Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kentucky doesn't hold a candle to Jersey

I finished watching Elizabethtown just now. I didn't expect much. Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst are not among my favorite actors. If anything, they're slightly more towards my less-than-favorite actors. I did go on a big Cameron Crowe kick a few years ago, though-- I enjoyed his films Almost Famous, Say Anything, Jerry Maguire.

But Elizabethtown just came out....eh. Not awful. Not obnoxious. Just bland and not wholly interesting. Orlando was-- ok. He didn't bother me, and he seemed to play his part ok-- whiz kid who screws up bigtime. Kirsten was really annoying in her first scene, but got sort of likable later. I actually think the highlight of this film was Alec Baldwin as Orlando Bloom's eccentric boss. He gets a great little reveal bit when Orlando walks into his office- you hear Baldwin's voice, and then there's a close up shot of his face, as if it were enough time for you to think-- hey. That's Baldwin.

Themes reminiscent of Garden State: death in the family, errant son goes back to a small town, meets whimsical bohemian carefree type girl that changes his life.

Product Placement Identical to Garden State: Rolling Rock, Apple products (monitor in Garden State, monitors and laptops in Elizabethtown).

The sad and empty thing about Elizabethtown, especially when compared to Garden State is that, while prettily shot, with an elaborate and neat rock soundtrack, there was an emotional vitality or heart that was lacking, and I can't say that I cared about Orlando's character's problem all that much.

And Kirsten Dunst's take on the carefree bohemian chick...sort of cute. But I didn't really buy it.

In the end, it wasn't a waste of my time, but it didn't add much of value, either.

Actually, there were some really good roadtrip sequences that gave me a bit of nostalgia for road trips that I've taken, those were ok for that purpose. Can't say they added something that made the film more alive as a whole.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mountaingoats on LiveJournal

http://www.themerlinshow.com/ep/011-interview-peter-hughes

Unfortunately, I am way too lazy to transcribe the parts of this interview that I found most interesting. Watch the video, though, for it's content. Also watch it for its pleasant breeze brushed bamboo and bird chirping sounds in the background. It's a zen'ing 20 minutes to say the least.

Merlin interviews Peter Hughes, of the band The Mountaingoats. As it turns out, Peter has been an extensive user of LiveJournal, first as a tour diary, and then as time went on, for its social-networking value. He actually makes an extremely effective case for why the existence of LiveJournals or personality based blogs is a good thing.

I can't nearly articulate it as well as he does in the interview, so I have deleted my attempts to try. So watch the interview and read on.

***

I think Peter's comments support the point that social networking, live journaling and MMORPGs are not necessarily poor substitutes for meeting people in bars, hanging our, or playing outside. Granted, to an extreme, any activity could go sour. You could meet people in bars a little too often, hang out so much that you lose your job, play outside too much (although, there's probably is no such thing as playing outside too much).

While the online activity should not wholly supplant the offline activity, it should at least be acknoweldged that online activity has some genuine, real social value to it. For Peter Hughes, that manifests itself as a context in which he can interact with random people and get to know them, in a manner akin to how school and work are contexts in which people interact with random people.

I guess my reason I feel compelled to post on this interview is just that I've always been at least slightly annoyed at LiveJournaling. At least, the sort of LiveJournaling that puts all your fears, hopes, dreams and worries into one three page long post of uninteresting dearth. Emo-transmitting into the web. Assuming people want to hear, venting into a place where you feel safe that no one real will read it.

These are somewhat poor assumptions on my behalf, perhaps partly because I've ignored the "social" function that may actually exist there-- as Peter described actually getting to know people through cross commenting on LiveJournal and reading each others' posts-- and then actually seeing them come to his shows, hang out, talk, etcetera. And this is after perhaps having read all that content that I sometimes ridicule.

You have to think that in the circumstance in which you have a private LiveJournal that you only allow certain people to see, and that you write deeply personal things in there, knowing other people will read them-- and then you meet them in person, and you can talk and hang out. There's something that is vulnerable in its bare-bones all out there ness. The other person may already know your ups and downs and dearths and annoying expressions of self, but knowing that that's all been said and read on both sides of the table may actually open room for some very genuine and above-average human interaction.

***
PS: Check out The Mountaingoats webpage to download some free mp3s. I'm a sucker for free music.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rubber Band Ball: Complete Instructions



I was rather impressed with the rubber band ball at my new place of work. It is about 7" in diameter, and when bounced on the floor, makes quite a profound thump.

I found online a set of complete instructions here.

One of these days, Fordham will earn me an INS wiretap.



PURPOSE OF A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9 digit employee indentification number issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and non-immigrants who qualify on the basis of lawful status and legal employment.


Google the following: social security office + dekalb
Click on the first link that appears.

Digitzed 3x5" with QWERTY input

In the course of reading David Allen's Getting Things Done, I filled it with tiny yellow post-its with notes and thoughts on the book. Since it's such a "tip" oriented text, processing those bits and pieces would certainly be useful later. After I finished the book, I plopped it and all its stickies into my newly purchased in-basket. Where it has, to this day, sat, waiting for me to do something (anything, really) with the notes I put into it.

When I finally started looking around the internet for a notecard application (I did not want to just type this into one big list, that wouldn't do it for me in terms of searchability and organization), I found a few duds, then ran into Supernotecard. It again proved a point that I find myself increasingly believing in: why take something that generally fits what you're looking for, when you can probably (via the interweb) find and get exactly what you're looking for?

In this case, I was looking for a note-taking software that would use notecards as its interface metaphor, but do so in a format that would allow me to export the data into a decently formatted text file. I wanted to be able to input and manipulate the notes within the program, but not be restricted to using just this software to do it in.

Supernotecard pretty much does the trick, and I'm curious as to what sort of uses I could have been able to put this to in school. Screenshot from their website:



So you can type stuff into individual notecards, it'll automatically save them when you move onto the next card, plus you can organize them by either stacking them into "decks" or tagging them with "categories." Cards can only go into single decks, but you can tag a single card with multiple categories. For me, the deck organization worked just fine-- I wanted the notes certainly, but had no need to label and sort them in extreme detail.

The best part was, exporting the data into rich text format (wordpad file) was able to retain some nice and decent formatting. By default, the text would format into a sort of hierarchical format, which, while not as easily manipulated as the notecards, still had a good presentational look to it, that would have cost me a decent chunk of time and anxiety had I tried to battle autoformatting in Word to the same effect.

Definitely download, at least to play and mess around with.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Make Your Own Kind of Battlefield Earth, by AJ Ruxbin



Andy made his own kind of battlefield earth. Check it out.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Magic Panini



I am not great at navigation. I have a compass that Jamie gave me for my keychain so I can find my way when I get out of the subway. Grand Central Terminal is the sort of place that gives me trouble-- parts of it seem similar enough that my only recourse is to pretty much go around the thing until I get where I want to go. If I wanted to get out of the terminal, I'd follow whatever passage until I'd see daylight on the other side. Walking around the dining concourse, I don't have any of the storefronts established as landmarks in my brain, that would give me any sense of where I am, or where I got good food the last time. So I walk around it until I see something I like, instead of just going straight for somewhere that I know will be good.

My one exception to the rule:



Paninoteca-- don't ask me exactly where it is...because I don't quite know. But it is on one of the narrow ends of the hall.

Two things sell me on seeking this place out particular. First, they have good deals on pasta that are pretty simple. A small plate of pasta is about $3.00, a large, $6.00. Simple. There are options for entrees and combinations, but I tend not to foray into that world, being something of a bargain hunter when it comes to food on the go.

If you're willing to put out an extra dollar or so, you can get one of the panini's. Instead of a thin "panini" bread, they take a whole roll of hearty bread w/ the sandwich elements in it and shove it into the squisher thing that makes those grill marks on the panini. This is a big plus. Still a little messy (I don't like messy food, it doesn't seem worth it), but it's not sopping through with grease like the overpriced panini you'll get from Cafe Metro or Pax.

Friday, March 16, 2007

This R2's become a bit eccentric.




Full article from BBC News linked here.

Prediction: YouTube video of Princess Leia mailing Obi Wan the Death Star plans.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Jack Daniels and TexMex

I think this pretty much defines friendship right there.



We each picked up one of these glasses from a Mexican restaurant after the show.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

In the words of Ben Affleck...


I'm always described as 'cocksure' or 'with a swagger,' and that bears no resemblance to who I feel like inside. I feel plagued by insecurity.
- Ben Affleck


I don't doubt Mr. Affleck's sincerity. At the same time, it's pretty undeniable that Ben Affleck is great at being an asshole, in just about any historical period.

See:
mid-90s with Mallrats,
70s with Dazed and Confused, and
the 1590s with Shakespeare in Love.

Other quotes by Ben Affleck are available here, but if you're at all curious about quotes by other actors (though, why would you be), check out Brainyquote.com's page on quotes by american actors. There is actually some really great content there with actors' thoughts on their work, life and craft.

Does Print Advertising Count for Anything?

Maybe. But for the up and coming indie rocker, or young New York theater company, probably not for much. Or at the very least, not for what it's monetarily worth.

In Merlin Mann's interview with John Vanderslice, an independent musician, John explained how one of the goals for his band's next album is to release it without any print advertising at all. This is partly on account of John being a hip-and-with-it creative person, but also because print advertising, relative to the internet, gives an inferior return on investment. And when your resources are limited, splurging tons of dollars on getting that newspaper ad just does not seem to make as much sense as doing a hot viral marketing ad on youtube, or even just putting up a myspace page.

The evolution of print marketing's relevance is very visible in the theater world. A short time ago, theater companies would print postcards w/ artwork and details of an upcoming show, and then mail them out to a list of subscribers to the companies' mailing lists. More recently, such postcards have made their best use as "lobby cards"-- filling in shelf space at rehearsal and performance places throughout the city. The actual postcard elements are minimized, and the majority of the space is taken up with show information, rather than leaving room for an addressee's address. The older model of sending targeted postcards seems less relevant for the young company with little money to spend. The "lobbycard" itself becomes nearly an anachronism in itself-- just a colorful piece of card you can hand to friends when they ask when your show is.

At a panel discussion among a handful of producers from the NYC area, the most useful anecdote was one by a producer who had done work at both carnegie hall, as well as small off-off broadway theaters. And one great distinction he realized was that, even with full page New York Times ads and print advertising, he got a better turn-out for the indie theater piece he was promoting through guerilla tactics, than he did with putting out print advertising among all sorts of wealthy folk for the Carnegie Hall event.

Does theater advertising need to go 100% web? Maybe not. Are postcards an anachronism of an older age? I'm mostly sure they are. Do upstart companies of any sort need to carefully assess their advertising dollars in the wake of free internet buzz and advertising? Most certainly.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

New Update: Label Cloud feature

Just some revamps to the blog, small but significant.

I finally started taking advantage of the "label" feature, and found a useful set of instructions on setting up a label cloud, the result of which is now in the sidebar. Topics with more posts in them are bigger and in brighter colors. Clicking on them will send you to all posts that I've labeled under that topic header.

I find this to be a great feature for two reasons. First, in a blog with no specific direction or topic, it becomes much easier for the reader to find information that they are interested in or related to the most recent post. The blog gets some sense of depth, as topics become browsable and it's possible to see a train of thought at work under particular topics. The archive-by-date list, now beneath the cloud, is I feel nearly irrelevant at this point-- my blog rarely has much to do with day to day events.

Secondly, from a writerly point of view, it's now easy for me to go back and see what sort of topics I've ended up posting on. As I've chosen no specific direction on this blog, it's neat to be able to look back and see what I've tended to write about.

Some unsurprising results among the most common topics: humor, personal, and tech

And a few more surprising topics, with at least two posts under them: celebrities and Tom Cruise

And some stuff that's just become of interest to me over recent years: 43folders, productivity, and human/machine interactions