SAY GOODBYE TO 2005

Greetings,

Well it’s that time of year again. Time to say goodbye to a crazy year. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like time keeps speeding up.

On the global front, I’m not going to repeat what about a billion people have already said, say one point: 2005 was a pretty hard year in general for the world, what with the tsunami, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Pakistan. The Year of the Natural Disaster? Perhaps. But there’s more to it than that. President George W. Bush had the worst year yet of his presidential career, Canadians are dealing with an oncoming federal election that no one really wants, Pope John Paul II passed away, the London bombings scared the living s*** out of me when I first heard it, fears over a potential flu pandemic… ok, it was a rough year for the world. So let’s raise glasses tonight on the hope 2006 will be a happier, less chaotic year for the world. The CBC has an excellent site on the events of the past year here.

Technologically, 2005 was a really exciting year! Google’s constant launches of new products, podcasts came of age, the Xbox 360 came out, Wi-Fi really hit the big time, and it looks like Sony’s Digital Rights Management fiasco over embedded XCP spyware in CDs may spell the end of DRM in 2006 (hooray!). The next-gen DVD format war seems to be cooling off, Flickr really hit the big time (the best photo-sharing service around), Skype and the general VoIP motif started going mainstream. It was an exciting year for tech writers like myself. Check out Bill Thompson’s BBC journal entries on the year of tech change.

Media-wise, I think the story that was hardest on all folks like myself with more than a passing interest in the health of the media was the CBC lockout. It still feels surreal, even months later, that the CBC was offline for two months. Thankfully, blogs kept the dialogue going, especially the great Tod Maffin‘s CBCUnplugged.com site. Blogs in general are doing a remarkable job at keeping the MSM on its toes (see Technorati for why this is, Daily Kos is continuing to impact the media in ways never seen before), and I have to say that I found a renewed sense of purpose with this blog in 2005.

For me personally, 2005 was a really good year. It was a year of massive change. It started out pretty well, with the winter term at King’s. I ended up doing things I never expected to do again and got some nice little trips out of it, heading to Seattle, Newfoundland, Quebec and Cape Breton. I won awards at King’s for service and graduated with an excellent academic average. The summer featured a lot of change, coming back home and expanding my freelance writing once again. By the fall, I had found a fantastic job that I’m thrilled to have. On top of this, I got some great new freelance jobs with Beer.com, Business Edge, Marketing Magazine and continued working away with game reviews with Globe Technology. I’m doing quite well now, and I have to say that this past year has been a really good one.

For 2006, I have a couple of goals to meet. For one, I’m going to start a concerted effort to really get in excellent shape. I know, I know. That’s a pretty standard New Year’s Resolution-type thing. But I’m serious, I really want this to happen. Right now, I have a three-times-a-week exercise routine but I need to do more. Further, I’m going to significantly cut out alcohol from my life. I don’t drink a tonne as is, but I’m looking to maybe drink much less than I am. The red wine is nice and it has excellent health properties, but it contains sugar and just doesn’t seem worth it as much as getting sugar out of my diet. I’m declaring a war on sugar and alcohol in 2006 for my body.

Second, my brother has become a virtual expert on vitamins and medicinal drugs in the past few years. He’s leaving for a post-grad program out west in August 2006, so before he goes, I want to get into a routine of supplements that really help me overcome some potential health issues in the future. Nothing really serious, just that prevention is far, far superior to treatment.

All of this is about discipline, nothing more or less. I’ve been disciplined enough to accomplish everything I have up to this point – multiple university degrees, journalism career, awards, volunteerism. I’ve done a lot for myself in this area of my life – 2006 will be about my body.

So what’s up for 2006? Well, the first few months will feature a lot going on; my b-day, a few trips, the Winter Olympics and just working away. I’m going to be getting into CBC Radio content in 2006, as I’ve wanted to do this for sometime and now that my life is settling down I can focus on doing some fun audio freelancing material.

So a toast to the past year and the coming year folks. Say goodbye to 2005!

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SO SICK

Greetings,

After several days of family events, Christmas-related events and seeing pals that, due to different locations and jobs, I don’t see often, my body is finally giving out.

I had a really nasty flu/cold bug that hit me hard this week. I’m getting over it slowly, but I think this means my New Year’s Eve won’t be full of booze (probably a good thing).

Which, incidently, reminds me. I’ve made it a habit on this blog to post a year-end retrospective on my own life and the ongoings of the world. I’m starting to wonder if it really matters. In the blogosphere, where personal minutia is the currency of dialogue, it’s essential you talk about yourself and your own life. Because really, of the 22 million and growing number of blogs out there, does your take on digital music players, Saddam or an election that few Canadians are really engaged in mean that much?

THE YEAR IN FILM AND THE ACT OF GIVING


– “You’re dead Hughes!”

Greetings,

Well it’s that time of year again: I’m going to offer up my minor voice on this year’s film offerings.

I think 2005 is going to be known as the year in which movie-going (at least, in terms of physically going to the cinema) hit a wall. But there’s more to it than simply technology – on-demand films, the explosion of DVD sales, downloading movies through BitTorrent – that’s changing people’s film-watching habits. This wasn’t the best of years in terms of movie quality. Here are some of my choices for best and worst films of 2005.

BEST

Wedding Crashers – Normally most serious filmgoers would downplay a film that’s part of the Ben Stiller-Will Ferrell-Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn milieu of frat boy humour. But this movie was great. Funny as hell, charming and it had Rachel McAdams in it.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin
– I was quite surprised by this one. Steve Carell was fantastic in this movie, making his character very likeable but funny in the same way.

War of the Worlds

Spielberg’s most terrifying and amazing sci-fi flick since Jurassic Park, Worlds managed to make tripods seem creepily plausible, human panic scarier than the cold hatred of aliens blasting them into dust, and Tom Cruise actually unlikeable.

The Constant Gardener

I loved this movie! It’s heartbreaking, intelligent and tackles the pressing issue of the twisted relationship between Africa and multinational corporations with sensitivity and depth. Plus, it’s hard not to like both Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz (best part: Fiennes doing what he does best – a good guy with a tortured heart).


Good Night, and Good Luck
– Another spectacular, if understated, film that works well as both a historical window on the 1950’s and as a parable for today’s climate of fear in the U.S. George Clooney’s finest work.

A History of Violence

This movie was un-freakin-believable. It stayed with me for days afterwards, mostly because it was incredibly good from start to finish, with Viggo Mortensen playing Tom with ease and terrifying turns of face. William Hurt’s performance is worth an Oscar nomination. Incredibly unsettling and brilliant, David Cronenberg’s best film yet.

Sin City – A landmark film in everyway, Robert Rodriguez did a brilliant job with Sin City. A huge cast with everyone well-suited to their roles, terrific use of green screen technology and a plot with brutality laced everywhere.

Brokeback Mountain – Haven’t seen it yet, but everyone’s saying this is the one to land Heath Ledger a Best Actor Oscar. Just watch: if this one wins Best Picture at the Oscars, the red-state/blue-state phenomenon rears its ugly head again.

WORST

Oh, where do I begin…

Star Wars: Episode III
– I know, shocker. I wanted to like this film a lot, I really did. But after a few viewings, I realize something now: George Lucas managed to screw up all three films of the prequel trilogy. Why? The script is awful. Truly awful. Sure, it’s heartbreaking after Anakin turns evil, but come on!

Domino – Whoa, this was bad. What was Keira Knightly thinking?

Derailed – What a waste of time. Can someone explain two things to me: why Clive Owen doesn’t stick to doing smart films like Closer or Sin City and avoid movies like these, and who decided Jennifer Aniston belonged in a movie like this?

Stealth – Not even Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel could save this one. I was bored out of my mind. Take Hal 9000, mix it in with Firefox and put in some hot young actors, you’d think this would work. Nope.

Elektra – Yikes. Jennifer Garner needs to think long and hard about her choices in movies. The last thing I saw her in that she was any good was 13 Going on 30, and that was more than a year and a half ago. Not to mention the fact Alias is toast come the end of this season. Incidently, in the name of full disclosure, I’ve picked on Jen in this blog before with her choices in music on iTunes. I don’t have a “thing” against Jen (I actually think she’s very charming).

Doom – Great idea. Too bad it’s a) been done before, and infinitely better and b) looked like the whole budget was spent on “perspective” camera angles to mimick the game. Honestly, will Hollywood ever get video game adaptions right?

Hide and Seek – Dakota Fanning is starting to creep me out. This film sucks something fierce. But it’s not even Fanning who’s the problem. It’s Robert De Niro, a formerly great actor reduced to working in films like these that’s the real problem. Is Hollywood really in this much trouble?

Herbie: Fully Loaded – Oh Lindsay. Lindsay, Lindsay, Lindsay. You had such a great 2004 with Mean Girls, which actually made you a certified movie star. While this was a contractual obligation through Disney, Herbie was like root canal. I saw about 15 minutes and turned it off. It was bad.

ACT OF GIVING: Every year, our family donates to the ChumCity Christmas Wish. You give unwrapped toys to children across the GTA who can’t get a Christmas for whatever reason. Please donate in these last few days before X-Mas.

GOOGLE’S ZEITGEIST


Don’t you love it?

Greetings,

I never thought I’d reach the point where I’d become passionate about as many brands as I do. Apple is one of them, but Google is definitely right there on top. I love this company and everything it does.

Why? Because it just does everything exceedingly well. And one of the key components of any successful brand is delivering on its promise and providing users with a comfortable, easy-to-use interface that works well. There’s a good reason why Google’s stock price is over $400, why people can’t get enough of it and how well the brand has penetrated every corner of the planet.

I can’t think of a single Google service I don’t like. I use Google everyday, love my GMail account, use Google Book Search, blog with Blogger, Google Maps is fantastic, Google Scholar is exceedingly useful, Google Video has immense potential… well, you get the picture.

Anyway, with the year almost over, Google released its annual Zeitgeist. These are fascinating, for they describe more than just what web users are interested in. Janet Jackson on top, though?

Coming soon, the end of 2005 review.

VOICES AND THE FLICKS


– “Oh no, it’s… Aragorn? Oh wait, wrong movie.”

Greetings,

I had the great pleasure on Tuesday to go to a podcasters’ meet-up in Toronto. I met some very nice folks, including a really nice couple who run this quite impressive site called Interactive Voices. It’s a very interesting site and if you’re in the market for voice talent or looking to get yourself out there with your voice talent, check them out.

MOVIES: This winter is turning out to be an amazing winter for movies. Hollywood’s had a rough year, so this winter has to be a good one. So far, looks encouraging. I’m really excited to see King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia, Walk The Line and Spielberg’s new film Munich, which could be a contender for Best Picture.

Oh, and I strongly recommend checking out Beer.com this week. Really good interview with Naomi Watts, who may not be doing this whole acting thing for awhile after Kong. She’s been exceedingly busy for the last few years.

ARCHIVE.ORG

Greetings,

There’s a real concern for supporters of open source standards that digital information is being put into a legal grey zone nowadays. In particular, this deals with media, given all the issues of copyright infringement and how the U.S. government (and, soon, the Canadian one too) are now working on the World Intellectual Property Organization’s template on copyright, which is particularly intense and very pro-creator’s position and not very flexible on “fair use” and other user-friendly issues.

Case in point: Archive.org, which chronicles online activity through the years. There’s media on the site that goes back years, and there’s real issues surrounding what material is accessible under the basis of copyright and which isn’t.

I would recommend checking out Archive.org, because it’s one of the web’s most important historical records.