August 7th, 2005

King of the world!

(no subject)

Well, they both liked the installation. And when I told them that I would supply them with hard- and software to program their own color cycles, I was met with an enthusiastic smirk.
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Bishoujo squad!

Finished series: Ah! My Goddess TV

We've finished watching Ah! My Goddess TV. My first episode review can be found here.

Ah! My Goddess is a romantic comedy. Main character is Keiichi, an eternal loser with a perpetual stroke of bad luck. When he has to stay home while his sempai from the motor club are out for a party, he accidentally dials the Goddess Assistance Hotline. Belldandy, a goddess, answers the phone and enters Keiichi's room through the mirror. He is given a wish, and he wishes that she would stay with him forever. The wish is granted, and they enter in a binding contract.
(Note that this is different from the OVA, where Keiichi wishes she would become his girlfriend. An important difference.)

Whenever they get separated, the Ultimate Force which enforces all contracts between goddesses and mortals, intervenes to keep them together -- often in a rather slapstick manner. It is an amusing romp through college-life, and once Keiichi's sister and both of Belldandy's sisters (Urd, who wants Belldandy and Keiichi to get together and Skuld, the youngest who want Keiichi to keep his hands off her sister) are added to the mix, some hilarious situations occur.

Some characters are only vehicles for comedy, such as Keiichi's two sempai from the Motor Club. There is one episode where they appear suddenly from behind a bush to instigate some comedy, and when they are questioned as to where they came from, they answer: "Don't worry about such small things!" When they are finished, they dissapear in a puff of smoke, prompting the comment: "Nothing is impossible for them!" The characters all take this bizarreness in stride, and that adds to the charm.

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The series is very well animated, and the voice acting is top-notch. They really went all-out with a all-star cast, which only adds to the high production values. The music is quite good, though I didn't care much for the ending theme of the second season.

Good points:
- Excellent production values;
- Great cast of characters;
- Genuinely funny;
- Even has a satisfactory conclusion, even though it is based on a much longer manga;
- Romantic at times.
Bad points:
- Romantic plots are less important than the comedy.

All in all, a 9. If you're at all interested in comedy and/or romance, you can't afford to miss this one.
Ships passing in the night

Underworld

Yesterday, we took a membership for the Cinematheek, a chain of video rental stores that specialise in arthouse movies and world cinema. Expect more movie reviews from now -- you have been warned!

The first movie we watched was Underworld. When it came out, people likened the setting to White Wolf's World of Darkness RPG line. I'm not a WoD adept (I only have the second edition Vampire rulebook and never played it), but I knew enough about the setting to be interested.
Back in '03, when the movie came out, White Wolf even sued Sony Pictures, claiming that it was a derivative work. Sony has deeper pockets than White Wolf could ever hope to get, so nothing ever did come out of that, AFAIK.

It is obvious that the producers spent a lot more money on the designs and the make-up effects than they did on the scenario and the acting. And the designs are probably from the bargain bin in the second-hand movie set store -- the Wachowski brothers dumped their stuff there after completing the Matrix trilogy.
Fun enough for a bit of 'leave your brain at home' movie-watching, but it doesn't stand up to close scrutiny.
WTF!?

iPod madness

Everyone and their brother seem to buy an iPod. Frankly, I don't see the appeal of buying a substandard product that leads to vendor lock-in and further DRM nightmares.

But most people seem to disagree with me.

The most-cited reason to buy an iPod is the design. Apple has a name for cool design of their products. And while I am not fond of beige boxen, I find the Apple designs uninspiring at best. Also, and perhaps this is some weird habit of me that is not shared by the majority of buyers, I buy an appliance to fulfill a specific function. It's great if it looks great, and design is allowed to up the prce a bit, but if I have to choose between a beautiful, crippled product or an ugly, fully-functional one, I choose fully functional 100 times out of 100.

Yes, I know, weird.

Last week, I read an article on Joel on Software, a blog about software development from a managerial viewpoint. Quite interesting, and this particular article focussed on whether ten cheap programmers could replace one genius programmer. Joel says that is not the case, because the cheap programmers will never hit 'the high notes' -- that is, they will never achieve the brilliance a good programmer could, not even as a collective.
He illustrates this with examples from music (are ten cheap opera singers that can't hit the high notes better than one diva that can?) and design. Yes, of course it's about the iPod and how sleek and beautiful and perfect it is.
The next thing you know, he tell us how wonderful it is that you can't change the batteries of the iPod yourself -- there is no battery cover, and you have to pay Apple $66 for the privilege of using a screwdriver to change your battery for you (because, you know, no user-servicable parts inside!).

Excuse me? Anyone knows that the battery is the first thing to go in mobile media players. So why would you want to buy an expensive player that makes it impossible to exchange the batteries yourself? Why is that good? Why would anyone want that?

It is just completely beyond me. I guess it's a good example of how people that you consider to be pretty intelligent in one field sometimes say the stupidest things in another field. Sure, be happy in your designed world, surrounded by overpriced gadgets that limit your abilities, getting all of your stuff from a single manufacturer that is willing to DRM your ass into compliance, one that doesn't seem to find your rights as consumer too important. Heck, use the Apple design EVERYWHERE if you want.

Meanwhile, I will pay considerably less for things that have more features, and that respect my right to use the technology I buy in the way I want.

If you're in the market for a portable media player and only know the iPod, do yourself a favour and take a stroll through Anything but iPod.