Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.


Date: May 2015

How to find time to read

Burkeman suggests scheduling regular times for reading, but in my experience, you either want to read or you don't. And even then you want to read this or that; it's not a coin toss. #link

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Weeknotes #713-714

So, a busy, stressful couple of weeks, then.

Some good things: new reviews on Thumped (Paul G Smyth/Chris Corsano Duo live at the NCH) and Burning Ambulance (the new Bosse-de-Nage album), plus a couple of press screenings (one just for leisure, the new Mad Max movie last night at the Savoy’s big screen).

Some bad things: a ridiculously late night on Tuesday (working till 2.30am) that didn’t have to be that way, and a head cold just about kept in check by decongestants that seem to have had the undesired effect of leaving me dry-mouthed and constantly thirsty.

But hey, it’s Friday, there’s live wrestling this weekend and there’s Lidl chocolate in the fridge, so I’m alright.

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In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas

This idea that the even the thought of bad things is near if not equivalent to the things themselves is at best ridiculously precious, at worst actually dangerous, and borderline fascist. It's completely separate from the notion of safe spaces in a society where institutional/cultural discrimination is a real problem, though I don't quite see the point of getting het up about 'microaggressions' (aside from the category error of using specific academic terms in a generic cultural context, who defines such, anywho?) when the credo 'don't be a dick' seems to suffice. (And yes, I recognise my level of privilege as a white male, yet I also recognise that privilege is a network of intersections and mutual confirmations and negations, not a straight-forward pyramid of social strata like class.) #link

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My Letterboxd reviews of Big Eyes and Cold In July

Big Eyes is a departure for Tim Burton, but that doesn’t help matters:

I have to credit my other half with this summation: Big Eyes is a film about honesty that isn’t honest in any way. Tim Burton takes the ostensibly true-life story of Margaret Keane as an opportunity to make a film very much out of his style, but his lack of comfort beyond the Burtonisms is palpable. The resulting tale plays against a weird pastiche of Vertigo crossed with Sweet Smell of Success, sprinkled with odd references to his own films, and ends with such a whimper you’d be forgiven for thinking he messed up the edit. It’s watchable, but only just.

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My Letterboxd review of Monsters University

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

So I wasn’t expecting much from this one, especially with recent Pixar fare doing nothing for me (Brave, especially, looks under-detailed and poorly textured, while its story falls on the ‘but she’s a modern Disney princess’ conceit that holds no water when you consider the likes of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, etc). But Monsters University might be my favourite Pixar film.

It’s easily their most visually striking. The trees, the asphalt, the stone, the chrome – they all look so real! Even the monsters themselves, while conforming to the ‘Pixar body shape’ trope, have differing skin textures to subtly distinguish from each other. And there’s a hint of tilt-shift on the ‘camera’ that gives the whole production an almost stop-motion vibe. Amazing work by the Pixar team there; their friends down in Burbank should take note.

But the story is there, too. I stopped thinking of it as a prequel fairly early on (and who really needs Sulley and Mike’s backstory, anyway?) because it’s way more a homage to ’80s ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ style campus comedies. It’s a fun ride that feels genuine and unforced, completely aware of its cliches but played with affection, without a trace of jaded hipster irony. I think of ParaNorman as another recent animated feature that goes along the same lines, and I feel like Monsters University sits alongside it at the pinnacle.

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My Letterboxd reviews of The Boxtrolls and Nightcrawler

The Boxtrolls is alright, but not the best Laika can do:

Five stars to Laika for another superb job, both in animation and direction. Just a shame – like the underwhelming, overrated Coraline – that the source material isn’t up to scratch. I’ve love to see Laika take on an actual adaptation of Discworld, rather than this Discworld-wannabe effort, as the allusions to (if not downright rip-offs from) Terry Pratchett’s creation are too obvious to ignore. In the meantime, they should return to original fare like the superlative ParaNorman, because they’ve clearly got a knack for it.

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My Letterboxd review of The Raid 2

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

I wanted to like this one more than I did, as I quite enjoyed the original. And I appreciate that writer/director Gareth Evans tried to do something different: a repeat of the first film’s side-scrolling beat-’em-up plot would’ve been a waste of time. The Hong Kong/Yakuza gangster flick direction was a good way to go in terms of story, and those dramatic elements work very well, even if the plot is needlessly labyrinthine.

But it’s far, far too long (should be closer to 90 minutes, not two-and-a-half hours!) and the ultra-realism of the violence and gore tips the expertly staged fight scenes and general action from thrilling to grim. By the climactic duel in the kitchen (it’s in the trailer, no spoiler), it was just washing over me; I didn’t feel excited or invested, more exhausted – with a thousand-yard stare.

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oTranscribe

A free web app "to take the pain out of transcribing recorded interviews"? I'm interested to see how this works, because transcription is a massive pain in the hole, and even the likes of Dragon Dictate only work with a single voice pattern (believe me, I've done the research). #link

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Zoe Quinn's manifesto for 'punk games'

Makes sense to me. No reason why you can't do whatever the hell you damn well like with the medium (like the games collected here); whether it's any good or not is in the eye of the beholder. Besides, gaming is a manifold of subcultures, just like music. The twats who only play FPSs are like the people who burned disco records in the '70s; they're just sore that they're not the centre of the universe anymore. #link

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A Richter scale for outages

The downside to seamless technology: when the invisible tech behind it all betrays its hodgepodge nature and gives up the ghost. Going by Matt Webb's scale, even a 2.0 could have a major human impact in that it could ruin an entire workday (and depending on one's role and responsibilities, that could cascade disastrously). #link

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Disney's $1 Billion Bet On A Magical Wristband

The technology behind it is actually rather simple; it's just an RFID chip in a rubber wristband. But it's the interconnected, multilayered thinking behind the whole system, the application of the tech in a real-world scenario that tries to account for what would make the experience feel like 'magic' for the user -- that's what's revolutionary. #link

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Weeknotes #711-712

With the paper schedule out of whack the last couple of weeks, I’m still playing catch-up on a few things: album reviews, a gig review, a press screening write-up. At least with this bank holiday weekend I’ve had a breather of sorts to triage my commitments and carve out some valuable time for thinking and contemplation.

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