Mar 302006

Or: “man, did that movie suck or what”.

Indeed, didn’t like the Village much.

It’s been a while since I truly detested a movie as bad as this. Apart from an excellent debut by Bryce Dallas Howard, and decent acting by some others, this film has close to no redeeming features (music is close to being one, and cinematography isn’t bad either). Boring, long-winded and equipped with a tired exposition method, this just did not appeal at all to me.

As in all M. Night Shyamalan movies, plot twists abound, but in this one they’re pretty shallow, and surprising in only one case out of three, and even that one is a pretty badly written scene.

Mar 302006

You go record shopping. Swamp Music did not fail this time either.

Picked up two Candlemass albums (as two-disc extended editions and cheap to boot), the very first Voivod album (for completeness’ sake, I don’t have too high hopes for War and Pain) and a Pain album (their Dance with the Dead has been by far the most popular disc at the Lavonardo HQ this month).

Mar 292006

This blog is now two years old.

Since the humble beginnings, it has seen 926 postings (including this one), 570 of them during the second year. Bringing the average to well over one per day.

Whether this one makes it to the second grade, like Jason Kottke’s just did remains to be seen.

EDIT 28.8.2008: Link to old blog preserved on purpose.

Mar 282006

Late payday spoils brought home a brand new game machine, and an appropriately flashy game to showcase its capabilities.

The XBox360 is the first piece of Microsoft hardware I’ve ever bought at full price, and design-wise it is quite a nice addition to the living room array of electronics.

That is, until you notice the humongous power supply. No wonder the console itself is noticeably tiny, when the supply is some half of the actual box.

Setup was a piece of cake, and signing up for the Xbox Live-network was simple indeed – and my old nickname was available among the thousands and thousands virtual presences already hard at work.

Verkkokauppa had run out of wi-fi adapters, so there’s need to get additional supplies soon.

And a new television, since the graphics in the previously raved new Ghost Recon game seem to be filled with detail that the old reliable Sony 29″ is struggling to adequately display. Part of the blame goes to the lack of an RGB-cable within the box.

Stay tuned for a gamer-card in the sidebar here. Soon, not right now.

Mar 282006

Long time, no meme. So, time to pick up this one from kirja-addikti. Translation, and bugs within mine, all mine.

List 5-10 things that you ALWAYS have present in the household. Concentrate on brands, and avoid listing mere objects (toothbrush is no good, Braun Oral-B is). Explain why you’re addicted to just these things.

1. Tropicana juice.
Sanguinello, squeezed from red oranges if at all possible. The taste just has no equal in the finnish grocery stores, and I’m convinced that the steady extra vitamin C supply’s kept me less susceptible to flu during the two years of addiction. A carton every three days, and no-one gets hurt – right.

2. Connect fineliner pens
Black felt-tip pens, at 0.4 width. Ubiquitous at work, where they tend to migrate homewards in pockets and backpack. Do not leave unsightly grooves on paper as ballpoints do, and have a bold color without being smudgy.

3. Peppermint Altoids
Easily the finest throat lozenges there are. Pack a punch tastewise and are supplied in metal boxes who exhibit none of the “break apart in coat pockets” tendencies so common with lesser mints.

4. Pepsodent Microgranule
Toothpaste that actually feels cleansing. I’m convinced the grains in the mix do have a non-placebo effect, but there’s nothing to back the belief up.

5. Generic Chili Sauce
Preferably Frontera’s Chipotle, but many others are almost up to the lofty standard set by that. Because there’s always room for extra spice – both in real food and in snacks. And because the more commonly available sauces tend to be awash with vinegar and other unsavory ingredients (and yes, vinegar is good in moderation).

6. Vichy Novelle
Preferably one of the flavored variants. Because too much soda pop is not good for you, and something bubbly and cold is pleasant every once in a while. In mass quantities occasionally.

7. Ryvita Multi-grain
The best hard bread there is. Packed with seeds and grains, a single piece has more taste than a whole box of the blander ones.

8. Lagavulin
Because there’s just no better whiskey available. And that’s not a debatable opinion, but a hard fact.

There’s probably others, but these were the ones that came to mind immediately.

And yeah, the title’s an ancient Kreator song, just in case it triggered a synapse failure…

Mar 272006

The greatest satirist science fiction has ever known, Stanislaw Lem passed away at the age of 84.

I read a lot of his novels during my formative years, translated on an annual basis into finnish. Couldn’t understand Solaris, which creeped me out. Thought that Planet of Death (no idea of an english title, and wikipedia is of no great help here) was a wee bit over the top in worshipping communists. And absolutely loved his most humorous bits like Star Diaries and Cyberiad. Until then no-one had manipulated language in so clever fashion. And to this day I do feel indebted to the man for setting me on a course never to aim for a simple sentence, when a complex one will do.

After the finnish output slowed to a crawl I pretty much lost track of Lem’s newer novels. Which means that I have two decades or so worth catching up to do. As soon as the books are translated into english or finnish – this would be a worthy reason to learn polish, but I’m sure it would take absolute ages before I would even begin to appreciate the nuances in the the language the late author was so fond of.

Two plus two still equals seven to the disciples of Trurl and Klapaucius, and the world is now without one of the finest absurdists that have lived.

[ Noted the obituary in boingboing. ]

Mar 272006

Yet another beautiful flash game, the excellently animated Fancy Pants Man runs and jumps in gravity-defying fashion through a selection of levels.

Just don’t try it out in a meeting. Or at least refrain from whooping when the pixellated dude reaches cosmic speed on screen.

[ Nicked from Janne’s blog – he’s on a roll with no less than three interesting things in a day (this, the EMI DRM debacle and the pointer toward monolith – that’s more than most people come up in a week… ]

Mar 262006

A hard movie demanded a pint of dark beer to mull over what was just seen.

Spent an hour at Molly Malone’s, most of the time listening to Razamanaz, a swedish cover band at an excessively loud volume. They went through a selection of classic and not so classic songs, only occasionally straying from the original.

Nothing new there. Such bands play the venue almost every week, and most of them manage to have a bit more hibernian tint to their music.

Nope, the roistery bit comes from the frontman of 5.15, who, after having been spotted in the audience, joined the band on stage for one song. After taking of his shirt, boots and socks. And managed to put on a good show.

The show, however, was not entertaining enough to dissuade from taking an early exit and heading home towards an early morning wakeup call.

Mar 262006

Saw the just-premiered V for Vendetta, a dystopian movie built upon the eighties comic by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

Yeah, it’s “built upon” and not “based on”, since the movie takes a lot of liberties with the original. For the most part they are done well and unobtrusively – the world is updated from its original 1997 to somewhere in the 2010s, and the story is simplified quite a bit to fit into two hours of visual storytelling as opposed to 200+ pages of intense graphic novel. Britain is still a fascist, totalitarian nation – but the echoes from Mrs. Thatcher’s reign have diminished with time. And it’s definitely a post-911 movie – the original anarchist has been turned into a terrorist, not that the two viewpoints were very far from each other in the guyfawkes-bedecked revenant anyway.

People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.

codename V

This continues the “not so easy movies”-series I’ve taken to watching lately. It’s provocative and at times points an accurate finger at the ongoing demolition of civil rights. Fear is the greatest weapon of an oppressing regime, and its eventual consumption of the nation is told well.

It’s a disturbing movie. In broad sweeps it paints a future that no-one wants to see, but a future that seems faintly possible.

Natalie Portman, whose role, Evey, has been upgraded to a media flunky from the novice prostitute in the original, proves that her wooden acting in the Star Wars prequels was not a true show of her abilities, and fits the role of a cornered girl without a future perfectly.

Hugo Weaving, as the eponymous ‘V’ proves that the leading man does not have to show his face in a movie. He’s able to express more with a tilt of his porcelain mask or an added note to his voice than many others have available with a full face.

The smaller roles are filled with familiar faces. Stephen Fry shines as a comedian with multiple dark sides, and John Hurt returns to a bleak future in quite a different role he played the previous time.

A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.

codename V

V for Vendetta is a divisive movie – as noted by the wild spread of reviews. Divisive enough that in leaping beyond the original, it has alienated Alan Moore far enough to request the producers to erase his name from the film entirely. An action that was quite understandable in the case of travesty that was the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but in this case feels heavy-handed.

Me? This is just short of a five star movie (and may be upgraded to one upon a second viewing) – it definitely is one of the very best comic adaptations ever, and the theme fits the current troubled times like a glove. There are questions no-one likes to hear, and answers that are even more dangerous.

And it’s definitely time to re-read the original once again, and spot the few places where the update exceeds the original.

Mar 262006

Another one of mostly regular gamenights was held at Lemmy’s place. Matti showed up as a new member, and was immediately thrilled by the plentitude of pinball machines available.

Pinball was indeed played – and not to a very good effect. Managed to underperform at Addams Family by quite a wide margin to the previous try. And didn’t do much better at Twilight Zone either, and can’t explain the lousy result by mechanic failure of the machine that cropped up.

Managed to finally break the scoring drought in Pro Evolution Soccer, and most of the four to six-player games turned out enjoyable indeed. Spent most of the time the others devoted to Eyetoy on pinball, but what little I played convinced that the teensy camera is a workable interface.

Ghost Recon 2 stayed put this time, and had an extended four screen game of Project Gotham Racing Forza Motorsport instead. Sucked rather bad, and after winning one race of the first five (and not finishing in time twice), gave up the seat to worthier drivers.

Called it a night early after a brief glimpse at the newest GR-game on Xbox360 – the game with an inexplicably non-catchy name, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter seemed very pretty and loaded with next-generation graphical wizardry. Definitely one of the highlights of the new console.

Noted that ought to coordinate purchasin of supplies better next time, as multiple copies of the very same (fortunately tasty) things were brought in. Also noted that polish ginger beer is something that everybody should try, but not form an extended relationship with.

[Edited the name of the racing game to correspond with reality.]

Mar 252006

Picked up David Lynch’s eighties classic Blue Velvet on dvd from Stockmann.

The movie’s been out in digital format for ages, but the original finnish release by Scanbox was criminally fumbled. Sporting an atrocious 4:3 aspect ratio and sub-optimal cropping, it managed to render important scenes much harder to understand, and robbed the viewers of lots of things that happen somewhere else than the exact center of the picture.

This release, fortunately, has been executed properly, and was even decently priced.

Mar 252006

Thanks for asking, the virtual sports teams are doing quite swell.

On hockey front, the team placed third in the regular season, and is now fighting for a semifinal spot. The season’s been rather easy thus far, and the team’s been in the top four for a long time. Picking up Eric Staal in the draft was a stroke of luck, he’s been one of the major producers. Peter Forsberg’s injuries have not depleted the roster as bad as a few previous years, but his output has not been steady lately. Teemu Selänne (nine points in the last week alone) has staged a magnificent return to greatness. Of the goalies Miikka Kiprusoff has been his trusty self, while Antero Niittymäki has not consistently exhibited the Great Wall of Broad Street-tendencies so evident in Turin olympics.

On the hardwood court, the game’s been going even better. The Hakkapeliitat lead the league with a comfortable margin. That, of course, means nothing once the playoffs commence. The team’s been far better than anticipated, Shawn Marion leads the entire NBA in combined points (across nine categories), and messrs. Bibby and Billups have given excellent support from the guard position. Chris Paul was a late round rookie pick who has turned out to be an excellent steals-expert. Took Amare Stoudamire as my second pick in the draft – this appeared to be less than a shiny deal, as he underwent knee microfracture surgery just before the season started. For a long time his return to the game looked questionable and I was about to drop him before the playoffs. However, he took to the floor in a win against the hapless Blazers last thursday and knocked off 20 points and nine rebounds. Case closed. Am playing without any Jazz players this year, missed Kirilenko in the draft (took Marion instead), and most of the others apart from Carlos Boozer (who went early as well) have been way too inconsistent to matter.

So, from a dynasty point of view, definitely looking good.

Mar 232006

You can never know too many words. And it’s a worthy endeavor to try and pick up new ones.

Thankfully, in the internet era, we’re not limited to just a single source for vocabular enhancement.

Double Tongued Word Wrester is a fine collection that sticks to the outer edges of the language, whereas the appropriate widget picks its fill from multiple sources (and yes, there is an equivalent dashboard widget as well).

Mar 222006

Never seen anyone pull out a gaming device (the n-gage, used as a phone, does not count) in public, but the market segment’s obviously lucrative as millions of consoles and games are sold annually.

Ok, so the PSP isn’t doing too hot right now (at least not as hot as originally expected), but Sony still believes in it. It’s running short on must-have games, especially with the GTA: Liberty City Stories shortly being available on PS2 (and probably other formats subsequently).

Nintendo’s DS is another story. After a slow start, it’s been cooking up hit games steadily, and the revised console’s consistently sold out in Japan.

Entering the fray are Microsoft and Nokia. Microsoft is a first timer, and are trying a new market niche after the successful launch of the Xbox 360. Nokia, on the other hand, had miniscule success with N-gage and have now, after a lengthy deliberation declared their intent to return to the frontlines.

It’ll be 2007 before either is in position to launch anything. And as both PSP and DS will see a significant boost to their software lineup, it’ll be a hard battle against either let alone both.

Mar 222006

The third incarnation of the biggest new franchise in television started on mtv3. And managed to miss the episode, due to “thinking that I’d set up the recording already”.

Bugger. p2ptv is sure to provide it, and ought to, since trying to figure out the characters in the second episode is a bit more painful.

And time also to watch the double-episode from the fifth season of the original show. Directed by Quentin Tarantino, have heard good things about it.

Mar 212006

Saw Steven Spielberg’s München, a three hour tale of vengeance.

It’s a movie that describes the Israeli retaliation on the München olympic massacre. A long movie, it doesn’t rush the viewer, nor the protagonists. The magnitude of the revenge is tangible, and shown on the face of the leader of the team. Indeed, Eric Bana as the point assassin plays the part well. Starting eager and effective, but drawn to a nightmare of shifting allegiances and waning trust – his haggard face is as much an emblem of the tale as the hooded face of the Black September fedayeen from the news.

The movie moves slowly, and interludes the main plotline with both news footage as well as dramatized re-enactments from the olympic village and the infamous Fürstenfeldbruck airfield. The slow pace didn’t bother me the slightest, and felt no need to check the time – quite unlike what some other drawn out movies have caused.

The future James Bond plays his part as one of the assassins well, as does the token hippie played by Mathieu Kassovitz. All in all the almost entirely male case is almost faultless – depicting mainly dark emotions throughout the rampage. The cinematography is well done also, the seventies are realized effectively, and the Twin Towers looming in the background of the final shot is quite powerful in pushing forward the last few lines of dialogue about peace unattainable through revenge.

It’s not a happy movie. It’s not an easy movie. But it’s a worthwhile movie. Which is a lot more than can be said of Spielberg’s other recent output.

Mar 212006

Gotta hand it to the guy who’s the voice of Fry. Not many people get featured twice on slashdot on the same day.

The initial report of a whole new season of sorely missed Futurama proved to be too optimistic. Fortunately the show will be de-canned, but in the form of four movies.

In other words, really liked this quote from the same site the other day:

NASA is reporting that two years into its 90-day mission, …

So, despite the steady decline of the comments and lapses in selection, there’s still life in the original link pointer. Which is important in the age of stiff competition from and digg.

Mar 202006

certify'd 2.0 compliant Sad, isn’t it. As told by the unbribable, my website can boast only 19% of the trappings of shiny tomorrow.

So, in a vain attempt to become compliant with the be-flickrized future, stay tuned for a sillier name, bigger fonts and a gratuitous google maps mashup. Or not. But it sure is time to update the colour scheme soon. And the site’s definitely “beta” quality as pointed out with snide regularity, even though I fail to advertise the sad fact.

[ via überkuul, who claims a more respectable slice of the pie. ]

Mar 192006

Delicious T-shirt logoImaginary Foundation‘s output is easily the most fascinating I’ve stumbled on in a long while. It combines high concepts with a definitely montypython-era Terrygilliamian derangedness in the images.

The shirts are expensive at 30 dollars each, and without knowing anything about the quality (like, is the color lathered on creating an easily cracking facade), I don’t have an immediate craving to order one. However, did check that the store does recognize Finland as a viable shipping target.

Mar 192006

Syriana is not an easy movie to watch. If you’re unable to juggle multiple, only peripherally connected concurrent plot threads, the two hours watching this are not going to be the greatest cinematic thrill of your life. It’s directed by Stephen Gaghan, the guy who wrote the screenplay for Traffic, and the story is quite a bit complex than in that cocaine-drama. After all, tackling the issue of American over-reliance oil from multiple viewpoints would be quite an accomplishment even in longer form.

Syriana is quite blatantly un-American, and that may trouble some viewers. In the creative team’s opinion might definitely does not make it right. A statement that is thoroughly underlined by a seriously unraveling niche in the middle east. The human indifference shown in the attempt to create Syriana, a collection of democratic states aligned with American interests is indeed grimly pragmatic. And the non-political entities shown do not exhibit much heart either.

Corruption? Corruption ain’t nothing more than government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulation. That’s Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize. We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it. Corruption is our protection. Corruption is what keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are here in the white-hot center of things instead of fighting each other for scraps of meat out there in the streets. Corruption… is why we win.

The acting is good across the board. George Clooney famously fattened himself for the role, and got an oscar for the depiction of a CIA agent who’s willing to see things to the end. He’s not the only one putting on a good show, apart from Matt Damon’s typically wooden acting, there’s a lot to see here. And Amanda Peet returns to the land of real movies from the apparently agent-inflicted diaspora into seriously B-class ones.

The movie also includes a short, but still nasty torture scene, that did register on my somewhat callous squeamishness-index. Not a lot of blood, but its presence is jarring in an otherwise quite placid movie.

Syriana is not a perfect movie. It is very ambitious, and unfortunately falls short of the goal line. While the term “hyperlink movie” used by Roger Ebert applies well to this – most of the things seen, spoken of or even referred to, are meaningful, some of the links are definitely muddled. Not enough to confuse an alert watcher, but enough to dull the edge of the story.

No idea how much material was left on the cutting room floor, an imminent dvd-release’s “deleted scenes” may tie the elements together better than what is executed here.

But it’s heartwarming to see that Section Eight Clooney’s production company is interested in hard topics, and is able to craft interesting movies out of potentially boredom-inducing material. And anyone who dares to take on creating a movie based on Philip K. Dick’s paranoia-fest A Scanner Darkly deserves an extra round of applause.