Friday, March 07, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

This post is long overdue, so I'll be talking about some old news. I've just been so busy lately, and dealing with election stuff all night on Tuesday while having a midterm this morning didn't help things. Before I get to the news, I want to get on my soapbox real quick. I want to encourage the few of you who actually read my blog, as well as any transients, to speak your mind whenever possible except when it's intentionally offensive or slanderous. Someone made a ridiculous comment on my last post and I feel that now is as good a time as any to say that I blog because I think I have useful commentaries about what's going on in technology. I'm fairly young to this industry though I've been keeping up with it for a long time, and despite my rudimentary knowledge of politics I think my viewpoint is sometimes useful there in helping others understand my demographic. Don't let anyone make you believe that your opinions are trash. Stick to what you believe in and don't allow yourself to be censored or bullied into silence. Opinionated people make the world go round.

Ok, I'm off my soapbox now. I drove way out to Slaughter Lane last weekend to see The Other Boleyn Girl since it appears to be the only theater in Austin showing it. When a movie has Natalie Portman, Eric Bana, and Scarlett Johansson, it's probably worth seeing. The movie is intended to be a historical drama (based on the book of the same name) that takes place under the rule of King Henry VIII when he has an affair with the Boleyn sisters and breaks from the Catholic Church to form the Anglican Church. The book is known for drawing a lot of criticism on the historical bits and pieces that it pulls together, and the movie distorts the book further probably moving it to be even less historically accurate. So when it says "based on a true story", you should probably insert "loosely" in there. You have to come to this movie knowing to expect a twisted, dramatic romance movie that really falls under historical fiction.

Maybe I was naive to think well of this movie, because it got pretty bad reviews. I would say that I "enjoyed" it, except for that it was pretty depressing for the last hour or so. It's a pretty bleak picture of the greed of their father distorts the lives of these sisters and ultimately turns one harshly against the other. A number of critics disagree with me, but I thought that the acting was great. I definitely believe the female leads, though the King could've definitely been more kingly at times. Still, that's more a fault of the screenplay than the acting. The sets are incredible, as are the costumes. You definitely get the feeling that you're in 16th century England in the House of Tudor. The movie definitely comes to a halt in a particularly graphic rape scene. It's graphic aurally, not visually. So the climax of the movie ends up being, in a way, its lowest point. I just found that kind of interesting. I thought the dialogue was appropriate without being too haughty or annoying. I really believed what the movie was telling me, even if it was fictional, and I felt like it did a good job of turning a tale we don't know a whole lot about into a sordid tale of sex, love and betrayal. If you're feeling adventurous, give it a shot. I give it a B+, personally. That having been said, I can't see it again for a long while much like I can't see Brokeback Mountain again like ever (though Brokeback was considerably more depressing).

I'm definitely glad to finally say that the format war is over! Blu-ray has officially won as Toshiba announced that it will no longer produce HD-DVD players or recorders by the end of the month, though it will still keep a stockpile of media for those who already bought a player. This isn't to say that studios won't still release movies in HD-DVD or sell them in that format, but that's not likely to last long. If you bought an HD-DVD player: sorry. Don't say you hadn't been warned though if you bought one this year since I've been talking about studios focusing more on Blu-ray. One Japanese store is actually letting customers who bought an HD-DVD player from them trade it in for a Blu-ray player. I'm amazed at this act of kindness and customer loyalty, and don't imagine that anyone will be doing that stateside.

Maybe no one cares about this but me, but Stage 6 has finally closed up shop. I personally liked the site and felt like it was a great idea because it was trying to be a high-quality YouTube by encoding videos in DivX. Unfortunately, I don't think it ever gained the popularity in needed to sustain itself, and so on goes YouTube's monopoly over user-created videos.

Ready for your daily dose of net neutrality news? Sandvine, a company that sells the technology to ISPs used to throttle BitTorrents, has seen its sales drop 88% in the past year. Why? Maybe ISPs started to realize that this stuff is more trouble than it's worth. Comcast is actually being sued by a number of people in D.C. who are outraged by the throttling and are claiming false advertising of "unfettered access" to the Internet. Sandvine's "technology" is actually pretty shady, in my opinion: it injects RST packets over your connection that reset the flow of data prohibiting seeding of torrents. The FCC is siding with the plaintiffs: they acknowledge that disrupting the flow of data over the Internet to their users shouldn't be allowed and are calling for transparency in how ISPs are running their networks. Does it burn, Comcast? It's like when a boy punches his little sister and she complains to their mother, but when the boy promises that he didn't do anything the mom believes the sister and starts to crack down. Comcast claims that they're not throttling, though they clearly are. This should be interesting.

If you're a Democrat then odds are good that you've been watching the national news networks lately more than usual. I never watch CNN but I've been finding myself trying to get to a TV with cable for the live election coverage. In any case, I think that Fox News is infamous for being the worst of all these networks in the quality and right-wing skew of their reporting overall. I thought it was pretty cool that one comedian they had brought on to tell Huckabee jokes went on a really short rant live on Fox News against them before they interviewed some scantily clad Star Trek girls. Like I said last week, something is wrong when the crap we're being fed is about Britney Spears and Star Trek girls rather than our deteriorating health care system, or net neutrality, or even the long-term effects of deficit spending. I'm glad someone took a small step in the right direction.

And now, we find ourselves back at Yahoo. I apparently missed that a few weeks ago they fired their whole design innovation team. This was especially funny because of how uninspired their designs often are. Yahoo Live alone is enough proof of this, but there's also their ever-retro homepage and ailing mail interface. It's not going to help them much, but maybe now they can try to redesign themselves to help out their stockholders. More importantly though, they're seeking protection from Microsoft under Time Warner. I briefly mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but now they're really pushing hard on this. The deal would be that they'd control AOL and Time Warner would get a stake in Yahoo. Similarly, they'd be satisfied with control of MySpace in exchange for giving a stake of themselves to News Corp. To make matters worse for Microsoft, they don't have to hold another shareholders meeting until July, which could further delay a proxy fight and give Yahoo more time to seek an alternate route to the takeover.

Let me reiterate that this dance they're doing is ridiculous. Steve Ballmer is deadset on acquiring them, and he *gasp* actually has ideas for how to effectively integrating their services with competing (or similar) Microsoft products. AOL is not the best brand for Yahoo to take on and I honestly do not think that MySpace has legs on it. It's going to burn out sooner than later as bad press for it grows and its young user base outgrows it. Besides, I don't even know how likely Time Warner or News Corp is to go for these deals (I can't find information on if they suggested these deals, but I imagine that Yahoo did); they seem to be kind of one-sided. I will give credit to Yahoo for this onePlace thing they've unveiled. It's meant to be your mobile hub for online content and services, and it looks nifty, but I hope they're planning on porting it to the iPhone SDK and I hope that they'll port it to Android also. I see those two platforms as being big within a year from now. Anyway, at least Yahoo isn't letting this stuff get in the way of their businesses.

Going back to Microsoft real quick: they've made Internet Explorer 8 available to test drive (hmmm, you think this is because of the early release of Firefox 3's beta?) while admitting that it's not feature-complete. Some of the improvements they boast are better standards-compliance, integration with eBay and Facebook, and better functionality with AJAX pages (I'm really not sure what this means). The only thing on that list I'm impressed with is the standards-compliance thing, because they're making a better effort this time than IE7, but we'll see how it ends up. Meanwhile, Firefox has hit 500 million downloads, which I think is pretty awesome. I love seeing underdogs do better.

Joel Spolsky published a couple of articles on Inc.com about entrepreneurship that I recommend reading. One of them is about how it's important for top leadership in the company to not lose sight of what the lives of their employees is like and the other is about how to not write off ideas that may seem crazy without trying to believe in it first. I'm a firm believer in the latter, and I think you kind of have to be in this industry. Who would've thought that Facebook would've taken off the way it has? Or even YouTube, for that matter. It's an ever-challenging field that requires extreme optimism, at times.

Since I haven't done the Saturday 9 in a while, I'm going to give last week's a shot:

1. Did your mother go to college, if so where?
Nope, I don't think she had the chance to India (though she always wanted to).

2. Do you have a relative that is a lawyer?
I'm pretty sure I have a cousin whose husband is a lawyer, but we don't keep in touch with them much at all.

3. Do you have a relative that is a doctor?
Yes, but not an MD, just a PhD ;)

4. Did you take music lessons as a child? If yes, do you still play?
No, but I took guitar lessons in high school (just a class at school, actually) and I've been playing classical guitar off and on for about 5 years now.

5. Did you go to summer camp? If so would you send your child?
I think I did, but it wasn't very good. I think I'd send my child if I really liked the program and they enjoyed it and learned from it as well.

6. Do you believe that alcohol relieves stress?
To a certain extent, definitely. It's a nice, easy, short-term solution to stress. It's not healthy to always depend on alcohol to relieve stress, obviously, but it's nice for a lazy Friday night.

7. Have you ever performed on stage? If so tell us about it.
Not quite, though I have played guitar in front of a pretty big group of strangers in my high school's courtyard. I've also sung at a karaoke club if that counts.

8. What things do you find easy to remember ?
Things that I enjoy learning about (often techie stuff).

9. What things do you find easy to forget ?
Things that are way too complicated for me to understand or really boring/useless (*cough*DigitalLogicDesign*cough*).

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