Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: March 2010

Kicking Ass and Calling Names

Although this is only his third film, it still surprises me that Matthew Vaughn’s name is not better known, given that his previous two offerings were the superb Layer Cake and Stardust. Each revitalised a genre, but his intent to throw his hat into the comicbook superhero ring with a largely unknown title still made me slightly apprehensive.

The real problem will be how to promote Kick-Ass, which straddles the line between parody and homage, in equal parts hilarious and violent. The initial trailers were interesting but hardly gripping, nor did they seem to match the incredible hype from last year’s ComicCon. You must ensure you see the restricted red band Hit-Girl trailer to fully appreciate the craziness that awaits. And then you must see the film.

My full Kick-Ass review is up, following a review screening I attended on Monday. The short description is that it’s quite simply the most fun I’ve had a cinema since Inglourious Basterds last year. Faaez accompanied me and, aided by a raging post-stag hangover, appeared to have any remaining synapses blown away by the end, confirming it definitely wasn’t what he expected from the advertising he had seen. I was asked to give a two-word review afterwards and whatever I said was almost certainly wrong. The correct answer is demented brilliance.

Fans may also wish to know that Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury Avenue has a stack of the graphic novel, signed by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. Through a strange misunderstanding of retail theory, they are “cashing in” by reducing the price by a couple of pounds. Such inexplicable practices deserve to be rewarded.

Last week I also got round to seeing Crazy Heart, and have a review up for that too. Suffice to say Jeff Bridge’s Oscar win was more than deserved. You’ll notice some minor format changes in these two reviews and I’m hoping this will be the start of a steady stream for this year. I’d really like to get back into writing full reviews as well as the general film discussion in posts here, though obviously they take a significantly longer time investment.

Software and Hard Shocks

Some page changes over here in the Fragments section. You’ll find a new Software page in the sidebar, while the now defunct Visitor Map has been retired. Rather than top 10 lists or a huge list of “recommended” software, this page simply highlights the software I currently use. There’s not much higher recommendation I can give than that. Broadly it means there’s just one recommendation in any category. I’ll endeavour to expand / keep it up-to-date as my tastes change with new releases.

A controversial French documentary featured a fake game show in which unknowing “contestants” were asked to electrocute another “contestant” when he answered questions incorrectly (an actor in another room with a camera). When asked to apply higher and higher voltages, they because uncomfortable but, egged on by the audience and host, despite the actor’s screams and protests, 80% continued to the very end. The goal was apparently to show how ordinary people can be coerced into participating in torture, although some have suggested the participants may be seriously affected by their own induced actions.

In analysing the results of this experiment one psychologist suggested that we are trained from a young age that we must follow instructions which predisposes us to follow orders without questioning even when older. Children should instead by told why they ought to do what they are being asked. I have always promoted this approach with children, although there are exceptions (essentially when not immediately following an instruction could result in harm). Not only does explaining the reason for an instruction increase the likelihood of willing compliance, but if you cannot explain it without falling back on an axiomatic rule, it’s just possible that you might be the one being unreasonable.

Various links:

  • comparing URL shortening services
  • Popular Science magazine has put up a searchable archive of its entire 137-year back-catalogue
  • In Lessons of a $618,616 Death, a widow examines the cost of keeping a single man alive in his final years
  • The Evolutionary Reason for Depression examines the increased mental acuity and problem solving skills that such a state can produce; I have read similar studies suggesting many people voluntarily trigger such a state when useful to deal with an issue, which does sound familiar
  • I’ve already written to mine, but now asking your MP to stop the Digital Economy Bill being rushed through without debate is easy thanks to the Open Rights Group and 38 Degrees — the problems with this flawed legislation (being lobbied for primarily by the BPI and FAST) are too many to summarise here but do read into how it may affect free use of the internet, particularly as regards website notifications and disconnections

Dropping the Box

I’ve had a Dropbox for a while but haven’t written about it because I couldn’t work out what to do with it. There are a bunch of services that offer cloud storage (SkyDrive offers a generous 25GB for free) accessible from anywhere and dwarfing Dropbox’s meagre 2GB (unless you pay $10/month) but Dropbox’s key advantages are ease and automatic synchronisation across multiple machines. Essentially on installation you identify a folder on your computer and then anything you drop or edit in there gets synchronised first to the cloud and then to any other computers on which you’ve got it installed. Syncing data between my desktop and laptop just got a lot easier.

Another neat trick is to move your Firefox profile into your Dropbox. This way all your browser settings — including all your extensions — are kept in sync on every machine. You could even keep a whole suite of synced Portable Apps. A big one for me was putting all of the design files for this website in there, so if I update from my laptop while on the move, I don’t need to worry about remembering to copy the changes over to my desktop. The other nice feature, even for those with just one PC, is that any file you want to share is available via a standard URL which you can give to anyone, with or without a Dropbox account. They don’t need to sign in or download zip archives, just click to view or listen. Give it a go (that link will also give you an extra 250MB storage) and I’d love to hear interesting uses anyone else comes up with.

And in unrelated news our dear poet laureate has composed a poem titled “Achilles” based on David Beckham’s ankle injury. While it’s true that I am swiftly won over by the classical and the mythic, I do think it’s kind of not awful. Rather neat, even.

The Price of an Extra D

One of my favourite reviewers has written an interesting article comparing the recent trend of shoehorning 3D into films with the artificial colorisation of old black & white films. I wonder what proportion of audiences know that Alice in Wonderland was not shot in 3D and Burton’s involvement was negligible, or that a 3D version of Clash of the Titans wasn’t even conceived until Avatar’s runaway box-office success. My discussion of both Avatar and Coraline has made it clear that I like 3D, but I enjoy it as a creative tool that increases immersion. The driving force should not be the cinema surcharge (notice how they retain the glasses so they can charge you again and again, irrespective of how many you 3D films you see) and increased revenue for distributors. One has to question supporting greed rather than creativity, not least with the freely available 3D YouTube content I mentioned recently.

Alice is about to hit cinemas and, having seen the tacked-on effects in the 3D trailer, I will certainly be watching this one in 2D. In a stand that makes it clear we won’t pay more for an arbitrary extra dimension, I wonder if you will do the same?

Links from the last month:

  • offers an easy-to-create, elegantly attractive page to tie together your online presence, incorporating sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter along with blogs and RSS feeds. I’ve used it for a subdomain, at least until I get round to coding something myself. Naturally consider carefully whether you want to make your facebook status/photos easily available to potential employers, etc.
  • Inbox2 has released a desktop application alongside its beta web version, allowing anyone to try out its approach to merging all your email and social networking into a single inbox. I’m trying it out at the moment and while I don’t think it will replace the fuller feature-set enjoyed by each of the sites it incorporates, it’s not a bad way to check your digital life at a glance first thing in the morning. It also appreciates the distraction caused by social networking sites, so allows you to stop displaying some sources while working.
  • Cooking in the dishwasher (Anna and I got harassed by a guest for using our dishwasher primarily as a drying rack after handwashing dishes; imagine if we got into this!)

"Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has."

(CC) BY-NC 2004-2023 Priyan Meewella

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