Getting annoyed about nothing at all
Sunday January 11th 2009
Being a chronically over-educated and pedantic curmudgeon I sometimes find myself getting extremely annoyed about things of little consequence at all. Currently causing my blood to, if not boil certainly simmer, is an article in that renowned organ the Worcester Telegram and Gazette News, which has served the people of central Massachusetts since 1986.
The article is actually pretty good news - a woman (allegedly) abducted her granddaughter and was tracked down with the help of cell phone co-ordinates and Google Maps. What's annoying me is the apparent complete ignorance of the authors regarding something as simple as reading co-ordinates off a map.
"It then became a back and forth effort between the cell phone company, the police officer and Deputy Chief Lozier, who received latitude and longitude coordinates and triangulated them to learn where the two missing people were."
So Deputy Chief Lozier "triangulated" the latitude and longitude? I find this hard to believe.
Triangulation is the process of taking bearings from two or more known locations towards an unknown location, and plotting said bearings to determine the position of said unknown location (where the bearings cross). A deceptively simple process, it was absolutely crucial to the making of accurate maps before the development of aerial and satellite photography, and remains important in cartography, navigation and the tracking of radio signals.
It is not used however in reading latitude and longitude off a map, which is a simple process of finding the appropriate markings on the margins and tracing them to where they cross, something even a child can do with minimal instruction.
To the authors of the article however reading co-ordinates off a map (not that you even have to do this if you're using Google Maps) is apparently a strange and arcane science, involving high level mathematics and possibly the sacrifice of a goat - as opposed to simply "looking" and "reading". Such a complicated process needs a suitably grand title, and "triangulation" fits the bill because it has something to do with maps and no-one (or at least no one who reads or works at the Telegram and Gazette) really knows what it means anyway.
This frankly is sloppy journalism. Sure, I understand the need to simplify concepts for publication and that a newspaper is no place for a detailed exploration of cartographic techniques, but a certain level of accuracy in terminology is surely not too much to aspire to? To refer to reading co-ordinates off a map as "triangulation" is akin to referring to a horse as a mule - sure they're related, but no editor would let such a slip get through to print.
So yeah, that's what's annoying me at the moment - the general ignorance of the population in relation to basic cartographic and geometric terminology. Honestly, it's like they're not even trying. :)
Back to work tomorrow. Urgh.
File under: Current Events
Hottest 100 2008/2009
Friday January 9th 2009
So, it's that time of the year again when loyal Triple J listeners vote on their top 10 tunes of the year. After some heavy thinking on Boxing Day I went ahead and voted for the following tracks, conveniently arranged in order from my least favourite best song of the year, to most favourite best song of the year. This year I've also included some thoughts on where each track will probably come in the countdown, so tune in on Australia day to see just how wrong I was!
10 This Boy's In Love - The Presets: The presets have been getting a lot of press lately about how fantastic they are, and how they're the saviors of the Australian dance/rave/electronica/doop-doop scene. Being a massive contrarian this would usually make me hate them, but they're actually not bad, as this track ably demonstrates. Apparently the singing in the chorus was meant to be a guide track for another vocalist they were going to get in, but they liked how it sounded it so much that they kept it - not unlike the whistling in that Young Folks song from a few years back. Should do very, very well. The Presets have been going gangbusters all year.
9 Graveyard Girl - M83: I don't know what it is about this song, but it grabbed me the first time I heard it, and has since refused to let go. The video clip (which I hadn't seen until looking it up for this entry) is a weird emo-goth-teen dead-pet romance story, which frankly detracts from the song - making it sound like some kind of weird emo-goth-teen dead-pet romance story. Frankly for all I know maybe it is - I don't care, I still like it. An eclectic song that will be limited to the 80s or 90s if it makes it in at all.
8 Naughty Girl - Mr G: This song is very, very, very stupid, which is why I like it. It's a parody of creatively bankrupt dance music so effective that it is - effectively - creatively bankrupt dance music. It derives of course from TV's Summer Heights High and if you're not familiar with the show then it won't make a lot of sense. The video clip - chopped together from videos submitted by fans - will make even less sense. Could be a sleeper and end up in the top 10, or fail to make it in at all. Hard to say.
7 Kids - MGMT: I have no idea what - if anything - this song is about. But I like it. MGMT have also been going gangbusters, so this could easily make it into the top 20.
6 That's That - Cass McCombs: There seems to be some debate in the comments about whether this clip is actually of Cass McCombs or not. There's also some weird jumps and lip synch issues, but it's still the best version of the song I could find on YouTube. In any case it's a catchy although plaintive little tune with a good baseline and that's all that really matters. May make it in around the 50s - probably a bit subtle for the common palate.
5 Geraldine - Glasvegas: This song has three things going for it. A good - although simple - tune, a thick Scottish accent, and a twist in that it sounds like a typical love song, but isn't. It's also less cloying than Glasvegas' other current hit Daddy's Gone. Showed up late in the year so has a good chance to do well.
4 Guess Who Batman - Lily Allen: The first time I head this song I just managed to catch the last chorus. I had two thoughts. One - "that sounds like Lilly Allen". Two - "that pretty sums up the way I feel about George W. Bush". Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the song is actually about George W Bush (as indicated by the initials of the title). I suspect that Lilly Allen and I may have some kind of deep psychic bond, that must somehow be exploitable for profit. (Note: Whoever transcribed the lyrics apparently has never heard the word medieval). Lilly Allen is a little bit too mainstream for the average JJJ listener. On the other hand songs with the f-word in the chorus traditionally do well, and she's laying the boot into George W. Bush. As a consequence it's impossible to say where this will end up.
3 Oxford Comma - Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend seem to specialise in catchy, cheery sounding songs, the meanings of which are completely impenetrable. This is no exception with lyrics about Lamas, Little John and lying about coal. The video clip is notable for two reasons - it's directed by Richard Ayoade who plays Moss in The IT Crowd, and it's all done in a single shot. Bet you didn't notice that hey? Vampire Weekend have been doing well all year, however their vote could well end up split between the five or six eligible songs. Will probably show up in the 30s at the very least.
2 Now - Mates of State: My second favourite song of the entire year. Funnily enough there doesn't seem to be a copy of the official recording on YouTube, but I've linked to a live performance, which is almost as good. May well slip into the background of all the other tracks available to vote for and not show up at all.
1 Det Snurrar I Min Skalle - Familjen: This Swedish song is not only my absolute favourite of the year, it has one of the best video clips I've ever seen, all cut together from black and white footage of some sort of revival meeting (sometime I'll get around to making an animated gif of that accordionist's creepy smile). Apparently it won a Swedish Grammy, or a Grammy in Sweden - I'm not 100% sure on the details. In any case, if I had my way this would be number one. Will probably do very well. A good bet for the top 10.
So that's my votes. There's at least one other song that I would have fitted in there somewhere (probably at number 4, pushing the Presets off the bottom of the list) if I'd actually been aware of it - apparently JJJ have been playing it for several weeks but somehow I managed to miss hearing it entirely. This is Help I'm Alive by Metric. The first few times I heard it I actually mistook it for the Breeders - to my ears at least Emily Haines sounds remarkably like Kim Deal. It's a great song and I feel kind of sad that none of my ten votes will go to supporting it.
Some other songs that made my shortlist include...
So that's it. Go make your own entertainment!
File under: Musical Snobbery
It's from the Latin!
Wednesday January 7th 2009
Just a quick note for Triple J's Gaby Brown. "Vale" - as in "Vale Ron Asheton" - is pronounced "Va-lay". Not "Veil"!
(Man, that's a totally sucky first blog for 2009. I've got a big one half written, I'll have to knuckle down and get it finished.)
File under: Linguistics
Lions and Steampunk and Boobage! Oh, my!
Sunday December 28th 2008
Well, I am currently rather sleep deprived having stayed up to almost midnight the last two nights watching the Sci-Fi Channel's updated version of The Wizard of Oz entitled Tin Man, which the Seven network saw fit to compile into two three-hour episodes rather than the three two-hour episodes intended by the makers. Having put this much time into watching the spectacle I thought I'd record some thoughts about it.
So to start with, the costuming, set dressing and just general visual design was fantastic. There was a wonderful 1930's noirish feel to everything - Central City was a brilliant New York mish-mash, Azkadellia's tower was a steam/dieselpunk power station, and the Realm of the Unwanted had a electro/cyberpunk slum Chinatown flavour. Costuming was completely spot on through the whole production - from the Nazi/Matrix Longcoats to the bizarre, bird-like, savage munchkins.
The reworking of some of the central characters was brilliant in concept. The scarecrow needs a brain because Azkadellia's doctors removed most of it, rendering him only semi-functional with a zipper in his head. The tin man had his family (symbolically his heart) taken away from him, and can't move - not because he's rusted in place, but because he's imprisoned in a torture suit. He also was a 'Tin Man' - a cop in Central City (presumably so called because of their tin badges). The actual use made of these ideas wasn't always great, but the concepts are fantastic.
"Oz" being re-rendered as "The O.Z." (Outer Zone) was a nice touch, apart from the failure to explain what it was outside of, and the fact that it sounds a lot like "The O.C.", which left me with some very strange images of Azkadellia fighting Mischa Barton for the affections of rich surfer boys.
The Mobats did a great job of reminding us that real flying monkeys probably wouldn't be very nice. The "field of the Papae" was a nice spin on the poison poppies - although the Papae themselves were a bit of a let down.
Now, that good stuff said I have to admit there were things about the show that I didn't enjoy. Zooey Deschanel for instance as the central 'Dorothy' character DG, who I actually found rather annoying. She seemed to have all the acting range of a loaf of bread, with her characterisations limited to looking bored, looking glum, and opening her eyes really wide to express any other kind of emotion. She was quite good as Trillian in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so I don't know what happened here. It may be the fault of the script which mostly limited her to walking around looking confused, and having flashbacks.
(On the subject of the flashbacks - I know they were important to the plot but they started getting really tedious about halfway through. It'd be five minutes of the characters walking around going "So what do we do now?", one of them suggesting DG try to remember something, and boom! Ten minutes of DG-Junior and Azkadellia-Junior running around the woods and making dolls spin around in the air. At least some of these scenes could have been replaced by DG just remembering stuff without showing us the whole damn recall process!)
Neal McDonough as Wyatt Cain (the Tin Man character) was fairly wooden, which I suppose is kind of ironic given that the original Tin Man was a Tin woodsman. This is kind of appropriate at the start since his family (as far as he knows) is dead, and he's been locked up without human company in an iron suit for years, but once he rediscovers a reason to live (no doubt symbolically finding his 'heart') you'd expect him to lighten up a bit - but he doesn't. It's hard to say if this is the fault of the script, or the actor, but it feels like he phoned in a lot of his performance.
Raw (the Lion character, played by Raoul Trujillo) was a bit of mystery. I don't know if I missed a bit of exposition, or if Channel Seven (or even the series producers) cut some scenes for time, but there seemed to be a big chunk of his backstory missing. By analogy with the Wizard of Oz we know that he has to be a coward, and all the characters treat him like a coward, but in no scene is it actually established that he's a coward. They rescue him from the Papae, take him with them, and are suddenly commenting on how he needs 'some spine'. Then there's the other psychic-lion dudes imprisoned by Azkadellia, with whom Raw seems to have some kind of history - but this history is never explained. We can perhaps extrapolate that Raw's cowardice led to the other lions being captured, but we shouldn't have to extrapolate - it's the job of the show to tell us this kind of thing.
Alan Cumming as Mr Glitch/Ambrose (the Scarecrow) was actually a highlight - I can't fault his performance or character at all. If the rest of the show was to same standard as he was, it would have been fantastic.
Kathleen Robertson was passable as the evil Sorceress Azkadellia (more or less the Wicked Witch of the West). Her main problem was that she didn't do a lot, apart from remotely observe DG's progress and send various people and things out to stop, hinder, or (again) observe her. This is probably a quite realistic portrayal of a fascist dictator (they have people to take care of the gory details) but this kind of banal evil doesn't make for great television. Her constant boob flashing was - I must admit - quite enjoyable (Azkadellia is easily the most attractive looking woman in the O.Z.) but it didn't add a whole lot to the plot or to her character.
The young Azkadellia (which we got to see a lot of thanks to DG's incessant flashbacks) was actually much more interesting - she came across as a smart, strong, likable kid. Once the witch possessed her though she lost all traces of personality and just became the generic "evil child", a-la The Omen and Village of the Damned. You would have thought her parents would have picked up on this - particularly when she came back from the woods with a whole bunch of tattoos.
Tutor (able to shape-change into a dog nicknamed Toto) was an interesting character, but not a lot was done with him. The ambiguity over whose side he's on could have been played up a bit more. In fact a nice character arc would have been him serving Azkadellia out of fear and despair, and then being inspired to defy her and come back to the good side by DG and the gang's actions and belief. As it was they uncover his treachery, he says "I had to do what she says or she'd kill me", they say "OK", and from that point on he's one of the good guys.
The Mystic Man (more or less the Wizard) was quite well done - Richard Dreyfus played him well. Unfortunately the hair and costuming choices made him look like Dr Phil, which was rather disconcerting.
The CGI budget could have used a boost. The Mobats were usually passable (although they had their crappy moments) but the Papae were terrible - they looked like someone stole some graveling footage from Dead Like Me and threw it in at the last minute. Possibly they spent the bulk of the money on virtual sets - Azkadellia's tower and Central City were quite impressive.
The Grey Gale idea was pretty smart, as was naming the Dorothy character DG. Unfortunately I got both references as soon as they were mentioned, which kind of ruined the surprise they were going for. I have to admit though I didn't figure on the 'grey' bit, which was actually damned clever.
The ending was bit of a cliche. Sisterly love and believing in yourself wins the day. I also can't help but wonder what happened next. I mean you've had this evil dictator oppressing the O.Z. for fifteen odd years, murder, torture, disappearances, fascist dudes in trenchcoats beating people up, and a grand plan to engulf the world in darkness. Then suddenly the royal family re-appears and says "It wasn't her fault, she was possessed!". Somehow I doubt the farmer who had his crops burnt, his son murdered and his wife lobotomised is going to be in a forgiving mood. Not to mention the fact that the touching family reunion is taking place on the top floor of a tower full of Azkadellia's hundreds (if not thousands) of brutal henchmen, many of whom are unlikely to react well to being told that the plan has changed and they now have to be "nice". The O.Z. is going to be having a lot of war crime tribunals, revenge killings, and probably some kind of civil war against the hardcore remnants of the Longcoats. But hey, at least the witch is dead (ding-dong!).
So yeah, Tin Man was a valiant attempt that fell a bit short. But the effort is certainly worthy of applause, and is a valuable addition to the pop-cultural mileau of the Wizard of Oz. I enjoyed it and may get around to buying it on DVD, if only to find out if Raw has more of a back story (the fact that Azkadellia's boobage will hence be under my complete control is surely just a coincidence ;)
(I owe people emails, I know, and will get them written shortly. In the meantime merry late Christmas, happy late birthday, and happy early new year!)
File under: TV, Cinema and Other Ways to Waste Your Life