30 September 2008

State & Main

"Blogging continues to splinter into many different categories, providing an incredibly rich ecosystem of self expression tools and compelling content for readers. The prototypical personal blog, where a single writer simply writes their daily thoughts on their life and/or topics that interest them, will always be hugely popular. But multi-author blogs will continue to thrive as well. And a huge percentage of blogs focus on single topics of interest, from tech news to wine to knitting. Whatever it is you are interested in, it's likely to have a community of people who share that interest.

But perhaps the most interesting development is the steady evolution in the definition of a blog itself. Today photo and video blogs are already common. Microblogging platforms like Twitter and Friendfeed are the fast food equivalent of the blogging world, and continue to gain popularity because they let people update multiple times per day with 140 characters or less on what they are doing, how they're feeling, etc. Not only is microblogging a terrific method of self expression, the value of the raw data that's created is enormously important. The Twitter messages I read during the two presidential conventions gave me a good idea on how people reacted to the various speeches. It's not statistically relevant, but pollsters will be watching that data more and more closely over time.

Whatever happens next with blogging, it's here to stay. And I can't wait to see what comes next."
-State of the Blogosphere 2008-

23 September 2008

The Sky is Falling?

"The demise of publishing has been predicted since the days of Gutenberg. But for most of the past century -- through wars and depressions -- the business of books has jogged along at a steady pace. It's one of the main (some would say only) advantages of working in a 'mature' industry: no unsustainable highs, no devastating lows. A stoic calm, peppered with a bit of gallows humor, prevailed in the industry.

Survey New York's oldest culture industry this season, however, and you won't find many stoics. What you will find are prophets of doom, Cassandras in blazers and black dresses arguing at elegant lunches over What Is to Be Done. Even best-selling publishers and agents fresh from seven-figure deals worry about what's coming next. Two, five years from now -- who knows? Life moves fast in the waning era of print; publishing doesn't."
-The End-

18 September 2008

Burn After Reading (2008)

The Coen brothers are responsible for some highly acclaimed movies over the years. They've won multiple Oscars, they've made cult classics and mainstream classics, they've pretty much done whatever they've wanted. While I admire their career and their penchant for creating wacky characters and movies, I've decided I don't like them. The only movie of theirs that I'd say I truly enjoyed watching the whole way through was Fargo. Everything else just kind of left me feeling lost or disappointed.

Burn After Reading made me feel even worse. It was the second part of a movie hop and now I wish I could have seen Righteous Kill, Traitor, Babylon AD, Disaster Movie, basically anything else. I mean, sure, it's fun to see Brad Pitt play another off-beat character and Frances McDormand is always a delight, but the whole plot of the movie was just senseless and ridiculous. The ending just about killed me too. It was one of those classic "No way it's ending here, is it?" "It is!?" Skip this movie, seriously.

The Women (2008)

There's not one man to be found in the entire film. That's the first thing that stands out. I mean, when they titled this thing "The Women," they really meant it literally. Of course, there might have been a guy or two in the background but seriously, I can't recall one male anywhere. Apparently the original version of the movie did the same thing. I'm not sure what kind of statement that makes but it surely didn't add anything to the watching experience. The Women was just average all around.

Not that I couldn't relate to the issues presented (children, plastic surgery, sex, career versus family, betrayal) but the way everything was done was very sugary and lacking in energy, insight, or enduring humor. A few days after watching it I can't remember any standout scenes, any good lines, or any of the characters. The only fun thing I heard about the movie (from cruising reviews afterward) was to imagine that Meg Ryan was playing Sally twenty years later, in "When Harry Cheated on Sally..."

17 September 2008

Where in the World Is...

We're all (Internet) stalkers, admit it. Why else would Facebook suck up so much of everyone's time? Well, let's kick it all up a notch and start tracking our friends' movements. I've been trying out this new iPhone app, Loopt, which basically allows you to update your physical location and when your friends do the same, you'll be able to see where everyone is on the map. You can add a little text update, a picture, or just simply ping/pong your friends to request an update.

Loopt is a "Location Based Service (LBS)" that basically combines social networking, microblogging, and GPS capability. Whrrl is another competitor but I just found out about it today and don't have the heart to ditch Loopt yet. Plus, the few friends I have on Loopt are already addicted to it and one doesn't seem all that much better than the other. Actually, there's rumors that Facebook will be adding their own similarly styled service and that might just kill Loopt, Whrrrl, or anything else. For now though, I'm on Loopt, which only works for iPhones and Blackberrys currently.

So if you get an invite to Loopt from me, don't assume it's spam. I just want to know where you're at twenty four seven.

Now, why in the world would you want to reveal your location to anyone, even your friends? Well, for one, what are you hiding? Afraid of someone noticing that you're not really at home when you said you were? Well, Loopt doesn't automatically geo-locate you; you have to turn it on and make an entry for it to display your current location. I could care less if people knew where I was but I can see how some folks might be sensitive to that.

The positives of having social mapping far outweigh the negatives I think. Imagine walking around and being able to see where your friends are on a Friday night. No need to call and ask "Where are you?" Just Loopt them and go meet up. Or run into a friend on purpose. No more "I can't believe you were next door, I was just around the corner!" Of course, you could also use Loopt to avoid people. "Oh man, he's there? I'm so not going."

Some people will always be uncomfortable with the idea of having omniscient (and not necessarily benevolent) eyes watching them so they'll never join but soon you won't have a choice. Everyone will be geo-tagged within the next ten years right? Why not just do it voluntarily!

I wish I lived in an urban city where I could see friends updating from all over the place. Actually, maybe I just wish I had friends.

The few problems I've had with Loopt so far is that it's not truly location based. I'd like an option where it literally broadcasts your location at all times. Plus, it'll be cool if you could see past locations drawn out like a line, just for kicks. You could see your friend's path while walking around downtown for example. Also, for now, Loopt is updating and sending information via text messages, which could get annoying and expensive very quickly. The reason Ameer had previously refused to use Loopt was because the young founder wore two polo shirts during his presentation. The Internet flamed him for being an uber-douche. Which is probably true but hey, I won't let a few too many collars get in the way of using a fun application.

Loopt me!

16 September 2008

Tweet Tweet

"For many people -- particularly anyone over the age of 30 -- the idea of describing your blow-by-blow activities in such detail is absurd. Why would you subject your friends to your daily minutiae? And conversely, how much of their trivia can you absorb? The growth of ambient intimacy can seem like modern narcissism taken to a new, supermetabolic extreme -- the ultimate expression of a generation of celebrity-addled youths who believe their every utterance is fascinating and ought to be shared with the world.


This is the paradox of ambient awareness. Each little update -- each individual bit of social information -- is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends' and family members' lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like 'a type of E.S.P.,' as Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life."
-Brave New World of Digital Intimacy-

15 September 2008

Frozen River (2008)

A small movie set in upstate New York with a no-name cast and a slow moving plot. Sounds like a winner right? Well, that's what all the critics led me to believe. Frozen River won a Grand Jury Prize winner from Sundance this year and started life there two years ago as a short film.

While I like movies about nothing, or movies that can take a while to build, I was mostly confused about the point of Frozen River. Sure, the acting was good, the cinematography excellent (everything was shot on DV), and there's sort of a point but overall it seemed like I had just wasted two hours of my life. And that's all I really have to say about that.

13 September 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 9

  • Fortress of Solitude - Jonathan Lethem
  • The Big Three - Peter May
  • King's Gambit - Paul Hoffman
I've been traveling all month and had ambitious plans to finish a few books. I figured I would have some down time waiting for trains or planes, or have moments when I had nothing do to. Instead I was always out and about and with people, dramatically cutting down on my time to read anything. Mainly I whipped through half of Fortress of Solitude during the plane ride to New York and a train to Washington DC. I took the opportunity to buy a whole bunch of stuff from Amazon and it all arrived during my one day stopover at home, in San Diego. In my excitement to receive my Boston Celtics 1985-1986 DVD, I finished The Big Three while neglecting everything else I was supposed to do.

I remember whipping through tons of books when I lived in New York (Jersey City) because I'd be able to read all the time while waiting for subways. I loved it. I could remain in my little zone and read, read, read, without the fear of falling asleep, which is always a possibility when reading at home. Commuter reading is totally the best.

While in New York, I had a chance to visit my publisher's office and they took me to the "book room." Imagine a super large closet filled with piles of books everywhere. I couldn't have been more excited and they further enhanced my childish glee by literally handing me tons of books to take with me. I couldn't get enough and was only restricted by how much I might be able to carry. It was a dream come true! And then my editor was kind enough to say "Oh if there's anything around you see published by us, tell me and we'll send you a copy."

Um, seriously?

The last book I managed to start this month was Hoffman's chess book. The first half of it is one of the better chess books I've read. Hoffman writes about chess in this really exciting way and illuminates many of the players and characters in chess. While "Searching for Bobby Fischer" is hard to beat for an emotional chess story, I have to say that Hoffman's book is quickly climbing my list of must-reads for chess enthusiasts. Next up, I want to read "Chess Bitch" by Jennifer Shahade, which I can't believe I've never picked up yet, even though I see it all the time.

Fred Waitzkin, the author of Searching for Bobby Fischer, has another chess book about Garry Kasparov called Mortal Games, which is sadly out of print but totally worth tracking down. I love chess books that tell a story of chess, whether it be personal or historical. If only I had the ability to actually play chess to the level where strategy books could become decipherable.  Sadly, I'm not even a patzer. But I'm starting to think I should turn my attentions to becoming a better chess player since my physical pursuits are clearly slipping.

09 September 2008

Dirty Birds

My NFL team had a great 2008 debut on my birthday. While I have no misconceptions about how good the Atlanta Falcons will be this year (they're clearly rebuilding), it's exciting how they broke out of the gate. They gave running back Michael Turner a huge free agent contract this summer and he responded by running for a franchise record 220 yards, leading the way for the Falcons to grind out a ridiculous 318 yards rushing. "Grind" isn't really the appropriate word there because the Detroit Lions clearly didn't offer much defense.

Turner is nicknamed "The Burner" for his ability to break long runs, which is crazy considering he's a huge guy. Listed at five feet ten inches and two hundred and forty pounds, he's super thick and looks like a barrel plunging around on the field. He should remind Atlanta fans of Jamal Anderson, another huge but light on his feet running back, who led the Falcons to the Super Bowl ten years ago.

They got annihilated by the Broncos that day but I'd been a longtime fan of the Falcons and it was exciting nonetheless. I remember gathering a bunch of friends at my college apartment that year and preparing with a big bucket of KFC in anticipation of a championship. Whoops. Bad call as John Elway got his second title and rode off into the sunset. Since then, the Falcons' fortunes have risen and fallen with Michael Vick and we know how that story turned out.

To add insult to injury, their new head coach quit mid-season last year. Super bitch move and a sign that things really needed to change. This past off-season, they signed Michael Turner, drafted a promising rookie quarterback, and focused on rebuilding at almost every position. Knowing all this, I'd resigned myself to a lost season -- even deciding to support my hometown Chargers this year, even though I think they are big chokers -- but now things down south might be worth watching.

So why the Falcons? I've never lived in Atlanta, never had any reason to associate myself with them, and they certainly weren't a bandwagon type team. I mean, they're a franchise with only a handful of winning seasons and not much history.

Well, the early Nineties Falcons had attitude and charisma. First there was Deion "Prime Time" Sanders, who captured my imagination early on with his flamboyant personality and dual sport success. Then it was Andre "Bad Moon" Rison, who was Sander's offensive counterpart and an amazingly productive receiver in his prime. Jerry Glanville, their head coach, was kind of an out there bad ass and the Falcons boasted MC Hammer as a celebrity fan who could often be found on the sidelines. The Falcons version of the run-and-shoot offense, dubbed the "Red Gun," provided fireworks aplenty, making them consistently exciting at a time when I was just learning about the game of football.

What sealed my love for the Falcons was Madden '92. That version of the game had Andre Rison and Michael Haynes as the wide receivers, both of whom were pretty much uncoverable. This was back it the day when you could actually control a WR and catch the damn ball yourself. A post pattern with Rison on the left and Haynes running a streak on the right was pretty much a guaranteed touchdown. Add in Deion (substituted in of course) and his blazing speed as a third receiver and it was game over. Plus, Sanders was consistently able to provide defensive stops and return kicks for touchdowns. I'm the type to commit to a team for life, even if they suck, and Madden clinched it, I was a Falcons fan.

As you can tell, I'm ecstatic that football is back on and I'm more than ready to defend my fantasy football championship. Some people react super surprised when they find out how big of a sports fan I am, probably because most of my talk is about geeky things or how much I like the color pink, but I've got a serious jones for football and basketball. Typically people look at me and go "Seriously? You don't look like you'd like sports at all..."

Okay, so what are you really trying to say?! I'll rock your world at the orange "Sports and Leisure" section, seriously.

04 September 2008

Mongol (2007)

I've been hearing a little bit of hype for this movie and was expecting a pretty great time. Instead I left feeling like I'd been taken for a ride. There were plenty of good things, such as the cinematography, the acting, and the basic story line, but there were an equal number of ridiculous things. First off, where was the motivation? In films like Gladiator or Braveheart, we see the hero acquire skills, get motivated, and then kick some ass. In Mongol, a young Genghis Khan basically runs around, turns on his friends, and then somehow defeats his enemies with weather.

Don't be upset if I'm ruining the story for you. The Wikipedia entry for Genghis Khan was more interesting than the movie. Plus, it's never a good sign when you see horseshoes flashing during the opening scene when the Mongols reputedly didn't use horseshoes. So much for attention to detail.

The movie isn't historically accurate of course, and I didn't expect it to be, but even as a myth making piece, it was overly long and just confounding in how little of it makes sense. Having said that, I'd definitely watch the second one (of a proposed trilogy) because the set up here allows Genghis to kick ass and take no prisoners in the next film. Strangely enough, this was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. Don't believe the hype.

The best thing I read post watching the film was one critic's hope that the second volume would be called "Mongol II: The Wrath of Khan." Genius!

01 September 2008

Fathoms Below

I'm not gonna lie, I just went to the Little Mermaid Sing-a-long at the Castro Theatre. It's going to easily be a front runner on the top ten things everyone should do before they die list. Out of all the Disney musicals, this is the perfect one for a sing-a-long. Who doesn't know Part of Your World, Under the Sea, and Kiss the Girl? Even the (arguably) B-sides are well known, such as Poor Unfortunate Souls, Les Poissons, and the opening number, Daughters of Triton.

I expected at best a large movie theater filled with a few adults, lots of kids, and some rowdy yet controlled singing. Instead what we got was a giant stage more suited to a musical, at least a thousand die-hard adults, and non-stop singing at the top of your lungs for an hour and a half. Tragically, we arrived a tad bit late and didn't get the gift bag with the princess crown, glow sticks, clappers, and a dinglehopper so our participation was a bit stunted. We considered stealing a bag from some little kids but there were none to be found.

Even without the free paraphernalia we had the time of our lives. Right off the bat, as the boat and the fireworks started, the crowd went bonkers. They didn't stop until the end credits and even though there were a few slow moments, it was pretty much hit after hit.

The best way to describe the experience is to say that it was like going to a concert. But the fact that this was the Little Mermaid meant the experience felt ultra rare and special. When was the last time you watched the Little Mermaid on the big screen -- if ever?

I had the fortunate experience of sitting next to Man of the Universe (a friend's nickname) during the show and that boy knows his Little Mermaid. Like every line. Everyone knows the lyrics, you can anticipate a few lines here and there, but MOU nailed everything. He was like the Professor X of the movie. It was an amazing performance, simply awe inspiring.

And to keep it real, I question the masculinity of any male who would dismiss a Little Mermaid sing-a-long as "too girly." Are you so insecure about your manhood that you can't enjoy one of the potentially greatest entertainment moments of your life? C'mon, it's the Little Mermaid!

Next up: Sound of Music sing-a-long. "Brown paper packages tied up with string."