My Secret Identity

25-Oct-07 2:22 PM by
Filed under Celebrities; 1 comment.

Angela Gunn is proving quite the sleuth at revealing the unpublicized lives of the stars. First she found a list of 66 celebrities who blog (ever wonder what Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cusack, and Jeff Bridges have to say that's [supposedly] unscripted?). Now she's dug up their resumes to reveal their inner nerds — that is, "celebrities who work at traditional artistic pursuits to make their way in the world, but have been known to kick back with a little astrophysics or microbiology in their spare time."

The list is a good balance of the expected and the surprising. Masi Oka, Wil Wheaton, and Bill Nye we already know about — but Dolph Lundgren? Rowan Atkinson? Lisa Kudrow? You have to be kidding me. I don't know whether to be impressed by these geeks' intellectual genius, or by them defying stereotypes and playing characters completely antipodal to their nature. (By contrast, my acting self receives daily audition notices for the fifth season of Beauty and the Geek.)

Excellent job, Ms. Gunn, for this fun and insightful piece (my contributions to which — Drake Hogestyn and Natalie Portman — reveal perhaps more about ME than I'd like…).  In a culture where "heroes" are often such for all the wrong reasons, it's nice to have admirable reasons to respect these stars.

Montagne de Brokeback

17-Sep-07 9:18 PM by
Filed under Humor; Comments Off on Montagne de Brokeback




(Tip of the hat: IT Blogwatch)

Still Bourne

06-Aug-07 11:41 AM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

As we did with Live Free or Die Hard, Angela Gunn and I have again collaborated on a film review, this time of The Bourne Ultimatum. It's a less amusing and more acerbic article than our last one, though, due to a vehement difference of opinion: though the film was okay, the primary adjective I would use to describe it is "nauseating"; Angela, OTOH, is in love with the film, its actors, and especially its IT.

To get my opinion, read the original article's black text and ignore the red.

Read the review at Computerworld.com »

Goin' to Kansas City…

17-Jul-07 10:01 AM by
Filed under Showbits; Comments Off on Goin' to Kansas City…

Just a brief post to indicate that Showbits updates will be scarce this week, as I am leaving in a few minutes for KansasFest, the annual Apple II expo held in Kansas City, Missouri. I'm on the convention's planning board, which is a conflict of interest that prevents me from covering the event for most publications, but I hope to blog about it elsewhere.

Also, I've added some new, minor functionality to Showbits. When reading individual posts, look near the bottom of the post (just above the comments) for a link that says "[print_link]" to get a printer-friendly version of the page, or or "[email_link]" to send the page to a friend. Voila!

Now for Some Real User Power

10-Jul-07 6:13 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Films; 5 comments.

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Tron, a film that is so many things to so many people: a milestone of computer animation; a staple of any geek's library; an element in the film studies curriculum I developed; another Jeff Bridges box office bomb. My love affair with this film spans multiple media:

I had to commemorate the anniversary of this cult hit with more than just a marathon session of lightcycling. After reading IGN's interview with Steven Lisberger, Tron's creator, I felt there must be better interview subjects out there.

So I instead got ahold of John Knoll, visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic. ILM was created by George Lucas for the original Star Wars films and has since gone on to become a powerhouse in visual effects. Mr. Knoll has worked on several of their best films, including Willow, The Abyss, Mission: Impossible, Star Trek: First Contact, the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. And somehow, during all that, he found time to invent Photoshop.

On very short notice, Mr. Knoll generously donated a half-hour of his time to speak with me on the subject of Tron, computer graphics, and the industry's evolution over the last quarter of a century. The end result is a very satisfying transcript, even if some notable, general observations didn't make the final cut:

"Even today … filmmakers rely on the special effects to be the only appeal in the movie, and they don't try so hard on the movie because they figure the visuals will carry the film … For those of us who work in the industry, that's not something we encourage. It's just as hard to do the effects on a bad movie as it is the effects on a good movie, and we'd all rather have worked on a good movie."

Continue on to Computerworld.com to read the full interview.

A huge thanks to old LucasArts and ILM colleagues Tom Sarris and Ellen Pasternack, without whom this interview would not have been possible.

Update: the above article has been Slashdotted!

Security Goes to the Movies

04-Jul-07 8:59 AM by
Filed under Reviews; 6 comments.

Happy Fourth of July! Celebrate America's independence with my review of Live Free or Die Hard, currently playing at Computerworld.com.

When I gave my final draft to my editor, Angela Gunn, I expected her to contribute her extensive knowledge of computer security into an article that blended our respective opinions into a cohesive, individual voice. The end result was, in fact, two distinct voices — and is far more entertaining than anything I envisioned. Unfortunately, Computerworld.com was swamped with iPhone coverage last week, shoving peripheral articles such as this one to the wayside. It finally got published in time for the holiday movie-going crowd to appreciate.

Read the review at Computerworld.com »

The Force will be with you… always

31-Jan-07 11:56 AM by
Filed under Star Wars; 4 comments.

Up until ten years ago today, I, along with my friends Peter, Pelun, and our entire generation, had experienced Star Wars the only way it'd been possible: on the TV screen.

But if we'd only seen it that way, we hadn't seen it at all — not until Friday, January 31st, 1997, at 10:20 PM EST, when we witnessed the premiere of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope: Special Edition.

Despite the original trilogy being constantly rerun on TV, I'd seen it in its entirety only once. It was one night when the house was empty that I rented them on VHS, determined to complete this gap in my cultural education. Even that isolated viewing was many years before their cinematic re-release, so seeing them on the silver screen was all the more energizing. Not just because it was a new experience, but because it was a common, shared experience. Fans wrapped around the block waiting for tickets. Jedi Knights (or padawans) numbered among the throngs. Lightsabers and blasters were wielded throughout the lobby. The seats were packed for a film that would excite in both its familiarity and originality. And we all collectively mocked the petulant Skywalker when he bemoaned his unfulfilled intention to visit Toshi Station.

You don't create a memory like that from popping a DVD into your home entertainment system. It's true that movie theaters are expensive, as are their concessions, and that the theaters are often populated with babies, cell phones, and other noisy inconsiderations. But films themselves are a vehicle of social interaction. Each year that I taught a film studies course, I opened the first day of class by explaining to my students that the movies they were about to watch were a venue through which people of diverse eras and geographies could relate by sharing common experiences. Nowhere is that goal better achieved than in the communal consumption of film.

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