30 June, 2011


This is what the avengers movie should look like (yes, spider man should definitely make a guest appearance)

Unfortunately I expect it to want to take itself seriously and thus to suck. At the same time, I really hope I am wrong, and there are reasons to feel optimistic. Let's look at what has come out of the Marvel Universe "lately":
  • Hulk - there have been two movies and none of them very good, basically they don't deserve your attention
  • Spider Man - the first one was very fun to watch in the cinema and make fun of, when you find yourself rooting for and pretty much agreeing with the bad guy you might have stumbled unto something valuable, but this is not the case here, however it may just be the case for the sequel, which is considered among the best comic book movies. And then there is the third, which had the most potential and thus failed hardest. Let's not go back to unpleasant memories, I just want to say Venom is probably one of my favorite characters, conceptually. People seem to think it is about making spider man gritty and thus more relevant at the time, while in fact I think it is more about the feelings and possibilities. It embodies a story of achieving your goals easily, betraying your ideals (yourself) and disappointing the ones around you, it is also a story of jealousy and petty revenge and how that can destroy you as well. They only did a worse job at this with...
  • The Fantastic Four - again I would really have loved to see the amoral being (not immoral, but above morality) of the Silver Surfer get a better part than flying around; his role would have been to engage the audience in thought. But the movies are better forgotten.
  • Iron Man - now this is clearly an overrated franchise. The first was a movie with good parts and that's it, good parts, I certainly wouldn't say it was a good movie, which has led me to ignore the sequel. Which I am guessing just relies on the character of Tony Stark to have a few good parts far in between
  • Thor - This was pretty enjoyable. If it would have focused a lot less on the "space opera" parts and more on making some sort of Bildungsroman out of a god stuck in present day America, a great movie could have come out of it. As it was, just the middle part was pretty good.There is one more thing of note here, namely the casting of a black man as a norse god. I really didn't see the point, and if it would have been an epic like Lord of the Rings it would have definitely destroyed immersion. As it is it is just a comic book, so his acting as both impassive and menacingly badass was pretty much spot on. I've seen a parallel with casting a white actor as Goku (in one of the worst movies of all time), and that comparison is just plain wrong; they probably just couldn't find a Saiyan (you know, complete with tail and all that) that could act. 
  • X-Men - This is probably the one I care most about after Spider Man because of my childhood preferences. And I am pretty satisfied with what has been done as of yet. The thing is of course it was more seeing a reinterpretation and some interesting ways to tell of a character rather than actually creating a solid universe or some good stories. I think the first one was pretty good, except Rogue being miscast. The second movie is entirely a dud except the best two scenes the franchise has seen, namely Nightcrawler in the white house and Magneto escaping from jail. Then there is the third which of course had the most potential, the story arc of Phoenix being one of the most interesting, and which therefore failed most spectacularly. The exaggerated focus on Wolverine has been turned into a downright obsession with making a completely unnecessary origins story. And talking about origin stories we get the reboot, which is pretty interesting from my point of view (giving backgrounds to known characters, even reimagined ones) but again fails to give shape to their world or present an interesting story. Also a little bit more could have been invested, I mean the Magneto and Beast costumes were downright bad (Shaw's was completely missing) and art direction could have been a nice thing to have, but it even managed to squeeze in an emotional moment (even though brief and out of the blue). Oh, did I mention that if you want to do German (and a few other languages) in a movie you should hire actors who speak German (I mean well, not in a ridiculous way). Next time get Cristoph Waltz.
And now back to Avengers: as the Iron Man and Thor movies have not been messed up there is hope for it yet, but the track record is not the most impressive. I'm really not holding my breath for Captain America, but maybe the man who did Agent Smith, Elrond and V could go and make a memorable character again.

31 May, 2011

Best Short film ever

Just WOW! Watch in 1080p!

21 March, 2011

Spring, Spring Never Changes...

Last time I wrote about the impression Stravinsky's Rite of Spring made on people and how they got to like it. Today it's your turn, I'm sure you were at least a little bit curious how classical music could cause a riot. Well here is a recreation of the original:

And if pagan rituals are just not your thing here is the same music telling the story of the creation of the universe, evolution and extinction of dinosaurs:

Spring is here... it is the mark of new beginnings and each year it is here to teach us that the only constant is change. Spring never changes...

20 March, 2011

How We Learn to Love Music

Music is the first way we develop to communicate. In fact it happens so early we call this ability of understanding an inborn ability. All over the world parents that speak to their children use the same melodies. Like a rise and fall for approval. Or rising, high pitch to call attention. The words don't matter, it's all in the melodies.
But throughout life we learn and our tastes change. It would appear from the following story that in fact our love and appreciation of music is a learned trait. Give the bit below a listen, but just in case you are in a hurry I am going to sum up for you. In the beginning of the 20th century Stravinsky presented himself in Paris with a new creation: the Rite of Spring. And while the beginning had a very calm and pastoral air to it, it soon changed to develop completely new (at the time) harmonies and a tension-creating repeating background (kind of reminds me of Burzum, if you don't know, you don't even want to know...). What was the result? Did the people herald him as a genius? Nope, they started a riot. Like a regular riot with violence, the likes of which any respectable mob would start on the street, and mind you this was a cultured audience expecting a show of classical music. But, the surprise (to me) is that, just one year afterwards, Stravinsky came back to present the show and this time, with an audience warned they are in for something absolutely special, he was welcome as a hero. And in a way he was, because he challenged human nature, specifically our brain, which loves the familiar and abhors innovation. When presented with something new, like the music of Stravinsky it tries to make sense of the new noise, but eventually releases a large amount of dopamine, which could possibly explain the violent behavior of the audience (in small doses dopamine makes you happy, in large doses it makes you go crazy). This happens when the brain fails to make sense of new sounds and find the patterns. But the brain is also an amazing piece of ingenuity as with time it learns to assimilate the new and integrate it with the all the known information and turn it into something familiar.

Nowadays the music is not that surprising but I still feel it's weird. If you are very curious about the music itself there is a whole book you can read: http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft967nb647&brand=ucpress

In case you were looking for more evidence in the same vein, and from the same source incidentally, here is another Radiolab piece.  There is a reiteration from min 23 of the idea from the bit above and then a more relatable example, with something as mundane as radio. And how going from something classic to something modern can create an unpleasant surprise. But then of course we quickly overcome it. In this case the transition from Gregorian chants to the 'modern' Bach makes a point in case (starting from 28:34).

If you don't understand what it is supposed to mean here is how a cello can be used in the modern world. I sincerely hope these will be unexpected for you.

And here you were thinking you would never like death metal :) (not that the above is to be considered that, just read on...) It just takes some repeated listens to get into, and even then it's hard (the thing I noticed about extreme metal is that it remove thoughts, so it's good if you want to focus and your mind keeps straying, in situations like learning or programming, but if you are not intellectually engaged, well I think then it just kills what remains, leaving you dumb).

I don't know about how weird-ass classical music is created but here's how you can do death metal. Opeth explain all the riffs and the construction of The Drapery Falls from their Blackwater Park album. Especially part2 is interesting about tension and creating disharmonies (See minute 10: "A lot of people say that [chord] sounds like shit. And it does")

Here is a full performance so you can pay attention to all the things he mentioned about playing live. And you probably want to hear the original too. So go buy the album. The Drapery Falls:

11 March, 2011

The Number of the Beast

I recently came upon something that blew my mind. We have the number of the beast wrong. Ahhhhhh, what will save us now?

I'm guessing everyone is used to the classic 666 without which some T-shirts wouldn't be funny at all

The original quote from the Bible is: This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

But probably this recited version is better:

Ok, so now the revelation: the original sources mentioned a different number and the number is:


And it's not just one source. While this version has been known for a long time, from here, it has only been recently accepted as probable original value since it is also mentioned in a papyrus, thought to be the oldest source, and thus with most authority, on the subject.

So, are we going to change the number of the beast? In the end I think we will always remember an awesome Iron Maiden album.

01 March, 2011


A new spring is starting today. And Romanians usually celebrate. Here's how the holiday looks officially:
Talking about official, Google is celebrating too, that has to mark it as an important date in the calendar

I think it supposed to stand for new beginnings and cooperation, so here's a kick-off to getting along better with others

24 February, 2011


A girl comes to a deserted place where she finds a boy, slightly younger than her who has spent his whole life training in martial arts with his grandfather. The boy knows absolutely nothing about the world but joins the girl in her quest to gather the 7 12 Dragonballs Deviant Blades. Of course, although he loses some fights along the way, the boy turns out to be the strongest warrior possible.

This is the latest and probably one of the last anime I watch. Initially I wanted to lump it together with the Lost post, but they have nothing in common except the fact that the ending is disappointing (and this would be the place I mention that I watch anime because they have endings). But I am getting ahead of myself.

The first impression you get of this anime is the unfamiliar artwork. It's strange and it's crude, so it had better compensate by content. And to some degree it succeeds. The introduction may suggest that I consider it a rip-off of Dragonball, not so. This series is remarkable in that it pretends to be an action series, but is instead a dialog driven journey. The fights are usually less than 5 minutes of the unusually 50 minutes long episodes. Being dialog-driven it reminded me of Bakemonogatari, but the similarity in content and title is no coincidence as they were written and animated by the same people.

While the former excels at what it does, this 'sword story' (rough title translation) could have been better. Not by much as each episode is pretty good in its own right (except the one where we don't even see the fight for the sword; instead it is just summed up by a 2 min. dialog), but they don't seem to be linked in the best way. The pacing is all wrong. I mean he faces of against the strongest enemy, which happens to be his sister, half-way through. What was the logic in that?

Ultimately, it is the ending that stands out. It's appropriate (the feeling that nothing good will come of their quest is pretty much established from the first episodes), but not satisfying in the least. <SPOILER> What is remarkable is how the Japanese don't seem to have any problems killing of main characters, even where there are as little as 2 of them. See Gurren Lagann for a much better example. There, an unexpected death is the only good part I saw in the series. Here, although it is well executed, it prevents the ending from giving a sense of fulfillment </SPOILER> Speaking of lack of fulfillment, although we get to see the Completed Deviant Blade and the power of Kyotouryuu when he is actually unleashed, no longer ordered to protect the swords or himself, it is all for naught. Not even the philosophical twist of Kiki not being a sword smith, but soothsayer which attempted to change history through his Completed Deviant Blade, made any impact as it was offhandedly dismissed as a failure in the epilogue. <SPOILER> And I can't even begin to imagine what they were thinking when they had him end up travelling the country with the wrong princess. I understand to have a non-hollywood happy ending, but this seemed just plain wrong creepy </SPOILER> I guess that's just how the Japanese are... can't understand them, that's what makes their shows special.

So all in all, was it worth the time? Probably.