Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tron: Legacy (2010)

It was a pretty horrible day to go out to the movies. The rain was falling thick and fast. The road conditions were atrocious as is standard in this country - not quite sure where my tax money goes to, especially as there isn't a government. People on the road were even worse, if you could imagine, in these rubbish conditions. Nevertheless, I've waited months to see Tron: Legacy so I stuck with it and did the 15 km trip all the way out to Kinepolis Brussels with my movie buddies.

Look, I know 15 km is not much at all, but it was rush hour and road conditions, blah, blah (read above), so don't give me static for this, ok?

Right, back to the movie. The reason why I've been so keen to watch it wasn't because I loved the original film from the 80s. To the contrary, I only watched the old skool one recently, after I picked up the trailer sometime in the second half of last year. The end result of sitting through a director's cut, extra long version was that I felt a bit stupid. I couldn't believe this is a cult classic, and that it has such a big following. It didn't really make sense to me at all. Just too abstract.

Granted, the graphics and the way they were presented were miles ahead of anything of the time, but still... The story was just baffling. I think I actually sat through the thing with my mouth open and a little bit of drool coming down, and it wasn't from any kind of awe, just plain confusion.

But, technology has moved on in the last 30 years and I was sure at least the new movie would be good to watch just for the graphics and what they were going to do with the latest CG animation. Then I came across a rather interesting picture of Olivia Wilde, whom I've never particularly liked. I thought her features a bit too rough, and not so "screen friendly." This picture was different though... It didn't look like her at all. She looked great!

Then came the reviews when the movie was released towards the end of last year. Yes, it came a month later in Belgium making it even more annoying. It turns out, the critics weren't overly kind towards the movie so my enthusiasm diminished slightly. Still, I pushed on because I really didn't feel like missing this movie. Anyways, there were nothing else interesting going on. It wasn't like I was going to see Green... Ha! Ha! Ha!... Hornet.

So, trekking across the dark, wet, dangerous roads, I got to the cinema. We decided to go for the 3D version since this film was billed to be pretty decent in 3D. We sat down just in time for the man on the screen to tell us that we can't walk out with the glasses because it can't be used elsewhere, blah, blah, blah, dribble, dribble... (snore loudly).

Then some adverts, a particularly rubbish 3D ad, no less, from Renault which made even less sense than Tron the Original! What a waste of my time, and waste of money for them. Good job, Frenchies! Carlos really should review the way their budget is spent. A bit of a teaser trailer came on for the upcoming Pirates 4 movie which looked relatively interesting. And then... the screen went blank, and a computer terminal blinker came on. The movie has started!

The cursor started moving as if someone was typing away on the screen in front of me. The words said something like: "this movie was partially filmed in 3D but any scene where 3D is not used is purely because this was how the shots were intended to be portrayed but keep those horrible glasses on through the whole film, OK?" Frankly, this means they spent very little money on the 3D side of things and could only do a bit. That bit turned out to be about 20% of the film, and it wasn't so spectacular anyways. So don't bother watching this in 3D. You'll just get a headache and want to kill Robert Iger for being such a tight arsed douche!

Not to give too much away, Jeff Bridges and his CGI makeover looked really good. It was much better than when X-Men tried to make Captain Picard look 30 years younger. Technology really has moved on. The soundtrack was quite fantastic, by Daft Punk. Absolutely going to go buy it on iTunes in a minute and listen to it on the way to work tomorrow. The graphics, not the 3D remember, looks significantly different from the original, but in keeping with the tradition. It's just that they managed to find more dimensions in terms of how the Light Cycles could move about than the old film - the old movie was a bit two dimensional in terms of movement.

How was the movie? Well, Jeff Bridges sounded like he was on a massive acid trip, or super high on weed, throughout the movie. He kept going on about "zen" and "cool, man" to a point where I got annoyed. Seriously, move on, man. None of the kids are doing acid anymore, they've gone on something stronger so they have a completely new lingo making the character look even more ridiculous. All the good work to make him look young and hip, erased.

It wasn't half bad. Olivia Wilde was actually very good, not just her looks. The new kid Garrett Hedlund wasn't half bad either. Except his eyebrow seemed to go way past where it should have ended a long time ago. And it was a bit odd how he got thrown onto the Game Grid but beat everyone on it without so much as a whiff of training behind him. The pad they gave him, when he was in the real world, was pretty cool though!

I've always liked Michael Sheen for the simple fact that he has led some of my all time favourite movies like The Queen and Frost vs. Nixon. Since those cinematic greats, though, he seems to have gone a bit downhill. He took up a part in Twilight (urgh!) the most stupendously ridiculous crap every unleashed onto Planet Earth. I promise you, those "saga" movies will be the end of the world as we know it. I'm sure the Mayans saw this one coming! Sheen was not just rubbish, he acted like a flamboyant homosexual seemingly without being told to do so. It was truly horrifying.

But after all this... You know what? I want to watch it again. I came home to some annoying letters in my mailbox (taxes to be paid... read above to recap why I think this is ridiculous) and while sorting through them, my mind kept wondering off to that fantastically wonderful land of pure digital imagination. I think that says it all.

Go for it. It's going to remain a classic in the future. Just don't waste your money on 3D.

In closing...

Dear Robert Iger,

Can you not be so tight arsed in the future? Also, can you please reimburse me for that extra few euros I had to pay for the 3D because it wasn't worth it? And you said so yourself at the beginning of the movie, when it was too late for me to change my mind!


Image source: Walt Disney Pictures

Monday, January 24, 2011

And On That Bombshell...

Yup, Top Gear is back in full force, finally. At some point last year, it seemed like the show would only return in February. This would mean missing the usual Christmas shows which then runs into January. Then the great BBC decided to stuff in two episodes to plug that gap with the US special and that mad Bethlehem episode.

At this point, I just hope the Beeb won't start playing tricks with it's scheduling again. I mean. It has four full fledged channels. If they were able to sort it out during the Football World Cup last year, I'm sure they could do something to avoid a clash with snooker. Why? Well, no matter how stupid the topics covered appears, and how irrelevant everything on that show is, it's fantastic entertainment for a Sunday night.

I've been waiting for the Ariel Atom V8 to be featured on the show, and happily, it was tonight. I saw the car in action on Jezza's Christmas DVD but it wasn't quite the same as a full blown power test on TG. It was always going to blow everything out of the Power Board at 500 BHP haling just half a tonne around. But the surprise came in the form of John Bishop as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.

I've been following him for some time, since he became a bit well known. He sits in quite a lot on panel shows on the Beeb. Unfortunately, I don't always understand what he is saying. His Liverpudlian accent is often beyond my capabilities unless I listen intently or watch it a second time. But whatever I do get out of it, he's really funny.

So this bloke who speaks nearly foreign comes onto my staple show and does his lap. It looked amazingly smooth, and pretty quick. After seeing Tom Cruise blitz the lap last year, I just can't believe anyone would go quicker. Well, Mr Bishop plonked in a 1:42.8, nearly 2 seconds faster than the Top Gun star.

What a real bombshell that was. Good man!

- Coming straight from my iPad

Source: BBC Top Gear

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Proteas Rule at Centurion

The South African Proteas finished off the thrilling One Day International Cricket series against India in style today at Centurion finishing the series 3-2 up. The match was slightly affected by rain when South Africa was batting in the first innings. South Africa's batting line-up collapsed in dramatic fashion when the players came back on the pitch after the forced break.

With Duckworth and Lewis joining us again, the total for India to chase was 268 runs in 46 overs. Opening bowlers for the Proteas of Steyn and Tsotsobe started off well picking off the top order Indian batsmen. But Pathan came in to bring the required run rate to below one run per ball. Still, it was not enough after a massive top edge dismissed him for a well played and exciting 105 off 70 balls.

Even though SA won the series 3-2, it wasn't as convincing as it could be. The battling lineup generally fails early on, which then has to be picked up by the upper middle batting order. More often than not, though, the lower order gets out much too cheaply. The crazy run-outs throughout the five matches from both sides have just been ridiculous. At this kind of level, you cannot give up wickets so pointlessly.

Nevertheless, it sets up a great 2011 Cricket World Cup which will take place in the sub-continent in just a few weeks. It's been great entertainment to follow my home team play such exciting cricket again!

- Coming straight from my iPad

Source: ESPN CricInfo

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Toyota Corporate Blog - CT 200h is Hard to Beat!


Welcome back reader, after what I hope has been an enjoyable and fruitful break. For us, the New Year has well and truly kicked-off and we are now full steam ahead in our preparations for the Geneva Motor Show which starts in just six weeks!

We announced last week that we sold more than 808,000 cars in Europe last year, beating our sales target! Looking at the numbers for 2010, the sales of our hybrid vehicles once again took the spotlight. For three years in a row, we sold more hybrids than the year before. In 2010, we sold 29% more hybrid vehicles in Europe than 2009.

The strong performance of the Toyota and Lexus full hybrid family in Europe paves the way for us to welcome the all new Lexus CT 200h into the line-up. The new car, designed for the premium compact segment, is already quickly building its reputation. At the opening of the 89th European Motor Show last week in Brussels, the CT 200h was named the 2011 Clean Car of the Year in the fleet category.

Read more

3,000 Visitors

We've reached a wonderful milestone today. Three thousand visitors to this blog since I returned to active blogging on March 30, 2010. A massive thank you to all your readers and followers. Hopefully you've found it interesting!

The King's Speech (2010)

The movie award season is on it's way, actually the Golden Globes have already gone through. There are two films who seem to be competing to be the most successful in the major awards like the Globes and the Oscars. The films, of course, being Social Network and The King's Speech.

I'm normally not big on award movies because they always turn out rather poor in my perspective. Titanic wasn't particularly good but it got all sorts of awards. Avatar on the other hand was groundbreaking and spectacularly gold but it lost out to some politically motivated Iraqi war film. Slumdog was ok but not enough to pick up so many awards.

I didn't get a chance to write my thoughts about the Social Network, which takes us on the journey of the creation of the world's most lucrative social website. I think I must her watched it at least a good five or six times nevertheless. It's really insightful about the person behind the website nearly all of us spend some time on every single day. Go watch it if you haven't yet.

But this entry is about The King's Speech. The movie picked up as many nominations in the Globes as Social Network, but Network got them all except Best Actor which went to Colin Firth - and deservedly so!

I didn't know what to expect because I didn't know the story behind this whole thing. My historical background of the modern British Monarchy starts at around the time King George VI died and Princess Elizabeth took over the Empire. So it wad quite hard for me to imagine how they would write a script for a full length feature film depicting a stuttering King who couldn't give speeches.

To my surprise, though, the movie turned out to be far more interesting. It gives an insightful look behind the scenes of how member of the Royal Family are, well, not so different from every dysfunctional family in the world. It also showed how little medical science and psychology moved in the early parts of the 20th Century. Psychology is a big part of raising children, an it never helps if the parents are never around and gives the task to nannies.

The movie could have turned out pretty dry and dull. It didn't. The script was witty and the speech therapist, played by Rush, was simply phenomenal. Yes, Firth had a difficult role to play, but Rush was just so boyant it was a special thing to watch. All in all, it was fascinating to see the events unfold even though you inevitably know where it ends up and how it does. When it still keeps the audience interested, that's what marks a good film.

I think I'm starting to change my mind about award movies. Maybe they judges and panels have moved on... I'm sure it will do well at the Oscars since it did rubbishly at the Globes. Highly recommended.

- Coming straight from my iPad

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Adopting Early

I just came across a really funny realisation which I thought I would share with you. Every Apple product I've had up to now, has been the First Generation of it's type.

In 2005/6, under the strenous convincings of my friend Mike, I picked up the 1st Generation iPod Nano. Then when Steve Jobs announced the release of a multi-touch iPod, the iPod Touch and I was one of the first in Belgium to pick one up.

Interestingly, I placed an order weeks before it was stocked in the Mac Stores and kept phoning them every few days to check if the stock has arrived. One evening, while leaving the office in 2007/8, I got a call saying the stock arrived and they offered me to pick up before the store closed. Rushing into town, I think I really was one of the first ones in the country to get mine.

Then my friend sold me his 1st Generation iPhone 16GB when he was tired of it. Sadly, this has now broken and there is no warranty for what is technically a third-hand good. If you're wondering what broke... It was the digitiser which tells the computer what my finger is doing. Since its a touch interface, it made the device quite useless.

As you'll undoubtedly know, I've just picked up my 32GB iPad Wifi + 3G after a friend kindly offered to bring one back from the US when he was there during the Christmas break.

First Generation all the way, and always an early adopter!

Oh yeah, when I got the iPod Touch, I kindly gave my Nano to a friend and if I remember correctly, she lost it. Nice one, darling. Then I sold my Touch to fund my iPhone to a colleague. The rest is history.

Weirdly, I cannot buy an iPhone 4 no matter how hard I try. The reseller in Belgium, no Steve didn't want to sell it from his own shops, is actually a local GSM provider called Mobistar and they are crap. The people in the shops are rude and unhelpful. No one wanted to sell me a phone. So my choice is quite simple: I'll never buy any Apple things in Belgium anymore in protest. Maybe at some point Steve will hear my cries of help!

Following my trend through this realisation, I think I will end up not getting another iPhone unless they come up with something completely different.

And you know what? I'm a massive convert thanks to Mike. So it'll still be quite easy for me to go back to not liking Apple... Please Steve, I've been a good customer. Please help me get what I want!

Zuck Goes Insane

It seems everyone's been up in arms about a new feature he is about to unleash on us. They want us to give them our phone numbers and addresses so that they can share it with their app developers to send us text messages and spam in general.

Privacy on facebook has been a terrible thing for the past year or two. Vie actually had to spend a good few hours to figure out how to set it up exactly the way I want it. Yes, they do have all the options you may want, but to get to it is actually the tricky part.

Look, I've been on facebook for several years. I think at last count it was passing 6 or 7 years by now. It's really one of the best inventions on earth in my opinion and as soon as it became popular and all of my friends around to world started taking it up, it made it even more amazing. Its my central point of contact instead of an annoying phone book which needs to be manually updated.

With a touch of a button on the computer, or the phone, I can concoct any one of my friends spread around the globe. What an amazing thing to have! And it can do it just about anywhere, anytime to catch one of the 700+ friends I have.

If Mark Zuckerberg is really planning to pull this stunt on us, I will seriously quit. I hate phones. Honesty. I hate talking to people I can't see. You miss out much like this and I just hate it. That's why SMS is my preferred method. I only use the phone as a matter of convenience and for work because there's no choice.

Please Mark, don't be a geeky douchebag on this. It is not necessary. You already own most of us! No need to compete against God to see who is the real almighty, right?

- Coming straight from my iPad

Monday, January 17, 2011

The More the Merrier - More Than One Prius = ...?

What is the plural of Prius? You decide!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wikipedia's Decade

Well, this is embarrassing. On a day when I was chasing after the ODI cricket match between my home team, South Africa, and India in Johannesburg, I completely forgot to make some song and dance about the biggest news of the weekend - Wikipedia turns 10 years old!

It's sad that the weekend's news has been thoroughly dominated by absolute rubbish. Some completely irrelevant news about the autocratic lewder in Tunisia being ousted by citizens and running away to Saudi Arabia is currently dominating the headlines.

Then there was some stupid article on the BBC about how some "professor" of Astronomy has caused a massive stir on the net because he said zodiac signs and Astrology are now wrong. His point, sadly, was not because Astrology is completely stupid and baseless, instead, he tried to convince people that due to the wobble of our planet, we should all have different zodiac signs.

What a complete bunch of junk being spewed out by some of the most reputable names in the news business.

But, Wikipedia is the purpose of this entry tonight. In the beginning, and this would be about 6 years ago, I thought an online, free-to-all encyclopedia was a pretty stupid idea. I have already seen how the web becomes when people get the chance to provide self-generated content. The worst part of the spectrum would be, well, spam.

I also remembered having a debate with my college professors, several, in fact, about it which entrenched my dismissal of the medium even more. No one in academia bothered, and more over, everyone dismissed it in a rather derogatory fashion.

But then one of my friends mentioned something interesting to me. He said that we, as Student Government members, should start up a Wikipedia entry for our college. I couldn't figure out what the purpose would be until he sat me down in our office in front a computer and went to Google. He searched for one of those Ivy League colleges like Harvard or Princeton. Do you know what came up? After several examples, it's quite clear - Wikipedia articles of the subject matter comes really high in the search results. I'm not talking about top ten or top five. I'm talking top two. And sometimes, it actually comes on top before the official website.

What a revelation! From then on, apart from making a page for my college, I also embarked on creating an entry for my high school in South Africa, the oldest school in the country with a tremendous reputation and impressive history. I also contribute every time I read an article and see an error or find a mistake. Basically, I contribute what I can, when I can towards the greater community.

By the way, a quick search right now for my high school - South African College Schools - on Google right now and the result speaks volumes. The official site comes up first, but Wikipedia comes second and third (this is the disambiguation page also created by me).

The Internet is a complicated place. Every site has its own look and feel. They have their own themes and colours. Fonts can be one of the other. Let's not get to the layout...

What does Wikipedia bring through? It enables people to find out information, sometimes quite detailed, very quickly because everything is pretty standardised in terms of layout and placement of content. After having used it for several years, when I look for something on Wikipedia, I can immediately locate the information within 20 seconds, instead of sifting through pages after pages until I finally find something close to what I'm looking for.

Yes, people still spam and vandalize articles, but every year that passes, the level of control becomes stronger. More and more people pick up vandalism and undo them as quickly as the idiots can put it on.

I know the founder of Jimmy Wales said recently that his fantastic creation's biggest downside is that it is too complicated to publish information because of the rather mid level to advanced coding it requires. A good friend of mine in the UK correctly pointed out that compilation means only people with a purpose would bother. That means general, immature idiots who want to vandalize will be so confused that they'll simply give up.

Happy Birthday Wikipedia. My confidence is stronger than ever that you will become the force to contend with, in this new century of information.

- Posted from my iPad

Saturday, January 15, 2011

More Than One - Prii

Toyota Motor Sales - the US headquarters of Toyota - recently launched a funny capping asking customers what the plural for "Prius" should be. This followed the revealing of three Prius branded vehicles - the "v," the "c" Concept and the PHV version - at the Detroit Motorshow.

I'm firmly on the Prii camp because it sound different and has a nice friendly ring to it. So here's voicing my support for Prii!

- Posted from my iPad

Source: Toyota Motor Sales


Should I Share or Not?

I found this really funny flow chart on Gizmodo which I thought I should share. It's also quite apt in two ways. First, it deals with how people give credit where credit should be due. If you've read this blog before, you'll know that I try to credit my sources, especially graphics or photos (at the bottom of the article, if not mentioned in the body like here). Secondly, well, it describes the process from my finding the picture to posting it here. And it's a good laugh.

Have fun! Oh and I'm not responsible for the expletive. It's not my fault.

- Posted from my iPad

Source: Gizmodo


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tough Time? Not really

What is it that generates more satisfaction? Is it doing something easy requiring very little effort? Or is it tackling something hard, encounter many challenges, falling a few times, but in the end crossing the finish line?

After this week, I would say the latter.

I do have to first apologise to my readers, and to myself, for not keeping up this blog since I got my iPad. I did quite clearly mention that I will be incapacitated for sometime until everything is set up. Well, I couldn't find a free app to work with Blogger. I have now, though. And I hope this works.

It's been a tough week considering I had several deadlines to meet at work and my health condition deteriorated drastically last Friday. I think I've caught whatever flu it is that's flying around Europe and being transmitted person to person in not very airy places, like an office, an elevator, and what not. I had to produce one rather important document, which is now in the public domain. And I had to make sure another one was sorted out on time and properly.

Furthermore, I have to finish off our internal newsletter. And let me tell you, it's tough. The last edition last year was hard enough since nothing much really happens in December and most of the people in your contact list are on vacation already. Pretty much the same scenario now, with people coming back from their holidays and still nothing really happening per se.

Anyways progress is good on this front and I am pretty sure I'll meet my deadlines with some very welcomed help from my colleagues. It's really good to be in a team where you have backups and everyone can share the workload.

So, back to the original thought then. Why is it better when it's tough like this? To be honest, it can be pretty horrible while you're at it, but the rewards just feel so much better. You've climbed over a big mountain and reached the summit, and that view is just spectacular. Hearing a colleague say thank you because I helped write his press release, and it being well-received, is just fantastic! He's worked so hard on it, and he deserves to see his project come to fruition in such a positive way. Makes me a happy guy too!

Not much rest before the next big batch of things are coming up so I better catch all the break I can this weekend and get well to start off another exciting week!

Check my Twitter feed on the right to pick up some of what I've been doing.