Monthly Archives: October 2006

The Prestige

I saw The Illusionist when it came out a couple months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love magic. The film was well told, the ending a surprise for me. Edward Norton was really good in it too. I re-watched Fight Club a week later, for the first time since the theatrical release.

Last night, I saw The Prestige. How lucky are we to have two movies about magicians in the same year? The Illusionist was really good, but The Prestige sidesteps direct comparison and just creates a new league for itself. My head was still buzzing an hour after the film was over, unraveling the different layers of the film, what it all meant for the characters and their actions. It was one of those rare works that inspires, both from the flawless filmmaking and the dedication of the fictional characters as well. I was literally on the edge of my seat and completely captivated.

Even as the credits started to roll I wanted to see it again. It’s that good.

Wii pre-orders

Two weeks ago I casually showed up to EB Games 5 minutes before they opened, hoping to luck out with a “Nintendo Wii”: pre-order. Unfortunately the last slot was taken by someone who was there over two hours earlier, and at least a couple dozen people (including me) were turned away before the store even opened.

I’m determined to get one of these consoles, and there’s something interesting about trying to get one at launch. Every day new reviews flow in to gaming blogs. I don’t see myself as a hardcore gamer, but the Wii looks like an innovative system with several fun games available at launch or shortly after.

So I called Toys R Us last night to inquire about pre-orders opening up today at 10am. He said they had 10 Wii and only 3 PS3s. Furthermore, mall security wouldn’t let anyone on the property until 4am. This would seem to limit the opportunity for all-night campers, so I was pretty hopeful as I left for the store shortly after 4am this morning.

Yes, you read that right. I have become so obsessed with this that I was willing to spend 6 hours in line. Luckily, the weather is beautiful this weekend. I packed a book, iPod, and sketchpad into my bag and left feeling pretty good, that at the least I would have some time alone to read or write or listen to music.

Wii line from phone There were already at least 20 people there when I arrived. Several in line were hoping to reserve both Wii and PS3. One made the comment that they would be selling the PS3 on Ebay, but keep the Wii for themselves. There was even someone waiting for the new Elmo doll, which made the whole scene even more bizarre.

Apparently some of the folks had been there well before 4am, probably closer to midnight or earlier. The details are sketchy, but the story I heard involves a bewildered security officer, two police cars, threat of jail time, and a mad dash at 4am to the front door. By the time I got there, the last Wii pre-order slots were being decided by a foot race across the parking lot. Seriously. Meanwhile, a second line at the exit door was setup in a futile effort by those too stubborn to admit defeat.

I finished the banana I had brought for breakfast, played a little multiplayer Nintendo DS, and left before 5am with a “good luck” and a wave to those crazy enough to get there before me. I guess I’ll try again at Best Buy or Target next month. Rumor points to “as much as 120 units available”: at some stores.

I didn’t go to C4

C4 was last weekend and looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately I was about travelled-out this year with RailsConf and WWDC. Perhaps next time.

Daniel Jalkut was the first I saw with nice write-up. He provides “a speed-through of sessions”: and closes with what is probably the biggest draw for attendees:

“As inspiring and as much fun as the scheduled speakers were, the unstructured social time both between sessions and in the evenings were just as much fun, and probably just as educational.”

I subscribe to a couple dozen Mac developer blogs, and keeping an eye on Flickr and Technorati tags for C4 is another great way to see what developers are up to. Mr. Rentzsch himself has a “set of links here”:, and Mike Zornek just posted some “short videos of the room”: that give another view of the show.

When I go back through my older Mac programming posts, I’m reminded that I don’t really blog about Mac development as much as I used to. Perhaps that is because there are so many other good Mac guys blogging now.

Da Vinci book, companion, and short film

The Da Vinci Code appealed to me and many others because it successfully mixes pieces of both art history and code breaking. The book captures in fiction the same fascination I had first cracking open Applied Cryptography.

A few months ago “Damon”: completed a “companion to the book and film”:, containing images and links to concepts organized by chapter. It uses the VitalBook digital book format, and is viewable in the software I helped write, “VitalSource Bookshelf”: I’m working on some fun new stuff for Bookshelf at the moment that uses web services and “SSE”:, something I hope to post more about in the future.

In other Da Vinci news, story artist and animator Jim Capobianco has completed animation on his short film “Leonardo”: I saw a preview of this at “2d Expo two years ago”:, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Even in storyboards and rough pencil animation it was great.


I picked up the board game “Carcasonne”: a few weeks ago and have been enjoying it. It’s great to see some innovation in board games again, and it’s a relaxing change of pace from video games. Target and the other big box stores are still mostly packed with remakes of classic board games, which are fine, but if you seek out the more speciality shops there’s a range of good stuff available. I bought my copy at “Dragon’s Lair”:, a local Austin comics and games shop that I’ve been frequenting for about 15 years, but I’ve seen it featured prominently at other quality toy stores.

I originally sought out Carcasonne for play between adults, but I’ve found the game also works great for kids even younger than the 8 years recommended on the box. Just follow a few rule simplifications. First, no farmers. Next, as recommended by someone in an Amazon review, use the word “traveler” instead of thief. And finally, just score a single point for any completed castle, road, or cloister. Part of the charm of the game is in constructing the map anyway, so these simplified rules make for fast and enjoyable games for younger children.

Gameplay photo

Lost season 3

The 2-hour season finale for Lost last year was some of the best television you’ll ever see. I re-watched it a few days ago and it was great stuff. And yet, I had a feeling that season 3, which premiered this week, would reset the clock again. Introduce a few more characters, change all the usual assumptions, but leave more questions instead of answering the existing ones.

Turns out it was even worse than that. Frankly, the start of season 3 was junk. Clearly the writers are making stuff up as they go along, and that drives me nuts.

When I think of epic story, perfectively woven together from beginning to end, I think of JRR Tolkien. After reading the collection of original manuscripts and commentary by his son Christopher Tolkien, I was surprised that for the first half of Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien really didn’t know where he was going with it. It was chapter by chapter, and characters changed or story points were rewritten as he went along. But there came a point where I think the vision must have clicked for him, and at that point everything came together and the result was a work of fiction that will hold up for centuries.

The suspension of disbelief works on me better than many people. If I feel like the creator of a novel or film has a real vision I’ll overlook the small problems and fall in love with the story and characters. For Lost, the dialog and pacing of each episode is technically brilliant, but the overall vision is missing, and I don’t think it will resolve in any meaningful way. Instead, the ratings will slowly decline until the show disappears in the same pattern of X-Files or Alias before it.

So I may have to sign-off of Lost for a while. I did the same thing in the middle of season 2 when it got slow. Perhaps I’ll just read the synopsis and then join back in for the season finale every year. I’m afraid every time I watch it I’ll compare it to what it could have been, and only think of executives trying to milk the show for as many seasons as possible. I don’t want to be dragged along with them. Thanks anyway.

Enrico Casarosa interview

In my “San Francisco podcast”: I mentioned Enrico Casarosa and “Sketchcrawl”: I really wanted to interview him, but there just wasn’t time to contact him and arrange it. Luckily, Illustrationmundo’s Iconic podcast has conducted an “interview with Enrico”: and they discuss Sketchcrawl at great length.

Also, check out Enrico’s ongoing watercolor comic, “The Venice Chronicles”: He just posted page 11 and 12.