Creativity is just connecting things.
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Tag Archives: tv

Movie Review: Anvil: The Story of Anvil

AnvilThose who know me know that I grew up on 80’s metal. Mostly because that’s how I learned how to play the guitar…and partially because it was the coolest thing going (sorry, INXS / Depeche Mode / Whatever Other Pouty Band You Can Name Next). I thought I had heard of every 80’s metal band, but I had not heard of Anvil. Now that I’ve watched Anvil: The Story of Anvil, I understand why.

Anvil, founded in Canada in 1973 by Steve (Lips) Kudlow and Robb Reiner (no, not that* Rob Reiner), shot to fame in 1982 with their first, and most influential metal record, Metal On Metal. Cited by Metallica, Megadeth, Guns ‘n Roses and many other 80’s era metal gods as one of the original groups to forge the “Heavy Metal” template, Anvil rapidly faded into obscurity, thanks to the now-typical laundry list of music industry landmines: shitty management, horrid tour booking and awful follow-up record production. Take those three ingredients and repeat them for the next 20 years and you have Anvil.

The story doesn’t dwell on their fireball start in the industry but quickly humanizes every member by documenting their present-day worlds. Unfortunately for them, they are unable to make ends meet purely by their music, and we’re taken along for an intimate, sobering and sometimes lighthearted tour of their shitty jobs and broken dreams. Miraculously, the core of the band (Kudlow and Reiner) remained best friends and refused to stop rocking.

Luckily, after a terrible European “tour” that was booked by a rabid, incoherent female Czech fan, inspiration strikes Kudlow on the lips. He decides to send a demo CD of their latest tunes to the original producer of Metal On Metal. To their surprise, the producer gives it a go (with the appropriate amount of funding from the band, of course) and pulls the band together to complete their 13th studio record, aptly titled “This Is Thirteen.”

Anvil then tries to go the old-school route by sending out CDs to record labels for distribution deals. It takes a few rejections before they turn to the power of the Internet and social media to get the word out. Luckily things take off and they triumphantly return to Tokyo, Japan to play a festival, and they kill. And that, my friends, is just the beginning of Anvil’s new lease on life.

With a strangely compelling and charismatic band and blindly supportive yet weary and sympathetic family members, it’s hard to imagine how Director Sacha Gervasi couldn’t make you hope for Anvil to pull it out of the fire. With great editing, great pacing, and just enough drama without seeming like it’s from a reality tv show, it’s no wonder this film won so many awards.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil, is one hell of a story. Forget that it deals with an 80’s metal band. Or they’re from Canada (not that there’s anything wrong with that ;-)). Any sympathetic human being would find this film to be moving, uplifting and inspiring. Said person might even venture to iTunes and buy their music after hearing their latest stuff. Go see it and turn it up!

Final verdict: 4 out of 5 beers. I dare to say this is the all-around best rock music film ever made. Better than It Might Get Loud, better than Spinal Tap, and better than the U2: Rattle & Hum. I would have given it 5 out of 5 if it had an amazing live guitar solo moment, but it didn’t.

50 Things About Me

This blog, founded on June 1, 2004, is written and produced by Matt Binkowski.

Matt and baby Elise

1. I have been happily married for 14 years to my best friend, partner in crime, and all around love of my life.

2. My daughter Elise is perfectly cute, funny and smart as a whip. My baby boy Miles crashed the party on November 29, 2008.

3. I collect old Apple hardware:
– 1 Apple Pippin (Developer’s Edition)
– 1 Emate
– 2 Newtons (130 and 2100)
– 1 Interactive TV Prototype.

4. I started playing guitar when I was age 15.

5. My hollow-body aluminum strat was hand-built by a gifter luthier, Tom Murray.

6. I’ve driven a Wrangler over log piles, shale beaches, large boulders, through flooded trails, on the Rubicon Trail and the Chrysler Proving Grounds.

7. I like to think I’m a good painter and draftsman.

8. My dog lives on a 20 acre ranch in California and I miss him every day.

9. I lost my home, job, friends and savings thanks to the financial collapse in 2009 but somehow we were rescued and my family is okay.

10. I need to be challenged wherever I work.

11. If I’m watching a band is playing at a bar, I get nervous because I’ll feel like I’m up next.

12. My favorite color was blue and now it’s red.

13. I am an Eagle Scout and once won the Summer Camp-wide Archery competition.

14. I think Flash is the least usable application a designer has to deal with.

15. I used to live in California during the big internet boom and I miss that optimistic culture.

16. I rarely use my iPod Newton.

17. I love my iPod iPhone.

18. I find my Newton iPhone more useful than my iPod Newton.

19. I once fell from the roof of my Mom and Dad’s house and I didn’t get hurt.

20. I’ve never broken or sprained anything.

21. I once camped outside for 24 hours while it was 10 degrees below 0.

22. I once played in a band described by the Metro Times as “Detroit’s most offensive hardcore band.”

23. I took that as a compliment.

24. I loved playing in that band because our live shows were so crazy.

25. I painted three life-size oil portraits of my friends for my senior thesis in art school.

26. My college band performed a show in front of AC/DC’s lead singer and 800 high school kids. (it was so odd to see Brian Johnson just 30 feet away from me watching us play.)

27. There’s something comforting to me about a buddy list that makes me think I’m able to keep up with friends.

28. I take other people’s old Macintosh computers when they mention throwing them out because in some weird way it feels wrong.

29. I am determined to create my own OS X iPhone app.

30. I bought a Jeep so I could learn how to take it apart.

31. I hate being bored.

32. I have a good way of being calm in hairy situations.

33. I can’t cook anything except Crazy Pancakes.

34. Even those don’t turn out very well every time.

35. I wish Google Maps was able to send info to my Newton.

36. I’m somewhat addicted to the news, especially during election years.

37. I can’t watch CNN for very long before it stresses me out.

38. I once hiked over 100 miles in 1 week in New Mexico while carrying a backpack that weighed over 40 pounds.

39. I only drive the speed limit when I drive with my family.

40. I can draw Dora the Explorer.

41. I really can’t stand Dora the Explorer. I’m really learning to like Dora now that my daughter is so caught up in the Disney princesses who need to be married in order to “be complete.”

42. I can do all of the Winnie the Pooh voices.

43. I drink too much coffee and not enough water. Too personal? Maybe…

44. My first guitar teacher taught me Puff the Magic Dragon. Then I quit and learned how to play by listening to the radio.

45. The first record I ever bought was Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

46. The last record I ever bought was Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

47. My favorite movie is Better Off Dead.

48. I have a bad habit of rejecting bands the first time I hear them…and then reject them again a few months later…eventually listening to them religiously about a year down the road.

49. I’ve taken over 8,000 photos and 300 movie clips of my family.

50. I am amazed you made it all the way to the end of this list.


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Peppers Sue Producers

A new Showtime tv series is being called “Californication”. Sound familiar? The Red Hot Chili Peppers do so they’re suing for creative identity theft. I find it interesting how the two production companies named in the suit are called “Twilight Time Films and Aggressive Mediocrity, Inc.” A fulfilling prophecy perhaps?


Designing for Tight Spaces

The first time I saw the iPhone’s home screen interface (the Springboard), I wondered how Apple would handle the iPhone’s lack of real estate when they’d add new apps down the line. Now that people are hacking it to add their own test apps, the issue is more relevant today.

As you can see from that image above, filling every row with an icon looks quite bad.

Traditional options to solve the problem could be any one of the following:

1. Scrolling
2. Categorized tabs
3. Smaller icons
4. Buttons that represented categories instead of individual apps

My guess is that they’ll go with #4 if and when they start to include more apps.

Scrolling would destroy the simplicity of the home screen by removing all remaining “white space”, or in the iPhone’s case, “black space.”

Categorized tabs at the top or bottom would have to be quite large and therefore, unsightly. It would also battle the bottom row of primary app buttons for importance.

Smaller icons could become problematic if each icon’s associated text scaled down as well. The truth is, you shouldn’t need to have text with successful icons. I think removing the text would be a real option if every app’s icon was required to be visible on the home screen.

Buttons that represent categories could be the easy way out for the UI designers. They could simply create an “office” category to file the notes, calculator, stocks and clock icons. Now that I think about it, having a “Clock” icon on the main Springboard is quite odd and could easily be refiled in a button category system.

One thing that still surprises me is how YouTube’s icon is still not their logo. In an age where brand identity is so 101, does anyone at YouTube not understand the power of their own brand?

Going back to the smaller icons w/no text idea, I think YouTube would benefit from that because they could swap the old TV icon with their own logo.

He’s 4Real!

There are days when I look at Elise and imagine what she will be like in the future. And like any parent who has a daughter, it’s natural to think of who she’d eventually meet someday regardless of it being a dating or marriage situation. Naturally when I read this article the first thing I said was, gee, I’m glad I don’t live in New Zealand.

New Zealand authorities have blocked a couple’s bid to officially name their new son “4real,” saying numerals are not allowed.

Pat and Sheena Wheaton said they decided to name their new baby “4real” shortly after having an ultrasound and being struck by the reality of his impending arrival.

“For most of us, when we try to figure out what our names mean, we have to look it up in a babies book and … there’s no direct link between the meaning and the name,” Pat Wheaton told TV One on Wednesday. “With this name, everyone knows what it means.”

and finally:

“The name has not at this stage been rejected,” Registrar-General Brian Clarke said in a statement Thursday. “We are currently in discussions with the parents … to clarify the situation.”

Clarke said the rules are designed to prevent names that are “likely to cause offense to a reasonable person.” Satan and Adolf Hitler were proposed names that have been declined, he said.

I Can’t Stop Thinking About This

Our office has a huge plasma tv tuned to CNN all day and it faces me just 20 feet away…interrupting my day with updates and clues as to his whereabouts. Now it’s over. He worked in the tech industry, had a young family, and was 35 years old. All matches up with me today.

The death of James Kim in the Oregon wilderness is just so terribly sad to me. I was rooting for him like nothing else in recent memory. If you have just five free minutes and knew of this tragedy, I urge you to donate a few dollars to his family. Go to their temporary site and click the Make a Donation button.


How Zune Before You Sell Yours?

With user generated content sharing all the rage, along comes Microsoft and their interpretation of “sharing” as it applies to their new “Zune” MP3 player. New York Times tech writer David Pogue took it for a spin and wrote this:

“Microsoft is leaving nothing to chance here. The Zune will be available in 30,000 stores nationwide — versus 10,000 for the iPod, Microsoft says. Zune commercials will run several times during each episode of popular TV shows, bearing the slogan “Welcome to the social.” (Either there’s a noun missing there, or they’re using “social” as a noun, as in “ice cream social.”)

The bigger problem, though, is the draconian copy protection on beamed music (though not photos). You can play a transmitted song only three times, all within three days. After that, it expires. You’re left with only a text tag that shows up on your PC so that — how convenient! — you can buy the song from Microsoft’s store.

This copy protection is as strict as a 19th-century schoolmarm. Just playing half the song (or one minute, whichever comes first) counts as one “play.” You can never resend a song to the same friend. A beamed song can’t be passed along to a third person, either.

What’s really nuts is that the restrictions even stomp on your own musical creations. Microsoft’s literature suggests that if you have a struggling rock band, you could “put your demo recordings on your Zune” and “when you’re out in public, you can send the songs to your friends.” What it doesn’t say: “And then three days later, just when buzz about your band is beginning to build, your songs disappear from everyone’s Zunes, making you look like an idiot.”


iSee for iPod isCool

Ignore the tired “i” product name for a sec and look at this. This iPod accessory actually lets you directly record TV shows and more to MPEG-4 format. How cool is this? Well the makers of iSee (ATO) are planning on releasing an HDTV version of this.

From ZDNET Asia:

“San Carlos, Calif.-based ATO will come out with a sleeve with a built-in LCD (liquid crystal display) screen that slips around Apple Computer’s iPod–whether it’s a video iPod or not–and turns it into a portable high-definition video player, John Scott, CEO of the start-up, said at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit taking place this week at Stanford University here.

The HD player will sell for between US$199 and US$250 and will be released in five months. The initial players will be able to handle MPEG 4, Divx, HD.264 and other video formats. The battery on the device will last about five hours.

The company launched its first iPod video sleeve, the iSee 360, earlier this year and is selling them in Wal-Mart Stores, Best Buy and other retailers. “Sales are going well,” Scott said.

Physically, the device is a sleeve. The iPod slips in the bottom, locks into a USB 2 connector, and effectively vanishes into the larger iSee.

While the last couple of generations of iPods have used USB 2, plugging into the USB 2 slots of the different iPods is difficult because the physical implementations of the various versions are slightly different. ATO has had to tailor its product so that it works with standard-size iPods and iPod Nanos.

The iSee also partitions the storage inside the iPod, creating an area that is for regular iPod content and another for content meant to be watched with the iSee. By partitioning the hard drive or memory, the iSee lets consumers store video clips not encoded with Apple’s copyright-protection software.

Most people will use these devices to watch small clips, Scott said, and not the kind of studio fare that Apple is selling on its site.

“It’s to get around the DRM (digital rights management),” he said.

Scott, like most of the other employees at ATO, came from Apple and produces the product under a license from the Mac maker. Philips will make some of the chips for the iSee.”

The Neighbors Are Burning

I normally come home via Ridge Road, not 6 Mile, but I decided at the last minute to drive around and grab the mail since it was a million degrees outside today. Well on the way to the mailbox, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were Fox 2 and some other TV truck parked out on 6 Mile in front of the entrance to my sub and a huge crowd was on 6 Mile.

They were watching three million-dollar homes burn to the ground:

Link to article and video

What a total bummer. Those homes were so damn expensive and nice that Melissa and I call our sub the Northville Ghettos…and we have some homes in the back that go for 500k+.