Friday, March 20, 2009

Tweets Ahoy!; or, Twitter isn't really that new folks...

There has recently been a rash of stories, and segments involving Twitter all over the news. In the past couple of months, every major news channel has had at least one mention of the website during a broadcast. Or have used it to "crowd-source", and/or reach out to their viewers in a new way. Even ESPN had an article involving Twitter in the past few days, as well as nearly an entire hour on the radio program "All Night" with Jason Smith on ESPN radio.

All this exposure for twitter is a bit of a double edged sword. See, here's why I think this. I started using twitter about a year and a half ago. I thought I was one of the Johnny-come-latelys to the party, having heard about it a few months before that, but signed up on Jaiku first. In the end, I joined twitter because the community was so much better there. Sure, the site was constantly down, and holy unreliable, but yet I stuck with it because the people were there.

Skip ahead to now, and we see a massive influx of celebrities, athletes, and the like joining twitter. Everyone from Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, to Shaq, have joined and started tweeting. This is all well and good I suppose, as they way I see it, the more the merrier. But, all this attention to Twitter has some calling it a fad, and has led to the mass miss use of the service.

First, let me address the fad angle. It's entirely likely that Twitter is nothing more than a fad, and will die out in a year or so. But, keep in mind that it has been around for quite some time, and unlike some other social networking sites (myspace, facebook, etc.), Twitter opened up the service to let others build widgets and such for any site. You can add your twitter feed to your blog, facebook, myspace, or any other page you want. Meaning that no matter what social network is the next hot network, you can always take your tweets along with you. I personally tie my tweets in to my facebook status messages. That way I can update both at the same time.

As for the miss use of Twitter, well, this happens to any and all websites that get popular enough. Spam happens. Anything that gets enough traffic will eventually have to deal with spam, and spammers. Why? The almighty dollar that's why. Spammers see all that traffic, and think only of the money they could possibly make off it. Thankfully, Twitter is set up in such a way that just because someone wants to read your posts, you don't have to read theirs. There are different levels of involvement, Followers, and Friends. Followers simply see your tweets and that's it. Unless you choose to follow them as well, you don't have to even know about them. Which is nice to keep the amount of spam down.

The other thing is people starting fake Twitter accounts in the name of someone. Like a fake account of a celebrity or athlete, or prominent tech person. For the most part, this is harmless as you can usually tell right away it's a fake, as those who do it tend to either do it for fun and are just having a harmless goof, or THINK they're funny, and are in fact just plain simplistic and sad. Either way, the fake Twitter accounts are kind of silly, and in the end don't get anywhere.

So, as long as there are people on Twitter that I find interesting or are friends of mine, I'll keep tweeting. It's a nice way to communicate, or just get a thought out in the ether for others to digest.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the Grift; or, My Review of Confidence

Tonight, I decided to re-watch the film Confidence starring Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, and Dustin Hoffman. 5 years after it's initial release, and in my opinion, the film still holds up. A great script with a wonderful cast, and tight pacing and direction drive this underrated flick.

Confidence came out in 2003, and I really think part of the reason for it's underrated status is a product of timing. The film plays like an R rated version of Ocean's 11, and being just a couple years behind it, I think a lot of people thought it was a copy cat of a movie, and passed on it. Now while I will agree there are similarities between the two, they really are quite different in tone and feel. Ocean's 11 is very glitzy, tongue-in-cheek and Vegas. Confidence is a little grittier, harsher, streetwise. Both are polished, snappy and funny; but while Ocean's does it with a wink and a nod, Confidence does it with more of a wry grin.

A film like this truly relies on everyone involved knowing their roles and playing their parts to perfection. Just like pulling a con, if any one part falls short, the whole thing collapses. This all starts with the writer. Doug Jung crafted a very tight, and well paced script that twists and turns like a mountain road. The dialog is quick and biting, and believable. I was rather surprised when I looked up Doug Jung on IMDB that he hasn't written more movies. A few TV shows, and another movie coming soon, but I would have expected a couple more under his belt given how well written this one was.

James Foley's direction is also spot on. He does a great job of crafting the script in to a film that is very much a con. Realistic and believable, yet upon subsequent viewings, you see the layers to the narrative and the little quirks that can tip you off to the plot twists and turns ever so subtly.

The cast is truly the heart of a film like this. If you can't buy that these people, you can have the greatest script since The Usual Suspects, and it won't matter. Thankfully, that's not the case here. Edward Burns pulls off the cocky grifter as if he's not even trying to. Rachel Weisz is likable as always for me, you're never really sure if she's playing a scene honestly, or as a grift. Paul Giamatti is wonderful as always. I've always like him in any role he's in, but he's at his best when he's wise-cracking and sarcastic. Dustin Hoffman is a bit over the top, but because it's Hoffman, it doesn't feel like it's too much. A lesser actor would have just felt too campy, Hoffman gives off a different vibe. Brain Van Holt is under utilized, which is a bummer for me personally because I really like his work. Donal Logue and Luis Guzman are fun as LA cops on the take, and Andy Garcia is having a blast as a slightly nutty, off kilter special agent. And check out Leland Orser in the beginning of the movie doing his standard yelling and crazy persona. Always fun.

All in all, I feel Confidence stands up to the better known Ocean's 11 in many ways, while still being it's own movie. A strong script, great cast, and tight editing and direction make this one I bring out every so often to re-watch and enjoy

Monday, March 9, 2009

Beers, Basketball, and Blizzards; or, The Weekend at a Glance

Not much to really say for this past weekend. I did manage to drag myself out to the gym Friday for some basketball, followed by one of the worst nights driving my cab yet. 5 hours of work for 4 fares, one of which tossed their lunch in the back of the van. Thankfully, the guys were nice about it (the sober ones) and actually cleaned up the mess for me. After that, I called it a night and went home.

Saturday night was a lot better as far as work went. It was a fairly busy night, and I made some good money, so I can't complain. But that's really all that happened. Well, that, and I watched 4 episodes of "The Pretender" because I'm addicted to that show. Having the whole run on DVD has been nice, as it's very much a serial show that should be watched in order. I'll most likely have a review coming on that series, possibly in parts as it is 4 seasons and almost 90 episodes long. I also have the two tele-movies coming from Netflix, so I can finish the series in it's entirety.

Sunday came, and it was time to attempt my new culinary project. Corned Beef. I bought a seven and a half pound brisket at the local Sam's Club, and made up a brine all on my own. With a recipe courtesy of my cooking patron, Alton Brown. Said brisket is happily pickling away in the chill chest, and next week will be time for sandwiches and Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Then last night, went down to the local watering hole for some birthday beers for Anna. It was a good time. A few friends showed up, others could not make it. Not that I blame them. We had a blizzard that would have kept Jim Cantori off the roads. Honestly, in the span of a few short hours, well over a foot of snow fell, and I'm pretty sure actual dogs and cats were falling along with it. It was bad, so much so that I got stuck in the road attempting to pull in to my own driveway. Not on the side of the road mind you, but in the middle of it, due to the fact that nary a plow truck had gone by.

And today's weather? Sunny, near forty degrees. All the snow is beginning to melt again. Schizophrenia is difficult to cope with. Even more so when it's the weather that is afflicted. Well, I'm off to prepare for the next bout of winter. Because we all know it's not over yet

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Duck Soup; or, A Great Matinee

I'm always trying to have experiences that maybe I've missed in the past, or never had a chance to enjoy. Whether it's a good concert (see my post about the Clutch show) or a classic film that maybe I haven't seen in a while, or ever. It's even better when I can see that film on a big screen, in a theater. Well, this week was an oppurtunity for just such an experience.

The State Theatre showed the classic Marx Bros. film "Duck Soup" as part of their 25 cent matinee feature. Now, I love classic comedies like those from the Marx Bros., Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and Abbot and Costello. So to see Duck Soup at any time is something I'm going to jump on. And to see it at a place like the State, for a quarter, well, 'nuff said.

It was a pretty good turn out to see it, which made me happy to see right away. It's nice to know there are enough people in this town that will come out to see something as great as that, both old and young. And the film still holds up today, in my opinion. Groucho and Chico's lightning fast verbal comedy, and Harpo's great physical schtick are still hilarious.

All in all, it was a great experience, shared with some good friends, and for less than the price of a pack of gum. Looking forward to the next matinee.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I've spent the last few days in the company of a good friend of mine. Wardo, Dubbya, or Justin, depending on who you talk to. Justin and I have been friends for years now, and sadly, he no longer lives here in the good ol' TC. he's finishing up his degree at GVSU, and because of that, we don't get to hang out as much as we used to.

Hanging out with Justin takes me back to a time when we would do nothing but play video games and watch TV, all while eating chinese food and relaxing. Obviously these aren't things we get to do anymore, jobs, college, and "growing up" have taken the fun of youth away from us. But, for a short time, we could jump in the Way-Back machine, and enjoy the finer things in life.

Getting to relax, blow off some steam, and just enjoy a few days of unfettered play time is much needed, and even better when you can do it without leaving home, and saving a bit of money. What's better is that with my current work schedule, I get 3 day weekends (which run Sunday through Tuesday, and I don't start work until evenings on Wednesday) that I am able to do this type of thing more often.

I am looking forward to using this type of schedule to my advantage. I'm getting better about updating this here blog that both of you are reading. As well as working on finally getting some video and audio projects started. I now have sufficient equipment to get things going, certainly not professional gear, but I can at least get a start. For the past few years, I haven't had the means to get even entry level recording gear. I still need a better camera (both video and still), but I have the ability to record decent audio, and will do so starting soon.

I'll keep this blog as my repository for all updates as to what I'm up to, as well as my random brain dumps. So check back, or even better, subscribe. Hopefully I will have better things to write about, and maybe even be entertaining (that's the goal after all)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pure Rock Fury; or, Clutch in Concert

So, last Friday (which was the 20th of February mind you) I went to a concert. Clutch was playing in town for what was I believe the third time or so. Given the size of my hometown, that's saying something. Well, I've missed them each time they've come to town, as well as when I lived in Orlando, and they played at a local club there for 2.5 hours. So, this time, I was going. I took the night off work, and Anna and I made the trek out to The Terminal (formerly Streeters). All I can say is that it was completely worth the $25 per ticket.

There were 3 opening acts, well, 2 really. The third was Clutch's side project "The Bakerton Group". The first act was a metal band called "Red Fang". They were okay, but nothing special. Basically just a bunch of old metal guys, or at least that's how it looked. It was pretty bland metal, and not really worth much more than as an opening act. Don't get me wrong, I give them credit, they're out there touring, doing their thing. It was just not that great.

Act 2 however, was something different, and worth the trip to the concert all by itself. "The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. A three piece bluegrass/blues/rock band that just blew me away. Their energy and showmanship was awesome. Guitar, Washboard, and Drums, and a pretty big sound for such a small band. With songs like "Your Cousin's on Cops" and "Is It the DT's, or the Devil?" I was hooked. Will be buying their work very soon.

Then The Bakerton Group came on. This band is comprised of the same members as that of Clutch, but it's all instrumental, and slightly more blues influenced. Very very good, with nice grooves, and a good flow. I'm definitly looking up their music and going to find some of it.

After about a half hour of The Bakerton Group, the boys took a short break, and then the Clutch set began. Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes later, they ended. And my ass had been kicked. While I was hoping for a couple of songs in particular (Cypress Grove and Big News I respectively), I wasn't surprised to put off that I didn't hear them. After all, Clutch has a library spanning 17 or 18 years of material. But it was an amazing show, lots of great energy, lots of good music, and worth every penny of the admission price.

If you get a chance to see Clutch in concert, do so. It's worth making a road trip, and you won't be disappointed. I know I wasn't.