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My Archives: February 2005

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Collateral
Posted by Loren @ 02:36 AM PST
---WARNING: Minor spoilers---

Loved it. Not nearly as much as Heat, but then that's a hard movie to beat (DeNiro vs. Pacino with an incredible supporting cast). It wasn't just the action in Collateral which had me on the edge of my seat, but also some of the dialogue. When Jamie Foxx starts questioning Tom Cruise's total lack of compassion -- "The standard parts that are supposed to be there in people, in you... aren't." -- it's a great signal in the shift in their relationship.

The only time the dialogue really wore on me was when Tom Cruise gives that speech about the very very trite notion that we're all specks on this planet -- what does life matter, blah blah blah. Part of it must be the fact it's Tom Cruise and my inherent dislike for all the characters he plays (almost all of them have a loud brashness about them). Part of it is the fact that it feels more like a soliloquy than a dialogue. But mostly it's the fact that it's basically tired old teenage angst with no new perspective.

The whole atmosphere of the movie was carefully crafted also. That a good chunk of the movie happens in the taxicab at night with shadows passing gives it an incredibly dream-like feel.

And yes, I still hate Tom Cruise. Jamie Foxx though -- first two movies I've seen him in are Ray and Collateral and he's kicking some serious butt. He swaggers in Ray, he stutters in Collateral. When he first discovers what kind of ride he's picked up (the first time Vincent makes a stop), his acting is incredible.

Great rapport between Jamie Foxx and Jada in the opening conversation. After that exchange, I almost wished that I had rented a romantic drama/comedy instead of an action drama. I had hoped that that would just be great introduction color and left at that rather than having to tie this all back in in one neat package but oh well.

Incidentally, IMDB reports that other actors considered for Vincent were: Russell Crowe, Ed Norton, Colin Farrell. Vincent requires a sophistication and "sleekness" that I don't think Crowd would bring. Farrell likewise doesn't seem methodical enough to be a great Vincent. But Norton... damn, he would have made a fine Vincent. I'd venture to say, even better than Cruise. Norton can play characters that are earnest and heartfelt one moment (25th Hour) and utterly crazy the next (Primal Fear, American X). And others considered for Max, Jamie Foxx's role? Adam Sandler. Must say, he would have been a fine Max. Reminds me that I still need to catch Punch-Drunk Love. -- loren

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Superman is a Dick.
Posted by CKL @ 11:48 AM PST
They get a little old by page 26, but National Lampoon's Superman is a Dick-- a collection of actual Superman comic book covers-- is good for a few laughs. It's also a revealing look back at how ridiculous comics used to be. For example:

On a tangent, one of the covers mentions that Superman has an ex-girlfriend named Lyla. I didn't remember this one, but figured her last name had to start with an "L" (Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris-- Siegel or Shuster loved hockey sticks), so I did a Google search.

As it turns out, it was Lyla Lerrol, whom Superman met in the past on Krypton, before it went kablooey. This story comes from Superman #141, published in 1960, and my favorite part is how he accidentally travels back in time:


Yes, this tale was spun in simpler times, when writers didn't have to resort to pseudo-scientific technobabble (hello, meteor rocks) to explain ludicrous superpowers. Remember when the Flash could vibrate himself into any number of parallel universes? I'm sure there's a doctoral thesis here somewhere, about how and why some comic-book superheroes have had their powers scaled back over the years, while others have been augmented-- for example, Wonder Woman, who can now fly under her own power, and Green Lantern, whose ring is no longer useless against yellow objects. Call me when Stanford offers a graduate program in sequential art history.
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Amazon Recommends Smoking Crack
Posted by CKL @ 12:19 AM PST
amazon_recommend (27k image)

Oh, yeah, I'm sure these tasty storage devices are selling like hotcakes after being promoted so heavily on "Silicon Chef" (it's like Iron Chef, but even geekier).

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Snippy.
Posted by CKL @ 01:52 PM PST
Two months ago, while DeeAnn and I were kicking around the idea of creating a charity registry so our wedding guests could donate in our name, I signed up and created a fake list of charities at justgive.org. I also added a note on our fake registry about the fact that they charge a $5.00 for their services and also deduct credit card fees from the amount of each donation, and included direct links to the charities I'd listed so people could, theoretically, donate directly to those groups, without incurring the overhead charges.

We ultimately decided against doing a charity registry, and just sent this note to our guests:

[T]hese are some things we would love to receive: ... The knowledge that you've helped someone who is less fortunate than we are. We live a good life, and would like others to have the same opportunity. Now, far be it for us to tell you to whom you should donate-- if you have a pet charity, you know already; if you don't, we'd rather not influence you. But if you're short of ideas, helping tsunami victims would be a good place to start.
I had forgotten all about the fake justgive.org registry, which we weren't using at all, until I received this email today from their "Senior Creative Director & Nonprofit Liaison":
We noticed your message to your wedding guests on your JustGive Wedding Registry page and thought perhaps you'd like to just delete your registry and instead send your charity list to your guests via email. We provide this registry for free to couples and deduct a credit card fee that we have absolutely no control over. It's true that out of a $20.00 donation, $19.40 is sent to the charity, but your request to your guests that they make a credit card donation directly to the organization reveals that you just don't understand credit card fees in general. [Snippy much? -CKL] Whenever there is a credit card being used, the vendor (in this case, the nonprofit) pays a fee. So, whether donors use JustGive to process donations or a nonprofit to process donations using a credit card, there is a fee that the credit cards companies/banks demand. We do not keep that fee. Your suggestion that your guests send a check, however, would eliminate that fee altogether, but again, if that's what you'd prefer they do, we'll just remove your JG registry since ultimately you won't be using our service.

As far as the $5.00 fee, JustGive is a nonprofit organization providing a service to both donors and nonprofits. We have sent over $20 million to nonprofits, many of it new money that they would not have seen otherwise (through partnerships and unique services). [Defensive much? -CKL] If we did not charge for some of our services, we simply would not be able to survive. We encourage you to either educate your guests about the true nature of our fees or simply remove your registry altogether.

I seem to have a talent for bringing out the worst in people who claim to be nice. Then again, I did call them "bottom-feeding scalawags" in my fake registry notes. I honestly hadn't expected anybody to read that, since (this is important) I never published a link to that fake registry. I never told our guests about it, I never linked to it from our wedding web site, I never made any effort to disseminate my remarks, which I believed to be private.

In fact, how did this person find out about my admittedly ill-advised notation? I suppose someone might have gone to justgive.org and searched for our names, but would that someone have then emailed the "Senior Creative Director & Nonprofit Liaison" about it? Was one of justgive.org's employees reviewing their database records for some reason? If so, why would they have been looking at my fake registry, which shouldn't have been getting any traffic or otherwise attracting attention? Seems a little fishy...

Anyway, here's my suggestion to anybody in customer service: Do not insult, demean, or otherwise aggravate your current or potential customers. I mean, if I actually had been using justgive.org's registry for real, and I had received the email above, I wouldn't just be blogging about this, I would be alerting the media. I would be telling everyone I know to stay away from justgive.org, because it's clearly not worth it, either financially or personally. (I might even maliciously publish the email address and phone number of the "Senior Creative Director & Nonprofit Liaison", in the hopes of publicly humiliating that person. But probably not, since I hate spam and am loath to inflict it upon anyone.)

I'm sure justgive.org is a good organization, but you certainly wouldn't know it from the email above, would you? If I were the "Senior Creative Director & Nonprofit Liaison" for an organization, and one of my customers complained about my services, I would try to persuade them to remain a customer instead of suggesting that they stop doing business with me. But maybe that's just me.

In the end, since I really don't care about them one way or the other, I simply deleted my justgive.org account-- I wasn't using it anyway-- and am now moving on.

Remember, kids: Working for a "good cause" does not give you license to cop a holier-than-thou attitude.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Reality check of the day
Posted by CKL @ 09:06 AM PST
"But Klamath County Prosecutor Ed Caleb said that because [would-be serial killer Gerald] Krein was living in a mobile home, the idea of hanging bodies from beams may indicate the plot was a fantasy."
-- "Web heroine hailed by cops", Toronto Sun (via CANOE)
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Friday, February 11, 2005

Again, what's wrong with you people?
Posted by CKL @ 09:44 AM PST
Today in the SF Chronicle:
But the line that really made me shudder was this: "In the middle of what's happening in Iraq," [Rush] Limbaugh said, "for most Americans what happened at Abu Ghraib might as well be Romper Room."

Did Limbaugh really say those words, out loud, in a room of 3,000 people? He did. And they applauded. I felt sick.

-- Charlie Varon

Tangentially, I'm reminded of something I first saw last year: a diagram titled Divided We Stand, a "network map of political books based on purchase patterns ... [using] the top 100 political books on Amazon as a guide. The data was gathered in late April 2004, after the release of many greatly anticipated political books."

I don't dispute that there is an innate human urge toward community. I just wish the majority of people could find less fractious interests around which to organize. But I suppose that's due to our base instinct toward binary judgments: if it's not good, it must be bad, and since I'm good, you must be bad.

Sigh.

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Topsy Turvy
Posted by CKL @ 08:27 AM PST
So North Korea has nukes, but the top story this morning is Prince Charles getting engaged again? What kind of crazy world is this?
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Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Google Maps
Posted by CKL @ 05:37 PM PST
So Google launched a beta version of Maps this week. Pretty cool, huh? As usual, a blogger has already taken a peek under the hood.

I remember in 2004, when Amazon first launched A9, there was a lot of talk (at least in my circle of friends) about why Google didn't offer richer interfaces for web search. I think it's since become clear that Google believes the old adage: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Gmail, Maps, and other Google products may require CSS, JavaScript, and additional, neoteric client-side features that may not work in all browsers; web search can and must work for everyone.

ObDisclosure: I have a personal and financial stake in the future success of Google, Inc.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2005

One of many reasons I love Gilmore Girls
Posted by CKL @ 01:57 PM PST
"We can't predict if [Gilmore Girls] will be back next season. But I do know what the series finale is; I know what the last two lines are. But I'm not going to tell you."
-- co-creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, Hollywood Reporter

I love that the showrunners know what their series is about. I love that they're loose enough to let characters and plot lines develop organically, but have a firm enough grasp on the big picture to know how the story will end. Not to mention the actual writing is so much better than Babylon 5.

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Additional content copyright © 2005 by Loren A. Cheng