Audio ephemera

I’m just about finished digitizing my old reel-to-reel audio tapes. Check out this weird blurb I found on the back of one of the tape boxes:


I can’t imagine a lifestyle where people would inflict such horrible tortures on their “friends”. Perhaps times have changed. Then again, this is advertising copy, and perhaps ads didn’t reflect real life back then (unlike today).

Also found this amusing box art:


It’s opera, but even so a couple of those song titles do sound very Soviet.

Movie review: “Avatar”

Went to see Avatar in 3D today (not IMAX though; that was too much like work).

The visuals were worth every penny of my time. I do recommend seeing it in 3D, though it’s not absolutely necessary; high-def will still be good I’m sure. There are some nice Big Things in this movie. I like Big Things.

While watching this I kept thinking how Barlowe-esque some of the creature designs seemed. The heads of the horse-creatures really reminded me of the Daggerwrist from Expedition, and the herd beasts and fliers also were in a similar style. And it turns out he was involved – I spotted his name in the credits, billed as the inspiration for the creature designs. I take that to mean he did some sketches to which someone else added superfluous legs, but even so I’ll have to buy, purchase, consume Avatar material for this reason alone. It’s nice to see Barlowe getting more exposure these days. Maybe there will be a proper Expedition movie one of these days.

The story was a bit of a letdown. The action sequences were exciting but not especially so. The plot was right out of a can: Guy goes in to do a job, turns native, leads natives to victory over his own employers. How many times have we seen this?

I will now fulfill my nerdly obligation by pointing out the flaws I spotted:

  • How can it be economical to travel interstellar distances to mine a mineral, even at $20 million per kilogram? The dollar must be worth a lot in this future, and/or interstellar travel is really, really cheap.
  • Being a twin does not mean having the same brain structure. At birth maybe, but from then on the brain physically rewires itself in response to experience.
  • During the assault on the tree, why didn’t they pull our heroes out of the link right when the general said, “So much for diplomacy”? They weren’t persona non grata at that point. Unprofessional.
  • When our heroes escaped from the brig and made off with the light aircraft, why did the general give up after shooting at them personally (another woefully unprofessional act)? Why were there not other pilots in pursuit within minutes?
  • We know there are orbiting facilities. There must be if they’re shipping these rocks back to Earth. So why bother bombing the natives from aircraft with chemical explosives? If you want shock and awe, drop a nuke on them or use a beam weapon from orbit – show them how very easy it is.
  • The next conflict is going to suck for the natives. They won one battle and kicked one outpost full of humans off the planet. Are there other outposts? Also, those humans are now stuck in orbit, probably unable to return home and with insufficient life support resources. They’re going to be really pissed off and are in the best position to do something about it. Plus, if this mineral is really that valuable, massive reinforcements will arrive from Earth in a few years.

It has come to my attention in the months since this movie debuted that some people admire the native lifestyle portrayed here. Well, good news! There are still some humans living that way right here on Earth. If you like being at the mercy of the elements, vicious animals, horrible parasites and diseases, lacking access to sanitation, communication and medical care, having to spend much of your time working to survive, and throwing spears at bulldozers, I encourage you to move to the Amazon rainforest – what’s left of it, anyway.

More C# syntactic sugar

First up, the “??” uperator. You’ll probably suspect that this is related to the ?= ternary operator, and you’d be right. The ?? operator is called the null-coalescing operator. Not a very meaningful name, but here’s what it does.

foo = bar ?? baz;

is equivalent to:

foo = (bar != null) ? bar : baz;

and also to this, which I usually write because I find the ternary operator ugly:

foo = bar;
if (foo == null)
    foo = baz;

Also discovered recently: extension methods. Not having private access is a bit of a drawback, though I can certainly understand why that is. It amounts to a convenient way to write helper code for awkward APIs.