Mr. Bill George Presents

Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Do Not Go Gently Into That Average Evening

In Society on May 31, 2009 at 12:39 PM
Are you there god? It’s me, the_skeptic.
Well it finally happened today. I realized that despite my best efforts, I’m getting old. While I can find some solace in the fact that my generation aging right along with me, it’s just not enough. I’ll tell you where I realized it. I was at the mall, in Spencer’s, looking at the t-shirts. And among all the profane, smutty, and death metal t-shirts was a section dedicated to icons of the 90s. Ninja Turtles, Super Mario, Pokemon, Power Rangers it was all there, staring right back at me. I had to ask myself, “Who are they marketing these to?”. I know that me and my whole generation know of these icons, but to the younger kids, they are hip and trendy, things that harken back to a simpler time. I now ask myself, “Will I be able to tell this younger generation of my greatest accomplishment in life, completing all 96 levels in Super Mario World on all three files.” Or will these young whippersnappers in their cool shirts just look at me and say “Tell me another one you geezer”.
I could have brushed off the incident at the mall as my mind overreacting a bit. But no, there’s more. On my way home from the mall I was flipping through the stations on the radio dial, and heard a talking head saying he was going to spin Kid Rock’s “Only God Knows Why”. On WPYX, Albany’s finest CLASSIC ROCK station. Now a band from my youth is in with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rush, Journey and Aerosmith, the perpetual radio geezer trifecta from hell.
But the horror didn’t end there. I thought about the car I was sitting in. A 1998 Toyota 4Runner, with 176,000 miles on it. I think it’s a nice car, but then you think about it, its 11 years old. Now it’s a car you see at crappy little dealerships on every street corner with ads like “Good Winter Driver!!!” emblazoned on it and the salesmen is willing to throw in his youngest daughter in with the deal just to get the rusty bucket out of his sight.
CD Players now belong in the Smithsonian rather than in every kids backpack, VCRs seem like some weird internet abbrevation that no one knows the true meaning to, and let’s face facts 90s kids Pogs really weren’t as cool as we all thought they were.
But fear not, there is still hope for us as we slowy retire into the real world. Only we know the true joy of an episode of “Rocko’s Modern Life” brings (the_skeptic has them all on DVD tee-hee) , the primal rage of conducting a fatality on your opponent in Mortal Kombat II, and that is just fine with me. Let us be a generation that can keep up with the times, but never forgets where our roots lie. It’s time to accept that we are getting older, so the next time you have a “mall moment” like I did, don’t think “damn I’m getting old”, think “I’m gonna buy this shirt and proclaim to the world…TURTLES DON’T DO DRUGS!!! http://www.spencersonline.com/product/mutant_ninjat_turtles/

Are you there God? It’s me, the_skeptic.

Well it finally happened today. I realized that despite my best efforts, I’m getting old. While I can find some solace in the fact that my generation is aging right along with me, it’s just not enough. I’ll tell you where I realized it. I was at the mall, in Spencer’s, looking at the t-shirts. And among all the profane, smutty, and death metal t-shirts was a section dedicated to icons of the 90’s. Ninja Turtles, Super Mario, Pokemon, Power Rangers; they were all there, staring right back at me.

I had to ask myself, “Who are they marketing these to?” I know that me and my whole generation know of these icons, but to the younger kids, they are hip and trendy things that harken back to a simpler time. I now ask myself, “Will I be able to tell this younger generation of my greatest accomplishment in life: completing all 96 levels in Super Mario World on all three files?” Or will these young whippersnappers in their cool shirts just look at me and say, “Tell me another one you geezer.”

I could have brushed off the incident at the mall as my mind overreacting a bit. But no, there’s more. On my way home from the mall I was flipping through the stations on the radio dial, and heard a talking head saying he was going to spin Kid Rock’s “Only God Knows Why,” on WPYX, Albany’s finest CLASSIC ROCK station. Now a band from my youth is in with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rush, Journey and Aerosmith; the perpetual radio geezer trifecta from hell.

But the horror didn’t end there. I thought about the car I was sitting in. A 1998 Toyota 4Runner, with 176,000 miles on it. I think it’s a nice car, but then you think about it, it’s 11 years old. Now it’s a car you see at crappy little dealerships on every street corner with ads like “Good Winter Driver!!!” emblazoned on it and the salesmen is willing to throw his youngest daughter in with the deal just to get the rusty bucket out of his sight.

CD Players now belong in the Smithsonian rather than in every kid’s backpack, VCRs seem like some weird internet abbrevation that no one knows the true meaning of, and let’s face facts, ‘Pogs‘ really weren’t as cool as we all thought they were.

But fear not, there is still hope for us as we slowy retire into the real world. Only we know the true joy of an episode of Rocko’s Modern Life brings (the_skeptic has them all on DVD, tee-hee), or the primal rage of conducting a fatality on your opponent in Mortal Kombat II, and that is just fine with me. Let us be a generation that can keep up with the times, but never forget where our roots lie. It’s time to accept that we are getting older.

So the next time you have a “mall moment” like I did, don’t think “damn I’m getting old,” think “I’m gonna buy this shirt and proclaim to the world…TURTLES DON’T DO DRUGS!!!

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Duel Of The Fates

In Comedy on May 30, 2009 at 11:55 AM

Let me tell you about my cat. My cat’s name is Aiden. He is all black, slender, has bright yellow eyes, and has rather sharp claws. He is an outside cat that loves to prowl about the Wilbraham suburbs stalking the various rodent-culture which include but are not limited to: Rabbits, moles, chipmunks, birds, mice, and so on and so forth.

Many times I come home to find a mangled corpse sprawled across our steps like some sort of primal offering upon the edifice of a blood-god. Once I came home to find a headless mouse, which isn’t so out of the blue, but this time the intact head was lying next to the body as if it had been recently cleaved. So then I start to wonder, did my cat take the mouse’s head off with a claymore? Did it kill the mouse somewhere else then carry the little mouse head in its maw separately? Odd things to ponder.

One day, however, I was standing in my kitchen which has a big window in which to view the majority of my back yard. There are a lot of trees and assorted fauna in the backyard for our cat to hunt in so sometimes I’ll just watch him as he stalks though the garden or eyes an oblivious rabbit from afar, gliding in closer and closer with menace in his eyes. So this particular day I witnessed something extraordinary. I watched Aiden as he stalked up on a chipmunk, given how skittish those things are I wonder how he possibly catches as many as he does. (It would be interesting to see his “caught” and “gotten away” ratio for chipmunk hunting.)

So any who, Aiden comes upon the chipmunk with the utmost stealth and feline grace, slowly advancing as the unaware chipmunk licks his little paws to clean behind his ears. As Aiden is just a foot away, the chipmunk cocks his head ever so slightly, as to tune into a sound that has caught his attention but it is too late. Aiden has sprung and has the cuddly rodent pinned beneath his claws.

Now I expected for him to just rip the chipmunk’s throat out or perhaps claw it out but as he just sat there with a chipmunk squirming under his needle-like claws I remembered that cats like to play with their captive. And so began the torture of one of what could possibly be chip and dale’s distant cousin.

The cat started by batting him around a bit, then let him go briefly before he would recapture him and then batter him around some more. Then, to exacerbate things, he would let the chipmunk go yet again, letting it run long enough to taste the sweetness of freedom on the fringes of his taste buds. Aiden would then delight as he recaptured the chipmunk, reveling in the hopelessness emanating from the creatures furry pores. He did this long enough for me to get a glass of milk and then he pounced for the last time.

It was at this point that Aiden was finished playing, he let the chipmunk free only to give him a violent slash with his claws, sending the chipmunk’s tail flying. He then had the chipmunk cornered, slowly approaching as the chipmunk looked on helpless and tail-less. But then a turn of the tides, the chipmunk sprang forward directly at Aiden’s face, rebounding off his nose and in the following cat-confusion sped towards the nearest tree and rocketed up its side.

“Wow,” I thought, “what a ballsy chipmunk.” I sat there silently praising the chipmunk for his ingenuity in escaping my cat. Surely it was over now that the chipmunk escaped to the network of trees in our backyard. Aiden sat staring fixedly at the boughs of the tree. I caught a glimpse of something moving from the edges of the leaves, and then, without warning, a brownish blur streaked like cute lightning from the tree.  He was a shining furry beacon raging toward the cat. From the depths of my imagination I could almost hear the chipmunk screaming like a castrated Leonidas in a teeny voice, “You may take my tail… but you’ll never take… my dignity!”

From then on it was impossible to tell what exactly happened. It was quick, there was a flash of movement for a few moments and then, when my eyes were able to fix upon that silent face-off outside my kitchen window, I was able to see Aiden walking triumphantly away with a broken and beaten chipmunk hanging limp from his jaws. I felt like my cat was walking away with the rodent equivalent of John Connor. The only one with the wherewithal to lead the “resistance” against my cat had just had his spine snapped.

After that I began to evaluate the personality of the cat, which tells me I probably didn’t have too much going on in my head that day to be analyzing the moral ambiguity of my feline pet. Essentially he’s a ruthless tyrant preying on those weaker than him for nothing more than pure enjoyment, but he also purrs so lovingly when pet behind his ears… so I was left conflicted. He still leaves tattered carcasses about the yard and I still pet him behind the ears, so all in all nothing will change.

Jimmy Hoffa: Leader With Strength

In Business, Politics on May 29, 2009 at 2:42 PM

Leadership is a characteristic trait that not everyone has. As we all know, this trait has become difficult to find in true form. I am currently writing an article for my own website which centers around the topic of leadership. I had to place that article aside and write this post because it brought me back to a class I enrolled in during my undergraduate studies.

That class was conveniently called Leadership. During that semester, we had to select an individual we felt was a good representation of a leader and present him or her to the class. The professor mentioned various leaders that other students have went forward with like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Nelson Mandela. Many of the students went with leaders the professor mentioned. However, I submitted my own list of the following individuals to my professor: Bill Clinton, Jimmy Hoffa, and Henry Ford. My professor returned my list and said “Jimmy Hoffa? This is an interesting choice. Please go forward with this.”

Why did I place Jimmy Hoffa on my initial list? That is a good question. I do not even know why he crossed my mind at that time. I have to admit though… the man was a leader of a different breed. He may not have been the most straightedge individual, but he knew how to guide a group of people in the same direction to accomplish a common goal. If you are not sure who Jimmy Hoffa is; he was the President of International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Teamsters is a labor union in the United States that helps employees achieve proper wages, work rules, complaint procedures, benefits, working conditions, and other various key areas of employment.

Jimmy Hoffa really knew how to rally people together and display a level of motivation that would sincerely empower people. He did not place himself on a higher level than the people he led. He always placed the people he was fighting for first. There is not much footage of Jimmy Hoffa online, but check out this CBC video: Retrobites: Jimmy Hoffa. When given the choice between power or money, he chose power in order to help the workers within the union. In my opinion, Jimmy Hoffa could be placed among some of the best leaders in the United States.

I do not want this post to become a biography of Jimmy Hoffa, so I must conclude with this paragraph. A leader does not always have to be a United States President or the CEO of a company. Some leaders end up turning up on the “dark side” after accomplishing positive objectives but Jimmy Hoffa wanted to help the workers in the United States and did what he could to make that happen. He led with a desire to help the every day man. If you ever get the chance, check out the movie Hoffa, starring Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito.

Jimmy Hoffa

Still ‘UP’ In The Air

In Film on May 29, 2009 at 2:36 PM

UP

Pixar’s UP isn’t as funny or entertaining as their best film Toy Story. And it isn’t as interesting as last year’s Wall-E. It isn’t even quite on par with some of their other entries like Ratatouille and The Incredibles. And, to be honest, I’d even place it lower on my list than some non-Pixar CGI films such as Antz and Kung Fu Panda.

All that being said, UP is still a wonderful piece of filmmaking.

It begins with an opening that reinforces the fact that animated films, when in the right hands, can have just as much of an emotional impact as any traditional drama. It is a beautiful, beautiful sequence.

The rest of the film trots along with less heart and more gags. Because of the targeted demographic, the story remains fairly obvious and predictable. It doesn’t have that same ‘anything can happen’ magic that the previously mentioned Pixar films do. Because this story is based on human characters and set in the ‘real world’ so to speak, it just doesn’t have the same panache. No matter how many balloons or talking dogs are on screen, it just ain’t the same as toys coming alive when you’re not looking, robots falling in love, or superheroes living amongst us with secret powers.

Besides the heartfelt opening, one more thing sets UP apart: the third dimension. I saw the film in Disney Digital 3D and enjoyed its use of the technology immensely. The film uses the depth 3D offers to subtly enhance the storytelling instead of distract.

The only drawback is that it softens the color palette a bit. During shots that had no depth I took off the glasses to check out how the film looked normally and it was much more vibrant. But I say the extra dimension was worth it (even for a few more bucks).

As with the previously blogged about Terminator Salvation, some movies just have the bad luck of automatically being compared to superior films based on name alone. In this case it isn’t the name of a franchise, but the name of a studio: Pixar. (Evidenced by my opening paragraph.)

Is UP a great family comedy that excels within the genre? Without question.

Will it be instantly remembered from now on whenever people discuss the Pixar catalogue? Perhaps not.

Read This… If You Love Reading

In Literature on May 27, 2009 at 12:51 AM

[Editor’s Note: This post, by Matt Minski, is a direct response to a post written a few days ago by fellow TIAW contributor the skeptic. Here is the original post: Read This… If You Hate Reading.]

Being one who would classify himself as an avid reader, I felt it was necessary to write a response post to the Skeptic’s article that rallied anti-readers. This isn’t a post to bash the anti-reading points that Skeptic laid out, just one to illuminate the other side that was left in the dark.

I can understand how someone in this day and age would hate reading. First off it’s rather time consuming, it comes off as rather bland compared to the current array of entertainment formats, and being assigned various (sometimes shiteous) readings throughout our academic careers, surely doesn’t foster any love for the medium.

However. for whatever reason, for as long as I can remember, I have never been without a book in progress. I tend to derive more fulfillment out of text than I do any other medium. I was always puzzled when fellow classmates would ask, “What are you reading for?” I mean, “What are you reading?” seems more apt, but “What are you reading for?” I never quite understood the rationale there.

Now I don’t think that one person is any better for reading a book, I just think that books are an excellent means to provide additional insights to whatever you might be interested in. Not that a movie, TV show, or any other medium can’t give you knowledge. A book is just another looking glass in which to see information. It also has the potential to be a much more intimate experience, as with autobiographies, it doesn’t get more genuine than reading it straight from the author’s brain.

Sadly, I also happen to be one of those douches that will naively chime, “the book was much better than the movie” when the topic of an adaptation is at hand. But alas, I can’t bring myself to keep quiet. A book just provides so very much more than a movie can in most scenarios that I can’t help but wonder why more people don’t take part in it. A book doesn’t have amazing visuals or epic soundtracks but the sheer investment it takes is a reward all its own.

For instance, I started reading Harry Potter in 8th grade and I finished the series my junior year of college when the final book hit. That’s somewhere in the ballpark of eight years to follow a story. And it is that attachment, like a scrumptious tumor embedded deep at the stem of your imagination, seeping sweet, sweet nectar into your blood stream over the years, that keeps me coming back.

Another reason that I tend to prefer books more than other mediums is that the artist’s vision is usually not compromised as it is with movies. With movies being such a lucrative industry with millions of dollars being flown around, there are many people with power (read: money) that are trying to steer a movie into what they deem as success. With a book, you have the author’s untainted creation, straight from their brain. Take Alan Moore for example, his stories (Watchmen, V For Vendetta) are brilliant, but when in the hands of Hollywood you get a very watered down version of the original. I mean I loved both of those movies but the source material has a depth to it that very few movies can hope to reach. It’s like having a mighty steer toned down into beef flavored bouillon cubes.

It saddens me that books seem to be a dying medium (keep fighting the good fight Kindle!) but it also turns out to be a great treat when I meet those rare folks who share similar tastes. I can’t help but get all antsy in my pantsy when I meet someone that shares the same love for George R. R Martin’s epic “A Song of Ice and Fire” as I do.

I don’t look down on non-readers, I just think it’s a pity that people will section themselves off from a medium that has so much to offer because they are stifled from an early age by societies general disdain of reading for pleasure. Well, I suppose that isn’t fair to say, but goddamnit it’s a tragedy to miss out on some of the books out there.

Much in the same format as the Skeptic I feel it pertinent to leave off with a quote that has been circulating around my brain and one that I feel sums up my opinion on reading.

To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.

You can’t experience every awesome thing all the time in your short lifetime but books are just one of the tools along the way that can lend a hand in between.

Will Ted Kennedy Really Get Away With Murder?

In Politics on May 26, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Wealthy people and celebitites are seldom accountable for some of the crimes they commit… including murder!

The Credit Card Bill of Rights is just another example.  Of course anything is an improvement over how we’ve been preyed upon and cheated over the past 20 years by these bankers and their Lawyers.  Let’s see if the banks out-maneuver our politicians and consumer groups over the next 9 months to negate many of the benefits.

This just highlights yet another injustice and one that we just have to swallow hard and accept because it’s never going to change.

Isn’t it amazing that our politicians and consumer groups would publicly state that  the banks have been “cheating Americans out of their hard-earned money” yet there’s no penalty, no fine and no consequence for how they have financially destroyed so many individuals and  families throughout the world.  We just change the rules in a “cat n’ mouse” game to see if we can prevent it in the future. 

However, we’ll send some little flim-flam man to jail for 5–10 years if he gets caught on a corner or in a bar cheating someone out of $10 in a three card monte game! 

Just another example of how our laws and the consequences for breaking them seldom apply to wealthy people and corporations. 

Whick makes me wonder if Ted Kennedy will take responsibility for killing Mary Jo Kopechne before he soon dies and joins her!  

It just amazes me how so many people can let that man and the Kennedy family get away with murder…albeit negligent vehicular manslaughter.

The fact that he left that woman in a submerged car fighting for her life and gasping for air in an air pocket for who knows how many hours while he consulted with his buddies and lawyers to figure out how he would save his political career,  is beyond inhumane.

After all these years he still doesn’t have the remorse or “the balls” to tell her parents the truth.

The fact that he is revered by so many is an absolute travesty and one of life’s absurdities that I will never understand.

Would somebody who has voted for Ted Kennedy please explain to me how you can reconcile the death of Mary Jo Kopechne and pull that voting booth lever for that murderer?

People Suck

In Society on May 26, 2009 at 12:33 AM

Elaine: I will never understand people.
Jerry: They’re the worst.

Something struck me the other day: People suck.

While I’ve known this fact for a long time it is good to see that I’m slowly bringing others down with me. My lovely girlfriend, we’ll call her Mrs. X, is getting the same bitter temperament that I have had for quite sometime. Yesterday we pulled into a local convenience store for a beverage when one of the local hillbillies decked out in full Harley-Davidson garb lighting up a Marb red commented on her car, and what nice shape it was in. Once out of earshot, Mrs. X leaned in an said to me, “Did I just get hit on because of my car?” (a 1991 Toyota Camry mind you). I had to say yes. And that hurt me. I ask you: isn’t there be a 6 tooth minimum when trying to hit on a girl? And I answer: a resounding ‘Yes.’

But, the incident has inspired me. I have come up with 4 (I like even numbers) things that I hate about people.

1. Courtesy (or lack thereof)

People have no sense of what common courtesy is anymore. Taking screaming brats into a nice restaurant, texting/talking on the phone in unacceptable situations (toll booths, drive throughs, etc), not waving when you let them pull out in front of you, acknowledging you when you hold a door et al. The little things. It’s a big world out there folks, don’t think that it all revolves around you.

2. Driving

The rules of the road aren’t what they used to be. I have already covered a few of these in the previous section but it deserves a part of the list all for itself. Have you ever played this tug of war? You and another motorist arrive at the same parking space but you got there noticeably sooner. The other person take this as a challenge and bangs through the gears to get into the space. It’s a parking lot, not the NHRA Nationals folks.

Also: not using blinkers, leaving high beams on, driving too slow, tailgating, drifting within lanes, stupid vanity license plates. People always seem to know just how to get your blood boiling on the road and it’s almost inescapable. At one point I got so frustrated with a woman who couldn’t operate her blinkers correctly I accused her of being a whale and her flippers were the cause of the problem. When my girlfriend pointed out how callous I was, I admitted maybe it wasn’t her flippers…it was the big horn coming out of the front of her face, that Narwhal.

3. The Internet

People on the Internet are the worst (this blog excluded obviously). Particularly on YouTube, ESPN.com, and AOL.com. Really, anywhere that someone who sits in their dimly lit house all day waiting to start an unnecessary argument can find you.

YouTube made me realize that no one is accepting of anything in this world anymore. AOL.com commentators can take the simplest article and turn it into the most torrid maelstrom of hate, religion and politics that you will ever see. ESPN isn’t that far behind.

You may say, well these people are just trying to seem crazy to make their point heard. I realize that, but at what point does arguing what Bible verse points out that Democrats are the anti-Christ seem a little bit juvenile?

4. Inside the Box

Remember that phrase “think outside the box”? Guess what, it’s actually a really good sentiment to live by. People in today’s world don’t strive to try new things. “Aerosmith is the best band ever I don’t care what you say and I’ll never listen to anything else.” “Spiderman is way better than Batman.” “Kix are better than Cheerios.”

You name it, someone has passed premature judgement on it. People strive to classify every single facet of their lives. Endless ranking, rating, and competing. Can’t we all just try and do something different?

I realize that this is only a small sampling of reasons why people suck. Please leave comments and add to this list. A wise man once said “Yes we can…find the root cause of human annoyance and stupidity.” –Barack Obama and the_skeptic.

Memorial Day 2009

In Politics on May 25, 2009 at 5:37 PM

Today is the last Monday in May and thus, Memorial Day. A day to celebrate and commemorate those who have given their lives while in military service.

Instead of just accepting this as another long weekend (as I usually do), I decided to look the holiday a bit more this year. And what I found was the actual military order (General Order No. 11) that established this holiday.

It is so beautifully written that I felt the need to present it to you here.

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion.”

What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation’s gratitude—the soldiers and sailors widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander in Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this Order effective.

‘Wolfram|Alpha’ Is A Go

In Technology on May 23, 2009 at 7:46 PM

Two words:

Game. Changer.

Wolfram|Alpha has been in the news since it launched a week ago and a lot of people have heard of it, but still don’t get quite get what it is. So I decided you should get it straight from the horse’s mouth:

What Are You?

That’s right, a ‘computational knowledge engine.’ Wolfram|Alpha is indexing all the information it can, and organizing it into a searchable, comparable format. It isn’t nearly complete yet but it is already astonishing.

No one can explain it better than the man himself: The inventor, Mr. Stephen Wolfram. Here is a 13 minute introduction video that first got me amped about the whole project (courtesy of future TIAW contributor Matt Rawding).

Within a few years there is no doubt in my mind this will fundamentally change how we gather information on the internet, and thus, it will change the world. Period.

It’s the ambitiousness of W|A that makes it so amazing. If someone made a computational search engine focused on sports stats, that’d be great. If someone did it using just mathematical and scientific formulas, that’d be good too. If someone made a database full of information on movies and television shows, that’d be quite useful (which it is: IMDB.com).

But instead of jumping between those separate sites, we are talking about one entity. One single location on the web where you can find data on virtually anything: Stocks, websites, formulas, popularity of names, weather, maps, locations, schools, genome sequences, finances, government, music, food, nutritional values, the list goes on. And it is in an easy to read, easy to understand, clean looking format.

Google shows you places you may find what you are looking for, W|A finds what you are looking for. (A whole generation of high schoolers are going to have to find a way to cite this thing ASAP.)

Is it perfect? No. At least not yet. It still doesn’t have NBA stats or information on commercial products, among other things. But both those subjects are  still being indexed along with many others. And sometimes it can be easy to over-think how you want to search for something and W|A gets confused by the input. But that’s where watching the video comes in handy. It gives you a great idea of what it can do and how you can do it. I’ve watched it about 3 or 4 times now and get something new out of it every time.

The best thing to do is just play around with it. One good starting point is looking up your birthday. Or search your first and last names to see their popularity. Or look for your hometown or school. And just experiment from there.

So, for those already familiar with Wolfram|Alpha: sound off in the comments. What’s your take? Or what’s your favorite thing to compute?

Double Feature: T:S + A&D

In Film on May 21, 2009 at 4:06 PM

I’ve had the pleasure (for the most part) of seeing two movies as of late. Most recently, the action blockbuster Terminator Salvation. And before that, the snooze-fest that was Angels & Demons.

The Terminator series is near and dear to my heart. T2: Judgment Day was one of the first movies I even remember seeing and is also one of my favorites of all time. Same goes for the original. Both are phenomenal achievements in filmmaking. They have a smart, thought-provoking storyline that perfectly integrates science fiction and time travel as well as human emotion… that, and they are full of bitchin’ action sequences.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has always made calling the franchise a ‘great trilogy’ dicey. Did it fail on a level that would make me choose to ignore its very existence? Not at all (I’m looking at you Matrix: Revolutions). It had some good action and it followed the canon well enough. As a stand alone action film I would have considered it well above average. But it has the misfortune of being judged as part of a pedigree that has set the bar tremendously high. And thus, most recall it poorly.

Salvation takes place in the near future that the other films only hint at or show snippets of. It is 2018 and the war against the machines (post judgment day) is in full swing. John Connor, while not technically leading the resistance, has become an inspiration to the survivors of the nuclear fire through the radio (as depicted at the end of T3).

This is only the first of what is set to be another trilogy, which I presume will end with the sending back of Kyle Reese that begins the original film. And I’m okay with that. I’ll take it.

Do these movies need to exist? No. The story has already been thoroughly laid out. Is it cool to see, with today’s special effects and stylization, what that war looks like? And on top of that, is it an easy way for the studio to drum up some cash using a successful franchise that requires no heavy lifting script wise? Absolutely yes on both counts.

So in the end, Salvation proves entertaining as fan service but doesn’t make any great strides one way or the other for the franchise. It’s a good blockbuster and it doesn’t mess anything up. Worth checking out if you are a fan of the series.

…oh yea… Did I mention I saw Angels & Demons? Umm, yep. I did. It was… yea. Not worth its own blog post even. I read The Da Vinci Code before seeing that film, this time I went in blind. And that helped me appreciate how poor these films are as products. There is no detail, no subtlety and no nuance. Which are the qualities that make the books so popular. But alas, none of that translates in this format. Don’t bother unless you read the book and can fill in those sizable gaps for yourself.