Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Did You Know 3.0

I vividly remember the first time I saw the 2.0 version of Did You Know during one of the very first meetings of OLPC Austria back in mid-2007. To say that I was stunned would be quite the understatement. In fact it was probably one of the most powerful videos I had ever seen.

Now I discovered that an updated version 3.0 has been released and after looking at it and comparing it with 2.0 I’d say that it’s an outstanding update. Definitely watch it in case you haven’t seen it already!

(via elearningblog.tugraz.at)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How time flies

I just realized that it’s been exactly one year since I flew to Washington, D.C. to start my 3-month internship at the Austrian Embassy’s Office of Science and Technology. Really makes me realize just how quickly time flies by these days.

The internship, life in D.C., my subsequent month of traveling in Canada and the United States, the return to Austria, the 6-week summer internship, coming back to Vienna and university, a super-busy autumn where I got tons of things done, going to Brussels for a weekend, the relaxing Christmas holidays, all the studying and exams in January, going to back to Brussels for FOSDEM, spending a couple of days in London. All that and a hundred other things that I can’t even remember happened in the past 12 months. It’s definitely been a great ride and looking ahead I’m pretty sure I won’t have to worry about being bored in the next 12 months…

(P.S. On some level this post is a hyper-condensed version of something like A look back at 2007 which I had originally planned to write around this New Year’s. Quite obviously I relaxed a bit too much during the Christmas holidays to actually get the post written.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer

I know I'm late to the game but I just now managed to watch the Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) vs. Jim Cramer (Fast Money) showdown from March 12. In case you haven't seen it yet you really should, it truly is television at its very best!


Last summer I somehow stumbled across the Watchmen trailer and was immediately fascinated even though at the time I had no idea what this whole Watchmen thing was all about (Wikipedia to the rescue).

Anyway, after watching Slumdog Millionaire on Tuesday I again went to the cinema on Wednesday evening, this time to see Watchmen. Just like on the day before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Even though to my disgrace I have to admit to actually owning the printed graphic novel yet never having gotten further than the first 30 pages or so.

The movie is off to a great start, the intro sequence alone is breathtaking, never mind the initial struggle depicted after it. Then we’re slowly introduced to the different characters and the setting the story takes place in. It’s hard if not impossible not to be fascinated by the depth and intensity of the scenario and the various (former) superheros in it.

While there’s no single main character in the movie it’s not hard for me to pick my personal favorite: Rorschach.

Which directly leads to my main criticism: there are simply too many characters and too little screen time for all of them to be sufficiently well introduced. Of course this is the inherent challenge of turning a complex written original into a motion-picture and there’ll never be perfect solution.

It’s this point that I feel really breaks the movie because a bit more than a half into the 162 minute runtime I was starting to get a little confused due to a feeling of having lost sight of the original story. Don’t get me wrong, the second half is still an enjoyable experience, however with the novelty of the story and the visual (and acoustic - Leonard Cohen had probably never envisioned Hallelujah to be the background for such a scene) representation wearing off I became less enthusiastic overall.

Walking out of the cinema at the end of the night I couldn’t help but feel that things could have gone better. While admittedly realizing in the same moment that it’s probably impossible to get a better interpretation of such a complex universe on the big screen. On some level it feels like the film is really just an appetizer to convince me to finally dive into the original comic.

And you know what, it seems to work. While writing this entry I dusted off of my copy and now have the best intentions to read it within the next 2 weeks or so.

At the end of the day the question of whether I liked the movie or not is kind of hard to answer. For the major part it was definitely enjoyable and worth seeing, yet it left somewhat of a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Overall however it was definitely an interesting experience.

P.S. Wired Magazine published an interesting behind the scenes article on the Watchmen movie and its history. Definitely well worth reading even though it might contain some spoilers for people who haven’t seen the film so be aware of that.

Slumdog Millionaire

Last Tuesday I had a chance to go to the Austrian premiere of Slumdog Millionaire. With all the excitement surrounding the movie’s 8 Oscars I had certainly read quite a bit about it but still wasn’t really sure what to expect.

As it turns out the film can probably be best described as an exotic fairy tale. And a very well crafted, thoughtful and enjoyable fairy tale at that. Plus it’s got a sort of feel-good air around it which is something that I normally don’t necessarily enjoy too much (happy endings are for wimps, right?;-) however in this case it works really well. It’s certainly been a while since I last left a cinema with such a warm and fuzzy feeling in my stomach…

Anyway, the first third of the film which gives some insights into the childhood of Jamal, the main character, very much reminded me of City of God (a real must-see by the way). In terms of the locations (slum in India vs. favela in Brazil), the main characters’ stories and the intensity of the footage both movies strike me as remarkably similar. However Slumdog Millionaire has a slight edge thanks to the great soundtrack which is nicely used all throughout the movie.

Towards the middle of the 2 hour film as Jamal swiftly proceeds in the Who wants to be a millionaire? show and the cutbacks go to more recent events the pace starts to slow down. At this point it becomes quite clear how the story will end, yet a lot of craftsmanship has gone into making sure that it’s an enjoyable experience all along. And it really works, I literally enjoyed every single minute and scene even though I was aware of the fact that if executed differently this part of the movie could have turned into a real letdown.

I really don’t want to go into more details as it would spoil a lot of the pleasure of seeing the movie yourself (which you really should!!). The one last thing I want to say is that the actors portraying the main characters, both as children and young adults, are doing an amazing job which goes a long way in giving Slumdog Millionaire (what I assume to be) an authentic touch. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Freida Pinto (who plays Latika) in several mainstream productions over the coming years. Rumor has it that she might be the next Bond girl and apparently Woody Allen is also interested in working with her for his next movie.

To cut a long story short: Go to your nearest cinema and watch Slumdog Millionaire as soon as possible, you’ll definitely enjoy it!

I’ve embedded the trailer below just in case my comments aren’t convincing enough.

P.S. Yes, I admit it, the movie makes me want to travel to India… :-)

Friday, March 20, 2009

2019 Extended Version

I just found a much longer version of Microsoft's 2019 video that I had mentioned earlier this week. To me it's certainly mind boggling to think that technology similar to the one portrayed in the video will one day really be available! Kinda puts me in a dreamy state of mind... :-)

Monday, March 16, 2009


Quite an interesting video about what Microsoft thinks the world might look like ten years from now.

(via e-Learning Blog, Venture Beat)

Movies, movies, movies…

As you can see from the last couple of entries I’ve been quite good with keeping up with the insane amount of great movies these days. Unfortunately I often find myself lacking the time to really write anything up about them so here’s just a quick overview of films I saw in the more recent past and what I thought of them:


It’s hard to write anything about Milk since everything seems to have been said already... In my mind just watching it to see Sean Penn’s outstanding performance is totally worth it, never mind that the “rest” of the movie is great as well. Plus I really like the notion of movies bringing historic characters and events to a broader audience. A great movie indeed.


What can I say, this is probably one of the best Austrian movies ever and it certainly deserved to be nominated for the Foreign Feature Oscar (which it unfortunately didn’t win). The story is very well written, the actors are amazing, the difference between urban and rural areas / people / life is nicely portrayed, etc. Austrian film-making at its best and a definite must-see in my opinion!

The Beach

As somewhat of a travel aficionado who hasn’t quite given up the dream of managing to get off the beaten track at one point or another I can’t help but find The Beach’s basic storyline to be appealing. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to visit the island described in the movie? So the first half of it was really entertaining and good, the second half however was somehow bland and predictable. Still, overall it’s an entertaining flick as long as you don’t expect too much substance.


I’m certainly not a big Tom Cruise fan but found Valkyrie to be quite a good movie, though admittedly I had had quite low expectations. Definitely one of the better World War II related films in the recent years.


Initially I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here but ended up being really drawn into the movie. It obviously wouldn’t work without the great performances by Michael Sheen (David Frost) Frank Langella (Richard Nixon) who both convey an amazing intensity and on-screen presence. Undoubtedly seeing them perform the play at West End and on Broadway in 2006/2007 must have been an unforgettable experience.

Next up on my to-be-watched list are:

Slumdog Millionaire (I won two tickets for Tuesday’s Austria premiere of the movie:-), The Wrestler and Knochenmann

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lost Generation

Truly one of the best videos I’ve seen in the past few months. An absolute must-see!