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My Archives: December 2003

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Pike Place Market
Posted by CKL @ 01:13 AM PST
DSC00268 (96k image)
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Saturday, December 27, 2003

Snoqualmie Falls
Posted by CKL @ 01:13 AM PST
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UpWords
Posted by CKL @ 01:08 AM PST
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Carcassonne
Posted by CKL @ 01:04 AM PST
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Thursday, December 25, 2003

Christmas on Mars
Posted by CKL @ 01:27 PM PST
Beagle 2 has landed... we think.
Current status

25-Dec-2003
06:53 GMT

No signal has been received from Beagle 2 during the first pass of Odyssey

Damn Martians and their Earth-probe-shattering kabooms.
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Friday, December 19, 2003

a dearth of sf
Posted by CKL @ 07:02 PM PST
Sci Fi Wire, "a news service of the Sci Fi Channel," runs a sidebar on the left side of its page listing the top 10 Nielsen-rated genre shows for that week. Currently, the sidebar includes this depressing disclaimer:

"Source: Nielsen Galaxy Report, 11/17/03 - 11/23/03. Fewer than 10 entries appear this week, because fewer than 10 SF&F programs aired during the week on broadcast networks [my emphasis -CKL]."

Okay, so there are other shows running on cable-- HBO's excellent "Carnivale", for instance-- and in syndication. But still, out of 115 hours of broadcast network programming every week, only 9 hours (less than 8%, if you're counting) are devoted to science fiction and fantasy? And at least 3 of those hours totally suck ass?

Like I said, depressing.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Insufficient Exposure
Posted by CKL @ 02:17 PM PST
Robert Scott probably doesn't want me deep linking to his very cool Urban Tarot Card Set images, but it's his own damn fault for putting all his web site content into a Flash chunk. I really don't understand why you would publish something for the world to see, but then make it unnecessarily difficult to access.

Sony has been advertising the Spider-Man 2 teaser like crazy, but distributing it in a similarly annoying Flash chunk, which can't be resized and streams poorly to boot. Fortunately, you can get it in Quicktime instead.

When will people learn that Flash is only good for a very small, limited set of applications? Not everything needs to be animated. Not everything needs to make noise all the freakin' time.

I'd better stop before I start spewing like a net.geezer...

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Monday, December 15, 2003

I like snarky FAQs
Posted by CKL @ 09:20 AM PST
From the Discovery Channel's HDTV info page:
OK, let's get real, TV Boy. Maybe an HDTV won't cost as much as a car, but I'm still going to be eating fish sticks and Tater Tots for a couple of years before I pay for it, aren't I?

I can answer that question in two words: Atkins diet.

Of course, the deal-breaker for me is the lack of time-shifting. I don't care how pristine the hyper mega digital picture is-- if I can't watch at my own convenience, forget it.

Besides, I've got a wedding to save for.

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Big Movies
Posted by CKL @ 12:31 AM PST
It's uncanny how often my cinematic opinions tend to align with MaryAnn Johanson's. Just this past weekend, I saw the picturesque but ultimately lukewarm The Last Samurai, followed by the thrilling and near-perfect Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Then again, what did I expect from the hack who wrote Gladiator and the director of Dead Poets Society, respectively?

Perhaps not surprisingly, a significant portion of my post-movie conversations with DeeAnn was about the historical accuracy of both films, plus attempting to figure out who Brad Pitt was playing in next year's Troy, which trailer we'd seen before Tom Cruise's Wacky Samurai Adventure. (Hint: sandals probably aren't the ideal footwear for this fellow.) We also spent a few minutes identifying other characters from the Trojan War. How geeky are we?

Anyway. My friend Tim had raved about Russell Crowe's Wacky Naval Adventure a few weeks before, saying that it was satisfying to see a good story that didn't need any flashy special effects. Which I thought ironic after seeing the movie myself, since the credits listed at least four different VFX companies. But, of course, his point was that the special effects didn't stick out like a sore thumb, as they often do in skiffy B-movies. Absolutely everything in See Russell Sail felt real, and thus encouraged you to go along with it, even if it was described in nineteenth-century naval technobabble you didn't understand. The entire third act of Tommy Plays With Swords made no sense, in or out of historical context.

Like I said: Gladiator schlub, Dead Poets visionary. No contest. I'm just a little surprised at the heaps of unwarranted praise that Cruisin' for Geishas is garnering. But I'll save my real bitching until after Oscar nominations are announced.

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Thursday, December 11, 2003

Gollum hates you
Posted by CKL @ 08:49 AM PST
Reuters reports that "Andy Serkis, the British actor who plays the bulging-eyed, schizophrenic cave-dweller Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, said Monday he studied his cats to develop his character's sinister throaty voice."

In other news: mycathatesyou.com

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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Not your father's Battlestar
Posted by CKL @ 08:30 AM PST
I've watched the first half of the Sci Fi Channel's new Battlestar Galactica miniseries, and so far, I'm not terribly impressed.

The good:

  • Edward James Olmos, but we knew that.
  • Mary McDonnell, but we knew that, too.
  • The new Vipers actually don't look half bad.
  • The drums-only battle music sets the mood pretty well.
  • Boomer is an Asian woman, and she appears to have a significant supporting role.

The bad:

  • Yet another series with Robots Who Look Just Like People. Sigh. Doesn't anybody think that, given the choice, robots-- especially those who hate humans-- would choose a more efficient form?
  • Bland costume design. What's the point of making an entirely new fleet of uniforms if you don't make them look cool?
  • Choppy editing, and a story spread too thin over too many characters. I don't know if this is endemic to miniseries, or if it's just Sci Fi Channel, but Taken had the same problem: too many highlights, not enough connective tissue.
  • Boomer is a weepy, hackneyed stereotype of a woman.

The ugly:

  • What the frack is up with all the shaky camera work? It's like NYPD Blue shot by an amateur videographer with epilepsy. It's not "hip" or "realistic;" it's just annoying.
  • Inane tagline: "Never create what you can't control." Parents create children they can't control, all the time, especially when they grow into teenagers. I hate it when people condemn the practice of "playing God," but praise parenthood. What's the damn difference?

I did, however, have fun playing along with the bumpers leading into commercial breaks:

ANNOUNCER: Battlestar Galactica will continue.
CKL: ...whether you like it or not!
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Monday, December 8, 2003

Powers of Ten
Posted by CKL @ 02:45 PM PST
10 million light years away from the Milky Way...
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Friday, December 5, 2003

Swedish Chef? Iron Chef? Naughty Chef.
Posted by CKL @ 09:25 AM PST
There's an interview with Neil Gaiman in the current issue of Science Fiction Weekly, in which he mentions a hypothetical pornographic cookbook:
[SFW:] Is there anything you won't tackle?

Gaiman: No. It hasn't come along yet. It's that point where I suddenly go, "You know, nobody's ever written a really interesting pornographic cookbook." Then suddenly I'm hooked. It's the challenge of learning and of continuing to move. If you aren't learning, things get very dull very quickly.

Oddly enough, this isn't the first time he's mentioned such a thing. From neilgaiman.com:
...I don't have any plans to do stuff under a ghost-name, as A) My brand-identity as an author is already so hopelessly muddled that I can't imagine something I'd want to write that would have a publisher pursing its publishy lips and saying "Perhaps you should put out the pornographic cookbook under a different name...?" They'd just shrug and say "Oh. A pornographic cookbook. Right," and let me get on with it. And B) I'm not prolific enough that I'd face, for example, the problem Steve King did when he brought out the Bachman stuff.
Perhaps more oddly, this isn't the first time someone has pondered Neil's mention of such a book:
(excerpts from a conversation about Neil Gaiman)
Joh: Now he'll get dozens of emails asking for a pornographic cookbook/poetry chapbook in one.
Cam: But a pornographic cookbook ... would it be like... "how to cook whilst having sex"?
Joh: Spatula, anyone?
Or casual sex acts while cooking?
Cam: I mean... it couldn't just be cooking naked. That would be a naked cookbook, not a pornographic one.
Or would it be like "he took his warm firm meat and slipped it gently into her creamy sweet dough... then things started to get hot"?
Joh: And now that the pigs in a blanket are baking, let's have sex!
I'm telling you, it's a meme just waiting to happen. All together, now: What do we want? A pornographic cookbook! When do we want it? Around tea time!

I should point out that foodporn is something totally different.

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Thursday, December 4, 2003

Creepy Trivia
Posted by CKL @ 07:40 AM PST
"Every American who has died in a spacecraft has done so within one calendar week: The Apollo [1] fire on January 27, 1967; the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986; and the loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003."
-- Dennis E. Powell in National Review Online
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Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Forseeable Controversy of the Week
Posted by CKL @ 09:34 AM PST
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
The national clothing chain Abercrombie and Fitch has pulled its Christmas catalog, which featured page after page of naked young models and extolled the virtues of group sex, after several groups launched consumer boycotts of the company.

The firm denied that its decision at the height of the holiday shopping season to stop selling the racy catalog -- which advocated orgies and group masturbation -- had anything to do with the protests. Instead, Abercrombie and Fitch said it needed to free precious shelf space for a new perfume and promised to return with a spring catalog offering more "butts" and other nudity...

[One] steamy page [from the Christmas catalog] featured 10 naked models wading in a creek. Underneath was a pitch for sex with multiple partners.

"Sex, as we know, can involve one or two, but what about even more?" the ad copy queries. "The menage a trois (three way) is not an uncommon arrangement. An orgy can involve an unlimited quantity of potential lovers. Groups can be mixed-gender or same-sex, friendly or anonymous.

"A pleasant and supersafe alternative to this is group masturbation," the ad goes on.

Toward the back of the catalog, an article offers advice on three-way sex and the importance of having lots of carnal experiences in college...

I'm sure A&F knows exactly what it's doing: getting free publicity. It's a perfect, evil plan-- pander to your target market while simultaneously flouting community standards, but in a non-threatening, ultimately trivial fashion. Ingenious! Diabolical!

Why can't they use their powers for good? Because good doesn't sell tube socks, Johnny. Sadly, it's all about the Benjamins.

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Monday, December 1, 2003

I love TiVo
Posted by CKL @ 06:49 PM PST
Earlier today, I went to TiVo Central Online and setup recording events for the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries airing next week. I have some complaints about the online request system-- mainly, that it's not real-time, so if the new request conflicts with previously scheduled recordings, I won't find out until I get the confirmation email. Which is exactly what happened:
Your online request for "Battlestar Galactica" has been received. This program has been scheduled to record, but scheduling it has CANCELLED other programs.

Will NOT record:
Celebrity Poker Showdown 12/9 6:00 pm-7:00 pm 129 BRAVO
overlaps with Battlestar Galactica 6:00 pm - 8:05 pm
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy 12/9 7:00 pm-8:00 pm 129 BRAVO
overlaps with Battlestar Galactica 6:00 pm - 8:05 pm

To change which programs will and won't record, go to the To Do List and Recording History. To get there:
- press the TiVo button to go to TiVo Central
- choose "Pick Programs to Record"
- choose "To Do List"

Best regards,

TiVo
http://www.tivo.com/support/

Great, I thought. I'll have to wander through TiVo's labyrinthine menus and re-enable those two cancelled recordings manually. But I was wrong.

I came home tonight, went into Tivo's To Do List, and was pleasantly surprised to find that, because I had created Season Passes for Celebrity Poker and Queer Eye, TiVo had automatically found later showings of both shows which didn't conflict with the new recording. They were even on the same night as before. I couldn't have done it better myself.

(Of course, this was only possible because they were both cable shows, and the same episode was being shown multiple times. I'd have been out of luck if they were broadcast network programs, because there would only have been one showing, and probably airing at the same time as another interesting show. But that's a rant for another day.)

The point is, TiVo was smart enough to failover automatically and correctly, saving me the effort of doing the work myself. Which is the whole point of the overall system, but I'm still impressed when a concept is actually engineered well.

I love TiVo.

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