movie we got, rather than an interminable 3 hour slog. Which of course meant any draggy bits had to be shorter (than the second one again. What? did people actually like that doctor impotent thing, or the neighbor's cookie scene?). It's like a comic printed on a bad register, the colors all fall out of lines, and his hand looks like it's the jacket, but it's better for it.


My degree in advanced nerd compels me to say that there ought to be at least 3 more movies: No. 4 A disabled, powerful industrialist hires a thieves to steal Oscorp technology in the hopes gaining some of the biotech. He hires Dr. Curt Connors to decipher the tech. Terrible accident caused by Spider-Man creates the Lizard, who Spider-Man needs to stop. But oh, another thief made off with the straight tech. No. 5 The industrialist Alister Smythe attacks with the Spider-Slayers, and outfits another thief with a powered suit (The Scorpion), in hopes of getting the rest of the Osborn technology. Spider-Man needs to rescue Dr. Connors, who is captured and convinced to continue the research in hopes of curing himself, even as he is asked to advance the serums for the Smythe. Smythe thinks Connors is holding out on him and doses him. Inexplicably Connors looks cured and he doses himself. In the meantime Spider-Man tracks them down with the help of the thief from the 4th movie, the Black Cat. Connors helps Smythe escape, even as he helps Spider-Man beat the Scorpion.
No. 6 Enter the Sinister Six: Kraven the Hunter appears to chase after Spider-Man for ratings for the first act, and just when he's cornered: the Scorpion, Mysterio (as Doc Ock has sadly been rendered useless), and Carnage (a failed synthesis of the Osborne serum and the symbiote also created by the gov't) at the same time, all manipulated by Smythe, the newly insane new Goblin. Venom reappears just 'cause he hates spider-Man that much, though you know he'll fight Carnage later. Only with Sandman and Black Cat, and I dunno, with someone like Silver Sable (hired to capture Kraven), will Spider-Man have a chance.


The overstuffed nature actually made it similar to my old comic reading experience. All it needed was a caption box with the editor telling you where to read scenes you missed (the novelization, as those things are usually based on a full screenplay). Spectacular to see this scene, or check out avengers number whatever to find out about the meteor that is a remnant of an inhuman battle with the fantastic four or something. Which, in the end, is probably why I seem to like this movie better than most people do. All the stories I didn't see on screen I've read and have in my head. I know all the whys and wherefores, plugged the gaps, and moved along.

* And I have fanboy complaint: the spider-sense wasn't played up much. If he looks in the right direction most of the time, it would've worked. And Venom clocking him would indicate he does sense him. You can even exposit that "you don't see me, do you?" or something. But fanboy complaints are worth as much as a blog post.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I went to edit some spacing...

And just lost about 400 words out of my Hikaru No Go post.

I already miss it.

EDIT: God bless Google cache. Good for me, bad for you, my one reader, as if I ever attempted to retype it, it would probably have been shorter and more coherent.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

He should have gone with Hex

The other day I rented Reboot: Daemon Rising, which is the first "movie" in season 4 of the tv series (the dvd was apparently mastered improperly, so everyone sounds dreadful). I remember it fondly--it was basically action-adventure show with it's nerdage on its sleeve, even if no one remembers the pilot episode like I do, where they were threatening to emerge from the disk drive or something. . . . Anyway, I think it pulled off its animation the same way that Batman and Tron did, actually good design without muss. And by naming characters after obsolete printer systems. And there was this one, where the web is first introduced, and Scsi and Modem guest star...

In honor of its half-hours of geeky amusement, the recap of Season 3: