Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays: Zombie Attack Edition

Here's wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday, even in the face of a zombie attack. They're more likely every year! Take a few minutes and watch this video for some tips on how to ensure your holiday spirit isn't hampered by the living dead:

And on a final note, it wouldn't be another one of my sporadic posts without a promise to start posting more regularly. But this time I mean it! Look for more snark and wit from MaxRambles in 2011!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PSA: New Girl Talk Album Available For Free Download

Girl Talk has released his new album, All Day, and it's available to download for free right now via his label, Illegal Art. Also, it's great.

The Illegal Art download page lists the following license information:

"All Day by Girl Talk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. The CC license does not interfere with the rights you have under the fair use doctrine, which gives you permission to make certain uses of the work even for commercial purposes. Also, the CC license does not grant rights to non-transformative use of the source material Girl Talk used to make the album."

PS: I know things have been spare here, again, to say the least. With a little luck this should be changing soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Max Rambles Mix Tape Vol. 3

So it's been a while since I've posted a mixtape, and since I moved to Halifax I've been listening to a lot of great new music. With that in mind I threw together a quick mix of mostly new things, though Josh Ritter and Futurebirds have shown up at least once before. This one's a shorter playlist than usual, not quite EP brevity but certainly not the length of an LP.

Anyway, enjoy! Click Here and scroll to the bottom of the page to download the mix. Here's the tracklist:

Day One - Sarah Slean
I See A Fox Drinking Wine Outside A Bar In France - Pat LePoidevin
Snow is Gone - Josh Ritter
Never Satisfied (Revisited) - Jackie Greene
Teen for God - Dar Williams
My Skateboard Will Go On - Anamanaguchi
Years (By One Thousand Fingertips) - Attack in Black
The Late King Henry - The Wooden Sky
APO - Futurebirds
The Gardner - The Tallest Man On Earth

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It Gets Better Project

Today is Spirit Day and in recognition of that fact MaxRambles is purple. Around the world people are wearing purple clothing to honour all the teens who have committed suicide as a result of hateful anti-LGBT attitudes. In light of this I want to recognize the It Gets Better Project, which collects videos of people expressing their support to LGBT teens.

Huge numbers of LGBT teens experience bullying and have no support system to turn to when they consider taking their own lives. The It Gets Better Project is an effort to speak directly to these youths, to encourage them that no matter how dark things may be life does get better, and to show them that there are people in the world who support them. As Harvey Milk said, "You gotta give 'em hope," and the It Gets Better Project explicitly strives to do just that. Many people have contributed videos to the project's YouTube page, including public figures like Hilary Clinton and Neil Patrick Harris.

Hatred is a terrible force that can have devastating consequences and today we remember the young people whose lives it has tragically claimed. Even something as seemingly inconsequential as wearing purple clothing is at least a statement against hatred and a show of support for its victims.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Wooden Sky 10/15/10

This past Friday I had the honour of seeing The Wooden Sky perform at The Seahorse Tavern in Halifax, NS.

The folk-rock band played tracks from their two LPs, When Lost At Sea and the sublime If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone. Their sound covers a huge spectrum with both energetic, danceable numbers and slower, more pensive tracks. Whether I was moving my feet or just bobbing my head slowly, throughout the entire night the performance was captivating. These guys are nothing if not earnest and on top of that they've got some great songs at their disposal, and all in all it makes for a very good live show. In an incredible closer after a full electric set The Wooden Sky were joined by opener Yukon Blonde as they came out into the crowd and finished things off with a couple of acoustic sing-alongs. Highlights of the night included an exuberant cover of "American Girl," a haunting rendition of "Something Waiting For Us In The Night," and the acoustic performance of "Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot to Me)" in the midst of the audience. It was a show to remember and one that left me wanting more great tunes, as any good concert should.

I was first introduced to The Wooden Sky last summer at the Hillside Festival in Guelph, ON. There I saw them play alone and accompanied by The Acorn, and both sets were among the highlights of an incredible weekend of music. There's truly nothing like hearing fantastic music in the great outdoors under the sun. Ever since I've been listening to their albums on repeat and eagerly awaiting another chance to hear them play live. Friday's show only reiterated how great these guys are and made me want to see them as many times as possible.

The Wooden Sky have made a real impression on me this year and I strongly recommend giving them a listen. I'll be featuring a track of their on an upcoming mixtape, but in the meantime check out their MySpace page and the video below of their best songs:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dar Williams' Many Great Companions

Dar Williams is an American folk singer-songwriter who's been active since the early 1990s. She's released around eight or so albums, and has worked with the likes of Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls. And until very recently I had never heard any of her work.

This week saw the release of Many Great Companions, a collection of Williams' greatest hits from the span of her career. It also features a disc of new acoustic recordings of some of her songs with special guest collaborators. I got a hold of the collection and sat down to give Williams a shot, and I must say I'm extremely glad I did.

Williams is quite the lyricist, covering topics like religion, sexual politics, adolescence, and love with remarkable maturity. She's at times poignant and introspective, as in the fantastic "Spring Street" or the introspective "After All." Other songs, however, demonstrate her serpent's tongue and brilliant sense of humour, as with the hilarious "The Pointless Yet Poignant Crisis of a Co-ed" (tragically absent from the greatest hits album).  In her more subdued moments she reminds me of other great female sing-songwriters like Sarah Harmer and Ani Difranco , but when Williams unleashes her biting satirical edge she enters a class all of her own. It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered a folk singer who's so adept at translating social politics into catchy tunes, and I will definitely have “The Christians and the Pagans” stuck in my head for days to come.

Many Great Companions gives a broad cross-section of Dar Williams' career, and seemed like a fantastic entry point for uninitiated listeners like me. For fans who already own the “best of” material here, the disc of new acoustic takes makes this release a worthy addition to any collection. Evidence of that fact can be found below via two mp3s of the new acoustic tracks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy International Suit Up Day 2010

Things you should take from this post:

1. I am a fan of How I Met Your Mother.
2. Suits are awesome.
3. Yes, I am wearing a suit right now.

I don't mean for this to sound like an advertisement for the show, but it is great, and any excuse to wear a suit is ok in my books. Here's to looking sharp:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Sociopathic Network

David Fincher's The Social Network paints a cynical, foreboding, and above all else compelling portrait of contemporary youth culture. The film depicts the beginnings of Facebook, the internationally successful social networking website that has redefined how people interact both on– and offline. Set in the first decade of the 21st century, The Social Network examines how the advent of the Internet as a dominant social force empowers able young minds in the face of traditional institutions of privilege. The result is a power struggle between the new generation and the old order for control of the future, and the casualties include friendship, honour, and morality.

In The Social Network, Facebook’s origins are told via flashbacks as details are recounted during lawsuit depositions. From the beginning the website’s co-creator, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), is shown alone and on the defence against friend and foe alike. On one hand he faces accusations of intellectual property theft from the over-privileged Winklevoss twins (both played by Arnie Hammer). At the same time Zuckerberg fights a legal battle with his one-time best friend and co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Right from the start we know that while the website is successful it destroys the relationships of everyone involved in its creation. The Social Network explores what makes the website such an intoxicating and destructive force.

Facebook is depicted as an unprecedented source of social power, the ultimate commodity of youth. Zuckerberg sees the potential to attain status among his university peers and stoops to any means necessary to achieve it. As Napster co-creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) says, “This is our time,” in reference to the young innovators who have the knowledge to reshape the world using the Internet. Those with no established privilege suddenly have the opportunity to overthrow the social hierarchy, and the proposition is too great to let anything like morality stand in its way. Zuckerberg steals from the Winklevosses and cheats Saverin to create something new and cool, and all the while we know of the legal battles that result from his behavior. The Social Network shows how our contemporary social landscape was formed while giving the poignant sense that something was irreversibly lost in the process.

The brilliant soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross perfectly captures the sense of dread that pervades The Social Network. The opening track, “Hand Covers Bruise,” uses dour, resonating bass notes set against a delicate piano and hair-raising strings to initiate a sense of innocence and impending doom. The central thematic conflict is reflected in the soundtrack as rising electronic beats demonstrate the excitement of the young programmers achieving social dominance. Meanwhile a nightmarish industrial take on Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” evokes the failure of the old order. Not since There Will Be Blood has there been such an original, evocative, and atmospheric motion picture soundtrack.

The Social Network is a captivating film that paints an extremely cynical portrait of the people behind Facebook. None of the characters are depicted positively but none are cast as complete villains either. Instead they all look like victims of a general lack of conscience and foresight. The movie could be worth seeing for the soundtrack alone, but in context it makes an already great film spectacular. Don't miss The Social Network, easily one of the best films of 2010. 

Check out these sites for more reviews. Click here to download a five track EP of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's incredible soundtrack to the film.

Monday, September 27, 2010

HDR Imaging is Stunning

A few weeks ago a San Francisco based studio called Soviet Montage Productions produced the world's first high dynamic range video, as seen above. For those of you who have never heard of HDR (i.e. most people), it basically refers to images that display greater light and dark values than traditionally possible through conventional methods. There are numerous ways to accomplish this but the simplest is to capture multiple images of identical content at different contrast levels and then merge them. If that sounds like gibberish then maybe the image below (c/o Wikipedia) will help to explain:

An HDR image (above) and its source images (below)

As you can see the products of HDR imaging are, in a word, stunning. For a better explanation of the technique(s) involved check out the fascinating Wikipedia article on the subject. Below you can see an example produced by photographer Andrew Rees. His video is a black-and-white HDR time-lapse of Cardiff, Wales, and as Gizmodo points out it looks very much like a sketch pad come to life. Simply breathtaking: 

I just wanted to share some of these incredible sights and the corresponding Wikipedia article. I'll leave you now with an amazing shot of New York City at night, one of the most impressive examples of HDR imaging I've seen thus far. I only became aware of this photographic technique a few weeks ago but it's quickly become fascinated by the potential it displays (ha). It's more vivid and lifelike than anything I've ever seen, and I'm very curious to see what intrepid artists (especially cinematographers) can do with it.

(Shamelessly stolen from Geekosystem and Gizmodo)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hilarious Video: Test Your Awareness

Check out this hilarious video. See the comments section for my thoughts, I don't want to spoil the punchline.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trolls: Activists for the 21st Century?

Over the last week "trolls" from the 4chan boards have staged multiple highly-coordinated web attacks on the likes of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Tea Party. Official websites for both the MPAA and the RIAA were brought down by massive DDoS attacks, and was flooded with new users who spammed the photo section with images like this exceedingly NSFW photoshopped image of Sarah Palin.

The 4chan community is notorious for their online exploits, including inventing Lolcatshacking the 2009 TIME 100 list, and bringing down stock in Apple with premature rumours of Steve Jobs' demise. The website is founded on the ideas of freedom of expression and anonymity, and as a result its users' content and actions are often unidentified and shamelessly perverse. In a recent trend 4chan users have committed acts of social-justice minded vigilantism, including tracking down animal abusers. The latest attacks on the MPAA, RIAA, and Tea Party are motivated by each organizations actions against the public and general assholery.

The actions of the 4chan board are a modern form of mob justice, but increasingly they have become a form of organized and militant protest. Their attacks are hugely powerful, fueled by internet users from across the globe united in their hostility towards heartless corporations, political hate-mongers, and common standards of decency. Is this a new form of political activism for the 21st century? A site for unrestricted international outcry against any and all forms of douchery? Or is this just meaningless trolling, plain and simple? Is there a difference? Time will tell, but either way the 4chan boards have made a name for themselves by displaying what can be achieved via the internet, both for ill and for good.

For further reading check out The Atlantic for some great recommendations on trolls, hackers, nerds, etc. Weeks ten and eleven in particular are relevant to this post.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

From Around the Web - 9/19/10

There's nothing I particularly want to rant about today so I decided to save my energy and just post a few links. I felt that would be best for all our sakes. Also, it's
 International Talk Like A Pirate Day and I was extremely tempted to write this whole post in pirate-speak. I got one sentence in before I decided that was a terrible, horribly irritating thing to do. When I found myself looking up the word "avast" in the dictionary I decided to take my own advice and give up on the gag. I feel this will be best for all our sakes. Without further ado here's what's interesting elsewhere in cyberspace:

Retina Displays: One step-closer to a reality for consumers, still tragically ridiculous in appearance

Some interesting statements by one of the poor bastards facing charges from the RIAA for downloading music. Also a site for discussion of new media and copyright issues

Bill and Ted 3. Seriously, it might happen. Maybe the most exciting thing I've read this year.

A series of articles predicting twelve things that will be obsolete in ten years. Very futurist, very cool

Amusing videos: Tornado in Brooklyn + two idiots that give the double rainbow guy a run for his money. Also, even Cthulhu is getting in on the Old Spice phenomenon

Toronto, my home, I weep for you

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Homophobia, Blood Donation, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Earlier this week Madam Justice Catherine Aitkin of the Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of Canadian Blood Services (CBS) in their suit again Torontonian Kyle Freeman.

In 2002 Freeman informed CBS via anonymous email that he was a gay man who had donated blood numerous times between 1990 and 2002. The organization traced Freeman's identity and sued him for lying on question 19 of the blood donor questionnaire, which asks, "Male donors: Have you had sex with a man, even one time, since 1977?" Freeman countersued, arguing that the question violates his right not to be discriminated based on his sexual orientation as guaranteed under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Question 19 is meant to identify men who have sex with men (MSM), as many reports indicate an unusually high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among MSM. In Canada CBS indefinitely defers (read: permanently restricts) the donation of blood from men who have had sex with men, even once, since 1977. In his countersuit Freeman also sought to have the ban struck down.

The repercussions of this decision are extensive, as it both sets one bad precedent and maintains another. Aitkin's ruling states that the Charter does not apply to CBS because of its bureaucratic structure and the organization's distance/independence from government. Many fear that this will allow the government to ignore the Charter altogether by creating "independent" bodies to carry out governmental tasks. One Globe and Mail reader commented that the Eldridge case sets a seemingly relevant precedent with regards to the Charter most definitely applying to such organizations, though I don't see any evidence this was considered by Aitkin. It's pretty terrifying to imagine any government operating outside the Charter, but especially so given our current political climate. I would hope to see this ruling get overturned by the Supreme Court, though who knows if it'll get that high or go that way.

Also disturbing is the fact that MSM will continue to be openly discriminated against under this ruling. To my mind this is a significant and easily avoidable failure to promote equality and quash persistant homophobic stereotypes. Admittedly I don't know much/anything about the science behind all this, but it seems obvious that screenings should seek to identify the degree and safety of potential donors' sexual activity. For example, Italy and Spain screen for the level of safety involved in all sexual activity. Similarly Australia, Japan, and Sweden screen based on the number of partners one has had in the last year. These seem like relevant questions to ask in order to identify high risk donors, not questions as to the nature of the sex one is having.

AIDS is not a "gay disease" or some ludicrous punishment for "amoral" activities, it can be and is transmitted among heterosexuals who don't use caution and/or protection. If a man has only been having sex with one male partner for a significant period of time then how is he a high risk? He poses no more threat to the blood supply than any man who has only had sex with one woman for a significant period of time. To discriminate against MSM is archaic, ineffective, and prejudicial, and I am sorry to see it authorized in this fashion in Canada.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Max Rambles: Not Dead, But Different

I'm going to start this post by listing a few of the things I have done since August 5th:

1. Quit my job, thereby eliminating my primary source of funding and free time for blogging
2. Travel extensively for pleasure, including my first trip to New York City
3. Feel guilty about neglecting this blog
4. Ignore many, many emails
5. Pack up all of my worldly possessions and drive them 1,792 km (that's 1,113.5 miles for my American readers) to relocate to Halifax, Nova Scotia
6. Live through a hurricane
7. Begin law school

So yeah, it's been kind of a busy month. There were always things I wanted to blog about, and I felt like I should put up a post explaining my absence, but time just seemed to get away from me. It's really easy to keep up a regular posting schedule when you're getting paid to sit in front of a computer for nine hours a day, most of which you spend doing nothing. But when you suddenly find yourself with a lot free time and the simultaneous need to prepare for a significant life change, blogging fall kind of low on the priority list. Anyway, so that's where I've been. Now lets take a moment to discuss where I'm going.

I'm starting law school. That's kind of a daunting proposition, but I'm really looking forward to it. Despite the fact that everyone tells me how first year law is going to kick my ass, I think I'm going to be able to handle it. That said, I figure it will take up the vast majority of my time and mental energy. So where does that leave Max Rambles?

The short answer is I'm not sure. I want to say I'm going to keep posting, albeit less often than I used to, but I can't make any promises. I can say that I am going to try to post once a week at a minimum, even if that only amounts to a short post linking to something cool I saw on Geekosystem once every seven days. That much I should be able to manage.

So that sort of gives you all an idea of what I've been up to and what I'm hoping to do with this page in the coming months. For now I guess we'll just see where it goes and hope for the best. Who knows, maybe law school will turn out to be super easy and I'll start blogging like every day again. More realistically I'll probably end up doing my best to get one post up a week, and most of them will be short and to the point. Kind of contradicts my titular propensity to ramble, but hey, I'll do what I can.

Thank you all for reading thus far, and I hope you keep coming back. More than that I hope to post things that keep you coming back. I'm going to aim to post something new every week on, say, Sunday evening. Yeah, that seems like the most realistic proposition. Anything beyond that Sunday evening post (ha!) I'll consider a bonus, and I leave it to you to judge whether or not it actually is one.  Please do let me know.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Google, Verizon, and Net Neutrality

There's a lot of talk going on right now about a possible agreement between Google and Verizon for prioritized data transfer. The New York Times stated that the two companies are negotiating a deal that would allow Verizon clients to access information stored on Google's networks more quickly than other online content. Bloomberg further reports that this agreement applies only to the Verizon mobile network, not to broadband internet. If such an agreement were realized it would stand in direct opposition to the net neutrality principle that Google has repeatedly championed in the past. Both companies have issued statements denying any discussion of priority data transfer, with Google stating that it remains "committed to an open internet."

The details are still quite murky so it's hard to say exactly what is going on here. The Times and Bloomberg could both be completely off their rocker, though that seems somewhat unlikely. They were at least correct in pointing out that Google and Verizon are indeed talking about net neutrality from a business standpoint. But it would be a dramatic change of face for Google to be pursuing any sort of data prioritization policy. As Mashable points out, the two companies are more likely doing just what they say they are: discussing an official agreement on the terms of net neutrality. It is kind of a hot topic right now. Marvin Ammori posting at Balkinization does a great job of outlining how bad it would be if the allegations were 100% correct. I encourage you to give his piece a read, as well as some of his older posts about net neutrality and especially the discussions at the F.C.C.

Rather than jump to apocalyptic conclusions, lets take this as an opportunity to consider the value of net neutrality and the need for government regulations to preserve it. Right now it's easy to take it for granted that the internet is unregulated in terms of our ability to access all content equally, but that could easily change. We are incredibly lucky that companies as powerful as Google (generally/publicly) favour a philosophy so geared towards the consumer, and this event demonstrates how easy it would be for the rug to be pulled out from under us. Unless specific government regulations are set in place the control of internet access will fall on the providers. Net neutrality needs to be government policy, not just philosophy, and this all shows that the F.C.C. negotiations might not be enough to ensure that in the U.S.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Heroes in Law: Judge Barbara Crabb

It's not often that you can hold up someone in the legal system as a shining example of awesomeness, but today I have the pleasure of doing just that. This post is about U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb (on a side note how amazing is it that there's such a thing as Judgepedia?!). Last week Judge Crabb ruled that three characters "created" by Todd McFarlane were actually derived from characters previously created by Neil Gaiman.

The dispute originates with issue #9 of McFarlane's Spawn comic book series. Released in 1993, the issue was guest written by Gaiman and introduced a set of "Medieval Spawn" characters into McFarlane's universe. In 2002 a US federal court found that Gaiman was a co-copyright holder of three of these characters, namely Medieval Spawn, Angela the angel bounty hunter, and Count Nicholas Cogliostro.

Spawn #9, featuring Angela
Gaiman further questioned the origins of three characters in the 1999 series Spawn: The Dark Ages, believing them to be imitations of his Medieval Spawn characters. Judge Crabb ruled in favour of Gaiman, determining that Dark Ages Spawn and a pair of female angels, Domina and Tiffany, were derived from the characters the Gaiman created.

Judge Crabb made it awesomely clear that she had taken the case seriously, describing and utilizing the official mythology and logic of the Spawn universe in her ruling. The decision is available in full here, and is totally read-worthy, but here are the some of the more relevant passages:

Much as defendant tries to distinguish the two knight Hellspawn, he never explains why, of all the universe of possible Hellspawn incarnations, he introduced two knights from the same century. Not only does this break the Hellspawn “rule” that Malebolgia never returns a Hellspawns to Earth more than once every 400 years (or possibly every 100 years, as suggested in Spawn, No. 9, exh. #1, at 4), it suggests that what defendant really wanted to do was exploit the possibilities of the knight introduced in issue no. 9. 


If defendant really wanted to differentiate the new Hellspawn, why not make him a Portuguese explorer in the 16th century; an officer of the Royal Navy in the 18th century, an idealistic recruit of Simon Bolivar in the 19th century, a companion of Odysseus on his voyages, a Roman gladiator, a younger brother of Emperor Nakamikado in the early 18th century, a Spanish conquistador, an aristocrat in the Qing dynasty, an American Indian warrior or a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I? It seems far more than coincidence that Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn is a knight from the same century as Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn.

McFarlane has been instructed to provide Gaiman an accounting of money earned from any comic books and other merchandising in which Dark Ages Spawn, Domina, and Tiffany appeared. He has until Setpember 1st to comply.

Spawn: The Dark Ages
It's unfortunate to see artistic disputes like this, especially from people as talented and passionate as Gaiman and McFarlane. McFarlane has tweeted "COMMENT: Neil Gaiman has the absolute right to defend his position. That’s one of the great privileges we all have in this country. TODD." Gaiman described his reaction to the victory on his blog:

I wish I took some kind of joy in this, but I don't.

At this point all I hope is that Todd can do an accounting for all the comics I wrote for which he paid no royalties, and the rest of it; and that he'll settle up and I will make some comics charities very happy; that his comics company will finally come out of bankruptcy; and that I can forget this forever.

Gaiman also provides further reading about the case via Maggie Thompson's blog and his own archives.

Bringing this post back to the positive angle, Judge Crabb clearly did her homework and then some. She dove head first into the incredible universe that McFarlane (and Gaiman) created and took it seriously. More so, it seems, than some of the series' authors. She used logic, evidence, and critical thinking to elucidate exactly why Gaiman deserved copyright interest in the Dark Ages Spawn characters, and even stated it in the terms of the Spawn lore. As someone who is seriously considering a career in law, I can say that Judge Crabb is the kind of legal practitioner that I would hope to be. She made the right call for the right reasons, and what's more she made it awesomely. A true hero in law.

(Via Geekosystem, where you can see some side-by-side character comparisons to judge for yourself)

Friday, July 30, 2010

This Actually Exists: Titanic 2

No, this isn't a trick. Your eyes do not deceive you. This is the real deal: Titanic 2. As in a sequel to the movie Titanic. You know, the one James Cameron made? About the boat? That sank? "I'm the king of the world" and all that jazz? Yeah, there's gonna be a sequel, and no, it is not taking itself at all seriously. Take a look at the official plot synopsis:

On the 100th anniversary of the original voyage, a modern luxury liner christened “Titanic 2,” follows the path of its namesake. But when a tsunami hurls an ice berg into the new ship’s path, the passengers and crew must fight to avoid a similar fate.

Seriously. A fucking tsunami (!) "hurls" an "ice berg" at the boat? Like, oh my god. My mind reels at the problems with that premise. First off, it's completely ludicrous, in an awesome way. Second, just what the fuck is an "ice berg"? Since when can "ice" be used as an adjective? The word "berg" is actually the short form of iceberg, so are they trying to say the boat gets hit by an icy iceberg? Granted I'm nitpicking, but come on, it's fucking Titanic 2! How can you not have fun with this? The producers clearly are.

When I first heard about the movie I had a conversation with a friend about how the "antagonist" of the film is clearly an evil, sentient iceberg. The result of that conversation was the picture you see below:

That seemed like an appropriate thing to include. Anyway, I was inspired to post this morning by the release of the trailer for Titanic 2, and you can watch it in all its glory right here. Enjoy, I know I did, particularly the line "Looks like history's repeating itself." Classic.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Awesome In The 90s: Will Smith

He's as confused as you are that this look went out of style

I recently found myself reminiscing with a friend about the '90s, that magical and perplexing time when music was "alternative" and boy bands were socially acceptable. The world was still innocent and people were more accepting of others. Lilith Fair was good. Truly it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the '90s was the popularity of one Will Smith. This so-called "Fresh Prince" was a veritable force of nature that appeared in and dominated just about every imaginable form of media. You couldn't skateboard to the local CD store without being assaulted by billboards advertising his latest entertainment endeavor. Now, I know that you're thinking "But Max, Will Smith is still popular now!," and to an extent you are correct. It's true that Smith continues to appear in major blockbusters and remains one of the most powerful stars in Hollywood. But even in that he is but a shadow of his formerly transcendent self. Allow me to elaborate:

Second only to Thriller?

Back in the '90s it seemed like Smith was constantly in the public eye. He was featured in a major motion picture almost every year in the decade, including veritable classics like Enemy of the State and Bad Boys. Smith starred in the one-and-only American classic, Independence Day, AKA the movie that was advertised using the best acronym ever, ID4 (this point has been agreed upon by top scientific minds). On top of all that he also contributed to the soundtracks for two of his summer blockbusters, Men In Black (acronym: MIB) and Wild Wild West (epic music video above).

I have spent countless hours mourning the days when I could listen to the radio and hear Will Smith's voice "rapping" the title of his latest summer flick over-top of some old Stevie Wonder music. For this alone the '90s were truly the time of kings.

All that is to say nothing of Smith's non-movie-related musical releases, in which he continued to celebrate his being an irrefutable badass. I remember purchasing his 1997 debut, Big Willie Styles, alongside a copy of Our Lady Peace's Clumsy, and then listening to Smith's album like way more. His humbly titled follow-up, Willenium, was notable for its inclusion of the aforementioned Wild Wild West song and for closing off both the decade and millenium in style with "Will 2K." Way to class it up, Will.

How many other celebrities can list coining the term 
"Jiggy" among their career achievements?

Last but certainly not least I should mention Smith's success on television. It would be impossible to forget his turn as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which has been cemented in the cultural consciousness by countless public renditions of the Carlton dance by bad dancers. That and the continued popularity of the show's theme song, produced by none other than (gasp!) Smith himself! A man of many talents indeed! The show ran from 1990 until 1996 before Smith moved on to work exclusively in film, and the world has felt a little more empty ever since. I take solace, however, in remembering the show's greatest moments, including a crossover with yet another '90s gem, Blossom. If you click here you can watch the TV event of the decade in Spanish on YouTube. Whoa!

I believe that with this post I have proved both that Will Smith was more awesome in the '90s and that human existence in general was better because of it. I will leave you with Smith's classic 1998 single, "Miami." Enjoy, and (as always) make sure to "jig it out y'all" whatever the hell that means...

Monday, July 26, 2010


Tomorrow marks the release of Blizzard's Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, the long awaited sequel to the real-time strategy (RTS) classic Starcraft. Released in 1998, the original Starcraft is widely considered one of the best games ever made. It continues to be played to this day, particularly in Korea where it has spawned a hugely popular league of professional players. Sort of like how my dad never got over The Beatles, the gaming world never really got over Starcraft, and so the sequel looks to be the most anticipated and significant releases in recent memory.

Some friends of mine put together a funny video to depict the sheer personality-devastating power of Starcraft 2. It's pretty funny, reminiscent of both Animal House and Mega 64, and probably more true to life than you'd like to believe. Check out more of their stuff at Annex'd.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Max Rambles Mixtape Vol. 2

I'm long past due for another music-related post, and so with that in mind I happily present the Max Rambles Mixtape Vol. 2. This one's a fair bit peppier than the last one, and frankly more eclectic. There's everything from east coast Canadian rock (Sloan, Thrush Hermit) to classic funk (Tower of Power) to chiptune punk (Anamanaguchi). Here's the tracklist:

She Says What She Means - Sloan
King of Spain - The Tallest Man On Earth
Courage - The Tragically Hip
MJB - Futurebirds
Brick House - Tower of Power
Take a Chance - The Magic Numbers
Thy Will Be Done - Handsome Furs
Not What You Think It Is / Stop Signs (Live) - Dan Mangan / Shane Koyczan
At My Expense - Thrush Hermit
Airbrushed - Anamanaguchi
Ginger - Lilys

Visit Megaupload to download the mix, type in the security code at the above right and click on the "download file" button immediately below. You'll have to wait like 30 seconds and then click on the "Regular download" button to save the mix. Unlike last time around the tracks on this mix will show up as separate files. As always enjoy and lemme know what you think or if you have any recommendations!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Discovery of the Day: Apple Has a Dystopian Torture Chamber

Disclaimer: the title of this post is sarcastic, Apple does not actually have a torture chamber... At least not one we know about. I wouldn't be surprised if they have a special place designed for the likes of Jason Chen and Bill Gates. But I digress...

I was reading Geekosystem this morning and came across a post about the wireless testing facility that Apple revealed last week in the wake of all the iPhone 4 reception controversy. Geekosystem's Michael Suen (aptly) notes that the so-called "Infinite-Loop labs" would make a great Half-Life level, but I noticed something else. An eerie similarity that borders on the uncanny...

Note: the remainder of this post will make a lot more sense if you have seen Terry Gilliam's 1985 masterpiece, Brazil. Even if you haven't seen the movie (get on that) you should still be able to see the creepy similarity, and to be honest the imagery is no less terrifying when put in context.


... Brazil


... Brazil

The images above show the horrible torture chambers seen towards the end of Brazil and in Cupertino, CA. Clearly Apple has built a room of horrors for some sinister purpose beyond the comprehension of our relatively virginal minds. Or to test their shoddy cellphones. Same difference.

Steve Jobs, hard at work on all your favourite Apple products

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Anonymity Online: Blizzard and Real ID

I've been reading a lot about last week's Real ID debacle, and its broader significance in terms of identity on the internet. In case you were more concerned with things like the World Cup finals, early last week video game juggernaut Blizzard announced that they would be implementing a program called Real ID that would force users to identify themselves by their real names when posting on the company's forums. This move directly effected a significant portion of the gaming community, as Blizzard is the developer of hugely successful international franchises like Starcraft and World of Warcraft. The response from gamers and internet users alike was overwhelmingly negative, and many expressed fears of privacy invasion and abuse. By the end of the week Blizzard announced that as a result of the feedback they would no longer be going forward with the Real ID program on their forums.

At first I didn't pay much attention to Blizzard's announcement given that I don't play WoW or post on their forums. When the proverbial shit hit the fan, however, it became impossible to ignore as more and more people started weighing in on the issue. On Saturday I listened to the latest Invisible Walls over at and became incensed as I heard Shane Satterfield talk about how Real ID could help clean up the internet. He argues that by making people identifiable and accountable we will develop a communal sense of propriety online like the one that purportedly exists in real life. Even if Satterfield weren't wrong he'd still be missing the point, as the consequences of Blizzard's plan would have far exceeded their stated aims. If you start forcing people to identify themselves online you force the real world upon them, with all its prejudices and limitations. Users are effectively robbed of the ability to have a unique online persona, and that is not a scenario we should accept under any circumstances. The possibility for identities that exist beyond physical and spatial constraints is perhaps the most valuable aspect of online interaction, and anonymity is an integral aspect of that phenomenon.

The immediate ramifications of Real ID are pretty much universally negative, beginning with the exposure and vulnerability of users who accepted its terms. In one of the uglier episodes in the debate about this new program, a Blizzard employee attempted to demonstrate the Real ID program in good faith by using their real name on the message boards only to have their detailed personal information posted by a user. This included his phone number, names of his relatives, and his address, though not all of the information was correct. While unfortunate, this does provide an example about how easy it would be for users to be preyed upon by malicious entities. You wouldn't even need to post anything to see the real names of users, and that kind of openly disseminated information is a risk. This seems especially true given that video games have led to acts of violence in the past by unhinged individuals. It simply baffles me that Blizzard would produce such an opportunity for its customers to be exposed in this manner.

Along those same lines, another evident negative to Real ID would be the outing of minority gamers. Ethnic groups, women, etc., would be exposed and left open to targeting and abuse by the same trolls Real ID was intending to stop. Susana Polo at Geekosystem notes that the current atmosphere online suggests we need anonymity to protect these groups, and that this points to an internal problem of accountability and acceptance. While true this doesn't mean that the Real ID program would do anything to promote tolerance among users, but would certainly give direction to the hatred. Satterfield argues that message board trolls would clean up their act if identified, but this perspective fails to address the core issue behind the attitudes and assumes that all such users see their beliefs as unfavourable. Polo wisely advises against Real ID in favour of greater responsibility within the gaming community, asking users to stop ignoring and thereby perpetuating examples of hatred and intolerance.

While these are certainly serious concerns, the most evident victim of Real ID would be the conversation itself. Many have commented that the Blizzard forums would see a massive drop in participation following any implementation of Real ID, and there's no doubt that's true. Whatever discussion remained might be more polite, but it would definitely be less diverse in terms of the number and range of its voices. Whatever thoughts might gestate on the board would be restricted to the point of irrelevance by the very design of the creative space. By limiting the voices you render the conversation effectively impotent, and that is the absolute last thing we should be doing.

The internet is an environment with real post-human potential, and virtual entertainment is one of the most vibrant sites for interactions that explore this new horizon. Communities are founded here regardless of countless "real world" factors that might otherwise deny their formation, and their anonymity enables them to function on their own terms. I'm not going to justify the discussions of online communities because frankly I don't have to; uninhibited debate never requires a defence. People like Sean Brooks and Clay Shirky study and endorse the positive effects of online communities, and both argue that there can be real value even in that which isn't necessarily intelligent or polite in a traditional sense. To disavow that potential because of trolls and hate-mongers simply isn't a justifiable action as the quantifiable loss would far outweigh the supposed gain. It's fine to allow for "real life" identification in cyberspace, and indeed many choose to use their legal names for their online presence. But to make it the rule is quite another thing, and any such action would be a significant step backwards in terms of progressive discourse.

As it stands Real ID isn't happening and that is a good thing, but we shouldn't let it be the end of this story. Anonymity is an important facet of the unique cultural phenomenon that is the internet, and this event demonstrates how easily it could be lost. We can bring "reality" into the fold at any time by identifying ourselves, and likewise there should always be an option to abstain from doing so. Real ID would have taken away that choice and that is not something I am prepared to accept, no matter the reasoning. I'd rather wade through a thousand message boards filled with hateful trolls (the Ain't It Cool readers come to mind) than see compulsory identification programs aimed to "clean up the internet." Progressiveness trumps propriety every time.