The New G5: Day One

Oh mah lordy, the G5 came today (the wife was home, fortunately, when FedEx turned up). I had requested free 5-day ground delivery, and it only took two days to get here, so I saved some money there.
First: It’s huge and heavy. My G3 looks like an embarrassed cousin next to it, and I felt a bit sad to let the old thing go after its years of service. But remember all the bad things it wouldn’t let you do, I told myself, much like a bereft guy thinks when he starts to long for and romanticize his ex-girlfriend.
I had to go into Virtual PC and grab some files I wouldn’t be getting again, then I shut down the G3 and went through the G5 startup. It plays Royksopp’s “Eple” when you startup the first time–a nice touch. In a few minutes it was ready to go. I had a quick look around. Ooh! Garage Band! Ooh! Graphic Converter pre-installed? Ooh! Quick Books! Ooh!
I shut down and opened the side panel to have a good look inside. I wanted to transfer my two old drives’ worth of stuff over and thought I could just plug ’em in to the secondary drive bay. Oops! Nope–I would learn later that I have IDE drives and these are ATA. Shit.
I backed up my main G3 drive, then, to my LaCie drive after starting up the G3 again. The desktop picture was one of a heartbroken girl crying and playing records, which seemed to suit the mood.
I also discovered that my PCI card (Firewire card with three inputs) doesn’t work in the G5–they take a different kind. I wasn’t even going to try the memory–I have a feeling that ain’t gonna work either.
My only complaint so far–only two Firewire 400 ports kinda sucks. I don’t like to chain too much, and at the moment I have one snaking around the front to the port there.
Installed some essential stuff: Office X (which I bought about two years ago when Jessica was at CalPoly expressly for this moment), BBEdit Lite, Firefox. Spent an hour or two transferring my OS9 mailboxes to Entourage X and figuring out how to easily import all my old bookmarks into Firefox (cut and paste the HTML using BBEdit). Realized feeling at home is directly related to having my Inbox and Bookmarks near me.
Got the desktop looking like my old one and I shall be modifying some more. Computer nice and quiet…
Talked to Mom, who is ready to toss out her iMac–maybe the G3 won’t be going too far then…

Russia! Turn o’ the Century! In COLOR!

Wowowow! Back in the 1900’s, Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii figured out a way of photographing in color, using three black and white photos shot simultaneously with red, blue, and green filters in place. When he projected them back, he could combine the three (much like in printing) and attain a color image. Now the Library of Congress has painstakingly recombined the original negs into simply amazing color photographs of a world few have seen except for old, grainy black and white. Looks like it was shot yesterday…damn!
The Empire That Was Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record Recreated (A Library of Congress Exhibition)

Pre-delivery jitters

After five and a half years, I am finally upgrading my Mac system. I am going from a Blue’n’White 350Mhz G3 to a 2.0Ghz Dual Processor G5. Yes, I skipped out on the G4 thing entirely, much like I was able to completely miss Laserdiscs between VHS and DVD. I’ll also be making the jump from OS9.2.2 to OSX 10.3.7. I do have an earlier version of OSX on a secondary drive on the G3, but I use it mostly to dabble with.
Here’s a quick list of things I will be looking forward to leaving behind in the switch:
After 2001, my G3’s complete inability to input an audio signal (a problem that no Mac technician, friend, local mechanic, or librarian was ever able to solve).
The G3’s inability to make DVDs (in particular, .m2v files).
My system’s inability to play any Windows Media Player file, whether standalone or embedded in a web page, and then having it crash IE.
Having no browser that can support GMail.
IE and Toast crashing my system.
Not being able to rip DVDs.
Not being able to use Adobe After Effects without assigning it all my memory and still having it crash my system.
Things I’m not looking forward to:
How am I going to replace all my apps?
Learning UNIX commands–having to rethink my 15+ years of Mac knowledge.
Having to let go of some of my favorite 3rd party share/freeware programs and go looking for OSX versions. For example: SoundJam, SonicWORX (still the best graphic representation of audio signal), Toast Audio Extractor (great for checking levels on homemade CD comps), Track Thief (rips damaged CDs better than any other), BeHierarchic, DiskSurveyor, and UtilityDog). If you know good OSX replacements, please leave a comment!
Things I am looking forward to:
Making DVDs!
Finishing several movie projects!
Working in Audio!
iPhoto in conjuction with Flickr!
Tons of cool share/freeware I don’t even know exists!
Anyway, I’ll be keeping you updated on my progress soon enough…


Dir: Ole Bornedal
Ewan McGregor plays a law student who gets a job as a night watchman in a very spooky medical center,
where one of his nightly duties is to walk across the stiff-filled morgue and turn a key. If this building had been inspected by any state-run agency, it would have been shut down: faulty lighting, crummy-looking halls, and an open sewer nearby. Instead, this is a perfect place for a thriller. The best part of this remake of a 1994 Dutch film is the setup, where we are given a tour of the medical center and introduced to several upcoming plot points and red herrings. There’s even an alarm just in case a corpse revives and needs to call for assistance. Being left alone in a big spooky place with nothing but your mind to play tricks on you guarantees some jolts, but this is a thriller, and–just as in the original–there’s a serial killer out there, a number of bodies, and a young nightwatchman to frame for the murder.
There’s far too much music in this film, especially when silence would have done the job, and alert viewers will guess the killer in the opening scenes. All that remains is an effective scene with a prostitute in a restaurant, Nick Nolte’s weary cop (Nolte and weary like each other so much they should get married), and an early glimpse of John C. Reilly in a supporting role.

Light Sleeper

Dir: Paul Schrader
Paul Schrader’s film of a drug dealer trying to get on with life
though he knows it’s probably passed him by, is a lighter, NewAgey-er version of his Taxi Driver, with William Defoe keeping a diary and surveying the garbage that lies in his path, metaphorically and literally (there’s an interminable garbage strike that threatens to swallow New York throughout. Susan Sarandon plays his supplier, who also plans to get out and go legit with a makeup company. Pushing him to find a way out is the random appearance of his ex-wife (Dana Delaney) who knows she shouldn’t get involved again. This is a city of expensive apartments and restaurants, where even a ratty apartment looks nicer than anything in Taxi Driver. But, like that film, Light Sleeper will end in blood, something to wash away the streets.
It’s a very sad, hopeless movie, though the characters are more in-control and nobler. It still doesn’t help them out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves.
The film is marred by a lack of momentum and a bloody awful song that plays throughout, which sound like Leonard Cohen crossed with Michael Bolton. It truly was cold-turkey music.

Irma Vep

Dir: Olivier Assayas
I had forgotten how much of this film’s ending I had ripped off for my film,
so much that when it came I sat slightly embarrassed next to my wife, who just said, “hey, it’s Nowhereland!”
But it’s to the credit of Assayas’ film that all it took was one viewing and I immediately absorbed the ideas and lessons that the last 3 minutes teach.
That said, the film is both a love letter to Maggie Cheung (in a rubber suit! looking gorgeous!) and French film. For most of the film is about the latter and the problems of advancing the state of film from those who either want to pronounce it dead and nothing like America (the dumb journalist who interviews Cheung) or the others who want it to rehash what has come before (the remake of Les Vampires that forms the movie within the movie). Various positions are staked out, nothing gets consummated–from art to sex, life flows on continuous, and what is left is the most personal kind of film of all, an oblique experimental art piece inside a film that mixes the avant-garde with realism. All that and Luna covering “Bonnie and Clyde.” I love it.

Double Vision

Dir: Kuo-fu Chen
Double Vision transplants a Seven-like serial killer tale into Taiwan and a strange Daoist cult.
Victims believe themselves to be drowning or burning alive, and die appropriately. Could it be “pure evil” or some strange sort of science? Enter an American expert on serial killers (David Morse) and a workaholic cop (Tony Leung–the other one) who has been ostracized for exposing corruption. The buddy cop dynamics are out of an X-Files episode, as is the set-up, but Double Vision transcends its rather cliched beginnings and veers off into something dark and menacing. The truth here lies somewhere between science and religion, and both men are right in their own way while being wrong in more important ways (ie. those that would save lives).
I liked it more than I thought I would–a great pall of evil and corruption hung over the entire film, permeating even the police office where, supposedly, equilibrium can be found. There’s even a bloody massacre of cops’n’cultists in the third act that I never expected, but which have done Peckinpah proud. Morse, who is best known for being in nearly every Stephen King tele-movie, but who I know as the cop that Bjork kills in “Dancer in the Dark,” keeps his dignity throughout in a project that so desperately wants to compete with the West. But it succeeds on what makes it particularly Taiwanese: the Daoist angle, the audience’s knowledge of Daoist visions of hell, and a lack of Hollywood structure near the end. Even in its sillier moments, it takes itself seriously, and manages to be chilling.

Dog Day Afternoon

Dir: Sidney Lumet
Dog Day Afternoon was one of two DVDs I bought
for Abel’s Christmas present (people always buy him food, not knowing what else to get him; Mom suggested DVDs), but being a used copy, we watched it before wrapping it up. Sidney Lumet’s job was to take a sensationalist story (two incompetents try to rob a bank, one of whom wants the money for his lover’s sex-change operation) and turn it inside out, making the outlandish universal. With Pacino, he succeeds, and then goes further into doom and despair. Sonny and Sal’s attempts are funny at first, but as the day wears on and the AC and lights go out in the building, death seems right outside the door, cheered on by the bread’n’circuses New York mob.
The film now is a documentary glimpse into a New York that opened up to us only in the 70s, before being reformed and reshaped in the 80s. DDA’s opening five minutes show life in the city, c. 1976 (set in 1972, nobody worries that 1976’s film “A Star Is Born” hangs on a marquee). It was a move borrowed from the New Wave, and rarely seen these days, but sets up the wider context for a film that mostly takes place in two locations: inside and outside the bank. And look closely, for wandering among the crowd is Sonny’s wife, who we won’t see till much later–fiction intermingling with fact.
Pacino’s performance is tempered here with equal doses of anger and passivity–and it’s his star power that allows us entrance into the more disturbed or delusional aspects of Sonny’s personality.
The film pulses along between slow pools of calm and thrashes of activity (the series of lightning fast cuts that follow Sonny’s gunshot out the back window shows that you can cut quick and still be comprehensible). The script has time for dialog that exists apart from furthering the plot. And the supporting cast stand out as real people, not central casting drones (in particular the frizzy haired teller who is always doing something idiosyncratic when the camera passes over her.
Lastly, we come to identify with Sonny so much that in the end we feel his sadness when the hostages–supporting characters in Sonny’s head movie–refuse to acknowledge us or him once he is arrested. He’s lost his chance, his friends, his family–and mostly he’s lost center stage.

The Italian Job

Dir: F. Gary Gray
The Italian Job remakes the Michael Caine vehicle and though it keeps the MiniMetro,
much to Austin’s delight, it ditches Italy after the opening Bond-like sequence for less interesting Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Throw into the mix some psychobabble thread about father issues (Donald Sutherland as masterthief–it’s his death that must be revenged for the rest of the film) and some attempts at light humor (mostly Seth Green), and each sort of outweighs the other. Edward Norton hangs around for a paycheck, which he admitted as much in an article around the time of the film’s release. His lack of joy at being on set certainly helps his dour character, and Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron have as much chemistry as an underfunded inner city science class.
Still, it proceeds at a quick pace and director F. Gary Gray knows how to shoot action for the most part. Don’t expect any of it to make sense, though.