Feb 282007

This entry is a seconded recommendation to the second collected edition of Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ. The original analysis is available at Katuoja (and I do dig the HBO = Vertigo equation – even when the latter’s batting average keeps dipping year after year).

This collection is indeed a much more mature chunk of the story of the Second American Civil War. The first five issues contained in the first collection begin very much in medias res, and rarely lets down the pace. This selection (a five-issue story and two loose issues) takes its good time in establishing the scene and history, and then lets go.

Lets go in the “question authority”-vein like no comic has done in a while. The characters are rarely plain black or white – just complex shades of grey. And the tone, often pointedly critical, doesn’t really get preachy at all, but conveys well the desperation inherent in an unpredictable warzone.

So, where the story gained credibility from the previous outing, the art remains as it has been. And that’s a compliment: Ruined Manhattan rarely looked this good.

Feb 272007

In 1981 his Raging Bull was beaten by Robert Redford’s Ordinary People.

In 1988 his Last Temptation of Christ was beaten by Barry Levinson’s Rain Man.

In 1990 his Goodfellas was beaten by Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves.

And in 2002 his Gangs of New York was beaten by Roman Polanski’s Pianist.

Last night there was no-one to beat him, not even to try. Martin Scorsese finally got his oscar, for the Boston mob infiltration movie, The Departed.

And there was much rejoicing.

The Departed actually hit the coveted double-play, winning the award for both the best film and best director (as well as for screenplay and editing). The only nomination from the movie who did not pick up an Oscar was Mark Wahlberg, for his supporting role as the world’s most angriest cop.

So I’m definitely not the only one who liked the movie.

The best actor and actress awards went to expected destinations – a surefire bet on either is to play a real person, somehow damaged if at all possible. Idi Amin^W^W Forest Whitaker picked up his for Last King of Scotland and Helen Mirren for The Queen. Haven’t seen either, but at least in trailer form mr. Whitaker puts on a good show.

Feb 272007

First non-scifi/fantasy/horror/thriller book in a long while: Kjell Westö’s Finlandia-prize winner Missä Kuljimme Kerran.

It’s a chronicle that covers the first four decades of the 20th century from the perspective of half a dozen Helsinkians. The period covered is tumultuous, and especially the scars from the civil war prove too hard to overcome for some of the protagonists.

It’s a longish book, weighing in at close to six hunderd pages, but quick to read. At times the author overshoots the purple prose index with lengthy descriptions of inconsequential things. But that’s for the most part a mannerism that’s easily tolerated.

The description of a small town slowly embracing new ideals is well-written. Jazz is clearly a dear topic to the author, as is football, since both of them feature in unexpectedly large roles, as do the prohibition and the speakeasies of the early thirties. Lots of famous finns have cameos in the book – the most blatant amongst them an actor called Tauno Brännas (who will rename and reinvent himself pretty much at the point when the book draws to a close).

A good book, nothing extraordinary, but pleasant to read. And a probable high profile television mini-series in a couple of years time – there’s just too much ground to cover in a movie.

Next up: Jari Tervo’s Ohrana.

Feb 252007

Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft head honcho, has been making noises about “Linux violating Microsoft’s intellectual property” for a long time. The pace of claims has only intensified after the Microsoft-Novell deal.

Showusthecode.com dares the Redmondians to come out with the facts. By may 1st. This year.

So in a few months’ time we’ll see whether Microsoft can back these claims, or whether they are full of hot air like SCO.

Feb 252007

Attended a crowded gamenight at Lemmy’s place yesterday.

Wii proved to continue as a crowd-pleaser. Sucked at bowling (probably the only sport where I’m decidedly better at the real thing than the simulation), enjoyed the newest Wario-game as much as on the previous occasion and was mystified by the very variable quality of the Monkey Ball party games. I so need to get a second controller before the Wednesday Emperors’ Spring Equinox shindig (and maybe also a third and a fourth). Excite Truck was the first driving game on the Wii that I’ve tried, and the controls, while intuitive are no match to driving with a wheel (and a traditional pad beats the wiimote probably as well).

Had my first encounter with Radiant Silvergun on the Saturn, the most expensive game I’ve ever bought. The game’s vastly more complex than apparent from the first sight – and I certainly didn’t know that there are no less than seven different weapon systems available. It’s a vertically scrolling shoot’em up, with a ton of action on screen. Apart from the variety of weapons, it quite resembles Ikaruga, and despite being run on older hardware, manages to put a respectable amount of bullets/missiles/ships/whatever on screen.

On Pro Evolution Soccer the five or so four-player games were pretty even – no goalfests occurred this time. Scoring ranged from ugly sweeps in front of the goal to well-executed passes. Played on the PS2, somehow that version seems more attractive than the X360 (whose glaring omissions do not affect casual play that much).

On the pinball front spent a lot of time on the newest addition: Pat Lawlor‘s rare Safecracker. It is a combination of a traditional pinball game and an electronic boardgame. And played against a time limit, not with a certain number of balls. Struggled with the game a lot, and only with the last play of the evening managed to beat the boardgame. Victory in which results in being awarded a special token that can be used to start an extremely fast-paced assault game against the bank. Put up decent scores in both the regular and assault, but on other pins the pickings were meager: beat 100M on Twilight Zone on every game, but never got a proper game going with Addams Family or Getaway.

Social electroning entertainment at its very best.

Feb 242007

The blog’s visitor counter broke the five-figure barrier last night.

Visitor #10000, who surfed in from vertex.fi at 00:07 am (without logging a referral), please make yourself known (in the comments or e-mail) and I will buy you a drink.

(And yeah, the statements made at the time of 5K-point are still valid. But let’s not that get in the way of rewarding customers.)

Feb 242007

Joined a couple of ex-colleagues for a Teräsbetoni gig yesterday upon them being saddled with extra tickets.

The gig was expectedly humorous, but also good. The band’s over the top warrior-image is kind of endearing, and the macho-posing never reaches the lows of the grandfathers of the genre: Manowar.

The 70-minute show consisted of songs from both albums. Highlights came off the first: Tuonelaan rolled nicely, and the second encore Taivas Lyö Tulta obviously drew the biggest cheers. The material off the sophomore album just feels weaker on the album, and was far less convincing also when played live.

Virgin Oil’s acoustics were not as terrible as I feared – the sounds were decent in the balcony as well. The house was not full, but enthusiastic – the audience sang along on most songs (and took over in a few).

As an added bonus, noted that the last 194N takes off after 2am, so was spared the already uncomfortably long taxi-queue.

Feb 232007

Haagan Hakkapeliitat, the reigning champion of fantasy basketball just had a major setback, the proportions of which are currently unknown.

Dwyane Wade, the team’s lead scorer (and cornerstone of slumping champions Miami Heat) dislocated his shoulder in Houston yesterday, and no official estimate of the rehabilitation period has been given.

If Wade’s absence is as extended as the pessimistic estimates indicate, it’s time to pick up a new point guard. The team’s position at the head of the fantasy league looks comfortable, but the playoffs are a completely different story. And it obviously goes without saying that players of this caliber do not roam the wilderness of the waiver-list.

In other news, the NBA trade deadline passes, without any major moves.

Feb 232007

Today’s headlines from Link City Bugler:

  • Shark Pictures. The variety among the species is great (and got incidentally discussed at length today on a non-coffee break).
  • Cross-platform widgets. Something to look into once I finish my first.
  • Shadow of the Colossus. Yet another quality wikipedia article. Yet another game I haven’t even started.
  • Lunar eclipse. A full lunar eclipse. At night. On a weekend. March 3rd, visible in Finland. Count me in.
  • Slimline Classics. For the busy reader who wants to test the waters beyond Jackie Collins/Clive Cussler/Jari Tervo.
  • What’s so special about this number? Many things, as the 400+ kilobyte page explains (and restricts itself to the first ten thousand numbers).
Feb 232007

Today’s morning newspaper had a curious item: The free-distribution magazine V was withdrawn from circulation on Wednesday. “The main article of the issue dealt with drug use in a manner and tone which is not acceptable for a responsible medium”, said Janne Kaijärvi, the magazine’s editor-in-chief (translation stolen from Finland for Thought).

At first sight this seemed to be nothing more than a clever marketing stunt. While the magazine has the backing of a humongulous media consortium, there’s no clear indication that it’s pulling out ahead of the competition. Nothing like a bit of controversy to spark interest in the magazine.

The recalled issue came out yesterday, and I was surprised to see the version 2.0 already out this evening. Either the printing gnomes got busy, or the second batch was already prepared in advance.

The offending four-page article has been excised from the updated edition, and not replaced at all. The timeoutish-section begins on the same page as the original article).

Of course, in the era of persistence, it did not take long until the censored article resurfaced. On one hand it is surprisingly positive towards recreational drugs, but on the other, the content is hardly on the level of civil disobedience this morning’s news made it out to be…

Feb 222007

Looks like messieurs Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett and Trujillo cannot get enough of touring, and Metallica will be on the road next summer.

The Sick of the Studio ’07 will follow last summer’s Escape from the Studio-tour, and this time the selection of venues does include Helsinki (for the eighth time).

Let the struggle for tickets on an overloaded server begin. Though the interest may be somewhat stricken by Ilosaarirock that finishes on the day of the gig.

Feb 212007

Alamaailman Vasarat, the greatest fictional world music group in the world, will release their fourth album on march 14th.

Already booked a ticket to the party. And warmly suggest you do the same if ethnographic brass-punk is close to your heart. Or if you have any desire what kind of music hides behind such a description.

Feb 212007

Randomly selected surfing destinations for the selective traveller.

Feb 212007

thermometer, deep in the blue After a few warmish weeks, the temparature has gracefully dipped deep into the blue again. Mornings are frisky indeed, and sunlight does not heat a lot.

Time for the annual Seurasaari roundabout this weekend, maybe? Though it would be so much better in sunlight.

Of course, if Mr. Omninerd is to be believed, the weather forecasts are not worth trusting.

Feb 202007

Turns out that my half-joking prediction of a National Treasure franchise is moved one step with the release of a sequel just for christmas.

Indeed, the suggested release date for National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets is december 21st. And why not, as I stated in the review back in 2005, I quite liked the movie (especially its attitude towards solving problems with non-violent means) and the american history is full of nooks and crannies that can be exploited for script purposes.

Feb 202007

gmail isn’t out of beta yet, but now everybody is free to join up without needing an invitation.

It’s not perfect, but it’s still the best free e-mail solution available.

Give it a shot, especially if you’re still a suffering hotmail user.

Feb 192007

In the long series of albums creeping in under the radar: Type O Negative will release their sixth studio album Dead Again in march (the band’s web page, unfortunately, bears no information on it right now). Haven’t seriously gotten into any of their albums post-Bloody Kisses, but every one of them graces the cd-shelf.

In other news: Chris Cornell has left Audioslave. Now there’s no excuse not to reform Rage Against The Machine on a permanent basis, and not just for a one-off at Coachella.

Feb 182007

Saw Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond yesterday. The movie manages to describe a touchy subject without resorting to being too preachy about it.

The subject of the movie is the trade of blood diamonds, gemstones from conflict zones. The story is told from the perspective of three protagonists, but the viewpoint is shared for the vast majority of time, and there’s very little weaving of storylines together.

Leonardo DiCaprio is surprisingly good as Danny Archer, a Zimbabwean smuggler. Even his south african patois gets bearable after the first fifteen minutes or so. Jennifer Connelly is as cute as expected, and by no means a weak link among the cast. But her role is much more limited than that of DiCaprio’s, and especially of the true star of the show: Djimon Hounsou, who excels as the sierraleonean whose family is caught up in the revolution.

The film does not dwell on the atrocities of the civil war, but does briefly touch upon the most famous them such as asking “short sleeve or long sleeve” while wielding a bloody machete and the brutal the practices used in indoctrinating child soldiers. The city warfare scenes in both Freetown and the countryside are nasty and chaotic, as expected in such a free-for-all conflict.

The contrast between the human misery and natural beauty is immense, with the camera panning across lush forests and rocky mountains longer than needed to just establish the scene. It’s not as pretty as the New Zealaner scenery in Lord of the Rings, but then again, very few things are.

The trailers shown before the main event were nothing spectacular, but I was surprised to see a short infomercial for World Food Program, one done using the actors from the movie (apart from DiCaprio) – not part of the movie proper, but shown just before the initial production company logo. And the film certainly was a reverse advertisement for the entire diamond industry, and the mercenary establishments do not get a clean bill either.

Feb 172007

Saw Poets of the Fall in Tavastia yesterday.

The place was sold out, but the crowd didn’t seem that large (or perhaps it was excruciatingly dense in front of the stage). The band started at a very reasonable hour, taking the stage at half past eleven. Played for ~75 minutes, with a four song encore.

Hadn’t seen the band live before, and was pleasantly surprised by their performance. They played the biggest and expected hits such as Late Goodbye (famous from Max Payne 2) and Carnival of Rust, without resorting to cover songs or experimental interpretations of their own songs. I don’t know their output well enough to draft a setlist – the forum at the band’s website is a good starting point to seek one out.

Feb 162007

Target 1: Monocle, a magazine on business and economics by the guys that founded Wallpaper*. At least the design ought to be a bit more modern than that of the venerable Economist. Not that I’m disrespecting the latter in any way, the quality of the editorial content remains high.

Target 2: Vanity Fair normally gets read as a fourth choice on long haul airplanes, but the newest issue, a 500-pager on Hollywood and the movie industry is bound to contain interesting articles. At least the one on the Pirate Bay is both unexpectedly long and well-written.

Feb 162007

Recent pickups or changes on the blogroll.

  • Katuoja attempts to move into daily article mode.
  • AC/OS, semi-interesting open source-related discussion.
  • Emily Short has converted her wide-encompassing pages on interactive fiction to blog format.
  • Juha Ylitalo is an old schoolmate – his blog concentrates on photography.
  • Original Signal, a cleanly designed aggregator of dozens of other blogs.