TechCamp Ireland →

Irish bloggers have taken the question of "why can't we have more geek get-togethers like [Bar Camp] in Ireland?" and run with it. TechCamp was born almost overnight.

It's a really good idea, and it's really encouraging to see people taking a pro-active stance with regards the things they'd like to see being done. Until now, the closest thing Irish geeks have to this kind of thing is the occasional LinuxWorld, which staggers between inaccessible to all but the most hardcore geeks and irrelevant to all but IT managers with huge budgets.

But, as it stands, TechCamp is suffering from an extremely blog-heavy proposal of events. Things like "How to blog", "How to promote your blog" and "How to get others to blog" well... just aren't of much interest to me. I'd rather see a more diverse agenda, one covering not only aspects of geek life, but of geek life in Ireland specifically.

Technorati Tags: Ireland, TechCamp

Broadband Update

Nearly four months after moving in, we're nearing the end of our broadband saga. Smart sent us our modem and login details. So, I plugged the phone into the wall socket in our bedroom - no dialtone. There's another wire coming up through the wall in our living room, presenting Cat 5 - I wired together a socket using the usual combination of blue -> red, white/blue -> green, but to no avail. In desperation, I yanked the face-plate off the wall socket in the bedroom and found that it wasn't actually connected to anything.

Smart were very nice about the whole thing, merely remarking that the whole situation was "very unusual" (a very diplomatic way of saying "My word, you're a moron for not checking this earlier").

Either way, Eircom engineers are on their way out to us and we should be hooked up by next week.

Product Placement in the Island

Spoilers!

Some spoilers included here. But since The Island is Michael Bay's latest Big Dumb Action Movie, am I really spoiling much?

I don't see how I could possibly run a blog called "low brow culture" and not like Michael Bay movies. Sure, he's got all the subtlety of a jackhammer. And sure, his movies are based around explosive set-pieces, but you know what? I don't care. He packs more visceral flourishes into two hours than most directors have managed in their entire careers. And since this is exactly what he's going for, I say fair balls to him.

So, the Island.

I wanted to see this since I first read about it a few months ago. I mean, what's not to love? It's directly lifting pieces from a shedload of movies I love. Logan's Run, THX-1138, the Matrix... Surely, with a bunch of explosions and car chases, The Island would be better than the sum of its parts.

It is. Barely. But what struck me more than anything else was the unrelenting stream of product placement in this movie. Now, I'll be the first to admit I'm not the brightest spark in the fire, and product placement typically whizzes over my head like a jet plane. So, the fact that I'm dedicating an entire blog entry to this just makes me think: Jesus, Michael. Couldn't you have toned it down just a little?

These are all in roughly chronological order. If you spot any more, let me know and I'll add them up here.

Puma

Barely three minutes into the movie, we're greeted with an entire tray of Puma footwear. Lincoln Three-Echo appears to be missing a shoe. Now, this begs a couple of questions.

  1. In a perfect society, where they can detect two people touching, how does a shoe go missing?
  2. In a hermetically sealed world, why bother with branding at all?

Aquafina

Oh, how very droll. But this just brings up the issue of Question 2 again.


Xbox

Now, this is just baffling.

The movie is set in 2017 (or so). And yet they use the old Xbox logo. The one that got retired in 2004, and is being replaced by the new Xbox 360 one.

Within the story - Sean Bean proclaims how he keeps the products docile and without emotion. What possible purpose could there be for a game room that encourages fighting between fully 3D holographic representations of the characters? Don't they know videogames are bad for you?


MSN

The nerd in me just wants to snort at the idea of MSN Search powering a city's telephone system.


Microsoft

For me, this makes the least sense. If you look carefully, you can probably make out the Microsoft logo on the building in the background. I'm not sure if this building exists or not (I'm doubting it does), but either way, this is most certainly a deliberate inclusion. But it only appears on the screen for a fraction of a second - whizzing by far too fast for most people to notice.

Except those poring over every frame, looking for product placement, of course.


Johnny Rockets


Calvin Klien

This is either the most galling of the lot: having an actual ad play within the movie, or a really nifty post-modern idea using an actual Scarlett Johansson in a movie where she plays her clone. I'll give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and say it's the latter.


Michelob Light

Michelob recently launched "Michelob Light in an Aluminium Bottle." Here it is. In the movie, it looks even more like a straight-out advertisment. The bottle provides the only colour in the scenes it's featured in, as the camera reverentially zooms and pans its way around the bottle.


Nokia

Snakes on a plane!

Samuel L. Jackson is one of the heroes of lowbrowculture, for the simple reason that he's not too proud to take an awful job to pay some bills, or simply because he likes the sound of it.

In the next couple of years, he's got two movies coming out that have grabbed my attention. The first is "Afrosamurai", which tells the story of a Samurai who "seeks revenge on those who murdered hiss father in front of him when he was just a boy." The other is "Pacific Air Flight 121." Don't let the dull title scare you off, it's soon to be changed back to its much more impressive title of "Snakes on a Plane." The plot outline reads "On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, let loose a crate full of deadly snakes."

Collider.com recently published an interview with Jackson where he talks about the movie.

Beaks: One of those films that you're working on right now is... well, it's called "Pacific Air 121"
Jackson: Snakes on a Plane, man!
Beaks: Exactly.
Jackson: We're totally changing that back. That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title.
Beaks: Snakes on a Plane! That's everything!
Jackson: You either want to see that, or you don't.
Beaks: And how are those snakes? Besides being on a plane?
Jackson: Some of them are aggressive, some of them are cool. They're interesting to watch, and interesting to interact with. It depends on what kind of snake it is. One day, it took, like, four guys to bring in this 350 lb. Burmese Python. We were all like, "Where's that goin'?" And I watched an Albino Cobra strike airplane seats the other day. I watched it from another studio. It's actually been a fun show. But we're taking the name back!

Samuel L. Jackson, we salute you.

Kiss me like the ocean breeze (redux)

Technically, can you call it 'surfing' when you barely managed to get to your knees? Consequently, can I start calling myself a 'surfer' now? Please?

Kiss me like the ocean breeze

In just under an hour, I'm leaving Dublin and heading to sunny Sligo for a weekend's surfing and camping. According to Met Eireann, it's going to be rainy and windy (42km/h). Perfect for the surfing part of the weekend, not so great for the camping part.

For the rain-delay parts, I'm bringing a few things to read:

Of course, there's a very good chance I could die out there. Whether it's from exposure, or at the hands of a crazed, knife-wielding maniac. Or maybe even in a really nonsensical, over-hyped way, Blair Witch-style. Or perhaps just from embarassment as I make a complete ass of myself on a surfboard.

Either way, if I don't make it back, avenge my death.

Games are art →

Just wanted to throw a little Google-juice in the direction of GamesAreArt.com. Needlessly fussy site design and current lack of content aside, it's an important site. The games industry has just entered an extremely difficult time, with critics discounting video games as a medium of entertainment, never mind expression, and it's important that we, as games players and games enthusiasts, have some way of showing non-games players just how far the games industry has come.

Anyway, best of luck to GamesAreArt.com.

EffecTV - real-time visual effects

There's a discussion on Thumped about the merits of 'visuals' at gigs/shows. Personally speaking, I'm all in favour of some sort of visual show to accompany the music, especially when the music of the particularly chin-stroking variety. Although I can see where many people's complaints are coming from: it gets very tiring seeing the same handful of movies being chopped up to make a visual backdrop.

So that's why I think something like EffecTV is such a good idea. Armed with a computer running Linux and a webcam, you can create some pretty interesting visuals in real-time, for a tiny, tiny budget. Installation (on Ubuntu, at least) was a snap. And it goes some way to providing a middle-ground for the people who don't want to spend the night looking at a DJ nodding his head and people who don't want to see the same old stock footage soaked in irony.

Here's a shot of me playing with it earlier - not mind-blowing, but bear in mind that this was being displayed on my desktop in real time.

Side-note: Jesus, I really need to trim my beard.

Unlocking Sony DVD players

I recently bought another new DVD player - a Sony DVP-NS52. Both the Sony Store and Peats offer to make this player multi-region for an extra EUR20. I opted not to go for this and take my chances unlocking it myself (albeit safe in the knowledge that I could bring it into Peats and get them to unlock it at any time in the future for the EUR20).

Anyone with a region-locked Sony DVD player could do worse than to check out Selen.org's Making the Sony DVP-NS705V multi-region before shelling out for a 'chip' or anything like that. Although this didn't list my model explicitly, it did say that it theoretically should work for the entire "NS" series, and has even worked across other models. I tried it on mine last night and success!

One note though - Windows 2000 and XP have nasty IR support. You're much better grabbing a DOS boot disk from bootdisk.com and using that instead.

A weekend wasted

My girlfriend took off to Westport on Friday for a hen weekend, leaving me with an entire weekend to myself. By Friday evening, I had slipped back into the exact lifestyle I lived before I met her. Watching bad movies, eating food that would rot my teeth (and my gut) and playing games that would rot my brain.

Over the course of a single weekend, I watched nine movies (For the record: Children of the Corn I-III, House of the Dead, Jaws, the Incredibles w/animators commentary, Red Sonja, Exorcist III, Clerks). I also spent some time rearranging my DVDs. After trying a few standard organisational schemes (Alphabetical, chronological..), I decided to set myself a challenge and organise my 800+ DVDs by colour (and then by sub-colour, e.g. white background with red writing, white background with blue writing).

I'm not entirely thrilled with the results. Disappointingly, approximately 60% of my DVDs have either black or white sleeves, which means that our shelves look a whole lot more sterile than I'd hoped.

My favourite organisational scheme so far has been contextual - Robocop beside Total Recall beside Scanners (Paul Verhoeven directed Robocop, he also directed Total Recall, Total Recall has Michael Ironside who also starred in Scanners). Because the context is purely my own, it makes the whole thing more personal. This was fine when I had a couple of hundred DVDs, it could be done in an afternoon. At 800, I think I'll need a week off work.

I also spent a while getting back into GTA: SA. Given the recent furor about the "Hot Coffee" 'mod', I've been shocked at the amount of stuff that people aren't getting upset about. For example, a billboard with an image of a girl licking her lips suggestively and the words "A taste of what's to come" that suddenly gets a hole ripped in it to change the words to "A taste of ... come."