Category Archives: Review

The Decemberists’ “The Hazards of Love” Revisited

One of the most popular posts on my blog – and by far the most commented, is “The Decemberists’ “The Hazards of Love”: An Interpretation.” Even though it was written and published in March of 2009, it continues to receive comments and pageviews. This week, I was listening to the album again and I spotted something I’d never realized before. I found a theme I’d previously missed.

The story “The Hazards of Love” is a complete saga with well rounded characters with clear motivation. It exists in two acts. There are several layers of potential analysis, from character depth to allusion. “The Hazards of Love” itself is the title of four distinct un-thematically related songs on the disc. It bothered me only for a moment that Colin and company would reuse the song title so often for no clear purpose, but alas, this weekend, I finally found the connection.

The four songs entitled “The Hazards of Love” all describe a different “hazard” of love!

The first song, “The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone)” represents lust. It’s Lust that drive William and Margaret together, that keeps her riding out past Offa’s Wall to meet him, and ultimately leads to her bearing his fruit. Perhaps a little uptight to view lust as a “hazard”? In the age of The Situation and Snooki, sure. In the age of William and Margaret? Sin!

“The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)” represents jealousy. Bear with me: I know the Queen doesn’t discover William and Margaret’s affair in this song, but it’s during this episode that she will catch them. The hazard, in this case, is that others will be unable to handle the love. Ultimately, the Queen wants to keep William for herself, and this is the moment she will witness to cement that emotion.

“The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)” represents… wait for it… vengeance, of course. Look at relationships: so quickly they can turn from love to hate. Use whatever cliché you want about the thin line between love and hate, but ultimately, many broken relationship land in hate. Not just hate, but the need to hurt and take revenge. What do The Rake’s children actually do here? Do they terrorize their father? Do they naïvely believe they are returning for his love? Do they kill him? Either way, they get their revenge by depriving him of Margaret.

Lastly, we have the heart-wrenching “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”. It’s easy to categorize this one: loss. It’s maybe as simple as just the loss of a single moment, hour, or day with someone when you are in love, but in this case, it’s illustrated in the extreme: William has promised his earthly bones to Annan Water, and Margaret tragically sacrifices herself – and possibly her baby – to be with William for eternity. Of course, the eagle-eyed December-head will know that the baby is probably doomed destined to be rescued by the Queen from the reedy glen, but Margaret, any way you slice it, meets her end. Love’s power is too great, and she is unable to live without her “true love” William.

You could probably write 20 short analyses of “The Hazards of Love” without duplicating content. I like to think that Colin Meloy and crew put some serious thought into this story and loaded it with Easter Eggs that are neither confirmed nor denied so as to leave the story up for interpretation. During “The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)”, I nearly bust out of my seat picturing William swashbuckling through the jungle on the dark side of Annan Water to save our heroine from The Rake. I LOVE the story and the music. So, while I don’t necessarily think that it was the intent to illustrate four different literal “hazards of love,” I think it’s both fascinating and incredible that it’s possible to construct and support the theory at all.

Vista: A Year Later

I’ve been running Windows Vista at work for about a year now.  I’ve blogged about Windows Vista before, and I’ve been mostly let down by it.   But I’m here to confess today that Vista has overtaken XP for me.  Yep, it’s true.  I kinda dig Vista.  

If you perouse the internet, you’ll see – pretty much everywhere – that Vista sucks. You’ll also see a super harsh, super successful Mac compaign aimied squarely at the PC and Vista, and you’ll see Microsoft abandoning the name “Vista” in their marketing initiatives in favor of their new “Windows, not Walls” slogan.  Lastly, you’ll see Steve Ballmer telling you that waiting for Windows 7 is okay by him.  So Vista, by pretty much all accounts, is a flop.

When I first began using Vista in February of this year, it was killing me.  Application after application wouldn’t install.  UAC prompts were bombarding me faster than I could “ok” them.  The system couldn’t copy across the network faster than I could retype my documents (it seemed, at least).   It was absolutely unusable.  

Almost a year later, I have to say, I’m really at home in Vista.  I’ve only ever seen 1 blue screen event, and, ironically, it was due to Apple’s iTunes 8 Vista USb driver fiasco.  Service Pack 1 fixed the network copying issues, pretty much every app has goten situated so that it works in Vista, the icon previews are nice, and there are only a few remaining annoyances; but XP has plenty of those too.  

I’m a Mac guy at heart, but truthfully, Vista is the prettiest Microsoft OS ever to come out of Redmond.  Whereas with XP I had to disable Luna just to not want to poke my eyes out, Aero is smooth and comforting.  The ribbon has grown on me, and the system doesn’t gradually become slower and slower, at least as fast as a naked XP box will.  

So there ya go – Vista is a decent product, albeit, after 2 years in the market.  I’d still recommend people wait for Windows 7 – no point in training users and getting them comfortable if Windows 7 will be a fraction of what the E7Blog is suggesting.  But the Vista/Windows 2008 combo is a good one.  I’m not suggesting it beats Leopard, but it’s certainly better than XP/2003.

New Bloglines Beta

Bloglines released a new “skin” on their Bloglines Beta this week.  Having been tied to the speed, look, and feel of the live bloglines.com, I decided to give it another shot.  Let me tell you, this one is head and shoulders better than the previous version.  Here are a few notes.

New Bloglines, Pretty Good!

First of all, the default skin is really nice.  Unlike the last one, this one is a little more “Plastik” and a little less glass.  I may be making this up – but since the entire experience is smoother, it feels lighter and more responsive.  The slow “clicking” of posts is gone.  Whereas before, if you scrolled down in Opera and other browsers it would slowly chunk down the page, it now scrolls smoothly and easily, without effort.

The fonts and basic layout are both familiar and attractive, and the javascript is very pleasant in its fading and other dynamic effects.

This is the first of the Bloglines betas that I could use everyday and the first I prefer to the live site.  Way to go, Bloglines team.

The Problem(s) With American Idol

EW.com is running a piece on possible changes to American Idol. American Idol is – as we speak – jumping the shark. Everyone is trying to predict why. I’m going to give you all the reasons right now.

## 1 ##
First and foremost, as Howard Stern said in his broadcast yesterday, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Idol used to be one hour for the contest, 30 minutes for results. This season, it was 2 hours for the performances, 1 hour for results. The results shows are way too long, way too cheesy, the divisions are contrived, the call-taking is stupid, the banter is obnoxious and worthless, and the results are purposely not revealed until the last 2 minutes. In the beginning of the season, it aired thrice a week in 2 hour specials, requiring a SIX hour commitment. And most of the funny “bad” auditions are now from actors trying to be bad to get on TV, making it mostly worthless. Recently, the performance shows have slowly scaled back in time, but should just be performances. Which leads me to…

## 2##
The guest judges are mostly worthless. It used to be they were actual judges. Now they are “coaches.” But those bits are worthless to me, because I’m judging the singing, not the singer, and the producers are making the contestants into people, thereby making the show a popularity contest. That means the winner is not the best singer (as evidenced by Carly’s recent ouster), but rather, the one who inspires the most phone calls. And since it’s mostly younger people calling and texting, the winner is really just whomever 14 year old girls like, explaining the continued success of the entirely mediocre, completely clumsy “Close-eye” Archuletta, a semi-decent singer who continues to receive over-lauded praise for completely average performances, frequent lip-licking, and lots of awkward laughing. Time to return the general themes like “the 1990s” or “country” or even “anything at all written in this decade.” But instead, we get “Mariah Carey.” Yuck. You do not need a special coach every week. In fact, I’d like to see a singer sing something like they might release. I don’t see most guys singing Mariah Carey songs on their albums. Certainly Andrew Lloyd Webber was a fun coach, but what does being able to – or not being able to – sing his music have to do with being a deserving Idol?

## 3 ##
The judges are completely worthless, even Simon. The judges ought to offer CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Unfortunately, this is what we typically get:

Randy: “It was only a-iiight fah me, dawg. It was only a-iiight. It was pitchy in the front, but you kinda worked it out in the middle, I don’t know if it was your best performance.”
Paula: “Blah blah blah, I’m @#% crazy and make no sense. You look pretty. Blah blah blah.”
Simon: “Dreadful.”

Entirely worthless. I can’t remember the last time I heard something like “you need to focus on annuciating better” or “you should try listening to the words of the song a little closer to get a better connection.” How about “You project really well. I’d like to hear some power in your higher notes though”? The judges should be wholesale replaced. They all are completely and totally tired, boring, and empty. They do no good. Their only job, it appears, is to pimp the producers’ predestined candidate.

## 4 ##
Stop allowing unlimited votes. Period. Limit it to 10 votes per number. Or 1 vote per household. Or 2 texts per phone. Something, anything, to prevent speed dialing tween girls from monopolizing the vote. I know, I know, they are your target, since they are the only ones dumb enough to buy your pre-packaged, vanilla, over styled, dumbed down package you’ll eventually call the Idol, but you condescend to us and we lose interest. We all know when someone has been chosen by the producers to fail and when someone has been blessed by Mr. Lythgoe to succeed.

## 5 ##
Last but not least, get rid of your silly “mosh-pit.” The screaming and over-abundance of teenagers just reminds me, and a large part of your audience, that we are not your target, and we should really be moving on to a new channel IINS.

A Review of Online Photo Services

Some time ago, I switched to Google’s Picasa Web Albums online photo management software. Although it’s simple to use, Picasa Web has been missing too many features for too long, and after Google locked me out of their software for a few days due to a bug of some sort, and their iPhoto plug-in stopped working, I decided it was time to start checking out the alternatives. I have played with a few services, and judged them based on a number of criteria, including these 15 questions:

1. How easy is it to do batch uploads?
2. Are there decent Mac and Windows upload tools?
3. Does it work in all major browsers (Opera and Safari are both important)
4. Will the default display scale to upwards of 2500 photos?
5. How fast does each page load?
6. Is the image scaled down? If so, is the original available?
7. Is it a fly-by-night startup that I can count on to be around?
8. How much does it cost for a pro membership, if anything? What are the benefits?
9. What are my storage requirements?
10. What is my traffic/bandwidth limit, if any?
11. Are there integrated ads?
12. How easy is it for others to access my photos?
13. Is there any sort of privacy?
14. What type of tools exist for me to manage my photos once they are online?
15. Is there some sort of embed/slideshow for my webpages?

I’ve tested the following services: Picasa Web Albums, Flickr, Zoto, Zooomr, SmugMug, Photobucket, Facebook, and MySpace. Read on for my initial results.
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Six Movies That Are Supposed To Be Funny… But Aren't

Scary Movie 3
From (at least part of the) team that brought you Airplane comes a new stinker that still riffs off other movies but instead draws on recycled crap like poking fun of Michael Jackson. This movie couldn’t have been dumber if they tried. There is nothing witty, nothing funny, and nothing original about Scary Movie 3, in which they parody – if it can be called that – Signs, The Ring, 8 Mile, to name a few. Skip this one – see parts 1, 2, and 4.

Talladega Nights
#1 NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby stays atop the heap thanks to a pact with his best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton, Jr. But when a French Formula One driver, makes his way up the ladder, Ricky Bobby’s talent and devotion are put to the test.” That’s about as much of my brain as I care to devote to Talladega Nights, which is about as dumb as a movie can get. Despite hoardes of devout twenty-somethings spouting off the lines to this film like a classic Family Guy episode, there is no actual comedy here, just ridiculousness trying to pass as comedy. The whole “Dear sweet baby Jesus” thing was never funny and still isn’t. I find Will Ferrell both funny and entertaining, but in this film, he’s neither.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
I’ll probably take some heat for this one, but Ace Ventura was just not very funny to me. The only comedy in the film was watching Jim Carrey’s crazy plastic face contort. I actually find Jim Carrey to be a very entertaining person and I was really blown away by Eternal Sunset of the Spotless Mind, but his earlier comedy like this and its eponymous sequel pandered to the lowest chuckles in its teenage target crowd.

Waterboy
I have to admit I’ve never made it entirely through this film in one sitting. But be fair: it’s only because it sucks so bad. Let me get this straight: we’re supposed to laugh at Adam Sandler acting like a retard for an hour forty straight? Sucked. Let’s not forget about Rob Schneider. This guy is actually funny – or at least, used to be – and is so unfunny he could make a clown cry.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Borat, although the hardcore call it a two hour laughfest, is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I am a huge Ali G fan – I’ve seen pretty much every episode of the HBO show and laughed hysterically through most of them. I have literally fallen out of my chair laughing at Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters. Then why did they release this piece of shit? Borat was, since its inception, about parody – putting people in uncomfortable positions and/or exposing their true, crazy beliefs. Then why have a movie where only about 10% is donated to that success formula and the rest to a stupid subplot, replete with bad acting, a drifting story, and a fat, hairy Russian’s asshole in your face? While some will call this a classic, I will call it what it actually is: shit. I pray – literally pray – that Cohen doesn’t eff up Bruno like he did Borat. Bruno is fantastic.

Epic Movie
This 2007 film played off the success of Scary Movie, Date Movie, and other satire flicks by working off the material Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chronicles of Narnia, Nacho Libre, X-Men, Superman and a slew of other action flicks provided. Unfortuntely, this movie was so boring I had to resort to slicing my eyes open with the edge of my Twizzler bag to stay awake. This movie doesn’t suck, it’s just so unfunny and boring you may find yourself on the edge of a psychotic break. Fo reals. Epic Movie contains fewer that 5 laughs, and those are:
1. Laughing at yourself for buying a ticket
2. Laughing at the actors for demeaning themselves so
3. Laughing at the writers for thinking this was going to be funny
4. Laughing at the fact that you are still watching the movie

Do yourself a favor, and instead of watching this movie on Friday, kill yourself. It’s easier.

Six Movies That Are Supposed To Be Funny… But Aren’t

Scary Movie 3
From (at least part of the) team that brought you Airplane comes a new stinker that still riffs off other movies but instead draws on recycled crap like poking fun of Michael Jackson. This movie couldn’t have been dumber if they tried. There is nothing witty, nothing funny, and nothing original about Scary Movie 3, in which they parody – if it can be called that – Signs, The Ring, 8 Mile, to name a few. Skip this one – see parts 1, 2, and 4.

Talladega Nights
#1 NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby stays atop the heap thanks to a pact with his best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton, Jr. But when a French Formula One driver, makes his way up the ladder, Ricky Bobby’s talent and devotion are put to the test.” That’s about as much of my brain as I care to devote to Talladega Nights, which is about as dumb as a movie can get. Despite hoardes of devout twenty-somethings spouting off the lines to this film like a classic Family Guy episode, there is no actual comedy here, just ridiculousness trying to pass as comedy. The whole “Dear sweet baby Jesus” thing was never funny and still isn’t. I find Will Ferrell both funny and entertaining, but in this film, he’s neither.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
I’ll probably take some heat for this one, but Ace Ventura was just not very funny to me. The only comedy in the film was watching Jim Carrey’s crazy plastic face contort. I actually find Jim Carrey to be a very entertaining person and I was really blown away by Eternal Sunset of the Spotless Mind, but his earlier comedy like this and its eponymous sequel pandered to the lowest chuckles in its teenage target crowd.

Waterboy
I have to admit I’ve never made it entirely through this film in one sitting. But be fair: it’s only because it sucks so bad. Let me get this straight: we’re supposed to laugh at Adam Sandler acting like a retard for an hour forty straight? Sucked. Let’s not forget about Rob Schneider. This guy is actually funny – or at least, used to be – and is so unfunny he could make a clown cry.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Borat, although the hardcore call it a two hour laughfest, is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I am a huge Ali G fan – I’ve seen pretty much every episode of the HBO show and laughed hysterically through most of them. I have literally fallen out of my chair laughing at Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters. Then why did they release this piece of shit? Borat was, since its inception, about parody – putting people in uncomfortable positions and/or exposing their true, crazy beliefs. Then why have a movie where only about 10% is donated to that success formula and the rest to a stupid subplot, replete with bad acting, a drifting story, and a fat, hairy Russian’s asshole in your face? While some will call this a classic, I will call it what it actually is: shit. I pray – literally pray – that Cohen doesn’t eff up Bruno like he did Borat. Bruno is fantastic.

Epic Movie
This 2007 film played off the success of Scary Movie, Date Movie, and other satire flicks by working off the material Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chronicles of Narnia, Nacho Libre, X-Men, Superman and a slew of other action flicks provided. Unfortuntely, this movie was so boring I had to resort to slicing my eyes open with the edge of my Twizzler bag to stay awake. This movie doesn’t suck, it’s just so unfunny and boring you may find yourself on the edge of a psychotic break. Fo reals. Epic Movie contains fewer that 5 laughs, and those are:
1. Laughing at yourself for buying a ticket
2. Laughing at the actors for demeaning themselves so
3. Laughing at the writers for thinking this was going to be funny
4. Laughing at the fact that you are still watching the movie

Do yourself a favor, and instead of watching this movie on Friday, kill yourself. It’s easier.