December 18, 2009

The website mowjcamp.org hacked by Iranian cyber terrorists

Full article by me on Examiner.com:
Twitter hacked by Iranian Cyber Army - http://tinyurl.com/y96m435

November 3, 2009

The Geeks and Tech of Mad Men

This device isn't a spaceship, its a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards... It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. Its not called "the wheel", its called "The Carousel". It lets us travel the way a child travels - around and around, and then back home again to a place where we know we are loved."

~ Don Draper doing the presentation for the Kodak Carousel slide projector

I love this scene from AMC's show Mad Men Season 2 not only because it shows Don's genius with advertising and presentation, but it really shows the impact that technology can have on our lives and families. In the scene, Don sells the concept of the name and logo of "The Carousel" to the Kodak execs. Old family slides scroll past of his kids and Don's early family life in chronological order as he gives his presentation. As the slides go by, the power of the small piece of equipment had the power to give every man in the room watery eyes by the end. Needless to say the presentation was a success.

The show introduces many aspects of the conception and birth of the information age in the early '60s as well as the change of many social and moral though patterns in the US. Since I'm a geek, I'm going to concentrate on more of the tech aspect of Mad Men.

Manual vs. Automated

Some of the scenes that impact me the most on the show are the large amount of manual work that they do in the office. These days we have become so used to instant email, Blackberries that push information to us and instant access to statistics, a world full of Wikipedias, self updating news sources and never ending information on the Internet, that we (especially younger people) have forgotten about the days of rotary phones, carbon copies and manual typewriters. It blows my mind to think that businesses worked with any kind of efficiency this way.

One thing to remember is that Sterling Cooper is being portraid as one of the top tier ad agencies on Madison Ave. during that time and they had cutting edge technology as soon as it came out. For example, Sterling Cooper has cutting edge electric typewriters (as shown in the pilot) whereas most businesses were still working with manual typewriters at that time. The one big geek moment in the show was when they got the brand new Xerox copier machine that they had to store out in the hallway it was so big. Apparently tech was a big deal to Sterling Cooper as they thought it gave them the advantage over all the other ad agencies as it continues to be to this day. Businesses are always looking for the latest and fastest computers, most efficient machinery and latest social media marketing strategies to get that slight edge over the next guy.

Phones and Communication

Man Men also shows me just how completely reliant we are on phones and instant communication these days. We, don't even think about what we would do without our precious cell phone and internet tethered to our bodies everywhere we went. I love how in one of the episodes, Pete thought he was so high tech talking on the wired rotary phone brought out to him by a swimming pool. What should we do? How about TURN IT OFF every once in a while and go outside and take a walk. I'm talking to myself as much as anyone else.

New laws are being implemented state by state to start fining people for talking on cell phones while driving. Even more recently, an article on Mobile Crunch talked about $150 fines in New York and even one woman serving 21 months in prison for killing someone while texting and driving.

I guess Mad Men just makes me wish I could live back in those days again sometimes where things were simpler. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my technology, but I like to keep things in perspective too. I think we all need to take a look back at history and maybe start taking a few simple steps to uncomplicate your life and be ready for the day that may come in the future where our precious tech gadgets will be useless. Anyhoo... just a thought.

Advertising and media in our lives

Books could be written about the psychology, research and effectiveness of advertising and media and how it has, or should be used in marketing. Mad Men touches the tip of the iceburg, teaching us how graphic design, layout and media has been used over the years in advertising. One of the main concepts that the business of advertising and marketing has learned over the years (and that seems to be the philosophy of Don Draper as well) is that it all boils down to making the viewer/reader feel something. If an advertisement, piece of technology or software makes your feel: loved, nostalgic, hate, horny, or jealous then you will want/desire/ache for that product.

Peggy Olson: Sex sells.

Don Draper: Says who? Just so you know, the people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this. They take all this monkey crap and stick it in a briefcase, completely unaware that their success depends on something more than shoeshine.

Don Draper: You are the product. (Its) you, feeling something. That’s what sells. Not them. Not sex. They can’t do what we do and they hate us for it.

Photo copyright AMC (American Movie Classics) 2007

October 26, 2009

My Uncle The Spy (Part III)

"That last catch was swell Neil!"

A young guy in a letter jacket opened the door of the old bar in the industrial section of Trussville, Alabama. "Yea, but it was your great block on that running back that cleared the path!", Neil Self said as they all paused in the open doorway. Neil had always been stocky, tough looking, and also fast, a combination that was usually deadly to the opposing team in the game of high school football. Tonight he wore his letter jacket just like all the other guys. "Ladies first!" Neil jokingly said as he shoved his friend inside the dimly lit room. It was a little after 11:00pm and the few remaining patrons sitting at the bar were unshaven dirty steel workers in for a late night drink before going home.

Neil recognized an old farmer sitting alone, a friend of his father. He lived up the (Old) Springville road and had a small cattle farm. Neil had bailed hay for a dollar a day at his farm when he was younger. It was one of his first jobs and he hated it. The farmer had always been kind to him though, and given him a ride home in his old Model T truck at the end of the workday.

Neil and his four buddies approached the bar top and found a seat. "Jimmie, we are celebrating tonight!" The old bar tender got a worried look in his eye but sat down 4 short whiskey glasses. "Hewitt High is going to state!" Neil proclaimed to the rest of the bar as he held up his glass of Jack Daniels. The four chimed in with hoots, hollers and dog barks. A few even growled and snapped their teeth at one of the other patrons sitting at the end of the bar as if they had turned into Huskies (the school mascot) themselves and had found a nice piece of meat to fight over.

They all downed their drinks and slammed them down on the bartop and pointed to their glasses indicating that the bar tender should "keep em comin'!".

A lone figure in suit jacket and undone tie sat in the shadows in a back booth. His eyes posted on the party at the bar as he sipped his beer in silence. He slowly pulled out a coaches play book with a large white Husky bust on the front and wrote four names on the back page.

~----------------------------------------------------~

Neil sat at his desk reading Beowulf in English class. The teacher lectured on about how fantasy stories in medieval literature had helped bring a sort of escape to the common folk when told by the bards and storytellers. "They also served as a warning, or lesson learned for young people that were told by their parents when the children acted up." The teacher looked at Neil with her annoyed glare. Neil laughed to himself and let a slight smile out as he buried his head behind the text book once more.

All of a sudden the classroom door opened and a messenger handed the teacher a note. "Neil Self, you need to report to Coach Smith in the office." A few smirks and whispers were quickly "shushed" by the teacher as Neil closed his English book and gave a smart-alic wave to everyone as he headed out the door.

Approaching the office, through the glass, he saw his head coach and the principal standing in front of his three buddies that were seated on the bench just inside. Neil took breath and opened the door. "Have a seat Neil". The principal motioned to the bench. "So the word has gotten to me that you guys got drunk and started a fight AGAIN last night at Jimmie's bar. I'm not gonna fault Jimmie. He knows you are all underage but the man has to make some money. The blame lies on you Neil. What is this? The fourth time you guys have started trouble? The first was puking on poor old Ms. Abernathy's front porch, then you hit the stone wall at Mr. Chandler's, not to mention the wreakless driving around Trussville scaring people half to death." The coach paused, "The principle and I have determined that this is the last straw for all of you. We've tried suspension and detention, and its just not getting though your hard heads!" the coach rapped hard on Neil's forehead. Then the principle spoke up, "There has been too much pressure from the school board and the PTA, underage drinking is not the type of example that we want to convey at Hewitt Trussville High. You guys are off the team for the rest of the year. And that means no scholarship referrals either."

Neil's mouth dropped. His first thought was what would "Daddy" say when he found out? His plan was to go to Florida State on a football scholarship and continue his education. He thought he had that taken care of. The Self family didn't have any money to pay for college. He was angry not only at the coach, but at himself. He had to find other options...

As he trudged back to his classroom he noticed a brochure hanging on the "Career Board". The bright brochure heralded the glories of the "weekend warrior" in the Alabama National Guard. He could earn scholarship money and even go to school part time while serving his time! He pulled the push pin out of the cork board and stuffed the brochure in his pocket.

Disclaimer: This and the following blog posts are works of fiction written by myself (Josh Self) that are based on real facts both positive and sometimes not so positive from my uncle's real life and choices that he made. The events and characters in this story could have happened but more than likely happened differently than portrayed here. I would like to thank the family and relatives of Neil Self in advance for allowing this artistic liberty in the spirit of a tribute to his life and an attempt to keep his memory alive through story.

October 25, 2009

My Uncle The Spy (Part II)

US tanks (foreground) face Soviet tanks at Checkpoint Charlie, on October 27-28, 1961Outskirts of West Berlin, West Germany
10:37 pm August 30th, 1961

The stench of diesel exhaust filled the air. It had snowed the day before and the streets were still icy. Smokey clouds of CO2 puffed out of the exhaust pipes from the convoy of US Army supply trucks that sat idling on the old cobblestone streets. A few yards ahead, a blockade of spiraled razor wire and torn up streets impeded the movement of the trucks filled with vital humanitarian supplies for the recently over run Communist East Berlin.

"What's taking so long?" Sargent Neil Self muttered to himself as he sat in the cab of the old 1952 model Ford army truck. There was talk of an airlift this month of some new 1960 model trucks in this year for their support detachment. They still hadn't arrived. Fortunately, the heat still worked in the old mule. The temperature outside was a bitter 18 degrees tonight and he for one was thankful for the life giving heat coming off of the engine block.

Apparently there was some kind of misunderstanding about the supplies tonight. They had been delivering these convoys over the past few years as the backlash from the Berlin Airlift had subsided. What Sgt. Self didn't know was that on the morning of August 13, 1961, Berliners awoke to discover that on the orders of East German leader Walter Ulbricht, a barbed wire fence had gone up overnight separating West and East Berlin and preventing movement between the two sides. The barbed wire fence would soon be expanded to include an ominous wall and guard towers. The Berlin Wall would prevent the West from having further influence on the East, stop the flow of migrants out of the communist sector, and ultimately become the most iconic image of the Cold War in Europe.Niel Self (US Army) ca. 1958

Tonight was one of the first convoys after this historic event and they had been ordered to "stand by for further orders" as their commander went in to negotiate with Soviet officials about this latest "crossing".

Sgt. Self tapped his fuel gauge, which was now showing "E". Half of the gas had been used on the 2 hour drive up from the Clay Headquarters Compound on Clayallee in Berlin's Zehlendorf district. He left the truck running and opened the door and stepped out onto the icy sludge. He slammed the door and pulled out a bent Lucky Strike he'd been saving all night behind his ear. The warm flame from his cold metal Zippo kissed the tip of the cigarette and soon the warm smoke of the tobacco filled his lungs. He closed his eyes for second, the nicotine triggering a memory in his neural synapses of a time not too long ago... a night that he will always think about for the rest of his life...

Disclaimer: This and the following blog posts are works of fiction written by myself (Josh Self) that are based on real facts both positive and sometimes not so positive from my uncle's real life and choices that he made. The events and characters in this story could have happened but more than likely happened differently than portrayed here. I would like to thank the family and relatives of Neil Self in advance for allowing this artistic liberty in the spirit of a tribute to his life and an attempt to keep his memory alive through story.

October 21, 2009

My Uncle The Spy (Part I)

"(Important) families are like potatoes. The best parts are underground."
-- Francis Bacon

So it was with my uncle Neil...

He passed away a few years ago of a heart condition (that seems to run in our family) and I couldn't make it to his funeral that day for some insignificant reason or another. I've always felt bad for not going and not getting to see him the last few days of his life (but more about that later). Then before my aunt passed away last year of Parkinson's she gave our family some of the few remaining possessions that my uncle had kept around for a few years stored in a back closet, forgotten for years. The first item was a '50s era Army gas mask that is still usable in case of the next bio / nuclear attack. I thought it was cool and useful so I claimed it and use it mostly for a wardrobe prop for my short films.

But, the most mysterious item that was passed down to our family was a strange brown leather briefcase. It sat in the garage on top of my dad's tool cabinet until I happened to see it one day. I found a chair from the kitchen and retrieved it from the dark recesses of the shelf. It was slightly moldy, the hinges rusty with age. I noticed several stickers from moving companies and airlines that were still hanging on, the sticky all dried up and crumbling indicating that it was well traveled. I cleared a small area on my dad's work bench and attempted to open the clasps on the front to allow me to access the mysteries that were hidden within.

The first one flipped open so quickly that it startled me! I started to get excited about finding out what was inside, so I tried the second one and was disappointed to find that it was very rusty and wouldn't even budge. Luckily my dad's "cure-all" was within arms reach. I attached the tiny red straw to the nozzle and sprayed a quick burst of WD-40 into the lock mechanism. I wiggled the open button back and forth a little but no luck. The clasp was actually locked. How do I unlock this? Where is the key? I knew some locksmithing basics (not enough to do anything illegal unfortunately) and remembered that most (older) briefcase locks were kept locked with a simple 1-3 pin tumbler and there are not that many variations of that kind of key. Luckily this one looked and felt like a one pin.

I had an old key from another briefcase that I owned that had one pin. I already had a slight inclination that this key wouldn't work, but i was going to try it anyway. I slowly inserted the key into the keyhole. IT FIT! That was only the first step. As I slowly turned it, i heard a grinding sound. The key begrudgingly turned and finally, after some wiggling, got it all the way around clockwise. Could it be?! I tugged on the clasp button feeling the grinding of the small metal parts inside. The brass flap flipped open, also flipping some WD-40 in my eye. Small price to pay for the final revelation of the contents of the mysterious briefcase. I pulled the old key out and slowly raised the top of the moldy briefcase. As the sunlight from the garage window slowly leaked in to the inner bowels of the case, I heard a metallic scraping and then a sharp metal object sliced out at me from the darkness. I quickly drew my hand back noticing a small red cut on my finger as the top fell closed once again...

To be continued...

photo by Dunechaser

Disclaimer: This and the following blog posts are works of fiction written by myself (Josh Self) that are based on real facts both positive and sometimes not so positive from my uncle's real life and choices that he made. The events and characters in this story could have happened but more than likely happened differently than portrayed here. I would like to thank the family and relatives of Neil Self in advance for allowing this artistic liberty in the spirit of a tribute to his life and an attempt to keep his memory alive through story.

September 9, 2009

Is Steampunk Dead?


Victorian costumes, airships, steam engines, bizarre old yet modern weapons, fueled by a little magic or Æther... The awesome Steampunk subculture has been a part of my life since I played my first Myst game on PC and I watched The City of Lost Children wide eyed.

Steampunk movies like Sleepy Hollow, City of Lost Children, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Army of Darkness (although more Dieselpunk) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have always been some of my favorite movies. I am a member of steampunk groups on SecondLife, I read steampunk books, watch steampunk anime (Steamboy), play steampunk games (Myst / Riven, Thief, Final Fantasy) and now recently I have started making my own weapons, jewelry and costumes (for Halloween this year), (yes, I am a nerd).

The Rumors

Something has been worrying me. I hear rumors that Steampunk is dead. Internet forums, blogs like Gizmodo and other naysayers are announcing the death of steampunk. Their reasons... you can only make so many modified weapons, tea kettles, and "steampunkified" normal everyday gadgets for one lifetime.

But, gadgets are only a small part of the sub-culture. Alternate history, costumes, games, fiction books and writing, and Internet steampunk culture (like groups on SecondLife, blogs, and forums) continue to thrive and inspire new creative works. The most recent being a new book by George Mann called The Affinity Bridge (thanks to my friend Sara for the heads up) which was just released last month (July 9th, 2009).



The Evidence

There are also a few new steampunk style movies that have been released recently. Most notable are the 2007 adaptation of Neil Gaiman's book Stardust, The Golden Compass, the adaptation of Jeanne DuPrau's teen books City of Ember and most recently Focus Feature's "9" in which a group of sapient rag dolls, living a post-apocalyptic existence find one of their own, 9 (Elijah Wood), who displays leadership qualities that may help them to survive.

The uberpopular handmade craft selling site Etsy is also full of steampunk art, jewelry and creations that are very popular and sell on a regular basis. I also see steampunk art seeping into mixed media conventional art pieces, photography and mainstream jewelry.

So to all of you naysayers (I just like that word), I say Nay! Don your goggles, fire up the airship! Steampunk is not dead!

Disagree? Leave me a comment...

August 20, 2009

The Evolution of the Geek and Nerd T-Shirt


I thought I would show off some of my favorite geek / nerd t-shirts that I have or would like to receive as a gift from someone who cares... :-)

The Evolution of the Nerd Shirt...

The beginnings of collectible t-shirts started with the concert shirts of the 60's and 70's. Bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin always had great album art and record companies eventually realized that they could make a little extra money by merchandising these bands at their live concerts with t-shirts that could only be bought at the show. They became collectible because of this reason. During that time, if you had the t-shirt, then you had actually been to that concert. I would say that was something to brag about. Pop groups jumped on the band wagon of merchandising soon after and the industry has always done it since.

The Computer Age Nerd Shirt...

In the early 80's Atari introduced one of the world's first console gaming systems as well as an affordable home computer system. This began the age of computers being introduced into the pop culture scene. Some of the first computer shirts were created for marketing purposes and to create buzz at trade shows by some of the early business computer and software companies like: Apple, Amiga, IBM and business software like Turbo Pascal, Lotus 1-2-3, IBM's OS2. These shirts are extremely rare now but you can get replicas of some of these from online vendors like Wearpower.com's Axis T-shirts. Ebay is also a great place to search for some of these. Be advised, most shirts on Ebay are replicas. A true vintage early computer marketing t-shirt is a great find if you can get your hands on them.

Vintage Toys Shirts

The late 70's and early were ripe with cool new toys that included marketing and promotion with t-shirts for fans that could be purchased. Some examples would be toys like: GI Joe, Transformers, Smurfs, Barbie, and Sci-Fi and horror movie merch like Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Gremlins, Flash Gordon, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and others from the late 70's and early 80's. Originals are true rarities these days and often go for over $50 if in good wearable condition.

Modern Gaming and Comic Shirts

We've all seen these around. Almost every comic book character and video game has their own fleet of shirts. In fact these are so common these days, that you can buy most at your local Wal-Mart and dollar stores. This is an example of saturating the market, making something that could be cool and bringing it close to the "sell out" category. There are some rarities out there. I would consider some games like Myst (replica's here) and some of the early ground breaking games like id software's Doom, or Wolfenstein to be very collectible. These companies didn't have alot of extra money for marketing and promotion early on therefore authentic t-shirts with these logos would be considered rare. (BTW if you find a vintage Myst or Riven t-shirt, send me the link!). A few of the popular designs right now are WOW (World of Warcraft) and Halo.

Sarcastic Geek and Funny Nerd Shirts


This is currently my favorite category right now and includes shirts that you have inside information and you have to know about the topic or be semi-intelligent to understand the humor or message of the shirt. One of the original innovators of the funny geek shirt are open source programs and operating systems like Linux. The Linux penguin and shirts that reference Linux commands or functions are funny to me. For example, the original Sudo Make Me A Sandwich shirt on the left.

I'm liking the new Twitter shirts and any "insider" type funny shirts like those here on X-tremeGeek.com and ThinkGeek.com. There are a plethora of new Twitter and Social Networking shirts out now that are hilarious. Find some on CafePress. So welcome to the world of geek / nerd shirts.

If you have and suggestions or links to other cool and funny shirts that I should add here, leave me a comment...

July 21, 2009

How Google Maps Saved My Marraige


So, I'm back. Where did I go? Oh, you didn't miss me while I was gone on my honeymoon? That's alright, I didn't forget about you guys... just taking some chill out time with my new wife @Andrea915 now Andrea Self (as soon as she gets her new Social Security card). We had a great time and got to visit all the cool places that I mentioned below (Outer Banks, NC; Washington DC; and Philadelphia). Now we're getting everything moved in and starting to plan for this new "together" thing. Other than the fact that she wants to throw out all my cool posters and collections, I think we're getting along fine.

Thanks to everyone who came to the wedding and contributed to our new life. We got alot of great gifts and got to see alot of friends and family that we hadn't seen in a while.

There was one thing that really saved a lot of fights during our honeymoon. Believe it or not it was a little piece of software from a little company called Google called Google Maps. I used Google Maps every day during our honeymoon to navigate and find our way around the strange an large cities that we were visiting. The version I used was on my Blackberry Curve 8330 and it worked perfectly every time updating in almost real time with the GPS function as to what road we were on. The only time it even tried to flake out for a second was in the rural town of Legget, North Carolina where we stayed at our friend's plantation house called Cedar Lane. (Check out some pics of this awesome historic house on my Flickr page) And I assumed that we only had one tower in the area so it couldn't triangulate my position. I also actually set up Google Latitude on my phone to follow us around so people could see where we were real time during our expeditions around the east coast.

After that, we used Google Maps and my Blackberry to navigate the streets of Philadelphia (isn't that a Bruce Springsteen song?) flawlessly. I looked like I knew where I was going and my wife believed I was an exellent navigator for the week. So, thank you Google. You've saved another marraige (yea, they're in the business of saving marraiges too... didn't you know?).

June 22, 2009

Geek Gear For A Roadtrip

Well, as most of you know, I'm getting married this week to my fiance Andrea and we are taking a road trip / honeymoon to Washington DC and Philly. So I wanted to share with you guys some essential gadgets and geek gear that I will be taking along with me to stay connected during the trip. Most of these involve my laptops and staying connected to the Internet and Wi-Fi while we're on the road. So essential #1 is:

The Laptop

This is probably the most obvious essential for any trip. A wi-fi enabled laptop can be used at a hotel, coffee shop, and even in the car on the freeway (more on this in a minute). Most hotels offer free wi-fi on the property with a log in password that they give you when you check in. Also while you're out and about, most coffee shops, airports and some restaurants now even offer free wi-fi to their patrons. Some great businesses offering free wi-fi nation wide are:


Power Inverter


This is an essential survival tool for any geek on the road. A power inverter converts your DC power coming out of your car's battery and electrical system to AC power so you can plug in household devices. Some of the things it allows you to do on the road:

  • use your laptop for an unlimited time
  • recharge your batteries
  • power a small TV and DVD player or gaming system on the go
  • power a small refrigeration device for cold drinks and food on the go
  • plug in lighting for camping or emergencies

Smart Phone


To me this is an essential for the road warrior. The new iPhone 3Gs would be the ideal, but any phone with unlimited Internet access will work. You want to have a backup to get your email or access any emergency contact information that you might need over the net. I personally use the Blackberry Curve 8330. Some essential aps that a road warrior should look into:

  • Google Mobile Ap - available for almost any brand of smart phone out right now. Check all of your Google "stuff" from the road!
  • Viggo - available for Blackberry and HTC. Best RSS and news reader for mobile.
  • Pandora (Mobile) - Pandora is exploding right now. A virtual streaming jukebox for Blackberry, iPhone, PalmPre and WinMo (be sure you have unlimited minutes!)
  • Google Sync - sync your Google calendar and Gmail address book with your phone. Work in the cloud!
  • Facebook Ap - receive and update your status and upload mobile pics from the road... uh yes! essential!
  • Twitterberry (or other Twitter ap) - I would consider this an essential (even though my fiance wouldn't) - tweet from the road, plus upload pics and other Twitter essentials.

Flip Video Camera
(or other sub-compact HD video camera)

This is another essential for on the go video of your trip that can be easily uploaded to YouTube, your blog or web page so you can easily share your trip with family and friends during and after the trip. See my blog GetAFlip for more info.

A Good Book

After being geeky non-stop, take a second to just chill out with a good book, turn a page, stop worrying about where you can connect and just disconnect. Leave the laptop in the hotel room and turn the smart phone off (but keep it in your pocket for emergencies right?)

Spend time with your family / fiance

Especially if its your honeymoon... nuff said ;-)

I'll see you guys after I get back! Thanks for reading.


Photo by Major Clanger / Flickr

June 2, 2009

Riding The Next Google Wave

Last week Google previewed the next step in interactive social media communication called Google Wave. Wave will be a combination of:
  • - cloud document and media sharing
  • - email / threaded email (like Gmail)
  • - instant messaging

But what Wave will add to the mix will be features like:
  • Twitter / social media site search and posting collaboration
  • real time media insertion into blogs and web pages
  • real time typing for all those on a Wave
  • "playback" feature to rewind or forward to see what changes or comments were added in the past.
  • live collaboration wiki style
  • drag and drop files and media into a wave
  • open source API
  • Wave applications like Twave (for integration with Twitter) and other apps being developed later
  • real time spell and grammar checker using the context of the sentence
This could be the first step from just the information age to the interactive information age. It really looks like Google has combined the quasi-real time features of Twitter and Friendfeed with cloud collaboration and added the real time interactivity into it. With many individuals and even families now choosing to leave the "land line" behind and rely on cell phones and their computers for all communication, tools like Wave will become more and more useful and important as we leave old technologies behind.

Old technologies that required us to use multiple steps and to switch between a myriad of different programs are being combined into one with new platforms like Wave. For example:

The old way:
  1. You want to share a picture with your friends
  2. you email you picture as an attachment to your friend
  3. they decide to post the picture on Facebook
  4. your friend Tweets about the picture
  5. another friend emails you asking if they can post the picture to their blog
  6. you email them back telling them its fine...
  7. the picture has to be manually uploaded to the blog and formatted
  8. someone wants to comment on the blog picture but isn't registered with the blog
  9. that someone flame spams your comments because he is the ex-boyfriend of the girl in the picture
  10. etc...
The new way:
  1. You decide to share a picture with your friends
  2. You start a Wave with any friend that has a Google account and post the picture for everyone's approval
  3. You add Twave, Facebook app, and the Bloggy apps to the wave.
  4. people on the Wave comment, delete, or add information in real time
  5. you post the Wave to the Internet (which gets posted to Twitter, FB and your Blog all at the same time in real time.
  6. The other people on the wave can keep the wave moving on by adding more people to the Wave and encouraging more interactivity.
Where we had to use 4 or 5 different tools before (email client, twitter client, FB, FTP or uploader) we now just use Wave to share and collaborate with anyone on the Wave.

The only problem I see with it is that Wave will make the tsunami (pun intended) of information overload that RSS and Twitter have brought to us look a ripple in the pond. Get your surf board waxed up, its gonna be a gnarly ride dude!

May 30, 2009

Its The Final Countdown! (to our wedding)

Some of you may have been wondering why its been so quiet this month. Well, I don't want to give you some lame excuses, but there have been some other things on my plate this month, the biggest one being my soon to be up and coming wedding on June 27th 2009 to my best friend Andrea. I'll refer you to my earlier post about us if you want to read up a little.

So, I've been working on wedding stuff with her. I designed my own wedding invitations, RSVP's (see above) and programs, planned and booked our honeymoon roadtrip and helped her in any way I could (without getting in the way). So, we're in the last stages of doing that stuff and trying to finish up the little things that are left.
Things we still need to do:
  • new springy looking engagement pics (this Sunday)
  • final catering order
  • get fitted for tux
  • get a haircut
  • get marriage license
I'm sure there's more stuff that she has to do but she seems to have it handled. I'm just gonna sit back now and... (yea right!)
I've gotta say, Andrea has done a great job organizing and putting together this wedding. We sent out over 150 invites and have gotten almost 90 RSVPs back. Right now we are looking at a little over 100 peeps coming to our little shindig and we are still waiting on about 50 RSVPs.

Its just been exhausting emotionally, worrying about all these little things we need to do. We both can't wait until June 28th and we head out on our roadtrip to have some fun. Oh, yea, and I know your curious about our honeymoon plans so here's where we are going:
  1. Tutwieler Hotel (Birmingham, AL): historic hotel in Birmingham, on wedding night (I don't know whats going to be happening then... probably watch some TV and order room service ;-)
  2. Outer Banks / Nags Head (North Carolina): Checking out the Wright Brothers memorial and the best beaches on the East Coast.
  3. Washington DC: staying in Arlington, VA actually, which is right across the river, I want to see the National Archives and Library of Congress, she wants to see the boring monuments (JK!)
  4. Philadelphia, PA: staying in another historic hotel in Center City (about 5 blocks from Independence Hall), checking out the Franklin Institute, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, eating some Geno's cheese steaks, fancy dinners and doing our own M. Night Shyamalan film location tour (a film geek idea I came up with that she reluctantly agreed to). Then we're gonna go see a Phillies game. The grand finale will be our last day (July 4th), so we'll be downtown for the festivals, parades and fireworks over the museum and then head out at about 8 or 9pm and drive till we're tired back to Bama.
So, you can see, I've been working like a maniac trying to save up some money for this trip. So, please forgive if you don't hear from The Horse for a few more weeks. Thanks for reading guys and I'll be back real soon with more fun geek info for ya!

My friend Natalie provided me with the title to my blog today (and got that dang song stuck in my head! Thanks Natalie!)

May 14, 2009

New Dan Brown book The Lost Symbol is found!


The Horse has been following rumors of the new Dan Brown book since The Da Vinci Code came out in 2003. Back then, Dan Brown said that he had started working on a new book about Masonic Symbology and Washington DC. So, the official word is finally out, and the word(s) is The Lost Symbol. The date is September 15th and you can preorder from Amazon here at about a 50% discount!:


What is the book going to be about?

According to early rumors from Brown's website, the new book (now The Lost Symbol) will be about Freemasonry and the way it influenced the founding fathers, the Revolutionary War and the founding and layout of Washington DC.

There was also an alleged plot leak that has been confirmed by Doubleday Publishing. The plot leak concerns George Washington and the secret reason for the American reverses (?) early in the Revolutionary War. Also a scholar discovers a secret in Washington's tomb and is murdered by the CIA.
"Brown's promotional website states that puzzles hidden in the book jacket of The Da Vinci Code, including two references to the Kryptos sculpture at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, give hints about the novel's story. This repeats a theme from some of Brown's earlier work. For example, a puzzle at the end of the book Deception Point decrypts to the message, "The Da Vinci Code will surface."
(from Wikipedia)
One other evidence is some of the books that were published a few years ago that hinted at possible plot lines that Brown might use for The Lost Symbol. One of the better books that I read during this time that I definatly recommend, was David A. Shugarts' Secrets of the Widow's Son. This book goes into the complex layout and symbology of Washington DC and details the early American Freemason practices from founding father's like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

Leave me a comment here if you hear any more plot leaks or rumors about The Lost Symbol and give us a quick review of your thoughts on the book after you read it. (If you can read it quicker than I will be reading it!)

May 5, 2009

The Hunt For Gollum debuts online today!

If you haven't heard about the new Lord of the Rings "fan fic" film, The Hunt For Gollum, then you've been out of the loop. This was me Sunday when my sister-in law Hannah told me about it. (Thanks Hannah!) I felt kind of out of the geek loop. But I'm back!

Apparently it has been in production for almost 2 years and was created on a budget of $3000 by writer-director Chris Bouchard with all crew and cast working for free! The film is 40 minutes long and made its debut at SCI-FI-LONDON film festival this past Saturday. As of today the owners have released the film to the public on Dailymotion.com as a free view in HD! I haven't had a chance to watch it all the way through but the trailers are VERY well done, and rival anything that Peter Jackson has done in my opinion. The story from the official website is:
The script is adapted from elements of the appendices of The Lord of the Rings. The story follows the Heir of Isildur; the "greatest huntsman and traveller in Middle Earth" as he sets out to find the creature Gollum. The creature must be found to discover the truth about the Ring, and to protect the future Ringbearer.
The official website has all the great interactive content that a big name film would have plus "making of" and deleted scenes, downloads, stills, banners, etc.

Go right now and watch it! Leave me a comment or review here so everyone can see how awesome it is.

Here's the link to the Dailymotion The Hunt For Gollum channel

Full review of the film coming soon from The Horse (after I get a chance to watch it!)...

April 28, 2009

Air Force One Photo Op Done Dirt Cheap!

You may have heard about the embarrassing photo op FAIL yesterday put on by our pals in the US government. Yes a 747 (now reported to be Air Force One or a replica) escorted by two F-16 was flown at a very low altitude over lower Manhattan, sending New Yorkers into a panic and causing evacuations in many Manhattan buildings.

So, I would like to offer my services to the US Government and the White House to be the official government Photoshop dude. I propose cutting the spending budget of all Federal photo ops by using stock photos and a little of my Photoshop skillz to make some pretty darn believable looking photo ops. This could work with locations as well as pretty much any person that wants to have a photo op with the president or any member of congress.

As the first example of my Federal Photo Op Portfolio, I present to you the Air Force One / Statue of Liberty archival photo of 2009!:

Air Force One Photo op!

I literally created this manipulation in about 5 minutes with some help from Google Images and Photoshop CS3's Magic Wand to show everyone how easy this would have been for a "real" Photoshop expert to create. No one could ever tell the difference! Notice, I didn't even white balance or correct the exposure or shadows on the little Air Force One. But if I had not have pointed that out, 99% of people looking at this wouldn't have cared. The light source on the F-16s was pretty spot on! I should have played with it more but I wanted to show what 5 minutes of my intermediate Photoshop skills could do.

Come on! Lets stop being wasteful with our money, AND lets keep our population informed. People get freaked out when they are not informed. And that's how the blanket of socialism takes over... just a thought... from The Horse's mouth.

(Disclaimer: I do not own these original photos. They have been combined together for parody purposes. This is a derivative work which I have reason to believe may be protected by parody laws. If the owner of these photos decides to come forward, I will gladly remove them from this site.)

April 20, 2009

Summer Movies That Are Going To Rock Your Face Off!

This summer the movie studios have pulled out all the stops in the Action - Adventure genre for the summer blockbuster season. I'm just going to go ahead and say that May is going to ROCK YOUR FACE OFF!

So you've heard about the rumors and the hopeful release dates. I've got em all right here complied for you on The Horse. It looks like there's going to be at least one AWESOME geek movie released every single Friday night in May and more coming in June and July. So I'll start you off by telling you what "Josh" is going to see and I'll link you to a trailer for each of them. (no need to thank me...)

  • May 1: X-Men Origins: Wolverine: (trailer here) staring Hugh Jackman (duh) and Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth. We see the start of Wolverine and his early story of the military conversion of mutants into killing machines and evolution into his X-Men character. Other characters we will finally see are: Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), William Stryker (Danny Huston). Directed by Gavin Hood. News flash rumor mill! Apparently the unfinished movie has been leaked onto bit torrent sites already and was rumored to be one of the causes leading to the arrest interrogation of the owners of the Swedish The Pirate Bay warez and pirate peer to peer site last week. I chose to "not participate" and watch it in the theaters.
  • May 8: Star Trek: (trailer here)Probably the most anticipated movie of the summer. JJ Abrams (Lost, Fringe, Cloverfield) directs in this prequel staring Chris Pine (Smokin' Aces) as James T. Kirk and Zachery Quinto ("Sylar" on Heroes) as Spock. Fans have been waiting for this prequel for a long time. This is going to be huge!
  • May 15th: Angels and Demons: (trailer here)Adaptation of Dan Brown's earlier (and better in my opinion) book and follow up to Ron Howard's adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. Howard returns to direct Tom Hanks (returning as Robert Langdon), Ewan McGregor and Stellen Skarsgård in this historical thriller about a murder and time bomb in the Vatican and the ever ellusive Illuminati. I'm a huge fan of this book and I've been waiting for this ever since I heard the rumor last year and posted an early review trailer at the time in this post.


  • May 21st: Terminator Salvation (T4): (trailer here) The latest in the Terminator franchise. Christian Bale stars as the grown up John Conner and according to Entertainment Weekly, this one is set in the future with a grown up John battling Skynet after Judgment day. Much of the plot and characters are being kept secret by the studio and with good reason after the semi-bomb of T3. But, Christian Bale is definitely proving himself as one of the coolest actors in Hollywood after The Dark Knight. This one doesn't look too bad. I've been a huge fan of the the Terminator movies since day 1 so, naturally I will go see this one.
  • May 29th: Drag Me To Hell: (trailer here) I loved the trailer for this! And Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider Man) is the man. I learned almost everything I know about low budget film making from his movies and Bruce Campbell's books. It looks creepy and sounds like a good story. "A loan officer ordered to evict an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse, which turns her life into a living hell. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point."(from IMDB). Staring Justin Long, Alison Lohman and Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush
  • June 24th: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: (trailer here) The much anticipated sequel to Michael Bay's rendition of the super popular toy and cartoon franchise. Shaia LaBeouf and Megan Fox return for this next thrilling chapter in the Transformers saga. I'm in geek heaven!
Also in July comes Public Enemies (with Johnny Depp), the new Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, and ... hold your breath... G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra! Because "knowing is half the battle..."

Seeya at the theater all next month!

April 15, 2009

Why I Started Blogging

Recently, my friend and local blogging entrepreneur Wade Kwon here in Birmingham, asked me and other local bloggers to chronicle why I started this whole blogging thing in the first place. So... let me tell you a little about the history of The Horse...You may wanna make yourself comfortable.

The History of The Horse

So, I started The Horse waaaaay back in 2005 on Blogspot (now Blogger) right after Google had purchased Blogspot and were introducing some new features like, mobile uploads via SMS/MMS and email. I found out that my new Samsung phone could send pictures directly to Blogspot, So I decide to try "mobloging" with my cell phone. The first picture I uploaded was a picture of my little palm tree that I kept on my front porch. I had kept it alive for over 3 years so, I was kind of proud of it.

I remember sending that first cell phone picture. Right after I sent it, I ran into my computer room and loaded up "Josh's Cell Phone Blog" and THERE IT WAS! My plant was on the Internet! I was so excited! I showed everyone I could. After that, you couldn't stop me. The next few years I kept "Josh's Cell Phone Blog" as a personal journal and moblog of my life. I uploaded more cell phone pictures and wrote a paragraph or two every once in a while about what was going on in my life. One particular era that I'm glad I blogged about was the job I got on the Wil Ferrel movie Talladega Nights. I shot as many cell phone pics as I could without getting in trouble with the director and actually blogged regularly during that time. Over time my blogging skillz evolved, (kind of like my nun chuck skills) and late last year (2008) I decided to start blogging seriously. I read all I could about professional blogging, studied SEO, keywords, copy writing and marketing and started up two more blogs where I could share some of my "expertise" about the random things that I have learned over the years (like Wedding Photography, writing, and computer/geek/nerd stuff). I converted a few posts I had done on The Horse about photography to my new blog The Wedding PhotogBlog, specializing in the wedding side of photography. Around that time I also converted Josh's Cell Phone Blog into what you see now as The Horse, a blog about technology, geek and nerd stuff. My most recent venture into online affiliate marketing was to start up a blog specifically to route traffic and business to my affliate, thereby making me money as a middle man. As of the time of this posting, I'm putting the final touches on it and I will be announcing it soon via all of my social networks and blogs.

But why do you blog Josh?
Seems like kind of a waste of time. I guess it boils down to a few reasons for me:
  1. Monitization - This economy has everyone worried. I needed a backup job, just in case I lose my primary source of income. Blogging can bring in a small profit if done professionally, you know what you're doing and you're willing to stick it out for a year or so. Google AdSense and other ad networks and affiliate programs DO work, if you are good marketer and know how to promote yourself.
  2. Keep Learning - I've always been on a quest for new knowledge. I'm always reading and Googleing and Wikipediaing and writing is a great way for me to have fun learning and finding out about cool things in the world.
  3. Helping Others - everyone says I'm a good teacher and that I seem to have a knack for explaining things and making things easy to understand. It gives me a certain satisfaction to know that I've helped someone learn something new that they can use to improve themselves or their business.
  4. Chronicling - I also use my blogs (especially The Horse) as a personal journal or diary so I can go back and see what was really important to me at the time and see how and why I've changed. Also I in the new Internet age, I want my kids, years down the road (after we get the new holographic blog), to be able to read and see what was important to me and to know who I was and what I believed in at that point in my life.
Why do you blog? Do you want to learn how to blog? Check out the Birmingham Blogging Academy if you want to get serious or maybe just become more informed about the blogosphere.

(Photo by john_a_ward)

April 6, 2009

My Thoughts on Linux Ubuntu 8.04

You might be saying, "OK, Josh, you've have had a month now to play around with your new Dell Mini 9 and Linux Ubuntu 8.04, are you gonna say something about it or teach us something anytime soon or just keep it all to yourself?" (Or, maybe this is the first time you heard about my new toys). The real truth is, I don't really feel qualified to "teach" anyone about Linux (even Ubuntu) quite yet, but what I will do in this initial blog is show you some of the positives and negatives or pros and cons that I have experienced and figured out for myself lately. Maybe this little article will help you make a more informed decision about trying out, or even switching to one of the many Linux flavors available right now.

A (VERY) brief history of and intro to Linux (especially Ubuntu)

In short, Ubuntu Linux stems from the old Unix operating system on which the internet's backbone resides. The name "Linux" comes from the Linux kernel, originally written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The rest of the system, including utilities and libraries, usually comes from the GNU operating system announced in 1983 by Richard Stallman. The original kernel has evolved and is still in use today in the modern Linux distributions including Ubuntu. Ubuntu uses the GNOME GUI for its graphical interface. The interface is slightly different but, to put it simply, the GNOME interface is as easy to use as Windows and alot more powerful and customizable than Windows and OSX.
The kernel (or core) of the Linux operating system is considered by many as one of the most stable operating systems in the world. For you this means less to no hang-ups, reboots, and no blue screens of death.
Installation is comparable with Windows XP installation, and just as easy (or difficult). Updating is done automatically and on a regular basis so the operating system is always up to date with the latest security fixes and there is a huge support community online in Ubuntu forums and tutorial sites.
Linux has a long and nerdy history, if you care to explore it in more detail but for now I'll go into some of the pros and cons of Ubuntu that I have experienced personally.

Pros:
  • It's not Windows. You are free of the chains of Microsoft.
  • Simple installation of the operating system and applications
  • Very secure operating system (No viruses, spyware, malware or adware protection needed!)
  • Open source (anyone can examine and tweak the code)
  • Free alternatives to almost any 'commercial quality' programs.
  • Very helpful and knowledgeable community, and wide range of tutorials and help forums
  • Automatic updates always update ALL installed software, not just the OS
  • You can make it look and operate almost exactly like XP, Vista or Mac
  • multiple work spaces (virtual desktops)
  • cool customizable 3d and desktop effects with the powerful Compiz GUI effects suite
  • easy to use and maintain with automatic updates
Cons:
  • It's not Windows. You have to use an emulator to use any Windows software, and then there are no guarantees the programs will work properly or at all.
  • slight learning curve as with any new operating system
  • Not all commercial software has Linux versions (but most can be run in a virtual Windows emulator)
  • Drivers for some hardware are not available or supported (ie. Samsung monitors, some video cards)
  • hard to uninstall applications completely and efficiently
Here's another great site if you want to explore the pros and cons in more detail.
So, I'll leave you with this intro for today and hopefully go into more specifics later on when I learn more about the operating system. I'll also try to share some tips and tricks to using Ubuntu in the following weeks.

(Photo by yum9me /FLICKR)

April 3, 2009

Photography For New Birmingham Area construction

Today I just wanted to share some of my recent photography I've been doing for The Terminal and new construction on Highway 280. Nothing too techy, just showing how you can use photography to show people about new stuff going on in the city.

Contrary to popular opinion, Birmingham's restaurant economy is doing great. I see it with our sales (and wait times) at The Cheesecake Factory to packed out parking lots at the new Surin West (on 280) and some of these new restaurant openings in the area (click on the picture for full size on Flickr):


New construction at The Summit on Hwy 280


New construction for a Tilted Kilt in the old Copeland's building on 280.


Saigon Noodle House in the Best Buy / World Market shopping center on 280.

For the full stories, check out our blog The Terminal about all things Birmingham and be sure to subscribe to make sure you stay updated on insider information and goings-on in Birmingham.

March 27, 2009

Google Apps and Working in the Cloud (Part 2)

As some of you may know, I got my new Dell Mini 9 Netbook a few weeks ago from Dell. My new project is to move as much of my work and productivity schedule to an online format (cloud), not on my computer. The reason for this is that I have a super small solid state hard drive (8 Gig), so I can't store music, photos or much else on my hard drive, but I can store, use and point to these items in "the cloud". The new terminology for this is "working in the cloud". The cloud refers to applications that run on the Internet such as Google Calendar and Google Docs. Google actually has a whole host of cloud applications that you can use to "mobilize" your life. These applications can then be accessed by you or anyone that you share them with.

Here are some places you can go to for cloud usage and storage:
All of the above are completely free cloud sharing and storage utilities that are sponsored by ads (so free for you!). Cloud computing is becoming more and more popular as smaller devices like netbooks, smartphones and other small smart devices are introduced.

With the above positive benefits of cloud computing comes a warning. Many if not most of the cloud applications in use now are not 100% secure. So, use with caution. Don't leave sensitive financial (credit, bank, investment accounts) or private information (where you live, phone #s, addresses) in the cloud. These sites can be hacked just as easy as an email account or website. There hasn't been any major problems or leaks so far, but just use these sites with caution. Always have a backup somewhere and keep financial and personal information locked and encrypted on a physical drive. Other than that, enjoy the cloud!

(photo by mansikka on Flickr)

March 13, 2009

Creating An Epic Soundtrack

This week I collaborated on a short film for a friends team with the Sidewalk Scramble, 48 hour short film making contest. Suction Horse Productions (my production company) couldn't sponsor a team this time like we usually do, so I helped my friends Kenneth and Kim with their team by creating the soundtrack and some foley sound for the short film. I wanted to share with you guys how I created the main track, what gear and software I used and my creative process for creating a soundtrack score song.

Inspiration

The first thing you need to have in order to create a soundtrack piece is not only your own musings or personal inspirations but the inspiration behind the film and all the main characters' inspiration and back stories. More specifically:
  • Watch the final draft of the film to get a sense of the "tone" of the film. Is it dark / film noir? happy and colorful?, funny and lighthearted?, serious or emotional? These tones play a huge factor in how the music forms in your head.
  • Consider the main character's back story and their mood. What attitudes are they bringing to the story?
  • look at the locations, are they grungy, clean, industrial, folksy, rural, urban? Use instruments that bring to mind these locations...

Instruments and recording software


As a music writer or composer you must have at least a basic knowledge of recording and a few musical instruments at your disposal. Some of these may include:
  • A fairly modern computer / laptop with a good amount of memory
  • digital multi-track recording software. On the high end: ProTools, Cubase, or Cakewalk / Sonar (there are many other cheap or free digital recording tools available also. Just Google :-)
  • or a software synthesizer / sampler like Native Instruments KONTAKT, Propellerhead Reason
  • an instrument that plays your music: Guitar and piano are the most popular analog instruments, or a nice MIDI or standalone keyboard for your syth / sampler software
  • a microphone (preferably a condenser mic) for recording foley or analog audio.
  • a pair of decent speakers or headphones to listen to playback

Steps to create your score:

  1. Use your inspirations (above) to form a basic rhythm and verse / chorus structure melody.
  2. add bass line and drums
  3. add harmonies and tones using your inspirations
  4. consider "featuring" an instrument to signify a character or location in the film
  5. consider adding sound effects or interesting / ethnic rhythmic patterns
  6. layer alternate instruments or orchestra pieces but don't drown out your main melody. Enhance the original melody with layering.
  7. listen to the rough draft. Is there anything you can perfect or fix? Does the featured instrument stand out.
  8. Do a final mix using panning, EQ, compression, reverb or whatever other studio tricks you have available to you in your recording software.
  9. burn the final mix to .WAV or .MP3 so the editor can easily "slice and dice" your precious soundtrack into the essential pieces that he needs to accent the film.

Of course the technical details about digital recording and songwriting are beyond the scope of this blog, but I hope this helps out those of you who are looking into moving into film scoring. Enjoy!

Photo by PeteWright on Flickr

March 5, 2009

Finding Your New Netbook And Why Dell Is Winning


So, probably by now you've heard about the "netbook" revolution going on right now. Netbooks are sub-mini laptops ranging in size from 8-12 inches and usually under 1 inch width. Most Netbooks weigh in at around 2-3 pounds and fit in the palm of your hand. Most of them run on Intel's new Atom processor designed for small size and low power consumption:
Newly designed from the ground up, 45nm Intel® Atom™ processors pack an astounding 47 million transistors on a single chip measuring less than 26mm², making them Intel's smallest and lowest power processors.¹ All this while delivering the power and performance you need for full Internet capabilities.
(from Intel's website)
So, I finally took the dive and ordered the new Dell Mini 9 last week. It should be arriving next week and I'll have a full review and pictures here on The Horse for your enjoyment. In the meantime I'll give you guys some of my top contenders that were around $300 that I was looking at before I decided on the Dell Mini 9.

  • Asus Eee PC 1008HA (Shell)
  • MSI Wind U123
  • Acer Aspire One
  • HPMini 1000

In the end I decided on the Dell Mini 9 because my experience with Dell has always been great and they continue to put out great cutting edge gear and delivering top notch customer service. I felt confident that I could easily get a hold of Dell and get easy support if needed. The other reason I decided to go with Dell was that they took the chance on open source technology, mainly pre-installing Ubuntu Linux on most of their new Mini line of netbooks instead of continuing to feed Microsoft more money. I appreciate that option as I've been moving toward more and more open source software recently. (ie. OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird). It also didn't hurt that Dell had a discount day and I got my Dell Mini 9 for $199 (plus some minor upgrades ;-).

So, now I'm making the jump to Linux. Ubuntu 8 more specifically. I'm going to introduce you guys to Ubuntu and show you some cool features of this new OS here on The Horse starting later next month. Maybe I'll even do some simple tutorials and show you some of the cool things that Linux can do that Windowz can't.

(photo by Jeff Coleman on Flickr)

February 27, 2009

Is America Losing Its Heroes?


A recently found copy of Action Comics #1 was put up for auction today by Metropolis Collectibles, on the online auction site ComicConnect.com. Only about 100 copies of the first Superman comic are in existence and most copies of Action Comics No. 1 in "fine" condition go for about $126,000 at auction, but this one is expected to go for much more according to an AP story on MSNBC Today.com.

Hero

Heroes are honest human beings who didn't intend to be heroes but even without thinking about it, just take action for others when it's needed.

It takes a brave man to stand up for himself,
But it takes a braver man to stand up for someone else.

Someone who knowingly recognizes the risk that he or she faces in carrying out a certain course of action but still goes ahead and does it, purely for the common good.

Someone who sees what needs to be done and willingly does what others will not while expecting nothing in return.
Quotes from WWII Forums members (members are WWII vets or family/friends of vets)

I would consider these people to be a reliable source of knowledge on heroism and who we should consider heroes.

Is America losing its sense of who and what is a hero?
The liberal media is painting Obama and the Clintons as Heroes. But would you say that Obama meets the above definition of a hero?

Some discrepancies in my opinion would be:
  • Obama doesn't recognize the risk that he is taking and how it will impact future generations or he DOES recognize the risk and doesn't care.
  • To me Obama is trying too hard to "look like" a hero by trying to please too many groups, and people at time and in effect pleasing no one and bringing more government control and spending to the picture.
  • Saying one thing and doing another by saying he opposes earmarks and pretending to be fiscally responsible, and then passing the most fiscally irresponsible bill in American history.
These are just some of the major points against Obama's stimulus package, but I didn't really want to turn this into a political blog. I wanted people to start thinking about who we as Americans look up to and why.

Some of my heroes are people of compassion that help and give without expecting anything in return. Missionaries, (some) religious leaders and pastors. People that genuinely care about souls and lives instead of their own personal gain. I think that we can compare Superman's characteristics with what a hero should be these days...

Characteristics of a Superman Hero:
  • work in disguise
  • come from humble upbringings
  • don't brag about their accomplishments
  • save lives
  • defends the innocent
  • makes the right decisions when tough decisions need to be made
  • takes action when called upon
Let's make sure we have the right perspective before we heap praise upon our perceived heroes.
Now go bid on that Action Comics #1!

(Photo by Dunechaser from Flickr)

February 23, 2009

Best Book to Movie Adaptations

Valerie Thomas: I guess we thought that maybe Susan Orlean and Leroche could fall in love, and...
Charlie Kaufman: Okay. But, I'm saying, it's like, I don't want to cram in sex or guns or car chases, you know... or characters, you know, learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end, you know.
I mean... The book isn't like that, and life isn't like that. You know, it just isn't. And... I feel very strongly about this.
~ (from the 2002 film Adaptation staring Nicolas Cage
and Meryl Streep)
I love this quote from Adaptation because it embodies the struggle that screenwriters go through in adapting a book to a film. I've attempted an adaptation before and it was alot harder than I thought it would be. You can't just pull chapters verbatim from the book and set them in scenes. So much more goes into an adaptation, like:
  • the emotion that the character will convey
  • establishing the background for a character
  • conversion into a classic three act type structure
  • making the screenplay dummy proof (suitable for the common man) with appropriate exposition and establishing scenes without spelling everything out and ruining the mystery or storyline.
  • worrying about writing "Spec" (technically correct and easily sellable to Hollywood) so you won't be made fun of or rejected outright.
  • worrying about how close you should stick to the classic three act story structure and Campbellian Monomyth
There are definitely more issues that screenwriters have to deal with but those would be beyond the scope of this blog. (Hopefully I haven't lost most of you by now ;-).

To move on, I've been reading adaptations for a long time and they are some of my favorite types of books. I just love comparing the differences in the film and the book and then finding the hidden story lines and subplots that didn't make it into the film adaptation. So, as promised, here are some of my favorite adaptations:

Next time you go watch a new movie, check and see if its an adaptation then pick up the book. Result=increased enjoyment!

(photo by Andrei Z from Flickr)

Josh Self is the writer and editor for The Horse, The Wedding PhotogBlog, Storycrafter, and a writer for The Terminal, Birmingham's most popular hyper-local blog. He always watches the movie first and then reads the book...