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.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jesus in Portuguese Playboy

I'm going to present this without comment. It's better that way. Check out the link for the context and consequences.

(Via Geekosystem)

Games As Art: Roger Ebert Admits He Was Wrong

I'm already a week late to report this, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention here that Roger Ebert admitted he was wrong to dismiss video games as a potential site for artistic expression. He didn't go so far as to say it that games are art, mind you, but he at least acknowledged that he was wrong to write off the medium without "being more familiar with the actual experience of video games." Which is exactly what I called him on, along with countless other gamers and open-minded people.

The title of Ebert's "apologetic" blog entry still conveys a distinctly judgmental and dismissive tone, but I suppose you can't teach an old codger new tricks. If he wasn't such a great and influential writer it'd be easy to ignore him and his dated opinions about video games, like I do with my dad. But this is Roger fuckin' Ebert we're talking about, the dude bleeds film criticism. It's just too bad that he's positioned himself so completely on the far side of the generational divide. I would love to hear his thoughts on something like Ico if there was a way for him to truly understand it. Alas, I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cool Stuff: Creative Collaboration

Apologies for the absolute dearth of content around here lately, I've been out of town a lot and generally otherwise occupied. I've got a few things I'm working on that'll hopefully come to fruition soon, but for now I wanted to share this really cool argument/video:

Clay Shirky, an American writer and theorist on internet technologies, has an interesting perspective on the value of creative collaborative activities on the internet. This includes everything from knowledge databases Wikipedia to memes like Lolcats. He sees the internet as a significant leap forward in terms of human culture, comparing the hours spent actively utilizing it to those spent passively watching television. In describing the inherent worth of even something as trivial as Lolcats, Shirky argues that "the stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act. Doing something is different than doing nothing."

Check out the video below, it's well worth four minutes of your time, even if it is a passive interaction. I for one am on board with him, and I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

(Via Geekosystem)