Tuesday, June 23, 2009

John Hodgman Challenges Obama's Geek Cred

This is video of John Hodgman (from the "Daily Show" and the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" Apple commercials) speaking at the press correspondents dinner. In it he challenges President Obama's credibility as a geek/nerd. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I've FINALLY found my new radio station.

I have to wonder how many people actually push the "seek" button on their radio? Radio "presets" have been a staple - especially in car radios - forever. Once you dial in your station(s), there's really no NEED to seek anymore. Which is why, and forgive me if you might think I'm woefully behind the times on this, I didn't know about 89.3 "The Current." It's the closest thing to the old "REV 105" you're likely to find on a Twin Cities radio today.
Back in the 1990's my favorite radio station was "REV 105" - a low-power station at three places on the dial playing eclectic/free-form music, live in-studio sets, and a big supporter of the local music and charitable causes. Then Disney/ABC/Capitol Cities came in, bought the station, changed it's format, and destroyed the best radio station I - or many other loyal listeners - had ever heard.

Hard to believe that was March 11th, 1997 - over 12 years ago. I've been searching for another favorite radio station ever since.

Under the new ownership the station's name was changed to X-105 and the format to hard rock. Oh, and all the REV-105 people were fired. Then some of them were hired back that September when it became ZONE 105 playing "Adult Album Alternative." Until 1999 when they switched to "Classic Alternative," and then 2000 when they just played "Alternative." In 2001 there was yet another name and format change to V105 playing "Rhythmic Oldies." A year later yet ANOTHER name and format change to "Drive 105" once again playing "Adult Album Alternative" until 2004 when it was back to "Alternative." A decade after the initial shot, 2007 put the final nail in the coffin - a name change to "Love 105" and format change to "Soft Adult Contemporary/Oldies."

I tried listening to 93.7 "The Edge" (Disney's "alternative" station, and the reason they wanted to kill REV 105), which I'd best describe as having been "corporate alternative rock." And like most commercial stations they had an official playlist - created no doubt from marketing research data - from which the DJs apparently dared not waver lest they be flogged or something. When 105 went back to Alternative it was only because Disney decided 93.7 needed to be the hard rock station instead. So the swapped formats. But the playlist at the newly minted "Drive 105" gradually got more and more lame as any song even approaching an "edge" was deemed in competition with their other "rock" station.

But for a lot of the time since REV 105 was killed I simply stopped listening to radio and listened to my rather eclectic music collection. Then recently my brother suggested I give JACK FM a listen, saying they at least play a mix of music old and new. I had to admit, most of the time it isn't that bad. But it's certainly no REV 105. Why? Because REV 105 wasn't just about the playlist, a lot of it had to do with the on-air talent, the dedication to the local music scene, and the station's mission to support local charities.

I was trying to recall the exact date "the music died" (that would be when REV 105 was sold) and looked it up online. Which was when I learned that three of the people who made REV 105 what it was are reunited at KCMP 89.3 "The Current" and they would be Mary Lucia, Steve Nelson, and Thorn. Also, some of you may know Mark Wheat from KUOM "Radio K." Yep, he's there too. What made me even less likely to have stumbled upon this station is that it is a part of Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). I don't know about you, but when I think of Public Radio I think of boring talk shows and classical music. In fact, a lot of critics of publicly funded radio (coincidentally many of whom are owners of commercial stations) believe MPR should restrict itself to boring programming and not act like a commercial station at all. So about the last thing I'd have expected on an MPR station was "eclectic/free-form" - which is, wow, the same format that REV 105 used to play!
The first time I tuned my home stereo into "The Current" it was like I'd just stepped in a time machine and was transported back to 1996 - there was Mary Lucia as DJ, songs by the Jayhawks, Wilco, Dinosaur Jr., and mixed in some experimental jazz and songs I could neither identify the artist nor (in some cases) pin down the genre. But that was one of the coolest things about REV 105 - the DJ's were free to slip in some really obscure, off-beat - totally NON commercial music. Radio is where you're SUPPOSED to be exposed to new stuff, right? Oh, and another way it's like having REV 105 back from the dead - "The Current" is also on more than one frequency on the dial, depending on where you live:
  • 88.7 in Rochester, MN (plays classical in the morning & switches to "The Current")
  • 89.3 in the Twin Cities
  • 95.3 in Mankato, MN
  • 97.5 in Hinkley, MN
  • Stream It from the web if you can't get it over the air.
I know this is going to sound like an advertisement, but if you loved - or even liked - the old REV 105 go to your stereo and tune into one of the aforementioned frequencies and give "The Current" a listen. I'm sure you'll do what I did and assign it the first preset button.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Terminator: Salvation (as in Save Your Money)

Seriously, save your money for one of the as-yet-unreleased blockbusters due out later this summer. "Terminator: Salvation" was a major disappointment. If you thought this was the movie about how John Connor saves humanity from the dreaded SkyNet and it's army of Terminators - which is what the movies was SUPPOSED to be about right? The big victory over the machines? NOPE! Sorry, it's not that movie. The last scene in the film was so obviously added by a studio executive who realized "Hey, wait! If we show how SkyNet is defeated that will be the end of the franchise!" That's right, folks, they "win the battle, but the war continues."

Update 6/8/09: Just read some background info on the film, and apparently that open-ended finale was the work of the film's director, MCG, who is some guy better known for directing music videos (like anyone watches those anymore).

Of course I didn't know about the total bait-and-switch unsatisfying ending until, well, the end. But that's far from the only thing wrong with this movie - or at least not as advertised. Did you think Christian Bale was the star? WRONG! Terminator/Cyborg Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is the actual star of this movie. He gets all the really good action scenes, and he's actually the hero who saves people (including John Connor). Where's Christian Bale? At home, washing his tights! Oh, no, wait this isn't a Batman movie is it? Well, you'd never know it by watching Bale - he delivers us a John Conn0r a-la-Batman. Seriously, his performance for both characters is the SAME. As for where he is? Back in the bunker, talkin' on his radio - while "Marcus" is saving Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who if you've followed Terminator at all is actually John Connor's father - but in 2018 he's only a punk-ass kid who fashions himself as the Los Angeles resistance.

Which brings me to some of the glaring WTF's in this film. Some of this would be the SPOILER fodder, so if you still plan on seeing this turkey stop reading now.

Correct me if I'm wrong, and I know I'm not because it says so in the opening titles, SkyNet tried to wipe out humanity in a nuclear holocaust. But there doesn't appear to be ANY radiation. None. What isn't in short supply in this post-apocalyptic future, though, are hair products and teeth whiteners. These people should be glowing green in the dark, they should have radiation sores, tufts of hair falling out, teeth falling out - but from the looks of a lot of the ruins and cars SkyNet must have used "Lite" nukes - so weak they couldn't even burn the paint off of most cars near ground zero. But it was those bright white smiles that particularly cheesed me off. Then there's the big question of why on Earth the T-600 Terminators are so often wearing rags of clothing? These are the big, chrome guys. Ok, maybe they put the clothing on to cover up the chrome. But, wait, why is SkyNet chrome plating them in the first place?

Since the story takes place in 2018, SkyNet is still doing R&D on the T-800 "Arnold" Terminators. However, Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to appear in it, so I initially thought that's why they were fighting T-600's through most of the movie. But near the end a T-800 does show up to kick John Connor's ass. They texture mapped Arnold's face onto somebody else - at least up to the point where it get's all the skin blown off. Actually this installment of the Terminator franchise relies heavily on CGI for the terminators, which makes them a little less convincing on screen than in the previous movies - where the limitations of CGI at the time forced them to use a lot more animatronics and props, which interact with the actors far more convincingly. Lastly, back in a Resistance medical tent, John Connor's injuries from the fight with the T-800 send him into heart failure - he needs a heart transplant to survive. The cyborg Marcus says "Take mine." Gee, that's convenient isn't it? Marcus just happens to be a match for the transplant? Yeah, don't worry about tissue rejection or anything! Plus, are we to seriously believe that the Resistance doctor can do a transplant in an open tent in the desert? Where is Connor going to get the anti-rejection drugs if, as was mentioned earlier in the movie, regular anti-biotics are in short supply? Hollywood seriously needs to learn the difference between "suspension of disbelief" and "unbelievable."

This is the only Terminator movie rated "PG-13" instead of "R" which means they intentionally toned the violence down from previous installments to reach a larger (younger) audience. This is also the only Terminator story in which there is NO time travel. That's right, no electric spheres that leave round cut-outs in whatever the touch dropping naked Terminators into Los Angeles. It is unclear whether or not this movie takes place BEFORE SkyNet develops time travel or not. But somehow it just doesn't feel like a Terminator movie without that plot element. Actually that would be my overall complaint about this movie - it simply doesn't feel like a Terminator movie, and it isn't delivered as advertised. But I'm sure they'll probably make another one - they certainly left the door open to it at the end.