District 9

Last night, I saw the new sci-fi masterpiece by Peter Jackson, "District 9." This will be a relatively spoiler-free review so if you haven't seen it, let me say two things:

1) See it. If this were the 1920s it would be the cat's pajamas.
2) Read this. I won't ruin the movie for you.

"District 9" was probably the best movie I've seen all year except for "The Godfather: Part II" which I saw on Netflix for the first time a month ago and was marginally better. "District 9" is original, it's visually stunning, it's compelling and it really makes you reevaluate your conception of human nature. If you're going pay eleven bucks like I did, this is the movie at which to do it.

That said, this movie was rated R and it was completely devoid of any nudity or sexually explicit scenes. I don't even think the words "pork," "boink" or "rusty trombone" were used anywhere in the script. This is not to say that sex didn't come up--at two points the notion of sex between the humans and aliens came up in a passing fashion--it just wasn't used to give me an erection.

This should be frowned upon.

Let's see here, this movie has aliens, explosions, psychological intrigue and... zero naked ladies? That's like making a delicious pizza with a crispy crust, savory marinara sauce, fresh cheese and... zero toppings! Come on, District 9, you were so close to perfection and you let me down. I'm not the only person who thinks this, either. Check out these reviews:

"District 9 does a lot of things right, including giving us aliens to remind us not everyone who comes in a spaceship need be angelic, octopod or stainless steel. [Also, what's with the no boobies?]" --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"In the midst of it all you almost take for granted the carefully rendered details of the setting, the tightness of the editing and the inventiveness of the special effects. [Also, what's with the no boobies?]" --A. O. Scott, New York Times

See? I'm not saying that "District 9" wasn't a great movie; it was. What I'm saying is that "District 69" would be a really, really awesome porno. And no, I'm not some sicko who thinks that it would be cool to see giant insect aliens getting down with Earth ladies. Far from it! All I'm saying is that in between the giant robot thing catching the missile and the ennui of the final scenes, if I saw some hot, sexy human-on-human action, I wouldn't be complaining. Here, I'll write a scene as an example:

Hot lady bystander: Oh noes, it's totes alienz!
Dude that looks suspiciously like me: Fo' sho'. Let's hide and get intimate with our privates.
Hot lady bystander: Sounds like a plan!
(Ninety-second sex scene)
Boom, then you go right back to the action. Nobody would consider that distracting, right? That's just squeezing every last drop (pardon the pun) out of your R rating. "District 9" was terrific but, like most things in life, it could have been enhanced even more so through the magic of graphic sex. We can only hope they make a sequel!

The Death of XM and Sirius

XM was a great idea when it first came out; take the cable TV model and apply it to radio. It was great - the content was fantastic, the selection was much better than anything on FM, and the quality was first-rate. To me, audio quality is very important, and I enjoyed listening to CD-quality tracks on XM much more than even the strongest FM signal. I loved it while I had it, but hated paying 12 bucks a month for the service.

About a year ago, I canceled my service with XM because I found other ways of getting the music I wanted and the quality I desired. I had been using Pandora for years, but not until the Pandora App arrived on the iPhone did I consider dropping XM entirely.

With AT&T's 3G coverage constantly increasing, the need for a satellite connection has become obsolete. One of the main features of XM and Sirius is the fact that you can receive a strong signal basically anywhere in the country. On my daily commute to work outside of Chicago, I get plenty of bars to get consistent playback on Pandora. Another feature that XM and Sirius claimed to have was the lack of commercials (I found this was not true, they just had fewer commercials). Pandora, on the other hand, only has a small banner ad at the bottom of the screen, and NO commercials in between tracks. Sure, XM and Sirius have hundreds of channels, but with Pandora, I can create and manage several of my own customizable stations. All of these reasons make Pandora a better option, audio-wise, but when you throw "its free" into the mix, its a no-brainer.

More and more internet radio stations are showing up in the iPhone app store and on other platforms (Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, etc), and they're all free. XM even has its own app on the iPhone, but why would you pay for the XM service when you can get a better app with free service? As Pandora, Slacker, NPR, Y! Music, AOL Radio, and more, become more and more popular, the need for a service like XM and Sirius will diminish.

There are plenty of arguments against the death of XM and Sirius. The company's stock has been going gangbusters in the market - up 40% in the last week (See Tech Trader Daily report here). The main reason for this is a product called SkyDock. Basically, this accessory plugs into your iPhone or iPod Touch and acts as a satellite receiver for XM and Sirius. Currently, the XM and Sirius apps use 3G for connectivity, and the audio isn't as clear as satellite. SkyDock will undoubtedly be sold separately and definitely wont come complimentary with XM or Sirius service. So, to put this in basic terms, I have two options:
1. I can buy SkyDock for $30 or $50 and attach it to my iPhone (which is a pain because now I have to carry this thing around). On top of the SkyDock expense, I also have to continue paying XM or Sirius for their service. At $12 a month, I would be paying close to $200 for the year.
2. I could settle for a hit in audio quality and use one of the many free internet radio apps. I don't have to listen to any long commercials and I don't have to pay for the service. I can customize my own stations and rate the songs I want to hear and the songs I don't ever want to hear. Aside from paying my standard AT&T service bill, this option is $0 for the year.
I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that love satellite radio and don't mind paying under $20 a month for the service. For the Howard Stern listeners out there, Sirius is really the only way of hearing the show, so you don't have much choice there. I have used and loved satellite radio before, but now that I've switched to internet radio, I'm never looking back.

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