Category Archives: Entertainment

Reboot Camp

Much has been written lately about Steve Jobs’s legacy, and how he transformed not just several industries, but key aspects of our culture itself.

All of this is true, but other recent news has reminded me that he is in some ways not the only technology CEO to leave a mark on the wider culture.

Listening to a story on NPR yesterday about DC’s decision to restart all of its comic books at issue #1, after seeing a trailer the night before for the new new Spider-Man, I can’t help but think that Bill Gates has left some nontrivial marks of his own.

While Windows certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on the notion of rebooting, there’s no denying that it’s the product that introduced wide swaths of the population at large to the notion of resetting things that aren’t working.

Now if only someone could figure out the elusive special key combination for George Lucas and/or Star Wars.

Around the Campfire

or: it’s two in the morning. Why am I staring at the tent’s ceiling?

“What is best in life?”
“An edible homage to a classic film.”
“Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?”
“An edible homage to a classic film — with added caffeine.”
“That is good! That is good.”

Because, really, why stop with the chocolate-sugar rush of regular s’mores when you could score a hyperactivity trifecta?

A Man of Sound Principles

The titular character of Pixar’s upcoming film, WALL•E — which, incidentally, keeps looking more promising with every new trailer released — is voiced by a fellow named Ben Burtt, whom you’ve probably never heard of. I hadn’t, until about a year ago. But I guarantee that, unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last 30 years, you’ve heard his work:

Yep, that’s right. Ben Burtt is the former USC physics graduate student who came up with the sounds for Star Wars, more or less inventing the role of “sound designer” in the process.

Here he describes the serendipitous genesis of his crowning creation — the warm yet menacing hum of “an elegant weapon, for a more civilized age”: has a rundown of some of his other creations; the frequently workaday nature of their basis only serves to highlight his gift for making the ordinary seem wondrous and alien. (My personal favorite: the twanging report of the blaster rifle began as the sound of an antenna guy wire hit with a rock, something Burtt discovered while hiking with his father.)

Wikipedia has additional information on Burtt, including the fact that when he’s not busy collecting and cataloguing the raw materials of his trade, laying out the acoustic canvas of the popular imagination, and voicing small but plucky robots, he’s perpetuating little sonic in-jokes, in particular the Wilhelm Scream.

Flaming the Kindle

John C. Welch on why the first version of Amazon’s e-book reader is not going to take the world by storm:

The other major problem with replacing books is that there isn’t an online store that you want to browse the way you will a book store. Jeff Bezos can hump his Kindle until it’s as sticky as a stripper’s shoes, but you don’t browse Amazon, not really. You might link-hop a bit, but face it, Amazon’s strength is that it lets you get shit done like a SEAL sniper. You find your target, take the shot, and get out. That’s not bad, not on any level. It’s one reason why I use, no why I love Amazon so much for buying gifts and the like. They have a lot of stuff, it’s easy to find, and it’s usually pretty cheap. It’s also really easy to get through the whole “trading money for stuff” part of the transaction.