Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Viewpoint Film Challenge

My friend Russ is a very talented artist. You may have seen some of his work on some PC video game boxes or on the Canadian version of Monopoly.

About a year ago, he started a mini film fest called the Viewpoint Film Challenge. The premise is fairly simple: give filmmakers a script that they more or less have to stick to (just dialogue) and see how each one interprets it differently. The script, of course, is purposely vague.

The rules are simple:
- You cannot add dialogue.
- You can remove dialogue.
- You can move dialogue around, but not words or letter within dialogue.
- The film has to be under 10 minutes.

The first time around, the entries included not just the standard stuff, but animations and films filled with green screen effects. You can see them here.

Based on what I've seen of the second incarnation, recently holding its screening at the Arcacia Centre in Chinatown , the films are even more ambitious. Russ's film in particular is unbelievably awesome with its special effects.

It's incredible that you can do this kind of film on a home computer!

The films from the second screening should all be posted soon, so keep an eye out. Viewpoint Film Challenge 3 seems to be a given, so if you're interested keep an eye on the site or join the VFC Facebook group.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stop crime, get arrested II


Another one of these.

So let me get this straight: guy gets his place burglarized TWICE IN ONE DAY. He catches the guy in the act the second time and, in the process, kills the guy and the police are debating whether to charge the burglary victim?


This is bullshit.

The article says:

University of Maryland law professor David Gray said prosecutors must weigh
whether Pontolillo thought he was in danger or became the aggressor. If he
thought he might be severely harmed, then he was within his rights to protect
himself, Gray said. "It doesn't matter if he used a gun, a sword or a frying

How about the right to defend your property? I mean, I'm big on that myself, but I thought they were really big on that in the States. I thought you could shoot trespassers down there.

A friend of mine recently had his place broken into in the middle of the night. The burglars(s) clearly did not realize he was home, asleep in the basement. My friend (wisely) escaped out the side door and ran to a neighbour's to call police.

Now, let's imagine that my friend had a kid. Let's imagine that the kid is asleep in another room and that my friend cannot escape with the child unnoticed. Can he confront the burglar with a weapon then? (the fact that the burglar dies from their wounds should never be a consideration - you either believe in defending something with force or you don't - you can't always control the outcome of using that force)

You can bet your ass that I'd be standing there with my samurai sword or Ginsu knife or rocket launcher. Whatever I could get my hands on.

Honestly: fuck the burglar.

What? The guy was supposed to let the guy just walk off with his stuff? No? Then how the hell was he supposed to stop him? By threatening him with force? What if he had to actually USE that force to stop the guy? Is that ok? He had a SWORD. How many different ways are there to use a fucking sword?!

And, besides, does he really have to give the guy the opportunity to surrender before using the force to incapacitate the burglar? I mean, isn't losing the element of surprise just increasing the odds the burglar will do you harm? Just because the guy hasn't seen you yet doesn't mean you aren't in danger. This guy could have run the sword through the burglar's back and I still wouldn't have a problem with it.

Bottom line: the burglar isn't the victim. You break into someone's house, you take your chances.

John Pontolillo shouldn't get arrested, he should get a pat on the back.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Music Video Awards

Another video awards ceremony, another Kanye West outburst.

I hate it when tv is predictable.

I didn't see the ceremony, actually. I watched maybe 5 seconds of it, just as Serena Williams, fresh of her own outburst at the U.S. Open, got a somewhat mixed welcome.

So I missed the "lowlight" of the show when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video for "You Belong To Me" to announce to the crowd that, while he was happy for Taylor and would let her finish, Beyonce had made one of the best videos of all time.

You stay classy, Kanye.

Swift, understandably, didn't finish her speech - not until Beyonce invited her up on stage to do so when she herself won Video of the Year for "Single Ladies".

Ok, so I think we can all agree that Kanye is a complete douche. Here's the part I don't get: Kanye thinks this was one of the best videos of all time and should have certainly beaten this. Am I missing something? A video where three ladies do a choreographed dance on a bare set is one of the best videos of all time - in this day and age - and is leaps and bounds better than a video with an actual story to it?

Now I'm not saying Swift's video is great. It's pretty cliche and simple, really. I think it's depressing that it would win a video award. I mean, what happened to innovative videos? Don't we live in an era of CGI where incredible artistic visions can come true? What happened to pushing the envelope and making cool/original works like this or this or this? Is choreographed dancing all we need these days?

It's best video - not best SONG.

And while we're at it, can someone please explain to me how Beyonce can not have the Best Female Video and yet have Video of the Year? Isn't Beyonce female? Or does she have a sprinting career I don't know about?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tag! You're a douchebag.

Ok, so I'm kinda bored - it's the calm before the storm - so I thought I'd kill a minute or two by throwing up another post. I'm tired of all the Bryant-Sheppard bull and wanna get that post off the top of this page. :P

So here's something I came across on Boingboing : "Daredevil LA tagger 'Buket' of YouTube fame gets nearly 4 years in jail".

Four years seems more than a bit much but I don't know the circumstances of the charges. A little jail time to sober this moron up doesn't seem extreme to me, though.

Some people may say I'm getting old, what with my beard and all, but the truth is that I have always detested graffiti and "tagging". It's juvenile, rude, inconsiderate, ugly (usually), disrespectful and mean - and in this jerk's case, dangerous.

If you think this guy is anything but a "reckless egomaniacal douchetard", then I'm not sure we can be friends anymore.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Michael Bryant vs. Cyclist Darcy Sheppard - Facts Before Acts

Something been's bothering me the past couple of days.

It isn't a new theme, but it's rearing its ugly head again: People who protest or condemn without having the facts.

On Monday night there was some sort of incident between a cyclist, Darcy Sheppard, and former Ontario MPP Michael Bryant who was driving his Saab convertible. What we know is that at some point after this incident and shouting match, the vehicle moved down the road and that, at some point, Mr. Sheppard clung to the driver's side. The vehicle traveled erratically down Bloor Street and, at some point, Mr. Sheppard fell under the rear wheels, suffering injuries that proved fatal.

That's it.

That's all we know.

Reporters and police have been trying to fill in the rest using eye witness accounts, but the fact is that the only people who know exactly what happened from begining to end are the two occupants of the vehicle, Mr. Bryant and his wife.

It has been alleged that there was a minor collision involving the car and bicycle, which took place either before or was bookended by angry exchanges between the two men. It's alleged that Mr. Sheppard slammed his bag onto the hood of the car. It's alleged that Mr. Bryant began to drive off and that Mr. Sheppard pursued the vehicle on foot and then grabbed the driver's side somehow. It's alleged that Mr. Bryant yelled at Mr. Sheppard to get off as he continued along Bloor. While it is indisputable that the car traveled westbound along the eastbound lane, it is not a given that this was done intentionally by Mr. Bryant and while it appears to be a fact that the vehicle brushed plant holders and other obstacles along the eastbound curb, it is not known if this, again, was intentional. Some allege that Mr. Bryant was attempting to "shake off" Mr. Sheppard.

What interested me right off the bat is that Mr. Bryant was not immediately charged. He was not charged until the next day, and he was not charged with manslaughter or somesuch, but rather criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. One legal source says that, if convicted, Bryant would likely face two years in jail. Two years. Conspiracy theorists were quick to jump to the conclusion that Bryant received preferential treatment because of his former status as Ontario's Attorney General. Bryant left the post a while back to lead Invest Toronto.

But was it preferential treatment or are the facts as presented to the police by witnesses and Bryant such that the police think there may have been some extenuating circumstances?

Sheppard is a former (?) bike messenger and his colleagues were quick to stage a protest on Tuesday afternoon with plans to protest again during the Wednesday afternoon rush hour. Since they chanted "murder" at one point, I assume they are protesting the charge, rather than staging some sort of traffic-blocking memorial. But I don't know for sure. Do they know? Do they know what they are protesting? I don't have all the facts of the case - do they? What exactly is the issue here? Bike lanes? Crazy drivers? Mourning? Police corruption?

From the start, Mr. Bryant has been painted as the guilty party with Mr. Sheppard portrayed as the victim of road rage. When incidents arise involving a bicycle and a car, the automobile is often portrayed as the big bad wolf.

I don't buy it.

Let's say, for argument's sake, that you're in a car, a convertible, and some guy who is angry as hell for whatever reason starts attacking you or that you feel they are about to attack you. What would you do? Lock the door? It's a convertible. Try to get out? By the time you undo your seatbelt the guy may have already punched you in the face and knocked you silly - or worse. Yell for help? Good Samaritans MAY come over if you're lucky, but by then, again, you may be unconcious - or worse. Do these things even occur to you in the split second that you're threatened? Guess what I'd do. Hit. The. Gas. I'm in a car. The best way to get away from a guy who may be a complete psycho (for all I know) is to reach 60km/h. I don't have a taser. I can't defend myself - nor my wife - from a seated, restrained position. I have very very limited options. If the guy is crazy enough to latch onto my car as I drive away do I stop and chat? Eff that. Now I might hit the brakes hard and hope he goes flying, but maybe that doesn't occur to everyone. Maybe they keep driving in the hopes that speed and common sense will convince the guy to simply let it go. Then again, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he hangs on either out of anger or fear. Then maybe he falls.

I'm not saying that's what happened in the Bloor Street case, but it's something to consider. What was going through each person's mind? Why did they do what they did? How much did anger, fear and lack of time to think play a role? Is the car's operator still the big bad wolf in this scenario?

You'll have to forgive me if, without having all the facts, I'm not willing to crucify Mr. Bryant.

It's come to light that Mr. Sheppard is a recovering alcoholic single father of three who has 61 warrants for his arrest in Alberta. An hour before the incident on Bloor, Mr. Sheppard was involved in another incident at his girlfriend's residence where he showed up having been drinking (there seems to be some qestion as to whether he was drunk) and apparently caused enough of a ruckus to warrant police presence. Friends who heard of his passing said things were looking up for the man who had had some rough patches, saying that things were improving for him "just last week". Yup - looks that way. You'll forgive me if, not knowing the man personally and knowing only his criminal and alcohol-related issues, I hesitate to put a halo on him and brand him the upstanding victim in the Bloor Street incident.

(On a side note, hearing testimonials from friends of victims has got to be one of my biggest pet peeves with news coverage. The victim can be a crack dealing gang banger who has 20 convictions for gun possession and the story is always that their death is a "tragedy" and the victim was "a great guy" with a "bright future". STFU.)

So we have some facts, but not many. On the surface, it would appear that Mr. Bryant was driving recklessly in an effort to rid himself of Mr. Sheppard.

But do we know that for a fact?

I mean, isn't it at least possible that Mr. Sheppard played SOME role in his demise? Is it possible that Mr. Bryant feared for his safety and that of his wife? Is it possible that Mr. Sheppard overreacted to the minor incident in which, for all we know, he was 100% in the wrong? Is it possible that the incident an hour prior impacted Mr. Sheppard's state of mind at the time? And why in the world would someone purposely try to shake someone off their driver's side by driving down the wrong side of the road and into objects along the curb? Isn't it possible that this was NOT Mr. Bryant's intention? Isn't it possible that it was Mr. Sheppard's presence on the driver's side door that caused the car to swerve left (either through contact with Mr. Bryant or the wheel itself)? But why didn't Mr. Bryant simply hit the brakes? Is it possible that he feared for his safety so much that the idea of stopping and perhaps giving his "attacker" a chance to regroup was not an option? Or is Mr. Bryant 100% guilty?

Who knows?

I don't. And that's the point. If you don't know the facts for certain then at least keep your mind open to the possibility that things are not as they appear.

Wait for the facts before you condemn and stage your "protests". Otherwise, don't expect to get my sympathy.