“I’m a machine. I can’t be happy.
But I understand more than you think.”
Terminators cannot feel jealousy, nor many of the other human emotions, but it is evident from this beautiful scene that Cameron is feeling the closest thing she can to jealousy towards the new girl in John’s life. As a reprogrammed Terminator, her entire purpose is to protect the young John Connor from orders of the older John Connor in 2027 where Cameron is apparently his closest confidante.
“I can’t let anything happen to him.”
The second part of the clip occurs a little bit later in the episode when Cameron and Derek (John’s uncle, who’s also from the future) get a distress call from John after a Terminator discovers John and Riley in a Mexican jail. Cameron shows uncharacteristically human concern for John’s safety, which surprises Derek greatly, who has never trusted ‘metal’.
Later, in the episode Complications, Cameron inexplicably changes the radio station in John’s car to pop music instead of a previous station, and sticks her feet out the window, feeling the wind between her toes.
FOX is incredibly stupid for canceling such an amazing show. The television format shows much more of Sarah and John’s life than the action-heavy films and the series really has some beautifully written episodes. The unfortunately timed writer’s strike shortened the first season to nine episodes and FOX canceled the series at the end of the second season, for a total of only 31 episodes. Viewership was down but only because it was the most DVR’d show on television and TSCC viewers tend to be tech-savvy and watch it on something other than a TV—like yours truly. Truly a crying shame.
A favorite time of the year for any Apple fan, WWDC 2009 is currently midway through its five-day schedule of nonstop Mac and iPhone nerdery. The actual conference itself is focused mainly on developers—hence the ‘Developers’ in the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference—and much of it is covered by a non-disclosure agreement, so the only highlight for non-attendees—like yours truly…—is the conference-opening keynote presentation, which historically has served to introduce new software and hardware Apple has been working on to the public.
And this year did not disappoint.
Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” was announced a year ago at WWDC 2008 as a leaner, faster, and more efficient OS update to Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard”. Instead of focusing on new end-user features like past OS X updates, Snow Leopard focuses on “hidden” behind-the-scenes performance enhancements and upgrades which helps Mac developers write better and more efficient applications using newer and faster APIs.
Exciting (oh, hush) new technologies such as Grand Central Dispatch—which provides parallel-programming technology to take advantage of modern multi-core CPUs—and OpenCL—which provides developers access to powerful modern GPU computation—makes up the core of Snow Leopard improvements, which may not sound as flashy or exciting as Stacks, Cover Flow, Time Machine, Spotlight, Dashboard, or Exposé at first blush but vastly rewritten backend software will provide a stronger and more efficient foundation for better software.
And at only $29 for Leopard owners, it’s almost like getting a newer, faster computer for the price of a decent meal.
Of course, with such improvements and enhancements come the inevitable technological march forward, thus excluding my 2003 1GHz PowerMac G4. The PowerPC architecture has been depreciated in favor of Intel’s x86 since WWDC 2005 so it’s not exactly a surprise, but it sucks that half the Macs in my household will not be able to take advantage of the sweet new improvements in Snow Leopard.
The hardware side is more exciting, I promise!
The 13″ unibody MacBook was rebranded as the MacBook Pro since improvements have narrowed the gap between the standard MacBook and MacBook Pro lines. I suspect the split Apple notebook lineup had always confused potential customers so the eventual—with the inevitable cancellation of the remaining white polycarbonate MacBook, that is—return to a single line of notebooks is a great idea in my opinion.
The 13″ and 15″ MBPs now have a SD card slot and one FireWire 800 port (which the 13″ unibody MacBook lacked) and the 15″ MBP can now be purchased without a discrete graphics card, which lowers the high-price bar that has traditionally kept customers away from Macs.
The new non-removable battery can apparently run for over seven hours, which is incredibly long for any type of notebook, and the new, faster Intel Core 2 Duo chips are super sweet—2.26 and 2.53GHz for the 13″, 2.53, 2.66, and 2.8GHz for the 15″, and 2.8GHz for the 17″.
Still, not all is happy in Mac-land. People complain about the sealed battery even though Apple promises each battery can get at least a thousand full recharge cycles, lasting an estimated five or more years—which they say is already longer than the average lifespan of a machine. I also don’t like that the 13″ MBP doesn’t have the option of a discrete graphics card—the integrated NVIDIA 9400M is fine, but it just doesn’t cut it for what is supposedly now a “pro” machine. Dropping the ExpressCard slot on the 13″ and 15″ MBPs in favor of the new SD card slot may anger some folks, as does the lack of an SD card slot in the 17″, which does have the ExpressCard slot.
Apple has never been known as a company of multiple choice, so I doubt any of these concerns will be remedied in the foreseeable future. They still haven’t addressed some users’ desire for a non-glossy 13″ and 15″ screen, who’ve been complaining since the original unibody MBPs came out.
But most exciting of all are the iPhone updates.
The newly renamed iPhone 3GS is super slick. Cosmetically, little has changed—if at all—from the last-generation iPhone 3G. It still possesses the same glossy polycarbonate back and chrome trim around the glass screen, but the screen now has a new oleophobic coating which repels skin oils. The iPhone 3G remains in the lineup, but only with 8GB of storage at an obscenely inexpensive $99. The 16GB model was probably nixed to prevent sales cannibalization. The new iPhone 3GS comes in at $199 for the 16GB and $299 for the 32GB, an incredible deal compared to last year’s $199/8GB, $299/16GB.
The hardware enhancements are welcomed with open arms. Apple hasn’t released any firm numbers on processor speeds or any other concrete numbers besides the hard drive sizes, but rumors have clocked the new iPhone processor at 600MHz, a full 50% faster than the chip inside the last-generation iPhone 3G, plus double the RAM: 128MB to 256MB. Combined, these two upgrades will make the iPhone 3GS incredibly fast and responsive, even more so than the already good-enough iPhone 3G (which is already far better than the original iPhone).
The magnetic compass and 3-megapixel camera with auto-focus are two really awesome additions. The compass allows Google Maps to rotate the view to match your real-life direction, a feature sorely missed from past implementations of the always north-facing maps. The new camera is apparently tons better thanks to auto-focus where you tap where you want to focus on the screen. It also auto-macros when you want to focus on something really close. I don’t know why more digital cameras don’t allow for tap-to-focus and instead relying on center focusing (or nine-point average focusing on the fancier point-and-shoots).
On software, iPhone 3.0 is what iPhone 1.0 should’ve been. MMS, video recording and editing, voice control, voice memos, cut, copy and paste, phone-wide search, and tethering finally make their way into the iPhone OS. Of all of these, I think I’m most happy for cut, copy and paste and video recording. Recording was technically possible but not enabled in iPhone 2.0 so that’s why I’m categorizing this as a software enhancement.
Numerous other little enhancements provide a better overall experience to the now mature OS. Widescreen keyboards and views are now enabled for more applications; you can turn the iPhone sideways in Messages, Notes, and Mail to activate a widescreen keyboard for better typing and in Stocks for a more detailed stocks view. Safari now has form auto-fill, Mail finally supports Microsoft Exchange, and a new service for MobileMe allows you to remotely locate your iPhone, and optionally wipe its data if it’s in the wrong hands.
But again, not all is amazing and fantastic. Rumors of a front-facing camera (for two-way video chats) were unfounded, the casing is still glossy polycarbonate—contrary to some rumors stating it will be rubberized and textured, and no confirmed specs are released by Apple so we have no real way of knowing what’s really under the hood—at least until iFixit tears it down in one of their famous Apple product teardowns. AT&T is also inexplicably slow on MMS support—coming “in September”—and tethering, whereas carriers in other countries support it right off the bat. They’re also screwing over previous iPhone owners, expecting $200 over the regular, subsidized pricing to upgrade from their already-expensive last-gen iPhones to a new one. Get off AT&T already, Apple. You’re breaking millions of hearts.
All in all, this was an exciting WWDC filled with tons of new announcements and forthcoming products. I’m a little sad that Mac OS X 10.6 won’t have the fabled new “Marble” UI and there’s no sign of ZFS support, or the much-awaited resolution independence of Mac OS X.
But more importantly than anything else, I’m most unhappy about the newly priced $99 8GB iPhone, which I could’ve gotten if not for my recently acquired LG Xenon, which was also around the same price. I’m kicking myself for bad timing. Sigh.
I was reading past entries on my tumblelog—something everyone should do; I often amaze myself with all the cool stuff I linked to and wrote about—when I realized I have a thing for black-and-white photography. Everything just looks classier and more beautiful in monochrome. Keep an eye out on my newly realized fetish with the new ‘
black and white’ tag.
This is entry number two in an ongoing series of random musings in what was an attempt at making this tumblelog more ‘personal’. I’ve never post any personal photos on here, nor spend much time talking about myself—it’s just not my nature, and besides, my life is not very interesting—but I do feel like I’ve succeeded in ‘personalizing’ my tumblelog by posting only on subjects I like and topics I care deeply about.
Still, I’ll be posting short, random snippets from my crazy mind to the new ‘
random thoughts’ tag, however seldomly throughout the year.
Everyone who knows me knows that I’m the biggest Apple fanboy you’d ever meet so I don’t really know how or why I ended up with an LG Xenon instead of an iPhone. But here it sits in front of me, its touchscreen already smudged with my fingerprints, surrounded by a pearlescent blue bezel with a thin chrome rim. It’s slightly smaller length and width-wise than the iPhone, but about 35% thicker and 25% lighter. I wrote down my first impressions below.
First and foremost I must say that haptic feedback is the stupidest, most useless shit ever. I really don’t understand all the people crowing about the advantages of a touchscreen that vibrates whenever you touch it—it’s certainly useless in my book and worst of all, extremely annoying. There are three different vibration patterns to choose from but they’re all equally bad. Choosing audio feedback was also not a viable option. There are four horrid sounds to choose from and they all turn annoying the second or third time you hear them. One even sounds like a rain drop, I shit you not.
The interface is clearly iPhone ‘inspired’, from the rearrangable home screen layout—more on that later—with iPhone-esque close icons appearing on a tap and hold, to the menus with inertia and the ‘bounce’ when it hits the top or the bottom of a list, down to even the inline toggle switch widgets. But like many other imitators, LG copied the look but left out the polish; there are no smooth animations between screens and rearranging the home screen icons is choppy and reminescent of a bad slideshow.
The 2.8″ 240×400 touchscreen is just middling, and can only display 65,536 colors—banding is clearly visible in the interface. It’s also a resistive touchscreen, not capacitive like on the iPhone, which means it only registers firm, physical taps unlike the better and more advanced capacitive screens.
Xenon’s slide-to-scroll is very buggy, to say the least; I can easily understand why they left in a traditional scrollbar to aid in navigation—I constantly selected options when I wanted to scroll. It’s especially infuriating because the phone ‘helpfully’ eliminates the traditional confirmation dialogs, so clicking on options will instantly pop up an ‘action confirmed!’ dialog and save the preference, even if all you wanted to do was scroll down the list and accidentally triggered the tap response. There are helpful little preview-play buttons for ringtones and sounds but they’re absolutely useless because of the inferior resistive touchscreen. Half the time I accidentally select the item—thus triggering the confirmation dialog and autosave—instead of previewing it, and the rest of the time I click on the scrollbar right next to it, jumping through the list. Those of you that know me IRL know I have thin, girly fingers so why do I feel like a fat guy playing with a miniature phone? What the crap, LG?
The keyboard is decent, though a bit cramped and flat. It’s appropriately clicky and backlit, the sliding in and out from behind the touch screen is snappy and tight, and it has dedicated
.com keys. I don’t know how to capitalize words or type symbols quickly because it seems to only have a
caps lock and
fn key, both of which are toggle switches. You can’t hold
caps lock or
fn to momentarily type a capital letter or symbol and switch back—you have to click
caps lock, click the key, and click
caps lock again. Frustrating.
One feature I could find that I like is the reject list—a list of phone numbers you can have the phone automatically reject. Oooh, groundbreaking. That’s sarcasm in case you missed it, but I really haven’t found this sort of feature in other phones, at least from a cursory inspection.
The Xenon probably has the worst collection of ringtones I have ever seen in my life, and I’ve had five cellphones since 2001. The selection was truly appalling—I had to fall back on the traditional telephone ring and even that sounded like hot garbage thanks to the no-bass, treble-heavy speaker. The message tones were more plentiful but equally crappy. One was actually a female voice announcing, “message received!” At least the speaker is loud.
Unlocking the phone requires two presses to the unlock key, the first click to see the unlock screen and the second to actually unlock the phone. The user guide says the same thing. I can see this getting annoying really quickly.
The included applets are nice. The calculator supports trigonometric and other scientific functions—holy overkill, Batman—but I won’t complain about more features. The calendar seems pretty good in my limited testing. There’s keyword searching for events, multiple-selection delete, and an option called ‘Set Holiday’, which I suppose allows you to celebrate any day you wish. More applets are hidden in ‘Tools’: voice command, voice recorder, notepad, world clock, tip calculator, tasks, stopwatch, and unit converter. They’re all pretty nice, especially the tip calculator, which helps divide the bill in addition to calculating the tip.
According to the Bubble Bash demo—a Bust-a-Move clone by Gameloft—the Xenon has an accelerometer, but oddly it’s not used to orient the screen, or anywhere else in the interface other than for silly game demos. Sliding out the keyboard turns the screen into landscape mode and closing it returns it to portrait. Monopoly is the only decent demo, and it only let me play one full lap around the board before showing me a purchase page. Overall the games are really mediocre compared to selection available to iPhone users.
The camera is pretty good: two-megapixel with flash, low light mode, color filters, and brightness adjustment. Shutter speed is pretty fast for a phone. It can also record video at 320×240 with sound and zoom, but I haven’t tested it. The software apparently does not support real transparency because the ‘transparent’ overlays in the camera application is faked with a dot pattern, which is kind of pathetic and sad to see.
The threaded text message view is a nice touch. It’s sort of like the iPhone’s but the messages are also expandable/collapsible, though they only collapse very slightly, raising questions of its effectiveness. Another nice touch is the ability to switch between Inbox, Outbox, and Drafts by swiping left or right. It’s actually pretty nifty, though again, you really have to question it’s usefulness.
The task manager is nice. It has a dedicated button between Send and End and shows a list of all the open apps when pressed. Its existence seems to imply that the Xenon supports background processes but I can’t think of any app on the phone that requires attention once it disappears from the screen, so I can’t tell if it has ‘true’ background process support.
There’s also a drop-down menu which the manual calls the ‘Annunciator’ that slides out from the top of the screen. It houses shortcuts to the music player, Bluetooth settings, ring profiles, alarms, messages and voicemail. It’s a pretty good idea but it’s not customizable AFAICT, which is a bummer because there’s also icons for AIM, Windows Live, Yahoo! Messenger, and email—all of which I have absolutely no use for without a data plan.
I also just found out that the task manager is a little more useless than I had originally thought. I had opened AIM to test it out—apparently I have a 30-day trial—but sign-in stalled and there was no cancel button. I called up the task manager to close AIM and found the close button next to it greyed out! Pretty useless if you can’t exit stalled programs in a task manager, don’t you think?
In addition to the static dock at the bottom that holds shortcuts to the dial screen, Address Book, text messages, and the ‘Top Menu’, the home screen also has three different and separate home screens. The three icons at the top switch between the views.
The Visual Contacts page has its own three customizable pages where you can drag and drop contacts like widgets. The contacts appear as little square icons that open up like a flower with options to call, create a new message, and view past messages. It’s meant to serve as a sort of tackboard for tacking your most-dialed friends.
The Home Screen has a miniature slide-out dashboard with widgets you can drag and drop onto the desktop like Vista gadgets. There’s an analog clock that can set an alarm, a digital clock that insists on displaying a secondary time from a city of your choice, a calendar widget that can add and view events, a slideshow widget for your photos, and a mini-toolbar for controlling music. The idea behind this feature is undoubtedly great and rooted in nothing but the best intentions, but somewhere along the development of the Xenon, someone at LG fucked up. The screen is hardly large enough to host more than a single widget, let alone allowing sufficient room to shuffle them around. The widgets are inexplicably able to overlap each other and be positioned off-screen so when you click the widgets to set options, the options screen—which is usually larger than the widget—is either half off-screen or obscured by another widget. There’s also no visible button to return from the options; you have to blindly jab at the widget frame hoping you luck upon the invisible pixels that return you to the normal view.
The Shortcuts page is perhaps the best of the three, not surprising because it’s ‘borrowed’ entirely from the iPhone. The Xenon has nine widget spaces to the iPhone’s 16. Drag the icons to reorder—clumsily and terribly animated, I might add—and hold to bring up close buttons. To LG’s credit, they allow you to choose widgets from pretty much every menu item on the phone, so you can really customize it to your liking.
After all of this, there’s still the conventional ‘Top Menu’ which holds all of the phone’s features, options, and programs. I don’t really know why LG loaded the Xenon with three similar home screens when there’s already a perfectly acceptable traditional menu.
The Xenon has a bunch of surprisingly high-end features, though. While there’s no Wi-Fi—my one real nitpick with this phone—there’s 3G and a feature that allows you to share videos with other 3G-using friends. It also supports several email services but no POP or IMAP—and thus, no Gmail. But most surprising of all, it has GPS! Yes, you have to pay AT&T a nominal monthly fee to use it but the mere fact that hardware GPS exists on such an inexpensive phone is astonishing.
All in all, it’s a pretty decent phone for what it cost. My sister and I both got Xenons for $100 each after mail-in rebate, and we don’t have to pay the $40 a month for a data plan like for the iPhone. It’s certainly no iPhone in terms of software or hardware quality no matter how hard LG tries, but it’s probably the best phone I’ve owned yet and I have a feeling it’s going to be perfectly acceptable for my simple cellular needs.
It’s been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to watch this movie since the first cryptic glimpses were shown before Transformers—so cryptic and mysterious, in fact, we didn’t even get a name, only a date: 01-18-08.
First a little background. If you already know about the marketing campaign behind Cloverfield, feel free to skip to my review. JJ Abrams, who produced Cloverfield with director Matt Reeves, is known for orchestrating clever viral marketing campaigns for his film and television projects which include Alias, Mission: Impossible III, Lost, Fringe, and the current blockbuster Star Trek—a super awesome movie on its own, but more on that another time.
Abrams’ hit TV series Lost was heavily supported by a huge viral marketing campaign and elaborate mythology designed to attract dedicated and fervent fans. The fictional Oceanic Airlines was created entirely in a fictional universe but has its own website, cross-series appearances,—another one of Abrams’ clever touches—and even a detailed fictional history.
For Cloverfield—a project so secretive that auditions were conducted with material from past Abrams productions like Alias and Felicity and the stars weren’t given scripts until days before the start of principal photography—Abrams relied on the power of the Internet and the curiosity of fans to seek and figure out what the cryptic teaser trailer was about.
Then more esoteric viral marketing hit. Several sharp-eyed fans spotted a Slusho logo on one character’s shirt and uncovered the first bit of information about the film. The official website had photos showing up one-by-one daily and one such photo had an odd recipe written on the back—the last ingredient being Kaitei no mitsu, a deep sea extract that purportedly flavors Slusho. Theories pointed to an agitated sea monster that was awoken by Japanese ships extracting the nutrient from deep sea trenches. Note that none of this is mentioned or even alluded to in the film; it’s entirely the viewer’s obligation to want to find out more. We grew up in the Internet Age with YouTube and Google and Twitter and Facebook at our fingertips, and possess far greater social awareness than any generation—the last thing we’d want is to be told what to watch. Placing the control in moviegoers’ hands makes the mystery far more enticing to solve, a refreshing change from contrived Hollywood plots begging for attention.
Abrams’ masterstroke is including his ‘fake’ products in everything; Slusho shows up in Alias, Star Trek, and even Heroes. Fake worldwide news reports were released about the oil tanker that capsized early in the movie, which was the first sign of trouble. MySpace accounts were created for every main character. This blending of alternate reality events into real world media serves to further blur the lines between the film and real life, the key to viral marketing.
And then we get to the review. I must first say you will be doing yourself a great disservice by reading anything about this film before you have experienced it for yourself, and though I will try not to spoil the film, I cannot promise much with my limited critiquing skills.
Several title cards indicate the following is recovered video evidence for the Department of Defense case file codename “Cloverfield” from an area formerly known as “Central Park”. It was Robert “Rob” Hawkins’ last night in New York City before he flies to Japan to take the position of Vice President at an unnamed corporation. His brother, Jason Hawkins and girlfriend Lily Ford, along with best friend Hudson “Hud” Platt planned a huge surprise farewell party to send him off right, with Lily tasking Jason to going around the party and filming friends and guests’ well-wishes for Rob to take with him to Japan. After insisting it was a bitch job, he passes the camera to Hud who initially was reluctant—he pointed it mainly at his crush, Marlena Diamond, who’ve met Lily a couple of times but didn’t really know the rest of the group—but soon warmed to the idea of documenting the evening.
A month before the surprise party, Rob woke up after sleeping with a previously platonic friend, Elizabeth “Beth” McIntyre, and brought a camera along on their trip to Coney Island to document Beth’s first time there. Jason and Hud ‘borrowed’ Rob’s camera for the party without realizing there was previously recorded footage, so they accidentally recorded over much of Rob and Beth’s Coney Island trip. Beth shows up late at the surprise party with a male friend much to Rob’s dismay and they have a fight in the stairwell. Beth leaves for her apartment as Jason and Hud—still carrying the camera—try to console Rob on the fire escape stairs when a minor earthquake blacks out the area. This is when the film really begins.
Much as been said about the shaky camerawork in Cloverfield and the complaints are completely valid and understandable. If you suffer from motion sickness, this is probably not the best movie for you. Abrams and Reeves take no liberties with smoothing out the action with a Steadicam or even just a professional cameraman—it’s been reported that perhaps 30% of the film was actually filmed by T. J. Miller, the actor who plays Hud. There are several vomit-inducing running scenes where I was practically screamed at the screen for Hud to hold the camera steady, and several times when motion sickness-induced migraines set in. But if you can get over this one artistic conceit, the rest of the film will be much more enjoyable. It also performed the important task of maintaining the ‘realistic’ illusion Abrams and Reeves wanted for the film.
The authenticity offered by a truly amateur cameraman adds much to the immediacy and realism of the film, lending a sense of real fear and anxiousness that smooth Steadicam shots just cannot capture. Paul Greengrass understood this perfectly when he directed the second and third Bourne films; he deliberately destabilized his Steadicam operator to get realistic movement, though his films have nothing on Cloverfield’s epic migraine-level camerawork.
Not only was Cloverfield a thrilling and—at times—even scary monster movie it’s also a lovely, short romantic tragedy. The first twenty minutes were devoid of any monster action—instead focused more on Lily, Jason, and Hud’s preparations for the party spliced with Rob and Beth’s Coney Island trip footage—and I found it equally enjoyable. Rob and Beth are two long-time friends who clearly adored each other for ages but never acted on their feelings until a month before Rob heads off to Japan. No footage exists between then and now so when Beth shows up at Rob’s surprise party with a guy, many questions were raised—questions that you, through Hud and the camera, want solved. By limiting the points of view to a single camera, the film effectively wipes out any omniscient thoughts, limiting the viewer to what you would see and hear in real life: just what’s directly around you. You, the viewer, knows only as much as Hud knows, and no more. There’s something refreshingly frank and gimmick-free about that, an innocence lost in most Hollywood films these days.
I loved the constant reminder of Rob’s poor choice of last words to Beth as she left the party in the form of his brother and his girlfriend. Jason and Lily are practically married—but not really, though, much to Lily’s chagrin—and when trouble struck they anxiously yelled out in the darkness and chaos for each other. In times of crisis, your loved ones should be by your side under your protection, but instead, Rob drove Beth away with their fight, back to her apartment in Midtown where the monster is destroying buildings and flattening vehicles. Wracked with guilt and an almost irrational desire to protect her, Rob decides to run uptown towards the monster to save Beth. Several reviews I’ve read thought this was a weak plot point but they fail to see how futile their survival odds were. As Hud sullenly states halfway through the movie, “our options are [to] die here, die in the tunnels, or die in the streets.” Making their way uptown to rescue Beth is reasonable given their already slim chance of survival.
The juxtaposition of snippets of Rob and Beth’s lovely trip to Coney Island and Hud’s footage of their first few hours of survival was nicely done, all during times when the camera was not recording over the past footage and when the camera was damaged. Their carefree joy and happiness with each other looks so foreign in the chaos and despair of the present-time monster attack. Hud talks incessantly under pressure and says some hilarious things behind the camera. His attraction to Marlena and her absolute lack of any reciprocated feelings was a good source of comic relief in the early half of the film. Her warming to Hud after fighting off monster hatchlings together felt genuine and well done.
That’s not to say the film is without fault. Several shots were excessively shaky and blurry, as if to cover up some rough CGI work. The camera battery is also dubiously long-lasting and the medical triage scenes were ho-hum. The gang’s chance encounter with the Army using the Bloomingdales as a triage ward seemed far too convenient, as does having a sympathetic army soldier who sneaks them out to find Beth when orders were to put them on the next chopper out. The film itself was well edited but I couldn’t help but feel it’s still a bit short. I would’ve liked to see perhaps one extra scene in the middle with them making their way uptown.
The ending was appropriately poignant yet miserable, in ways many Hollywood endings aren’t. I finished the film feeling drained and battered as if I’d also spent my night running from the monsters. And yet I enjoyed it. The completely seamless illusion was not marred by poor CGI work, editing, or acting. There were very few moments where I thought to myself, ‘that can’t be right’ or ‘how is that possible?’ and for a film about a 350-foot monster rampage through New York City, that’s definitely saying something.
In short, this film comes highly, highly recommended by me. It’s not often that a film so realistically thrills me in such a way that I could barely stop thinking about it for days. I’m a terrible film snob and heavily cynical towards the whole movie-making trade, but the film’s unwavering attention to realism—“Wow, this really happened!”—and spirited execution tore right through my jaded heart. For the first time in a long time, I feel that childhood awe and amazement at watching a great film and completely not knowing how they pulled it off. I’ve reached a whole new level of respect for filmmakers and all of their below the line help in doing what films do best: transporting the audience to places and experiences they’ve never had before.
If you carefully watch the very last scene, where Rob and Beth are on the Coney Island Ferris Wheel, the footage shot of the beachfront shows something crashing into the sea in the far distance. It is the Japanese government satellite “ChimpanzIII” that unexpectedly crash-landed into the Atlantic. It ties into the huge viral marketing campaign for Cloverfield as belonging to the Tagruato mining company which owns, among other companies, the makers of Slusho!. It has been suggested the mining for key Slusho! ingredients was what originally provoked the Cloverfield creature.
At the very, very end of the film after the credits, there is a quiet garbled sound that when played backwards it states “It’s still alive…”, paving the way for a second Cloverfield film, though JJ Abrams insists it won’t ‘just’ be a normal sequel.
An incredible amount of information is available on the Blu-ray release of Cloverfield. A “Special Investigations Mode” plays the movie as if it were a case file for the Department of Defense—the film played in a box with of the screen dedicated to a map of Manhattan with the current location of the LSA and hundreds of noteworthy facts peppered throughout the movie.
A fascinating multiplayer board game designed by German dental technician Klaus Teuber, Settlers of Catan is the first German-style board game to achieve popularity outside of Europe. It’s been sold in Germany since 1995 but only recently became known in the United States.
Its rapid ascent into widespread appeal is due to its remarkably varied and intelligent gameplay, a sharp contrast from dim, luck-based games like Monopoly or Candy Land or Sorry!. The game dynamic encourages cooperation and teamwork between players unlike zero-sum games like Monopoly, where players must dominate their opponents in order to win.
Recent Monopoly games I’ve played stirred my suspicions that there is little to no strategic thought necessary to win, along with other games like Battleship or Mouse Trap. Settlers of Catan sounds like a marked improvement and I am actively seeking a copy to play with. Nevertheless, Monopoly has its charms, mostly rooted in childhood nostalgia but also a bit from the vindictive thrill of utterly destroying your competitors.
Settles of Catan homepage – has information on Catan, the XBOX Live Arcade version of the board game.
BoardGameGeek – the premier board game resource, respects skill games like Settlers of Catan while harshly deriding ‘stupid’ games like Monopoly.
Wikipedia – Comprehensive information and history of Settlers of Catan.
So I’m going to see the much-hyped cinematic debut of Alan Moore’s highly celebrated Watchmen comic book series Thursday at midnight. In full, glorious IMAX. This film will be my first in IMAX—I’m definitely excited and just a tad apprehensive about the added benefits over regular cinema. I’d meant to write this earlier but I couldn’t find an appropriate graphic to accompany this post until now.
Directed by 300’s Zach Snyder, Watchmen tells the story of an alternate 1985 where superheroes exist, Richard Nixon is still president, and tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union are at an all-time high. The vigilante Rorschach is investigating the murder of a former hero, the Comedian, and uncovers a plot to discredit and murder various heroes. Rorschach discovers a far wider-ranging conspiracy involving his colleagues’ past which could completely change the course of history.
I’m so excited I can’t be bothered to write any better! I plan on reading the comic book before I step into the theater so I at least have a working knowledge of what I’m experiencing. Most of all, I’m just hoping the film lives up to the incredible hype and media attention it has received.
“Who Watches the Watchmen?”
What follows is a long and very personal story. I occasionally use this tumblelog as Dumbledore would use his Pensieve: to collect and deposit random recollections and memories I have accumulated over the years. I love writing—it’s very therapeutic and relaxing, and the few chances I get to do so I proudly post here, which coincidentally happens to be my blog. No one is forcing you to read this nor am I writing it for anyone but me. Consider yourself warned.
It was fall term of senior year in high school. I had signed up for ballroom class only because every one of my friends insisted we should all take it together. I absolutely hated performing in front of anyone—I had stage fright like you wouldn’t believe. One time in fourth grade I actually threw up because I had to sing in a school-wide production. But it was senior year—a ‘if not now, then when’ attitude took over and I had slowly become less shy and more extroverted, so I signed up. I was quickly paired with a girl with whom I had to choreograph and perform a classic waltz with at the end of the term. In front of the whole class.
It was only a couple of days after we first met that we started talking online. It was probably the height of online chat, and everyone talked to everyone else online, every night, for hours and hours. We quickly hit it off and I soon found myself staying up later and later just to talk with her.November 15th 2005, one o’clock in the morning, over AIM:
her: i think i like someone
her: i think i do
me: does he know you like him?
her: no lol
her: at least… i dont think so haha
her: no, its not “aww” its ::whew:: b/c i hope he doesnt know
me: lol whys that?
her: haha im scared to find out he doesnt like me
her: and even if he does, im afraid it wont work out =\
me: who is it?!
her: haha as if im gona tell you
me: can i guess?
By November, I had suspected she likes me, but my horribly low self-esteem dissuaded me from ever even entertaining the possibility that a girl might actually like me. Any thought that we could ever be more than just friends I instantly ruled out as a figment of my overactive emo teenage imagination. So I played dumb—begging her for clues, playing Twenty Questions, and pretending to be mad when she steadfastly refused to tell me—I thought I’d successfully avoided a potentially awkward situation.
A month later, right around Christmas, after taking her to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the wonderful Regal Battery Park theater, we ordered hot chocolate in a cute little café nearby and sat down to talk about the movie.
“It wasn’t a terrible movie,” she had said, “but it was completely overshadowed by her [J. K. Rowling’s] storytelling.”
Nodding, I replied, “No amount of editing or rewriting could make this any better.” I took another sip of my hot chocolate and continued, “the books were just too good!” I grinned.
I remember thinking how pretty she looked sitting across from me, brushing her bangs off her face every so often, with an adorable scarf wrapped lazily around her. Nursing her mug of half-finished hot chocolate in her hands, she glanced up at me with a slight wane smile, then quickly looked away.
Being the massive idiot I was/am, I’d thought she was laughing at me for liking such a childish book so I shot back, “What, huh?” I laughed and asked, “Guys aren’t allowed to like—”
“Hotin.” She was staring at me now, looking both timid and serious at the same time. “I have a question.”
I blinked, not knowing what was going on.
“Do you like me?”
I blinked again. I must have looked like an moron—mouth still half-open in mid-sentence, blinking like my life depended on it. I made a sound halfway between ‘I’ and ‘yeah’ and said, “of course I like you.”
She pressed on. “As in more than a friend?”
I felt my heart starting to pound and the tip of my ears getting warm. I was completely frozen; my mind raced to form thoughts from nonexistent brain activity, like tires spinning helplessly in the snow. After what felt like an eternity I manage to eke out, “I really like you; I just… I’m just, not really sure, about… about this.”
I waited for a response but she just stared at me.
“We have a really long project together and… and I don’t want to make this weird.” I’m sure I was sweating by now. At this point, every brain cell in my head was rounded up by the fear police and murdered execution-style against the wall.
I had an immense crush on someone else. I had somehow convinced myself there was only one girl for me, and I spent everyday in high school daydreaming about her. She was my angel; the world seemed to grow quiet when we talked and I would use every excuse to spend more time with her. It was like I had blinders on—I couldn’t see anything or anyone else—so I talked about her constantly, even to the girl I’m currently sitting at the café with, drinking hot chocolate.
We sat there, clutching our respective mugs, not saying anything for what felt like the longest minute of my life. Eventually we change the subject and move on. I don’t even remember what we talked about; I was stunned, in a haze, and was operating basically on what was probably my last three functioning brain cells. As we were leaving, she apologized for ‘making this awkward’. I plastered on a fake smile and held the door open.
I felt absolutely terrible that night. As soon as those words were out of my mouth I knew I had made a mistake. In a rush, everything hit me. All of those sheepish smiles, the adorable awkwardness, the laughing at every unfunny thing I said, the cutesy backwards emoticons; I realized what it all meant. I wanted to punch myself in the dick for being such a dumbass.
I want to go back in time and smack myself across the face until past-me realizes that telling a girl who likes you that you like another girl more is probably the stupidest thing you can ever say. She bailed out on our ballroom performance, blaming it on a conveniently timed ‘sprained ankle’, leaving me to teach another girl our routine in the eleventh hour. We rarely spoke in person after that. We’d still talk occasionally online but to this day, the few conversation we still have are awkwardly polite and painfully courteous, as if neither one of us wants to dig up the past.
Everyone has moments like this in their lives, where they wish desperately to go back in time and prevent themselves from making poor choices. I’ve made my fair share of stupid mistakes, but if there’s one moment in my life that I could do over, for a variety of reason it would be this one.
The cellphone usage link I posted really got me thinking about the cellphones in my past.
My very first phone was the Samsung SGH-r225 and it was pretty much the perfect phone in 2002, at least for me. There was no color display, music player, or even a camera—fuck that shit. It listed ‘vibrate mode’ and call logs as special features, held an incredible 100 contacts, and allowed you to assign custom chiptune-esque ringtones to a whopping five lucky friends, all on a 128×64 px black-and-white screen with an awesome blue EL backlight. I’m not even joking—the backlight is freakin’ amazing; you can light up a small room with it and it’d hurt if you stared at it too long in the dark.
It didn’t have many features or functions, but what you got was rock-solid build quality, fantastic reception, and three awesome games—Casino, Mole1, and Hexa. No frills, no excess, no blatant attempts to upsell you ridiculous over-the-air services. Sadly, I parted ways with this wonderphone when my bag got stolen from the Superman Ultimate Flight ride at Six Flags Great Adventure.
My replacement phone was the Motorola V66. It was cheap and unmemorable—it did its job but didn’t have any groundbreaking features. My only memory of the phone was of the games it shipped with: Mindblaster (a Mastermind-type game), Blackjack, and Paddleball2. As you can probably tell by now, the entertainment value of my phone is probably the second most important trait after its ability to make and receive calls.
I don’t really remember why I stopped using the V66, but I moved on to the Samsung SGH-e715 and it still is my favorite phone. It was my first color-display phone, first cameraphone, first polyphonic ringtones; yeah shut up—it was a big deal for me. This sleek phone had an internal antenna—a big deal in 2004—and even a flash for the camera. For the first time and last time ever I sent and received MMS messages. What I mainly remembered about this phone was the awesome outer OLED screen that allowed you to take self-portraits. Vain feature, I know, but loads of irresistible fun with friends.
When that plan was up, my family switched over to Cingular (we were on T-Mobile up until now) and we all got new phones. My sister, dad, and I all received the Motorola RAZR V3; my dad got the silver one, and my sister and I got matching black ones. Let me tell ya, just because shitloads of RAZRs were handed out with cellphone contracts doesn’t mean it’s a good phone, or even a well-liked phone. Sure, it had fairly good reception, was pretty slim—far slimmer than competing phones—and the etched-metal keypad was surprisingly easy to type with, but there literally is nothing else compelling about it. It opened far too wide, making for an uncomfortable on-ear experience, had a terrible camera with no flash, and actually had less on-board storage for music or pictures than my SGH-e715. And because the phone is so thin, the width of the phone just makes it look awkward and gawky; all the games were shameful one-level demos that constantly interrupts you to pay for the full version; and worst of all, it was the first phone I’ve owned that I had to replace because it broke. The stupid hinge just gave up one day and literally snapped in half. The etched keypad started gumming up and forgot half my keypresses.
So my parents replaced everyone’s phones (my sister’s RAZR was falling apart too), and my sister and I got matching blue Motorola KRZR K1’s. Only thing was, my parents got themselves iPhones! We get stuck with crappy last-generation shitphones and they pick themselves up two $399 8GB Apple iPhones. The KRZR is definitely a step up from the abominable RAZR, but that’s not a tough feat to pull off. The exterior is slicker with a glassy blue front and a rubberized back. The proportions are also improved from the gawky RAZR in that it’s narrower and slightly thicker, and no longer opens so ridiculously wide. The ringer is deafeningly loud and no complaints about the reception, but that’s where the compliments end.
There is absolutely no improvement over the RAZR’s craptacular camera, the outer display is still smaller than a postage stamp (and just about as useful), the battery has actually gotten worse, believe it or not, and the OS is infuriatingly sluggish. Simple tasks like scrolling through pictures or navigating to the calculator or calendar is an exercise in patience and self-restraint—self-restraint necessary to prevent me from throwing this stupid fucking phone out the window. It gets better: the phone occasionally decides it’s tired of being useful and would freeze up when someone calls. The vibrate (I have it on ring+vibrate) doesn’t stop, the screen freezes white, and I’d have to restart the phone to call the person back and explain how my fucking phone hung up on them. This isn’t even an isolated incident—my sister’s KRZR has the same issues.
Sadly, I’m still using this sad excuse for a phone, at least until I save up enough money to buy an Apple iPhone 3G for myself.
I remember the days when there would always be a song to describe my feelings—through both good times and bad. It would accompany me, hold my hand and walk me through my day. The lyrics would speak to me—comforting me in that however terrible I was feeling, others have been there too—and they’ve survived.
I grew out of that phase—I no longer seek the safe and warm comfort of a song, or its lyrics, and its sympathetic emotions. But if a song comes on and it perfectly describes what I am feeling, all I can do is sit back and let the music and lyrics wash over me. It takes me back to my early high school years when teenage angst ran rampant through my adolescent mind, torturing me to decode the meaning behind every glance or smile from the girl I liked.
It’s funny how a little music and some carefully written lyrics can effortlessly paint the most vivid panorama through your emotions, stirring up lost memories and transporting you to a time when life was simple enough to be narrated by a song.
I must start off by saying I am a huge fan of Steve Carell.
He is hilarious as Brick Tamland in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, wonderfully awkward as Andy Stitzer in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and well cast as Evan Baxter in Bruce Almighty, but none of these roles showed a tremendous amount of range. Even as Michael Scott in The Office—which is one of my favorite television shows—Carell plays an infantile, affection-seeking boss, a character not far from Andy, Evan, or even Brick. Get Smart was fairly entertaining but Carell tried far too hard to emulate the original Don Adams.
Carell plays Dan Burns, a widowed newspaper columnist with three daughters, a huge family, and zero love life. During the annual family get-together at his parents’ Rhode Island home, Dan hits it off unexpectedly well with a woman at the local bookstore. However, unbeknownst to him, the woman turned out to be Marie, his brother Mitch’s new girlfriend who was joining them at their family get-together. Long story short, hilarity ensues.
Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche have amazing chemistry and it showed through in the film. I really felt his heartbreak the moment he turns and realizes Marie was already dating his brother, played surprisingly well by the much-hated Dane Cook. Marie doesn’t share Dan’s heartbreak until a woman from Dan and Mitch’s past—whom they used to call ‘pigface’—shows up on a blind date with Dan and turned out to be absolutely gorgeous. She immediately gets jealous and eventually breaks down during the climax of the movie and reveals all. The story feels so vividly real and every role was played tremendously well.
I realize I don’t have much to say that is either insightful or thought-provoking, just that Dan in Real Life is a great and terribly underrated movie. Even I didn’t pay much attention to it when it was in the theaters—I watched it on DVD, and instantly regretted missing out on the theatrical run. While not as critically acclaimed as Little Miss Sunshine, quite a few critics remarked positively on the film and nearly all praised Carell’s acting.
Go watch it!
I may not be the biggest Killers fan, but Brandon Flowers looks sharp in those tuxedos.
These pictures instantly bring back waves of repressed panic and nausea that can only be caused by my horribly ill-fitting tuxedo at my high school prom. The jacket—rented, of course, from Men’s Wearhouse—had the awful boxy cut that was still prevalent in 2006, which was much to my great dismay as I had hoped to wear a newer, slimmer, more trendy cut. I wouldn’t go as calling myself ‘fashionable,’ but I knew the square, broad-chested look was on the wane and a newer, slimmer era was dawning, and I was eager to be one of the early adopters.
Unfortunately, Men’s Wearhouse and their rented tuxes are as new and trendy as Rubik’s Cubes so I was stuck between boxy and boxier—a tragic state of affairs for my slim frame. The silver waistcoat was cut with enough slack to slip another person inside, and it draped over a white shirt that bunched up like a parachute on my back. A fat silver tie rounded out this fashion horror show. And don’t think the silver pieces were chosen to match my date’s gown; they didn’t. But that’s another (far longer and complicated) story. I felt like Jared Fogle wearing his pre-weightloss clothes; I was not happy.
Fortunately, these pictures also bring about a sigh of relief—one that comes from knowing I was right all along and slim cuts are fast becoming de rigueur these days. I may not be Brandon Flowers but if the skinny suits and tuxedos he’s modeling are becoming more common, I may one day finally wear a well-fitting tuxedo—one I’m proud of and proud to be seen in. Just don’t show me the pricetags.