June 12th, 2006

Loon

Went to a movie ...

So, as is our frequent "Sunday pattern", The Wife took The Girls off this morning for Daughter #2's art class, followed by lunch, followed by some assorted activities, followed by my meeting up with them for a movie. Today (as if you hadn't guessed) the film was Cars. Before I talk about the movie, allow me to bitch about Disney's fucking web sites ... would it kill them to have "grabbable" graphics somewhere on any of their sites? These pieces of crap are always done with Flash, and you can't link to or copy any of the fucking graphics ... every time I want to get some little logo thing to illustrate a post about a movie, I have to jump though fucking hoops ... you would think that they'd appreciate the coverage and make it easy ... but nooooooo ... I have to go find some movie poster site and work with what I can find there! What is fucking Disney afraid of? Some kids might be making their own stickers with downloaded graphics? Pisses me the bleeding fuck off!

Anyway, I'm not sure what I expected of Cars ... it certainly was a long time coming (they had early previews out for it over a year ago) ... as The Wife said "it took some time to get into it", from her perspective that was due to the racing parts up front, from my perspective it was "suspension of disbelief" or something ... there was a "JayJay the JetPlane" thing about this, but taken beyond the anthropomorphised machines into a world where the "people" (heck, even the insects) were cars. On The Wife's point, I wonder how this plays with "the NASCAR set"? Both of us would rather watch paint dry (or maybe even soccer) than watch auto racing, so the "core element" of the story structure sort of left us shrugging.

The film was, however, a remarkable bit of animation ... especialy in terms of the extremely detailed and "moving with perspective" backgrounds. In one race course shot I was particularly struck at how detailed and realistic the cars, track, ad wall, crowd, and even Jumbotron in the far background were rendered ... making me think of just how much computing "oomph" it took to make all that happen! There was one scene out in the desert where I was wondering "why it looked like that" (the desert scenery was a bit "shiny" as though they'd over-emphasised lighting over texture, making it look a bit "plastic"), but, in context, I guess that's a minor gripe.

Most of the "fun" of the movie was in the "big name voices" for most of the side characters, with the likes of Cheech Marin and George Carlin doing "type" roles, and Paul Newman "stealing the show" with his role as a retired champion race car. Neither Owen Wilson nor Bonnie Hunt brought much "identity" to their (lead) roles, but that's OK, yet I was suprised to see (on the IMDB listings) that Michael Keaton was voicing the "villian" car, as there wasn't much of "him" in the character ... while Bob Costas and Jay Leno pretty much just played "car versions" of themselves. I guess "race fans" would recognize a lot more folks, as the cast list seems to have a ton of drivers and comentators involved, most of whom I could ride in an elevator with and be totally clueless to their identity. Comedian "Larry the Cable Guy" does, however, pretty much anchor the movie, which is probably great for his career, but says something about the writing.

All in all, Cars was a fun movie, but one that was sort of hard to get in synch with. Again, I don't know if it "was a NASCAR thing" that I just "didn't understand" or if it was that "Jay Jay (minus humans) thing" that was the problem, because other than a vague sense of not connecting, I couldn't find anything to specifically dislike in it. I'd certainly watch it again, which is not something that I'd say about a lot of the movies we go to with the kids!


Visit the BTRIPP home page!



Loon

Nothing like old predictions ...

OK, so this is "one of those books" ... something that I felt I ought to read, but really should have read a decade ago. In my defense, however, I'll note that this is one of the books that I wanted to read which I "cherry picked" from my Mom's library when we were finally clearing out her place (she'd been an early Microsoft stockholder), so it's not been languishing on my shelves for much more than a year.

Needless to say, even the most accurate prognosticator is likely to be somewhat uncomfortable with his predictions a decade down the line, but I'm sure that Bill Gates is pretty proud of how often he was right in The Road Ahead, his book about The Internet. One has to recall that the Web was in its infancy when this book came out in 1995. Heck, HTML wasn't around until 1992, and only started appearing in the U.S. in 1993, so this book was very forward-looking for its time (I'd like to note that I created the old Eschaton Books web site in April of 1996, so I wasn't too far behind the curve, just way less well-funded!).

One thing that reading this book has done for me is to put some of the news stories of the past decade into perspective ... remember the big stink about Gates wanting to put a whole network of satellites in orbit? In the book he talks about a plan to put up 1,000 low-orbit satellites to provide wireless connectivity anywhere on the planet (a plan that got scuttled in the post-Columbia slow-down, but could well be revived given the new "commercial" space options). The press reported it like it was some form of megalomania, but he makes a very good case for it in the book. There are a number of similar examples of "oh, so that's what was going on!" revelations, but this is the one that comes first to mind.

If anything, Gates paints "too rosy" a picture of the "the future" ... one thing he totally missed was the "pirate culture" and how pervasive it would be. He talks about piracy, but only in the context of software licensing, he obviously didn't foresee how colleges would make high-speed connections available to their students, and how these students would set up file-sharing systems to illegally distribute copyrighted material, and how the Music (and, later, Movie) Industry would respond to the culture of Intellectual Property Theft that would emerge from that file-sharing. Gates' version saw the Music Industry working out a sane "personal license" system where people would buy, for a quarter or so, "personal use rights" to particular tracks ... of course, the "horse was out of the barn" before the Music Industry took the Web seriously, and so the story of "entertainment" on the Web has been more of a prolonged court battle than anything else.

Another place where Gates' vision diverges from what's happened (so far) is in the level of "interconnectivity" ... as anybody who has used Windows since 3.1 knows, at every step Microsoft has tried to make the "computer experience" one big unified thing, attempting to blur the lines between text, spreadsheet, database, graphics, video, Web, etc. ... this is very much part of his "vision", where individual computers are just "access points" to a bigger, more intertwined, "Information Highway" ... and is something to which I believe there is a a lot of resistance. He does, however, describe in eerie accuracy the new generation of "phones" that have full use of computer functions like MS Office (and GPS tracking) in what he describes as "Wallet PCs" ... however, these have not quite become the "Big Brother" tool (keeping all one's personal data, one's "music licenses", one's credit card or PayPal-esque info, etc.) that he seems to be heading for.

Would I recommend The Road Ahead, especially at this point? Maybe ... I mean, I've been involved with developing Web sites for a decade, so I've sort of watched as this stuff has played out, and it's interesting to compare my recall to what Gates was forecasting ... however, for the "uninvolved reader" it might sound a bit like the typical "oooh, we'll have flying cars by 1979" sort of "futurism", with many "reality paths" verging off (for whatever reason) from what Gates was guessing back in 1995. The good news is that if you are interested in reading this, it's available for cheap from the Amazon new/used vendors, with "like new" copies going for as little as 1¢ (plus $3.49 shipping, of course), and copies that still have the CD for as low as 25¢, and "new" copies starting at a buck ... such a deal!


Visit the BTRIPP home page!



Loon

Am I the ONLY person who cares?

Now, I don't necessarily mean here, I might very well be the only person who cares in this little corner of LiveJournal, but I'm amazed at what a hard time I've been having at tracking down ANY "stuff" celebrating the Chicago Rush's championship win in Arena Bowl XX ... hell, I can't even find anything on the team's official website!

The Arena game gets so little attention in the media (although their games are broadcast by NBC) that I wasn't even aware that the Rush had made it to the Arena Bowl until late last week. I think it's funny that the Bears won SuperBowl XX and now the Rush has won Arena Bowl XX ... gotta love that symmetry!


Visit the BTRIPP home page!