Monday, May 30, 2005

Testing Blogger Mobile Take 2

Testing with some Dear Leader

I'm testing Blogger Mobile

I'm testing Blogger Mobile. The first post seemed to go through, but when I edited the post, it seemed to eat it. So there's a good chance that that post will be gone when I publish this one.

Anyway, the plan is to maybe throw some stuff up on my mini-vaca to my friend's wedding in Tahoe. It'll certainly help pass the time in the airport.

Update: Sure enough, editing the mobile post ate the post. I'm going to try again.

Update 2: The second edit seemed to work fine, Not sure what happened the first time.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Review

Meh.

That's my review. I liked the movie. Episode III was certainly better than the previous 2, and certainly not as good as the original trilogy. The biggest frustration is that there was a movie in there that could have been up up there with the original trilogy, but I don't think Lucas has the chops to make the movie anymore. He's too in love with his visuals, too in love with what's possible to concentrate on what's necessary to serve the story. That probably sounds harsher than I mean it to, but whatever.

If you haven't seen the movie or don't want to find out stuff about it, don't read on. If you don't care, keep reading.











Ok, still with me? Good.

My big issues with the movie are pacing and tone. The movie starts out with a huge, exciting, visually amazing battle leading to a Jedi battle with Count Dooku that is short and brutal. The whole tone set by this first 20 minutes or so made me extremely excited to see what was bound to be a brutal, cold, and exciting story.

Then we spend like 40 minutes with Obi-wan trying to hunt down General Grevious. It's a ridiculous waste of time, something that could have been accomplished in half the time and been far more effective and interesting. But it feels like Lucas wanted to be able to show all sorts of creatures and whatnot, so it gets dragged out.

It also gets dragged out because it's intercut with Anakin turning to the Dark Side. Those scenes between Anakin and Palpatine are good and compelling and make it a bit more understandable how Anakin became Vader. It all leads up to the awesome awesome awesome "Order 66" scene where all of the clones turn on the Jedi and systematically wipe them out. Probably the second best sequence in the entire movie.

The only problem is now you're like 90 minutes in and it's been mostly filler to this point. The movie's lost so much momentum that these really powerful scenes could have been even more powerful if the movie was tighter.

This all leads up to the Anakin/Obi-wan duel and the Yoda/Palpatine duel. Both are great, though the Anakin/Obi-wan battle stretches the limits of plausibility, even in the Star Wars universe. I'm more in favor of the short, brutal battles. Battles where everything feels like it legitimately hurts the characters -- like the Vader/Luke duels from the Empire or Jedi. The battles in ROTS throw the characters all around, but then they get back up and keep going without a limp. This is a place where the CGI effects get in the way, as it's too easy for Lucas to just have them animated getting thrown around, and then popping back up.

Obviously, all of this leads to Anakin being defeated and becoming the half-man, half-machine Vader. The birth of Vader stuff is the most powerful stuff in the movie, and it is nicely intercut with Padme giving birth to Luke and Leia. It all leads to the greatest scene in the movie, the Vader mask coming down and hearing those first distinctive Vader breaths.

Fade to credits.


Or not.


What the fuck?!! Why would you not end the movie there? Why stick another 8 scenes or whatever after that, including a "Vader as Frankenstein's monster" scene that is supposed to be heart-breaking, but is instead comical? Why stick a heartwarming end on what might otherwise have been the darkest of the movies in the Star Wars universe?

I hope someone on the internet releases a cut with some of the last 20 minutes cut out and shuffled around, all ending with that Vader breath scene. Then they should send it to Lucas and he'll see how badly he blew the ending to his own movie.

Anyway, as bad as I've made it sound, it's not that bad. It's really pretty good, but certainly not up to the standards of even Return of the Jedi.

Oh, and don't bother even trying to figure out the timeline issues. They make no sense. I'm just pretending that people age very very very differently in this galaxy. And that it takes 30 years to build a Death Star.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith --- Tonight!

I'm heading out with a couple of friends to see the new Star Wars movie tonight. I do love me some Star Wars, but after the mediocrity of the last two movies, I'm taking all of the positive reviews with a grain of salt.

The last time I saw a movie on opening night was back in 2003 when The Matrix Reloaded opened. That movie sucked donkey balls. Come to think of it, the third Matrix sucked too. I'll have to write about my whole thing on The Matrix someday, but the short version is the Wachowskis seriously need a good editor.

I'm hoping that SW: ROTS isn't a huge letdown. I'm going in with pretty moderate expectations. I will not be arriving in costume. I'm a dork, but even I'm not that big of a dork.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Saturday Night Live Review, 5/14/05

SNL without Will Ferrell = ass.

SNL with Will Ferrell = funny. Very funny.

Last night's episode might have been one of the only solid ones in this wretched season. And to get there, they had to pull out a ton of Will Ferrell stuff: Celebrity Jeopardy (awesome!), random Will Ferrell character who gets irrationally mad (also funny!), Robert Goulet (the Gouletest!), and even the Cowbell guy (joining Queens of the Stone Age on "Little Sister!").

Still, even with all the Ferrell-y goodness, the second half of the show fell flat. Weekend Update kinda sucked. The stupid Nuni sketch once again brought the show to a grinding halt.

Basically, it felt like any sketch that Will Ferrell had a hand in writing was good or better. Stuff that he was inserted in or was written by the normal writing staff was of the same putrid level as the last season and a half. For the most part, I really do think the current cast is ok. It's just the writing that has been poor and I don't know how they can rectify that without bringing in some new blood.

Anyway, Will Ferrell was funny. I expect next week's show hosted by notable coke whore Linsay Lohan to be a trainwreck.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

iPod Shuffle and Podcasts

In my last post I mentioned my new Shuffle and trying to figure out a way to easily use it with podcasts.

Well, a bit of messing around this afternoon and I've got it solved.

First, set up a playlist with all of the music you want on your Shuffle. Leave enough room so that the Shuffle can also hold whatever podcasts you want to shove on there. Then, set up a smart playlist in iTunes that has two criteria: it includes the songs on your music playlist and includes any song that has the genre "!Podcast" -- the ! is important.

Next, use Doppler, though I assume it'd work with iPodder as well. You tell Doppler to tag each incoming podcast with a genre tag -- the aforementioned "!Podcast", and to stick each podcast into your iTunes library.

Finally, on the Shuffle itself (through iTunes) set the playlist to be sorted by genre. Since you've tagged all podcasts with the !Podcast genre, they'll sort to the top.

Now, go to sleep, let Doppler work its mojo, and in the morning just stick in your Shuffle and sync it, or hit Autofill. It'll transfer your podcasts over and they should be at the top of the playlist. Turn the Shuffle on to sequential mode, hit Play/Pause 3x to jump to the start of the playlist, and you'll have your podcasts all queued up for your listening enjoyment.

If you want to go one step further, you can tell Doppler (and iPodder, as well) that you want to convert the podcasts to the AAC/M4B format. This format allows you to stop a podcast mid-listen and skip to another podcast or song, then come back and pick up where you left off. Again, all pretty simple since you've got the podcasts at the beginning of the playlist. 3 button clicks and you're there.

My iPod Shuffle Review

I like to run, generally somewhere between 3 and 5 miles. I used to bring my old 2nd generation 10 GB iPod with me, but I'd have to carry it. Over 5 miles that gets very annoying—I'd end up switching hands after every song. Plus, I'm only going to run for like 45 minutes, so I really don't need 200 albums with me.

So I started looking for small, flash based mp3 players to suit my needs. I wanted at least 512 MB. I wanted an easy to use USB device that I could also use as a jump drive. Ideally, I'd get something that wouldn't require me to remove the DRM off of the songs I'd bought from iTunes.

Looking at lots of devices, I started to figure out what I didn't want, as well. I didn't want a device that required batteries. It needed to be rechargeable. My old Rio had that before I toasted the audio out jack, and that device is like 5 years old. I didn't need flashing lights or a huge LCD display, just something simple.

A few trips to Best Buy and Target and a few visits to some websites for research and I had pretty much settled on the iPod Shuffle. The Shuffle is flash-based, has half a gig of memory, powers itself off of the USB port, and is tiny. The only disadvantage is that there's no display.

After using it for about a week now, I'm more than satisfied. I'm going to be able to throw a ton of music on there, while still having enough room to transfer some files back and forth to work (for instance, my RSS Bandit data files so I can sync my RSS feeds between home and work). It obviously is able to play my existing iTunes Music Store files.

And I've found the lack of a display isn't a big deal to me.

When I'm running, I could care less what song is playing. If I hit one that doesn't suit my mood, I just skip to the next track. All I need is access to volume and the track skip button. The Shuffle suits my needs perfectly. I've also been using it to throw some podcasts on there, if I'm going for a slower paced jog or maybe a long walk to the store or something. In those cases, I just move the podcasts to the top of the playlist in iTunes and then set the device to sequential play (rather than the normal shuffle/random play). Click the Play button three times and I'm zipped right to the start of the playlist to listen to my podcasts. Pretty simple.

If I can figure out how to make my podcast client (Doppler) automatically shove the things onto the Shuffle at the top of the playlist, I'll be in heaven.

There's another great feature of the Shuffle that I found accidentally—the Shuffle automatically pauses when the headphones get pulled out. Coming back from a long run, I was taking the Shuffle off of my arm. To do so, I needed to pull the headphones since I run them up my sleeve to keep them out of my way. I used to do this with my normal iPod. I'd just yank it, shove the headphones back in, and miss the 10 seconds of the song. The Shuffle automatically pauses, which is a fantastic thing for someone who is a complete klutz and often knocks the headphones out by accident.

For $100, the 512 MB Shuffle is a great flash based mp3 player, whether you're looking for something to run with, or just a cheap, solid mp3 player.