A director of box-office smashes like The Avengers, and sci-fi TV series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns out to be a closet Shakespeare fan. Not only is he a fan, but he decided to “take a vacation” and shoot Much Ado About Nothing. While the film doesn’t seem to be showing in a lot of cinemas, I caught it this weekend in London. (According to IMDB, it seems to be a failure financially, opening on only 5 screens in the US.) It’s a charming film, but flawed.
In many ways, this movie feels like a student film. Shot in twelve days in Whedon’s (capacious) home, edited on a laptop, it’s nevertheless far more adventurous than the average film-school student’s work. While these constraints do give the film a certain sincerity, I found them to prevent it from being as good as it could.
Whedon shot this in his home, with actors from his TV series, allowing him to whip together a cast he was familiar with. But the problem, for me, is that, while some of the actors slip comfortable into Shakespeare’s language, others seem just a bit daunted by the text. Amy Acker, as Beatrice, is brilliant. She has presence and spontaneity, and her lines come out nearly perfectly. But Alexis Denisof, as Benedick, comes across flat and clunky. His nasal voice sounds like a parody of a TV anchor (he sounds a lot like Brian Williams), and he seems less comfortable with the language. However, he gets a couple of physical scenes – such as when he’s in the “bower” listening to Don Pedro and Claudio discuss Beatrice’s apparent love for him. He rolls about, peeks in windows, and shows good comedic sense and timing.
But other actors don’t cut it for me. Fran Kranz as Claudio is stiff, Reed Diamond as Don Pedro has an annoying smirk on his face, and many of the minor characters – notably Spencer Treat Clark, as Borachio – just don’t have the right tone to pull off the Elizabethan language. Nathan Fillion as Dogberry doesn’t work well either, and the whole bit with the police officers comes off poorly.
In spite of these defects, this Much Ado is enjoyable. The sets are simple and effective, the use of black and white is interesting, and there’s a good feel to the production. But it seems that the lack of time – being limited to only twelve days – prevented Whedon from doing just a couple more takes of some scenes, and some of the actors needed more time to get it right. I’d like to see him do more Shakespeare, but I’d like him to take a bit more time.
Posted: 6/17/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Films & TV Tags: movies | 1 Comment »
Looking for things to do during a trip to London next weekend, I spotted this wonderful photo of Russell Square:
It’s hard to tell how high the plane is, but I’m sure someone could work it out, calculating its length compared to the length of a given city block. But it doesn’t look very high.
Posted: 6/9/2013 by kirk | Filed under: iPhone, iPod & iTunes, Miscellanea | 1 Comment »
A couple of days ago, I had problems with this blog, and found, after much searching, that my mySQL database had exceeded its quota; apparently, my hosting company just locked it, rather than sending me some kind of warning.
On this blog, I use a number of plug-ins to add features not available in WordPress, and wondered if a plug-in was the cause of the problems. The initial culprit seemed to be the Redirection plug-in, a tool used to manage 301 redirects for old pages that existed before I moved to WordPress. This plug-in also logs 404 errors, to help you find pages to redirect. The Redirection log table in my database was very large, and I deleted this to free up space.
But it turned out that Redirection was only doing its job, and the real culprit was the Sociable plug-in, used to share stories automatically on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. It seems that there’s a file missing in the latest version of the Sociable plug-in (/wp-content/plugins/sociable/images/option1/32/more.png). The more.png file is missing in four folders, each for a different pixel size; I use 32px, so that’s the file generating 404 errors.
I solved the problem by pasting a 1px transparent .png file into the /32/ folder, and I no longer get 404s; there were some 208,000 404s for this file.
So, if you use the Sociable plug-in, you might want to check your 404 log. Certain other plug-ins that log errors, such as Redirection, may be logging these in your database, causing it to balloon. And no matter what, having lots of 404s in your logs makes it hard to find things when you need to sift through log files.
Posted: 6/5/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Web Tags: WordPress | No Comments »
I use Facebook to keep in touch with far-off friends and colleagues. I check it now and then, post things, and comment on friends’ posts. I’ve always seen the column of ads on the right of the page, but I manage to ignore the ads most of the time.
Today, however, my evolutionary wiring led my eyes to check out two ads I saw. You can see them below:
I’ve always known that sex sells, but these are risible. The use of large-breasted women to sell a “government solar scheme,” for saving money with solar panels, or to get me to click through to speed up my Mac is just funny. I wonder what women see for the same ads…
Posted: 6/4/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X | No Comments »
Apple has introduced a stripped-down version of the 5th generation iPod touch (that’s the latest model) for $229. This new iPod only has one storage option – 16 GB – and has no back-facing camera. With limited storage and limited photo/video options, who is this new iPod for?
It’s an odd hybrid: it runs apps, plays music and videos, but you can’t shoot photos or videos (not easily, unless you plan to film yourself). And the storage is fine for a limited music collection, but it’s not very useful for adding videos.
However, this might be the perfect iPod touch for a very large demographic: your children. The iPod touch is a great device for games, and there are thousands of games for kids. If you have an iOS device, you’ve probably found that your kids want to bogart your iPhone or iPod touch, but at the current price for the 5th generation iPod touch, you may have hesitated about buying one. Given that the 32 GB model is $299, the saving of $70 for this device is a nice chunk of change. You get the same processor and display, but you don’t get a choice of colors. But, above all, you get a cheaper version of the iPod touch that is fine for playing games.
If it’s music you want, then the 7th generation iPod nano is what you want. It’s smaller, lighter, and has the same amount of storage – 16 GB. But it doesn’t have any camera, and doesn’t run apps. But if all you want is music, there’s no need to spend more than the $149 this model costs.
I’ve been a fan of the iPod nano over the years, and I very much like the newest model. Not only is it small and light, but it has Bluetooth. I’ve become enamored of wireless headphones for listening to music when I’m out on my daily walks, and if I didn’t have an iPhone, I’d buy the nano for music on the go. It’s got enough storage for me to add music I like to listen to when I walk, and is small and unobtrusive.
Posted: 6/4/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: Apple, iPod | No Comments »
One of the things that irked many users when iTunes 11 was released was the inability to open more than one window. Some users kept an iTunes Store window open all the time; others liked to open playlists in their own windows, to make it easier to drag tracks to them and edit their contents.
AppleScript maestro Doug Adams has released the $5 Playlist Assist, a new tool which replicates some of the old iTunes playlist window features. Playlist Assist gives you a floating window that you can use to create and edit playlists. But you can also get track info, change tags, play tracks using Quick Look, and export playlists.
I’ve been using this for a while in beta, and I’m quite impressed by its flexibility. If you want a great tool for creating and editing playlists, you need Playlist Assist.
Posted: 6/4/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: iTunes | No Comments »
Since my move to England, I’ve had far too many problems with my mobile phone service. It started when I switch to EE (Everything Everywhere) and found that my iPhone was bleeding data. This resolved eventually, though EE didn’t help me very much.
The day I bought my mobile phone contract, I asked about temporary 3G access for my Mac. When I moved from a temporary apartment to a permanent one, I needed to have internet access while I waited for my broadband to be activated. The salesperson recommended that I buy a T-Mobile USB stick with 3 GB data, good for three months. He said it was a current offer, and might not last long, so I should buy it right away. I asked if it was compatible with OS X, and he said it was. So I spent £30 for the package.
Turns out, he was wrong. I tried to set it up a couple of days ago, and it froze my Mac often, as well as disrupting Bluetooth (my trackpad and keyboard are wireless). So I removed it, and went to the EE store to ask for a refund. To my surprise, I was pretty much laughed out of the store. Since it was more than 14 days after I bought it – even though it doesn’t work – the response in the store was, essentially, “too bad for you.”
Contacting EE, then T-Mobile customer support, they confirmed that, even though the device doesn’t work as I was told, there’s no way I can get a refund. So that’s £30 lost for a piece of crap that doesn’t work. I don’t know if I should fault the salesperson; he might simply have assumed that it would work with OS X correctly. The box has no compatibility information, but the T-Mobile website says it’s compatible with 10.7; that is, the version of OS X that is two years old. T-Mobile can’t be bothered getting the software updated to make it work.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve found that mobile phone companies and ISPs generally lie about their services here: about bandwidth, pricing, so-called “unlimited” data or call packages and more. It seems that consumers have very little power in this country; or rather that the telecom companies act with impunity saying pretty much what they want with no control. I’m disappointed, and miss the relative simplicity (and lower prices) that I was accustomed to in France. In all my years using the internet and mobile phones in France, I never had as many problems as I have had here in less than two months.
Oh, and the broadband? It was supposed to be set up by June 3; it’s now the 4th, and it’s not on yet…
Update: A Twitter follower pointed out that the Sale of Goods Act says that I should be entitled to a refund. I’ll go back to the shop when I get some time and bring this up. But I don’t feel that I should have to waste this much time because of deceptive sales practices. I’m really surprised that EE/T-Mobile care so little about their customers. These problems have just made me want to go elsewhere.
Posted: 6/4/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Miscellanea Tags: telephone | 1 Comment »
The recent hullabaloo over Apple not paying income tax is almost surreal. The company has so much money overseas – currently some $100 billion in cash – that it has issued bonds to proceed with a share buy-back plan. The interest on the bonds is much less than the amount of tax the company would pay if they repatriated some of their income.
In addition, it turns out that Apple negotiated a “secret deal” with the Irish government back in the 1980s, so they only pay 2% income tax on the money they park in that country, though they actually only paid about 0.5%.
My question here is not whether it is moral for Apple to do this (the law allows them to do so), but why Apple or any other major corporation is not treated like other US citizens?
Expatriate US citizens – whether they are permanent residents of other countries or not – are taxed by the US on their foreign income. There is an earned income exclusion, which increases from time to time, and which does not take into account exchange rates. A US citizen could be well under the threshold for paying taxes one year, but if on the date that the exchange rate is calculated, the rate is unfavorable, they could owe taxes the following year on the same amount of income. (The current earned income exclusion is $95,100 for an individual, and $190,200 for a couple.) This exclusion also does not take into account the relative cost of living of a country. If the cost of living is higher, salaries will be higher. I experienced this 25 years ago when I lived in Norway for a year; everything cost nearly twice as much as France (where I was living before that), but salaries were higher to compensate.
In addition, the paperwork for Americans overseas filing taxes is substantial, complicated, and in many cases requires the use of a tax attorney or accountant. (See this Boston Globe article for more about this issue.)
What’s even more unfair is that Americans abroad are taxed twice. Once in the country they live in, and another time, if they earn more than the earned income exclusion, by the US. It’s interesting to note that the only other country in the entire world that does this is Eritrea.
Yet Apple isn’t even a resident of another country. Their subsidiaries are, but those subsidiaries only make money for the US company; Apple doesn’t have separate business entities for different countries or territories. (Though they manage to avoid paying VAT in all EU countries but one by “locating” their iTunes Store activities in Luxembourg, where VAT is only 3%, thereby denying VAT income to other countries where digital content is purchased.)
It’s obvious that expatriate Americans get little or nothing in exchange for their taxes. Other than the low-probability events requiring getting bailed out by the US Consulate, Americans abroad get no Social Security benefits, no unemployment, no health care, or anything else for their tax dollars. Apple, however, and other global corporations, get huge benefits from the US legal system, research infrastructure, publicly-subsidized education system, and the many international treaties and agreements governing such key factors to their success as intellectual property and trade regulations. So all of Apple’s sales overseas benefit from the broader fact that it is a US company.
So let’s treat Apple – and Google, Amazon, Yahoo! and all the others – like American citizens. Tax their overseas income, don’t let them set up a web of tax shelters, but make them pay their share.
Posted: 5/27/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, Miscellanea Tags: Apple, taxes | 15 Comments »