Friday, June 08, 2012

Batch of links, and an update

I’ve been thinking about my online presence lately. I’ve decided it was high time to take the next step for this blog and give it its own URL. I had bought the domain name a while back, but never got around to using it, for various reasons. I finally hired Synapse Internet (founded by a friend of mine) to take care of things for me. You can now update your bookmarks to! I also changed the header by using a photo by Mei Teng found through stock.xchng, which I then cropped. Hopefully I’ll get around to working on my photography so that I can use my own pictures at some point.

I’ve also been giving some thought to my previous website(s). I haven’t updated it in almost three years! When I first started this blog, I explained that this format suits me a lot better than my bilingual website format. I’ve now decided to be honest with myself and admit that I will no longer be updating my old website, because I like blogging so much more. I will leave it online for at least a few years, but I can’t promise that it’ll be there indefinitely. Today’s batch of links will be things that I had up my sleeve for the next website update. Some of these links (and the CD reviews) are, in fact, three years old – sorry about the delay. I’ll get back to recipes very soon!

- Care2 is known for exposing topics on which we need to act and for organizing the effort to change things. It’s usually something like fighting animal cruelty, human trafficking or overfishing. But sometimes, they expose a group that is acting in an absurd way. It turns out that the coal industry is saying that CO2 is good for us, because reducing CO2 would… cost jobs? Um, what about jobs created by switching to greener technologies? And what about all the bad things that CO2, in excess, has been proven to do? I’m really glad that Care2 is exposing this, and you should go read the article to see what crap is being advertised to the American public. [This article is dated from 2009, but unfortunately the situation hasn’t improved much.]

- A great article about using the Passion Index to rate artists – that is, instead of only counting how many albums or songs an artist has sold, actually counting the number of times the songs were listened to (which we can now track with digital media).

- I wanted to share this link from the Sundance Channel, where Isabella Rossellini explains with a puppet show how different animal species reproduce. It’s not only educational, it’s quite fun and well presented. The Green Porno series even discusses what to do about species that are driven to extinction by humans (like calalmari and anchovies, due to overfishing). [There’s now a new series, Seduce Me, about how animals choose mates.]

- I had been hearing about real-life vigilante superheroes. I had always thought, after reading superhero comics, “Why can’t we have vigilantes like this in real life?” (Well, the ones without superpowers, at least.) It turns out we do! There are some in Cincinnati, in Milwaukee, in Massachusetts and even in Verona. I understand the dangers of one taking the law into one’s own hands, both for oneself and for the general public, but I still applaud the principle if it’s done correctly and in collaboration with law enforcement.

- This Is Us – The Backstreet Boys (2009)
What to say, what to say... Well, Straight Through My Heart is catchy, sure, I’ll give it that. But the album as a whole is quite monotonous. Nothing really stands out, and it just sounds like one big dance mix, without any actual musical instruments. PDA’s lyrics are a little immature for men in their thirties, as is courting the club scene. Then again, it’s not like they wrote most songs (they have just one to their name). As a matter of fact, so many people are involved in the making of this album that it was really nice for the band members themselves to even show up to record anything for this. Also, the Auto-Tune feature is totally overused, but the worst part is that they wouldn’t even need it, because they can actually sing (not that this is the greatest album to prove it).
All in all: This Is Us isn’t really them; I think it’s their label’s idea of what they should be right now. Let’s hope the next one is closer to Never Gone or Unbreakable. The Backstreet Boys are in fact talented vocalists, so I’d like to hear it on their album. [Update: I’ve since listened to Howie D’s 2011 album, Back To Me, and it’s the exact same thing. I’m hoping that Kevin Richardson’s return to the band will improve things.]

- Shout It Out – Hanson (2010)
Waiting for This (which has the title lyric) is catchy, and overall quite similar to the band’s previous work. Thinkin’ ‘Bout Somethin’, the first single, is the song that really has people talking: it was written in the style of a lot of Motown songs, cowbell and all. The video is worth seeing (MTV even named it one of their top 5 videos with killer dance sequences). I still marvel at how Hanson had to struggle, break barriers and become an indie rock band with their own label before they could… do synchronized dancing? A dance that was taught to fans filling in as extras, minutes before the shoot? It really fits with the Blue Brothers homage, though, and the song is really fun (and in Hanson tradition, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll realize it’s a song about a bad breakup that’s been made into this super happy tune). The two songs that stand out to me, style-wise, are And I Waited as well as Give A Little (I would bet money this was composed on the Rock Boat IX cruise, because it reminds me of Under The Sea a little bit, which Hanson covered during that event) . Also, there’s no hidden track at the end, which is disappointing for a Hanson album. I love Kiss Me When You Come Home, and Carry You There for something slightly more mellow (though Use Me Up and Me Myself and I are really the sad ones). Overall, though, this album has too many horns. Some horns are nice, but I think that the band equates them with a certain creative freedom, since they started using them on their first indie album; here they often take over.
All in all: This album doesn’t stand out for me the way the two previous ones did and contains no surprises, but it’s a very good album nonetheless.

And on a more recent note…

- I saw Snow White and the Huntsman last weekend. Unlike Mirror, Mirror, it wasn’t a retelling so much as a reboot. It’s nice to see it told as an action movie with fabulous special effects (but as the Engineer rightly points out, we’ve come to expect those on the big screen by now). Charlize Theron does a fantastic acting job, though at times I found her performance over the top and more dramatic than a two-year-old’s tantrum. Chris Hemsworth is awesome, but his role doesn’t stray too far from Thor (which we already know he can do). As for Kristen Stewart, if she wants to prove that she can act, she should stop playing blank characters (Bella Swan is a good example of blank, and Snow White, at least in this movie, is as well).

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