Thursday, February 26, 2004

Axim!

I'm happy -- I just ordered a new Dell Axim X3i handheld to replace my Palm Pilot! I did a lot of shopping before I decided on an Axim, and I think it's definitely the way to go. The reviews have been great, the X3i's predecessor, the X5, has been very popular, and for the price you get way more computer than you do from any of its competitors. I was thinking about getting an X5, but after looking for a while I decided to go with the new and cool. The only down sides of the X3i versus the X5 are smaller battery (shorter battery life) and no compact flash slot. But, since most people tended to use the X5's CF slot for a wireless card anyway, the X3i's got built-in wireless.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Bad spam

I just wanted to share my favorite piece of scam spam ever. Here's the full text, exactly as it appeared in my inbox last week:
_Dear_ OnlineCitibank _Users_, This _email_ was _sent_ by the _citibank_ serevr to veerify _your_ email adrress_. You mustt clmepote this pocsers by clicking on_the_link beelow and enttering in the small _window your Citi-bank _Debit full card nummber and _PIN_ that you_use in local ATM. That is donne for your peotrction -q- becourse some_of our members no legnor have acsecs to their email addrssees and we must verify it. http://citi-cards.com:4%6a%74%63%55%51%67%4e%67%54%6d%76%50@%77%7240%72%6a%67%6b%64%2e%44%61%2e%72%55/%3f%527%6c%4b0%76 To veerify your_ E-mail addres and acces _your Citi-Bank account, clic on the_link beloow.
I know that spam scams work because a tiny percentage actually fall for them. I'm sure there's someone out there just waiting for his ten million dollars from the Nigerian treasury. The mathematics of scale work for you: if only one person in a million is dumb enough to think that this e-mail is really from Citibank, and you send it to forty million people, then you come out ahead. The trade-off is that anyone with that little common sense probably doesn't have any money, either. I suppose the target market for this sort of thing is the "gullible rich moron" segment of the population, and that's a pretty slender demographic.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a funny holiday for Laura and me. We were discussing V-Day plans at work, and no one had any idea what Laura and I could do to be any more romantic or cuter than we are on a daily basis. So we're pretty low-key about it. I got her some pretty flowers, and the kitties got her some flowers too. They were on a lower budget than I was, so I got her roses, and they got her carnations. We did our grocery shopping at Trader Joe's on a Saturday, which we've never done before. In brief, avoid. Trader Joe's is great, but try a weekday instead. And Laura got me a new DVD player; now we can put the old one in the basement in front of the treadmill, so she can watch Simpsons reruns while she walks. We had a nice, simple, extremely yummy dinner at home, which is normal for us: Laura's an excellent cook, and our usual dinners are a lot like what other people serve when they have dinner guests. Then, when I was loafing on the sofa upstairs after dinner, Laura peeked around the corner, a flash of bare arm showing.
"I've got an idea about what we can do tonight."
I can see black lace at her shoulder. "You've got my attention."
She leans around the doorframe, saucy lingerie showing. "I was thinking maybe I could join you on the couch..." She steps around the corner, little black teddy in full reveal.
"And?"
She slinks over and curls up with me on the sofa. "I've got Angel season three on DVD here...."
"Hoo yah! Pull up a blanket, babycakes!"

We had a great evening. Did I mention, Laura's the most wonderful woman in the world!

Saturday, February 07, 2004

More on Movies

We were talking about movies at work today, and I found myself saying this a lot. So here, I'll put it in writing.

I think the whole concept of goodness and badness in movies is relative to your expectations. Sure, I saw Jason X on the big screen, and it was exactly what I had in mind. Was it good? If the whole concept ("a hockey-masked guy with a machete is reincarnated on a spacecraft full of co-eds; carnage ensues") appeals to you, then it was a good movie. It lives up to its premise. If the concept doesn't appeal to you, then you won't like the movie either. Is it a good movie? In the Oscar-contender sense of the word, that's a resounding NO. But it satisfied its target audience, so YES.

The worst movies are the movies that irritate their target audience. This gives you movies like Tank Girl and The Howling III, which even serious genre fans hated with a passion, and Pluto Nash, which even Eddie Murphy fans were appalled by. The list of movies that didn't appeal to their target audience is enormous, but I have to mention Battlefield Earth, which was even reviled by scientologists; the live-action Pinnochio, which was panned even by art-house critics; and the big-screen Avengers, a movie so awful that even Sean Connery's presence and Uma Thurman in tight leather couldn't save it. (Tangent: the bad movie points rating system is at badmovies.org)

The best movies are those whose appeal stretches beyond its target audience. My personal list looks something like this:
  • the Lord of the Rings trilogy, fantasy that surpasses its genre like no other movie has
  • ... except for maybe the original Star Wars trilogy
  • Independence Day, an action movie that pretty much everyone seemed to like
  • Ocean's Eleven, the remake; the original barely even appealed to Rat Pack fans...
  • The Princess Bride: I had to get conned into seeing this, but it's now one of my favorite movies
  • Shakespeare In Love: I'm not even sure what the target audience was for this (other than academy members, of course!), but I don't know anyone who's seen it and didn't like it
And, trailers. The purpose of a trailer should be to tell you enough about the movie that you'll know if you'll like it. Trailers shouldn't give away any plot secrets, trailers shouldn't contain the entire movie compressed to two minutes (Free Willy, Radio). And, most importantly, trailers definitely shouldn't contain major plot developments that don't appear in the movie (The Negotiator, Highlander: Endgame) or really good songs that don't appear in the movie or soundtrack (The Big Hit).

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Happy Birthday, Mike!

I want to take this opportunity to apologize to my brother, Mike. Today's his birthday, and Laura and I just gave him a call and left him a birthday voice mail, complete with singing. I also found a really funny card about turning 30, and I mailed it in plenty of time for him to get it by today. Problem is, he's turning 31. I feel like a clod. Sorry for the math/memory error, bro!

Monday, February 02, 2004

Movies.

The number one movie this weekend was You Got Served, a breakdancing movie. That's it, a breakdancing movie. Not a heartwarming tale of any sort, no characters to fall in love with, but a 90-minute excuse to watch people breakdancing. Just like motorcycle-racing movies, karate movies, very-soft-core porn movies, and other movies centered around a theme instead of a story, a milieu, or a group of characters. I'm not opposed to theme movies, and some of them are quite good. But most are not; they may have great car crashes, but watching the bits between is painful. Thin plot with gaping holes, flat characters. And people generally don't care: the reason we go to see the movie is because we're interested in the theme. We want to see cars crash, we want to see karate guys fight, we want to watch breakdancers, we want to watch cute people make out in tropical settings. I think the creators and the studios know the movies aren't great, but they keep making them because they make money. That's important: they're bad movies, but they still make money because people are willing to sit through awful everything-else to get to the real draw of the movie.

So I think America's ready for the next step: movies with no plot and no characters, just a theme. Come see Breakdancing: 90 minutes of really good street dancers showing off on film. Ready for Made-Up Car Chase: The Movie? An hour and a half of Hollywood effects crews doing their best road stunts, with the plot and characterization as follows:

Guy in red '68 Camaro drives from point A to point B, while bad guy in black '66 Stingray tries to stop him. Give the bad guy a horde of minions in semi-trailers, motorcycles, and maybe a helicopter. And throw some gunfire in for kicks.

The studios already had luck with this concept in the '70s and early '80s: anyone remember Bill Cosby: Himself ? No plot, just a very funny stand-up comedian talking on a bare stage. I also remember similar theatrical releases for Eddie Murphy (Raw), Richard Pryor, and even a few Gallagher specials. It's made a successful comeback recently with movies like Martin Lawrence's Runteldat and Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian (neither of which did I actually see, so pardon me if I've got my facts wrong about the movies' content). I think it's time for the theme movie to follow in the footsteps of stand-up comedy movies and evolve.

I've actually had a little experience with the martial-arts movie incarnation of this. A friend of a friend, for his senior project in film editing, spliced together two hours of fight scenes from pre-1992 Jackie Chan movies in a coherent order, and set it all to an industrial techno soundtrack. It was seriously entertaining, and I would've paid to see it again. Hollywood, are you listening?