Is This Thing Still On?

Oh, hai.

If you know me, you know I'm not particularly great at managing my time. I'm not one of those smug cunts who can churn out 3 books and a PhD defense before breakfast. I have trouble staying focused and finishing the things I start. My wife loves it when I leave wet laundry lying on the bed because I got distracted halfway through hanging it up.

Right now, college is sucking all of my time. I'm in my final year (fingers crossed!) of an arts degree, and so I'm up to my nuts in postmodernism, victorianism, romanticism -- lots of -isms -- Kant, Plato, and the various ontological and cosmological reasons for God. It's all fun stuff - even more so when my computer hard drive craps out right in the middle of writing an essay. Hilarious.

This is something I really, really want to finish. I don't want to look back on the past three years of college and think of it as a giant pile of wet laundry. So, this means that I don't have much time for anything else. Sorry, Dragon Age! Sorry, Demon's Souls! Sorry, Bioshock 2! Sorry, this blog!

I've got my final exams in the middle of May and then I'm heading off to the Primavera festival in Barcelona immediately after. Things might get back to normal after that.

Is this thing still on?

Oh, hai.

If you know me, you know I’m not particularly great at managing my time. I’m not one of those smug cunts who can churn out 3 books and a PhD defense before breakfast. I have trouble staying focused and finishing the things I start. My wife loves it when I leave wet laundry lying on the bed because I got distracted halfway through hanging it up.

Right now, college is sucking all of my time. I’m in my final year (fingers crossed!) of an arts degree, and so I’m up to my nuts in postmodernism, victorianism, romanticism — lots of –isms — Kant, Plato, and the various ontological and cosmological reasons for God. It’s all fun stuff — even more so when my computer hard drive craps out right in the middle of writing an essay. Hilarious.

This is something I really, really want to finish. I don’t want to look back on the past three years of college and think of it as a giant pile of wet laundry. So, this means that I don’t have much time for anything else. Sorry, Dragon Age! Sorry, Demon’s Souls! Sorry, Bioshock 2! Sorry, this blog!

I’ve got my final exams in the middle of May and then I’m heading off to the Primavera festival in Barcelona immediately after. Things might get back to normal after that.

Ira and Philip Glass Performing Live

This sounds amazing - From This American Life:

Hi everyone—

Ira here. Philip Glass, the iconic composer of operas and film scores who—there's no non-weird way to say this—is also my cousin, is doing a live performance at the Apple Store in Soho this Thursday, January 21st. Apple is filming it and is going to offer the video on iTunes at some point, maybe that same day for all I know.

I've been asked to perform a piece that Allen Ginsberg used to perform with Philip, Ginsberg's great Vietnam-era poem "Wichita Vortex Sutra." Philip set it to music years ago, and there are a few great recordings of them performing it together, which you are just a google search away from, or try this YouTube clip, and at this point by the way are we still supposed to capitalize Google when we use it as a verb or adjective?

I've performed this with Philip once before. He plays that piano a lot louder than you might think. It's like reading a poem inside a helicopter. It's also really fun. Ginsberg used to perform the thing with a beat poet grandeur I'd be embarrassed to attempt. When he calls down the gods in the second half of the poem, he really calls down the gods. Needless to say, it's kind of the opposite of talking on the radio, where the whole point is to sound off-hand and conversational.

I'm the smallest part of this event. Philip will be playing solo, and with cellist (also his GF) Wendy Sutter which is always fantastic and really emotional, and with his chamber group.

If you've ever listened to an episode of This American Life, then you've probably heard Wichita Vortex Sutra before, because they use it as part of their interstitial music all the time. It's the one that isn't by Why? and isn't from the Amelie soundtrack. It's also one of my favourite songs in the world - actually, all of Philip Glass' Solo Piano pieces are terrific - and I'm completely psyched to check this performance out.

Ira and Philip Glass Performing Live

This sounds amazing - From This American Life:

Hi everyone—

Ira here. Philip Glass, the iconic composer of operas and film scores who—there's no non-weird way to say this—is also my cousin, is doing a live performance at the Apple Store in Soho this Thursday, January 21st. Apple is filming it and is going to offer the video on iTunes at some point, maybe that same day for all I know.

I've been asked to perform a piece that Allen Ginsberg used to perform with Philip, Ginsberg's great Vietnam-era poem "Wichita Vortex Sutra." Philip set it to music years ago, and there are a few great recordings of them performing it together, which you are just a google search away from, or try this YouTube clip, and at this point by the way are we still supposed to capitalize Google when we use it as a verb or adjective?

I've performed this with Philip once before. He plays that piano a lot louder than you might think. It's like reading a poem inside a helicopter. It's also really fun. Ginsberg used to perform the thing with a beat poet grandeur I'd be embarrassed to attempt. When he calls down the gods in the second half of the poem, he really calls down the gods. Needless to say, it's kind of the opposite of talking on the radio, where the whole point is to sound off-hand and conversational.

I'm the smallest part of this event. Philip will be playing solo, and with cellist (also his GF) Wendy Sutter which is always fantastic and really emotional, and with his chamber group.

If you've ever listened to an episode of This American Life, then you've probably heard Wichita Vortex Sutra before, because they use it as part of their interstitial music all the time. It's the one that isn't by Why? and isn't from the Amelie soundtrack. It's also one of my favourite songs in the world - actually, all of Philip Glass' Solo Piano pieces are terrific - and I'm completely psyched to check this performance out.

Ira and Philip Glass Performing Live

This sounds amazing — From This American Life:

Hi everyone—

Ira here. Philip Glass, the iconic composer of operas and film scores who—there’s no non-weird way to say this—is also my cousin, is doing a live performance at the Apple Store in Soho this Thursday, January 21st. Apple is filming it and is going to offer the video on iTunes at some point, maybe that same day for all I know.

I’ve been asked to perform a piece that Allen Ginsberg used to perform with Philip, Ginsberg’s great Vietnam-era poem “Wichita Vortex Sutra.” Philip set it to music years ago, and there are a few great recordings of them performing it together, which you are just a google search away from, or try this YouTube clip, and at this point by the way are we still supposed to capitalize Google when we use it as a verb or adjective?

I’ve performed this with Philip once before. He plays that piano a lot louder than you might think. It’s like reading a poem inside a helicopter. It’s also really fun. Ginsberg used to perform the thing with a beat poet grandeur I’d be embarrassed to attempt. When he calls down the gods in the second half of the poem, he really calls down the gods. Needless to say, it’s kind of the opposite of talking on the radio, where the whole point is to sound off-hand and conversational.

I’m the smallest part of this event. Philip will be playing solo, and with cellist (also his GF) Wendy Sutter which is always fantastic and really emotional, and with his chamber group.

If you’ve ever listened to an episode of This American Life, then you’ve probably heard Wichita Vortex Sutra before, because they use it as part of their interstitial music all the time. It’s the one that isn’t by Why? and isn’t from the Amelie soundtrack. It’s also one of my favourite songs in the world — actually, all of Philip Glass’ Solo Piano pieces are terrific — and I’m completely psyched to check this performance out.

Guardian's Best TV Drama

Something very strange is going on in the offices of The Guardian.

Before, I thought maybe it was just a temporary blip - that someone had spiked the punch at their Christmas party, and that's why they voted Team America as the fourth-best film of the noughties. I thought maybe they were just giddy with the excitement of 2009 finally being over - surviving the first decade of the Will-enium - and that's why they voted Borat as the second-best.

Because it definitely seems as if they sobered up, realised what they'd done and made up for their moments of giddiness by finally doing the right thing and voting There Will Be Blood as the best film of the 2000s.

There's no excuse for their list of the 50 best TV dramas of all time. A lot of the results are artificially inflated by bullshit sentimentality, or worse.  For example, your teenage boner for Sarah Michelle Gellar does not mean that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had better drama or was a better show than, say, Battlestar Galactica or even Band of Brothers.

But seriously, Mad Men at #4 and _The Wir_e at #14? Did some wires get crossed somewhere? Let's leave aside the fact that The Wire isn't the clear winner and focus on Mad Men for now. I'm sure that if she was still around, Vivian Mercier would describe Mad Men as the kind of show where nothing happens, a lot. In fact, so much nothing happened in the second season that I'd be hard pressed to find any one of my friends who managed to watch the entire thing without having to go back and start again. Don't get me wrong, I still watch Mad Men, and I still enjoy it. I just think it's a little premature to put it anywhere near the top of a list like this.

As if to acknowledge that their list is completely pants-on-head retarded, the Guardian has launched a TV club to go through some of the shows that didn't make their list, starting with the terrific Edge of Darkness. It's a great idea and I hope it goes on for a while.

And maybe when it comes around to 2020, their next list will be better.

Guardian’s Best TV Drama

Something very strange is going on in the offices of The Guardian.

Before, I thought maybe it was just a temporary blip — that someone had spiked the punch at their Christmas party, and that’s why they voted Team America as the fourth-best film of the noughties. I thought maybe they were just giddy with the excitement of 2009 finally being over — surviving the first decade of the Will-enium — and that’s why they voted Borat as the second-best.

Because it definitely seems as if they sobered up, realised what they’d done and made up for their moments of giddiness by finally doing the right thing and voting There Will Be Blood as the best film of the 2000s.

There’s no excuse for their list of the 50 best TV dramas of all time. A lot of the results are artificially inflated by bullshit sentimentality, or worse.  For example, your teenage boner for Sarah Michelle Gellar does not mean that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had better drama or was a better show than, say, Battlestar Galactica or even Band of Brothers.

But seriously, Mad Men at #4 and _The Wir_e at #14? Did some wires get crossed somewhere? Let’s leave aside the fact that The Wire isn’t the clear winner and focus on Mad Men for now. I’m sure that if she was still around, Vivian Mercier would describe Mad Men as the kind of show where nothing happens, a lot. In fact, so much nothing happened in the second season that I’d be hard pressed to find any one of my friends who managed to watch the entire thing without having to go back and start again. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch Mad Men, and I still enjoy it. I just think it’s a little premature to put it anywhere near the top of a list like this.

As if to acknowledge that their list is completely pants-on-head retarded, the Guardian haslaunched a TV club to go through some of the shows that didn’t make their list, starting with the terrific Edge of Darkness. It’s a great idea and I hope it goes on for a while.

And maybe when it comes around to 2020, their next list will be better.

Middle Age Perspective on Lady Gaga — Just Dance

I’ve had a little bit too much
All of the people start to rush (Start to rush by)
A dizzy twister dance
Can’t find my drink or man.
Where are my keys, I lost my phone.
What’s going on on the floor?
I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore.
Keep it cool what’s the name of this club?
I can’t remember but it’s alright, alright.

Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Da-doo-doo-doo
Just dance. Spin that record babe.
Da-doo-doo-doo
Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Duh-duh-duh-duh
Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.

Wish I could shut my playboy mouth.
How’d I turn my shirt inside out? (inside out, right)
Control your poison babe
Roses have thorns they say.
And we’re all gettin’ hosed tonight.
What’s going on on the floor?

As someone who is approaching middle age, this song fucking terrifies me. In a best-case scenario, this girl is blind drunk. Worst-case, someone has slipped something into her drink (which make me worry about the answer to the question of “How’d I turn my shirt inside out?”).

In either case, it’s not ‘alright’, it’s definitely not ‘gonna be okay’, and she should absolutely not ‘just dance’. This is the last thing she should be thinking about right now and will only make matters worse. She should find her ‘man’ (unless he’s the one who spiked her drink), or phone someone to come pick her up and take her home so she can get into her pyjamas and get a good night’s sleep.

Middle Age Perspective on Lady Gaga - Just Dance

I’ve had a little bit too much

All of the people start to rush (Start to rush by)

A dizzy twister dance

Can’t find my drink or man.

Where are my keys, I lost my phone.

What’s going on on the floor?

I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore.

Keep it cool what’s the name of this club?

I can’t remember but it’s alright, alright.

Just dance. Gonna be okay.

Da-doo-doo-doo

Just dance. Spin that record babe.

Da-doo-doo-doo

Just dance. Gonna be okay.

Duh-duh-duh-duh

Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.

Wish I could shut my playboy mouth.

How’d I turn my shirt inside out? (inside out, right)

Control your poison babe

Roses have thorns they say.

And we’re all gettin’ hosed tonight.

What’s going on on the floor?

As someone who is approaching middle age, this song fucking terrifies me. In a best-case scenario, this girl is blind drunk. Worst-case, someone has slipped something into her drink (which make me worry about the answer to the question of “How’d I turn my shirt inside out?”).

In either case, it’s not ‘alright’, it’s definitely not ‘gonna be okay’, and she should absolutely not ‘just dance’. This is the last thing she should be thinking about right now and will only make matters worse. She should find her ‘man’ (unless he’s the one who spiked her drink), or phone someone to come pick her up and take her home so she can get into her pyjamas and get a good night's sleep.

Middle Age Perspective on Lady Gaga - Just Dance

I’ve had a little bit too much
All of the people start to rush (Start to rush by)
A dizzy twister dance
Can’t find my drink or man.
Where are my keys, I lost my phone.
What’s going on on the floor?
I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore.
Keep it cool what’s the name of this club?
I can’t remember but it’s alright, alright.

Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Da-doo-doo-doo
Just dance. Spin that record babe.
Da-doo-doo-doo
Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Duh-duh-duh-duh
Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.

Wish I could shut my playboy mouth.
How’d I turn my shirt inside out? (inside out, right)
Control your poison babe
Roses have thorns they say.
And we’re all gettin’ hosed tonight.
What’s going on on the floor?

As someone who is approaching middle age, this song fucking terrifies me. In a best-case scenario, this girl is blind drunk. Worst-case, someone has slipped something into her drink (which make me worry about the answer to the question of “How’d I turn my shirt inside out?”).

In either case, it’s not ‘alright’, it’s definitely not ‘gonna be okay’, and she should absolutely not ‘just dance’. This is the last thing she should be thinking about right now and will only make matters worse. She should find her ‘man’ (unless he’s the one who spiked her drink), or phone someone to come pick her up and take her home so she can get into her pyjamas and get a good night's sleep.

Fuck 2009 →

I don't know about you, but I thought that -- as years go -- 2009 was fairly shitty. There were a few good points (awesome birthday party, Primavera, holidaying around Italy with my wife), but when I look back, I can see a whole bunch of shit that I really didn't want to have to deal with. So hooray for 2010.

Except when my wife asked me what I was most looking forward to about 2010, I went blank. The joke about it being the year we make contact is getting a little old. The only thing I could think was "at least Lost will FINALLY be over."

The AV Club lists 32 of their most anticipated movies, games, books and albums of 2010, and that's a pretty good start. I'm pretty psyched for Shutter Island and Tron Legacy, but I have to be honest, I'm not particularly fussed about Bioshock 2.

Most of all, what I'm looking forward to about 2010 is that it won't be 2009. That's good enough for me.

Jersey Shore

Are you watching Jersey Shore? You should be. It's perfect car-crash TV. Self-obsessed guidos and guidettes living together, all boozed up, horny and aggro. It's entertaining in the same way that nature documentaries are entertaining. The pure, primal instinct of a pack of lions is always fascinating to watch because you never know when things are going to kick off. Now, imagine those lions were drunk - how much better would that be? Well, that's what Jersey Shore is like. Drunk lions, covered in fake tan.

How good/bad is it? UNICO, "the largest Italian-American service organisation in the USA" has called for it to be canceled, describing it as "trash television" and saying the show "relies on crude stereotypes" and deliberately highlights the worst aspects of guido culture.

Trash television? Crude stereotypes? Why not just put out a press release, saying "Everyone, stop what you are doing and go watch this show now"?

During a promo for the rest of the season, they showed a clip of one of the girls, 'Snooki', getting a full-on punch to the face. From a big, muscly dude. Now, I'm totally against violence towards women, but HOLY FUCK LOOK AT THAT SHIT! HE BOPPED HER RIGHT ON HER STUPID FUCKING NOSE!

Idiots like me have been posting this clip all over the internet. It's huge. It's, as they say, "gone viral". And so, MTV have decided to cut the scene with the punch out of the episode. They said that "seeing how the video footage has been taken out of context to not show the severity of this act or the resulting consequences, MTV has decided not to air Snooki being physically punched in next week's episode." I'm no expert, but if they're that concerned about the context of the clip, I would have thought that the best way to give some context would be to show it in full? If I search for this clip now, I just get a load of user-uploaded videos taken from the the promo clip. If MTV don't show the full clip, with context, then this is all there will ever be. There won't ever be context.

Oh well. Punch or no punch, this show is still ridiculously entertaining.

Nicolas Cage, Goodwill Ambassador →

This is just bizarre, Nicolas Cage has been appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. My favourite quote from the press release:

"Until today, justice has been a cause without a rebel. Now we have one," said [UNODC Executive Director] Mr. Costa.

Cage has said that he will "use the performing arts as an engine for global justice and victim support".

Now, let's take a look at a couple of Nicolas Cage's movies that are coming out in 2010.
Drive Angry - "A vengeful father chases after the men who killed his daughter".
The Hungry Rabbit Jumps - "After his wife is assaulted, a husband enlists the services of a vigilante group to help him settle the score"

This is Nicolas Cage's interpretation of "global justice"? What next? A right-wing homophobic actor with a history of drug use and sexual assault being elected governor of California?

Wait, what?

Nicolas Cage, Goodwill Ambassador →

This is just bizarre, Nicolas Cage has been appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. My favourite quote from the press release:

"Until today, justice has been a cause without a rebel. Now we have one," said [UNODC Executive Director] Mr. Costa.

Cage has said that he will "use the performing arts as an engine for global justice and victim support".

Now, let's take a look at a couple of Nicolas Cage's movies that are coming out in 2010. Drive Angry - "A vengeful father chases after the men who killed his daughter". The Hungry Rabbit Jumps - "After his wife is assaulted, a husband enlists the services of a vigilante group to help him settle the score"

This is Nicolas Cage's interpretation of "global justice"? What next? A right-wing homophobic actor with a history of drug use and sexual assault being elected governor of California?

Wait, what?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

When it comes to videogames, sequels tend to be less like the Godfather II and more like Jurassic Park II: The Lost World. Rather than making something that stands alone, that rips up the play-book and starts over from scratch and, as a result, creates something truly exceptional, you tend to just get more of the same, only slightly bigger and slightly sillier. So instead of "I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart!", you get Jeff Goldblum's child lepping about on monkey-bars and drop-kicking a velociraptor out a window. (Not that I'm making a judgement-call here, both films have their times and places.)

It's kind of hard to tell where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 falls. On the one hand, it completely obliterates the first game in terms of the scope of the action and the improvements to the multiplayer are just a shade short of revolutionary. It's probably the most beautifully rendered conflict I've seen in a videogame and every level manages to create its own unique sense of tension - from close, claustrophobic fighting through corridors and narrow streets, to giant open levels where you're being attacked on all sides.

On the other hand, it really is dumb as a bag of hammers.

The narrative is all over the place. With the first game. developers Infinity Ward lifted heavily from all the big modern war movies - Black Hawk Down, Jarhead etc. I guess they must have played their cards early. With this new one, we get a couple of bits taken from Generation Kill ("Put the camera down, Spielberg" "CNN's gonna pay loads for this footage!") before they seem to say "fuck it, there's nothing else we can steal" and go all Red Dawn - RED FUCKING DAWN - complete with Russians parachuting down into suburban America. I shit you not.

Now, I love Red Dawn as much as the next guy, but like I said, there's a time and a place for everything. And the time for Red Dawn was thirty years ago, because now it's just a dumb relic of a dumb time. Here's the thing though: the writers make it very clear that they're aware of how dumb this is. The level where you're battling the Russians through a middle American neighbourhood is called "Wolverines!" - you know, an explicit reference to Red Dawn. It's a knowing wink to the audience, like they're saying "hey, we know this is stupid and ridiculous and over-the-top, but it's all just a bit of fun, y'know?"

Which makes the now-infamous airport scene all the more curious.

(If you care about this game, don't know what happens in this scene and don't want to be 'spoiled', then stop reading now. The game came out almost a month ago, which is like ten years ago in internet-spoiler time, so don't complain if I ruin the impact of this scene for you.)

Still reading? Good. If you don't know what happens in this scene, then I'll explain. You're playing an American agent who has infiltrated a Russian terrorist group. The level opens on a crowded airport full of civilians. Your group walks in and starts shooting indiscriminately into the crowd. How you take it from here, is entirely up to you. You can get through the level without killing anyone, or you can do what I did, walk through the level spraying bullets at everything that moved and tossing grenades in every direction. (I don't feel even slightly bad about this because I can tell the difference between real life and videogames). The level ends with the head of your group shooting you and leaving you to die, placing the blame on the Americans for the massacre.

Outside of the game, though, it's a little more confused. Why did the developers feel the need to include this level? Most other games would have been content to tell this part of the story through dialogue or a cut-scene. "ring ring Hey bro, you'll never believe it! The Russians killed a load of people and are blaming Americans and - wait, are those parachutes?" Instead, they actually had you walking through the scene with a gun in your hand. Even if Columbine and Virginia Tech had never happened, this would be an uncomfortable sell. As it happens, they're impossible to escape throughout this scene. And a lot of people are asking why Infinity Ward chose to include it, especially when you spend every other part of the game mowing down various nameless, hard-to-distinguish ethnicities.

Now, here's my take on the whole thing. I don't think that anyone telling a story is obliged to cover all bases. They tell the story that suits them best. Within the context of the game, the airport level makes perfect sense. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games take place in an alternate near-future where Russian ultra-nationalists are in power, and this is just the excuse they need to send the country to war. Placing you in the thick of the action, then, draws you in. Even if you go through the level without firing a single shot, you feel complicit and spend the rest of the game trying to 'fix' your mistake.One thing I found interesting though is that despite the fact you go through suburban and central Washington, there's not one American civilian to get caught in the crossfire. And in those levels where you're supposed to be saving hostages, if even one of them dies, it's game over and you have to try again

As to why the rest of the enemies in the game don't get the same level of attention to their back-story or motives, well that's just as simple. Why should it? From a narrative point of view, what purpose would it serve? Does the fact that your virtual enemy has a wife and child and perhaps dubious motivations change the fact that when he's shooting at you, you're going to pop his head like a melon? It's similar to the complaints labeled at Black Hawk Down, that it was about dehumanizing the enemy. The story was about American soldiers and their point of view in this fight. The film split its time between five or six main soldiers and the story was told almost from their first-person point of view (well, as first-person as you can get in a movie without it being a gimmicky pile of ass. Right, Doom?). If the Somalis had a back-story, the US soldiers didn't know it and so we, the audience, didn't know it. Isn't that why we invented the unreliable narrator?

Of course, this all changes in games like Modern Warfare 2 where you are the narrator, and you are narrating the story of the enemies. We will probably need a new paradigm for this kind of storytelling, but I'm not sure I'm going to figure it out in this (already long-winded) blog post. Don't get me wrong, Modern Warfare 2 is a great game, and the only thing that has helped me kick my Modern Warfare 1 addiction. I just wish there had been some consistency throughout it. The airport level was something completely new to videogames and extremely well done. They laid the groundwork for an amazing story, but the Loony Tunes cartoon violence bullshit they followed it up with just felt a little flat.

Never Too Old

When I turned 30, I spazzed right the fuck out. I felt really old. Actually, no - it was more than that. I didn't feel old as much as I suddenly became very aware of my own mortality. I realised there were lots of things I hadn't done, and probably would never get to do. Like a huge door had shut on a part of my life and I just had to adjust.

Now my wife is facing the same thing.

In the year's head-start I've got on her, I've come to terms with the big three-oh. I keep pointing out that 40 is the new 30 (13,260,000,000 google results can't be wrong). I also keep pointing out that, while she might feel like she'll never achieve her goals of being a famous hip-hop artist like Princess Superstar, it's never too late. Kelley Deal didn't even pick up a guitar until she was 31. In fact, she was supposed to be in the band when she was 29, but couldn't get time off work. Sound familiar?

But that's nothing. Check this video out. It really gets going at 1:30

Fred Astaire was FORTY SEVEN YEARS OLD when he pulled that shit off. I'm thirty and I got exhausted just watching it. But it's more than just impressive that he was able to pull it off - I'd say that if he'd recorded that exact same routine when he was a younger man, it probably wouldn't have been as good. Look at the aggression when he smacks that cane around - it takes a real curmudgeonly old fuck to swing a stick like that.

So maybe 50 is the new 20.

White Whine

My current computer is exponentially more powerful than the one I had when I started using Unix, but thanks to software bloat and feature-creep, it still seems to take roughly the same length of time to compile software.

(This comes after hours of trying to get Mactex to play nicely with latex2rtf because my college only accepts assignment submissions in Word format and I'll be fucked if I'm using that for long essays ever again.)

Normal programming will resume shortly.

In Defense of Hoarding

Over at Minimal Mac (a terrific site that everyone should read, even if you're not a Mac user), they recently pointed to a metafilter comment about the dangers of coveting possessions. The commenter suggests that the best way to beat any hoarding impulses we might have is to simply adjust the way we look at things.

All of the computers on Ebay are mine. In fact, everything on Ebay is already mine. All of those things are just in long term storage that I pay nothing for. Storage is free.
...
The world is my museum, displaying my collections on loan. The James Savages of the world are merely curators.

It's a lovely sentiment, and one I really wish I could get behind, except I've just got one little problem: Me. Or more specifically, people like me.

What do I mean by this?

I recently found a stash of old PlayStation games that I thought I'd lost. There are some real gems in there. PaRappa the Rapper, BeatMania, Final Fantasy VII. All great games. Will I ever play them again? Probably not. I'm having enough trouble keeping on top of new releases to ever really go back and play old games. So why don't I get rid of them?

There were a finite number of copies of PaRappa the Rapper published. Taking into account losses, breakage and the effects of time, this number is constantly decreasing. Now, if I was to send my games off into the æther, there's the strong possibility that they'd be picked up by someone like me: a pack-rat who can't bear to let anything go. So not only would I be losing my own copy of PaRappa, itwould also mean there is one less copy to "take out of storage". Eventually, there will be no copies of it left on eBay. Or at least, it would be so rare as to be only available at a completely unreasonable price.

The storage thing is a nice (if slightly smug and self-satisfied) analogy, but it just doesn't work in the real world, because it assumes an infinite supply chain. Besides, I'd always prefer to be the curator, actually caring for these things, rather than a cold, distant absentee owner.

(My wife will probably beat the shit out of me for this post.)

Brain Dump - October 23rd

Here's some stuff that's been clogging up my starred list in Google Reader for too long.

When it comes to bonkers films, Russia is the new Japan:

Hosting your Windows 7 Torrenting Party

"When you Marry" - they don't write 'em like that any more:

It is not uncommon for one or both parties to experience feelings of guilt or revulsion, to the mutual distress of both parties. For other couples who have anticipated great thrills in the first sex relations, there is sometimes disappointment - reality doesn't live up to expectations

Monkey Island 2, in 3D:

Photobombing could be my new favourite thing on the internet.

Technology got you down? Squarepixelz is hosting a bunch of old tech documentaries. I love watching these - everyone's so hopeful about the possibilities of technology.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in 30 seconds:

You know This American Life? "That show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are?" Well, here's every episode of the This American Life TV show: Season 1 Season 2.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Last night, through an amazing and unexpected string of good luck, I ended up at a special screening of Terry Gilliam's new film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus presented by Gilliam himself.

I should probably point out that I'm a huge, huge fan of Gilliam. To the point that I've said that I want to be buried with my Criterion Collection edition of Brazil. So bear with me if I start to nerd out a bit.

I thought Imaginarium was terrific. After The Brothers Grimm and Tideland, which were both dark, heavy films, this is a return to the lightness of his earlier films. Don't pay attention and you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a sequel to Time Bandits. Or maybe The Fisher King. Or maybe even The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. And hell, while I'm at it, there are a few shots there that made me think Gilliam has already cast Christopher Plummer in the lead of his currently-in-preproduction The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. This film shines a spotlight on the leitmotif running through all of his previous work: the idea that imagination and invention can break the spell of monotony cast by the drudgery of ordinary life.

At this point, I should probably try to summarise the plot. Isn't that how these things work? But in Gilliam films, this is easier said than done. And to be honest, I think this is the kind of film that works best when you come into it blind, rather than with a bunch of preconceptions about what the story might be. Or don't. Read everything you can, if you like. Just go and see it. But before you do, just let me say that Tom Waits is incredible as the Devil ((Although I think this is slightly lazy, obvious casting, considering what a great job he did as Kneller in Wristcutters: A Love Story)), and Lily Cole is a surprisingly good actress. And the rewrites following the death of Heath Ledger work so well I'd bet that in 30 years, people will barely know they weren't intentional. Like the malfunctioning shark in Jaws, sometime restrictions bring out the best in us.

There's another aspect of Imaginarium that highlights this too: the special effects. Before CGI effects really took off, Gilliam was forced to limit himself using physical effects, which had a tremendous... well... physicality to them. Unbridled, his fantastical CGI dreamworlds look amazing and expansive, but they feel paper-thin. When people first enter the Imaginarium, they start in a pantomime forest, with cardboard trees which may have looked cheap and ridiculous, but they at least felt real and believable. As they moved further into the Imaginarium and hit the CGI-heavy landscapes, it made me wonder whether Gilliam made the right choice in prioritising epic verisimilitude over whimsy. Especially considering the film's message of liberation through imagination.

One thing I should probably point out, which no-one has mentioned so far, is the similarity between this film and Angela Carter's novel, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman. Both are about unbridled imagination (and the potential perils thereof), but also, and perhaps more crucially, both are about identity and choice. I dunno, maybe I'm completely off-base with this one, but I could have sworn that one of the gravestones in Imaginarium had the name "Dr Hoffman" on it. Or maybe my eyes were just playing tricks on me.

(Update: Over on imaginariumofdrparnassus.com, Dave Warren, the film's art director wrote in (in response to a link to this review - whoa) to say that the actual name on the tombstone was "Bob Hollow". That solves that, then.)

The film opens theatrically at the end of the month and I'll be keeping my eyes open during this scene when I go back to see it again. For me, every one of Gilliam's films improve on repeat viewings. Gilliam told Mark Kermode that his preferred tagline for Tideland was "Tideland - It's a different experience the second time!" I'd bet a tenner the same thing is true for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.