Thursday, December 18, 2003

Celebrity Poker Showdown:
I am completely addicted to this show on Bravo, and owe a big debt to James Lucas Jones for mentioning it to me and sparking my interest. I'm actually shocked that I'm enjoying it this much. The players are mostly actors I really like, but I really don't know poker at all. I played a few games in high school and college at various parties and I suuuuucccked at it. Watching Celebrity Poker Showdown, though, I find myself wanting to get a game going with my buddies.

Fortunately, not enough to actually do it, because who can afford to lose that much money? At any rate, Celebrity Poker turns out to be a blast to watch, and a nice balm for the somewhat dead new TV season, especially during these lean months between sweeps.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The New Place:
Well, after a couple weeks of being mostly static, thanks to a catastrophic computer crash and then moving Internet/phone/cable providers, Inside Joke Theatre is back online.

Cue crickets.

At any rate, this is the new address, and while I'm not crazy about having to put the ~ in the address, otherwise this is pretty much exactly what it used to be. A place for me to store random thoughts, updated whenever the mood strikes me, that I'm amazed anyone would actually read.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Ascending From Hell into Purgatory:
$200 dollars later (and there go my plans to buy a DVD burner for the computer), my computer is working again. Mostly. I had some frustration getting it to recognize the sound card, and the monitor is still reading as Generic Plug and Play, but everything is working, and the random lock-ups seem to be (knock on wood) gone.

Now begins the arduous process of putting all the programs and data back onto the system. Which includes rebuilding a long-standing address book from basically nothing. So if you are someone who has regular contact with me and you want me to have your email address or other contact info, it might not be a bad idea to email it to me again.

Also, we're moving ISPs in a day or two, so this site will no doubt move. Not exactly sure what the URL will be, but it should be on Probably. If you're really curious and can't find it by searching on Inside Joke Theatre, drop me a line at and I'll hook you up with the new address.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Absolute Total Hell:
A little while back, I wrote about a condition in which my computer was randomly locking up. I thought it might be a virus, or a damaged hard drive, or something else. So, when Suzanne and I ordered our videocamera as an early X-Mas present to ourselves, I decided to upgrade: Got a 120 GB hard drive, planning to use it as the new base drive.

After a tortuously long attempt at installing said hard drive, which wasn't helped by a manual for another hard drive that turned out not to be my old one, we finally got the jumpers set right and the master/slave thing worked out and the whole thing up and running. Except: It still locked up at random moments.

Oh, how I miss the halcyon days when that was my computer's only problem.

Through a series of misadventures involving reinstalling Windows XP, changing display drivers and other such things, I eventually found myself with a computer that wasn't even remotely working. Desperate, I called Computer Nerdz here in Austin, they sent someone out, he gave me peace of mind by assuring me that he would have done the same types of things I was trying but much less peace of mind when he couldn't fix the computer any better than I could, at least not without a big huge tech support bill that I couldn't afford.

So it was decided that I would do a clean install of Windows XP on my old hard drive, use the new one as a slave. Except that now the computer was locking up every time I tried to load up Windows, such that it took over two hours just to get it started on the installation. I went to work, hoping Suzanne would be able to keep resetting until eventually the computer would fail to lock up and Windows XP would install.

It did, but then Suzanne ran a virus scan (understand, I'd had McAfee for as long as I'd had this computer) and found a virus. Which might also be the cause of the random lockups. Long story short, my computer is now practically useless. It has Windows XP on it, but it goes about 5-15 minutes between locking up. It has either: A) a virus B) bad memory C) a bad motherboard or D) all of the above. Frankly, I'm at a complete loss. And speaking of loss, somehow the computer managed to lose all of my saved email and my copious address book, neither of which was backed up as most of my data (which it *can* still find) was.

Now I'm working on my (much slower) laptop until I can figure out what to do. One thing's for sure... I'm looking much more seriously at getting a Mac the next time I buy a computer.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The Many Sins of ABC Chapter Six-Hundred and Twelve

Everything that is wrong with television is encapsulated in this story about ABC and Karen Sisco. They plan to change up a critically-acclaimed show by changing one of the very things that made it so interesting (they're going to ditch the hapless, Elmore Leonard style bad guys for something more "dangerous" i.e. "ripped from the headlines?"). I want to give them credit for not giving up on the show, but when the article ends with "We don't want to do anything without everyone being enthusiastic about it" it's hard not to be a bit cynical.

Really? Anything? Yeah, that's definitely the way to create edgy, must-watch television, by making sure that everyone is enthusiastic about every single thing you do.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Karen Sisco:
So AICN is reporting that Karen Sisco has been yanked by ABC. Supposedly, they're going to "relaunch" in March in a new timeslot. Which will no doubt conflict with something else I'm watching.

The only good show to come out of the new season is now gone, 24 is hugely disappointing in Season Three, no new Shield until January... man, it's a good thing I don't have enough free time to watch much TV anyway.

Although I am still *loving* Alias. Wish it wasn't on ABC, given that they've killed so many good shows before their time. And the last two episodes of Angel (the Mexican wrestling episode and Wes's dad) have been pretty good, with my biggest complaint being that I still hate Spike and don't want him on the show.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Las Vegas:
So I went to the Las Vegas Comicon and Diamond/Alliance Retailer summit last weekend. The Con was a bit of a bust, and I would have been pretty pissed if I'd spent my own money on the plane (as opposed to just blowing the cash for the hotel.) It was a good effort, but the organizers wanted to be too big too fast, and it felt very much like one of those "done in 10 minute" small Cons. Still, I got to see a lot of folks who I might not have seen if I went to just the retailer summit, including Bendis, Eric Shanower, Alex Robinson and Kristen Siebecker (of BOP fame), Chris Staros (of Top Shelf), and the Diamond/Alliance summit itself was really well done, even if you did have to walk an enormous distance to get from registration to the events themselves for no readily apparent reason.

Oh, and I got to see several of the water shows at the Bellagio, which were pretty impressive.
I Hate My Computer:
For a while now, my computer has been locking up in miduse. Locks up, won't respond to anything from the keyboard (not even control-alt-delete) and has to be rebooted using the reset button. Which, at least twice, has wiped out information on programs I was running at the time, most notably erasing the contents of my Inbox twice. Pretty annoying, especially this last time, when I had about a dozen messages saved that I needed and hadn't responded to yet.

So the long and short of it is... if you emailed me in the past four or five days and didn't get a response, I might have lost the email, so send it again. And if anyone out there has any ideas how to fix this (I'm running Windows XP, updated regularly, and I have McAfee anti-virus software, also updated regularly, but I'm beginning to suspect it's a virus) I'd appreciate a hint or two.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Just a little housecleaning...
Huh, been a while since I updated, huh? Well, it's either this or Fourth Rail, and I think most folks would rather I put the time into doing reviews.

To update, though... downloaded iTunes for Windows last week, and I *love* it. I've converted all my MP3s into AAC, which saved me quite a bit of space, and have already bought half a dozen tunes in two weeks (most of them from bands I'd never even heard of before). It's not likely to replace CDs for me, because I still want albums, and if I'm going to buy them, I'd rather have hardcopy as well, but it's really cool. And it has me wanting an iPod, even though I really don't need one. Now if I had a car stereo that took an audio input, I'd be much more anxious to get one, but every report I've read indicates that the iPod FM tuners don't work so well for car audio, and that's mostly what I'd want to use it for.

TV... really enjoying Karen Sisco, and otherwise the new season is a complete waste. The stuff I'd been enjoying is still great (I'm *loving* Alias and it's never status-quo status quo, and Nip/Tuck ended very well), good (Smallville is fun, although I could turn it off in a second and never miss it, which I couldn't say for Buffy or Angel at heart) or worrisome (I can't stand that Angel has become Angel & Spike, since I liked Spike as a villain and have hated the character (but not the actor, I should note) for about three seasons of Buffy). Looking forward to 24 (it's beckoning from the Tivo now, but I have made a pact with some friends to only watch it on Friday nights when we're together for gaming) and The Shield (January?! Ah, the downside of 13 episode seasons).

Movies... Saw Kill Bill and enjoyed it. Enjoyed it even more on second viewing. It sits below Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and True Romance in my personal ranking of Tarantino, but if volume two can deliver, I think it will rest just above Jackie Brown. And who knows... for sheer re-watchability, it may exceed Reservoir Dogs as well.

DVDs... Let's see. Caught Dark Blue the other night, which was solid but not exceptional. Before that, I saw Confidence (which I *loved*), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (Lukewarm, and I was disappointed), Bend It Like Beckham (as much fun as everyone said it was), Identity (predictable, but a good way to kill a couple hours), The Italian Job (fun popcorn heist movie, went on my Amazon wish list), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (I think you had to see it when you were in high school to really dig it) and Undercover Brother (stupid but fun).

Music... Just bought Office Space soundtrack and the latest Smash Mouth used (and cheap) from Amazon. My iTunes purchases have been Fountains of Wayne, Beck, Big Audio Dynamite II, Sinead O'Connor (thanks to Alias), Kinky (thanks to Karen Sisco and Nip/Tuck) and The Forces of Evil. Looking forward (probably at Christmas) to the new Barenaked Ladies, the 70's Punk compliation No Thanks!, The Best of R.E.M. and the Alias soundtrack (which I hope has pop songs as well as score type stuff).

Gaming... Just restarted our Spycraft game (I love that system), and the first session went well, if a little long on the "gearing up" phase of things. And still running the Champions game on occasional Sundays, somewhere between 1-2 times a month.

Wow. I bet nobody reading this actually cared about all of that stuff. Wonder if anyone but me cares about any of it?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

In the past few weeks, I've been to one movie in the theatre (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which I quite enjoyed, although Desperado remains my favorite of the trilogy) and seen lots more on DVD. I watched Chicago last night, and while I expected to like it, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. So much, in fact, that it graduated from Netflix rental to a place on my Amazon wish list, because I can definitely see re-watching it several times. Not as re-watchable to me, but also entertaining, was Catch Me If You Can, and I'm looking forward to diving into Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (the third in my recent rentals) soon.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Comic Book Idol - Round Five:
The final entries in Comic Book Idol, a three-page sequential sequence plotted by J. Torres, are in, and wow... they look really good. Both Hickman and Scherberger did a great job, and if there's any justice, we'll see both of them (as well as L. Frank Weber, and maybe some of the other contenders) doing work in comics soon. I'm honestly not sure who I'll wind up voting for.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Comic Book Idol - Round Four:
Well, with L. Frank Weber eliminated (and Flores remains in?), my enthusiasm for the contest has dampened considerably, as I thought Weber was easily the best of the bunch. I even voted for him instead of Hickman, who was probably my favorite cover of the last round, because I thought Hickman relied a little too much on his beautiful color work and because it looked like he was going to make it through OK without my vote. This week is a bit disappointing, actually... none of the pieces really blow me away. Even Scherberger, who I really like, has some inconsistency and the "raccoon eyes," which I could have written off as a stylistic quirk for Queen & Country, indicating black marks for cover work, have gotten a bit annoying. Still, I'd vote for Scherberger if it wasn't for Hickman. His work has a couple minor flaws, and again it feels like his work relies as much on a great color sense as it does on actual pencilling/inking (or painting, as it were) skills, but it's a strong piece. I could easily see Hickman on a Vertigo book with this style, or doing something really different with some of the Marvel and DC characters. Hell, if this were the art style on Iron Man, and he were matched with a good enough writer, I think I'd be pretty interested.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Comic Book Idol - Round Three:
I had an easy time voting last week, because there were really only two pieces that impressed me in the Queen & Country round, but I'm going to have a lot tougher time voting for Comic Book Idol this time out. All six entries are now up, and I'm leaning toward Jonathan Hickman as my favorite, but L. Frank Weber and Patrick Scherberger have done it again as well, and while Martin Redmond's cover looks a little too busy for me, I really do love his style.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Same Difference and Other Stories:
There's never enough time to review everything I want to. Right now, I've got stacks of comics and graphic novels to review on The Fourth Rail, and sometimes in order to keep going, I have to let something slip by that I just don't have time to review. Same Difference and Other Stories, by Derek Kim, is one of those things. I picked this up after getting recommendations from Chris Butcher at Previewsreview and my friend Dave, and I loved it. I agree with pretty much everything in Greg McElhatton's review, which was posted on Friday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

SoBig... SoGoddamBig...
I'm not certain, because I haven't really been counting every time, but I think I'm receiving in the neighborhood of a 1,000 messages a day courtesy of our good friend the SoBig virus. Even with spam-killing filters, this thing is an enormous pain in the ass. It is my hope that they will catch whoever created this pox on our modern society and send them to (in the parlance of Mike Judge's Office Space) "federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison."

Monday, August 25, 2003

Comic Book Idol: Round Two
All of the contenders for Round Two of Comic Book Idol are in now. To me, it looks like a race between Patrick Scherberger and L. Frank Weber, and I'm not sure where my vote in the poll is going to go. I do know that I've finally signed up on the CBR forums as a member specifically so I can vote in these polls. I'm hooked!
Dead Like Me:
Though I don't have any pay channels, it's hard to resist when they keep coming up with such great original series. A friend recently loaned me the first eight episodes of Dead Like Me, Showtime's new comedy/drama about "Reapers," undead folks who take the souls of the living right before they die. I had caught episodes two and three a little while back when staying with my in-laws in Dallas, and was intrigued, and by the end of episode four on the tapes I was completely hooked. It's just gotten better from there, and while I'm not yet sold on new character Daisy Adair (loved the actress in 24, though, and her character here is starting to grow on me) I *love* the work that Mandy Patinkin and star Ellen Muth are doing, not to mention all the work of the mom and sister of lead character George. I've missed Jasmine Guy's wonderfully acerbic Roxy in the last couple episodes, but the show is really sweet and growing funnier. I'll definitely be picking this one up on DVD.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

If you haven't checked out J. Torres's Comic Book Idol over at CBR, you're missing some interesting artwork and fun commentary, and just a well-executed neat idea. I wasn't so sure at first, given my absolute hatred for American Idol, but I'm digging Comic Book Idol so far.

Monday, August 04, 2003

NEWSARAMA - SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO HEAR CASTILLO CASE - There are so many frustrating things about this decision to me. First and foremost is that I can relate very much to Jesus Castillo's position, given my own job and locale, and I can't even imagine what he's been put through. It makes me angry to think that because he did his job, sold adult material to an adult, he suffered financial and legal hardships.

Second is, of course, that this sets a legal precedent whereby "comics are for kids, despite any evidence or testimony you might here." Not only is this stupid and insulting to a medium that I have devoted a lot of my time to, it's chilling and dangerous from a legal standpoint.

Third, I live in Texas (OK, Austin, but still...) and I know that this just reinforces the view that Texans are a bunch of inbred hillbillies with values from the 18th century. Sure, the people who hold this view tend to come off as judgmental idiots who don't know what they're talking about, but when something like this comes down, it's really hard to argue with them, and I *live* in fucking Texas and know better.

Probably most frustrating, though, is that this is a victory for the small-minded. And there have been way too many of those lately, in the world arena, in national politics, everywhere I look, and it's depressing as hell.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Finding Nemo:
Saw this about a week ago and, no surprise, loved it. Pixar Studios gets my money anytime they put a movie out (in theatres or on DVD) and it's always, always worth it. Finding Nemo had a special resonance for me as a new dad, because the notion of being able to protect my daughter from everything is one that weighs on my mind, and I like that Nemo had a message for kids (Your parents may not seem cool, but they'll do *anything* for you) and adults (you can't protect your kids by hiding them from the world). It also had, as always, great actors doing voice work and funny bits (loved Crush, the turtle voiced by director Stanton).

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Shadowrun Duels:
This action figure game is completely addictive, just as Wizkids' Heroclix line has been. I swore I was going to avoid taking the budget hit, what with so many good comics coming out in June and DC: Cosmic Justice besides, but I couldn't resist once I saw the figures. Amazing sculpts, pretty solid articulation and nifty gear made them fun for a toy collector, and the game system is simple enough but tailored to the action figure size, not just a retrofit of the Clix rules. I've played but one game so far, but the potential is there for big fun and big multi-player run and gun fests. So far I've picked up half: Kyushi the Yakuza sniper, Lothan the troll mage (by far the best plastic/money ratio of the bunch) and G-Dogg the ork bouncer, and I can easily see buying the other three before Wave 2 hits. Wave 2 and 3, btw, look even better than most of the figures in this first wave. Fun stuff.
The Hulk:
Went and saw this Saturday night with low expectations, and still walked away disappointed. It's not the FX... in fact, the Hulk just rocks, and the best scenes in the movie are the ones where he's fighting tanks, leaping through the desert or tearing up San Francisco. No, it's the fact that the FX crew delivered on the damn-near impossible task of creating the Hulk for live-action and Ang Lee and company dropped the ball with a slow, disjointed, emotionless and dull story. It never comes together, and I'm at a loss as to why it was necessary to spend a good hour or so of the film trying to convince us of the scientific plausibility of the Hulk... it's a guy who turns green and throws tanks around... how plausible can you really get? Throw in other minor-league complaints (would it have killed them to have the Hulk talk, or at least thrown us a "Hulk Smash!") and you've got a comic-book movie that sits right below Daredevil in the disappointing-but-not-really-unexpected failures.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

And The Award for Most Colossal Fuck-Up in Comics Management Goes to:
Graphitti Designs Presents... NEWSARAMA: WAID FIRED FROM FF WITH #508 - This rumor surfaced on the Bendis board and seemed completely ridiculous. I mean, under Waid's guidance the Fantastic Four is enjoying a creative resurgence (whether I'm a big fan of his take on Doom or not, the book is still good to great) and a sales resurgence... so they take him off the book? And replace him with President of Marvel Bill Jemas, who has gone to great lengths to prove that he can't write? (Update: Jemas is, according to Marvel, not the new writer on the book. That part may have been Waid repeating the rumors from the Bendis board poster, or (to be less charitable to Marvel) Marvel may have back-tracked on that when they saw how much heat that part of the announcement was stirring up.)

I'm just boggled by this decision. It strikes me as the kind of bone-headed move Marvel would have made during the 90s, right around the period where I (and many others) dropped all of their books in frustration.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Proof of God Found on IMDB:
Thanks to a tipoff from a message-board poster at the Pulse, I went over to IMDB and discovered that it is true: Brad Bird, creator of the underappreciated work of genius Iron Giant, is the writer and director of The Incredibles, a super-hero film by the "haven't had a miss yet" Pixar Studios.

I was already looking forward to The Incredibles because of the teaser trailer and my slavish devotion to the work of Pixar... now I absolutely can't wait for November 2004.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

The Animatrix:
Picked this up today (the 2-disc set with CD, naturally) and *LOVED* it. I'd already seen 5 of the shorts and liked all of them (Flight of the Osiris was a favorite, with Second Renaissance a close second and Detective Story a pretty close third... and if you ask me tomorrow, I might rearrange the order of those, and put Program in the mix as well). The last four on the disc are also anywhere from good to exceptional. Matriculated got a little too weird for me, but is still intriguing, but the rest are fantastic. I particularly loved the fast-paced "A Kid's Story," although the lyrical and strange "Beyond" and the hopeful and powerful story "World Record" are also great.

This has had the side-effect of interesting me more in some anime, and I've put Blue Submarine on my Netflix list as a result... the last thing in the world I need is a new addiction, but these features, and the well-done documentary about anime that accompanies them, has stirred my interest a little more. I also got a kick out of seeing local professor, Dr. Susan Napier, on the documentary, given that she's a professor that a friend of mine talks about constantly and absolutely adores.

I liked Matrix Reloaded, but in just about every way, The Animatrix is the superior product. I can see myself watching it over and over again, in whole and in part.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Tax Law Omits Child Credit in Low-Income Brackets - While they found room for cutting taxes on high-income taxpayers on their stock dividends, it seems that the majority who passed the new budget couldn't find a way to make the tax credit of $400 extend to families who need it, those making under about $27,000.

To those who worked this bit of political skullduggery... you are Scum. Absolute, total scum. When people talk about politicians in the same warm tone that they use to describe child molestors and rapists, you are the one who earned your colleagues this reputation.
Good Reading on the Web:
Steven Grant has turned his column over to some of his readers for a commentary on the "state of the industry" for this week. The result? Some really interesting stuff. In particular, Chris Todd's piece really spoke to me. This paragraph pretty much makes a point that I absolutely believe in:

"The point is this: that while comics are a rich, inventive art form, they are also a marginal one and always will be. Like opera, Shakespeare, James Joyce, jazz, "The Saragossa Manuscript," and Laurie Anderson, even the laziest of comics requires not only a certain amount of dedication on the part of the reader to learn how to read it in the first place (panel transitions, different fonts, motion lines, all the Scott McCloud stuff), but also an interest in seeing stories told in that fashion at all. And in the same way that a lot of people -- a lot of the mainstream, in fact -- don't enjoy classical music, a lot of people simply don't like to experience stories in comic form. It's not a matter of "if they only knew," it's that they just don't like it."

But it's all really interesting. Go read it, it's worth the time.

Monday, May 26, 2003

San Diego Here I Come:
With Suzanne deciding to take another couple of months off with the baby, I finally decided that I have the time to go to San Diego, and I'm stupid enough to try it even though I probably shouldn't spend the money... so I'm going. This marks the first time in a couple years that both Don and I will be in San Diego, which should be a lot of fun. I had pretty much resigned myself to not going to San Diego this year, so I'm pretty excited that I managed to talk myself into spending the money and going.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Bye Bye Buffy:
The final episode of Buffy, written and directed by Joss Whedon, has pretty much guaranteed that I will, in fact, buy season seven on DVD despite hating a good 90% of it. It was a great finale, everyone was very much in character, there was the balance between dark and moody and light and funny that has made the show successful, it opened the mythology up so that a Slayers spinoff could easily have been done...

Basically, the only thing that could have made this finale better was to have Joss Whedon write the rest of the season, because I can only think of how much stronger the episode would have been with better lead-up and less filler. There were plenty of questions that could have been answered, build-up that could have made it feel more important and certainly characters who were ignored while other, lesser characters were pushed to the front. But really, those are mostly still complaints about this season, which has been an absolute disaster. In the final episode, my only complaints are that one of the characters I really wanted to die didn't and that Spike got to play the big important hero, which is still a role I don't think he's earned.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Matrix Thoughts:
I'll admit up front that in just about every aspect, Matrix Reloaded is not as good as the original. However, it's still damn good stuff, and I'm a little annoyed by the geek community backlash that seems to be going on against the film. It's got a lot more to think about, and it throws out the exposition pretty fast and furious, so I can see where people might have just gone slack-jawed about halfway through thanks to the infodump... but I think I caught most of it, and there's so much to think about that I definitely want to see it again, and I think the Wachowskis have really opened up the concept for exploration. I also think that the action scenes in this movie were pretty phenomenal, particularly the car chase, the fight in the atrium and the opening sequence (which, in all honesty, should have only been in the closing sequence where it belonged, timewise). It's not the expectation-shattering new thing that The Matrix was, but it's a solid B, maybe B+, and I'll definitely be happy to see it again and again on DVD.

The Matrix Reloaded soundtrack is a surprise because it focuses more on the orchestral side of things than the last one did. The music on the first disc is interesting, although not as great as the music on the Matrix soundtrack, but I have to admit that some of the heavier tracks (Rob Zombie's "Reload" and, surprisingly, the Marilyn Manson track) both appeal to me as "Matrix" music. Surprisingly, though, Don Davis, the composer, got more into the action this time, and his score is more techno and upbeat and actually is much more prevalent in the film than techno or metal music. Which means that the score, the second disc, is stronger than the original Matrix score. At any rate, it's a solid disc, and also probably a B, B+.

I've only played a little bit of Enter The Matrix, the computer game (PS/2 flavor in my case), but it's looking more like an A. Great voices and acting, extra footage, nice graphics and a cool game engine, plus a side quest that relates to the movie and to the Animatrix, makes it a pretty promising game, and I've enjoyed the hell out of the hour or so I've played so far.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

I rented Six Feet Under: Season One from Netflix, and I'm currently about six episodes into it. It is great, terrific music, great direction and amazing characters. I honestly was prepared to be a bit underwhelmed, and to find the show was overhyped as I found Sopranos to be, but after getting about halfway through disc two I've put the set (overpriced though it is) on my Amazon wish list, and added the soundtrack CD as well.

Monday, May 05, 2003

New online comic written by Andrew Dabb is up at NextComics. It's a creepy and entertaining short story with great color artwork by Sean Clauretie.
On Alias:
Season two ends with a lot of big changes, but I'm not as blown away as I was by the ender for the first season, when it seemed like Vaughn had died and we finally found out for sure what Sydney's mom had been up to. Honestly, I was glad to see Irina go back to being a no-doubt bad guy, working with Sark and Sloane, they made for a great villainous trio, and the "is she or isn't she?" stuff got old for me, so I was sorry to see it reintroduced. Although glad to see that Sid wasn't having any of it. Still, Sloane gets a terrific, creepy turn with Jack Bristow, who is still absolutely the man (every time he's on screen, I'm reminded of how great a character he is and how good the actor playing him is) and though the Rimbaldi plot has been building since season one, I'm still not tired of it. Oh, and Marshall and his new girl (whose name still hasn't stuck with me) are still very cute, and I really like the actress they've chosen for that role... hope she continues next season as a regular. In addition, there was some great action here, from Irina's escape to Will's escape to the final fight between Allison and Sydney... guess I was wrong on who was behind the mask at Fran's place, too bad as I thought having her be Anna would have had more resonance for Sid. Not so sure about the cliffhanger... it's certainly a shocker, but I liked the relatively pain-free and angst-free relationship of Sydney and Vaughn, and I'm sorry that we may once again be going back to the "staring wistfully at one another across the room."

Still, given that I just about gave up on the show when they went into the whole "Sydney is the anti-christ" X-Files-ish thing, I'm right back on board now, and can't wait to see season three or pick up the season one DVDs.

Friday, May 02, 2003

On X2:
Well, that kicked ass. I went in with pretty high expectations, partly from the cool trailers and partly from the positive buzz, and I still came out satisfied. The team absolutely *nailed* the character of Nightcrawler in powers, appearance and personality, Hugh Jackman has another amazing turn as Wolverine and Halle Berry works a lot better as Storm in this one than she did in the first. Mystique is also just an absolute badass in this film, and it's got me even more hyped for more of Vaughan's Mystique comic. The film has some strong resemblances to "God Loves, Man Kills," but it also references everything from the Phoenix storyline to Weapon X, and amazingly, it all works and ties together. Some of the characters get pushed to the side a bit... Xavier, Cyclops and Rogue all have smaller roles here than they did in the beginning, but nobody is left behind. Even Colossus, basically a bit part, gets a really cool moment. It looks good, it's fun to watch and it's got winks to the super-hero crowd without overloading on them. This is what super-hero movies should be, and quite frankly, I think it's even better than the much-lauded Spider-Man.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

On Angel:
Another great episode, as the story that built throughout the season comes to a very satisfying end, leaving the season finale to give a coda of sorts to the whole thing. I've seen some people excited that the end of Buffy will mean some of Buffy's writers will move over to Angel, but that prospect scares me more than anything... the writers of Angel have taken a show that I'd all but given up on at the end of last season and transformed it into one of my top five shows, while the writers of Buffy are writing the worst season that show has seen.

This episode did the impossible, in that it not only had me rooting for Conor, it had me feeling sorry for him. I no longer dread him returning as a regular cast member next season, because he now fits in much better with the theme of redemption that drives the show. And while I'd still like to see the supporting cast (especially the under-used Gunn) get more time in the spotlight, it's hard to argue when Boreanaz has developed into such a charismatic, likable and often funny lead. One of the other birthday gifts I received was Angel, and once I finish watching the Family Guy, I can't wait to dive back into season one and re-acquaint myself with the show, thanks to renewed enthusiasm from this season.
Warcraft D20 RPG: Sword & Sorcery, the White Wolf division that produced the gorgeous Everquest RPG compatible with D&D, have announced that they're doing a Warcraft RPG for D&D 3.5. I was not much of an Everquest fan, so that property held little interest for me, but seeing how well they handled the translation of that electronic game into pen-and-paper has me very excited about Warcraft, a game I have loved since its first incarnation. Given that I just bought Midnight and that I currently play in campaigns in the Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, I think it's pretty unlikely that I'll ever actually play a Warcraft game, but I still want this and can't wait to see it.
On Buffy:
Yep, I'm sure of it. The fans would have been better off if UPN had never picked up Buffy. The balance of fun and spooky seemed to be there at the very beginning of this season, but now we're right back in heavy angst, no fun, helpless hero mode like we've been at the tail end of the last two seasons, and it's gotten very old. Buffy is acting like a complete idiot, and about the best moment of this episode was the intervention where everyone finally told her so. Shame that by the time they did it, I couldn't really feel any sympathy for Buffy's obvious pain because she'd gotten people killed and Xander badly wounded, and she hasn't been fighting smart for a long, long time.

I'm also still remarkably irked that the comedy relief has gone from Xander (who I liked) to Andrew (who I can't stand). The whole time during the Andrew/Spike exchange on the motorcycle, I was vocally wishing for a semi truck to come rolling down the road and fix two of the big problems the show has right now. I'm watching Buffy more out of a sense of completism at this point, which makes me sad. And even though last season had its low points, it also had its highs... now I'm wondering if I ought to stop my Buffy DVD collection at season five and just pretend it ended there.

On 24:
Then there's 24, which is firing on all cylinders for me right now. I was a little disappointed in Jack not putting a bullet into the murderous rednecks, especially when we learn later that they damaged the chip, but the rest of the show was great. Even the brief appearance of Kim solved a nice subplot that had been going since the first episode of this season, and I liked the personal stuff between Jack and Kate as well. My guess for next season? It takes place on the day Jack is going to propose to Kate, about a year after all of these events have ended. Oh, and the stuff with Palmer was dynamite... I kept hoping he was going to confront Mike with what happened to Lynne, since he must have figured that one out by now, but he was busy enough that I can see why they wouldn't get into it right away. The other thing that 24 occasionally reminds me of, and did this episode, is that because the show is sort of a discrete-24-episode thing, the status quo is very much fluid, and the vote with Palmer went in a way I did not expect.

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Family Guy Seasons 1 & 2 DVD set was one of the gifts I got for my birthday about a week and a half ago, and it's the only one I've had a chance to watch any of yet. It's great, every bit as funny and off-beat as I remember it, and it once again has me angry at the way Fox treated it, reluctantly uncancelling it only when it was Emmy nominated and even then subjecting it to schedule moves and pre-emptions so that nobody could find it. I adored the show, and still haven't seen about half of these episodes because I could never find them.

I have only watched discs one and two (of four), but the set is a laugh riot so far. The family moving into a dead aunt's mansion, post-Y2K apocalypse, "to the Pope-mobile!", Peter's complete butchering of "The King and I" and many other moments have been a lot of fun to watch. The commentaries are for the most part a little dull, but occasionally there's something really funny. I was a bit irked to hear that there were supposed to be commentaries on every episode, but that Fox decided some of them might offend the audience so they took them out. Offend... the Family Guy audience. That's *almost* as stupid as Warner Brothers removing all the commentaries from the South Park DVDs, although not quite as stupid, because that decision led to me not buying the South Park DVDs in hope that someone will eventually come to their senses and republish. I'm also irked that "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" wasn't included, but hey, I've got an Internet connection, so at least I can *see* the episode, even if I can't have it on DVD.

All in all, though, this is a great set, and one of the best DVD sets I'll probably get this year.
On Alias:
Huh. Last season we had the midseason slump as they went too far into the whole mythology thing with Rimbaldi and Sydney was a potential danger and was locked up by mysterious men and women in black... this season, the midseason episodes kicked ass as they kicked over the status quo and sent the show off in a new direction, and the season finale, while not quite as nerve-wracking so far as last year's, is looking pretty damn solid. Great stuff with a dangerous and borderline delusional Sloane, the new relationship for Marshall is unbelievably cute, loved the tension of minor difficulties in the relationships between Syd, Vaughn and Dixon without just utterly (and stupidly) wrecking their relationships to wring out more drama and I also love that, in 24 style, Alias isn't afraid to have the good guys engage in some questionable torture to get what's needed. And I'm dying to know what the catastrophic event was that took place, because we all know Rimbaldi is never wrong... remember that the prophecy involved Sydney's mom, and we don't know what she was doing at midnight...

On Fastlane:
In contrast, Fastlane's season finale was a mess, but that shouldn't really be surprising. Van's difficulty in getting close to the latest love in his life rings false given how much of a player the guy is, and my exposure to Jack Bauer's character had me wondering why Nick wasn't just tortured until he gave up the name of the three families the second he set foot in the Candy Store. It couldn't have been a moral objection, because the three cops decided to *murder* Nick at the end of the episode in the flashiest and stupidest way possible, and then they acted surprised by the consequences of having diamonds spill all over the street. I've enjoyed Fastlane as something of a guilty pleasure, and will probably continue to do so, but man I wish they had some better writers. Oh, and it's really, really cheap to end a show on a cheesy cliffhanger the way they did, especially when there's a likelihood the show won't be coming back for season two. There's a difference between a good cliffhanger (like the one Alias ended on last year) and a forced one.

On John Doe:
I can't decide whether the end of John Doe was good or forced. It'll depend on the explanation, although I am a little worried that the Phoenix group and it's machinations and motivations could easily go into X-Files territory. I was hoping for some answers or resolution from the John Doe finale to keep me watching, and there was just enough (Theresa finally back with John, a big revelation about the third possible leader of the Phoenix Group that we've seen and a little more indication of what they're looking for) to bring me back. Especially if they add the NSA agent to the regular cast... I like the guy, and he's proven to be a pretty trustworthy ally and a funny character, which is unusual for the way NSA guys are usually presented in fiction. Oh, and one thing I have to give John Doe... I actually believed that every character was in danger in last night's finale because of their willingness to kill off a great and likable supporting character like Karen. I miss the character, but the notion that nobody is safe is one that I wish more shows would adopt, and one I wish Buffy would have brought back a little more strongly in its last three or four seasons.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

On Angel:
Creeeeepy. Ben Edlund (who IMDB assures me is the same guy who wrote the Tick) just kicked major ass on this week's episode, building up the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" paranoia riff of Jasmine to new heights, and turning Connor into even more of a creep. If he isn't killed off at the end of this season, I'm going to be very disappointed, as they've made him a really good judas and bad guy, but I'm not real willing to welcome him back into the fold, and I don't think the Angel gang should be either. At any rate, some great mood and a little bit of believable coincidence, not to mention some creepy new bad guys, really ups the tension without giving the whole hopeless despair feel that Buffy has had for most of the season. The show really is, if not at its best, than among its best, right now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

On 24:
Wow. I take back everything I said about 24 last week. This was one of the strongest episodes yet, and has me once again anxious to see what happens next week. I'm still having a little trouble buying some of it, as they seem to be stretching out the drama a bit, but they've put all the principals into really scary danger and given us a little karmic payback for the hell that some of the heroes went through last episode. Although the good guys still took a beating this episode, with one fatality and one near-fatality that could still end with one of them dead.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

On Bulletproof Monk:
For my birthday, my wife and I went with one of our friends to have dinner at Bahama Breeze (a Caribbean-themed chain of restaurants) and then met up with a few friends to see Bulletproof Monk. I honestly remember very little of the comic, but I was pleased with the movie. It's cheesy as hell, and the villains are about as camped up as anything you'll see outside a Joel Schumacher film, but Chow Yun-Fat is funny for the first time I can remember seeing him, both Sean William Scott and Jamie King are likable and have decent enough chemistry together and the action sequences are nifty, even if the CGI is a bit weak and easy to spot. This is a cheesy action movie, and I don't think the filmmakers intended all of the humor that I got out of it, but it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

On tonight's 24:
I think maybe next season the show should be called 15. Just as it did last year, the show flagged once the big tension builder was pretty much wrapped up, although I don't think they could have drawn that main story out much longer either. At any rate, the story now certainly isn't bad, it's just that it gets more and more contrived as things go on (a few too many coincidences) and while the stakes are certainly still high, I'm not really feeling the danger as much as I did early on, when I thought they might actually detonate a nuke in Los Angeles. Interestingly enough, though, the bit with Mike and Lynne has gotten me interested in what's going on with Palmer again, and it's always fun to see Jack's bad-ass-edness reinforced, as it's one of my favorite elements of the show. Shame Youssef isn't a little more like Jack... if he'd popped the two guys in the head who attacked him, the whole situation he's found himself in could have been avoided... and let's face it, the world could have used two or three less bigoted rednecks, right? :)

As for Buffy:
The constant inspirational speeches that don't inspire and the constant way that Buffy and her allies have been getting their asses handed to them is getting repetitive and frustrating. I thought when this season began we were going to get a more familiar mixture of light and dark, but so far the darkness has been overwhelming, and of late the light has been comedy with Andrew (who I can't stand) and other parts of the show that don't feel as funny. I'm actually starting to think it would have been better if Buffy hadn't been picked up by UPN, even though we've had some very solid episodes (the musical, for one) since that time, because overall the show is weaker now than it has been in quite a while. Of course, tonight's episode was better than most have been, and more Eliza Dushku is always good. Especially when she's flirting with Spike... now *that's* a Slayer/Vampire relationship I can get behind, because it lets both characters be who they are instead of having to dirty up one or clean up the other to make it work.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Midnight is a way cool new setting for D20 D&D from Fantasy Flight Games. It came into the shop in the middle of this week, and I got a chance to look through it, and this is not only a great idea, it has been executed extremely well.

Basically, it's set in a world where evil has triumphed and the good gods can't help, and the heroes are sort of the last vestiges of resistance trying to hold onto hope. It's fairly dark, but it's rife with possibilities for taking D&D beyond hack and slash, and the world seems well-realized and (judging from the publishing schedule) well-supported.

Probably the coolest things to me are the new magic system, which allows anyone (not just spellcasters) to learn minor amounts of magic, the redefined character classes and races to fit into the world and specifically the gnomes. In this world, the gnomes live on big barges that roam the waterways, becoming the transporters for this evil empire... but they're secretly the best smugglers and spies in the world thanks to their nomadic existence and relatively free ability to travel.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

The Matrix Reloaded trailer is now online. I was talking to a friend of mine a minute ago (not usually given to hyperbole) who told me "It is the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life." After watching it myself, I'm not too sure he's wrong. In a summer full of movies I'm looking forward to (X2 and Hulk among them), Matrix Reloaded is definitely top of my list. Oh, and the latest Animatrix installment, by the creator of Cowboy Bebop, is also probably the best Animatrix segment so far. And I'm psyched for the Enter The Matrix videogame and the 2-disc Matrix Reloaded soundtrack.

Man, I am so the Wachowskis' bitch.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

New Preview on Soul Calibur 2, which is supposed to be coming to platforms in August. It was news of Soul Calibur 2 that finally got me to buy a console system, since I bought a Dreamcast almost entirely for the first Soul Calibur and have never regretted that decision. Though I'm loving War of the Monsters right now, I can't wait to have what I consider the best fighting game ever (in it's next iteration) for my PS2.
Hero Games: Champions: Millennium City - I've been waiting anxiously for this one to be released, since I'm running a campaign set in Millennium City, and I've been sort of keeping locations and details vague to avoid contradicting the source material later on. Not that I won't modify some of it for the campaign anyway, but I wanted to see what the originators had in mind before really mucking with it. This is a pretty nice sourcebook, with plenty of detail on the real Detroit and surrounding area mixed in with the fictional Millennium City. Highlights for me were the map of the districts of the city, more explanations of some of the technology, the exploration of local politicos and law enforcement personalities and of course the statistics for Dr. Silverback, everyone's favorite genius gadgeteer gorilla in the new Champions Universe. I was hoping for maps with a little more detail, and indeed a little more detail on some locations (a map of the university and a map of police headquarters and city hall in particular would have been great for the inevitable slugfests that will take place there), but overall I'm very pleased with the sourcebook.

There were of course a few typos and mislaid sentences, as has been the norm with the new Champions... minor irritations at best, although I did get sort of an ironic chuckle that one of the lines that was dropped ends with "Their help spotting typos" and errata reveals that the rest of the sentence involved "dropped words, and the like." Suppose that's why you should let the proofreaders read *everything*, even when you're thanking them in that sentence. :)
On tonight's 24:

As the story goes on, I'm having less and less interest in every subplot except for Jack's, but I'm really enjoying that aspect of it. The writers have done a great job bringing in a couple players late in the game (Youssef and Mr. Coral Snake, whose name I can never remember) and turning them into interesting characters. And the gunfight was terrific, giving a real sense of confusion and danger but still showing off the skills of the protagonists. Kim's story reached something of an anticlimax for me when we learned that everything was OK after all, except her boyfriend dumped her... given that her boyfriend was the one who decided to try the crazy lighter stunt in the first place, I don't have a great deal of sympathy for him, quite honestly. The President's story is mildly intriguing, but it's mostly an off-shoot of Jack's story, and I kind of miss the "who can he trust?" elements of that story. I'm also finally accepting that we're not going to see Nina again this season, which is a shame because her involvement was some of the best TV 24 had to offer, and I was sort of looking forward to a showdown of sorts between her and Jack. Guess they want to keep her in the "recurring adversary" department. I'd certainly rather see her back next season than Kim.

Friday, April 04, 2003

You know, it occurs to me that if they'd just do a fight to the death between Connor and Spike, with mutually assured destruction, both Angel and Buffy would become much, much better shows.

Otherwise, I quite enjoyed Angel on Wednesday. It was fun to see Skip again, even under those circumstances, the revelation of what's going on (for the most part) made enough sense, the actress they have playing the big bad is one I like and while I thought they went a little too far at times in trying to portray Cordelia or Skip as evil, verging into bwa-ha-ha territory, I liked some of the ideas about a little manipulation and a big plan getting them all to this point in the first place.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

I realized today while looking over games orders for June that the Babylon 5 game coming out in June is a D20 product, that it's produced by Mongoose Entertainment and that it is being released almost simultaneously with a player/GM supplement as well as a big self-contained adventure. Which pretty much means I want to have it. Budget? What budget?

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Tuesday is my favorite night of TV this season. Buffy, 24, The Shield, and even if one of them isn't new (or isn't on) there's a pretty good chance at least one of them will be.

24 has had a pretty strong second season... I'm not sure if I think it's better than the first, but there are elements that are certainly as good. I'm hoping and praying that Kim won't be a part of the third season, as her part of the show started out as a stretch and quickly veered into ridiculous (a friend and I have taken to making constant fun of the whole cougar thing). But I am very pleased at how they took what could have been the finale of the season (the bomb going off) and turned it into the catalyst for the last 8 hours and a new conflict, preventing an enormous and costly war. I'm also pleased with how they've introduced new characters fairly late in the game (the foreign intelligence agent who has become Jack's ally, Michelle's former boss, the rogue Coral Snake operative) and made them interesting and important to the ongoing story. If you cut out Kim's part of the story, I'm really happy with tonight's episode, although I'm not entirely sure I follow the plot logic for why Coral Snake guy needed Kate Warner. I'm hoping he was lying about needing her DOD connections, because I couldn't quite figure out how taking her with him was going to help when her using her business connections wouldn't, except that (out of plot necessity) it puts Kate in danger and forces Jack to make a hard choice.

The Shield finished up tonight, and I won't say much about it to avoid spoiling anyone... but if you aren't watching this show, you should be. Fantastic moral ambiguity, amazing direction, strong scripts, great characters and actors, this is a top notch show on every level. The finale of season two wasn't quite the nail-biter that season one was, but it was a great show to finish out a great second season, and has me chomping at the bit to see season three.
It occurs to me that it couldn't hurt to mention on this site that I'm currently looking for bigger and better job opportunities in the Austin area. I love my job at Dragon's Lair, but it doesn't pay a lot, and with my daughter being born, it seems like now might be the time to find something new. So if anyone knows of anything in the Austin area (sorry, no plans to move unless it's for an obnoxious amount of money and security and/or a field I can't pass up) for someone with a great deal of writing, editing, retail and management experience as well as a comfortable level of skill with HTML and general computer skills, please let me know.
On Alias "Endgame":

I'm really enjoying Alias this season, although it does seem like the relationship between Vaughan and Sidney could very easily veer into the overly sappy. Not saying I want them to suddenly develop relationship problems or anything like that, but a few less adoring moments where they're portrayed as the perfect couple might not be a bad idea. Of course, that said, I thought the drawer conversation this week was a lot of fun. Some interesting revelations about the Christian Slater character and his wife, pushing credibility to almost ludicrous levels but still working because that kind of thing happens in the Alias universe. And the ending... we could all see it coming the moment we saw Sloane's face, but it was still just brutal.

Does anyone else think that the "new" Francie is Anna Espinosa, formerly of K Directorate? Something about her expressions (which is a tribute to the actress who plays Francie), plus I think it would be a really neat little twist. I'm hoping that this revelation about who Francie is will come sooner rather than later.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

"Howdy, friends. Cormorant here, and in a week when we cast a hypothetical Team America movie, there’s really no introduction I can write to sufficiently brace you for what’s to come. Chug a bottle of Pepto and read on…"

New Reviews from the Talkback League of @$$holes

And part two of their reviews

Friday, March 28, 2003

The big news, of course, is that my daughter Kaitlin Olivia Lander was born about 35 hours ago, at 11:29 am on Thursday, March 27th. She was born at 7 lbs. 1 oz, was 19 1/4" in length and was perfectly healthy. I will be putting more and more pictures of her up on this site as the days go by.
Well, I've gone and done it. I've converted my old home page into a blogger, which means that everything that was here is now gone and in the process of moving to other servers, while this will be the home for my occasional postings and links to everything else.