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Thursday, September 10th, 2009
1:31 am - Tom Stoppard: The English Language Is His Bitch
"It's a matter of asking the right questions and giving away as little as we can."

"And then we can go?"

"And receive such thanks as fits as king's remembrance."

"Oh, I like the sound of that. What do you think she meant by remembrance?"

"He doesn't forget his friends."

"Would you care to estimate?"

"Some kings tend to be amnesiac, others the opposite, I suppose. Whatever that is."

"How much?"

"Elephantine."

"How much?"

"Retentive. He's a very retentive king. A royal retainer."

"What are you playing at?"

"Words! Words. They're all we have to go on."

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Sunday, July 5th, 2009
1:28 pm
So this weekend, I came to the conclusion that I wanted a DSi. Actually, I came to this conclusion a couple of weeks ago, but could never justify the $200 price tag - that is, until I decided that, it having just been my birthday, I probably could justify it after all. So on Friday, I went into EB Games, drooled over one for a good ten minutes, and then walked out without it (this is how I am with purchases I know I can't afford - I convince myself to buy it, then talk myself out of it at the last minute). I went home. I debated. I decided that, as my brother was coming by shortly, I'd have him give me a ride back there and I'd just buy it already.

Jordan shows up and I mention this to him, and he's dumbfounded. "Kevin JUST won a free DSi and he wants to sell it!" Calls are made, a deal is struck, and now I have a brand-new DSi which I only paid $150 for. So, you know: score.

Thing is, even at that price, I can't afford any games for it. I downloaded a couple of DSiWare games (Picopict and Boxlife) from the Nintendo Store, but that's the extent of it. And the GUI leaves something to be desired. I looked around on ebay for some used games, spent a couple of hours yesterday trying to find some deals online for the games I want, and then stumbled across the Acekard 2i. Which I have now ordered and will probably be the last $50 I spend on my DSi.

See, here's the thing. Sure, the ak2i will allow me to play ROMs on my DSi, but more importantly: the DSi, for all its hardware potential, gives the end user very little control over the console. It doesn't just treat them like children - it was designed for children. I get why Nintendo went that route - they are a family-friendly company, after all - but the DSi is such a cool little gadget, I want to be able to use it for my own purposes. It has two cameras, a decent mike, excellent audio playback, an impressive CPU, a touch-screen, and wireless capabilities. But it also has an irritating, simplistic GUI and considerable codec limitations: out of the box, it only plays .AAC audio files and won't play videos at all.

Once I get my ak2i, which is essentially a flashable cartridge with a MicroSD card slot, I'll be able to use AKAIO and Moonshell. The former is just a souped-up GUI and toolkit, while the latter is an open-source front-end that adds support for .MP3s (and other audio formats), video playback (in .DPG format, similar to Youtube's HD video quality, which on a 3.25" screen will be entirely acceptable), text and .PDF support, and countless other options. I'll be able to use my DSi as an actual portable media player, replacing my old and worn-out MP3 player and giving me the ability to read or watch videos on transit or during my hours of downtime on campus. Not to mention I'll be able to run a dozen emulators, from NES to C64 to Genesis, and even Linux if I want. In short, it transforms my DSi from a novelty into a functional device.

Nintendo hates these things. In the last DSi firmware update, they secretly broke compability with all the flash carts on the market at the time, and they state in their EULA that using one voids the warranty. But the ak2i is a flashable cart as well, and they're pretty on top of their own firmware updates. And for $50 (which includes the cart, a 4GB MicroSD card, and a USB cart-writer), I figure it's a worthwhile investment.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: I genuinely resent being told how to use (and how not to use) a product I have paid for. If I want to get into the guts of an electronic device I've spent $150 on (or $10 on, or whatever), then sure: void my warranty, but don't act like it's a personal affront. I gave you my money (well, kind of, in this case, but it comes down to the same thing), you sold me your product, end of transaction. And yeah, maybe I don't have a leg to stand on with any of this since I DO plan on using the ak2i for ROMs and so it's somewhat hypocritical of me to claim that Nintendo is unjustified in their dislike of flash carts, but I also think there's a bigger picture here: I mean, you don't buy a PC from a company that damns you for deleting Windows and installing Ubuntu, and while piracy is as big a problem on PCs as it is anywhere else, it will ALWAYS find a way. In fact, it thrives on obstacles. Punishing your legitimate customers who just want to customise a piece of hardware to fit their needs is unreasonable and doesn't actually solve the piracy issue in any way.

I paid Nintendo $5 apiece for Boxlife and Picopict. And you know what, I would again: they're great games and are worth exactly $5 each to me. I read about them beforehand and they actually contributed to my decision to get a DSi. If they continue to release DSiWare games of that calibre, and at that price, they'll continue to get my money. The reason why piracy exists is not because pirates are cheapskates, or are malicious - rather, they (generally speaking) recognise that the videogame industry is overcharging and overdemanding for their product. Most people of my generation have had the experience of shelling out $50 for a hyped, heavily marketed game which has ended up being terrible. The industry as a rule buys positive reviews from websites, magazines and blogs, they put millions into advertising, and they are insanely competitive. And we KNOW this. iTunes, for its limitations, has an excellent business model in that they provide a fast, convenient, and cheap source for digitised music to the public at large, and while it hasn't stopped music piracy in its tracks, it has managed to work in an environment where people could just be downloading mp3s for free. Steam has followed this model somewhat and provided downloadable games through their service at a reasonable price, and they've also been successful. Dealing with piracy is not a matter of making your customer base feel like thieves and placing unreasonable restrictions on them - it's a matter of giving them as many options as possible.

Anyway, in summary: I can't wait to get my ak2i. Boxlife is great but I need a new mp3 player.

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Thursday, June 25th, 2009
12:41 pm
Anyone who's ever had a conversation with me about Hollywood blockbuster movies for longer than ten minutes, they know that eventually the topic will turn to my absolute and utter hatred of M. Night Shyamalan and everything he stands for. I can't believe how many Shyamalan apologists there are - I'm sorry, but Unbreakable only LOOKS like a decent movie relative to the dreck he's produced since, and The Sixth Sense is enormously overrated. I genuinely believe the guy is the end result of everything that is wrong with Hollywood, and why he keeps getting funding to make his increasingly offensively-awful films that MAKE NO MONEY is one of the true mysteries of the modern world.

Having said all of that, my foundational notions of Shyamalan have been shaken by this teaser trailer for The Last Airbender. I know it's less than two minutes of actual film content but I am genuinely unsettled nonetheless. Add to that the fact that a) I am not in any way an anime fan and have never seen a single second of the animated series and b) everything I've read about this production suggests that it will be yet another Dragonball or Street Fighter... Yet the clip speaks for itself. I am, despite myself, impressed.

In other news related to films named "Avatar", 24 minutes of James Cameron's sci-fi juggernaut screened at Cinema Expo and essentially destroyed the minds of everyone present with its incredible awesomeness. I've been ambivalent towards this project since I started hearing about it, but I will admit that this early buzz has me kind of stoked.

And in news completely unrelated to anything preceding this paragraph, USA Today has some pretty astounding early artwork and character designs up for Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland.

And this is what I'm doing instead of writing a paper due in three hours.

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Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
4:19 pm
Life, lately, is good. Busy, occasionally hampered by the knowledge of deadlines fast approaching or unanticipated setbacks, but overall, it's been a productive and positive month.

I came out of this winter completely drained and burnt-out: I dropped the ball on what was a seriously terrible semester, my living situation was becoming intolerable, and after spending the previous year in China, I was not dealing well with either the temperature or the lack of a social life like the one I was used to in Wenzhou. As April arrived and it started to warm up - not to mention the end of said semester - the world righted itself and things fell back into place for me. Which is where I'm at now.

The first two weeks of May I spent taking a class in Directing for TV with a guest professor named Bobby Roth. Bobby has directed a handful of Lost episodes (Whatever Happened, Happened and The Man Behind The Curtain) and about a third of Prison Break, amongst other things. The course was crammed into an intensive two-week period of five hours of class a day, but was made tolerable by the fact that most of that time was spent listening to anecdotes about what it's like to work with Wentworth Miller (good, apparently) or Matthew Fox (bad, apparently). It may well have been the best class I've taken at UBC, simply because it was taught by someone who has a great deal of practical experience in the particular field I'd like to get into.

As a Film Theory student, I've spent the last four years watching countless 'important' films and cultivating a singularly unrealistic perception of what a director actually DOES. I mean, with that much praise, analysis and significance directed towards, say, Alfred Hitchcock or Michael Haneke, the unspoken implication is: directors are artistes, maestros of the cinematic medium, set apart from the common man in some vague but undeniable sense. So I could fantasise about doing it all I wanted, about becoming the next Godard or even the next Michael Mann, but the elevation of 'director' in my mind made it about as attainable as a career in being a unicorn.

What I got from Bobby's class was the basic, unswerving and completely raw reality of what a director, or at least a television director, does on a day-to-day basis. And frankly: it sucks. It's a difficult and thankless job, it doesn't pay nearly what you'd expect, and you're required to deal with delusional, incompetent people at every turn. And, since you're getting a script which you had no input into, are working on a show which has an overall 'look', and are regularly asked to do things that are not only unreasonable but actually in fact make no sense whatsoever, your level of creative input is pretty slim. That's not even getting into the 16-hour shoots, the fact that you will be held accountable for EVERYTHING (like, say, the incredibly poor cut turned in by a network-assigned editor which you have virtually no control over whatsoever), the on-set divas, &c., ad nauseum.

My pal Alex came out of the class having concluded that he never, ever wanted to direct anything, EVER. I had a different reaction: for the first time, someone had spent something like 40 hours laying out the exact requirements, responsibilities and expectations of directing for my benefit, and suddenly I had something to work with. I saw where creative control COULD be asserted, learned about which basic pitfalls to avoid, and realised that I have the sort of personality and perspective that would mesh with that kind of career pretty damn well. After four years of theory, all of my idealised beliefs were thrown out the window and replaced by cold, hard INFORMATION in the span of two weeks.

The first thing I did once the class was finished was spend four days writing a screenplay. It wasn't something I'd been wanting to write and was now inspired to follow through on: instead, I sat down with a blank Celt-X template in front of me and decided I was going to just write something. And then I did so. It was insane - four days of 10-hour writing jags culminating in a 104-page script - but it came together, it will work as a film, and I'm happy with it. I've spent the last week in revisions, and I'm up to my third draft right now. I'm going to start workshopping it, then submitting it to screenplay competitions, then see if I can't raise the money to move into the production phase, or - if that turns out to be unrealistic - sell it and move on to a new project.

And that is what I've been doing with my life.

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Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
2:36 pm - And no, this is not an April Fool's Day joke.
Last night I got my hands on the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" workprint floating around the intertubes. If you aren't familiar with the concept of a workprint, it's essentially a screening-quality but unfinished print that is run off and circulated amongst executives in-studio, so that they can get some sense of how the film is going, the best angle for selling it to the movie-going public, and whether or not their money was well-invested or if they have a very expensive bomb on their hands. The print that I saw contains about 10-15% completed effects shots, a placeholder score borrowed from the "Transformers" soundtrack, and presumably was put together prior to Gavin Hood's recent reshoots. The editing needs to be tightened up (in some places significantly) and very little if any voice-over\ADR\sound effects work is in place.

What I found fascinating about watching this workprint in particular is that it provides insight into the production process of a major Hollywood tentpole film, in a way that those sanitised "behind the scenes" DVD extras have never really been able to offer. This is an unfiltered first-generation document, a literal memo from one end of the Fox studio to the other, that was never meant to be seen by the unenlightened movie consumer, and as such it doesn't possess that subtle, self-important industry-worship vibe that endless interviews with the second-unit director and visits to the effects-house invariably radiate. Occasionally, notes will flash on-screen - intended ADR replacements for existing dialogue, the eventual inclusion of small but key CG-enhancements - and, particularly in effects-heavy money shots (and there are a LOT of them in "Wolverine"), wires and screens and roughed-out modelling describe more than show how they will end up looking in the final product.

As for the movie itself, I have to admit: there were a few things I liked about it, a few things that didn't work for me but hopefully (hopefully) will be dealt with in post (mainly with regards to editing), and a few fairly major things that completely baffled me and are unlikely to benefit much from post-production polishing.

Spoilery Review of an Unfinished Film!Collapse )

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Saturday, March 14th, 2009
4:05 pm
I don't know if it's the onset of spring or the product of stress, but I seem to be going through something of a creative renaissance lately. I've been working on a few projects lately, and this week, amongst other things, I completed the first draft of a short story that I'm calling "The Doom That Came To Riverdale". As you can imagine, it's the unholy collusion of Cthulhu Mythos and Archie. I'm quite pleased with it, as it manages (in my mind) to capture the best - and worst - of both worlds: Lovecraft's overwrought prose and liberal use of adjectives, along with the Riverdale gang's simple and archetypal interpersonal dynamics. Although I doubt I'll ever do anything with it, as I'm vaguely concerned that it comes off as fan-fic more than playing with established literary conventions, I'm still satisfied at having finished something that seems not half-bad.

My roommates are inveterate disciples of Archie. We have a dozen comics sitting in our bathroom, and although it's been two decades since I last read one, inevitably I find myself flipping through them. I have gained a pretty informed disdain for them: besides espousing shallow and extremely conservative values, they are offensively contrived and static. There is a sexist, discriminatory quality to them, offset by the occasional lapse into political-correctness. I find them to be one of the most cynical products aimed at children, given their formulaic and self-propagating nature. I don't think I've ever been more entertained by myself as I have been over the last few days, pitting these stagnant stereotypes against an inconceivably destructive force.

Anyway, once I get my site up, I'll probably post the story there. What I find amusing is usually at odds with what the rest of the world finds amusing, but I suspect there may be an audience for this. We'll see.

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Monday, March 9th, 2009
4:37 am - My roommates leave grapes everywhere
See subject.

Also, they don't seem to realise that food goes bad in general, unless refrigerated. And that said food will begin to smell terrible and attract roaches and mice.

Or the concept of things having a proper place. There's a stick of deoderant on top of my microwave in the kitchen, for god's sake. It's been there for a week. I don't know why.

My roommates are terrible roommates.

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Saturday, March 7th, 2009
1:36 am - In the works
This has not been a fantastic month for me so far.

But eh, what can I say... The life of a student (particularly a student of my own brilliant but not exactly disciplined calibre) is never easy. I have six weeks to get through in order to finish this semester (hopefully pulling off a last-minute coup to yank up my grades, as seems to be my modus operandi) and then a couple of summer courses and the degree will be in the bag. And not a moment too soon.

Money sucks right now, so I'm chasing a few leads. Namely, a contract IT position, and a position setting up trade shows on the weekends. Either or both would be more than welcome and are currently less than certain, but as my father told me yesterday at the pinnacle of stress-induced panic, "It will all work out somehow." It always has, so I have faith that it always will.

But on to other things.

A couple of months ago, I registered a second blogspot domain name, categoricalnonsense.blogspot.com. Initially, I started the blog with the intention of doing a podcast - which is still the plan, and in fact I'm actively compiling the first episode - but today it occurred to me that I could do so much more with it than simply that. In short, I'm considering making the transition from Livejournal and the Cabinet (my other blog) to the new blog, posting not only interesting and useless art and pop culture factoids and confessionals but also establishing a central repository for my fiction, music and other artistic ventures.

In fact, the idea occurred to me today that in my short fiction, one overarching theme is that of the alternate perspective: approaching an established narrative or trope from an unexpected place, or with an unexpected voice, and thus recasting a familiar story in an unfamiliar light. And cat.non would be an excellent place to showcase that. I'd love to make this an ongoing feed, of sorts... And then have the podcasts (which really are just mix-tapes in a more widely accessible format), the interesting (to me) news, the editorials, and so on.

The point is, Livejournal reaches a very limited audience, and while I appreciate that audience, there isn't much room for expansion. I'm a fairly self-centered person in that I believe what I have to say is worth reading or hearing, but LJ imposes a certain casualness that I think I've relied on, and been hobbled by, for far too long. It's not that I'm critical of LJ, by any means... just that the online world seems to be funnelling itself down to the soapbox-for-selected-persons format, and I'd like to get beyond that.

It remains to be seen if anything I have to say will validate that.

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Monday, March 2nd, 2009
3:51 pm - ROBERT SMITH SHOUTS ON THE INTERNETS
By now, you may or may not have heard about how crazy Robert Smith of The Cure is. Last week, he unleashed the crazy on the band's official blog (in typical all-caps style), essentially criticising the Radiohead "In Rainbows" business model as being all kinds of wrong because it allowed people to put a price on art, and that Radiohead somehow doesn't value their own artwork because they aren't charging a flat $9.99 per album download or something like that. He followed this up today with an only slightly more comprehensible post, clarifying that it was a mistake to look at Radiohead as being industry revolutionaries, because the "In Rainbows" model was merely a "loss leader" to help "build the brand" of Radiohead. Furthermore, he pointed out that this "model" only works when a band has a massive following, a la Radiohead, and that following is not a reflection of a band's inherent talent or musical quality but the result of having a "patron", be that a major label or the parent company that owns that label, who is willing to spend a huge amount of money on advertising.

While his comments were wrapped in barely-concealed bitterness that Radiohead is successful and The Cure hardly even relevant in this day and age, he makes a few good points. To begin with, a band like Radiohead IS a brand, regardless of what label they may or may not be on, and even regardless of what the band themselves think. And it's a pretty damn successful one, at that. For a band to record an album and then essentially throw it to the wind with no guarantee of how much money it will make, it would have to be either a) confident that it's so brilliant word of mouth will sell it, b) sitting on the laurels of their past successes and earnings, or c) know full well that it won't make much money, if any at all, and have a different motivation for releasing it under a pay-as-you-will model. A new band could get lucky and have A, will almost certainly not have B, and would either have to be absolute idealists or absolute cynics to go with C. So yeah - it's not the best business model for a new band to sell an album.

However. What Robert Smith calls "a loss leader to promote the brand" is, in fact, not necessarily so. Or at least, not simply that. Looked at in a different light, it can be seen as the equivalent of releasing a single to radio stations, selling EPs or samplers on the cheap, or whatever other traditional approaches to marketing a label uses in order to get a band's album sold. It can be a way for a new band to get their music heard and their name recognised in order to build some kind of foundation for future sales.

In the independent music realm, there are a number of ways of getting by and making a living from your art. You can go at it as an artist, claiming that the quality of your music is the only thing that matters, and you'll promote yourself on this basis. You'll believe that once enough people are exposed to your art, a fan-base will be established and grow over time. You can also approach it as a businessperson: your music is your product, and whether it's brilliant or it's crap, there are established marketing techniques you'll draw on to sell the most number of units. But the fact remains, whether you're Sony BMG or Jonathan Coulton, whether you're building a fanbase independently of a label or have released seven albums on a respectable subsidiary imprint, the difference between bombing out and selling 100,000 copies comes down to promotion.

I've heard a lot of numbers bandied around about how much Radiohead did or did not make on the "In Rainbows" downloads. Some reports claim that they did astoundingly well, and others state that hardly anyone bothered to pay and the earnings were so minimal that the business model was more about hype than practicality (For the record, I ponied up my $10 for the album, but I should also admit that the download didn't work for me - it kept timing out - and so possibly for the first time in my life, I downloaded an illegally-distributed torrent after giving money to the band in order to justify it). But whether it was a winner or loser for Radiohead doesn't matter in the slightest. What matters is that, as a well-known and respected band, they experimented with a new form of self-promotion, and as self-promotion, it came together beautifully.

There is, however, another point to be made here, and it's one that I believe Robert Smith is trying to get across in his inarticulate way: as a rule, people ascribe quality to art not based on art's inherent characteristics, but on its monetary value. For example: imagine a 300-page graphic novel that is well-drawn, compellingly-written, but printed cheaply and of poor quality. Imagine that it's being sold by the artist at a table she rented herself at a local comic con for $10 a copy. Now imagine that exact same comic, written and illustrated exactly the same, but printed on high-quality paper with a colour cover and being sold by a recognisable independent publisher (let's say IDW) for $25 at the sorts of comic shops and bookstores that sell that sort of independent work. And now imagine that exact same comic is printed in full colour, on glossy paper, by DC's Vertigo imprint, in nearly every comic book store and most large bookstores in North America. If the only version you were ever exposed to was the one of lowest quality, regardless of how much you liked it, you would subconsciously consider it of lesser artistic value than the one you paid $44.99 for. Or, perhaps more accurately, you would justify the highest quality version as being more artistically valuable because for most people, $45 is more of a sacrifice than $10.

This same psychology is at work with music. The reason why illegal music downloading is so prevalent is because downloaders ascribe a much lower value to MP3s than to CDs or vinyl records. On average, MP3s made available at no cost on the internet are encoded at a bitrate of 192kbps, frequently contain glitches or errors, rarely contain liner notes or covers (and if they do, are usually small compressed scans or raw text write-ups). Few people expect more than this of MP3s, and are far more likely to delete albums after a few listens than they are to sell an old CD they've only listened to a handful of times. A CD, on the other hand, costs $15 on average, and contains not only the highest-quality encode of the audio that a CD is capable of, but also a cover and liner notes that are printed professionally as well. Putting aside musical and artistic worth for a moment, the cost that goes into producing the physical medium and presentation of the unit validates (to some extent) the price the unit is sold for - while the cost of producing a PHYSICAL ARTEFACT of a low-quality MP3 encode is nonexistent, because it's totally unnecessary and counter-intuitive to the mode of distribution, and thus the value in the consumer's mind is significantly lower as well.

It's not unheard of for fans of Radiohead to have both downloaded the "In Rainbows" MP3s, perhaps paying a minimal amount, or none at all), and then purchased a physical copy of the album in stores later on. With that in mind, yes, for all its lofty philosophies, the online marketing model really was a "loss leader", a self-promotional tool to build hype to sell physical records a few months down the road. But that doesn't mean it's a completely worthless model. Strictly for sales, sure, but for self-promotion - for building brand awareness - it's pretty effective.

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Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
11:59 pm
You know that one drawer in your house that's filled with random junk? A stapler, a broken porcelain cat, a deck of cards missing the Eight of Diamonds, the Two of Spades and a spattering of Jacks? Yeah, my entire apartment is that drawer. My roommates - well, Natalie, not Tim so much - horde CRAP and cannot bear to part with it. "I used that stapler on a term paper on Cardinal Richelieu in Freshman year that I got a B+ on! My great-aunt Silvia gave me that cat! I bought that deck of cards on a sunny afternoon nine years ago two weeks after graduating from high school!" And so on, and so forth, ad nauseum. The girl has tests that she took in third grade stacked up in a teetering pile in their bedroom. I don't understand it, but I don't care to understand it anymore... I am just tired of the mountains of junk that never seem to go anywhere, that get shifted around and have a landslide and suddenly the apartment looks like London after the Blitz.

I spent my Saturday cleaning... cleaning up other people's messes. Sadly, this has become de rigeur for me, but despite all the bitterness and annoyed conversations and so forth, the brutal truth has become clear to me: unless I want to live in a sty, I'll be the one to clean up. Nothing I say or do will ever compel them to lift a finger. In fact (and this is hardly consolation, but at least it clarifies things)... my roommates do not know how to clean up after themselves. Their pathetic attempts to do so usually make things worse. The other day I caught Tim scrubbing the kitchen counters with a steel wool pad - I had to literally grab his arm and explain to him, as if I were speaking to a child, that what he was doing would damage the counter, and that WE would be held responsible for replacing them, at our own cost. He shrugged and walked out of the room to play videogames, leaving me to deal with his mess. The mesage was abundantly clear: "I tried to clean up, you didn't like how I was doing it, so it's your problem now."

I don't live with slobs. I live with children. Their heart might be in the right place, but they both grew up with mothers or maids who would take care of them, pick up their strewn-about dishes, tidy up their toys, and they could literally walk out of a room they had just been in and walk back in fifteen minutes later and it would be sparkling-fresh. I honestly believe that some part of their minds believe in the simple magic of this process, that it just HAPPENS, that no one has to actually do it for them.

Anyway... "Being Human". British series, about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost living in a London flat. Awesome show, check it out. It falls somewhere between serial drama and comedy... It's hard to describe.

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Monday, February 9th, 2009
4:23 pm - Today is bloody awesome
NOTE: I'm writing this while watching Dogville, Lars von Trier's extremely boring 3-hour-long opus. I don't anticipate being distracted as it is, like I said, extremely boring, but it may account for some disjointed sentences and general disarray in the post.

ADDENDUM: I don't have time to finish the last hour and a half of Dogville before I have to leave for class, so instead I'm watching Flight of the Conchords, which pleases me immensely. Unfortunately I am now far more likely to be distracted, which is too bad for you.

Today is the first day in a week that I haven't felt the clammy touch of Death hanging over me, poking me in the ribcage and tickling my belly with glee. I went to the doctor on Thursday, really at the height of my misery, and was informed that not only did I have the flu but I had developed moderate bronchitis as well. This dovetailed pretty exactly with my own theories. Anyway, the upshot of all this was that I was practically bedridden the entire weekend, which sucked in a very special way.

However, with the exception of constantly hacking up chunks of what appear to be my lungs all day, I feel pretty damn good today. And maybe it's because I've spent the last four days sleeping, but last night I couldn't sleep for the anything. I did, however, drop off into a weird fugue state for a number of hours where I wasn't precisely conscious but I wasn't quite in deep REM stages.

For reasons unexplained (and presumably, unexplainable, unless I'm exhibiting signs of schizophrenia), it came to my mind that there was a distinct possibility of a jet engine becoming detached from a passenger, probably in a quite explosive and disastrous manner, plummeting down from the heavens, and crashing on my street, doing a significant amount of damage in the process. However - and this is key to the entire incident - the odds were something like seven billion to one that the flaming ball of metal hell and destruction would fall north-south, thereby obliterating eastern 50% of my apartment, against east-west, which would almost certainly result in my own horrible death a la Donnie Darko.

Thus followed hours - HOURS - wherein I contemplated in very vivid detail the circumstances following the disaster, mostly comprised of me negotiating with an insurance investigator working for the airline over a settlement. While most of the other resident standing on the street were satisfied with the paltry $15,000 cheques being doled out by the smug investigator, I heatedly demanded ten times that, as well as the company locating us new living quarters of equal quality, paying our rent for a year, and putting us up in hotels in the interim. If not, I threatened a class-action lawsuit - at which point everyone else who lives in my building flipped out at me, as a class-action would mean they'd lose their short-term pay-off. I angrily tried to explain to them that I wasn't ACTUALLY going to organise a lawsuit, and if they had any common sense whatsoever, they'd comprehend that I was trying to get a better deal for all of us, but unfortunately the investigator overheard this and I lost my one playing card.

Just to clarify, this was not a dream, nor was it a waking fantasy either. It was very, very strange. The closest thing I could compare it to was a lucid dream - I knew it was not actually happening, but at the same time I was completely THERE while all of this was happening around, and to, me. I'm not sure what one would call that.

Anyway, time to leave for class. Three cheers for being able to leave the house!

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Monday, February 2nd, 2009
1:07 pm - The common cold? Haven't they CURED that yet??
Yeah, so I'm sick today. I hate being sick. I would imagine no one particularly likes it, but right now I just don't have time for it. You know, it would be great if they could find some kind of cure for the common cold, but I'd settle for something that kicks it into overdrive and then doses you with a mighty wallop of vitamin C and echinacea - my problem is that as soon as I start to feel a bit sick, my immune system goes into overdrive and I spend a week feeling run-down and blah until the cold actually hits me and I spend another three or four days actually BEING sick. It would be a lot more efficient if I could eliminate that week of build-up and limit my downtime to half a week.

It would also be awesome if someone invented a cure for winter. It's the worst of all seasons. I just want it to be over already.

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Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
4:38 am
It's 4:30 in the morning. I'm sitting on my balcony having one last cigarette for the night, then I should probably go to bed. The pea-soup fog that has persisted throughout the day has lifted as the temperature has dropped below zero degrees celsius and I can see stars in the sky and long-haul trucks going down Broadway a block away. The day is going to start soon for most people. I can feel it in the air.

I woke up at eight today and went to class, where I watched "Breaking The Waves" for the first time (surprisingly). None of my friends showed up for class, so instead of killing six hours between classes with then at the pub, I decided to come home around noon and, as we were watching "Chinatown" in my afternoon class, didn't bother to go. Instead, I've spent eight hours trying to recover data from my roommate's corrupt external hard-drive, which I succeeded in doing, and was rewarded with a bottle of wine and a 500gb drive for my media system which may or may not be a hopeless cause. I'm running a sector scan on it overnight in the hopes that anything irrevocably bad will be picked up before I copy anything to it. Still, 500gb, that's nothing to sneeze at. If I can manage to whip it into shape it'll be a valuable addition.

I can't believe I've been up so long. Class this morning feels like it happened a week ago.

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
1:28 pm - I don't like winter.
Call me crazy, tell me that winter is less than half over and despite my immediate impressions I still have at least two more months of freezing rain and treks through slush before spring arrives, but today does not feel like winter. It's 5 above, and it's supposed to get to 10 above tomorrow. It's overcast, sure, and there are small snowdrifts left over from our record Christmas snowfall, but man... This is why I love living in Vancouver. All you haters can just go jump in a lake.

I have a very difficult time getting up in the morning. I've been taking Nytol lately, an hour before I go to bed (which is usually around midnight), but I'm starting to realise the Nytol doesn't put me to sleep - it just makes me sleep so heavily that I miss my alarm. Luckily this semester I only have to get up twice a week for class, and today was the first morning class I missed, but I'm really determined to go to more classes this semester and I'd like to go to them NOT totally exhausted and sleep-deprived. Last semester I started off well then slacked as time went by; this semester I am consciously going to avoid doing that. So that means that I'll go to my 6pm class tonight, and I'll also spend the day reading and making sure I'm not falling behind on schoolwork. So I should get on that.

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Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
12:29 am
Clearly I was never the audience intended for this sort of thing to begin with, but I am starting to get really, really tired of celebrity gossip - this person's brother embezzled money, this person's kid died, this person is heading for divorce, blah blah blah. WHO CARES? Why should any of this matter? These are people that I don't know and will never know. There's a pretty strong sense of schadenfreude underlying all of this - we're jealous of these people's success, so we get to crow about their misfortune - but I am sick and tired of it. There are actual important things going on in the world, but I have to wade through a junk heap of reporters airing someone else's dirty laundry to even begin to get to it.

Every time I see one of these stories in one of the major media outlets, my first thought is, Jesus, leave these people alone already. Are there really so many people out there who care about nothing else but Celebrity X's latest difficulty - a difficulty, I might add, that many of these people have experienced or will experience themselves? Life is hard for everyone. Get over it. And while I'm at it - get over yourselves, world. If you go looking for dirt, someone will always be there to dig it up for you and present it to you on a golden platter. Aren't there more important things to care about?

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Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
2:39 pm
I have a real problem with self-centred people, especially when I'm living with them. We're all self-centred to some extent or another, but I have tried to make an effort - particularly in regards to the people I have to spend the most time with - to at least try to see things from their point of view, and respect their points of view. But with my roommates, I can't comprehend where they're coming from. The nearest that I can get is that they simply don't CARE if they live in completely abysmal conditions.

I'm not a neat freak by any means, and I have a lot of bad habits of my own that I'm working on, if only for the sake of people around me who have to deal with it. I don't see this being the case with Tim and Natalie. I was talking to Laara, their last roommate, who lives across the street from us now, and she said that they were just as bad when she was living with them. Certainly Tim was like this when I lived with him a few years ago, but I'd hoped that his live-in girlfriend wouldn't be of the same stripe. Sadly, I was mistaken.

Simply put, they're slobs. There's food in the fridge that has been rotting for months... since we moved in, in fact. They never do dishes, take out the garbage or recycling (though they are oddly cautious about separating the two), pick up after themselves, or anything like that, leaving it to me with the full bulk of cleaning the apartment. On top of this, they use my projector and screen, Playstation 2, microwave, and the other things I've brought with me; refuse outright to share any food with me (usually served out of the very pots and pans that I have to scrub afterwards or else they'll sit in the sink and get moldy); ask for my help with everything from computer troubles to setting up shelves or the Christmas tree; and get unreasonably angry with me when I smoke inside (which is about 1% of the time). I have acceded to their demands that I smoke outside, even though it's freezing cold out there, and I understand someone resenting the smell of smoke, but occasionally I'll realise, why am I giving in to their demands - the only complaint they have about me, in fact - when they refuse to lift a finger on my behalf? Forget living in a nice, clean apartment for their own sake, just do it for the sake of the person you have to live with.

Whenever this topic has come up with them, however, they argue it on the grounds that smoking is a far more serious crime than being messy, and therefore they are not obligated to meet any of my requests and that for me to even ask them in exchange for my not smoking around them is a deeply heinous offense. And let me reiterate - I DON'T smoke around them. If, once or twice a week, I wake up and have a cigarette in my room, it's because they're out of the house, my window is open, my fan is going, incense is burning, febreeze is in the air, the cracks in the door are blocked, and I have taken every precaution possible to make sure they don't smell it. And they don't, unless they happen to come home, stick their head through my bedroom door, and sniff the air (which they always make a point of doing).

So they don't clean. And I don't particularly feel inclined to make any more concessions for them at this point. But the fact remains that this place is disgusting after a week of being away, and if I don't take care of it, no one will. So that's what I'm going to be spending my day doing - cleaning up other people's messes.

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Thursday, December 25th, 2008
12:05 am - Santarchy VIII - Snow Miser vs. Heat Miser
So every year since 2000, I've put together a mix CD of Christmas music to hand out to my friends, and this year is different in only one way: I have compiled a TWO-DISC edition of Santarchy, as befits the theme. I've posted it (temporarily) at upload.to, with a proper permanent link coming soon (along with last year's Santarchy entry, OMGWTFXMAS!, and My Snowglobe Technique Is Unstoppable, a sort of "best of" compilation of the previous six years). Click the image below to download the full 190mb .rar file, unpack it, and enjoy some good ol'-fashioned Christmas spirit (spirits, while you're at it).




Side A: Snow Miser
01. Dr. Octoroc - Carol Of The Belmonts (1:37)
02. MC Lars - Gary The Green Nosed Reindeer (3:48)
03. Sufjan Stevens - Get Behind Me, Santa! (3:49)
04. Jonathan Coulton - Chiron Beta Prime (2:48)
05. Leroy - Santa Stole My Baby (2:46)
06. Ingo Star Cruiser - Just Like Christmas (3:56)
07. Raveonettes - Come On Santa (3:41)
08. Save Ferris - Father Christmas (3:33)
09. Mighty Mighty Bosstones - This Time Of Year (2:19)
10. Something Corporate - Forget December (3:11)
11. Tyler Read - New Year (2:48)
12. Gatsby's American Dream - Saint Nicholas (1:59)
13. Rise Against - Making Christmas (3:27)
14. Weezer - Christmas Celebration (2:22)
15. Glam Chops - Baby Jesus Was The First Glam Rocker (4:05)
16. The Joseph And Mary Chain - The Twelve Days Of Christmas (4:11)
17. The Awkward Stage - Mini Skirt Of X-Mas Lights (3:15)
18. Rooney - Merry Xmas Everybody (3:19)
19. Djnono - Scarey Xmas (4:05)
20. Viva Voce - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (2:08)
21. Saul Bass - Snow Miser (1:34)

Side B: Heat Miser
01. Stephen Colbert & Jon Stewart - Can I Interest You In Hannukah
02. Barenaked Ladies - Hanukkah Blessings (3:27)
03. Ataris - Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis (4:25)
04. Rosie Thomas - Christmas Don't Be Late (6:40)
05. The Margarets - Christmas In A Northern Town (4:23)
06. Sufjan Stevens - That Was The Worst Christmas Ever (3:18)
07. Judith Owen - Christmas With The Devil (3:49)
08. Voicedude - It's The Little Things (4:15)
09. Erlend Øye - Last Christmas (3:19)
10. Glasvegas - A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) (4:23)
11. Frightened Rabbit - It's Christmas So We'll Stop (5:08)
12. Wedding Present - Holly Jolly Hollywood (Acoustic Version) (3:48)
13. Harry And The Potters - Christmas At Hogwarts (2:01)
14. Magnetic Fields - Mr. Mistletoe (2:59)
15. They Might Be Giants - Oh Tannenbaum (2:08)
16. Marah - Have Yourself A Merry Little Xmas (2:29)
17. Saul Bass - Heat Miser (1:54)

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Thursday, December 11th, 2008
11:15 pm - Mediaportal, Part III
Success... And man, Mediaportal is so much cooler than MythTV. Sorry, Linux, but I went through six months of hassle and Mediaportal just does everything better.

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2:14 am
The MediaPortal update goes abyssmally, though I have not actually tackled MediaPortal just yet. I wiped the partitions and installed XP, and everything worked great... until I discovered that my remote is Vista-exclusive. Seriously?! So I had no choice but to install Vista. Unfortunately, after eight hours of hammering away in vain, I CANNOT get internet connectivity; rather, Vista insists on assigning it as "unidentified network". This apparently is a problem a lot of people had but I've now tried two ethernet cards and neither of them are working, which makes me think that a) it's some sort of general Vista bug, or b) it's a problem with my router.

Here's the breakdown (for those of you who know anything about Vista or networking in general and can help):

- The router (which by the way has no problem with my Vista laptop) sees the box and assigns it an IP
- Half the time, DHCP pulls the appropriate IP down, and half the time it doesn't
- In neither case am I able to get any kind of connection
- Nor can I ping anything (the router, other computers on the network, etc.)
- The drivers seem to be correct (at least, Vista isn't complaining about them)
- ipconfig /release and /renew make absolutely no difference
- tried uninstalling ipv6, no change

I'm pulling my hair out... This is driving me crazy.

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Monday, December 8th, 2008
7:55 pm - Media Centre Blues.
I am seriously contemplating switching my HTPC box from the Linux-based MythTV system to the Windows-based MediaPortal system.

I've spent something like six months hammering my MythTV box into shape, and new issues crop up every day. The current one - which seems to have no solution - is video-tearing... Movies get these distinct horizontal lines across the middle of the screen, constantly, and I'm getting fed up. The DVD drive worked briefly, then stopped, the system isn't connecting to the internet the way that it should, and there are a gazillion little tics that I can't seem to hammer out. If I knew (or had the time to learn) Linux better, I could probably whip it into shape, but the fact is... I want this to be a high-functioning home theatre system and right now, it isn't.

MediaPortal seems to offer everything MythTV does. And it's on an OS that I know inside and out. In the short term, switching over would be a pretty major project, but in the long term I think it would be worthwhile. I just don't know if I want to accept that the last six months of frustrated effort have been in vain.

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