Sunday, October 19, 2008


A few weeks ago my wife bought a cd containing the instrumental version of The Bee Gees' song “Melody Fair” and it reminded her of this movie—which she first saw in Japan a long time ago. She felt like seeing it again, so I tried to locate the movie. It is never easy to find a movie that is more than thirty year-old, but fortunately such research are now made easier with the internet. The movie got only a lukewarm reception when it was released in English-speaking countries, which explains why it was never released on Dvd in North America—but it is still possible to find it on vhs (used copies available on However, there was a dvd release in Japan since the movie was a huge success there (the 2004 release is now sold out, but used copies are still available on The Japanese title was “chiisana koi no merodi” or Small Love Melody.

Set in the early seventies working class London, this slice-of-life and romantic fantasy tells the story of Daniel, a shy young junior high school boy. After befriending Ornshaw, he becomes part of the school's group of little troublemakers. Soon he also meets Melody and both fall in “love” (as any eleven years-old kid could). They tell their parents that they want to get married—now! For them, it only means “to be together”. In face of the adults incomprehension, they elope and organize a mock wedding with the help of their friends. When the adults come to interrupt the “ceremony” they meet an unexpected resistance and all ends in chaos.

It is a cute movie that reminds me a lot of Francois Truffaut's L'argent de Poche (“Small Change”, 1976)—maybe Truffaut inspired himself from Melody or maybe it's because both movies are told from the children point of view. And of course, it is impossible to watch this movie without thinking of Oliver, as both Daniel's and Ornshaw's actors played major parts in this famous 1968 movie. However, what I find the most interesting about Melody is that it is expressing well the era's sentiment of rebellion against the establishment. It is obvious in the fact that, through the entire movie, O'Leary is trying to perfect his bomb-making (no doubt that it refers to the Provisional IRA campaign of violence that started in 1969) and in the final scene where the children literaly attack the adults (and bomb a car)!

Melody. UK, 1971, 103 min.; Dir.: Waris Hussein; Scr.: Alan Parker; Phot.: Peter Suschitzky; Ed.: John Victor-Smith; Art Dir.: Roy Stannard; Cost.: Diane Jones; Music: Richard Hewson, The Bee Gees; Prod.: David Hemmings, David Puttnam; Cast: Mark Lester (Daniel), Tracy Hyde (Melody), Jack Wild (Ornshaw), Colin Barrie (Chambers), Billy Franks (Burgess), Ashley Knight (Stacey), Craig Marriott (Dadds), William Vanderpuye (O'Leary), Peter Walton (Fensham), Camille Davis (Murielle), Dawn Hope (Maureen), Kay Skinner (Peggy), Lesley Roach (Rhoda), James Cossins (Headmaster). Rated G.

Wikipedia notice
A Melody Fan Page

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Apple TV hack

Since the time I have purchased the Apple TV, I have refrained from hacking it. Not that I didn't feel it was necessary — in the contrary, the ATV in itself is rather disappointing, although recent updates made it more interesting by adding the possibility to purchase or rent movies, as well as TV series in HD, access to iTunes radio stations or a “stand-by” option in the menu (you cannot turn ATV off but you can put it to sleep) — but simply because I didn't have much time to consider or perform the complexe hacking procedures.

The first hack that was made available was hardware and required to open the ATV to remove the hard drive. I used to like opening my computers to play with their guts, but lately the innards of electronic devices have become so compact and complicated that I don't want to take that risk anymore — without mentioning that I would rather not void the ATV warranty. After a while someone came up with the clever concept of the “patchstick”, a USB drive that contains the necessary code to enable SSH on the ATV and install plugins & scripts giving the ATV extra functionality. But putting the patchstick together was still a complicated procedure and using it entailed some risks so I decided to wait until I could learn more about it or until someone would come up with a simpler procedure. Later, a pre-installed USB drive was offered on the market, but the company selling it was sued and the product withdrawn. Finally, someone came up with atvusb-creator, an easy-to-use patchstick (well “easy” is all relative since I had a hell lots of trouble getting the app to work on my iMac—since then they released a new version of the app that works better—and I had to try several USB drives before finding one that would work properly on the ATV (a Lexar USB2 SDHC card reader with a cheap Taiwanese Adata 1 Gb card), but after several hours of work I finally succeeded to hack the ATV and can now access it via FTP). It is mostly designed to install Boxee (a media center also working as a social network, but it is still in alpha testing, on invitation only, and I didn't manage to get an invite yet), but it also installs XBMC !

Once the ATV is SSH enabled you can install all sort of scripts or plugins (see AwkwardTV for details), but XBMC is really all I need. It is very similar to the XBMC that I am running on my old Xbox, except that it looks nicer and performs better. With XBMC the ATV can access files on my network drive and it plays about any type of video files (I don't have problems anymore with the Matroska file format or Hi-Def video). That's really cool.

Now, the next step will be to purchase an HDTV... Before Christmas. But that's another story.

Life goes on

I feel so tired, empty, lazy and sleepy that it's difficult to get anything done (and yet I keep looking for more occupations to employ my time!)... I also feel deserted and alone. Where are everyone? It's so depressing... That must be the change of the season. The leafs have started to fall en masse and it's getting colder and colder. It is supposed to freeze for the first time tonight. The flowers that kept blooming all summer will probably die.

Nevertheless, I feel there's some nice change coming soon. Is it just winter or maybe I will really turn a new leaf? I think it's good to keep some positive thinking and assert that “something” nice IS coming. Soon.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


This is the biography of Frida Kahlo, who surmounted her pain and injury to become a world renown artist. The movie covers the main highlights of her life: the accident that crippled her, the tumultuous love relationship with fellow mexican artist Diego Rivera, her involvement with Leon Trotsky, her colorful, naive, symbolist & surrealist artwork (she's particularly known for her self-portraits) and her uncompromising, revolutionary, free thinking.

Frida is a superb movie. It not only tells a compelling and touching story, but it offers rich and inventive visuals as well as a stirring soundtrack that strongly support the storytelling. Salma Hayek really gives life to her character and make us discover an interesting period in Mexican history.

Frida. USA / Canada / Mexico, 2002, 123 min.; Dir.: Julie Taymor; Scr.: Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava, Anna Thomas (based on the biography by Hayden Herrera); Phot.: Rodrigo Prieto; Ed.: Francoise Bonnot; Prod. Des.: Felipe Fernandez del Paso; Art Dir.: Bernardo Trujillo; Set Decor.: Hania Robledo; Cost. Des.: Julie Weiss; Music: Elliot Goldenthal; Prod.: Sarah Green, Salma Hayek; Cast: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Valeria Golino, Mia Maestro, Roger Rees, Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton. Rated R.

Frida © 2003 Miramax Film Corp. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Post-con comments

It's October already. Time goes by so fast... It is also slowly getting colder...

I am so tired... Convention and travelling really seem to drain me lately. It's either because I'm really getting old or I'm really out of shape. I guess I need to get out and exercice more.

After all the LifeCast app is not that good. In a way, it is better to use the browser Safari to edit the blog directly on Blogger. In any case, blogging on the iPod is not easy since we have to deal with the tiny keyboard (but it's way better than sending SMS on a cellphone!).

The iPod was really useful when I was away. And there are so many fun apps (games, eReader, dictionaries, etc., playing music and video) that it's difficult to keep away from the device. But it is mainly useful to keep in touch with the world (internet, emails, weather, stocks, maps, tv schedule, wikipedia, airport info, election polls, etc.) and people (Facebook, AIM, Twitter, blogging, etc.). Now that I have it, I don't know how I could ever live without it. Nevertheless, it's not easy to get a reliable wifi connection even if I paid a $10 monthly subscription to Boingo. There lies the big advantage of the iPhone over the iPod (but at what cost!). However, as I predicted, VOIP apps are starting to appear and, with the release of the earphones with remote and mic later this month, we'll be able to make VOIP calls via wifi! I can't wait to try that.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


After fifteen hours of travelling we finally arrived at West Palm Beach. The temperature was quite hot (about 30' C/86' F) and excessively humid—I don't know how people can live in such a climate (constantly moving from the air-conditioned buildings to the sweltering outside is enough to catch one's death). Jason & Lynn, the Chibi-PA organizers, picked us up at the airport. I was disappointed to learn that the convention's name is not pronounced “PeeHey” (as it could have been an hommage to Protoculture Addicts — J/K) but “Paw” and simply means “small party.” We quickly escaped to our beautiful hotel suite at the Crown Plaza to get some well deserved sleep.

On Saturday, after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we took the shuttle for the convention center located a couple of miles away. Having the convention so far apart of the hotel was not inconvenient because of the shuttle (but it ran only on an hourly schedule and, the convention center not being a regular stop, you had to call to be picked up—but you could always catch the shuttle downtown, just a 5-minute walk from the convention). The first thing I did was to check the convention's layout. It was good as it was all concentrated in the same area of the Convention Center, on two floors (unfortunately neither the floor plans nor the schedule are/were available on Chibi-PA's website). On the first floor, you had the registration, one small dealer room, three video room, one panel room, and a video game room (further away in the convention center there was also a vendor offering some fast food). On the second floor, you had a large dealer room, the main event room and, along the balcony, the artist alley. The dealer rooms were stacked with various nice goodies and the convention was pretty well organized and staffed. I have no complain.

The main guest (beside myself) was Makoto Nagano, the champion of the Japanese obstacle game show Sasuke (known as “Ninja Warrior” in North America) and his Q&A was the first event I attended. He arrived late, but the delay allowed the room to fill up. It was interesting to learn about this guy (I never heard of him before since the show is not broadcast in Canada, and I was more interested in his life as the captain of a fishing boat than in the game show itself), but unfortunately the english pronounciation of the Japanese translator was not very good and it was sometime difficult to get what she was saying. Right after that event, Nagano-san did an autograph session on the second floor balcony and I set up my table right beside his to sell and introduce my magazine to the crowd. At 5 pm we ran a panel where we introduced the magazine, answered questions, did a small focus group to get feedback from the audiance and discussed the anime industry situation. The crowd was good, in fact better than I expected (the room was half full, with about 20-30 people). I gave away copies of the magazine to each participant. I missed the koto and Fushu Daiko concerts (I was busy holding our presentation table and the panel), but attended a very interesting panel following ours, “Kimono Class with Yoshiko Carlton,” where a couple of Japanese ladies explained the intricacies of wearing a kimono. At 7:30 pm we walked to the beautiful CityPlace mall downtown, ate at a mexican restaurant and picked up some snacks at a grocery store before going back to the hotel to rest.

On Sunday, after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we arrived at the convention on time to attend the second of Nagano-san Q&A. After that we walked again around the nice outdoor CityPlace mall to take pictures. Then, while Nagano-san was again signing autograph, I hold the magazine presentation table. At 3 pm we had another panel, but no one came (the crowd was definitely thinner on Sunday). We hung around the convention a little (checking more carefully the dealer room). After that we walked around downtown in search of the beach (it's called West Palm Beach, isn't it?) but it was not within walking distance (we did make it to the “canal”). We finally came back to the hotel to rest before going out to eat with the convention organizers. I wish we could have some time with Nagano-san to discuss and do an interview.

Early Monday morning Jason & Lynn drove us to the Fort Lauderdale airport from where we flew back to Baltimore and then Burlington, where a friend picked us up and drove us back to Montreal. Flying over the trees in Vermont, with all their various fall colors, was beautiful. The trip back took only eleven hours and was a little less tiring, but the whole week-end left me rather exhausted (it must have been due to the heat and flying five planes in four days).

An amusing anecdote: at the same time than Chibi-PA, the Palm Beach County Convention Center was also hosting some Christian group convention on Saturday and some church activities on Sunday. It was funny to see all those people dressed as their best on one side of the convention center and, on the other side, fans dressed as their favorite anime character! At some point Sunday, someone (presumably attending the “other” convention) came nearby the registration area and shout some invectives equating us to the devil. Cool.

Overall Chibi-PA was a nice convention. The Florida convention scene is clearly well organized (although it is knowing the usual occasional feuds among competing organizers), but the demographics of the state (mostly an aging population of retirees who doesn't care much for anime) are condemning the local anime conventions to remains small and barely solvent. However, there is nothing wrong with small conventions. There might not be any industry panels or many big guests, but they are usually the most fun to attend. If Chibi-PA was a small party (I estimated the attendance around 1200) for the fans to congregate and enjoy themselves (I only wish I had more time to enjoy its activities), its most endearing quality was that it extended its focus not only to anime and manga, but also to many related aspects of Japanese culture. If you have the opportunity to attend Chibi-PA in the future, I recommand you to do so. Let's party!

I'll post some pictures and video clips later.