Blade Runner: “The Final Cut” at the cinema

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If you’re reading this before 2 December 2007, you still have a chance to see Blade Runner – The Final Cut on the big screen at one of a tiny number of cinemas such as the Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge. Forget the fact that it’s a whole new version of one of the most influential films ever made. The real importance of this is that you may never again get the chance to see any version of this movie on the big screen again. And whether you remember it from the first or second time out, or have it on DVD, or are yet to witness its brilliance at all, you’ll be kicking yourself if you could have caught it at the cinema, and didn’t.

So what is it like? Bear in mind that it’s my favourite film of all time, and I’ve even slogged my way through Future Noir: The Making of “Blade Runner”, so I can be counted as a fan, albeit not an obsessive. I’m not really that bothered about the changes to the film, especially the relatively minor differences between this version and the 1992 “Director’s Cut”. I just came out of the cinema thinking “wow – what an experience”. It’s tremendous. A science fiction film made twenty-five years ago has no right to look contemporary in 2007, but it still does. Only some amusingly lo-tech visuals on various computer and instrumentation screens dotted around the film spoil it. That and adverts everywhere for companies which might have seemed in 1982 like ones which would dominate the commercial landscape in 2019, but didn’t make it anywhere like that far: Pan Am, Atari, TWA, etc. Otherwise it’s fabulously stylish and often quite believable.

Most importantly, the film has been restored beautifully and looks great, and sounds even better (oh, that music!).

Some links

Short but good review of Blade Runner – The Final Cut from SciFi.com which summarises some of the changes and makes the best observation of all, that this version simply flows better.

Decent Blade Runner – The Final Cut review from Empire magazine which points out something else which struck me on this viewing: that the detail in the film is quite astonishing.

More Blade Runner – The Final Cut reviews than you can shake a stick at, as ever, from Rotten Tomatoes.

Review of Blade Runner – The Final Cut from the New York Times which quotes director Ridley Scott as confirming that Deckard is himself a replicant.

Oh Dear:

Terrible review of Blade Runner – The Final Cut from The Times by a guy who seems to have either missed the second version of the film, or just read the press pack (as some commenters have observed). Here’s a second attempt by the same bloke after interviewing some people and realising how daft his first effort was.

It’s not the same, but better than nothing:

Buy Blade Runner: The Final Cut (5-Disc Ultimate Collectors’ Edition Tin) at Amazon UK. Yes, every version and every extra they can think of does seem a bit excessive, but it’s only a few pounds more than the plain version.

Bruce Springsteen European Tour 2007 Setlist

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…well, not quite, because at the time of writing, it hasn’t started yet. But Bruce has just finished playing the couple of dozen gigs in the first North American leg of his “Magic” Tour, and – renowned as he is for varying the set list from night to night – there’s a definite pattern in what the band has been playing.

In most gigs there have been 23 songs, and in each slot there’s a song which has been played significantly more times than any other. So after having a look at some of the meticulously compiled set list resources such as this one, I present the statistically most likely set list for the forthcoming gigs, including the one at the O2 in London where I’ll be on the last night of the European leg, 19 December.

Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Magic
Reason to Believe
Night
She’s the One
Livin’ in the Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Backstreets
Working on the Highway
Devil’s Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Badlands
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Thundercrack
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land

The interesting thing is, he didn’t play this exact list once during the North American gigs. The closest he got was the second night in LA, where “Candy’s Room” replaced “Night” above. Apparently most shows have been shorter than the marathons of previous years, but that’s due as much to a lack of between-song banter, introducing the musicians and jamming as it is to a reduced song count.

Anyway, statistics be damned, when we see Bruce, the set list is going to be different again, that’s for sure.

In-car phonograms – the next big thing?

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I’ve just had a demo and an extended test drive in a Lexus RX400h. Very nice, and I’d certainly like one. But why is such a technically advanced car let down by such an antiquated audio system? The dealer kept telling me all about how the “Mark Levinson” label meant audio quality of the highest standard, but he was reduced to mumbling excuses when I asked where the DAB radio was. For goodness’ sake, it’s 2007, surely we shouldn’t have to listen to BBC Radio Five Live on medium wave in a car which costs more than my first house? Quite ordinary in-car audio manufacturers seem able to make complete digital radio/CD units for well under a hundred quid. I wouldn’t mind if it was an optional upgrade, but it isn’t.

Optional upgrades, however, do include the generous offer of a cradle to plug your iPod into, for an amount considerably in excess of the cost of the iPod itself. I gather connections like this come as standard in some cars which would almost fit into the boot of the RX400h. I’d expect top-end audio manufacturers to have moved on by now and offer slot-in iPod systems as an option. Now that I would pay two hundred quid for, if they existed.

It got worse. As I pulled down the lever into “drive”, a previously-obscured slot was revealed. It couldn’t be, could it? Yes, it was! A cassette player! In 2007! Now, don’t get me wrong, I grew up with TDK and Maxell. But that was twenty years ago. I think I still have a box of tapes somewhere in the loft, but I doubt my home cassette deck, pensioned off in the nineties, would still record new tapes. Even now, I can’t stop giggling about this.

Am I some sort of bleeding-edge audio nut? I don’t think so. I just want to listen to BBC Radio Five Live in decent quality, and play stuff off my iPod without paying through the nose for the privilege. The dealer fetched details of the 2008 RX400h – perhaps my wishes would be granted. Er, no. I get a nice blue “hybrid” badge if I wait for the new model though.

Importing to WordPress from a text file

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I had a website of football reports which was managed by a homebrew flat-file database, and it really needed dragging into the 21st century and being managed by WordPress, or something like that. But how to transfer the hundreds of entries, with all their dates and categories? It turned out to be surprisingly easy, assuming you can export from your database in a specific, user-defined format.

WordPress has a whole list of import filters (see the “Manage” tab), each dedicated to a specific format. One of these is “RSS”, which takes an RSS feed and converts it into WordPress posts. That’s the one you need. Here’s the procedure:

1. Create your WordPress blog, which – when new – should have one sample entry.

2. Export this to RSS, using Manage > Export. This will give you a “WordPress RSS format” file, which gives you the template you’ve now got to recreate from your old database. If the database can’t be set up to export a file which looks like that, consider exporting it however you can and using some intelligent search-and-replace procedures to add in all the extra material required.

3. Import your file to WordPress using Manage > Import! I’d try it with just a couple of entries until you get it right, because if it’s wrong, you’ll have to delete what you’ve added, and mass-deletion of entries in WordPress is a real chore.

One notable exception which I discovered is that categories do not transfer if you just copy the exported RSS file you’re using as a template. For some reason, in the sample template file, the post category gets surrounded by “CDATA”, like this:
<category><![CDATA[my category name]]></category>
If you recreate that in your database export file, the categories get ignored. But remove the CDATA part, and everything is fine! The category entries in your file should simply look like this:
<category><my category name></category>

Anyway, here’s my new WordPress-powered football reports blog! The 150 or so entries up to 10 November 2007 were all imported from my old FoxPro database.

Born to Jump

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I’m always amused when Google’s AdWords ads go wrong. They’re supposed to be “contextual”, assessing the search query and matching the right ads to it. My amusement at coming straight in at number one in the Google search results for “discount booze for tramps” (following a blog post about an off-licence yesterday) turned to even greater amusement to see a column of AdWords ads about trampolines. My first thought was that maybe the word “tramps” confused Google because they don’t use the term in the USA. But tramps like us, baby we were born to run. So clearly they do, at least in New Jersey. Perhaps these trampoline advertisers have all chosen “tramps” as a keyword. Or maybe there’s a big market in exercise equipment for the homeless at the moment.

The case of the disappearing login items

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I’ve always had a problem that login items disappear under OS X, and it hasn’t gone away with OS X 10.5 Leopard. I’ll add something to the list in the conventional manner, and about 50% of the time, when I next startup the Mac, the application fails to do so – and on investigation, has disappeared from the list.

So here’s my home-made solution. Take all the applications out of the login items list and replace them with an “Automator” script. You can then put this in the login items and with any luck it’ll stay there; it did for me. You can also add some nice pauses between each, so the Mac doesn’t go mental trying to open everything together.

If you’ve never used Automator before, it’s really easy. Open it up (it’s in “Applications”), and drag over the “actions” you need, which are “Launch Application” and “Pause”. Drag over as many as you like, you can rearrange them quite easily. Set each “Launch Application” to the application you want to open at startup, and set each “Pause” to a suitable delay, just about long enough for the application to launch happily (see above). Then save what you’ve done, making sure you choose “Application” under “File Format”, so the thing runs when started, rather than opens up for editing.

Then add the Automator script you’ve just created to your login items, and remove any applications you’ve featured in the script.