October 30, 2005
Fireplace Door Installed
I installed the fireplace door for Mei-Ling tonight. It was actually very easy to install, but I wonder if there needs to be more insulation packing around the sides; because the brick wall is not completely flat and so there can be some gaps around the edges. Later Shannon and I went to Hollywood Video and rented Addams Family Values and Son of the Mask. Shannon wore my bluefish hat in the store. Addams Family Values was good, of course, but Shannon picked Son of the Mask based on the commercials she saw. And it wasn't good at all. It wasn't funny, and it was like an adult tried to take Looney Tunes to the big screen without knowing what makes Looney Tunes funny.
October 29, 2005
I just watched Hotel Rwanda and it is one of the best movies I've ever seen. The story is about the manager of a Belgian hotel in Rwanda, who protects 1268 Rwandans during the 1994 civil conflict. I think one of the best ways to describe this film is to say it does for the Rwanda conflict what Shindler's List did for the Jewish concentration camps of World War II.
A big difference is in the approach though. In Schinder's List, the mood is dreary, cold, and the emotions are raw. In Hotel Rwanda, there is a sharp contrast between the horror and everyday life. The third aspect of the world opinion is also brought into play, through the performances of the foreign characters. The emotion is also brought much more to the forefront, with more drama and tension. Don Cheadle does give an amazing performance as well.
iCal Support for PHP iCalendar
It has been an extremely long time since I did any work for PHP iCalendar. During that time, the web site had been cracked through a PHP exploit and was down for quite a while. Apple's iCal application also underwent a calendar repository redesign, causing an incompatibility between PHP iCalendar and the native repository. Anyway, long story short is I've got changes pending to support the new iCal repository structure, as well as a couple of bugs. I'll check them into CVS once they've been peer-reviewed.
I watched Mansfield Park last night, and I actually liked it. I suppose it may have been because this was a more modern adaptation of a Jane Austin novel, with artistic liberties that give the film some additional flair and keep it less boring. I liked the quirkiness portrayed directly at the audience by the protagonist Fanny Price. All of the other Jane Austin films I've seen have been dry interpretations by comparison.
October 28, 2005
Dinner with Karen
I had dinner with Karen tonight. I hadn't seen her in a long time, so it was good to catch up. She's still working on her Ph.D. in statistics at Stanford, and has somehow ended up working on at least three projects and become the head TA for a class because she's the only responsible one. She also showed me pictures from her trip to India; she recently went there with one of her friends, Paula.
October 27, 2005
Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind?
I discovered a very interesting publication by Charles Petzold entitled Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind? Petzold is a Microsoft-oriented software developer, and this publication was a talk he delivered to the NYC .NET Developers Group on October 20. I think it is pretty insightful reading that all software developers should read. The only error is that I believe many of the features discussed by Petzold were first introduced by IDEs other than Visual Studio.
I watched the first episode of Kino's Journey with Shannon and Yvonne, and it was kind of boring. There was an interesting idea, but it moved very slow and we were all confused as to whether or not Kino was a boy or a girl. So I decided to watch the entire series via Netflix. And now I've decided to purchase the series for myself. It is that good.
The tag-line for Kino's Journey is "the Beautiful World" and that does nicely describe the perspective presented by the anime. The 13-episode series is actually a bunch of loosely connected shorts portraying some aspect of humanity. But even the most gruesome story is a beautiful sequence when viewed in the right light. The stories are commentaries on society, human nature, politics, religion, violence, and lots of other themes.
The anime is actually based on the novels by Keiichi Sigsawa. They look like books I would like to read; if I could find them translated to English. There also appears to be a prequel movie about Kino, and another 12-minute short.
"The world is not beautiful. And that, in a way, lends it a sort of beauty."
Another Night with Silke
Silke left back to Germany today, and Alla and I had lunch with her at Sato Sushi (again). Last night Silke ended up coming over and we watched both Equilibrium and Gattaca. Silke's favorite movie of all time is The Matrix, but after watching Equilibrium, she says that might change. I also showed her the Jack-Jack Attack short from The Incredibles, which is quite funny.
October 26, 2005
An Open Letter to the Citizens of the U.S.A.
The following is an open letter to the citizens of the United States of American from John Cleese.
In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.
Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and territories (excepting Kansas, which She does not fancy).
Your new prime minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections.
Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.
A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.
To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect: You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.
1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.
2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ize will be replaced by the suffix ise.
Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up vocabulary).
3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as American English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize. You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.
4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.
6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.
8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables.
Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.
10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.
13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 21% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable.
15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.
16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 PM with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.
Thank you for your co-operation.
The Man Who Sold The Moon
The Man Who Sold The Moon is a collection of short stories (the title story is more of novella-length) by Robert A. Heinlein. As short stories, they are very good and contain the signature Neinlein narrative style found in his other short works.
October 25, 2005
Monday Night with Silke
Silke came over tonight, and we talked a bit and watched The Talented Mr. Ripley, which she's never seen before. She actually laughed at quite a few scenes in the movie, which I thought was odd. But at least she liked it. We talked a little bit about her plans, which include training at a monastery in Hunan, China. She plans to live at the monastery for a year. I put on Dehli9 while we were talking; I should have mentioned to her that this music is from Germany, but didn't think of it at the time.
October 24, 2005
Fireplace Door Too Big
Mei-Ling asked me to buy a fireplace door for her fireplace, because she wants to use it this winter instead of using the central heat. The OSH near her didn't have the one she wanted, so I found it at another OSH in Mountain View or Sunnyvale or something. Only it turns out she didn't check to make sure the ticket number she wanted was the right size for her fireplace. She told me to get the large, but her fireplace opening will only work with the small. So I need to go exchange it.
October 23, 2005
Dinner at Kat's
On Saturday night, Kat had a dinner party with a bunch of her friends from Cisco and other people too. It started at 6pm, and I got there a little early at 5:40pm. They ordered Korean sushi for dinner, and Korean sushi seems to be different because the pieces are bigger, and I think they use less vinegar in the rice. I hadn't seen Kat in a really long time, so it was good to see her again. There still isn't any furniture in their house. After dinner, people talked and we ended up playing some cards. One of Kat's friends brought her six- and eight-year-old daughters, and they kept stealing the poker chips.
Since I had lunch with my uncle right beforehand, and Kat lives up near the restaurant, I had a few hours between lunch and dinner. I ended up finding a comic book store and bought a poster of Batman and Nightwing. I ended up having to spend $40 at Michael's for a frame. I also bought four issues of Tank Girl, and afterwards ended up buying a bunch of Tank Girl trade paperbacks and comics off eBay and Amazon.
Lunch with Uncle
My uncle from Chicago invited me to lunch with him (and my aunt and cousins and their husbands) at Kirin Chinese Restaurant. This is like their favorite restaurant or something. They also brought their baby Eva. And of course my uncle took a bunch of pictures. We had a late lunch at 2pm because that was the only time that was good for Eva or something like that.
October 22, 2005
My First Company Meeting
Seems that at Netflix a company meeting is held each quarter in the Los Gatos Theatre. And the tradition is for all employees that were hired that quarter to dress up for some sort of movie-themed entertainment. Previous themes have been Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Kill Bill. This quarter's theme was The Little Mermaid. I was a bluefish. There were also starfish, clams, and clown fish. I get to keep the costume. The rest of it was free pizza and soda, business information, and a funny internal movie titled Gemini.
October 21, 2005
Disney on Ice
Alla and Silke were planning to go to Disney on Ice with someone Alla met, but he cancelled after she already bought the ticket. So she invited me instead. We had dinner first at Sato Sushi, and took longer there than we should have. So we sat into our seats about a minute or two after the show had started. The theme was jungle stuff, so the movies they put into it were The Jungle Book, Tarzan, and The Lion King. Silke and Alla enjoyed it a lot. I liked it, but not as much as them.
October 20, 2005
Born Into Brothels
Born into Brothels is a documentary that's won a lot of awards, but after watching it, I think those awards are rewarding the subject matter rather than the film itself. The film is about a bunch of kids growing up in the red light district of Calcutta, and the film directors' attempts to get them an education. Unfortunately, a great deal of the film watches like home videos, while the remainder is kind of boring fly-on-the-wall type storytelling.
One aspect of the film I found a bit strange was how similar the leave-taking of the children from their families was to the removal of children from Vietnam for adoption in the U.S. (see Daughter from Danang). An outside do-gooder white woman, who isn't necessary welcomed by the families involved, convinces the children to leave for a better life. Granted, most everyone would agree that going to boarding school is better than base manual labor or prostitution. But I think it is telling that eventually all of the children left the boarding school, or their parents removed them from the boarding school. Except for the one boy who became sort of famous, and the one girl who wasn't even sad to leave home knowing she wouldn't see her family or friends anymore.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk became an overnight success with the release of the movie. I did see the movie first, and reading the book I've discovered that the movie kept extremely close to the vision, plot, and tone of the novel. So there's not much extra to say, other than the book is equally enjoyable to the movie. I'm not really sure what the purpose of the book is, but it's a good book to read. People who try to find meaning in it may just be finding what they want to find.
The other night I watched Tank Girl. It is one of the most fun, most funny, most gleefully artistic movies I've ever seen. Watching this movie will put a stupid grin on your face and keep it there for the entire time. The movie was released in 1995, and is based off the British cult comic of the same name (which I have not read yet). Lori Petty is so much fun as Tank Girl, and her never-ending supply of comebacks is great. There are also a bunch of other little cameos by "famous" people. And the soundtrack is perfect, with songs from artists like Björk, Hole, and Veruca Salt.
It seems I forgot to write an entry when I finished reading The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. A lot of people have heard of Gaiman now, after the success of his novels, but those were an offshoot of his earlier success with The Sandman graphic novels which began in 1989. And it's for those comic books that I originally heard his name. I'd been wanting to read The Sandman for a long time, but never got around to it. I was thoroughly impressed with how well Gaiman puts together a story.
I won't bother to explain The Sandman; for that you can read the summary off Gaiman's web site. But this series is an amazing thread of mythology, fantasy, culture, and contemporary exploration. Many people are prejudiced against graphic novels, considering them a child's diversion. That's changing in recent years, but opening to a random page of The Sandman as a basis for deciding whether or not you will enjoy reading it is something of a mistake. That is how you can approach some other graphic novels, which have shorter threads and singularities of entertainment. But to really enjoy The Sandman, you have to read through it from beginning to end, as the story is long, winding, and full of depth.
October 19, 2005
Turns out that several printer manufacturers will print a secret code onto any documents printed from their machines, which can be used to trace a document back to the original printer that produced it. And, subsequently, back to you as an individual. Why is this scary? Because dissident publications are certainly one way to get onto the FBI's watch list. The EFF (join) has published their DocuColor Tracking Dot Decoding Guide. Find out how to destroy the secret code on any of your Xerox printers. For more information, check out the EFF's summary on printer betrayal.
The Suckage of EA Sports
Pirates of Emerson
The Pirates of Emerson is a haunted house type thing in Fremont. IBM rented the entire thing out for the night for all IBMers to go for free, and to bring friends and family. So Alla invited me and I went with her, Silke, and Georges. It was actually lots of fun. There was a haunted house, where Alla and Silke got a lot of surprises. Also a weird strobe maze where the strobing makes it hard to see where a wall is. And finally a sort of 3-D haunted house with less scaring and more 3-D effects.
Alla's mom also showed up, although she didn't go through any of the stuff with us. Silke was very interested in knowing how the 3-D glasses work, and we figured out that it acts like a lot of tiny prisms and refracts different colors of the light at different angles. That forces different colors to appear like they are coming from a different point in space, thus causing a 3-D effect when multiple colors are involved.
Alla got a big scare at the beginning when a pirate came up behind her. We had a few run-ins with that pirate later on, because Alla is an easy target for jokes and scaring. Even Silke scared her a few times just while going through the haunted houses.
October 18, 2005
I didn't know this was based on a true story until the very end, but Europa Europa is a crazy story about a Jewish German who has to do the exact opposite of what makes sense in order to survive World War II. It's even more crazy how the events that shaped his survival seem so filled with random luck, like a series of fortunate events. The film treatment, based on the autobiography of Sally Perel (a.k.a Salomon, Solly, Salek, Jupp, Josef Peters) is filled with a whimsical look at his crazy survival. Where else are you going to see Hilter ballroom dancing with Stalin?
October 17, 2005
Sanjuro is the sequel to Yojimbo. I have to say I liked Sanjuro better, because the story was more interesting to me. Plus, it was a little funnier. Others will like Yojimbo better though, so it's sort of a personal taste thing. I thought the older woman and the captured soldier were great comic relief.
Another thing which really surprised me was the stance of Sanjuro. It turns out this is probably the character upon which Auron was based! The similarities are amazing.
Yojimbo is one of the Japanese classics by Akira Kurosawa. I think fans of westerns would really appreciate this film, because it is one of the archetype westerns that influenced so many later films, both in the U.S. and I'm sure in Japan as well. But I never really liked westerns, and I didn't get into this film that much either. It's an interesting premise, and the story moves along fairly well. But there's not a whole lot of action or thinking going on while you're watching.
As an interesting side note, Netflix recommended this film to me based on my ratings for Neon Genesis Evangelion, Princess Mononoke, and Blade Runner. All of which I gave 5 stars. It also recommended it based on my three-star ratings of Dr. Strangelove and American Splendor. I guess this is one case where viewer personalities had more to do with the recommendation than film content.
October 16, 2005
Tunnel in the Sky
I started reading around chapter two or three of Tunnel in the Sky last night, and ended up reading through the entire book instead of stopping to sleep. This was a very interesting story by one of my favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein. It's a story about a class where the final test dumps you onto a strange planet and you have to survive for several days before they bring you back. Only this time, something goes wrong and the students are stranded.
What I found most interesting was how the students, originally planning to return home in about a week, end up having to work together in order to survive. The social interplay and growth of civilization, in a very colonization fashion, is interesting to see. I think this is probably one of Heinlein's better books as a good read, although not as through provoking or important as some of his others.
Shannon's Stone Age Weapon
I picked up Yvonne from her volunteer job yesterday at 5pm. When we got back to her house, Shannon was sleeping and didn't open the front door. For her school project, Shannon had to make some sort of stone age weapon. She wanted to make a bow an arrow, but she refused to buy any materials. She wanted to find arrowheads, feathers, and string outside. But of course, finding all of those are too hard. So we ended up switching to making a hand axe, and we just sticking a chipped rock into a cut tree branch. The rock stays in as long as you don't hit anything too hard.
Later, I made a Pokémon deck and beat Shannon twice. She used her two best decks. Her best deck she probably could have beaten me with because in the card game, you can pretty much win as long as your Pokémon are stronger. There's not a whole lot of strategy or tricks. But I think she was just tired of playing so she kind of gave up.
Then we started watching this really bad quality pirated version of Shota no sushi which is a really silly drama of a person who wants to become the best sushi chef ever. It was filled with stereotypical shonen sports manga/anime stuff, so Yvonne and I could figure out what was going on and make predictions.
Alla's Birthday BBQ
Yesterday Alla had a huge BBQ birthday celebration at the Almaden Park. Probably around thirty people showed up over the course of a few hours. There was a lot of good food and I ended up eating too much. Some of us chipped in to buy her a jewelry armoire because she's been making jewelry as a hobby lately. We also got her a monkey card and a $25 gift card to Macy*s. Since she made me run around so much, I told her she better give me a really good birthday party.
The jewelry armoire was 20.5kg, and Ellen was saying that she thought I was some weakling who couldn't pick it up. I told her before that I could carry 100 pounds, because that's how much my television weighed. She tells me she was shocked. And then Jeannie said that she thought I'm a weakling too. So I told Ellen to try and carry the armoire and she could only go five halting steps before she had to put it down. I carried it the rest of the way to the picnic tables.
One yucky thing that did happen was Jesse got pooped on by one of the ducks or geese. So Jeanne and Ellen tried to hide behind me the next time they flew over us. That was the first time I've ever actually seen someone get pooped on by a bird in real life.
Other people that showed up: Zhao, Bradley, Georges, Paul, Femi, Silke, John, Sasha, Mattias and Daniela, Rodney and his girlfriend Amy, and Alin. Plus a bunch of people I don't know.
October 15, 2005
I thought I had seen this before, but I wasn't sure. After popping in the disc, I realized that yes, I had seen Pi before, around when it first came out. While I appreciated the premise of the film, and I thought it was artfully done, I didn't enjoy it much because it was so discordant to the senses and my own flow of thought. That was done deliberately, but I didn't like the effect that much. Plus, I didn't come away from the movie with any new ideas in my head. Or any new aspects of imagining. So I can't say this movie means much to me. A lot of people really like this film though, so I am probably in the minority here.
I had never been interested in the artwork of Frida Kahlo because they always appeared somewhat ugly to me. But after watching the film, I think it is a mistake to introduce people to Frida via her self-portraits. Her other artwork is much more provocative and revealing. Although the movie helped to explain a lot of what was behind her artwork, based on her life.
I enjoyed the movie, and especially how the dramatic storytelling brought the character of Frida and her history to life. The special effects were an excellent way to illustrate her perspective on life, enabling the viewer to more intimately connect with her emotions and the source of her inspiration. I also loved how color was emphasized in the film in the same way as it was in her paintings. And Selma Hayek did an amazing job at acting.
October 14, 2005
Monty Python's Life of Brian
I really like the Monty Python troupe, and Life of Brian is one of their funniest movies. I laughed out loud a number of times, and it's unfortunate the movie was so short. I would have liked to see more of Brian's misadventures.
Forbidden Planet is a classic science-fiction film from 1956 featuring the famous Robby the Robot. In fact, you may easily recognize Robby the Robot without knowing that his debut was in this movie. This movie has excellent special effects for the time, and a decent conclusion similar to the vein of other science-fiction films of the same time period trying to make a statement. I don't think the message is as important as those of some other films, but this is still an interesting movie to watch. Even if the acting is pretty mediocre.
October 13, 2005
Apple introduced their much-anticipated and heavily-demanded video iPod today, along with a few other tidbits that are also just as juicy. The amazing thing that Apple's been able to pull off is to produce this new iPod, and deliver the content. For $1.99 you can download the latest ABC television episodes, Pixar shorts, and also music videos. The other great new products are Front Row and the iPod Remote.
I'm not too excited about the new iPod Remote, as it points at a new iPod dock. Which is very convenient if you happen to be using your iPod to move music around and for playback, but I don't. Front Row, however, is the launch of the Apple media center. Too bad it is currently only available for the new iMac. There is speculation that it may not be available for older machines; the IR requirement would need to be addressed.
Before I use a Mac for my DVD playback though, Apple needs to greatly improve its DVD Player image quality.
I've seen all of Election before, but I didn't really remember it until I just watched it again. And it is a funny movie that turns a few simple things into crazy life-changing events. Plus it is really funny to see Reese Witherspoon hop up and down like a bunny rabbit. I recommend watching this if you'd like to be amused.
October 12, 2005
Magnolia is a strange movie that I don't think unfair to have been so critically acclaimed. But I didn't enjoy it as much as most others. It's basically a movie about some people who are going through a day of their lives. It is a day full of connections, chance, and drama. The events that take place are ones you could easily consider the type to occur to people all over, all the time. But the message, delivered with subtlety but impact, is that each of us has the choice to do what is right and to fix things. So long as one doesn't wait too long.
Tosca - Dehli 9
Tosca is the joint collaboration of Richard Dorfmeister (of Kruder & Dorfmeister fame) and Rupert Huber. I picked up Dehli 9 about a week ago, and I think it is an amazing two-disc album. It should be noted that the two discs are very different from each other.
The first disc contains some wonderful compositions featuring beautiful vocals. These tracks are wonderful chill-out music, but very distinctive and not to be confused with the typical lounge chill-out style you might recognize from such clubs. The first disc can be listened to and enjoyed with focus.
The second disc is of a completely different style. Here, the mixing is extremely transparent, which is amazing to hear, and the tracks are almost entirely solo piano. When the piano source is included on one of the early tracks, you can hear the noise that accompanies its signal. Later, on solo tracks, this noise is gone and you can really hear the keys pressed and the pedals pushed by the pianist. This disc is something to listen to while you do something else, or wish to drift away.
October 11, 2005
I'd heard of the movie Gandhi, in large part because of the person. I will say that the scope and impact of this movie exceeded anything I was expecting. It is an amazing story, and all the more so because it is true. This single person became the conscience and spiritual leader of an entire people. And that accomplishment is more impressive than that of any other leader, because he led those people to win the fight against themselves without once imposing his philosophy upon them. Watching this movie brings to life a part of recent history that is extremely important.
October 10, 2005
Potential ID Theft via Blockbuster
Since I work at Netflix, this little tidbit was of some interest today: Blockbuster paperwork left on sidewalk. Apparently, a closing Blockbuster store in New York trashed their customer applications without doing anything to ensure confidential information like social security numbers and credit card numbers were destroyed. Some employee was obviously quite ignorant of the potential consequences.
Thelma & Louise
I remember seeing parts of Thelma & Louise, and there's a fair chance I'd seen the entire movie before. But I decided to watch it again, and unfortunately I didn't find it all that interesting. Maybe I've been watching too many movies where things go wrong because the people in it make stupid decisions. Sure, being able to cope with the consequences of bad choices is one way to bring out a person's character. But I'm starting to not care so much if bad things happen to people who can't do the right thing to begin with.
Eric's Hawaiian BBQ
Alla met someone working at Google named Eric, and he invited her to a Hawaiian Barbecue Party today. She invited me, so we made some macaroni salad (mostly made by Alla) and got there a little early to help set up. A number of people showed up, most of them also employees from Google, although there was one from Cisco technical support, and another person from a company I didn't recognize, like DML. Eric spent quite a long time putting together some really great food, which I guess he was working on since 6:30am. Alla and I spent most of our time talking to some people named Nate, David, and David's girlfriend.
I had a good time; it was pretty fun just talking to Nate because he was a funny guy. And the food was really good. Of course Alla was having a good time too, although she got sleepy after a while and never got a chance to nap. She ate a lot of food too, but at least it was good food. She particularly liked the fried rice that Eric made. Georges didn't come because he decided to go sky-diving.
I hadn't been up to see Shannon or Yvonne in a while, so I was glad that I could go visit them yesterday. Yvonne has been sick so she had a very sore throat and could only talk in a whisper. This is, of course, an almost exact opposite of her usual speaking volume. But when we went to Borders, she saw someone she knows and suddenly could talk at normal volumes again. She claims it was the Brambleberry Tea (by Tazo; no link as they are browser-centric) that healed her throat.
After having fun goofing around, and looking at random stuff at Borders, we ended up watching Patch Adams because Shannon wanted to watch. Yvonne had only seen the second half, and stopped watching after she saw the first half. Shannon fell asleep. But this was the first time I'd seen Patch Adams, and it was both lots of fun to watch, and a decent drama about the real Patch Adams's inspiration.
October 8, 2005
Boys Don't Cry
Boys Don't Cry was based on the 1993 murder of a cross-dressing woman in Nebraska, after people she was socializing with discovered her secret. The film is a dramatization of the true events, but the emotional impact of the story remains true, in my opinion. I think this film was important because it brought to mainstream media hate towards alternative sexual identities, much as racial hate between whites and blacks has become acceptable for discussion in contemporary movies.
I do wish the movie had moved more quickly in the beginning. I found myself occasionally disinterested until later on, when the relationship started between Teena/Brandon and Lana. Until that point, things just seemed kind of stupid. A bunch of stupid people doing stupid things. And that makes it hard to establish a connection. For me at least.
Monster's Ball is one of those movies that has value for the story it tells, but is kind of boring to watch. There is a very meaningful story, wonderfully acted out by Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry. And I thought it played out very well. But I wouldn't be interested in watching it a second time and it takes some patience to get through it the first time. If you can appreciate the film, though, then I think you will appreciate how hurt and healing complement each other.
October 7, 2005
SVL Co-op Return Party
Paul had a small party tonight to welcome back some of the co-ops who worked at IBM's Silicon Valley Labs site, and are now back for full-time positions after going back to Europe. So I got to see a few people again whom I haven't seen in a while, plus a couple of new people. Silke was also there because she is here on business.
October 6, 2005
I didn't have any desire to see Catwoman in the theaters because it was not based on the DC Comics Catwoman. This was not Selina Kyle, and it was not Gotham. But after watching the movie, it's clear that it is based on the comic character, but changed to suit the creators of this specific film. That being said, I thought the story and character development was lacking. But it is an okay action flick. I'm not a fan of the Hip-Hop soundtrack either.
I do think Halle Berry did a good job at acting feline. Her movements were exceptionally accurate, although people who do not live with cats may think they are exaggerated or fake. I didn't like the jumpy action sequences though, which really did not allow one to follow what was happening. Her wall-climbing abilities are acceptable if you view that as one of her powers, in comic book fashion, but my expectations are for something much more realistic based on the comics. And this performance and the director's view are too different.
D.E.B.S. is one of the coolest, wackiest movies I've seen in a while. I originally thought it would be a pretty bad attempt at a film where you give pretty girls guns (like Cleopatra 2525) but instead this movie really pokes fun at that whole silly genre. What it turns out to be is a crazy romantic comedy that just makes you laugh at how wacky everything is.
It's also interesting that they've got some decent actors and actresses in the movie. Jordana Brewster, Devon Aoki, Jimmi Simpson, Holland Taylor, and Michael Clarke Duncan. These aren't famous people, but Taylor and Duncan are particularly good in my opinion. Brewster, Aoki, and Simpson have some real good potential in my opinion.
I did like some of the rock background music as well. The soundtrack is worth checking out. I prefer the tracks Parade, Love Cats, Argument, Crystalline Green, Telling You Now, Be Like Water, Viva La Fever, Into the Morning.
October 5, 2005
The Abyss is one of the best contemporary science-fiction films. I vaguely recall seeing parts of it several years ago, and I've finally watched the entire special edition. I really enjoyed this movie because it's a good mix of dramatic action and science-fiction. There isn't a lot of hard science being thrown around, but I think that's what makes the best sort of science-fiction; a different environment or alternate reality in which the people are living. The differences in reality shape and dictate the appropriate behaviors and beliefs.
October 4, 2005
Klaatu Barada Nikto
I first saw The Day the Earth Stood Still in school, because one of my English teachers was a science-fiction fan like myself. I think her name was Ms. Anderson. This is one of the best science-fiction films made, solely because of its message and how well it represents and criticizes the prevailing beliefs of the time, and today. In fact, its message of cooperation and peace was in stark contrast to the government's position on international conflict, as this was released during the height of the Cold War.
Of course the acting is not particularly great, especially since what was expected from performances back then is more formulaic. And while Klaatu does outwardly behave and speak as if an alien visitor to Earth, he is too familiar with body language. His confusion over how things are on Earth seems in strange conflict with his ability to use human gestures to convey his confusion.
One thing that struck me was how the opening music contained one of the most recognizable science-fiction audio sequences of all time. I don't know if this was the first movie to make use of that sequence, but it may have been.
October 3, 2005
Stupid Religous People
I was reading some comments posted in response to a recent Sony print advertisement mocking Jesus. And it really makes me unhappy to see just how stupid some religious people are. The casual attitude towards a separation of "us" and "them" is quite disheartening. The human race has started making progress towards racial blindness. But I guess being blind to belief systems is still too hard.
I don't think I would want to watch the movie again, but it was better than I expected, and actually very interesting. I think that it was much more interesting because it brings to life the legend of Paikea. There is a very rich mythology and culture that you learn about through this film, and in that way it is sort of like a dramatic documentary.
Of course, the story is also very good. And I was very surprised at how well Keisha Castle-Hughes acted. I find it hard to believe that she was acting. It's pretty commonplace to see actors showing emotion, but almost all the time, you feel like an outsider or that it just isn't quite real. But that's not what I saw with Keisha. It felt honest.
I also very much enjoyed the music. Probably because it sounds very indigenous, with tribal vocals and authentic sounding instruments. It's very ambient sounding and I liked that aspect of the sound.
Anatomie / Anatomie 2
Christian's wife, Gabi, recommended a couple of German films to me: Anatomie and Anatomie 2. The first film stars Franka Potente as a medical student that becomes the target of the Anti-Hippocratic Society, that is willing to kill people to further their own anatomical studies. The second is slightly different, involving the same society going to great lengths with themselves as the medical subjects.
The two films are a little different in their style. The first is more of a horror film, and Franka is being chased down by people who want to kill her because she knows too much. The second is a little freakish because the self-inflicted medical experiments give the subjects superhuman strength. Since you know what's going on, it's not really horror so much as a thriller. Franka Potente also plays an extremely small role in the sequel, although her father from the movie Lola Rennt plays the part of villain.
I will say that Anatomie is a decent horror film, because it's not just your typical slasher movie. But there's some pretty gross stuff shown on screen, which is not unexpected based on the title. Anatomie 2 doesn't show so much gross stuff, but there are still a lot of medical scalpels being used.
October 2, 2005
Million Dollar Baby
Million Dollar Baby won some awards or something, but it really didn't appeal to me when I first learned of it. I haven't been a big fan of Clint Eastwood movies, and I can't recall any fighting movies that are any good. Even The Karate Kid isn't so great, although it can be fun. But Million Dollar Baby had a lot of heart, and a lot of focus on the character development of Frankie and Maggie.
The fighting itself wasn't as important as much as what the fighting represented. That being Maggie's will to always go for it, despite all the obstacles put in front of her. I found myself very attached to Maggie's character, and it is unfortunate that things end the way they did. But life isn't always full of happy endings. Just decisions that make the best of the choices and opportunities available.
Oldboy is a freaky but intense thriller from Korea that had me glued to my seat. The protagonist of the story is someone who looks very familiar to me, but I'm not sure where else I've seen him. His story begins, trapped for fifteen years by a mysterious captor. For some strange reason he is released, and so begins his journey to exact vengeance on his captor, and to learn what has led to his misfortune. What he discovers is almost unbelievable, but extremely satisfying and mind-bending for the audience.
Empire of the Sun
I've seen Empire of the Sun before, but never in its entirety. The scene that I've always remembered very much was when the Japanese pilots are preparing for their kamikaze run and they perform a ceremony before taking off. It's extremely emotional to watch that. I also didn't know that the star of the movie is Christian Bale when he was much younger. He's one of my favorite actors right now. I like the movie, but it can be kind of boring at times. Still, overall a good movie.
October 1, 2005
Szu-Huey's Birthday Dinner
Szu-Huey had a group birthday dinner with two other people at IBM who had their birthdays this week. I didn't know the other two birthday people, and one of them couldn't show up because he had a business dinner. We went to Korea House, and got some strange service. The first waitress wouldn't let us order or get appetizers until she had finished delivering all of the food to this other table, even though the food was still in the kitchen and they were eating fine already. Another waitress gave us some rice bowls, then took them away and gave it to that other table. I gave Szu-Huey Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie. Some of them went out to Suite 181 but I've been tired early lately so I decided not to go.