The past couple of days have gone pretty well. I've had a couple of… - John C. Kirk
May. 2nd, 2003
The past couple of days have gone pretty well.
I've had a couple of revision lectures in college - as is typical from these things (since they're revision), I haven't really learned much, but there have been a couple of useful tips that justified the journeys. I was a bit surprised at something that happened when we were discussing steganography in the cryptography lecture yesterday. The idea of this is that you hide a message by storing it in the least significant bits of an image file, or an mp3, or something similar - the differences won't be perceptible to a human. One of the guys in the class then asked "how do you know which is the least significant bit?" If you don't know that, when you're doing an MSc in Advanced Computing, it really doesn't bode well...
I had lunch in college yesterday, and something occured to me that I hadn't really noticed before. The vending machine in the cafeteria was completely out of stock, so I didn't have anything to drink with my meal. That's not a huge inconvenience (as compared to people in Africa who don't have anything to drink all day, for instance), but it then got me thinking about the corresponding situation in Durham. When we had meals in college there (college being a bit more than just a hall of residence), there were jugs of water and glasses on the tables, with taps on a wall to refill the jugs. So, although there were a couple of vending machines around college, it was pretty rare for people to have a canned drink at mealtimes - we'd all just drink water, which was cheaper/healthier. Looking at Kings, I only know of one tap for drinking water in the entire main building, which is about 5 minutes walk from the student union section. I don't know if this is a deliberate choice (to raise money), given that there are signs up in the library cafe saying "sachets of sauce, salt, etc. are only for paying customers, not people who bring packed lunches". But I'd imagine that putting in a couple of extra taps would be cheaper than most of the poster campaigns that the student union run (for health and safety issues). Still, not really an issue for me, since I won't be around college much for the rest of this (academic) year.
Then dance class yesterday evening. That went ok (social foxtrot, and a bit of waltz) - Dorothy mentioned that although the exam (for bronze medal) is coming up on June 21st, it will be at her discretion whether each of us can take it, so we'll see what happens there. Dorothy also commented that in general the guys in the class are very slow at choosing partners, so it's normally quicker to get the girls to choose someone to dance with. In my case, the problem this that I look around to see who's standing nearby, then think "Ok, she's in a couple, so she'll only want to dance with her boyfriend/husband/whatever. Ditto for her. And I think that girl's in the team, so she'll probably want to dance with her regular partner." Then by the time I've finished my process of elimination, there's nobody left. This is related to the issue that the men normally outnumber the women, which means that the women can be more picky about who they want to dance with, and while I'm making an effort to be more self-confident, I don't have any illusions that I'm the best dancer in the class... Ah well, I got a couple of dances in, so that's ok.
I went off to see X-Men 2 this evening, which I really enjoyed, although I think in future I'll go for showings that are later in the evening, so that I don't have to put up with 10 year olds running around, talking, etc. (Fortunately they mostly shut up once the film itself had started.) One thing I haven't seen at a cinema before - a couple of copyright screens that appeared just before the film started, saying "You're not allowed to film this to make a pirate copy". Overall, I thought the film was very good. Nice effects for Nightcrawler's teleportation, and by the end of the film his speech about the Munich circus was starting to remind me of Fraser's spiel from "Due South". ("I first came to Chicago hunting my father's killers...") And I was very impressed by his mid-air save of Rogue, even though I probably should have seen that coming. It's been suggested (e.g. by sulkyblue) that the first film effectively acted as a trailer for this one (since they used that to establish the characters). I wouldn't quite go that far (since I thought the first film stood well on its own), but I certainly think this film hit the ground running, and kept up with that pace all the way along. And as for the ending, I think the key word here is "Phoenix" :) Some nice touches for fans of the comics - Dr Henry McCoy (aka the Beast) was interviewed on TV, Remy LeBeau (Gambit) was named next to Erik Lenscher (Magneto) on a computer screen, and another computer screen listed Franklin Richards (son of Reed and Sue Richards from the Fantastic Four) next to Cerebro. There may have been other "easter eggs" on those two screens, but they flashed by too quickly for me to read. Ah well, something to wait for when the DVD comes out, so that I can freeze-frame :) And Colossus showed up (the guy whose body turned to metal), although he wasn't referred to by name. I thought Halle Berry did a good job as Storm too - I suspect she gets a bit more clout now that she's an Oscar-winning actress... The first time I saw the original film, I thought she did well, mainly because Storm was a lot less pretentious/long-winded than her counterpart in the animated series. When I re-watched it a couple of days ago, I was less impressed, since I've seen the actress do a lot better in other films (e.g. "Die Another Day"), so I'm glad she did better this time around. The only thing I really saw as a problem in the film was that some of it relied on humans being stupid. Not stupid as in bigoted, but stupid as in "lacking tactical abilities". E.g. it should be obvious that once Nightcrawler has teleported, there's no point shooting the wall where he used to be - it would be more useful to aim your guns next to the President, so that you can shoot him if he appears there. Similarly, when Pyro was setting one police officer on fire, why wasn't the other police officer shooting him in the back of the head? (Given that this happened to Wolverine after much less provocation.) But this isn't a major problem, and in fairness there are quite a few stupid people in the world, so I'll let it ride.
Speaking of the cinema, there were a few trailers before the film. After seeing the one for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it occured to me that I may have been too hard on the film before. (They gain points for not using the "LXG" abbreviation.) Although it's different from the comic, that's not intrinsically a bad thing, if they've stayed true to the spirit, by saying "here are a bunch of pulp heroes, and we're extrapolating their further adventures from where the 19th century novels left off". And just because they've extrapolated in a different direction from the comics, or used different characters, that doesn't make the choices invalid. It's just like an Elseworlds story (to use the DC terminology). What did bother me was that they didn't say much about the characters - they referred to Dr Jekyll by name, and the Invisible Man was probably obvious from the image, but for instance they never referred to Quatermain by name. Instead, they said "Starring Sean Connery" (with his name appearing on the screen). I'd say that if that's going to influence you to watch the film then you already know who he is, so it goes without saying. On the other hand, the kids behind me seemed impressed, and I'm guessing that they wouldn't recognise the character names, so this may be a valid marketing approach. There were a couple of other films that I'm not planning to see, but which seemed innocuous enough. The one which irritated me was for Bringing Down The House. The whole tone of the trailer (which presumably reflects the film) was "Hey, black people are really cool, and white people aren't". Yay for racial stereotypes... I'm also not impressed by people who claim royal titles (Prince Naseem, Queen Latifah) - they bother me more than people who have inherited the titles. Meh.
Meanwhile, there's a discussion going on the ICSF website about the merits of downloading TV episodes from the internet, so I'm attempting to explain my views without annoying/insulting anyone in the process...