Saturday, December 22, 2007

More on the Rowling interview on Pottercast

I promised I'd talk more about Pottercast's interview of J.K. Rowling, part 1 of which was available last Tuesday.

It was fun. They pretended to be embroiled in yet another heated discussion of whether or not Helga Hufflepuff caused the house-elf enslavement by inviting a bunch of the creatures to Hogwarts for their own safety. John and Sue were going at it and Melissa decided to finally put the matter to rest by dialing a secret phone number. A female British voice answered and reciting the supposed Hogwarts phone system's outgoing message. After going through a couple of other departments, Melissa finally got Jo on the line. It was very well-done and rather cute.

The discussion with Jo was entirely too short. A normal Pottercast is at least 1 hour, this one was about 45 min. and the above intro took at least 8 of that. I'm looking forward to the rest of the interview.

The best part of the show so far was just getting to hear Jo talking and laughing with the Pottercast trio. She's got a very good sense of humor in person, just as she does in her books. She was calling the Harry Potter Encyclopedia she planns to write "The Scottish Book." While I didn't really understand the joke, I still found it funny. It was nice to hear her talk (the last fan interview was shared with fans in written form only) and it made me hope and wish she will update her website more regularly now that the series is over, and made me more interested to read whatever else she may write in the future.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Squeaky movie better than I thought it would be

My son has wanted to see the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie since he first heard of it's existence. He's had every line of the movie trailer memorized for weeks.

He begged me to take him and his friend, and somehow I couldn't get my husband, who had originally been enthusiastic about the movie, to take him, so I ended up going.

I thought it would be horrible. Really stupid.

But it wasn't actually that bad.

I thought the plot started out very cute. The chipmunks were singing and stuffing nuts into a hollow spot in a tree trunk. Suddenly the tree was cut down -- it was a Christmas tree. It was netted up, loaded onto a truck, and taken to the big city. Some city with no snow.

The tree was put in the lobby of an office building and the chipmunks decide to make a run for it, and end up in the basket of the main character, Dave. Dave is down on his luck, having pitched a song he wrote to the recording company and been refused. In frustrated retaliation, he grabs a basket of goodies and jumps in the elevator. The chipmunks climb aboard and he unwittingly takes them home.

After they trash his place, he finds out they can talk and then kicks them out. But he lets them back in when he finds out they can sing. He writes them a song and tries to get the record producer to listen. Add to all of this a romantic relationship that he's also frustrated by, and we're off on a cute story of how a self-centered man opens his heart and his home and becomes Daddy to the 3 chipmunks.

It's all live action, with CG chipmunks that are very convincing. Not quite real looking but since they talk, you don't expect them to look exactly like chipmunks. They certainly don't allow you to be distracted by the special effects, you just forget that they aren't real.

The story wasn't nearly as stupid as I thought, it was funny but also heartwarming, and I managed to get out of the theater without a wad of gum stuck to any part of my clothing. All in all, a positive experience.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Author Speaks

It's finally happening. JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, is finally giving an interview to a fansite. Why is this significant? Because fans, real, hard-core fans, know to ask such questions as who took over as Headmaster/mistress of Hogwarts, how did Dumbledore know what happened at Godric's Hollow when Harry's parents were killed, who did Cho Chang end up marrying -- questions most reporters don't ask.

So what am I doing here? I need to go listen to the podcast. More comments when I'm done listening.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Google vs. Wikipedia

Probably the two most-commonly-used websites by members of my family, including me, are now going to compete against each other. Or maybe there's room for both.

Google is a search engine, and a source for ad revenue. It's also a verb. I actually said this the other day: "Go to YouTube and Google [whatever it was I was talking about searching for]." I couldn't believe it. You Google things at Google, and while YouTube features a search field, you don't Google there. But it's become a verb meaning search, in general, in a surprisingly short time.

Wikipedia is an online, user-written encyclopedia. Schools usually won't let you use this as a source (though they often let you use other web pages; this is a subject I need to table till another time), but you can often get surprisingly accurate and complete information from Wikipedia. Users correct and add to what other users write. The problem comes when controversial topics arise, or when someone has something to gain, like winning an election. Then false information is sometimes posted. But since you're supposed to cite references when you write an article on Wikipedia, it should be mostly accurate.

In our family, we've found Wikipedia helpful mostly for pop culture information. Want to know all about how the Nancy Drew series were not written by a woman named Carolyn Keene, like I believed when I was growing up? Check out Wikipedia. Want to know all of the titles of every episode of the TV show NCIS? Check out Wikipedia. Want to know about all of the times characters or items from one Pixar movie have a cameo on another Pixar movie? Check out Wikipedia.

I already use these two sites side-by-side. I have an extension in Firefox called Googlepedia. When I use Google to search, the search results come up on the left-hand side, and the best match Wikipedia article comes up on the right-hand side. Sometimes the match is very far off (usually when I'm searching using several terms) and sometimes it's exactly what I'm looking for. There's definitely room for both of them in this world.

The Google encyclopedia will be different from Wikipedia. First, each article will be authored by a person with a name, and no one else can edit it, though they can review and comment on it, I guess. So, you'll have to wade through a bunch of comments to see if the info in the article is true or not. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. Second, there will be ads. In fact, authors of articles will receive a substantial portion of the ad revenue for an article. Again, that could be a good thing or a bad thing.

I would guess that there will be room for both of these things. I hope so, anyway. I like them both, and I don't really want either of them to go away.