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Paranormal Activity -- The Next "Blair Witch Project" #film

Film-making is a business among many other things, and like most other businesses, the more money you invest in it, the more likely it's going to succeed. But right now, there's a film going around that's doing extremely well in the box office -- and it was shot with a mere $20,000 budget.

"Paranormal Activity" is a feature-length movie produced and directed by Oren Peli, a video game programmer who thought it would be cool to shoot a "Blair Witch"-esque movie -- hi kids, "The Blair Witch Project" was a $60,000 film that grossed over $140 million in the box office back in 1999. With a handful of unknown actors, Peli went on to produce "Paranormal Activity" over a span of one week in 2006, shooting and editing all at the same time.

Note:
Oct 16, 2009 - Updates to this story have been added to the following paragraphs.
Oct 17, 2009 - Added limited-release movie trailer


After a series of post-production problems, Peli was finally able to debut "Paranormal Activity" on a few select screens around the United States. Audiences all over the place unanimously agreed the movie was "pretty scary" -- with some people leaving midway through the film simply because they couldn't take any more. Even director Steven Spielberg couldn't watch the entire movie in one go.

Word of mouth and, of course, participatory media was instrumental in bringing the film to mainstream popularity. Obviously when people think it's cool, they're going to Tweet it to death -- another bit of proof that there's more than just the traditional way to get your movie the mileage it receives.

The movie's reception has been so good that it's scheduled to open in cinemas all over the United States today. It's likely a big blow to most Hollywood studios, who only a few years ago turned down Peli's offers to have the film made into a feature. That was until Jason Blum, who also produced "The Reader," came across it -- and was so spooked the night after watching it that he decided not to pass on it.

"Paranormal Activity" is doing so well that it's bound to garner Peli -- and the actors he worked with -- some due recognition. There aren't any details as to when the film will reach Malaysian and Singaporean shores, but when it does, it's bound to show local filmmakers -- both professional and independent -- a thing or two about good storytelling.

Disgruntled Musician Gets Back At Airline On YouTube

I found this on YouTube two days ago and told myself I *had* to write a little about this for Friday's (today) article.

If you're working for an airline company, then here's a tip you might want to share with the guys at the baggage department -- Handle baggage labeled "FRAGILE" with care. Apparently it's a lesson that United Airlines is learning the hard way.

Dave Carroll, a Canadian folk singer, debut his first of three YouTube music videos earlier this week, entitled "United Breaks Guitars." It was a way of getting back at United Airlines for breaking his precious guitar on a flight he took last year and refusing to take responsibility for the damage.

Carroll was took a United Airlines flight between his hometown of Halifax, Canada, to a gig in Omaha, Nebraska in March last year. He was traveling with his band, Sons Of Maxwell, when a passenger sitting behind the group looked out the airplane window at the baggage handling people and exclaimed, "Oh my God, they're throwing guitars out there!"

Surely enough, Carroll's TAYLOR guitar was broken badly. He then spent the next year calling up United Airline representatives in Chicago, New York, Canada, and even India, with the guys at United passing the blame and saying it was someone else's fault.

When United Airlines ultimately refused to pay for the damages (which amounted up to US$1,200), the frustrated Carroll decided to make a music video about his experience and post it on YouTube.



700,000 views later, United Airlines is now trying to make peace with Carroll and his band. They've obviously taken notice of the video (and the announcement that two more music videos were on the way) and want to treat it as a textbook case in handling customer complaints.

I'd like to say this is a good thing for United to do (since I'm pretty sure Carroll's YouTube video will cost United at least a million dollars in business), and if other airlines know what's best for them, they ought to start getting their act straight, as well. They need to stop thinking that disgruntled customers will just have to swallow the bad service -- you'll never know what they can do with the Internet.

Apple, As Expected, To Act On Palm Pre iTunes Issue

An unexpected perk that Palm Pre buyers found out over the past week was that Apple's iTunes recognized their new devices as iPods or iPhones, which meant they could sync their iTunes content with the Pre. I wrote about this a few days ago, mentioning that in the unlikely event that this loophole evades Apple's radar, Pre might be a buy worth considering.

Unfortunately, nothing escapes Apple's radar.

Apple basically issued an "enjoy it while you can" statement yesterday, reminding everyone that the company doesn't (and won't) support any non-Apple devices, and that the next update to iTunes may no longer recognize the Palm Pre or any other device as Apple products.

This naturally touched off a nerve among some Palm Pre users, who claimed that they have every right in the world to access their music -- and Apple would be in the wrong to deny them this access.

On the other hand, a majority sees the sense in Apple's move -- after all, it's their software, their devices, their ecosystem. Apple has every right in the world to tweak their creations in any way they see fit. Apparently two out of every three people in the tech world think this way, according to this CrunchGear poll.

At this point, you can pretty much bet that Apple is going to hold true to its word -- after all, it's done it before. Remember when Apple warned its users against using third-party hacks to jailbreak/unlock the iPhone? Sure enough, Apple came out with an iPhone update within a week, leaving owners of jailbroken/unlocked iPhones with $199 iBricks.

I doubt Apple will come out with an update that will leave Palm Pre users with Palm Bricks, but I'm just saying -- let's stay on the safe side of things.

Is Google Losing Its Edge?

Image credit: Found on HubPages - Link -


I remember the day when I gave up all hope for Internet search engines. That was when the search results I got on page one were filled with nothing but useless instances of the keywords in my search query. Then Google came into the picture and revolutionized how search was done, and suddenly the Internet was useful again.

But today, Google seems to be plagued by new kinds of search problems. It seems that most Google searches I do these days seem to come up with Facebook profiles and Tweets right on page one – not really the kind of information I find. It's usually easy enough to find the relevant hits at first glance, but when Twitter “pollution” gets so bad that it knocks Wikipedia off the top spot, it's a pretty serious hurdle.

This isn't the first time Google faced this kind of problem. In the early parts of this decade, the rapidly-growing number of blogs also began swamping search results. They fixed this problem fairly quickly by adding a blog search feature, but even this remains hard to work with to this day.

Granted, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter has made the Internet more useful and enjoyable for millions of people. But there are still some strange creatures out there who use the Internet for only its informational capabilities and not its recreational side. These creatures are the ones who move the world, and when they no longer have Google on their side, they may need to start looking elsewhere.

It's going to be a strange world where people start using other search engines over Google...

Still, it's not the first time Google got hounded by such problems in search. Even with their constantly changing parameters and indexing procedures, they still sometimes struggle to bring relevant results to page one. This is probably the reason why Google is keeping new search engines like Cuil on the horizon – if Cuil gets its act together and starts bringing better search results, “cuiling” might soon make it to the dictionary too.

Suddenly, searching on Twitter doesn't seem like a bad idea. For one, social media platforms seem to pick up on breaking news much more quickly. Google is great at giving you news stories that happened eight hours ago. But for news as-it-happens, it's probably better to look through relevant Tweets.

Of course, Google can just buy Twitter...

Rude New Year For Zune 30 Users



Pic credit: Found on CNN.com


Owners of 30GB versions of Microsoft's Zune music player got a rude welcome into the New Year, with thousands of Zune 30's simultaneously shutting down as the clock struck 12 into December 31, 2008 – a day early. Zune 30's simply stopped working due to a bug in the device's internal clock that handled leap-year type time adjustments. While many Zune 30 users have regained functionality in their music players, many others haven't, and this could be a problem that's going to last for a few more days into 2009.

Is Apple Telling Us Not To Believe In Their Ads?

Chris_Gomez_Engine_Alpha_Apple_Logo

Apple's iPhone 3G has been receiving its share of raves and rants over the past several months, and the company has been the target of quite a few lawsuits over false advertising. So far, Apple has moved to dismiss such lawsuits and the courts have seemed to agree. But this latest suit is different – almost as though Apple had shot itself in the foot with a particular statement in their defense.

"Malaysia" Sued Hard By Bruce Willis

I intended to write about this earlier, but I was determined to see its conclusion first. Turns out that last week, Bruce Willis (star of the Die Hard movies) sued a Malaysian prince and his company. Willis apparently invested US$2 million in the company, which claimed would produce “green rubber” out of old tires in Malaysia, last year. When he decided to pull out of the deal, the company was slow to return the amount.

It all started when Willis was invited to invest in The Petra Group, a Malaysian company that specializes in environmental technology. The actor was apparently convinced that other well-known American figures such as former US Vice President Al Gore, fellow actor Mel Gibson, and producer Bruce Davey (Braveheart) had already invested in the company and were poised to make a “huge profit.”

Turns out that the investment wasn't as good as Willis had hoped, and he decided to pull out of the deal. The Petra Group had released US$1.1 million of the original amount, but allegedly falsely reported the wiring of the remaining US$900,000 and had made excuse after excuse about when the balance would be paid. That was when Willis decided to sue for the remaining US$900,000, plus 10% interest per annum.

Ouch.

Nevertheless, the problem was reportedly settled amicably this week, although no further details were made public. I suppose all's well that ends well, but the publicity has probably done nothing good for Malaysia.

I have faith in the Petra Group. They know what they're doing, though it's a little sad to see Malaysia not able to convert this opportunity after it landed squarely on its lap. Everybody knows Bruce Willis, and to have your own country sued by someone with his star power probably made more than a few Malaysians cringe. Malaysia could have benefited by having Willis actively involved in the country's industry – environmental, media or otherwise.

This is not a criticism of the Petra Group, but I wonder though if someone, internally, wasn't keeping tab on things. Then again, is this an indicator that Malaysia is falling into the “there's no such thing as bad publicity” mindset? I imagine Malaysian leaders being quick to point out: “Hey, so what. It was a Malaysian company that got sued, not Malaysia as a whole. Keep your shirt on.”

Please. When you're not a significant force in the business world, all you have is the name of your country. And if you can't do anything to help your country, don't do it at all. Malaysia may have all the potential in the world, but it shouldn't really fool itself into deals that it knows it couldn't handle.

As usual, here's Chris Gomez with his Malaysia vs Singapore comparisons...

Myself, I don't really see Singapore making these kinds of mistakes. And if they do, I predict them to stand right up, inform all parties concerned, and make damn sure they don't make the same mistake again. It's basically how it's addressed such problems before, and I imagine that Bruce Willis would likely not face the same difficulties here.

I guess he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

3-D Holographic TV Within Our Lifetimes

When George Lucas came up with the idea of 3-D holographic images in the Star Wars movies (who could forget R2-D2 projecting the image of Princess Leia?), he was way ahead of his time. Back then, the percentage of the worldwide population owning a television was rapidly on the rise, but no one really thought of 3-D much.

Nokia Steps Up To Apple's Dominance

Chris Gomez - Engine Alpha - Nokia 5310 XpressMusic
At this point, it would seem as though no one could hold a candle to Apple's dominance of the worldwide digital music market. Its wildly popular iTunes software is being used by a little over half of the world's digital music-loving population, and it seems to keep getting better as time goes by. But give other companies a few months, and Apple could see its invincible grasp on the market slowly slip away.

Want To Get Paid For Buying Music?

Digital music has been the norm for the past few years now. The shift from CD's and cassettes to MP3's is probably the best thing to happen to the world since sliced cheese, but it comes with its share of problems. Everyone remembers the furor that rose from P2P pioneer Napster's battle with Metallica and its legions of lawyers – and today, piracy still takes a huge chunk of revenue from music industries worldwide.