Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Thousand Years Away

I saw UP on its opening night with Jason, and it was brilliant, I've got no other way to put it. The visuals, characters, story, timing, and pretty much everything else was phenomenal. I saw it in Digital 3D, and as in most recent cases, this tech really works well, and it really is a vast improvement over the old approaches. I heard and read a number of interviews with Pete Docter where it sounded like the 3D here was an afterthought, and while the use of it here was much more subtle than, say Monsters v. Aliens, it was used where appropriate, and in some scenes, really added to the aesthetic considerably. The important thing is that, this being Pixar, the 3D is not a crutch, it really is just icing on the cake. I'm not sure the same could be said of the most recent Dreamworks offering. Check out some development art on Lou Romano's blog (on the blogroll) and if you want to see more, I highly recommend the Art of Up book, as well as the rest of the development art books if you're so inclined.

It's a box-office success, but I still think it will be a merchandising nightmare. That said, I'll just say that there is definitely at least one character that could prove me wrong.

I was let down that Pete Sohn's short "Partly Cloudy" was not shown at my screening but I hear that's been a common issue, and I'm definitely seeing at again, hopefully with the short attached next time.
In other fun news, I found a 1st generation (slot-loading) iMac on the side of the road, in grape, I think. It's got OS X on it, but otherwise seems totally stock, with no new files on it of any kind. I'll find a use for it somewhere.

As will tend to happen in the respite between finishing school and starting work again, I've grown reacquainted with late night lineups. The TV I'm using at this point is not connected to cable, and doesn't have a DTV converter, so I'm limited to terrestrial analog OTA channels (which doesn't include Fox). Given that WLVI (CW, formerly WB) and WSBK (38, formerly UPN) are formulaic sitcom graveyards late at night (and arguably during most of the day as well), I'm left with the classic ABC, CBS, and NBC. It's like 1949 all over again.

I've always relied on NBC for my late night TV (after 12:30), but the NBCUni higher ups have thrown their strength out the window. While I am all for Brookliner Conan O'Brien taking Jay Leno's former 11:35-12:30 slot and making NBC entertaining again in that timeslot, everything thereafter is pretty dismal. Backing up Carson Daly's monumental mediocrity (at best), Conan's slot has been taken by Jimmy Fallon, posterboy for SNL degrading into what it is now. His interview style is extremely awkward, his bits generally aren't funny, and he doesn't have the charisma to get away with the show's failings. Maybe it's the early teething troubles, but I don't remember any other host being this bad at the gig (yet still get garner such high ratings).

I wandered around a bit which leads to this week's pleasant surprise, the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Craig's show works on many levels, with funny bits, good interviews (with interesting guests), new perspectives, and a very nice atmosphere. Honestly, it's as good as the best of Conan, which is really saying something. I'm sorry I said you're just for old people, CBS.

I spent 6 hours at IKEA yesterday, and tomorrow I'm moving into the new place, so that will probably be on the next post.

Also, Bryan was sick this week, probably with the swine flu. Don't die, Bryan!

For this week's video, we have the video for Tel Aviv native Oren Lavie's song "Her Morning Elegance." I totally missed the boat on this one, but it's still very impressive stop-motion magic.

Thanks to Winson for showing me it for the first time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

what's UP this week?

I've managed to hold off till now, but at this point, there's only 3 days until UP comes up and I have proof that the Pixar Touch has not faded post merger (though the impending sequel-fest doesn't thrill me). I've done a pretty good job of avoiding spoilers, so it will be pretty fresh to me. The Art of UP book came in the mail today, but I've left it in the shipping box, just to have fresh eyes on Friday. Super-excited.

In a seismic shift from work all the time to party all the time (not really, just wanted to put that in there), I caught up on my sleep, and got some good riding in. I went on a last ride up Mt. Holyoke, which was fun, and proved to me my earlier hypothesis that I'm faster on heavier, more-aero wheels, even uphill. I should get some Cosmic Carbones. This week I finally cleaned up drivetrains, and thanks again to Bryan for answering all my stupid questions.

Due to the big time gap since the last post (sorry), a bunch of stuff has happened that hasn't been covered. Mike B had his birthday party at the crapshack, and it was lots of fun. It was a sort of sendoff too, as a bunch of people were graduating and Mike is studying abroad next semester. I think it's best summed up by this picture.

I also graduated on Saturday, and the ceremony was shorter than I expected, given the sea of people there. All of the speeches mentioned the poor state of the economy in some diplomatic way, and wished us the best of luck, kind of a strange parting shot.

Over the course of last week, I did the Boston-Amherst/Amherst-Boston drive no less than 6 times, moving stuff back and forth from the shack to my parents house for temporary storage. That means a lot of road time, and in that time, I devised a cool handsfree phone setup, which involved connecting the phone to one of these, and connecting it to the head unit's aux-in port. I expected a killer feedback loop, but it actually hasn't been a problem. Another little victory.

Finally, I'm moving into my new place in Brighton next week. I'll say more about that then.

For this week's video, it's one Seth showed me on his buddy's blog and I think it speaks for itself.

Happy birthday Thom P.!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

update coming

Sorry about the late post again, I will get to updating in the next few days...much to discuss...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Didn't they teach you anything, except how to be cruel, in that charm school?

First, anyone who knows what song this week's title comes from wins something, don't know what yet.

I was just looking for a song with "school" in it, and that's the first one that comes to mind, because on Tuesday, I finished school (mostly. Still have an exam on Thursday). I'll try to avoid getting too schmaltzy or predictable, but it still feels weird to be a real world person.

This past weekend UMBRC organized the Orchard Assault XC race. The weatherman was way off for much of the day, as the climate was downright schizophrenic. Kim brought her dogs, which were christened Hank and Robert.

It was misting all morning, followed by rain, followed by big humidity, then big heat, then nice, then thunderstorms. It made for a slippery course, and my rear tire, which is designed for the dry, didn't hook up very well. This meant a pretty low placing for me (this being my second MTB ride of the season didn't help either) but it was fun.

Tim Durrin (Cap'n Jeremy's brother) won the 3 race, his first MTB race ever, and Jeff Cronin took 2nd.

Our own Sean Kennedy won the 2 race in very convincing fashion, arms aloft across the line.

Thom Parsons, Mike Bartlett, Jeff Elie, Tom Sampson, and a whole slew of other superstars brought the fire to the 1 and Pro races.
Good times were had by all, and the turnout was pretty impressive, especially given the weather. Thanks to everyone who came out. While we were all out XCin, Bryan did a sweet backflip.

Seth finally came out to see the house (a week before I move out, natch), but it was good timing, because he had came just in time for the UMBRC after party. It was a fun night of music, can/bottle towers, chips, and a-a-aaa-aaa-alcohol. The next day I worked in the library from 11 am to midnight, which makes it the weekend I figure I should have been having every week at Umass. Oh well.

Jesse and the UVM/Mt. Holyoke kids couldn't make it, so it was a largely Umass affair, but we had laughs nonetheless. Bikeregger Jeff Elie and Jenna came over, as well as alums AW and Duggan, and even bike-coopers Brian, Marisa and Miguel popped in for a bit.

Some other stuff happened this week. There was a showing of the animation classes' work, which was fun, and I got to meet one of the people working on Jet Set Zero which is a great concept with super stylish production. Check it out.

Finally, I saw the most unimaginable thing in a parking lot near the ROTC building....It's Duster! An honest to god Plymouth Duster, in period correct cocaine white, no less. I have to assume it appeared there because of last week's blogpost, I didn't know I held such power...

Mindful of that, this week's video is Top Gear's Audi R8 review.

There. Maybe now it will appear.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

late update

Sorry this update is stupid late, but I'm stupid busy.

Only about a week of classes left through, so regular posting will resume in the near term.

The ECCC road season ended this weekend at Penn State, but like I said in the last post, UMBRC was not representing, as we couldn't get vans, so to cover what happened a week before at MIT's race.

It was in Westminster, which is near Jeremy's house in Fitchburg, so that's where we stayed. It was fun to see his hometown, which is very hilly, and has a mall.

Because we keep getting the same van with the same broken tape deck, I brought along my magic speaker, which we rocked out to all weekend. Especially to Tone-Loc.

We went to the pizza place that is a pre-race tradition for the Jeremy, Brad, and Jeff L. and it was pretty tasty.

The next morning, Jeremy went to race at Turtle Pond, and took the van keys with him. He was long gone by the time we got up to do our race, so we were at his house with a van we couldn't use.

Jeff Cronin's parents very graciously offered to drive us to the race, thanks again to them for that. The Ford Freestyle (like a tall Taurus wagon), feels a lot bigger when it doesn't have 5 people and three bikes in it, but we made it there just in time.

It was insanely hot, but I felt better than I expected to. It was a hilly race, but I stayed around the pack for most of it. Unfortunately, there was the kind of slow-motion crash that's all too common in C-races on the steepest part of the climb, I got caught up in it, dropped my chain, and had to hoof it up to the top, costing any chance of regaining pack contact. For the second week in a row, I basically TTed to the end.

Looking at the results, it's clear that the heat made this race something of a war of attrition, with 19 dnfs of 75 riders. I got 29th place, which again, is better than I expected. Tom unfortunately broke his chain, but we've not heard the last from him...

In the D race, Josh got 2nd and Jeff got 5th. Nice job you sandbaggers.

The next day's crit was just as hot, if not hotter, but unlike the day before, I did not feel very good at all. I stayed with the pack for 3 or 4 laps, but I just wasn't feeling it at all, and I dropped out. Certainly that's not how I wanted to finish my last collegiate race ever, but what are you gonna do. Tom avenged me by winning in spectacular fashion, breaking away with 3 laps to go, and holding off everyone else enough to sit up, zip up his jersey, and raise his arms across the line. Good show.

In the D crit Jeff and Josh got 11th and 9th respectively, so a mixed but overall good weekend for UMBRC.

Like I told Joe Kopena, I think collegiate cycling the best part of being at school, and I'm sad to see it end.

In a final bit of racing news, this weekend is the ORCHARD ASSAULT MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE! It will be super fun, and everyone should come do it. Even world famous big wheel bicycle racer man Thom Parsons will be there! Sadly Bryan has to work, so he won't be there.

Even if you've never raced a bike, try it here! After-party at the crapshack too, so fun will be had by all.

A few unrelated notes:

I am trying to avoid UP news and clips as much as I can, so the element of surprise is there when I see it, but based everything I have seen, it will be another Pixar masterpiece. I have similarly high hopes for the attached short "Partly Cloudy" directed by Peter Sohn (voice of Emile too).

I'm also psyched about a bunch of stuff happening in business news.

Fiat is taking over Chrysler (in a very favorable deal for Fiat), and if their acquisition of GM Europe (or at least Opel/Vauxhall) is completed, it could bode very well for the US automotive landscape.

Imagine being able to get Fiat Bravos and Grande Puntos, not to mention Alfas and Opel Insignias, in the US. It would make traffic so much prettier. They'll also get rid of the awful current Chryslers, which is good.

Another cool event of the last two weeks is the agreement met between Disney and Hulu, which is a significant step forward in the seismic paradigm shift that is Hulu. One of the only biggies still holding out from a unified big media internet video channel is CBS, but it's ok, because CBS is for old people anyways. HULU TEH FUTURE!

For this week's video, we keep the '80s love going and watch an ad from 1985 that either explains why Chrysler's bankrupt, or would be a step in the right direction. You decide.

Hope to see everyone at the Orchard Assault.