Friday, August 31, 2007

Isn't It At Least a Month Early?

Tonight, I went to see the new Rob Zombie remake of Halloween. I've had a soft spot for the original that's faded over time. This gradual fading had gotten me to the point where I was kind of interested to see this new verison. But then the advance word and commericals started in, and I found that the more I was seeing about this remake, the less interested I was becoming.

But the bottom line was this -- I've been house-bound for over two days, and I was itching to get out for a few hours. I had friends interested in going, and not enough energy for anything more demanding than sitting in a darkened theater, so there you go.

This new Halloween isn't terrible. But it's not particularly great, either. Frankly, it kind of looks like Rob Zombie couldn't quite make his mind up on how to approach this film either. The first half of the movie is a near-complete invention/re-invention -- Michael Myers' "origin story," if you will. It's pretty over-the-top, loaded with swearing and violence, and doesn't really feel much connected with the original Halloween.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Or a good thing. It's hard to say. On the one hand, I want to commend the movie for carving out new territory, but on the other, it doesn't feel quite in the spirit of Michael Myers to "humanize" his backstory in this way.

And as I said, it feels like maybe Rob Zombie isn't quite sure if this is the right choice either, because the second half of the movie then becomes very concious of the original, and proceeds to duplicate most of its major scenes and most famous camera shots. At which point, I start to think that maybe this remake IS being true to the original after all, but then I strangely start to wonder "well, what's the point then?"

I know this is all a double-standard, and that there may well have been no approach this movie could have taken that I would have found wholy satisfying. I guess this is the bargain you make when you remake a classic, though.

As a horror movie, it was pretty tame. Most of the suspense of the original was jettisoned to get to quick action in this remake. A valid choice for our day and age, I suppose, but to me it means that all the big scares here were just of the "make you jump" variety -- which I tend to find unsatisfying.

I give the movie a C-.

And as for the teeth.... doing pretty well now. I graduated from eating total mush like Jell-O and oatmeal to eating near-mush like scrambled eggs and Spaghettios. I still have to eat so slowly that I get full and/or bored with what I'm eating before I can finish it. It is funny, though, the first time I bite into something new I've just "upgraded" to -- it's like the best I've ever tasted when I pop that first nibble into my mouth. So that's a plus, I guess.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

His Power is to Shoot Fireballs

At Gen Con, I saw a t-shirt that might just give the previous geekiest t-shirt I've ever seen a run for its money:

And for those interested in "Tooth Watch," things are generally going well for me today, with one exception. Hiccups suck when you have fresh wounds in your mouth. I don't know what it is... maybe sucking down all that air with my hummingbird-sized bites of food, but I've been getting hiccups on and off all day long. And every time I do, of course, I start bleeding all over again. Joy.

Here's hoping for a better night's sleep tonight, though.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Judgment Day

August 29th... "Judgment Day" for my wisdom teeth. (The bonus ones too.)

I was not put to sleep for it. And as it turned out, I was glad for that, because the whole thing took about 40 minutes, and though the sounds are far from pleasant, they're not as horrible as what I recalled from having teeth out before getting braces back in high school.

It's not all wine and roses, though. The bleeding has been higher than "normal" (whatever that is), and it keeps coming back a hell of a lot. The pain sucks, but frankly now -- at the end of a long day -- I'm more just feeling frustration and mental exhaustion. I'm tired of changing gauze and ice packs, tired of eating Jell-O and oatmeal about one thimble-ful at a time. And I'm sorry that my mother gave up her whole day to stay with me and basically just watch me suffer.

But man, there is nothing quite as great as being "Mommied" in situations like this that really cry out for it. Moms rock.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tell 'Em About the Twinkie

The flashback movie series I've enjoyed so much in the past has again resumed at the giant screen theater here in the Denver area, the Continental. This time, theater remodeling and other factors have impacted the schedule such that the movies are only showing on Saturday mornings, not Wednesday nights. A movie buff friend and I were concerned this might mean lots of kids in the audience, which might bring the experience down. But for the movie last weekend, we had to take our chances and give it a try.

They were showing Ghostbusters. Not only have I long enjoyed this movie, I'd never actually seen it before in a theater, or with an audience. And I'm pleased to report, this was another positive experience at the movies.

There were a couple of dark spots. Strangely, the film print was in mono. (Who even knew those things were still kept around anywhere?!) And though there were very few kids in attendance (and those who were were well-behaved), there was a rather obnoxious guy a row or two back who kept on saying the famous lines from the movie seconds before they happened on screen.

Mostly though, it was just plain fun. The movie still makes me laugh -- a lot -- even though I know it very well. And what I maybe didn't know before is that Ghostbusters actually is a movie worthy of the big screen. Despite being a comedy, there is quite a lot of big screen spectacle to it. Details fill the frame, and the presentation is very "cinematic."

Bill Murray was on quite a hot streak in the 80s, but let's face it: Ghostbusters remains one of his best roles. Some people may prefer Dan Aykroyd's smaller roles in Sneakers or Grosse Pointe Blank, but he's still a riot here. Rick Moranis? Hell, you're laughing the second he appears on screen in this movie.

This movie is hovering near the bottom of my Top 100 list (at 94), but seeing it again made me wonder if maybe it ought to be a little higher.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Light Lady

On a street corner in Indianapolis, I saw this perplexing feature:

The still photo doesn't quite do justice to the weirdness of this thing. The strange "light woman" just keeps shifting her weight from one leg to the other, swinging her arms, 24 hours a day. The first time I saw it, I thought it was some bizarre kind of "Walk" sign for the intersection, except it didn't really look like she was walking. And it didn't matter whether the traffic light was red or green. She just kept swinging her arms.

Days later, when I visited with my cousin, he told me that he thinks this is part of some sort of downtown "street art" project, and that there are different light boxes on different corners showing other things. So I guess this is like the mermaids of Norfolk, or the cows of the 16th Street Mall in Denver.

But I mean, way weirder, right? I can't be the only one who thinks so. Well, maybe just reading this, you may not think so, but trust me... if you'd seen it in person....

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Big Screen, Little Laughs

On free evenings after working GenCon last weekend, I was actually able to take in two movies. One did not go well. The other went only slightly better.

That would be The Simpsons Movie. I really was going out of a lack of anything better to do, because I quit watching the television series early last season. I don't remember exactly which episode it was, but I was about halfway through and realized, "I haven't laughed once at this." And then soon after I thought, "you know, I actually can't even remember the last time The Simpsons has actually made me laugh out loud." So I turned it off, and haven't watched it since.

Well, the movie was better than the show has been in years, but that's certainly damning it with faint praise. It's more fair to say that there really are several good laughs in the movie -- but they're sometimes spread few and far between. Most of the best stuff is in the first half or so, which is interesting since that's when the movie is at its least "movie-like."

For the first half-hour, The Simpsons Movie sort of bobs around without any single coherent plot, instead depicting little "mini-adventurers" for each of the characters and peppering the whole affair with gags. Rather like a regular episode that way, and not really worthy of the big screen. Finally, events do seem to rally around a single narrative (the building of a dome to enclose all of Springfield), and things start to get "feature-esque," but pretty much stop being funny on a regular basis.

Not that everything in the first chunk is gold, either. Although clearly the writers thought it was. They go back to the "Spider-Pig" joke that has been the focus of all the advertising for the movie at least three times, and it isn't even funny the first time. It's like a David Letterman bit at his very "Oprah... Uma... Uma... Oprah" worst, just hammering away again and again at a nail that wasn't set straight to begin with.

I rate the movie a C. Not a waste of time. Not exactly worth the price of a ticket, either. I'd say that if you're a Simpsons fan, you'll probably enjoy it anyway... but then, if you're a Simpsons fan, you've surely already seen it in the month since it was released.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Something Old, Something New

I'm fairly sure that this CD:

...which was first released 16 years ago, should not have a sticker on it calling it "brand new":

I'm not sure what the official "expiration date" would be for a "brand new" sticker, but I think the date you're adding the "Best Value" sticker has got to be the last even marginally reasonable chance to call your CD brand new.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Don't Fall Asleep... From Boredom

On a free evening at GenCon last weekend, I went to see The Invasion, the latest re-make/re-imagining of the old Body Snatchers movies. If you haven't seen it yet (and judging by the box office figures from last weekend, odds are you haven't), don't.

I wouldn't quite say outright that this was a "bad" movie. But it was not a good one, and in very disappointing ways. On paper, all the pieces seemed to be there. The main character had highly personal stakes. The story was structured in such a way that characterization did matter and wasn't superficial. The movie had many of the sort of beats that one expects a suspense movie ought to have. There were lots of ominous closeups, eerie mugs for the camera, and heightened musical cues.

And yet, the whole was far, far less than the sum of the parts. Bottom line -- despite doing so much right in principle, the movie was never actually scary. Not once. And then...

SPOILER WARNING. Skip the next paragraph if you don't want to know significant plot points.

...there's the matter of the ending. They gave this movie a happy ending: they cured the disease. And not just in a "and no one fell victim ever again" way, but in an actual "they reversed the disease in everyone who already caught it" way! Unbelieveable! I mean, I'm not saying that screeching, pointing straight-at-camera Donald Sutherland is the only way to end a Body Snatcher movie, but this was just not right.

I suppose for the working pieces this movie would seem to have on paper, I'll give it a D. But the bottom line is, it's not worth your time, regardless.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bag Nags

Well, it was a fun and relaxing couple of days off, but I am now back in Denver after another tedious day of airline travel. I could complain about the hassle of airport security (and I have), but instead my issue today is with some of the passengers themselves.

Why do so many people still have problems with the process of exiting an airplane? Why do people who have a carry-on bag in the overhead compartment that's right there wait until the moment it's actually their turn to walk down the aisle to the door before removing it?

Almost every damn time, it's "oh... I guess it's my turn... let me fumble around now with that silly latch... okay, I gotta reach up... guess I'd better put this book down first... now then, let me pull that case down... okay, all set then? ... Whoops! Forgot that book! ... Silly me..." and then finally they start moving.

That asshat has just wasted like 10 seconds. And I don't think I'm overreacting here, because if you multiply that by 2 for the left and right side of every row, and by about another 20 or so for the number of rows in a typical commercial jet, we're now talking about over six minutes wasted just to get off the damn airplane!

Do these people not care that there might be people behind them on the plane in a hurry to make connecting flights? Or people that might have anything in the world better to do than to wait for their dumbass to collect their stupid things and just move already?!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What an Incredible Smell You've Discovered

I stayed on in Indianapolis for a few days after GenCon to visit with family that lives out there. (I head back to Denver tomorrow.) It's been a fun, relaxing time -- made even more so by the fact that I got out of the downtown area immediately around the convention center.

I don't know what it is, but in the evenings in the center of downtown, this absolutely horrible smell starts wafting up from the grates. It was like clockwork, everyday we were there -- starting up sometime around sundown, and gone by the time we were hunting for breakfast in the morning. Just terrible. My "rich friend" (shout-out!) said it smelled like a used baby diaper wrapped in bacon. I've decided it might be closer to the Kentucky Derby winner falling into the ditch beneath an outhouse.

In any case, as many nice things as I could say about Indianapolis, I have to warn people away from the downtown area after dark.

Unless of course it was just the massive influx of gamers into the area. I have no idea why most gamers seem to have such an aversion to showering.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oh, the Zumanity!

So, a little while ago, I suggested that I would give my short review of one of the other Cirque du Soliel shows in Las Vegas, Zumanity. As I mentioned in my review of Love, I feel that all the Cirque shows I've seen do a good job of establishing very different tones, despite sharing some of the same kinds of material.

Well, Zumanity is arguably the most distinct of all the Cirque du Soleil productions. It offers up "the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil." In other words, it's all about sex. Not that all the other shows are squeaky clean, depending upon what you choose to read into some of the acts... but Zumanity plays that angle up full and makes it the star of the show. Every possible coupling and grouping is represented, and plenty more... shall we say "unconventional" kinds of sexual behavior is explored as well.

That's not the only way in which Zumanity differs from the norm, however. The auditorium is designed to seat at best maybe a third of the crowd that could be seated at the other Cirque shows in Vegas. It's designed to be "intimate" that way. The show is set up like a cabaret performance, complete with an emcee. And there's extensive dialogue -- in English!

But I felt the setting here didn't really work well. There's something about the whole Cirque du Soleil experience that is wildly over the top and larger than life. Even before the crazy stage effects of KÀ, or the sensory overload of Love, even shows like Mystère and some of the original Cirque productions before that seemed to just have a sense of "grandeur" to them. And that felt fitting. Zumanity tries to scale it down too far. If it were a conventional circus, it would be like trying to put "The Big Top" in a pup tent. It just doesn't fit there.

Make no mistake, some of the acts in Zumanity are just as incredible as those from the other shows. Some are plain unsettling, as I suppose they're meant to be in this case. (I won't soon forget "freaky dislocation man.") But the whole just somehow feels less than the sum of its parts. Perhaps the disappointment came in part from having seen the full-blown production that is KÀ just the night before, but either way, Zumanity felt like a bit of a let down.

It might be the cheapest of the Cirque tickets in Vegas, but in my opinion, it's worth the extra price to spring for one of the other shows. And if you're just looking for some kind of "sexy" show instead, I hear the Stratosphere has some kind of freaky gothic vampire stripper thing. There's gotta be a lot more people into that than will admit it publicly -- look at all the books Anne Rice has sold. (And it's not because she's a good writer.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Party Crasher

I am never, ever going to be able to hear the song "Get This Party Started" without laughing hysterically. Mind you, it's not like this was one of my favorite songs to begin with, but now a whole mess of random associations have come together to ruin any attachment I might ever have formed to that song.

When I hear the song now, I basically get three things going on in my mind:

1) When you get to the chorus of Pink's original version of this song, it frakkin' rocks the cowbell. Big time. So Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell come charging in to my brain. (If you've been in a cave somewhere and don't understand why, this should help.)

2) One of my brothers used to do his own made up lyrics for the song: "Iiiiiiiii'm gonna fart, so you better get ready for it...." Juvenile? Definitely. Funny? Maybe not. But it pops in my head now, whether I want it to or not.

3) I've now seen Shirley Bassey's cover version of this song. Yes, that Shirley Bassey, the full-voiced warbler who gave us the theme songs to Goldfinger, Moonraker, and Diamonds Are Forever. Check it out if you like, but know that some things cannot be "unseen" once you've seen them:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Yes, This Was Taken With the Flash On

From my LA trip last month... one "Gizmo" stuffed animal is cute. A whole box of them?

That's just damn creepy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Julius Caesar Was a Goa'uld

Stargate fans: next time you find yourself in Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, stop by one of the food court areas and look up.

Caesar's has been there a long time. Is it possible the Stargate creative team got the idea for the "transport rings" here?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

McLovin It

Though it comes out this Friday, I've already seen the new movie Superbad. I caught it at a sneak preview during Comic-Con, with members of the cast and creative team in attendance. (Which you'd think might be a plus, except that people always ask really dumb shit during celebrity Q&As, and shout even dumber shit at them when they walk into a movie theater.)

Superbad really feels like two movies rolled into one. The first 15 minutes sets up two "best friend" characters, and the hanger-on character of Fogell, who (according to his fake ID) is also known as "McLovin." After that, the two friends and McLovin part ways, each going into their own separate movies that don't really interact again in any way until the last 10 minutes.

The McLovin portion of the movie, that involves him getting picked up by a pair of "cool" cops and proceeding on a series of crazy adventures, is laugh-out-loud crazy hysterical. Funniest thing I've seen since Hot Fuzz. Maybe funnier. It's absolutely great. If any film in the "teen comedy" genre has ever appealed to you, you will absolutely love McLovin.

Trouble is, they keep cutting back to this other movie starring the two best friends. And that movie kind of sucks. Which pains me to say, because one of the friends is played by Michael Cera of the incomprehensibly funny series Arrested Development. And he's not bad in this, really -- it's just that the material kinda blows. Or maybe anything would look pretty lame next to McLovin. In any case, half of Superbad is the part you're forced to sit through to see the other half of Superbad. Which I guess makes the movie title completely appropriate: half the movie is super; the other half is bad.

Overall, I think I give the movie something like a B-. But again, with the recommendation that you simply have to see the McLovin movie that's buried inside this other movie. Maybe that means you wait for the DVD and then watch it by skipping every other chapter. Whatever it takes -- just go see McLovin.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Once More Unto the Con

It's time for another work trip! This time to GenCon, in Indianapolis.

GenCon is one show I have a soft spot for, since it's where I qualified for the Star Trek CCG World Championship nearly 10 years ago -- the first game big summer convention I attended (and the last I attended in a non-working capacity). Plus, now that it's in Indiana rather than Wisconsin, I have nearby family to visit. Should be good times.

Unlike during my other recent out-of-town excursions, however, I am going to try to keep Heimlich Manuevers up and running on the usual daily schedule. So while this post (today's) is arguably pretty lame, you can continue to check back for the next view days to get... well, my usual lameness. See you then!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

That's No Moon...'s a slot machine. And a damn annoying slot machine at that. The ones you see here where at the Vegas airport, but I sat at a poker table in the Palms for a few hours during my recent Vegas trip, and a rack of those things were within earshot.

I love John Williams' music, and I think his Star Wars scores are among his best. But I was absolutely sick to death of the Star Wars theme by the time I got up from the table.

I suppose it's better than the steady "plink-plink-plink-plink" you used to hear walking by slot machines. They've been spitting out receipts instead of coins for quite some time now.

(P.S. -- I thought about naming this post "A Death Star is Born," but I decided I'd flogged that pun enough in the last few days.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Star is Reborn

This evening, I went to see Sunshine, the stark new science fiction film by Danny Boyle about a doomed mission to reignite a dying sun. It's a film that's going to hang with me for a while -- the sort of experience that stuns you into silence for a while afterward.

The movie is a strange mix of contradictions.

One moment, it's claustrophobic and intimate, like a stage play with a small cast. The next moment, there's sweeping vistas and grandeur like the effects sequences the original Star Trek movie.

One moment, it's cold and literal, like the director's previous film, 28 Days Later. The next moment, it's completely non-literal, metaphorical and metaphysical, like some of the more bizarre sequences of 2001.

One moment, it feels like it's on the cusp of being a full-out summer sci-fi movie. The next, it's reigned back in to the "art house."

I can say this for sure. The first hour and fifteen minutes or so are completely amazing. It's tense like the original Alien, The Thing, and other such confined suspense films.

And then there's an ending that you'll probably either love or hate. I think I'm leaning toward the former, but I won't deny that the style of it doesn't really fit with what precedes it.

But I do recommend seeing it with some friends who will want to discuss and dissect it. And I very much recommend seeing it in the theater, rather than waiting for video -- there's something undeniably "big screen experience"y about this movie that I suspect will get lost in the translation to home video.

I give the movie a B+ overall. Though anyone else who has seen it could probably open up a discussion with me that might very well shift that rating up or down. It's just that kind of a movie.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Star is Bourne

I finally got around to catching The Bourne Ultimatum today, and was generally pleased. I'd have to say that the movie was very much like the two Bourne movies that preceded it, in both the good ways and the bad ways.

On the plus side, everything "actiony" about the movie delivers amazingly. For the first two acts of the movie, the pace is outstanding. From the moment the Universal logo leaves the screen, the movie is absolutely relentless. It's tense, exciting, and engaging. You have the kind of experience with the movie that sounds like a cliche, but indeed I found I was "on the edge of my seat," "breathless," and so forth. It was cool.

But the down side of the Bourne series has always been the relative lack of characterization. Like the second movie, this third installment is a pretty straight-up revenge flick, and thus it gets a little "one note" after a while. The movie was in fact so stuffed with action and so thin on character that in the third act, when things actually slow down a bit to offer up the big revelations about Bourne's real history, you can't help but feel a little let down. And it doesn't help that the truth ultimately revealed really is a letdown. The truth of Bourne's identity as revealed at the end of this movie is so straight-forwardly simple, you wouldn't even really stop to guess that it was coming. You'd assume the writers would come up with something more clever.

Still, whatever might be lacking, the bulk of the film is undeniably exhilarating. I give it a B.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Star is Born

Though I'm still a few movies behind (as far as what I want to see that's currently in theaters), I tried to keep from falling farther behind by going to see Stardust today. This is the fantasy adventure adapted from Neil Gaiman's book, starring a number of recognizable names and faces, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Claire Danes, and Peter O'Toole, among others.

I found the movie quite enjoyable. Whatever figurative "target" that the movie The Princess Bride hits the bullseye on, Stardust at least scores a hit. It's not anywhere near as good (but then, The Princess Bride is #3 on my top 100 list, so hardly anything is!), but I can't really think of any other movies that played in this space well in the last twenty years. It's whimsical and fun.

The cast is particularly commendable. And not just for their names alone. All these big actors really do give good performances. Michelle Pfeiffer seems to be having more fun in this villainous role than she did playing Catwoman. Robert De Niro might be a little over the top, but it's quite entertaining anyway. Peter O'Toole might be the best thing about the film, even though he's only in one scene -- he simply nails it.

But while Stardust does the whole "light-hearted" thing very well, it's not really that funny. Not throughout. And maybe it's not meant to be, but that's the piece I found lacking overall. It's enjoyable. It's amusing at times. I had a good time. But it's still just a B+ movie for me, not any kind of an A, because it's just somehow missing that last emotional spark to put it over the top.

But in any case, if you've seen the commercials or trailers and thought Stardust looked like something you'd want to see, then by all means do. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Make It a Six-Pack

I talked not long ago about my loooooong dry spell not seeing a dentist, and how a fractured wisdom tooth finally got me in. Well, today was my first appointment back since they took that "fun" array of 47,000 x-rays that all involve things pinching your gums and poking into the roof of your mouth. The appointment where they would schedule my wisdom teeth extraction. The verdict? I don't get to have four wisdom teeth taken out. Oh no.

I get to have six wisdom teeth taken out.

That's not a typo. I learned today that I have SIX frakking wisdom teeth -- the four that grew in as normal wisdom teeth do (well, for the rare folks that keep them that long), then a half-finished one pushing in on my upper right side, and a little nub of a growth with aspirations of being a tooth some day on my upper left side.

The dentist said he too had had the rare abnormality of having a fifth widsom tooth... but he'd never seen six before. I'm not crazy about being in "never seen that before" territory with a doctor, but what can I do?

I've got shark DNA or something, I guess. Okay, not in a way out there sort of "teeth on my damn nose!" sort of way:

Well, okay... so in practice, that probably wouldn't be cool at all. But let me tell you, I don't think this is very cool either. No matter how "wise" having 150% more "third molars" than the average person might make me.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I Wanna Rock

So, I haven't commented on it yet, but a good portion of the little time I've actually been at home these last couple weeks has been spent playing the new Guitar Hero game, Rock the 80s. I've heard a lot of the complaints that there's nothing really "new" about the game -- just new songs and a re-skin of some existing graphics. But that doesn't bother me one bit... new songs is all I was really looking for.

To that end, I'm mostly pleased with the game. There's only 30 songs total this time, which might not seem so low, but Guitar Hero II kind of spoiled me with so many. Like GH2, a few too many of the songs are "metal" for my tastes. The original GH1 was really the only game so far to nail the right mix of the thrashy metal you'd expect to have, while still having songs that you (well, I) would actually listen to and want to hear.

Gameplay-wise, most of the songs are a LOT easier to play through than anything in GH2. First-time through on Expert, I got five stars on everything the first time through, up until halfway through the game (well... there was one failed attempt at the diabolical solo in "Because, It's Midnite," but once I'd learned what was what, I used Star Power better to pull through). Still, there are actually some fun new patterns in there.

The Warrior might be my favorite Guitar Hero song now, period, in any of the games. I always had a soft spot for that song originally, and the designers gave it some really fun play patterns. And as a bonus, it's not a cover in the game -- it's the original master track. (Which explains why, strangely, it fades out at the end despite supposedly being played at a "live concert.")

I'm pretty amazed at how they've taken What I Like About You, a song that is stupidly easy to play on an actual guitar, and turned it into something that is crazy-harsh in the game. (In a way that does make sense, seeing the note patterns, though.)

They got a pretty damn good sound-alike for Danny Elfman in the Oingo Boingo song, Only a Lad. That's one of the more fun songs in the game, too.

I enjoy having We Got the Beat, I Ran, and Hold On Loosely in there -- even though none of them present any real challenge to play. They're fun anyway.

So far, I'm finding this game's final song, Play With Me by Extreme, even harder to beat than Free Bird. Haven't cracked it yet. Always bomb out in the same place, at 86%. Soon.... soon....

As I said, in all, I'm enjoying it. My enthusiasm for Guitar Hero really hasn't waned at all. We'll see if Activision can keep the fun coming with GH3, now that Harmonix (the actual software designers) have been cut out of the loop after this 80s edition.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Let's-a Go!

How cool is this?

A remote control car that's done up like a Mario Kart car? I swear, if I'd had room to bring it back from San Diego in my suitcase when I'd seen it a few weeks ago, I'd so have been all over it.

And notice the crowning detail -- the control to drive the thing is shaped like a Nintendo controller. That's some frakking brilliant toy design right there.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Exotic Plant Story

Would you ever go knock on a complete stranger's door and ask if you could take some flowers right out of their garden?

Well, I know I wouldn't (and not just because I'm lethal to plants), and I'd wager most people wouldn't either. But tonight, while I was visiting at my parents' house, that's exactly what happened.

Apparently, the brown irises that my Mom has growing in the planter under her front window are fairly rare. "I can't find these anywhere!" said the total stranger who rang the doorbell during the middle of my brother's birthday party, just before asking if she could take some home for her own garden.

I suppose it's slightly less bizarre that the person actually asked and didn't just rip them out and take them without telling. But then again, the Great Iris Heist might be in the early planning stages right now, even as I type this. After all, we have no idea where in the neighborhood this woman lives. And as long as she plants her ill-gotten horticultural loot in the backyard, who will ever know?

And what possible answer do you give to the strange woman asking to take your flowers? "Oh, I'd love to, but if I gave you some brown irises, then I'd have to give some to everyone that knocked randomly on my door asking about them."

Monday, August 06, 2007

All You Need

On my recent trip to Vegas, I saw Love, the Cirque du Soleil at The Mirage based on music by The Beatles. This completed the.... uh... pent-fecta? Point being, I've now seen all five of the Cirque shows that play regularly in Las Vegas: Mystère (the first I ever saw, and in my opinion, the best), KÀ (which I saw last trip, and also quite liked), Zumanity (which I also last trip, but never got around to talking about in detail; maybe I'll do that soon, but suffice it to say, I was lukewarm about it), O (sadly, a rather big disappointment), and now, Love.

I'm pleased to say that Love fit on the "shelf" next to the two Cirque shows I enjoyed, rather than the two I found lacking. Like all four of the others, though, the creative forces behind Cirque du Soleil found a way to deliver a rather different experience, even if it did at time use some of the same kinds of "acts."

I've never really been a particular fan of The Beatles, so while I'm sure that the musical aspect would add a great deal to this show for some people, for me it was just one more piece of the whole. A good piece, though -- the music was thoroughly re-mastered and re-mixed for a powerful new presentation here.

I was more interested in the staging, however. This was the first Cirque show I've seen that was "in the round" (that is, seats completely surround the stage in all 360 degrees, for any non-theater folks reading this). Some of the sister shows come close with thrust stages, but there's just something different about facing directly opposite other audience members, and having their energy play directly at you.

The show also uses a great deal of projection, which none of the other shows really incorporate in any measure (well, KÀ sort of does). Two wide screens are placed above and behind the audience on opposite sides of the theater, and something is featured on them throughout. In addition, at some points during the show, the stage is cut into quarters by see-through screens that fly in, and still more material is projected onto them.

In short, this show really gives you extreme sensory overload, even by Cirque du Soleil standards. You could see Love three of four times, and still not see everything there is to see before you, between this screen, that screen, that side of the stage, this side of the stage, above the stage, and in the four aisles leading onto the stage. The rush of spectacle manages to kind of bypass the conscious mind, so you end up taking it all in on a base, gut level. Which, I suppose, is a pretty effective thing for a show named after an emotion to do.

So, whether you're a Beatles fan or not, I would recommend going to see Love if you're in Las Vegas and can spare the time. It's well worth it.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fashion in Vegas

I'm back from Vegas, having had both fun and profit. And also having seen a series of very odd fashion choices. Sadly, I don't have any pictures I personally took, because it's kind of hard to say basically "can I take a picture of your costume?" outside of a convention environment. And it can be equally hard to snap a picture surreptitiously.

So you'll just have to make do with some pictures from the web of these two shirts:

And you'll have to take my word on the guy who strolled into the poker room in his "I'm here to put you on tilt" t-shirt.

And you'll have to use your imagination to conjure an image of the guy I saw who had managed to combine a mullet and a faux-hawk -- two of the worst hairstyles of all time. It was hick-meets-preppy in a single, mind-bogglingly hideous combination. I'll be haunted by it for years.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On the Road Again

Once again, work has got me back out on the road and away from my computer for a few days. This time, I'm traveling to Las Vegas, so I won't deny that there's a plus side to this road trip. Good thing... being home for only three days out of twelve basically sucks, otherwise.

Anyway, Heimlich Maneuvers will once again be off on Friday and Saturday. If you don't like it...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Mighty Morphin' Power Robots

Mark me a month behind the times here, but during some down time in San Diego before Comic Con began, I had the chance to catch Transformers. And after hearing generally positive reviews from most everyone I know who had seen it, I was fairly stunned at how much I thought it sucked.

After I got back to Denver, I discussed the movie briefly with a friend, and he set forth the opinion that maybe you had to have enjoyed the original cartoons to like the new movie. It seems like a workable theory to me. I owned maybe four or five of the toys, lost interest in them quickly, and never watched the cartoons. I brought no baggage with me to this experience, other than "alright, let's see the whiz-bang action movie."

Let me say this first. I understand that there is such a thing as the "Big Dumb Action Movie." I don't think they have to be dumb, though. Aliens and Terminator 2, among others, demonstrate this. I think action movies can be dumb and yet still deliver some visceral thrills. I'd put movies like Independence Day in this category -- "ID4" is about as dumb as they come, and you can feel your brain fighting to switch on while watching it, but you can't deny it's pretty damn fun at the time. My point being, I don't think an action movie should be excused when it's being dumb just because it's actiony and expensive. To me, if you start to be too aware of how dumb it is, that's evidence that the action isn't delivering well enough to distract you.

I mean, I'm only playing by the apparent rules of this Transformers film's universe here:

If I understand things right, the good robots want to save this Cube thingy because they believe it will help them repopulate the robot species. But we see this Cube in action in the movie, and it is clearly ONLY capable of producing evil robots. So what use is that? Unless they have a way to make it produce good robots instead. In which case, why the hell don't they do that and drum up some support?

Why are you sending this all-important Cube away with the kid when there are a half dozen trained soldiers around?

Why is he running away from the flying robot by fleeing up the stairs?

Why don't they plug Megatron with a few missiles before he thaws out? Bumblebee's right there and armed.

If the robots can change what it is they transform into (as we see multiple times in the movie), then why doesn't Optimus Prime change into something that flies to do battle against the flying evil robot?

Why is the sterotype "jive talkin'" robot the only one that dies?

And these are only the things I can think of from the last 15 minutes or so. The dumb was piling on so thick, I can't even remember what all came in the preceding two hours!

The film was utterly lacking in any meaningful stakes. All of humanity is supposed to be at risk, but none of the humans in the film seem unwooden enough to be particularly worth saving (other than perhaps Shia LaBeouf's character -- man, does he make a mountain out of molehill in this movie!). Every battle ultimately comes down to whether this computer-generated mass of pixels will triumph over that computer-generated mass of pixels. It's like watching the cut scenes of a video game, without actually having the fun part of playing the game and taking an active role in getting to said cut scenes.

...Which I guess goes back to the theory that perhaps, if you watched the cartoon or were a fan of the Transformers back in the 80s, you have more of an attachment to these robot characters, and actually do care what happens to them. More power to you if that's you. I'm not trying to say that anyone who enjoyed this movie is wrong. I just don't at all see whatever those people saw here.

On the strength of Shia LaBeouf's good work, this film avoids getting an F from me. But barely. D- is nothing to be proud of, and nothing I'd ever recommend.