g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

Steven Den Beste
James Lileks
Little Green Footballs
As the Apple Turns
Cold Fury
Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
Ravishing Light
Cartago Delenda Est

Cars without compromise.

Book Plugs:

Buy 'em and I get
money. I think.
BSD Mall

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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
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 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, January 6, 2002
01:07 - Okay, so maybe there is a slogan. Sort of.


Well, snuh, I say.

Hey, wait. I guess that means I should get some sleep. Gotta be up early to go gather the troops so we can get our stream locked down in time... g'night, whoever the heck is reading this.

00:09 - Annnnd.... nothing for the next nine hours, I would imagine...

We're eight minutes past the tickover, and still no sign of a new slogan for today. So I guess they'll be leaving the page as-is until the first thing gets unveiled at 9AM.

I can deal with that...

23:39 - Wellp, too late...

Looks like timecanada.com now redirects to www.time.com/time, which results in a 500 Server Error. It would seem that someone's running around in the server room like a webmonkey who knows his last paycheck is being written this very instant...

The article's byline date was January 14, by the way.

I'll bet Steve isn't getting a wink of sleep tonight. Let's hope he doesn't look too flustered and bleary after this little gaffe...

22:30 - Whoops! Nice Going, Time...

Looks like someone at Time Canada has jumped the gun a bit-- and will probably not be invited to any more "exclusive test runs" after posting this just a few minutes ago:

Hmm, flat-panel iMac. Cool. Tiny footprint and articulated-neck LCD panel that invites tactile interaction. Cool. DVD burner and G4. Cool. But...

This means that the top-end PowerMacs will also need to be upgraded, and upgraded in a big way, because otherwise why spend $1000 more for a machine that doesn't do as much?

And then there's iPhoto, which is pretty much what we were expecting and hoping for. iTunes for photos. Cool.

But there's gotta be more, right? It's a 2.5-hour keynote; there's going to have to be a "one more thing." Riiiiight?

We'll see tomorrow...

19:50 - Now even bin Laden has copycats...


Remember when we were worried that kids would shoot up their schoolyards after listening to too much Marilyn Manson and playing too much Counterstrike?

Now we're going to have to start a Million Mom March to get the International Terrorism industry to back off from creating a bad influence on our kids, just like the gaming industry and the goth music industry already did.

I wish this kid had lived, so we could see the interviews. "Yeah, y'know, I was really like pissed off at the world, cuz like all these popular kids were all popular and stuff and they didn't understand me or think I was cool for wearing trench coats and little round orange glasses in class. The class president liked to make fun of me, and his mom was killed in the World Trade Center, so I figured the best way to get back at him was..." ...as he looks over his shoulder at the broken window where his Cessna crashed.

Hey, parents who want to blame the Internet and goth music for your kids being screwed up: if you take those influences away, the world will just come up with worse ones.

19:13 - The Problem with Post-Katzenberg Disney

The first half of this article could very well have been written by me-- at least, in the sense that I feel exactly the same way about the Disney Stores, Disney TV Animation, Pooh, and the parks.

But the second half is all about Atlantis, a film that was far more artistically ambitious than anything they've done in years-- and of course Disney paid the price for their insolence in the form of a dismal box-office run.

Disney would so dearly love to be able to make animated films that would sell as well as their kiddie productions, but that aren't aimed at pre-schoolers. And since Katzenberg left, they haven't been able to bring out any movies that appeal simultaneously, as the article's author puts it, "to the mutually exclusive groups of a) animation buffs, b) small children, and c) everyone else."

Katzenberg has done some awesome work over at Dreamworks, but the films there haven't quite had the same punch as they would have if they were released by Disney. Disney's marketing and merchandising and distribution punch is unmatched in that arena, and Dreamworks has become mired in the Bluth and Amblin haze that accompanied the late-90s renaissance of underrated non-Disney animated masterpieces. Brad Bird's The Iron Giant was one of the milestones in animation history, but hardly anybody noticed.

And now we're cruising for another slump into mediocrity in feature animation. Hopefully it won't be quite as awful as it was in the 60s through the 80s... but I don't think anything could ever get that bad.
Saturday, January 5, 2002
03:10 - The Final Word on the iWalk

Now this is pretty cool. If true, it suggests that Apple really has managed to whip up a little magic something that nobody in the rumor mill has managed to predict. Maybe we all really will be surprised on Monday.

Gee, the iWalk fake was so well done that you'd think SpyMac.com was a black-ops fake-out site run by Apple as an undercover infiltration into the very heart of Mac Rumor Site Land.


02:21 - Yeah, but I bet YOUUUU used a cron job...


Yeah, yeah. So what's it going to be between midnight tomorrow and 9AM, huh? Huh?

02:16 - Star Wars: Obi-Wan Review (Hint: it sucks)

Hmm, funny I should mention George Lucas in that previous post, eh? Particularly intended, as I did, to correspond to Microsoft and the Xbox?

Because while before Christmas I was distressed to discover that the local Electronics Boutique had become transformed into a black-and-glowing-green tank full of Xbox-only stuff, with just one corner in the back of the store still holding a pathetic defense of games for other platforms, and big posters for the upcoming Star Wars-themed Xbox games filling the front windows-- this review tells me there's at least not much to worry about as far as those games go.

02:05 - Salon Predicts a Long, Humiliating March of Death for the Xbox

A very refreshing article to read, at least for me. It focuses on the Xbox's future as a function of the games that are and will be available for it, and how game developers are reacting to it as a platform. We get a good glimpse into the creative distinctions between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft (well, Microsoft's purchased game-developing subsidiaries), and what it is that makes a game into a killer app that will sell the console unaided.

Halo is upheld as the big, central Xbox title-- but the article forgets to mention that it will be available for PC and Mac shortly, which is a very significant point. Halo, the only game that people universally admire the Xbox for, is not even an exclusive for the platform.

Munch's Oddysee, the only other game to get much attention in the article as having the potential to capture gamers' imaginations, is described as being successful largely because it plays just like certain other wildly popular platformers from the past. Namely, it "...feels a lot like Shigeru Miyamoto's Super Mario games, but with internal organs for heroes."

It goes on to describe a ton of games that are being developed for the PS2 primarily because it's the clear winner in developers' eyes-- but also because Sony is more of a company that developers trust with their creative visions. According to Greg LoPiccolo, VP of product development for Harmonix Music Systems, "FreQuency is an extremely innovative game and we knew that we were going to need an innovative publisher to 'get' our vision and to take the product to market properly. Sony is a company that has always been progressive in this regard."

So a console's success is not based purely on its specs, and different console-selling companies do in fact have real (or at least perceived) differences in their creative atmospheres and visions. This isn't "Company A vs. Company B vs. Company C". It's Steven Spielberg vs. Stanley Kubrick vs. the present-day George Lucas.

I'll leave it up to you to decide which of the three companies I mean those to represent.

16:35 - The Joy of Tech Weighs In


It's about time we heard from JoT on this matter. But the most bizarre part of this is just how correct this cartoon is going to have to be to do justice to the hype.

You know, when most companies produce slogans like this before a show, people-- even their devoted customers-- mostly just yawn and say "Yeah, c'mon, make with the actual announcement and stop playing marketing games."

But the Mac fans are gobbling this up. (Yes, I know, I'm doing exactly that myself. Shut up.) Again, this is the Way of the Mac. To Apple fans, the strategy of the company is a shared community experience. The fact that Apple is small enough (compared to Microsoft) and nimble enough to direct its movements according to direct feedback from the users makes it all feel like something we can directly affect. When you get thousands and thousands of people together, even if it's across the net, they have an emotional feedback effect that makes them all feel invincible and potent, like if we all just believe hard enough, everything will turn out fine. It's like Apple, the entity, is much larger than Apple, the company-- and every one of us is part of the entity.

The reality is that Apple is just a company, like any other company. They have their evil lawyers, their stupid execs, their mindless market-droids, their haughty engineers-- all the same stuff that Microsoft has. But what they've somehow managed to cultivate, that nobody else has, is a user base that considers itself to be part of the company. When Apple succeeds, we all jubilate. When Apple fails, we all share the pain.

And when Apple tickles us, we all go into hysterics.

13:03 - Revisionism in Movies Post-Attacks

This whole article is very good reading, but I certainly hope the first observation it makes is not true-- that Peter Jackson is under pressure to rename the second LotR movie from The Two Towers to avoid reminding people of the World Trade Center.

A quick glance through TheOneRing.net turns up no such rumors, but that's not definitive by any stretch.

I don't think it'll happen in any case. Jackson is from New Zealand, which means he won't have the same emotional connection to the WTC that we do. When he hears phrases like "Twin Towers", he probably thinks of the Petronas Towers before the WTC. (Actually he probably thinks of Isengard and Barad-dűr, and probably did before he ever took on this project.)

And he won't be getting this kind of pressure as time goes on, either. I would guess that later in the year, we won't be seeing this kind of insane desire to cover up the past. I predict that starting in about two or three years, the movie execs will have noticed a change in the air, and we'll suddenly get all kinds of movies about terrorism, New York, and terrorism in New York-- and watch, they'll spend millions of dollars to set them pre-2001 and digitally ADD the World Trade Center towers back in. You just watch.

Right after the attacks, a friend and I noted that we'll probably never see the Simpsons episode "
The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson
" again, and that the guy selling Khlau Kalash in the plaza between the towers was now gone. No more crab juice for Homer. Only Mountain Dew.

But I suspect we'll be seeing that episode again soon. Maybe not this month or next, but by the end of the year. I hope it comes sooner rather than later, and same with the terrorism movies and the WTC imagery.

Because we need to get people desensitized so their delicate sensibilities won't be offended when The Two Towers comes out for Christmas.
Friday, January 4, 2002
00:06 - She canna' take nae more, captain!

Damn, they're laying it on thick with the Star Trek references, aren't they?

Maybe this means they'll be unveiling personal transporter technology or replicators or warp drive or something. iWarp? iBeam? iWeldAssShut?

Something tells me they were up late with the brainstorming session for these slogans, and once they got going with the Trekkie talk, it just got away from them. And now they're incorporating more rumor-site-ese, namely, "lust". That word is bandied about quite commonly on the Mac Web, but seldom (if ever) used "officially".

Maybe that's because they don't usually feel so secure in the lustworthiness of their gear that they can get away with saying something like this. At least, that's what I'm hoping...

19:10 - Bet on the iDock?

So it's clear that the iWalk is not what's going to be showing up on Monday at MWSF. But what will it be?

All I can say is, I sure hope it isn't that stupid web-pad that everyone thinks is the next best contender. Microsoft will be unveiling their Windows-based wireless pad-PC on Tuesday, and much ink has been spilled over the possibility that the Stevenote was moved to Monday purely so Apple could release the same damn thing a day earlier.

Why would I hope this isn't what's happening? Well, because it's petty, for one thing. Definitely not the kind of thing I'd expect an honorable Steve to do. And furthermore, if both devices are released within a day of each other, and they're reasonably similar in functionality, three months from now nobody will remember who brought theirs out first. Nobody will care. All they'll care about is that the Windows one is available, and the Microsoft and Apple pads will sell in the same proportion that Wintel PCs and Macs sell today.

And that's to say nothing of the fact that Microsoft will have had all kinds of other companies on board with their concept for months, and all the infrastructure will be in place as soon as it's introduced; whereas because Apple's device has been secret, nobody else will be ready with any software or anything. So Apple will effectively be hobbled out of the gate, Monday/Tuesday one-upmanship or not.

If Apple was going to release a web-pad, they should have done it a year ago when they could have developed a lead in the market. But if they're jostling with Microsoft over a one-day lead in getting the thing out the door, they're too late.

The Monday announcements had better be more impressive than this. What sucks, though, is that "Where no PC has gone before" plays perfectly into the "web-pad a day before Microsoft's" theory.

12:13 - How to Good-Bye Depression!


Believe it or not, this is a real book. The complete title is: How to Good-Bye Depression : If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?

And here we thought Engrish was limited to amateur websites devoted to reveling in this particular splendidly vacuous variant on recognizable language. Now it's something you can pick up in Borders.
"If you don't know concentration, which gives you peculiar pleasure, your life looks like hell."

Word up, yo.

09:26 - Waaait a minute.

So now we're dropping Photoshopped pictures of bin Laden on al Qaeda to try to convince them that Osama has put on a suit and tie and gone off to blend into the West. And we're admitting this.

We're doing actual, real live (shoddy) Soviet-style made-up propaganda. And all this time I thought one of the biggest challenges we had to face in the world courtroom was the popular conception that we're not above making stuff up and lying and grinding the propaganda machine. Those of us who had faith in the government were pretty sure that whatever else we were doing, we weren't doing blatant propaganda. Those leaflets we dropped early in the campaign were extravagantly worded ("Attention Taliban! Your days are numbered!"), but none of them turned out to be false.

But now we're up against a Muslim world that thinks the US is so technologically advanced and so lacking in principles that we conjured up the "Osama tape"-- the one where he gloated about Sept. 11 at a dinner party-- from scratch. Our challenge is to convince hard-line Muslim extremists that we were just sitting there minding our own business when the planes hit us, and that Osama planned it-- something they refuse to believe. And why should they? Even with the "smoking gun" tape, in their minds it's completely reasonable that we manufactured it. "They have all that technology," they said. "It's just Western propaganda."

But at least up till now we had the benefit of knowing (with the certainty of people who live with our level of technology every day, and who are notoriously skeptical anyway-- the iWalk photos weren't posted for a day before they'd been Zapruder'ed to death) that the tape was real and we didn't make anything up. We don't do that sort of thing! We're the United States!

...Until now, apparently. Now how are we supposed to defend against accusations of using technology to manufacture truth?

And that's not the worst part! Donald Rumsfeld, quoted in CNN's article:

Asked whether the leaflet could be used by some to say the United States is willing to doctor or make up things -- as has been alleged about the videotape found in Afghanistan by the United States -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he had not thought about the possibility

Rumsfeld, speaking at Thursday's Pentagon media briefing, said there was "nothing much" the United States could do about what others might claim about the leaflets.

"The whole premise of bin Laden's activities in the world are premised on lies and the fact that people will say things, like you just said they might say, is true," he said.

Bullshit. We can not play into their accusations, for one thing. Who the hell is vetting Rumsfeld's decisions here? The same person who told Bush that it was okay to call the war against terrorism a "Crusade"? Here I'd thought that we'd pulled neatly away from that monstrous gaffe (to Muslims, "Crusade" means, specifically, "Christian war against Islam") and gotten a brain. But now evidently it hadn't occurred to Rumsfeld that Photoshopping a picture of bin Laden to create a premise for sale to al Qaeda would be exactly what the people who bitterly hate the US have been accusing us of doing.

If this doesn't completely wreck our international credibility, I don't know what will. Thanks a lot, Donald.
Thursday, January 3, 2002
00:25 - Boldly? Yeah, signs point to yes...

Three days to go, and today's slogan is:

So, some kind of leap forward in networking technology? Mobile computing? Does "PC" refer to Wintel PCs, or personal computers in general? Or is this just shorthand for "Something new and cool"?

Friends who know what the MWSF lineup will be-- and won't tell me <growl>-- are just vague enough to keep me from being able to conclude anything besides "The keynote will involve multiple announcements" and "The biggest news will be some kind of technological device"-- gee, what a scoop, huh?

We've got some kind of corporate function to go to over lunch in Berkeley, and we're leaving at about 10:30 to get there-- which means we won't be able to see the whole keynote live. Unless I play hooky.

17:38 - "FreeBSD Unleashed" Reviewed by Daemon News


Woo-hoo! FreeBSD Unleashed has just been reviewed by Daemon News, the official news organ for FreeBSD. The reviewer, Linh Pham, gives an overall pretty glowing recommendation-- there are a few chastisements over topics we glossed over, but there was particular praise for the Network Security chapter, which I was pretty proud of-- so that makes me all happy and stuff.

There's also word of another five-star reader review over at Amazon.com, and the editors say it's "selling through very well", so maybe I'll let down my guard on my guarded optimism. :)

17:02 - It's the Circle of Geeeeeeeks...

This is worth a laugh and a half. And don't nobody think you're safe, because someone, somewhere, considers himself or herself less geeky than you. After all, you're reading a web page!

11:01 - Look Both Ways Before Crossing History

Forum on NPR this morning had Chris Hitchens, self-proclaimed "anti-theist" who has just published a book exploring some of the less-savory aspects of people like Mother Teresa. His thesis, as he stated it on the show:

"The thought that we are being supervised by a divine Deity, from dawn till dusk, from cradle to grave-- actually, from before we're born till after we die-- I can't imagine a more horrible thought. It would be like living in North Korea-- only your whole life, without any hope of the regime ever changing. And I'm sorry, but people who believe in that are simply asking to be slaves."

I just thought that was kinda funny-- especially coming as it was in such proper British terms from such a proper British mouth. This is the kind of thing I would have just eaten up in high school. Since then I've developed a more thorough appreciation for religion, though really no interest in it myself-- but I can certainly see how it might help someone to center his or her ethical system in the absence of other means to do so.

Hitchens did mention that people like Martin Luther King-- who are often held up before him as examples of the beneficial effects of religion-- are not good people because they are religious, but that they would be good people whether they were religious or not. A Dr. King can just as easily come from a person's own ethics and principles as from the pulpit. The only difference is that he'd be doing it of his own free will, rather than out of fear of going to Hell.

You don't have to be religious to fall in love, to feed the starving, to give back to your community, or to go to Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban in a retaliatory and preventive measure. However, you do have to be religious to forbid love to someone not of your faith or to discriminate because of religion or to turn September 11th into a reason to drop a bomb into the middle of Mecca and destroy all of Islam. Indeed, you do have to be religious to hijack planes and crash them into civilian buildings because God told you to.

This may offend some people, but I don't mean it to. It's just something I've had on my mind since the attacks, since seeing the outraged ultra-right-wing Crusade-happy reaction to them, and this is as good a place as any to air it. There are good religious people and there are bad religious people, just as there are good and bad non-religious people. I'm not prepared to suggest the relative proportions of which there are. But we all need to accept the importance of analyzing things from an unfamiliar viewpoint once in a while-- for the non-religious, consider the scriptural. For the religious, consider the secular. Because Janus was truly the most gifted of the gods.

09:59 - The iWalk Won't Die

A site called "SpyMac" claims to have come into possession of exclusive video footage showing a new Apple-branded PDA called the iWalk.

I can't remember whether SpyMac was the hours-old site that claimed the iWalk was the name of the "breakthrough digital device" that turned out in fact to be the iPod, but whatever site that was deserved whatever forced obscurity it slipped into after the rumors it posted turned out to be so false (remember the photo they had? It was a flip-top, TiBook-looking handheld thingy with a lopsided button pad).

Whatever the origins of SpyMac, they have a page with still photos and video footage of the new purported device, and it's password-protected, but the password is freely sent out after e-mail registration.

I'm looking at the page now, and the photos (which I won't post here out of courtesy, except for the one on SpyMac's main page, which appears to the right) ... do in fact look authentic, to say nothing of the videos.

I was all set up to scoff at the Walking Undead Apple PDA rumor in its current laughable form, but now that I'm watching the footage, which looks pretty dang hard to fake, I have to concede that it may well be real.

The device has a color screen considerably bigger than the usual Palm's; in fact, the size of the machine is about halfway between a large Palm and the Newton. The only physical control is a jog knob with the Apple logo on it that you twist to change the screen layout from landscape to portrait, and other stylus-activated functions are controlled by on-screen icons along the bottom. It has Newton-esque handwriting recognition, what looks like an integrated web browser, FireWire, some kind of mysterious port that SpyMac alleges is "Gigawire", wireless networking (?), pages with a brushed-metal-and-rounded-edges look that resembles iTunes, security features, and other stuff too blurry to be faked except by someone with lots of discipline.

Now that I look closer, the security screen looks suspect. The challenge phrase ("Please enter the passwort [sic] or draw the graphic below in order to unlock the iWalk.") appears above a password window with a line for text entry. What graphic below? How is drawing a given graphic (which I don't see anywhere) a security feature? More like a test of drawing ability. And why does it say "passwort"? It's possible that it's a really good hoax by someone skillful in everything except spelling. But only very remotely possible. Oh, and the power supply next to the device is the old-style flying-saucer one, if that's significant-- not the new white "chiclet" one.

And in any case, okay, a PDA, that's cool, but-- I'm sorry, but an Apple-branded PDA is not breakthrough. It's not "beyond the rumor sites". It's been the very meat of the rumor sites for the past two years. Attendance at this thing's introduction would not be "a back-stage pass to the future". PDAs are commodity items now, and they're really not terribly sexy. Everybody I've ever known who's had a PDA (myself included) used it for the first two months-- and then you seldom saw it again. PDAs lose their interest and usefulness. They have yet to prove indispensability in any of our lives. Besides, referencing Palm's sales woes and the ever-present WinCE threat, Steve himself said not so long ago that "I'm not sure [the PDA world] is a fun place to be right now."

So unless the iWalk has something truly original to bring to the table-- like, oh, I don't know, a built-in hard drive-- I can't see how it would form any part of a useful business venture by Apple. Especially if it costs-- what? Bets? $500?

Where does all this leave us? I have no idea, but I've saved the pictures and QuickTime movies from the password-protected page to gather opinions at work. Eek! I'm gonna be late for work now. Thanks a lot, SpyMac.
Wednesday, January 2, 2002
03:06 - Bakshi's "Lord of the Rings"

Now that I've seen Jackson's new FotR movie three times and blogged about it till I've run out of immediate reactions, I decided to pick up the DVD of Ralph Bakshi's 1978 (more or less) animated adaptation and slog through it again.

Like all good net-bound Tolkien fans, I had the infamous review from the Tolkien Sarcasm Page topmost in my mind as I watched. While all the giggle-fit-inducing points made in The Review are valid, there were a couple of things I actually thought Bakshi did well that would have benefited Jackson's movie. Namely:
  1. Merry, Pippin, and Sam take their time getting out of the Shire-- and in so doing betray a bit of character in revealing their "conspiracy" to determine what Frodo is up to. You get a sense of the history of these characters in Bakshi's movie, whereas in PJ's they're just vaguely related acquaintances who they happen to run into on their way out. But they're so dorky in Bakshi and so deft-in-a-pinch in Jackson that I'll live with it.
  2. I like how Aragorn hid behind the door in the Prancing Pony when Barliman came in.
  3. Bill the pony is with them from the outset. In Jackson, he only appears out of nowhere after Rivendell, and then is dismissed when they enter Moria. In Bakshi he's there all along, and his off-screen sacrifice to the Watcher is pretty shivery.
  4. They didn't cut out the story of Beren and Lúthien, so you get the historical-parallel context for Aragorn's love for Arwen. But Arwen is never even mentioned in Bakshi, so never mind.
  5. Some mention is made of Lórien before they get there, and Boromir in particular comes out as being uneasy at the prospect of meeting Galadriel. His little chest-puffing sword confrontation with Aragorn there is also pretty cool.
  6. It's overdone, but at least you do see Galadriel's ring in Bakshi. Jackson seems to have overlooked that bit.
  7. Similarly, some interesting plot tidbits-- like "Some things the Mirror shows never come to be, unless those that behold them turn aside from their path to prevent them", and "There is no evil in Lothlorien, unless a man should bring it there himself" survive in Bakshi but are lost in Jackson.

But really, that's about all that Bakshi has going for it. Particular point gripes that I would mention, things that weren't already pointed out in The Review:
  1. The prologue is all shot in silhouetted live-action, and when it's narrating a battle, the combatants pretty much stand there uncertainly and wave their weapons slowly at each other. It's like what they filmed was a rehearsal where the director was showing them how to move their swords-- or maybe like someone decided to animate the Bayeux Tapestry. Which would actually be kinda cool, now that I think about it.
  2. The hobbits all waddle around and clap their hands moronically, like little old ladies, and they have buck teeth.
  3. All the landscape pieces look like the hills are made of bones and old tires. Especially when Frodo and Sam see Mt. Doom from afar. Compare to the final landscape shot of the Jackson movie, of the Ered Lithui seen from over the Dead Marshes and Emyn Muil. Bakshi's version of the same shot looks like the set of Junkyard Wars.
  4. Why are all the hobbits' swords brown?
  5. Aragorn looks like the Breelanders would call him Chief Broken Sword.
  6. The scene at the Ford of Bruinen goes on about nine times longer than it needs to. Everything takes place in pointless slow-motion, you can't tell what anybody's trying to do-- it's just ridiculous. Just think-- they could have cut this scene down by 75% and gained five minutes to use in developing backstory at, say, the Council of Elrond. And where the fark is everyone else during the scene?
  7. Speaking of the Council-- what the hell is that background scenery piece that Sam appears against?
  8. Gimli looks to be about 5'8". And he's bald. (But at least there's more subtle interplay between him and Legolas in Bakshi than in Jackson-- but there's more Jackson yet to see.)
  9. In the scene where the Fellowship debates whether to go into Moria, Gandalf plumps in favor of it. Most of them don't want to go in. But when Gimli expresses his desire to go through the mines, Gandalf POINTS at him! With a freaky quivering bony finger! "Judas!"
  10. They mispronounce almost every word they get their hands on. Gandalf yells "Eeeeedro!" at the doors of Moria. They keep saying "Baylin" in the mines. Of course it's MY-nas Tirith. Not, of course, to mention "Sell-a-born'.
  11. The orc-chieftain who charges Frodo in Moria: The Review already mentions his pointless slow-motion. But it doesn't mention how when the scene first switches to him, he's at the far end of the hall leaning against a column, all alone, like he's waiting for his cue and daydreaming. He only starts running toward us after the camera's been staring at him for five seconds.
  12. The scene with Treebeard is just plain ridiculous. He looks like a bad acid trip, and the hobbits do way too much lobotomized four-year-old hand-clapping for their own good.
  13. Once the battle scenes begin in earnest-- once the hobbits are carried off by the orcs toward Rohan-- the animators start getting really lazy. They convey motion-blur on close-angle shots by scribbling jagged lines for the outlines of characters. Keep an eye on the orcs when they're being chased by the Rohirrim-- you'll get lots of chances to freeze-frame it. This is a movie that was never meant to stand up to the scrutiny of DVD-o-philes.

The two films are really apples and oranges-- if you watch Bakshi first and then go to Jackson, Bakshi vanishes from one's radar. But if you watch them in the reverse order, you get a pretty good idea of how differently the two films are done.

Two scenes, for me, best describe how the two movies differ.
  • When Frodo wakes up in Rivendell. Bakshi has Gandalf sitting over him gesticulating and intoning the unsolicited, bizarre story of his imprisonment while Frodo squirms. Jackson, instead, has him apologize-- "I'm sorry-- I was... delayed." And then his mind wanders to a masterful flashback of his escape, and then back to Frodo's bedside. "Gandalf-- what is it?" "<blink> ...Nothing." That's Gandalf.
  • Bilbo asking to see the ring. In Bakshi, he gropes for it with one eye twitching shut, while Frodo tries to prevent himself from taking a swing at Bilbo, who then gets hold of himself and then delivers a flat, overacted "Don't adventures ever have an end?" In Jackson, he turns momentarily to a snarling Gollum snatching for the Ring-- then turns away and sobs with genuine emotion as he apologizes for Frodo being dragged into this mess.

Bakshi is a tedious stumbling slog with occasional good bits. Jackson is art-- it has the odd interstitial rough spot, but the whole is a masterwork.

02:25 - 4 Days to Go...

With four days remaining before Macworld SF, the new countdown slogan is:

Perhaps not quite as eye-opening as yesterday's, but hey, I'll take it.

21:35 - Mmmm, Round Table.


Round Table is the world's most perfect chain pizza. Everything's fresh, the sauce is nice and spicy, the ingredients are layered on thick, the cheese is mmm--so good.

The sauce was weirdly sweet tonight, though. That's another thing I kinda like about Round Table: there's just enough variation from pizza to pizza to make it interesting without ever running much of a risk of getting a dud pizza.

Just one of those little indulgences that make life worth living.

21:02 - Banished Words

Lake Superior State University has released a newly updated list of words that should be excised from the English language-- at least in their opinion. Most frequently this is because the words are new and would seem to displace older, perfectly serviceable usage. Often it's because they are "weasel words", of the type that George Carlin or Scott Adams point out with such vigor and insight. Many entries are quite funny, but while I had originally intended simply to link to the page with a giggle and a brief note, over the course of reading it I came to the conclusion that many of the nominated words really don't deserve to be there.

It seems to me that many of the nominators fear change. At the very least they take issue with the vocabulary of segments of society that they don't know very much about. "Functionality", for one example, is a very meaningful word in software engineering. Yes, we could describe every aspect of the new features in an updated piece of software in its brief description-- but that would turn it into a long description, which generally appears elsewhere. You say "Increased functionality" to say that the software does more, as opposed to being a "bug fix" release, which makes the software work properly when doing the things it already does.

I'm glad to see constructions like "If... then the terrorists win" and "solutions" get the thumbs-down. But many of these new-fangled words have very specific meaning to the people who use them, and to ignore that is to display willful ignorance of the field for which it is meaningful. It's also to deny English of one of its great strengths: a vocabulary so rich and so full of shades of meaning that you can use it to describe things in much greater physical and metaphorical detail than in almost any other language. There's a subtle difference between "In the wake of" and "after", and between "foreseeable future" and "future", and between "forewarn" and "warn", and (especially in some of the jobs we do) between "making money" and "earning money".

Read through the list, but don't scoff at each entry just because it's there. Decide for yourself which words you would actually choose to use over their alternatives, and which words you yourself think ought to go.

16:15 - Wow, times HAVE changed.


Remember back when User Friendly was just an ego-stroking strip for Linux-heads? Any other OS was fair game-- not just Windows, but Macs especially were a subject of ridicule. Way back when, a computer that got resurrected into the body of an iMac was bemoaning having being cheated of death's sweet embrace instead of such a horrible fate.

But now the TiBook is seen as a desirable object even by User Friendly, and not simply because it has OS X in it.

I suppose this is some sort of sign of the apocalypse, yes?

14:42 - Bearded like the pard!

Okay, so I did it: this morning I didn't shave my whole face, just the stuff on the sides. So now I have a fledgling goatee, or whatever this kind of thing is called.

It still isn't thick enough to really show (it's times like this that I'm really glad to be blonde), but I'll take a picture when it is.
Tuesday, January 1, 2002
00:58 - Eek! Maybe they were reading this blog...

Today's slogan for the MacWorld countdown at apple.com:

Now, that's kinda downright spooky, if you ask me. But damn, that's enough to solidify my suspicions.

Watch, tomorrow's slogan will be "Yes, Brian, we are reading your blog."

21:55 - Well, at least it was better than listening to sports all night...


Okay, so I'd been seeing the trailers for Jimmy Neutron, and I'd written it off as a second-rate, low-budget play by Nickelodeon to gain a "Boy Genius" property like Cartoon Network's "Dexter's Laboratory". I really didn't have much interest in seeing it.

But then I read that CNN.com's Paul Tatara had weighed in with a review of Jimmy Neutron as one of his ten best films of the year. Given that all nine other films that he mentioned were obscure artsy and/or foreign movies that nobody will ever see, and because I always appreciate Tatara's reviews which-- while intellectual-- tend to agree with my opinions on things, I decided to give it a go.

And, well, now I must rethink my opinion of Tatara.

Jimmy Neutron is a low-budget, canned insta-movie that really has very little going for it. There are a number of good gags, and even some that are fairly intelligent and inspired, and the premise is absurdist at best, but there's a formulaic quality to the movie that cripples any possibilities it might have. The animation is second-rate, and I don't think DNA Productions (this is their maiden voyage) will be playing cards at the grown-ups' table anytime soon. The run-cycles are atrocious, everything bounces and floats like a "Mind's Eye" video from 1991, and characters' mouths are consistently lit from within for some reason.

Patrick Stewart is kinda fun in his role as the evil alien king, but he must really not be in high demand if he was willing to demean himself with this turkey (or is that chicken?). One thing I couldn't help but notice is that almost every other cast member played two, three, or as many as five roles. I've never seen that before outside of TV.

Enjoyability-wise, very much "eh". A few good giggles, but for the most part a pedestrian effort that's good for pleasing the 8-year-olds who make up most of the audience, but not a great deal else. This won't be any kind of landmark in CG history, that's for sure. Pixar has nothing to worry about from this quarter.

17:26 - Eurology

Did anybody else hear coverage of that gala musical introduction concert for the Euro? They talked about it a little bit on NPR just now. It was like a rock opera about the security features of the new notes. It had to have been the most ridiculous thing I've heard all this year. (Okay, so that's not saying much yet, but...)

"It's a high-tech note that's sweeping the world
A printing process that's ahead of its time...
With security strips in the fabric mat, ooh yeah
And raised dots for the bliiiiind!"

I wish I could find a verbatim transcript. I've just got to have a copy of this song.

15:35 - Okay, now what's Apple up to?

"6 days to Macworld San Francisco. Count the days. Count the minutes. Count on being blown away."

That's the current slogan on Apple's main page, and it's different from yesterday's ("This one is big. Even by our standards."). So it looks like they're going to be doing a different stir-up-the-masses slogan every day for the coming week, and promoting an active "countdown"-- something they haven't done since the release of Mac OS X in March.

So what are they thinking? For at least the last two MacWorld expos, they've been burned by pre-show rumors flooding the Mac Web, inflating themselves all out of proportion with any possible reality, and setting everyone up for disappointment when the actual keynote announcements were made. New York in July was the worst example: instead of the expected LCD iMac, Mac OS X 10.1, "Apollo" G4 towers in the gigahertz-plus range, PDA, web-pad, upgraded TiBook, and other figments of wishful thinking, we got a modest speed-bump and redesigned case for the G4 towers. And a bunch of software demos and talk.

Steve Jobs was reportedly as crestfallen with the audience's lukewarm reaction as the audience was with the tepid offering. He's been said to have flagellated himself over the fiasco numerous times, often casting (well-deserved) aspersion on the nature of the rumor-mongering that takes place on the Mac Web. And he wasn't the only one. Mac opinion columnists and rumor sites have taken the same stand in recent months, trying voluntarily to keep us from getting our hopes up too high. We've been disappointed, yes, but it's our own fault. If we let the rumors get out of hand, then no realistic announcement will be able to match them. We're bound to be disappointed, no matter how cool the keynote is.

So lately Apple's tactic has been to keep the rumors bottled up as much as possible, not giving any indication of what some new whispered-about item will be. The first indication of a new product in November was the "Breakthrough digital device" sound bite that was fed to the press just a few days before the cover was whipped off the iPod, which gave the Mac Web only a week or so to develop its crackpot theories. But even that was too much time, because by the time the iPod was unveiled, enough people had theorized about wirelessly-connected streaming audio/video players with PDA functionality that when it was revealed to be simply an MP3 player-- a damn fine one, with lots of potential, but still just an MP3 player-- the sentiment from the Mac Web was let-down rage as much as it was the hoped-for lustful interest. In retrospect it seems churlish for us to have expected more for that announcement. But at the time the backlash was very volatile and dangerous for Apple.

So now we have this countdown for MWSF. What could be their plan? They know full well the dangers of playing up the potential for rumors. Maybe they're banking on the fact that this time it's a whole expo, something too wide and non-specific for anyone to get their hands on, with no "Breakthrough digital device"-esque seed available to germinate into impossibly inflated rumors. Maybe they're counting on the rumor sites having done enough chastised self-policing that they won't allow their own expectations and those of their readers to run away with them.

Or, indeed, maybe they've in fact got something so undeniably cool to unveil that they're confident that it will do justice to any inflated rumors.

To draw a parallel: With Lord of the Rings, even the most demanding fans were blown away by the movie. It exceeded all of our expectations. So we know that it's not a problem endemic to the Internet. We're not all so jaded that nothing will impress us that we hadn't already predicted.

Some of my friends refuse to take part in any rumor-mongering or speculation about upcoming Apple announcements, purely in order to protect against disappointment. I'm a bit more free-and-easy with my wish lists. But that doesn't mean I'm prepared to guess what will show up at MWSF.

I will say that I think it's the third possibility above, though. I think they'll blow us away.

14:10 - So Much For "Restful"

There's football or tractor pulls or something on TV downstairs, so I'm going to work.

Even on a #$%@#$ holiday I can't get away from the $#%@#@! sports.

13:51 - "Tales of a BeOS Refugee" Redux

Scot Hacker, who posted an article on Mac OS X and some of its technical and aesthetic merits as compared to his experience with BeOS, has posted a new page full of readers' reactions to his article.

I had sent in an e-mail about case-sensitivity in the HFS+ filesystem; he got permission from me to quote it in its entirety, because, as he said, my response on that topic was "by far the most cogent".

So read it if you like, or don't-- but I just wanted to commemorate the event. :)

Monday, December 31, 2001
03:33 - Well, that's a first...

This was the first time I ever spent midnight on New Year's on the freeway.

Instead of doing whatever my friends were doing-- which turned out to be taking 360-degree panorama photos of all of us in a repeated loop to make into a QuickTime VR movie with each person appearing three or four times-- I spent the tick-over hour listening to a Cuban salsa and mambo concert on NPR. The ten-second countdown was done to the tune of a song that sounded very much like "Oye Como Va", which afterwards gave way to variations on "Guantanamera" and other such crowd-pleasers. Definitely not the usual way I spend this night.

It was interesting being on the freeway at that time, though. 880 was almost deserted. In the stretch between 101 and 280 in downtown San Jose, I never saw a single other car in my direction, either ahead of me or behind me. Very spooky. But I did catch a brief glimpse of fireworks through the trees.

I was about 15 minutes late getting home for the midnight festivities, but it was worth it-- I'd just come from dropping off my folks in Larkspur after a very fun and very full day of sightseeing in San Francisco. We saw about five minutes of the Ansel Adams exhibit at SFMOMA, looked in on the Metreon, walked up to Chinatown for dinner, rode cable cars down to Fisherman's Wharf, did Ghirardelli Square for dessert, then walked down the Embarcadero to see the huge crowd gathering at the Ferry Building for the impending fireworks display and the booming speakers with dance music to stream out over the crowd.

"Welcome to San Francisco, the most beautiful city in the world!"

I must admit, it looked it. And it felt it. One of these years I'll have to go up and take part in that crowd.

13:57 - Angst Technology Dresses Up


This one's definitely worth a hearty <snerk>. I'm sure I've seen this gag before somewhere, but it's very well done here...

10:06 - iPod Defense Comes Boiling Out of the Woodwork


On 12/24, someone had the temerity to post an article saying a few not-so-nice things about the iPod. Namely, the author lambasted its short warranty, its lack of an on-the-fly graphic equalizer, and its earbuds.

None of these things are core to the iPod's design or function, and all of them can be worked around and/or improved with firmware upgrades. But the interesting thing about the article is that it's the first time in a month that I've heard even the first negative thing about the iPod. After an initial uncertain week where people hemmed and hawed about the price, every single negative opinion of the iPod vanished from the Earth. And the praise, oddly enough, has consistently been higher from PC users than from Mac users. Weird, huh?

But the article linked above has followups from iPod users swarming to its defense after the rant on Christmas Eve. They're exhibiting classic Mac-user solidarity: they've got something they think is really cool, and they'll be damned if they let the public ever latch onto something that will paint it as a failure or a waste of money.

In the iPod's case, I totally agree.
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