Friday, March 02, 2007

I don't want a mac anymore!

I'm cured!

In the past, I've griped about my Windows XP machine and how I sat and stared with envy at those with their sleek Apple iMacs, but I think that's over. For a while. Until I get sick of Windows again.

Yesterday, I was fed up. Last year, I spent some decent coin on a Dell so that I could edit videos. Nothing fancy, just stuff for YouTube. You know, messin' around.

My experience with my Dell has been less than stellar. There was a problem where I couldn't play back DVDs because it shipped with an outdated or screwed up video codec. I'm not sure which, because even after 20 hours on the phone with some dude in India named "Larry", we never got to the bottom of the problem. In fact, it sorta fixed itself, but I have no idea how.

This has not been the only problem (of course). My DVD drive likes to disappear sometimes. That's right. It uninstalls itself. Then it comes back. Perhaps it is moonlighting as someone else's DVD drive for extra cash? I don't know.

It's pointless for me to list all the annoying things about living with a Windows machine, we already know what they are. Needless to say, I've looked to people with Macs, with their great hardware/software integration, with a mixture of awe and jealousy.

So this takes me to yesterday. Frustrated at the lack of control in Windows Movie Maker, I dreamed lazily about the blissful nirvana of iMovie. It looked so easy and elegant!

"Screw it, I'll get one!", I thought.

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and I realized I should probably try one out first, before plunking down all that money on something I would be stuck with for years. I asked around and my friend Jake was nice enough to lend me his black MacBook for a very reasonable sum.

I went over and got it and instantly started playing around on it.

"This is great!", was my reaction. Everything was so shiny and new. You moved the mouse around and things popped up and animated themselves. I was impressed.

I took it home and jumped right in. I plugged in my video camera, fired up iMovie and voila! It started digitizing right away!

I was very impressed with this. My camera is a little tricky. It's a cheaper Sony Handycam and it does not play well with most video editing software. Getting it to work well with Movie Maker was no easy task. iMovie was another story.

As I began to work with my video clips within the program, I started to have vague recollections of my brief Mac experiences from the past. I hate the way the mouse moves.

Please don't send me an angry letter explaining how I am an idiot and that acceleration lets users have more precise control of the mouse, blah blah blah. I don't like it. In fact, I hate it. It might seem like a nitpicky point, but it's the way you interact with the computer. Everything else starts with that. If you're not happy at the start, how can anything after that be any good?

I called my friend and asked him how to turn off the acceleration. The short answer is: you can't. You used to be able to, I remember it. The nice folks at Apple have decided that you shouldn't, so that's that. Which leads me to my big gripe: They know what's best for you.

Just like every Mac FanBoy who is penning his hatemail right now while you read this sentence, Apple is so convinced that they have "the right way" to do things, they remove your choice to disagree.

Now, Jake was nice enough to find me an application on a website that would turn off the acceleration, except that it didn't. It added a layer of software to the mouse's own way of doing things that emulated non-accelerated movement. What?? As you can guess, it didn't work too well.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain: On a PC, when you move your mouse, the movement on the screen is roughly equivalent to this in a linear fashion. If I move my mouse 1 inch, my cursor on screen it moves about 5. If I move it two, then the cursor moves 10. This does not change with the speed of my movement, it just takes less time to do it.

On a Mac, if you move your mouse slowly 1 inch, it will only move maybe 1 or 2 inches. But, if you move your mouse quickly over that same 1 inch, it will cover much more ground because it has been accelerated. I am told that this is helpful for people who need precise control over small details, people who edit photos professionally, for example.

I like the PC way. On my computer, if I want my mouse to accelerate, I can turn that feature on. Why isn't it the other way around?

So I was already frustrated when I started getting a headache. I don't have the greatest vision and the MacBook comes with a pretty high resolution on a smallish 13 inch screen. This means text appears pretty small.

I opened a help window in iMovie and had to struggle to read it. The window was very small. I tried to resize it, but the little policeman inside wouldn't let me do it. I went to change the font size and this worked; the letters got bigger. But the window stayed the same size and I had to scroll back and forth to read each sentence.

This is when I gave up!

Yes, I am a baby. But I spend a lot of time on my computer and I like things to be the way I want them. My friend has offered to come over and help me customize things to my liking, but I think it's gonna take me a few days before I can even look at that thing again (the computer, not my friend).

It gives me knots in my stomach. Does anyone have any advice for living with a Mac? I don't want to give up on this thing. Am I going to have to pay 20 dollars to buy some shareware to "fix" this problem with the mouse? Is there a way to resize the help window that I don't know about? I would have looked in the help files, but as I had no way to resize them, the thought of all that frustration sent me back to my Dell.

I have a sinking feeling that this kind of "we know what's best for you" control that they exercise over you at every step of the way is exactly what makes them work so well.

They don't let hardware manufacturers do what they want either, everything has to be to their exact specifications, which is why when you plug in a camcorder, your clips download into your computer perfectly. But does it really screw anything up if they just let me use my mouse in a normal, intuitive fashion? Can't I have a program take up the whole screen if I want to?

Am I just wildly ignorant of how these things work? Is there a simple solution for all these (admittedly minor) quibbles?

I want a computer that has useful software that works well and can get things done right out of the box. That is what drew me to the Mac. But I also need a computer I can live with, that doesn't drive me crazy with its quirks, which is why, for now, I am sticking with my PC.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Simpsons Trailer and Army Controversy

I do not offend easily.

My favorite TV show is South Park and I have never been offended by that show and I have seen every episode at least four times.

However, last week, I found myself offended by what is usually a much milder show, The Simpsons.

Normally, the only thing offensive about The Simpsons is the fact that it's still on the air. This was one of my favorite shows. Seasons 5 through 9 or 10 are some of the greatest things ever aired on television. Which may be why I'm so bummed at what it has become.

It's that sentimental nostalgia that keeps me watching from week to week. Also, there is a sense of awe (or maybe it's horror) at how truly bad it has become.

But last Sunday, I found a new feeling running through my brain: I was offended.

I'm not going to summarize the episode, beyond saying the Army tries recruiting the children of Springfield by convincing them the Army is nothing more than an ultra-violent, high-tech video game. Needless to say, Bart signs up and Homer, in the process of trying to get his son out of joining, ends up joining himself. OK, so I guess I am going to summarize the episode.

Anyway, sounds innocuous enough, no? The problem is, the Army is repeatedly presented as a bunch of idiots who don't know what they're doing and have no qualms about abusing the human rights of friends, as well as foes.

What really bugs me about this is the source. The Simpsons is written by a bunch of rich, spoiled white kids, straight out of Harvard. What offends me is the elitism.

This is why John Kerry got into trouble. Republican or Democrat, you should realize that whether you buy his "botched joke" excuse or not, what John Kerry actually said is really awful and not fit to be spoken by any public figure.

I remember hearing about and thinking, "Oh, that's not so bad, they're going to blow this out of proportion." But the idea that the army is not just something to be avoided, but rather something for "other people". Lesser people. Stupid people. Minorities. People who can't afford to go to college.

The truth is, regardless of their background, these are people who are dying in Iraq every single day. People who face horrors we can only imagine. I wouldn't want to be there. I'm glad I'm not. But I do think it's important that we recognize the sacrifice they are making.

They didn't make the choice to invade Iraq. They follow their orders, because that's their job. They made a choice to serve our country and I think they deserve better than to be thought of as being too stupid to get out of being sent to their deaths, like the rest of us.

Oh yeah and the movie trailer sucked.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I figured out what's wrong with Studio 60

I've watched both episodes of this show.

Let me say that, even though I set out wanting to hate it, I don't.

Which isn't to say it's my favorite show. It's addictive, but there's something wrong. Something big and glaring that I couldn't quite figure out.

I imagine it's the same uneasiness people in the 50's felt about cigarettes before they knew they caused cancer. Even if they didn't know the whole story, I'm sure they couldn't have thought they were good for you, right?

At first I thought it was the preachiness. This is why I've never watched The West Wing. But while this was annoying, it was not enough to make me not tune in.

It wasn't the nods to pop-culture and the internet, as grating as they were. It wasn't the way the moral centers of the show are both a writer and a recovering drug addict. Though that did sound familiar.

There was something about it that I couldn't put my finger on. I was compelled to watch and see what was going to happpen. Dramatically, it's great. Or at least good enough for me to ignore the things that drove me crazy.

I finally figured out what the problem is, though.

This is show about comedy where references are made to the main characters being great comedy writers. Though I didn't realize it at first, I believe that I was uneasy because I knew that eventually this would have to be demonstrated.

You can make a show about ice skating and talk about how great the skaters are, but eventually you're going to have to see them skate. And there are no body doubles in comedy writing.

Eventually, these characters will have to be funny. Correction: they will have to create something on their show-within-a-show that is funny.

I sat there, wondering, "Would they just skip that part? Would they use a sketch someone else had done before?" No, I knew that eventually, we would see this show-within-a-show and it would be the creation of the show-outside-of-the-show's mastermind. Aaron Sorkin.

And what did these comedy genius writers, created by their unseen television overlord create for their big show opener? The thing that was going to show the world this show was back and ready to set the comedy world on fire? A musical number.

And that, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with this show.

If you make a show about ice skating and you don't know how to ice skate, eventually you are going to have to get out there and make an ass of yourself.

I don't know the secret to comedy, but I know what it is not and that is taking yourself seriously. And a big, broadway-style musical number is a very self-serious way to pretend you are poking fun at yourself. You know, in a serious way.

This is the epitome of Aaron Sorkin's sense of what makes good TV: people who take themselves very seriously. As a show, that works. As a show-within-a-show that is supposed to be funny, it does not.

And it didn't work for Sports Night, either.

The episode of Sports Night that comes to my mind involves a show where one of the main characters had to go and report on hunting. And at the end, he gives a big flowery speech about how hunting made him feel. And he starts crying. A grown man crying about killing a deer.

This is comedy? Inadvertantly, maybe.

Some people think comedy and drama can be mingled in that fashion. I disagree.

There's no need to mingle them because they are the same thing looked at in two opposite ways. Put them together and you get nothing. You get the null set. You get a void. And the by-product of this destruction is a sticky, saccharine syrup which chokes anyone who attempts to consume it.

See? That was me taking myself way too seriously. And it didn't work.

I've never wanted to be a writer on Saturday Night Live more than I do right now, if just for one week. To respond to someone so sure of the fact that he can do my job better than I can, that he went and made a show about it. Someone who ultimately proved he can't skate.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ricky Gervais Sucks: in defense of crankiness

OK, now that I've gotten your attention, let me say that I'm not really sure Ricky Gervais sucks, because I have gone out of my way not to watch him.

I have a brand new, unwrapped box set of Season 1 of the U.K. Office, as I believe it is called over here to distinguish it from the one with Steve Carell.

My reason for doing so is this: everyone I know tells me it is hilarious. EVERYONE. I have not a single friend or acquaintance who doesn't think that show is funny. Specifically: Ricky Gervais.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the proof of this show's greatness is all over TV.

I'm not even talking about the American version of the Office. That's a show that's based on another show so of course there are going to be similarities.

I am talking about other shows and movies which have utilized the "clueless boss is a jerk but thinks he's cool" archetype. Basically every new "comedy" this season has one.

This, alone, is enough to make me nauseous, but this isn't my main reason for saying that I, Eric Filipkowski, hate you, Ricky Gervais.

In my book, universal praise is enough to put me off of anything.

An example? OK, how about "The Osbournes"?

You used to love that show. Yes, you did. Yes. You did. Shut up. You did.

You would call me up and tell me how hilarious it was.

"Oh man, you should have seen it last night, Kelly and Jack got in a big fight! And then Ozzy was mumbling! Oh shit, I almost forget, Sharon started yelling at someone! And there are tiny dogs!"


Yes, that was you. You didn't think anyone would remember, but I did.

"The Osbournes" is terrible. You didn't see that truth back when it was a cultural phenomenon, but I did.

How did I know? What tipped me off? It was universally praised.

Now, I tried to outline my thoughts to my fellow cranky friend last night, but he countered and said that not everything that is loved by everyone is awful. As an example, he cited the band Nirvana.

As I told him, this is just pure revisionism. Before Kurt Cobain died, Nirvana was passe. It's true, because I actually liked them and I got constant shit for it.

The things that endure and become "classics" are never fully appreciated during their time. This is especially obvious in the world of art; with people like Vincent Van Gogh, Chris Elliott and Amy Sedaris wallowing in relative obscurity. Even Bob Odenkirk is probably better known as "The President of Beer" to most people in America, instead of as the co-creator of the show that redefined sketch comedy.

On the other hand, the things that everybody loves and thinks are great at the time often whip people up into a ridiculous fervor of blind enthusiasm. To the point where the creators begin to think they are above reproach and their minions are more than willing to nourish this idea.

So you get things like Ricky Gervais, the Osbournes and Nazism.

Or Pinkberry.

What is Pinkberry? Read this article and find out.

The quick version is that Pinkberry is a low-calorie frozen yogurt stand that supposedly is delicious. I say "supposedly" because I have not, nor will I ever go in there and try it.

Because sometimes you have to take a stand. You have to say "no" to the Hive Mind.

"Maybe a Prius will give me slightly better gas mileage, but it's not really going to save the Earth and besides, everyone I know who drives one is a screaming asshole."

Yes, I am talking to you, Tim Jennings.

On a technical note, maybe Ricky Gervais doesn't suck. Maybe he is only recently receiving universal praise. I don't know, I'm not sure, but I'm not taking any chances.

I do what Teddy Ruxpin tells me to do and today he told me that I need to free my mind and the rest will follow.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Star Wars nerds/geek people

Wow. I've seen some pretty awesome stuff but I think if they had this when I was a kid, I would have shit my pants.

Because I was incontinent.

But also because it's so cool!

You see that Yoda on that guy's back? That's a backpack! It's like you've got your very own Yoda from Empire Strikes Back, hanging on to you! And even better than a real Yoda, this one is hollow and holds crap inside his body!

Illegal Aliens

Have you been concerned about foreigners illegally crossing our borders and stealing our jobs?

Me either, but this looks pretty awesome.

Click on the trailer for "Illegal Aliens".

Thursday, August 24, 2006

#810,202 of things that should be illegal but aren't:

Beauty pageants for children.

I know it's been in the news lately, what with Jon Benet and all, but seriously, how are these things not child abuse?

I mean, look at the kind of pictures these people take of their children.

That's a picture of a real girl, it's not a doll.

Look at this bunch of zombies. I am so sick of the excuse that, "She loves to do it!"

Even if that's true, which it obviously isn't, judging by the blank look on many of their faces, it doesn't make it right.

If a kid drinks a beer, he may actually like it. A lot. But does that mean it's not wrong?

Each one of these pictures is a caption-contest waiting to happen.

Monday, August 21, 2006

OK, I have a better idea

So I just wrote about how I want someone to buy me a Mac and this got me thinking.

As a back story, a few years ago, I began asking people for $12,000. I felt that if I had $12,000, then I would be able to free myself up to pursue my career and would soon be able to return that investment.

Well, fate has a weird way of working things out, because I got my $12,000. In fact, I got twice that. The weird thing is, it came in the form of disability insurance after I had massive heart surgery. So I am wary of "putting this out into the universe" that I want a new Mac. Especially since I have an appointment with my doctor on Wednesday.

Even though I said 'please', Macs are expensive. The cheapest option I spoke of is the $599 Mac Mini and hopefully that wouldn't be the one someone would buy me. You would hope they would at least get me the upgraded one with the Dual Core processor.

Anyway, I was inspired by my friend Penelope, who recently gave me her old iMac. It's a really cool computer but I don't feel it's adequate to get into blogging with, because of it's 32 mb of ram and OS 8.5.

No, for me to get the real feel for a Mac, it's going to take at least 512 mb of ram and OS X.

I want to run iLife and iMovie and stuff like that. I want to feel what it's like to be a Mac user!

Now, an alternative to my original plan is this: someone else should give me their used (but newer) Mac. An iBook or newer iMac, maybe? Perhaps you just got a Mac Pro and now your G5 tower is gathering dust?

This way, you're not taking anything away from yourself, in fact, I am providing you with a service. I have lots of crap that I should probably throw out and I would love if someone came to me and said "let me give your crap a home and I will use it and love it and take care of it". Really, if you think about it, I am the one doing you a favor, not the other way around.

So please give me your crap, as long as that crap has at least a G4 processor, 512 mb of ram, an 80 gig hard drive and a DVD burner. These specs are negotiable if we're talking about a laptop, because I am not picky. These are suitable alternatives for me. Again, just let me know.

Thanks again!

Please buy me a Mac

OK, I know I'm not a hot chick with big boobs or anything, but I was thinking you guys should buy me a Mac.

Even a Mac Mini would do, though I'm hoping for a MacBook or a Mac Pro, but hey, beggars can't be choosers, right?

I've been reading lots of articles about what's the best Mac to use for blogging and oddly enough, their conclusions were never "a PC", so Paypal me some money or if you want to buy it and have it sent to my house, that is fine too.