Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Android Video

I finally got the Cupcake update for my G1. This is the first video I've taken with my phone. Also, I can upload it directly to YouTube immediately after taking the video.

Lookout, world. I'm coming atcha' with a camera.

A Disciple, Scholar, and Gentleman

Truman G. Madsen died. He was a tremendous person. I saw him speak several times and had the chance once to speak to him myself. He'll be missed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reviews and More: Coraline (in 3D), Star Trek, Terminator Salvation

I haven't done reviews in a while. Been busy. So I'll speed through these.

Coraline was fun, if a little awkward at times. Not entirely sure I'd want young kids to see it, and older kids would probably boycott, thinking it too juvenile. Henry Selick delivers an eerie atmosphere on par with the Nightmare Before Christmas. The visual appeal is great. It's colorful, dynamic, and geometric. If you're excited for a dark but playful nightmare world, check it out. The 3D even helps the film, instead of distracting.

Star Trek is a blast. It is. It's just plain, simple, action fun. J.J. Abrams knows what he is doing, as I've mentioned before. You don't have to know a thing about the Star Trek back-story or mythology. You don't even have to like sci-fi, because while this uses the tropes of a sci-fi, at it's heart it's an action flick (even action-comedy). It's good-looking people doing really cool stuff, with chase scenes, fights, explosions, kissing, and jokes. It's the bread and butter of a Hollywood film, and in this case, that isn't a bad thing.

Terminator Salvation was entertaining, but ultimately a letdown. Next time I won't get my hopes up when the director calls himself McG and has an ouvre consisting mainly of Charlie's Angels. There seemed to be no consideration for the style and feel of the previous films, especially the well-loved first two.

I will say this. While it lacked any pacing, buildup, or subtlety, it was a very impressive wrecked world. The effects were seamless, the sound was immersive, and the actors did an effective job with what they were given. I guess that's all it takes for mainstream reviewers to like it, too.

Speaking of Terminator, Angela pointed out an interesting article on why the Terminators make us so uncomfortable. The Uncanny Valley is a concept I've known for years now. Though it's a common query today, it's not a new idea. It never seems to lose my interest, either. It's at the heart of a surprising amount of great fiction, I think because it begs the question of identity.

That Uncanny Valley might have seemed like an impossible chasm for some film-makers (you listening, Zemeckis?), but it may have finally been crossed, and did it so fluidly that we hardly noticed.

The possibility of photorealism with even the human face plays right in with the trending cinéma vérité fictional narrative style showing up so often. We're in a post-reality-TV world, well on our way through the maturation of YouTube. We see films like the Bourne series, where shaky camerawork "immerses" the audience, where you feel the uncontrolled reality of the situation (though I feel that particular example was excessive and alienating).

You'll see more and more films not only using the documentary aesthetic, but the form as well. The Blair Witch project broke that ground, showing how effective the technique is. Their mockumentary on the Sci-Fi channel took me in as a sixteen-year-old, hook, line, and sinker. I've talked before about the "found footage" techniques used in Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead. It was even recently featured in a BYU Film project manned by a class that unfortunately didn't fit in to my schedule. Would have been great to be a part of that.

The style is becoming recursive, with doctored videos showing up on YouTube as though they were home videos. Here is a recent example that's floated around the Web.

The same form is used for an upcoming sci-fi picture presented by Peter Jackson.

The trailer for District 9 plays out as though it were a documentary, with the only indication of fiction coming from the impossible premise. That same premise was used in a short film from the same director. District 9 is really an expansion of that short (seen below). I'm excited.

Of note is the fact that I can't think of a single major film in this style that didn't use some kind of ARG and/or viral marketing. Viral ARG is becoming more and more common, but is far from universal. It's the exception rather than the rule. However, when we see first person narratives, it's a must, a staple. The film form and the promotional techniques play together to draw the audience in, to have them not only watch, but experience the world of the film.

How is all this for some stream of consciousness?

I've got more to say on the matter. A lot more. But for now, I'll leave it as is.

Expect more on this and related topics soon.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time

This is somewhat out of the regular for this blog, but I thought it was worth sharing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fair Use

I'm blogging this as much so I can remember where it is when I want to refer to it as I am to share it.

Here is the full report.

See previous posts like The Pirate's Dilemma, XKCD on copyright, and Larry Lessig.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

>100 Days

I did number 21.

They probably made a healthy chunk of change from that.

C'est la vie.

UPDATE: I emailed them.

I made a remarkably similar design to the Barack On! print you guys have. I created and posted it to spreadshirt.com a year ago.
I did the design on number 21. Your design is at 39.
It's the same phrase and effectively the same image.
You tell me; is this just great minds thinking alike, or coincidence, or did you get the idea from my original design?
Do you think you could give me some kind of credit for that? Mention my name, or send me a check, or at least send me a shirt?
I know this is the Web and that's the nature of things, take, use, borrow, steal, whatever we want to call it, but I think you could at least give some kind of shout out.
Just a thought. Your design is better than mine, but you might consider giving me some kind of appreciation. Thanks, good job, good luck.

-Austin M. Craig

The Green Myth

I really appreciate and enjoy Bill Moyers Journal. I'm more and more convinced that PBS broadcasts much of the best journalism and socially responsible dialogue anywhere.

I particularly enjoyed his discussion with Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence (and excellent book), Social Intelligence, and most recently, Ecological Intelligence. He explains why the idea of going green in largely a myth.

Moyers said Goleman's book was heartbreaking, but I thought their talk was enlightening and motivating. I recommend watching it. Just click here.

NOTE: Even if you don't watch the video, visit GoodGuide. It's a database of the ecological and social responsibility factor of the products we buy.  Skin Deep is the same thing for cosmetics.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Microsoft's Home of the Future

Last summer, I took a tour of the Home of the Future on the Microsoft Campus. They took a bunch of us interns and showed us around. I got to tramp all around this neat house.

I wasn't allowed to take pictures then, but it doesn't look like Microsoft's vision of the Future Home has changed much since then. Take a look.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Watch This.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Star Trek - Just a good, fun movie?

If you read this blog, you should know by now that I like that J.J. Abrams guy, and I like sci-fi, and I like movies.

So it should come as no surprise that I'm going with some friends to an advance screening of the new Star Trek movie. This should be good.

Early reviews are positive, though not everybody is happy with the outcome.

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Hunt for Gollum,

NOTE: This post is link heavy, but I didn't want the font color to distract from the content. Hover over a word to see if there is a related link.

NPR ran an interesting piece yesterday
. It's got a few notable angles.

The Lord of the Rings franchise has been wildly successful. Fans came from every demographic, flocking to theaters, to the web, and to the DVDs in their various iterations. It's been five and a half years since The Return of the King, the last of the trilogy, was released, and it's still a touchstone the industry tries to replicate (some with more taste than some [many] others).

Enter The Hunt for Gollum. The 40 minute featurette was written, directed, acted, and filmed by volunteer fans. Every aspect of pre-production, production, and post-production was coordinated and executed by people who simply loved Middle-earth and wanted to see another LOTR movie.

Fan fiction is notoriously...bad. There is a reason writers and filmmakers get paid to do what they do. They're very good at it. The average joe with his home video camera and PC (historically speaking) isn't. Even noble efforts lack the resources to put together high production value.

But The Hunt for Gollum crew seems to be a dedicated team. They took their time (two years) and scrapped together an impressive group of talent.

And from the looks of it, they deliver.

True, it's not indiscernible from the Hollywood hits. But you can be sure many fans of the series, myself included, will be checking this out when it's released on May 3 (in HD, no less).

Such an impressive feat, using widely recognized media, begs the question:
Is this legal? Doesn't this constitute piracy? Aren't there copyright issues at play here? Intellectual property? brand hijacking? Wholesale theft!?

The lawyers can (and likely will) argue both ways.

An apologist might say, "It's fair use, nobody is making money!"

The prosecution may answer, "It's copyright infringement that devalues a developing property!"

New Line is far from done with the Ring series. Why stop when it's still making money? The Lord of the Rings' prequel The Hobbit is being adapted for a 2012 release, directed by Guillermo del Toro of Pan's Labyrinth fame. Expect ticket sales to be big.

This kind of conflict has been, and will continue to be, a growing problem. Intellectual Property laws are in bad need of reform, but more than that, business modelers need to understand the new paradigm that cheap technology presents.

Technology is cheap. No, really. You may think it's pricey to get the latest and the greatest gear, but compared to only a few years ago, when that gear didn't exist, it's cheap.

Anybody can get the tools to create media. Good tools. An HD camera and a computer with video editing software doesn't cost that much. In fact, I'm planning on purchasing some this week.

What that means is there is no barrier to entry. Anyone can do this (probably very poorly) for very little cash.

Take a look at YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, Flickr, etc. Everybody is a writer, videographer, and artist. Everyone is a celebrity.

And nothing (short of a time machine) can change that.

With that reality in mind, media producers need to leverage the anxious crowd. User-Generated Content will be vitally important to most media outlets if they want to survive (and thrive) in coming years. Some early adopters are already putting that strategy to play, and making a hefty profit.

It even works for established brands. One American film maker has directed only six feature films since 1971, but his properties have become so popular, copied, and parodied, that his net worth is $3.9 billion (with a b). His name is George Lucas.

So, what do we say? Sue The Hunt for Gollum crew? I don't know why. They're drawing more eyes to a valuable franchise, keeping interest alive till the next installment is released (as if the viewers of The hunt for Gollum won't also go see The Hobbit opening weekend). The makers don't have any money; they're not making any money. But if producers play their cards right, the crew will make money for the studios.

I don't think honey bees ever stop to realize who ultimately reaps the harvest, but it's never far from the beekeeper's mind.

Or maybe it's just a matter of perspective.

What if we are all just pawns in corn's clever strategy game to rule the Earth? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see the world from a plant's-eye view.