the dust factory

I just watched the strangest movie I have ever seen in my life. I am so completely confused that I’m at a loss for words. I seriously don’t even know what to say about it, since I have no idea what in the world it was about.

The best way to cobble together an explanation is just cover what themes it touches on. Basically this teenage boy is about to die, but before he does he is whisked away to another reality, which is where most of the film takes place. There he meets other people in this limbo, including his grandfather who has Alzheimer’s, who teaches him about life, death, hope and courage. Then there’s a female about his age, and she’s supposed to help him see … something. I dunno, I’m still clueless.

I’m sure it would have been a great movie except that there’s no real story. It’s like watching a lesson being taught to you, and you can’t even understand what they’re trying to explain.

On the other hand, the acting was quite good, and that’s probably the only thing that kept me going. The main character was a mute to start with (in the dust factory, he talks just fine) and he did a great job with facial expressions.

Man, I wish the story had been better — this one certainly had potential, but it got caught up into trying to say too much in a roundabout way. I was really disappointed. It was one of those that I read the description, and just knew it was going to be original.

Gosh, that movie was weird.

coming soon extravaganza

Well, it’s time again for another roundup of what’s coming soon. Everything I’m interested in, at least. :) This time it’s going to be an odd mix, because there’s really a lot of different stuff coming out across the board.

October 3rd: The Little Mermaid and Harvey Toons
Under the sea, la la la la, let’s see a sea witch get stabbed in the chest with a rusty ship, la la la la!

I actually completely ruined this movie for me by watching it 7 times straight one day a long time ago. I was bored. Anyway, apparently the first time it was released they didn’t do a good anamorphic transfer (whatever that means, I’m not a videophile to say the least) and it didn’t have many extras (a common Disney crime, tightwads) so here’s your chance to own it again.

I just found out about Harvey Toons: The Complete Collection today. I’m a huge fan of Casper, Wendy, Little Devil and all the other Harvey cartoon characters. They are really great stuff with some original, fun stories. I have no idea what’s gonna be on here, but it’s from Sony Wonder and they always do a good job of putting their discs together, so I’m sure it won’t be disappointing.

October 24th: The Addams Family and Justice League Unlimited
After a long wait by fans, myself not included, the Addams Family finally hits the shelves for the first time ever on DVD. Gosh, that sounded eerily like a marketing blurb.

This is one of those shows that I always liked watching, but I never got a chance to see it. I’m not sure why. I remember catching snippets of it but I doubt I’ve ever seen a complete episode. Either way, it’s not the boring watered down Munsters family, so I’m sure it’ll be great.

Justice League: Unlimited is another show which I’ve never even seen any episodes at all. Actually, I didn’t even know it existed til the release hit my radar. If it’s even half as good as the new Justice League cartoons, then I’m all over that.

Apparently the big difference between the two is that Unlimited shuffles the main heroes around a bit. I wonder if we’ll have an appearance by Zan and Jayna.

Also, season two of Batman Beyond comes out on the same day, so you can get your cartoon on.

November 14th: Adventures of the Gummi Bears

Gummi Bears! Bouncing here and there and everywhere. We are the Gummi Bears! :D

Oh, man this is one of my favorite shows evah. I’m really excited for this one to come out. This was during the time when Disney was still putting out what was now refer to as quality animation and storytelling. It’s a rare concept today coming from them, I know.

The stories of the history of the Gummis always interested me, and that they had all these hidden underground tunnels and lairs was just so freaking cool. Plus you throw in the fact that the timeline was in a medieval setting with other magical creatures and beasts, it’s just a cool show all around.

Duck Tales, Season Two hits the shelves the same day too. Apparently this one has the pilot episode. Sweet. :)

November 21st: Star Trek: The Animated Series

Wheeee! Let’s hear it for *another* TV show that I’ve never seen, but I’m dying to get it just because of everything Ive heard about it! Besides, how can you pass up that cool looking case?

Yes, it’s true. At least 50% of the TV shows I have on DVD, I’ve never even seen. It adds a lot of originality to my life. Great stuff. Really though, I have heard a lot about this cartoon, and I vaguely remember seeing one once, and just being blown away by the fact that there even was a Star Trek cartoon. I never liked the original series at all, but for some reason I had the odd idea that these would somehow appeal to me. Who knows? We’ll see. What I’d really like to do is get my hand on some of the comics. Now that would be sweet.

Well, that’s enough for this time. That’s actually only a little over half of what’s on my upcoming wish list, but I’ll save the rest for later when they’re closer to coming out. There is still some great stuff on the horizon. Good times to be had by all. :)

finding dvds

Most weekends, like this one, I’ll venture out in the wild world of retail and start looking for stuff to buy. Usually DVDs, because I like movies a lot and I’m trying to complete my collection. I have a really hard time finding anything to buy for one of three reasons: the stores don’t stock what I want, I already have whatever they regularly stock or the prices are just too high.

Normally the problem is one of the first two issues, and has to do with stocking what I want. The problem with store stock is that they cover both ends of the specturum of movie quality and popularity, but never a wide variety of good stuff in the middle. One one hand you have major retail stores (Circuit City, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, Shop-Ko, K-Mart, Fred Meyer) that always stock pretty much the same stuff – – whatever’s newly released that week, and then a small library of popular titles that are more likely to sell. On the other hand you have the local used CD and DVD stores which stock a wide variety, but for the most part it’s usually stuff that people don’t want to watch anyway. If a large portion of their business model is accepting used goods that someone didn’t want in the first place, then what are my chances of finding something I want? Going to the large retailers means I’m looking for a good bargain and hoping that they might miraculously dip into the larger market of “good movie, not as high sales.” The local stores is like starting at rock bottom and hoping that somewhere in the wide selection you’ll manage to find something that rises slightly above the level of crap that is worth watching and owning.

It’s a frustrating trend because there aren’t any brick and mortar store that just sells one of everything in the middle. The problem will persist as well, since it doesn’t make sense from a marketing perspective to do anything about it. The local stores couldn’t afford to buy a lot of DVDs and sell them for new because their prices would be higher. The major retail chains could undercut the local stores on price, but they’re always only going to waste their precious floorspace on something that has a much higher chance of selling.

Thankfully, Amazon is on the scene to sell me everything I want that’s in the long tail. I think it’s safe to say that probably half of my DVD collection is from them. They’re not paying high rental prices for a shop on the corner, so they can afford to stock one of everything in some warehouse probably in the middle of nowhere. Their prices are semi-competetive, but the real issue is that they are the ones who have the selection I want. Even if they don’t have it in stock, at least online retailers have a product page, so other people can list theirs as used.

Shopping online is the complete opposite of browsing in the store. Online you can know ahead of time exactly what you’re looking for (wish lists) and your time is spent mostly debating whether or not it falls into your price range or not. Going to the stores though, it’s a miracle just if I find something that I want to buy. What’s really interesting though is even though I know my chances are around 5 to 10 percent of finding something locally, I still go out almost every weekend looking. I’m always optimistic that I just *might* find something this time. You never know. Sometimes I do get lucky.

Another huge variable in this equation though is my personal preference. I’m not into most of the mainstream interests, so my chances of finding something like “Jack the Giant Killer” or “Winsor McCay – The Master Edition” in a store are slim to none in the first place. Naturally nobody’s to blame for that except for me.

Still, I really wish there was a store that had “one of everything.” There’s just something about going to the store and having it right then that is way cooler than waiting a few days for it to arrive in the mail. I think it’s more than just impulse shopping, though I’m not sure what. Interesting stuff, anyway.

learning c++

I have finally gotten off my butt and started working on a goal that I have had for a very long time: learn some C++.

I’ve got two great books (Sams, Deitel) on the subject and between them both they are easy and explanative enough for me.

I’ve just gotten over the boring stuff, like functions and expressions. I remember I actually took an Into to OOP at UVSC about 4 years ago, and I couldn’t even wrap my brain around the concept of a function.  That and the class moved so fast for me I had to drop it.  It scarred me for life and I went on to learn ASP next.  Fortunately I didn’t get too far with that, and I’ve been coding in PHP since then.  Thank goodness the C++ syntax is really similar.  That’s gonna help.

I’m actually really excited to finally learn a really powerful programming language.  I’ve wanted to for a long time, and hopefully before too long I’ll be able to help out on some bugs on more packages.  That’d be awesome.

It’s like President Faust said at General Conference one year, “the difference between wanting to help people and being able to is education.”

no star wars for you?

I haven’t done a DVD update in a while (mostly because I’m poor and I can’t afford gas, much less Season Two of kick butt cartoon tv shows), but here’s one that I’ve been curious about — the second release of the Star Wars trilogy on DVD.

I happened to be meandering through the evil empire of Wal-Mart on Saturday, and I saw the Star Wars display. Interestingly enough, it was completely full. There was maybe 3 copies sold from then entire box sitting up there. Now, I knew the re-release wouldn’t sell too well, but I wasn’t expecting that. I’m curious what people’s take is on it, though. If they are going to buy them or they’re not, either way, for what reason?

Myself, I’ll definately be getting a copy as soon as I can afford it, and for one simple reason: I don’t like the special edition remakes at all. I’m not a Star Wars purist by any stretch of the imagination, but I think all those special “additions” were just plain really dumb, and I’d rather see the movie as I originally saw it years ago. That’s it for me. I don’t know how they are justifying the $20 a DVD though.

the maltese falcon

I finally rented and watched The Maltese Falcon this week. I really love old movies, and this is one of those on my list of “I’m surprised I haven’t ever seen it yet.” It’s supposed to be considered a classic, I guess. I enjoyed most of it, although the pace was a little fast for me at times to follow what was really going on. It wasn’t until after I watched the special features on the disc after the movie that I realized it was a film noir.

This is only the second definitive film noir movie I’ve seen, the first one was The Third Man, and in both cases I’ve been left a little confused as to what’s going on. A lot of that stems from the fact that I was expecting a drama with an interesting mystery story line, but both of those take a back seat to what really gets the spotlight: characters with interesting backgrounds and moral and social flexibility. That’s what it seems like to me, at least. The story in both of them is really about how there are these tough people, both good and bad, which are pretty hardened and can cross the line to do some pretty nasty things if pushed a little too hard. What’s still interesting though is how everyone has this prim and proper gentleman approach, which makes the movies even more fascinating to me.

After watching a few of the classics though, at this point I’d have to say the genre really isn’t in my style. I love parts of it, like the gentelman detectives, the femme fatales, and the polite crooks, but the story takes a real backdrop. I think I’d actually like pulp fiction much better would I watch it more.

In fact, my first extensive encounters with classic drama was with radio, not movies. I’ve seen a lot of old movies, but not nearly as many old time radio dramas that I’ve listened to. Neither number is very high (in the low dozens), but its radio where I got my expectations on how the movies would be. So far I haven’t seen much at all that is similar, but then again, I haven’t seen much at all to begin with.

In fact, what’s really curious is that the movie The Third Man is really much, much different than the radio drama series, which I absolutely love. In that one, Harry Lime is a fast talking scam man who doesn’t mind double crossing the crooks if the police’s reward money is slightly more. The Sam Spade radio stories, though, are probably pretty spot-on with what this movie was like though. I know I haven’t heard many of them, but mentally they’re not on my list of ones to collect, so I must have not been really impressed by them when I was first investigating all the series that are out there.

The great thing is that when it comes to old movies, there is just a whole other world to discover, with all kinds of different takes on genre, film, story, and character. That, and there are lots and lots and lots of them, with lots of original stories in settings that I never grew up in. I still have a ton of old movies in my queue to watch that I’ll get around to sooner or later, and I’m sure there’s gonna be quite a few that I enjoy. Film noir, it seems, is not for me though. No big loss, there’s still plenty to go around. :)

good night and good luck

I got a chance to watch this movie again last night, and it is great.  If you haven’t seen the film, make it a point to.

I’m horrible at writing eloquent reviews, so I’ll just sum it up and say it’s a great flick.  It covers the story of some CBS reporters going straight after McCarthy in the 1950s as he was destroying peoples lives by accusing them of being Communists during the Red Scare.  What’s really cool is how there are so many parallels to what was going on then to what is going on today with terrorism.

One of the best quotes, “How can we defend freedom abroad when we abandon it at home?”

Good stuff.  Watch it.

mythtv 0.20 public service announcement

MythTV 0.20 was released today. Yay. There’s a whole lotta fixes, but the one I like the most is the fading menus.

Anyway, I posted this on the Gentoo forums, but it’s worth repeating:

*BACKUP* your mythconverg database before upgrading.

If you don’t, you won’t be able to go back to 0.19-foo. The reason is because with each point release, the schema for the database changes. When you run mythbackend for the first time, it will upgrade your database schema if it needs to. But running an older version won’t roll it back, meaning you will lose all your settings and entries in ‘Watch Recordings’, etc.

Backing it up should be pretty simple. Just get the mysql connection settings from ~/.mythtv/mysql.txt

Then do:

mysqldump -u mythtv -p mythtv mythconverg > mythconverg-`date +%F`.sql


and save that file in a safe place. Heck, I would recommend doing regular database dumps anyway.

Good luck and have fun. :)

steve’s mini mythtv magical quest

Okay, well I’ve decided to try something completely new and different — I’m going to do a lot of research, read up on all the relevant subjects, and then use my mad consumer skillz and make some planned purchases. How freaking boring.

I’ve pretty much already come to the conclusion that nothing short of a slightly beefy computer is going to cut it as a usable mythfrontend. I’m highly skeptical (hence the research part), but I think that a 1ghz mini-itx system might be able to pull it off. Apparently, there are motherboards that have onboard MPEG2 hardware decoding, taking a huge load off of the CPU on playback. I’m pretty skeptical about how easy it is to get those working too, but I’m willing to consider it.

One thing I know that would be a shoo-in replacement is using a Hauppauge PVR 350 which does both hardware MPEG2 encoding and decoding. I know right now you can use it’s S-Video out connection to watch the TV, though I kind of remember reading something about that disappearing soon or X not using it anymore or something. Gah, I really need to read up.

multiple myth backends

So what do you do when you have multiple TV tuners?  You setup mutiple myth backends, too!

I actually had no idea you could even do this until yesterday, but apparently you can have slave backends for mythtv, not just frontends.  It is really cool how it works, too.  In my scenario I have two amd64 Gentoo boxes both running the 0.19-fixes svn release.  On my main master myth backend, I have the Plextor tuner and all my recordings. Then on my slave backend I’ve got the PVR-500 with dual tuners on it.

Setting up a master-slave backend relationship is actually much, much easier than I thought.  Just run mythtv-setup, first of all, and setup the IP addresses of the machine.  Myth will know if your box is the “master” backend server if (and only if) both IP addresses are the same in the General configuration — one is for the ip of the box, and one is for the ip address of the master server it should connect to.  By default they are both set to for localhost.  Just change those to 192.168.1.x and now others can connect to it.

Then, on the slave just set the master ip address and the subnet address for the slave too.  The only other big thing to do is make sure you setup MySQL on the master server to accept connections from the subnet.  Up until this point though, your “slave” box is just a frontend, since you haven’t really done anything with the backend.  In fact, I’m assuming the only difference between running it as a frontend or backend (or both) is if you actually start running mythbackend on that box.

I went through the rest of mythtv-setup on the backend and added the tuner cards.  The DataDirect listing showed up in my list already from the master server (wow, that’s cool) so I knew they were already talking to each other.  Then it was time to try out the little booger.  Sure enough, I could record three shows at once, and set the scheduling from either of the two frontends.  Plus, I could watch things in the library from either one, not to mention stream video from the live tv recording streams on the tuners from the other boxes.  Very cool stuff.

I started playing around with myth a bit more after that, and it started dawning on me quite a bit more how cool this application really is.  Even when you take it down to the bare basics — it is an awesome PVR.  I still remember pretty well how crappy my Comcast DVR was, mostly lack of features and huge bugs, and mythtv just totally pushes the standard.  It’s great stuff.