Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Early November Update:
So let's see, a fair amount has happened since the last time I posted. I think there was some kind of election, but I've blocked it all out to keep from screaming and going mad.

So, what else? Well, I saw the Incredibles today with my lovely wife, and my take on it, some 10 hours later, is that it is probably my favorite Pixar movie and is certainly the best superhero film ever created. It's got its funny moments, as with all Pixar films, but it also has tremendous heart, fantastic action, a true understanding of superheroes from both a story and a visual side and a '60s Silver Age superhero/cool Bond espionage vibe that is unbeatable. Not that any of this is surprising, really. Pixar has never let me down, Brad Bird (writer/director of this and The Iron Giant) is awesome and Michael Giacchino (composer for this, Alias and Lost) is both exceptionally talented and perfect for the material. Great work by the voice cast as well, especially Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and Brad Bird, all of whom just brought so much life to their characters.

TV season is rolling along surprisingly well, given that most of the new offerings this season looked awful. But while much of the TV landscape is a wasteland of reality shows and scripted TV so dumb it might violate the Geneva convention, the bright spots do shine all the more brightly. Veronica Mars has turned out to be great, a little overly cutesy and impressed with itself at times but just on the right side of quirky, with exceptional writing and some great casting. Lost hooked me after about three episodes, and though I'm still not prepared to say it's better than Alias, it might just be as good. Bravo, meanwhile, has a cool new show called Long Way Round about Ewan McGregor and his buddy Charley Boorman going from England to New York by way of Asia on BMW motorcycles, which I'm really enjoying so far. Arrested Development has started up again, which is great news for those of us who enjoy intelligent comedy. And Drawn Together on Comedy Central, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is crude in imaginative ways, not quite up to South Park's level of outrageous humor but definitely entertaining in an "I can't believe I'm watching this" kind of way.

My faith in mankind has been shaken a little this last month or so (don't worry, I'm still not going to talk about the election), and part of that is that somebody broke the passenger window of my car and stole my radio while I was parked in front of my house! $750 and a great deal of hassle later, the upside is that I have a new, cheaper car insurance policy with better coverage and a new, cool in-dash radio/CD player for the car. It has two features I've wanted for a while, the ability to play MP3 CDs (I now have over 800 songs across 5 CDs that comprises most of the music I want to listen to in the car) and an audio in-jack for my next big tech purchase, an iPod.

I'm waiting on Christmas money to see if I can afford one. My original plan was to buy the 40GB deal, maybe even spring the extra $50 for the cool black and red U2 limited edition, but then I went over to Apple's site and saw this. Now I can carry around all the baby pictures I want along with my music. I can't wait to pick this up, and very much hope finances allow me to do so in January.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Late September Update:
Yeah, I'm just not real good at the concept of blogging, which is meant to revolve around frequent updates. Most of my web effort goes into The Fourth Rail.

However, there have been a few things worth noting on this site. Most notable is that I took a weekend trip a few weeks back out to New Orleans for the N.O.D.I.Y. alternative media show. Put together by Leo McGovern, who runs the free magazine Antigravity in town (which happens to syndicate Snap Judgments as well), the show was unusual and a lot of fun. Music, a variety of things besides comics, a night-time show and a bar right there (the whole thing was held in a warehouse sized bar called Twiropa), I had a lot of fun. Probably would have had more if I hadn't been wiped out from the 10-hour drive, but the Saturday after, when we just bummed around New Orleans, was plenty of fun.

I was there with my buddies Chris Nicholas and Dave Lamplugh (creators of the minicomics You Chose Right The First Time) as well as Toby Craig (creator of the Engine minicomics and more), whom we had picked up in Houston. On Saturday, we all walked around, got plenty of pictures (and Toby and Dave got plenty of sketching done), had breakfast at Cafe Du Monde, lunch at Central Grocery (where we had their awesome Muffelettas) and dinner with Leo and his girlfriend Michelle at a place Leo picked out called Mandina's. We then hit a few of the coolest bars I've ever been to, thanks to Leo and Michelle, which were more local places and not as swamped as the Bourbon Street joints. I discovered my new favorite drink, Coke and Absolut Vanilla, and maybe had a *little* too much of it, but it was a good time.

That's the really exciting stuff that's gone on. Otherwise, I've been playing the hell out of Burnout 3, which I rented from Gamefly, and much as I enjoyed Burnout 2, this one is sooo much better. It looks better, and the addition of the ability to steer your car after you wreck is just genius. I also like the "Road Rage" events that consist of you trying to wreck as many opponents as possible. It's been getting rave reviews at the game sites, and I can see why. I desperately want to hold onto it, but will probably give it up soon so that I can rent Star Wars Battlefront and X-Men: Legends, both of which I'm also hearing good things about.

New Fall TV season has started, and is pretty much just as bad as I thought it was going to be. However, there are a couple bright spots. Joey is a guilty pleasure, just like Friends was for the last four or five years of its existence. Lost had an intriguing opener, not quite the throat-grabber that Alias was for me but certainly interesting. And the real winner of the Fall season so far for me is Veronica Mars, which had a very smartly-written pilot, plenty of charm mixed with a little darkness (not unlike Rob Thomas's previous show, Cupid) and a terrific cast, highlighted by the lead actress. Surprisingly enough, UPN might have my favorite show right now, although there is room for Lost to overtake it, and of course, it *will* be overtaken when The Shield, Alias or Arrested Development start up again. Still, well worth a look.

Other than that, I've also been lucky enough to find that Trio is running Spaced, the Britcom by Shaun of the Dead creators Simon Pegg and Edward Wright, and it is every bit as funny as the clip reel they put together in San Diego indicated. Happily, I'll have every episode of Spaced on my Tivo in just a few days, and this has spurred me to organize a trip to the Drafthouse to see Shaun of the Dead next weekend. Still bummed I missed Pegg and Wright when they were in town to premiere the film, but ah well.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Robert Rodriguez Scares Me:
I finally sat down to watch the DVD of Once Upon A Time in Mexico tonight. I'd already re-watched the movie, but I sat down to watch Rodriguez's commentary and the extras. Rodriguez's commentary is great, as he just talks constantly throughout, and it's both extremely technical and yet accessible to the casual viewer, funny and light without being stupid or lightweight. Then I watch the Ten Minute Film School, Ten Minute Cooking School and Inside Troublemaker Studios featurettes, and I realize that Rodriguez is talented in so many areas that he doesn't even realize how rare it is.

Rodriguez can compose scores (kickass ones, too, like the one for Kill Bill), direct and write movies, speak intelligently on sound mixing, editing and other movie technical shit that I barely understand, play guitar, cook, mess with CGI/digital effects... it's frightening. It also makes for a very entertaining DVD, and bodes well for the upcoming Sin City. I mean, I'm predisposed to like Rodriguez already because he's a comic book fan who resides in Austin (like me) and because he's made several movies I really love, but realizing just how far his talents range makes me all the more happy that he's the guy doing Sin City.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Meet the new game... same as the old game:
Well, since I had only played once in about three weeks, most of my superhero group had outlevelled me and several of my friends had quit, I decided to call it quits with City of Heroes. I enjoyed it when I played, but I wasn't feeling the addiction anymore, and couldn't justify $15 a month for something I was only playing for a few hours a month. Still, early May to mid-August is a pretty good run for a game, and I'll definitely be back on the game at some point... just not right now.

I'm also getting my superhero buzz from a new Mutants & Masterminds game I started with my regular gaming group. It's the first time I've played M&M, and I like it so far, although after having played pretty much Champions only for about 10 years, it's taking some adjusting. The superteam, as is typical for my gaming groups, is more than a little bit strange. There's a speedster social worker who got his powers from being caught up in an alien drug deal (Torque), the electrical blaster who was sort of the head of a gang in a bad area of town until reaching adulthood and becoming a superhero (Bolt, although originally he was Shock, and before that he had no official superhero name), the '60s vocalist for a third-rate band who got sucked into 1993 by a dimensional invasion and was granted a number of weird powers like transmuting objects into other objects, teleporting and animating objects (The Shifter) and, off a dare, a plant guy (Doc Nightshade). They chose The Outcasts for their team name, and it's looking pretty appropriate. First session was fun, though, and while I'm still getting the hang of the power levels/balance, I think M&M may wind up overtaking Champs as my favorite superhero RPG.

I've been playing SSX3 on the PS/2 a lot lately, and my love of console games got the better of me. With City of Heroes funding turned off, I decided I could once again justify my subscription to Gamefly, the Netflix-like service for videogames, and started that up again (Net savings from CoH to Gamefly: About a $1 a month. Nice one, Randy). At any rate, though, I currently have Spider-Man 2 out for rent, and while the plot and some of the dialogue is just hokey as hell, occasionally crossing the border into downright stupid, the webswinging through New York is really addictive and fun.

So there you have it. Three loooong paragraphs about my videogame habits and gaming. Good God, does anyone read this blog? If so, I'm deeply sorry that I don't have anything more interesting to say. My wife's got cute baby stories on her blog, maybe you should visit there. :)

Saturday, August 14, 2004

F/X does it again:
OK, I finally realized that I'd had enough of guilty pleasure trash TV Nip/Tuck, especially since I barely have time to watch everything I want to anyway, but F/X has replaced that show in my personal Tivo lineup with Rescue Me, a great little drama with touches of comedy that reminds me in a lot of ways of what I like about The Shield without really using any of the elements of that show, save a pretty solid ensemble cast and sharp writing.

Dennis Leary, as it turns out, can act, the rest of the cast is highly entertaining and the show has made me laugh and tear up, especially in light of the shocker moment of the fourth episode that puts Leary's character into a whole new situation with his wife.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Justice League Unlimited:
I was not a huge fan of the previous Justice League series on Cartoon Network. Despite a few really good episodes, mostly I thought it was a pretty big comedown from the amazing Batman: Animated Series and the almost-as-good Superman: Animated Series. Not enough story, and the action, while good, wasn't good enough to keep up with it. The dialogue tended to be kind of "kiddy-fied" and so did the stories. Oh, I watched it, and I think I've actually seen every episode once (and the good ones a couple of times), but I kept thinking, "Damn... it could have been so much more."

If the first episode of Justice League Unlimited is any indication, it might be "so much more." A note perfect (well, his voice was too young for me, but that's quibbling) Green Arrow, some great chemistry with Captain Atom and Supergirl, Brimstone (from Suicide Squad, and that's major bonus points in my book), and a ton of DC heroes, both big and small, in the background? This is the DC Universe cartoon I wanted to see. Not to mention that they didn't lose the action, in fact Green Arrow in action was some of the coolest superhero stuff I've seen in animation.

Turns out maybe the hour-long two-parters were giving the creators too much room to move. With only half an hour, and a wider cast of characters, they seem to have tightened up the stories and the dialogue (I chuckled at several lines in the episode) while maintaining what worked about the previous series. Looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Random TV Thoughts:
Thanks to my wife having started watching the show back when BBC America ran a marathon, I've checked out Coupling, and found it to be absolutely hilarious. It's currently in season four, which is where I started watching, but the episodes I've seen inspired me to rent the DVD of season one from Netflix, and it turns out the show has been laugh-out-loud funny from day one.

Which means that yet another TV show on my must watch list doesn't come from American network TV. The stuff that I always go for from the Tivo when I get a chance to watch TV these days is Coupling, Celebrity Poker Showdown (so pleased that they did basically *two* seasons this year, with another round starting right after the first championship match) and Dinner For Five.

Which is good, because I like watching TV, and the slate for next season is just bloody awful. The Lost is intriguing, but it's on ABC, and will probably be cancelled before its time, although given the leeway they've given Alias, maybe that means showrunner J.J. Abrams can save it from that fate. Beyond that? Nothing new really caught my eye, to be honest. I'm mildly interested in LAX because of the cast (love Blair Underwood) and because I've always had this weird idea that an airport would make a great setting for an ensemble comedy or drama story, and some of the midseason stuff sounds intriguing, but come September, I'm not really gonna care much that the new TV is starting.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Paul O'Brien Hits The Nail on the Head Again:
Article 10: Foursquare Panels - Paul's online reviews are probably my favorites on the web (yep, including mine), but I'm just as pleased by his biweekly forays into industry analysis on Ninth Art. This one in particular is a look at the controversy over Gary Trudea's latest Doonesbury strips.

I can't really add much, because Paul has a pretty cogent analysis here, but I will say that as much disgust as I have for our current administration, I have even more for the illogical zealots who pretend that any examination of it, even if it's only mildly critical or arguably apolitical, is anti-American. The crap on TV and in movies these days has me worried about the lowest common denominator already, but the level of discourse about politics is even worse. Maybe we should start instituting a basic IQ level for people to vote?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The End of Angel:
Fantastic. It should have been two hours, really, but then, it really should have been the finale at the end of *next* season, when Whedon and company had time to really explore all the interesting developments they had set up in the last few episodes. This show has, in my opinion, been stronger than the series that it spun off from, not just because the last two or three seasons of Buffy were soooo uneven but because aside from some very worrisome stuff with Conner around season three, Angel has been pretty consistently great. The darker tone meant that I had an easier time going along with the darker stuff that happens to our heroes, where on Buffy it just felt a bit wrong. And it's amazing that the show started with two of my least favorite characters in the Buffyverse (Cordelia and Angel), added another that I pretty much hated (Wesley) and by the end had made me like all of them and even put Wes, poor tragic Wes on my list as possibly the best Buffyverse character period. Aside from Xander, who became completely uninteresting and poorly written right around season four or five of Buffy and never completely recovered.

Hell, the fifth season of Angel even made me love Spike again, a character I had grown to hate ever since he went from villain to goofy anti-hero who dominated the Buffy show. And that ending... oh, that ending was perfect, the kind of thing that takes real guts to do (especially with a rabid, judgmental and already pissed-off fanbase) and even more skill to pull off.

Then the WB puts up this little trailer at the end thanking the fans and the show for five years? Like it's not entirely their fault that the show is ending now, like the creators and the cast and crew didn't want to do more? Complete and total BS, and while I don't think the ire of a bunch of genre fans screaming "boycott" is really going to affect their bottom line, I do think they'll have a helluva time launching any kind of genre programming in the future if they decide to try it again. Certainly I'm not watching anything on WB next season, although in fairness that has more to do with their schedule being total shit than any kind of boycott decision on my part.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

City of Heroes:
How do I love this new MMORPG about superheroes? Let me count the ways:
City of Heroes

Monday, April 05, 2004

A Little Quick Math:
I've gotten to the point where I'm not so much surprised and angry at shows being cancelled as I am just kind of tired of it. Wonderfalls, a show I had quickly fallen in love with, got cancelled as of its fourth episode, and there won't be any more. Meanwhile, more and more reality shows that I wouldn't watch if you put a gun to my head continue to take the place of scripted programming. And networks bitch because their viewership overall is down. Maybe not everybody likes the reality shows and cheesy sitcoms? Maybe we want more than three or four flavors of CSI and a half-dozen Law & Orders? And I say this as someone who Tivos CSI and Friends, and who used to Tivo Law & Order! It's not that the formula drama and sitcoms are crimes against nature or anything, it's just that I'd like a little more originality and imagination in my TV as well.

Anyway, a little quick math from this season:

Number of new shows I liked (Wonderfalls, Arrested Development, Karen Sisco) = 3
(minus) Number of shows cancelled (Wonderfalls, Karen Sisco, Angel) = 3
(minus) Number of new shows likely to be cancelled (Arrested Development) = 1
(plus) Number of continuing shows I was enjoying (24, Alias, Angel, The Shield, West Wing, The Daily Show) = 6
(minus) Number of shows that went downhill (24, West Wing) = 2
Me watching three shows next season: The Daily Show, Alias and The Shield. Only one of which is actually a network show. Unless the pilot season winds up much stronger than its looking (no Joss Whedon and no Aaron Sorkin), I'm going to be strictly on DVDs of HBO/Showtime shows and movies and reruns of shows when TV was better. Which is fine by me, I don't really need any more TV to watch, but I wonder how universal that experience is, and how much that has to do with the general decline of network TV viewership?

Seems like maybe the nets, if they want to build their viewership again, need to stop with the constant rollout of the new and maybe try and build a critical darling into a big hit, the way they used to do with shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, The X-Files, etc.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Vegas Baby!
Honestly, my week-long trip to Vegas has little to do with this site being so infrequently updated. I'm just busy and/or lazy. But yeah, last week I headed off to Las Vegas for the second time in six months, and just as it was last time, it was on the boss's dime for a work-related Con. This was my first trip to GAMA, the game industry trade show, and I'd been primed to expect something huge. What I got was indeed big, but when you've been to a half-dozen San Diego Comicons, you have a certain expectation for the phrase "Big Con" that GAMA didn't really meet.

Which is good, because had it been any bigger I'd be exhausted. The show was a lot of work, both in terms of the amount of walking and the amount of work involved. Some of it was a loss (the first day seminars were almost universally awful, saved only by Joe Field's engaging panels, and even those were aimed surprisingly at newer retailers, when you'd expect most of the folks at GAMA to be retail vets) but I got to see some cool new games (the Spycraft CCG is going to be great, the D&D Minis Titans of Legends are amazing looking and the Nocturnals book from Green Ronin looks terrific as well) and take in a bit of Vegas as well (love those Bellagio water shows).

In other news, right before Vegas, I discovered my favorite new show of the season: Wonderfalls. I'm not a fanatical follower of AICN (although I do read the @$$holes Talkback reviews religiously), but I do occasionally check in on Hercules' Coaxial side of the site, and it was his constant badgering about how good Wonderfalls was going to be (along with Firefly/Angel vet Tim Minear's name) that got me to check it out. I'm so glad I did, because the show is quirky, snarky and hilarious, with a great cast and smart writing. While it reminds me in tone of Dead Like Me and my late lamented Cupid (the one with Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall, not that reality shit), it is very original and unusual.

It is also probably doomed. But I continue to hope that Fox will realize they've got something special here and move it from the self-fulfilling prophecy Friday death slot into a better place. Not to mention marketing the thing more effectively. I don't watch a great deal of TV commercials these days, it's true (thank you Tivo!) but still... I didn't see a single ad for this new show.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Video (Games) Killed the Radio Star (And All My Free Time):
Been playing some video games lately. I got the Warcraft III expansion for X-Mas, and since my computer had crashed last year, I had to play through Warcraft III original flavor to get back to the point where I could play the expansion. I just finished it recently and have installed (but not played) much of the expansion yet.

And that's because I got a subscription to Gamefly, a Netflix-like service for PS2 (and XBox and GameCube, but I don't have those) games. Since then, I've been spending way too much of my not-too-copious free time playing these rented games. Loved SSX 3 and Need for Speed: Underground, had fun playing Burnout 2 and returned both R: Racing Evolution and NFL Street within minutes of opening them and playing them.

The really fun find, though, has been James Bond: Everything or Nothing. 3rd person James Bond game that feels like a modern Bond movie. Has its quirks, like a slightly off-kilter auto-targeting system that sometimes has me popping caps in a wall while some nameless mook shoots me in the back (not very suave, that), but is generally a blast to play. Such a blast, in fact, that I play too long, and since I've got the unfortunate physiological quirk of becoming nauseous when playing videogames (almost immediately with first-person, takes longer with 3rd), sometimes I wind up having to turn off the TV, etc. and lie there, wishing I had stopped playing the game about fifteen minutes earlier.

Given that I love videogames, I'm very annoyed by this particular physiological quirk. But not as annoyed as I am with myself every time I push the limits too far. But even knowing it might make me feel like vomiting, I love this game. How many reviews of a PS2 game are you gonna read with *that* qualifier?

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Priorities? What are those?
McSupersizes to be phased out - Soldiers are still dying in two countries that we invaded, a shockingly large number of people in the country think gay marriage should be outlawed, the Catholic church is still fondling little boys like it's a national sport... and *this* is where the public pressure is?

I swear, these days I just want to throw my hands up about the American public, and maybe humanity in general. Perhaps we're all too stupid to live. C'mon... eating McDonald's every day is bad for your health? Are there actually people out there who don't know that, who need a documentary or a lawsuit to clue them in? If so, I think being fat is the least of their problems. Fat and stupid and skinny and stupid really isn't that far apart, in terms of quality of life.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Something for the Fourth Rail fans:
It's something we've gotten many requests for, and something I always kind of liked the idea of, so I've spent some of my rare spare time in the past few months putting together an alphabetical archive of my Snap Judgments reviews from when we started the site (in 2001) to the last complete year in the archives (2003). Two and a half years of reviews, all listed alphabetically within each year.

Now, it's still not perfectly searchable, and it's certainly not done for the whole site (this page is sort of a beta test, the final version should have Critiques and Features as well and will take me a while longer), but for those who haven't been able to find stuff in the Snap Judgments archives easily enough, hopefully this will help out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

My Thoughts on Gay Marriage:
Since nobody asked, here they are. I've been reading more than a few threads online following Bush's inane notion to ban gay marriage in the Constitution (finally, someone has come up with something more moronic than the flag-burning amendment! Congrats, G.W.! You continue to excel in stupidity!) and every time I see someone responding with their reasons why gay marriage shouldn't be allowed, I keep wanting to respond in detail. But who has that kind of time? So let me just lay it out plainly.

If you oppose gay marriage, I think you are either a bigot, a moron or a politician. You can give me all the religious bullshit you want, you can give me all the "separate but equal" bullshit you want, you can give me all the "marriage is fer makin' babies" you want, you can even give me the "insurance system can't handle gay marriage" bullshit you want. It's all bullshit. The notion that two consenting adults in love can't get married is stupid enough... the notion that such a rule should be written into our national code of laws, the very thing that defines our nation? That is unpatriotic. It's the secular equivalent of blasphemy against everything this nation is supposed to stand for.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

My Baby Girl Can Bend Metal, Apparently:
They say the first casualty of war is the truth. Apparently the first casualty of Katy is my glasses. For a long time now, my little girl has had a fascination with my glasses, grabbing at them and often pulling them off my head. Tonight when she did so, I heard a loud "pling!" as part of the right temple assembly went flying off behind the couch, never to be found, and discovered that she hadn't just knocked a pin loose, but had actually broken the thing.

So for a week or so, until I get a replacement for this part, I'll be doing the geek thing with tape on my glasses. Oh, well, at least she didn't poke my eye out while she was at it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Star Well, Who Really Gives a Damn:
There was a time when I would have been thrilled to hear today's news, confirming the rumor that the Star Wars Trilogy is coming to DVD. Hell, given that I just watched the Indiana Jones DVD box set and found it to be pretty good this weekend, now would have been a great time for it.

Unfortunately, the "Special Editions," while improved in some regard, mostly contain what I consider to be stupid and unnecessary changes, and the whole reason I'd be getting Star Wars at this point is for nostalgia's sake... and nostalgia doesn't work if it's aimed at where I was in 1997 as opposed to when I was a kid. I'm sure the DVDs will do just fine in sales without me. More the pity... if the set came out and flopped, I think there's a slight chance Lucas would reconsider his decision and put out the original on DVD.

But hey, more importantly... when the hell are we gonna get Seinfeld on DVD?

Monday, February 02, 2004

You know, why is it that whenever you watch a movie (or lately, play a videogame) and think, "Wow that music is great, I should get the soundtrack" almost none of the music you really wanted is on the soundtrack? I mean, practically I know that it's down to licensing concerns, but I was really ticked to find out that neither The Italian Job soundtrack or the SSX3 soundtrack featured "Go" by Andy Hunter, though both featured the song in prominent roles. It's even more irritating that I can't get the song on iTunes.

Don't get me wrong... the Italian Job score is good, and the SSX3 music selection decent as well (although I'm bummed that I bought "Mas" on iTunes only to get it months later on the SSX3 soundtrack as well), it's just that the music in the original video game or movie was so good, and the soundtracks don't have that full effect. And this seems to be a pretty common thing.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Iron Chef:
Don calls this my "What you're watching" blog, so I figured I should add some other things I like doing. For example, eating. For the past few months, whenever Suzanne and I have driven home from visiting my parents in a different part of town, we've seen the Iron Chef restaurant and wondered if it had any connection to the show and, either way, if it was any good. Finally, I decided to look up some reviews and learned that it does indeed have something tangentially to do with the show (the owners are fans and named it after Iron Chef for some attention) and it is indeed quite good.

I haven't had enough variety in Crab Rangoons to really think there's much difference between them, but Iron Chef's Crab & Shrimp Rangoon appetizer was pretty tasty. For my entree, I got the Butter Shrimp... it was sweeter and much lighter than you'd expect of a dish that includes Fried Shrimp in a butter sauce. I was surprised that I didn't really taste the butter, instead it was like a lighter sweet and sour sauce. I tasted a bit of my dad's Golden Duck (which was really good) and my wife's Orange Peel Beef (also surprisingly light given that it's fried beef in orange sauce), which is quite possibly what I'll get the next time I go there.

Dinner prices were about $12 an entree average, and the portions were very good, such that my dad had enough of the Golden Duck left over for lunch tomorrow, although both Suzanne and I polished off our entrees just fine.
Pixar Leaves Disney:
That hammering sound you hear is another nail in Disney's coffin. Congrats to Pixar for getting while the getting is good, and I'd be very surprised if they don't wind up with a really excellent deal elsewhere. At this point, I would categorize every single film they've made (short or feature length) as really good, with the majority of them falling into the excellent category.

Monday, January 26, 2004

So I just recently ordered a couple used items from Amazon and when I was looking around in my account, realized that you can go back and look at invoices from when you first started using them. Or at least, pretty close. And it turns out that I've been ordering from Amazon since 1998, at the very least, meaning that I've been using them for over 5 years. I still do, moreso now that I can buy stuff used (Last Boy Scout DVD for $8, including shipping - that's a good deal!) and now that I have a credit card that gives me a reward certificate to spend at Amazon when I use it, and I get more credits if I buy at Amazon.

I've also noticed that since I signed up for iTunes, I'm buying a lot more music. I mean, I used to buy a CD maybe every 3-4 months, now I'm buying the equivalent of a CD every month, only every track is one that I like. I'm a little bummed that I can't find all the music I want, like the Foo Fighters' "Darling Nikki" or most of the music that was in The Italian Job, but I'm hoping that as time goes by we'll see the selection increase as record companies give in to inevitability and realize that song-by-song, downloadable is a way that a lot of us want to buy music.

Oh, and I looove Netflix. Been using them for a year or two now and have no plans to stop. Even though some months I only watch one or two DVDs, most months I watch a half-dozen or more. Just signed up for Gamefly, a similar service that deals in PS2 games (actually, X-Box, Gamecube and Gameboy Advance too, but I only have PS2). I don't play PS2 all that often, but if I have a rotating pool of games to play around with, that may change.

No real point to all this, just random meandering on how cool I think shopping online has become. I think I did 95% of my Christmas shopping online this year and it was so much easier. Maybe it's ironic that I'm a big online shopper and yet I work in brick-and-mortar retail? I dunno, maybe so, but with comics retail there's still something to be said for that in-person experience or, as my friend Don was so fond of saying when we worked at Psycomic, "People want to touch the books."

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Well, another year down. This was a pretty good year for me. Though I'd like it if I had a job with more of a future and a little bit more money, it was kind of nice working a job where I felt like what I did made a difference, like I was good at what I did and I actually liked going to work. I don't know how long I can keep being assistant manager of a comic-book shop without feeling like I've wasted both my college degree and all my youth on a job with no future, but I'm hoping to hold out at least one more year.

No moves or surprise surgeries or anything like that this year, which was nice. We started in Austin, we stayed in Austin. In fact, the only really major upheaval was a positive one, because this is the year my daughter Katy was born. Everything you hear about "it will change your life" is absolutely 100% true. But not in the way you expect. My routine, dull as it is, remains pretty much the same. Reviews on the off-time, work, weekly gaming with friends, the occasional movie... but every single thing I do now, in the back of my head, I'm doing it as a father. There is not a moment that goes by that Katy isn't in my thoughts, and it's kind of amazing.

The other big moment that sticks out for me in 2003 is San Diego. It was a blast getting to hang out in person with Don again, and for that matter getting to reconnect with all the people that I know in and around comics. There are so many negative things about this industry, and so many people (including me, on some days) are cynical about the whole thing, saying that the industry needs to die for the comics medium to survive... but I can't help but remember how much fun I had at San Diego, and how much of that was down to the community that sprung up in this industry, and I still think the positives outweigh the negatives.

My predictions for 2004? I don't have any, really. I have hopes (I dearly hope someone else is President-elect after November), I have plans (alphabetical archives for The Fourth Rail, even if it kills me to do all the hand-coding), I have guaranteed moments of joy (Katy learning to walk, and *maybe* saying her first word?)... but no predictions.
Finding Nemo DVD:
So my Christmas was really good, and most of my gifts were of the DVD variety. (Which was fine by me.) I've been spending some time recently watching some of them, although I'm not even remotely close to getting through them yet. I'll probably still be watching Christmas DVDs when my birthday rolls around in April. So far, I've watched the movie of Pirates of the Caribbean, the first disc (cartoons only) of the fantastic Golden Looney Tunes collection and, as the title of this post would indicate, Finding Nemo. In addition to rewatching the film, which *might* be my favorite Pixar movie ever, I just watched the "visual commentary" tonight.

This is the kind of thing that makes DVDs worth buying. There are three voices on the commentary track itself, but using seamless branching technology, the film breaks off between 5-15 minutes at a time and shows little bits of behind-the-scenes, ranging from a video of Ellen Degeneres speaking whale to CG animators talking about a particular technique. The result is that you feel like you're taking part in an intelligent and thorough discussion of the making of the movie, even as you can compare what they're talking about to the finished product. It might be the best commentary I've ever seen.

Along with the Behind the Scenes featurette and the general quality of Pixar movies, it just reaffirms something for me: If everyone put the same amount of passion and hard work, and had as much fun and investment, in making their movies as Pixar does, there would be no bad movies. Also, I've decided that I would like to work at Pixar when I grow up. Shame I have absolutely no skills that would be applicable to such a job, huh? ;)