Monday, November 24, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire, dir. Danny Boyle

Yeah, I haven't blogged for six months, and I haven't blogged about any of the things this blog is ostensibly about in, like, ever. I had a post about Hawking Radiation (because I know everyone has been dying to know my position on that) and yet another Schrodinger's Cat post (good news, I've totally solved the problem. Well, more like defined it out of existence), but I'm just not in a blogging place these days. I guess the days when the crushing angst of modern life could be filled by frequent posting have passed me by.

Anyway, this movie: Holy. Fuck. If you are currently in a state of having not seen this movie, you should seek the discontinuation of that state as soon as is humanly possible. In fact, you should just stop reading this right now, see the movie, and then come back so we can discuss it. For now, the rest of this paragraph is a generic spoiler, which you should not read if you have not seen the movie: Boyle has made a Bollywood film the brilliance of which lies in continually making you forget that you are watching a Bollywood film. It is a film which at every turn seems to be thwarting the conventions of the genre, such that you the viewer are endlessly surprised when it winds up totally following them.  

Back with me? Good. Now go see this movie. Do it. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here"

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is in the unlikeliest of places. Think of the schlockiest part of the schlockiest beach town you can imagine -- end to end to end cheap, tacky souvenirs, cranky, sugar-hyped children, stupid games and rides, glow sticks, cotton candy, and ice cream of the future (on Chicago’s Navy Pier, Ice Cream of the Future comes in a futuristic pouch. Spoons and cups are so 20th century). Anyway, one slogs through all of this misery, skin crawling, and comes at last to the Shakespeare Theater -- an oasis in the desert, an island in the raging sea, shelter in wilderness, what you will. First, it is a beautiful beautiful theater and space. Second, holy crap, they are good. TG and I saw Comedy of Errors this weekend, a thing I would never have done had I not been just desperate to see the place. COE is (with apologies) not a good play. It is very early. It is not very funny. It lacks interesting characters or compelling narrative. It is the same joke over and over and over. And it makes no sense. Two sets of twins? Sure. Both with the same names? Um, no. It’s not just that this company managed to make the play palatable and entertaining. It wasn’t good in spite of its material. It was just brilliant. Brilliant.

But I’m getting off topic. My question was why put this world class theater doing classical (for the sake of this argument) texts in the middle of schlocky schlocksville? To attract a more diverse crowd? Full price tix were 80 bucks (we got them half price of course), about twice the price of any other theater tix in the city save for the totally sold out national tour huge summer musical extravaganza production of Wicked. 80 dollar tickets does not encourage the bringing of one’s totally hopped up, sticky, cranky, glow sticked children, right? The overlap of these two groups of people -- people who want to see Shakespeare and are willing to spend 80 dollars on it vs. people who want to eat fried dough, buy a pencil sharpener model of the Sears tower, and then go on the tilt a whirl -- is small (limited, perhaps, to Greg exclusively, and even he is borderline). Indeed, the audience was as white, middle aged, and blue haired as usual if a bit less high brow and a bit more touristy (so, then, was the show).

It pandered but brilliantly. Instead of just doing COE, it imagined a film studio making a film of the play in London in the 40s, so we got scenes from COE interspersed with this other play they’d written about these people making this movie. The marginalized ham, used to playing star parts, reduced here to playing a silly servant, keeps begging the director to let him do the St. Crispen’s Day speech from Henry V, a recurring joke that is brilliant on at least a dozen levels, but I’ll spare you these as it’s interesting only to me (and perhaps TG who, as you can imagine, already got the full lecture). Anyway, the ham gets slapped across the face towards the end of the “film” and the light changes and cue I’m-seeing-stars music, and he busts into the speech. About a third of the audience maybe got it, but we few (we happy few, we band of...well, you get it) cracked the fuck up. Genuinely. It was actually funny, not intellectually funny. It was brilliant. It was awesome. It was one of the funniest moments I have ever seen in live Shakespeare. And it cost nothing if you didn’t happen to be familiar with the speech -- the delivery was pretty funny anyway. I cried. Not from laughing so hard (though that too) but because it was so damn perfect and good.

Anyway, I would like to think the moral of this long winded story is something like happy marriage between tourists and academics, candy apples and theater snobs, but I don’t think it is. Shakespeare was not writing for a high brow audience, and his theater was located in a much less savory part of town than the Navy Pier. This isn’t the Globe though, and that’s not what they are going for. What they are going for I do not know. However, I expect seldom to see better theater in a more unusual place for it and never ever to see a better production of the Comedy of Freaking Errors of all things. 

Monday, June 02, 2008

Video killed the blah blah etc. blah

My birthday has lately passed and as a gift from Mrs. Transient Gadfly I received a video camera. Putting it to immediate use I have now combined the two favorite things of everyone in the universe: other people's home movies and music recorded in basements.

If, inexplicably, you know me and do not have this mp3 of mine yet wish to, you can download it here. It occurred to me while doing this that I recorded this song ten years ago. Ten f***ing years, man. Also, the fact that Apple makes movie editing software that is so incredibly easy to use that you don't have to read instructions of any kind to make a music video might make you think that designing user interfaces is easy. Apparently though, it is not.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beautiful Escape: The Songs of the Posies Revisted

The Posies' first major-label release, Dear 23, came out in September of my senior year of high school. My friend Gino and I skipped class that morning and drove down to Cellophane Square to buy the CD; they hadn't put it on the shelves yet, and when we asked the guy behind the counter he gave us this look like, "Oh god. It has started already."

The Posies weren't just a band that had made it big, they were a band from Bellingham that had made it big, and they weren't just a band from Bellingham that made it big, our friend Nathan's older brother was the lead guitarist and singer, and Nathan had been keeping us appraised the whole year before about how they'd been courted by major labels and put up in plush hotel rooms. The Posies were It. They were The Next Big Thing.

There's a whole grand epic narrative that goes in between that day and this one but I'll just skip said narrative crap and say that 20 years later the Posies are still out there rocking, and their lasting contribution to pop music might just turn out to be that while they themselves were never The Next Big Thing, they inspired a crap load of other bands that sound like them. Here are 47 of them, including Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow covering their own songs (not to mention a great cover of "Paint Me" by The Calculus Affair).

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Can somebody explain this to me?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

That's "Mr. Nerd Gnome" To You

We're in Wired this (where "this" = next) month. Therein we are referred to as "the nerd gnomes in Beacon Hill." This is, in fact, an improvement. At the beginning of my career in software I worked at That Software Giant in Redmond™ on their initial foray into the internet, MSN 1.0. Wired did an article in which they likened we happy few original web developers to the million monkeys typing randomly on tiny keyboards. So now I am, professionally speaking, a gnome. The metaphors grow ever more humanoid.

There isn't a ton in this article that I haven't already covered here at The Odds Are One over the last couple of years (oh please, Wired: web services hype is soooo 2006). I haven't yet mentioned Amazon DevPay in this space, which is weird on account of in most of the Web Service things I announce the launch of I am only peripherally involved, whereas DevPay took up my entire life until it launched last December. DevPay is a billing application wherein you the developer create a software product that runs on Amazon's Web Services, then we sign up and bill your customers on your behalf. The concept is actually pretty cool, and like the rest of Web Services, if it turns out to be a killer app, the thing it's going to kill is venture capital.

Amazon (and Google, Yahoo, and IBM, who aren't wasting any time getting into the space either) is taking away the big upfront IT costs: you want to run a business that's going to need four high-powered servers just to get going? You don't need to spend $10,000 on hardware and $100,000 a year on a sysadmin just to get off the ground. You rent the space from Amazon for $0.40 an instance/hour and $0.10 a Gigabyte/month. When you want to get bigger, you rent more space (AWS even gives you a volume discount). We are hoping, it seems, to provide the big guns for the revolution, and then to watch the little guys fire them off.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

It Came From 1977

The Odds Are One and The Calculus Affair are pleased to announce the release of bad quarto*, a ten and one-half song E.P. recorded for the 2008 RPM Challenge (which has, as will be noted by those of you possessing clever and new-fangled calendar-reading skills, just ended).

The full album will be released in approximately twelve lines of text. Here now is the advance single from the album. Click play. You know you want to.

The Calculus Affair quoteth now from our liner notes as regards bad quarto*:
This album is composed entirely of songs about or pertaining to plays by William Shakespeare. In addition to being The Calculus Affair's effort for the 2008 RPM Challenge, it is also an E.P. which heralds the release of a future album of epic scope: one song for each of Shakespeare's plays (37 or 38, depending upon whom you read). If you are a fan of The Calculus Affair, and you enjoy excessively long albums that sound like they fell out of 1977, keep an eye peeled.

And now, the long (for an entirely abstract and arbitrary definition of the word, "long") awaited (for a definition of "awaited" etc. etc.) downloadable mp3 version of bad quarto*.
  1. Duke Of The Stratosphere

  2. Every Day

  3. Bone & Matter

  4. Rude Mechanicals

  5. The Archer

  6. Prince Of Tyre

  7. The Mob

  8. Hell & Night

  9. Q.E. I

  10. Exit, Pursued by a Bear/Your Mother's a Statue

  11. Coda (Duke Of The Stratosphere)

This EP also comes with the fun built-in game, "Guess Which Play The Song Goes With." This game may or may not actually be fun. As with all music by The Calculus Affair, we remind you of the following: Unauthorized duplication is strictly encouraged. We hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

OaO Presents: Hilarity for Nerd Sportsfan Rockstar Wannabes™

Picabo Street, if I may digress again, is my second favorite winter Olympics subject, after curling. In my musician days I made up a song inspired by her name: "Peekaboo Street." My baby lived on it. It was writing songs like that that made me the man I am today: a former musician.
-King Kaufman

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

OaO Presents: Hilarity for Nerds™

From my friend Tom:
I failed my saving throw against charisma and became a die-hard Obama supporter.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

10 Gadfly Things

I like this meme. I'm doin' it too. Ten things I've done that you probably haven't:

  1. Played guitar with Jon Auer
  2. Attended 3 months of public school held in a language I didn't speak at the time
  3. Flagged down a British Rail train from a platform in order to get it to stop and pick me up
  4. Acted on stage with Hilary Swank
  5. Experienced the Ballmer Peak (during which I wrote a script to keep a fulfillment-center mechanical sorter running after the program that was supposed to run it had crashed)
  6. Written a series of comic books
  7. Written a role-playing game based on the character from those comic books, complete with 30-page rule-book
  8. Recorded an album in the month of February (and will again)
  9. Appeared on a PBS Show
  10. Been at the Trevi Fountain on New Year's Eve

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Yes, God forbid that while talking to 60,000 public school students, the President should appear smart."

Barack Obama is making me a little sad that we don't have a tv (a feeling which arises during the baseball post season and at just about no other time ever). I think this is because I'm pretty sure his speeches are written by Aaron Sorkin. He speaks of "workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land." He promised last night, "We will remember that something is happening on the streets of America, that we are one people, that we are one nation, and that together we can begin the next chapter in America's story with the three words ... Yes, we can." It makes me weepy.

But my question is this: is falling for Obama because of the poetry, because he's so good with the words, really any less shallow than voting for someone because he's young and attractive or because he looks like a cowboy and what's more 'merican than a cowboy or because he talks stupid just like me or because he's someone I'd like to have a beer with? Beers, cowboys, and stupid people do nothing for me (young and attractive I consider on a case by case basis), but then I wasn't the target audience on those, but boys with words...well he had me at "audacity."

And while I would argue that facility with words suggests other qualities like intelligence which might come in handy when running a country (but then I teach facility with words for a living and Obama didn't write his anyway), it could just be a question of what gets your rocks off. Still, if the folks who know about these things (myself, I wouldn't have guessed that stupid=electable or that speaking French=unfit to serve as president, so shows what I know) think that poetry is more marketable this season than dumb cowboy, already I feel we've won one. (About damn time too).

P.S. Bonus points for naming the West Wingepisode that lends the post title.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Calculus Affair Rides Again

I'm not sure how long it will be up there before it's replaced in the rotation, but the Calculus Affair's contribution to "Beautiful Escape: A Tribute To The Posies" is the current track in the player on their MySpace page as of this moment. So, you know, check it out and stuff before it goes away. The album is scheduled for release from Burning Sky Records sometime in 2008. You should, like, buy it.