Primer: Good Movie (I think?)

Primer poster

I was just reading the top 10 underrated scifi movies list that has been going around and noticed that their number one pick ‘Primer’ was available to view instantly on Netflix. It’s hard to beat instant and free so I thought I’d give it a shot.

It certainly was an interesting movie. The Maker-type atmosphere at the start got me interested and once their machine starts working it really gets catchy. Then things get a bit complex (to say the least). I’d like to say I figured the plot out with no problem but to tell the truth I got pretty lost by the end of the movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth just watching it without knowing anything else and see what you can make of it.

If you’ve already seen it, then you really need to see this cool (amazingly stuffed with spoilers) Primer timeline analysis.

Timeline diagram of Primer

I’m still debating if it’s cool or just crazy that you can make a diagram like that from this movie. I’m leaning towards cool since time-traveling paradoxes are pretty neat (as long as they’re not deleting my great-great-grandparents or creating sentient AIs with genocidal tendencies and Schwarzeneggerian physiques). Interestingly, the whole movie only cost $7,000 with Shane Carruth (the guy who played Aaron [the nonbearded guy if you’re as bad at names as me]) writing, directing, producing (and obviously starring).

So if you’re at all intrigued by the diagram above then I’d recommend Primer (and staying away from that diagram until later).


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DIY Wedding: Self-Uniting Marriage

Signing a self-uniting marriage license

We thought it would be nice to have an easy simple wedding. Luckily we’re in Pennsylvania where, thanks to an historical abundance of Quakers, they have self-uniting weddings. Unlike normal wedding which require a priest or official, self-uniting weddings only need two witnesses. It sounded kind of cool to do our own wedding, so we gave it a shot.

So we went to the local Orphan’s Court (a nice pleasant sounding name) office to get our license. Things were going smoothly but once we asked for a self-uniting license, the clerk immediately asked us if we were Quakers and, when we said we were not, refused to let us register. Now I’m no legal scholar but when a government official asks your religion and then denies you service based on your answer, it sure sounds like somebody is mixing their church with their state. This was especially annoying because I had already read up on things and knew that the ACLU and a couple who wanted a self-uniting marriage had already brought the case to court and won. But I’m no lawyer and Philadelphia’s (more sensible) court house is just as close so we just went there the next day. The downtown Philadelphia clerks didn’t hassle us (although they are strangely very strict about having some piece of paper with your social security number on it) and we paid the extra $10 for a self-uniting license and got our license a few days later.

So, if you’re getting married in Pennsylvania and want to do your own ceremony, a self-uniting license might be slightly more hassle but should be pretty easy to get either by calling the ACLU or going to a non-backwater clerk (e.g. not Delaware County). A self-uniting marriage might also be a good option for people who want a friend or relative to marry them since Pennsylvania is currently invalidating marriages by ministers it doesn’t like (again I’m no lawyer but how does that sound at all constitutional?).


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Tuxedos: Buy Online Instead of Renting

I just had a nice simple wedding a couple weeks ago (that and the new job is keeping posts even more sparse than usual). We weren’t doing anything big but I thought it’d be cool to dress up, especially since Xiaofen already picked up a wedding dress in China. So I started looking around for tux rentals. Surprisingly (to my uncultured self at least), tuxedos cost $150 to rent and you need to give them several weeks notice. This seemed a bit high so I went home and looked around the internet for typical prices. It turns out tuxedos really do tend to cost $150 to rent. But while googling, I noticed that at least one online store sells complete tuxedo packages for around $300.

Now I don’t mind spending money when I have to but when somebody wants to charge me 50% of the purchase price to borrow something for the day I’m going to draw the line. And get a bit annoyed. So I thought I might as well write it up here and maybe help someone else avoid getting screwed by tuxedo rentals.

I was a little worried there would be some sort of trick to a tuxedo that (relatively) cheap but the tuxedo arrived two days after I ordered it (I’m having amazing luck with shipping recently) and the package really seems to cover everything you need (except shoes and socks); jacket, pants, shirt, vest, bow tie, handkerchief (apparently called a pocket square) and simple cuff and button links. I did need to get the pants hemmed but I guess that’s normal and it was only $8 at a local dry cleaner. I’m no tuxedo expert but it seems to look pretty sharp and feels nice and comfortable.

So if you need a tux, buy4lesstuxedo worked well for me.

Details only interesting to people looking for tuxes: I thought the Geoffrey Beene tuxes looked the best out of all of them (although I wonder how much of that is due to the photography and model choice). I wanted a shawl or peaked collar (I never would have predicted I’d be writing about tuxedo collars on here) but they had a pretty low selection of both in my size. So I ended up getting the 2 button notch collar by Geoffrey Beene.

I couldn’t find any non advertisement pictures on Google so if here is a picture of a Geoffrey Beene 2 button notch tuxedo (and a beautiful bride) for any tuxedo shoppers.

Geoffrey Beene Two Button Notch Tuxedo


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Cool Custom Wedding Rings: Boone Rings

I’ve got an upcoming (simple, very low-key) wedding and managed to put off getting a ring until the last moment (shoppings for jewelry is not really on my top 10 list). So I had pretty simple requirements; 1) silvery (which, since platinum is too expensive and you have to baby silver, I thought meant white gold), 2) affordable (over $400 really started me thinking about how much better other toys or travel sounded), 3) some sort of pattern or carving so it wasn’t just a boring band and 4) available within a couple weeks (me procrastinate?). After looking at about ten or so local jewelry shops, I was starting to get pretty depressed. Most of the rings were boring or really didn’t seem to look right (e.g. diamonds) and the few that I took a shine to either would take a month or more to resize/order or were way outside of what I felt like paying. Once I started running into the same rings in different shops (always suspiciously identically 50% off), I decided it was time to see what the internet had to offer.

After a bunch of googling, the online shops also seemed pretty generic and boring (although a bit cheaper). Then I started noticing the “alternative” metal rings. Apparently, rings made of silverish titanium or tungsten are gaining in popularity. Titanium is harder, lighter and a lot cheaper than gold and tungsten is apparently unscratchably hard (but shatterable) and a bit cheaper than gold. Having a ring made out of a cool metal instead of sissy precious metals sounded pretty cool (although maybe just a touch of classy metals might be good). But again a lot of the rings seemed sort of boring and/or expensive. The tungsten rings especially seem to have few choices and none with any good patterns or carving (I guess because they’re so hard to cut).

Then I found Boone Rings. Apparently a guy down in Georgia used to make titanium bike parts but decided to take his knowledge of titanium (and CNC machine) and switch to making rings. From his website, you can pick from about a hundred ring styles and then pick what metals to include in the ring, what curvature and width to make the ring and what sort of polish to finish the ring with. The idea of designing my own ring sounded pretty cool and a few of the various polishes seemed to scratch my itch for a pattern on the ring. So many choices led to analysis paralysis but I finally ended up deciding on a peened ring with palladium (pretty cool sounding fancy silverish metal) and white gold inlays. I also ordered a smaller peened white gold inlay one for the fiancee since she’s always worried about messing up her slightly fancy engagement ring and we thought it’d be kind of cool to have matching rings. Amazingly they arrived at my house 4 days later.

Custom made titanium wedding bands Shiny titanium wedding rings

They sure look good. I like how the inlays are sort of hidden in the peened pattern.

I wasn’t sure what the ring widths looked like compared to fingers and I couldn’t get google to give me any good image of various widths on hands so for any similar googlers here is what 3mm ring and a 7mm ring look on fingers.

3mm ring and 7mm ring compared to finger and hand size

So if you’re looking for good looking (and extremely fast) custom rings with great customer service, I recommend Boone Rings.


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10,000 BC Review

10,000 BC Poster

In another adventure in early morning cinema, we decided to go see 10,000 BC. I can report that there are definitely not large crowds in the theater at 10AM on Daylight’s Savings Time Sunday.

So I went into this expecting it to be pretty horrible (Rotten Tomatoes is giving it a 8%.) but I like the theme and wanted to see the CGI animals. Unfortunately, the whole thing seemed recycled from other movies and forced. They really wasted a good theme by not even bothering to accurately portray the animals or the history. That said it did keep me and the girlfriend mildly entertained (then again we still haven’t bought a TV so our entertainment criteria is pretty low).

The movie starts out with what I would assume is a fairly good guess at what life was like in 10,000 BC; huts, fire and hunter gatherers. After a few adventures, the characters reach another tribe of people who are just starting to grow their own crops. Again pretty accurate. 10,000 BC is right around when people are thought to have discovered agriculture. After a few more adventures, the history goes right out the window as the heroes run into a full fledged Egyptian culture complete with writing, pyramids, maps of the world and sailing ships. The movies takes one sentence to explain this anachronism as either aliens or Atlantis. This seemed pretty silly to me since we would definitely have archaeological records of such an advanced civilization. Why not just call it 2,000 BC? (Probably because they couldn’t have mammoths then.) As a final punch in the historical gut, the movie ends with the hero receiving a gift of seeds including corn. Pretty annoying (and completely unnecessary) since corn is from the Americas and would not reach the Old World for another 11,500 years. That’s about all I have to say about the history and the plot.

The movie had quite a few (I feel) bad movie making decisions. First right at the start of the movie, everyone decides to cover their faces in mud (a la Braveheart). I’m sure mud facial decorations were common in many ancient tribes but I really don’t think it’s the best idea when the audience is just being introduced to the characters. Then throughout the movie it continually flashes over to show an old witch doctor lady from the village. Besides her being pretty uncharismatic, I thought this was pretty unnecessary to the plot. (Yes I realize they were setting up the ending but I think the mammoth had that taken care of already). Also, the tribe talks in an assortment of phony accents. I saw in a preview/advertisement that the director wanted to do the whole thing in subtitles (a la Apocalypto). I like subtitles much more than dubbing in foreign flicks but since no one has any idea how they spoke 12,000 years ago this seemed kind of stupid. I guess funny accents were the next best thing for him. If you do watch the movie, I swear somewhere in the first part at the village someone is doing a Scarface impression. Let me know if you catch it too. Also, there was a huge amount of noisy pixels in some of the dark shots. I’ve never noticed this in a Hollywood movie before. Not sure why they’d let that through into the final copy.

Finally the part that let me down the most was the computer generated animals. We only get three types in this movie; mammoths, some sort of giant bird and a sabertooth tiger. The birds seemed animated well enough but you never get a real good look at them. The tiger seemed pretty good in the dark but in the light it really looked fake and didn’t seem to move quite right. Also contrary to what the poster would have you believe, the tiger gets about 45 seconds of screen time. The mammoths are in a lot of the movie and oddly enough are often shown galloping with two front feet in the air followed by two back feet. I’m no elephant expert but this looked completely phony to me so I decided to look through the literature once I got home and it looks like it is in fact completely phony (I’ll post about this tomorrow Update: here). Overall the CGI seemed about equivalent to a Discovery channel show which is sort of a let down when they’re supposed to be a highlight of a Hollywood movie.

Now after all those negatives, I do have to give it some credit. Despite all the shortcomings, I was entertained for the parts where I wasn’t groaning at the accents, history or biology. It’s not a horrible movie, it’s just not all that good.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Scott Sherrill-Mix, March 10th, 2007


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