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July 2014
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Only Lovers Left Alive trailer

Only Lovers Left Alive was a British/German romantic vampire drama that came out in 2013, but not anywhere near where I lived. It has been nominated for a number of awards, and received a lot of critical attention, including getting an 87% at Rotten Tomatoes. One of the vampires writes music and does scientific research, using Tesla’s inventions to power his house and vehicles. Another wrote about half of Shakespeare’s plays. It will finally be released in the US on August 19th, and I am looking forward to finally being able to see it.

Summer 2014 Anime Shows

The 2014 summer anime season just started, and we are in episode 2 or 3 for most shows this week. There are a lot of great shows this season, with both returning favorites and a bunch of new programs, some of which look quite good even though it is still early in the season. I have my own favorites, but I will wait for one more week’s worth of episodes before sharing them. That is partly because I want an additional episode of each to make sure they are consistently good, and partly because I am still trying out new stuff I haven’t seen yet to decide whether or not to add them to my watched list. What I wanted to share today was a couple of good places to find out about the shows.

Crunchyroll has the Final Summer 2014 Anime Season Chart, with each show individually detailed to include the studio that made it, a description of the program/premise it was built on, what kind of media it began life as (Game, Manga, Light Novel, etc.), the date the show began, and a link to the Anime’s home page (the BAKA.BZ entry for each one). You can find the details about how this grid was created at Neregate, which includes all the entries, not just the ones Crunchyroll is associated with. This is a wonderful resource for figuring out what is available and where it began, but a pretty poor tool for basing your decisions on. With this one, you read about each entry and decide for yourself which ones to check out, without any kind of descriptive streamlining, trailers, rating system, or recommendation. Still, there is a ton of good info here, well worth your time to explore!

Kotaku has Your Complete Summer 2014 Anime Guide, and I do like the format. They give you the title, the genre, when it starts, where you can watch it, a single sentence description of the plot/premise, and a trailer for each show. It doesn’t take much time to go through the article and get a short list of interesting series to check out, with an idea of what other ones might be worth watching once you have discarded the less than stellar members of that first set. This way to go about your decision making takes a personal approach, meaning you have to be involved at every step of the process. While the initial run through the guide doesn’t take long, watching the shows themselves to decide which ones are worth following can take a bit. For instance, if you start by checking the first 3 episodes of the 5 shows you find interesting, you have burned 345 minutes, or just under 6 hours. Drop the 2 you find least interesting and check out a different show, and you have burned an additional 150 minutes. This is way better than doing everything yourself so I find it a serious improvement over the previous method.

Anime News Network has the Summer 2014 Preview Guide, which is built more on a crowd-sourcing basis than a traditional top down reporting structure. Any given show has reviews by multiple people, each of whom has their own perspective on the program. This kind of reporting system has its own advantages, such as allowing you to compare and contrast the different reviews against your own impressions about a given entry in order to build a rating system for the reviewers themselves. Once you rate the reviewers from 1 to 5 in terms of the ones who’s opinions always match yours at 5 to the ones who’s opinions never match yours at 1, the next step is simple. You build a spread sheet or database (depending on which environment you are most comfortable working in) that creates a matrix with your reviewer rating as the X axis and that reviewer’s rating of each show as the Y axis. It takes some time to do the original analysis of the reviewers and then build the matrix, my guestimate being around 12 hours total. But once you have the matrix built, it is just a matter of dropping the current seasons reviews into place, rating any new reviewers since last season, and running the report.

I admit, my conclusions are more about my being lazy while in geek mode than about your own best use of the resources to come to your own conclusions. So you will have to check out the sources for yourself, and see which source/technique makes the most sense for how you like to do things. Please let me know about any new resources or processes you find that I haven’t mentioned here; I am sure there are a number of them, and I would like to add them to the collection.

Something to Do: Movies 25Jul15

One of the choices this Friday is Lucy, the latest Luc Besson science fiction film. Scarlett Johansson is kidnapped and has an experimental drug surgically implanted in her, so she can be used to smuggle it somewhere. But when the container bursts inside her it triggers a series of genetic changes that act like accelerated evolution, and as her power grows she takes on those who tried to victimize her. Also this weekend, another version of Hercules, this time based on the graphic novels from Radical Comics and starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson. They both look like excellent choices to me, but before you make up your own mind about which to see you might want to check out Alan Moore’s call for a boycott of the Hercules film. It seems the writer of the comics, Steven Moore (no relation), wasn’t getting any money for the movie and had no creative input, but the company did agree not to put his name on it. Since his death earlier this year they have been promoting it as Steve Moore’s Hercules without paying his estate for using his name to try to increase their profits.

Something to Watch: DVDs 22Jul14

In movies this week Transcendence is a story of the singularity, as the first person to upload themselves becomes in control of the web and everything connected to it. I have not seen this one yet, but as someone who wants to be uploaded I intend to, and hope it does not end too badly. In the realm of Fantasy we have Heaven Is For Real, another movie I haven’t seen and can not comment on.

In TV we have Xena: Warrior Princess – Season Five, and yes, I know this is not the first time this season has been released. But when it was originally put on the shelves it had a list price of $79.95, which means if you shopped around you might be able to find it for $59, or a used copy for $45. The new set of releases list at $26.95 when each first comes out, meaning you can find it for $19 or so, a lot more cost effective choice, and a bit less if you wait about 6 months. The other thing I prefer about the new series of releases is that they are in a single multi-disc case per season, and so take up about a third of the shelf space of the original box set with 4 or 5 normal DVD cases in it. And the rumors of a new series/movie continue, so maybe we will get a bit more of this show to enjoy.

In Anime Appleseed: Alpha is the new prequel to the other series by Masamune Shirow about what it means to be human, and where the borders of your humanity are in a war-torn cyberpunk universe. For those wondering the primary series from the author/artist on the topic is Ghost In The Shell, the title referring to the human/AI mind/spirit encased in whatever combination of organics and machinery your particular cyborg situation has you in. Appleseed is one of the best professional instances of Machinema I know of, rivaled only by the Final Fantasy franchise. And the GITS link is a really good viral site, driving everyone nutz when it first went online; have fun learning your way around it.

The Severing Crime Edge: Complete Collection is a dark fantasy about people who inherit murder weapons from their ancestors, complete with a curse that causes them to re-commit the original murders. But they don’t want to do that, and are fighting their destinies. The other anime this week isn’t exactly genre, but it is pretty amusing, right down to the title: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU. His student adviser put him into a club that had only one member until he arrived, and the club’s mandate is to help all who come to them solve their problems. Except the problems they are asked to solve are fairly strange, and get stranger as time goes on.

Weird Al, twice in 1 week!

And with good reason; I just discovered Weird Al’s contribution to Epic Rap Battles of History, and now his new album is rolling out this week, one song per day. So far Word Crimes and Foil are my favorites, but there are more to come. I can’t wait to learn what new twisted goodies he has in store for us!

New GParted build

GParted is a world class rescue and partitioning tool that will allow you to save your old computer operating system, and failing that will allow you to export the files off of your old hard drive and back them up to external media. It may not be as intuitive as a lot of other Linux builds, requiring you to go through a bit of a learning curve before you can use it, but trust me when I say it is well worth the time and effort spent to get there. And since it is a Live Disc application, you never need to install it to a hard drive. Download it, copy it out to any media type your computer knows how to boot from, and run it from there. Myself, I have almost never used it to partition a hard drive, because I so rarely do that. But rescue files off a corrupt disc, external drive, or memory stick? That I do pretty much every day, and this is one of the better tools in my arsenal for that task. Try it out and see if you don’t find it useful as well.

Epic Rap Battles of History

Another variation of Nerdcore has crossed my attention horizon, so I have to mention Epic Rap Battles of History, a very amusing project. I selected a few of my favorites to give you the idea, including Sir Isaac Newton vs Bill Nye and Nikola Tesla vs Thomas Edison, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Visit their web site to check them all out and vote, and be sure to check out Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates on their YouTube page.

Asteroid Zoo

Using the Asteroid Zoo web site, you can contribute to the hunt for asteroids by simply applying your Mark II Eyeball and its Wetware computing processing which evolved over millions of years to spot patterns such as the visual differences caused by things that move. It was refined to help us spot things trying to eat us, things falling on us, and things we could eat, but it also makes us the optimal processing instrument for spotting planets, comets, meteors, and asteroids from sky survey photographic sequences. What makes spotting such objects useful and worth your time? The answer depends on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. The pessimist will be looking for things trying to fall on us, alerting NASA, the ESA, and others so we can destroy or deflect them before they can impact and damage our world. The optimist will be looking for low flying rocks that we can capture and mine for resources such as metals and volatiles (fuel and food). Whatever your reason, it contributes to humanities knowledge and the protection of the world, so it is a good thing. Thanks to the folks at Planetary Resources for making it possible, and thank you if you contributed to the programs Kickstarter funding.

Celebrating 50 Years of American Doctor Who

What would Doctor Who have been like if it was done in America? Sam Vestey took a stab at answering that question, using Final Cut Pro X and Adobe After Effects CS5 to build his own little 50th anniversary tribute. I think he did an excellent job on the audio/video production, and made some great choices about which video clips to present for each actor. He was inspired by SmugMode’s photo mashup of The First 8 Doctors and The Modern Doctors.

Something to Do: Movies, 18Jul14

For action we have The Purge: Anarchy is the sequel to The Purge, with a simple premise: for half a day all crime goes without punishment. This distopia does allow for some pretty exciting footage on the screen as the various protagonists attempt to survive the night, without having to remake Escape From New York yet again. Which allows them the dubious honor of remaking their own movie instead, which was probably inspired by Escape From LA. If you prefer family friendly animated silliness with your fantasy adventures, Planes: Fire & Rescue might be the choice for you this week. The animation work is quite well done, but somehow the planes/cars franchise hasn’t really engaged me, I think because they are a little too heavy handed with their story lines. If you are looking for a film to share with your kids, this is definitely your best choice. Finally, some theaters will get Mood Indigo, a romantic fantasy about an inventor who finally falls in love with a woman, only to discover she is dying from flowers growing in her lungs. I had to grin at the mouse sidekick to the chef, at the very minimum. If this one is playing near me, it will be getting my money as the best film option available. Strangely enough, although the movie is French/Belgium, the working home page I found for it is in Japan; there is also a US Outlet Home Page. The two other films from this director I really enjoyed were The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and this looks like it might be just as good as either of those.