Friday, June 30, 2006

Reverse Psychology

You know those places like the Cold Stone Cremery where, if you throw a tip into the tip jar, there's a whole big celebration? They'll ring a bell, hoot and holler, and everyone will sing some sort of bizarre made-up song like a pack of Oompa-Loompas.

To me, that's incentive not to tip.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Do You Smell Smoke?

I'm breaking personal blog rule #1 and going political today. So there.

This week, the U.S. Senate fell one vote short of passing a potential anti-flag burning amendment on to the states for ratification. I've always found humor in flag burning issue because of this line from the US Flag Code:

"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning"
There are basically two key words here that make the humor. Most obviously, of course, is the fact that there are people seeking to ban something that the US Flag Code actually tells you is not only acceptable, but "preferable." But better yet, it's "dignified."

Alright, quibble over the difference between a protest and a "disposal" -- but why burning is somehow horrifying in the one situation, but "preferable" and "dignified" in the other is still funny to me. And my point, if indeed I'm even making one here, is that someone ought to go and change the US Flag Code before they try to go change the Constitution.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Return Engagement

I just got home from seeing Superman Returns. I know that a lot of people out there were totally jazzed about seeing this movie. To me, this was just one more summer blockbuster among many. And boy, was I glad to have approached it that way, because that's exactly what I got. The movie was like Chinese food. It was fairly tasty while it lasted, but less than half an hour later, I felt "hungry" again and totally unsatisfied.

The set-up of the movie seemed to create a background where some real emotion could be portrayed. Superman goes off to find Krypton and comes back empty-handed, isolated and alone. Except that he's almost instantly over that, and it's basically never an issue again for the whole movie. Lois goes through some motions about being betrayed or angry or something, but it too fails to amount to anything. Pick the worst episode of Lois & Clark, and you'll find more spark and genuine emotion than made it to the screen in this movie.

So all that basically covers the "minus column." In the "plus column," Kevin Spacey gives a pretty fun performance. He makes Luthor more diabolical in a way Gene Hackman never quite landed (though probably never intended to). The effects are pretty jaw-dropping. And there's a "big reveal" in the movie that could be pretty fun, assuming you've managed to last this long without having it spoiled for you somewhere. (All the entertainment magazines and sites have already ruined the surprise, though.)

But most of the movie falls in the "maybe plus, maybe minus column -- depending on your perspective":

Brandon Routh channels Christopher Reeve so thoroughly, it's damn creepy at times. His performance both in the suit and as Clark Kent must be the result of watching Reeve's performance so many times as to have worn out a dozen copies of the tape. I truly couldn't decide how I felt about this.

It's not the only thing ripped straight from the original films, either. Composer John Ottman has faithfully integrated pieces of John Williams famous music. The opening credits whoosh at you in that same block letter 3-D of the 1970s. The closing "flight over the Earth, turn and smile for the camera" moment has been duplicated. These were pluses in my book.

The messianic metaphor is evoked repeatedly. (I'd say strangled to within an inch of its life, but here again, it's a matter of your own perspective.) Superman does the "crucifixion pose" multiple times in the film.

Superman remains as "variably vulnerable" to kryptonite in this story as he usually seems to be. He's as vulnerable as the plot requires. Sometimes, kryptonite makes it so he can't even move. Other times, he possesses a "Wile E. Coyote over the edge of a cliff"-like ability to not really be harmed until he notices it's there. (I put this in the "plus or minus" column because if you don't normally mind this, no problem here. If it drives you nuts, it will this time too.)

Bottom line, I give the film a C. And this final opinion: I suspect that the average person's perceptions of the film will perfectly match the expectations he brings in. If you're all aboard with Superman and excited for what you expect to see here, I think the movie will deliver that to you. If you're pretty neutral going in, I think that's what you'll get.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Spin Out

With only one more night before Superman flies into theaters, I knew it was "now or never" if I wanted to get out to see Cars at the local screen with the digital projector.

Had I known what I do now, I wouldn't have felt any rush. Never mind digital on the big screen; waiting until DVD would have been just fine for this one, in my book.

Up front, I'll say that all told, I'll give the movie a B-. It was not by any stretch a total loss. It looked gorgeous as all of Pixar's movies have (though aside from a few impressive landscapes, it actually was probably inferior in terms of "wow" factor to Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo). It had good voice performances, and good animation to further develop those characters. It had quite a few good gags and jokes.

What it lacked was any of the emotional heft that Pixar's other movies have had. Most of their early films had at least one scene where I could actually feel myself getting choked up and moved by the story being portrayed. In this movie, I never cared enough for any of the characters for that to happen.

I would never be one to claim that the main character of a story needs to be "likeable." But when they aren't, they need to be compelling to watch in their "unlikeability." The main character of this story, Lightning McQueen, is simply just an ass. I found it completely unbelievable that any character so full of himself could ever be rehabilitated. And I didn't want to see him rehabilitated. He was just as big a blowhard as his nemesis in the film, Chick Hicks. I saw no meaningful distinction between the two establishing why I should root for the one and against the other.

That left the rather wide cast of secondary characters populating the town of Radiator Springs. I had no easier time accessing their story of "being left behind with progress and the passage of time." This is material I think the two Toy Story movies mined thoroughly, and with far more success. (The Jessie montage in the middle of Toy Story 2 would be one of those "choked up" moments I mentioned earlier.)

And hey, as long as we're talking about other movies that have mined this plot already, Cars is basically a remake of Doc Hollywood. I know that Michael J. Fox movie was far from the first "fish out of water" movie made, but the similarities of these two particular movies are too great to ignore.

A minor SPOILER WARNING here for those who don't want to know about some gags in the end credits....

...but I thought it telling that the thing that got the biggest reaction from me in all of Cars was the series of adaptations of earlier Pixar movies into "car-themed films." And frankly, it seemed like a mistake to conjure up memories of Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and A Bug's Life -- all better movies than Cars.

Like I said, it's not a total loss. It's not a bad movie. But it is a Pixar movie I can't see myself buying on DVD. Which I guess tells you that for me, the streak has ended.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Jack on the Box

It's only been one month, but I am seriously missing Jack Bauer. I feel it most on Monday nights, of course. But I do still get a painful reminder of just how long it is until January every time I check my mailbox:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sticking Point

You know those little stickers you have to put on your license plates? Different states in the U.S. have their own little quirks about them. Some places have only one sticker for month and year. Some have two separate stickers for those purposes. And different states will tell you to place them in different locations on the plate. But consistently, there is always a specific place for them; there's some blank space allotted in the plate design, and instructions on the envelope in which the stickers come (and/or on the plate itself) telling you exactly where you're supposed to place them.

Here in Colorado, you've got a month sticker and a year sticker, and they're supposed to go on the bottom left and right of the back license plate. But every now and then, you see a car where somebody's got these stickers in the wrong place. I've seen them in reverse order, in the top two corners, stuck right next to each other in one corner, and probably a few other variations too.

My question is: what the hell is up with this? I see two possible conclusions, and don't like either of them.

1) They're deliberately ignoring the instructions for sticker placement. What, do they think they're expressing their creativity or something? Get a freaking bumper sticker, idiot.

2) They're too stupid to follow the instructions. If you can't handle that, should you really be operating a motor vehicle?

Saturday, June 24, 2006


I think there's a fairly good chance this sentence has never before been written or spoken:

Christians don't seem to know how to make a good Disc Golf course.

A couple months ago, when a friend came out for a weekend visit from Virginia, I got sucked into the whole Disc Golf thing. (That's Frisbee Golf, for the uninitiated.) Since then, I've roped a bunch of my friends and most of my family in as well. With one notable exception, none of us are really any good yet (I'm not the exception), but we're all enjoying it enough to have gone out to get our own sets of discs.

We're also constantly on the prowl for new courses to try. There's one very close to my house, but it's pretty sad. We've dubbed it Gopher Town, because it's nine "holes" (with virtually no obstacles) in a wide open dirt field infested with prairie dogs. Yes, Prairie Dog Town would be more accurate, but it just doesn't roll off the tongue.

Well, the Colorado Christian University, near my friend's house, has a course. Actually, it has three courses, all the full 18 holes, spread throughout its campus. We decided to try one today. We weren't impressed.

First of all, their web site claims (here) that the courses are all "clearly mapped out." With divine guidance, maybe. Thankfully, one of our group had gone and printed a map of one of the courses before hand. If we hadn't had it with us, I guarantee you we wouldn't have found everything.

There were no tee pads. You began every hole by throwing from where the last hole ended. Not necessarily a bad thing, except that you could kind of pick and choose a bit whether you wanted to go from the left of the previous hole or the right -- flexibility you don't usually get.

There were no baskets. I've been to one other course with no baskets that wasn't so bad. That one at least had posts with chains. This one simply had signs screwed into trees, or posts stuck in the ground. Just hit the post, was all you had to do. There were obstacles aplenty, which might ordinarily be a plus, but sort of seemed arbitrary when you're trying to "hit this tree, not that one."

We might have guessed it wasn't going to be great before we went. The name of this course, according to the map we printed, was the "Ghetto Course."

So the search for good courses continues. For any of you out there thinking of converting to Christianity, don't do it for the Disc Golf.

(* Where Would Jesus Disc Golf?)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Outrageous Fortunes

Once again (as I reported not too long ago), I've received a very bizarre fortune cookie message from the Chinese place I often go to for lunch:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

You Blaster, You Brought 'Er!

The "blaster beam." It's not just something that gets shot from a stormtrooper's pistol. What I'm talking about is a musical instrument with strong ties to Star Trek, not Star Wars.

The blaster beam is probably the weirdest musical instument ever created. It's a giant steel monstrosity over 18 feet long. Nothing else sounds quite like it. It was first used by Jerry Goldsmith in the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, used to represent V'Ger.

If you remember the music from the film at all, you already know exactly what sound I'm talking about. If not, it's the funky noise you hear at the beginning of this clip.

Continuing the Star Trek connection, this instrument was actually invented by an actor who, as a child, appeared on an episode of the original Star Trek. Stranger career changes have been made than from actor to new age musician, of course.

What possesses a guy to think, "I'm going to build the biggest, heaviest, strangest-sounding instrument the world has ever heard"? I have no idea... but mission accomplished, sir.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"I'll Send You Another Copy of That Memo..."

It may be you've already seen this at one of countless other web sites that have published it, but in case you haven't, it made me laugh heartily. It's a memo from Matt Stone (of South Park) to the MPAA, from years ago during the process where they were trying to appeal the South Park movie down to an R rating. (Here it is at full size.)

There's just something incredibly funny about a civil discussion of the sorts of things referred to in this memo. And while not every movie pushes the envelope as hard as South Park, you still have to know this sort of argument with the MPAA is happening all the time.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stanley Screamer

One of my local Denver friends (movie buff and Stephen King enthusiast) was all over this one:

On the night of August 16th, there's going to be a free outdoor screening of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining on the grounds of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, where King is said to have first gotten the idea for the book. It will probably be an absolute mob scene, but it might be worth checking out anyway.

It's arguable whether the Stanley Hotel (not actually being in the movie, but still well known) or the "Sleeper house" is Colorado's more famous bit of architecture... but hey, the movie screening could still be neat.

Monday, June 19, 2006

If You Don't Get It, We Don't Pity You

There are tons of places on the internets to buy t-shirts. Online, you'll find t-shirts with a degree of specificity that cannot be matched in any store. But I think nowhere are the t-shirts as "inside" as those available from Television Without Pity. The likelihood that some random person on the street would "get" one of TWoP's "Now or Never" series of shirts is even smaller than the print runs of said shirts. Take their current crop:

Always Take Backup. Hey, I'm proud to say I'm a huge fan of Veronica Mars. But I'm also realistic about how many people fit into that category. I wouldn't have had to fret so much about whether there would be a season three otherwise.

Bad Wolf. If you're not quite ready to don a long, striped scarf, this would be your next best bet to have other Doctor Who fans approach you on the street. (At least they have conventions for fans of the sci-fi shows. There aren't any Veronica Mars cons where you could count on finding people to appreciate your t-shirt.)

Vaughn! This one is so inside, I wasn't even sure they were talking about Alias at first.

Who's Your Spy Daddy? I'm guessing from the font that this supposed to be Alias too? If it isn't, then I have absolutely no idea.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Cup of Lies

There are five words that don't often come up in conversation. But in my experience, whenever anyone says them, they are lying:

"It doesn't taste like coffee."

I'm hard-pressed to think of as big a full-of-shit statement as this. If you actually like the taste of coffee, that's your business. But be sure of this: it tastes like coffee!

Now me, I can't stand the taste of the vile swill. I avoid it whenever I can. But every once in a while, I fall for the trap. I'm really not sure why. Maybe I go so long without tasting it that I forget how unspeakably nasty it is. Naa... can't be that; just thinking about the taste now is giving me the shivers. Maybe I'm subconsciously thinking "millions of people can't be wrong." Naa... can't be that. I know damn well that millions of people are wrong all the time, on a frighteningly regular basis. Maybe I'm thinking "this friend of mine peddling their coffee concoction on me... they know how much I hate coffee... they surely wouldn't be lying to me, would they?"

But they are lying. Oh, I'm sure it's not malicious lying. It seems to me that people who drink coffee regularly soon lose all perspective on what coffee actually tastes like.

The last time I fell for the coffee scam was when someone suggested I might like the taste of one of those Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino drinks.

"But I hate the taste of coffee," I said.

And then, of course, those magic words... "Oh, but it doesn't taste like coffee."

So I took a taste. And I thought I showed incredible restraint not spitting it back into the person's face. Sure, the thing was completely saturated with sugar and vanilla. Enough to take away the bitterness of the coffee. But not that awful taste.

This past week, I avoided falling into the coffee drink trap. As I was walking downtown at lunch, a PR guy was handing out free sample bottles of the new Coke Blak. Well, they may have taken that "C" out of their stupid product name, but I'm willing to bet all the rest of the "offee" is still in there in full force. Not even for free would I try this stuff.

At least he didn't try to use those five words on me.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

On a Scale of 1 to 1000, It Gets About a 666

I went out to see the new version of The Omen this week.

As odd as it may sound, despite my enjoyment of this type of movie, I've never seen the original version. It's on my list of "movies to get around to some day," but not checked off yet. So I wasn't coming to this new version with any direct comparisons to be made.

But as it turns out, I was coming with a lot of knowledge about what was going to happen in the movie. The story of The Omen is pretty far in the cultural mainstream, I think. It's not "Rosebud's a sled" or "there's no place like home" known, but everybody is pretty aware of Damien as the anti-Christ and the 666 birthmark, and possibly (depending on your enthusiasm for horror/thriller movies) a good deal of the plot.

What little you may not have known is spelled out for you in detail rather early on in the movie. A "Crazy Wacko" approaches the father and tells him, "if you don't take action, X will happen, then Y will happen, and finally Z will happen." And wouldn't ya know -- X, Y, and Z ensues.

In short, I felt like I had seen this movie before. And this was its critical flaw. Because the truth is, I can't point to much else that was "bad" about it. The acting was fine. The story, if you could get around the predictability of it, was entertaining. Some of the imagery was a little too "on the nose" (we get it already -- red is the color of the devil!), but hey, at least it had a motif like that. I could have wished for a few more suspenseful scares and a few less "cheap music sting" scares, but there were some of both. Still, not enough good to counteract the phenomenal sense of deja vu. I give it a C+.

A few footnotes about the cast:

Liev Schreiber could really be carving out a name for himself as the go-to guy for remakes of classic films. First, The Manchurian Candidate. Now this. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or bad thing. On the one hand, Hollywood is making so many remakes these days that they'd be a pretty steady source of work. On the other hand, the prestige of appearing in such movies isn't all that great.

How great is Julia Stiles' agent? Or, perhaps, how bad is Liev Schreiber's agent? Somehow, she got top billing over him in his movie. Did all those "teen interpretations of Shakespeare" films she made really give her that much clout? Because in my mind, these two are roughly about equal in the "acting pool" -- somewhere in the "B-List." (Can't really "open" a movie, as they say, but is certainly a name and/or face most people would recognize.) Based off the size of their two roles in this movie, I would have thought he'd be top billed, easy.

Friday, June 16, 2006

More Isn't Better

We have quite recently re-established that I am not a comic book fan. Let me re-re-establish that now, before proceeding.

I believe the two Spider-man films to be the absolute pinnacle of comic book movies. The first two Superman movies were decent. Batman Begins was pretty damn good. But Spider-man got everything right in my book (well, except for some of the swinging effects looking pretty lame), and managed to do it twice.

Both Spideys put story front and center. The fireworks and action were great, but it was all in service of story with real emotion and dramatic heft. The scope was tight, with contained plots and appropriate villains that, once again, serviced that same real emotion and drama.

And now, I have a huge sinking feeling that they've gone and totally frakked it all up.

The teaser trailer for next year's Spider-man 3 has made its first appearances on the net. I grant, it's too early to pass final judgment. This teaser is less than a minute long, it has no spoken dialogue, and is a blur of images that run by as quickly as a constipated weiner dog. But like I said, I have a sinking feeling.

It all goes back to the second Batman movie. They were the ones who started this whole conceit of superhero movies: that the way you make a sequel "bigger and even more full of action" is to start piling on extra bad guys. The Joker alone was somehow enough for the first Batman. But for the sequel? No, we had to have Penguin and Catwoman. For number three, we had to have the Riddler and Two-Face. And so on.

X-men 2 was guilty of character creep too. There were so many characters in the first one that a non-fan couldn't possibly muster the ability to give a crap about even half of them... but X2 had to give us still more. "More" says sequel. More is "better."

(Actually... you know what? Maybe it wasn't Batman that started this. Maybe it was Superman. Lex Luthor was somehow enough for movie one, but in movie two we had to have him and three super-criminals from the Phantom Zone.)

To me, this was one of the things that made Spider-man 2 so damn special. They resisted the cliche of upping the stakes by upping the villain count. Debate the villainy of Harry Osborn if you like, but Doctor Octopus was the only baddie in Spider-man 2 in my book. And the movie only benefited from this focus, as the villain's story was a great dramatic foil for Peter Parker's.

Well, screw that! Spider-man 3 appears to be making up for lost time. I guess someone told them they were supposed to have two bad guys in the second film, so they're making up for it by putting three in this movie. Unless the main plotline for Peter in this movie is going to be that he's going completely schizophrenic and/or has attention deficit disorder, it doesn't seem like the razor-clear linkages of the themes within the first two movies is going to be repeated here.

Now, the creative team that made the first two movies so great is the same team that's making this one. So it seems unlikely that they'll make something that totally blows this time around. But it does appear at the surface that they're going full-tilt for the comics crowd this time. (They're adding Gwen Stacy too! And Spidey's costume doesn't look like that old jank I pictured at the top of this post -- he has new duds, for reasons I'm sure are obvious and cool to fans, but unknown and off-putting to me.)

I think they're leaving folks like me in the lurch. Not that they won't still make a fortune at the box office. The question is, will they still make as good a movie?

I have a sinking feeling.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Doctor is In(ept)

If you don't know who Uwe Boll is, there's no shame in that. In fact, congratulations! You have good taste in movies.

Dr. Uwe Boll (yes, the man has a doctorate, and pretty widly trumpets this fact) is the maker of the impossibly terrible movies "House of the Dead," "Alone in the Dark," and "BloodRayne." (Those links go to the films' Rotten Tomatoes ratings -- so bad, you have to click them to believe them.)

Well, the evil doctor is at it again, making another video-game-adapted-into-a-movie, Postal. And apparently, he's giving critics a chance to pummel him with more than words. Assuming his recent press release hasn't been hoaxed in some way, he's challenging film critics to boxing matches, to be filmed and possibly then included in the movie.

As the article I've linked to notes, the down side of accepting this offer is that you then run the risk of being in an Uwe Boll movie.

In closing, I suppose I must note that I myself have never seen one of his movies. I say this not in an attempt to be a film snob, but to acknowledge that I cannot vouch for how bad this man's movies are from personal experience. But I do have some friends who have seen a few of these movies, and they universally confirm that this guy would be the Ed Wood of the 21st century, except that his films are so bad that they can't even fall in the "so bad it's good" niche that made Wood famous.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ice Cream? I'd Scream!

As I was walking to lunch during work yesterday, the ice cream truck rolled down the street. And with sudden, stunning clarity, it occurred to me that driving an ice cream truck has to be just about the worst job in the entire world.

Your job is to be out when the weather is its hottest and most oppressive. You're driving constantly. You're driving an oversized vehicle. You're driving a vehicle that with open windows, so air-conditioning is not really an option.

You're in customer service. And your customers are unruly children looking for a sugar rush. There will be no tipping for your food service.

No doubt you're on constant watch by over-protective parents. Slip up in the smallest way just once, and you can guarantee some angry mother or father is going to be calling to report you.

You probably drive the same "beat" every time you go out, monotonously traversing the same area time after time. And no doubt some routes are better than others. But surely the people with seniority get the choice routes through the good neighborhoods. If you've got a totally ghetto route, you're probably stuck with it.

And last, but certainly not least -- the music. I worked retail at a store in a shopping mall as a part time job through college. Every Christmas season, the holiday music would start up in the mall, louder than the normal elevator music by far, and on a loop that only lasted about five or six hours. The same songs would play day after day after day -- and some of them you got to hear more than once a day. Well... imagine hearing the same single song on a loop that repeats about every 10 seconds, all day long.

Some level of hell has got to be driving an ice cream truck for all eternity.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


If drinking Sprite really is anything like this, I don't want one:

And what's with these new cans that look like mini beer kegs?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nice Rack

You know, I do like Daniel Negreanu. He's one of my favorite poker players, actually. (No comments from the peanut gallery about how big a geek one has to be to have a favorite poker player!)

Still, I have to say... I think the title of his new poker game is extremely ill-advised. Stacked? Seriously?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Re-Re-Return of the 4400

Summer is the time all the cable networks, secure in the knowledge that the "big boys" have gone into reruns for several months, bring on their original programming. Tonight, the third season of The 4400 began on USA.

I'm not sure what to make of this first new episode in nearly a year. I have to say, overall, that I was disappointed.

On the plus side, it would appear that one character who truly, majorly annoyed me is not going to be on the show anymore. (That would be Tom's son Kyle.) I was hoping that would be the case, since he was apparently heading off to prison at the conclusion of last season. But then, seeing as how the person he murdered appears to not actually be dead, I fear it's only a matter of time before he comes back to the show in all his monotone, can't-act glory.

I'm neutral on the loss of Lily. I'm very curious if her character being written out was a device conceived of entirely by the writers, or if for some reason the actress who played her didn't return for season three.

And yet, despite the loss of one major character and the creation of a new one ("adult Isabelle"), when the whole thing was over, I couldn't help but feel like nothing had really happened. Especially when you consider it was a two-hour episode. Just lots of re-stated stuff about Ryland and his Evil Plots to stop the 4400, crazy Weyoun-mad-scientist and his wacky ways, Sean still being a complete pushover with a phenomenal inability to make decisions for a person in a position of power, and a little shoe leather trying to stop a Problem of the Week.

So... not a great start, I guess I'm saying. But we have several more weeks to go, so we'll see if things pick up.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

We Will Rock You

Alright, I know the main TV season is over now, so one can't be too picky about the programs being offered this summer. But still... how far beneath the bottom of the barrel does A&E have to be scraping this coming Monday night?

Far enough to be broadcasting the Rock Paper Scissors Championship.

I fail to see how this qualifies as either "Art" or "Entertainment," which leaves me at a total loss for what it's going on their network. Then again, I'm not sure why any network would want to televise it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

So Play We All

Sadly, we Battlestar Galactica fans still have over four months to wait for the show's return. But a nice way to fill the gap is coming on Tuesday, June 20th: the second season soundtrack CD.

I don't have to tell fans that among the many great things about the show is the highly unconventional, but routinely incredible, musical score to each episode. There have already been two other soundtrack albums from the show, and I still play them very regularly in my car and on my MP3 player. I'm very much looking forward to the next installment.

And, of course, someone else out in our "blogging circle" would also like to recommend some "Galactica merchandise" to you.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I Guess You Can't Always Be Wrong

Long time readers probably don’t need to be reminded that while other blogs have lengthy rules on blogging, I myself have really only two. But hey, if you’re new or need a refresher:
  1. Don’t get political very often.

  2. Don’t rely on stealing stories from to generate my own “content.”
A special day today, then, because I’m breaking both rules.

So it turns out maybe the world really did end on Tuesday, and I just didn’t notice. Because this afternoon, I found myself agreeing with something posted on the FOXNews website.

I came to this story by way of a link from a different item posted today on It’s an editorial piece criticizing efforts by a few congressmen to ban internet gambling.

Okay, so this proposed law isn’t as offensive to me as some other, more recent things our elected officials have tried to push through. (But then, friends of mine have covered that subject very well.) Still, this is both wrong and a waste of time and government resources. And shockingly, I think this editorial piece from FOXNews explains exactly why.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Blog Post

While I'm speaking of books...

Wouldn't it be nice to be a writer so famous, with so many fans falling ridiculously over themselves for your next novel, that you could release a book with a totally uninteresting, non-descript, crappy title and boring, virtually unillustrated cover, and still expect to make the bestseller list?

I'm looking at you, Dean Koontz, and your unfathomably dull "The Husband."

Even if you are a Dean Koontz fan, you still have to admit -- that's not even trying.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

It's Apoca-licious!

Those two guys who have written all those books in the "Left Behind" series have released another one, a prequel novel entitled, appropriately enough, "The Rapture."

I don't question that these things are popular. I know there are plenty of people who would be inclined to read them... well... religiously. Hell, they may even be well-written books -- I've never read one, so I can't say for sure.

I don't question that the writers are still spitting out sequels and prequels at this point. Everyone else is doing it. The things are like The Wheel of Time or Harry Potter or something, for a different cross-section of the population. So hey... if you've found your cash cow, milk it for all it's worth.

What I do question is the release date for this particular book. It came out today, 6/6/06. I'm not saying that everyone -- I would hope not even a significant percentage of the people -- who reads this series actually thought the world would end today. But some did. So what's the point of publishing a book on the day the world's supposed to end, and much of your intended audience is going to be whisked away in a puff of smoke or something to live in the kingdom of heaven?

Of course, the answer is: it's all marketing. Despite the completely opposing subject matter and intended audience, this is no different from the thinking of the movie studio that released the remake of The Omen today.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Hedge? You Bet!

Yesterday I caught the movie Over the Hedge at the local theater with the digital projector. Before I get on to talking about the movie itself, let me say this -- picture does not get better than a computer animated movie digitally projected. The source material is right there, with no loss in quality, projected dozens of feet high. If you have the means in your area, I highly recommend it.

And, I can say, I recommend this particular film. In my opinion, this is Dreamworks Animation's best film yet. I thought both Shrek films were "pretty good, but not great." This movie was great.

The casting was nothing short of brilliant. In some cases, you had actors that didn't take a great deal of imagination to match up with their roles, but their presence was appreciated all the same -- Bruce Willis and Eugene Levy, for example. In a few cases, you had an absolutely inspired stroke of genius in matching a voice to a character -- William Shatner and Nick Nolte, in particular. And then there was Steve Carell. I would never have seen him in this kind of role going into the movie. Afterward, I couldn't see anyone else providing the voice. His character was the highlight of an already-great film, and his performance was brilliant throughout.

Major props to the animators, who do an excellent job imbuing each character with a unique and consistent personality. As good animation should, it brings out even more from the vocal performance.

Though the technical aspects of CG-animated movies don't do a lot to sway my review of them, it's worth noting that this movie looked slick. (The digital projection helped, I'm sure.) The textures on the different animals were outstanding. The humans still looked a little "off," but in a way that seemed to be intentionally so and that basically worked -- not at all like the "hell ride to creepy town" that was The Polar Express.

And finally the script. I suppose the story itself was nothing special, though it did push all the buttons one should in this kind of movie. Where it stood out was in being damn funny. It made me laugh almost constantly. Plenty of base, easy jokes for the kids. Loads more in-jokes and sophisticated lines for the adults. I haven't laughed that hard at a movie (animated or otherwise) for a long time.

There's only one way to add it all up -- I give this movie an A. I don't think it makes the top 100 list, but only because that's getting to be a tough list to break into. I mean, despite my total adoration for the recent Wallace & Gromit movie, it's barely hovering at the bottom of the list right now... and as much as I loved Over the Hedge, I don't think it beats W&G. It is probably about time to take a serious new look at the list, though, and rebuild from the ground up.

Anyway, I'd say the stakes have now been raised even higher for Pixar's new film coming this weekend, Cars. At least for me they have. I've always considered Pixar to be #1 in the CG-animation business, with Dreamworks a distant second. But if Pixar should have it's first real stumble just as Dreamworks is having what in my mind is its first total creative triumph (granted, they've had major box office success already), that race may tighten.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"I'll Buy That For a Dollar!"

I worked on a lot of card game products during my years at Da Company. I've seen those products go from their original, full-price luster shortly after release, to marked for discount months after release, to bulk-packaged in a generic box and sold at Wal-Mart for crazy cheap. But today, a whole new level was reached.

I got a phone call in the middle of the afternoon from my sister. "Hey, you worked on that Tribbles card game, right?"

"Yup, with some other people."

"Well, I'm at the dollar store, and they've got it here. You want one?"

"No thanks -- I've got some already."

Dollar store, baby!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

File Under Completely Random

Tonight, I was offered a free ticket to go to a roller derby. I've never been to one before. I suspect neither have most of you reading this. I've seen phony versions of them as portrayed in a TV show or movie or two, but I've never seen the real thing on television.

Briefly, I thought about accepting this ticket, as I thought it would make one of the more truly bizarre blog entries I'd ever posted. But within half a second, I realized that the concept just had no appeal to me whatsoever, and as much as I like you all, I wasn't ready to sacrifice that much of my time just to give you some possibly entertaining reading material.

But hey... I still got a blog entry out of it. Just one not nearly as entertaining as it might have been. Unless of course, one of you out there has been to a roller derby, and would care to tell us all about it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hip Hip! Cliche! 2

I refer you back several months ago if you missed the first installment of "tv and film conventions that can be a little stupid." This edition: technology!

Elevator rides always take exactly as long as the conversation one needs to have in them...

...unless it's going to be a long conversation, in which case someone pulls the "emergency stop" button, triggering an alarm. (Have you every known anyone to do this in real life to have a private conversation with someone?)

When a person wants to destroy a computer, he typically destroys the monitor. Granted, monitors aren't cheap, but trashing one isn't going to do anything to the computer.

People who play video games hold their controllers up in the air, straight out in front of them, and mash all the buttons they possibly can as fast as they possibly can, in no discernable pattern.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Time Stamp of the Beast

I do love my grandfather, but there are seriously times I wish someone would take his computer away. He forwards absolutely every mind-numbing piece of chain e-mail crap that rolls through his in-box to every person in his address book. And most of it is of a political nature, and basically 100% diametrically opposed to everything I believe in.

Except that every now and then, he actually writes me, or I actually write him. And I have to stop and appreciate that I have grandparents savvy enough to use e-mail, and thus are easier to communicate with. Many would tell me not to complain, and they'd be right, I suppose.

I long ago quit reading the stuff he forwards. But every once in a long while, a subject comes along that for whatever dumb reason actually gets me to open up the message and see what's inside. Today there came just such a subject line:

"Once every 100,000 years."

I don't know why, but I'm intrigued. Fortunately, this message was blissfully short. I've transcribed it here in its entirety (complete with the obnoxious all caps):

ON JUNE 6 - 2006 & 6 MIN & 6 SEC AFTER 6 AM


Okay, wow. How can a message so short be so completely riddled with errors?

  • First of all, how is the time being reported with four numbers? There's no such thing as 06:06:06:06! If you want to talk about milliseconds, okay, you could have 06:06:06.06 -- but that's as close as you can get.
  • Except not really, because I don't think you can put a "0" at the front of your time unless you're using military time. To us normal folk, you'd write out that time as 6:06:06, wouldn't you? Sure, it's not as "cool" (if that's what this is supposed to be), but if you want your initial "0", you're gonna have to go with 0606:06, in my opinion.
  • "DAY TIME"??? Who talks like that?
  • And now we come to the kicker. Once every 100,000 years? Setting aside the fact that if you're not using military time, you'd have the same thing happen exactly 12 hours later... you're leaving off the "20" in "2006" to make your little trick with the date work. In which case, it's going to happen every 100 years. In fact, there could easily have been some schmoe sending a telegram in 1906 that read:

Yes. Stop.

This just deepens my belief that my grandfather doesn't even actually read every piece of crap he forwards, because he's not a dumb man.

He probably just has a mail action that automatically forwards all his e-mail to everyone he knows.