Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Bowels of Television

Have you ever seen any Matthew Lesko advertisements? He sells a book offering you access to government grants, which is a fine idea except for the fact that Lesko has the worst peronsality in the history of television.

Do people only respond to absurdity and obnoxiousness now? I suppose that would explain the FOX News Channel . . .

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Freshly-Cut: Albums of the Month

(November 2005)

1. Songs: Ohia / "The Magnolia Electric Co."
2. The Dave Brubeck Quartet / "Stardust"
3. Thievery Corporation / "Babylon Rewound"
4. Tom McRae / "Just Like Blood"
5. Thelonious Monk / "Jazz Profile No. 24"

The Movie List

So, here it is. My infamous movie list in its full glory.

The idea for this list came to me a few days before I graduated from high school. I wanted to compile a list of great movies. A movie can be "listworthy" for many reasons: directorial quality, acting, screenplay, cinematography, music, camera work, special effects, tone, comic relief, set design, or just that unquantifiable feeling you get when you watch a good movie.

Sometimes I know a movie is listworthy the moment I see it (Million Dollar Baby). Sometimes it takes me a few months to mull it over (The Polar Express). The point is that there is no mathematical rubric for getting on the list. I will say, however, that a film's ability to put me in a foreign space and allow me to remember that space--its texture, lighting, mood, weather--and also remember the characters that emobody that space makes it more likely to be listworthy.

You will find dramas, comedies, animated films, art films, musicals and foreign films on here. I have not ranked the films because it would be too arbitrary considering the wide range of movies on the list. Feel free to add on to the list (or tell me why something should be taken off the list) by commenting.

1. 100 Rifles (1969)
2. 12
Angry Men (1957)
3. 12 Monkeys (1995)
4. 13 Conversations About One Thing (2002)
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
6. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1916)
7. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)
8. 8 Mile (2002)
9. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
10. A Better Place (1997)
11. A Bronx Tale (1993)
12. A Bugs Life (Animated) (1998)
13. A Christmas Story (1983)
14. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
15. A Few Good Men (1992)
16. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
17. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
18. A History of Violence (2005)
19. A Perfect World (1993)
20. A Place In The Sun (1951)
21. A River Runs Through It (1992)
22. A Simple Plan (1998)
23. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
24. A Walk In The Clouds (1995)
25. Aan (Foreign) (1952)
26. Aberdeen (Foreign) (2001)
27. About Schmidt (2002)
28. Affliction (1997)
29. African Queen (1951)
30. Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes – ‘Aguirre, Wrath Of God’ (Foreign) (1972)
31. Airplane! (1980)
32. Aladdin (Animated) (1992)
33. Alice in Wonderland (Animated) (1951)
34. Alien (1979)
35. Aliens (1986)
36. Alive (1993)
37. All About Eve (1950)
38. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)
39. Almost Famous (2000)
40. Amadeus (1984)
41. American Beauty (1999)
42. American Graffiti (1973)
43. American History X (1998)
44. American Movie: The Making of Northwestern (Documentary) (1999)
45. Amores Perros – “Love’s A Bitch” (Foreign) (2000)
46. An American In Paris (Musical) (1951)
47. An Angel At My Table (1990)
48. Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)
49. Andrei Rublyov – “Andrei Rublev” (Foreign) (1969)
50. Animal House (1978)
51. Annie Hall (1977)
52. Apocalypse Now (1979)
53. Apollo 13 (1995)
54. Arlington Road (1999)
55. Around The World In 80 Days (1956)
56. Atanarjuat – ‘The Fast Runner’ (Foreign) (2001)
57. Badlands (1973)
58. Batman (1989)
59. Batman Begins (2005)
60. Ballet Mecanique (Foreign) (1924)
61. Before Night Falls (2000)
62. Being John Malkovich (1999)
63. Being There (1979)
64. Ben-Hur (1959)
65. Bend It Like Beckham (2003)
66. Best In Show (2000)
67. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
68. Billy Elliot (2000)
69. Birth Of A Nation (1915)
70. Blood Work (2002)
71. Blue Chips (1994)
72. Blue Velvet (1986)
73. Body Heat (1981)
74. Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
75. Boogie Nights (1997)
76. Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)
77. Bound (1996)
78. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
79. Boyz N The Hood (1991)
80. Braveheart (1995)
81. Breakdown (1997)
82. Bringing Out The Dead (1999)
83. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
84. Broken Rainbow (Documentary) (1985)
85. Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey (Documentary)(2000)
86. Buena Vista Social Club (Documentary - Foreign) (1999)
87. Bugsy (1991)
88. Bullitt (1968)
89. Bully (2001)
90. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969)
91. Caddyshack (1980)
92. Calling the Ghosts (Documentary) (1997)
93. Cape Fear (1991)
94. Capote (2005)
95. Carlito’s Way (1993)
96. Casablanca (1942)
97. Casino (1995)
98. Changing Lanes (2002)
99. Chicago (2002)
100. Chinatown (1974)
101. Cidade de Deus – ‘City of God’ (Foreign) (2002)
102. Cider House Rules (1999)
103. Citizen Kane (1941)
104. City Lights (1931)
105. City Slickers (1991)
106. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Special Edition (1977)
107. Collateral (2004)
108. Coming To America (1988)
109. Contact (1997)
110. Courage Under Fire (1996)
111. Crash (2005)
112. Da Hong Deng Long Gao Gao Gua – ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ (Foreign) (1991)
113. Dancer In The Dark (2000)
114. Dances With Wolves (1990)
115. Das Boot - The Director’s Cut (Foreign) (1981)
116. Dave (1993)
117. Days of Heaven (1978)
118. Dead Man Walking (1985)
119. Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
120. Dead Ringers (1988)
121. Deliverance (1972)
122. Die Hard (1988)
123. Die Hard: With A Vengeance (1995)
124. Dirty Harry (1971)
125. Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
126. Do The Right Thing (1989)
127. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
128. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
129. Donnie Brasco (1997)
130. Donnie Darko (2001)
131. Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
132. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
133. Duck Soup (1933)
134. Dumb And Dumber (1994)
135. Dut Yeung Nin Wa – ‘In The Mood For Love’ (Foreign) (2000)
136. Elephant (2003)
137. Emak Bakia – ‘Don’t Bother Me’ (Foreign) (1926)
138. Empire Strikes Back (1980)
139. Entre-Acte – ‘Between the Acts’ (Foreign) (1924)
140. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
141. E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)
142. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
143. Falling Down (1993)
144. Fantasia (Animated) (1940)
145. Far From Heaven (2002)
146. Fargo (1996)
147. Field Of Dreams (1989)
148. Fight Club (1999)
149. Finding Nemo (2003)
150. Fire In The Sky (1993)
151. Forrest Gump (1994)
152. Four Days In September (Foreign) (1997)
153. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
154. Frailty (2001)
155. Frankenstein (1931)
156. Frequency (2000)
157. Frida (2002)
158. From Here To Eternity (1953)
159. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
160. Game of Death (1978)
161. Gandhi (1982)
162. Gasman (Foreign) (1997)
163. Gattaca (1997)
164. Ghost (1990)
165. Ghostbusters (1984)
166. Ghostworld (2001)
167. Giant (1954)
168. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
169. Gods And Monsters (1998)
170. Goldfinger (1964)
171. Gone With The Wind (1939)
172. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
173. Good Will Hunting (1997)
174. Goodfellas (1990)
175. Gosford Park (2001)
176. Grumpy Old Men (1993)
177. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967)
178. Habla Con Ella – ‘Talk To Her’ (Foreign) (2003)
179. Hamlet (2000)
180. Happiness (1998)
181. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
182. Hate (Foreign) (1996)
183. Heat (1995)
184. High Noon (1952)
185. Homicide (1991)
186. Hoop Dreams (Documentary) (1994)
187. Hud (1963)
188. I Heart Huckabees (2004)
189. Igby Goes Down (2002)
190. In America (2002)
191. In The Bedroom (2001)
192. In The Line Of Fire (1993)
193. In The Name Of The Father (1993)
194. Innocence (2000)
195. Insomnia (Foreign) (1997)
196. Insomnia (2002)
197. Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
198. It Happened One Night (1934)
199. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
200. Jackie Brown (1997)
201. Jarhead (2005)
202. Jaws (1975)
203. Jerry Maguire (1996)
204. Jesus’ Son (1999)
205. JFK (1991)
206. Jing Ke Ci Qin Wang – ‘The Emperor And The Assassin’ (Foreign) (1999)
207. Jungle Book (1942)
208. Jungle Book (Animated) (1967)
209. Kalifornia (1993)
210. Kill Bill: Volume One (2003)
211. Kill The Day (Foreign) (1996)
212. Kundun (1997)
213. Kolya (Foreign) (1996)
214. L’atalante: Remastered Director’s Cut (Foreign) (1934)
215. L.A. Confidential (1997)
216. Last Of The Mohicans (1992)
217. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
218. Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain – ‘Amelie’ (Foreign) (2001)
219. Le Samorai (Foreign) (1967)
220. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
221. Legends Of The Fall (1994)
222. Lethal Weapon (1987)
223. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
224. Life Is Beautiful (Foreign) (2000)
225. Lion King (Animated) (1994)
226. Lolita (1997)
227. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)
228. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended DVD Edition (2001)
229. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
230. Lorenzo’s Oil (1992)
231. Lost Highway (1997)
232. Lost in Translation (2003)
233. Love and Death (1975)
234. Lovely and Amazing (2002)
235. M*A*S*H (1970)
236. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
237. Magnolia (1999)
238. Malcolm X (1992)
239. Man With A Movie Camera (Foreign) (1929)
240. Manchurian Candidate (1962)
241. Matchstick Men (2003)
242. Mean Streets (1973)
243. Menace II Society (1993)
244. Metropolis (1927)
245. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
246. Midnight Express (1978)
247. Mies vailla menneisyytta – ‘The Man without a Past’ (Foreign) (2002)
248. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
249. Millions (Foreign) (2004)
250. Minority Report (2002)
251. Misery (1990)
252. Mississippi Burning (1988)
253. Modern Times (1936)
254. Monsoon Wedding (2001)
255. Monster (2003)
256. Monster’s Ball (2001)
257. Monsters Inc. (Animated) (2001)
258. Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975)
259. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)
260. Mulholland Drive (2001)
261. Mulholland Falls (1996)
262. Murder In The First (1995)
263. Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
264. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
265. My Fair Lady (Musical) (1964)
266. Mystic River (2003)
267. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
268. Narc (2002)
269. Natural Born Killers (1994)
270. Network (1976)
271. Night Falls On Manhattan (1997)
272. Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
273. Nirgendwo in Afrika – ‘Nowhere in Africa’ (Foreign) (2001)
274. Nixon (1995)
275. No Mans Land (2001)
276. North By Northwest (1959)
277. Notorious (1946)
278. October Sky (1999)
279. On The Waterfront (1954)
280. One False Move (1991)
281. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
282. Ordet – “The Word” (Foreign) (1955)
283. Out Of Africa (1985)
284. Pane e Tulipani – “Bread and Tulips’ (Foreign) (2000)
285. Panic (2000)
286. Passage (Foreign) (2001)
287. Paths Of Glory (1957)
288. Patton (1970)
289. Per un Pugno di Dollari – ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (Foreign) (1964)
290. Peuple migrateur, Le – ‘Winged Migration’ (Foreign Documentary) (2001)
291. Philadelphia (1993)
292. Phorpa – ‘The Cup’ (Foreign) (1999)
293. Pi (1998)
294. Pink Floyd: The Wall (Musical) (1982)
295. Platoon (1986)
296. Pleasantville (1998)
297. Pollock (2000)
298. Primary Colors (1998)
299. Prince Of Tides (1991)
300. Private Parts (1997)
301. Psycho (1960)
302. Pulp Fiction (1994)
303. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
304. Quills (2000)
305. Quiz Show (1994)
306. Raging Bull (1980)
307. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
308. Rainman (1988)
309. Rambo: First Blood (1982)
310. Ran (Foreign) (1985)
311. Rashomon (Foreign) (1950)
312. Ratcatcher (Foreign) (2000)
313. Ravi Shankar: Between Two Worlds (Documentary)(2001)
314. Raw (1987)
315. Rear Window (1954)
316. Rebel Without a Cause (1959)
317. Requiem For A Dream: The Director’s Cut (2000)
318. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
319. Return Of The Jedi (1983)
320. Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
321. Road To Perdition (2002)
322. Rob Roy (1995)
323. Robin Hood (Animated) (1973)
324. Rocky (1976)
325. Rocky II (1979)
326. Ronin (1998)
327. Rope (1948)
328. Run Lola Run (Foreign) (1998)
329. Rushmore (1998)
330. Salaam Bombay! (1988)
331. Saturday Night Fever (1977)
332. Saving Grace (2000)
333. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
334. Sayat Nova – ‘Color of Pomegranates’ (Foreign) (1968)
335. Scent Of A Woman (1992)
336. Schindler’s List (1993)
337. Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993)
338. See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)
339. Sense And Sensibility (1995)
340. Se7en (1995)
341. Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)
342. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
343. Shane (1953)
344. Shawshank Redemption (1994)
345. Shiqi sui de dan che – ‘Beijing Bicycle’ (Foreign) (2001)
346. Shrek (Animated) (2001)
347. Sideways (2004)
348. Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
349. Singin’ In The Rain (Musical) (1952)
350. Sleepers (1996)
351. Small Deaths (Foreign) (1995)
352. Smoke Signals (1998)
353. Solaris (Foreign) (1972)
354. Some Like It Hot (1959)
355. Sound Of Music (Musical) (1965)
356. Spaceballs (1987)
357. Spartacus (1960)
358. Stagecoach (1939)
359. Star Wars (1977)
360. Stir Of Echoes (1999)
361. Strange Days (1995)
362. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
363. Sunshine State (2002)
364. Switchback (1997)
365. Tape (2001)
366. Tarnation (2004)
367. Taste of Cherry (Foreign) (1997)
368. Taxi Driver: 20th Anniversary Edition (1976)
369. Ten Commandments (1956)
370. Terminator (1984)
371. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
372. The Age Of Innocence (1993)
373. The Apartment (1960)
374. The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
375. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
376. The Big Lebowski (1998)
377. The Boxer (1997)
378. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
379. The Candidate (1972)
380. The Cell (2000)
381. The Circle (Foreign) (2000)
382. The Color Purple (1985)
383. The Contender (2000)
384. The Conversation (1974)
385. The Crow (1994)
386. The Crying Game (1992)
387. The Deer Hunter (1978)
388. The Doors (1991)
389. The Dreamers (2004)
390. The Edge (1997)
391. The Elephant Man (1980)
392. The English Patient (1996)
393. The Filth and the Fury (2000) (Documentary)
394. The French Connection (1971)
395. The Fugitive (1993)
396. The Godfather (1972)
397. The Godfather II (1974)
398. The Godfather III (1990)
399. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
400. The Gold Rush (1925)
401. The Good Girl (2002)
402. The Graduate (1967)
403. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
404. The Green Mile (1999)
405. The History of English: The Loaded Gun (Documentary)
406. The Hunt For Red October (1990)
407. The Hustler (1961)
408. The Insider (1999)
409. The Joy Luck Club (1993)
410. The Killing Fields (1984)
411. The King And I (Musical) (1956)
412. The Laramie Project (2002)
413. The Last Emperor (1987)
414. The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
415. The Last Waltz (1978)
416. The Little Mermaid (Animated) (1989)
417. The Longest Day (1962)
418. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
419. The Matrix (1999)
420. The Minus Man (1999)
421. The Mirror (Foreign) (1974)
422. The Natural (1984)
423. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
424. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
425. The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
426. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
427. The Piano (1993)
428. The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience (2004)
429. The Professional (1994)
430. The Quiet American (2003)
431. The Road Warrior (1981)
432. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
433. The Sandlot (1993)
434. The School of Rock (2003)
435. The Score (2001)
436. The Searchers (1956)
437. The Seven Samurai (Foreign) (1954)
438. The Shining (1980)
439. The Straight Story (1999)
440. The Sword In The Stone (Animated) (1963)
441. The Thief (Foreign) (1997)
442. The Third Man (1949)
443. The Untouchables (1987)
444. The War Room (Documentary) (1993)
445. The Wild Bunch (1969)
446. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
447. The Yards (2000)
448. Thin Red Line (1998)
449. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
450. Tigerland (2000)
451. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
452. Todo Sobre Mi Madre – ‘All About My Mother’ (Foreign) (1999)
453. Tombstone (1993)
454. Tootsie (1982)
455. Toy Story (Animated) (1995)
456. Toy Story 2 (Animated) (1999)
457. Training Day (2001)
458. Trainspotting (1996)
459. Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)
460. Trees Lounge (1996)
461. Trois Couleurs: Bleu – ‘Three Colors: Blue’ (Foreign) (1993)
462. Ulee’s Gold (1997)
463. Un Chien Andalou (Foreign) (1929)
464. Unforgiven (1992)
465. Usual Suspects (1995)
466. Vertigo (1958)
467. Viskningar Och Rop – ‘Cries and Whispers’ (Foreign) (1972)
468. Von Ryan’s Express (1965)
469. Vormittagsspuk – ‘Ghosts Before Breakfast’ (Foreign) (1928)
470. Waking Life (2001)
471. Wall Street (1987)
472. Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave (Animated) (1995)
473. Wayne’s World (1992)
474. Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
475. Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995)
476. West Side Story (Musical) (1961)
477. Whale Rider (Foreign) (2002)
478. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
479. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
480. Wild Strawberries (Foreign) (1957)
481. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)
482. Wonder Boys (2000)
483. Wings Of The Dove (1997)
484. Wo Hu Cang Long – ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ (Foreign) (2000)
485. Wuthering Heights (1939)
486. Y Tu Mama Tambien – ‘And Your Mama Too’ (Foreign) (2002)
487. Yankee Doodle Dandy (Musical) (1942)
488. Yellow Submarine (Animated) (1968)
489. You Can Count On Me (2000)
490. Z (Foreign) (1969)
491. Zelig (1983)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Get 100 Free MP3's After You Eat

You know you're going to be sitting around doing nothing after you stuff yourselves. While you're sitting there, sign up for eMusic's free month long trial of their download service. All you do is enter in your information (plus credit card info) and you get 100 free downloads. Your credit card is not billed until after one month if you decide to stay a member.

The downloads are in MP3 format, which are not copyprotected. The service is very intuitive. It is web-based, so there are no bulky programs you need to install first. The files are downloaded to your folder of choice, are named intelligently, and are fully tagged. Because they are in MP3 format, they will also run on your portable players and you can burn them for the ride back home without running afoul of any hidden restrictions.

Try out the service, just make sure you cancel within 30 days if you don't like it, but keep the 100 songs. To sign up navigate to the following site: http://www.emusic.com/compusa. If you just go to the normal homepage, you will only get 50 free downloads.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Taking a Stand

Papayas smell like vomit. There, I've said it. I feel better now.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Moods of Berkeley

Lost power at 3:30am. It was just restored. I suppose the winter is coming, which means Berkeley has rolling power outages for no reason at all.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Pitfalls of Webmail - Part 1

I hate webmail. Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail . . . even Gmail, too.

I have about 7 email accounts that have accumulated over the years and I like having them all synchronized in one place. As a side note, I prefer Outlook 2003. Here are some reasons why I hate web-based email:
  1. Space Limitations: so what if Google is giving me 2 gigs of space. Most of the emails I get are HTML based, which take up a lot of space if you don't want to delete them. With Outlook, you can keep your email server free from clogs and have everything locally.
  2. No visiting multiple webpages: people sometimes have an email address from work or school in addition to one or two for personal use. I'm not logging into multiple sites just to check my email. The fix to this problem is to just have all of your email forwarded to one address (but see #3).
  3. Identities: even if you forward all of your email to one central webmail location, it is difficult to reply from the address of your choice. If you are in Gmail and you want to reply to a message sent to your Hotmail address from within Gmail, your recipient will see the message as from "JDoe@gmail.com on behalf of JDoe@hotmail.com" which is frustrating.
  4. Calendar and Contacts: many businesses and individuals want a sophisticated calendar and contacts management system because they depend on it to keep themselves up to date and propose new meetings. Webmail is not tightly integrated with any calendar applications, so kiss it goodbye.
  5. No advertisements: I want to read my mail in peace and not be bombarded with popups or banner ads when I am reading. I would say privacy is an issue, but I doubt that my mail is that much more private in Outlook as compared to webmail.
  6. Archiving: what happens Gmail is no longer the hottest thing and you want to change accounts a few years from now? How are you going to forward that mail? If you sit there and forward them one-by-one, not only will this take a lot of time, it will also permanently alter your To, From, Date Sent, Date Received, and Subject lines. This makes it very difficult to organize your mail later on.
  7. Starting Over: even if I decide that I want to start using Gmail, how do I import all of my existing Outlook email into Gmail without losing my ability to categorize and cross reference emails? I've seen a few hacks, but they all have drawbacks. And again, if I forward my email one by one, I have the same problems listed in #6.
  8. Integration with Microsoft Office/Adobe: this is very helpful when you want to send out documents for review constantly and want to keep track of them. Dragging and dropping attachments is a lot easier than navigting to them through some half-assed attachment menu. Note: Yahoo! and Hotmail have promised drag and drop functionality in an upcoming release.

I think issues 6 and 7 are the most important to me. To have no effective way of exporting or importing email in a number of different formats is a deal-breaker.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What Not To Wear on TLC

This Friday (11/18), the show What Not To Wear on the TLC network will air an episode featuring a friend of mine from college, Susan. The show is on at 9:00pm on TLC.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Universal Truths

Unproven in the traditional sense, the following 30 statements are and will remain to be true:

  1. Although bad for you, smoking is cool.
  2. Even if brand new, episodes of Charlie Rose that have the washed out gray color in the background warrant turning off the show.
  3. Rudy was the best Cosby kid.
  4. You are right, Windows does take longer to boot up as time goes on. And you are wrong, Windows will always take that long to boot up.
  5. Prego pasta sauce does have a metallic taste to it.
  6. King of the Hill is boring.
  7. Arcade games are no better than they were five years ago. Arcade games five years ago were no better than they were five years before that.
  8. Kenyon Martin will never admit to fouling anyone.
  9. Tablet PCs are stupid.
  10. Any slice of pizza more than $1.75 is too much.
  11. Tweeters make your car stereo sound like crap.
  12. Google is overvalued. Nevertheless, it will reach $450 per share.
  13. Hybrid vehicles are filtered cigarettes.
  14. We all know you do a half-assed job washing your dishes.
  15. The Matrix wasn't as good as you thought it was.
  16. Predator was better than you thought it was.
  17. Yes, that smell is you.
  18. Wiping off the toilet seat does not constitute cleaning it.
  19. A wristwatch with any kind of computer, weather information, e-mail, stock information or scheduling information will necessarily fail.
  20. Natural Born Killers is not easier to get through the second time around.
  21. Navy and black worn together is fine.
  22. The inset hinges that Toshiba and Compaq use for their notebooks are hideous.
  23. Nobody cares about Bam Margera.
  24. The market won't "take care of it."
  25. There is such a thing as too much bass.
  26. iPods suck.
  27. Parking meters that automatically reset when you leave the spot constitutes a government taking.
  28. Will Smith plays the same character in every role he does. And yes, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is unwatchable today, even though it was decent five years ago.
  29. If anybody claims they were doing it for "research purposes," they are lying.
  30. Gillette will beat out Shick in releasing "The Ocho" in July 2008.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Man and the Iron Past

I woke up a few days ago and have suddenly gained the ability to iron dress shirts with the utomost skill. It's like becoming a speed reader after you get into a car accident, only more useful.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gordon Moore on Charlie Rose

In case you missed it, Charlie Rose interviewed Intel's co-founder Gordon Moore tonight. The full-hour interview was fantastic. Moore was candid and accessible, acknowledging that he has become a historian of the industry because his technological expertise became instantly obsolete when he removed himself from the engineering trenches.

To properly gauge Moore's performance, compare him to Charlie Rose's earlier interview with Lee Raymond, Chairman and CEO of Exxon/Mobil, who was slicker and more evasive than most guests on the show. Raymond would avoid most questions and find a way to backtrack, repeating the phrase, "Well that's not what I said" or "Not necessarily" (or some version of that) at least nine or ten times. Although sometimes it is fun to see someone successfully avoid questions by truly using the art of rhetoric and persuasive speech, Raymond was clearly not up for the challenge. He opted, instead, to ignore questions or just move on.

If you would like to see the Gordon Moore interview, the episode will be on re-run tomorrow on PBS.

A History of Violence (2005)

David Cronenberg's A History of Violence is quiet but not unassuming.

Set in a quiet town in Indiana, we are introduced to Tom Stall, a family man with a seemingly stable home life. Tom is played by Viggo Mortensen--who I only remember from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy but has been in a number of famous films. His wife, Edie, is played by Maria Bello. He has two children and works as a cook in a diner.

From the opening credits and the title of the film, we are all aware that this movie has a darker, more sinister side to it. Without giving too much away by way of plot, two men try to rob the diner Tom works in. It's almost as if Tom silently changes into an efficient killer. Tom completely wipes out both robbers in a rather grotesque manner. And it is from that point on the audience begins wondering what kind of past Tom Stall has, or used to have. That's all I will give in terms of plot.

The film's basic message is that violence has a way of spreading, almost like a virus. We see in very straightforward ways how Tom's son has violent tendencies, inherited of course from his father. Coming from the director who made Dead Ringers (1988), starring Jeremy Irons, I was expecting a lot more in terms of creativity. The relationships in Cronenberg's new film are too straightforward in comparison to his earlier work, which was enigmatic and puzzling. As I wrote earlier, this film is quiet but not unassuming. The film assumes too much. It sees too mathematical a relationship between family and violence.

I particularly hated the "bully" character who was picking on Tom's son. The bully gave the most ridiculous evil eye when Tom's son caught a fly ball in gym class, which the bully was on the losing side of. Are we to believe that they really fought over a lousy baseball game during gym class? Couldn't they write a better reason for their fighting into the script? Why not just make the bully the type of bully that has no reason for picking his victims--those are the worst ones, aren't they?

The audience laughed at various points, sometimes intended and sometimes unintended by the director. One of the most unexpected scenes was towards the end of the film with William Hurt. The film transforms from a mystery/drama into a semi-comedy. But the change in tempo and tone is welcome and the effect was well appreciated. This laughter worked well in offsetting the actual images of violence in the film. These scenes were designed perfectly. The gun shots are isolated, with very little music or sound in the background. It has the eerie quietness that reeks of realism.

Apart from the rather one-dimensional writing and smaller problems with the plotline involving Tom's son, A History of Violence is fantastic in its general effect.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

On Reality TV

The only reality TV idea that sounds appealing to me is the fake one on the GEICO commercial about the couple stuck in a miniature house.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Going Paperless

Here's something environmentalists and business efficiency experts can get together on: NO MORE PAPER BILLS.

Not having paper bills come in each month (or every three or six months) works wonders for me especially since I move twice a year. If you tell the post office to begin forwarding your mail, you'll be happy to get 10% to 15% of it at your new address. On top of that, they probably won't start forwarding it until three weeks after you ask them to start. And finally, they won't stop forwarding your email until three weeks after you ask them to stop.

No more paper statements from my: (1) bank, (2) credit card companies, (3) cell phone provider, (4) power company, (5) television provider, (6) auto insurance provider, (6) ISP, (7) local telephone company, and (8) stock broker. Combine this with a free online bill paying service from virtually any bank in the country, and you've got an efficient way to keep track of your expenses. Here are some benefits:
  1. Portability: If I am out of town and a bill arrives, all I need is an Internet connection to stay up to date
  2. Free rewards points up the yin-yang. The best part of paying your bills online is that you often get points just for signing up (because it is cheaper for your company to send out an email than a paper statement). And, if you pay your bills with a credit card (and then just pay the credit card at the end of the month), you are eligible for 1% to 3% of your money back in some type of rewards points.
  3. Boost your credit score. If you put things on your credit card on purpose, and just pay them off each month on time, you're on your way to a solid credit history.
  4. More time to pay. Let's say your TV bill is due on November 20. If you pay the bill online using your credit card on November 18, you probably won't see your credit card statement for another few weeks. Therefore, you've just bought yourself an extension without paying any interest whatsoever.
  5. No more stamps or envelopes. I would venture to say that stamps alone cost an average family 4 dollars a month
  6. Instant access to your history at every site. This means that your uncle can throw out his 7 year stockpile of useless receipts. If you need something, print it out. Also, you can set up daily alerts so that whenever your checking account or credit card is used, you will be the first to know.
  7. No more checks. You don't have to waste paper checks anymore. If you pay online, your bank either sends a paper check by itself or will transfer your funds electronically. This means no more "check printing" charges.
  8. Time. You know how much time it takes to pay a paper bill? Sit down, write everything down, write a check, fill in all the account information, stuff it, stamp it, then let it sit on the table for a few days when you get around to sending it.
I will say, however, that there are a few drawbacks. The first is security. There are plenty of stories of people getting scammed on the internet or getting their financial information intercepted through an insecure internet connection. But I feel like this is what fraud protection is for. Even if I don't pay for protection, if you complain to your credit card company or bank that there is a charge on there that you didn't make, they'll remove it. Plus, I don't really see checks being any safer a medium.

The other drawback is that many people think online bill paying and automatic bill paying are the same thing. They are not. You can have the company automatically deduct money from your account so you don't have to worry about paying bills at all, but I think this leaves people susceptible to being swindled. I know Verizon Wireless habitually used to charge people an extra few cents for no reason (35 million customers and stealing a penny from each of them equals big bucks). You really think someone with auto bill pay is going to notice the difference between $39.87 and $39.89? Not a chance. The fix? Just get your bill online, but don't sign up to have it paid automatically.

If you don't want to go all the way, try paperless bills with a few of your monthly bills. But I promise you'll see why all of us younger whipper-snappers have faith in electronic commerce.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The "Live" Debate Episode

So West Wing decided to try and steal away loyal Simpsons viewers with a "Live" episode where the two presidential candidates debate the issues. It seemed contrived. There was an "outburst" from the audience that sounded remarkably similar to the dude who heckled the Governator last week, but it was still a snooze-fest.

Both candidates decided to "forget the rules" and act is if they were going to have a real debate, unlike the traditional song-and-dance routine we get in real presidential debates. Fine, it was an interesting idea, but both candidates got off of their podiums and started talking to an audience that applauded everything. It looked like a motivational speaking convention.

Towards the end, the segues into different topics were nonexistent and the writing became rather tired. They were covering too much ground for it to even remain realistic. The best part of the entire night, however, came during the intermission when Ellen Degeneres stole the show. Her bit on Social Security cards not being laminated hit the spot.

The great irony is that I missed the "Live" episode and watched it on my PVR.

File Sharer in Hong Kong Sentenced

Chan Nai-Ming, a native of Hong Kong, was convicted and sentenced to three concurrent months of jailtime for file sharing. Using the popular BitTorrent service, he traded three films, one of which included Miss Congeniality. This conviction marks the world's first successful piracy conviction related to online movie trading.

My guess is that the court imposed punishment on Nai-Ming because the making (or facilitating others to make) unauthorized copies of Miss Congeniality is a borderline human rights violation.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Eid Mubarak, Maybe

The holy month of Ramadan is now officially over. During the past month, I've been fasting from sunrise to sunset. Now that it is over, Muslims all across the world are celebrating Eid--well--sort of.

The Islamic calendar, like the Jewish calendar, is a lunar calendar (and not a solar calendar). We have been able to gauge the moon's different phases with pinpoint accuracy for probably more than 1000 years. In fact, there were a number of Muslim astronomers and scientists who have had access to the relatively simple technology. But somehow, we can't agree on what day it is . . .

People insist on being traditional and waiting for some yahoo to tell us that he "sighted" the moon before we're willing to say that the month of Ramadan is over. So if someone actually sees the moon (and this person has to have certain credentials), then we know whether the date has changed. The end result, different types of Muslims (sect, nationality, congregation) have different sources and Muslims end up celebrating Eid on different days. For example, most Sunni Muslims celebrated on Thursday and many Shia Muslims celebrated on Friday.

This is the dumbest controversy in the history of religion. Are you telling me that we can figure out how a calendar works and all celebrate on the same day? I can't tell you how uncomfortable it is going over my friend's house while they are celebrating Eid and I am still fasting (because I will be celebrating Eid the following day). This isn't necessarily a Sunni/Shia issue either, though I will mention that Sunnis generally appear to have their shit together.

Time is an essential unifying element and one of the most powerful forces that gives a group a sense of common living and common history. In fact the Muslim calendar began when the Prophet fled a town because of persecution. We have, over time, developed a calendar based on a single event and used the event to locate ourselves. So you can see why it is imporant to maintain that unity.

This is not to say that some disunity might be beneficial. Muslims all over the world also use the standard solar calendar. I celebrate my birthday every solar year, not every lunar year (which is shorter). We need the solar calendar to viably function in the world's political and economic spaces. Having multiple "times" allow me to exist on two separate trajectories, living multiple lives simultaenously, slipping in and out of one dimension seamlessly. But the philosophical impact of this kind of postmodern argument has its limits, especially when the Muslim calendar itself is fragmenting itself.

We've allowed something simple--sighting the moon--to remain a divisive issue for practically no reason at all except pride. Certain denominations will only listen to reporters of that denomination. Others will do whatever the people in a home country will do. It breeds distrust of the other group. There's only one moon, how can we manage to fuck this up?

The tricky part of this debate is that it has small elements of, but is not predicated upon a "Faith versus Science" theme. When we say that modern science can determine if the moon is actually visible, it is partially an attack on the clergy's unwillingness to believe that the moon is actually there if they can't see it themselves (due to cloud cover or other atmospheric conditions). The last I checked, wasn't believing something you can't necessarily see with your own eyes a basic prerequisite for all of the world's religions?

There are practical considerations too. If you have no idea whether tomorrow will be Eid, you can't give advance notice to your employer if you want to take off from work.

But then there's the simultaneous debate over tradition itself. We keep on perpetuating this ridiculous practice because, well, that's how it was done in the past. But our insistence on having some Muslims verify that the moon has been sighted is not only hyper-technical, but exclusionary. The greater good (unifying the Muslim calendar) far outweighs any benefits.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A ShapeShifter?

So there is this Herbal Essences commercial mystifies me. The person pictured below dances around for thirty seconds and supposedly sells the shampoo product. But what drives me insane is how different this woman looks in each segment of the commercial. Someone want to venture a guess as to her age?

Here she is looking like she's 24. One caveat, she is jumping, and is in mid-descent.

And here at Age 25; slightly sharper cheekbone structure and less baby fat.

Age 27?

And at Age 28, maybe?

Perhaps 30+?

My only other theory is that there is more than one model on the commercial; but the editing seems to be seamless. That the model sometimes wears yellow and at other times pink is not enough evidence of more than one model.

Quite a mystery.