Revisiting Before Sunrise/Before Sunset

Movies: This weekend I decided to revisit the Before Sunrise (1995)/Before Sunset (2004) movies. I really really liked them before and I was curious whether they would withstand that tand of time.

Passes the Bechdel testNo, basically all the conversation is between Jesse and Celine; the films would fail a male Bechdel test too.

Did I like them? All in it is a bit of a mixed bag. Now I see the film again, Ethan Hawke is much more of a dweeb than I remembered; he looks and acts a bit rat-like and I really have little patience with his dalliances with spirituality. On the other hand, Julie Delpy is much more amazing than I remembered. Not only is she pretty and charming (which is common enough), but what stands out is how strong her character is. She is forward, has her own problems and opinions, and is very strongly an anti-Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

A Manic Pixie What? The manic pixie dream girl is a trope that is pretty common in film. Essentially it is every guy’s dream; a lightly manic, happy girl, that has no problems of her own, and helps to propel the character story of the male protagonist (Zooey Deschanel excels at that role unfortunately). In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (a film I love to bits), Kate Winslet’s character reject the MPDG label, and I think that that awareness is one of the things that makes Eternal Sunshine an exceptional movie:

Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.

This video is a good primer on the concept:

Something I learned: Some of the unsourced factoids I throw around in random conversation (like the fact that happiness tends to be fairly stable, so unhappy people that win the lottery will end up being unhappy people with expensive cars, while happy people that get paralyzed will end up being happy people in a wheelchair) are mentioned in the movie, and given how long I have quoted this, it is very well possible that this film was my main source of this factoid. Oops.

Final verdict: Although I find the films less amazing than earlier, they are still really well made, and I really love the characters. Also, I discovered that they might release a sequel in 2013. I really like the concept as Before Sun-something turning into a 9-yearly franchise that is a window into the real life of a couple every 9 years, so I will really want to watch this sequel too. Earlier I gave these films an 8/10. I think that that is a bit high, so for now they will have to live at a still very able 7/10.


The city of London

The story of the City of London (pop. 11000) never ceases to amaze me. This small video explains how it works:

Fixing my ugly PHP code

As I think I mentioned before I have written some ugly PHP pages to simplify my testing work (seriously, thanks to a couple of fairly simple pages I have taken the time that it takes to test our content server down to half an hour, while before it took the better part of a day).

Anyhow, I recently got a new laptop, so one of the first things I did (of course was set up Apache/PHP/MySQL so I had my test/dev environment back and I noticed that, just like on my own laptop only one page of the PHP tests broke.

The lines that broke looked like:

<li>Download a <a href=”<?=get_signed_url(“videos/”.$main_video.”.mp4″,3600,$main_secret)?>”>correctly signed video</a></li>

ann I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why this broke while the rest worked. To make matters worse, this was code a colleague wrote for me because I had issues figuring out how to call functions while echo-ing text in the first place.

Of course I tried googling, but searching for syntaxy things is always kinda complicated, so in the end I took to good olde-timey detective work:

  1. Compare PHP versions (on my new laptop PHP was slightly newer, but the difference was so small that it shouldn’t have a significant impact).
  2. Compare the php.ini files on both machines (I was pretty sure that it was a configuration thing) and spot the differences.

It turns out that the main difference that jumped to the front was the that a property called short_open_tag was turned off on my new machine. This sounded like a very likely cause of the issue I was seeing so I changed it and, lo and behold, everything worked all of a sudden.

So, I’m done, right?

Well, no, not really, it looks like short open tags can be a bit of a liability and are recommended against for production servers, so I decided to fix it (so next time I get a new machine I don’t need to reinvent the wheel).

To do that, I had to rewrite <?= to proper long form PHP. With a bit of googling I found a relevant Stack exchange thread where someone was fixing the same issue, so I changed <?= to <?php echo, turned off the short_open_tag in PHP again, restarted Apache, and all of a sudden everything works beautifully once again.

Musical dilemmas (Lowlands edition)

I’m going to the Lowlands festival soon, and as I should, I’m looking forward to it immensely. I have been told by people that have been there before that you should not just go for the musical acts because the other things are also really good, but I can’t help but look at the schedule and get incredibly exited about all the artists that I really want to see.

Unfortunately the lineup is so incredibly amazing that I will have to make some tough choices between artists that I really love, so I figured they would be fun to share some.

Feist vs. Nicolas Jaar

The first big dilemma is already on the first day. Feist is a lovely singer-songwriter that writes songs that are simply beautiful. I especially love “The bad in each other” from her latest CD

At the same time Nicolas Jaar plays with a live band. Nicolas Jaar plays jazzy electronic music that I think is really really good.

It is a tough choice, but I think Nicolas Jaar will be the band of choice for this timeslot.

The XX vs. Modeselektor

Ever since I was introduced to the XX a bit over a year ago, I have been continuously in love with everything Jamie XX has produced; especially his Gil Scott-Heron remixes. Still the work that is the XX only is also pretty much fantastic.

Modeselektor on the other hand very happy electronic music from Berlin

Given that I haven’t really listened to Modeselektor for a long time I will be going for the XX (they are releasing a new album soon, so hopefully they will play some things from that too. Even better is that Jamie XX will play a set later that evening where he will be able to play more of his collaboration stuff.

If you are going, do you have any big Lowlands dilemma’s? Even if you’re not going, do you have any big recommendations?

Underground New York Public Library

I know I have been neglecting my blog again. It seems like I’m never really able to keep up blogging, because there is always so much to do and so much to focus on (and also the average stateoftheworldtoday post took me between 30-60 minutes to write, so that is a pretty serious chunk of time).

Anyhow, I really want to share a blog that I have been enjoying a LOT the last months; the Underground New York Public Library.

It’s a bunch of photos all taken in the NYC underground of people reading, and the amazing thing is that watching those people read, I feel an instant connection with them. It is also interesting to see the incredible diversity of all the people reading and the eclectic taste of the readers.

This book really makes me want to read more and take more pictures (also, I badly want a new DSLR lately :-))

Micro review: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Nick and Norah's infinite playlist

Movie: Nick and Norah’s infinite playlist

Synopsis: Michael Cera is typecast as Michael Cera in a teenage movie that tries to mix High Fidelity and Before Sunrise wile trying to be quirky.

Passes the Bechdel testyes

Is it any good? No, not really. The storyline is pretty shallow, and maybe there is simply too much teenage angst in this film to really do it for me. Still, there are a bunch of saving graces; I have a soft spot for music movies, since I’m a bit of a music myself at times, there are some quirky details that are funny (like the Yugo, chewing gum recycling). If you just want to sit back and watch a simple rom-com you could do worse though.

Verdict: 6/10

Cool participation videos

Interacting with people is fun, and this guy manages to engage crowds of people to go dance walking with him. This really brings a smile to my face, especially since people starting to dance spontaneously still has a Bollywood-like quality in my eyes:

Leaving notes with Truth or Dare questions in public places is also fun.

Still, I like the first idea better because there the guy is actually willing to go out there and make a fool out of himself, while the truth or there feels kinda cowardly in a sense.

How much is a billion?

It has always been confusing to me that a biljoen (in Dutch)  translates to a trillion in (American) English. This video nicely explains how the different systems came to be (and of course the narrator thinks our system is better :P).

Gopher tuna

I love Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, but ordinarily it sounds quite severe. With misheard lyrics O Fortuna turns into something completely hilarious though: