Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What Did You Do At Work Today, Daddy?

Boy, if you're familiar at all with what happened at Waco and Ruby Ridge, these pictures drawn by children of BATF employees/agents are really disturbing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Random Rules

Just because I think it will be fun, I'm doing a "Random Rules", based on the new occasional feature in The Onion. To quote their explanation: "In "Random Rules," we ask our favorite rockers, writers, comedians, or whatevers to set their MP3 players to "shuffle" and comment on the first few tracks that come up—no cheating or skipping allowed."

So, here's mine:

Kronos Quartet/Terry Riley - "Salome and Half-Wolf Descend Through the Gates to the Underworld"
Nice modern/minimalist string quartet. This is from a long work called Salome Dances For Peace. I first heard part of it that was included on one of the Kronos Quartet's albums ("Half-Wolf Dances Mad in Moonlight", on Winter Was Hard). Frenetic, I think would be the word to describe most of it.

Peter McConnell - "Blue Casket Bop"
This is from the soundtrack for the computer game, Grim Fandango. The game is, I think, the closest anyone has ever come to producing Literature in the video game medium, and the musical score is one of the best I've ever heard in a game. This particular bit is a cool jazz number.

Devo - "Booji Boy and General Boy/We're All Devo"
This is basically just a short "filler" track from their best-of anthology, Pioneers Who Got Scalped. Not much to say about that.

Frank Zappa - "Run Home Cues #3"
Some of the incidental music Zappa wrote for the obscure movie, Run Home Slow, which he included on the album The Lost Episodes. I've never seen the movie. The music is somewhat unusual: For some reason the Run Home Slow music reminds me of Mahler more than most of Zappa's other orchestral music, which usually sounds more like Stockhausen.

Frank Zappa - "Stinkfoot"
Well, my MP3 player is pretty heavily loaded with Zappa right now, it's only natural he'd be repeated. This particular track is from a bootleg concert recording - 23 May 1975, El Paso County Coliseum. As always, the musicianship is phenomenal. Decent guitar solo. This is one of Zappa's better band lineups, although my favorite lineup (at least at the moment) is probably the slightly-earlier Ruth Underwood era.

That's the usual five songs, but as an added bonus, here are the next ten that popped up, without comment (along with the album title they come from), just so you can see what a typical playlist would look like on the hypothetical Coolest Radio Station Ever:

nine inch nails - "All The Love In The World" (With Teeth)
Trey Parker - "The Trapper Song" (Cannibal: The Musical - Soundtrack)
Tom Waits - "Tango Till They're Sore" (Rain Dogs)
The Clash - "Police & Thieves" (The Story of The Clash, Volume 1)
Michael Nyman - "While You Here Do Snoring Lie" (Prospero's Books - Soundtrack)
Frank Zappa - "Intro" (Donna You Wanna)
Beastie Boys - "Alright Hear This" (Ill Communication)
The Chieftains w/ Gillian Welch - "Katie Dear"
Frank Zappa - "Muffin Man" (Kreega Bondola)
Frank Zappa - "Montana" (Cuccurullo Brillo Brullo)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Want some cheese with that whine?

"Insufferable self-importance", indeed.

(Disclaimer: This is not a comment on the relative quality of the actual films. I have not yet seen any of this year's Best Picture nominees.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Movie Review (aka My First Netflix Rental)

Walk The Line - Wow, this was actually really disappointing. Perhaps I just had unrealistically high expectations from all the praise lavished upon this film, but I found it to be just a very average, run-of-the-mill musician biopic. All the formulaic elements are there: The pre-fame struggle, the "quit following your dream and get a real job so you can take care of me & the baby" scene, the "here, try some of these pills" scene, the "please respect me now, Dad" scene, and, of course, his entire life revolves around a single tragic event from his childhood. The performances are good, I suppose, although I never for a moment forgot that I was watching Joaquin Phoenix and not Johnny Cash (or listening to him, for that matter: For all the praise of Phoenix's singing, Cash was still much better). Probably worth seeing if you're a Johnny Cash fan, but I can't really recommend it much otherwise. As someone said, it's Ray with white people, except I would add that Ray was a somewhat better movie.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Weird Picture

In the Onion's review of the movie Ultraviolet, they display this still from the film:

What's weird is that this picture looks almost like a 3D rendering to me, except that I can't think of any good reason why they would CGI a character standing calmly doing nothing. I think it's the shadows - for some reason, the picture looks like a sample render designed to demonstrate ambient occlusion shadowing. For those who don't know what I mean, here's a quickie example I whipped up in Poser 6:

Because of the way ambient occlusion is calculated, it tends to over-emphasize certain small details like the belly-button. I left mine with the flat look Poser 6 gives with the default IBL/AO lighting (it lacks specular highlights), just to emphasize what I'm talking about. If I spent more time on it, matching lighting and so on, I suspect I could come up with something that looks even closer to the other pic. You can see some of the kind of "show-off the ambient occlusion" sample renders I'm talking about at this gallery page on e-frontier's Poser pages.

I don't think the Ultraviolet image is actually CGI, but I wonder if they've deliberately lit the scene in some way to make the live-action shots look as much like CGI as possible, in order to better match the CGI special-effects shots. And if so, I wonder how they did it.

I also think it's impressive that consumer/hobbyist-level software like Poser is now capable of producing output like that. Poser up through version 4 (and even 5 to some extent) was a whole lot less realistic than it is now.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Vote For Pedro

So that's why I was so unimpressed by Napoleon Dynamite: It's clearly just a rip-off of "Homestar Runner". I don't know how I missed that.

I'm not sure who it was that said it, but my favorite description of Napoleon Dynamite was that it is "an 'Independent Film' for people who don't really like independent films". Personally, though, I would be even more specific: It's Welcome to the Dollhouse for people who don't have the balls to really like Welcome to the Dollhouse.