The Plan to frak up Galactica

After me raving about BGS I think it’s only honest to admit – “The Plan” is a disaster. Cheap way to make a movie – cut-n-paste strips from past episodes and sprinkle it with boobs as per cracked.com:

Just The Facts
1. Boobs can either a) help you get a job/promoted or b) make the workplace more tolerable for the rest of us.
2. Boobs are often successfully used in place of a coherent plot or acting in movies to create a great film.
3. The power of boobs should not be underestimated.

After enduring 112 minutes of gut-wrenching lack of plot, holes in a storyline and amateur directing I would prefer to think this movie was done without knowledge or consent of the original BSG crew. Positioning of it on DVD edition we’ve got right after season 4.0 and before 4.5 is stupid at best – it breaks timeline and takes you to the future events you’re supposed to guess about at this moment.

I must say boobs played great role in keeping me awake and mildly interested in events on the screen but not enough to enjoy it.

Thinking about it I came to conclusion that “The Plan” was shot after watching copious amounts of “Coupling” and under Jeff Murdock‘s great influence:

Jeff: Cleft.

[Captain Subtext uses his “truth helmet” to read the main characters’ minds]
Jeff: Buttocks. Gusset. Bicycle saddle.

above coincidentally is a quick summary for “The Plan”‘s plot.

Jeff also offers a tip on how to watch such a movie:

Jeff: Well, it’s kind of hard to tell isn’t it ‘cos you tend to fast forward if anyone’s dressed. Sometimes I forget and do that with proper films. I can get through a lot of movies in an evening.

Just to add insult to injury I must say that “The Plan” is just as much of a “frak-up” as “Serenity”. Both delivered very little in terms of continuity, tried to reach out to the audience that didn’t watch original shows and failed everybody. Look, you screw up characters like that, you ruin continuity – you piss off your fans. You make plot very light, personal encounters casual and someone who never seen original will have no inclination to rush to videostore and buy original series because your movie SUCKS.

I am really glad I watched original series without knowing about those movies – I thoroughly enjoyed them and then when movies came out – I know those were “frak-ups” and never stopped enjoying original shows. Have I seen those movies as a lead-in to watch the show – I would have never made myself watch them – ever.

After some digging it turns out that “The Plan” was directed by Edward James Olmos (“Admiral Adama”) which confirmed my father’s (film director himself) opinion that actors are *not* directors and actors are only as good as their director. I don’t mind James Olmos as Bill Adama – he does add some spice to that role that is probably right when you’re talking about a military guy who his whole life wasn’t supposed to be emotional and build the impenetrable facade, so Olmos delivers there, but quite honestly his directing of “The Plan” was a mistake. While episodes directed by him ( Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down (1.9), Taking a Break from All Your Worries (3.13), Escape Velocity (4.4) and Islanded in a Stream of Stars (4.18) ) don’t really stand out in a bad way, the movie… well I think I’ve said enough.

Dear Nokia…

Dear Nokia,
I hate you so very-very-very much for virtually killing any hope for my mobile phone to ever come to existence. N700, N800, N810 and N900 were all examples of what I could (at least remotely) call – my device. They allowed me enough freedom to tinker and change and adjust and develop the way I want. While you’re busy cuddling with Microsoft I will think of your betrayal and exercise my freedom to question your decision from the consumer stand-point.


Now, how do you revive “stagnating platform”… by switching to another one that has even less market penetration! (according to common wisdom of CEO’s if we are to believe Nokia’s press reports)

After doing some casual digging (trust me on this one – I didn’t spend hours digging for all that) turns out S. Elop is an ex-Microsoft employee. Now when I look at timeline of events it starts to become clearer and clearer:

Am I paranoid or that timeline looks awfully suspicious? From Nokia side of story – yeah, I got it – they got desperate and $1bn is a nice pocket money for fooling around with hardware which Nokia does like. It looks like S. Elop was hired to perform “Nokia loves Microsoft” stunt – who is going to execute and sell it best if not the guy who worked for the Microsoft?

From Microsoft’s side things look more like orchestrated attack on OpenSource and Linux in particular. Lets look at revised timeline with several additions:

You see, that Feb 17 line hides another icky detail: Attachmate is about to funnel patents Novel has to a holding company controlled by Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle. Another interesting detail: Nokia deal apparently gives Microsoft access to Nokia’s patents as well. Now if you dig deeper back – SCO was receiving generous donations from Microsoft too while it was busy doing nothing but attack Linux and GPL.

So if anybody was thinking that Microsoft is busy baking cookies – you’re wrong – they are up to same “no good” as they ever were. This time their guns are bigger though. Pocketing Novel and Nokia is a gutsy move I must say and it’ll take all the strength of FLOSS community to get through this one.

Update (2011-05-16):  “The Register” published some interesting speculation stating that Nokia’s phone business is about to be bought by Microsoft and departure of S. Elop before the end of the year. It may be a rumor but it aligns with what was forming in my head… Bye, Nokia! (or was it: Buy Nokia! 😉 )

 

Avatar, Smurfs and Multi-Dimensional Porn

I was not in the rush to watch Avatar but it finally caught up with me. Thanks to the promo at local movie rental place I’ve got 3 movies for $5 for 5 nights – pretty good deal. One of those movies was Avatar.

Some time ago one of my friends described to me Avatar as a Smurf-Movie: bunch of blue (mind you, somewhat overgrown at 3m tall) people running across the screen. They live in a commune, got Papa-Smurf etc. Well, I laughed and thought it was funny. Now I have to tell you that both me and my wife have this weird connection when we hear “Smurf”: “porn”. I’ll explain – as kids we didn’t have much exposure to “Smurfs” as a cartoon. Our teen years coincided with the growth of Internet (otherwise known as “porn DB”). And Internet was full of porn Smurf spoofs – all those cute characters with over-sized genitalia “having it” with each other left, right and center. I think I don’t have to explain logic any further. In other words somewhere on subconscious level I expected “porn”.

While having all of the above on my mind I watched the movie casually noticing that it did deliver in soft-porn department – with semi-naked Na’vi (Smurfs) running around culminating in a scene of “mating” between main character and his newfound love. And movie has managed to keep us mostly interested until the end not only because of “porn” theme 😉 Lots of special effects and liberally sprinkled battle scenes do their job well, keeping you entertained and glued to the screen.

For me however movie really starts after you have finished watching it – when you start analyzing it. My main criteria typically are:

  • Can you compress the plot into 1 sentence or less?
  • Could you tell the ending of the movie 10-20 minutes into the movie?
  • Did main characters make you sick with their righteousness?

In reality it’s a bit more complicated, but you’ve got the idea. Guided by common sense and curiosity I started to explore. Some things that I found were not speaking in Cameron’s (or movie) favor (from Wikipedia):

Cinema audiences in Russia have noted that Avatar has elements in common with the 1960s Noon Universe novels by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, which are set in the 22nd century on a forested world called Pandora with a sentient indigenous species called the Nave.

That naturally spiked my interest in Strugatsky’s books, but not in the movie itself.

Analyzing movie some more I realized that I wasn’t interested in the movie but rather things about it or related to it. Having as many contradictions as it had, not to mention that I could compress storyline into one sentence: “White American guy comes and rescues alien species who couldn’t defend themselves it on their own” it is hardly surprising that my interest in the movie itself was low (you want to dig deeper on that summary, look up Avatar’s meaning in Hinduism:

Avatar (Hinduism), manifestation or appearance of a Hindu deity

Which makes Jake-the-white-American-marine what? Deity?)

Now to the 3D part – we watched movie as a “mundane” DVD movie – no 3D gimmicks except that I cranked our sub up a notch for more dramatic effect. In that setup we both were able to pinpoint sections of the movie designed specifically for 3D – it was too bloody obvious. Not a single time did I feel myself being “robbed” of that extra dimension. So much for 3D. (BTW – we did watch 3D movies in iMax and so far only 1 really delivered on 3D front – “How to Train Your Dragon”, but I’m digressing).

In summary: despite the claimed “3D”, movie was seriously uni-dimensional. Characters have no depth; story is as straight as a line and stretches no farther than two inches from start to end. While gaining “extra” dimension visually in fact it lost at least one as far as I can tell.

I have to mention that among the rented movies was also “Jade Warrior”. Budgets of both are incomparable, latter doesn’t claim 3D. However that movie has way more dimensions than Avatar has. Interesting twist presents blend of: Finnish and Chinese cinematography, mythology, cultures, etc. Movie is rather poor in battle scenes department (comparing to Avatar). It’s budget was around $2.7 EUR which is a far cry from Avatar’s $230M (I suspect it could’ve been done even cheaper – because I didn’t care much for special effects but story was rally engaging). Yet characters have depth – story keeps you engaged until the very end, and while you and sort of kind of predict the end and the twists of the plot – you are never sure. …and I can’t really compress storyline into single sentence – I’ll need at least two 🙂 Don’t get me wrong – “Jade Warrior” is not a masterpiece by any stretch, but when compared to Avatar it sure feels like one.

Now back to the Smurf business. In a conversation with one of my friends I have realized what movie category Avatar falls into: porn. Yes, it is a Sci-Fi Porn. Judge for yourself:

Pornography or porn is the portrayal of explicit sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual excitement and erotic satisfaction.

The word derives from the Greek ??????????? (pornographia), which derives from the Greek words ????? (porn?, “prostitute” and pornea, “prostitution”), and ????? (graph?, “I write or record,” derived meaning “illustration,” cf. “graph”), and the suffix -?? (-ia, meaning “state of,” “property of,” or “place of”), thus meaning “a written description or illustration of prostitutes or prostitution.”

as compared to eroticism:

Eroticism (from the Greek ????, eros—”desire”) is a philosophical contemplation with a focus on the aesthetics of sexual desire, sensuality and romantic love. Unlike sensuality, which concentrates on the pleasures of the senses, eroticism is concerned with heightening those pleasures. To achieve that objective, eroticism can involve a delay in sexual gratification in order to intensify the satisfaction level by extending the period of yearning desire.

The way I see it: porn is about displaying it all in full view, erotica is about hinting and letting your mind fill all those dirty details for you. In Sci-Fi terms Avatar is porn: it explicitly shows every detail without leaving much for your mind to feast on. Compare it even to such uninspiring item like “Chronicles of Riddick” and you’ll understand what I’m saying (better yeat – read my “Battlestar Firefly” post). There was no reason for it all to “hang out there” but Cameron decided it should, and “hang out” it did.

If after reading all of the above you ask me: “What do you think of 3D movies?” I’d reply: “It’s a poor substitute for depth of characters and screenplay”. And if you ask me what comes to my mind when I hear Avatar?” I’d say: “Smurfs” 😉

Blu rays of death

There is an onslaught of infuriating things coming to my attention lately. And being the person I am I can’t just let it slide – it irks me. So here’s another one: doing a bit of casual research about Blu-Ray support in Linux I came across some happy blog talking about MakeMKV so, naturally I went on exploratory mission (it would’ve not been me if I didn’t)  and came across some interesting material about BD+ and SVQ files :

For example, if a blu-ray player is connected to home network then a BD+ program can scan all shared files on all computers on the network and upload the report to a remote server. While it is very unlikely that studios will put such an evil program on a disc, it is technically possible.

Whoa! What?!?!?! I was musing before on the subject of possibly revoked keys on your Blu-Ray device via acknowledged firmware update to accommodate newer disks requiring firmware higher than rev X, but this blows even my conspiracy theories!

Wikipedia article doesn’t alleviate the fears – it makes it oh so much more real:

BD+ is effectively a virtual machine embedded in authorized players. It allows content providers to include executable programs on Blu-ray Discs. Such programs can:[8]

  • examine the host environment, to see if the player has been tampered with. Every licensed playback device manufacturer must provide the BD+ licensing authority with memory footprints that identify their devices.
  • verify that the player’s keys have not been changed.
  • execute native code, possibly to patch an otherwise insecure system.
  • transform the audio and video output. Parts of the content will not be viewable without letting the BD+-program repair it.

While everybody was thinking that Blu-Ray devices were made for viewing movies by their owners, things are exactly in reverse – those movies are watching us. How can we be so stupid and let ourself be fooled into that?

While I have no problem paying for movies and I do exactly that to which I have a proof – my 300+ DVD collection, I object to any snooping done by any third parties in my house. My freedoms are being tampered with; I am being stripped of my privacy, my rights and my choices. I seriously, truly hate that.

Yeah, we all want high-def content on our monster-TVs, but I am not prepared to trade-in my freedoms for that. No way. I hope BD+ gets hacked just like DVDs were – once and for all. I do not to feel like criminal doing whatever I please with the Blu-Ray content within my Fair Use rights. I will not tolerate piece of equipment in my house that doesn’t play by my rules.

Blu-Ray spells death to consumer freedoms, death to privacy and death to democracy. You don’t have to think hard to imagine scenario where disks could be programmed to disable all “unwanted” content. As you’ve seen from above quotes and resources – any disc is allowed to “patch” your Blu-Ray player as it sees fit, including modification of locally stored key chains. And we though Microsoft was evil. There are new games in town that are bigger and meaner than Microsoft. Microsoft paved the way to all those new and brave entrepreneurs willing to grab you by the balls and squeeze it until you scream and then back off a little.

I am not exaggerating here. Yes, above post indicates that studios are not likely going to do it, but Sony CD rootkit scandal begs to differ. Corporate mentality dictates 2 things: maximize profits and do whatever it takes to get things done your way. Everything is evaluated as a price and apparently our freedoms cost very little in comparison to the opportunity to sell copious amounts of digital copies on different media while keeping a close eye on those who may step out of line. It has been proved over and over again – those who “pirate” content did not intend to buy or rent it in the first place so there is no “lost sales”. It is all boiling down to “creating new markets”… and selling MORE content. We who buy content may download a thing or two on occasion only to buy that same content on our next trip to the store. It is all about the availability and accessibility of content, Blu-Ray does nothing to cover those. Read “Piracy is Good?” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Blu-Ray design proves that it was intended as a lock-in mechanism, and until I see some moratorium statement from **AA’s and elimination of accompanying functionality from Blu-Ray devices I won’t believe otherwise.

I truly and honestly hope that *AA gangs will choke on their greed and drop dead sometime soon. But that is not happening and not going to happen. I see people giving into the temptation of having “more” and it is sad. We do not ask questions and we do not think until it’s too late. Reminds me of Adbusters article” After America, there is no place to go” by Kitty Werthmann ( Issue #92 :  The Carnivalesque Rebellion Issue ). Looks and feels like we’re going through the same issues as Austrians in 1938 – they elected Hitler because they were OK trading in a “piece of freedom” for a “piece of mind” and a “peace of bread”. Very soon Austrians discovered that status-quo didn’t last. Within a year things have changed and freedoms eroded more and more every day while piece of mind and piece of bread were not forthcoming either. Our present freedoms are being taken away every day. We have elected our Hitler – the overpowering drive for “more” with Industry Admirals (or should I say Großadmiral’s?) at helm.

Don’t get me wrong, capitalism is a good thing and I do not pitch communism here, but what we currently have is not capitalism and democracy, it’s a corporatism and oligarchy – look up definitions and you’ll see I’m right.

Boxed Communism

Got thinking about iStuff vs things like Android and other [semi-]open initiatives today. I have come to realize that iProducts are representing the poor choice we had during communism times. Look: you come to the store, ask for 200g of sausage, you don’t ask which kind – there is only one, and the closest you can get to a “variety” would be question: which newspaper do you want to wrap it into – yesterday’s or today’s? iPhone differentiation is only superficial – skin-deep if you will. “Look, I’ve got pink skin!” or “Look I’ve got neat wallpaper”. Somehow the rest of the industry managed to at least make it look like there’s a variety. Not to mention that iProducts share an oversight of Mao and Party.

So here’s the dilemma – for an unsuspecting user platforms like Android or Symbian (or even Windows mobile, for that matter) are complex and hard to comprehend – “Hey, Joe! You’ve got to get yourself an Android – awesome apps etc. What do you mean which one? Oh, there’s Galaxy, Nexus, Desire… What do you mean simple? No, Joe, you’ve got to take a look and see what you like.” Whereas with iPhone – “Joe, buy yourself an iPhone”. Done.

We are our own enemies – we kill selection by being lazy and then complain that we’re being duped on every corner by monopolistic corporations that disregard our opinions and tell us what to do.

Ok, so here’s what I think should happen – we stop following somebody else’s orders/visions and start thinking for ourselves. Easy enough, right? No.

Here’s where I get to the real communism (USSR-style). How many parties do we have to choose from? Well, here, in Canada it’s major 4 (in Alberta it’s major 1) and how deep the difference goes? Not very. We cry and we bitch about Copyright reform in Canada pushed through by Conservative, however it’s Liberals who introduced it, and while NDP was oposing it, they are seeking merger with Liberals. Where does that leave us? Exactly where we are.

I’m the opensource guy and I am being labeled as “communist” at times and Ballmer scares people with stories of OSS turning countries into communist state but here’s the problem – it’s people like Steve (heh, got both of them here) who turn state into communist state and not the communist state Marx and Engels are talking about – the one that was implemented in USSR and the one that spread over eastern Europe.

Thankfully there are beacons of reason out there: Fair Vote Canada is trying to spread the knowledge on alternative forms of elections – the ones that would actually represent *all* of the population rather than minority (do you math: only 30-40% of population goes to vote and 40% of those voted elect your government – does that seem right? FSF and EFF are working hard educating governments and users about what “freedom” is in IT and what can be done to preserve it.