Sunday, July 31, 2005

Million Dollar Baby:
I rented this from Netflix just before I left for San Diego, and finally got around to watching it on Friday night. I was completely impressed, even with all the hype and awards that surrounded the flick. Amazing performances from Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, fantastic writing and great dialogue from Paul Haggis and beautiful shot composure by Eastwood and his crew. Yes, it's got a downbeat ending, but it's not as depressing as I was expecting, and I found a lot of the early part of the movie quite funny and quite moving as well. The boxing matches in particular are shot really well.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Comic Collecting Software:
I've just never been organized enough to put my comics into a database. Well, organized isn't probably the right word. Maybe I've been too lazy to sit down for what's likely to be a weekend or two to input all my comics in so that I've got a good record of them. I had a couple failed attempts with MS Excel about 7-8 years ago, and before that with some rinky-dink Mac program I don't even remember, but both times I gave up about one or two longboxes in.

However, it's a good idea, and for those less lazy than I, I provide this link to Comic Keeper, a new comics database software that retails for $25-30, rather than the $250-300 that the granddaddy of them all, Comic Base, goes for. If you've always wanted to computerize your collection info but didn't want to drop hundreds, this is definitely worth a look.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Weekly Comics to Come:
For the week of August 3, 2005

Fantastic Four Unstable Molecules Tp (It lacks a punchy ending or a really strong structure, but it's got some great moments and terrific Guy Davis artwork, so I'm glad to see Marvel reprinting it. Now how about a trade of Thing - Night Falls on Yancy Street, which was one of the best Fantastic Four stories Marvel has published in years?)
Gotham Central #34 (The Teen Titans come in to talk about the supposed death of Robin, and the politics of cops and Batman are explored when one of the cops takes a shot at him - Another great issue)
Hero Squared #1 (Not just an also-ran companion to Formerly Known as the Justice League and Defenders, this is Giffen/DeMatteis on an original concept, and with this first issue of the miniseries, I've warmed up considerably - review coming soon)
Hip Flask Mystery City (It's not entirely coherent this time out, but it's beautiful, as all the Ladronn-illustrated Hip Flask stories have been - an annual treat)
Pvp #0 (Mostly a "clip show" for new readers, but also has a really sweet "secret origin of Skull" new feature, and it's 50 cents!)
Sandman Presents Thessaly Witch For Hire Tp (Bill Willingham's Thessaly miniseries isn't as great as his Fables work, but it's still pretty entertaining)
Season Of The Witch #0 (The first issue of a new fantasy series, with some solid action, a likable heroine and great artwork)
Stupid Comics #3 (More Mahfood-y goodness!)
Y The Last Man #36 (A focus on Beth, Yorick's long-lost girlfriend, and what's she up to, as good as the book always is)

Antique Bakery Gn Vol 1 (Lene Taylor and Ginger Mayerson covered this on their podcast, and while it definitely doesn't sound up my alley, the insanity of the premise, the execution and the (I kid you not) scratch and sniff cover is too strangely compelling not to mention)
Fantastic Four House Of M #2 (Probably the best thing to come out of House of M so far, as John Layman explores what happens to the other master supervillains when one of them takes over)
Grimjack Killer Instinct #6 (The return of Grimjack concludes - hope we'll see more Grimjack soon)
Jsa #76 (I think the Day of Vengeance tie-ins and various other Infinite Crisis flavorings may have killed my interest in this book, as they have so many others in the DCU)
Justice #1 (Krueger, Ross and Braithwaite turn their attention to a grimmer, grittier Superfriends. Could wind up being great old school kind of fun, but these are the guys who bored me to tears on Universe X, so we'll see)
Karma Incorporated #1 (Folks in the business of revenge for money from Viper Comics - I'm expecting dark comedy)
Legend Of Grimjack Vol 3 Tp (Yay, more classic Grimjack reprinted from IDW!)
Lions Tigers & Bears Tp (The first issue of this was all-ages fun, and then I lost track of it, so I need to check this trade out)
Marvel 1602 New World #1 (Not real optimistic about a continuation of Gaiman's 1602, which I wasn't crazy about in the first place, but Pak and Tocchini both have talent, so I'll at least give it a look)
Marvel Visionaries John Romita Sr Hc (Love these Visionaries hardcover, love Romita Sr.'s work)
Mnemovore #4 (The story lost me a little bit on the last issue, but the art continues to impress and I'm hoping that the story will rope me back in as well)
Serenity #2 (Enjoyed the first issue quite a bit, looking forward to the second one)
Ted Noodleman Bicycle Delivery Boy Tp (Early work by Ryan Ottley, the glimpse I had in San Diego looked pretty solid)
Top Ten The Forty Niners Hc (Alan Moore and Gene Ha present the last Top 10 story, or at least the last one with Moore's name attached, and thus the last one for me)
Wildsiderz #1 (J. Scott Campbell returns with a concept that sounds Saturday morning cartoon inspired, and which could be fun - although the preview book was not terribly promising)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

More Stuff to Review:
I've already covered the stuff that needs reviewing from San Diego, here's what makes up the majority of my comp pile at the moment: Dark Horse Book of the Dead, Conan #15-17, Chronicles of Conan Vols. 5-7, Conan Vol. 1 (yep, there's a Conan feature in the offing), 2 Sisters, Ojo TPB, The Wandering Schoolgirl, Nothing Left to Lose, Punish the Dead, The Ride, Iron Ghost #2, Firestorm #14-15, Zombie King #0, Qwerty, Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities #2-3, Children of the Grave #1-3, Johnny Raygun #1-4, Tabloia #575-576, The Norm Magazine #6-7, Ghostbusters #1-4, Night #1-2, Symbiotes #2-4, Helios #2-3, Club 9 Vol. 3, Small Gods Special #1, PVP #0, Season of the Witch #0, Guncandy #1, Body Bags #1, Bonerest #1, Grounded #1, Battle Pope #1, Wildguard: Fool's Gold #1-2, The Gatesville Company #1, The Atheist #2, Invincible #24, Armor X #4, The Walking Dead #20, Hero Camp #3, Girls #3, Stupid Comics #3, Star Wars Empire #32, Man With the Screaming Brain #3, Usagi Yojimbo #85, Strange Girl #2 and Mickey Mouse Meets Blotman.

That's not all that's getting reviewed... two things not on the comp pile that are in the soon to be reviewed pile are Teenagers From Mars TPB (finally bought this and really liked it) and Godland #1 (haven't read yet, but looking forward to it), and there will certainly be some other DC/Marvel stuff along the way, but that's a pretty good look at 90% of what I'll be covering in the next few weeks (and probably longer to get to some of it.)
Why Heidi MacDonald is awesome:
I've read a lot of Con reports, written one of my own, but this is probably the best overview of the general "vibe" of San Diego that I've read. And she never even uses the "show with no buzz" catchphrase that has become the default description, either.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Flametrick Subs:
So it looks like I'll be heading out with some of my group of friends to see the Flametrick Subs (and Satan's Cheerleaders) on Saturday, August 6th at Beerland. I'm working until 10, of course, so I'll be arriving a little late, but the Flametrick shows are always a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to it.

In other news... leaky ceilings are no fun, whether you have them at home (the knowledge that I am going to have to replace our entire roof at some point haunts me) or work (there's a big 'ol leak in front of our counter at work). I'm just saying.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

We don't need no water:
So I woke up around 11:45 (hey, cut me some slack, I was up until 3:30) and my wife is saying "If you can take a shower in about five minutes, you better do it, they're about to shut off the water."

Turns out that when they were working in our neighbor's yard yesterday, it was on the water main, and so today they're turning off the water for the whole street. So I rushed through my shower, got my teeth brushed and got dressed. When I came back in to shave (electric razor, thankfully) a few minutes later and tried to rinse out the sink... no water.

Glad I'm going to work, but I feel sorry for my wife and daughter, who are here without water for several hours. It'd probably drive me nuts, just knowing that it wasn't there if I needed it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday routine:
Well, it's been almost a week since I got back from San Diego (I'm about five hours shy of when I actually landed in Austin), and I'm just about rested, recuperated and back into some sort of routine. My Monday routine tends to be putting off mowing the lawn for as long as possible, and that's part of what this posting is all about, too. It'll save me a couple minutes where I'm not thinking "I should really go outside and mow." Not sure why I put it off so much, as it's really not that hard a thing to do, especially when I put on my iPod and listen to music or a podcast or an audiobook the whole time, but I just never feel like doing it.

Also on the chores list today is balancing the checkbook, another chore I put off constantly that always takes about 10-15 minutes when I finally sit down to do it. I did get one thing done today, and that was emailing some of the folks that I talked to in San Diego to follow up and say thank you, hello or whatever. My Con coverage at Fourth Rail is now complete, and includes the Con report, my sketchbook and a review of the sketchbooks I picked up.

And now, for no reason other than I want to, a list of all the stuff I got at San Diego that is awaiting review (not counting the two that are getting reviewed tomorrow, Tricked and The King): Invincible Vol. 1 HC, Bumperboy Loses His Marbles, Passion of Da Keef, Small Favors Vols. 1-2, Arsenic Lullaby: Year of the Fetus, Rose and Isabel, Spiral Bound, aeiou, Scalawag, 1000 Steps to World Domination, Smoke & Guns, Northwest Passage 1, Gunpowder Girl & The Outlaw Squaw, The Fly Chronicles, Ballast, Solstice, Brickman Begins, Afterworks, Crowpsey, Raider 2&3, Yets!, The Travels of Gulliver, And Then One Day #s 1&4, Flytrap, Crispy Cornflakes, Slop #5-6, Hector Spector, Mort Grim, Agent 44, Horus, Sketch Crawling, Wannabee #1, Foxymoron #3-6 & X-Mas Special, Western Tales of Terror #5, Elk's Run #3, Rocketo #0, Henagi the Ninja Girl #1, Hieroglyphs, Fragile Prophet #1, Voicebox Summer Preview 2005, The Last Battle, Hero Squared #1, G.I. Spy #1, Hip Flask: Mystery City, Students of the Unusual #1, Fear Agent Preview and Burn #1-2.

This is of course on top of the roughtly 2 foot stack of graphic novels and single issues in my comp pile to review. So I'm gonna be busy reviewing for a while... but I thought y'all might enjoy a preview of some of the stuff that's going to be in the column for the next month or two.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

TV Catch-Up:
Catching up on my TV from the last couple of weeks (Love ya, Tivo!) during the last couple of days. The Inside continues to be watchable but disappointing given the talent involved, so I honestly won't be too sorry to see it go. Battlestar Galactica has started off strong in season two, with some great suspense stuff involving the cylon raiding party aboard Galactica and some really excellent character stuff. Loved the confrontation of sorts between Apollo and Tigh at the end of episode two.

I've also been catching up on The Daily Show. I love the show, especially when some blowhard (such as Bernard Goldberg) comes on and just gets torn to shreds by Jon's logic and humor. I always leave the show a little frustrated with the abuses of power going on in our country right now, though... I'm continually stunned at how much shit this administration (and it's hatchet man, Karl Rove) gets away with, and even when they get called on it, they just kind of skate by and no one is punished for their transgressions. I imagine this is how the conservatives felt when Clinton just deflected every attack they made on him, except with Clinton it was about blowjobs in the White House, with Bush it's about soldiers being in Iraq and a CIA agent whose cover was blown by her own countrymen.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I've been sort of getting into the idea of podcasting lately. I have subscribed to a few podcasts now that iTunes is offering them, including Indie Airplay, the Monday Show with Sara Routh, Augie's Pipeline podcast and the iTunes New Music Tuesdays podcast. I've been looking for some good comics commentary or Austin-central podcasts, but haven't found anything yet... recommendations are welcome.

I'm also toying with the notion of doing a podcast myself. Probably a sort of "week in review" for comics, maybe some kind of back and forth commentary with myself and somebody else (it'd be great to do audio Two in One reviews with Don, but he's kind of in Canada, which makes it difficult, plus we're both tremendously busy with schedules that never coincide), who knows? I've downloaded Audacity on Augie's recommendation, now I just need to look into getting a microphone for the computer and seeing how hard it is to work the software and MP3 encoding.

Chance of this actually happening: Probably about 50%. Chance of it being regular instead of fading away so I can watch more TV, play more videogames, read more comics and play more with my daughter: About 25%.

Advice, recommendations on content and presentation and offers of help greatly appreciated.
Friday Night:
Just recently picked up Burnout 3 for the PS/2, now that it's dropped to $20. I had already played the game heavily when it was rented and loved it, so I was glad to finally get the game to have whenever I feel like crashing cars. Since we weren't having our regular game this weekend (the GM is off racing his Mini somewhere), I invited some of the crew over to my place to play the game. Burnout 3, for those who haven't played it, is a racing game where you try to crash other cars, narrowly avoid oncoming traffic and even engage in a "crash mode" where you try to cause the most spectacular crashes for the most monetary damage.

You know the crash physics are good on a game when a group of five guys watch a fictional crash into a wall at high speeds and respond with a visceral "oooohhh! ouch!"

Friday, July 22, 2005

Heroes Con vs. Wizard World Atlanta:
The news of Wizard's shot across the bow of long-running comic convention Heroes Con is spreading across the web. Newsarama has a pretty good rundown of what's been said so far.

I've been meaning to get out to Heroes Con for some time, especially given that my sister and brother-in-law live down there. Given the number of pros who haven't gone in the past but who are going this year as a show of support, as well as all the good I've heard about the show, it sounds like 2006 is the year to drive down with the wife and kid to visit relatives and hit Heroes Con.

You may be able to hear the crickets on the floor of the Wizard World Atlanta Con, if this keeps going at the rate it's going. Or they'll wise up, apologize and move the Con. I've been to two Wizard Worlds (the first one in Chicago and the one two years ago in Dallas) and have always come away unimpressed in comparison to the original Chicago Comicon, San Diego, even the small press shows like SPX and STAPLE.
Weekly Comics To Come:
Every week, as part of my retail job, I run down the invoice of what's coming into the store next Wednesday. I also pull out the stuff that looks interesting to me, so I figured why not take that list, make a few brief comments and try to make that the regular Friday update on my new daily blog? Will this continue, or will it be one time only? Time will tell!

Astro City The Dark Age #2 (Very interesting stuff about the Silver Agent)
Capote In Kansas Gn (Fantastic semi-biographical story of novelist Truman Capote, certainly one of the best graphic novels of the year and a must-buy)
Daredevil Vs Punisher #2 (Fairly standard Daredevil/Punisher material, but done with style by David Lapham)
Hulk Destruction #1 (Decent but forgettable beginning of a spotlight on Hulk foe Abomination. Peter David writing is pretty good, if a little hard to follow at times due to time jumps, Jim Muniz art is sort of OK but not much more)
Runaways #6 (Great follow-up to last issue's reveal about Victor Mancha's parentage and good finale to the first arc of the returned series)
Silent Dragon #1 (Beautiful art by Leinil Yu, not quite sold on the story yet but the futuristic Yakuza/military tale does intrigue)
Spider-Man Human Torch Im With Stupid Digest Tp (Amazing and totally overlooked Spidey/Human Torch LS by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton in cheap as hell $8 digest format - If not for Capote in Kansas, this would probably be my pick of the week)

Bill & Teds Most Excellent Adventures Vol 2 Tp (First volume was kind of fun, this is the remainder of Evan Dorkin's take on the slacker duo)
Courtney Crumrin Tales #1 (Naifeh explores some of the supporting cast of Courtney, starting with warlock Uncle Aloysius)
Cute Manifesto Tp (A collection of Kochalka comics)
Dead West Vol 1 Gn (Looking forward to reading this undead western by Rick Spears and Rob. G, creators of Filler and Teenagers From Mars)
Godland #1 (Mind-blowing cosmic fun mixing Kirby with the deconstructionist style of Automatic Kafka by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli)
JLA Cyberforce (Really? Cyberforce? Isn't it 2005? And Silvestri, the only possible draw for these characters, isn't even involved)
Losers #26 (More kickass action from Diggle and Jock. Sorry to see it go in 2006, and yet happy about the notion of seeing the wrap-up)
Nightwing Year One Tp (Fun formula superhero by Dixon, Beatty and McDaniel - fits right in with the Batgirl: Year One and Robin: Year One trades by the same writers)
Previews #25.8 (Down the Line should follow next week)
Queen & Country Declassified Vol 3 #2 (First issue was terrific, looking forward to seeing more of this IRA/SAS tale)
Star Wars Republic #77 (After this, two more issues to go in the great Ostrander/Duursema run on Star Wars: Republic)
Tick Days Of Drama #1 (New Tick! It's kind of lost its luster for me, but all the Tick comics, with or without Edlund, that I've read have been enjoyable)
Usagi Yojimbo Vol 19 Fathers And Sons Tp (The finale of the Usagi/Jotaro story, as great as Usagi Yojimbo always is)
Western Tales Of Terror #5 (Contributors this issue include Steve Niles, Scott Mills, Tony Moore, Small Gods creators Jason Rand and Juan Ferraya and Tom Mandrake)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Daily Updates?
I've resolved to try and post something daily on this blog. As I am remarkably uninteresting, no doubt many of these posts will be utter nonsense. Take this one, for example.

Anyway, new blogs to add to my daily reading list (that should have been on there long ago): The Comics Reporter and Bags and Boards. These came up as I reached day two (Thursday) of my Con report, which will no doubt frighten and disgust in its length and rambling nature when I finally get it finished and posted (I'm betting on Monday) at Fourth Rail.

Still haven't really turned on the TV since getting back from San Diego, aside from watching the two episodes of Family Guy I had saved (I needed a laugh). The first episode of Battlestar Galactica second season, the latest Rescue Me and about a week and a half of The Daily Show all call to me. As do my new copy of Burnout 3 for PS/2 (purchased right before I left) and Scrubs: Season One DVD (already watched from Netflix, but would like to rewatch).

Also need to read some of the Marvel First Look stuff from next week: Runaways, Daredevil/Punisher, a couple others. Already read the DC stuff I wanted to, which meant reading Wildstorm's Silent Dragon (interesting start, though not the slam bang opener I had hoped for) and... uh... something else I've already forgotten.

See, I told you... daily = rambling. Hopefully I'll improve as I get into the groove. Or, more likely, give up and go back to semi-monthly updates.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Read So Far:
I've got an enormous pile of graphic novels and comics to read coming off San Diego, and it's going to take me a while to get to reviewing them all.

So far, however, I have read: Gunpowder Girl & Outlaw Squaw, And Then One Day #1 & #4, Small Favors Vols. 1-2, Bumperboy Loses His Marbles, Arsenic Lullaby: Year of the Fetus, The Passion of Da Keef, Invincible HC, aeiou, Scalawag, Tricked, The King, Smoke & Guns, 1000 Steps to World Domination and Spiral Bound. Reviews of all of these should hit relatively soon (next couple weeks, hopefully) but the quick hit favorites are the Invincible HC (packed with extras, so damn cool!), Tricked (worth the wait), The King (better than Three Fingers, which I loved), Smoke & Guns (insane fun) and Spiral Bound (all-ages greatness).

*sigh* I was this close to being caught up on all my comps before San Diego, now I've got a huge backlog again. Ah, well, it's all stuff I'm dying to read and review! :)

Monday, July 18, 2005

I Have Returned:
Back (finally) from the big San Diego trip, a day later than planned thanks to delays and other related BS from Southwest Airlines. This is the first time I've had major flight trouble in a while, and definitely the *last* time I'll fly through Las Vegas on Southwest if I can avoid it. While our customer service in San Diego was great, friendly and accomodating in what were unbearably difficult circumstances, we got nothing but frustration and anger from dealing with the ranking manager on duty Lance Thibodeau in Southwest's Las Vegas branch. He was of course mildly more helpful than the woman who first greeted us with a surly "That means nothing to me" when we told her we were the six misconnects from Austin and got more surly and unhelpful from there, but he was basically a sarcastic and useless tool and we had to badger him to get us the hotel rooms that had been promised us in San Diego if we wound up stranded in Vegas.

Aargh. This will of course all show up in the con report on Fourth Rail in a few days. Oddly, I just finished perusing Newsarama, which has all the news that I missed while on the floor of the Con, and realized that most of it holds little to no interest for me. It's all about DC/Marvel plans, and while there are a few intriguing bits, the big hypefest books that are going to sell don't really hold much attraction to me. Does this mean I've lost interest in comics? Well, given the stacks of graphic novels and sketchbooks I picked up in San Diego, and the fact that I'll probably go read a few more when I finish typing this, not really... it just means that I'm getting tired of bullshit hype and would rather have creators doing their thing instead. San Diego was a nice reminder that there are still a ton of people out there beyond DC/Marvel, and the reports of good sales from most everyone I talked to a welcome reminder that there's interest in this kind of thing from fans as well.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Fantastic Four:
Just as I seem to be out of step with the majority of comics buyers relating to the two event stories going on at DC and Marvel, I also seem to be somewhat out of step with the consensus on comic book movies so far.

Because honestly, I liked Fantastic Four. Certainly better than Batman Begins. Why? Well, mostly it comes down to fun. Batman Begins is dour and lifeless, Fantastic Four feels like the sort of fun I'd rather have in my comics. It is true, in a lot of ways, to the spirit of the team that was instilled by Lee and Kirby in their legendary run.

I'm not saying it was a great movie. There are any number of logical inconsistencies that add up, and if you let yourself keep asking questions about the variations in science, the bizarre flip-flops in characterization that a few characters suffer (poor Doom worst of all) or why on Earth someone thought it was a good idea to use that music at that time, you'll probably hate it.

However, if you can go with a flow and ignore some of the Hollywoodisms (and these days, to enjoy an event movie you pretty much have to ignore some Hollywoodism), Fantastic Four is a pretty fun, even action-packed take on these characters that does justice to at least 3 1/2 of them. Doom gets short shrift in the script, but it's nothing that couldn't be fixed with a sequel that has him taking over Latveria and becoming the Doom we'd all prefer, and I like to think that Julian McMahon could handle that role and that the missteps as Doom in this movie are due more to script failures. Jessica Alba is, as with Sin City, a bit miscast, as she doesn't quite make me buy into her as smart scientist Sue Storm (btw, I like changing Sue from '50s housewife to Reed's scientific equal, whether it's here or in Ultimate FF), but in general she's still pretty good. Michael Chiklis, as expected, is great as The Thing, and the effects actually work to make us believe him as the Thing. A little old school, maybe, could have used a bit more CGI touch-up maybe, but certainly not as bad as early shots would have led you to believe. Ioan Gruffudd is given the difficult job of bringing major-league stiff Reed Richards to life, and he pulls it off admirably.

Of course, Chris Evans as Johnny Storm steals the movie. He's the guy actually enjoying himself when the powers comes along, he gets some of the best special effects and some of the most effective humor and action sequences. I would have guessed before seeing the movie that Chiklis was the best bit of casting, but Evans is the real find, he just embodies everything that Johnny Storm should be. Oh, and I like the change that he is the team's pilot, not just Sue's younger brother who tagged along on the mission. I wasn't down with all the changes made in this story from the original (Doom as business tycoon feels like lazy writing, for example) but I did like quite a few of them.

Maybe it's lowered expectations, maybe I'm willing to forgive a lot in the name of fun... but unlike Batman Begins, I see myself buying Fantastic Four when it comes out on DVD. And although Batman will get a sequel and FF might not, truthfully I'd rather see that reversed, because I'd love to see these actors meet again, this time with Doom at the head of Latveria, as he should be, and with all the origin stuff pushed out of the way to make way for a stronger story.

Monday, July 04, 2005

A Good Weekend:
I don't technically get holidays at my job, but because Sundays and Mondays are my regular days off, and because many of my friends were enjoying a three-day weekend, I got to enjoy this holiday weekend quite a bit anyway.

Friday night was a DVD release party for the STAPLE DVD at Austin Books. I did the interviews with Scott Kurtz and Michael Lark on the DVD, and I thought Gary Bartos and Doug Benning did a terrific job putting the DVD together. If you've got any interest in seeing a series of interviews about a first-time (very successful) small press show, this DVD is well worth a look. For me, the coolest thing was hanging out at Austin Books with my friends Chris Nicholas, Dave Lamplugh and Nate Southard as well as out-of-towner Toby Craig and DVD director/producer etc. Gary Bartos. Much good conversation and a fun, cheap late dinner at Taco Cabana made for an entertaining evening.

On Saturday, before going in to work, I went to the Red River Cafe with Gary, Chris, Dave and Toby and had brunch. Good food, more good (if weird) conversation, lots of fun. Then on Saturday night I went with my buddy Dave Farabee to see War of the Worlds. Dave was unimpressed, but I was pretty happy with the movie, and the suspense pretty much had me hooked in throughout. The very end is a little bit too pat and sentimental, but most of the movie I liked.

My wife and daughter had been out of town on Friday and Saturday visiting relatives in Dallas, so I was glad when they returned on Sunday, which also happened to be my wife's birthday. After spending the day playing with Katy, Suzanne and I took her over to my parents' house to spend the night so we could have an evening out. We went to The Melting Pot, an *awesome* fondue restaurant. It's pricey, special occasion fare all the way, but it was just amazing food. Melted cheese and bread, apples and veggies, a "Pacific Rim" sampler of meat (which included duck, teriyaki steak, pork, chicken, shrimp and potstickers) that we cooked at the table and an amazing dessert course made up of chocolate, marshmallow fluff and graham crackers made for a great meal. Truthfully, I ate a bit too much, and regretted eating that last bit of cheesecake (dipped in the chocolate), but I couldn't resist.

We then went to see Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which I also liked quite a bit. Pitt and Jolie had great chemistry, Liman's direction is as sure and sharp as his work on Bourne Identity and Go and the story might have been easy to read, but the action was solid and the general writing pretty decent.

Tomorrow, we'll go over to my folks' house for burgers and brats on the grill and Katy's first experience with fireworks (Black cats and sparklers). A good weekend. And now it's almost 3:00 AM and I should really go to bed.