Sunday, June 29, 2008

Batman, again

I saw the first Chris Nolan interpretation of Batman when it came out on the big screen, and again some later on DVD video. It was a fantastic story. (For those people who dismiss it by saying “it’s a comic book character”, consider that it is another portrayal of a conflicted archetypal hero character. Look at the story in that context.)

I also saw Nolan’s Memento not long after it came out and it was fantastic. It was cryptic too, but at the end one could sort of put the story together.

His new movie “The Dark Knight” opens in three weeks, on July 19. I’d seen trailers and read the description of the making of the movie included in an interview of Nolan in a story in Wired magazine. Rolling Stone has a review that is hugely laudatory as well.

The movie was shot in 70mm for IMAX, and fortunately there is an IMAX theater not far away. Nolan also eschewed digital effects almost completely, instead going with real principal photography and stunts for the spectacular scenes.

So I bought a ticket for the 12:15 (noon) show, and reserved a front and center seat. This isn’t the first showing - it actually shows at midnight:15 early the night before. When I bought the reserved ticket, the theater was already half full with reservations. So the marketing - viral and overt - has worked. But I think people are going because Chris Nolan is such a good writer and director, and Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman are such good actors.

PS: I’m seriously considering buying another ticket for the showing immediately after!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Movie - Up the Yangtze

I went to a showing of a new documentary movie “Up the Yangtze” about the effects of the creation of China's Three Gorges Dam. The movie is by a Canadian-Chinese filmmaker, and was financed by the National Film Board of Canada. It is about a peasant farm family who live near the banks of the Yangtze, and are being forced to move off their tiny farm and into a town as the river turns into a lake and the water rises. The oldest daughter in the family, who seems to be about 13 or 14 years old, wants to go to high school but instead has to go to work on one of the luxury cruise ships on the river that carries Western tourists who want to get a glimpse of the "old" China. We also follow a young Chinese youth (who is more metropolitan than) as he starts his first job as a greeter and host on the cruise ship. There are no grand vistas in the cinematography, but we get to see huge apartment buildings that have been emptied of their occupants as the residents were forced to move to higher ground.

The movie gives an excellent portrayal of the family, which lives in a candle-lit hut that they co-occupy with their chickens, a pet dog and a kitten. Neither of the parents can read - they are farmers - but they are sending all their three children (an interesting situation that is alluded to obliquely in the movie) to (at least) primary and middle school. The eldest daughter wants to continue school and has a goal of becoming a scientist, but has to go to work to earn money. The youth on the other hand, is an only child. The man who hires these children to work on the ship characterizes them as young and self-centered, and that seems to be a characterization shared by other adults and even lived up to by some of the youths working on the ship. (These kids' attitudes wouldn't be out of place at all in an American high school or college though.) The young girl from the peasant family is a notable exception, and is easily the most sympathetic character in the movie.

And that is what's curious. Even though this is a documentary, it seems almost like a feature movie. Except that we are deeply touched by the effect the dam is having on the lives of so many people. It is sad and touching.

Apparently the film is showing in the US only at the Laemmle's Santa Monica, but it seems to be available through Netflix.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Screenwriter's Blues

It’s 6:30 AM and I’ve been up for an hour or more. I almost always wake at least :30 minutes before first light, and have done so for decades. Usually I just lay in bed and daydream, or think about what I have to do in the coming day, or think about problems in life I have to solve. But I don’t usually get out of bed until I have to, or maybe even until the very last moment so I’ll be a little late getting to work unless I really hustle.

But my foray up to Malibu last Sunday morning at 6 AM has become somewhat of a model for what I’d like to do and can do if I just get out of bed.

So I got up at 5:30 this morning to check the surf and maybe go out. But the surf is non-existent.

I did actually check it last night shortly before dusk. It was blown out then, but even so I could still see that there was nothing underneath the miniscule wind swell. And the CDIP showed it still small this morning, so I didn’t even walk down to check. (Surfline says a small southern hemisphere swell may begin to start up late this week and into the weekend. So I may start dawn patrolling soon anyhow.)

But back to the morning.

After not going out, I got onto the computer and didn’t the normal start up chores - check email and check a few random websites. For the past couple of days I’ve been enrolled in UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program free “Open Cyberhouse“ (sic). It’s a forum where the various teachers of the various writing classes promote their classes and answer questions to interested prospective students.

Like me.

Or like me if I had any questions.

And most of the questions in the forums are frankly not very useful to anybody but the original questioner. So I watch and pick out the tidbits or quips or references that are useful.

Thus far I’ve found about two, one of which prompted this post. And that was a reference to a weblog by one of the writer/teachers, Scott Myers, who has Go Into the Story, a Blogspot blog with his own domain name. Myers apparently is a well regarded teacher of character development, and in one of his recent blog posts he refers to WGA’s podcast interviews of well known screenwriters and TV writers. This sounds interesting. And so I bookmarked both Myers’ site and the WGA site, and found my collection of bookmarks of writers’ sites and started visiting them (e.g. Kung Fu Monkey, by John August). This is inspirational, or perhaps simply catalytic for my current spate of inspiration to start writing again.

Anyway, I avoided (yet again) reading the NIST Guide to Computer Security Log Management. And now it’s 7:20 and time to get ready and then leave for work.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

FileVault test

I got a new computer at work, finally*. Now I have to transfer my account on the current machine to the new machine.

However, the account on the current machine is encrypted with FileVault, and is fairly large. (Possibly larger than the remaining free space on the machine, but I’m not sure about that.)

The question is whether deleting a file vaulted account results in an encrypted disk image of the user’s home folder? I decided to test this at home. (I’m a professional, I can do this.)

I created a new account on the home machine and FileVaulted it. It turned out that I had not set a master password for the machine, and creating an FV account requires that. Who knew…

I created the account and added a few things into Documents, iTunes library, and iPhoto library. I then attempted to turn on FV for the account, but the machine warned me that I couldn’t do this with other accounts open. I switched to my main working account and logged out, then back to the test account and turned on FV. It started the process by effectively logging me out, then encrypting the account by (presumably) creating a new encypted sparse image and copying the test user data into that. It then securely deleted the test user account’s files, and dumped me back into the login screen.

I logged in and checked it (all okay) and logged out. Went back into my main user account and deleted the test account through the Accounts preference pane. This took about :90 seconds, which wasn’t a problem.

Unencrypted, the data volume for the test account’s ~/ was about 142MB. Encypted, the data volume for the test user’s encrypted sparse image was almost 190MB. Apparently there is some overhead.

Next test is to create another test account and then move the orphaned files from the first test into the second test, and see if they properly inherit permissions. Given how the encrypted home was deleted into an unencrypted sparse image I anticipate no problems.

Follow up: I was wrong. There is a problem.

I attempted to open the FileVault Test sparse image with Disk Utility but it failed, both in /Users/Deleted Users and when I moved it to my own Desktop.

So I’ll have to look to the user forums and the books in hope for a solution.