Christmas Wishlists

Amazon wishlists have never really worked me. Too cumbersome to suit my way of doing things and too limited to suit the things I want a wishlist for. So last year, I began using the del.icio.us "wishlist" tag. If I saw something I wanted, it would get tagged under wishlist+$itemDescription, e.g. wishlist+dvds, wishlist+clothes and so on.

This means that I'm able to keep things out of my head while still keeping them in a central place, one I use every day. But more importantly, it gives me a quick list of everything my heart desires that I can access from any computer on the internet. On my recent, exciting trip to San Francisco, I was able to go into an internet cafe and print out entire shopping lists based on my wishlist tag, Unfortunately, this meant I came back with an armful of DVDs.

But around Christmas, this system really starts to show its strength because it has the advantage of giving people a quick overview of everything I've had my eye on. It paid off. My Livejournal Secret Santa bought me a book from the list - The Mafia Cookbook (Thanks Karena!).

Incidentally, here's my wishlist. In case you were... y'know... curious

Technorati Tags: wishlists, del.icio.us

Mad Hot Ballroom

I didn't want to like this movie. Fifteen minutes in and I had made up my mind that this was just Spellbound meets The School Around the Corner by way of Come Dancing and I was too old and too cynical to be taken in by such a cheap ploy.

But then, around the thirty minute mark, something remarkable happened. These kids stopped being precocious little brats and started becoming likeable creatures. Watching Cyrus' reaction to the results of the initial competition sealed the deal for me. Believe me when I say that we need to watch this kid closely because he is wise beyond his 10 years and almost certainly an evil genius in the making (the director says that when she first met him and discussed her movie with him, he asked if she had secured a production deal yet).

Against my will, I had become emotionally invested in these kids. Their different personalities began to shine through and, by the time of the dancing final, I felt like I was joinging their teachers on the emotional rollercoaster they were riding. And the swell of pride I began to feel watching the kids put in some amazing performances was almost embarassing. It's only a movie, it's only a movie.

Funny without lacking sincerity, sentimental without being po-faced. In spite of myself, I ended up liking this movie.

Dammit.

Mario Kart DS and Clearwire

I picked up a copy of Mario Kart for the DS over the weekend and have been having a great time ploughing through the 50cc and 100cc tournaments. How quickly my muscle memory has returned! Even cuter is the inclusion of some 'retro' tracks - courses I haven't played since my SNES packed it in almost 10 years ago.

One of the major draws of Mario Kart DS is the wireless multiplayer option. Mario Kart has always been about the multiplayer, and the idea of being able to race against people around the world (as well as DS-toting friends) is almost too much to handle. Unfortunately, I can't seem to get connected to the Nintendo Wifi service from home. Or I do get a connection, but it drops while searching for other players.

I've run a few checks on the traffic and it doesn't seem to have a problem on my network. Now, I've heard rumours of Clearwire blocking a lot of stuff, mainly P2P and VoIP things, so this could be the problem. Anyone had any problems with Clearwire blocking stuff?

Technorati Tags: broadband, clearwire, [Mario Kart](http://www.technorati.com/tag/Mario Kart), Nintendo, DS

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

My girlfriend tells me that the reason she rarely wants to go to the cinema any more is because she's become disillusioned with movies. This comes from sitting through the near-endless amount of dirge on show this summer. And you don't register a domain like "low brow culture dot com" without being a fan of dirge, so I'm almost certainly to blame.

Apart from being extremely entertaining, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang assures us that there are people working in Hollywood with a genuine love for what they do. Shane Black has done an incredible job of creating something that will appeal to everyone: guns and car chases for the people that like that kind of thing, genuinely sharp and witty dialogue and a complex plot for the people who like that kind of thing.

And lots of beautiful people for the people who don't like either of those things (including a blink-and-you'll-miss-her appearance by the girl every guy I know has a crush on, Shannyn Sossamon).

My vote for film of the year.

Further reading: Shane Black is a terrific screenwriter. For examples of this, you should check out his screenplays for Lethal Weapon and Long Kiss Goodnight. But the piece of resistance is his screenplay for The Last Boy Scout, which contains the following:

INT. DINGY DRESSING ROOM - NIGHT > > Cory and Jimmy are engaged in very hot sex. > This is not a love scene; this is a sex scene. > Sigh. I'm not even going to attempt to write this > quote-unquote "steamy" scene here, for several good > reasons: > A) The things that I find steamy are none of your damn > business, Jack, in addition to which -- > B) The two actors involved will no doubt have wonderful, > highly athletic ideas which manage to elude most > fat-assed writers anyhow, and finally -- > C) My mother reads this shit. So there. > (P.S.: I think we lost her back at the Jacuzzi blowjob > scene.) > >

The Brothers Grimm

I'm a huge fan of Gilliam, but I had heard enough about this movie to know what to expect - Gilliam at his most mediocre. But to be fair, the movie isn't nearly as bad as people are making out. It's got a lot of dud moments, far more than any other Gilliam movie I've seen, and it takes a long, long time to get going. But when it does (roughly around the third act), it is almost worth the previous hour or so of drudgery.

Think of it as a panto writ large and you'll enjoy it a whole lot more.

Dead Meat

Released under the Irish Film Board's recent 'microbudget movie' scheme, Conor McMahon's Dead Meat attempts to drag Ireland's horror movie output from the ditch it was thrown in and left in to die by the insufferably bad Rawhead Rex. And although it was clearly lovingly crafted with a definite knowledge of the genre, it suffers greatly from its lack of understanding of the genre, or the techniques it attempts to mimic.

The premise, although just a rehash of countless previous zombie movies is still an effective way of presenting both a humourous and local view of the situation: BSE has mutated into something that first kills and subsequently zombifies anyone it infects. Having run into car trouble in the middle of farm country in Leitrim, Helena must escape and make her way back to safety while avoiding the hordes of undead (both human and bovine) roaming the countryside.

Somewhat unfortunately compared to Shaun of the Dead on release, Dead Meat is similar to Shaun in that it draws on its rich knowledge of horror movies to create a pastiche of the significant releases, such as Night of the Living Dead and Evil Dead. But unlike Shaun of the Dead, the makers of Dead Meat create their movie without any actual understanding of what made these movies so scary in the first place. As a result, they fumble many of the shots they are aping, sometimes missing by a hair's breadth, but just as often they miss the point completely.

This would be forgivable if the movie had a solid story to support it, but this seems to be missing as well. The story stumbles from one situation to the next without any indication of a solid vision driving it forward. Without a compelling story, it's left to the actors to bear the weight of the movie, and they're just not up to it. It's not until the final act, with the introduction of Eoin Whelan's Cathal Ceaunt character that we're given a something that is genuinely lively and entertaining.

The DVD also features a making-of documentary, which was actually more entertaining than the movie itself.

In the end, it's hard to recommend this movie to people. Fans of the Zombie genre will certainly get something out of it, but what exactly, I'm not sure.

Hands on with the Xbox 360

Smyths of Jervis Street have set up an Xbox 360 pod in their games section. The pod consists of an Xbox 360 in a perspex dome, a beautiful Samsung LCD screen and a couple of controllers. Altogether, these must cost a couple of grand a piece. Very nice pieces of kit.

But most interesting is the fact that they actually give you a chance to play some of the games. Right now, they're only running the demo version of Ubisoft's King Kong game, but I've been told that they're hoping to get a copy of Perfect Dark Zero during the next week.

I stood in line for a while and finally got a chance to play a bit of King Kong, and I'm not all that impressed. Although the game looks very pretty with a lot of little graphical effects, and a really satisfying meat to the models, this game has actually got me worrying about the overall quality of the Xbox 360. There was a definite price to pay for this high-definition lushness: the frame rate was terrible, and the game frequently slowed down during particularly busy scenes (and let's not even mention the questionable physics).

Running right next to the Xbox 360 running King Kong was an Xbox running... King Kong. This side-by-side comparison was most likely intended to show us all the things next-gen games have to offer over the current-gen, but had the opposite effect of highlighting all of the flaws: the Xbox version didn't have the high-resolution textures, but ran well with a high frame rate and, most importantly, didn't drop a single frame, meaning it looked nicer on the eyes and well, looked like a nicer game

There are still a couple of months left before King Kong releases on the 360, which means there is still time to tidy it up and fix these problems - let's hope they do. In the meantime, roll on Perfect Dark Zero.

Clearwire: Initial Report

I've had a weekend or so to play with Clearwire. Here's what I've noticed:

Speed

According to the Irish ISP speed test, I'm getting 2MB down, and approximately 300kb up. Sharing this among two computers isn't much of a stretch: my girlfriend was able to comfortably run Software Update on her iBook (which hadn't been updated in about 5 months) while I was able to maintain a 120kb/s download.

I'm not much of a PC gamer, but I've had no problems using Xbox live on Clearwire. Smooth, lagless gaming. Which means there's no real excuse for me having my ass handed to me in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow except my lack of real skills. Dammit.

Setup

Setup was certainly simple. They just provide you with a little box, about the size of two DVD cases put together, that you just put near a window. It presents you with an RJ45 connection, and that's it. No messing about with usernames or passwords. Usually my first instinct when you give me a closed black box is to crack it open and see how it works, but after three months of struggling to get broadband in our apartment, I'm really not going to push my luck with this one.

My only concern is at the user end of the RJ45 connection is a public IP, meaning your computer is connected directly to the internet. And I'll be damned if I'll ever put have a Windows machine directly on the internet. But no worries, the clearwire works perfectly with my Linksys WRT54G.

Issues?

Nothing too spectacular too far. The only thing I've noticed is a couple of DNS oddities - the DNS servers they give you seem to have trouble with a lot of hosts. For example, thefraudcast.com:

Server: cwi004.clearwire.ie

Address: 85.134.255.245#53

Non-authoritative answer:

*** Can't find www.thefraudcast.com: No answer

versus a working server:

Server: 194.125.2.240

Address: 194.125.2.240#53

Non-authoritative answer:

www.thefraudcast.com canonical name = thefraudcast.com. Name: thefraudcast.com Address: 67.18.209.59

... but this can all be fixed by providing my own DNS server ahead of the ISP-provided ones.

I'm reasonably impressed so far. It'll be interesting to see how it scales as more people jump on board.

Broadband at last!

Reports are coming in of a working broadband installation in my apartment. Rumour has it that my girlfriend rang up the guys in Clearwire yesterday and they delivered the modem today - she just plugged it in and away she went.

(Incidentally, right now, her IRC conversation consists of "SO HAPPY", "THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE" and "THIS IS HOW LIFE SHOULD BE! EASY!" repeated again and again.)

Can't wait to get home and get my hands on it. What will I download first?!!

Technorati Tags: broadband, internet, clearwire

Grand Designs

More4 launched a few weeks ago, and already it's become a major part of my TV-watching habits. Well, less than I'd probably like. My girlfriend doesn't think Jon Stewart is particularly funny (and, Crossfire appearance aside, I tend to agree with her) so we tend to avoid that.

But the most surprising thing has been a massive addiction to Grand Designs. In just a couple of weeks, that show has become such a massive part of my TV viewing habits, I turn it on even if I'm in the middle of doing something else like cooking dinner.

I've thought long and hard about this. I think there are a couple of things going on here. First, obviously, is the actual building. Nine times out of ten, the people being showcased are the kinds of insufferable assholes that most likely had no other choice than to strike out on their own because no-one wanted these cunts for neighbours.

This works for me because I like shouting at the TV. And these episodes give me plenty of opportunities to turn the air blue from the amount of obscenities I'm hurling at these people with more money than taste. For example, Grand Designs Abroad recently a couple who built a god-awful wooden house in France because this the husband really wanted to become a writer and the only thing stopping him was the lack of a badly-designed house in the middle of a French valley. That episode gave me lots to shout about.

But it's not always like this. As I said, this is only nine times out of ten. The other time is typically a really heartwarming, reassuring story about someone who really is chasing down their dream. Like the one last week of a guy who worked in a forest in England and spent ten years living in a leaky caravan while waiting for planning permission to build an organic house in the forest. The end result was something so pretty and beautiful that it absolutely brought a tear to my eye. That he built it all by himself, right down to the carving of the 16,000 wooden slates only added to the beauty of this episode.

But there's another reason. And I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I think I'm developing a bit of a hetero crush on the presenter, Kevin McCloud. Don't get me wrong - this isn't a major thing. Certainly not like my hetero crush on Peter Gallagher (more specifically: Peter Gallagher's eyebrows) or my full-on hetero boner for Noah Wyle. No, no. This is much simpler - I just like his little soliloquies. These are perfectly judged breaks from the chaos of the actual home-building, providing just the right balance of caution and hope.

I was thinking of dressing as Kevin McCloud for Halloween (other ideas included: Hellboy, Arthur Dent, Biff Tannen). There wouldn't have to be much to the costume, but I would occasionally step aside and offer my own soliloquies about the party, pausing occasionally for emotional effect.

"People... Are the life and soul of every party... And this party certainly has people... But are they they right people? ... And will it be enough?"

Technorati Tags: More4, [Kevin McCloud](http://www.technorati.com/tag/Kevin McCloud)