Saturday, February 24, 2007

5 Literalisms I Enjoy

  1. Signaling my dissatisfaction by saying, "Sigh."
  2. Using the word "hyphen" on any occassion.
  3. In lieu of signing off, putting up a "DND" away message.
  4. Stone cold poker-face followed by the phrase, "laugh out loud."
  5. Designating a relationship between two objects by saying "slash."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Freshly Cut Albums . . . of the last 10 Months

The last time I named a few albums of the month was back in March 2006, and by the time I realized I forgot to keep up with it in June 2006, I figured that ship had sailed. But honestly, I've been listening to more music than ever -- and the good albums keep piling up. So here's a few months worth of albums I owe you:

April 2006:
Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah
- Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah
The Books - Lost and Safe
Mitch Hedberg - Strategic Grill Locations
godspeed you black emperor! - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Neil Young - Decade (2 Disc Set)

May 2006:
School of Rock - OMPST
The Walkmen - A Hundred Miles Off
Dane Cook - Retaliation
Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
Cat Power - The Greatest

June 2006:
Andrew Bird
- Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs
Neko Case - The Tigers Have Spoken
The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree
Ziggy Marley - Conscious Party
Canned Heat - The Best of Canned Heat

July 2006:
Beth Orton - The Other Side of Daybreak
Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers
Groove Armada - The Remixes
The Black Keys - Big Come Up
Cat Power - The Covers Record

August 2006:
Junior Kimbrough - Most Things Haven't Worked Out
Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet
Laid Back - "White Horse" (Single)
Boozoo Bajou - "Divers" (Single)
Creedence Clearwater Revival - 6 Disc Box Set (Discs 2, 3, 4)

September 2006:
Of Montreal
- The Bird Who Continues to Eat the Rabbit's Flower
Enigma - A Posteriori
Jeff Hanson - "Daylight" (Single)
Bob Dylan - Love and Theft
Bob Dylan - Modern Times

October 2006:
The Black Keys
- Chulahoma
Corinne Bailey Rae - Corinne Bailey Rae
Demitri Martin - These Are Jokes
Robert Pollard - Normal Happiness
Gov't Mule - The Deep End, Volumes 1-2

November 2006:
Norm Macdonald
- Ridiculous
Paolo Nutini - Paolo Nutini (4 Track Single)
Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
Jim Gaffigan - Beyond the Pale

December 2006:
Natalie Merchant
- Restrospective 1990-2005
Annuals - Be He Me
Sarah McLachlan - Wintersong
The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
The Apples In Stereo - Her Wallpaper Reverie

January 2007:
Peter, Bjorn and John
- Writer's Block
Tom Waits - Closing Time
The Knife - Deep Cuts
The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
Mike Birbiglia - Two Drink Mike

February 2007:
Bloc Party
- A Weekend in the City
Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah - Some Loud Thunder
Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West
Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Another Voice of Bob Marley

Monday, February 19, 2007

Outlook Live! Has Vanished

Last year, Microsoft released a service called "Microsoft Outlook Live," which featured a suped-up email account that has really been a godsend for me. For someone juggling multiple email accounts, organizing my schedule on the computer, wanting access to my email and schedule from the web, and using more than one computer during the day, Outlook Live is a fantastic e-mail solution.

The service was 44.95 a year, and totally worth it. Basically, you received an MSN account with 2GB of storage. It also came with something called the "Outlook Connector," which was an add-on to Microsoft Outlook that let you check your email, contacts, and schedule within Outlook. But the key feature was that every time you received an email, made a change to your schedule, added a contact, or updated a task, all of that information was instantly uploaded to MSN's server and synchronized online. In addition, all of this updated information was also synchronized automatically on any other computers (like my school laptop).

I signed up for the service in March 2006, but a few months later, Microsoft stopped advertising it, and most of the support links were dead. The service dropped off the face of the earth. My email address still works fine, but there is virtually no explanation by Microsoft as to what happened to this service or what will happen to it in the future. I called tech support to find out if I'd lose my email address, and they said that they would be happy to renew my subscription at the same price because I was an existing customer. They just won't give accounts to new customers.

Though I'm happy I get to keep my service (which is a real steal at 44.95 a year), I'm a bit mad at Microsoft for completely dropping the ball on this. You'd think that they'd have their email solutions somewhat unified and under control. And amazingly, MSN Hotmail Premium, which costs more than the service I have, doesn't offer the same functionality!

I was searching for better email solutions and I can't find anything as comprehensive. gMail is kind of clunky and it offers no offline email support--which means that if I don't have an internet connection, I can't read any of my offline mail. In addition, it doesn't have any support for meeting requests or tasks, which is crucial. Yahoo Mail is a complete joke, and my school's email account is even worse. Does anybody know of any good email providers?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

6 Additional Outstanding Films

The New World (2005): From "Badlands" to "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line," Terrence Malick is a sure bet. This movie, deceptively named The "New" World, chronicles the world that pre-existed colonial America. I was a bit worried about Colin Farrell being cast as Captain Smith, but he actually did an impressive job. This film's mood is a mixture of "The Thin Red Line" and "Aguirre: Wrath of God," and really put me in a type of trance. The directing and writing are sparse, quiet, and make the viewer fully aware that the grand landscape surrounding the characters is just as much a part of the story.

Children of Men (2006): If you can get past the somewhat hokey way in which the film was marketed—women are no longer infertile and the world has gone insane—this movie is quite an achievement. The one thing you must do is accept the premise and let the director take control. Alfonso Cuaron’s film is a mix between a documentary, Julie Taymor’s rendition of “Titus,” and a tamer version of "Mad Max." Julianne Moore seemed a bit out of place here, but Clive Owen, who I only really remember from a film called “Gosford Park,” more than made up for it. Cuaron’s mix of documentary-style camera work, amazing set design, and mind-boggling 9 minute one-take action sequences make this film a technical achievement in and of itself.

Bubble (2005): Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble" is an experiment on many levels. It was released in theatres and on Mark Cuban's cable station HDNet at the same time. And it was also released on DVD a few days later. The film was boycotted by a number of theatres because they were afraid that simultaneous release on broadcast and DVD media would cut into their profits. It's a shame this film didn't get a wider release because it is quite good. There are no trained actors that I can discern, just people from the town in which the movie was filmed. The film is quite eerie; it takes place in a doll factory and the story takes quite some time to unfold. But the lead performance by Dustin James Ashley is fascinating because its effortless. The film is shot in HD, which although looks grainy and washed out, is a welcome change. However, someone needs to tell Soderbergh that he should shell out for some boom mics because the sound is quite muffled at times.

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006): A companion piece to "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006), this film unflinchingly captures the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. This film does not reinvent a genre in the way "Saving Private Ryan" did. This flm was simple and quite straightforward. At a few points the movie lacked clarity, and I think it had something to do with the screenplay itself. I also question the soundtrack a bit; it could have used some Asian music instead of the decidedly American/European sounding piano. Nonetheless, Eastwood is the American master and to see him at the top of his game at this age is something to cherish. He is easily more gifted than Scorsese, and is perhaps second only to Kubrick.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005): This movie completely surprised me with its unique cinematography, pacing, and very clever dialogue. The movie, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, unfolded slowly, but buit up momentum and kept me captivated. The story was deceptively simple: Tommy Lee Jones' character is a rancher and befriends a cowboy, an illegal alien, who is needlessly killed by a Border Patrolman, played by Barry Pepper. Tommy Lee Jones abducts the officer and both go on a journey across the border to bury this man in his home town in Mexico. This movie felt like it was a David Lynch film.

Apocalypto (2006): So what if Mel Gibson is insane? Gibson knows how to tell a story and to make a movie so engrossing that your heartrate escalates as the tension builds. Gibson is quite underrated as a film maker and this film is no exception to Gibson's fascination with graphic violence. This movie was a huge gamble--about a culture that most people don't know about, with actors nobody knows, and in a language nobody understands. But we quickly understand out that the movie isn't as foreign as we might think. It's about survival, courage, endurance, and family. The most lasting impression this high-octane film had on me was that it successfully created an entire tangible, textured, and amazingly grand world without relying on too many gaudy special effects.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

15 Guilty Pleasures

  1. All Sugar Ray Music Videos
  2. Dominoes 5-5-5 deal
  3. Tango and Cash (1989)
  4. Fun Dip Candy
  5. FCKGW
  6. Downshifting
  7. Mama Celeste Pizza for One
  8. Kylie Minogue
  9. Yoplait Nouriche
  10. Keygens
  11. Everybody Loves Raymond
  12. Pepper Jack cheese
  13. Bittorrent
  14. Command and Conquer: Red Alert
  15. Ovaltine

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Is Yahoo! Irrelevant?

Yahoo! Mail: Yahoo's email interface remains a generally awful experience. Even their new "Yahoo! Mail Beta" is bloated with useless features. On top of that, if you have the sound on, the inbox constantly refreshes itself, making hundreds of "click" sounds every minute. Round that out with Yahoo!'s stingy policy of not providing outgoing-POP3 access, and you've got yourself a crippled email client.

Yahoo! Groups: This is a mistake made years ago by most student groups, and they are still dealing with it. As a way of organizing and scheduling with teams, Yahoo! Groups is atrocious. Not only does it force you to get a Yahoo! user name and password, it makes it very difficult to later change your user name and password. And inexplicably, tor the last two years, there have been random delays in posting and delivering messages. At times it still takes between 10 minutes and 4 hours to get your message to actually post on the group page. And with individual email accounts hovering around 2GB of storage, why limit Yahoo! Groups to a minuscule 20MB?

Yahoo! Homepage: It's search, stupid! This is so cluttered that I plain forgot that it was supposed to be search engine. There is just so much going on at once here. Do I really need a separate animated button with my horoscope on it? There are at least five or six separate sections on this page, each of which are divided into sub-sections with tabs. The only other major website that's more poorly designed is, which is downright awful.

Signing In: Yahoo! still doesn't understand that in this day and age, people share computers and, moreover, some people just might have more than one Yahoo! account. So why does Yahoo! make it such a pain in the ass to sign in and sing out? If I want to switch screen names, I need to navigate through three different pages just to get to the standard login page. Even worse, Yahoo! ties all of its services together so that you can't use two of their services at the same time with two different accounts on the same computer. For example, let's say my brother is using my computer and signs in to check his email on my computer. And let's say at the time I'm listening to music through the Yahoo! Music Jukebox, which is a paid service. Well, as soon as I sign in to the jukebox using my user name and password, my browser will kick my brother out of his email inbox and replace it with MY inbox. The same crap happens with you sign into anything Yahoo! related. What a debacle.

Yahoo! Finance: Perhaps the most useful feature since Yahoo! struck it big. But amazingly, apart from quotes that update in semi-realtime, there has been almost zero innovation that has gone into this service. It is still slow and difficult to setup.

Put simply, the question is this: what does Yahoo! offer anymore? Is it irrelevant?

Monday, February 12, 2007

5 Outstanding Films

Here are a few of the movies I've recently seen and added to my Movie List:

Pan's Labyrinth (2006): Guillermo del Toro, known for Hellboy and Blade II, blended two great stories into one film. He recently did an interview with his two colleagues Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that really opened my eyes to a recent renaissance of Mexican cinema. Pan's Labyrinth deserves its "R" rating, but I think this film wouldn't have been nearly as good with the violent and political content removed. The mood, lighting, and special effects are quite an achievement.

The Bicycle Thief (1948): Vittorio De Sica's famous movie had an ending that blew me away. The film was refreshingly straightforward and great care is taken not to make any of the film's "themes" or "messages" too overpowering. Moreover, they did a fantastic job of fleshing out more than just the main character, giving many of them not only depth, but also motivation for their acts. If you like this film, you'll also like Xiaoshuai Wang's "Beijing Bicycle" (2001).

Jackass Number Two (2006): I haven't laughed this hard since the show was on MTV. Most people are absolutely stunned when I tell them Jackass was one of my favorite TV shows. Jackass occupies a niche of grotesque human comedy, which to me represents the very fabric of the late 1990's (a la "Fight Club"). The stunts are wonderful and each one continues to blur the line between hilarious and disgusting, and everyone watching catches themselves laughing when they shouldn't.

Chungking Express (1994): I've yet to see a film by Kar Wai Wong I haven't liked, and this is no exception. I'm not sure if I liked this more than "In the Mood for Love," but I can say that this is entirely different. Through two storylines, this movie gave me a unique glimpse into a Hong Kong that is elusive, multicultural, and vibrant. The soundtrack is fantastic and, much like "In the Mood for Love," the director repeats a number of songs to create a powerful effect on the viewer.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006): Al Gore's famous documentary / presentation on the global warming crisis. This movie came out at the right time, as it seems that the "environment" generally has finally entered the consciousness of the public at large. That it took this long is a shame. I admired Gore's ability to keep an audience interested on a topic that is not exactly sexy and--as a techie--I thought the quality of the graphics and animations he used were impressive. What bothered me was an approximately 5-6 minute tangent about how Gore lost the contested election to Bush, which seemed utterly out of place in the middle of an otherwise focused discussion of a hot issue.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

10 Fantastically Inappropriate Post-Coital Theme Songs

  1. Carl Douglas - "Kung-Fu Fighting"
  2. Semisonic - "Closing Time"
  3. Aimee Mann - "Save Me"
  4. Virgos Merlot - "Kiss My Disease"
  5. Tag-Team - "Whoomp There It Is"
  6. Ben Folds Five - "Brick"
  7. The Wallflowers - "Bleeders"
  8. C & C Music Factory - "Things That Make You Go Hmm"
  9. The White Stripes - "The Hardest Button to Button"
  10. Samuel Barber - "Adagio for Strings"

Friday, February 09, 2007

Celebrating Black History Month -- and remembering Coca-Cola

So while everyone was talking about how terrible the Superbowl ads were this year, Coca-Cola's struck me as the most offensive. This was an ad I've seen before, but I was surprised the company chose to re-air it during the big game.

Reminiscent of my earlier post about Branded America, this advertisement attempts to celebrate black history month, featuring a time line of great moments in black history. Alongside the time line are Coca-Cola bottles, which change as time goes on. Simply put, Coca-Cola is telling us, "That's right, WE were there when it happened." Coca-Cola comes dangerously close to taking credit for these events, and even if it stops short of taking credit, it clearly usurps their goodwill and historical significance for cheap, short-term commercial gain.

I've taken the liberty of translating Coca-Cola's underlying message.

Coca-Cola, you make me sick.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

5 Titles I Would Gladly Accept

  1. His Loneliness
  2. Esq.
  3. El General
  4. (feat. Danielle Jensen)
  5. Minister of Funk