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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

american fool idol

I admit it, I like "American Idol". I just expended two valuable hours of my life watching the premiere for this season, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The judges were absolutely hilarious. Simon's best line: "Your future involves not singing". Randy had a good line too; after one particularly horrible performance from a kid who attempted to juggle while singing, the kid said "I can dance too". Randy replied something like "Great. Why don't you do a little dance on your way out the door".

This one covered the auditions in Minneapolis. Natives of that city are about the nicest people in the world - how can the judges be mean to them, even when they were as pathetic as they were? Of course, many contestants were from elsewhere.

One thing every season seems to have is the young military reservist or enlistee, complete with a two-minute profile depicting how brave and selfless he (or she) is, and this season is no exception. This time it is a young woman of 21 who was quite the mediocre singer. I can't remember her name - it doesn't matter, she won't last too long. Predictably, they let her through to Hollywood. You just know she never would have made it if it wasn't for the uniform. Does Fox require a patriotic twist to every show which broadcasts from its towers?

She seems like a nice, innocent young woman. Her husband is currently on active duty in Iraq. She was quoted as saying something like "After 911, I thought joining the reserves was the best thing I could do to protect my country". It really pains me to see the youth of this country duped into becoming cannon fodder for foreign adventures, believing all the while that they are "protecting" us. I watch American Idol for escapism from this troubled world, but alas, even this silly little show is tainted by the reality of the warfare state.

little miss sunshine

I recently watched "Little Miss Sunshine" on DVD, after hearing many good reviews, including a recommendation from my parents. Boy, was I disappointed. LMS is truly one of the most over-rated movies ever. I thought I was the only one who thought so, but the very perceptive Gene Healy agrees with me:
Look, I know a lot of quirky, maladjusted people. I know quirky people related to other quirky people and/or married to them. I am a goddamned expert on quirk. So believe me when I tell you that LMS is Phony Quirk. In LMS, like Garden State and Napoleon Dynamite before it--and unlike in real life--the quirks are randomly selected, as if the movies' producers developed a computer program to weird up a nothing script.
The phony quirkiness was bad, but what really bothered me was the fact that several key plot points hinge on the fact that one or more characters doesn't know something obvious. I see this in movie after movie and it really destroys a plot for me. In this movie, the climax depends not only on the parents (and son) having never seen a child beauty pageant before, but also never having seen the routine that the daughter has been practicing for ages with her grandpa. Isn't that just a teensy bit implausible? A second plot point hinges on the fact that fourteen-year-old son (and entire family, actually) is unaware of a physical condition that he's had since birth. How is that possible?

Big thumbs down.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

review of "rising son" soundtrack

The official soundtrack to the film "Rising Son, The Legend of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi" (I loved the film; see my review here) doesn't contain a single song that was actually used in the film. Instead it contains a selection of rock and hip-hop songs that were "inspired by" the film. This is a pity, as many of the songs in the film were quite good and are actually from the time period (mainly 80s) that the film is set in, and I think it would have been nice to have those collected onto a single album. However, the actual soundtrack album contains some great high-energy tracks. It also contains some mediocre and some pretty lame ones, too.

The tracks I find myself repeatedly listening to are:

The high-energy rap of "One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven" by The Transplants, the ska-tinged "Cheyenne" by Fishbone, the kick-ass rap-rock of "Pot of Rain" by Optimus, Lexicon's none-too-serious hip-hop take on the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" entitled simply "Sedated", and "Transitions of a Rider" by Murs, which seems to be the only track that lyrically has anything to do with skateboarding.

Also worth listening to:

A very stipped down version of "Mexican Radio" by Charlie Early and "Standing in the Way of Control" by The Gossip.

I find the rest of the songs mediocre to not worth bothering with, although there is such a range of styles on this album I'm sure other reviewers disagree with this assessment. Being somewhat of a Foo Fighters fan, I wanted to like the album-opening Dave Grohl track entitled "Vile", but I found its high-speed thrash with screaming vocals boring and monotonous.

One other thing: the Parental Advisory on this album is well worth heeding. I don't really have a clue what The Transplants track is all about, but the lyrics are definitely violent and not for kids.


beware the ihandcuffs

Good article by Randall Stross about the iPhone and Apple's crippleware. (Spotted via slashdot). The article points out the ridiculousness of Apple's iTunes songs only being playable on iPod portable devices, and conversely, of iPods only supporting iTunes copy-protected files (and not Windows crippleware, for example).

It also mentions (old news at this point) the fact that Microsoft's Zune supports a different copy-protection standard than Microsoft's earlier PlaysForSure crippleware, something that would-be Zune purchasers who own large PlaysForSure collections will find annoying for sure.

Stross makes a very good point (which I have been saying to anyone who will listen for quite a while) that crippleware is going to die an early death anyway, as evidenced by sites which already sell non-protected music files. He specifically mentions eMusic, a site which I have been using on and off for over a year. It's a great site where you simply download a plain old mp3 file that you can do whatever the heck you like with.
Among the artists who can be found at eMusic are Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, who are represented by Nettwerk Music Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. All Nettwerk releases are available at eMusic without copy protection.

But when the same tracks are sold by the iTunes Music Store, Apple insists on attaching FairPlay copy protection that limits their use to only one portable player, the iPod. Terry McBride, Nettwerk’s chief executive, said that the artists initially required Apple to use copy protection, but that this was no longer the case. At this point, he said, copy protection serves only Apple’s interests .
He doesn't mention the fact that it's a whole lot cheaper to buy stuff on eMusic, too - 33 cents a song at regular prices. That's not counting all the free downloads you get when you sign up (25 freebies if you go through their homepage, but you can find better deals through 3rd-party links if you look; try

Finally, Stross quotes Dave Goldberg, head of Yahoo! Music, who makes a prediction which I too have long subscribed to:
IN the long view, Mr. Goldberg said he believes that today’s copy-protection battles will prove short-lived. Eventually, perhaps in 5 or 10 years, he predicts, all portable players will have wireless broadband capability and will provide direct access, anytime, anywhere, to every song ever released for a low monthly subscription fee.
I think this will apply to movies and television shows, too. We should soon be able to watch any show or movie that was ever made on demand, either through monthly subscription fees or small pay-per-view fees. This is one reason I don't go crazy trying to purchase movies and television shows on DVD to build up a "library", since it may all become quite worthless with such a model (not to mention the improvements in PQ, as we are seeing now with Blu-Ray and HD-DVD; pity the person who spent thousands of dollars building up a movie library in standard DVD format...)

In sum, despite all the crippleware silliness currently going on, the future looks quite bright for consumers of entertainment!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

go ron paul! go ron paul!

I've long been hoping that Dr. Paul would give it another go for President, and as the Star-Telegram is now reporting, that is in fact happening. He ran for president in 1988 as the Libertarian Party candidate. I saw him speak that year at Northwestern, invited by the libertarian student group which I later headed.

If there was ever a man deserving of this job, who is seeking it not because he wants power but because he loves his country and wants to restore the republic, he's the man. Godspeed to you, sir!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

craven democrats pretend to be anti-war

So now, from Drudge, I see the link to this New York Times story about how the Democrats are planning "symbolic" votes against President Bush's plans to escalate the war on Iraq.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 — Democratic leaders said Tuesday that they intended to hold symbolic votes in the House and Senate on President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Baghdad, forcing Republicans to take a stand on the proposal and seeking to isolate the president politically over his handling of the war.

Senate Democrats decided to schedule a vote on the resolution after a closed-door meeting on a day when Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts introduced legislation to require Mr. Bush to gain Congressional approval before sending more troops to Iraq...

...“If you really want to change the situation on the ground, demonstrate to the president he’s on his own,” said Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “That will spark real change.”...
Hey Joe, where were you back in 2002, when the Iraq War Resolution was on the table? Oh that's right, you and a significant number of other Democrat warmongers were voting "yea", that's where. That vote had the potential to make some difference, before all hell broke loose, unlike this "vote", which is all about posing in front of the people that voted them in so they can say "Look at me! See, I'm anti-war!"

These pathetic, hypocritical, whining, posing Democrats are really making me sick. (To his credit, Kennedy voted "nay" on the Iraq War Resoltion - despite his other flaws, Kennedy does seem to have inherited some real anti-war principles from his papa).

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

woo hoo! go, cindy, go!

This story made my day.
House Democrats tried to unveil their lobbying reform package today, but their press conference was drowned out by chants from anti-war activists who want Congress to stop funding the Iraq war before taking on other issues.

Led by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a slain soldier, the protesters chanted "De-escalate, investigate, troops home now" as Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., began outlining the Democrats' plans to ban lobbyist-funded travel and institute other ethics reforms. The press conference was held in the Cannon House Office Building in an area open to the public...
This is so perfect - the Democrats rode a crest of anti-war sentiment into office, and now they are forgetting all about why they are there, just like I knew they would. And it couldn't happen to a more deserving bastard, Rahm Emanuel. Not only did he take undue credit for all the Dems success in the election, but he favored the pro-war wing of the party during the primaries.

As I've said before, I don't know why Sheehan has to take so much grief from libertarians and antiwar conservatives. No, she isn't perfect, but she's doing exactly what she should be doing - reminding those asses why they were put in office in the first place.