Angry Robot

Beer c(o/oo)(s/z)(y/ie) | Ask MetaFilter

“Beer cozy? Beer coozy? Which one is it, and why?” – I had never heard of coozy / koozie.

Avatar

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I thought King Kong was amazing in the theatres. When I watched it at home on DVD, I lost interest halfway through. It felt sagging, bloated. Dark Knight blew my mind on Imax, but when I got it home the dialogue felt wooden and speechy, the structure confused.

You see where I’m going with this.

Avatar, in the theatre, in 3D, is an experience I’d recommend to anyone, even though it may well result in headaches and exhaustion. Your optic nerve gets a real workout. The visual richness of every frame is heightened by the 3D in a way that makes my other 3D experiences – Final Destination, Up, Ice Age 3, Dr. Tongue’s 3D House of Slave Chicks) – seem like cheap parlour tricks. It wasn’t just action (although there was plenty of that), there was beauty, wonder. My Avatar-mates and I all admitted to tearing up at some point during the proceedings.

The sheer CGI-ness of the thing is also overwhelming. This film is essentially set in the Uncanny Valley, yet as a tale of exotic adventurism, of failed conquest of the irrational, of getting outside your body and putting on a new skin, it certainly works. By the end of it, the humans were the ones that looked weird. Avatar will be a legendary drug movie for some time to come. (And no, I’m not saying I was high seeing it, although I kind of felt like it after.)

But will it be celebrated as much as some of the more gushing reviews would have you believe?

In order to answer that, we’d have to answer my opening question: which is the true experience, the 3D Imax blowout or watching it at home on DVD or even Blu-Ray? The practical answer is the latter experience, as ever since VHS took root, home theatre revenues have dwarfed theatrical box office. If a movie is the sum of all its viewings, Avatar’s cracks will show up. Its stock, underdeveloped characters, its all-too-angelic indigenous peoples, its blunt allegory, its “Unobtanium”. I’d say it’s the worst Cameron script, which isn’t really much of an insult, but still.

But if we are allowed to be idealists, optimists, to judge a movie in the best possible light in which it can be seen – which for Avatar involves kooky glasses – we might well see it as a glowing blue planetful of awesomeness.

Weekend Box Office: Cameron is legend

$73-million is 2nd place to I Am Legend for december openings, but probably snowstorm-related and if it has Titanic legs, it will crush everything.

The best films of 2009 – Roger Ebert's Journal

That's Not Art

Need a last-minute gift? Go get yourself an eBook reader – Andy Ihnatko

A Whole Lotta Nothing: In Defense of Twittering During Tragedy

Jack Bauer interrogates Santa

about time. Santa is creepy.

'Lost' promo that has 'Lost' fans-and even its producer-buzzing | EW.com

pretty awesome Spanish Lost promo.

Snake Eyes Ninja Christmas Megamix

Shit dude, forgot to post this here. It’s a massive 40-something-samples-in-8-minutes mashup frenzy featuring Slick Rick, Big Baby Jesus, Chewbacca, Fucked Up, Raffi, Ella Fitzgerald, and whatever else seemed like a good idea at the time.

<a href="http://snakeeyes.bandcamp.com/track/a-ninja-christmas-megamix">A Ninja Christmas Megamix by Snake Eyes</a>

Fragmandroid: Google’s mad dash to Microsoftdom « counternotions

Anne Rice: 'Should Major Authors consider going straight to Kindle?'

Quentin Tarantino names his top 8 films of the year

surprisingly mainstream

New Paramount division will think small

will make sub-$100,000 films

Photos from the Star Wars Christmas Shoot

Tuskan Raider's Disappointing Gift

Here’s a set of photos from our Star Wars promo shoot I mentioned last week. Big christmas card potential here, I’m thinking.

Amazing Article in Harper's About Journalism

Twilight of the American Newspaper

We no longer imagine the newspaper as a city or the city as a newspaper. Whatever I may say in the rant that follows, I do not believe the decline of newspapers has been the result solely of computer technology or of the Internet. The forces working against newspapers are probably as varied and foregone as the Model-T Ford and the birth-control pill. We like to say that the invention of the internal-combustion engine changed us, changed the way we live. In truth, we built the Model-T Ford because we had changed; we wanted to remake the world to accommodate our restlessness. We might now say: Newspapers will be lost because technology will force us to acquire information in new ways. In that case, who will tell us what it means to live as citizens of Seattle or Denver or Ann Arbor? The truth is we no longer want to live in Seattle or Denver or Ann Arbor. Our inclination has led us to invent a digital cosmopolitanism that begins and ends with “I.” Careening down Geary Boulevard on the 38 bus, I can talk to my my dear Auntie in Delhi or I can view snapshots of my cousin’s wedding in Recife or I can listen to girl punk from Glasgow. The cost of my cyber-urban experience is disconnection from body, from presence, from city.

I don’t know if that’s true – I personally don’t feel less connected to Toronto now – it’s one of many neighbourhoods I live in. Then again, I read the newspaper every day in some form or another.

It's been a while since I posted about games

44 days, to be exact, when I was still evaluating the PS3. Since then it basically went Demon’s Souls – Uncharted 2 – Dragon Age – Little Big Planet (PSP). I didn’t finish Demon’s Souls, but hope to someday. I totally loved it, and would consider it one of the better games of the year. Many have said that of Uncharted 2, and I can see why, as it has great writing, excellent pacing, and plenty of gameplay variety. However, it seems a little old-fashioned. Perhaps it’s me personally rather than the industry as a whole, but I feel like we’ve moved on from linear story-based games that are trying to be like movies. The game does not allow you to make any choices other than which order to shoot the bad guys. I realize this was the case with Halo as well, and many other A-list games. But my tastes have gradually shifted.

Oh yeah, Halo ODST. Almost forgot about that one, as it was a bit of a flash in the pan. It’s interesting to note that said linear storytellers Bungie actually shifted to a non-linear, architectural model for the sections of ODST. It was certainly well-made, but short, and not really worth a full game price. Had a few epic sessions of firefight though – one game lasted two hours. Damn.

Not that it’s much different from what Bioware has been doing for years, but Dragon Age is more where I see the future of games, where every aspect of the game (gameplay, story, etc.) changes based on the player’s choices. It’s a party-based action RPG with excellent writing, mission design, and an extremely detailed world to explore. Sure, it’s elves and wizards which is a little played out, but despite that the material is strong. I’m nowhere near finished it, but still plugging away.

I rarely buy full-price PSP games, but I made an exception for Little Big Planet for some reason. I’ve never played more than the demo of the big boy PS3 version, so I don’t know how the portable game compares, but I’ve really enjoyed my few hours with this one. It’s generally a pleasant, relaxing experience playing through the story missions – I’m not a huge platformer fan but this is good stuff. I’ve played very few player-made levels, and haven’t tried to create them yet myself, but I aim to, and that’s all that counts, innit?

All the while I can never resist buying and barely playing iPhone games. The iPhone is an amazing games platform, blah blah. Great, your game uses all your batteries and then your phone is dead. A phone call interrupts your game and when you go back, it didn’t save. Or the game takes five minutes to load. Or the touch controls suck, again. Or it’s a dumbed-down version of what would be decent on another platform. I’ve definitely played some great iPhone games, but most of them I never spend more than half an hour with.

Not sure why I keep buying them.

The latest is Rogue Planet, gameloft’s attempt to rip off Advance Wars. Gameloft is like the iPhone’s Asylum studios, churning out cheap knockoffs of well-known franchises. Some of them are good in a workmanlike, the-gameplay-is-engaging sort of way, but they all feel soulless, with no originality or inspiration to be found.

It’s december – there are a million games out, and no time to play them. I’m hoping to try out the new Zelda, Assassin’s Creed 2, Borderlands and even Modern Warfare 2, but I probably can’t do everything I want to between now and the release of Mass Effect 2 and whatever the latest Final Fantasy is. But whatever – when it comes to video games, too much of a good thing is still a good thing.

Our Star Wars SPACE-Mas spot

You can watch our 12 Days of SPACE-mas spot featuring Star Wars characters here. It got mentioned on starwars.com, which is dopeness! I have a ton of great pictures from the set – I’ll try and post them soon.

Kindle

I am now the proud owner of a Kindle. It was an extremely generous birthday present from my sisters. I’ve been researching and discussing ebook readers a lot with my pal Ari – it’s a fascinating emerging market. I probably wouldn’t have shelled out the bread for one at the moment, but I’m certainly happy to have one, to learn about its capabilities, and to learn more about the entire field.

The screen is a wonder. It really has to be seen to be believed. When I first looked at it I thought the “plug in the power cable” message and diagram were a sticker on the screen, but no, that’s how things look. Virtuality has never looked so physical. It literally uses no power unless you’re turning the page.

The font is actually really nice – a serif that’s flirting with sans. You can adjust the text size, but not the font, which struck me as odd, if the sort of thing Apple would do, and you sense that this product is very much the result of an emulation of Apple’s attention to design detail.

The interface leaves a lot to be desired. Your instinct is to touch the screen, but no, you’re stuck with a nipply little joystick, a keyboard(!) and a handful of other buttons. The low refresh rate of e-ink displays make it feel klunky no matter what, but that’s one of those tradeoffs that goes with the territory. Luckily, most of the time you’re just going to be pressing ‘next page’, and that works fine.

You can buy books from the Amazon store on the Kindle itself, and as I’m sure you’ve heard, they get zapped near-instantly to the device, thanks to its always-on cell radio or whatever they call it. You can also plug in to your PC via USB and transfer things that way. There’s also a free app called Calibre that can work like iTunes to your Kindle’s iPod, and will also convert files (including Epub, PDF, RTF, HTML) into Kindle-optimized formats.

You can store thousands of books on this thing, so I loaded it up with some public domain Dead White Guy Classics via Feedbooks. Also, my current book is James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover, an enormous hardcover that gets tiring to lug around. I had previously downloaded a pirate .rtf ebook of it (which I feel was within my moral rights, doncha think) to try and get it on my iPhone on those days I wanted to carry my camera instead of a half ton of paper, but the document converted poorly. Calibre did a great job and now I can consume hard-boiled political conspiracy fiction in a much lighter package.

Back to that cell network connection. Here’s where things get shady, probably because the towering death lords we call the Canadian telecommunications oligopoly have entered the room. In the US, you can do the following with your Kindle:

In Canada, you can do none of these things. Also, every transaction has a $2 surcharge added to it, so a $10 new release becomes $12 and a free public domain book becomes $2. I think what is happening is that Kindle doesn’t yet have a deal with Rogers, Telus or Bell, so the prices reflect the ludicrous roaming charges that those companies bill to AT&T. No one even knows what network this thing is connecting to – none of the parties involved will talk about it. That suggests negotiations are still ongoing. Be that as it may, the last thing we Canadian nerds needed was another sign of what a technological backwater we have become.

If you were going to hold out for a future, more awesome ebook reader, I can’t say I blame you. It seems like a new one is announced every day (Nook, motherfucker!), and undoubtedly future models will feature touch screens, colour, will fire lasers & brew killer espresso. And in Canada, you may want to wait unil Sauron, Hitler and Emperor Palpatine (or whomever manages the affairs of our telecom providers) allow the device to reach its true potential.

Regardless, right now, the experience of reading on this thing is quite pleasant, as is the slim size, and the generous storage. It’s the Tardis for book nerds, and I’m definitely happy with it so far.

Karen Armstrong's Buddha

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“Buddha” is equal parts biography, analysis of myth, and historical contextualization. The first two go hand in hand – as with Jesus, none of the source literature about the Buddha was written when he was alive, and over the years much mytholigical sediment has accrued, not least because no one was really in the business of providing a historical biography. They were interested in selling a religion. Armstrong keeps both balls in the air through the course of the book, to great effect.

The historical context, however, was the most interesting. As little as I knew about the Buddha going into this book, I knew even less about Northern India, c. 500 BC. Armstrong situates it in The Axial Age, a time of great social upheaval and multiple revolutions in thought, in multiple regions across the world. The Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, and Zarathustra are idiomatic, but it also includes Plato, “the authors of the Upanishads, Lao Tzu, Homer, Socrates, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Thucydides, Archimedes, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Deutero-Isaiah”. That’s a pretty sweet all-star team you got there.

More specifically, Armstrong’s emphasis on context allows you to see what Buddhism’s innovations actually were. Buddhism is unique amongst today’s religions in its godlesness and emphasis on ‘enlightenment’. That would not have distinguished it from the competition at the time – such concepts come from the contemporaneous yogic tradition. The innovation was the concept of the ‘middle way’, which was essentially “not too hedonist, not too puritan.” The notion of the non-existence of the atman (self, ego) is the other key new thought that I can’t say I’ve totally got my (selfish, egomaniac) head around.

If you’re at all curious about the origins of Buddhism, the life of Buddha or spirituality in general, I’d heartily recommend this book.