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June 6, 2012



Movies – 550D post-production update

April 14, 2010

NOW I get why H.264 isn’t an editing format: when you have a cut, it freezes for a moment.

It’s not the biggest of deals for me, in light of how I edit; I’m one of those “match the action as precisely as possible, combing your edits frame-by-frame” guys. So I don’t even notice except during playback, and it’s easy to grind out a low-res rough to look at. OK, so it isn’t professional: I just won’t do it on personal projects, then.

Right now the rough cut, sans any sort of audio, is loading to Vimeo. It’s not a final cut by any means; I’m probably layering on the distortion and the color effects in the “nightmare” sequence, because, screw it, I can and I’ve got more than enough to demonstrate I’ve learned something in class this semester.

Also, this is my first long-term experience with Vimeo, and I have to say, is there a video site that tries harder to upsell you? Jesus, guys, just accept ads, like everyone else.

Movies – Shootin’ on a 550D

April 11, 2010

So I just shot some video on a 550D today, using the kit lens and a $130 Tamron zoom (mostly the kit lens). I used a grand total of two lights, a small Lowell fresnel and a seventy dollar softbox fluoro I got from Cool Lights.

Seriously, it looks great. Far, far better than anything I’ve ever shot to this point. Once the full project, with soundscape and actual edits, is complete, I’ll put it up on YouTube and Vimeo.

In the meantime, a few impressions:

– Jesus God, it’s wonderful having interchangeable lenses. Part of the reason this is an honest-to-God step up in quality is having even $100 lenses with a f-stop of 4.

– I’m happy with the manual controls, except for the white balance. Not being able to set the white balance without taking a still is…what’s the word I’m looking for here…oh, right, crap.

– Post workflow could be a lot better. Apparently my cell phone, which came free in a box of cereal, and all my fancy audio equipment can just serve as a USB drive when asked, but Canon’s $900 camera needs special software to upload images, according to the manual. Playing with workarounds because I don’t like crapware on my computer, but still grating.

– Even though this is just a way-station on my way to the Red Scarlet, I’m happy with my purchase.

Life – I Am Not, In Fact, Dead

March 9, 2010

Quite the opposite. I have, in fact, been writing like a fiend. Just not here, because I haven’t been getting paid to do it, and paying gigs have to, alas, come first.

I write this on the seventh day of being unemployed and trying to keep my head above water with a combination of freelance writing, temp jobs, and basically anything else I can get my hands on. It’s been…well, I’m not going to lie, I’ve basically spent the last few days on an enforced vacation and I’m getting a little too comfortable with it for my own good.

Unemployment, combined with freelance employment, creates this weird baffle around your world. Suddenly, there’s no compelling reason to leave the house. Sure, you’ve got stuff to do that’s a job: I just spent the last eight hours writing. But if you want to spend all day reading comic books, you can.

For those wondering, I’m supporting myself (somewhat) on the back of my various freelance gigs, or at least working those like dogs to keep the money coming in while I job hunt. I also pound out at least five resumes a day to various places. It’s been…unusual, to say the least.

Look for a few reviews in the next few days: specifically, “The Crazies”, which is a surprisingly good thriller and “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”, which is a noir as a series of meetings.

Politics – A Fun Thought Exercise In Running Government Like a Business

February 24, 2010

A common theme in Republican circles is to run government like a business. Now, this should actually be extremely troubling to Republicans, for the precise reason that businesses exist to make a profit. That’s their job. That is generally why you start a business. In fact, one can argue that what the teabaggers and the GOP are protesting against is, in fact, what they claim they want: to run government like a business.

But doing this illustrates some other faults and problems which are profoundly interesting and worth looking into: why the GOP spends so damn much, why the Deep South has zero right to be outraged over high taxes, and a few absolutely brutal ways to make a lot of money.

Let’s start by looking at who’s profitable and who’s not. For that, we’ll use the data gathered by the Tax Foundation about who gave what to the government and how much they got back between 1981 and 2005. Anything under a dollar means that state is profitable. And how many states are profitable?

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida (by a slim margin), Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan (just barely), Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon (barely), Pennsylvania, Texas (by the closest one-to-one margin on this list), Washington, and Wisconsin.

These eighteen states keep the lights on and pay the bills, as much as they can. And notice the theme here: they have major boom industries and have major urban centers within their state lines. Biotech, IT, health care, the financial industry, and others occupy these states, in addition to New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Las Vegas, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Los Angeles…in short, this list contains most of the cities of industry and all of the cities of services. In fact, the only baffler here are Wisconsin and New Hampshire; I’m assuming the former is just too nice not to pay higher rates and the latter, from what I know of it, is just too damn stubborn to take the money.

Anyway, these are our profit centers. They’re the ones making money.

Rhode Island sits, all alone, in exact parity: for every dollar they spend, they get a dollar in federal services.

How many aren’t? Let’s see here: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia (although to be fair just barely), Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana (just barely), Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisana (with a recent spike for what should be obvious reasons), Maine, Maryland, Mississippi (which gets twice what it pays out, mind you), Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico (another member of the Twice as Much Club), North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio by a slim margin, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

For those playing the home game, that’s 31 states we’re running at a loss! Thirty one!

Now, if we were running government like a business, the solutions here are obvious: cut spending on these money drains and hike what you’re getting out of them. Since we’re running this as a business, we’re going to be more discriminate in our spending. After all, we don’t want to sink too much money into a failing division.

Needless to say, there are other themes here. Most of these states are rural, agrarian, and, not surprisingly, this list contains all of the most desperately poor parts of America. Equally unsurprisingly, it contains most of the Republican states as well. In fact, aside from a few anomalies, it’s almost a one-to-one ratio of Republican strongholds to Democratic strongholds.

So what can we conclude from all this?

1) The GOP is so damn profligate because that’s what its electorate wants.

Basically, their audience is going to take anything. ANYBODY getting lower taxes sounds good to them, because it’s less money leaving wallets, period. At the same time, of course they’re going to spend heavily on their own districts. A dollar goes a lot further in an area when they’re scarce in terms of visibility.

But at the same time, it’s a trap because this self-same electorate claims, at least, to dislike welfare programs (how much of this is self-hatred is beyond the scope of this writing). So the GOP spends it on the wealthy, and the wealthy spend it on, well, themselves. In the process, some of this gets splashed onto the rest of the people in the area, and they’ll take it, because what other option do they have? Even flipping burgers is going to look good to a guy without a job if his family’s hungry enough. Sure, some fat-cat son of a bitch is basically building a house with your money, but at least you’re getting some of it back in the form of a job (and then taken away from you in terms of taxes, but nobody said this arrangement was fair).

2) By the same token, most of the country has no right whatsoever to bitch about taxes.

You live in those nineteen states, you have a right to complain. But, I’m sorry, remaining thirty-one: you elect politicians to bash the godless liberal states keeping the lights on and generally act like assholes, and then ask them to spend lots of our money on YOU. Basically, you’re crashing on the couch for five bucks a day and complaining that it should be three bucks and demanding caviar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This probably isn’t intentional, granted, but that’s not exactly making me, or I’d assume anyone reading this in those nineteen states, inclined to be terribly civil or think your opinions on taxes and government spending are worth a damn thing.

This said, I’m of the opinion we’re on something resembling the right track. At least the money is going largely to the poor areas, although whether it’s actually going to the poor (which it isn’t) is another matter entirely.

But this post stands as proof that the way the GOP, and especially the teabaggers, view the system and how the system actually works are pretty much at complete odds.

Unless you want to pay me back my 30%. Then we’ll talk.

Politics – Teabaggers Deserve a Cup of STFU

February 24, 2010

Just a quick note to all the teabaggers whining about Scott Brown showing token bipartisanship.

Here’s a simple rule: if you are a current resident of Massachusetts, you’ve got every right to complain.

If you’re not, shut the fuck up.

It’s really that simple. You don’t live here. We do. You don’t like the jobs bill, complain to your own fucking Senator. I bet most of you come from a state that Massachusetts pays for (foreshadowing!) So, take it from the guy who pays for your roads and schools while you whine about your taxes: you’ve got no right to bitch.

Jesus, I’m a liberal, I don’t even like the guy, in fact I think he’s kind of a dick, but he’s still looking better than you lot. Think about that. Your hissy fits and immaturity are actually moving me to defend the guy simply because I live here and it pisses me off you think you have the right to tell other states what to do because you lack the emotional maturity to deal with people who disagree with you in an intelligent manner.

Grow the hell up and if you don’t live here, get the hell out of my state.

Why the Silence? Plus Scott Brown’s First Test

February 23, 2010

If you’ve wondered why I’ve been off my usual update schedule, the short answer is I’m researching a massive project about political spending and why the GOP spends so damn much, with a side of “I’ve got a lot of paying gigs now.”

Seriously, I’m up to nine markets or so now. One of the things I’ll start doing is a weekly linkdump of all the writing I’m doing. There’ll be some interesting stuff.

Tomorrow: why the GOP spends so damn much.

But for now, some local political musings.

Scott Brown’s made his first splash, and the Tea Party now officially hates him. Basically, Brown has decided he’s willing to work with Democrats over a pretty modest jobs bill.

As I’ve said before, however Brown moves, he’s taking massive political risks. Work with Obama, the conservatives will flip out (which they are; check out Twitter); work against Obama and he’s in trouble in Massachusetts.

So, to be honest, while it’s mild and uncontroversial, it’s a good start. If Brown turns out to be a moderate instead of the GOP android he pretended to be during the primary, that’ll be a pleasant surprise. My judgement, however, remains reserved.

Movies – “The Wolfman” Is a Hoot

February 16, 2010

By all rights, “The Wolfman” should be terrible. It changed directors a few weeks before filming, from Mark Romanek, who at least views himself as an artist, to capable studio journeyman Joe Johnston. It has a script partially written by Andrew Kevin Walker, who never met any research he couldn’t avoid doing if it meant he could work an eighteen-year-old’s idea of a profound insight into a script (see “Seven” and “8mm” back to back and point out all the logical flaws put in place because Walker couldn’t let go of his ending). Really, this thing should be excruciating. I was showing up for the Rick Baker make-up and gore.

And yet, for what it is, a fairly modest remake of a beloved yet dated horror movie, it works. It’s even surprisingly effective in places.

I’m even willing to say that “The Wolfman” is a remake that works, arguably better than the original. The original has its charms, certainly, but it’s very much a movie of its time, and that time was more than sixty years ago. This remake isn’t just exploiting a name, but a sincere attempt to remake the movie for modern audiences.

Mostly that means taking the kind of unnerving unintentional Freudian subtext in Curt Siodmak’s original screenplay (remember, this is a movie where a father beats his own son to death) and making it intentional and even MORE unnerving. And then making Benicio Del Toro underplay his role while letting Anthony Hopkins play the most overt villain ever.

Seriously, it’s not a spoiler Hopkins is the bad guy. The moment you see him in his Victorian pimp coat, you realize what’s going on. But what’s great is how Hopkins plays it. This isn’t a Snidely Whiplash portrayal, in fact at first I thought Hopkins was just phoning it in. He seemed bored. It’s not until later that you realize his character is the one who’s bored, tired of pretending to be a decent person. Once he gets the ability to show what a raging prick he is, then Hopkins really goes to town.

Another upside of sixty years of changing times is now we can actually see what the Wolfman gets up to. For all the hype about the gore in this movie, how it’s done and how it’s shot is welcomely understated. This isn’t some Avid-fart riddled, overlit tossing of CGI blood at the camera; the lighting lets the movie show just how violent the Wolfman is while still being a little restrained and classy. But make no mistake, the Wolfman is coming, he’s pissed and he is going to fuck you up.

That said, the first appearance of Del Toro’s wolfman is a masterpiece of black humor as a bunch of rural hicks try to trap him and promptly get mauled. It’s the most fun I’ve had at a horror movie in a while, right down to the final nasty stinger (which my girlfriend commented as “Here, let me help you with that.”)

It’s not a perfect movie: most nerd reviews I’m reading are saying “good, not great”. But good, for a horror movie, hell, for an old-fashioned horror movie, is doing spectacularly. “The Wolfman” is probably the most fun you’ll have in a theater until the summer hits. Go check it out.

The Most Quotable Movie You’ve Never Seen

February 12, 2010

If you’ve never seen “The President’s Analyst”, you’re missing out. For one thing, it has this incredible monologue from Godfrey Cambridge, an actor who largely spent his time playing comedic parts, including “The Watermelon Man”:

But that makes it sound like a serious drama. It’s quite the opposite. Take, for example, this bit between two FBI agents:

Or the highly memorable Quantrill family:

And we haven’t even gotten to Severin Darden’s character yet, who has some of the best lines, arguably ever (“You want to save the world? You’re the great humanitarian? Take the gun.”) You’re starting to see why this movie is compulsively quotable. Pretty much every single scene has a line that you have to take out of context and use somehow.

As a movie it’s of its time, which is a nice way of saying it’s a little dated. But it’s gloriously insane and still as funny as hell. Check it out, ASAP.

Ubuntu – Who Writes This Documentation? Cave Trolls?

February 12, 2010

Yes, this blog is getting an Ubuntu tag. This is because while the OS is something I’m rapidly getting comfortable with, the documentation is clearly written by cave trolls, apes, or some other species that has an incredible grasp of code but no idea what people use computers for.

This is what I had to do, to figure out how to get my netbook to accept USB drives, aka cheap storage, aka the most common form of storage in current usage on Earth.

— Check fruitlessly in the wiki.

— Look in the forums.

— Randomly click on a thread about automounting SD cards while combing the forums looking for just anything to fix issues that really should be obvious.

— Discovering that this thread actually contains an explanation of how to get into the terminal and fix the damn problem. It turns out that when you install Ubuntu on a thumb drive, it decides the USB is a CD drive. Thus, when you plug in a thumb drive without inserting a # into, literally, one line of code, it thinks it’s a CD, tries to load it as one, and can’t mount it.

— Fuck around in the terminal for another fifteen minutes before I finally get the code, insert the pound sign, and get my thumb drives up and running.

— Joyously click on one of the MP3s I had saved.

— Discover that the clunky iTunes knockoff contained therein does not come with an MP3 playback codec.

— Download the damn codec and FINALLY have at least some of my music up and running. The rest I install next week.

Like I said, now that I’m used to it, I like Ubuntu. I just hate the customer support. Awwwwww, it’s just like Windows that way!