25 June 2006

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

I just finished Michael Chabon's new book, "The Final Solution," a little tidbit of a detective story set in WWII Sussex. It's an entertaining enough read, but ultimately pretty unsatisfying. I think there were two reasons I didn't really like it.

One, it relies too heavily on the protagonists' reputation, which is simply stated in the text. There's not enough direct evidence or actual anecdote related to that, and instead there are too many omniscient-voice statements like, "...his sense -- a faculty at one time renowned throughout Europe -- of a promising anamoly." Reading all of these sentences made me want to read a different book about the Old Man when he was actually famous instead of this book about his retirement -- after all, wouldn't have wanted to watch a series about Columbo doddering about in the old age home.

Secondly, and probably more fatally for most current audiences, is the resolution of the central mystery regarding a series of numbers that a parrot repeats ad infinitum. [mild spoiler] The end of the book reveals that... we don't know what they are. The last utterance of the book by the young boy, combined with the book's title, gives a pretty clear hint as to their true significance. But for any mainstream audience, especially a non-Jewish one whose acquaintance with details of the Holocaust is weak, I think that hint, and thus some of the power of the book, will be lost. Yes, it's bad to talk down to your audience, but if you want to rely on a particular practice from the death camps for your resolution, you should introduce that bit of history to the narrative somewhere.

17 June 2006

SketchUp acqusition makes more sense now

A few months ago, Google bought SketchUp (http://www.sketchup.com/), a cool but very quirky 3D modeling program. It wasn't obvious why this made any business sense, although it was great becase they started giving away SketchUp for free.

Now it makes more sense -- with the latest Google SketchUp and the latest Google Earth (http://earth.google.com/earth4.html), you can directly export from SketchUp into Google Earth. So, what they're hoping is that by providing a free end-ser content creation tool, they'll get lots of people to model various buildings in the world and contribute the results to Google Earth (the new Google Earth also supports Collada input, meaning you can use any of the mainline 3D modeling packages like Maya, Max, ro XSi as well).

If they're successful at creating a critical mass of data -- which seems likely, if you haven't played with Google Earth, it's really fun -- then they'll control the most complete dataset of 3D models of the planet. Yet another brick in the "organizing the world's information (and serving AdWords against it)" architecture!

04 June 2006

District B13

My friends Bill and Dave went to see District B13 in Sausalito last night. It was the right demographic fit -- it's definitely a guy's movie. Action, action, action. Really fun movie with great stunts and action sequences. The French director (Pierre Morel) embraces modern editing style and makes it do for action movies what 28 Days Later did for horror films.

It was a double-plus bonus for Dave (a European film fan), he got a French flick and an action movie in one outing!

We went to Rustica in Sausalito for dinner afterwards, pretty good as well -- very friendly place.