Wall•E



Wow. Can I just say wow? This movie was right up my alley.

One of the things I have always loved about Pixar movies/shorts is the ability to exude humanistic qualities from very non-human objects. (ie: Luxo) Most of their shorts are able to do this without even any dialogue, which is one of the things I really liked about Wall•E. The first portion of the movie was sans-dialogue, or at least very minimalistic dialogue. The humor was accessible to people of all ages, ranging from physical humor, to niche humor especially for the nerds (like me). the movie was a little preachy about saving the planet, but I think it wasn’t too over-the-top.

I liked this movie absolutely. It was amazing, and I can’t wait to go see it again!

Skeet Shooting


Have you ever been skeet shooting? It’s fun. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but having a gun and being able to blow up a little clay disc hurling through the air is just cool. It’s been at least 4 years since I have been skeet shooting. Needless to say, I was out of practice. My first round I only scored an 11 out of 25, and my second was 14.

For those of you who don’t know, in skeet shooting, the shooters take aim at small frisbieish clay things called pigeons, which are fired from the left and right. We take shots from different stations in a semi circular layout. We get 24 different shots, and one extra shot in case we miss one, totalling a perfect score of 25.

I went again the following weekend, and my score jumped from 14 to 17. So, I’m making improvements. Yay!. Well, if you ever get the chance, I recommend trying it out.

Crowd Control


You know what really just bugs me?! A lot of things. It’s true. I’m easily annoyed. However, in this particular case, I am speaking of overly excited supporters of varying sport oriented teams and players. Yes. Those “fans” as we call them. They annoy me. They make sporting events nearly un-enjoyable, as they are constantly yelling things out.

Many of the things they yell are not constructive. Lets be honest. The athletes are professionals. They practice for hours a day, and get paid a lot. (Probably more then I’ll ever see in my lifetime…) Do you really think little Mr. sports fan’s advice to fake left is really going to make them win the championship game? No. Little Mr. Sports fan is just trying to look cool by “knowing” what he is talking about… It might even make him feel like he’s part of the team. In either event, it’s a selfish thing to do, and benefits no-one. Please don’t do that.

This brings me to the next point; The anger and competition that so often goes along with team sports’ spectators. So often people will root for their team and shun the other, even ridicule them and their fans. And for what? When the team wins, all of the respective fans celebrate as though they have accomplished some great feat! It’s really amazing that they were able to sit on those stands for a whole hour and watch professional athletes work very hard. Those spectators really earned that victory and the bragging rights to go with it. No.

Even the really notable feats of athletic ability are lost by competitive fan bases. A person rooting for one team is not inclined to acknowledge the accomplishments of athletes from the opposing team. I think that a lot of sports (thinking to the Olympics) were to showcase the physical abilities of athletes and teams. By so single-sightedly focusing on and rooting for one team, a lot of the admiration for perseverance and ability is lost, in my opinion. The team you may not be rooting for can be good, and can be respected and acknowledged by you. Is this not so?

So, this is why I don’t like watching sports. Honestly. It’s annoying. Thanks for listening to my rant.

I Am Legend



I liked this movie in some ways, but in others it just didn’t quite do it for me. The overall storyline was good for me. It did what any good movie does. It made me sympathize with the protagonist, it made me contemplate living in that reality, it made me think. It also was scary when appropriate and wasn’t too lame.

The problem I had was that the infected humans didn’t look real enough to take seriously. In scenes where they swarmed, or were in the dark, it looked good. Or at least unnoticeable. In the ending scene however, the graphics kept me from being able to believe the story.

There are two different endings on the DVD. The original ending, which is more of a crowd-pleaser, and the alternate ending, which was more of a contemplative ending which caused me to think and rehash the contents of the movie. I must admit that psychologically, I preferred the alternate ending, and all of its implications. It was much harder to take seriously though because there was more screen time with the infected humans, and it just didn’t look realistic.

Over-all, it was a really good film, and pretty well done. I was thoroughly entertained.

Portal


For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game, Portal is a puzzle/first person shooter where your only weapon is a gun which can make portals on surfaces through which you can travel. The game-play is pretty straight forward and simple, which is one of the things that appeals to me in a game. I don’t like convoluted controls. Throughout the entire game, there is much humor in various fashions ranging from the GlaDos computer and her whimsical lines to the hidden writing on the wall about the cake and the lovable companion cube. There is a lot of detail that one should appreciate when playing the game.

The concept is fresh. Instead of using a gun with bullets or lasers as in most games, your only means of surviving is finding creative uses for the portal gun. It keeps you thinking and trying. The puzzles are challenging, but at the same time not overwhelming. I felt like it was the perfect balance.

The game did have two shortcomings as far as I’m concerned though; it wasn’t long enough, and it isn’t available on the mac (and probably never will be. Bummer) I passed it in a day. I think just over a couple hours. At any rate, it kept me riveted throughout and had a delightful surprise at the end.

Firefox


I have always had a battle between Firefox and Safari. Ask anyone who knows me. About every month I switch from one to the other. I love the usability, look, and interface of Safari. It’s clean, uncluttered, and simple. It appeals to my Apple-lover side too. Firefox though is much faster, and seemingly more multi-threaded. Often in Safari, I find myself unable to use other tabs because one page is loading (and taking its sweet time) rendering the entire browser unusable. I never have this problem with Firefox. It is so stable and so fast, but I do find the interface to be somewhat cluttered and lacking in niceties. I decided to compile a list of the tweaks that I find make Firefox usable.

    About:Config tweaks

  • browser.urlbar.autoFill;True
    This allows for the address bar to auto-complete, enabling the user to press enter for a given URL without having to type the whole thing, or down-arrow in order to select the URL guess.

  • extensions.checkCompatibility;false
    This setting allows the user to utilize add-ons which may not be compatible with the currently installed copy of firefox.

  • browser.tabs.closeButtons;3
    This places a single close button for your tabs at the right. I’m not sure if I like it better than having close buttons on each tab, but I do like knowing where to find it each time I’m looking for it.
    Add-ons

  • Adblock Plus
    Most people are already aware of this add-on. It blocks advertisements on websites. I hate visiting a website and having the whole thing cluttered with ads.

  • Flashblock
    Similar to adblock, Flashblock replaces flash elements with a play button. This gets rid of annoying auto playing music and flash elements that can be so annoying.

  • Stop-or-Reload
    This is just a simple UI tweak which makes the stop and reload buttons function as in Safari where the buttons are combined, thus if the page is loading, a stop button is displayed, and if it is loaded, then the reload button is displayed. It makes for a less cluttered UI, and I just like it.

  • Fission
    Fission merges the progress bar with the address bar, like Safari. This is once again an aesthetic tweak. I don’t like having the progress bar at the bottom of the window where my attention is usually not. In the address bar, it is more prominent and in my opinion less cluttered. PS: I like putting this picture as the background of the progress bar.

Wait… Didn’t I see this movie before?


I was watching Galaxy Quest at work the other day, and I asked myself, “Wait a minute, haven’t I seen this movie before?” The next day I was watching ¡Three Amigos!, (again at work), and made the connection that somehow the very same plot traversed space and time to create two seemingly different movies as far as location and period, but both stuck to essentially the same storyline and motivation of characters.

Don’t believe me? Look at this. So, here is the basic plot:

  • Out of work actors are in need of a job or gigs
  • A helpless society finds recordings of their shows
  • The society calls for the actors mistaking them for real heroes
  • The actors mistake the invitation for help for a gig
  • The actors realize that they are in a real situation, and not a show
  • The actors suffer an initial defeat against the antagonist
  • The actors toughen up, and combat
  • Tactics are used from their prior shows/movies
  • The actors and helpless society pull together and win
  • Everyone is happy! The actors become better people

Anyways, I thought this was interesting. I must confess that I like both of these movies a lot, and this connection doesn’t effect that at all. It was just something interesting to be noted…

Instant Gratification


Each day our world is more and more enamored with the thought of having something for nothing, and fast! The marketing that we and even more so our children grow up with is meant to convince their audience that they need a product, and even that they can’t live without it! This could affect the rising generation, if we aren’t careful, by rendering them more self centered and self serving in their actions because of the need they feel to have their every whim gratified.

All technologies are showing this need for instant gratification. Tivos allow TV to be made around our schedule, and not the other way around. Internet makes listening to that music you want possible without even so much as driving to the local music store. Email allows a letter to travel around the world in a few seconds. Facebook lets people know what others are doing without even talking to them.

Throughout the ages, this is what drove technological advancement; the desire to sell products to more people. This wasn’t really possible back in the days of artisans and craftsman. Every product was one of a kind, and only the nobles could afford such luxury. As the industrial revolution occurred, and mass production of products began to be commonplace, prices were able to drop to a point that most if not all could partake. There is nothing wrong with this, or anything wrong with wanting to buy products that make our lives easier or just for fun. But I think it is getting to a point where people let it consume them, and it becomes a lust that is ever-present in their thoughts. They want the newest car, the newest computer, the biggest house, etc. People don’t want to wait to enjoy these things, and are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get it now, such as going into debt.

Even the food industry shows the signs of a people who don’t want to wait. Fast food has made the ritual of eating less about the experience, and more about the getting the food you want so fast that you don’t have to leave your car, and with as little human interaction as possible. I personally hate drive-throughs. I would much rather any day actually see a person face to face and talk to them.

I wish we as a society could enjoy the wait. I wish we would slow down our lives a little and enjoy each other instead of trying to one-up each other at all costs. Life is too short as it is. I don’t want to be too concerned with gratifying all of my material desires that I let life pass me by. It’s hard though. I must admit that I too have succumbed to the desire for instant gratification. I find that I often covet the newest and greatest technologies that I just can’t afford. But maybe that’s just human nature. Who knows?

Multi Touch


Everyday I read something on a blog, like Engadget, about multi-touch. People are so excited about it as if it’s going to be the wave of the future. I don’t doubt that in a few years computers will all ship with a multi-touch capable displays, however, I don’t believe that it will revolutionize the way we create user input…

For myself, I’m not too keen on the idea of raising my arms at eye level in order to do simple tasks. My main computer is a desktop computer. I think that the mouse is a more effective, or at least in this case, the more efficient method of user input. I think a tablet PC is probably the more effective device for multi-touch implementation.

Another concern I have is the cleanliness factor. I spas-out when people touch my display. I don’t like smudges and fingerprints, so, why am I going to want to touch my display multiple times at a time every day? It means I’m going to have to clean my display with windex every time I use my computer. (I’m a little obsessive compulsive…) This really isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it would bother me to some degree.

In all those demos, they have at least one example with the pictures that you can resize with 2 fingers. Every time I see that part of the demo, my enthusiasm for multi-touch goes down because that just doesn’t seem to be a productive way to organize, or even show off photos, but it rather just a fancy way of showing off the capabilities of multi-touch. As stated before, I’m OCD and want my photos nicely aligned to a grid with some sort of hierarchical organization. This isn’t a problem with multi-touch by any means, it’s just for me an ineffective way of convincing me that multi-touch will revolutionize the way I use my computer.

I do have to admit, multi-touch looks really cool, and I love seeing those demos. They make me excited and make me want to try it out. I just don’t see it becoming the main method for user input (at least on desktop computers), but more as a fun novelty. On the iPhone and iPod touch though and similar devices, I find multi-touch to be a perfectly logical and efficient way to interface. Just my thoughts.

Indiana Jones IV



Ok. I have to admit, I have always LOVED the Indiana Jones Movies! This movie was not exactly what I was anticipating at all. Regardless, I thought it was very entertaining, and I will of course add it to my video collection.

The negative:
The thing that disenchanted me throughout the film was the believability factor. To contrast, Raiders of the Lost Ark had some unbelievable scenes dealing with the mystical powers associated with the ark of the covenant. These scenes, although not representative of the reality we experience, represents the power we grew up learning about in Sunday school, and is thus familiar in one way or another and adds a layer of believability to the film. In the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the crux of the story revolves around aliens and perhaps a parallel universe. For me, it was seemingly more far fetched than previous films, of course many could say that the thuggee rituals and powers of religious artifacts from the original trilogy are just as outlandish. It’s just a matter of opinion. There were also some scenes where I was distracted by some obvious CGI work that took me out of the story. The monkeys looked fake, the sword fight looked fake, the warehouse looked fake, and no-one could survive a landing like that in a refrigerator, let alone an atomic blast. I’m being very nit-picky here, but these were the things that made the movie not perfect for me.

The positive:
Despite what I just said about the story, I really liked it. I liked the way the aliens were portrayed, and I like the postulations of alien intelligence giving knowledge to ancient people. It wasn’t too predictable, and the story wasn’t all revealed at the beginning. As for the action, it kept me excited, and there were lots of good fight scenes. Harrison Ford pulled off his character again after all these years, which I was originally worried about.

So, when all is said and done, I thought it was a great movie, and very entertaining. The story kept me enthralled, and the characters were all interesting and well played.

© 2007-2015 Michael Caldwell