"You're a dick."
28 June 2007
27 June 2007
The new job's taking up quite a bit of my time this week, but I did manage to get the Disney-ABC Fellowship application in the mail yesterday! (Actually, wife got it in the mail, but that's splitting hairs.) I've got a first draft complete of my next screenplay - a spec pilot - and it needs quite a bit of work. Sort of sad, as the last spec seemed to fall out almost on one pass (if I discount the months of groundwork, scene creation, and dialog honing that were eventually incorporated - and in some cases pasted - into the final document). Assuming I can get 10-15 hours a week, I should have a final draft of the new spec done by early-mid July.
I'm working on a Mac at the new job, which is an interesting experience. My last time on a Mac was in the early '90s, doing photo manipulations at a pre-press. Developing software on one is...different. Interestingly, it's the server-y things under the hood that are harder than the gui adjustments. I wouldn't have thought, for example, that setting up an NFS export would be so much different from any other *nix. I don't know if that's a BSD issue, or if it's a Mac-on-BSD issue. I suspect the latter.
I'm currently investigating iBatis as a mapping layer. It looks good, but I'm a little concerned that I'll have to jump through extra Spring-y hoops to really take advantage of it. Right now, I'm leaning - about 60/40 - toward just doing straight JDBC in my DAO layer. That 40% is at least enough to investigate, though. It is certainly compelling to move my SQL to configuration files and avoid all the boilerplate of JDBC.
19 June 2007
Man, I hate to repeat myself. I wanted to post a Hang Time clip in honor of Reggie Theus being named Kings head coach. But I already posted a clip (and name-checked Anthony Anderson) back during the tourney when NMSU hung tough against the Longhorns.
Oh the hell with it. Classic tv is classic tv.
John Rogers has something to say about Gen. Petraeus' new Irish-problem analogy.
What have we learned by following General Petraeus' illustrative path into the radiant garden of comprehension?
Well, first we may now understand why the Brits didn't lose their bottle after the 7/7 bombings and generally regarded us with scorn as we wept and gnashed our teeth in sympathy.
Second, at least now we know what we can look forward to. Knowledge is always our friend. Bet you never anticipated Bush's "South Korea" model for Iraq would be the good version, eh?
Finally. After seven looooong months of searching for a job I found one last month. Some meetings with the principals, a couple of short negotiations, and an offer was had. I start next Monday at a wee web2.0 portal, working with friends.
I will not miss it here. I leave one friend behind, one or two other people I sorta like, and a whole lot I do not. Add in the funky business model, ancient technologies, and weird corporate culture and you've got a noxious soup. I'm not one to bash current or former employers, so we'll just leave it at that.
Oh happy day!
Posted by R.A. Porter at 9:15 AM
18 June 2007
As if Natalie Portman weren't already the greatest (and hottest) geek girl ever...
Natalie: cognitive neuroscientist.
16 June 2007
Finished up my bday present from Earl's Donuts the other day and figured I'd try to sputter out some inconsequential ramblings on it. First though, I wanna cry. Thomas Pynchon was 24 when this book was published. When I was 24 I hadn't yet mastered a really good hangover (I don't drink that much or often, but I've got hangovers down pat now). If I'd been around in the early 60s, I'd have pooh-poohed him as yet another early bloomer, flaming out like a supernova before 30. So at least I don't look like an idiot for saying that prior to Pynchon's long and magnificent career.
I hadn't read any Pynchon since my teens? early 20s? somewhere around there. About 20 years ago I pushed through Gravity's Rainbowand remember very little about it to this day. When I think about it, I recall a scene making banana pancakes (which, honestly, could have been in Catch-22instead, as I read them around the same time) and an overwhelming connection to the TMBG song Road Movie to Berlin. Clearly, I've got to reread GR.
A huge cast of characters, multiple interconnected stories spanning 60-odd years, and a central, mysterious figure tying it all together. My first take after closing the book up Thursday at lunch (and I'm still sticking with that gut reaction today) is that V. is the apotheosis of the mechanization and dehumanization of the 20th century. As a humanist, Pynchon's most sympathetic characters are the ones out of place in the modern world: Benny the schlemiel, always at odds with the inanimate world; Stencil and his quest to live out his father's life of intrigue as he tracks the scent of the elusive V.; Stencil-pater and Hugh Godolphin, the Victorian and Edwardian servants of Britain. V. is not sympathetic. In every tale and incarnation, she is shrewd, cunning, manipulative, and increasingly less human. Hers is the cold, clockwork heart of the 20th century.
Malta plays a key role in the quest for V., so it is interesting that Pynchon describes it as timeless, a rock, unchanging, eternal. Obviously untrue in some regards, she does seem untouched by time until Messerschmidts drop their payloads:
Don't touch them, these walls. They carry the explosions for miles. The rock hears everything, and brings it to bone, up the fingers and arm, down through the bone-cage and bone-sticks and out again through the bone-webs. Its little passage through you is accident, merely in the nature of rock and bone: but it's as if you were given a reminder.Earl's Donuts and I had a brief IM chat when I'd finished. He hadn't read V. in years, but his take had been (and I'm over-simplifying here...elaborate in comments if you'd like, N.) that V. was Pynchon's symbol of time itself. Of course, that makes Malta's eternal nature even more significant.
The vibration is impossible to talk about. Felt sound. Buzzing. The teeth buzz: Pain, a numb prickling along the jawbone, stifling concussion at the eardrums. Over and over. Mallet-blows as long as the raid, raids as long as the day. You never get used to it. You'd think we'd all have gone mad by now. What keeps me standing erect and away from the walls? And silent. A brute clinging to awareness, nothing else. Pure Maltese. Perhaps it is meant to go on forever. If "forever" still has any meaning.
Certainly it does make sense: V. is ever-present. V. is felled in an eternal place by machines that may be harbingers of an end to time. As V. lay dying, her body is picked over by children (those who have no sense of time). If the world is to end in a fire of our own design, it was dreamt of because of those bombers and because of that war. The children picking over V.'s corpse will be the generation to ignite that fire. But those children are Pynchon's contemporaries. What does that say?
Obviously, with as playful a writer as Pynchon, any first-pass analysis is going to be too facile. I could spend hours merely analyzing his character names, rich with meaning: Benny Profane; Herbert Stencil; Dudley Eigenvalue; Mélanie l'Heuremaudit. I could also spend hours at the V. portion of the Pynchon Wiki. Instead, I'll just cycle V. back into the bottom of my pile of books to read and go through it again in the next year or two.
Next up for the lunchtime read and review, the far more straightforward A Mouthful of Air: Language, Languages...Especially Englishby Anthony Burgess. I read it back when I first bought it, but it obviously came to mind recently...I should give it a reread.
14 June 2007
I can fly to the antipodes in a day's time, and think nothing of it. I can tap a few keys and see images from Mars, and think nothing of it. Each technological advance makes the world smaller and shrinks the bounds of the impossible, but there is still magic. Old magic. Crowded around a shrinking fire, darkness creeping in, our ancestors held the monsters at bay with their magic.
Words. Burgess's "mouthful of air" jumped from person to person around and over the flames, fortifying their souls and strengthening their resolve. Stories told over the fire amused and enthralled, frightened and emboldened the primal audience. I suspect they skipped the laugh track, but they were, after all, told before a live savanna audience. Old stories were remembered and passed down, elaborated and gilded. New stories were told of adventures real and imagined. Using nothing more than teeth and tongue, lips, larynx, and palate, the world was tamed.
The storytellers begat the shamans who begat the priests who begat the stand-up philosophers. Eventually the stand-up philosophers besat themselves down and started writing.
Words. Scratches on paper to spread the good word - for there are no bad words - far and wide. Treatises, treaties, censuses, and proclamations were written and disseminated, but it was the playwrights who inherited the magic. Holding an audience rapt with nothing more than scratches on paper (plus those pesky actors to read them), the playwrights took their fathers' magic and magnified it. Aristophanes killed at the family hour. His super-sized comedies had the Athenians rolling in the aisles. Sophocles came on a bit later - fitting his darker, edgier subject matter - and hit them with adult themes of incest, patricide, and Sphinxters.
Their descendants are currently in a frenzy trying to staff for the fall. "CSI: Thebes" needs writers.
Posted by R.A. Porter at 8:41 PM
10 June 2007
Shockingly just one week late, the wife and I dragged ourselves to the theater to see Judd Apatow's latest paean to traditional values. We were expecting more. After the movie, the wife asked if I thought the movie was as good as its overwhelmingly positive buzz, because she didn't think so. My first reaction was that I agreed: Apatow crafts his films out of natural, honest stories about characters he knows and cares about and the mixed-in juvenile humor serves as counterpoint to the serious topics on hand. On reflection? I won't be buying this on DVD.
Obviously, the fact that the movie is about a pregnant woman is a pretty big problem for us. We hate children and find pregnancy revolting, so trying to ignore that and concentrate on the relationships is difficult. Humor-about-pregnancy isn't funny if your stomach is churning. The requisite scene with Seth Rogen's Ben Stone trying unsuccessfully to have sex with Katherine Heigl's pregnant Alison Scott had a couple of chuckles, but mostly I just felt sympathy for the poor slacker forced to touch the parasite-laden gut.
I'm not kidding.
Toss in a house of stoner-slackers with zero ambition and you've got a movie filled with people we don't care about. Had Apatow included a Regent "University" grad in the mix, he'd have created a perfect storm. At that point the movie would have collapsed in on itself, of course, so I applaud his discretion. Thankfully Kristen Wiig had a few minutes of screen time as our proxy, opining that she finds pregnant women disgusting.
The stoner house was apparently quite like a place Apatow shared with friends when he moved to Hollywood, but missing the work ethic. Why he thought it would be funnier to show them without jobs or ambition is beyond me. That didn't make them funnier, it made them less likable. I didn't even like Jason Segel in this movie, and that takes some doing.
Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann, as Alison's sister Debbie, played her usual harpy (making me understand why Apatow works so hard...who wouldn't want to avoid that shrill beyatch?). Her strained marriage to Pete, played by Paul Rudd - looking much less puffy here - was the most compelling aspect of the movie to me. Had Apatow focused on that story I'd have been happier with the end result. Then again, other than the presence of children, I could relate to that story. I fortunately can't relate to pregnancy.
My final problem with the movie was also one of its bright points. I like Seth Rogen. The wife, not so much, but I'm a fan. That said, I like him in small doses. He was great in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but there he was just part of the ensemble. He was funny in this movie, but doesn't have leading-man charisma. Swapping Rogen for Segel might have had a big positive impact for me. Marshmallow, he's got charisma.
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Take one pregnancy - with sonograms, pregnant sex, and a baby crowning - throw in a bunch of slackers, and a miscast lead and you've got a recipe for an interesting failure. I laughed and was moved a few times, but overall come away unimpressed.
I am looking forward to Apatow's final film in his family values trilogy, though. He's done sex and marriage, and now birth. Next has got to be death. Maybe he'll do that movie about Pete and Debbie and have Pete kill Debbie in the first act. Now that I'd own.
08 June 2007
You know, when they're not trying to take over the world, or shove crappy OS and office suite upgrades down our throats, those clever chappies at Microsloth can do some really interesting things. At least their small, independent groups like Live Labs can. Check out Photosynth, maybe the coolest new piece of software I've seen in a couple of years.
Photosynth is an amazing new technology from Microsoft Live Labs that will change forever the way you think about digital photos.
Our software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space.
With Photosynth you can:
- Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle.
- Seamlessly zoom in or out of a photo whether it's megapixels or gigapixels in size.
- See where pictures were taken in relation to one another.
- Find similar photos to the one you're currently viewing.
- Send a collection - or a particular view of one - to a friend.
06 June 2007
T-minus 55 days to Babylon 5 - The Lost Tales
05 June 2007
Posted by R.A. Porter at 9:16 AM
04 June 2007
Oh my. I was listening to a Bob Odenkirk interview on the Sound of Young America this morning at the gym and he talked about his move of Derek and Simon to the web at Superdeluxe. I took a look on the Youtube, and sure enough, there was the pilot they'd originally shot for HBO back on '05. Part 1 is funny. Part 2 is...genius.
And oh MY but little Chrissy Seaver shore did grow up purty.
Part the First...
And Part the Second...
01 June 2007
It's not news that I've been loving the new Blue Beetle. Even within the constraints of the N52WO (New 52-World Order) imposed by DC's editorial board, the Keith Giffen/John Rogers take has been refreshingly fun and light-hearted. The Crisis/52/OYL architecture provided the launching pad for Jaime's time with the scarab, but it didn't seem to have much impact on story; however, I'm worried Countdown might. Or it might just be that guest writer J. Torres isn't my cup of tea (or blows).
The dialog was comicbook-y, the plot weak, and Jaime's first encounter with Supes was tone deaf. Cully Hamner's cover - close to the above, but changed so Supes is frowning, looking away from Beetle, and face in shadow - does a great job of capturing Jaime's excitement of meeting the Boy Scout. The facial expression Hamner pulled off in the armor gets the look of a star-struck teen. The guts of the book? Well the artwork's serviceable.
This was billed by DC as a standalone, and Rogers will be back with Rafael Albuquerque's great art next month, so I'm not going to worry much. I'm pretty sure that even with the Countdown tie-in that issue will click. I guess I've just gotten so expectant about this book that any miscues are going to jump out at me.
Italian doctors have built the world's first biotech vagina.Hmm. That gives me an idea...I could have one attached to my hand and then I'd never leave the house. Of course if I did, people would stare. Unless I wore a glove. Just one. Like Michael Jackson. Hey...you don't suppose?
So far, two patients lacking vaginas because of a rare malformation have been helped to grow ones, using stem cells taken from their own bodies.
Very cool research out of Scotland that appears to have found a genetic determinant for language type.
[Robert] Ladd and [Dan] Dediu compared 24 linguistic features—such as subject-verb word order, passive tense, and rounded vowels—with 981 versions of the two genes found in the 49 populations studied. Most of the language contrasts could be explained by geographic or historical differences. But tone seemed to be inextricably tied to the variations of ASPM and Microcephalin observed by the authors. The mutations were absent in populations that speak tonal languages, but abundant in nontonal speakers.Of course, I'm a little concerned about one thing. Some (who am I kidding...many) idiots are going to latch onto the fact that the populations with the recent (~37K years) variation in the genes speak non-tonal languages. With snobbery and no understanding of either linguistics or evolution, these simpletons will conclude that tonal languages such as Chinese are "primitive" when compared to non-tonal languages.