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Monthly Archives: February 2007

54%

For anyone who cares, I got 13 of 24 predictions correct on my Oscar predictions earlier today. That’s just better than 54%. In grade school, that would be an F. Two big surprises for me were that Cars did not win for Best Animated Feature and that Forest Whitaker won for Last King of Scotland. I know Hollywood was all abuzz about Forest winning, but I wasn’t convinced it would happen. I was, apparently, wrong. I am glad that neither Superman Returns or Poseidon won the Visual Effect award – I wasn’t impressed with the effects in either of those movies. In fact, I found the effects in Superman Returns to be quite poor. You know, it just occurred to me that the only category in which I saw all of the nominees was Visual Effects.

Categories: A Day in the Life | 1 Comment

Oscars Night

The Oscars are on tonight starting at 5 p.m. Before they begin, I’m posting my predictions for what WILL win (not what SHOULD win).
Best Picture: Letters From Iwo Jima
Best Actor: Peter O’Toole for Venus
Best Actress: Helen Mirren for The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls
Best Director: Martin Scorcese for The Departed
Best Original Screenplay: Letters From Iwo Jima
Best Adapted Screenplay: Borat: Cultural Learnings…
Best Cinematography: Children of Men
Best Editing: Babel
Best Art Direction: Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Costume Design: Marie Antoinette
Best Score: Babel
Best Original Song: Cars (“Our Town”)
Best Makeup: Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Sound Editing: Dead Man’s Chest
Best Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls
Best Visual Effects: Dead Man’s Chest
Best Animated Feature: Cars
Best Foreign Language Film: Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth
Best Documentary Short: Rehearsing a Dream
Best Animated Short: No Time for Nuts
Best Live Action Short: West Bank Story
Alright, there you have it… Lance’s picks on what will win at tonight’s ceremony.

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Crossing the Universe

Over a year since I left New York, a trailer for the last Hollywood film I worked on is finally available. Check out the trailer for the movie “Across the Universe.” I’ve been waiting a long time for this trailer to be released. The movie was originally meant to come out late last year, but got pushed back to early 2007, and has most recently been moved to late September, 2007. The fact that we have a trailer now, though, likely means that it’s actually going to be released.
My impressions of the trailer? It looks better than I thought it would. I was pretty unimpressed with the movie while I was working on it. I knew it would have some amazing visual imagery, and the trailer supports that, but the story, I thought, was going to be weak. It’s hard to say for sure from the trailer, but it appears that it might actually be worth watching. This movie might not be quite as horrid as I was predicting.
Watch the trailer and post a comment here with your thoughts!

Categories: A Day in the Life | 1 Comment

Only 13 Computers?

I was shocked today when I read an article at CNN.com about a computer hacking attack that took place. What is so shocking about computer hacking? Afterall, some of the world’s most “secure” servers have been compromised. What could there possibly be on the hacking front that hasn’t been seen before?
In truth, it wasn’t the hacking itself that shocked me. It was this line: “Hackers briefly overwhelmed at least three of the 13 computers that help manage global computer traffic.” 13 computers? There are 13 computers that help to manage global computer traffic? Do you know how many computers there are on the internet? Millions. Do you know how much traffic is generated daily on the internet? Perhaps as much as an exabyte (1,152,921,504,606,846,976 bytes or 1 billion gigbytes)? That is one figure that I’m not at all sure of. Regardless, there is a lot of daily internet traffic. And to think that there are 13 computers sitting somewhere that are helping to direct all of that!
Of course, I realize that these 13 computers aren’t the only computers serving and directing data. Significant portions of the workload have been distributed around the world, but still, to think that there are 13 computers that are responsible for the bulk of internet traffic management is astounding to me.
This intrigued me, so I did a little digging, and found a study that was done at my place of employment – UC Berkeley – in 2003. The study aimed to estimate the amount of data generated worldwide each year. The study is called “How Much Information?” According to the study, the “size of the internet” in 2002 was about 92 pedabytes. This represents raw data that existed on the internet as webpages. In addition, it was estimated that there were ~441 pedabytes of original e-mail data (excluding forwards and quotes replies). That was in 2002. It is now 2007, and I suspect that the internet is far larger than that with the recent advances in video on the internet. Even this blog entry is adding to the the size of the internet right now.

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Stalked by a Female Ninja

In a recent entry I made mention of the fact that I was being stalked by a female ninja. I have not elaborated on this for several days now, mainly for fear that my internet-savvy ninja stalker might see my comments and become more hostile than she already is. But the truth simply can’t be resrtained any longer – I must tell you the tale of my female ninja.
I first noticed this ninja stalker on Januarry 25, 2007 when she broke into my locker at the gym while I was working out and stole my wallet. I had locked my wallet any other valuables safely away in a locker in the men’s locker room one afternoon at 24 Hour Fitness by my office, and when I returned to the locker room after my workout, I discovered that the lock had been broken off my locker (with damage to the locker itself, as well). I was very concerned by this, but discovered that the only thing missing from the locker was my wallet. My cell phone, car keys, Notre Dame class ring – all of these were untouched, but the wallet was gone. Obviously I was very annoyed with the whole situation, but I kept my cool, since it would have done me very little good to freak out – what was done was done and I just had to live with that.
I reported the forced theft to the gym, but they seemed not to care much at all, truth be told. They didn’t even ask me any questions about it – they just had me write down my name and phone number. I was pretty annoyed with them for that. I understand that they’re “not responsible” for items left in the locker room, but seriously – someone went in there and BROKE INTO the locker. Regardless of whether or not the gym is responsible for my loss, they should at least care that this is happening in their establishment.
It wasn’t until a day or two after this theft that exactly what happened became clear to me. I suddenly realized that this wasn’t just a random theft – this was a targeted incident. I was being targeted by a female ninja. The fact that the culprit here is a woman is alone enough to make the tale interesting (given that the theft took place in a men’s locker room), but that she was a ninja adds intrigue and suspense to the story. I have since concluded that she was hiding in locker near mine spying on me. How long she had been tracking me, I don’t know, but it must have been at least two years. For the past two years or so, I’ve had the constant feeling of being watched. Now and then I’ll hear a strange noise, but when I turn to look, there’s nothing, or at most, a vanishing glimpse of something black. I believe this female ninja has followed me around the world, including on my recent trips to Australia, India and Germany. Why she chose Jan. 25, 2007 to strike in a 24 Hour Fitness men’s locker room, I still don’t know, but I’m sure I’m right. When she will strike again, and how, is a mystery. But now when I see shadows disappearing quickly as I turn my head, I’ll know it’s her, and I’ll be ready.

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A Glass of Milk

This morning as I was sitting down to breakfast I thought, “Hey, Lance, let’s be daring this morning. Why don’t you drink a glass of milk?” So I got out a glass, got out the milk and poured. I watched, mesmerized, as the glass filled with liquid white gold. After putting the milk carton away (don’t want that precious bovine nectar to go bad), I sat down to my morning meal. After having a bite of my hash browns and eggs, I picked up the glass of milk and took a gulp. I nearly gagged. “But it is rich in calcium and fortified with Vitamins A & D,” I told myself, “drink it if it kills you.” And it nearly did. In one long gulp I downed the rest of the milk and forced myself to think of how amazingly delicious it was to keep myself from rushing to worship to porcelain god. Don’t get me wrong, milkshakes, mochas, cereal with milk, these I can do, but milk on its own… disgusting. I do believe that this morning marked the first time in possibly 10 or more years that I have actually consumed a glass of milk. There’s a good chance it may be 10 more before I try that again.

Categories: A Day in the Life | 4 Comments

Die letzte Geschicht von Schloss Königswald

This afternoon I watched a fantastic German film called “The Last Story of Kingswood Castle.” I bought the DVD when I was in Germany in November and decided to break it out today. I really didn’t know anything about the movie. I bought it because of the cast – a cast of old (70-80 year old) German movie stars – these were the Lauren Bacalls and Greta Garbos of Germany. The film bills itself as “Peter Schamoni’s homage to the big German film stars like Camilla Horn, Marianne Hoppe, Carola Höhn, and Marika Rökk.” These four women have all since passed away, as well as Rose Renée Roth, who played Gräfin (Countess) Posadowsky, my favorite character in the movie (seen front in the picture). She passed away less than two years after the release of the film.
The film takes place in May of 1945. Eight old women find themselves in Schloss Königswald waiting for the end of the Second World War. Many of them have been run out of their own homes and have come to the Schloss seeking refuge. The castle is situated between two fronts of the war – with the Americans approaching from one side and the Russians from the other. Which troops will arrive at the Schloss first, and what will become of these women? As it turns out, the German troops arrive first and decided to take over a portion of the castle. As aristocrats, the women are against Hitler, and so they risk their lives and the destruction of the castle and come up with a “verrückten Plan” (crazy plan) to get the German troops to leave.
This is by no means a “Hollywood” film. In fact, besides the fact that it is German, it is far from Hollywood. First, it is unusual to see a film about World War II told from the German perspective. It was fascinating to see how the Germans portrayed not only the Russians and the Americans, but also their own troops. In addition, despite being a star-studded film, the movie doesn’t force the “image of the star” on the audience like we see so frequently in American cinema. The camera work is, for the most part, simple. The sound work crude at times. And yet, I found this to be a beautiful and moving film.
I am struck by the thought that, while the stars of this movie were some of Germany’s biggest and brightest film stars, I have never heard of a single one of them. This, I think, is a continuing tribute to the fact that Americans, in general, focus all of their attention on Hollywood, and usually ignore cinema from other nations. Whereas most Germans would recognize the names of our biggest stars, the only German star that most Americans would recognize is likely Franka Potente (from Run, Lola, Run).
Schloss Königswald is likely very challenging to find in America. While it is possible to order it from Amazon.de, Amazon.com doesn’t even list it as existing. eBay has no copies of the film for sale, though there are some trading cards from the film for sale, but they ship from Germany. While I would recommend this film to anyone, unfortunately, my copy will be useless to most people. It is in German (with a little snippets of English, Russian and Czech) and the only subtitles available are German (which, I admit, I turned on in case I missed any of the spoken words). However, for all of those German speakers out there who want to see a pretty amazing film, check this one out.

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La Purisima Mission

La Purisima Mission“Escape From Life,” Friday, January 19, 2007. My visit to the California Missions was not really on the agenda when I left the Bay Area on my trip. In fact, nothing was really on the agenda, save the taping of a TV show at Warner Brothers on Friday afternoon. Other than that, though, I was just going to take my time and enjoy the drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. Because I left Monterey at 7 a.m. on Friday morning, I was well ahead of schedule come about 11 a.m. I found myself getting very close to Lompoc, CA, which was only about 2.5 hours from where I needed to be by 3:30 p.m. As I was approaching Lompoc, I saw a sign for La Purisima Mission State Park. Being that I was so ahead of schedule, I decided that I would stop there. After all, I had the luxury of being alone with time to spare, so I could do pretty much whatever I wanted.

Now, unlike the other Missions that I visited on the way back to San Francsico, La Purisima is situated in what is now a state park. As such, I didn’t have to pay to visit the Mission itself, but I did have to pay a “daily use fee” to get into the park. Only $4, which is pretty close to the average price to visit any of the other Missions, so I wasn’t too put off by having to pay it. Like Mission San Anotonio de Padua, La Purisima is situated in a very natural setting, surrounded by vast expanses of land. However, whereas San Antonio’s surrounding land belongs in large part to the US Military, the park at La Purisima is yours for the exploring with horse trails, bike trails and hiking trails. I took advantage of one such short hiking trail (photo above).

La Purisima MissionFounded in 1787 by Franciscan Padre Presidente Fermin Francisco Lasuen, the Mission itself is was very interesting to explore. Aside from a passing visit to the Mission in Sonoma while wine tasting two years ago, I had never been to any of the California Missions, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Now, while founded in 1787, this Mission suffered many setbacks. From 1804-1807, disease killed a quarter of the Mission population, mostly Indians, and the Mission was almost entirely destroyed during a series of earthquakes in December of 1812. Following this, the Mission was relocated to its present site, but more hardship led to the eventual abandonment of the site in 1845. By 1934, the Mission was unrecognizable. In 1939, a complete rebuild of the Mission began, headed up by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The goal during the restoration was to create a sense for visitors that they had ventured back in time to the early 1800s. The Mission buildings have been beautifully restored and many interior rooms have been decorated with original furniture and tools.La Purisima Mission One such tool that has been preserved and displayed is the loom pictured on the left. The Missions were more than just “Catholic recruitment centers.” In fact, they were far more than that. The goal of the Missions was to create a community of people, including indigenous peoples. The missions were staffed by some priests, but also included candlemakers, weavers, military, teachers, chefs, ceramic workers, farmers, ranchers, and so on. At most of the California Missions, Native Americans were educated and taught to speak Spanish (remember, these were Spanish Missions). The brightest students were taught to read and write, as well. The Mission tries to recreate the lifestyle for visitors on Special Mission Weekends. On these weekends, volunteers dress in period costumes and take over the Mission, recreating a typical day in the Mission life. It would be fun to see this sometime, I think.

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Mission San Antonio de Padua

Mission San Antonio de Padua“Escape From Life,” Tuesday, January 16, 2007. I made a stop off at Mission San Anotnio de Padua. I almost didn’t come here because I had read that it was about 45 minutes off of the highway. But then I thought, “I’m on vacation! All I have is time!” So I decided to pay San Antonio a visit, and I’m glad I did.
To be fair, it was not even close to 45 minutes out of the way. 30 minutes, maybe, but no more than that. Something I didn’t realize until I got to the gate was that Mission San Antonio is on a military base. I felt a little awkward driving up to the military gate and asking if I was on the right road to the Mission. I thought I would get laughed at, but instead the guard asked for my driver license and registration. Not a problem… or so I thought. I whipped out the license and then reached into my glove compartment and pulled out the registration. I handed both over and sat waiting patiently for my guest pass. But it was not to be. The guard returned to my window and said, “this isn’t your current registration, do you have your current registration?” He was right, the registration I had given him was from the prior year. Not a problem, I figured, I’ll just rummage around… and, oh yes, there it is… oh, no, that’s two years ago. OK, so I had a problem. I couldn’t find the current registration. “Pull over to the side please, sir,” the guard said, motioning off to the right.

Mission San Anotonio de PaduaThis probably wasn’t good. It wasn’t until I was pulled off to the side that I remembered what was in my trunk… a very real looking, yet fake, Glock (yah, the gun). It had been used in the TV show “Criminal Minds,” and was given to me by my friend Tami in LA. It was boxed up nicely in a glass case, but it lacked the orange tip, thereby making it (very likely) illegal, and here I was trying to get it onto a US Military Base. “Please don’t ask to look in the trunk,” I was thinking to myself. He didn’t. Instead, he offered to write me a warning for not carrying my registration in the vehicle and to let me pass on to the Mission. I agreed. While he was in his guard shack writing the warning, I remembered where the registration was… in the driver’s door well! I jumped out of the car and told him I had located it. He reviewed it, wrote me a guest pass and sent me on my way.
The Mission itself is set a few miles onto the base. The Mission was founded in 1771, obviously before California even became a State (that was in 1850), so naturally before it was a US Military Base; however, even before California became a State, the land was seized under “Secularization.” It was only returned to the Catholic Church by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. During the secularization period, and particularly following the death of the last resident priest in 1882, the Mission fell into significant disrepair, and finally into ruins, aided by the earthquake in 1906. Additional reconstruction and restoration work was not started until 1948.Mission San Antonio de Padua One of the advantages of being in a remote location and on a base is that there is a lot of space at the Mission. Wide open spaces abound here. Still visible are parts of the original aqueduct that was built in the late 1700s. The aqueduct was filled with water diverted from a river 2 miles away and is considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats of the 18th century. This Mission, at one point in its history, produced wine. Part of the museum tour took me into a room where they would press the grapes. The press was above a room full of barrels. As the grapes were pressed, the juices would seep down into the barrels below the press, and it would be allowed to ferment there. I spent some time exploring the museum (a common feature to all of the 8 Missions that I visited on the trip) and then some additional time just wandering the grounds. Extant on the grounds is an Indian Cemetery that was laid out in 1804. In the distance, Junipero Serra Peak is visible. At 5,862 feet, this is the tallest peak in Monterey County. Not really very high, but, hey, we won’t tell that to the peak. The peak was named after Fr. Junipero Serra, founder of this and many of the other California Missions.
After I had toured the Mission and wandered the grounds, I got back into the car and hit the road for the next stop on my tour: Mission Soledad.

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