Posted on Saturday, August 28th, 2004
Blogography does not currently accept advertising but, on occasion, I do like to whore myself out as an unofficial spokesman for products, people, and services I really like... thus the Dave Approved category is born, and my first entry is a good one. If you've read this blog for a while, you already know that I have a "thing" about toothpaste. So when I say I've found a brand I really like, you should totally trust me: Crest Whitening Expressions is the bestest toothpaste ever! This stuff is so good that I'd pour it over my breakfast cereal if the fluoride weren't poisonous to ingest...
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go brush my teeth again.
UPDATE: I just learned that they've released a new flavor: French Vanilla Mint! Sounds delicious. I wonder how it will compare to Herbal Mint, Cinnamon Rush, and Citrus Breeze? Ends up the answer is "not very well." It's not bad, but tastes kind of like a mint antacid or drinking milk after you had a breath mint.
Posted on Saturday, September 4th, 2004
It's Saturday, which means it's time to whore myself out by endorsing a product, person, or service that I'm currently enamored with! Since I'm hungry, I think I'll pick a food I'm fixated on just now: El Monterey Cheese Enchiladas.
When you are a vegetarian, finding good Mexican food is tough. Most of the time, you just have to ignore the fact that the food you're eating probably has chicken fat or bouillon or some other dead animal-related product in it. There's not much you can do about it in a restaurant but, when buying frozen foods, I do look at the ingredients. Odds are the cheese is going to have rennet in it, but I can at least rule out more obvious animal products.
The problem is that when you finally do find an elusive frozen Mexican entree without chicken juice in it, the stuff usually tastes like ass. I think I've tried just about everything out there, and none of it has merited a repeat purchase (especially the designated "vegan" crap which is the worst of the lot). That's why I wasn't holding out much hope when I saw the local Fred Meyer had started carrying "El Monterey" brand foods that appeared to be dead-chicken free...
Wow. I mean, WOW. These are the best enchiladas I have ever eaten. They are so good that they seem more like dessert than an entree... deliciously light and fluffy filling that's not a pile of grease, and a sauce that's to die for (well, not for me to die for, but it's certainly worth somebody else dying over!).
There is a catch, however. These things are horrible for your health. The "serving size" on the Nutrition Facts is "one enchilada" and looks pretty scary. Multiply that by the four-enchilada serving you would actually eat and it's downright tragic, with recommended daily values off the chart: 80% of your total fat, 144% of your saturated fat, 44% of your cholesterol, and 100% of your sodium. Yikes. I would probably eat these every day if they weren't death-inducing, but figure once a week won't kill me.
But what a way to go.
Posted on Sunday, September 19th, 2004
Flying home from Seoul was made interesting by a layover in Anchorage, which seems like kind of a bizarre destination for Korean Air to fly (Alaska?). The 7-1/2 hour flight was made bearable because I had the newly released Batman: The Animated Series Volume One on DVD. What's amazing is that the 28 episodes in this set are superior to any other rendition of Batman I've seen. Better than the crappy Adam West TV show. Better than many of the comic books. Certainly better than any of the movies (yes, even the Tim Burton ones).
The quality of the stories are top-notch, deftly blending action and drama in a way rarely seen in "American" animation. Even better, the writers are respectful to the source material and aren't afraid to build stories across several episodes (Harvey Dent is introduced five episodes before Two Face is born, for instance). Even one-note characters like "Mr. Freeze" in the comics are fully realized in episodes like the brilliant "Heart of Ice," which strikes a tragic note while not being too heavy-handed.
As if it weren't enough that the show is well written, it's also beautiful to look at thanks to the obvious influence of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons from 1941. The colors are suitably dark and moody, enhancing the stories with a kind of "retro-futuristic" look that suits the Batman mythos perfectly. Characters are well-drawn and animated, with featured players lovingly crafted. I dare say that Poison Ivy is actually sexier in the cartoon than Uma Thurman's scary take on the character in the embarrassing Joel Schumacher directed Batman and Robin movie.
Voice talent is perfectly cast, with Kevin Conroy (Rusty Wallace from the excellent Tour of Duty series) providing an appropriately heroic tone for Batman/Bruce Wayne. Guest stars include Michael Ansara (Mr. Freeze), Adrienne Barbeau (Catwoman), Roddy McDowall (Mad Hatter), Ron Perlman (Clayface), and many others... with the obvious highlight provided by Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, as The Joker (who knew?).
Because the show was produced using traditional hand-painted cells that are overlaid and photographed with a film camera, there is a lot of dust "pops" and specs running through the picture. It's a shame they couldn't have cleaned up these imperfections in a computer somehow, because it can be distracting at times. Petty bitching aside, this is a purchase no animation aficionado or Batman fan should pass up. I can only hope that a second volume is on the way, along with other Warner Bros. super-hero cartoons like Superman, Batman Beyond and Justice League. Boxed sets are definitely the way to go with animated series.
Posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2004
Clerks is one of those films that I can watch over and over without ever tiring of seeing it. It's not the best made film, and it's certainly not well-acted, but it's so smartly written that it's easy to forgive just about any other offense. Kevin Smith just has this amazing insight into how people think, and is somehow able to translate that into characters that seem eerily more life-like than real life. The film is a day in the life of two clerks Dante and Randall, as they work their way through life, love, and annoying customers. Sure the premise may sound boring, but it somehow ends up being one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the film's release, Miramax has released the ultimate Clerks 3-DVD collector's set. It includes the theatrical release of the film with original commentary and trivia track, the Sundance Cut with all-new commentary, and a new documentary called The Snowball Effect that talks to just about everybody ever involved with the film. You also get a number of extra features, with two of them alone being worth the price of admission.
The first, Clerks: The Missing Scene fills in the gap as to what exactly happened at the funeral home when Dante and Randall went to Julie Dwyer's funeral. Rather than filming the scene, they decided to animate it in the glorious style of the Clerks: The Animated Series cartoons. I read the story in a comic book that Smith released years ago, but this was magic. This one scene more closely binds Clerks into the Mallrats and Chasing Amy trilogy and fills in some back-story for Dante that enhances the original film.
The second, Flying Car is a sweet short film that Kevin Smith created for an appearance on The Late Show. Until I saw this short, I was hesitant about Smith creating his sequel: Clerks 2: The Passion of the Clerks, but now I can't wait. Something about seeing this brilliant exchange of dialogue that only Dante and Randall can deliver has left me wanting more...
Of the "Jersey Trilogy," Chasing Amy is easily my favorite. But it's hard to ignore the movie that got everything started, and Clerks is a brilliant piece of filmmaking in its own right. If you've never experienced it before (and don't mind a little X-rated dialogue, drug references, and a lot of swearing), this new 10th Anniversary edition is probably the best way outside of a theater to see it. If the impending sequel is half as good, it will still be one of the best movies of 2005.
Posted on Saturday, September 25th, 2004
Very few comic strips can approach the scary genius that is The Far Side by Gary Larson. You either "get it" and love it or "don't get it" and hate it, but either way you can't deny that they guy is entertaining. For me, Larson is more than entertainment, he's a way of looking at life. For that reason, I was pretty devastated when he decided to discontinue his "Off The Wall" daily calendars in 2002 (almost worse than when he retired the strip in 1997!).
Then, almost as if it were an attempt to make up for it, in late 2003 Larson released a hefty 2-volume set of every cartoon created for the series, including 1100 that had never appeared in any previous books...
The beauty of this collection is not only the fact that you get every Far Side written, but that they are reproduced chronologically, so you can watch the evolution of the strip. From this perspective it's surprising how quickly Larson managed to hit his stride. In just over a year everything clicked and there was no turning back. As if that weren't enough, interspersed amongst the funnies are stories, notes, and letters that add to the exploration of the Far Side universe.
Along with my highest recommendation there are also a few minor gripes. First of all, the books are uncomfortably heavy. If you're not using a reading table the size and weight quickly becomes a burden. Why they couldn't have made four volumes (or even three!) so that people could more easily handle them is a mystery. Second, I appreciate the fact that many of the strips are reproduced in their colorized iterations, but it's sometimes disruptive to the flow of the book the way the stips bounce back and forth between color and black & white.
So there you have it. The $100 price tag may seem excessive but it's a real bargain considering the quality of the printing and all the material you get. Rumor is that Bill Waterson's Calvin & Hobbes, my favorite strip of all time, is getting the deluxe set treatment next and I can't wait.
Posted on Saturday, October 9th, 2004
A while back I posted about the upcoming DVD release of Devotional, a Depeche Mode concert film by Anton Corbijn. Well, it's just arrived and was totally worth the wait. If you are even a marginal DM fan, this is a must-have item if there ever was one (and there isn't even any cowbell in it!). Depeche Mode is the best band I've ever seen in concert, and this performance piece showcases exactly why I'm utterly shattered that I missed the Devotional Tour when it came to Seattle on July 11, 1993.
Understandably, most of their earlier works are left behind in favor of the more mature sound that began with Music for the Masses and was refined in Songs of Faith and Devotion. This may disappoint some, but we have their 101 tour for People Are People and many others, so I'm okay with it. Probably the biggest selling point of Devotional for true fans is that it was the last time Alan Wilder would tour with the group. It's such a shame, because we get Alan playing drums(!) as well as keyboards this time around.
In addition to the live performance DVD, there's also a supplemental disc in the box. This second DVD has the freaky-ass video projections used by director Corbijn in the tour, even freakier Corbijn music videos, an MTV Rockumentary, and other assorted tidbits. Truthfully, I'd rather have skipped the supplement and paid less money for the concert footage, but I guess you can't have everything. In the end, it doesn't really matter, because the live stuff is worth the cost of admission alone.
Times like this have me longing for the band to get back together for another album. Putting aside their solo projects, it's been three long years since their somewhat disappointing Exciter release and we fans are needing a fix. I suppose I could attempt to make due with the upcoming Remixes 81-04 CD... but don't get me started on the awful Marilyn Manson cover of Personal Jesus. Because when it comes to Depeche Mode, accept no substitutes.
Posted on Saturday, October 16th, 2004
The blogosphere (if not the entire Internet) is abuzz with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart's brilliant appearance on Crossfire, and with good reason: he spanks host Tucker Carlson on air... hard! For those who have never heard of it, Crossfire is a political show whereas a guest is invited to sit between a Left-Wing guy (in this case, Paul Begala) and a Right-Wing guy (the afore-mentioned Tucker Carlson) while the two of them battle it out over political and social issues. The guest is trapped in the crossfire of the two hosts, hence the name of the show.
Basically, Stewart sat down and was instantly on the attack, bitch-slapping the show for "hurting America" and calling Tucker Carlson a dick. And he's right. On both counts. And that's the reason his appearance is so noteworthy, Jon Stewart actually had the balls to say what so many haven't: shows like Crossfire and Hardball are not debate shows at all, they're two-dimensional puppet shows by partisan hacks that services their respective party agendas and nothing more. Debate actually explores the issues at hand with intelligent conversation. Crossfire doesn't really explore anything at all... it's Left vs. Right tearing into each other in black and white terms for nothing more than entertainment value. Since issues can so rarely be boiled down to black and white, it's a war that nobody (including viewers) can win.
It must be pretty good to be Jon Stewart just now. As if it isn't enough that he is championing true political discourse in the media, his show recently won two Emmys for the second year in a row, and his book America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction just hit #1 on the best-seller list...
The book is a parody of the past, present, and future of politics in America and well worth a look, so be sure to check it out at your local library or go ahead buy a copy so you can treasure it for the decades to come (Barnes & Nobel had the best picture for me to steal, so here's their link). I've also noticed that the Crossfire appearance is hitting the web in video, and it's worth tracking down.
Posted on Monday, November 15th, 2004
It's cold here in Salt Lake City. So cold, that after seeing The Incredibles at The Gateway, I had to go buy a pair of gloves so I could manage to walk back to the hotel without having my fingers freeze off.
As for that movie... it was, well, incredible. Given that this film was a collaboration between the brilliance of Pixar animation (easily surpassing Disney as the leading US animated feature house in every way possible) and Brad Bird (whose miraculous Iron Giant film is an all-time favorite of mine), I expected nothing less...
I dare say that it surpasses even Superman and Spider-Man 2 as best super-hero movie of all time (not to mention burying suck-ass snore-fests like X-Men).
It's that good.
Surprisingly, The Incredibles earns it's PG rating by being a pretty intense flick with death and destruction that you don't normally see in "kiddie pics" like this. Don't get me wrong... kids will love the film, especially once the action builds up during the second half, but adults are the ones who will really get a kick out of the more subtle elements strewn throughout the story.
The premise of the movie is pretty slick: continuous lawsuits have forced super-heroes to retire and go into hiding. Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) ended up marrying Elasti-Girl (Holly Hunter) and having super-offsprings who hide their powers from society to live as normal people. But Mr. Incredible is not content to be a paper-pushing insurance claims adjustor, and secretly yearns to be a hero again, commiserating with his super-powered buddy Frozone (a scene-stealing Samuel L. Jackson). Eventually, a mysterious offer for super-heroics (on a secret island worthy of a James Bond villain) proves too tempting to resist, and Mr. Incredible quickly ends up over his head. It's up to the rest of the family to come to the rescue, with breathtaking action sequences and humor that's almost too good to be true - much like this promotional poster by comic book legend Mike (Hellboy) Mignola...
Because this is a Pixar production, the visuals are predictably stunning. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. From beginning to end, there's so much going on that it will take several viewings to truly appreciate the effort that went into making this film so "incredible." Just watching the inventive ways that the characters use their super-powers will have comic book fans geeking out all over the theater. How in the heck the upcoming Fantastic Four film can possibly top this is unknown, as the bar has been set mind-bogglingly high.
Do yourself a favor and be sure to see The Incredibles in a theater rather than waiting for the DVD... it's everything that people love about the movies, and begs to be seen on the big screen to be truly appreciated.
Posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2004
A recipe for a really fun evening: a group of friends + a few drinks + a game called "Apples to Apples."
This is one of the best games I've played in ages. It always amazes me that the games with the simplest concept and easiest rules inevitably turn out to be the most fun. Next time you get together with your friends, you should give it a try!
Posted on Thursday, December 2nd, 2004
About a month ago, the cups on my faithful Sony earbuds came off and all my attempts to procure a new pair met with failure. Apparently I was going to need to buy an entirely new set, but never actually got around to ordering them. Instead I used the dreadful Apple earbuds that came with my iPod. Since they are not in-ear, noisy airplanes and airports ruin any enjoyment you might get out of listening to music so, after my last trip, I decided to bite the bullet and get a new set.
But which ones?
I have a friend who is a true audiophile, so I asked him which ones I should get. He instantly said "oh, get a set of Sure E5's... I love them." And so off I went.
Only to find out that they cost $625.
"ARE YOU f#@%ING INSANE?!? WHY WOULD I PAY MORE FOR EARBUDS THAN I DID FOR THE IPOD?!?" I screamed, after calling him back. Well, he had a laundry list of very excellent reasons that $625 was well spent, but I sure as heck wasn't going to spend that much... I was thinking more like $20! This made him laugh out loud for about an hour, after which he informed me that the earphones I use are arguably more important than the iPod itself, particularly for use while traveling on airplanes.
"Well, maybe I would go up to $100 if you are certain that it would be money well spent..." I replied. He said I could probably get a decent pair of "Ety's" for that much and, indeed, they would be well-worth the cost.
So I reluctantly ordered up a pair of Etymotic 6i's, which are specially made for the iPod, and a "bargain" at $149.
And two days later, I have my earphones. Anxious to know how super-terrific all my music is going to sound now, I rip open the package and plug them right in.
And they suck ass. Hard. The sound is tinny, weak, and generally bass-free. So, naturally, I call up my friend to start ragging on his moronic suggestion... only to find out I am the moron. Unlike other earphones, these are meant to be worn like hearing aids, and have to be shoved way into your ear (as shown in the instruction booklet I never bothered to read)...
And oh what a difference a good set of headphones make (when used properly). Suddenly the bass is back in full-force. Sound is so bright and clear that I nearly have an orgasm when Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence starts playing. My nether-regions are still tingling.
My only complaint is that the "white" color they use to match the iPod is not "white" at all (more like a dirty cream or something). I seriously don't give a crap what color the cords are on my iPod, but if you're going to advertise them as "a perfect match for the iPod," then you should at least get the color right.
If $150 sounds this amazing... I have to wonder what in the heck do you get for the $625 price tag?
Posted on Monday, December 27th, 2004
Lazy: I've managed to get a lot of work done, but most of it was accomplished while sitting in front of the television eating potato chips (Ruffles brand, of course) with dip (cream cheese, mayo, lemon juice, and garlic salt), drinking Jones Blue Bubble Gum Soda (now in cans to save you money!), and watching Series 1-3 of the brilliant BBC comedy Coupling (the ORIGINAL show, not the embarrassingly crappy Americanized version that was immediately cancelled). How sad for me.
Blue: Speaking of Jones Blue Bubble Gum Soda in cans: wickedly delicious, bad for you, and very very blue...
Election: The ongoing saga of the Washington State Governor's election continues. First Republican Rossi wins, then thousands of missing ballots show up and Democrat Gregoire wins. Now Republicans are stupidly claiming Democrats stole the election, while Democrats stupidly claim the Republicans are sore losers. Everybody is blaming everybody else, when what they should be doing is blaming this crap system we've got that would allow this stupidity in the first place. Personally, I don't give a crap who wins, as the horrid campaign run by each side was reprehensible. They should both be dumped and we start over with new candidates, which would probably be cheaper than trying to get all this crap sorted out.
Tsunami: The death toll continues to rise, with news sources now reporting 22,000 casualties. The best source for info I've found seems to be an entry at Wikipedia, where they are claiming over double that number, with 46,000+ killed (please let that be a mis-print). Still no news on Jet Li and his family, who were vacationing in the Maldives. UPDATE: Apparently Jet Li is okay, sustaining only a minor leg injury rescuing his daughter from the flood waters.
Alias: Nine days until Jennifer Garner is back for the new season of Alias. Nine days after that, Jennifer Garner debuts in her new movie Elektra. Nine. Nine. Nine. Nine.
Posted on Wednesday, January 26th, 2005
What can I say? For two days I have worn my iPod Shuffle constantly, removing it only to shower and sleep (though last night I fell asleep while listening to it, so I guess I'm wearing it even then). It's so small and light that I don't even know it's there. It's so easy to operate that I find myself wearing it underneath my sweatshirt or over-shirt and just operating it through the fabric. It's almost become another appendage, and the ability to listen to music at a second's notice wherever and whenever I feel like it is nothing less than magic.
In many ways I feel that iPod Shuffle fulfills on the promise of the original iPod: it has firmly integrated music into my everyday life. I work with it. I paint with it. I cook with it. I eat with it. I brush my teeth with it. I walk to the post office with it... I live with it.
In fact, I find myself enamored with it so much that my original 40 gigabyte iPod has just been demoted to a spare hard drive. The iPod Shuffle is a much better fit for how I want to experience to my music. As I type this I am listening to Along Comes a Woman by Chicago, a song I haven't listened to in ages... all thanks to the "random auto-fill" feature that appears in iTunes when I plug iPod Shuffle into my laptop. Gotta love that little thrill you get from rediscovering an old song you've forgotten about.
Ooh! There it goes again... Drive by The Cars just came on!
Posted on Saturday, January 29th, 2005
And just before taking off for Seattle, I receive notice from Amazon that my order has shipped. "Order of what" I find myself wondering... I didn't remember having shopped for anything recently. But then happiness ensues. It's Wonderfalls: The Complete Viewer Collection I had pre-ordered months ago. So now I really have something to live for, and an added incentive for surviving this trip: NINE hours of guaranteed cool television I've never seen before (because the show was foolishly cancelled after airing only four of the thirteen episodes produced).
I highly, highly recommend this brilliant series. Even if you don't want to go out and buy it so that you can watch every amazing episode again and again, it is well worth a rental. It is similar in tone to Dead Like Me, so it should be particularly appealing to any fan of that show.
And I'm off...
Posted on Monday, February 7th, 2005
And now I am back home. Unfortunately, it was not without incident. The latch on my PowerBook somehow broke when it was run through the security checkpoint in Minneapolis. I have no idea how much it's going to cost to fix but, since I've been wanting a new laptop, perhaps this is yet another sign.
And it only goes downhill from there. When I left a week ago, the mountain passes were bare. Last night a winter storm had hit as I was driving back, making a huge snowy mess that caused the usual 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive to take just under 4 hours. Since it had rained earlier in the day, the snow was falling on ice, meaning that the roads were extraordinarily slick... cars were flung off the road left and right, and cops were everywhere trying to help out. At least twice some dumbass would blow past me at reckless speeds, only to end up in an accident down the road. Idiots. I didn't even bother to stop, because 1) nothing looked serious... just morons stuck in a ditch, 2) it's their own stupid fault that they think 4-wheel drive makes them immune to icy roads, 3) I don't have a winch, so all I could do is laugh at them for being so stupidly careless, and 4) there were so many snowplows and cops out that they can deal with it, because that's what they are paid for.
I just don't get it. The roads are truly perilous. The snow is falling so hard that you can barely see two car-lengths ahead. You can't use high-beam lights to see where you're going because the falling snow just reflects them back in your face. And cars are being tossed all over the road, meaning you may have to stop at a moment's notice. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DRIVE AT RECKLESS SPEEDS?!? Seriously, I never drove over 35 miles per hour and barely made it home in one piece, especially considering my nerves were shot having to stare at this for four hours...
That's a car coming the opposite direction that's run off the road and appears to be hung up on a guard rail there on the left.
The night was finally made complete when I got home and noticed that the TSA had also busted the zipper pull on my suitcase. That's sucks ass because it's less than a year old! Sure I had a lock on it, but it was a TSA-approved lock!! Oh well, I guess if I can't repair it, I'll be buying a new suitcase in addition to a new PowerBook.
The one bright spot in the entire 19-hour ordeal of taxis, flights, layovers, and driving was a book I found at Amsterdam Schipol International Airport, called A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson...
I've never heard of the author before, but apparently he is well-known in the U.K. (where he lives now, though he was born in the US). He has a witty and engaging way of writing about him that I haven't seen in a long time... almost Douglas Adams-esque in a way.
Anyway, this wholly remarkable book tells the history of the universe and the scientific discoveries that have led us to understanding everything from the Big Bang and the formation of the earth, all the way up to atoms, molecules, cells, and the evolution of life itself. All presented in a relatively approachable manner that makes it tangible and understandable. I think even Creationists can appreciate the book from a historical perspective, as the stories of how things were discovered (whether you believe in them or not) are almost as compelling as the discoveries themselves. Very sweet. Now I'm going to order up some of his other books at the library.
Posted on Monday, March 28th, 2005
I finally got around to watching Sky Captain And the World of Tomorrow on DVD and found it to be a stunning piece of art. Every frame looks more like a gorgeously rendered painting than a movie, and the visual effects are nothing short of jaw-dropping. This may very well be the most beautiful looking film I've ever seen. As if that weren't enough, it's got giant robots attacking New York, ray guns, and loads of other cool stuff! It's as if all the things that those 1930's sci-fi serials thought was going to happen in the future, actually did happen!!
I remember wanting to see this when it was in theaters, but never managed to make it. I am furious with myself that I didn't get to see it on the big screen (where it absolutely belongs). All I can hope is that it one day hits some kind of limited re-release or is shown at a convention of some kind...
No still-frame capture will ever do justice to the lush visuals Sky Captain so liberally doles out (and choosing from hundreds of amazing shots is an impossible task), but oh what a movie...
The only thing that keeps this flick from being one of the greatest films of all time is A) The story is a bit weak, and B) The acting in places is dreadful awful. Jude Law is fine as the heroic Sky Captain Joe, Giovani Ribisi is great as his sidekick Dex, and Angelina Jolie is radiant in her bit part as Captain Frankie Cook... but Gwyneth Paltrow's take on not-so plucky, plucky reporter "Polly Perkins" is a mess. She wanders through scenes as if she's drugged, never fully committing to the part. I know that she is a capable actress, so I can only guess that she was unable to work in blue-screen environments or she needs a strong director, and first-timer Kerry Conran was too awestruck or timid to get it out of her. Such a shame, because a strong female lead would have improved the film quite a bit.
Still, story faults and Gwyneth aside, the dazzling images and edge-of-your-seat action sequences make this film a must-see. Just accept the fact that it is supposed to be a cheesy 1930's sci-fi serial drama, and embrace it for the masterpiece it is. I rented Sky Captain from NetFlix but, had already ordered myself a copy just 10 minutes into the movie! I must own it so I can watch it again and again and again, because there's no way you will ever absorb everything the film offers in only one or two viewings (even dozens may not be enough).
The bigger news to come out of the Sky Captain front is that writer/director Kerry Conran's next project is an adaptation of my favorite sci-fi novel of all time: Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars. This has me very conflicted. On one hand I am thrilled, because I know that the visuals will be amazing. On the other, I am terrified that he won't have the directing chops to get the acting performances that this story will desperately need. If there is no chemistry between John Carter, Gentleman of Virginia and Deja Thoris, Martian princess of Helium, then the movie will suck ass. And I am telling you right now, this movie simply cannot end up sucking...
I have waited most of my life to see John Carter in the movies, and it will not be in vain. I want this film to rule the earth so we can get a dozen sequels. I want it so fabulous that critics (or, more importantly, Burroughs FANS) cannot find fault with it. If they end up moving the time period from Civil War America, or some other dumbass thing, I would rather there be no movie at all.
I am cautiously optimistic. In the meanwhile, go buy a copy of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow on DVD. It's just too darn pretty not to see it.
Posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2005
Bleh. It felt very much like a Monday today.
Schiavo. Honestly, I am not going to get into this here. I don't know Terri or anybody else involved, don't know what arrangements she made for her life, and don't have an opinion about whether something is right or wrong for somebody I've never met. What I do have an opinion about is that not everything should be a political issue. What I will say is that I do not want that kind of "life" for myself, and it should be MY f#@%ING CHOICE. So here it is, in public record: If my mind... if who I am... is gone, then don't save me. If there's little chance of recovery, let me go. Don't keep me on a respirator. Yank the feeding tube. Seriously, I've lived a full life and done more than most people ever will, so I'm perfectly okay with it. Don't worry about "making a mistake" or fret about "killing me" because it's all good. It's not that I want to die, I just don't want to live that way. I don't want to be a tool for some ass-wipe politician. I don't want to be a poster child for right-to-lifers. I don't want to be a burden on those I care about. I don't want to be remembered as a vegetable. I just don't want it. And if you care about me at all, then you shouldn't want it for me either.
Laid. Ohhhhh... so that's the problem! My check is in the mail...
Dental. Had my dental check-up this morning. That in itself is nothing special (no cavities!), but getting there sure was. Coming into Wenatchee this morning, some old dumbass in a beat-up Cadillac decided to turn into the wrong lane coming out of Wal-Mart. Usually I find the blissfully ignorant to be funny. But not when they are heading straight for me in a car. After I ran off the road to avoid him, he went on his merry way and heaven only knows what happened. I'm guessing he mowed down a fruit stand and killed a half-dozen people, or perhaps added a drive-thru to a local pharmacy where there wasn't one before.
Star. Mr. Jerz has finally hit the big time as a television star! I look forward to his future works, and am anxiously awaiting his entry on the Internet Movie Database. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Ryan Jerz, ACTOR...
(UPDATE: MrJerz.org is down, and I can't leave a comment... I can only guess that Hollywood casting agents are furiously attempting to book Jerz for a gig! I gotta give the guy props here, he absolutely managed to pull it off. I've seen first-hand what happens when people are tossed in front of a television camera and told to "act" - even in fun - and it rarely goes as well as this. So congratulations Mr. Jerz! Well played! Though I just gotta ask... did you really beat the crap out of the guy who played the thief at the end? Now that's what I call "method acting!").
Parts. Okay. If fingers are ending up in the Wendy's chili. What parts should I expect to be finding in my Wendy's Chocolate Frosty?
Dead. The reason I paid for ShowTime television: so I could watch Dead Like Me. The reason I stopped paying for ShowTime television: because they cancelled Dead Like Me. There's just nothing else on that lame HBO wannabe network worth watching. The second season of this amazing show was even better than the first, and it's coming to DVD on July 19th. It will be bittersweet to watch all those priceless episodes again knowing that there's no more to come after that last one. Crap.
Veronica. Hmmm... since I am about to gush like a 12-year-old schoolgirl, I'd better head on over to MSN Spaces to see how actual 12-year-old shoolgirls gush in their blogs... okay, here we go... omfg! new veronica marz 2nite! hehe. i am like sooooooo psyched! veronica is sooooooo cute and the show is sooooooo awesome!!!! u would luv it. hehe. VERONICA MARS RULEZ DAWGZ!!!!!! woo hoo!!!! hehe. c ya!
Posted on Saturday, April 2nd, 2005
The best thing to come out of the U.K. since blood pudding, Red Dwarf is one of those shows I can always count on to make me laugh. The problem is that it's only shown on PBS here in the States, but rarely. On the plus side, BBC America has been releasing it on DVD, but slowly... at the rate of just two series (seasons) per year. The happy ending to all of this is that finally, after waiting three years, Red Dwarf: The Complete Series Five has finally been released. It's easily my favorite of all eight seasons, and has the rare distinction of being the only series that gets a full five-stars for every episode.
It's perfect television...
My favorite of the lot is "Quarantine" which brought forth one of the most brilliant characters ever conceived on television. Mr Flibble, the killer penguin puppet...
"Mr. Flibble is very cross."
Here is just a sampling of the comedic genius we get in this episode, where Rimmer has trapped the rest of the crew in quarantine and been infected with a holovirus that's driven him quite mad...
Lister: Well we've passed the test, Rimmer. You can let us out.
Rimmer: I can't let you out.
Lister: Why not?
Rimmer: Because the King of the Potato People won't let me. I begged him. I got down on my knees and wept. He wants to keep you here. Keep you here for ten years.
The Cat: Could we see him?
Rimmer: See who?
The Cat: The King.
Rimmer: Do you have a magic carpet?
Lister: Yeah, a little three-seater.
Rimmer: So, let me get this straight. You want to fly on a magic carpet to see the King of the Potato People and plead with him for your freedom, and you're telling me you are completely sane?!?
And "Quarantine" is just one of six amazing episodes you get!
So do yourself a favor and run out to buy a copy of Red Dwarf: The Complete Series Five on DVD today! Do it now, before Mr. Flibble gets very cross indeed!
Or, I suppose you could always check back the week of the 18th and see if you can win a brand-new copy... It's just one of the many fabulous prizes being offered up in Blogography's Two-Year Blogiversary Kick-Ass Online Celebration!
Posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2005
Best. Game. Ever.
I had hoped that Lego Star Wars for Xbox would be good from the photos I had seen. But until I actually played it, I had no idea. It's simply amazing. It looks amazing. It plays amazing. And it's the most fun I've had with a video game in a very long time. The last game to make me feel this way was Myst back in 1993.
Like the name implies, Lego Star Wars for Xbox is a video game set in the Star Wars prequel trilogy universe that's entirely populated by Lego. All the characters are Lego mini-figures. All the architecture, vehicles, and objects are built from Lego. When you shoot something, it pops apart into individual bricks. When you "die," you fall to pieces. It's all really clever, and I can't imagine how they ever came up with such a brilliant idea.
The game itself is made for children. It's not really violent, because it's all just toys. It's not really difficult, because it's hard to actually "die" in the game." It's also the cutest thing you've ever seen. But that doesn't mean adults won't enjoy it. On the contrary, the game is packed with puzzles and and loads of places to explore. The fact that you don't have to worry about dying every five minutes is actually liberating. You can just have fun and enjoy yourself rather than stressing out constantly.
This may be a game I actually bother to finish. There's always something new to see, and there's 50 characters you can unlock and play. There's special Lego pieces to collect so you can build your own spaceships. There's even a "FreePlay" mode where you can go back to levels you've won and play them again as different characters. Not only is it cool to have such variety keeping things fresh, but different characters have different abilities, which means you can often solve puzzles you couldn't figure out the first time through.
All in all, it's a total blast. If I didn't already have an Xbox (or PlayStation 2), I'd go out and buy one just to play this game. I hope that they eventually make a sequel so I can play through the original trilogy as well. I want to be Han Solo flying my Lego Millenium Falcon to Cloud City!
Now, if you will excuse me, I've got to get back to Naboo...
Posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2005
Why oh why didn't I become a member of Congress? Despite the fact that the economy is in the crapper and unemployment is at a record high, they apparently feel that this is no reason that they shouldn't vote themselves a $3100 pay raise. This means that if you are a Congressman, you'll be pulling down $165,200 next year. Obviously, their salary is not tied to their job performance. If the dumbasses worked at a regular job, not only would they not be getting a pay raise, they'd probably be getting a pay cut (or even fired) for gross incompetence. I mean, HELLO?! Iraq? Health care? Unemployment? Trade imbalance? Peak oil? Education? The environment? WTF?!?
If I wasn't afraid of being shot by the Secret Service, I'd walk into Congress and bitch slap each of the f#@%ers who voted for themselves a pay raise.
But there is good news. One of the best new shows of 2005, Veronica Mars, is coming to DVD in October (as reported by TV Shows on DVD). This is very good news, at will finally allow me to wipe gigabytes with of BitTorrent files off my hard drive (and 22 hours off my TiVo). Apparently there's going to be a bunch of extra footage and a director's cut of the first episode, which is kind of cool as far as extras go.
There's also going to be a DVD release of another fantastic 2005 show soon... Grey's Anatomy, which is equally good news. I just hope that I am able to find time enough to watch all these TV DVDs.
Posted on Saturday, August 6th, 2005
This has been a very odd week for Macintosh users. It started with Mac-faithful attacking their own, and ended with a mouse.
I have long enjoyed the writings of Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing. But earlier this week he blind-sided me with a rant aimed at Apple that just didn't make much sense. It was all bizarre paranoia and speculation that had no basis on fact or historical context. I had started to write a lengthy rebuttal rant, but ultimately decided against it given that Blogography's readership is about a millionth of that of Boing Boing, and most people here wouldn't care anyway. Fortunately, John Gruber (an increasingly rational voice in the blogosphere) wrote up a better rebuttal than I ever could today over at Daring Fireball.
About the only thing I can add is that it seems unlikely Doctorow has suddenly gone crazy, and more probable that he is simply using the power of Boing Boing's popularity to threaten Apple off a course of action they may (or more likely) may not be pursuing. A dangerous road to start walking down, but since he's as big a Mac fanatic as I am, I guess he felt he had to try.
On the entire issue of Digital Rights Management, I am surprisingly neutral. Sure I wish we didn't have to live with copy protection on our music and media, but I fully realize that something has to be done to minimize theft, and it's something we just have to accept. When it is unobtrusive and allows me reasonable access to materials I have purchased... like music through the iTunes Music Store, I don't care. When it prevents me from accessing content I've legally paid for... like television shows on my TiVo which only Windows users can access, I am outright hostile (if I had wanted to be forced to use Windows shit, I would have bought a Windows Media Center PC, you TiVo dumbasses).
With this in mind, I want an Apple iMovie Video Store and Video iPod. I want an Apple-friendly Digital Video Recorder that allows me to catch up on television shows while I travel. I want them bad. Really, really bad. And if the DRM is as unobtrusive as the iTunes Music Store, and the pricing is reasonable... I won't have a problem with it. Because as our digital lifestyles becomes ever-more entwined with our computers and mobile devices, there has got to be an option for Macintosh users to have access to commercial video content past the DVD. It's the big missing piece that Microsoft is addressing that Apple is not, and failure to do so is going to hurt far more than any anti-DRM rant.
In happier Apple news, I love me the Mighty Mouse!
Well, THAT Mighty Mouse is okay, but I'm talking about the new Macintosh Mighty Mouse...
For Apple's entire existence, the concept of a two-button Mac mouse has been nothing more than a pipe dream. Apparently Steve Jobs felt that they were too complicated and too ugly for the Mac, so the Mac faithful either bought ugly 3rd-party alternatives, or made do without. I had tried a couple of two-button mice, but always went back to my Apple mouse and using the "CTRL" key to get that ever-elusive "right click."
The new Apple "Mighty Mouse" has finally addresses Steve Job's reluctance to part with the elegance and simplicity of a single-button mouse. And it does so in a very ingenious way. You see, out of the box, it acts exactly like Apple's mice have always performed... a single-button mouse that's beautiful to look at (albeit with much nicer tracking and a smoother "flow" than Apple's old Pro Mouse). BUT, for Mac users who want more, your wish has been granted.
Though whether it works out for you will depend entirely on how you are accustomed to using a mouse.
If you are like me, who holds a mouse with two fingers covering the top of it, you'll do just fine. To "right-click" you simply lift the finger on the left-side, and push down. Genius. This means that people like myself can still click the ENTIRE mouse to get a "regular-click" and only have to make a slight modification to our mousing habits to get that magical "right-click." For Mac users accustomed to Apple's one-button mouse, this is golden. However, if you are accustomed to a "real" two-button mouse, this probably isn't for you... because, in reality, a "right-click" is in fact a "no-left-click", and different than what you use now.
In addition to being able to "right-click," the Mighty Mouse also has a tiny "scroll ball" on top that allows for window scrolling and "middle clicking." Most people are referring to this new feature as "the mouse nipple" which seems about right. For the most part, I love me the nipple. It is smooth and intuitive. And though "middle-clicking" takes some getting used to, once you manage to figure it out, it's very cool (I've set mine to bring up Dashboard, which is quite handy!). But all is not perfect in nipple-world...
The last new feature is the "squeeze-click." If you squeeze the two pads on the sides of the mouse (the same "hold pads" you use to pick up the mouse while click-dragging), you get a fourth button out of the deal. This seems a brilliant idea, except I have a bit of nerve damage in my hand, and it is difficult for me to squeeze tightly enough to make it happen. For most people, this is not an issue, and being able to have a fourth unobtrusive "button" will be a good thing. Like all buttons, the "squeeze-click" is programable to do whatever you want. Anything from pulling up the App Switcher to manipulating Exposé.
As I said earlier, how much you love the new Apple Mighty Mouse will entirely depend on how you are accustomed to using a mouse now. If you already have a two or three button mouse, and are happy with it, then the faux "no-left-click" is probably not for you. Personally, I do love it. It acts exactly like the Pro Mouse I am used to now, so I don't have to re-train myself... yet has added functionality that is much appreciated. My best advice would be to go to an Apple Store and play with one for ten or fifteen minutes before buying one. If you hold a mouse like me, and use a mouse like I do, you won't be able to go back to Apple's old mouse again.
Posted on Wednesday, November 9th, 2005
Tonight there's a new episode of Veronica Mars on, yet all I see is promos for somebody dying on Lost. How sad. I mean, they can kill off all the characters they want on Lost but it isn't going to change the fact that the show is spinning its wheels and nothing new is happening. It's just the same old stories and the same old mysteries and the same old plot twists being recycled for another season. Where is the payoff? How many times can they sneak Hurley's "bad numbers" into a scene and expect people to still care? I sure don't. Not anymore. I stopped watching weeks ago.
And speaking of Veronica Mars, what is going on with the Buffy The Vampire Slayer reunion there? First we get Alyson Hannigan (Willow) appearing as Logan's sister Trina Echolls...
Then Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) shows up as Dick and Beaver's delicious step-mom (and Logan's new lover!) Kendall Casablancas...
And now Buffy creator Joss Whedon Himself is guest starring. Not as a writer or director, but as an actor...
When a talent like Joss Whedon not only writes a rave review for Veronica Mars on DVD, calls it one of the best shows ever, AND decided to try acting on the show... what more do you need to know? Veronica Mars is the shit! Take a whiff tonight at 9:00pm on UPN! Unlike Lost, STUFF ACTUALLY HAPPENS!!
And in non-Veronica news...
In yesterday's entry I was whining about wanting a Giordano's pizza and my misery over having to settle for a crappy Cheese Pizza Hot Pocket instead. Some of you were nice enough to sympathize with my sad existence, and I thank you for your pity. Then I happened upon a comment that took me by surprise...
Okay. Get this: my wife grew up on Giordano's pizza that when she met me (a guy who thought PIzza Hut Deep Dish was the best pizza ever) she had Giordano's sent us pizza halfway across the country for a special occasion. Did you know they do that? For a price, they ship them half cooked in dry ice -- then you finish the job at home in the oven. Works awesome, and you get that amazing Giordano's pizza.
Mmm, can't wait till Christmas to get back to Chi-town and eat myself up some of that goodness.
Posted by Pauly D on November 09, 2005
At first I was surprised at the thought of being able to order a REAL pizza from Girodano's here in the backwaters of Washington State... for a price... but then I followed the link for "Pauly D" and got the real surprise of the evening.
Here is my response to the above comment:
Okay. Get THIS: You are THE Paul Davidson!
I'd seen your comments here and added you to my list of blogs to check out. It never registered to me that you are the "Consumer Joe" guy until I visited your web site last night.
Your book was passed to me when I started helping out at the local library, and I loved it. I was going through a difficult time just then, and it was nice to find something to laugh about.
And now I find out that you have a blog where you are giving away your writing for free! Sweet!
But something is puzzling to me...
What in the heck are you doing reading my crappy blog? I'd think that to REAL writers like you (and James and Cavan and dozens of other bloggers far more talented than I) my blog would be absolute torture. I mean, doesn't it drive you crazy pouring over my dangling participles and never-ending ellipsises? Or my making plurals out of words like "ellipsis" that are already plural in their singular form? Or talking about "dangling participles" when I don't even know what they are? Is it some kind of self-inflicted torture? I heard once that good writers are tortured writers... is this what does it for you? Reading crappy blogs I mean? And, because I am really curious, how much alcohol do you have to consume before reading Blogography doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out?
Oh well. Here you are. I suppose I should thank you for stopping by... but I feel like I should apologize or something instead, so here it goes.
I am so very, very sorry.
And for everybody else out there, stop reading this right now and go read this instead...
It is laugh-your-ass-off funny, and a mere $10.36 at Amazon! If you can't wait for a taste of Paul Davidson, then take a look at his blog: Words for My Enjoyment, which is far more entertaining than anything I write here.
And do NOT forget to watch Buffy Mastermind Joss Whedon make his acting debut on Veronica Mars tonight on UPN!
Posted on Tuesday, March 21st, 2006
Last night while tearing through some work I had to finish, I was watching my bitchin' DVD set for Justice Leage: Season One, which rocks SO hard. Honestly, I am more excited about watching a new episode of Justice League than I am about seeing the new X-Men film. The lame-ass "movie X-Men" fight stupid boring crap instead of the bad-ass enemies they get in the comic books, so who cares?
But the Justice League cartoons are just as exciting as the comics, if not more so. It's a comic book lover's dream come true...
And speaking of super-heroes, I was my own super-hero this morning when I totally made Kitty Spangles my bitch on my very first game of double-deck Klondike...
Kitty Spangles Solitaire was recently upgraded to 2.0, and now includes some other versions of the game (like Freecell, Spider, and Yukon). Even better, it's free to registered owners which was pretty swell.
And speaking of swell, I finally managed to watch the season finale of Project Catwalk. The best part of the show was when the final three contestants were told that their mentor "Ben" would be paying a visit to their home, but when they opened the door, it was actually a SURPRISE GUEST... Elizabeth Hurley had dropped by...
I would have shat myself right then and there, but the finalists somehow managed to hold it (somewhat) together...
Liz was brutally hot, as always. Even if she did go a little bit crazy in the end there...
Sigh. And so ends my weekly Elizabeth Hurley fix. It sure would be sweet if they bring her back for another season...
And speaking of sweet, has anybody tried "Golden Oreos Originals"??
They kick all kinds of ass, and I am on my way towards devouring my third bag in two weeks. That cannot be good for me, but I am going through a kind of "cookie renaissance" just now and can't help myself. Somebody needs to suggest another awesome cookie so I can use it to break my 3-bag Golden Oreo habit.
Posted on Monday, March 27th, 2006
I almost forgot about my blog today, because I have been completely absorbed by the new Nintendo DS game: Metroid Prime: Hunters! I haven't had a lot of free time, but every minute I manage to find is devoted to playing this game. To say that it kicks ass is an understatement of biblical proportions.
Basically, it's a "first-person" shooter, where you play a bounty hunter immersed in a fully 3-D environment. The visuals are amazing, and the gameplay is beyond cool. Being able to have this kind of action in the palm of your hand is almost too good to be true...
The best part of the game is that you can play against other people over the internet. This is adds an entirely new level of fun to an already awesome game. Unfortunately, I'm not very good yet, so I spend most of my time having my ass served up to me...
Big, big fun. I find it shocking that the game designers managed to fit so much cool stuff in such a tiny little Nintendo DS cartridge.
As if that wasn't enough for today, I got the latest Lego Shop at Home Catalog in the mail this morning.
OMG! THEY NOW HAVE BATMAN LEGOS!
Yes, you read that right, BATMAN!!! and he's made from LEGO!!!
How could I possible NOT buy these?!? You can see the entire line at Lego.com.
Okay, back to getting my ass kicked in Metroid Prime: Hunters.
Posted on Monday, May 1st, 2006
Sorry about posting so late today, but it's Pauly's fault.
This morning I received a copy of his new book The Lost Blogs: From Jesus to Jim Morrison and, just like when James' new book arrived, I simply could not put it down. I started reading when I picked it up from the post office, then continued to read it at every opportunity throughout the day until I finished it just a few minutes ago. The first thing I'm going to do after writing this entry is eat something, because I skipped lunch and breaks so that I could get through more pages. Now I'm starving, and that's Pauly's fault too.
The Lost Blogs is a compilation of various "lost" blog entries from famous people throughout history. Some of them I expected to be included (George Washington, Einstein, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, etc.), but others were complete surprises. There's 175 to choose from and, as if the variety wasn't enough, each entry is totally unique in voice and style. Taken as a whole, it is a brilliant concept that has been flawlessly executed. I totally love it...
I cannot recommend The Lost Blogs highly enough. Each entry is like a potato chip, and you won't want to stop eating until you've finished the entire bag. Even then, you'll be licking the crumbs from the bottom, because now I have to go back and re-read a bunch of entries. Some of them because they were so funny I want to read them again... others because I have work to do (like translating the Samuel Morse entry from Morse Code!).
Do yourself a favor and go visit The Lost Blogs site right now. There you can learn all about the book, read some sample entries, and order yourself a copy. Whether you write a blog or just enjoy reading them, it's a must-have.
So congratulations Pauly! You can now add the great Blogography Seal of Approval to your book... far more exclusive and valuable than Oprah's stupid book club!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to have a cheese sandwich and a couple Hello Kitty Pop-Tarts before I pass out. I wouldn't want to have to blame Pauly for that too.
Posted on Thursday, June 22nd, 2006
I was all excited about Betty White being on Gameshow Maraton tonight, but it was for naught. Sure she was there and was totally cool and everything... but too much time was spent on all the other lame celebrities. This was not a good thing, because D-list "star contestants" Lance Bass and Kathy Najimy were positively stupid in their answers. And Ricki Lake was no Gene Rayburn, that's for sure.
Such a pity, as I was so looking forward to the show after yet another grueling day of work.
Fortunately, good TV news was to be found: Comedy Central has ordered THIRTEEN NEW EPISODES OF FUTURAMA!!
Easily my favorite animated series of all time, Futurama is far more clever and brilliant than we deserve (which is probably why it was cancelled). About the only cartoon character I love more than Bender would be Curious George, so you know this is a seriously big deal for me.
In other news, I have a new best friend...
These little crackers are called "Crunch Master". At first I was dubious because I found it seriously hard to believe that any chip could possibly out-crunch a Doritos corn chip. Crunch MASTER? Bitch, please. But I do love me the rice cracker, so I decided to give them a try.
These people do not lie! They are indeed the Crunch F#@%ing Master!!
In fact, the only way these crackers could be any MORE crunchy would be if they were made out of GLASS. Yes, I kid you not, they are indeed that crunchy! They are so crunchy that if you listen really closely, you can probably hear me crunching on them... even if you are in a different time zone. They are so crispy that I dare say you could use shards of Crunch Master crackers to cut through steel. It would not surprise me to find out that Crunch Master crackers are prohibited on airplanes by Homeland Security for fear somebody could break one in half and take over the plane.
Crunch Master crackers kick serious ass.
I am hopelessly addicted to them now (especially the cheese variety). I eat them constantly. In fact, when I am not eating Crunch Master crackers, I am sad. I need to devise some kind of automated feeding mechanism so that I can be force-fed a constant supply to my mouth and be happy all the time. But there would have to be a "pause button" so that I could temporarily suspend feeding while talking on the phone. Because talking with your mouth full of crunchy crackers would just be rude.
The good news is that they are practically calorie-free. That's because there's nothing in them. There's so much crunch that there's not room for anything else.
I have to stop blogging now so I can eat another bag of Crunch Master BEFORE bedtime. I don't dare eat these crackers IN bed, because the crumbs would probably cut me up and cause me to bleed to death in the middle of the night. Hey, there's a cool new advertising slogan! Crunch Master: so crunchy they could kill you to death!
Now that's a totally bad-ass cracker.
Posted on Friday, July 28th, 2006
PRAISE BE TO KRYPTON! FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY... Richard Donner is going to be given the cash to re-cut
In other totally sweet DVD news... my copy of Pinky and The Brain: The Complete First Season arrived today!
I love this cartoon and have been waiting for YEARS for it to show up on DVD. Something about mice plotting for world domination just fills my heart with joy.
And now, since I want to watch my DVDs rather than figure out what else to write, I've filled out a meme from over at Avitable's blog in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Monday, November 20th, 2006
I very nearly just died. I think I turned blue and everything.
All because I was stupid enough to attempt drinking a Coke with Lime while watching How I Met Your Mother when Robin's dirty secret was revealed. Seriously, for everybody who has ever wanted me dead, your wish nearly came true as I choked to death watching Robin Sparkles GOING TO THE MALL! Best. Video. Ever. My apologies to our Canadian neighbors, but this is about the funniest thing I've seen all year. Could this show be any funnier? This second season is even better than the first, but I will absolutely be buying the DVD set when it hits tomorrow. Suit up!
The good news here is that if I had died, I would have done so wearing my totally awesome Milwaukee Admirals Limited Edition Custom Hockey Jersey which arrived today!
I used to think that my red leather thong was my favorite piece of clothing... but this is SO much cooler than that! If it didn't smell like toxic fumes and need to be washed, I'd wear it to bed.
Now that I know I'm not going to die tonight, can I just say how disappointed I am that the only thing that went through my mind as I was laying on the floor gasping for breath was "holy shit... if I die, I won't get to see Veronica Mars tomorrow night!" — how sad is that? Though, I suppose if you turn it around, you could say that my desire to see the next episode of Veronica is what got me through this.
I'll bet that's not the first time Kristen Bell has been responsible for giving a guy the will to live.
Posted on Sunday, December 17th, 2006
Oooh! It's Bullet Point Sunday in the snow! Well, not really, because I don't see any snow falling outside... but that's what my weather widget is telling me. Darn you to heck you lying weather widget!
• WARNING! What is it with these stupid-ass warnings on DVDs now-a-days telling you not to steal movies? I JUST BOUGHT THE MOVIE... why in the heck do you waste my time telling me not to steal something I just bought... EVERY TIME I PLAY IT?
• ASSHOLES! I am getting so f#@%ing pissed off at all these f#@%ing idiots who drive down the f#@%ing road with two feet of f#@%ing snow heaped on top of their f#@%ing roof that comes flying off and f#@%ing smashes into my f#@%ing windshield...
One of these days I am going to follow one of these f#@%ing dipshits back to their f#@%ing house and get rid of that f#@%ing snow by setting their f#@%ing car on fire. Assholes.
• SHOP! Adobe released a public beta of Photoshop CS3 that runs super-sweet on my Intel Macs, and the speed increase alone is worth the massively huge download. The problem is that Photoshop CS2 never gave me any problems other than running slowly. What I need is a public beta of Adobe Illustrator CS3, because that CS2 sucker crashes constantly, and there are dozens of little quirks that drive me insane on a daily basis. I don't know if the icon change is temporary or not but, even though it lacks imagination, it sure beats the shit out of the horrendous old icons.
• FLAT! My local grocery got in some pricey pizza-type frozen entrees by "American Flatbread" which are simply amazing. I've only ever found the "three cheese" version, and am dying to try the other varieties but, alas, they are nowhere to be found in the valley. This is the first time I have ever eaten a frozen "pizza" which didn't taste like it came from a freezer, making it well worth the cost. I highly recommend giving one a try if your local grocery should happen to have them in stock...
• ZOOM! My Flickr Pro Account is running out and I am debating whether or not I want to renew it considering the good people at Zooomr will give bloggers a pro account for free. After all, if Zooomr is good enough for Thomas Hawk, a photographer I totally idolize, then surely it's good enough for me. My initial goofing around with the service has been good. There's only two negatives bothering me so far... 1) Logging in with OpenID is kind of clutzy because you aren't taken directly to your account, you instead get to muck about in the OpenID server and have to backtrack to get into Zooomr. 2) The interface is way cluttered compared to Flickr, and all that excess crap distracts from viewing the photos. That being said, the Zooomr community seems more closely-knit and active than Flickr. I uploaded just one photo and received five nice comments in barely any time at all. I suppose it doesn't hurt to nab my free account and figure it all out this weekend...
Foggy Day on The Great Wall of China
• MARS! Season Three of the amazing Veronica Mars is now available for sale at the iTunes Music Store. This will come in handy since TiVo WON'T GET OFF THEIR F#@%ING ASSES AND RELEASE A F#@%ING MEDIA PLAYER FOR MACINTOSH! What f#@%ing asswipes. Oh well, when I am away from home and can't get American television, the iTunes Store is probably more convenient than trying to mess around with BitTorrent. Holy shit I hope that Apple is working on a TiVo-like solution so I can kick my f#@%ing TiVo bullshit to the curb once and for all.
Posted on Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007
I've been watching my new Mission: Impossible... The Complete First Season DVD set whenever I can. It's amazing how well the series holds up after 40 years. I was totally addicted to the reruns when I was a kid, then hopelessly disappointed by the Tom Cruise films as an adult (M:I is supposed to be about TEAMWORK... TEAMWORK!). It's pretty sweet to see that the original show is just as good as I remember... and Barbara Bain is just as smokin' hot as I remember (literally, she smokes cigarettes constantly).
I've decided I don't feel like writing tonight. To explain myself, I offer this...
Why are people are still listening to this crazy asshole? If God is truly talking to Pat Robertson... how could he ever be wrong in his predictions? Wouldn't he have to be right 100% of the time for people to actually believe his shit? When he says "sometimes I miss" doesn't that imply that GOD is missing too? Or maybe... just maybe... he's a total nut-bag fraud. Anyone? Anyone?
Argh. Time for another spoonful of Pepto Bismol and bed.
But before I go... Over New Years, I reorganized and catalogued my DVD collection with a program called "Delicious Library." I've owned the program for almost two years, but never had the ambition to actually use it until now. I ended up loving the way it works so much, I've decided to review it in an extended entry...
→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Friday, January 5th, 2007
The first email I opened this morning was somebody saying "You are a f#@%ing asshole and your blog sucks!" Ordinarily, I'd be thrilled to receive such well-written and thoughtful feedback, but this morning I wasn't in the mood. So instead of sending my usual automated reply ("Thank you so much for your lovely letter regarding Blogography, and I look forward to making you even more angry in the future!") I instead wrote back with this...
"Wow! You've figured it all out! I make my blog suck ON PURPOSE because, as you have so astutely surmised, I AM an asshole! Congratulations on your brilliance, and I hope you die real soon now so my secret will be safe!"
Then I got worried that by hoping somebody else is going to die, I might be wishing death upon myself, and suddenly became concerned about my health and well-being. Perhaps a diet of candy, chips, and Coke with Lime is just the excuse that irony is looking for to kill me off? Well screw that. I'm going to start eating healthier snacks!
So there I am at the health-bar aisle of the grocery store looking at the hundreds of healthy alternatives to candy. I am amazed at how expensive it all is. But what's money compared to my health? Nothing! So I scoop up an assortment of yummy-sounding bars, pay my $25 (holy crap!) and am on my way.
Once I get to work I decide to have a health bar for breakfast. GAH! IT'S HORRIBLE! HORRIBLE!! Dumbstruck at the foul taste in my mouth, I spit it into a garbage can while making a mental note to never buy that brand again. Then I try another one, AND IT'S EVEN WORSE! ACK!!! I PAID $2.99 for THIS?!? After spitting my fifth health bar in the trash, I'm screaming "OH LORD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME??" as I open up number six, which is called a "Bumble Bar."
Bumble Bar Almond still tastes outrageously bad but, compared to the first five I tried, it's at least edible. So there I am chomping away on gobs of seeds and sticks, trying my best to be happy at how healthy I'm going to be from all this suffering. At least I was, until I looked at the Nutrition Facts...
Seriously, WTF?!? It's the same calories and fat content as a tasty Hershey Bar with Almonds! About the only difference is 2 grams more fiber, 4 grams less saturated fat, and an additional 18% iron!
Holy shit. Give me back my frackin' candy! I'll just eat a handful of Shredded Wheat for breakfast to make up the difference in fiber, and suck on a nail to get that extra 18% iron.
What really frosts my cake is that I could have bought FORTY candy bars for the money I paid for these ten "health" bars. This blows. The ones I threw out are probably healthier because they tasted worse, but I'd rather die than have to eat that crap for the rest of my life. Better to die young and happy from snacking on junk than old and miserable from eating disgusting health bars.
Maybe I'll just starting taking a vitamin with my first can of Coke with Lime of the day? That's probably the same thing anyway. Yes, thanks to vitamins, I can be healthy and still eat delicious crap! Modern science is great.
Yargh. Karma dictates I find something good to blog about now. Fortunately, I have a book that's totally sweet to talk about in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Tuesday, March 20th, 2007
One of the horrible things about having a blog is that you meet new friends who like nothing more than taking up your time and ruining your life. But in a good way. As an example, I met up with Vahid and Dustin for a while at Powell's during TequilaCon, and suddenly I have a list of 20 books I want, but won't have time to read. But I'll end up making the time anyway, hence the "ruining my life" part. It's the same for most bloggers I keep tabs on... they're always recommending a book or movie or food or something cool that I'm dying to see/read/experience, but just don't have time for.
But the worst offender would have to be Avitable. The bastard regularly throws out questions, comments, or recommendations which waste hours and hours of my valuable time. He'll drop a Buffy reference, and suddenly I'm consumed with watching all 144 episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on DVD. He'll start talking about Warren Ellis' blog, and suddenly I'm clicking over and wasting precious time going through his extensive archives. It's like I'm on remote-control or something. I don't know if it's because Avitable and I have similar interests (scary), because we're on the same mental wavelength (terrifying), or because we are somehow sharing the same brain (explains a lot), but the guy is responsible for more lost time in my life than the next ten people on my list combined.
A few days ago he sends me off an email asking about a few comic titles, wondering if I read them. On the list is Robert Kirkman's Invincible, which happens to be one of the greatest comic books ever. Since I only buy the trade-paperback collections, I haven't read it in a while. For some reason, while trying to fall asleep that night, I'm remembering what a great read Invincible is and pondering why in the heck I haven't looked at it recently. Next thing you know, it's 1:00am and I'm digging through my comic collection trying to find my Invincible trade-paperbacks. Then, because they are so damn amazing, I spend the next five hours reading them until I realize that it's time to get up and get ready for work.
Naturally, I'm practically useless all day while trying to operate on no sleep, which only means I'm that much further behind in my work. Even worse, Avitable has to tell me of another Kirkman creation, The Walking Dead, which he assures me is fantastic. So now on top of ruining an entire day of my life, he's intent on ruining future days as well (since I've just ordered a crap-load of Walking Dead books).
Not content to contain the destruction to myself, I'm spreading the love by adding Robert Kirkman's Invincible to my Dave Approved list. It's fresh. It's funny. It's shocking. It's invincible!
Even if you are not a hard-core comic book geek, this is one book you really need to check out. I'd highly recommend starting out with the Ultimate Collection: Volume One hardcover (which collects the first 13 issues/3 trade-paperbacks). On top of containing some of the best super-hero comics ever printed, it also has the totally mind-blowing issue #11, which reveals one of the biggest plot-twists in comic book history (seriously, I'd stack it against Watchmen any day!). It's Sixth Sense good, and blew my mind so badly that I probably read it a dozen times before I could wrap my head around it.
I remain hopeful that Invincible will be released as a movie one day (I think it was optioned by Paramount last year?), so experiencing the book before the film happens is an absolute must. Even if you don't want to buy it, request it from your local library and prepare to be amazed.
Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2007
Most people are probably familiar with the matching game Bejeweled in one form or another. You swap two similar pieces on a board in an effort to build chains of three or more so that they'll disappear and more pieces will fall to fill in the holes. It's a great game that I've played many, many times... not only as Bejeweled, but as Zoo Keeper, Diamond Mine, and an assortment of other clones. The problem is that it gets boring after a while, because the game doesn't change... it's just more of the same, forever!
Enter a new game for the Nintendo DS called Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Yes, it's based on the same tile-swapping game-play as Bejeweled, but they added so many new layers to the concept, that it really feels like something altogether different...
Each of the items you remove from the board adds something to the game play. Colored tiles add to your magical mana, which you use to cast spells during battle. Gold gives you money to buy things like armor and weapons, or build a citadel. Stars give you experience points to gain experience levels and learn new abilities. Skulls cause damage to your opponent. It's all very cool how they managed to merge puzzles and role-playing into something that's so much fun to play. You can even battle another player over Nintendo DS Wirless, if you both have a cartridge...
Unlike Bejeweled, which gets boring because there's no real goal, Puzzle Quest keeps you interested. You're always wanting to get more gold so you can add a dungeon to your citadel... or buy some new armor for protection. You're always wanting to get more experience so you can learn new spells and get stronger. You're always wanting to win battles so you can open up more of the map and move on to new challenges. Every choice you make actually means something, and moves you forward in the game's story...
Beautifully rendered, highly entertaining, and incredibly addictive, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords gets my highest possible recommendation. I shudder to think how much time I'll be wasting playing it.
Posted on Sunday, February 10th, 2008
Can you believe it was only a week ago that I was Bullet Sunday-ing with a hangover I got the previous night in Germany? I can't. Time seems to be getting away from me. Or my brain has been destroyed by alcohol.
• Licorice. I haven't eaten much licorice since Jenny unintentionally destroyed my taste for it by exposing me to the atrocity known as "Dutch Double Salt Licorice" while we were watching Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I had commented at the time that the Dutch are ingenious for managing to come up with something that tastes saltier than actual salt. Sometimes in the middle of the night I still wake up screaming because I have flashbacks to the agonizing burning of licorice gone terribly wrong. A year later, and I now learn that a friend of mine has a business importing Australian licorice to Europe. Once I get to his booth at the Germany candy show, he fills a bag full of samples and hands me a lifetime supply of licorice treats.
Which I have almost entirely devoured in just a week's time. This stuff is so fantastically delicious that the only word which comes to mind in describing it is "orgasmic"...
The licorice is yummy soft, but magically doesn't moosh together into a big sticky clump in the bag. The taste is bold, but tempered with just enough sweetness to keep it from being bitter. I am so addicted to the stuff that I may have to start smoking crack in order to wean myself off of it. While it's made in Australia, Black Opal is actually an American company, so I'm hoping I can buy it locally. If not, I see that Licorice International is importing it, so my dream of banishing the memory of Dutch Double Salt Licorice may finally become a reality.
• Microhoo. My opinion? Microsoft + Yahoo! ≠ Google. Save your money.
• Struck. Unless something totally unexpected happens, the Hollywood writer's strike should be over on Tuesday. Good deal? Yes. Great deal? Not really. I maintain that the writers deserve much more than they got, but that's negotiations for you. Of course, I'd be a lot happier for the writers if they hadn't made side-deals which allowed some writers to return to work while everybody else was on the picket line. Oh well... hopefully new television will be coming back soon, and that's what's really important.
• Paula. Yesterday as I was looking for a paperclip that had skittered under the refrigerator, my iPhone rings...
ROBERT: "DUDE! DID YOU RECORD THE SUPERBOWL?!?"
DAVE: "Errr... no."
ROBERT: "Aw, man! Super Deluxe Girlfriend erased mine."
DAVE: "Well, if it helps any, I hear that the Giants won."
ROBERT: "I don't care about the game, I wanted the half-time show."
DAVE: "Ah. Who was it this year?"
ROBERT: "Paula Abdul."
DAVE: "Uhhh... seriously?"
ROBERT: "Yeah, I like that song she did there."
DAVE: "Well, it would be pretty stupid to put a song out for the Superbowl and not release it. Have you checked with iTunes?"
At which point he hung up on me. But he called back five minutes later...
DAVE: "Hey, did they have it?"
ROBERT: "Yeah," he says dejectedly, followed by dead silence.
DAVE: "Is something wrong?"
ROBERT: "Without the crowd screaming and all the dancing to distract you, the song's not that good. Paula sounds like a robot singing into a bucket."
DAVE: "Oh. Sorry about that."
ROBERT: "That's okay. It's not your fault you ruined my life.
It would be nice to have a normal conversation with Bad Robert just once.
• Aid. One of the sheer joys left in flying (once you ignore the cramped seats, late departures, lost luggage, and your idiotic fellow passengers) is the SkyMall catalog you get on every flight. I have never purchased anything from it, but boy do I love to look. Half of the stuff is genius, half of it is crap, but all of it is interesting. My favorite item this time around is the "Stealth Secret Sound Amplifier"...
"If a conventional hearing aid sounds like an embarrassment to you, try the Stealth Secret Sound Amplifier. It looks just like a cell phone ear adapter and works as a sound enhancer so you can join conversations and even hear soft voices from 50 feet away. Now you can enjoy the best of both worlds: a more youthful appearance and better hearing."
Hey! It's working! You totally look more youthful...
No. No, I lie. You so totally look like a dick...
Bah! It's 7:00 and I really should take a minute to eat something. A Black Bean Chipotle Burger is calling me...
Posted on Sunday, August 24th, 2008
I'm so tired that I'm falling asleep this Bullet Sunday. Here's hoping I can stay awake long enough to write something.
• Organizing Is Just This Easy. Every once in a while, something comes along that' so amazing that I don't know how I existed without it. The latest thing to rock my world? TripIt. This web-based service makes keeping track of your travel easy. You forward your email confirmations from airlines, hotels, car rentals, travel sites, and such, and TripIt miraculously organizes everything for you automatically. As if that wasn't enough, TripIt adds maps, driving directions, weather forecasts, and other cool stuff to help you plan your trip. But that's not all... TripIt also makes it easy to share and collaborate your travel plans with others, and creates an iCal subscription calendar plus a webfeed. I've been using the service for almost a year now, and find it invaluable. Even if you don't travel lots, all the extras make TripIt worth a look. Mostly because it's FREE! And right now they're running a promotion where you can sign up and be entered to win a new iPhone (prize available only if you live inside the US, but the service works everywhere). Highest recommendation...
• If It's Loaded, We'll Shoot Ourselves With It. Proving once again that Microsoft just can't seem to make a good decision, they're paying Jerry Seinfeld TEN MILLION DOLLARS to appear in Windows commercials with Bill Gates. Apparently, copying Apple's MacOS isn't going far enough, and so now Microsoft wants to copy their "Mac vs. PC" ads as well. How this is going to convince people that Windows Vista doesn't suck ass is beyond me. I'd much rather they take the 300 million they're planning to spend on this "Windows Not Walls" disinformation campaign and actually make Windows a decent product. Seinfeld went off the air ten years ago... apparently Microsoft's advertising firm is still stuck there. I anticipate that the music will be performed by The Backstreet Boys.
• Take Them Out Of The Oven, They're Done. Why are they still making new stupid-ass "caveman" commercials for GEICO insurance? I never liked the ads, but at least they were fresh... at first. Now they've been run into the ground and are just fucking annoying. Wasn't the cancellation of the crappy "Cavemen" TV show spin-off enough of a clue? Helpful hint to GEICO: IT'S OVER!!
• Ultimate Cleansing Power. If John McCain truly does "approve the message" in his latest campaign ads, he's a fucking douchebag. And an idiot. Using Hillary Clinton's words against Obama now that Biden is on the ticket is inviting the exact same treatment when he picks his VP. The difference being that the ads could be so much worse against McCain because the footage available is so much juicier. I remember back to the viscous McCain/Romney debates and imagine that Obama's attack dogs are just salivating over the prospect of retaliation ads (assuming Romney gets the spot). Issues? What Issues? Politics at their finest.
The end. Kind of. There are some additional bullets with bitching about my recent Salt Lake City trip in an extended entry. If stuff like that interests you, by all means click through...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Tuesday, October 7th, 2008
As a television whore, one of my biggest failings is not jumping on new shows.Too many times I've read about a new show, decided I wasn't interested, then didn't watch it...
...only to find out later that it's a totally awesome show and I've been missing out for months.
Or, in the case of Life a full year.
A police officer is wrongly convicted of a triple-murder, sentenced to life in prison, then serves twelve years before being exonerated. At which point he wins a 50 million dollar settlement and gets to rejoin the police force as a detective. Such a show didn't appeal to me... at first.
It wasn't until I heard that Donal Logue was joining the cast in this second season that I suddenly became interested in Life. It was only then that I downloaded a free episode from iTunes, watched some free episodes from NBC.com, and realized that I had made a huge mistake. This is one of those totally awesome shows I've been missing! So now I've bought the first season DVD and am grabbing new episodes with TiVo. Better late than never, I guess...
I will not be making the same mistake by passing on ABC's new show Life on Mars.
It's an Americanized take on a British television series I love about a cop who gets hit by a car in 2006 and wakes up in 1973. You don't really know if he's insane or actually time-travelling, but it's a fascinating ride. Hopefully the US version will be worth watching (it's got Harvey Keitel and Gretchen Mol in it!)...
Part of the appeal of the original BBC show is the pains they took to get the 1970's setting done right. From the look of things, the people running ABC's Life on Mars get that.
Life on Mars premieres this Thursday, at 10:00pm (9:00pm Central).
In other news...
I wish I was back in Maui eating French Toast with bananas and macadamia nuts...
Crap. Now I'm hungry.
Posted on Sunday, May 10th, 2009
Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies out there! It's yet another Bullet Sunday, this time from beautiful Savannah, Georgia!
• Blogiversary. Okay, okay... I realize that April 18th, Blogography's six year anniversary, blew by and people are wondering what happened to my annual Kick-Ass Blogiversary Celebration (especially since last year was such a huge success). Well, I had big plans for the event, but everything kind of fell apart when the economy tanked. One company doubled their price in-between the time I asked for a price quote and the time I submitted the project. Another company that was working on one of my most favorite Blogography products ever has (literally) disappeared off the face of the earth (and took my deposit with them). Other companies I deal with have gone out of business or been sold. Add in TequilaCon, Davedon, Davenburgh, kidney stones, work, and non-stop travel... and, well, you get the picture. So instead of concentrating all my Blogiversary projects into one week, I'll be sprinkling them throughout the year as I manage to complete them. Starting with today...
• Ask Dave! Some of you may remember my "Ask Dave" Dashboard Widget for MacOS X. It's a tiny app that allows you to ask Lil' Dave a question, and he'll shake his magic screen to have an answer appear. It's thoroughly useless, but ever since Apple allowed apps to be built for the iPhone, I've wanted to convert it over... so I could have something SIX TIMES MORE USELESS! Introducing Ask Dave! for iPhone and iPod Touch!
It's pretty sweet and has some cool features... but, best of all, it's FREE! If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, head on over to the Official Ask Dave! Page and get it! And if you don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch, now you have an excuse to go buy one!
• Bindle Binaries. And the reason that the Ask Dave! app is free isn't because of me. It's because of David Syzdek of Bindle Binaries. When I realized that I wasn't smart enough to create the app on my own, I started looking for a company that I could hire to build it for me. As the price quotes began to roll in, my heart sank when they ended up being way outside my budget. I would have to either abandon the project or charge for it. But then I got the idea that maybe it would be cheaper to find somebody who already had a "Magic 8-Ball" app and have them put my graphics on top of their existing code. I downloaded every free "Magic 8-Ball" app I could find, picked my favorite one, then wrote to the author with my idea. The rest is history. David liked the project, agreed to release it for free if the code could be open-source, and started work on the app immediately. So, if you enjoy Ask Dave! don't thank me. All I did was draw some cartoons. David is the one who figured out a way to put it together... came up with a way to animate the backgrounds... added all the little touches that makes it feel like an iPhone app... put in untold hours squashing bugs and getting it to work... it's all him. Thank you, David!
Sadly, this is my last day in Savannah. I'd be upset about that, but tomorrow I'm off to new adventures...
Posted on Sunday, November 8th, 2009
It's Bullet Sunday once again... this time with two scoops of raisins for superior raisin bran taste! And a list of stuff to buy.
• XBox 360 Arcade. Yesterday I took Amazon up on their "Gold Box Lightning Deal" to get an XBox 360 Arcade for $198 WITH a $100 Amazon Credit... which, basically, means I'm getting an XBox 360 for $98. It's not that I really want an XBox 360 again (I gave my old one away)... heck, I can't even find time to play with my Nintendo Wii. But what I DO want is a (relatively) inexpensive way of streaming NetFlix "Watch It Now" stuff to my television. To do this, I could buy a $100 Netflix DV Player, or I could buy this $100 XBox 360. Since the cost is the same, I might as well get something that's capable of doing extra stuff.
Like playing Final Fantasy XIII when it's released next Spring...
Amazing, isn't it? Games are just like playing movies now-a-days.
• Mr. Squiggles. This morning I found out that a mishap involving a really angry woman at Toys-R-Us a while back inadvertently ended up with me owning this year's hottest toy... Zhu Zhu Hamster Mr. Squiggles...
I just bought him because a foul-mouthed bitch who couldn't read signs threw him on the floor. And he was only $10. And he looked cool. And who wouldn't want a battery-operated hamster? I showed him off and let him run around for a while until his batteries ran out, then stuck him somewhere I can't remember. Then this morning I found out from Beth's Twitter feed that everybody wants Zhu Zhu Hamsters, and they're going for a small fortune on eBay. I wish I could find mine. I wish I had kept his box. I wish somebody would find Mr. Squiggles and his box then pay me $100 for him. Because, yeah... while he was great for five minutes, I can't fathom him being worth more than the $10 I paid. Apparently a lot of people disagree, and now the asshole toy scalpers are making a fortune. What a sick way to make extra cash.
• Give Me Liberty. In the world of comic books, the two hottest titles of all time are The Dark Knight Returns, a grim imagining of Batman's future by Frank Miller... and Watchmen, the groundbreaking reality super-heroes book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Both of these amazing comic series debuted in 1986, and were a revelation to me (and most everybody else) at the time. After the Dark Knight & Watchmen furor blew over, the question on everybody's mind was "what's the next big thing?" For Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons, the answer was a vastly under-appreciated gem in 1990 called Give Me Liberty: An American Dream, the story of a woman named Martha Washington. Born in the slums of Chicago in 1995, she escaped her terrible life by joining PAX (the Military Peace Corps) and went on to numerous (and often very violent) adventures. I loved the book, and was desperate for more after the four brief issues in the series flew by. Fortunately, another series and a number of one-shot books followed... furthering Martha's adventures right up until her death. Now, at long last, this remarkable story has been collected in one massive volume: The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century...
And it is glorious. It's a massive tome totaling 600 pages and weighing in at over 10 pounds. Dark Horse Comics used the oversize "Absolute" format that DC Comics has been using for their releases, and it's a fantastic format to appreciate Dave Gibbons' incredible artwork...
As if that wasn't enough, the book also features new introductions to each story by Gibbons and 40 pages of development sketches and promotional material.
The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century retails for $99, but I shopped around and found it on special for $65 including tax and shipping. It's worth every penny and is highly recommended.
• The High Cost of Living. And, while I'm waxing poetic about brilliant comic book compilations, I would be remiss in not mentioning DC Comic's stunning Absolute Death book. Featuring one of my favorite comic characters of all time, Death, by Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo...
She's cute, smart, funny, and just happens to be there when you die... and, for reasons that are not entirely clear... when you're born. Absolute Death collects a few of her appearances from The Sandman along with her two solo mini-series Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life plus a wealth of supplemental material including a Death illustration gallery and a sketchbook by Bachalo. It retails for $99.99 and would be a bargain at twice the price... but can be purchased at discount for around $65 plus shipping.
• The Best Things. Now that I don't have any money left because I bought a bunch of stuff I didn't need and can't afford, I thought I'd mention that there was a beautiful view outside my window this evening and I got to look at it for free.
Now I'm tired from working all weekend, so I think I'll take my broke ass to bed and read a book.
Posted on Thursday, March 25th, 2010
My flight out of Bucharest wasn't until 3:00, so I decided to hire a driver into town and visit the National Museum of Art of Romania. They are famous for their medieval art, which is great, but I've seen so much medieval art that it's all kind of blending together for me. What I was really interested in was their modern art wing, because I'm not very familiar with many Romanian painters in the genre. I wasn't expecting much, but it would give me something to do until my flight.
The traffic in central Bucharest was brutal, largely because of a teacher's strike going on. At first I was worried that I had made a mistake...
Until I made it to the museum and was completely blown away by the amazing works housed within.
I have been to a lot of art museums all over the world, and I can honestly say that the National Museum of Art of Romania instantly became one of my favorites. Not just because it's a nice museum (which it is) but because I absolutely love the collection of artists they've assembled. It's just one breathtaking work of art after another...
I am not joking when I say that this museum is worth a trip to Bucharest all by itself. It's just that impressive. Highest possible recommendation...
My flight into Prague was delayed a bit, which meant I landed at the height of rush hour. The route my driver had to take into town to try and avoid the worst of the traffic was a mind-boggling array of twists and turns that looked like a pretzel on my iPhone GPS map. By the time I arrived and caught a tram into Old Town, the sun had just set.
Not that I'm complaining, because you get some great photos at that time of day...
I have been trying to arrange a stop in Prague for the better part of two decades, because people are constantly telling me what an beautiful city it is. Having seen photos, I knew they weren't lying, but it's taken to an entirely new level when you're here in person. The city is simply beyond beautiful. It's so beautiful that if I were a local, I'd wear a T-shirt that said "YES, WE KNOW OUR CITY IS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL... WE LIVE HERE!" because I'm sure they get tourists telling them how beautiful the place is all day long.
I can't wait to go to sleep so I can wake up and explore Prague in the daylight.
But of course I had to visit the Hard Rock Cafe Prague first...
Like just about everything else in this city, it was beautiful.
Posted on Friday, June 4th, 2010
When I was visiting my sister for a (very) belated birthday celebration this past weekend, I somehow left my car's passenger window part-way down (I don't remember ever lowering it, but whatever). Of course it then decided to rain all night long. By the time I was told about my error the next morning, the floor was all squishy with water. I soaked up as much as I could, then drove back home where the warmer weather managed to dry things out nicely.
Until this morning, when a bottle of Coke got knocked on the passenger floor, which meant I had to once again flood everything with water in an effort to get the syrupy mess out of the carpet.
Can't. Catch. A. Break.
Tonight I'm going to try to get more than four hours sleep and see if that can prevent any further Coke-related accidents in my car. If I have to soak the floor one more time, the carpet is probably going to disintegrate.
Much like the little boy in this statue I photographed in Brooklyn a few weeks ago...
I know. I know. The artist intended to show the kid nuzzled into the folds of the woman's tunic... but unless she's got a gaping hole in her torso AND is missing a good chunk along the left side of her body... OR the kid had half his face and body burned off in a nuclear accident... well... the boy is occupying the same space as the woman here. This means either they are merged like some kind of impossible Siamese twins... or they got fused in some freak teleporter accident like Jeff Goldblum did in The Fly.
No matter what the explanation, I am really creeped out by this statue. I mean, GAH!! THEY ARE TOTALLY MELTED TOGETHER OR SOMETHING!! AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO NOTICES STUFF LIKE THIS?!?
Urgh. Must go to bed and try not to have nightmares of giant freaky mutant melty people.
But before I go...
Normally I would save something like this for Bullet Sunday, but I have no idea how long the half-price offer will last, so I'm compelled to add it today.
A really nice strategy game called "Carcassonne" has been converted to the iPhone and released today. The object of the game is to build a board out of tiles, and use your "Meeples" to claim castles, roads, fields, or cloisters. The strategy comes in when you try to figure out the best way to maximize points while keeping your opponents from doing the same. The original game looks like this...
Photo by Elentin and taken from Wikipedia.
The iPhone version (created by TheCodingMonkeys) is just stunning, and looks like this...
Not only does it look gorgeous and fully-faithful to the original, but the developers went for broke by adding multiplayer via your choice of pass-and-play OR Bluetooth OR Wi-Fi OR email OR internet (with push notifications when it's your turn!). Don't have the number of players you like? Select one of the eight computer AI opponents of various skill levels! Not enough? They added a unique "Solitaire" mode with all-new game-play! Don't know how to play? There's a full manual PLUS a great tutorial complete with voice-over acting! STILL not enough? Carcassonne for iPhone also has in-game chat for network games, online and offline rankings, and a "Solitaire Game of the Week" with a best score competition!
In short, this is one of the best apps I've ever seen on my iPhone. Some people I know don't like Carcassonne, but most people seem to love it. If you love it or even think you'll love it, now is the time to act... it's currently on sale for $4.99! So get it now before they released the FREE iPad compatible version and jack the price up to $9.99! From what I've read, TheCodingMonkeys are planning on keeping the game fresh by adding some of the Carcassonne expansion sets for in-app purchase. You can't ask for more than that...
If you'd like to see more, I've added more screen captures with my comments in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Monday, September 20th, 2010
Hey! What the heck happened to the Bullet Sunday I posted yesterday? Blech. I'm back one day and am already having blog problems. Oh goody. A mystery to solve tomorrow morning! But enough about yesterday...
I've stopped measuring the length of my flights in hours, and instead measure them by how many episodes of Kevin Pollak's Chat Show I can watch before I land. Oh how I love this podcast. Kevin Pollak's interviews are 100% pure gold, and better entertainment than most anything you'll find anywhere. I am insanely addicted to the show, and more thankful than I can express that the internet allows true talent to have a forum where they can do what they do without interference from television networks, ad execs, and all the bullshit that fucks up "regular" television.
I have to work very hard to restrain myself not to watch the shows live, and instead download them to my iPhone so I have something to watch while I travel. This has made me go from "HOLY CRAP! HOW MUCH LONGER BEFORE WE FRICKIN' LAND?!?" to "WHAT? WE'RE LANDING ALREADY? NOOOOO! I HAVE TWO MORE EPISODES OF KEVIN POLLAK TO WATCH!!"
I swear... the quality of guests he gets... the amazing information he gets out of them... the hilarious way he keeps things moving... THIS is the job he was born to have. I managed to see eight episodes on my way from Barcelona to Amsterdam to Seattle. It was a who's who of fascinating people that couldn't have been better picked if Kevin Pollak had asked me who he should interview...
Paul Rudd. One of my favorite people, he is consistently one of the funniest actors working today and has turned in dramatic performances that rival the best you'll ever see (not only that... he was a guest-star on Veronica Mars!). He's just as amazing off-screen as on, making this an interview you don't want to end.
Rob Riggle. I've mentioned a couple times here how big a fan I am of Rob Riggle and the many places he seems to pop up (The Daily Show, Gary Unmarried, The Hangover, etc. etc.). I knew from his banter with Jon Stewart that he was in the Marines, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. What an amazing, heroic, fascinating guy. Hearing what he's been through and what he gave up for his love of comedy and performing is nothing short of amazing. This is a MUST-SEE interview.
Craig Ferguson. Pretty much the best late-night host since Carson, this interview adds yet another level to a very funny and complex guy.
Maggie Lawson and James Roday. As if Psych being one of my favorite television shows wasn't enough to get me to watch this interview, these co-stars (and real-life couple) were an interesting interview in their own right.
Cheri Oteri. A Saturday Night Live alum with a great story and a fascinating look behind the show. After being entirely too ignored by the superficial "main-stream press," it's about time that Cheri got the interview she deserved. Thank you Kevin Pollak!
Steven Weber. The guy has a wide assortment of terrific roles (including Brian on Wings!) and seems to be fearless in his acting choices. But that doesn't even scratch the surface of who he is. His comedy and political writings are genius... just like this interview.
Neil Patrick Harris. Yet another interview that was so good it could have gone on for four hours and you'd never notice the time passing by. Everything from working as a child actor to adopting twins with his partner... it's all here and it's all good.
Adam Scott. This is one of those actors that keeps popping up so often (Veronica Mars!) that you can't help but notice him. Eventually he landed on Party Down and has joined the cast of Parks and Recreation. Out of all the interviews I watched, I can honestly say that this frank, honest look at "making it" in Hollywood was easily my second-favorite after Rob Riggle's interview.
Next up in my queue... Greg Proops, J.K. Simmons, the Sklar Brothers, Bryan Cranston, and Fred Willard. As if that wasn't awesome enough, there's still the first 22 episodes which I haven't seen yet. I honestly don't know if I can wait until my next trip.
If you haven't checked out Kevin Pollak's Chat Show, you owe it to yourself to give it a look. The main website is here. The iTunes video podcast link is here. The iTunes audio podcast link is here. Highest possible recommendation.
Posted on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
I am starting to really, really despise Amazon.com — not because they suck or anything... for the most part I find their pricing and service to be excellent. No, the reason I hate them is because they make it entirely too easy for me to spend money I don't have. Stupid Amazon and their stupid product suggestions and their stupid One-Click ordering!
Here are three of my latest totally non-essential purchases that I just had to own or else I would die...
THE MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Star Wars is awesomeness defined. So awesome that at the time it was released, it was nearly impossible to process. Most everything about it was so new and revolutionary that the brain had no choice but to explode at the thought of it all. But by the time The Empire Strikes Back came along three years later, we were accustomed to all the amazing special effects and mind-blowing elements that made Star Wars such a phenomena. We wouldn't be surprised again.
Or so we thought. The Empire Strikes Back proved us wrong. Upping the ante in every possible way, the film raised the bar so high that few... very few... films have managed to top it. It remains one of my top-five favorite films of all time, and cemented my love of Star Wars for all eternity (even when the franchise turned to shit with Return of the Jedi and the horrendously craptastic prequels).
So how could I possibly not purchase The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler's stunning follow-up to The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones? This massive 372-page tome has a definitive look at every aspect of the movie's creation taken from countless hours of research and interviews. It includes numerous pieces of production art, behind-the-scenes photos, and other tidbits which gives the reader an insider's look at Empire in a way that will make you not only fall in love with the film all over again... but have an entirely new appreciation for the people behind it...
It's a complete and total steal at $49.72 (list price $85.00!), and I give it my highest possible recommendation for Star Wars fans and anybody who's interested in film production. The Force is indeed strong with this one!
THE SECRET OF KELLS BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO
Where to start with this one. Probably with the fact that I am a total animation whore. I remain hopelessly fascinated with the artform and obsess over its every incarnation. Everything from a simple flip-book to full-blown computer-generated animations captivate me. But hand-drawn animated features are my favorite. Even when Pixar unleashes their latest computer-rendered genius, I still find myself pining for the animated classics I grew up with.
So imagine my surprise when I happened across a production blog back in 2006 for an animated feature called The Secret of Kells. I had visited Dublin and seen the jaw-dropping beauty of The Book of Kells the previous year, and thought it was pure genius to use it as the foundation for a movie. For years I followed the updates, watching with amazement as the film took shape...
With each update at The Blog of Kells, I became more and more excited at the visual feast that was being created. Even at its very earliest stages, you could feel this would be something special. When peeks of the animated sequences were revealed, you knew it was something special. And when it finally opened in limited release in Washington State back in May, I finally got to see it and know that "special" was a drastic understatement. The film was magic. And I don't use that term lightly.
Infused with Celtic mythology, The Secret of Kells tells the story of a young boy named Brendan who sees an unfinished book of secret wisdom and magical powers which holds the hope of banishing darkness and defeating evil. Leaving his world behind, Brendan undertakes an amazing journey through an enchanted forest to help complete The Book of Kells. Along the way he meets mystical creatures and the fairy spirit Aisling to aid him in his quest...
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Every frame of this movie is a sublime work of art in its own right. Every frickin' frame! The fact that it's all beautifully animated in old-school stylings is just the icing on the cake. I could use words like "stunning" and "breathtaking" and "Glorious" to describe it, but there is simply nothing I can say which would adequately prepare you for the experience of viewing the film. Though a part of me wonders if the story is a bit too abstract for younger kids, I can't imagine anybody not enjoying The Secret of Kells.
For $25 you get a combo Blu-Ray/DVD pack (alas, no digital version to be found) and it's worth every penny. Again, my highest possible recommendation.
GRINDHOUSE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION BLU-RAY
Finally... finally... Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's wonderful experiment in old-school double-feature cinema has been released on home video as they intended it to be seen... an uninterrupted back-to-back experience complete with all the pseudo-trailers, aged film damage, missing reels, and intermission card goodness!
Grindhouse combines two films of senseless campy violence, horror, and action by two of Hollywood's most genius and unconventional directors... Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino, and Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez. You also get a bunch of brutally cool "faux trailers" for films like Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie and Don't by Edgar Wright (and, of course, Machete which was later made into an actual film!). It's not going to be for everybody, but any fan of shlock horror films will probably love it...
While both films have their charms, it's Death Proof that I can't get enough of. When it comes to Tarantino movies, it's but a blip on the radar of his impressive oeuvre, but it's still genius when compared to most of the shit that gets released. Kurt Russell(!) plays a psychopathically homicidal stuntman who likes to stalk lady drivers in his "death-proof" stunt car, eventually running them off the road and killing them. It's all fun and games for the maniac... until he terrorizes the wrong women! This twisted tale of suspense and revenge has one of the best car chase sequences ever put to film, and is chock-full of Tarantino's witty (and borderline scandalous) dialogue. As I said, it's not going to be for everybody, but it's dead-on target for its intended audience. If that's you, I give Grindhouse my highest recommendation. Amazon has it for just $23, which is more entertainment per dollar than you can shake a machine gun at!
And there you have it. $100 of my hard-earned money blown with three clicks. I wish I could say this was a rare event but, alas, there are even more unnecessary but essential items waiting for me, I'm sure.
Don't act surprised when I'm selling myself on the street for Amazon gift certificates. It's only a matter of time...
Posted on Sunday, November 7th, 2010
Welcome to an ALL-REVIEW EDITION of Bullet Sunday!
• SIDEWALKS! I still haven't come down off the high I got from Matt and Kim's second album masterpiece, Grand, so when I heard they were dropping their third album, Sidewalks, I was skeptical. How could they possible come up with anything even near as awesome? Well, they're Matt and Kim, so how could it not be awesome? I love it, and have been listening to Sidewalks constantly. Here's a short video talking about the album with a sweet taste of the awesome first track...
The only song I don't much care for is Northeast, which deviates from the happy funtime sound that makes me love the band so much. The other nine tracks are gold, however, with my clear favorites being Block After Block, Cameras, AM/FM Sound, and Good for Great. My only criticism of Sidewalks would be that it seems over-produced compared to what's come before. The charm of Matt and Kim's music has always been the raw, unpolished, basement sound that lets their indie roots shine through. But everything here is polished so heavily that no rough edges show, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Kim's wild, unapologetic brashness when banging on the drums is kinda... muted... this time around. And while the complexity they've layered into their latest songs adds a welcome maturity to their sound, I'd hate for them to eventually be buried by it.
SIDEWALKS RATING: B (Recommended).
• THE WALKING DEAD! Comic book adaptations for television have historically been hit-or-miss, with even the most successful translations feeling like something is lacking. So imagine my surprise when one of my favorite comic books ever, The Walking Dead, actually managed to elevate the source material so high that it exceeds my impossibly high expectations. In some ways, it's even better than the comic book upon which it's based...
Shocking, I know. But no more shocking than a comic book where no character is sacred and anybody can die at any minute. What's truly shocking is the production values on the series. AMC is putting some serious cash into all aspects of the program, and it shows. The special effects and location shooting are brilliant. The zombies are works of art and not the schlocky B-movie retreads I was expecting. And the acting is top-notch, with Andrew Lincoln's flawless performance as Rick Grimes adding a sense of danger and realism that's almost too good to be true...
Genius television on every level, and already renewed for a second season!
COMIC RATING: A+ (Highly Recommended).
TV SHOW RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
• EARTH! As a huge fan of The Daily Show, I was quick to snap up their humorous primer on all things USA called America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Even though The Daily Show is a comedy program, it still manages to have an intelligent discussion of news and politics between the funny. With America (The Book), they poke fun at the country by reducing our culture and history down to a ridiculous grade-school textbook filled with witty essays that illuminate while they amuse. It was a terrific book, which compelled me to pick up the follow-up tome, Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race...
It's reminiscent of America (The Book), but on a global scale. Except this time they dismissed with the essays and went with page after page of easy jokes and witty one-liners slapped on wacky infographics and amusing photos. While still funny and moderately insightful, it doesn't leave the reader with much to think about (which seems to be the point). So while I definitely enjoyed Earth (The Book) it was kind of a step-down from their previous effort.
AMERICA (THE BOOK) RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
EARTH (THE BOOK) RATING: B (Recommended).
• BLU-RAY COLLECTIONS! I've been opposed to wasting my money on re-purchasing videos on Blu-Ray that I already own on DVD unless there's a very good reason for doing so. Unfortunately, two new sets have dropped which left me with no choice, because they both contain some of my favorite films of all time PLUS very good reasons for buying them...
Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy. I am convinced that all three of these films are some of the most brilliant and inventive movies to ever grace the silver screen... and it's all because of the details. The original Back to the Future not only had a great story, but showed the consequences of time travel with numerous small details that geeks like myself go crazy over (such as when Marty destroyed one of Old Man Peabody's trees in 1955, causing the "Twin Pines Mall" in 1985 to transform into "Lone Pine Mall"). Then we got Back to the Future II, which managed to create an all-new story WITHIN the original film all while giving us a fantastical look at the future. Sheer genius. Back to the Future III was a bit more mundane, trading the future for the Old West, but managed to wrap-up the trilogy in a way that was satisfying and respectful to those that came before. This new Blu-Ray set has an incredible transfer to hi-def that's a marked improvement over the old DVD versions. Despite having been filmed in the 80's, everything looks crisp and new, and there's tons of extras that any BTTF fan will love (some of which I have never seen before). An added bonus... digital copies of all three films is included, so you can transfer everything to your iPod, which is awesome. Two down-sides. 1) The packaging can make releasing the discs a real challenge. You pull down on the disc to unhook it, but sometimes it doesn't work like it should, and I worried that I'd snap the thing in half. 2) The menu system is FUCKING STUPID! Maybe it's just my player, but every damn time I view something, the menu won't come back and I have to eject the disc, then wait the five minutes it takes for the menu to load again. A serious flaw that drops my rating... I'll take functionality over design any day.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY TRILOGY RATING: B+ (Highly Recommended).
Alien Anthology The issue here is picture quality. The Alien films are fairly dark, which is a real problem for DVD/TV. You can get some nasty compression artifacts and murky shadows that obliterate details and kill the spooky atmosphere that makes the movies work so well. Thankfully, the new Blu-Ray Hi-Def transfer is fantastic. The picture is probably better now than it ever was, which makes me wish they'd re-release the films in digital theaters. In any event, the original Ridley Scott Alien film was a masterpiece blend of science fiction and horror that can still scare the crap out of me even today. It was followed by Aliens, where James Cameron did the impossible by grafting a high-octane "space marine" action flick onto the original sci-fi/horror concept... and actually made it work. David Fincher's Alien3 was a disastrous disservice to the story from Aliens, but a pretty good film when looked at independently. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien: Resurrection has some amazing visual sequences that are tied together by a rather weak story which revives Sigourney Weaver's deceased character in a way that never really worked for me. And even though I hated the freaky-ass mutant alien that provided the "villain" for the fourth installment, I think I enjoyed the film overall. Everything is brought together beautifully with a shitload of awesome extras that will take me days to get through. The packaging (again) is a bit odd (WTF-?), but workable. For any fan of any of the films, Alien Anthology is a must-have.
ALIEN ANTHOLOGY RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
And now I'm out of money, so that will have to be enough unabashed consumerism for the day.
Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Today was a heaping bowl of suck.
Then it started snowing, and my bowl of suck was suddenly topped with shit sprinkles. But that's okay, because I'm kind of getting used to it. Lately it seems as thought most everything in life comes with shit sprinkles on it. I think it all started when I noticed that the waistbands in my three-month-old Jockey boxers has already started to give out. Meanwhile, I've still got pairs of Joe Boxers that are three years old and still going strong. Nothing to get too depressed over, but it seems as though nothing is built to last any more. Nothing. And I can't help but be sad about that.
So I've decided to take a couple sleeping pills, go to bed, and not think about it.
If you're not into music synthesizers, you'll want to skip the rest of this entry.
...there's a frickin' AMAZING app that just dropped for the iPad. It's the KORG iMS-20 emulator! Here's a description from the iTunes product page...
iMS-20 is a complete music production app for iPad, consisting of a complete recreation of the legendary Korg MS-20 analog synth with patching capability, a 16-step analog sequencer based on Korg's SQ-10, a six-part drum machine with dedicated pads, and a seven-channel mixer with 14 types of effects.
It's about the coolest thing I've seen on the iPad yet...
It's all here, and you can zoom in on a section and swipe between them as you mix...
This video shows the Korg iMS-20 for iPad in action...
You can, of course, export your creations as high-quality .WAV files by "bouncing" them through iTunes. You can also share your creations via "SoundCloud," which makes collaborating with other iMS-20 users a snap. The sound seems like it would be good enough to incorporate into a live performance, and if they update the app to use Apple's forthcoming "AirPlay" technology, you would even be able to do so wirelessly! I don't know why, but being able to play in a band while sitting in the audience seems pretty funny to me.
Using the Korg app is fairly straightforward if you have any previous experience with synths. I was composing loops after goofing around for just 30 minutes. The only area that was a little rough for me was tapping out notes on the keyboard. The iPad's multi-touch screen makes chords possible, but I just can't get the hang of playing without actual keys. Zooming in helps, but it's going to be a while before I'm comfortable (or competent) enough to play actual music with it. There's an alternative, however, in the form of "Dual Kaoss Pads" where you can play the instrument by running your finger across them. It's kind of fun for free-form creation, but gimmicky if you've got a specific composition in mind. I'll just keep hoping somebody makes an iPad MIDI adapter so I can plug in a cheap physical keyboard.
The Korg iMS-20 app for iPad is so complete... so brilliant... so utterly killer... that it has me seriously wondering if there's anything you can't you do with an iPad given the right software. If you have any interest in composing on a synthesizer, buying this app is a no-brainer. The half-price sale price of just $15.99 is the icing on the cake (good until the end of the year). Highest possible recommendation. Click here to see it at the iTunes Store.
UPDATE: Holy crap. It just keeps getting better. ReBirth has just been released for iPad!
Amazing. Just amazing.
Posted on Sunday, December 19th, 2010
It's a wacky kind of Bullet Sunday on this cold December day...
• Pink. Genius writer Blake Edwards passed away this week. He was the creator of a number of important works such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and Days of Wine and Roses, but will forever be best known as creator of The Pink Panther series of films he made with Peter Sellers. Out of the opening title sequences from those movies came one of my favorite cartoon characters ever... The Pink Panther...
I used to love those cartoons. For the longest time I've wanted to purchase the DVD sets so I could watch them again, but could never justify the rather high price ($60 at Amazon!). Fortunately, they're also available for rent at Netflix (alas, no instant streaming), so I'll have to get on that one of these days. As for Mr. Edwards... thank you for the laughs. May you rest in peace sir.
• Larry. Call me a hater, but I have never liked Larry King. I found his interviews to be to absolute crap. Half the time Larry seemed completely unprepared and left me wondering if he even knew who he was talking to. The rest of the time he was just plain boring. I never understood why he was so popular... except that he somehow managed to attract popular guests on his show. Probably because doing Larry King is so easy and risk-free since his interviews were always so embarrassingly superficial. Definitely not because he was any kind of appealing personality. He always came off as either a creepier version of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons...
... or a freaky alien...
Needless to say, I'm not sorry he's now retired. And while I'd definitely say that Joy Behar is a step up from Larry, I don't think she's particularly winning when it comes to interviews either. So I don't know what CNN is going to do now. Hopefully find somebody who knows how to give a decent interview.
• Shaun! A couple years ago when I was in Germany, I was introduced to a new television series starring Shaun the Sheep... a character from the Wallace & Gromit short fim A Close Shave. As you'd expect from an Aardman Animations production, the show was fantastically funny and clever... and dialogue-free!
Well, after waiting and waiting and waiting, they finally released the complete first season on DVD...
Highest possible recommendation. Seriously, you've got to see these short episodes. I bought it from Amazon, but episodes are also currently available for Instant Stremaing from Netflix!
• Lens. Every once in a while you get a glimpse of where technology is taking us... a little peek at what's coming down the pipe. This week it was something called "World Lens" for iPhone. It uses the iPhone's camera to "read" an image for text. Then, depending on the filter you select, the app will process it for translation or some other trickery... like reversing the letters in any words it finds. It then pastes the output onto the original live image...
The app is free from the iTunes Music Store. Currently there's $4.99 English->Spanish and $4.99 Spanish->English filters with more promised. To see it in action is pretty spectacular...
One day, they're going to be able to put stuff like this on a contact lens or as a chip implant in your brain so you can just look at something and get it translated directly. And I'm guessing audio translation isn't that far off. The future is all magic from here on out. Or it could be. If we let it.
And there you have it, Bullet Sunday begone!
Posted on Sunday, May 1st, 2011
It's a "Holy crap it feels like somebody shot me in the back!" kind of Bullet Sunday this week. Fortunately I have really good drugs to put me out of my misery so I can (hopefully) get some healing sleep tonight. Let's see how many bullets I have in me before I drop off...
• Quandary. As somebody who attempts to live my life according to Buddhist precepts, it is not possible for me to take joy in the death of any living thing. So call me unAmerican if you wish, but all I can think of today is the chain of events which began on September 11, 2001 and the horrific loss of life which continues to this day because of it. One more death on the pile... no matter how much one believes it was deserved... is not going to suddenly make everything better in my head. And I'm not sure how I should feel about that. About the only thing I can feel right now is regret. Not that an asshole terrorist and mass-murderer is dead, but that humanity has failed so badly for us to have gotten to this point.
• Accomplished? I keep running across people on the internet who are amused that today's news falls precisely eight years after a banner above former president George W. Bush's head declared "Mission Accomplished"...
Am I a tin-hat wearing conspiracy nut if I admit that the first thing that came to mind after first reading this was "Wow. That's really convenient!" Because, seriously, if you wanted to (further) embarrass President Bush over the failure to capture Public Enemy #1 on his watch, wouldn't this be the ideal way to do it? Hmmmmmm. Nah, it's most certainly just a coincidence. Especially when you consider Hitler's death was also announced on a May 1st. Irony can be so ironic sometimes.
• Who? Can I just say that Dr. Who under the brilliant mind of Stephen Moffat has evolved to one of the single best shows ever to air on television? I'm not kidding. The two-part season opener was jaw-droppingly amazing in every possible way...
If you have even a passing interest in really good sci-fi, this show is a must-see.
• Magnum! Another import that's well worth checking out? Magnum ice cream bars! It was just over two years ago I mentioned their advertising featuring Eva Longoria when I was in Germany...
And now they have arrived here in the USA! If you happen across the "Almond" variety, which is covered in chocolate with crazy-delicious large chunks of almonds, it is about the best-tasting thing you'll ever eat. Unless you're allergic to nuts. Then it's about the most deadly thing you'll ever eat.
Annnd... my meds are starting to kick in. That's kind of a bummer, because I didn't get to all the bullets I had jotted down. Oh well. Something to blog about tomorrow, I guess.
Posted on Sunday, May 29th, 2011
It's Bullet Sunday from The Windy City!
• Forecasting. And when I say "windy" I actually mean "stormy with torrential rains." This afternoon there was thunder, lightning, black clouds, and a literal flood pouring from the sky. What's so odd is that the forecast for tomorrow is "mostly sunny" which is almost impossible to believe. But, then again, looking at the extended forecast, impossible weather seems to be a continuing event here over the next week...
Make up your mind, Chicago!
• Thor. Back in the 1980's I was mostly reading DC Comics, with only occasional dalliances with Marvel Comics' stable of characters. All that changed when I got hooked on Walter Simon's absolutely brilliant work on Mighty Thor. His critically acclaimed run on the book was the stuff of legends, and I instantly became a massive fan of the epic stories he was telling there. Eventually Simonson left the book and my interest in the series waned, but I never lost my love of Thor as a character...
Fast-forward to earlier this month, and Marvel has released a massive tome which collects Walter Simon's work and called it the Thor Omnibus. It runs 1200 pages and is almost too big to hold comfortably (it should have been a 2-volume set!). The interior is absolutely stellar, having been completely recolored. They also added 50 pages of bonus material including drawings from Simonson's sketchbook...
If you are a Thor fan, this is essential. If you are not a Thor fan, this book will make you one. Highest possible recommendation.
• Thorified. Which brings us to the brand new Kenneth Branagh-helmed film Thor, a faithful and wholly amazing adaptation of the comic book series. It is a massive, brilliant, totally EPIC film that I simply didn't want to end. Everything from the acting to the special effects to the design to the story was near-flawless...
If I have one complaint, it's that the story seems oddly rushed. What should have taken months to unfold seems to happen in mere days, providing an unrealistic edge to the character development. I don't care who you are, you don't completely change your entire outlook on life in two days, and yet that's exactly what we're given.
Anyway... the movie tells the story of an ancient race of Norse gods who live in Asgard, one of the "Nine Realms" of our universe. One of these gods is Thor, a vain and arrogant warrior who is due to succeed his father Odin as king. But all this changes when Thor makes a big mistake and ends up being banished from Asgard to "Midgard" which we know as earth. Love, loss, and adventure ensue.
I gotta hand it to Marvel Comics here. First Iron Man came along and blew me away. Now Thor. Next up is Captain America, which looks even more amazing. And then there's X-Men: First Class which looks like it's going to kick all kinds of ass and finally make up for the totally shitty X-Men films that came before. All this will culminate with The Avengers in 2012 which has the potential to redefine the word "epic"... especially with Joss Whedon behind it. All in all, this is a great time to be a comic book fan.
• Bridesmaids. Even with all the critical acclaim and internet love, I was still wary of going to see Bridesmaids. Too many times the things other people think of as being "funny" I just think of as being "stupid" and a big waste of time. And then along comes Kristen Wiig's answer to The Hangover. And it's actually funny. And more than a little touching. But mostly entertaining...
Wiig plays Annie whose best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and wants her to be her maid of honor. Hilarity ensues. And while there are moments where it felt like an SNL skit that goes on way too long had been shoehorned into the plot, overall I really enjoyed the story. Probably because it went for "funny-smart" instead of "funny-stupid." Add to that a really good cast, and you've got a movie actually worth your valuable time.
Assuming you're an adult who can appreciate an R-rated movie with occasional lapses into gross-out humor.
• Pasta. I seem to be going through a ravioli renaissance. I stopped eating the stuff (despite it being one of the things on an Italian menu I could eat) because it always ended up being gummy and squidgy. The last Wednesday I had some of the best cheese ravioli in my life at Piccolo Sogno... followed by an amazing dish of butternut squash ravioli tonight at Prasino. Apparently the greater Chicagoland area knows how to make the stuff. Which is little help as I head back home where nobody seem to know how to make it very well at all.
And speaking of home... I suppose it's time to finish up my work, pack my bags, check in for my flight, and post this blog entry so I can fly out tomorrow. Hopefully in better weather than today.
Posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Getting a whole six hours sleep last night (pharmaceutically-induced, alas) was everything I dreamed it would be.
Anyway, just a few things I keep forgetting to review...
• Chilly Pad! A while back I was shopping for a soldier at AnySoldier.com (which I talk about here and here) when I was told about a product by Frogg Toggs called "Chilly Pad." It was billed as some kind of "cooling towel" that sucks the heat away via evaporation. That sounded like a load of crap to me, but who am I to deny a soldier something to make his life easier... especially if it only costs $12? Just for kicks, I ordered one for myself too.
Imagine my shock when, holy crap, it actually works!
Just pour some water on it and be amazed as the super-evaporation cells go to work, causing the darn thing to become cool to the touch! Amazing! For the ultimate test, I wore one around my neck on my trip to Waverly Hills where there was a heat index of 105° and was pretty darn comfortable the entire time. I now keep one in the trunk of my car and will always have them on hand to send with my AnySoldier care packages. Worth checking out! I got mine at Sports Authority, but I'm sure they're available other places too.
• Spotify! Europeans have been enjoying the music mega-service Spotify for years, but Americans have been left out. Until now. For those unfamiliar, Spotify has a massively huge database of music available for streaming. In order to get at it, you have to sign up for an account. Free accounts are ad-supported and have a song limit. Unlimited accounts ($4.99/mo.) are ad-free, allow unlimited songs to be streamed, and have added sharing and organizational features. Premium accounts ($9.99/mo.) have even more features (like the ability to listen offline and stream to your mobile phone) and better sound quality. Free accounts weren't available yet, so I went for the $4.99/mo. Unlimited package.
The biggest selling point of Spotify is that they have a plain crazy-huge collection of songs. They pretty much boast that they have any track you want...
Except they really don't. There are many songs both obscure and popular I wanted to listen to which aren't available. That alone is a bummer, but what makes it unbearable is that a big chunk of their library is karaoke versions of songs, and every frickin' search you make is literally overwhelmed with karaoke crap I have absolutely no interest in.
Here's an example. Today I wanted to listen to Miley Cyrus's The Time of Our Lives (don't judge until you listen to it... it's a nice song!). Spotify doesn't have it available. What they do have is four karaoke versions...
WTF? And it gets worse when you do more generic searches like "Hall & Oates" where you get all kinds of karaoke shit mixed in. After a while, I figured out that you can do restrictive searches to cut out karaoke. Well, most karaoke... not all karaoke songs are described properly...
This should be an option in preferences to get rid of karaoke tracks if you don't want to see them, but I couldn't find one so I have to instead add "-karaoke" to every search, which is a pain in the ass. Other irritations? The Spotify app is clutzy and unintuitive compared to the iTunes interface I'm used to. I've also experienced "outages" of a sort, where certain artists simply will not play. Today I tried for quite a while to listen to Weird Al's new Alpocalypse album without success.
As you might guess, my final verdict is more negative than positive. I will be happy to keep my free account for occasional ad-supported listening, but I'm going to cancel my $4.99 "Unlimited" membership. Perhaps eventually they'll address my issues and I'll find it worthwhile, but for now I'm giving it a pass.
• Suits! Burn Notice. White Collar. Covert Affairs. Fairly Legal. Psych. When it comes to successes, USA Network has a pretty good track record for airing some really good television shows. Because of this, I'm willing to give any new show they come up with a shot. Their latest, Suits, sounded good on paper... but I wasn't sure how it was going to play out on the screen...
The story premise is that of a very smart guy with a photographic memory, Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams) who tries to escape his dicey past by going to work at a prestigious law firm. He passed the bar on a dare, but doesn't have a law degree. His new boss (played by Gabriel Macht) is impressed enough to hire him anyway. The result is an uneasy partnership that is beneficial to both of them, even if they have to hide Mike's true nature from everybody at the firm.
And it works.
It works very well.
The cast is fantastic (Gina Torres!), the writing is sharp, the stories are smart, and the show as a whole is entertaining. My only concern is how long they can keep the premise interesting. Will people eventually find out about Mike? Will his scary past catch up with him? In all honesty, it doesn't really matter, and I hope they don't keep hanging the show on them when there's no need to do so.
Right now? Highly recommended. Only time will tell if they can keep it that way.
• Fotopedia! If you're a fan of travel photography and have an iOS device, run... don't walk... to the iTunes Store and grab everything you can from Fotonauts. Their Fotopedia apps have always been great, but the new stuff they've been cranking out has been amazing. North Korea (free) and Dreams of Burma (free) are well worth your time... but their latest collaboration with National Geographic, Above France ($2.99) is stunning...
They work on iPhone but, obviously, have a better presentation on iPad. Highest possible recommendation.
And now... bed. And hopefully another night of half-way decent sleep.
Posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Before we do this, GO GET FREE MATT & KIM!! Yes! FREE! And not a bad track!
Last night after my complete mental breakdown over losing David's Pizza, home of my favorite pizza on earth, I decided to drink a lot of alcohol and go see Captain America. While neither eased my pain completely, I was a lot better off at the end of the day.
I'm going to review Captain America: The First Avenger now, because I'm a total comic book geek like that but, if that's not something you care to read about, I'll just sum it up thusly: This film is pretty close to flawless. Not just for a comic book movie, but for ANY movie. Even if you're not into the whole super-hero thing, it would be worth your time to watch. I love, love, loved it...
Before we get into the movie itself, a little background on me and Captain America.
Growing up, I was a total DC Comics fan (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.)... and not much of a Marvel Comics fan (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, etc.). That being said, Cap was the first Marvel comic that I got into. It all started with Captain America and Falcon #211-213 by comics giant Jack Kirby. The stories were originally published in 1977, but I got ahold of them as a poly-bagged set the early 1980's (I'm guessing they were re-prints?). These issues were a great read, having plenty of action and featuring the quintessential Cap villains The Red Skull and Arnim Zola. Unfortunately, my new-found infatuation with the Captain America universe was short-lived, because the current issues of the title were a drastic step down from the Kirby reprints I had just read. After that I pretty much ignored Captain America unless he was in other Marvel titles, like The Avengers.
All that changed in 2004 when Ed Brubaker came onboard for a Captain America relaunch. Since then I've been a fan of the character, snapping up most of the graphic novel collections as they are released. Far from being an exercise in one-dimensional blind patriotism, Burbaker's treatment of the character was a fascinating exploration that actually had some depth to it. Even though he eventually ended up killing Steve Rogers, then bringing him back (of course), the book remains an excellent read.
Which is why I was terrified over the Captain America film despite the awesome set photos that were released. There was just too much to lose.
Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about. The First Avenger is near-flawless, and works on so many levels. As a straight-up action movie, it's a good time. As a war-movie, it's an immediate classic. As a super-hero film, it's faithful to the source material. Like Iron Man and Thor before it, the character just works on film. Beautifully.
It all starts as the USA has entered World War II and weakling Steve Rogers wants to join the fight. Unfortunately, a multitude of chronic illnesses makes him unfit for duty. Never one to be discouraged, Steve keeps trying until he has the good fortune to be noticed by Dr. Abraham Erskine. The good doctor is secretly working with the US Army to develop a new "super soldier" serum, and Steve Rogers has the qualities of heroism, bravery, and kindness he's looking for. The experiment is a complete success, and Captain America is eventually born... becoming the "Sentinel of Liberty" for the American war effort. Lots of cool action sequences ensue.
The Good Great
• Casting. I'm not the biggest Chris Evans fan, but there is no denying that he is Captain America on-screen. Unlike his previous role as The Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films, Evans actually has to project something more than cocky aloofness here. He has to be a living, breathing icon, and he nails it. The early scenes where special effects have turned Evans' perfect physique into wimpy Steve Rogers is where he really shines as an actor, and his every scene is exceedingly good. Other roles are equally well-cast, most notably the incredible Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Phillips, and an absolutely amazing Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull.
• Story. Usually origin stories are notoriously superficial and boring on the screen, but director Joe Johnston and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely somehow managed to make Captain America work perfectly. The set-up is just right, telling the viewer everything they need to know about the world they'll be visiting. The progressive origin of Cap is both logical and entertaining. The action is full-on excitement without becoming comical. It's everything you want in a comic book movie... or any adventure movie, really.
• Costumes. Captain America's garish outfit would be a really easy thing to screw-up on the big screen. That didn't happen. The evolution of his costume is handled incredibly well, with everything making perfect sense. The period-specific costumes for all the other actors were equally amazing, and really made you feel you were back in time. Somebody should win an Oscar here.
• Rewards. There were clever moments with some of the characters which hinted to their futures (as shown in the comic books). They were clever enough to reward comic fans, but subtle enough not to confuse newbies. My favorite? Arnim Zola's intro. Genius.
• Effects. The tough thing about having futuristic energy weapons showing up in the 1940's is that it just doesn't work logistically. But the integration was so deftly handled and so logically explained that it just didn't matter. And, again, mad props to the people responsible for turning Chris Evans into wimpy Steve Rogers at the beginning of the film...
I know special effects are good now-a-days, but this is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
• Set-Up. I love the way that the Marvel Universe films are all fitting together (ultimately culminating with The Avengers movie next Summer)... but Captain America goes overboard. Having Tony (Iron Man) Stark's dad be the leading scientist of the war effort? Cool. Having the Cosmic Cube come from Thor's dad's treasure room? Great. But having the so much of the plot being a set-up for future films? Dangerous. Especially at the very end of the film, which seems a little tacked-on and artificial. In the future, let the movies stand on their own... if they're well-made and faithful to the source material, they'll still fit into the Marvel film universe and get people excited to see more.
• Bullets. Near the beginning of the film, a Hydra Nazi is being chased by Steve soon-to-be-Captain-America Rogers. Along the way he fires like a bajillion bullets from his gun... without re-loading. Man, how I hate that.
So overall? Fantastic and faithful film with a lot of action, honesty, and heart.
And this updates my whole "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard as follows...
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Ghost Rider... C
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A
Jonah Hex... F
Punisher War Zone... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Superman Returns... C+
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
Posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2011
Hey, look! Bullet Sunday is actually on a Sunday this time!
• New 52. I was on vacation when my copies of DC Comics' 52 new books arrived, so I am only now having time to read them. So far I'm a bit underwhelmed. Sure some books have a decent start and are offering good bang for your buck, but most of them just more of the same. Not that they're all "bad" per se, it's just that they don't seem worthy of a company-wide relaunch like this. Sadly, I'm not surprised. What is surprising to me are the books which have surprised me. #1 on that list was All-Star Western featuring Jonah Hex...
As I have no interest in Westerns or lead character Jonah Hex (and didn't appreciate the $3.99 price tag), I almost passed on All-Star Western. But I ended up buying it anyway so I'd have a complete "New 52" set. And thank heavens, because this is easily one of the best titles of the bunch. What the writing team of Gray & Palmiotti have created is more a brilliant murder-mystery story than a Western. But even better is that they have found a very clever way of giving the reader insight into Jonah Hex that makes him a fascinating and fully-realized character. The art is a bit more crude than I usually care for, but Moritat's style is perfect for this book and I loved it. If you were a fan of Baker Street, this is the book for you.
• Steve Jobs Day. After too many false starts, I've pretty much given up trying to write down my thoughts about Steve Jobs. I'm at a loss for words, and I'm never at a loss for words. Ordinarily, I'd be kind of worried, but somehow I'm okay with it...
Flowers left at the Sydney Apple Store in remembrance of Steve Jobs after his death.
The governor of California proclaimed today to be "Steve Jobs Day" which was kind of nice. But to anybody with an Apple product, every day is "Steve Jobs Day."
• Televised. Am I missing all the good new television shows? I set my DVR to record everything fresh, but pretty much hate every single new show I've seen. The lone exception would be 2 Broke Girls, but not hating something is a long ways from actually liking something. On one hand, I'm grateful for the time this will free up, but on the other hand... I'm a television whore, and this really sucks. Here are the only shows I'm interested in this season...
I'm also buzzing through Gossip Girl because Elizabeth Hurley is on it, Survivor when it doesn't suck, and a big chunk of the awesome USA Network shows when they bother to air new episodes (Psych, White Collar, Burn Notice, Suits, and Fairly Legal). Ditto for the excellent FX series Justified which starts back up in January. Still addicted to Dexter, The Big C, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones... but since I don't get HBO and Showtime, I've been buying them on iTunes (when available) or waiting for the DVD.
I know that sounds like a lot of television but, considering how much TV is out there, it's pretty pathetic.
And now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to stare at the television and wonder where my weekend went.
Posted on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012
THE SNOWPOCALYPSE IS UPON US! SNOWMAGEDDON IS HERE! Grab that special someone and bundle up tight, because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Depp! People can say what they like, but nobody in cinema amazes me like Johnny Depp. The guy is absolutely talented... absolutely fearless... and absolutely brilliant. He can disappear into a role unlike anybody else, and owns any character he takes on. And this time it's yet another Tim Burton collaboration where he will be playing Barnabas Collins in the movie adaptation of Dark Shadows. This one image that's been released is enough to make me want to see this movie...
Just like it only took one image for me to want to see these movies...
I'll be the first to admit that not every film Johnny Depp signs onto ends up being great. But his performances are always interesting. It's hard to ask for anything more than that, so I'm always looking forward to his next performance.
• Sniffle! I tend to look at everything as a learning experience. Even having a cold. This time around I learned about a new tissue... COOL TOUCH KLEENEX...
It is awesome on a sore nose because it is, in fact, cool to the touch. And it feels great on your nose. I think it must be some kind of scent-free menthol-like substance that is body-heat activated. Or not. But however they make it happen, it's a pretty sweet advance in tissue technology, and the only tissue I'll be buying from now on.
I could tell you what a terrific, quirky character Walter "The Finder" Sherman is (played by Geoff Stults) and how entertaining the stories are, but all I really need to say is that it has Michael Clarke Duncan in it. If you're looking for something a little different to watch this winter, this show may be worth a look. You can catch the last couple episodes streaming on the official FOX site.
• Netflix Streaming Movie of the Month! Lately I've been on a foreign movie binge and discovering some real gems. The latest is a wonderful French film called The Grocer's Son now streaming on Netflix...
After his father has a heart attack, a guy living in Paris returns to his family home in the countryside to help his mother with their store. His job is to drive a grocery van to small villages and remote homes so that the elderly people there can buy foodstuffs. After a while he begins to form a bond with his customers and his outlook on life starts to change. If you're looking for some "comfort cinema" this sweet story is worth watching.
• Netflix Streaming TV Series of the Month! The contemporary re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes by Steven Moffat and the BBC is currently streaming on Netflix. It is beyond brilliant, and I highly recommend giving it a look if you haven't already...
Like most shows from across the pond, Sherlock has stories, acting, and production values that are leagues above what typically passes for American television. Probably because each series only has three episodes. They put all their good ideas into small number of shows rather than trying to stretch everything out over 22 episodes like they do here.
• Cinematic Anticipation! There's been a movie hovering on the horizon that has me pretty excited. Now Robot and Frank has been unleashed at Sundance and the reviews have been pretty great...
I mean, come on, it's got Frank Langella playing a retired cat burglar who is given a robot to help around the house. But Frank discovers a much more interesting use for his robot pal... crime. As a premise, it doesn't get much better than that!
Annnnnd... scene. I need toast and jam.
Posted on Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Work started early and ended early, so I was left with four-and-a-half hours of free time to explore Kansas City. And since there's probably only ten minutes worth of crap to see here, that would be plenty of time, wouldn't it?
Ummmm... no. Not by a long-shot.
I had been here a couple times before, but assumed there wasn't much going on, so I never really made an effort to see what KC had to offer. Now I know this was a huge, huge, mistake.
And I found this out pretty much by accident.
On a previous trip, I had been to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. This time I wanted to go to the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is kind of famous for the three giant shuttlecocks planted in front...
Inside, there is an impressive and varied collection from many different genres. I was particularly impressed with their European works, which has a terrific impressionist room. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
As I was driving to an art supply store, I saw a sign for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. I like baseball, so I thought it might be worth a stop. I did keep my enthusiasm in check, however, because how great could it be? Probably just a bunch of glass cases filled with old stuff, right?
Ummmm... no. Not by a long-shot.
This has to be one of the most impressive shrines to the great sport of baseball that I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot of them. I was completely and utterly blown away by the amazing story they tell, and the incredible way they tell it. It's a beautiful, important, and wholly wonderful museum that manages to do a lot within a little space...
I expected to spend 20 minutes here. I ended up spending an hour. I could have stayed for another. The only down-sides are
"If colored clubs were admitted there would be in all probability some division of feeling, whereas, by excluding them no injury could result to anyone."
— Raymond J. Burr, Philadelphia Pythians Representative
That's right... no injury for anyone! EXCEPT THE BLACK PLAYERS YOU RACIST IDIOT! I swear, a good chunk of the museum is very, very difficult to explore. You get to learn all about the things that these sportsmen went through just to play. Like going without food on road games because there was no place to stop that would serve "coloreds." But lest you think that the experience of being a player in the Negro Leagues overshadows the game of baseball here... it doesn't. There's loads of amazing baseball artifacts, trivia, and stories. Like I said, one of the best baseball museums you'll find anywhere. Best $8 I've ever spent. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!
As if having The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum wasn't enough... the same building houses The American Jazz Museum! I enjoy some jazz, but am not the biggest fan of the genre. But... the ticket was only $2 extra when bought with an NLBM ticket, so I went for it. I expected to spend 5 or ten minutes here. I ended up spending a half-hour, and could have easily stayed longer. The place is amazing. Just amazing. It's beautifully constructed with vibrant, exciting interactive displays and plenty of awesome memorabilia. All the greats are here from Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker and everyone in-between. Wish I could have taken photos to share, because it's that well done. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Looking for something else to do, I spotted a pamphlet for the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. They have a visitor center with a massive presidential coin collection plus you get to look inside the vault to see the people working with the money there! SOLD!
Except I took a wrong turn and ended up at something called "The National World War I Museum." Oops. But since I'm here, I might as well take a look. Probably just a bunch of old junk sitting on shelves or something, right?
Ummmm... no. Not by a long-shot.
I have been to a lot of museums around the world. Seriously, a LOT of them. I can tell you right now that this mind-bogglingly amazing museum can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the very best of them. It is frickin' incredible. AND I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE IN MY LIFE! I am sick at the thought that the only reason I came here was because of a wrong turn...
I spent two hours here. I could have spent two days. This museum is the very definition of "destination-worthy experience." You will not only learn a lot about The First Great World War, but you will see a lot of amazing stuff from that era. I first went to "The Main Hall" which is actually underneath that tower you see there. The displays are nothing short of jaw-dropping, both for how beautiful they are and how informative they are...
You enter the museum by walking across a glass bridge over a field of poppies
From there I went up "Liberty Tower" to get a view of the city...
And then I went to the "Memory Hall" exhibits (that's the building to the left of the tower in my first photo)...
Then I went to the "Exhibit Hall" exhibits (that's the building to the right of the tower in my first photo)...
The sheer depth and breadth of the story they tell here still has me reeling. It's truly a world-class museum right here in Kansas City... and you get to see all of it for a bargain-basement price of $6. YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT, SIX DOLLARS! Just go. Book your plane ticket and go. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION.
After forcibly tearing myself away from the National World War I Museum, I made my way to my original destination... the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum. It's a small museum, but impressive and fun. The only place you can't take pictures is in The Vault (which is a shame, because the money robots are cool!)...
After getting screened at security and going through a metal detector and such, you can walk through the exhibits and see the Presidential Coin Collection... featuring all the coins issued during the terms of all our presidents...
Coins from President Washington all the way to President Obama!
As if all that wasn't enough, they've got a really nice hard-bound souvenir book for just $16 plus a bag of FREE MONEY! Yep! Everybody who visits the museum gets their own bag full of money...
...which has been shredded into the tiniest possible pieces.
But still, pretty cool. And well-worth a visit. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
After getting caught up with work, I decided to hit one more museum... The Hallmark Cards Visitor Center!
It's not very comprehensive, but gives a decent overview of the company and the stuff they make... from cards and bows to Keepsake Ornaments and gifts...
Though my favorite part was the bow-making machine which creates a souvenir you get to keep!
Overall a fun diversion... but not a critical one. I almost wish I would have gone back to the National World War I Museum.
And I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface of what Kansas City has to offer the wayward tourist. For example, I know there's a Harley Davidson Museum north of here (though it looks similar to the ones I've already been to in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania).
If only I had more time to see it all.
Anyway... I've got to get back to work now. Hopefully I've done my part to encourage you to take a trip to KC now that you know of some of the really cool stuff that's here waiting for you.
Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
For a long flight, my first concern is always comfort. With my 6'2" height, it can be a pretty big deal to be cooped up for 10-1/2 hours in a steel tube being hurled across the Atlantic Ocean when my legs are cramped up. But my frequent flier status allowed me a nice upgrade with plenty of legroom, so this wasn't an issue.
My second concern is time. 10-1/2 hours has to be spent doing something and, since I can't sleep on planes, it ain't going to be sleeping. Usually I just watch whatever movies they have available, but they were all films I'd already seen or wasn't interested in. Fortunately, I had purchased some iTunes programs to occupy my head during the trip.
And here's where I go bananas over television shows.
The Dutch Bitch and I were watching The Daily Show when Ricky Gervais was a guest. I'm a big fan of his, so I was really looking forward to his interview. Turns out he was there to pimp two shows... The Ricky Gervais Show and An Idiot Abroad. Much to my surprise, The Ricky Gervais Show ended up being animated. They took funny podcasts that Ricky made with his friends Steven Merchant and Karl Pilkington, and made them even funnier by turning them into cartoons...
Now, here's where things get interesting. The show does not really revolve around Ricky Gervais. It is totally centered around Karl Pilkington. And this frame from the intro tells you absolutely everything you need to know from the show...
Ricky and Steven get Karl to start talking about something, then wait to hear what hilarious things comes out of his mouth. And while Ricky and Steven waste no opportunity to tell Karl how stupid he is for how he thinks about stuff, I can honestly say that Karl Pilkington may be one of the most intriguing thinkers on the planet. His every word transcends logic to reach a level of genius that is absolutely mind-boggling...
I can't tell you how many times I had people staring at me because I kept busting out laughing at the show. It has to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen, and is easily one of the most entertaining shows ever made for television (well, not television, HBO).
I bought both seasons iTunes had available. The first season is gold. The second is even funnier. They are a steal in Standard Definition for $20 each (Hi-Def is a waste, as the cartoons are low-res). If you'd rather spend $0 to get a taste of the show, you can subscribe to The Ricky Gervais Show Podcast. New episodes from the third season start airing on HBO come this Friday.
But The Ricky Gervais Show was just the beginning.
Turns out that Ricky and Steven also created a travel show for Karl Pilkington where they send him around the world to see stuff so that he can "broaden his mind." The first season is all about having Karl visit the Seven Wonders of the World...
And here's where I get confused, because Karl Pilkington is exactly the kind of traveler I usually hate. He complains about everything and isn't happy with anything that isn't the same as it is back home. Ricky and Steven take full advantage of this by getting him into situations they know will freak him out. That's where the funny bits happen, though sometimes I just end up feeling sorry for the guy. Because even with the camera crew following him around and taking care of him, there are times he is clearly out of his depth. The culture shock is overwhelming to him, and forcing him into more and more crazy situations seems almost cruel. Like force-feeding him something he just can't fathom eating...
While he was in India, Karl got to experience something I long to see... the day of Holi. It's a remarkable Hindu festival of sheer joy and celebration that I have been dreaming of for decades. Brightly colored powders fill the air, and people of all ages, social status, and wealth join together in a giant two-day party. If I had a bucket list, Holi would easily be in my top five.
Karl, of course, didn't like it at all...
Instead of focusing on what a unique and amazing experience he's lucky enough to get to join in on, he focuses on his £70 trainers (sneakers) getting ruined. This immediately pisses me off, because people like this should just stay home. Stop traveling, because all you do is make it hard for the rest of us who love it.
All the complaining, disparaging comments, and idiocy would ordinarily turn me off in a big way. It's the reason I fucking hate the show The Amazing Race. But I find An Idiot Abroad to be absolutely fascinating. Karl Pilkington may be a crotchety Englishman who sums up his entire time in India by saying "I hated it"... but he's also decent, kind, and caring at heart. He so obviously doesn't mean to be offensive or irritating that it's hard to stay mad at him. There are several moments throughout the series where you catch glimpses of Karl trying his best to give it a go and embrace the culture, and it's what has me loving the show so much. In the afore-mentioned Holi celebration, people are pelting him with colors while he protests. But then you see a little girl who can't reach him, so he bends down and lets her dump color on his head...
I am guessing that there are a lot of moments like this but, since they aren't "funny," they get edited out of the show. Yet somehow they manage to keep just enough of Karl being a decent bloke to keep An Idiot Abroad from being a total disaster.
And then there's the sights...
I give both An Idiot Abroad and The Ricky Gervais Show my highest possible recommendation...
And so ends my week of vacation and the wonderful thing that was Bitchsterdam 3.
Posted on Friday, May 4th, 2012
HOLY CRAP WHAT A FRICKIN' AWESOME MOVIE!!
I don't want to spoil it for anybody, so I'm not going to give away anything. Except to say that The Avengers is a comic book lover's dream that even people who don't care for comic books will enjoy.
Which is not to say it's perfect. There are definitely some moments where it dragged a bit. But, unlike the crappy trio of original X-Men films which wimped out in every way possible, The Avengers attempted to show the brutal reality of what it would be like when a super-hero team come to life. And it totally worked...
Writer/Director Joss Whedon just eclipsed every other comic book super-hero film ever made. And I loved, loved, loved it.
With one small exception.
Which I can't talk about without RUINING THE FILM FOR ANYBODY WHO HASN'T SEEN IT.
So absolutely DO NOT read the extended entry until you've seen the movie. Seriously, you just can't go any further if you haven't seen the film. Even if that's going to be on DVD two years from now. Which it shouldn't be, because this movie is screaming to be seen on the big screen.
But before we get to that, time to update my whole "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard as follows...
The Avengers... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Ghost Rider... C
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A
Jonah Hex... F
Punisher War Zone... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Superman Returns... C+
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
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Posted on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
I love LEGO. I love comic books. I love video games. And I really, really love Batman. So when you find something that combines all these wonderful things into a single product, you'd pretty much assume that it was the most awesome thing every made. You'd almost be correct.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time, LEGO Batman: The Videogame. Unsurprisingly, the company behind the magic, Traveler's Tales, has attempted to make it a bigger, badder, better sequel in every way. They mostly succeed because of two things... 1) The game is huge, and has the entirety of Gotham City available as an open-world zone, and 2) Batman & Robin are joined by a bunch of other heroes from throughout the DC Universe. The end-result is far from perfect, but so much fun that it's easy to overlook the flaws...
And speaking of flaws, I might as well get the bad news out of the way...
First of all, there isn't much new here. If you've played the LEGO Star Wars games, LEGO Indiana Jones games, LEGO Harry Potter games, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean games, or the previous LEGO Batman... you've played this. But you already knew that would be the case.
Secondly, the "driving" levels are still just as pointless, shitty, and impossible to control as ever. Why Traveler's Tales ignores the criticism from, well, everybody, when it comes to the sloppy controls, redundant gameplay, and overall frustration on every LEGO driving game they've made is a complete mystery to me.
Third, the new "open-world" that allows you to explore a sprawling Gotham City is a fantastic addition to the game (especially when you are flying above it all as Superman!)... but navigating it is a hellish ordeal because there's no HUD or mini-map or decent navigation tool to help you get around. I have no clue whatsoever as to why Traveler's Tales ignored this basic video game staple, but it's an oversight that seriously undermines the fun to be had.
Putting all that aside, there's some new stuff that's kind of cool...
In addition to the "open-world" that I can't shut up about, Batman and Robin each get a new specialty suits, which is always cool, but the addition of characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, and others, mix up the game even more. That's beyond cool.
As expected, the stories are funny, the visuals are fantastic, the levels are nicely designed, and the puzzles are really well done. What was unexpected was the characters talk! No longer reduced to pantomime for communication, the LEGO mini-figs have entirely new appeal now that they can actually talk. Bonus? The voice talent they got was perfect.
But the biggest improvement? I didn't find myself falling off things nearly as often as I did in previous LEGO video games. I still have nightmares of dying again and again and again as I tried to jump from platform to stupid platform with the insane precision required in LEGO Star Wars, so this is a welcome relief.
Everything else is pretty much more of the same as all the other LEGO games. Team-play is still available so you and a friend can battle together. You still have to button-mash your way through redundant combat as you solve puzzles. You still have to collect LEGO studs, red bricks, gold bricks, and other stuff so you can unlock characters and features. You still can't really die. And once you finish all the levels, you still have untold hours of gameplay left as you obsess over collecting every last prize and achievement to be found by replaying levels as different characters.
Needless to say, I love it.
Next up? LEGO Lord of the Rings... I can't possibly imagine how awesome that game will be.
Posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
I finally made it to Taco Bell to try their new "Cantina Bell" menu... which is supposed to be a "gourmet" selection of Mexican dishes.
My expectations were understandably low. This is, after all, Taco Bell.
I ordered the Veggie Cantina Salad with a side of guacamole and chips. The salad consisted of a bed of warm cilantro rice topped with black beans, lettuce, guacamole, roasted corn & pepper salsa, pico de gallo, and a cilantro dressing.
All I can say is bravo, Taco Bell... bravo...
The salad was excellent. All the ingredients were tasty, fresh, and of good quality. The guacamole was creamy and had good flavor. I loved the roasted corn & pepper salsa. The beans and cilantro rice were cooked to perfection. The dressing had a nice "tang" to it and tied everything together nicely. I would have liked to have had a little cheese sprinkled on top, but it wasn't a deal-breaker.
I can't wait to try the Cantina Veggie Burrito, which takes all the salad ingredients and wraps them in a flour tortilla that looks to be toasted. I'm betting it's even better than the salad...
This photo (taken from Cantina Bell) shows dead chicken in the burrito, which I'd skip.
Any one of the three sides (guac, salsa, pico de gallo) with chips and a Pepsi can be added for just $2!
The recipes for all this great stuff are courtesy of Lorena Garcia. Not only is she a famous chef who comes up with good recipes... she's totally hot and is a contestant on the current season of Top Chef Masters as well...
I can honestly say that my Cantina Bell meal at Taco Bell... YES, TACO BELL!... was as good as I've had at some finer Mexican restaurants, even though you're eating it with a plastic spork from a crappy plastic bowl. I will absolutely be eating at "Cantina Bell" again, and hope that the menu sticks around for a while.
If you need a quick meal and feel like some pretty good Mexican fare, give it a shot!
Posted on Saturday, December 8th, 2012
I'm a bit of a video game whore, even though I rarely have time to play them. But that hasn't stopped me from acquiring a plethora of gaming hardware over the years, including the Atari 2600, Microvision, Nintendo NES, ColecoVision, Atari 7800, Nintendo GameBoy, Atari Lynx & Lynx II, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo GameBoy Color, Nintendo GameBoy Advance, Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo DS, Nintendo DS Lite, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and the Sony PlayStation 3.
And, of course, there were a bunch of computers capable of playing games tossed in there (most notably by Atari and Apple) plus a bunch of dedicated handhelds like Mattel Electronic Football and Electronic Poker. Oh... and my iPhone/iPad, which has all kinds of games on them.
And, for a while there, it looked as though my gaming future was going to be the iPhone/iPad.
But the lack of a dedicated control pad make for a crappy experience. And the lack of LEGO titles meant that the games I most wanted to play weren't available.
Enter the Nintendo 3DS XL...
I had played around with the original 3DS, but the 3D screen gave me a headache. I had read that the new "90% bigger screens" of the XL version was easier to view properly, so I decided to give it a shot.
And it's pretty awesome.
The 3D really looks great and, on the larger screen, is much easier to see... though the resolution is kinda low and chunky. The only problem with the glasses-free 3D technology is that you have to hold the hardware a specific distance from your face and look at it straight-on for the best effect. Start looking at the screen at more than a couple degrees off-angle and the screen will darken and eventually go all blurry. At first, this was a problem for me, but now I seem to instinctually hold it properly, so it's not a problem at all.
Having dedicated controls is what makes a hand-held video game superior than a mobile phone for gaming, and Nintendo has quite an assortment. The buttons on the shoulders and right-hand side are pretty standard. As is the D-pad on the left. But above the D-pad is the "Circle Pad." It is glorious. So smooth and precise that gameplay is much improved. A lot of people complained that Nintendo should have put another Circle Pad on the right-hand side (rather than doing so with a clunky add-on) and I have to agree. That would make shooter games a dream to play on the 3DS XL. Oh well.
Both of Nintendo's 3D units have a lot of features outside of gaming... most of them kind of lame, overly-complex, and unnecessary, to be honest. There's "Spot-Pass" and "Street-Pass" for exchanging data with Nintendo, your friends, and even random strangers you pass on the street. There's Mii creation functionality taken from the Wii to make an avatar of yourself. There's an e-shop for buying games and apps. There's internet connectivity and friend codes for playing games with friends over the web. There's a sound editor of some kind. It goes on and on. I will probably use very little of this stuff. I just want to play games.
There's also a crappy, grainy, low-res 3D camera on the back (plus an equally shitty front-facing 2D camera) which can read QR codes. I can't show you what the photos look like without having you look at the 3DS's full-color 3D screen, but I can have Photoshop break out the MPO 3D image file into a cheesy red/blue 3D thing for your to look at...
Get out your 3D glasses! Note how the further back you go, the more the image skews to create the 3D effect.
The camera also saves out a non-3D JPEG image that you can look at on any computer or other device capable of displaying JPEGs. But the quality is so bad, why would you want to?
I guess if you needed a camera in an emergency and your phone wasn't handy, this would be better than nothing. But not by much. Since Nintendo saves the photos to a standard SD memory card they are easy to transfer, so I guess there's that.
I'll probably review the 3D games I bought later on, once I've had time to play them a little more... but I am compelled to mention that my main reason for buying this handheld in the first place was the abundance of LEGO games available...
Sure, they're not very challenging. But they are a lot of fun. Except for the Lord of the Rings game. The battle system is really flawed, which makes playing it more of a chore than fun. Especially for casual, on-the-go pick-up gaming. Unfortunately the 3DS LEGO games don't have all the features of their console counterparts, which means there's less to do. But, on the other hand, you can take it with you.
Nintendo being Nintendo, there's a bunch of great Nintendo-themed games featuring popular characters and properties like Mario, Professor Layton, Link, Nintendogs, Pilotwings, Mario Kart, and the like. No Kirby or Pokemon yet though, which is kind of alarming. Still, a library plenty packed with quality games that people want to play.
Overall, I'm fairly impressed. More than anything else, the Nintendo 3DS Xl is fun, which is kind of the point of video games. If you have the original 3DS, it's probably debatable whether it's worth the $200 price tag to upgrade so quickly (though the bigger screens are SO nice). But if you own any other previous-generation handheld, the 3DS XL is worth checking out.
Posted on Saturday, March 9th, 2013
I don't like theater.
I hate musicals.
I have a general distaste for ridiculing somebody's faith.
Which makes the idea of seeing the smash musical The Book of Mormon a strange prospect...
I enjoyed it.
Not really my thing, but South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone kept it funny enough that I didn't mind all the singing and dancing that usually causes my eyes to roll back into my head. The icing on the cake was the set design, which was really well done.
As for ridiculing the Mormons...
This was a tough one for me. I have Mormon friends who are some of the nicest, most generous people I've ever met. And even though I disagree strongly with the church's monetary political maneuverings against things like marriage equality (which should result in them losing their tax-exempt status)... I don't find their religion to be any more strange or as unusual as any other religion.
And that's where I had a problem.
I'm sure the Christians in the audience were laughing their heads off at some of the more outlandish things that come from The Book of Mormon. "Ha ha ha ha! Those Mormons believe some crazy shit... that's so funny!" Which only leads me to believe that they've never actually read their Bible, because it's filled with all kinds of stuff that's equally hard to believe. Unless you have faith in it. Like the Mormons do in their sacred texts.
Whenever a satire like this is made spoofing Christianity or Islam or Judaism or whatever... people go ape-shit. But the Mormons? They have a sense of humor about it all. They take out ads in the Playbill...
This made me feel a little less guilty for laughing along with the crowd, but I couldn't get it out of my head how a chunk of the audience would have a very different reaction if it was their faith that was being poked fun of.
Anyway, back to the show...
The Book of Mormon is a play in two acts. It tells the story of two young Mormons who get sent on a mission to a poor and war-torn area of Uganda. One of them is Elder Price, who is the perfect example of the Mormon faithful, and confident he will succeed in his task to convert Africans to Mormonism. The other is Elder Cunningham, who is basically playing Jonah Hill acting more annoying and stupid than usual, and is the polar opposite of Elder Price.
As the story proceeds, Price starts losing his faith as the task at hand ends up being much more difficult than he ever imagined... and Cunningham becomes an accidental hero thanks to his talent for telling lies. Hilarity (and I mean genuinely funny hilarity) ensues.
Overall, the play is as good as everybody you've ever known who has seen it has said it is. I think it gets a bit sloppy and disjointed in the second act, but it's not a deal-breaker. Parker and Stone (along with Robert Lopez) reveal true genius here, and there's some unexpected sweetness woven into the story that makes it pretty irresistible.
But not for everyone.
The two people sitting next to me arrived very late, taking their seats just as the Hasa Diga Eebowai number was in full swing. It's basically a song where the natives are saying "fuck you, God" as a way of dealing with the abject misery that fills their every waking hour.
They left at intermission and never came back. They let their displeasure be known, however... their Playbills were ripped to pieces and laying on the floor.
I guess everybody is entitled to their opinion, but how in the fuck can you show up to The Book of Mormon at this stage of the game and not know what you're in for? I guess they are just really uninformed. Or totally stupid. Or both.
Oh well. It certainly made me more comfortable to have the extra room.
So... for anybody in Chicago who has a tolerance for naughty words and a bit of blasphemy... I recommend seeing The Book of Mormon if you get a chance. The cast was incredibly talented, the story inspired and, even if you hate musical theater like me, there's enough to make it worth your time and hard-earned money.
Posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2015
This post has been a long time coming.
When it comes to book publishers, far and away my favorite is the house of Dorling-Kindersley.
I first became aware of them through their amazing Eyewitness Travel Guides. With the motto "We show you what others only tell you," they raised the bar so impossibly high that once I discovered them, I never purchased another brand of travel guide. And, indeed, once I stopped buying travel guides in favor of web research, I threw out over a hundred books... save for my impressive collection of DK guides, which I still have. They were simply too beautiful to trash...
Back in the day I was so addicted to Eyewitness Guides that I would even buy them after I visited places because they were the best possible souvenir of the region. Many times I ended up buying them for locations I had no intention of visiting because they were the next best thing to actually having been there. The sheer depth of visual information paired with clear, well-written text proved irresistible to my travel-nerd tendencies, and I ended up with close to fifty of them...
Even today if I ever find a DK guide on sale and it's one I don't have yet, I buy it. They are still one of the best resources for travel you can get... even though I rarely look at them to plan my travels.
As you can imagine, once I learned that DK was broadening their focus outside the travel arena, I was thrilled. They've created visual guides for all kinds of topics, and they're every bit as good as their travel books.
Most any topic you can think of, DK has a visual guide for it!
But far and away my very favorite of the DK visual guides? Star Wars. Especially Star Wars LEGO Universe books...
But they have an amazing selection of "regular" Star Wars books as well. I think I own just about all of them, but there are a few standouts. Like the Star Wars: Incredible Cross-sections books...
DK's latest Star Wars book has just been released, and it's pretty great.
The title is ULTIMATE STAR WARS! And they mean it. This book has an extensive guide to the characters & creatures, locations, technology, and vehicles of both the Original Trilogy and the crappy Prequel Trilogy. As if that wasn't enough, it seamlessly blends in the various canon animated series as well...
Most of the information has already been released in previous books, but this "Ultimate" guide attempts (and succeeds!) in blending a variety of updated sources into a kind of narrative you can follow. This is bad news for those wanting a more encyclopedic take on the information... but you get a full index for that, so I wasn't too bothered.
As expected, the quality of the book is amazing. All 320 pages are artfully constructed for both visual appeal and clarity. Major characters and locations get a beautiful double-page spread, while minor characters get space appropriate to their place in the grand scheme of things... Wedge Antilles, for example, gets a half-page... Biggs Darklighter gets a quarter... Jek Prokins gets an eighth. Even the lady shaver "Comlink" is given an eighth, which should tell you just how complete the material in this book is.
Now that new LucasFilm owner Disney has completely jettisoned the "Star Wars Expanded Universe" and redefined what's "canon" when it comes to all things Star Wars. this book presents a streamlined and surprisingly complete look at what's "official" when it comes to a universe far, far away. So if you're looking for a Star Wars companion to prepare you for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens film coming this December, this is the book to get.
A warning, however... the information provided for all the characters, creatures, locations, technology, and vehicles is limited to only official canon sources... which, apparently, is what we know from the movies, novelizations, and animated series. Anything that was elaborated on in the "Expanded Universe" sources is gone, gone, gone as if it never happened. This is a bit sad for fans of the stories that have now gone missing, but I suppose it's for the best in the grand scheme of things now that Disney is revitalizing the franchise.
The retail price of the book is $40. Amazon is selling it for $25, which is a heck of a bargain. The problem being that Amazon doesn't give a shit about getting books to you in good condition anymore. They used to shrink-wrap them to cardboard so the cover wrap would stay pristine and the corners don't get banged up. Now they just toss the thing in a box and put a tiny air pillow on top. Your cover-wrap WILL get fucked up. Your corners WILL get dinged. Which is unfortunate, but that's what a $25 price tag gets you now-a-days.
In any event, as a massive Star Wars whore, I really can't help but give the book a coveted Dave Approved seal...
If you're even a passive Star Wars fan, this is $25 well-spent. Go get a copy.
Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
Welcome to the first installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
First up? The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens...
I liked The Force Awakens okay, and will review the film in another couple weeks (once I'm sure most of the people who want to see it have seen it). If you are one of the billions of people who has already seen the film and also enjoyed it, the Art Of... book is worth a look.
Like all of these type books, it's a compilation of a shit-ton of pre-production art that was used when developing the look of the movie. What makes this one a little different is that it's not organized into sections (locations, characters, props, vehicles, etc.) but is instead presented chronologically. This is very cool in the case of Force Awakens, where the story, concepts, and characters changed quite a lot as the movie what coming together. Seeing how things evolved in relations to each other is fascinating, and it's interesting to learn how changes in one part of the film influenced changes in another.
A lot of times, these books are only as good as the talented people creating the art and, since this is Lucasfilm, you're getting a great many people who are the absolute best in the industry being showcased. This would all be all for nothing if the images of their work were cut down to tiny sizes, but a lot of the time it's occupying full pages... and double-page spreads. And since the book is a nice size, you really get a good look at the painstaking detail that went into every piece.
Overall, this is a beautiful book with a lot of interesting information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you're a fan of the film... or just a fan of the Star Wars universe in general, this is pretty much essential reading.
RATING: A • DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $24 at Amazon.
Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2016
Welcome to the second installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
What did I buy this time? The Ring WiFi Doorbell
Call me anti-social, but there's two things I really don't like... 1) Talking to people on the phone, and 2) Having uninvited visitors drop by my home. And when the person calling or dropping by is a salesman or political organization or somebody wanting me to convert religions? That's even more annoying.
When it comes to the phone, I just don't answer it when the caller ID is somebody I don't want to talk to or the identity is blocked. But what can you do when it's somebody ringing your doorbell? My door has a glass panel on it... it's not like I can sneak up and see who's disturbing my peace.
Ring is a "smart" doorbell with a camera, a microphone/speaker, and a motion sensor... all wrapped up in a package that's connected to the internet.
This means that you can get an alert on your phone when somebody approaches your door... see who it is... then talk to them to find out what in the hell they want. And you can do that whether you're in your living room... or around the world. Couple Ring with a connected door lock, and you can also let them in your home if you want...
The main reason I got Ring was because of UPS deliveries. They say your package is out for delivery and will be delivered by 5:30 so you wait until 6:00 just to be safe... then leave because you've got better things to do than wait for a package that never showed up... only to have it ultimately be delivered at 6:45 when you're not there. And then you've got a package sitting on your doorstep that could get stolen before you even realize it's been dropped off. With Ring I can be alerted when UPS approaches the door, see that they've rand my doorbell and run off, and know that I've got to run home and get it before somebody steals it. Neat, huh?
And, for that purpose, Ring works exactly as advertised.
Where you run into problems is when you want to interact with somebody. I called a neighbor and asked them to go ring my doorbell so I could see what happens when somebody presses it. Since I had motion detection enabled, I knew they were approaching before they even pressed the doorbell, then received another alert once they did. Problem was that the alerts were not instantaneous like it is with my INSTEON and Nest devices. The first time I was playing around with Ring, the delay was so long that I wondered if I had set it up wrong. My worry is that somebody will ring your doorbell then leave before you are alerted they were there. Subsequent tests were a mixed bag. Many times it was pretty quick... other times it was a bit slower. I don't know if it's the doorbell, my internet, or Ring's messaging service that's the problem, but it could be problematic if you have an impatient caller. Not a deal-breaker for me, but something to be aware of.
And now for a run-down...
Camera: When it comes to optics, Ring isn't bad at all. The 180° wide-angle lens gives you a clear view of everything happening around it in 720p resolution (1280 x 720). Even better, it has night vision so you can see in the dark. For $30 a year, any video your Ring captures is stored in the cloud. This way if somebody steals your UPS delivery off your doorstep, you can retrieve a video for the police. Ironically, this also allows you to have footage of somebody stealing your Ring, in which case they mail you a replacement for free. One pitfall that surprised me is that you can't access the camera whenever you want just to take a look outside your door. In order to see what's going on, Ring has to detect motion or sense a press of the doorbell button before the camera activates. I guess this is to save battery, but it seems a no-brainer of a feature to have, and should be up to the purchaser what's a good use of battery power.
Microphone/Speaker: Works pretty much as you'd expect for a Voice Over Internet application. I was able to hear them. They were able to hear me. They advertise "active noise cancellation," but I didn't have any noise going on to test that.
Motion Detector: Surprisingly sensitive. My doorbell is off to the side (not facing the street), yet it was still alerting me to cars driving by. Fortunately, you can reign in the sensitivity and choose which areas to monitor, so this isn't a problem at all. As mentioned above, the only issue I've run across is that there can be a bit of a delay between when motion is detected and I get an alert.
Cloud: As mentinoed, Ring records video every time it detects motion or somebody presses the doorbell button. This video is then uploaded to the cloud as it's shot so you can retrieve it from your phone whenever you want. I believe I read somewhere that they store 6 months of footage. You get a 30 day free trial with purchase, then have to pay $3 a month or $30 a year to keep using it. A small price to pay given how handy it can be to have access to your video events.
Power: Ring has batteries inside of it that can be charged over USB. This means you can stick your Ring wherever you want. Unfortunately, you have to remove the unit from your house and let it charge overnight every time it runs out. According to Ring (the company) the battery can last up to a year. Reviewers were saying it was a lot less, depending on how much activity your doorbell experiences. This wasn't an issue for me, however, as I used the power from the wiring of my old doorbell to power my Ring.
Installation: Attaching it to my home wasn't a big deal (drill bit, screws*, and screwdriver included!), and setting up the device with my iPhone was fairly painless. If you get stuck, there are step-by-step videos available for everything.
Doorbell: As expected, Ring passes a signal to your doorbell chime when somebody presses it. If you don't have a chime, you can purchase a WiFi chime that plugs into an outlet and connects with Ring to give you one.
And that's pretty much it. Except to say that it comes with a 1-year warranty.
Ring has solved a problem I knew I had... solved other problems I didn't know I had ... and increased the security of my home. If I could rely on the notification delivery speed and had the ability to view a live feed from the camera whenever I wanted, this would be a solid "A" product.
RATING: B+ • DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $199 at Amazon.
* Helpful hint... the screws they give you are shit. Very soft metal that broke on three of the four screws when I attempted to drive them into the siding of my home... AFTER I HAD DRILLED PILOT HOLES! Do yourself a favor and pick up some good-quality wood screws when you pick up your Ring so you don't have to make another trip to Home Depot like I did.
Posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2016
Welcome to the third installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
What did I buy this time? Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System Speakers.
When watching movies at home, there's really no substitute for a good set of surround sound speakers. Without them, everything is forced into two channels (left and right) which means all the dialogue, audio effects, ambient noise, and other sounds are fighting each other as they travel to your ears. This results in you having to turn the volume up and down and up and down as you try to hear what people are saying in quiet moments, but don't want to have the volume blow you out of your chair the minute something loud happens.
As that weren't bad enough, when you have only two speakers... whether they be in your television or outside of it... the sound is blasting towards you in one direction rather than being the immersive experience it was designed to be.
Enter surround sound.
A typical 5.1 Surround Sound speaker setup works like this...
CENTER CHANNEL: This is where all the main spoken dialogue comes from. Sound engineers separate out people talking because (in most cases) it's the most critical audio in the film, and they want to be sure it's not trampled over by other sounds in the scene. It's critical that the center speaker be put as close to your television as possible so that voices seem to be coming from the mouths of the people speaking it.
LEFT & RIGHT FRONT CHANNEL: Most everything happening in the camera that's not dialogue (plus all sounds recorded to the sides of the camera's view) comes from these speakers. If you watch a car zoom past the screen from left to right, the sound should start in the left speaker, then travel to the right speaker.LEFT & RIGHT REAR CHANNEL: These are the speakers that provide sound for what's going on behind the camera, and are critical for an immersive audio experience. When you're watching Star Wars and a TIE fighter screams into the scene, you hear it coming from behind you before you see it, then the sound moves to the front channels as it becomes visible.
SUBWOOFER: That deep, rumbling bass that accompanies sounds from explosions, thunder, and other massive-volume audio is supposed to be something you feel when you hear it. A subwoofer is built to do just that. And since low frequencies like this are non-directional, you can put the subwoofer anywhere you like... though placement next to objects can affect the sound, so it's always good to experiment when choosing a spot.
There's also 7.1 Surround Sound, which adds two additional channels to the rear of the room to further distinguish audio cues that are placed behind you. It's nice if you've got the space for it, but not essential if you don't. Other sound setups which add additional channels for high sounds and side sounds are also out there, but you need a pretty high-end room with space to spare in order to best make use of them.
As if all that weren't enough, companies have developed even more sophisticated sound technologies (such as Dolby Atmos) which do away with the channel model altogether and have the ability to create spatial sounds within a matrix of specially-designed speakers in a 5.1.4 or 7.1.4 configuration (definitely a topic for another time).
This surround sound stuff is all well and good... but if you have a smaller room (like I do), where are you going to fit all those speakers? Using typical stereo speakers would not only be overkill in my 11-1/2' square living room... but they would take up a considerable chunk of space. Smaller speakers that are worth a crap tend to be very, very expensive... so what to do?
Enter Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System Speakers. Small speakers engineered to have big sound for smaller spaces at a great price.
And boy howdy are they nice.
After I took the time to get everything balanced and optimized the levels on my amp, I'm getting pretty remarkable sound out of these babies. All five speakers are the same size (despite the center channel having a different enclosure) and provide clear, crisp sound that's perfect for a terrific surround experience. The subwoofer has really good low-frequency response and pushes bass you can feel with minimal distortion.
Surprisingly powerful for their size, the Energy speakers have no problem filling my small room, and can even fill my entire home at higher volumes. I bought this set to replace my faithful Pioneer speakers that I've had for decades after I decided they were just too big for the space available. Even though they are a tiny fraction of the size, I honestly don't feel I've sacrificed anything. If anything, I've gained quality by going from stereo to 5.1 surround.
The speakers come with a screw-hook mount to hang them against a wall, but it's really recommended that you buy speaker stands so they can breath a bit (I like the Atlantic Satellite stands). The plugs are nice enough... don't know that they're gold at this price, but they do have pop-outs if you use banana plugs like I do. I wish they weren't angled weird and were a little more spaced apart so my stand brackets weren't so tight between them, but these aren't deal-breakers.
If I have a complaint it wouldn't be anything related to the sound... but the look. The speakers are enclosed in high-gloss black cases that attract dust like a magnet and show every smudge and fingerprint. It's really tough to keep them looking their best, and I really wish there was a textured matte option for people who don't want to dust their speakers every day.
Overall, a good set of speakers for a home theater system that will also do a decent job with music if space is at a premium. Fairly priced too.
RATING: B+ • DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $316 at Amazon.
Posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2016
Welcome to the fifth installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
What did I buy this time? The Denon AVR-S910W Dolby 7.2 Channel 4K Receiver.
I loathe having to buy new stereo equipment.
But receivers are handling a heck of a lot more than just audio now-a-days... receivers are the hub for both audio and video. So whenever video standards change, your equipment has to change with it. When we went from RCA jack video to composite video and optical sound? New receiver. When we got S-Video? New receiver. When we went to HDMI? New receiver. And now that HDMI has been improved with a new version 2 at 4K and shitty fucking copy protection has been unimproved with HDCP 2.2? New receiver.
I mean, sure, you can always use old inputs on an old receiver... I've been doing that for years and living with the lower quality picture... but it's time to upgrade.
I've been a huge fan of Pioneer equipment over the years, but they don't seem to be pushing the envelope now-a-days. My next favorite brand is Sony, but it was a more expensive option for what I wanted. So I spent days researching which receivers were getting good marks now-a-days and settled on Denon. The have a number of different models, but the AVR-S910W was on sale for a great price and did more than I needed, so here we are.
Aesthetically, the unit could easily be confused with dozens of other receivers since they're all looking the same now-a-days... though this line seems to be a bit more minimalistic, which I like. It has a fraction of the buttons of the old Pioneer it's replacing. Since most HDMI electronics can talk to each other via CEC (Consumer Electronic Control), you rarely need to press anything anyway. Turn on your AppleTV and CEC switches the receiver for you. It's mostly automatic and entirely awesome. What's crazy, however, is that the buttons you most need for non-HDMI devices (because they can't be automatically controlled) ARE MISSING. Want to switch the audio source to Bluetooth so you can play music off your iPhone? Hope you have the remote handy, because there's no button for that on the receiver itself.
And speaking of the remote... it's yet another button nightmare where you have to go hunting for what you want. Which sucks to be sure (why is it only Apple can minimize crap on remotes?) but it is fairly well organized, so there's that.
In addition to the afore-mentioned HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 compliance on all 8 of its HDMI ports (nice!), the 910 can also handle the forthcoming HDR picture spec and upscale signal from your old video equipment to full 4K. It's this last feature that sold me on the 910 over the cheaper 710, as I have old 8mm decks that will benefit from the upscaling technology. Since the 910 has an $80 instant rebate in effect, the price difference was $0, which is money well-spent.
For gamers out there worried about video processing lag, I couldn't detect any. But, then again, I'm playing everything on a Wii U now-a-days, which isn't quite so demanding compared to next-gen consoles by Sony and Microsoft. I'm assuming it won't be a problem, as the 910 has plenty of processing power to get the job done.
But enough about the video... what's going on with the audio?
Since I prefer to listen to music in headphones, the primary function of my new Denon receiver will be for home theater surround sound. Support for 7.1 surround is a given, but the unit can also handle new 3D spatial sound technology like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X... which seems a cool idea, but there's nothing really available in the consumer space encoded with those technologies yet and it requires adding more speakers than I want in my small living room. Still... nice for future-proofing the unit, I suppose. Surprisingly, you can run two subwoofers off this receiver, which I didn't even know was a thing. Since low frequencies are non-directional, I thought this was a one-and-done, but apparently two subwoofers provide a richer bass experience.
The sound itself seems very good. I'm no audiophile, but everything I've listened to is well-defined and separated out perfectly on my speaker system. Since my setup is small and fairly undemanding, the 910 is massive overkill in the power department, but it's nice to know I've got the ability to run some serious speakers at 185w per channel if I ever need to.
Denon has its own proprietary system for wireless speakers called "HEOS" which is meant to be direct competition with SONOS. If I could afford a wireless speaker system, I'd bypass HEOS because it has to share your WiFi network instead of creating a separate mesh network like SONOS does. This is a serious deal breaker, because most WiFi networks are close to saturated given all the crap we keep connected to the internet in these modern times. So while HEOS support is nice, I supposed, I have a feeling most people won't bother with it.
If you sacrifice 2 channels from a 7.1 system and can live with a 5.1 surround setup, you can repurpose those two channels as a different speaker "zone" which can be placed in another room and play from a completely different audio source. I honestly think this is kind of silly, but I guess there are some scenarios where it might be useful.
Like most receivers today, the Denon has built-in Bluetooth and WiFi for live streaming. It has support for Pandora, Spotify and Sirius XM on-deck, and can also interface with Apple Airplay-enabled devices like iPhones, iPads, and Macs. There's also support for internet radio, but the "stations" are kind of clubky to access, so I probably wouldn't. Thanks to Denon's apps for mobile devices, you can control the receiver with your iOS and Android devices. It seem capable, but also overly complex and cluttered. Still, it does easily allow you to control functions and tie into media servers as sources fairly easily, so worth the free-fitty-free pricetag.
When it comes to set-up, the AVR-S910W is dead-simple. You can use your iPhone to grab all the WiFi settings via Airplay which is super-sweet (no WiFi? Ethernet is also available). Then it's just a matter of following the on-screen instructions displayed on your TV to match your speaker setup. Thanks to the Audyssey Bronze calibration system being built-in, you can optimize your levels with ease. Just place the included microphone on a tripod in the middle of the room and the 910 will play tones to measure your speakers. The system them creates a custom profile based on room acoustics to give you optimal sound at every volume level. I know this reeks of silly gadgetry that usually ends up being useless... but can honestly say I noticed an immediate quality improvement after running through the Audyssey program. Pretty cool.
The on-screen user interface is serviceable enough, but kind of pathetic by today's standards. Mostly a bunch of text staring at you, it looks badly dated. Why Denon would invest money in all the latest bells and whistles only to choose to saddle it with a 1990's wrapper is more than a little inexplicable.
Something I've never seen before is Denon's "Eco Mode" which attempts to save electricity by restricting power to each channel based on the volume you've set. I notice no difference on my tiny speakers with Eco Mode on, so I've just left it there.
If there's a flaw to be found with the AVR-S910W, it's this... THERE IS NO SWITCHED POWER OUTLET ON THE BACK! Which means your subwoofer gets to be powered on all the time unless you want to get up, walk across the room, and manually cycle the power off when you aren't using it. Which begs the question... WHO FUCKING DOES THIS?!? Seriously, what idiotic excuse could they have for leaving off a switched outlet for your subwoofer from the feature list? Every fucking receiver I've ever owned has had a switched power outlet until now. It's senseless bullshit like this that takes great products and sabotages them utterly. This is such a moronic oversight that I am compelled to drop a grade from my score even though the unit is otherwise perfect. I just naturally assumed I'd have my outlet and was dumbfounded when I went to plug in my subwoofer and saw there wasn't one. Somebody at Denon needs to pull their head out of their ass on this one, because it makes the company look like complete idiots. Had I known about this inexcusable flaw, I don't know if I would have purchased it. But probably. There's just so many great things about it compared to the competition in this price range.
RATING: B • RELUCTANTLY DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $479 at Amazon.
Posted on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
It's probably too early to declare The 1975's i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it as my favorite album of 2016, but I can't fathom anything coming along to move this breathtaking work out of my top spot. The album is a bit eclectic, with some musical numbers injected between the songs, but it's a full volume of awesome, even when they're skipped over...
Probably my favorite track on the album is Change of Heart. Remarkably, it's lyrically a direct sequel to the song The City on their previous album. In a very cool, yet heartbreaking way. The band played this at the concert I went to with Aaron back in December, and I'm glad I finally get a studio version to listen to...
And then there's Somebody Else, which is a hauntingly beautiful track that hasn't left my head since I first heard it. I could probably listen to this on repeat for days before getting tired of it...
For a pure 80's flashback episode, look no further than the bouncy This Must Be My Dream...
The song Paris is one of those melodic masterpieces that drifts into your consciousness when you least expect it...
A song that's bound to cause a bit of controversy for dissing a big chunk of The 1975's fans comes in the form of She's American. It's a bit over the top, but is speaking to a point, I suppose...
I could just go on gushing over all the tracks on the album, but I'll probably stop here and wrap up with the last video the band released for The Sound, which addresses the band's critics in a way that's more thought-provoking than antagonistic...
And so... as if it weren't obvious... I give the album my highest recommendation. It doesn't stray too far from what made them an instant favorite with their first album, but isn't a clone that would just be boring.
Posted on Monday, March 28th, 2016
You know how when you dig into a big bowl of cereal how the first two or three bites are utter perfection? The cereal crisp... the milk cold... and no sogginess to be found?
Then, like the inevitability of death and taxes, the milk starts to permeate your Cocoa Puffs and they grow increasingly less crunchy with each new bite and you'd give anything to get back to those glorious moments of cereal perfection?
"Only every single morning!" you say.
Well, there's an invention called Obol that aims to fix all this...
As you can see in the above photo, your cereal is kept high and dry in the top portion while the milk is safely waiting in the lower section. When you want to take a bite, you just push a spoonful of kibble into the milk and chow down with crunchy perfection.
And while Obol doesn't have a cooling unit to keep your milk cold, it does have kind of a "handle" on the bottom so you don't have to wrap your hands around the bowl and have your body heat warming your milk.
If you are a cereal fanatic like me, Obol is a must-purchase. It's a little pricey, but oh so worth it.
Unfortunately, I think Obol is going out of business or something, because most of the colors/sizes are out of stock and the pricing is weird at Amazon. If you're interested, I'd act sooner rather than later...
Medium Single Serve obol: $14.95, Large Double Serve Obol: $14.99
Posted on Thursday, March 31st, 2016
For decades I've been vowing that if I were to ever get my own place, I would never have carpeting again.
This was only confirmed when I pulled out the carpeting in my new home only to find that massive amounts of dirt were sitting beneath... belying the clean appearance of the carpet from above. It's pretty heinous... even if you're got a power vacuum like a Dyson.
The problem with hardwood is that it makes for some slippery stairs... especially if you have kittens that struggle to climb them and need something to grab onto. This means buying some stair treads, which is easier said than done, as there are a number of hurdles to overcome. First of all, decent stair treads are really expensive. I've seen them as high as $50... per stair! Second of all, I am picky in that I want something which blends in with my flooring as much as possible... but still stands out enough so people know they're there. Since I couldn't find them local, I had to best-guess while shopping online, which is always dangerous as the color you see on your display rarely matches reality.
Amazon here I come.
There were a few options that caught my eye, but the one that really stood out was the treads by casapura...
So I ordered them with my expectations kept in check.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found that they were absolutely perfect. The quality. The color. The shape. The size. Everything. They look far more expensive than $89, and work perfectly for my kittens to navigate the stairs safely...
If I have one complaint, it's that quite a few treads didn't have the pattern perpendicular to the edge. It's not hugely noticeable, but for somebody ADD like me, it does drive you a little crazy. Other than that, I'm very happy with the casa pura stair treads... and even happier that I only had to pay $89 for them.
When it comes to installation, it's pretty straight-forward. There are adhesive strips on the back which keep the tread securely positioned. Some people in their Amazon reviews complained that it wasn't strong enough, but mine have been holding just great. I was sure to carefully clean and dry each step to get the best adhesion, so maybe that's all it takes. I did remove a tread to see if it comes off cleanly, and it did, but I don't know if that changes over time.
A helpful hint: After measuring my treads and stairs, I found that they centered with 4-1/2" gaps on each side. In order to make sure they all lined up perfectly, I found a small box that was 4-1/2" wide to set them against...
This made installation a snap.
You can find the casa pura treads over at Amazon... though, ironically enough, the "chocolate brown" color I purchased is no longer listed.
Posted on Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
When Apple came out with the iPad Pro, I was intrigued. Not because we were getting a giant iPad... but because it was accompanied with "Apple Pencil," which is what Apple calls their touch stylus.
So I went to the store to give one a try and ended up taking a pass. Not because of Pencil, which was amazing (as you'll see), but because the iPad Pro was just too big. I like drawing/painting/sketching while laying on the couch watching TV, and the big iPad felt like it was more of a table-top tool.
Fast-forward to earlier this month, and Apple announced that a smaller model of the iPad Pro would be released on March 31st.
And it's glorious...
There are a lot of iPad reviews out there, so I'm just going to give a quick run-down on what matters to me...
For the most part, I am very, very happy with the iPad Pro... and ecstatic when using it with Apple Pencil and an app like ProCreate that can take advantage of it. This is easily, hands-down, no-bullshit the best stylus tablet experience I've ever had. The fact that it's not tethered to a computer is just icing on the cake. If you're an artist who is considering going digital... or are already a digital artist looking to upgrade, stopping by an Apple Store and checking out the iPad Pro is a no-brainer.