More Good Bad Guys

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 11:15 pm

Picking up on Cheddar Man's great post about great movie villains, here's my own list where I resolved not to repeat any that he included. Don't get me wrong I loved his list, especially #1, but what fun would repeats be?

5. Big Chris and Little Chris in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Something about the dynamic of the traditional tough man (Vinnie Jones moving from soccer thuggery to real thuggery) and his son-in-training was great.

4. Christopher Walken as "Charlie" in Suicide Kings
Make no mistake, Walken isn't stretching any acting-muscles here. Indeed this role falls on the Walken bad-guy stereotype scale as less-insane than King of New York Walken, but more sitting-down than True Romance Walken. What's great about this Walken is he has to be menacing while bound to a chair with 9 fingers. And he is.

3. James Earl Jones as "Darth Vader" in Star Wars
Yeah, I know who's in the suit, Tommy, but that ain't the point! It's the physical presence and the voice that gets the credit. The character has been pop-cultured so much that he generates no fear anymore, but remember how you felt as a kid? The character is iconic, and it is this status that puts him on this list (ahead of Darth Maul, who carried a more physically threatening presence, and better make up.

2. Gary Oldman as "Drexl" in True Romance
Very close to being my #1. Oldman has played some great bad guys in his illustrious career, but his potrayal of the scenery-chewing gold-toothed freaky-eyed and nasty-scarred rasta kingpin in this Tarantino script overshadows any actor crazy enough to come near him. What makes him is great is how he exudes a nasty cobra-like cunning. And he does all this in a 7 minute scene.

1. Ben Kingsley as "Don" in Sexy Beast
If you never thought a small actor could be a physically threatening character (especially one that played Ghandi), see Kingsley in this. I don't think he even really does anything truly physical to any of the characters, but the way the other actors react to him, and that unpredictable unhinged part of his personality make him just scary as hell.

Ahhh... what a fine thread. If only that Chedda Fella was here more often so we could relive these great and aimless chats!

Meaningless addendum: I later noticed that my list has 5 Englishmen in it (well, that counts Prowse and Maul but excludes little Chris), while Tom's top 5 includes an Englishman, an Aussie, an Austrian, a Belgian and a puppet. Where are all the good American bad guys? Add your list in the comments!

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Why repair when you can litigate?

It seems to be pretty commonly accepted right now that RFID chips (small chips using radio waves to identify themselves to a supposedly nearby scanner) are hopelessly insecure and easily duplicated. This technology may be in a few things you own, such as some smart credit cards, student ID cards, and now all new passports in the US, UK and other countries. It has been demonstrated before that a bunch of cheap Radio Shack electronics can scan/record an RFID chip froi a short range while you carry it in your pocket. Thus without the need to actualy have physical access to the item, you can possibly be identified, or "copied".

But like the multitude of potential security breaches raised against voting machines, the best approach by the companies involved seems to be to keep concealing their code, and threaten or press release your way out of the public's attention span. Marketing budgets are bigger than tech budgets it seems.

The most recent example of this is the threat from manufacturer HID Global (a name that seems unfortunately close to a well known disease?) to a bloke intending to demonstrate the insecure nature of RFIDs at a very well known hacker conference in CA. The legal threat was that he is infringing their patents by building a home made scanner that can clone their RFID.

I can understand the easy validation that he is showing people how to do something bad, but in this day and age of global communications, youtube instructional videos, and searchable knowledge via your "series of tubes", does anyone still believe that concealing such things makes an insecure system more secure?

The best comment in the Wired article was this one:

"I'm sure burglars, identity thieves and others who misuse insecure RFIDs for personal gain will be deterred by the years of messy patent litigation they'll face if they start hacking RFIDs."

This somehow reminds me of DRM. Most DRM systems, designed to generate more money for distributors from the same content, seem to function primarily by making it harder for legitimate purchasers of music/content to transport it as they wish (e.g. download on PC, burn to disk, play in DVD player, add to iPod). But all the while it fails to stop the thieves who are really hell bent on misusing it, through large-scale duplication and resale.

We generally good citizens understand the need for such things, but are the implementations really serving the people it is intended for, or hindering/exposing them to uncessary risk for the sake of new business contracts?

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Putting HD in Perspective

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 | 10:15 pm

I went through the process last year of starting the hunt for a HD television. My RCA tube was showing blacks as blue, and muddy brown-reds in the bottom right corner. I had 42" to spare in my TV cabinet, so I had a yen for some LCD-love. As is my way, I was soon mired in analysis paralysis mousing through hundreds of reviews, consumer ratings, obscure HD blogs and Costco price-compare tools.

To cut the tedium outta the story, in the end I decided that I didn't watch enough HD content to justify the purchase, and too many of the screens looked rough watching SD. The technology has a small amount of maturing left (and maybe a format wr of two with a few new technologies around the corner), but I suppose I just wasn't ready to commit. For xmas, I ended up getting GW a little LCD for the bedroom, which has been a good way to test what they can do at the low price end anyhow..

All this is a roundabout kind of way to introduce this cute little Wired News article by Lore Sjoberg, whose style is sarcasm personified. Enjoy his version of The High-Def FAQK.

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Of Battlestars & Bonus Scenes

Saturday, February 17, 2007 | 10:25 pm

As the comment from Marauder a few weeks ago correctly surmised, Battlestar has settled into some "filler" episodes between mid-season and end of season finales, but their writing is still very strong, and they aren't afraid to push the characters around so we can find out a little more about them. I love that they never overplay the emotion in this show, but it is still there. Adama's recollection of his failed marriage were beautifully played, and was a great way to show that even great leaders have their doubt moments. The older actors really do shine in this show, with Adama, Roslyn and Tighe getting better writing and acting moments all the time.'

The move to Sunday nights has apparently yielded one success, the renewal of the show for a fourth season, or 13 episodes of it at least. Why they would dally with such a critical show to their line up does make me wonder, although we all know that critical success doesn't always mean ratings success, but sometimes you have to have a flagship to pin your credibility on, and god knows that Sci-Fi's original movies certainly aren't it.

But like embracing the dark side, the Sunday night timeslot has come with a price as they push for a broader viewership (but are wise enough to not mess with the scripts). One is the horrible pop-rock guitar that you get as they break for ads. It's bloody awful, and completely in defiance of all the subtle emotional and musical cues the show tries so hard to maintain. No wonder I prefer downloading and watching it later.

The other is the "bonus scene" concept at the end of the episode. Bonus scenes are fun for the fan boy, but as any good director's commentary will tell you, they are generally left out for good reason. The scenes haven't been to bad, but how are we supposed to treat them? Like deleted scenes, or as if they are BSG canon?

Take the first version after the Helo centric episode "The Woman King". It was a good scene, and quite a reveal for Helo, but I'm left confused as to whether to consider that this as a revealed event or not? Should we now assume that Adama knows of Helo's deliberate thwarting of the Cylon-genocide, and accepts it? Or is it an unspoken deleted scene, known only to the audience.

I may have to check back into the episode podcasts and see what Ron E Moore thinks of all this bonus stuff but lets assume he's smart enough to not bite the hand that feeds. What do you lot think?

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Finding your inner morning person

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 | 11:19 am

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not one of those "morning people", who by definition are either high-energy frustratingly "peppy" people, or parents. Indeed, I am fortunate enough to be able to sleep just about anywhere, it's the waking that hurts me. So here's a few possible alarm clock options (unverified as real or vapourware) that may break the inertia my phone-based morning alarm usually fails to overcome...

DangerBomb Alarm Clock

Wake or go boom! To turn off this alarm, you gotta reconnect the three wires. Based on the principle that you need to be awake to work electronics, I am sure after a month I could re-fuse this in my sleep. As Engadget correctly noted, not easy to bring through customs, not liable to be much fun in Boston.

Hanging Alarm Clock

To snooze this hanging alarm, you need to slap it. When you do, it retracts on its cord to move ever closer to the ceiling for the next buzzing. Finally, an alarm clock that literally makes you hit the roof.

Rolling Alarm Clock

Clocky adds computer smarts to an approach we have all tried, putting the alarm across the room so we have to get out of bed to snooze it. I tried that, but just became so fast at traversing cold winter floor tiles it was like watching a cat clear a swimming pool without getting wet. Once you snooze this cruiser, it just rolls away, finding a new spot each time. So next time, you gotta find it to turn it off. Love it. There's even a carpeted version, I imagine so that the fall off your night-table is softer, and the camouflage is greater!


BSG in two text messages

Friday, February 02, 2007 | 2:56 pm

Last Sunday, my Gorgeous Wife was en route to Orlando and missed the new Battlestar Galactica episode "Taking a break from all your worries".

She caught it in replay on the hotel PPV system on Monday, and a sent me a couple of text messages during the episode that summarized probably what we were all feeling..

19:07pm: "Ohhh my god... it is Baltar!!!"
19:09pm: "Nevermind."

The intertube debate over who it is certainly is raging... for the moment, I am betting on Gaeta, but as anyone at my poker table will tell you, it's a very weak bet.

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You've Been Mooninite-d

Thursday, February 01, 2007 | 4:24 pm

Mooninite F
Photograph by Todd Vanderlin."

Irresponsible guerilla marketing in a post-911 world, or gross overreaction by the city that brought you the Boston Dig? You tell me.

But the humourous t-shirt design that encapsulates the whole Aqua Teen Hunger Force affair is pure brilliance: "ATHF is the bomb."

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