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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cognitive Surplus - What do we do with it?

If you're like me (and I'm assuming you are), you wonder how you're going to find time to do all the cool things you want to accomplish. You THINK you don't have any time, but when you really sit down and look at how you spend your time, you realize that you waste a lot more time than you actually think. For many of us, a lot of that wasted time comes from watching TV.

About a decade ago, I reached a breaking point and decided to completely unplug my cable TV. I did it successfully for two solid years (this was before I got married). And I have to say, that it was a Golden Age for me. A period of productivity and life enjoyment that I never had before or since. Much like smokers find it impossible to quit smoking when they are living with other smokers, as much as I'd like to once again go completely cold turkey on TV, I live with other TV watchers. So for now, I have to just do my best to monitor and restrict my useless TV watching.

Anyway, here's a great video about how we use our time and how to carve out part of your life to accomplish cool stuff.

Penguins 5 - Rangers 3 (Pens lead series 3-0)


I was at my writer's group meeting, so I didn't get to see any of this game, but from all accounts, it was more of the same for the Penguins. Two goals and an assist for Malkin, two assists for Crosby, 36 saves for Fleury, dominating special teams on both ends of the ice.

The Pens are 7-0 in the playoffs so far this post-season, a feat which hasn't happened since the Rangers did it in 1994 en route to winning the Cup. Montreal did it in 1989 en route to losing the Cup finals to Calgary, and the leader in the clubhouse is the 1985 Oilers who reeled off nine straight wins to start the post-season en route to winning the Cup.

Earlier in the day, Malkin was named as one of the finalists for the Hart Trophy (the NHL's MVP award). So that gives the Pens two finalists (Crosby last year, who won it) in the last two years. Right now, the only thing that could derail this bunch of talented young players is their own over-confidence.

Onward to game four and hopefully a second straight sweep.

What To Do About Pesky Arch-Enemies

Yes... the question always hangs in the air...

"What do I do about my arch-enemy?"

You can sit back and wait for them to make the first move... wait for them to make the first mistake. But what if they're doing the same thing? Any self-respecting arch-enemy would not only be planning the next step, they'd be thinking TEN steps ahead.

And I'm sure that MY arch-enemy, Jim, is doing exactly that. After careful consideration, here's what I think he's doing:

1) Tapping my phone line. Although technically, this shouldn't count, because I'm sure he did that years ago already.

2) Stealing my credit card information. This is most insidious because he wouldn't use that information just yet. He'd save it for when it would be of most benefit to himself, and most damaging to me. (Must make mental note to change credit cards later tonight.)

3) Secretly swiping some of my DNA. Again, I'm sure he's done this at least once already, but with the decay of DNA samples, and the concurrent advancement of DNA marker identification, I'm sure he'll be needing fresh samples. Must think-- has anyone scraped skin off of my arm in passing? Did I feel a sharp sting recently and not know where it came from? Oh no... I just had my hair cut this morning and forgot to demand they give me the hair clippings. Those bits of snipped hair could even now be en route to Jim.

4) Sending inappropriate emails to my child. He hasn't done this yet, but I'm sure it's one of his next steps. I'm sure he's searching through his massive amounts of porn to find just the right clips and photos that will be most damaging to my child's psyche and emotional development. I can only pray that he doesn't send any of himself.

5) Updating his yarn and push-pin map of my comings and goings. I've been lax in covering my tracks of late. The map is probably far more accurate than I'm comfortable with.

6) Securing getaway car. Again, this is basic stuff, but there is no better time than now to do a thorough sweep of everything to make sure it's all still working properly.

7) Re-establishing aliases. Restrictions are a bit tighter now, so you have to be a bit more diligent about keeping your aliases up-to-date. The last thing you'd want to do is check into a hotel under an assumed name and discover that there is no longer any record of your alias's existence.

8) Introducing subtle poison into my water system. Not enough to kill me or my family, but enough to dull my wits when I need them most. Must remember to replace filters on all faucets.

9) Buying more heavy-duty garbage bags. Of course, depending on Jim's recent activity level, he may still have plenty on tap.

10) And finally, it goes without saying that he's befriending my friends. There's no more insidious way to destroy someone than from within, through those closest to him. (Must make a mental note to test my friends' loyalty and attempt to gauge Jim's currently level of influence.)



With all of this in mind, what must *I* do?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Humor for Hockey Fans

This is funny only if you're a hockey fan. Actually, if you're a hockey fan, it's probably not funny because it hits a little too close to home.


NHL Star Called Up To Big Leagues To Play For NFL Team

Land of the Lost - The Movie - First Images

Okay... I've been following this film's development with a bit of skepticism. It's one of the last bastions of cheesy childhood TV (of my favorites, that is) that hasn't yet been ironically deconstructed and regurgitated for today's audiences.

I know the Land of the Lost TV show was incredibly cheesy. I don't know if I will ever watch the original TV series again, preferring to allow my childhood memories of it remain pure. This opening title sequence is as much as I'll watch.




I loved that show. The evil Sleestaks scared the crap out of me. I know if I ever DID watch the show again, I'd discover all sorts of phobias and mindsets of mine that had their genesis here.

But I won't.

However, I WILL watch the movie when it comes out, thanks to this wonderful first image that has been released. (click to embiggen)This is beautiful. This one image sums up everything I loved about the original series.

The movie, starring Will Ferrell, promises to be faithful-ish to the original. Instead of a dad and two kids, it's three adults. But I'd be shocked if we don't see the same hole/cave that they hide in, the same dinos that attack them (and each other) that live on either side of a ravine, and I had BETTER see Enik, pylons, and the control tables that you put the multi-colored crystals in.

I'll be following this one with interest... Land of the Lost is currently set to premiere July 17, 2009. Click here to read USA Today's story.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Battlestar Galactica - Season Four - Episode 4

Good episode overall. Not great, but at least continuing this season's string of solid stories. Rather than delve into plot details (there's plenty of sites of the web great for that), I'll instead focus on the show from a director/writer's standpoint, and what I may have derived from this episode.

For starters, not much happened to drive the meta plot forward. Mostly what we had was fallout from the first three episodes. The focus was very tight and character-based. While in the past, I've tended to dread these episodes (as they are usually filler), this one didn't suffer from that at all. Three of the four secret Cylons (Tory, Tigh, and Tyrol) all had the hems of their sanity start to fray a little bit. I imagine the encounter between Tigh and Six might have looked pretty dicey on the page, but the actors pulled off these scenes fantastically. Solid writing and acting all around.

The one area where I feel the show is sliding in the opposite direction is Baltar's journey into Christ status. In spite of the fact that they've been setting him up since the finale of Season One to be some sort of eventual religious figure, it still rings totally false. I don't buy his character converting. The fact that Baltar is so often played for laughs tends to undermine the power I think his religious arc is supposed to have. The writers seem to drift back and forth from making it seem like it really IS a genuine religious conversion, to making it seem like it's 100% fakery on Baltar's part. I think it needed to pick one or the other. Instead of being intrigued by Baltar's journey, I'm bored and skeptical.

In any event, it looks like Baltar is headed for Christ status, as it seems destined that Baltar be killed or sacrificed for the sake of his religion. I'll just continue watching and continue cringing every time Baltar starts spouting off religious mumbo-jumbo.

Finally, I have to say that the scene where Head Six seems to pick Baltar up was amusingly well-done. Casts more doubt and wonder on exactly what's going on with Baltar's innter Cylon.

Next week looks like we get to spend a lot more time on the Demetrius.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Penguins 2 - Rangers 0 (Pens lead series 2 -0)


(continuing a series of posts meant only for me, as I can't imagine anyone else possibly interested in the NHL Playoffs.)

So it's looking more and more like it's going to be the Pens' year. Six straight games. They're making it look easy.

Crosby has had to deal with allegations of diving the past couple of days. Hopefully he'll get that under control and just play the game rather than over-react to draw penalties.

The series shifts back to New York now, where the Rangers should enjoy a slightly better advantage. They may get one win, but I think that's it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Penguins 5 - Rangers 4 (Penguins lead series 1-0)


It looked a little dicey for awhile as the Pens were down 3-0, but they steadily chipped away at the lead, tying it in the third, and then taking the lead 4-3. The Rangers tied it, but a late powerplay deflection goal by Malkin, off a shot by Crosby, was the game-winner.

The Pens were flying in the third, with precision passing like I haven't seen in a long time. It was lots of fun to watch. It's preposterous to compare these baby Penguins to the flying Oilers of the 80's, but I haven't enjoyed watching hockey this much since the glory days of Gretzky and Lemieux.

Go Pens!

Foxmarks (Great Firefox add-on)

Part three in my multi-part series on indispensable Firefox add-ons leads me to Foxmarks. If you have multiple computers you use, say a home computer and a work computer, and maybe even a laptop computer, and you're tired of adding and subtracting bookmarks from all the computers, then Foxmarks is for you!

Once you sign up for it initially (simple sign-up procedure, but it does require you to set up a username and password, which might be annoying to some of you. But it's free, so don't fret),
it uploads all of your bookmarks to an online location (in the Bahamas, I think). Then when you go to your other computers, you just install Foxmarks on the those, log in, and now you've got matching bookmarks on all your computers. Anytime you make a change on one computer, or add a new bookmark, it synchronizes it with all the other computers. The links toolbar is the same, the bookmarks menu is the same, everything is the same on all your computers. The only thing you have to do is set up your user names and passwords on any sites that require them, as Foxmarks doesn't synchronize that.

Once you set it up, it runs without you ever having to mess with it again. Your bookmarks are now just magically synced up on all your computers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

FireShot (Great Firefox add-on)

Fireshot is another invaluable Firefox add-on I use all the time. It's basically a screen capture utility that takes a snapshot of whatever is in your browser. It then immediately goes to a quick edit screen that allows you to do minor editing and cropping of the image. Then you can save it or do whatever you want with it.

It's great for blogging, especially when you just need a small part of a page, or something like that. Just click the FireShot toolbar button (just one little old button. Very unobtrusive) and it snaps a picture.

I like tools and add-ons that become transparent in their ease of use and usefulness. It's as easy as click, crop, and save.

Top Ten Movies I'm Looking Forward To This Summer

It's just about time for the Summer Blockbuster Season to roll around, so I'm starting to plan what I actually want to see. Usually I INTEND to see most of them, but wind up only seeing half or less. Unlike many recent summers, I'm actually really looking forward to quite a few films.

So without further ado, here's the list (and not necessarily in order of looking-forward-to-ness)

1) The Dark Knight - This actually IS the one I'm most anticipating. I love everything director Christopher Nolan has done so far, and conventional wisdom would indicate that the combination of this being Nolan's second go-round with Batman, and the acting chops of Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhal, et al, should mean that The Dark Knight is destined to be a classic. As it's one of the last movies of the summer, we have a ways to go to make that determination.

2) Iron Man - Usually a movie's ad campaign wears me out long before the movie actually debuts. But I really have to hand it to Iron Man. I have loved every last thing I've seen from this film so far. Brilliant job of marketing this. I just hope that the movie turns out as fun as all the trailers would lead us to believe.

3) Narnia: Prince Caspian - I was only so-so on the first Narnia movie, but as with Dark Knight, I'm expecting them to successfully tweak the franchise to where it's even better than the first one. All trailers and imagery I've seen so far indicate that this will be much darker, and more adult than The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I remember really liking Prince Caspian the second best among all the books, and can't wait to see Reepicheep brought to life.

4) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - I'm actually REALLY dreading this film. I can't imagine it's going to be any good. I really detested Last Crusade, and I fear that this film will travel further down the overly-jokey path that film started. The trailer made it look like it was one over-the-top action sequence after another. I've had my fill with the last two Pirates films, and King Kong. But... I'm going to have to see it anyway, on the off chance that it somehow proves me wrong. Of course, if critical consensus is overwhelmingly negative, I don't know if I'll be able to force myself into a theater to see it.

5) Speed Racer - Yet another movie that looks like it's wall-to-wall silly action. Again, I can't imagine I'll like this. But... it has such a unique visual style it might be worth seeing just on that basis. Every image I've seen from the film has been dazzling.

6) The Happening - I've been really harsh on M. Knight Shymalan the last few years, and have enjoyed riding on the backlash bandwagon (which has been well-deserved). But I'm hoping and expecting that he'll return to form one of these days and make a visionary movie similar to Sixth Sense or Signs (I really liked it, even though it caught some flak from some corners). This is some sort of alien invasion film, and I don't know a lot about it, and I hope to stay that way so that whatever surprises M. Knight has in store for us, that they STAY surprises for me.

7) The Incredible Hulk - I was meh on the first Hulk, and so far all the trailers and images for this (as well as the behind the scenes stories) make me worry that this will be a disaster. But... here's hoping that I'm wrong and this film somehow pulls it out and makes a fun film.

8) Hellboy II: The Golden Army - I liked the first one, and since that movie came out, Guillermo del Toro has become something of a visionary. Everything he touches turns to gold, not unlike Christopher Nolan. And similar to Dark Knight, this is a second go-round, so I expect a much more confident film from del Toro. Everything about it so far looks solid.

9) Wall*E - It's a Pixar film, so there's no reason NOT to see it. Trailers turned me from an early doubter to someone that's very much looking forward to this film.

10) Tropic Thunder - This one kind of came out of nowhere to land firmly on my radar. Trailer and other promotional items so far look hilarious. Robert Downey Jr. as an actor who underwent surgery to turn himself black is a brilliant idea (at least in the trailer).

Update!

10.5) Hancock - A new trailer for this came out right after I posted this (actually it debuted on American Idol last night, but I didn't see it until this morning), and it makes it at least SEEM like it might be a fun ride. The early reviews I've read of this haven't been overly positive. But... we'll see, I guess.

11) Honorable mentions - The rest of these films I'm going to keep my eye on, but they all seem like DVD rentals at best.

Get Smart
Love Guru
Wanted
Kung Fu Panda
Meet Dave


And as always, there's going to be at least one film that comes out of nowhere to become a surprise hit. What will be this year's Knocked Up?

Time will tell.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Taboo (Great Firefox add-on)

If you're a Firefox user (and if you're not, shame on you!), then this is a fantastic add-on. It's called Taboo and it's basically a cool little gizmo that allows you to store pages away for later reading, or for research or whatever.

After you install it, it puts two new icons on your toolbar.


They're pretty self-explanatory as to their functions. But what's really cool and efficient about this is that anytime you're on a page you want to save for later, just click on the Add button. Then later on, when you want to revisit some of the pages you tabbed for later (taboo, tabbed... get it?), just click on the View Taboos button and a neat grid of all your selected items shows up. It shows you a thumbnail of what the page looked like when you added it. When you click on the page in the View Taboos mode, it will then take you to the webpage at the exact spot you were at when you clicked on it (say you were halfway down a long page when you saw something that caught your eye).

Anyway, I've been using this for a while now and it's really really useful and simple and intuitive.

Updated!

The designer of Taboo was kind enough to drop by my blog, and within the body of his comment below was a link to this handy little video that kind of shows you a little bit about how Taboo works. Thank you Demo Girl. Can't wait to check out some of your other videos.





I Am Legend (Well, not ME, but, umm...well, just read it)



Finally got around to watching "I Am Legend".

I was aware of all the grumbling about the film going into watching it. Complaints about the ending and about the horrible CGI. But I was still giving this one a chance. I'd heard enough fair to good reviews by friends of mine that I figured this just might be one of those 'taste' movies.

Alas...

For starters, let me say that Will Smith was fantastic in this. He's one of our true A+ movie stars. He was given an impossibly difficult role to play, being the only actor in the film for 90% of its running time. I normally cringe when movies have characters talk to themselves or to animals or inanimate objects, as it usually comes across as very obvious that it's just a device so that there's not just 90 minutes of a guy walking around quietly by himself. But Will Smith pulled it off.

But...

But then we get to the "Darkseekers". Here lies the treacherous path the movie decides to take. I just did a bit of research on the original novel this movie is based on, and discovered that vampires/zombies were not only very much a part of the novel, but even more overt than they are in the movie. But they also make a lot more sense than in the movie. The movie tries to make the epidemic a reaction to a cancer vaccine. While this in itself isn't a bad idea, it's where it leads that winds up making no sense.

Now, instead of the more "plausible" reason of vampirism as to why everyone else has superpowers and can climb walls like Spider-man and can leap twenty feet through the air, and on and on, now we have to somehow imagine that these powers are the result of a vaccine gone bad. It doesn't work for me, sorry. It should have either just be straight up vampires, or else dropped the super-abilities of those suffering from this problem.

The ending, while nice and bleak, is pointless because it's just so silly. Just another typical action film ending where everything comes together at the final moment, including Will Smith's character remembering one key thing his son said to him that winds up being the key to everything. How convenient that he remembers that quote and finally puts meaning to it right at the last possible moment.

I then went and watched the alternate ending, where Will Smith's character lives, by making some sort of silly connection with the lead Darkseeker. An infected Darkseeker that Will Smith had been experimenting on just so happens to be the wife or girlfriend of the lead Darkseeker, who ends up carrying her out with him. It has gotten tons of praise for being so clearly the better ending, but I think it's actually sillier than the theatrical version. I think the studios made a wise choice, at least as far as these two endings are concerned.

As far as the book ending (spoiler alert!), he ends up being the last remaining human on an earth that is now overrun by vampires, so now HE is the mythical creature causing problems for the rest of (vampire) society. HE is the Legend. It's kind of a Planet of the Apes sort of ending (haven't read the book, just a brief synopsis), and it makes much more sense than either of the silly movie endings.

While the film is ultimately silly, I can honestly say I was never bored, and never less than riveted to what was going on. But...I can only give this film six and a half teeth out of ten. Will Smith gets 9.5 teeth out of ten. The Darkseekers get one tooth out of ten.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Untooning Jessica Rabbit



Found this today... REALLY cool. I'm okay with Photoshop, and in watching this "speedpainting" video, I know intellectually what the guy is doing, and what tools he's using and the process... but this is way beyond what I'm capable of. Bravo.




Monday, April 21, 2008

Picking Apart Logical Fallacies

Wired Magazine posted a funny AND useful video today about the most common types of internet arguments.

High Tech Noon

Here's one of those weird mash-ups that people come up with. Funny stuff.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wheels: The Movie

Another video from Black20.com This one is great. It plays it almost totally straight. Makes me want to go out and make a trailer for a film.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tetris: The Movie

Not sure who these guys at Black20.com are, or if it's a site where anyone can post their videos, but some of the stuff on here is pretty good. Like this one.



I especially love how they've thought out all the controls for controlling these ships.

Good stuff.

Simpsons A.D.


A.D. as in Arrested Development, one of the top five comedy series of all time. I'll talk about it more one day, but for today, I came across a website where an artist named Dean T Fraser has done a series of cool Simpsonized movie and TV characters. Above, you see a Simpsonized version of Tobias Funke during his time as a member of Blue Man Group. There's also a nod to Tobias being an adherent to "Never Nude". (Trust me, this all works in the context of the show.) (Hey... I just realized that I can embed an entire episode within this post.)



Arrested Development only lasted three truncated seasons, but it's a masterpiece from beginning to end. Ironically, the show that the above image uses as its inspiration, The Simpsons, is a show that has been on the air now for about 18 seasons or so, and for me, stopped being funny about a decade ago.

Anyway, the other Simpsonized characters are very well done. Here are a few of my favorites.




Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Penguins 3 - Senators 1 (Pens win series 4-0)

Sweep! Phase one of the Penguins Championship has been completed. Another solid game from the Pens. While everyone was expecting the Penguins to light it up offensively, it's the defense that's really surprising so far. Five goals allowed in a series is a team record.

Fun with Google



This is more of a how-to on getting the information you're interested in piped straight into your computer.

I assume all of you are using Google Reader. If not, it's by far the most efficient way to read blogs and surf websites. It's so awesome, it'll take over your life for a bit before you get it under control and tone it down. Instead of having to go out to each of your favorite websites to see if there's new content, Google Reader will collect it all in one convenient location, just like your email site (you ARE using Gmail, aren't you?). Granted, there are other newsreaders out there that do the same thing, but Google Reader is the best I've come across.

That's step one.

Step two is going to Google Blog Search.
What this allows you to do is type in a search term, say "Watchmen Movie", and the specialized search engine will turn up all blog postings that feature something to do with your search query. While this is cool in itself, they've added a neat new feature which allows you to subscribe to the search results as if it were a blog in itself. For example, I've now subscribed to the "Watchmen Movie" blog search results, and anytime anyone publishes something about the Watchmen movie, it will show up in my Google Reader, without me ever having to do another search! Too cool.

Obviously, this could get out of hand if you subscribe to a search result that is wildly popular ("Star Wars" or "Harry Potter" would get you hundreds of posts a day, I'm sure) but if you use standard search criteria to narrow down your selection, this should become a valuable resource for you.

Enjoy!

Grandfathers Accidentally Switched At Hospital

I'm sorry if I'm bombarding you with Onion stories, but they are truly the vanguard of topical and irreverent humor in these troubled times.

Grandfathers Accidentally Switched At Hospital

The Onion

Grandfathers Accidentally Switched At Hospital

LOS ANGELES—Hospital officials informed Janice Redding that the man her family knew as "Grandpa" for the past half-year actually belonged to someone else.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Popular 'Iron Man' Trailer to Become Full-Length Film

Them there boys over at the Onion are at it again...


Wildly Popular 'Iron Man' Trailer To Be Adapted Into Full-Length Film

Amazing PSA's from Canada

These are easily some of the most effective commercials/PSA's I've ever seen.

A+

Happy Birthday, Ryan!



Yes... my mother and my son share the same birthday. And since it always falls on Tax Day, we're always so busy celebrated THAT, that we rarely have time to do anything fun for them.

Well, that's not true. Usually we make it a pretty big deal. But this year, Ryan is hitting the big 1-4. Fourteen years old. All-knowing. All-wise.

Seriously, though, Ryan is the joy of my life. He's an intelligent, kind, hilarious, talented and respectful (usually) young man, and I'm proud to know him. I can't wait to see what sort of adult and father he turns out to be one day. He's got a great start right now.

Happy birthday, m'boy. You are loved.

(okay... these serious, maudlin posts are now over. Back to my regularly schedule pointless observations on life and entertainment)

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mother's 76th birthday, and she's still going strong. Here is my favorite picture of my mother, which was restored by a good friend of mine about a decade ago.



I was blessed with one of those fantastic moms, who always made all of us feel loved and treasured, even when we weren't so lovable or treasurable.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

Penguins 4 - Senators 1 (Pens lead series 3-0)

Penguins still looking strong. The last thing the rest of the league needs is a Pens team building up a head of steam and gaining confidence.

Marian Hossa finally has a good game.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Child Bankrupts Make-A-Wish Foundation With Wish For Unlimited Wishes

Brilliant.


Child Bankrupts Make-A-Wish Foundation With Wish For Unlimited Wishes

"We can only hope that's soon."

Steampunk Star Wars action figures

These are really cool. I've seen various attempts at making steampunk (think Victorian or Jules Verne-styled) versions of the Star Wars universe with varying degrees of success. This is at the top end of success. This fellow, Sillof, is pretty talented.




It's not only Star Wars he does. There's everything from Iron Man to Superman and Batman. Cool stuff.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Torch was Passed Tonight



Yes... tonight, for the first time, fair and square, with me not slacking off or holding back, my son Ryan stomped me in Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. I was pwned as the kids say. And it wasn't even close. I answered my first question correctly, then missed my second question. Ryan had four pie pieces before he missed his next question. He had six when I had one. While he was attempting to land on the center slot for the win, I managed to get another pie piece, but that was it. He nailed the winning question on his second opportunity.

A tiny part of it can be attributed to my having had a draining week and I just want to go to sleep. But most of it is that he has simply surpassed me in Star Wars movie knowledge. He's watched the movies many times over the past year or two, so it only stands to reason that it will be a lot more fresh in his mind. But not that long ago, I would have nailed almost all of the questions. Just a sad occurrence that my overall Star Wars interest has faded somewhat once Episode III came out.

But I'm very proud of Ryan. He's even more amazed at how easily he stomped me.

We'll have to play again soon jut to see if it was anomaly or if my days as the Star Wars Master have indeed come to an end. The son has supplanted the father. Luke has defeated Darth Vader.

Yeah, I know it's just a game... let me have my metaphor.

Penguins 5 - Senators 3 (Pens lead series 2-0)

Another solid game for the Penguins...eventually. They let the Senators get back into it before putting them away late. Crosby with four assists. Malkin with three assists. Malone with two goals and an assist. Penguins get a franchise playoff-high 54 shots on goal. This team will be scary if they can keep this up.

Also tonight, I'm introducing the Pengu-o-meter! This chart will graph the Penguins inevitable march towards the Stanley Cup. I've already created all sixteen versions of this graphic... I hope I'm not getting ahead of myself...

Suspicious Package Industry Falls On Hard Times

Ahh... The Onion. They (almost) never fail to amuse me. Their video stuff is uniformly brilliant.


Suspicious Package Industry Falls On Hard Times

Mission: Impossible - The Tammy Lowe edition

This is another blast from the past. This video was done for a friend of mine, Tammy, who was making an elaborate video for her friend Cheryl as a surprise birthday gift. I don't remember what the genesis of the Mission: Impossible part was, but I think it turned out really good. It's still some of the best editing I think I've ever done, and this was in the days BEFORE computer editing. If you look closely, you'll even catch a glimpse of me in there. If I remember right, there's something like 160 edits in a 45 second long video. That's a lot.




Obviously it integrates footage from the actual title sequence of the first Mission: Impossible film, but not a whole lot.

And finally, a bit of explanation for the first couple of seconds. Tammy had brought up BAGS of video she'd shot over the years of her and her friends (all of which went into the overall video we produced for Cheryl). After a particularly long day of working on the video, we suddenly couldn't find most of the tapes. Where had they gone?? Well, while we were working, the cleaning people came in and picked up what looked like (to them) a garbage bag filled with tapes. They'd then proceeded to toss them all in the dumpster out behind the building. Fortunately, we figured this out before the dumpster got emptied and I thought it would be fun to videotape Tammy digging through the trash retrieving grimy tapes. I don't think any of them were permanently damaged, thankfully.

Fun memories... good times...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Plight Of Missing Hikers Will Make Great Movie

I wish I could take credit for this, but...



Plight Of Missing Hikers Will Make Great Movie

Haven - The Evolution

In the folder on my computer where I found "Haven", I found tons of in-progress images, and alternate angles and even some of the original sketches and tests. Some are pretty neat. Some look a bit disturbing... Enjoy.









And now here are some of the alternate angles.






Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It's Hockey Playoff Time!



It's lonely being a hockey fan in the South. Rarely do you ever find yourself in a random hockey conversation with a fellow fan. But it was my first sports love and remains a big part of my life to this day. While I'm not the hockey nut I was fifteen to twenty years ago, I still get chills when I hear this song:



The 2008 playoffs started tonight and the team I'm pulling for, the Pittsburgh Penguins, won their opening game with a 4-0 shutout. I'll be surprised if the Penguins don't win the Stanley Cup this year. With young superstars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury (as all the non-hockey fans' eyes glaze over), this team is on the verge of becoming as exciting as the 1980's Edmonton Oilers led by Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Kurri, Anderson, Fuhr and all the others.



So the playoffs start today, and will finish sometime in early June. It'll be a long three months, but as long as the Pens are in it, I'm glued to my TV.

The Dangers of Being on TV

This is making the rounds lately and amused me enough to post it here. I'd seen a couple of these clips, but most of them were new. Enjoy!



And seeing those reminded me of this classic:

Haven




I'm in the mood to blog something, but don't have anything relevant to blog about, so I went looking through some of my old creative works and came across one of my favorite things I've ever created.

I like to draw and do design work, but it's not a total passion for me. But every once in awhile, I get inspired and become totally obsessed with getting an image out of my head and onto paper or canvas or whatever. "Haven" is one of those inspirations that turned into an obsession.

As is usual with my artwork, my best stuff is stuff that I did for someone else, either as a gift, or as a challenge ("What? YOU do artwork? Yeah, right...")

This one is called "Haven" and was done for a friend of mine's 21st birthday. Much earlier, she had mentioned that if I ever drew anything for her that she wanted it to be a Gothic Butterfly, whatever that conjured up in my imagination. Her name is Vanessa, which means butterfly, and her motif for everything she had was a butterfly, so it all fits.

Anyway, a few weeks before her 21st birthday, I remembered the challenge/request and it started percolating in the back of my mind. I did a dozen or so sketches and rough versions of a stone butterfly, using charcoal, pencil crayon, etc. Nothing looked right. I could see it in my head, but it just wasn't happening. I knew the angle had to be extreme, right above the butterfly looking down on it. In my mind, I saw a butterfly gargoyle on the side of a Gothic building. I even went and checked out a bunch of gargoyle and architecture books from the library. But it wasn't much help. Nothing worked.

Finally, I came upon the idea of using a 3D program to help me visualize what I was seeing, since you can build your model in 3D, then move your camera anywhere you want to achieve the angle you want. It was surprisingly easy to build the model and find a suitable stone texture, and after an hour or so of fiddling with the angle, I finally came across the exact image I saw in my head.

I was all set to print it out to use just as a reference for drawing it when I realized that this image was EXACTLY the way I wanted it. In attempting to draw it, I'd never even come close. So that's when I decided to compose the whole picture in Photoshop. I exported the Stone Butterfly in high resolution, then proceeded to build the rest of the image in Photoshop.

I knew from the beginning that there would be a real butterfly perched on the broken antenna of this seemingly ancient stone butterfly statue. It took me a couple of days of experimenting to get the butterfly like I wanted it. Her favorite color is green, so I knew the butterfly would have to be green. I ended up using her actual eyes as the shape on the wings. And very tiny on each wing (too tiny to see on this picture) is written "Jesus" and "Lord" in what looks to be just spots unless you really look closely.

So I put one butterfly on the stone statue, and it looked okay, but maybe a bit too lonely. So started putting a whole bunch of them resting on the butterfly. And then a bunch more flying up this vast tunnel or expanse or whatever it is that this stone butterfly is hovering at the top of. It just seemed fitting that all of these butterflies would make this vast journey just to come rest on this statue. It a way, it seemed like a fitting metaphor for the life of a Christian. To seek haven from the world in Jesus. Ergo, the title "Haven".

Since Vanessa and her family were the primary people responsible for my coming to Christ, it seemed especially appropriate that this work of art ultimately have a Christian meaning to it.

So I printed it out on my giganto printer I had back in the day (about nine years ago now) had it matted and framed and gave it go her just in time for her birthday. And because I did it all digitally, I still have a perfect copy of it that I intend to print out for myself in the near future on as high a quality stock as I can afford.

I've probably got four or five such works that fall into this category of inspired obsession, because when I look at them, I realize that they are far beyond what I am artistically capable of 99% of the rest of the time. I'll try to scan them or take pictures of them for posterity and when I do, I'll post them here.

Anyone have a challenge to inspire me to do another work?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

I've been Disqualified!

So the other night about midnight I got a wild hair and decided to enter a Worth1000 contest. Worth1000's name is based on the "A picture is worth a thousand words" idea. The website hosts fun Photoshop contests among other things.

The contest I decided to enter was about Counterfeit Art. The concept was to take a famous work of art and change it to make it obviously a fake. I did a quick Google search for famous works of art and settled on "St. George and the Dragon" by Raphael. Here's the original:



I'm not sure where my inspiration came from, but somehow, a Star Wars angle came into my head. I found a tauntaun image that I then pasted over the horse and made it look like it was part of the original painting. I then changed his sword into a lightsaber. Then I replaced the broken lance with broken pieces of C-3PO. I then realized it would be easy to turn the princess in the background into Princess Leia. And finally, I put a Rebel symbol on the side of St. George's helmet. All in all, I thought I did a pretty good job. Take a look.



So I submitted it to the contest and waited. A little while ago I got the following email:


There are certain type of entries we do not allow, either because they are potentially controversial, contain illegal material, contain overused items, contain non-photorealistic imagery, do not follow the contest rules or because they contain elements we consider lazy. The administrators felt that your entry fell into one (or more) of these categories and disqualified your entry. The specific reasoning for this note is the following:

Your entry contains Star Wars references.


Grumble grumble grrrrr....

Sure enough, on their FAQ page, they 'discourage' use of Star Wars imagery (among a bunch of other specific cliche'd items), but even still, it doesn't say anything about Star Wars leading straight to disqualification....

Oh well... I'm not going to modify this one to make it compliant, but I'll keep it in mind for next time...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Dexter Season 2 - Deeply Disappointing Disbelief

Okay, so season one had me stoked for season two, and I wasted no time in tackling it. From all accounts and reviews from trusted friends and family, season two was much better than season one, and diverged greatly from the subsequent Dexter novels. I couldn't wait to see it.

Everything started off great. It was about a month after the conclusion of the first season, and happily, it looked like continuity was going to be very important to this show. Constant callbacks to things that happened in season one, while building and expanding. So far so good.

I was especially excited when what looked like the overarching plot for season two was revealed- the discovery of the bags of body parts Dexter has been dumping in the ocean all these years. The search was on for HIM. I even liked the addition of the new love interest, Lila. Everything was going great.

But then the seams started coming apart. The awkward love triangle with Rita and Lila, Dexter's 'drug addiction' (this was tolerable at the beginning, but got silly the farther it went along, until the entire subplot was dropped from the show), the chain of command battles with LaGuerta and her replacement.

Then the show turned into "24", with innumerable sequences and subplots concerning intercepting and deleting files, destroying evidence, sneaking into and out of the headquarters, and on and on. If you like all that stuff on "24", then you'll love this. It became a bit tiresome and a lot contrived and manipulative (just for the sake of stretching out some episodes).

But in spite of all this (and many more increasingly annoying things), I was still with the show. Still liking it a lot. In fact, episode 11, "Left Turn Ahead" was an incredibly well-written episode and more times than I remember in any TV show or movie, I found myself nodding with appreciation about a certain line of dialogue, or a plot point. Very very well done. Until the last five minutes.

The short version of the events is that based on his world collapsing around him and the police about to catch him and all of his loved ones being put in danger by his actions, Dexter seemed about to really make a change and give himself up. It was a beautiful climax to everything that had come before. I actually felt sorry for him, and proud of him at the same time. But then... at the last possible moment before he's about to reveal his secret to someone close to him, he gets a revelation and has a change of heart and basically reboots himself to full serial killer status, but without all of the 'rules' his mentor (his foster father, Harry) had given to him to control his bloody urges.

The season finale is just a big convoluted, ridiculous wrap-up to the season, hitting a lot of the same beats as season one's finale, only about 20% as successfully.

Where my profound disappointment comes from is that for a brief moment, this show had a chance to really go somewhere special. It was RIGHT THERE. It could have allowed the natural sequence of events to follow through and let Dexter turn himself in and face his consequences. It would have been a great ending to the show, or even a great beginning to a new chapter in his life.

But... no.

No, we get what EVERY other TV show does, and that's make sure that even though there may be significant events that happen in the show (fare thee well, Sgt. Doakes), in the end, everything has to stay the same. Dexter reset itself at the end of season two. Everything is as it was at the beginning of season one. Dexter's a serial killer who loves what he does and has no qualms about killing. He has a girlfriend. He works in a police department lab. No one knows his secret. And in season three, we're going to get another serial killer that ultimately will have some convenient connection to Dexter, or to a member of his family, or to someone he works for. There will be people that suspect him of being the killer. There will be lots of covering of trails and destroying of evidence. There will be more awkward moments as Dexter lies to Rita and Debra about what he was doing. And at the end of the season, there will be a tidy, exciting climax that wraps it all up and resets the show for season four.

Now, I never expected that Dexter would ACTUALLY turn himself in. Even as he was contemplating it and moving inexorably on that path, I knew the show creators would nip that in the bud. BUT... the lead-up to it was so well done, and such a logical continuation for the character that anything besides that inevitable ending where he turns himself in screamed out as being totally false to the character and to the story and to the themes of the show. I felt heartsick when the show lurched back to predictability with the last-minute change of heart (back to his murderous ways).

Sigh...

It's just left me in a really deep funk. Not because of the show or the characters, but because I'm wondering if it's just NOT POSSIBLE to create a TV show that sets up a concept and a world and characters, and stays TRUE to that story, following it through to its logical conclusion, regardless of ratings or popularity. Dexter would have been a MASTERPIECE as two six-to-eight episode seasons with a definite ending after season two. But instead, we got two ten-to-twelve episode seasons, with lots of useless filler and ultimately all for naught as we reset the show for what looks to be a prolonged series that rehashes the same ground over and over.

Two other almost-brilliant TV shows are in their home stretches, Lost and Battlestar Galactica, each have formally announced definitive endings to their series, but for both, it's ALMOST too little, too late. BSG tonight begins its final season, but this only after a disastrous season three last year. After an absolutely amazing first five episodes of the season, the show totally fell apart, with silly subplots and homages and finally, a massive retcon where four major characters were suddenly revealed to be Cylons (if you don't follow the show, just nod your head and know that what the creative team pulled in the second half of season three of BSG was a major betrayal of the storyline). BSG really really WANTS to be seen as a show that has been moving towards this conclusion since the beginning, but we know that it's really not the case. They are making this up as they go along and have abandoned numerous ideas and themes and subplots over the course of the show. Such is the problem of having to fill twenty or so episodes each season while at the same time having to indefinitely forestall actually getting to the obvious conclusion of where the show is going.

LOST faces a similar crisis of trying to make it look like everything was planned all along. It's not entirely successful in that, but I DO believe that they've known where the show was going since sometime early in season two, and it seems they've more or less stuck with that plan. The second half of last season and most of the episodes this season have been great, and you can really sense that the show is no longer treading water and is actually moving towards a definite goal.

The point of all this is that some shows can go on indefinitely and others are designed to have an ending. Lost, BSG, and now Dexter definitely have an ENDING. CSI, Law and Order, ER, and most sitcoms aren't under these restraints and CAN go on forever (as long as the ratings justify it). They don't have an ultimate climax that the shows are building towards.

I just want it to be that if a show IS one that has a definite ending, then figure that out ahead of time. Make it an EVENT, rather than something you (the network brass) hopes will be a lucrative franchise for years and years to come). Announce upfront that a series will only run for two seasons. Make every episode count. Bring a story to its logical conclusion.

Please.


So in conclusion, Dexter season two squandered what had the potential to be a masterpiece. As season three approaches, I've lost all interest in the show, and I've lost all hope that we'll get something that isn't more of the same. But... I'll have to at least give it a chance to see if it can prove me wrong...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Battlestar Galactica - Season Four - Episode 3

Good episode. Not near last week's standard-setter, but still good. Very dark. More than anything, it seemed to be positioning the show for the remainder of the first half of the season.

It looks like the Cylon Civil War is now in full swing. Lee's split with Roslin is complete, probably leading to his presidency later on in the season. Cally's fate was pretty shocking. Didn't see that coming, especially not at Tory's hands. Looks like Tory is the first one of the Four to fully embrace her true nature. Should set up an interesting dynamic the rest of the way. And the craziness on the Demetrius seems primed to bear fruit at some point.

Good episode. Not great.

7 teeth out of 10.

Battlestar Galactica - Season Four - Episode 2

Hey! That was a pretty good episode! I can't think of a single thing to gripe about, and I'm even kind of on board with the "Final Five Cylons" angle that I felt so betrayed about at the end of Season Three. The acting was stellar all around.

Good job, guys!

I think what I like best about the first two episodes of this season (and hope it continues this way the rest of this season) is that they are just telling the story. No special homage episodes, or standalone episodes (although I'm sure those are coming). So far it's just telling the story and doing it very well.

I observed myself watching this episode, especially since I went into this episode skeptical that I'd enjoy it. I noticed that I break it down by if, or how, I buy each individual scene or line reading. I have a sense of where I think the scene should go, and if it opts to go in a stupid "only on TV" moment, I recoil. But I didn't have any of those moments tonight.

Well, there was ONE moment. When Cavill said "I'm machine enough to admit when I'm wrong." Groan. There was no need for something that cutesy.

Final verdict: 9.5 teeth out of ten.

Battlestar Galactica - Season Four - Episode 1



Okay, I was pretty harsh on Season three of BSG, and deservedly so. It really went south after the first five (classic) episodes. I was a grump about the show the entire rest of the season.

But... it's been nearly a years since last season's finale. My anger has subsided. The wounds have healed...mostly. I'm going to give BSG the chance to make it all right. I'll give it a fair chance.

Tonight was the premiere of season four, and so far, so good. They've covered their tracks pretty good so far, at least as far as the 'reveal' of four of the final five Cylons from last season's finale. The return of Starbuck was handled... adequately. The amnesia is a bit too convenient, but I'll go with it for now.

Baltar's new subplot is a bit unconvincing, but I suppose there is enough precedence from last season to justify his sudden 'faith'. Terrible job on his fake beard, though.

I'm kind of dreading the new direction they are setting up Lee for, with some sort of government position. Not sure where they're going with that except to make Lee president or vice president. Seems like just a way to set up more father-son tension down the line. Yawn...

But the best part of the show, and it's been this way since the beginning, is the stunning special effects work. I really can't say enough about how amazing the battle scenes are each time, and how they all have their own flavor. I'm not sure how a weekly cable show can put the special effects (space battles, anyway) of the most recent Star Wars movies to shame. I'd love to see a BSG space battle on the big screen one day.

Anyway, good episode. I give it a solid 8 out of ten.

Uncle Owen - Aunt Beru - Special Edition

I need to get one of these to complete my Star Wars collection.

Dexter Season 1 - Disturbingly Delicious Debut

I'm a little late to the Dexter party, as the show is about to move into season three, but...better late than never.

For those of you that don't know, Showtime's "Dexter" is a drama about a serial killer (based on a book by Jeff Lindssy called "Dexter Darkly Dreaming"). But he's a serial killer with a conscience and only kills the really bad guys. Dexter himself is painted as a sympathetic character and is most definitely the 'hero' of this show. The debate over making a serial killer the main character is certainly a worthy one, and should be lively, but that won't be taking place here today. Suffice it to say that Dexter is one of the most intriguing and unique characters ever seen on TV.

The short review for season one is that it was fantastic. Through the first six episodes, I was sure I was witnessing a modern-day classic. The writing was sharp, the directing inventive, the cinematography stunning, and the acting top-notch. We were learning about these characters, their world and the 'rules' of this show. Everything was clicking.

But then episode 7 came along and we had our first filler episode. Not a lot of relevant stuff in it. Things looked a little cheaper and less creative than in the batch right before it, etc. It was distinct and had me a BIT worried. But it picked back up over the remainder of the season and while the last three episodes weren't as great as the first six, the whole thing wrapped up pretty nicely.

An observation I made (that would be borne out literally in season two) is that at its core, Dexter is just a superhero TV show. He only fights/kills the bad guys. He has a secret identity/life. He has a mentor. He has a special set of tools. A secret origin. And finally, he has an arch-enemy that is (almost) his equal, and in fact shares his origin. It's all there, if a trifle bloodier than most comic books.

In the rush to the climax, the show really starts to get sloppy with believability and logic, but not to the point where it spoils anything (heads up: I can't say the same for season two).

The season finale does a great job in tying all the plot threads of the entire season together and provides a few surprises (which shouldn't have come as surprises after my mid-season epiphany that this show is really about a superhero).

I hungrily watched each episode and had the whole first season finished in three days (which is quite an accomplishment considering my usual hectic schedule.) Using a secret source (okay, it's my brother), I obtained copies of season two that he had recorded off of Showtime, and couldn't have been more eager to dive in...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Clasic SCTV skit

Here's one of my all-time favorite bits from the old SCTV series. It's funny because it's true.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Everyone Needs an Arch-emeny

Fortunately, I already have one. His name is Jim.

We've been arch-enemies for the past eighteen years. It hasn't gotten too out-of-hand yet, but I will say there has been one death threat made... *


But until you have an arch-enemy, you don't know how thrilling it is. Knowing that somewhere out there, someone hates you enough to plot against you... and make death threats... *


Oh, there's plenty of people I don't like, and who don't like me, but there's only ONE who I consider my enemy, and vice versa. And that's Jim.

THE SECRET ORIGIN OF VICTOR

It all started 18 years ago at a TV station where I used to work. I was in the Master Control department (the command center for the station) on the same schedule as Greg, who worked in the Video Tape department (he loaded the tape machine with commercials that I then put on the air at the appropriate time). We were both the same height and build and had similar personalities... to a point.

I was a relatively soft-spoken chap who kept to myself. Greg was a loud and outgoing theater major at college and was notoriously argumentative and became doubly so when drinking (which was often). A series of work problems occurred all at the same time in both Video Tape and Master Control in which Greg and I respectively were blamed (I was innocent, Greg was guilty for his errors, and in fact it was his sloppy work that resulted in the problems I was blamed for). We were both written up and were both very angry about it. Greg was the first to do something about it.

He went in on a Friday afternoon and turned in his two week notice. On the following Monday, using his boldness as an inspiration, I turned in MY resignation (It wasn't just this incident, it had been building for a while, as I had been unjustly passed over for several promotions because I was deemed 'too valuable' in my Master Control position). I had been wanting to quit anyway, and this was just the last straw. Jim was the new general manager at the station and was one of the two people in the meeting when I turned in my notice. I stated my reasons for leaving and spoke briefly with Jim and the others in that meeting and went on my way. It was as calm and civil a resignation as one could hope for. (I'm just that kinda guy.)

I went to work immediately at a TV station in another town and put Jim and Greg and everything else at that station behind me.

A few months pass and I discover an opening at that former TV station for the very job I had been passed over numerous times before. I apply for that job, go for an interview and all signs seem positive that I'll be getting the job.

But then....

...then Jim struck.

I received a call from Joe, the person who interviewed me, and he tells me that I won't be getting the job after all. I was crushed. Joe was kind enough to indulge me in why I wasn't going to get the job:

"Once Jim found out it was YOU we were going to hire, he said "OVER MY DEAD BODY!' "

At first, I was distressed by this, but then I was incredibly excited. Wow! I had someone that hated me so much that they said something like that. In a way, I was glad I didn't get that job. And obviously, since I'm still thrilled about it all these years later, it's a choice I'm glad Jim made.


It was only years later that I learned from a separate source the reason for Jim's hatred of me. Apparently he believes I got into a screaming match with him and cursed him out when I dropped off my resignation letter. That's when it all finally clicked. He got me confused with GREG. Greg had very proudly told everyone how he let Jim have it when he quit. So for all these years, I've been the beneficiary of someone else's rightful hatred. Jim's got the wrong arch-enemy.

But you won't hear a peep from me. No one needs to know. If Jim is ever taken away as my sworn enemy, who will I match wits with? Who will I measure myself against? Who will I thwart, and in turn, be thwarted by? Without him, how will I know who *I* am?


And dear reader, you might be asking why I am regaling you with this sordid tale tonight of all nights? The answer is simple. Tonight, I received a friend request on Facebook from an old friend of mine. I happily accepted this request, and then received a shock. First, my blood stopped cold in my veins, then began racing with amazement. This friend of mine had only two friends on his Facebook profile.



What does it all mean? I must know. I must discover what cruel fate binds Jim and I together. How does this mutual friend of ours figure in our ongoing drama? What does he know? What are his intentions? Why NOW?

I'm filled with anticipation and dread, knowing this little dance may soon be coming to its climax. Which of us will still be left dancing when the music finally stops?

Who indeed?




* Okay... so he made a death threat against himself about hiring me "over his dead body". It still counts. It still shows the depths to which he will stoop in his insane obsession in ruining my life. If his own life isn't safe, is anyone's?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Awareness Test

This has been floating around a while, but I get a kick out of it every time I see it. See how many times the white team passes the ball that YOU can count.