Friday, June 29, 2007

Bush: "Who else wants to see Ratatouille tonight?"

Bush: "Who else wants to see Ratatouille tonight?": "
Money quote: 'I heard it's better than Toy Story. Hard to believe. But I'd still like to see it. Who's in? Condi? What's that? Putin who? Oh, goddammit. You're right. I forgot.' See here."

(Via The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.)

Al Gore: "iPhone is as profound as polio vaccine, maybe more."

oh yeah - sure

Al Gore: "iPhone is as profound as polio vaccine, maybe more.": "
Money quote: 'By combining three devices into a single device, iPhone will let us conserve energy and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30%.' See here."

(Via The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.)

Sorry I'm all out of clever iPhone headlines: short links roundup

heh heh

Sorry I'm all out of clever iPhone headlines: short links roundup: "Xeni Jardin:

  • The inevitable iPhone cake: Link. (Thanks, Bonnie!)

  • Michael Robertson (, Linspire, sipphone founder) has posted an essay with more thoughts on the carrier lockdown issues Cory blogged earlier on BoingBoing: Link to 'Battle of the Buttons.'

  • The Pope is stoked about Jesusphone, says Gelf Magazine: Link.

  • Love will tear it apart: Link.

  • Live webcast of the NYC launch: Link (thanks, Michael).

  • Meredith Viera blows an iPhone stunt on live TV: Link.

  • Snapshots of boxes of iPhones delivered to an Apple store by UPS guys, who are -- shockingly -- not wearing full body armor, or packing handguns and stun lasers: Link (thanks Matt).

  • iPhone versus Paris Hilton: Link (thanks I'm a PC).

  • In yesterday's short iPhone links roundup, I got some details wrong on that internal Apple employee giveaway announcement by Steve Jobs. I've since spoken to an Apple source who confirmed correct specifics, so the post is now updated: Link.

  • E!'s 'The Soup' will air this parody ad on tonight's episode: Link.

  • Friends of BoingBoing in Los Angeles: I'll be soaking up the insanity over at the iPhone launch at the Grove this afternoon/evening. If you're around, come say hi.

    Previously on BoingBoing:

  • Working Assets calls for iPhone boycott
  • The Passion of the Jesusphone: iPhone short links roundup

    Reader comment: Nathan says,

    This is a photo of me and Steve Wozniak. He arrived at the Valley Fair mall apple store on a Segway at around 5am, he has been sitting in front of the store ever since. I am in line blogging about my experiences.

    UPDATE 3PM PT: A secret NYC operative tells BoingBoing at 3:05PM PT, 'Spike Lee is suddenly the first person in line at the midtown Apple store. I don't know if he bought the place in line or what, but he wasn't there before, and he is now. He's being mobbed by papparazzi, bigtime. The line is like 2 blocks long. It's like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, everyone is waiting to open their box and find a golden ticket...'


    (Via Boing Boing.)

  • Levittown in space: 1953 pulp mag cover

    its where I grew up, really

    Levittown in space: 1953 pulp mag cover: "Cory Doctorow:

    Nostalgia for the future doesn't get any better than this 1953 pulp sf magazine cover depicting a couple buying a bubble-house floating in the void of space -- the house, the salesman, and the couple all manage to conjure up the Levittown sensibility of post-war boom housing.


    (via Paleo-Futurism)


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    UFO postage stamps

    UFO postage stamps: "David Pescovitz:


    Fortean Times is featuring a fantastic gallery of postage stamps with UFO themes. Seen here is a gorgeous 1978 airmail stamp from Paraguay. Link


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Further ponderance of the iPhone's size


    Further ponderance of the iPhone's size: "Xeni Jardin:

    Snip from

    With all of the recent confusion surrounding the size of the iPhone, we just wanted to set the record straight on how big (or small) the iPhone really is. To best show it's true size, we've taken the liberty of taking the following shots of things that are of comparable size to the iPhone with a normal sized hand.

    Link. You know, the screen resolution on that danish is incredible, but the text input capabilities are better on the Pepto-Bismol box. (thanks, Cameron Gibbs)

    Previously on BoingBoing:

  • Apple uses big-handed model to 'shrink' iPhone


    (Via Boing Boing.)

  • Blade Runner turns 25: an appreciation by Mythbuster Adam Savage

    my dvd broke = krap

    Blade Runner turns 25: an appreciation by Mythbuster Adam Savage: "Xeni Jardin:


    Twenty-five years ago, the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner became an instant science fiction classic. Set in a sodden, squalid Los Angeles of 2019, the neo-noir masterpiece influenced a generation of filmmakers and video-game designers. Long before I teamed up with Jamie Hyneman to form the MythBusters, I was a special-effects modelmaker, and Scott's cyberpunk gem almost instantly became the most important film in the canon of movies I love.

    I'm still such a big Blade Runner fan that I watch it at least once every 18 months. I also own pretty convincing replicas of the 'blade runner blaster' wielded by Harrison Ford's world-weary former cop Rick Deckard. The source material was a Steyr Mannlicher .222 target rifle magazine cover, with a Bulldog .44 carriage underneath. I can't get enough of this prop. Now, I want a working one.

    Link to 'Blade Runner at 25: Why the Sci-Fi F/X Are Still Unsurpassed,' at Popular Mechanics, by Adam Savage

    Link to the Blade Runner Director's Cut DVD on Amazon, here's a big fat fansite, here's the Wikipedia entry, here's IMDB. (thanks, Matt Sullivan)

    Reader comment: Mike says,

    To go along with your Blade Runner 25th anniversary story, a replica of Deckard's firearm is currently for sale on ebay with about 1 day left: Link.


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Cosmic Jewish Zombie!

    Cosmic Jewish Zombie!: "If there weren't comments on Slashdot, I wouldn't have this awesome definition of Christianity:

    ...the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree...


    Web Zen: bag zen

    Web Zen: bag zen: "Xeni Jardin:

    - soyuz bags

    - freitag f-cut

    - chocochochouse

    - floppy disk shoulder bag

    - file folder messenger bag

    Web Zen Home and Archives, Store (Thanks Frank!)


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Thursday, June 21, 2007

    HOWTO make a toy soldier table

    wonder if its ok if use aliens

    HOWTO make a toy soldier table: "Cory Doctorow:

    Simple and striking DIY 'soldier table' -- just line up your soldiers on a flat surface and cover with a sheet of glass.


    (via Cribcandy)

    Update: Matthew sez, 'The 'toy soldier table' is very remenescent of the super-cool 'Floor' installation by Do-Ho Suh at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.'


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Gallery of Robin "shock" covers

    Gallery of Robin "shock" covers: "Mark Frauenfelder:
    Edward says:

     Albums V295 Jeffreykli Forum-Scans Robin1

    There was a thread in a comic book chat room about two years ago that discussed the 'Robin Corner Shock Pose' Its superbly funny. In a nutshell the late 50's and 60's Batman comics have Robin in the bottom left or right corner looking shocked at whatever is going on. This occurs on about 30 covers. Nearly exact same pose every time. Here's a link with the page showing a poster picture of the covers.



    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Science fiction newswire

    just read it!

    Science fiction newswire: "Cory Doctorow:
    Ian Randal Strock, former editor of the print-zine Science Fiction Chronicle, has started a new science fiction newswire source called SFScope. It's very comprehensive, if a little terse.




    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    Jesus cradles baby dino

    Jesus cradles baby dino: "Mark Frauenfelder:

    200706181605Here's adorable photographic proof that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together. Link (Thanks, Charlie!)

    Reader comment:

    Maarten says:

    07-06-07 0716
    (Click on thumbnail for enlargement) Just read your post on boingboing about the jesus and dino pic...but here's much better proof that dinos and humans lived together as little as a thousand years ago. It's a picture I took (with my cellphone [v3x if you must know]) in the Angkor area in Cambodia. It was taken in the famous temple featured in the movie Tombraider; my brother Alex pointed it out to me and it had me amazed. Now I know that quite some carving are being/have been restored, so this might be one of the restorators having a bit of fun, but the real carvings on the temples in the area have all kinds of humourous depictions in there, so who knows?


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Web zen: movies by the numbers

    Web zen: movies by the numbers: "Xeni Jardin:

  • numbers in the titles

  • 20 things that only happen in the movies

  • 31 best movie moments in bad words

  • terminator stats

  • 555-LIST

  • movies in 30 seconds

  • 100 movies, 100 quotes, 100 numbers

  • Web Zen Home and Archives, Store (Thanks Frank!)

    Image: A new 'Movies in 30 seconds by bunnies' episode which sends up the latest Die Hard installment. Link.


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Steampunk gallery

    Steampunk gallery: "Cory Doctorow:

    Gareth Branwyn has produced a wonderful steampunk photo-gallery for Wired News, featuring lush professional shots of some of my favorite homebrew projects.



    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    0608pariscarcryinffo1.jpg (JPEG Image, 1307x1077 pixels) - Scaled (55%)

    0608pariscarcryinffo1.jpg (JPEG Image, 1307x1077 pixels) - Scaled (55%): ""

    (Via .)

    Can you shoot me now? Robots to extend wireless networks on battlefields

    Can you shoot me now? Robots to extend wireless networks on battlefields: "


    The Wi-Fi robots are coming! The Wi-Fi robots are coming! Yes, those wacky cats at DARPA, the U.S. military's technology R&D center, are at it again. This time, though, the idea is a little more plausible than some of their other ideas (like, say, cyborg butterflies). On a battlefield, wireless access can get a little spotty, so DARPA came up with the LANdroid, a roving wireless access point. Advancing troops would drop one of these bots wherever they'd need to extend a network, with each LANdroid seeking out the best place to act as a node. And if one of them has the unfortunate luck of rolling straight into the enemy, the other nodes will automatically move around make up for its loss.

    Each LANdroid is the size of your palm and costs about $100. DARPA hasn't built them yet, but is excited enough about the project to publicly solicit proposals. A self-creating roving wireless network would be a cool idea for disaster-relief scenarios, too, so let's hope this is one DARPA project that gets some traction.

    The Register, via Oh Gizmo!


    (Via SCI FI Tech Blog.)

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Iron age Mickey unearthed

    Iron age Mickey unearthed: "Cory Doctorow:

    Matt sez, 'Researchers in southern Sweden uncovered an Iron Age artifact that bears a striking resemblance to Mickey Mouse. How ironic that folks who lived over 1000 years before that character was invented could create a better likeness of him than the best and brightest of today's popsicle industry can manage.'


    (Thanks, Matt!)


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Comic book ad cardboard spaceship

    Comic book ad cardboard spaceship: "Mark Frauenfelder:
    Jpb Ewb In Rocket Ship

    Peter says: 'In reference to your post on the cardboard submarine here is a picture of myself and my brother in a cardboard space ship about 1954. It might still exist in the basement storage at my parent’s house.'

    Now if someone can send me a photo of a teacup monkey that they actually got from the comic book ad, I can die a happy man.

    Previously on Boing Boing:

    Scans of old comic book ads


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Wooden robot toys

    more robots

    Wooden robot toys: "Cory Doctorow:

    Japanese toymaker Take-G produces stunning wooden robot toys.


    (via Cribcandy!)


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Cross and Switchblade comic book cover

    just like my grade skewl

    Cross and Switchblade comic book cover: "Mark Frauenfelder:

    Cross And Switchblade2

    Jim says: 'I saw the Christian Archie comics on Boing Boing and thought you might like this one (from my personal collection). And thanks for the boingboing. Great stuff.'


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Tim Goodman. The Bastard Machine : "Sopranos" finale: What really happened.

    Tim Goodman. The Bastard Machine : "Sopranos" finale: What really happened.: "

    Quick Search
    SFGate Home Business Sports Entertainment Travel
    Classifieds Jobs Real Estate Cars
    « 'Sopranos' series... | Main
    'Sopranos' finale: What really happened.

    Well it's been quite a few days of post-'Sopranos' speculation and chat. I did five radio interviews on Monday including 40 minutes on 'Talk of the Nation' and that finale was, indeed, the talk of the nation. No doubt the finale will live on in pop culture history as a great debate. Did Tony live or die? I love that it has prompted so much discussion and creative (insane?) deconstruction. And now I'm on the verge of being very much over the whole thing. Time to move on. But before I do, a few final thoughts and a debunking of some 'Sopranos' myths:

    I still believe, as I wrote, that it was a brilliant ending. As the days go by, it only gets better. For those people who felt cheated and/or betrayed by the ending, well, it could be you were watching the wrong series the entire time. Remember the good time"

    (Via .)

    The Pleasure of Pirates and What It Tells Us About World Building in Branded Entertainment

    The Pleasure of Pirates and What It Tells Us About World Building in Branded Entertainment: "

    As a rule, one should never trust the opinion of an established film critic about a movie with a number after its title -- and one should multiply the level of distrust for each number over 2. The whole concept of franchise entertainment seems to bring out the worst high culture assumptions in the bulk of American film critics (and beyond the United States, it's pretty much hopeless). Franchises are understood exclusively in terms of their economic function within the Hollywood entertainment supersystem, as if Hollywood made any movies that didn't make economic sense. Franchises are seen as aesthetic abominations and critics show little interest in exploring what kinds of new experiences might be enabled by seriality. And critics respond to sequels with extraordinary conservativeness, assuming that all the film can possibly do is to reproduce as closely as possible the pleasures offered by the first film, rather than imagining the expanded canvas which is possible by allowing people to work within yet transform the generic expectations created by earlier works.

    To be fair, a high percentage of franchise films are formulaic exercises which have little or no aesthetic rationale. But this is not true of all sequels and this doesn't fully account for the function sequels play within the new media landscape. For a good discussion of some of these issues, check out a recent conversation at David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson's blog which featured Stew Fyfe; Doug Gomery; Jason Mittell; Michael Newman; Paul Ramaeker; and Jim Udden.

    To be fair, most sequels are more susceptible to the word of mouth response than to reviews per se, because most fans of popular entertainment have learned not to trust critics on such topics.

    All of this comes to mind as I reflect on the critical drubbing recently received by the new Pirates film: Pirates of the Caribbean: At the World's End. Check out the website Rotten Tomatoes which links to dozens of on-line reviews of the film, almost all of which are negative, almost all of which tapped the same theme:

    1. The film is too complicated and demands too much from its consumers. We want summer movies to be big, loud, and dumb.

    2. The film doesn't offer enough screen time to Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow character, who seems to be the only reason they believe patrons would be interested in a film of this kind.

    3. The film doesn't have a simple, straight forward plot trajectory but instead moves through a series of set pieces and digressions, most of which showcase secondary characters (i..e. anyone other than Jack Sparrow.)

    This summary captures the substance, though not the tone of these reviews, which seem to be a critical referendum on what writers like Jason Mittell and Steven Johnson have described as the increasing complexity of contemporary popular culture. Consider a few examples, drawn more or less at random, for several dozen similar reviews featured at the site:

    With so many loose ends to tie up, At World's End is so insanely plot-heavy that it requires scene after scene of exposition, and the whole thing sinks simply under the weight of the story. A complicated narrative isn't necessarily a bad thing - that is, if the exposition provides something new, perhaps a fresh direction for the characters that we've all come to love, but even with so many plot points being juggled at once, there just aren't enough clever twists or cool new elements in AWE to justify the 30 tons of story the audience has to slog through....Except for a few great FX moments, At World's End is practically ALL exposition, and fans are going to grow tired of the unnecessarily complicated story since there's not nearly enough action to keep them entertained for almost three hours....The creators of At World's End were so intent on basing their bleak storyline on the end of the pirate era that they forgot that the movie needs to be, first and foremost, a ride. The whole stupid Pirates of the Caribbean concept is based on a ride, remember? One out of ten fans of the Pirates franchise may truly care about the complicated soap opera of a story at the heart of At World's End, but the other nine just want to see something funny and fast-paced, and they're the ones who are going to be most let down.--Brian Tallerico, UnderGround Online

    But even if I wanted to spoil things, I couldn't. This movie is too darned hard to follow. There's so much stuff happening, sometimes all at once, that it's hard to keep track of who's on whose ship, who's selling out whom and even who's getting killed, where and how. And it won't matter whether you've seen the first two Pirates movies or not. You'll still be confused. --Gene Seymour, Newsday

    Unlike, say, Shrek the Third, which works perfectly fine as a mediocre stand-alone sequel, At World's End relies heavily on viewers' knowledge of the previous film, Dead Man's Chest. Seems fair enough, given how many moviegoers were willing to pony up for that one. Still, all the curses, vendettas, double-crosses, reconciliations, trinkets, negotiations and sea monsters longing to be human again gave me severe tired head before the two-hour mark. Summer blockbusters may have many goals, but tired head should not be among them....So yeah, At World's End has some fun stuff. If only it weren't so stuffed to the gills with moving parts. -Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

    One longs for more scenes featuring Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp's indelible and beloved character in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (* 1/2 out of four), and less of everything else in this bloated, overwrought and convoluted three-hour misfire.--Claudia Puig, USA Today

    What I really craved was not more action or reversals of fortune, but a magic compass like the one that gets stolen and stolen again ad nauseam in the movie, one that always points the beholder to the thing he desires the most. In this case, it could have been a story map or just the peacefulness of the brig....Don't misunderstand. I like my action movies complicated, but At World's End is less a complexity than it is a high seas bazaar with everyone and everything vying for attention. Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

    At the World's End certainly gets no credit for its ambitions here, no recognition for placing new kinds of conceptual demands on its spectators, and no praise for its craftmanship. Rather, it is being forced back into the box where critics place any and all popular entertainment. The perception that summer movies are mindless and motivated purely by commercial considerations is being forced onto this film; At the World's End is being whacked for every step it takes outside of the confines of a totally classically constructed film.

    The problem is that At the World's End is not a classically constructed film. Well, don't get me wrong. I have no doubt that at a certain level of abstraction, David and Kristin would be able to demonstrate that it follows the modified structure of acts they see as the hold over of classical narrative technique on contemporary cinema; there's no question that the characters have goals, that there are causal connections between their actions, or that the film follows intensified continuity styles of editing. But, in many ways, the film's heart is not in telling a classical linear story. This film wants to explore a world and much of its complexity emerges from the fact that we have been able to accumulate and master more information about that world through the first two films. I saw At the World's End shortly before I left on my European adventures and was blown away by its attention to detail and its respect for the intelligence of fans. This is one of the best summer movies that I have seen in a long long time and a powerful illustration of the ways that convergence culture is reshaping how franchise entertainment operates.

    In Convergence Culture, I explain that Hollywood has moved from a primary focus on stories as the generators of film pitches to a focus on characters that will sustain sequels to a focus on worlds that can be played out across multiple media platforms. This shift accommodates a much more active spectator who wants to watch favorite movies again and again, making new discoveries each time, and who enjoys gathering online and comparing notes within a larger knowledge culture. In the book, I use The Matrix as an extreme example of this tendency towards transmedia entertainment and towards films focused more on world building than on character or plot. The Matrix, in some ways, demanded more of spectators than they were prepared to give, stretching its material across films, animations, comics, and games, while providing little redundancy across the various platforms. The Matrix sequels fell into the blindspot of most critics who remain bound to a single medium and were not prepared to accept games or comics or animation as contributing to the same meta-text.

    At the World's End adopts a somewhat more conservative strategy -- keeping everything within the three films (more or less) but insuring that the later films in the series achieve a density of information which would not have been possible in the first title in the franchise. The critic's preoccupation with Depp's Jack Sparrow suggests that they have missed a step in the evolution of the media franchise -- stuck back at the moment when sequels depended on the appeal of a single well-defined character.

    Don't get me wrong -- Sparrow is a great character and Depp's is a masterful performance. Without Sparrow, the first film might never have achieved its broad appeal -- which is a strange thing to say about a character as queer, eccentric, and self-reflexive about this one. And yes, for my money, there's not enough of Depp in the third film -- which is funny to say given how there are several sequences here when Depp plays all the parts. But, from the start, the Pirates films have succeeded on the basis of an extraordinary ensemble cast of some of the best and/or most engaging performers in contemporary cinema (Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgard, Naomie Harris) and for the third film, we can add brief but memorable performances by Yun-Fat Chow and Keith Richards and a much wider array of character actors who are given one or two solid moments each to shine. We've met these characters over time, a few introduced in each of the first two films, and now the directors are able to bring them together, play them opposite each other, in a shifting set of alliances and conflicts. All of this keeps the film in constant motion and gives us an emotional hook for almost every shot.

    Then, consider the build up of running gags that surround the various pirates (and their pets) on board the Black Pearl and consider the ways that the use of very distinctive but recognizable encrustations on the various crew members of the Flying Dutchman allows us to recognize and recall these minor characters each time they appear on screen.

    And then consider the ways that the device of the Pirate's Council allows the film to hint at a globally diverse array of different pirate cultures -- Chinese pirates, South Asian pirates, Eastern European pirates, Spanish Pirates, French Pirates, etc. -- which can be evoked quickly shot by shot as we move through the film. I found myself intrigued by the suggestion that pirates, who take to the open seas rather than staying closer to land and following trade routes, establish a different set of contact zones than the nations with which they are embattled, and by the hint of the multicultural composition of Pirate crews (even discounting the somewhat politically correct impulses of representation and inclusiveness that shaped this particular representation of the process.)

    Or consider the rich atmosphere created by the film's detailed reconstruction of 19th century Singapore which depends on a range of details that may or may not register consciously for many viewers but which suggests a specific historical and cultural context much larger than the actions of the film.

    The principal figures are given story arcs which tie together plot strands from the earlier film and each is given at least one, perhaps more, moments of transition and revelation. The secondary characters rely heavily on what my former student Geoffrey Long likes to describe as negative capability -- they are well enough defined that we can imagine who they are, what they want, and why they are doing what they are doing, but much remains for the audience to flesh out from their own imaginations. The Pirates Council in particular invites us to draw together what we know from other sources while suggesting that the world of this franchise is much larger and diverse than anything we suspected so far. So much gets conveyed here through aspects of make-up, costume design, and art direction which evokes a whole complex culture behind characters who may never be given names and who may appear in only a few shots or scenes.

    The film, in other words, throws a lot of stuff at us and expects us to catch it. The critics dropped the ball but the film plays fair -- there's a there there, a rationale or reason behind every element, and the parts add up to a satisfying whole if we connect all of the pieces. For someone really engaged in watching this film, the result is epistemaphilia, a mad rush of information being brought together and being clicked into the right mental category. I had this experience even though I saw Dead Man's Chest almost a year ago. I can only imagine the pleasures that await us when we watch all three films back to back in a DVD marathon or all of the telling details I will pick up on during a second or third viewing -- and that's part of the point. The modes by which we consume these films have shifted. Most films don't warrant a first look, let alone a second viewing, but for those films that do satisfy and engage us, a much higher percentage of the audience is engaged in what might once have seemed like cult viewing practices. Once we find a franchise which floats our boats, we will settle in for an extended relationships and we want to explore all of the hidden nooks and crannies. We want to know everything we can possibly know about this world and contemporary franchise films are designed to accommodate our interests.

    In this case, one consequence is a heavy reliance on reaction shots, as we read what unfolds through the eyes of a range of different characters and feel sympathy for their various and contradictory points of view. In this regard, At the World's End follows closely what others have written about television soap opera -- the reaction is as important as the action -- though in this case, we may be seeing and trying to take in the reactions of three or four different characters within a single shot.

    Another consequence is the development of objects which encapsulate relationships, conflicts, histories, and emotional investments. Again, this is the stock of film melodrama where lover's tokens may carry a lot of the affective weight of the story. But here, because there are so many different characters and subplots, we have a proliferation of meaningful objects (compasses, rings, 'pieces of eight,' flags, ships, treasure chests, hearts, ships, etc.) which carry different kinds of meaning and power and much of the action consists of the deployment and exchange of these objects between various characters.

    A third aspect of the film would seem to borrow heavily from ensemble dramas on television -- each scene might bring together more than one character and more than one subplot with the result that the film moves forward through a series of intersections and interruptions of its plot developments. Plots cross each other: a choice which seems to bring resolution to one plotline opens up new complications for another; a decision which makes sense from one perspective seems enigmatic from another; and the reader must be alert to all of these different levels of development, must think about what the scene means for each character and each plot if they are going to get full pleasure from the story. What may seem like a digression at first may accrue significance as the film goes along -- consider how a series of localized gags and set pieces involving ropes, say, may take shape as the film progresses into a particular understanding of Jack's improvised and yet carefully calculated way of moving through the world.

    But, then again, we can watch the movie as a series of set pieces, enjoying individual gags, or just taking pleasure in watching people blow shit up, and because there is so much going on here, we will generally have a good time. Like the first Matrix and unlike its sequels, the film is visceral enough that one can enjoy it on a surface level.

    The problem is that people have some difficult moving between the two -- if they suddenly realize that the film is much more complex and layered than they anticipated, they may start to flounder and ultimately drown, which seems to be what happened to a high percentage of the film critics. They went into the film expecting a certain kind of experience; they hadn't successfully learned how to take pleasure from its world-building; they don't want to dig into the film more deeply after the fact, comparing notes online with other viewers, because their trade demands constant movement to the next film and a focus on their own private, individualized thoughts.

    Watch a film with a group of critics and it is a rather chilly experience, each trying to suppress signs of their emotional response for fear of tipping their hands to their competition. They don't laugh at comedy; they don't cry at melodrama; and they don't know how to engage in fannish conversation around film franchises, which means that their professional conduct cuts them off from the shared emotional pleasures that are so much a part of how popular culture works its magic on us. For that reason, I trust film critics far more when they are writing about art films which demand distanced contemplation than popular films which desire an immediate emotional reaction.

    All of this is to say that the critics were not inaccurate in their description of At the World's End: it is a complex, some would argue overly complex, blend of different story elements; it is pulling us in many different directions at once; it isn't focused around a single protagonist. Where we disagree is in our emotional experience and aesthetic evaluation of the features of the film. These are the reasons why At the World's End is my favorite entry in the Pirates series and are scarcely reasons to pan the finished film.

    We might contrast At the World's End with Spider-Man 3, a film which I didn't enjoy very much. While at the World's End constructs a world with many points of entry and many different intersections between its large cast of characters, Spider-Man 3 fumbles a much smaller number of subplots, because they all need to be focused through the clogged pipeline of a single protagonist. We are constantly feeling the thwacking fist of coincidence and contrivance pushing us out of any immediate experience of the film. Each of the subplots follows the basic narrative structure of the contemporary yet still classical Hollywood film. It has to go through the same formulaic steps, more or less in the same sequence, more or less in parallel, which collapses the difference between The Sandman, Hobgoblin, and Venom, as characters who originated in comics during different eras and for different purposes. The film has many moments I could enjoy on their own terms but it keeps tripping over its own two feet and when a film of this size and scale lands wrong, it lands with an awesome thud.

    I loved the first two films in the Spider-Man series but the third entry left me totally cold -- in part because it hasn't been able or willing to make this transition between character-centered and world-centered story, doing neither particularly well. In the case of the Pirates films, though, each new entry gave me more of what I wanted from the franchise, could start with an assumption of greater mastery and investment on the part of the spectator, and could push deeper into the complex world building that I have come to expect from transmedia entertainment at its very best.

    End of rant. I will now return you to your regularly scheduled summer entertainment. Critics, you can turn off your minds again. Just don't expect me to shut down mine.


    (Via Confessions of an Aca/Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins.)

    Creepy, interesting, and real -- a short link roundup.

    Creepy, interesting, and real -- a short link roundup.: "Xeni Jardin:

  • Giant clothes-free pole dancer crop circle frightens prudish people on planes. Link.

  • Naked 19-year-old mobile blowjob receiver cited for 'drinking and 'embracing' while driving.' The pull quote: ''You are not supposed to be hugging or kissing while driving,' [officer] Merrill said. 'It’s so distracting.'' Link.

  • Extreme tax resisters in New Hampshire holed up in 'Waco-like' situation. Link.

  • Scary lady rips off her ex-boyfriend's testicle, tries to eat it, then later -- can't remember it. Link.

  • A council in Texas ponders the 'saggy pants ban.' Link.

  • 50-ton whale killed in Alaska last month had 130-year-old weapon embedded in its blubber. Link.

  • Outgoing British PM Tony Blair wants new regulation, monitoring, enforcement, censorship system for online journalism -- hey, just like China. Link.

  • This rare and ancient purple frog is simultaneously icky and beautiful. (Image below, Kalyan Varma) Link to what may be some of the only photos ever taken of this little fella. The pull quote: 'It feels like a big bag of jelly when you hold it in your hand and I must say, its a very strong frog.'

    (thanks, kevin, jason, kevin, big fez, Noella)


    (Via Boing Boing.)

  • The Cosmoboy jacket

    groovy no?

    The Cosmoboy jacket: "David Pescovitz:


    I dig The Cosmoboy, 'a red reversible whipcord vest jacket' by Pierre Cardin. Just $250... in 1967.

    UPDATE: BB reader Neil says, 'The Cosmoboy jacket immediately reminded me of Captain Scarlet, the follow-up to Thunderbirds which came out in 1967. The jacket is identical to the Spectrum uniform.' Link


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    So Gates calls


    So Gates calls: "
    And he's like, Hey buddy, I just spent some time looking at Leopard and I must say, you've done some nice things. Quick Look is very cool. So is the transparency stuff. And the 3-D planes floating in space. Very nice. But you know what, I kind of liked these features the first time I saw them -- where was it? Oh, that's right. In Vista. Yeah. Who's copying who, douchebag? Maybe we should sue you for copying our interface ideas, you spoiled, precious, pretentious little bitch. Ice water to people in hell huh? Well look who just dipped into hell and brought it back to the world calling it a slice of heaven. You think the media will figure this out and report it? Nah. They're too stuck on the story about how Apple innovates and Microsoft copies. They've got that story in their heads and there's no way we can dislodge it from their thick skulls. Sorry. Just kidding, bro. You do beautiful work. I mean it. You've got great taste. You stay happy with that 3 percent market share and we'll do our little thing over here."

    (Via The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.)

    Mr. Wizard (1917-2007)

    goodbye mr wizard - we'll remember you

    Mr. Wizard (1917-2007): "David Pescovitz:

     Media Photo 2007-06 30468245-1

    Pioneering TV science educator Don Herbert, AKA Mr. Wizard, passed away this morning. He was almost 90 years old.
    Link to Mr. Wizard Studios, Link to Los Angeles Times obituary (via Cryptomundo)


    (Via Boing Boing.)

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Spy museum bans photography

    me too heh heh

    Spy museum bans photography: "Cory Doctorow:

    Kim sez, 'I thought it was ironic that visitors to the International Spy Museum (which is packed with security cameras, of course) aren't allowed to take photos or videos, as evidenced by this large sign in their lobby. In fact, one of the cashier drones even yelled at me for taking a photo of this sign--and this was before I had even purchased my ticket or went inside. Even more ironic is that one of the exhibits is all about the history of miniature hidden cameras.'

    Christ this stuff bugs me, especially from museums. These places are supposed to be about preserving and disseminating human culture -- but no taking any pictures or we might not be able to sell as many picture postcards!


    (Thanks, Kim!)

    Update: Jamais sez, 'I took the 'no photos' command at the Spy Museum as an implicit challenge to one's own spycraft -- after all, the conceit of a visit to the Spy Museum is that you're a new recruit. Accordingly, I took a couple of shots with my cameraphone.

    Nobody yelled at me or kicked me out, so I guess I passed the test.'


    (Via Boing Boing.)