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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for the ‘Movies/TV’ Category

My superpower

I appear to manifest power failures. I told Child 1 that I feel like a mutant X-Man. She said I would be the crappiest X-Man of them all.

It started yesterday when I was at the dentist. Not at the dentist, though – the power failure happened at home. When I got home, I discovered the damage, and damage it was. My iMac, my beloved Bender, would not boot.

I couldn’t get the chime to even sound. I would unplug the thing and plug it in again to reset the SMC, but the best I could manage from that was a whir that died after a second. I’m not sure if it was the hard disc or a fan. Does the 27″ iMac even have a fan in it? Regardless, this was obviously a hardware issue and not something I could fix myself.

I learned you can’t call an Apple Store directly to make an appointment so I hung up the phone and went to Apple’s Web site to make an appointment with the store I jut hung up on. This was around 3:00 and I snagged an appointment for 4:30 – not too bad.

At the Apple Store, the genius (I can’t type or say that without sounding sarcastic even if I’m not) plugged in and tried to start the iMac. He got the startup chime, but nothing else. On his second try, the chime eluded him as it had me.

The genius (snicker) laid out the options for me. The best-case scenario is a blown power supply that would cost $130 to replace. The middling-case scenario is a blown logic board, which would cost me about $600. We all know what the worst case would be, but I do have everything backed up on a Time Machine archive as far as I know.

I’m oddly optimistic. It’s like I’m paying $130 for a forced staycation. All my clients are understanding and none need anything right now.

So, as part of my forced time off, I decided to catch a movie tonight with Child 1, the only family member who was both home and willing to go see “Snowpiercer”, an apocalyptic SF tale that’s a cross between “The Road Warrior” and “Murder on the Orient Express”.

The first two-thirds of the movie captivated me despite some wooden acting on the part of the lead, whom I didn’t recognize but whom Child 1 informs me is Captain America. Everything else worked.

I can’t say I’m disappointed with the final third of the film because the theatre and the mall it is in suffered a – yes – power failure. We sat in the dark for 15 minutes before the theatre staff decided that there wouldn’t be time to show the rest of the late show. They gave each of us a free admission and an offer to come see the rest of the movie at another time.

All I need now is a mutant name. I’m thinking of the Brown-Out Aura.

Fox backs down

On March 24, YouTube sent the following notice about the half-minute “Futurama” clip I had uploaded to illustrate my point in “Futurama commits clownslaughter“.

Dear 101Webs,

Your video “Futurama commits clownslaughter”, may have content that is owned or licensed by FOX. As a result, the video has been blocked on YouTube.

This claim is penalizing your account status. Visit your Copyright Notices page for more details on the policy applied to your video.

Sincerely,
- The YouTube Team

When this happens to you, you have two options. You can succumb to the man and take down your video or you can contest the accusation at risk of losing your YouTube account.

I contested. In my reply, I claimed fair use of the clip for illustrative and educational purposes.

What do you know – FOX agreed. I got this today:

Saxondale

I started watching “Saxondale”. Despite stumbling into British comedy gems of the latter aughts like “The IT Crowd” and “The Inbetweeners“, I hadn’t heard of it before. That’s doubly surprising considering how much I enjoy Steve Coogan’s work.

The show lasts only 13 episodes, but it’s a hearty meal. The enjoyed the first season more than the second, although the second was funnier. Maybe it was the change in Tommy Saxondale’s hair.

Coogan is a master in the role. It may have helped that he was a co-writer of the series, but he creates a fantastic character, with body language and every nuance organic to the man. It’s quite something to watch. I could write an essay on the use of his lips alone.

The marketing of the show is odd. It focuses on the fact that Tommy was a roadie and is in anger management counseling. That’s true, but almost incidental to the show. Saxondale is an incredibly intelligent and principled man. Is there another ex-drunk/drug addict exterminator on TV who could give a speech like this?

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OK, so there probably isn’t another exterminator on TV, but that’s beside the point. And so is the aviation-related rant.

(The large-figured lass in purple is Tommy’s girlfriend, the other woman is her friend, and the younger man is Tommy’s live-in employee.)

Futurama commits clownslaughter

The first season of the resurrected “Futurama” has been disappointing. The first broadcast seasons had me in stitches once the show found its feet after its first four episodes. The episodic movies were OK – they did win the show its reprieve. But since? Meh, as the kids say these days.

I was watching the new crop of episodes that have come out this summer, and I was struck by the laziness in “Law and Oracle“, first broadcast July 7. I’d put the season and date but that show is either season 8 episode 4 or season 6 episode 17, depending on where you look. Its production code is, oddly, 6ACV16.

From plot to jokes, the writing is lazy. The plot is a mash of “Police Academy” and “Minority Report”, with seasonings of “Tron” and “Star Wars”. The plot resolution comes in the form of a deus ex machina: a character without a previous line of dialogue appears and becomes an expository crucial cog.

As for the jokes, here’s a clip:

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There are two jokes there, if you exclude the “Minority Report” setting. The first is the name of the oracle:

SCIENTIST

…We call him Pickles.

FRY

On account of it’s like he’s floating in a jar?

SCIENTIST

Exactly.

Fry’s line is a setup. Having the scientist respond “Exactly” or “Yes” is only an explanation point on Fry’s observation. To confirm his suspicion puts him on an intellectual level of the scientists, which may seem funny, but isn’t. The rules of the show dictate that he’s not the brightest star in the sky. Scientists in the world of Futurama are mad and Rube Goldbergesque, but they are not dumb.

It took me all of one shower to figure out a better response that’s truer to the show in more ways than one.

SCIENTIST

…We call him Pickles.

FRY

On account of it’s like he’s floating in a jar?

SCIENTIST

No, I named him after my wife, who’s a head in a jar. Her name is Pickles.

Here’s another that just occurred to me:

SCIENTIST

…We call him Pickles.

FRY

On account of it’s like he’s floating in a jar?

SCIENTIST

What are you? Twelve?

Or:

SCIENTIST

…We call him Pickles.

FRY

On account of it’s like he’s floating in a jar?

SCIENTIST

No, I just like pickles.

My lines may or may not be winners, but they’re not lazy and they remain within the rules of the show.

The second joke is even worse.

SCIENTIST

Green is larceny. Black is fraud. Red… homicide.

FRY

What’s pink polka dots?

SCIENTIST

Clownslaughter. It happens more often than you’d think.

How on the nose is that? One of only four balls stands for clownslaughter. That fact alone shows the audience that it happens more often than you’d think. Unfortunately, the writers had to add that very statement to save an otherwise too ambiguous joke. It’s on the nose. What they should have done is reworked it.

SCIENTIST

Green is larceny. Black is fraud. Red… homicide.

FRY

What’s pink polka dots?

SCIENTIST

Clownslaughter. That one’s sponsored by the Bumbo Lardbottom memorial chair of criminal psychology at NNYU.

(Where NNYU is New New York University.)

Or:

SCIENTIST

Green is larceny. Black is fraud. Red… homicide.

FRY

What’s white with the red circle?

SCIENTIST

Clownslaughter.

This one makes the joke visible, as the ball resembles a clown face. The scientist’s response holds up better as the punchline. You don’t need the on-the-nose bit that follows.

Your turn. Can you write better than this crop of “Futurama” writers? I bet you can. Leave your attempt in the comments.

Bonus admission:

“The Silence of the Clamps”, the episode that followed “Law and Oracle”, was probably the best of the new episodes.

A course in culture through film

Elvi and I have spent the last few months considering a cultural education for our kids. Specifically, we want to teach them the culture our generation gleaned from film. We want them to see movies that explain where we come from, that explain where our sayings come from.

To this end, we’ve built a list of movies that we are renting for our children to watch. The criteria for the list is cultural significance, to us. That doesn’t mean good movies, or any genre of film. We’ve discarded many great films because they have no impact on our culture.

Take “Annie Hall”, for example. It is a great movie. It has that famous lobster scene. If we lived in New York City, it would probably make our list. But neither Elvi nor I make any reference to it in our lives, and neither does any of the media we’re exposed to. It’s simply not relevant enough. You could make the same argument against “All That Jazz” – unquestionably a fine film but who refers to it these days?

On the other hand, who gets through a day without telling someone, “That’s why I’m going to kill you last.”?

Here’s our list of approved cinematic cultural phenomena:

  • 2001, a Space Odyssey
  • Airplane!, Airplane II: The Sequel
  • Alien
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Babe
  • Back to School
  • The Bad News Bears
  • Blazing Saddles
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Caddyshack
  • Casablanca
  • Commando
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • Crocodile Dundee
  • Deliverance
  • Die Hard
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Godfather
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  • History of the World: Part I
  • Jaws
  • A League of Their Own
  • Lethal Weapon
  • Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
  • Major League
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  • The Pink Panther series
  • Planes, Trains & Automobiles
  • The Princess Bride
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Risky Business
  • Robocop
  • Rocky
  • Slap Shot
  • Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi
  • Taxi Driver
  • Terminator
  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Young Frankenstein

Here are films that didn’t make the cut:

  • An American Werewolf in London
  • Annie Hall
  • Big
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Dead Poets Society
  • The Exorcist
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Jerry Maguire
  • Life of Brian
  • Meatballs
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Pretty Woman
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Stripes
  • Top Gun
  • Trading Places

I guess this post is begging for comments. I also guess it won’t get many.

iOS 4 wastes a night

I still don’t have a cell phone but I do have an iPod Touch that goes with me everywhere. What a boon to aging minds!

Apple released the latest software update for iPhones and iPod Touches (iPods Touch?) this week, called iOS 4. The update brings new functionality to the devices, including multitasking (running more than one app at a times), the iBook reader, and app folders.

I decided to update my second-generation iPod Touch last night. It took a lot longer than I expected.

Previous updates have been painless, like a long sync. My download of iOS 4 went smoothly, but something interrupted the installation. That was my first clue that the process had gone wrong. iTunes gave me a host of error messages that told me my songs could not be found. iTunes itself played the songs well enough so I knew it was an iPod problem.

The rest of the iPod seemed to be in shape. The apps were there and iOS 4 was in place. The problem I tried to open some apps and not all were working. I tried again, and again it stopped in the middle and warned me of the errors.

I took a bold step and tried to restore the iPod, which resets it to pristine condition. . The restore function erases all data and reinstalls all apps, music, and what have you. You lose passwords and accounts and game scores, but that’s not a big deal. The big deal was that the restore did not fix anything.

At that point, I noticed that Last.fm’s Audioscrobbler had been trying to scrobble (i.e. record for posterity) the songs I’d played on my iPod since the last sync. I figured that was interrupting the installation so I closed Audioscrobbler, and synced yet again. The apps were working but iTunes told me there was no room left on the iPod for more than 24 songs. Looking at the capacity diagram of my beloved Zapp Brannigan (my iPod’s name), I noticed that 5.89 MB of the alleged 8 MB total (which for some reason is only 6.83 MB) was taken up by Other data. That’s why there was no room for songs. (Huge chunks of Other data is normal for jailbroken devices, but mine’s regulation.)

I have no idea what that other data was, but my only hope was to try to restore the iPod again, this time without Audioscrobbler’s interference. I wasn’t hopeful that this would work, since other than being full, the iPod was now working perfectly – but work it did. Finally by 3:30 a.m., I had a properly functional iPod Touch.

I can’t prove it, but it sure seems like Audioscrobbler screwed with the installation. Reports here and there online reveal some problems with iOS 4 installations elsewhere.

The irony? After all this consternation, I discovered that second-generation iPod Touches only benefit from iOS4′s mail threading and and app folders. The rest of the advances don’t work.

Bonus “Futurama” review:

No, not by me. Tim Surette of TV.com says everything I want to, so why repeat it? My brief note after watching the shows was that it has promise and a lot more nudity. To my pleasure, the new episodes match my taste much better than the DVD movies did.

New from TriggerStreet

(And from others as well.)

“Fanboys” looks awesome.

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Here’s a bit of an interview with the producers.

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