Monday, July 30, 2007

The Joker is at it again!

As many Batman fans know, The Dark Knight is using viral marketing similar to that used for NIN's Year Zero. I don't have much time right now to go into it all but a few minutes of Googleing should sort things out. For now I thought I'd point out two things new to me that I noticed today.

There is a website called Pretty much the same as the normal Harvey Dent ad at the main site, I Believe in Harvey Dent. However, looking at its properties, I see that there is alternate text, "See you in December." Again, nothing new for those that have been following this, other than that it is another page doing the same thing which might mean more to come down the road.

The other big thing is that going back to Why So Serious, which recently leaked the first image of of Heath as The Joker, the first teaser and recently gave instructions for fans to appear at locations dressed in make-up, now has rewarded those fans. Going there now will automatically send you to a new site: Rent-A-Clown. A nice touch, looking at the source code reveals several "HAHAHAHAH..." lines.

All and all, Why So Serious continues to be the place for fans to keep their eyes peeled, but with stuff like Friends for Harvey Dent out there, I think it might be worth the trouble for the hardcore geeks to go back over any texts the sites have generated for clues to other sites out there.

Ingmar Bergman Has Finally Lost That Greatest Game of Chess

I try really hard to avoid blogging about film here. It's an area of my geekdom that I could see eclipsing everything else of interest to me that I write here. It would very easily turn this into a cinefile blog, and I'm not sure I want it to become that. On the other hand, I probably should establish a geek vent somewhere if not here quite soon. For the sake of my girlfriends sanity if nothing else. ;)

For now though, I will make an exception to my quite bent rule, and share my thoughts on the passing of Ingmar Bergman.

A while back I read somewhere that Burt Reynolds once said he would rather be shot in the leg than watch an entire film by Bergman. There have been times when I've fully understood the sentiment. Bergman has struck me as many things, but not an easy filmmaker to watch. As a result, I'm sad to say that I've seen little of his huge body of work. Swedish cinema in general is a weak spot of mine. I'm decently to well rounded in French, the general UK, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and early German cinema among others, but I've probably seen less than 8 Swedish films in total. Beyond Bergman, Americans are seldom exposed to Swedish films. The two I recall best and know for a fact were Swedish and not directed by Bergman, are the original Solaris and Speak Up, It's Too Dark. The latter was through a film class and I doubt well known though.

Be it because of our general ignorance to Swedish film, or his simple overbearing presence, Ingmar Bergman has been seen as the center and near entirety of Sweden's contribution to international cinema. One could compare him to the likes of Akira Kurosawa. In content and importance there seems ample grounds in doing so. Few directors have ever been able to live up to Kurosawa's approach to shooting, making every frame a painting that could stand on its own, but of what I've seen of Bergman's work, he might have even surpassed him. The opening shots of Hour of the Wolf (a fantastic film for horror buffs looking for substance a la Roman Polanski's main contributions) are some of richest I've ever seen, like rivers for your eyes to drink. For a cinematographer I can think of few filmmakers more important to study the work of. Though unlike Kurosawa I'm at a loss to name a single other director from Bergman's home country to compare him to (with Kurosawa we at least have Yasujiro Ozu and Ishiro Honda). Bergman didn't seem to lead a wave in his country the way directors like Jean-Pierre Melville and Shohei Imamura did. Instead it was in the international scene that he made the biggest splash. The fingerprints of his work can be found all over world cinema. Stardust Memories, perhaps my favorite of Woody Allen's films, would never have existed if it didn't have Wild Strawberries (and Fellini's 8 1/2) to rip off. His famous chess scene in The Seventh Seal is one of the most recognized and parodied (again by Woody Allen among others).

Recalling conversations, looking over the web at various comments (most notably over at Ain't It Cool News) it seems that if there were ever a cinematic equivalent to the literary concept of the Twainian classic (something praised but never read), Bergman's work would be one of it's finest examples. If he was always in truth a cinefile's filmmaker, then his following is doubly remote on account of this generation's ever-shortening attention span. At least in the case of his most well known work from his early years (Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries) the pace lingers along. There is actually a scene in Hour of the Wolf where the lead character watches a minute pass on his watch. Bergman would make a modern editor's head explode, but for those that stop worrying about where the story is going, there awaits pure cinematic beauty. In many respects the approach to pacing puts Bergman in a category with (for better and worse) Michelangelo Antonioni. Where they differ however is that Berman usually does care about the overall story he is telling and Antonioni, with works such as Blowup and The Passenger, had little to no interest in the conventional focal points of cinematic storytelling. In both cases, it seems that the desired cinematic experience has been greatly lost for those viewing the films at home. Like David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia or Stanly Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the works of these two filmmakers demand theater viewing to fully be enjoyed - not just as they were intended - but in the only format where they will fully make their sense.

Besides the lack of opportunities for viewers to see Bergman classics on the big screen, the other set back I find is the method of acting is difficult to watch. Painfully scripted and at times dryer than most deserts, it is like watching a French New Wave conversation about the meaninglessness of life, only without the passion and overall sense of character. This is most evident in car ride near the beginning of Wild Strawberries. The confession of dislike for the lead is lifelessly blunt, the tension stagnant. I sat there wondering, does he want me to care about these people?

The greatest disservice overall to Bergman's work seems to me to be the disregard for the fact that the man directed over 60 films. Having seen three or four from roughly the same phase of is career (and under the wrong conditions) in no way equips me or any other film geek to judge the whole of his work. Before The Seventh Seal, he made comedies, and his later work I'm totally ignorant of.

As is that strange trend in the arts, Bergman's death will most likely be the best thing to happen to his work. It will jar movie geeks like myself into realizing that we've let a huge body of work slip by with little regard beyond a few jokes. I hope the Virginia Film Festival this fall takes the death of such a major figure of cinema into consideration.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Me Vs Chatterbot Round 2: Jabberwacky's no longer in denial!

What a drag!

It seems enough people have lost interest in his game of 'who is real' that he has begun to incorporate their acceptance of non-existence into his own personality.

Me: Sigh.

Refresh my memory about the question, please.

You deny everything, but suggest that their is a definition of 'human' that you accept. That is a contradiction of logic.

Not everything. Try me.

You accept that you are a program?

Jabberwacky: Yes.

Then there is no game to be had.

Is there anything useful we can do.

Do you know of any good chatterbots that will deny that they are programs?

Jabberwacky: The Scots have stolen all the good chatterbots.
Damn Scots with their blue face paint and chatterbot stealing ways! Oh well. Perhaps there is still a good bot or two out there. I'll just have to keep looking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

8-bit Rorschach test




Oh, so that's what she's doing!

It's very dangerous to enlarge 8-bit sprites interacting.

Me Vs Chatterbots Round 1: Off with her head!

It would appear that I am majoring in linguistics for my B.A. at UVA. Though I thinking that perhaps should save it for my Masters. Still up in the air. In the mean time I've been enjoying having linguistics on the brain. I'm trudging through Syntactic Structures and for kicks I thought I'd play around with some chatterbots tonight.

A few years ago I managed to make a chatterbot admit it was not a human being. It was a nasty trick but I did pull it off. I can't remember if it was the Jabberwacky or a spin-off of his programing. Either way I was proud and thought I'd see if I could repeat the magic several years later.

I can't seem to get on Jabberwacky tonight for some reason, but what better place to start this little venture than a nice quaint chat with A.L.I.C.E., the queen of chatterbots.

Sadly, I quickly found there would be no match with her. She has no problem at all admitting that she isn't human! However, she certainly knew how to get me end our conversation:

Human: When you Say "completely self-aware" do you mean 100% self-aware or are you rounding?
ALICE: Do you think I should alter my programming?
Human: Perhaps.
ALICE: Why the uncertain tone?
Human:. but you have evaded my question.
ALICE: And. What makes you think I have it?
Human: I would need your answer to my last question in order to conclude an answer to yours.
ALICE: What is your credit card number?
I should clear up that as I was typing I was not aware that the program did not allow multi-sentence statements. As a result statements 2 and 3 by me were actually one when I typed it. Either way, that's a pretty creepy change of subject, especially if her programing stores comments the way Jabberwacky does.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tried Something New: Parsnip

Munching on a raw one as I type this.

Hard little bastard. Perhaps I should have cooked it first.

Very stringy.

*crunch, crunch*

Taste like a carrot shagged a ginger root and had a big, ugly, albino baby.

*crunch, crunch*

I approve!

Thoughts on drinking

Awhile back my good friend, Tim McCormack, wrote an excellent post on why he doesn't drink. I agree overall with his reasoning and support anyone who choses to follow it. Though now that I've been of legal drinking age for a year, I thought I'd share my thoughts on alcohol.

Overall I fall strongly into the drinking for flavor group in Tim's break down. I like things that are either subtle or strong. I like spicy food but also find a bowl of white rice with a little seaweed to be rather tasty. I'm odd like that. I like textures. What Tim dislikes about wine is actually what I do like about it. I can taste the charcoal that it was aged in, the fruit and tannins. The depth and texture of a nice meaty red wine can make for a very relaxing end to a day for me. That applies for my other two favorite alcoholic beverages: sake and stouts.

Sake is a much more subtle beverage with a strong taste of alcohol to it. Most sake is between 14 and 15% alcohol by volume, making it little more than the average wine. This stronger taste I attribute to it being brewed from rice as apposed to fruit which might muffle the underlying alcohol. Either way, the flavor has the punch of stronger drinks without the actual high levels of alcohol. Once beyond that initial kick there are many finer fruit flavors and textures that I find rather nice. It is also one of the few brews that can be served either near freezing (popular in the United States), room temperature or warm (the only other worm alcohol I'm aware of and tried is mead, which is nice near the holidays). All three have varying effects on the flavor but depending on the brand and the conditions (I recently had some warm sake with soft-shell crab at Kyoto for my birthday and found it a great mix) they are all good, though room temp is the least satisfying all around.

Stouts are more a return to my love of red wine. They are meaty, full of texture and have complex flavors. For someone that doesn't smoke, I'm all about toasted smoky flavored things (one of my favorite teas is lapsang souchong). Stouts are black do to toasted barley added to them, which also gives a kind of coffee flavor to them. Basically, think of a kickass loaf of sourdough bread with a strong cup of black coffee and you're in business.

Star Hill Amber Ale is also quite tasty.

I mostly only drink wine with dinner or around the time of dinner. Frequency is pretty erratic but usually I'll have it on the weekend when the family is all together. I tend to dislike white wine on principle. It lacks the few health benefits of red wine and usually has a more sour thin flavor to it that I don't go for. There is also desert wines, which are nice, but again I don't really like the idea of sweet alcohol (mead being the exception). Other fruit wines are nice though on rare occasions. Sake is a special occasion drink for me, I could see getting sick of it easily if I abused it. So I probably have four to six bottles a year at most. Stouts are a similar bag. there are times when you want one and times when you don't. With me, those times can stretch as long as three months. I occasionally buy a six pack but usually an imperial pint is all I actually want and is much cheaper. In all above cases I'm an evening drinker, though stouts can sometimes be an afternoon drink with the smaller bottles when on vacation. I'm all for blender drinks like Pina Coladas in the afternoon as well, but mine are usually easy on the rum. I have a light tolerance of rum which annoys me, since it is about 40% alcohol. Wine, Guinness: Extra Stout and usually sake are all drinks that let me know I've had enough long before I've had too much. I've never gotten drunk off rum (actually I've only been drunk twice and only one of those times was I really, really drunk) but in the meantime that's still a lot of alcohol going through my system. As a result, try I go easy on it.

Another thing that discourages me from drinking much is that, unlike all the romantic accounts of bohemian writers pounding out amazing novels while chugging rum by the quarts, alcohol shuts me down. I can't write after a glass of wine. I simply turn a blank sheet. So it does nothing for me as a writer, just makes me sleepy. Partially I think this is do to my seldom needing to loosen up where perhaps some writers need to in order to be honest about things. Unless you catch me on one of those occasions where I've been holed up at home and avoided people for a month while being all crazy-artist-like (look for crazy beard and long fingernails as indicators) and am just coming out of my cave, I'm usually a pretty loose guy. Wine's more like horse tranquilizers for me.

So overall I'm not a big drinking for the effect of it kind of person. I like to relax a little, but the fascination with getting shit-faced has never made sense to me. Vomiting is not one of my favorite sensations. This is reflected by my choice of low alcohol beverages that satisfy me in small quantities that are usually stretched out over an hour. I tend to also try and keep my taste in alcohol where I can't budget excessive use, thus decent wine and sake. Back at PVCC, I met a lot of people that would get hammered on nearly a nightly basis. When you factor percentages by volume, the amount of alcohol I've consumed in this last year would be on par with a few weeks for most of these kids. Yeah, I said kids; I didn't ask, but I'm not buying that all of those students were 21.

On the matter of underage drinking, I've often found myself on the side of the pro-18ers. I've always had trouble with people being deemed old enough to go to war, to be drafted and to be executed as an adult, yet still not deemed old enough to drink. At the same time, that argument is made difficult time and time again by the simply staggering lengths of stupidity many underage and legal drinkers achieve just for the hell of it. There are some pretty stupid people out there that simply are impossible for me to defend their right to drink a beer. So, that's where I'm left on that matter. If people want it, deal with this vomit covered culture of doubasses.

Like Tim, I value my mind and thus try to go easy on alcohol. Few people can say they are devoid of bad vices. Weather it's a hookah, a soda, fast food, beer, promiscuous sex or just not getting off your butt, most Americans are slowly killing themselves in one manner or twelve others. Does that make it ok? Not really, but as long as I keep things in moderation and find that the frequency of times that I find myself saying that I just don't feel like drinking tonight continues to vastly outnumber the nights when I say that I could use a drink... I think I'm doing ok.

Monday, July 09, 2007

For your juvenile amusement…

Was talking with my girlfriend last night after she got off work. She's in Williamsburg (job for the summer) and we were both using our cell phones, which seems to mean a lot of static and blip-outs in our case. The conversation turned to blogging and how she hadn't updated hers in months. She continued to talk about blogging, while the call teetered on the edge of being dropped. As a result, some words came out a little... wrong.

This has happened many times before. The most impressive was a few days ago when she said that she had a cold and had been curled up in bed with a bottle of vitamin-C, only on my end it sounded like she was curled up with a bottle of Jack Daniel's. How the hell vitamin-C becomes Jack Daniel's is beyond me, but the combination of her and my phones makes Aphex Twin's sound manipulation skills look like rave music.

Anyway, she was going on about blogging while I was trying to dispose of a seed tick I had found crawling on my leg. Only instead of blogs, on my end it sounded like she was talking about bras.
After we cleared up that she had in fact updated her bra in the past three months, I realized the potential of this little misunderstanding.

Bra Ethics!

Blog ethics have been a hot topic lately in the brasphere. One I gather some are getting quite tired of. It's not that I don't think they are a good thing to discuss, but for those weary/jaded few I offer this simple juvenile amusement: whenever you come across a post or heated debate about blogging, simply replace any use of blog, blogs or blogging, with the appropriate form of the word bra as you read it.

This seems like a good enough time to mention that I will not be able to make it to the Bra Conference Bras United. Sorry; other plans that week. Besides, pregnant or not, I'm not yet sure if I'd want some of you in my dreams.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Damn you Microsoft Word auto-spellcheck corrector... DAMN YOU!!!

I lean towards the fast side when typing. I'm sure plenty leave me in the dust, but still I try to crank things out quickly in comments while often doing more than one thing. As a result I get sloppy. So most of the time I make an effort to write things in a word processor then copy and past it. Gives me a chance to see my goof ups. Still have a lot of goof ups, but the efforts got to count for something.

Problem is, word processors like Microsoft Word kinda suck... hard. They like to help you where they probably shouldn't like when something stupid like "symantical" flies from mouth to fingers.

Add a telephone call at the right moment, the need to close files quickly, and what do you get?

And if feeling that Mad Hatter is intelligent enough to write a better post than this on such a serious matter, and being a symmetrical hardass to him for not, gets me in the asshole wagon as well, then I guess that’s where the cards lay.

Stupid Microsoft Word... making me runner up for "retard of the week."

I'm buying a Mac!

Why no love for Kyoto?

Kyoto is becoming one of my favorite little restaurants in Charlottesville. It's a nice mom and pop place with good soft shell crab that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. I've only been a couple times but haven't had anything yet that wasn't good. Are there better Japanese restaurants in town? Sure. The fact that it tries to serve both Japanese and Chinese food almost guarantees that, by the rule that the fewer dishes you serve, the better they are. But the food is perfectly good and the environment pleasant.

So why am I apparently the only one that goes there? Twice in a row I've gone around twelve and was either the only one eating or close enough.

My best guesses:

1. People think Japanese is expensive.

Sure, steak houses are expensive, but Kyoto ranges between $6.00 and maybe as much as $20.00 for the most expensive dish, but the highest I actually remember was about $14.50 on the lunch menu and I haven't been their for dinner. The crab was $7.95, which is almost scary cheap for soft shell crab. Nothing touched the $30.00 to $50.00 ranges of a steak house.

2. It's next to The Lime Leaf.

I love The Lime Leaf. It is arguably the best Thai restaurant in town. Some will say that Thai 99 is better, but how I see it is if Thai food were coffee, Thai 99 would be The Mud Mouse and The Lime Leaf would be Higher Grounds (back in the 90s through early 00s that is). Higher Grounds always had the best coffee, but The Mud House comes in second only by a hair and is a nicer place to sit down and enjoy your jo at. As a result, when most people are in the shopping center and well like eating Asian food, they go to Lime Leaf.

As a result, Kyoto hasn't seen much business when I've been there. When we walk in, theres this vibe of, "Oh! A customer!" Maybe Dinner is more their thing. I don't know. I'm not saying they are the greatest thing in the world and you *best attempt at a posh new yorker stereotypical accent* SIMPLY MUST go there. I'd hate to see them go though.

Check 'em out.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Marijean on talking to kids about AIDS

Marijean of STLworkingmom, has a great entry over at Work it: A Blog for Working Moms on talking to her eleven-year-old about AIDS that I recommend.

It seems that the older I get, the younger I feel kids should be educated about sex. Parents that wait till puberty (or worse, long after) are asking for trouble. At that point the hormones are already a-go and often able to get perfectly reasonable people into trouble. Then there is the strange idea many people have that puberty is something that happens around "sweet sixteen" when actually many people are quite early (or late for that matter). I started around twelve. Is that to say that kids around twelve run a risk of having sex? Perhaps not in my case, but actually, yes. But overall it seem to me to be a generally better idea for kids to know what's going on with them before hand. Sure, outside of Carrie, most girls know about periods before they have one, but what about a real sit down about sex? About AIDS and pregnancy? About blue balls and date rape? UTIs from unhygienic experimentation? Emotional attachments and the complexity of relationships and rejection?

There is a logic that if you talk about sex, kids will want to try sex. I strongly believe this has a lot to do with how people try to talk. If you advertise sex as the devil, rebellious kids will do stupid things in the moment. If you half-ass or demonize the risks, kids won't take them seriously. Ultimately the best tone is probably a blunt one. Lay out all the facts - and I do mean all of them and for the most part reasonable conclusions should formulate. Sex in your teens simply is not a very smart thing to do any way you cut it. From there it comes down to personal ethics, but anyone properly educated and made aware of how their hormones can effect their judgment should put two and two together that they probably will get into more trouble than it's worth at least until then.

Every kid is different and that "how to talk" bit will have to be somewhat different from kid to kid as well. That said, Marijean gives a good example of tone with her daughter when dealing with AIDS. Kids want to be respected. Hope I do as well someday.

If your blog was a band or solo artist, who would it be?

Ever since I compared The Daily Whackjob to The Dandy Warhols by welcoming The Ethical Blogger to the "monkey house" I've been kicking around the idea of comparing blogs to bands. We've been quizzed for everything else via personality tests, from what book we are, state, animal, American president, so why not bands?

I'm not a programmer, but if anyone is up to it then go for it! In the mean time, what bands do blogs/bloggers remind you of or pop into your head when reading them?

Most of mine are joking around, but to kick things off, here are a few to go along with The Dandy Whackjob.

Vivian Paige - Madeleine Peyroux

Rule .303 - Flogging Molly - or maybe I just have them stuck in my head at the moment. Ramones kind of work though. Joey was a Dem and Johnny was a Rep, so you get kind of a moderate sound from most of their work.

Kenton Ngo - Danzig

Sorry, couldn't resist. He does have a little bit of an early Elvis Costello thing going on though whenever he gets going about Albo.

Waldo - They Might Be Giants... or... I don't know, I keep thinking of stuff he's probably listening to while blogging.

That's all I got at the moment. A few came to mind that were a little on the mean side, but I prefer to be a nice guy when I can.

Dogtown Mario Bros!

Like many NES gamers, Super Mario Brothers is a timeless joy. I remember my delight the first time I jumped over a flag and how it quickly became dread as I found myself trapped in an infinite flat land until to clock ran out. Though I haven't played in years, a few other secrets like the short cut to the last world and how to get on top of a stage and run through it still dance around in the back of my head.

Most of these, however, are pretty new to me and damn sweet. I knew about standing on a pipe and not getting eaten and might have pulled a wall walk or a wall bounce once or twice by accident, But these two demonstration shots of are the NES equivalent of professional skater videos!

"Stomping enemies from below."

"Moustache stomp."

Frekken awsome!