Opinions and Facts

Pandora.com

Music lovers check out www.pandora.com. Very cool. You can make your own music station by putting in an artist or song and pandora then uses the Music Genome Project to “program” the station with stuff you might like. You can give songs a thumbs up or thimbs down to help train it. You can try it for free for 10 hours, and if you decide you dig it, it’s only $36 a year!
It’s quite in depth in it’s methodology. Let’s take a call from a listener! Hello, you’re on the air!

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Gmail is my master now

While I still heartily recommend Mozilla Thunderbird for anyone who feels the need to have a mail client on their computer, or for those security freaks who think Google has some evil secret conspiracy going, I myself have become a full Gmail convert. I tried this once before but one thing sent me back to Thunderbird, and that was the fact that any mail I sent would show up as coming from my Gmail address instead of my heathallyn.com address. This has now been remedied. You can now set your address to show as coming from any address you actually own. There is a verification process involved so that not just anyone can enter you email as the “from” address, and now any mail I sen via Gmail shows up as coming from my heathallyn.com address, and all replies are sent to my heathallyn.com address (which in actuality just forwards to my Gmail address anyway. Basically this allows you to use Gmail as an email client for you current address, just as you would Thunderbird, Outlook or any other client.
I totally dig Gmail’s interface and their completely different philosophy on mail handling (using “Labels” instead of “Folders”, and much more). This way, I don’t have to worry about whether or not a certain email I’m looking for is on my home or work computer, as it’s all in my online Gmail account. I can easily use the search function to find any mail I’m looking for or sort by labels. I can set up filters to automatically apply labels to incoming mail.
As I’ve watched Gmail it has just kept getting better. One of the few downsides to be aware of is that there is no official way to set up an email distribution list in Gmail (as in you type in one name, and it sends to multiple people), but there is an unofficial work around to do so and they very well may add this in the future. You can also download Gmail Notifier to check every 2 minutes and notify you of new mail.
There are a ton of other features which I find innovative and generally cool, but if you think you might be interested the best place to get all the info is from the source.
There is also an excellent site full of Gmail tips. Join us in the Gmail cult! I have a ton of invites if anyone needs one.
One of us!

The Alamo Presents “Serenity” at The Alamo.

Last night we hit our second “Serenity” premiere in as many nights, details mentioned a few posts back. We drove 45 minutes out into Austin hill country to the ranch where they constructed the sets for the movie “The Alamo”. This was one of The Alamo Drafthouse’s famous “Rolling Road Shows”. We came equipped as true geeks with our Jayne hats that Jess had knitted.
In the middle of a courtyard of a the replica of an old Spanish fort stood a huge inflatable screen. They had Chinese take-out snacks as their themed meal (they often do themed meals). Before the movie they showed an Alamo Drafthouse produced short called “How To Swear in Chinese 101”, where an older Chinese man (a relative of one of the Alamo’s managers, who was also emceeing the night) taught us how to say things such as “you stupid little prick”, “let loose a big stinky fart” and of course the obligatory “Fuck you!”.
they then brought out the night’s guests, Jewel Staite and Summer Glau (two of the movie’s stars) to introduce the movie.
The second viewing solidified that this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It is in my list of all time favorites. As intense as it was the first time, there were certain parts that were even more intense the second time. This weekend is very important for this film. See it. See it twice. Make your friends see it. Take a stranger to see it.
After the movie Jewel and Summer did a Q&A session, which was, naturally, very cool. My favorite story was when they were talking about an inside joke they had. The cast had all been watching a potential promo for the movie, with the classic movie trailer guy’s voice naming the stars, except that he mangle about three of their names, so Nathan Fillion started imitating the movie trailer guy and mispronouncing every name in the cast in amusing ways. I also got to ask them a question which can not be detailed here due to spoileryness.
I wish I could adequately express the coolness that is The Alamo Drafthouse, but it’s really something that must be experienced.
On a side note here, I know we constantly sing the praises of The Alamo Drafthouse, and shall continue to do so, but I can’t tell you how many times that Jess and I think “Will and Annika would love this,” about some event or homemade Alamo preview they show beforehand. One that struck me in particular was this one. Keep in mind, we’re moving into our condo at the end of November so we’ll have room for guests.
They always have custom made funny little clips from movies or semi-celebrities in clips about not talking during the movie. Their latest one is to show the clip from “Firefly” where book tells Mal that if he takes advantage of someone he’ll go to a very special level of hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre. They all end with a text tag line on the screen, in this case something like “Don’t talk during the movie or you will go to a very special level of hell with only child molesters for company.”
On another side note: the clientele at the Alamo Drafthouse all seem to be a sort of “kindred spirits”. The energy always seems so positive. At the screening people picked up after themselves, and surprisingly when I used one of the porta potties at the very end of the night, it was still in good enough shape that I would have actually taken a seat had I needed to. I think that says a lot about the crowd.

“Serenity” (spoiler free)

Go see this movie as soon as humanly possible and be prepared for a very wild ride. Incredibly witty and emotionally intense. You will be exhausted at the end, but in a good way.
Some of the best dialogue ever (as you’d come to expect from Joss Whedon), action scenes that can stand up to the best of them, and emotional involvement like I felt after reading “Lord of the Rings”. You feel as if you’ve been through an experience, not a movie.
[not really a spoiler but you might draw leading conclusions from this statement – highlight to read]
If you don’t cry at the end of this movie, I suspect you are at least part robot, alien or zombie. Even highlydisciplined ninjas would shed a tear
[End of semi-spoiler]

Serenity now!

I think that most of the people who read this blog are very familiar with the upcoming movie “Serenity“. This post is for those who may not be so familiar. I’d actually be surprised if anyone reading this falls under that category, but better safe than sorry! If there are people not familiar with this movie, then that needs to be remedied, and I am doing my part.

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This one’s for Jenny

Who, by the way, I’ve always thought (and still think) is incredibly cool, intelligent, talented, intriguing, and beautiful if a bit self-destructive possibly.
Why is this one for Jenny? Because it’s about Oasis. Now I think I remember reading that she may have gotten over her whole Oasis thing, but mine is just starting.

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My rambling spoiler free thoughts on Revenge of the Sith

As with all the prequels, I am of two minds with this film. There is a definite side of me that loved this film and without a doubt it’s the best of the prequels. There is the other side of that also has plenty of nits to pick and recognizes the familiar flaws (some really bad writing and acting). Overall my “enjoyed it” side wins out, but I also fell that a large part of that is the nostalgia. This film was as powerful as it was to me because of my fondness for the original trilogy. When taken for what it is, it’s place in the mythology and its purpose in the overall story it kicks ass. Taken alone and set aside as just a film, I think that I look a bit askance in its direction. There’s a definite dichotomy within me concerning this film as well as the other prequels (that being said, I am one of the few who actually liked the first two prequels despite the nits that I could pick with it).
I am very glad Lucas kept it dark and intense and didn’t cave to the groups complaining that this PG-13 rating ruined it as a “family” film or whatever.
I found it a bit slow to get going (well not necessarily “slow” since it was action right from the start, but not incredibly engaging right off) but the further it went on the more it sucked me in.
I decided today that one of the reasons the original trilogy is superior is that Lucas was not some revered “god” at that point and the actors were probably more free to ad lib or change up Lucas’s stilted writing to make it more natural. There’s a famous quote from Harrison Ford where he told George at some point while filming the first trilogy (paraphrased) “You can write this shit, but you can’t say it!” I have a feeling there’s probably far less freedom to tamper with “The Great Lucas’s” work these days.
That and I firmly believe that Lucas is a victim of buying into his own hype and getting totally lost and confused within his own mythology.
Don’t get the wrong impression though, by the end of the movie I was wide-eyed, jaw dropped, and teary-eyed just like the kid who saw “Empire Strikes Back” 16 times during its initial theatrical run, and the original trilogy countless times (in all its incarnations) since. Those movies are a huge part of who I am today, from my love of movie making to my many fond memories involving me, friends, and collections of Star Wars toys (and the painful memory of how, once I’d outgrown them, I took them all out to a friend’s piece of land in the country and we shot them all to pieces with guns not knowing how I would be kicking myself later on).
The force will be with me…always.
Now to just wait for the Super Mega VIP Deluxe Boxed Director’s Post-final cut Limited Top Secret Ultimate Platinum Jedi Master Edition.

Shaun of the Dead

Do you like zombies? Do you like laughs? Would you like a witty movie with zombies that makes you laugh your arse off?
Go see Shaun of the Dead.
See CNN’s review here.

“Weird Al” in concert

“weird Al” Yankovic has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I remember lip syncing to “Eat It” in my 8th grade drama class while Shannon Capps played a baby who wouldn’t eat his food (and also performed a mean guitar solo on a toy ukelele). I remember laying in bed on Sunday nights, staying up until midnight listening to Dr. Demento in the dark even though I had school the next day. I remember my best friend, Andy, spending the night on the weekends, and we’d play “Weird Al” tapes on one jam box while recording on another jam box as we sang along, thus making our own albums along with original songs of our own when I’d learned to play guitar. He’s like an old friend who has been with me as long as I can remember, and continues on through today. Our history together came flooding back to me tonight.
Now I will remember “Weird Al” in concert. I’ve spoken before about how I don’t think Al gets the attention he actually deserves, and seeing him in concert solidifies this fact. Most people merely know him as “That guy who does funny song parodies about Star Wars and food, mostly”, but his originals often outshine his mostly brilliant but sometimes only mediocre parodies in my opinion. He has a tremendously talented band, and is actually a very gifted songwriter with a knack for great music and melodies in addition to razor-edged rapier wit and intelligence.
Before this show, I already knew what a great show he puts on from much Internet reading, and a lovely DVD given to me by the lovely Beth. He was performing at The Paramount here in Austin which is a really nice, and intimate venue, which probably doesn’t have a bad seat. He managed to cram in an amazing number of songs by only playing abridged versions of a lot of them, which actually worked quite well. You get enough to enjoy the song and get the joke, but end up getting to hear a lot more songs than if they were all performed in their entirety. Between many songs there were funny video clips, mostly taken from his various “Al TV” specials that used to air on MTV, and various other clips. These were used not only to entertain, but to fill time while Al and the band changed into costumes for various showpiece songs, such as his fat suit for “Fat”, Jedi robes, P-diddy suits, Nelly gear, and many others. He ventured into the audience several times also much to the crowd’s delight. The show was completely amazing, and one of the most fun entertaining things you’ll ever see. He also performed at least one song (a parody of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”) that is only performed live, and has never been issued.
I highly encourage anyone to go and catch this show if you can. Now I’m going to add all his older albums to my Amazon Wish List, since I have been remiss over the years in replacing the old cassettes I used to have.

My anim� deficiency

For some reason, I have never been able to get into anim�. I find this odd, since there are so many people I know who absolutely love it. People who I generally have a lot in common with, and like a lot of the same things. Somehow it’s just never hooked me. I’ve tried half-heartedly a few times and always found my inteerest wandering and thinking about going and surfing the net or something. I really feel like I should love anim�. I will give it another go (in fact Jess has “Spirited Away” for me to watch), but I just feel weird. It’s like if everyone you knew, respected, hung out with, loved Krispy Kreme donuts, but you just found them bland. Of course that scenario is just ridiculous, for Krispy Kremes are the krack of the food world. I think my anim� gene is broken.