Outstreched arm

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

German... Venn?

I had to post this little joke from The Simpsons episode 'Lisa's Rival' because it wouldn't leave my head this morning. Lisa is intimidated by a new student who seems better at everything that makes Lisa who she is.

Taylor: Hi, Lisa, I'm Alison's father, Professor Taylor. I've heard great things about you.
Lisa: Oh, really? I --
Taylor: Oh, don't be modest. I'm glad we have someone who can join us in our anagram game.
Alison: We take proper names and rearrange the letters to form a description of that person.
Taylor: Like, er...oh, I don't know, uh... Alec Guinness.
Alison: Genuine class.
Taylor: Ho ho, very good. All right, Lisa, um...Jeremy Irons.
Lisa: Jeremy's...iron?

It occurs to me that my name is unanagrammable in English. Boo.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dude, futon

Originally uploaded by philo.dean.

I spent this weekend with Dean and Michele in Gainesville. Dean took this one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Not really in the mood

Ah, subjectivity. Such is the human condition that we will forever disagree on the value of things even after we've separated truths from lies. It's not necessarily a bad thing, either - I'd rather not live inside a Gap ad.

Kar Wai Wong's In The Mood for Love is a much-loved poetic tale of platonic romance in 1960s Hong Kong. Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan discover that their spouses have been cheating on them with each other and form an uneasy bond around this revelation. They fall for each other eventually, though their relationship never quite takes off. They merely share secret moments.

I'm not an unromantic chap, nor am I bothered by slow, randomly-stringed cinema. Antonioni's L'Eclisse, a much slower, longer, more frustrating "relationship movie" is a favorite of mine, and I really enjoyed Eyes Wide Shut. Oh, Brokeback Mountain is my favorite movie of 2005, remember? I'm defending myself in advance because I'm uncomfortable with what I have to say about In The Mood for Love: I don't think it's all that.

My discomfort is caused by the fact that I dislike (or simply find somewhat unconvincing) the very elements fans of this movie are amazed by - the performances, the visuals, its romantic chemistry. It's not that these are bad--they just have problems that appear obvious to me, though this is where subjectivity will assure that those who disagree with me to point out that they like exactly what I don't. For example: the acting is decent, but rather limited in range. Both our leads are nostalgic, pondering milquetoasts, and the script rarely throws any conflict their way. This isn't a bad thing, see, but it's a weak thing. It is difficult for me to follow the emotional development of, say, Mr. Chow, as he wears the same shy, polite wonder on his face from the first scene to the last.

Much has been made of Christopher Doyle and Pin Bing Lee's cinematography, and I'll agree that many of the scenes are staged and lit beautifully. But many are also sophomoric, such as the bouncing pan between our pining leads in their separate rooms, divided by a physical (and... social) wall both of them are trying to dig through. I may also be the only person who was getting quite annoyed by these pans by the end; sometimes they reveal things, other times they don't. Not the most fascinating cinematic game I've played. The chief problem with the visuals, however, is that between the dusky yellow lighting, the constant close-ups, and the lack of exterior settings, I felt claustrophobic, edgy; let's just say it didn't put me in the mood for love.

Nitpicking, all of it so far, if only the romance was irresistible. For li'l old me, it wasn't. Maybe it's that we never see any real highs or lows; maybe it's that I was too busy looking at the cool 60s patterns (but hey, they're occupying much of the screen much of the time). I was honestly just never drawn into the world of Mr. and Mrs. Average. If you were, that's awesome, and I apologize for ranting about a piece of art you must have a real relationship with (I'm simply assuming, from my own experience, that this is how it works with the fans of this type of film.) There are many scenes I enjoy here, and it's all quite skillfully crafted. Sadly, I have to leave it at that.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I likes me my CSS

I need help. I accidentally typed this:

paddin-top: 25px

...so I go back and, without even thinking, change it to

paddin'-top: 25px

True story.

Photocasts are people! I mean photocasts are standard RSS!

Apple.comApple recently released a new version of their iLife suite, a never-even-remotely-matched set of applications for what has to be described - marketing speak and all - as "your digital lifestyle." Listen to music and podcasts, buy and watch videos, or make your own. Etc., et-freakin'-c. The new version of iPhoto has a simple but neat feature - "photocasting." Basically, a way to publish and subscribe to iPhoto albums.

When this was first shown by Steve Jobs, he tied it to .Mac, Apple's hosting/backup/remote everything solution. And why not - the program hasn't been insanely popular, and it's a comparatively painless way to keep data "out there" rather than "in here." What he merely hinted at, but didn't really say, was that photocasts aren't just iPhoto-created galleries; you can use iPhoto to view any properly formatted RSS picture feed.

For instance, my Flickr feed. Open your copy of iPhoto 6, go to File > Subscribe to Photocast, and paste the above url. Voila - my Flickr pictures in your iPhoto. Now how cool is that?

Well, pretty cool. As much as I love Flickr's interface, it's faster and more intuitive to let the photos download and browse them using iPhoto. You can have fullscreen slideshows, drag photos to your library... there's one solution to the problem of getting your pictures back from Flickr!

P.S. There has been some kvetching about the RSS iPhoto 6 creates being a bit loopy, but I haven't looked into it enough to know. Hopefully they'll standardize them. A problem I ran into was that some Flickr photos would download only the thumbnail size (regardless of the privacy option selected in Flickr.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Year in Movies

This was a slow, lazy, shameful moviegoing year for me; the drug that is Netflix had me glued to the PowerBook all year long, so much so that I nearly put Antonioni's L'Eclisse on this list. Sheesh. Let's do it anyway:

1. Brokeback Mountain
Hey, a movie about love. One free of sarcasm, contrivances, and trying-too-hard insights. Jake and Heath going beyond their prettyboy resumes and performing the hell out of the sparse script. No cheap or obvious shots, no speeches. This has very mature balls.

2. Good Night, and Good Luck
Clooney's film is a pleasantly claustrophobic little study, taking far restraint and deliberate limitation. He strips it of color, exteriors, physicality, and nearly all women, allowing David Strathairn to politely do his best underacting. At moments too clean and balanced, it's still a strong "message movie" with not unremarkable artistic merits.

3. Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of The Wererabbit
Who could believe that this is only the first W&G feature? Nick Parks has built such a fully realized world, we feel like we've seen it week and week out since childhood. His clay reality never gets, boring, either; when you find a gimmick like this, milk it all you can.

4. The Aristocrats
Sorry to praise this by complaining about another movie, but there is more outrageous, provocative, hilarious, and outright insulting humor in any 30-second clip of The Aristocrats than in all of Silverman's shockingly overrated Jesus is Magic. Bring a date and all your taboos.

5. All the movies I never got to see because I live in goddamn Tampa Bay where Capote was apparently too risque or underground or offensive or whatever to get a regular theatrical release. Yeah, bring on Underworld instead. Ugh.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Not Wings

Quorn Naked CutletsFaux meat - is there a vegetarian phrase more laughable to the non-vegetarian? I've gotten used to and even learned to like Boca's, Morningstar Farms', and Gardenburger's frozen meat replacement products, but it would be a stretch to say that I like the taste of any of them more than the real thing. Quorn, a mycoprotein popular in Europe, is a different story, however.

Whatoprotein? Well, don't tell anyone, but Quorn is a fungus. You know, like porcinis, truffles, and the like. It's a fancy fungus with a texture and taste damn close to poultry. You can find it in your local treehugger foodstore. All the products I've sampled have been great, but I thought I'd do an Xtreme recipe with their already tasty Naked Cutlets. So without further ado, I present Not Wings, my take on hot wings. You will need:

- 1 box Quorn Naked Cutlets
- 1/4 cup butter
- 5 tbsp your favorite hot sauce
- paprika, celery salt, garlic powder, black pepper to taste

Leave butter at room temperature until it melts, or microwave briefly. Stir hot sauce into it. Pan-heat the cutlets per box instructions (about 10 minutes in a little oil) and season halfway through. Slice them into chicken-wing-sized bits and toss with sauce in a bowl.

Serve with celery sticks and blue cheese sauce. Use blue cheese salad dressing or make your own blue cheese sauce by combining cheese with heavy cream.

There you go - spicy, hot, greasy, and bone-free. Yay.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

RAZR iSyncing with a Mac

After a long period of thorough dissatisfaction with Cingular's plans, phones, and cellphone and customer service, I switched to T-Mobile, acquiring in the process a RAZR V3. I had wanted one because the lack of a speakerphone and Bluetooth connectivity on my old Nokia were getting to be rather annoying. I'm not a cellphone junkie so I'm still playing with the phone, but I thought I'd share some advice regarding Bluetooth syncing with a Mac using iSync.

The first problem I ran into was with iSync itself - when started, iSync looked like an iCar had hit it (bad joke). The window was messed up and the buttons functioned erratically. I then realized what had happened - for some reason, I had moved the application from its god-given place in /Applications/Utilities, and when the OS X Tiger 10.4.4 update ran, I ended up with two conflicting versions. After some random erasing, reinstalling, and rebooting (no, really, it was nearly random) I had a working copy of iSync again. So while I can't tell you how to fix yours if it breaks, I'll advise you not to move system apps from their original locations.

Next, there was the matter of deciding whether to store my contacts on the SIMM card or the phone itself; this was quickly decided by the sync process itself, which stored everything on the phone. No problem; more features are available on the RAZR that way anyway (voice dialing, etc.) So, to sync, go to your Bluetooth options under System Preferences, and set up a new device. This should be pretty painless.

The next problem I had was contacts with multiple phone numbers and email addresses being listed as separate entries on the phone - silly. I know people with 3 phone numbers, 3 emails, and several IM names; I don't want 10 Phonebook entries for one person. Luckily, you can consolidate them, though it's not intuitive. On the phone, go to Phonebook > Phonebook menu (middle button) > Setup, and change View to Primary Contacts. Now you can assign, for each contact, which datum to use as their primary contact information.

I'm still disappointed that contacts' pictures don't get transferred from my Mac Address Book to the RAZR. I sent all the pictures to the phone via Bluetooth file send and manually assigned them - a bit of a pain, but I suppose it's not crucial information anyway. I hope all this helps someone!

P.S. Note that in order to sync, you have to store yur info on the phone, not the SIMM, which leads me to conclude, against all groaning, that the process can be described as... "sync or SIMM."

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

When the drums stop

A joke, as pasted by Adriano:

A scientific expedition disembarks from its plane at the final outpost of civilization in the deepest African forest. They immediately notice the ceaseless pounding of native drums. As they venture further into the bush, the drums never stop, day or night, for weeks.

The lead scientist asks one of the natives about this, and the native's only reply is , "Drums good. Drums never stop. VERY BAD if drums stop."

The drumming continues, night and day, until one night, six weeks into the trip, when the jungle is suddenly silent. Immediately the natives run screaming from their huts, covering their ears. The scientists grab one boy and demand "What is it? The drums have stopped!"

The terror-stricken youth replies "Yes! Drums stop! VERY BAD!"

The scientists ask "Why? Why? What will happen?"

Wild-eyed, the boy responds,

"Drums stop... mean BASS SOLO!!!"