Apr 302007

Hollywoodland is gone from Helsinki after a minimalistic period in theatres. Was looking forward to that one (after the more than slight letdown that was Black Dahlia). Oh well, time to catch this on dvd. Sooner or later.

Far better news item is the fact that David Fincher’s Zodiac has a release date – it’ll be on the silver screen on the 18th of may.

But it seems that Darren Aronofsky’s newest, the variably received Fountain will be a straight to dvd release here. Seems that non-mainstream science fiction has a very hard time breaking through the barrier of entry (cf. Serenity back in late 2005).

And as a genuine query (and not, contrary to appearances, a cry for help): could someone more savvy in the porcine entertainment explain what exactly is Homer doing to the jolly pig in the waning moments of the trailer.

Apr 282007

Avenue Q is worth every penny, go see the iconoclastic play in its last two weeks in Savoy.

The show deftly combines Muppet Show esthetics with the attitude of South Park. Meaning that there’s a plethora of foul-mouthed puppets on stage.

The script has not been localised at all, and some elements (such as “who’s this Gary Coleman guy”) are explained with throwaway lines). But the script flows well, there’s no elements that feel too forced.

The puppets fit the play, and after an initial shock of their presence is past, they don’t really stand out as odd elements. Despite the fact that there’s characters both with and without adjoining puppets and some characters that are nothing but puppets.

Was good, indeed, and I definitely plan on seeing an english version sooner or later. And picking up the soundtrack (this being a musical and all) doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all either.

Dropped in to see the second (not first as I mistakenly thought) Placid Frenzy gig in Itäkeskus afterwards. Better than I expected, with pleasantly variable songs and with way less bass-dominated mix than what 69 Eyes had the other day.

Apr 272007

Saw 69 Eyes in Tavastia yesterday.

Missed most of the warm-up band’s gig, but what I saw of Maryslim was on the mostly pleasant side. Swedish glam-ish rock with occasionally entertaining songs.

The main event started pretty much 2330 sharp, and the merihaka goths played for a good 80+ minutes. The new album was rather prominently shown, but the old songs formed the backbone of the gig – mainly off Blessed Be and Devils. The sound was not exactly optimal, guitar kept disappearing into distortion.

Decent show, but nothing really special. Pretty much the same evaluation applies to Angels, the new album.

Apr 262007

No - Photo Thursday week #44 challengeThis week’s photo thursday challenge subject is no.

My take on the subject is the attached image, which pretty much screams out: “No! Do not touch.”

The subjects are a really venomous fish and a moderately venomous fish. Both species (stonefish and lionfish, respectively) are actually cousins taxonomically despite the vastly different looks.

And nope, never got near fish this dangerous in the sea – the photograph is from New England Aquarium in Boston.

(As usual, the full-size photograph is available by clicking the attached image.)

Apr 242007

Charles Stross has released Missile Gap, his Locus-shortlisted recent novella on the web to celebrate the International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.

And there was much rejoicing.

The dead trees-version is published by the Subterranean Press, whose books tend to be on the expensive side. And this one is no exception, 35$ for a hundered page book is by no means cheap.

So the free version is appreciated even more than that of the often blogged about Accelerando.

Apr 242007

A couple of blogs that have broken the interest barrier recently:

  • I have no idea what a stint pig actually is, but the porcine author writes well.
  • ThreeDimensionalPeople, on a web-enabled immediate future.
  • Despite appearances, we are headed for the summer. Jäätelökesä takes care of analysing the new arrivals of the ice cream scene.
  • Teknokekko, since truth is often stranger than fiction.
  • Kaiken pelitys – recent subjects of games, doom metal, movies and more games are all quite near to my heart.
Apr 232007

Saw Mr. Bean’s Holiday, the sequel to the original Bean movie from ten years ago. And quite a horrible little movie it is, and not really recommended to anybody. Even the most inveterate Rowan Atkinson-fanboys will be disappointed by how thin the movie actually is.

Do not let the first five minutes lull you into a false sense of security. After that, the movie will take a long and painful nosedive into a borefest of cosmic proportions, from which it only very momentarily and occasionally manages to tear itself out of before falling back in.

The script is criminally thin, scenes are very drawn out and with a couple of exceptions, not really funny. Rowan Atkinson mugs it up as the protagonist, but looking at his wonderfully rubbery face gets old fast.

Sure, there are a couple of good moments (the busking/miming scene shines), but there are alse bad stretches of twenty minutes to compensate. Amongst the worst is the oyster/scampi-consumption scene in a restaurant in Paris. Thematically equal to Mr. Bean’s encounter with tartare back in the original series, but executed far worse (and taking its good time in plodding towards an inevitable conclusion).

Willem Dafoe’s character is pretty much the only developed one in the movie, and through him the barbs thrown at the film industry do stick. But that’s a small consolation in comparison to ninety minutes of mindnumbing adventure through France.

The product placement is the most blatant captured on film, but fortunately it’s confined to just a single object.

Grim disappointment. In a word: avoid!

Apr 232007

Otto beat me to the punch in Katuoja, celebrating the 100th issue of Tähtivaeltaja, the best science fiction magazine in Finland (and probably ranking very high in the entire solar system).

Indeed, Toni Jerrman’s Tähtivaeltaja has now published a grand total of hundred issues. At the rate of four per year, that’s a very, very respectable quarter of a century we’re talking here.

My earliest exposure to the paper was back in mid-eighties, when the issues were first available in Akateeminen Kirjakauppa. The effect of Pekka Manninen’s provocative comics was to browse the magazine further. Finland back then was pretty much a wasteland when publishing sci-fi was concerned, so reviews were a bit thin on the ground. But the method of the editorial content was pretty much clear – it exhibited a reverse bell curve: everything was either divinely good or worthless crap.

The next encounter with Tähtivaeltaja was in ’89 when I got my awakening on two key concepts via it: splatter movies and the literary output of Philip K. Dick. An equally important factoid was the improving graphical layout – the hooking of Petri Hiltunen as an almost continuously featured artist upgraded the looks significantly.

I’ve been a reader since then (and picking up older issues occasionally). The magazine is pretty much an invaluable resource in keeping up what’s going on in comics and movies (and these days the coverage in literature is very good as well). The annual review of comic books is a very comfortable fifteen or so pages that easily serves as a shopping list for months to come. Reviews are as iconoclastic as they’ve used to be, and the wider cadre of reviewers hasn’t toned down the scale much. The rebirth of hard science fiction was annouced in Tähtivaeltaja – discovering the books of messrs. Stross, Baxter and Reynolds has been one of the latest happy moments as a reader.

Indeed. There have been many of those moments through the fifteen-plus years I’ve been a reader. Here’s hoping for a long and successful road ahead. And thanks for the enlightenment, I’m certain I’d be an uncultured bore if this magazine hadn’t pointed me in certain directions during the two decades.

Apr 212007

Lotus formula 1 carEven though Formula 1 races have devolved into snooze-inducing borefests, I’d been meaning to drop by the exhibition centred on the subject in the Helsinki Design Museum.

“Been meaning” for a long time, and was forced to act this weekend on account of the exhibition being torn down on sunday.

Skipped the other galleries (the other touring exhibit was about Maisa ja Kaarina, a chick-comic).

The exhibit had cars from all the decades (the Lotus in the picture is from seventies) – they certainly have evolved in the fifty-odd years, from tubular metal objects that radiate potential danger to weirdly angular vehicles that are barely recognizable as cars. The show centered on the design and asthetics of the cars, and as such the drivers were in an oddly decreased role – though many were mentioned by name, the cars were the stars of the exhibition.

Apr 212007

Spotted link to an imaginatively set up bowling trick shot in linko.

But the one above, while a great shot, pales in comparison to picking up a spare on two lanes with a single ball.

And less said about this, the better off we all are. I dimly recall bowling against a team with similar kind of strategy back in the day at the U, though the trajectories of the opponents were not as pronounced…

Youtube’s idea of a top-shelf bowling video snippet seems to be centred on hitting a 300 game in WiiSports. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but compared to the real deal, they really are outmatched.

Apr 212007

Saw Apulanta yesterday at Tavastia.

Despite the band’s 10+ years of history and ubiquitous presence on tour, I’d never seen an entire concert before.

The club was sold out (on two consecutive nights), and pretty much packed. And unlike the fans at metal gigs, it seemed that there were a lot of tourists in the audience – misbehaviour was the order of the day. Avoided (barely) a few spilled drinks and coudln’t really care less about occasional shoving.

I only own two early Apulanta records, and as such anything recorded in the 21st century wasn’t that familiar. Recognized the most played songs, quite a few went unidentified. Expected Anna Mulle Piiskaa as the last encore, but it never materialized.

The raps from the band, mainly from the vocalist, were unusually long and didn’t feel like snippets from the Ye Olde Rockstar’s Handbook at all, but natural ramblatives.

Not bad at all: started early enough (pretty much 2330 sharp), played long (75 minutes) and not loud enough to shatter eardrums (I seemed to be in a minority with earplugs). And I’ll definitely keep an eye out for a couple of their recent albums – some of the new material sounded worthy indeed.

Apr 202007

HBO kicks out the last season of Deadwood, the finest western/drama show ever, on dvd to the curbside.

Release date is 12.6. Of the region 1 product that is, can’t abandon the original releases for the locals. That have far uglier boxes anyway. Not to mention a severe lack of extra material.

Apr 202007

Silver trophy in Yahoo's fantasy basketball

Ended up second in the Yahoo’s fantasy basketball league 186942.

The final game was tight at 4-5, but the margin in any of the categories lost was comfortable enough to prevent second guessing. And anyway, a lot of the teams rested their biggest guns, meaning that a lot of the players had rows of zeroes in the last few games.

Apr 192007

Microcosmos - Photo Thursday week #43 challengeThis week’s photo thursday challenge subject is microcosmos.

My take on the subject is the attached image, a close-up on an aging fencepost, weathered by the years in the sun. Sadly, the tiniest of tiny lizard (of an unknown species) that was hunting for even tinier insects on top of the post skulked away into the cracked post when I approached with the camera, and would not dare to peek out.

(As usual, the full-size photograph is available by clicking the attached image.)

Apr 182007

Watched Sunshine, Danny Boyle’s brand-new sci-fi movie on sunday evening.

It’s not a perfect movie, as evidenced by the four star rating, but a pretty good semi-hard-science fiction film all right.

The back story weighs in in the top class of hokeyness: sun is dying, and the detonation of a big-ass atomic bomb at its core is the only way to retain life on earth. Certainly, the main plot is not amongst the best of them, but the film is otherwise executed pretty well.

It deftly combines bits from a selection of classic movies – Alien, Event Horizon and 2001 amongst the easiest to recognize. The ship is a claustrophobic and lonely place, and there’s definitely something fishy going on with the mission.

Amongst the actors Cillian Murphy (seemingly a Boyle favorite) is spookily distant as the protagonist with his blue eyes as piercing as they have been in previous roles. Took me a long, long while to recognize the botanist – the others rang no bells worth mentioning.

The ship is a work of art – well-lit and dark at the same time, just a few degrees off from behind the heatshield to utter annihilation in the ground-zero sunlight. It’s a functionally ugly ship, but one that is actually somewhat believable, built for a single task only.

The film starts off a bit on the slow side, but quickly picks up a breathless pace that almost unerringly carries it to the very end. There isn’t much exposition and the reason of the sun’s plight is never really explained.

Quite a bunch of trailers before the main event: apart from Shrek 3, the third parts of the biggest franchises were shown. Neither Spiderman nor Pirates of the Caribbean looked bad at all. And it seems that the former saga will dive to rather bleak depths in its third installment. The new Philip K. Dick-filmatisation, Nextdidn’t look as worthy as Linklater’s mighty rotoscoping of A Scanner Darkly.

Apr 172007

Skrubu’s weekly five this week is on haircuts – of the concrete kind.
1. When did you last visit a barber/hairdresser?

Five weeks ago. Give or take a week.

2. Do you have a regular barber, or do you flit from flower to flower? Why?
Yeah, I keep using the same. Just because they have a free chair most of the time.

3. Do you maintain the same haistyle consistently, or does your style change every time you visit the barber?

4. How long does the act usually take? And what’s done to your hair
Ten – fifteen minutes. Just a cut. Taken a dye job a couple of times.

5. Do you think the haircut prices are right?
They’re a bit high, but when the all rental/equipment/salary/whatever costs are factored in, they’re no longer sky-high.