Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Another great little movie: Brick, described on the Aquarius Theatre's marquee as "Sam Spade in school." As the kids say, tru dat. Maybe high school wasn't actually a film noir, but I tell you, sometimes it sure as hell felt like it.

D and I saw it with our friend jra, and afterwards he quipped: "I'm hungry for some hard-boiled eggs." I, too, had the sudden urge to speak in short, clipped sentences filled with slang.

Al Gore wants you to save the planet

Go read Wired 14.05: The Ressurection of Al Gore. And, when it opens on May 24th, go see An Inconvenient Truth. It's based on a talk that I saw Gore present earlier this month, and which he's been touring around the country. Even if the movie won't have the same impact as seeing the man in person, it will still scare you to death.

Or rather, it should scare you to death. What's truly frightening to me is the knowledge that despite all the scientific evidence, despite the hard facts that should be undeniable to anyone with an ounce of reason, there will still be people in the world who refuse to accept the truth of global climate change.

I'll admit it-- I was, for a long time, suspicious of the alarmist claims made by "green" activists about global warming and such. But Al Gore makes a hell of a case for believing what we don't want to believe, and he backs it up with real data. He's not running for office. He doesn't have a political agenda. And he doesn't take himself too seriously, but he knows when to crack a joke and when to hammer the point home.

I'm sure I won't spoil the movie by giving away his closing:

"In America, political will is a renewable resource."

It'll make more sense after you see the movie, but think about that. Go read S.1151, John McCain's Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2005, and think about it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The THX Sound

Here's the fascinating story of how the THX trailer sound (officially called "Deep Note"-- thank you, sexually frustrated audio engineers) came to be:


As Andy Moorer says in the introduction to the article, it's quite possibly "the most widely-recognized piece of computer-generated music in the world." My favorite part is the fact that the generator program uses random numbers as the basis for its component oscillators, so it will never perform exactly the same gestalt of frequencies:
Every time I ran the C-program, it produced a new "performance" of the piece. The one we chose had that conspicuous descending tone that everybody liked. It just happened to end up real loud in that version.

Some months after the piece was released (along with "Return of the Jedi") they lost the original recording. I recreated the piece for them, but they kept complaining that it didn't sound the same. Since my random-number generators were keyed on the time and date, I couldn't reproduce the score of the performance that they liked. I finally found the original version and everybody was happy.
People say that electronic music has no soul, but maybe what we call "soul" in this case is just an ephemeral variability that feels organic. Let's face it, a perfect synthesizer would not sound synthesized. Get over it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Thank You for Smoking

Everything John Rogers says about this movie is true. Go see it. Now.

It's easy for satire to go wrong, but Smoking gets it right. Even with all the voiceovers, subtitles, and other glamours, it never goes too over-the-top, never strays from its protagonist. From the opening titles-- designed to look like vintage cigarette packaging and accompanied by Tex Williams' "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette"-- to the unrepentant final scene, it's damn near perfect.

And as much as people decry nepotism in Hollywood, writer-director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) has earned his stripes in my book. Let's hope he has better luck than Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence), whose Zero Effect was brilliant but who hasn't had much luck since then.