Apparently watching this film infects your brain, or at least my brain. I can't stop thinking about the great goddamn action movies we used to be able to get, and how unspeakably shitty Hollywood's garbage has been for the last 20 years.
I have now spent $319 on Grindhouse and related stuff. Grindhouse movie: $9; Popcorn + soda (shoulda drunk less soda in a 3 hour movie): $9; Planet Terror sndtrk, Death Proof sndtrk, and White Zombie's La Sexorcista on iTMS: $34; a dozen car chase and kung fu movies from Amazon: $267; being a psychotic movie fanboy freak: No, I'm not gonna do that goddamn cliché commercial tagline.
Okay, the kung fu movies aren't exactly related to Grindhouse, but I can't think about the old B-movies I love without a giant martial arts and swordfighting throwdown in there somewhere. And one of those is just something silly a friend recommended; "one of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not the same..."
I'm planning to put up at least a small review of each movie as I watch it. We'll see how that goes, my copious spare time being what it is.
- Vanishing Point
- Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (Supercharger Edition)
- The Essential Steve McQueen Collection (Bullitt Two-Disc Special Edition / The Getaway Deluxe Edition / The Cincinnati Kid / Papillon / Tom Horn / Never So Few)
- The Driver
- 42nd Street Forever, Vol. 1
- Hanzo the Razor
- The Bride With White Hair
- The Bride With White Hair 2
- Five Deadly Venoms
- Cutie Honey - The Movie (Live Action)
- Butterfly Sword (Special Edition)
- Shinobi - Heart Under Blade
Saw Grindhouse this weekend. The only word for this is AWESOMETASTIC. If you're going to see one movie in your life... it should probably be Casablanca or The Third Man or Blade Runner. But for the second, go see Grindhouse.
Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror is just another "Go-go dancer amputee with a machine gun for a leg, and a motley crew of Texas heroes, vs. bioengineered plague zombies" movie, you know, like all the others. The action and gore are totally ridiculous, but the important thing isn't that; it's the film techniques. The film is grainy, and clearly worn from being replayed too many times in the smutty scenes. At one point, something happens to the film which allows the plot to advance and the characters to share secrets without letting the audience in on it; it's brilliant, breathtaking in its genius. This isn't just a movie, it's a movie about movies, about the experience of watching a movie. There's homages to everything in here. I'm particularly fond of the Terminator ending, but everyone will have something different to love here. I found myself honestly thinking many times in the movie that Rodriguez may be the greatest filmmaker in history.
The crazy prevues of coming attractions are fantastic. Several of these I want for real. Machete is every insanely-violent '70s "exploitation" action movie crammed into one (I put "exploitation" in quotes, because they weren't demeaning, they were the first and best opportunities ever for blacks or women or asians or hispanics to get into Hollywood movies, and those movies did more for racial tolerance than anyone or anything else; John Shaft and Bruce Lee were much more my heroes than John Wayne). Werewolf Women of the SS looked awesome, and even stars Sybil Danning (from Howling II), though I've already seen Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (no werewolves, but Dyanne Thorne didn't need special effects to be a gorgeous and evil Nazi monster). DON'T miss DON'T! Ah, I love house of terror movies. There is nothing funnier than a bunch of stupid kids running in fear, begging for mercy, and getting eviscerated by a psycho killer.
Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof is a really good '70s car movie. I wish I could say it was great. The first segment lasts far too long, and Harry Knowles says it's some giant fantasy suck-and-fuck-fest for Austin, Texas, but it's a snoozerama compared to everything else in Grindhouse. Then Kurt Russell starts chewing scenery, and Stuntman Mike becomes a person; a really fucked up bitter old man who kills women, but a person. Then STUFF HAPPENS, and you're not snoozing anymore. And because you've spent ALL GODDAMN NIGHT following these girls around, you feel tense and give a shit about what's coming, and there's nothing you can do to stop it... So it's a hell of a payoff. Still, editing would not have hurt this segment a bit. So then the second segment comes... With Zoe Bell. "Who the fuck is Zoe Bell?", you ask? She's the real Xena, the real Bride from Kill Bill. She may be the most badass, unkillable, unstoppable fucking woman on the planet, for real. It's no spoiler to tell you Stuntman Mike doesn't stand a goddamn chance against her, any more than Random Japanese Soldier #37 stands a chance against Gojira. The final car duel is one of the most awesome chases ever, and unlike any but the very best from the '70s, concentrates on the people in the cars. It's not two cars doing this to each other, it's people doing it to each other with cars.
Despite the fact that Planet Terror is an A+ movie and Death Proof merely a solid B, I'm more inclined right now to follow up with more car movies, perhaps to scratch the itch that Death Proof didn't. I've added a ton of stuff to my Amazon wishlists, which I'll be picking up in the weeks to come as I wear down my current unwatched movie stack. And in a happy coincidence, Nathan Fillion (Mal Reynolds of Firefly) (and Richard Brooks, aka Jubal Early of Firefly!) is in a new series on Fox (ew) by Tim Minear (yay!): Drive; Cannonball Run meets 100 Bullets seems to be the concept so far. Good car-bashing chases, interesting dramatic conflicts. Not sure where it's going, but I'll be watching for a while, at least.
Oh, and there were non-Grindhouse, non-parody trailers, two of which were notable: Hot Fuzz, by the director of Shaun of the Dead, looks awesome and ridiculous; a badass maverick cop from the big city gets assigned to a teeny little village where nobody ever gets murdered. Hilarity and violence ensues. Will absolutely be going to see this as soon as it's out.
On the other hand, I don't feel any need to see Spider-Man III now, because I've seen it all. They could've stopped the preview at the first plot twist, and left something to surprise the audience, but no, they show that plot twist. Then the next. Then the third. Then the big finale... I'm no fan of the Whiney Spidey movies anyway, but completely destroying any suspense? If you ever wanted justification for my belief that Hollywood should be cordoned off, burned to the ground with fuel-air explosives, and everyone trying to escape shot in the head like the fucking zombies they are, here it is. Those useless cocksucking studios are shitting on the entire premise of putting suspense in a movie, by showing THE ENTIRE FUCKING FILM in the preview. There will be no mercy for the film butchers. This is why independent film is so important: so we can still watch movies after we terminate everyone in the current shitting-on-movies industry that is Hollywood.
I very much enjoyed Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion (currently: "Amazon.com Sales Rank: #42 in Books"!!!). Nothing new to me, but it's a fun read, and the man has a good sense of humor. Probably you should read Climbing Mount Improbable and The Selfish Gene first, this isn't an introduction to evolution or genetics, and it relies on understanding those.
The book does have a fatal flaw, though: it relies on logic. And logic is one thing theists lack, by definition; if they could use logic, they'd have found their way out of their ignorant "faith" on their own. So it won't do much for converting theists to atheism, but it's a comfort read for existing atheists, might shift some agnostics into atheism, and exposes the insanity of theists. A good deal all around.
But the really funny part is reading Christians trying to comment or review on it. They all repeat the same basic responses (exactly as if they'd all been given the same programmed, autonomic response with no conscious intervention possible, which is of course the case):
- "It's mean and hateful and spiteful! Richard Dawkins is a bitter jerk!"
- Because apparently the last 2000 years of Christians torturing and murdering atheists, pagans, and anyone who wasn't exactly their own sort of Christian was just good clean fun, but a few unkind words from atheists is just too much for their compassionate, sensitive souls. Me, I think the time for being nice to lion food is long past.
- "Dawkins doesn't repeat all the standard arguments we want him to use! He must not be a philosopher!"
- It's so unkind of him to make theists have to think of all-new spurious objections to arguments, instead of reciting their stock spurious objections to previous arguments.
- "This argument depends on God being complex! God, creator of everything, isn't complex! It says so in the Bible, and the Bible is true! The Bible tells you the Bible is true!"
- Logic, Circular: n. See Circular Logic.
This stuff cracks me up. It's like they read this book, and then go out of their way to prove that they've had a giant chunk of their cerebellum lobotomized, rather than let us merely suspect it.
The GIMP is a very nice image editor, but it has a few annoyances on Mac OS X. Obviously, it needs X11 (hidden on the developer CD that comes with your Mac). X11 eats the first click to focus a window, so choosing tools requires two clicks, which is pretty annoying. But worst of all, the splash screen comes up front and center, and can't be moved or put behind anything until it's done... And it's really slow.
Easily fixed: Edit
/Applications/Gimp.app/Contents/Resources/bin/gimp, and change the last line to
exec "$CWD/gimp-2.2" -s "$@"
Yay! Gimp quits bugging me! Someone with spare time on their hands feel like adding a "Disable splash screen" checkbox to the preferences panel?
Lately, I've been playing with Groovy, and reading Groovy in Action. While I have some complaints about the optional syntax (I want minimal but absolutely rigid syntax rules... Groovy has elaborate syntax rules you can often ignore), it's a pretty good language, and it's trivial to embed into your Java code, or run standalone, or pop up a groovyConsole to execute some quick expression.
There's a new version of Jython now, but I'm spoiled by Python 2.5, so going back to 2.2 would be hard, and it's not as easy to hook into Java code.
One of the best features in Groovy is the ease of writing closures, which makes a lot of code easier to write. There are algorithms that are far easier to express with functional/closure-based code. There are algorithms that are far easier to express with procedural code. A pure functional language just isn't suitable for all of my work, never mind that most functional languages are hideous and unreadable. A pure procedural language like Java can fake functional programming sometimes, but it's never been pleasant. It's great to have something that's a usable hybrid of the two. I doubt I'll switch completely over to Groovy, but for my quick-and-dirty code, Groovy's becoming my first choice.
Java itself is finally catching up with closures, though. There's two proposals currently on the table. Doug Lea, et al.'s proposal, and Neal Gafter, et al.'s propsal (full version). The CICE proposal seems like the least disruptive, as it's built on anonymous inner classes, which are already usable, if ugly. Elliotte Rusty Harold's posted his thoughts and second thoughts about the two, and are worth reading.
IBM DeveloperWorks has an article on text editing tools, including use of ed, since ed is the standard editor.
Now, I love the Unix command line--one reason I love the Mac is that it's the best Unix workstation I've used in 20 years. But suggesting the use of ed, written over 30 years ago, reveals an interesting point: modern editors and software in general is significantly slower than software written 30 years ago. Yes, it does more. CPUs are also faster. Niklaus Wirth once half-jokingly said that software gets bigger faster than CPUs get faster.
Watch a cute girl singing "Mac Beautiful" to the Mac Pro, listen to a synthpop song I Love iPhone, and watch the "I Love My Mac" music video.
Now... where's the love songs to Windows? Is it even possible to sing one, without the tears of misery and betrayal choking your voice, or is it more like Luka singing "just don't ask me how I am"? Oh, right, there's always Dance, Monkeyboy and other antics by
Uncle Fester/ Dick Cheney/ The Penguin/Steve Ballmer.
Me, I think Happy Slip's a lot sexier.
Mayor Greg Nickels has done it again, exhibiting his profound understanding of our city (with a little help from a wise and experienced PR agency), coming up with a new slogan for Seattle: Metronatural. And it's been graffiti'd onto the Space Needle.
Why haven't we fired these people yet?
The reader suggestions in the PI article are far more appropriate, especially "Come visit. You can't afford the condos."... There's nothing wrong with our old slogans, "Jet City" and "Emerald City", either.
However, the perfect slogan for Seattle would have to include high-priced coffee, Aurora Avenue, the Space Needle, and rain. "Starbucks, Wet Whores, and the Needle", perhaps...
The Prestige is a film by Christopher Nolan of Memento, Batman Begins fame. Like both of those, it's a story about memory and secrets.
It's 1900, plus or minus a few years, in London's stage circuit. Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) begin as partner magicians, working with engineer Cutter (Michael Caine), until an accident divides them, starting Angier's course of revenge and one-upsmanship against Borden. Borden is the better magician but a far inferior showman, but Angier's professional jealousy and frustration at not knowing how Borden performs his signature Transported Man trick devours him, drives him to a Faustian bargain with Nikola Tesla (David Bowie!!!), and a radical solution to the trick.
The methods of performing the trick that the two magicians come up with are a good reflection of their personalities, but frankly I was disappointed at not seeing more tricks. There are several places where additional stage show could have been included, and would have contrasted their styles more effectively.
Jackman does a passable job--perhaps not a desperate enough demeanor to fit his character, but acceptable--and Bale is intense and nearly rabid. As with most of the real things Tesla invented, the machine is frightening and apocalyptically dangerous (how many people have been electrocuted by AC power, instead of Edison's far safer DC?), and Bowie's performance as Tesla is suitably crazy and sinister. Caine is almost overshadowed here, which is surprising--he's the lone calm, professional, mostly ethical voice. The women are attractive wallpaper, but this is appropriate for the time.
Little of the film is told in linear time; it's mostly flashback of Borden reading Angier's journal about his decoding and reading Borden's journal. It can be difficult to tell where and when things are happening, and with no visible change in the characters' ages, despite at least 7 years passing in the story, it's often confusing. At least Memento always had the prior events in the next scene... The time-jumping spoils the final revelation, which could have been far more shocking and unexpected with different editing.
Overall, it was enjoyable and somewhat suspenseful, especially for the schemes and trick-stealing approaches used by the two magicians, but not nearly as impressive as Memento or Batman Begins.
The complete works of Charles Darwin are now online (or are coming online), thanks to the University of Cambridge.
You should also visit the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. He's touring right now promoting The God Delusion (current Amazon.com sales rank: #3 in Books). I just got my copy, sitting on my desk at work, but haven't had time to read it yet. Hopefully this weekend I can sit down with it. The shiny silver cover certainly attracts attention; several people have asked me about it already.
Other people are annoyed by the panic, hysteria, and fear-mongering the Bush/Blair administration is trying to froth people up into.
David Farber writes On the implausibility of the explosives plot, and The Register's Thomas C. Greene writes Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?, both pointing out that the plot was nonsensical; binary liquid explosives are hard to handle under optimal conditions, and very improbable in an aircraft's bathroom.
Bruce Schneier writes What the Terrorists Want.
The whole thing is a scam to keep you terrified, to keep you giving up your freedom to the fascist-wannabe terrorist squatting in our White House.
Regulation Vol.27 No.3's cover story A False Sense of Insecurity is interesting. Among other points:
Accordingly, it would seem to be reasonable for those in
charge of our safety to inform the public about how many
airliners would have to crash before flying becomes as dangerous
as driving the same distance in an automobile. It turns
out that someone has made that calculation: University of
Michigan transportation researchers Michael Sivak and
Michael Flannagan, in an article last year in American Scientist,
wrote that they determined there would have to be one
set of September 11 crashes a month for the risks to balance
out. More generally, they calculate that an American’s chance
of being killed in one nonstop airline flight is about one in
13 million (even taking the September 11 crashes into
account). To reach that same level of risk when driving on
America’s safest roads — rural interstate highways — one
would have to travel a mere 11.2 miles.
The problem is that humans have a lethally incompetent intuition about probability. Until you've bothered to train your understanding of probability by studying statistics, any chance, no matter how remote, looks likely. Monkeys aren't good at statistics. While humans are still fairly stupid primates, they are capable of learning, of studying statistics, and of sitting down and figuring out what the actual facts are.
For example, buying lottery tickets is foolish. You won't win, and the state keeps most of the money, it's essentially just a tax on stupid people. Someone will win, somewhere, but the odds that it'll be you are so miniscule that you'd be better off giving that $1 to a homeless person in hopes that he's actually a billionaire in disguise, waiting to reward the first generous person. You're as likely to be struck by lightning... Or killed by a terrorist attack.
So now, because of a preliminary investigation that the U.S. government forced the U.K. government to blow early and arrest a bunch of people who may or may not have had anything to do with a potential terrorist attack on an airline, your luggage gets searched even more when you board a plane.
This does not make you any safer. This just irritates you, is a gross violation of the 4th Amendment, and costs an already-hurting airline industry millions or billions more. The enemies making it harder and harder for you to fly are not the terrorists, it's George W. Bush and the Republican party. They're the real terrorists here.
This is an email I just received from one of Sun's mailing lists:
Borland says that it is no longer investing in developer tools. Don't
worry. We've got you covered.
Sun has the tools to meet your needs, and they're available at no
cost! With NetBeans you can easily migrate your applications from
JBuilder to the NetBeans IDE. Additionally, you can be rest assured
that your investment is protected through training, developer
certification, third-party components and technical support.
Of course, this is all blatant lies, and they should stop letting their filthy lying marketing scumbags stop writing to developers who are smarter than they are; of course, this would mean they'd have to stop writing entirely, which can only be a good thing.
While Borland, Inc. will soon no longer doing development tools, they are still investing in the development team (see Allen Bauer's blog for some current news), and are spinning off "DevCo" (which will probably get a new name) into a new company. So Borland's tools are not dead, nor are they being neglected during the transition. Everything Sun says and implies in that first paragraph is a lie.
There is essentially no third-party support for NetBeans, that is simply a lie. To reiterate from last time I checked, there were 34 plugins for NetBeans vs. 1094 plugins for Eclipse. Let's ask the source of all wisdom, if anyone is even interested:
netbeans plugin finds 17,600 hits.
jbuilder plugin finds 746,000 hits.
eclipse plugin finds 13,100,000 hits.
You can easily migrate your Java projects to any IDE, if you use industry-standard ant build.xml files, so this means nothing. "Training, developer certification, [...] and technical support" are nice ways of saying that NetBeans is so awful and unusable that you'll have to ask Sun how to do anything, and they'll charge you for that information.
Sun, please stop lying in support of your awful IDE. Accept that it sucks, and move on.
Yes, I'm incredibly slow when I'm busy at work, but you may now rejoice! I have released a slightly-updated version of GameScroll, which no longer crashes when saving and loading (I think). <sigh> Serialization is a tricky animal.
The graphical editor is nearly usable, but I haven't enabled it in the current version yet, there's still a few things left to do in it. I'd say "It'll be out soon", but we all know that's a lie. It'll be out when it's out.
Bryan O'Bryan (who desperately
needs a last name) is quitting the Mac for Linux. I'm going to go over his
points, because I'm not just not switching back, ever, but consider it
the height of folly.
"1) The Mac Community": Bryan complains that Mac users complain when
software doesn't meet their insanely great expectations. Well, yeah, of course!
That's what I love. Everything on the Mac has been tweaked and adjusted and
polished until it just works perfectly. The Mac is a Rolls-Royce. The Mac is Airwolf.
Mac users are spoiled rotten by software that actually works. That does what
you want, and then some.
The Linux experience of software is that nothing works, you always have to
recompile the code, maybe fiddle with some compiler settings, download 10-20
new versions of the dependent libraries for every new piece of software (and if they conflict with
some other program, you're usually screwed), then go hack on 500 different
config files, recompile the kernel, email some college student in Croatia who
wrote the device driver you desperately need to get your new $500 gadget to
work, and finally give up because it will never actually work. Linux software
is ugly. GTK may be the ugliest GUI toolkit every invented, rivalled only by
Motif and Qt, which are the other two dominant toolkits on Linux. No two Linux
programs look or act anything like each other. There's no goddamn
documentation; if you complain, you're told to read the source. Linux software
typically has half the functionality of a Mac app, but twice as many
configuration options, most of which make it stop working. Linux software can't
be scripted; there's no real equivalent to AppleScript. It's
That's not to say that anything on Windows is any better; Windows is like a
cheap Chinese knock-off of a Fisher-Price My First OS, and 99.9% of the software
available on Windows is, in my professional opinion, absolute garbage. Compared
to Windows, Linux is tolerable, especially for geeks. But compared to a Mac,
Linux is stone-age technology.
So, naturally when you release software that just barely works on Linux or
Windoze, they're overjoyed, just like an abused child is overjoyed if daddy is
too drunk to beat them one night; it's not love, it's not acceptable, but it's
better than what they're used to. When you release software that isn't up to
Apple's standards of beauty, functionality, and elegance, you get flamed,
because you are taking a shit on the hood of a Lamborghini. Stop sucking, and Mac users
won't flame you. For what it's worth, my software, often unpolished, has got a
lot of praise from Mac users, particularly Perilar, which is the first thing
I've really bundled for the Mac.
"2) Apple and their practices". Yes, this is pretty rotten when it
happens to you. But it's only happened twice, in both cases years after the
original release. On the bright side, Apple's cloning and integration adds
enormous value to the platform, and they tend to implement these features
differently and better than the originals. Konfabulator didn't add a separate
screen; the Dashboard takes some getting used to, but it's far more convenient.
Watson was pretty bad at searching most file types, and of course wasn't
integrated into running applications, like Spotlight is.
"3) Apple’s software quality". Frankly, I think Bryan's just insane
or delusional here. I almost never see a Mac app crash; I can get Safari to
crash sometimes. Haven't used Garageband much, but iWeb works very nicely.
iPhoto does not work the way I need it to, but it doesn't crash. I'm still
deciding if I should use .Mac permanently; I don't desperately need it, but it
works very well. And this is during the transition from PowerPC to Intel;
normally, the Mac is even more stable and perfect. So, he's just plain
"Apple’s bundled web browser, Safari, renders many pages I visit
incorrectly (often in weird ways) and, when it doesn’t, it often crashes (or at
least hangs for a minute or more at a time rendering my system almost
unusable)." This is just comical. Safari uses the same KHTML rendering
engine as one of the standard Linux browsers, Konqueror. Yes, KHTML, MSIE,
Firefox, and Opera all render pages slightly differently. But you can use
Firefox, Opera, or several other browsers on Mac, if you don't like Safari. No
As for the community feel, Bryan's just insane. I've never seen so many
enthusiastic, happy users as on the Mac. I've only been to one Mac Users Group meeting so far, but it was
awesome, and I plan to go whenever I have free time.
For me, the killer problem is one of ideology, though. On the Mac, writing
commercial software is a good and noble cause, and you can actually make money at it. Open source has its place, but
commercially-developed software is almost always higher quality. I release all of my games as freeware currently,
but only because there's no viable distribution system for them. Soon, that
looks like it will change, and I'll be changing my release-quality software to
commerical, probably through Greg
Costikyan's Manifesto Games label..
On Linux, you're surrounded by religious fanatics who label that "evil", and
rip off your software because they're communists who don't believe in private
ownership of property. I just got a series of strident, ranting emails from an
asshole in Germany who said, in summary, "oh, I like your software, but I will
only use it if it's open source", culminating in a long bullet-pointed rant
comparing me to Microsoft. I've had similar encounters many times in the last
10 years I've been using Linux. Give something away free or shareware or sell
it at a low price, but decline to give away the source code to the software you
wrote, own, and want to continue to own, and people attack you. This is the
typical charming motherfucker you deal with on Linux.
Not every Linux user is a problem; 50% of them are sane, pleasant geeks who
just can't afford a Mac yet. A few normal people try to use Linux, but this is
not really a viable plan, and while it looked for a while like it might get
better, in the last few years Linux has moved firmly back into the hardcore geek
camp. But the other 50%, the religious fanatics, are deeply offensive, and I
have never seen any Linux user willingly part with money for software, which
means the crappy software situation there will never change.
Since almost all of the software on Linux also runs on a Mac, there's no reason to do this foolish thing. Since the Mac is far more powerful than Linux, both for geeks and non-geeks, it's crippling.
Worst of all, trying to convince normal people to switch to Linux is a crime. They try Linux, find that it's unusable and ugly, and assume that all non-Windows OS's must be just as bad, so they go back to Windows.
I still use Linux for servers. It's a tolerably good server OS, though Solaris is better, and Mac OS X Server is at least competitive. But for a desktop OS, there is only one reasonable choice: Mac OS X.
Airwolf is by Ernie
Cline. All of his work is just as funny.
This morning, I was waiting for the bus to work, doing my Animal Crossing morning "chores", and this nicely-dressed, friendly black guy came up to me and said, "Is that a DS?", and we had a few minutes chat about the DS. I was gonna
offer to exchange name/email with him so we could swap friend codes, and
then just as my bus is pulling up... He pulls out a copy of Awake, the
Jehovah's Witness tabloid, and asks me if I'm interested. Me: "Sorry,
man, Nintendo is my only religion." Him: "Okay, bye!"
As part of my great renaming, and trying to separate my professional activities from personal ones, I've moved most of my software to <http://markdamonhughes.com/>, my software gallery. So if you're looking for something and can't find it, that's probably where it is.
Yes, there'll be more book reviews. I've had a few years' spell of not reviewing anything, but I'm back in the mood. If you're an author or publisher and confident enough to face my particular style of review, I do accept review copies of: non-D20-system role-playing games, books about geek culture, popular science non-fiction, science fiction, Lovecraftian horror, other horror, and Fantasy That Doesn't Suck*. Email me if interested.
- Fantasy That Sucks:
- All human-elf-dwarf medieval fantasy worlds, anything at all involving drow in particular, the Wheel of Endless Sequels That Never End They Go On And On My Friend, or any of Mercedes Lackey's magical (but spelled "maejyckal") pony friends and orphans who discover they're gay elves, which means they can finally find true love. Seriously, I see a dwarf or elf in a fantasy book, and Pratchett's name isn't on the cover, I burn it. I hate Tolkien and all his foul works, and I hate his imitators even more.
- Fantasy That Doesn't Suck:
- Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Karl Edward Wagner, Robert Asprin (both serious and comic), Glen Cook, Mary Gentle, Holly Lisle (except when she co-writes crap with Mercedes Lackey), Terry Pratchett, China Mieville. Dark urban fantasy is my thing. I don't mind a good laugh, as long as there's a bitter edge to it, too. Pratchett's "Night Watch" is just about the perfect fantasy book for me.
"Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel."
-opening lines of JPod
JPod has nothing to do with the iPod. Instead, it's about a group of naive 20-somethings in the videogame industry, all of whom have a last name starting with J, stuck in the same cubicle pod, when their generic skateboarding videogame is first hijacked by a parasitic middle manager who wants to piss on it with his own flavor, and make it hip and "edgy", before even worse things happen to it. Ethan, the protagonist, has to deal with a typical crazy family, a Chinese mobster, and "that asshole", Douglas Coupland.
Some of it is just peculiar. Many pages are just lists created and passed around by the bored techies of JPod, entire pages of the digits of pi or prime numbers or random numbers, or giant 72-point Chinese characters calling you names. A few of the lists are amusing, but mostly it's just page-wasting. Coupland has clearly reached the point in his career where he can ignore his editors, and is foolish enough to do so. Maybe he just thinks e.e. cummings is cool, though most of us got over that by age 14.
Douglas Coupland makes an excellent nuisance character for his own book; everyone's read
Microserfs, and a few lunatics have even wasted their time reading more of his books. As a writer, he's always been amusing but fairly stupid and smug. Happily, he does have the self-perception (or has read a lot of reviews of his books, and it finally sank in) to write himself that way here. You want to hit him in the face, but realize it's wrong to beat up the developmentally disabled.
Ethan, unfortunately, is very passive. He has no goals, no direction, no interests, and takes no action of his own volition. He's like the player character in videogames: you tell him what to do with the controller (cell phone), and he does it, no questions asked (but may whine a bit). I won't spoil the actual events, but morality really doesn't enter into his decisions at all. Hard to feel much sympathy for the boy (he's allegedly 30, but mentally, he's about 19). The relationship he gets into in the book is incredibly wafer-thin, totally implausible and unsubstantiated. They just hook up, and are like an old married couple at that point. I know Coupland can write about relationships, he just chose not to, dumping any drama possible there. Admittedly, it's not like Ethan has the capability to pursue anyone actively.
About half the characters are mere caricatures; you see some of their wacky behaviors off to the side, but not much of why they behave this way.
It's casually mentioned what kind of insane hours they're expected to pull, day in and day out, that they sometimes sleep under their desks, that they make bugger-all (the salary they're pulling in is about 1/2 to 1/3 what they'd make in the mainstream software industry), but nobody really complains, nobody even notices that this sucks. I spent some time in the videogame industry, in the same kind of shitty conditions, and we knew it sucked. Bizarrely, their nameless videogame company has great benefits and gourmet lunch in the cafeteria, which is not normal. In the real world, Google gets noticed for treating its employees like human beings because it's so rare, and the videogame industry is indistinguishable from third-world sweatshops with child laborers chained to their stations.
It only took me 2 days to get through JPod, and I had other things to do. It's very light, and not very meaningful, but I was entertained enough to keep reading, and parts of it were laugh-out-loud funny. I liked it more than I liked Vinge's "Rainbows End", actually, and they're both geeky enough to be comparable. Still probably not hardcover value, though; wait for the paperback, or find a cheap used or overstock hardcover.
This morning's goal was to rename some photos and organize them into gallery directories. Half an hour's work, I figured. Instead it took 3 very long and annoying hours.
- iPhoto doesn't like you renaming files from the Finder; it can't find the photo, even though other Mac apps are perfectly capable of watching for filesystem changes and updating themselves. How amazingly primitive.
- You can't see the image's title, stars, or keywords until you turn them on in the View menu... Why would these NOT be on by default? You don't use Finder without filenames, why would you want to see images without names?
- But even that doesn't help, you can't just double-click on the filename and change it like you can in almost every other Mac app, and even like the album names on the sidebar. Right-click and Info doesn't give you an editable field... At this point, I am forced by cruel necessity to resort to my most hated enemy for the answer: the help system.
- Buried in one subject is the baffling answer. You have to click on the little (i) icon in the bottom toolbar, a popup box comes up, and then you can edit the title (which is initially the same as the filename, but does not change the filename!). So it's mouse-to-image, click, mouse-to-info-box, double-click on title, edit, enter. OVER AND OVER AGAIN. This goes beyond sucking. This is total garbage. This is nearly as bad as a Windoze app!
- Assigning keywords to each image is pretty easy. Make some smart albums that select on those keywords, and hey, I've got something looking nice now.
- Overconfident, I now attempted to create galleries. Dragging albums does nothing, which is a major UI design flaw. Hmn. File|Export? It hangs with the message: "Unable to create /Users/mdh/Desktop/gallery/". Hit cancel. Try exporting one album at a time, and it reports that a file didn't export... But I can drag that file by hand and it works. So I go drag each of the files in that album out to a folder, and eventually find one that can't be dragged; I had earlier moved it to the trash, but the thumbnail hadn't been deleted. But iPhoto would not tell me that information. Not specifically which photo failed. It just gave up and hung. What a wretched tool!
- Unfortunately, even when it works, File|Export doesn't make multiple album directories for you. So I have to go down the line of each album, and export it to a new folder with that name.
- Publishing to iWeb is no better. One album at a time, bub.
At the end of this process, I got my photos in a useful format. The core features of iPhoto seem to work okay. But there's enormous user interface problems. The lack of error reporting, and reporting the WRONG IMAGE when it finally did specify a file, could have been catastrophic; if I hadn't found it the dead image in that gallery, I might well have just grabbed all my files back out from the filesystem, and never used iPhoto again.
For future updates, I'll have to learn how to use AppleScript to export each smart gallery out to the filesystem. That'll probably take several hours to get right. <sigh>.
Apple software rarely lets me down like this. It may "scroll like butter", but iPhoto clearly hasn't been usability tested.