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Christmas is gone

Hope everyone had a great Christmas!

I didn’t get the BB gun I wanted, but I would have shot my eye out anyway.

I did get some great stuff though, including the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, which I haven’t seen before. I watched The Fellowship of the Ring yesterday and loved it. I love all the bonus materials as well, so I spent a good deal of the day watching it. I think one of the keys to the film is the use of miniatures; they didn’t just use a bunch of CGI. The use of miniatures still makes images seem much more realistic and tangible. Watching how the film used miniatures just made me want to be a director and direct a film with miniatures.

I also got a couple computer games: Rome: Total War and SimCity Societies, which have been fun so far… I want to play them right now, in fact. I think Spore is set to come out in 2008, I believe, which will be the best computer game in history, but I just hope my 3.5 year old computer will be able to run it.

Finally, I got a 3-CD set collection of Mozart. Some music purists hate compilations, believing “movement 2” of something should not be separated from “movement 1” and “movement 3”, but I believe a single movement can still very much be enjoyed by itself. It’s not like a chapter out of a book sitting by itself because a piece of music has no meaning, but some people don’t believe that.

Finally, I must mention that I saw Sweeney Todd before Christmas and was very very pleased, despite Johnny Depp not being able to sing very well. Tim Burton’s vision worked perfectly for the story, and the over-the-top goriness created a good sense of dark humor mixed with dismal seriousness. It didn’t really have disgusting violence like Saw III did; it was kind of silly and unrealistic blood spurting, though it still wasn’t completely comic. I thought it worked well for the story though; if you listen to the lyrics, they too were filled with a mix of silliness and seriousness. I loved it.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Winter break begins

The semester is finally over and I’m free for a month! There’s lots I’d like to do, but only a little I’ll actually do… because that’s the way life is.

I got the complete series of Firefly for my birthday and I watched the first episode last night… it was great! Even better than the film Serenity, which is based on the series. Can’t wait to watch the rest of the series over the next month. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the special effects were. I was expecting to have to settle with cheap corny effects that sometimes prevail on TV sci-fi shows, but I didn’t have to. Awesome. Yay. Blah blah.

According to Wikipedia, the creator of Firefly, Joss Whedon, is producing another show called Dollhouse for FOX. Wikipedia says that the premise for the show is:

In Dollhouse, Dushku plays a young woman named Echo, one of a group of men and women who can be neurally imprinted with “personality packages,” encompassing things such as memory, muscle memory, skills, and language. Sheltered in a secret futuristic dormitory/laboratory named the “Dollhouse,” these individuals are imprinted with customized personas for performing any of a wide variety of assignments, which can be romantic, adventurous, outlandish, illegal, etc. After completing an assignment, they are mind-wiped into a child-like state with no memories. The series follows Echo as she begins to develop a persistent memory and self-awareness across imprints and wipes. Beyond Dushku’s character, the show will also revolve around the people who run the mysterious “dollhouse” and two other “dolls,” a man and woman who are friendly with Echo. Then there’s the federal agent who has heard a rumor about the dolls, and is trying to investigate their existence.

Personally, I think that sounds pretty awesome! Of course, it’s the treatment of the idea that really matters, it could easily be destroyed, but the idea itself is inspiring. So… I look forward to this show, if and when it ever happens.

Sweeney Todd comes out tomorrow, hopefully I’ll get to it on Friday or Saturday pulling along any family members I can. Been looking forward to the movie since I learned about its being made back in March. Woohoo!

I still don’t have all my Christmas shopping done, hopefully will by tonight, though I sort of fear the stores may not have exactly what I want…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

It was all just a dream…

If at the end of a story it turns out that it was all just a dream or a vision, why does that anger so many people? The whole thing itself was just a movie, or just a book! Why does such an ending make the story seem less valid?

I’d agree that such an ending is worthless if it’s used only as a “twisted ending” attempt; it has to have meaning to the story.

Also, I think audiences are more willing to accept the “it was all just a dream” ending in comedy, though I’m not quite sure why.

This whole issue is probably wrapped up in the subject of “the suspension of disbelief” … the psychological relationship between audiences and a work of art; usually some form of a fictional story.

In its article on “the suspension of disbelief”, Wikipedia says:

Gary Larson discussed the question with regard to his comic strip, The Far Side; he noted that readers wrote him to complain that a male mosquito referred to his “job” sucking blood when it is in fact the females that drain blood, but that the same readers accepted that the mosquitoes (in “fact”) live in houses, wear clothes, and speak English.

I’d love to read a good book exploring the suspension of disbelief… anyone know of any? I’m particularly interested in a more narrow subject: the relationship between an audience member and the main character. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces provides some clues, but his book is more about the common similarities found in stories (heroes’ journeys) from around the world and doesn’t really seek to identify the psychological reasons the similarities exist in the first place. (He does sometimes, sort of, in The Power of Myth, but to me it seems like he just blathers about his personal guesses more than anything else.)

Something to think about…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Attend the Site of Sweeney Todd

Just saw a new TV spot for the upcoming movie Sweeney Todd and decided to visited the site which has been updated with clips from the songs. Somewhat of an exciting find for a day which has been pretty lousy. Here’s my preliminary review of what I heard on the site. My guess is that many purists will hate most of it because it is different from the Broadway musical, but I suppose I’m more forgiving… or just not a purist. Of course it’s going to be different from the stage version! (I thought the revival with the bald Sweeney and Patti LuPone as Lovett and all the cast members playing instruments sounded horrible. The movie will surely be better than that dismal conception.)

The songs are obviously not completely edited… there are silent moments in which the music plays but no one sings… in the movie there will be dialog filling these gaps. So I’m probably pre-judging these clips as they do sound like rough cuts indeed.

A Little Priest: Helen Bonham Carter is better than LuPone in my opinion. Nobody can beat Angela Lansbury in the role of Mrs. Lovett, but I think Lansbury would be too old at this point and would make the film very weird. They’d have to use CGI to get her to look young again, and that would look even weirder. But Carter doesn’t sound bad at all. She sounds more mysterious than Lansbury; Lansbury was a bit more… wacky, but Carter sounds more deceptively kind. I’d love to eat her meat pies, she sounds so welcoming. God, that’s good! Johnny Depp as Sweeney doesn’t sound too bad in this song, but still bad. I hate how he speaks “I’ll come again when you have judge on the menu” and his voice just sounds too much like he wants to be a pop or rock star… he hardly ever hits the notes purely, he puts all these weird inflections on them. I don’t know much about singing, and Depp is singing better than I could, but it still bothers me.

By The Sea: Here I wish Carter would use a little more vibrato. Her nonvibrato makes the notes sound plain.

Epiphany: This is a great song in the Broadway musical, but here Depp rips it to shreds with his horrible attempt at singing. When he sings the word “die” I feel like I’m dying. After listening enough I can get used to it and focus on the melody and the lyrics, but it proves to me that Depp, as the main character, is the worst singer in the production. 🙁 Why, Burton? Why?!

Green Finch: Now that’s refreshing. Probably the best singer in this production is Johanna, better than whoever was in the original Broadway.

Johanna: Yikes! I wasn’t expecting Anthony Hope’s voice to be so high, but it still sounds good. No way anyone’s voice can sound as bad as Depp’s anyway.

No Place Like London: Well, Depp doesn’t sound as bad as in “Epiphany” at least.

Pirelli’s Miracle Elixer: Yikes again! I didn’t expect Toby to be so young as he wasn’t in the Broadway, but the character is actually supposed to be young, isn’t he? It’s great that the kid playing Toby is a better singer than Depp. They should have used him in the last Pirates movie as the kid who breaks out in song before being hung. I was disappointed though because it seems this song was really shortened. It speeds up at a very inappropriate time. It’s one of the most catchy songs in the musical, why cut this one short? 🙁 Why, Burton?! Next time, ask me for advice.

Pretty Women: Ugh! Snape’s not a very good singer either… er… I mean Alan Rickman. I can’t decide which one’s worse, Depp or Rickman.

Worst Pies in London: I think the bass should be louder on the “blats” when Lovett is squishing bugs and pounding the dough, but a good song overall.

Unfortunately I think my favorite song from the musical, “Kiss Me”, was cut. The song had a wonderful catchy melody and delicious counterpoint, along with some hilarious lyrics. 🙁 I am sad.

Overall, the orchestration also great. I just wish the songs weren’t cut so short though. 🙁

I still can’t wait to see it. Short songs are better than no songs.

Oh, I also don’t like how Sweeney’s hair looks like Cruella DeVil’s.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Happy Birthday to Me

I now enter my 23rd year of being alive and Wizard Walk enters it’s fifth year of existence. I’ve been writing my children’s/young adult fantasy novel for a year now, and there is still an incredible amount of story to go, mostly because I can’t keep to my outlines and keep re-outlining it putting more stuff in…

Music-wise, it’s been my most productive year, with 13 pieces completed, Opuses 28 through 41 (though as of writing this, 10 of those pieces still need to be posted on my website). By putting my music on YouTube, I have also been able to share my work with others who might never have heard it otherwise, which is… pretty cool.

School-wise, it’s been my most horrible year… but let’s not discuss that… unless you really want to. Just kidding.

I had a nice birthday and got some great gifts: Spongebob Mugs, the Jurassic Park trilogy on DVD, and the sci-fi series Firefly on DVD.

I’ve got two more ultra-busy weeks of classes left, then I must focus on finals for a couple more weeks. But studying for finals is easier than doing homeworks and projects. I have some really horrible classes this semester… I won’t miss them. I can’t wait to get this semester over with.

Should we fear the fear of fear?

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Twitterable

I really need to design a new template for this blog, this one feels squished and stale. Maybe I’ll switch to WordPress or something… I’ve been seeing a few Vox blogs as well that looked really nice… guess I’ll just try redesigning this one first. I should probably start a new blog that is focused only on technology blather though, eh? This one’s much more eclectic.

I heard about a site called Twitter months ago on TWiT. It sounded like a stupid idea.

I’ve been keeping journals on and off since I was 8. (Actually, this blog is sort of meant to be a journal more than anything else… surprise!) This weekend I decided it would be fun to update a journal every couple of hours with short entries as a way of looking back on what I did throughout an entire day. Then I remembered hearing about Twitter, so I gave it a try.

In addition to its sort of journal-keeping aspect, it also serves as a sort of a window to the wider world. For some reason, when I’m working on some hard homework or sitting in a boring class, it helps to know that other people are hard at work too. Hmmmm… is that some form of schadenfreude? Anyway, it has quickly become addicting to log onto Twitter just to see what other people are up to. People also tend to post more interesting links on Twitter than on Digg, so if I have time to be side-tracked I go click-link happy.

I at first tried to update this blog once a day, but I couldn’t keep up, so who knows how long I’ll be able to keep up Twittering. Probably for a while.

Now go get your own Twitter account and follow me

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Understanding Music

What the heck does that mean? “Understanding music”? I’m not a big fan of the phrase. Music is only music. Anything to “understand” about it is not musical. If I want to better understand an opera by Mozart, I learn about its creator, what he was doing at the time, what the rest of his country was doing, what the musical tastes and conventions were at the time, and probably some music theory (which is redundant because “music theory” is really just another way of saying “musical tastes and conventions of the time”). Though all these things affected the creation of the music, they are not the music. So basically, “understanding music” tends to mean “being aware of a piece’s origins”.

Understanding music can change a person’s opinion of a piece. For example, a person may hate Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Later on, that person may learn about all the labor that went into its stop-motion animation and may change his opinion, saying something like “it amazes me the dedication those animators had!” … but then his opinion is no longer based on the end product itself, but on its origins.

Do you have to know a musical piece’s origins before deciding whether or not you like it? If you heard a short waltz for piano and you were told it was written by Beethoven, would you like more than if it had been written by a six year old? Or some poor guy with some “rags-to-riches” story? Would you like it more if it had taken twenty years to write? What if it was written in less than an hour?

Unfortunately in the real world I think these outside factors do indeed influence opinions. Perhaps it’s because people don’t like to just be affected by music, they want to know the reason they’re being affected. Alas, it’s currently impossible to understand the way our chemical brains work, so many people just try to find reasons elsewhere and seek the fool’s gold of “understanding music”.

I’m not saying “understanding music” is bad; it can be extremely interesting and helpful, especially if you’re a composer. But one should be cautious that his opinions of a piece of music are not dictated by his opinions of its origins.

Likewise, one should be cautious not to say something like “you don’t like this music because you don’t understand it.” Those are the words of snobs who do let the origins of a piece dictate their opinions.

And this does not apply to all the arts, such as literature, for arts such as literature have much more objective concrete meanings. Music has no objective concrete meaning.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Restarting an iPod…

I have nothing else to blog about…

This morning I plugged my iPod in my computer to update it… but unfortunately my iTunes froze. My iPod was stuck on the “Do Not Disconnect” screen, even after I turned off my computer. I was worried that my iPod would screwed up by this incident, but fortunately there is a way to restart a frozen iPod (though if bad sectors have already been written on the hard drive due to an unsafe disconnect or something, restarting probably won’t help much with that).

To restart the iPod:

  1. Turn the “Hold” on then off somewhat quickly.
  2. Hold the “Menu” button and the “select” button (middle button) down for 5 to 10 seconds.
  3. The iPod should restart and the Apple logo should be displayed.

The process saved me this morning.

So… make sure your iTunes is responding nicely before you plug in your iPod!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

A Good Idea is Torture

Torturing is not a good idea, but having a good idea for a novel can be torture when you must first finish the novel you’re working on.

I have a weird sort of fantasy short story about half way done. I was listening to some music tonight when it dawned on me that with one big twist to the story, the story could easily expand to a novel, and the kind of magical innovative novel I would love to read myself. Well, at least it’s innovative to me, though one could probably argue that it’s not innovative at all. I’m still reluctant to say what it is, for fear someone will say, “oh, that’s like such and such” which would destroy my temporary pride.

So I instantly jotted down notes on the basic story and I hope the ideas will continue to expand in my mind… but I still have at least another year’s worth of work to put into The Game of Gynwig… if not two or three more years. It’s torture! Torture I say!

Spring forward, Fall back… I get an extra hour of sleep tonight, so bye!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

No NaNoWriMo this year

I spent most of today finishing unpacking from the move… my room still had a bunch of boxes all over the place, but I am now pretty much all set in here and the room is quite clean. Tomorrow morning I am expected to wake up early and help my parents prepare our old house for selling… blagh. Ouch, I just banged my elbow on the edge of my desk… 🙁

NaNoWriMoIt’s now November, and that means it’s Nation Novel Writing Month. Thousands of people are now setting about writing a 50,000 word piece of fiction. Unfortunately, I do not have the time for such things this year, but even if I did, I’m still working on The Game of Gynwig, the novel I started for NaNoWriMo last year, and I am refraining from starting any other books until I finish this one, despite much temptation. I don’t know how anybody (well, any college or high school student at least) can write 50,000 words in one month… if you can, you’re either insane or have too much time and not enough real work. And don’t say “oh, if you love writing, you’ll find the time” because I’m not talking about finding the time to write in general, I’m talking about 50,000 words of unplanned fiction in one month. Insane. Why couldn’t July be NaNoWriMo? Why November, a very busy month for students?

It’s easier and more interesting to make dinner and do laundry than to do homework.

By S P Hannifin, ago