Friday, December 28, 2007

The Retconnies

Because even I have an unoriginal idea, I've decided to dole out non-existent awards to stuff I found really cool this year.

So let's get started...

Best Movie I Saw in a Theater

In the Shadow of the Moon is easily one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. Not only is it about the Apollo astronauts that went to the Moon, but it features nothing but those astronauts as they discuss their adventures, their idiosyncrasies, their losses, and their feelings. No talking head experts or looming-voice narrators here; it was like sitting down in your living room for a couple of hours with some truly living legends.

Initially, I was a bit skeptical upon learning Ron Howard was involved. Thankfully, he just provided money for this British documentary to gain a limited theatrical release. The DVD comes out on February 12 if you want to think about adding this to your Netflix queue. I can't recommend it enough if you're even remotely interested in what has sadly passed as the Golden Age of the American space program.




Best Movie I Saw on DVD

Basing this purchase on a tip from the legend that is Siskoid, The Gamers tackles a number of role-playing game absurdities ranging from player behavior to gameplay and then turns them on their ear. This is a very low-budget production but you can definitely see the level of effort and love put into this project.

I bought the Director's Cut which has a ton of features not found in the initial DVD release. Aside from the usual trailers and commentary, a number of items from the fledgling Dead Gentlemen are also present, including their video podcasts from when they produced that sort of thing. Among the gags that never cease to make me laugh is something called Syphilitic Ninja Vampires—ninja vampires that have syphilis. It so damn random it hurts.




Best Comic Read


What began as a fill-in to document the year without the Big Three (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman) after the fairly stupid Infinite Crisis, became one of my most beloved comic series of all time. It all culminated with this final issue.

A number of C-listers (Booster Gold, the Question, Elongated Man, and Steel, to name a few) went from two-dimensional props of bigger superhero stories to being fully-rounded characters in their own right. We're able to witness this transformation slowly unfold on a weekly basis and the end result is more than satisfying.

The series has been collected into four trade paperback editions that are full of behind-the-scenes material ranging from unused covers to insight on the creative process. Unless you're already immersed in DC Universe, I'm not entirely sure if the first 15-20 issues would make a whole lot of sense but trust me, this is some good stuff.


Best Audio Performance Purchase

Sorry for the convoluted category but I didn't want to do both a CD and a music download category, and the best CD I bought wasn't a music compilation. No, the best CD bought was Lewis Black's The Carnegie Hall Performance. In fact, I purchased a few Lewis Black comedy CDs this year but this was the best of them all.

I'm often compared to Mr. Black both physically and psychologically. I can't say I blame folks for making such a comparison. When I'm not playing the part of court jester, I'm told my ranting walks the line between funny and "hope he's not armed." Great disc Lewis; hope to catch you in concert.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Live Journal

I know I promised a return to more thrills and more fun yesterday but I was simply captivated at the myriad stories found on the LiveJournal communities customers suck and customers_suck. Evidently the suckitude dished out by consumers simply could not be contained in a single LiveJournal community, hence the need for two. Being a former wage slave for a few retail ogres (they weren't retail giants) and a number of restaurants back in the day, I could only nod my head in commiseration at the abuse, ill will, and assholery thrown in the faces of these people day after day.

Speaking of LiveJournal communities, there's one called doctorwho_eps where members can find links to torrents, files, etc. of Doctor Who episodes new and old. This community was invaluable last year when looking for Torchwood episodes I wasn't able to immediately download. Well, the moderators shut down the community just prior to Doctor Who's third season mentioning something or other about a "saboteur." Membership re-application became necessary and has been full of various and sundry requirements before open membership applications were allowed again two days ago. I re-applied and received e-mail this morning: membership denied. Oh yeah, if you dare to ask for a reason, this is their response: "asking us is only likely to get us pissed off and you permanently blacklisted."

Well, I certainly don't want to piss off a group of Doctor Who fans, especially fans who wallow in their exclusivity claiming it's to protect themselves when they really just don't want to let anyone else into the clubhouse. Thankfully I have other means to obtain Doctor Who stuff until it's released on DVD here in the US (when my downloaded copies are then destroyed), but not everyone else is so fortunate. This situation reminds me very much of something Evan Dorkin said when discussing his Welcome to Eltingville pilot:

Over the years I’ve realized that [the lovable geek] cliché is not necessarily true, a lot of geeks once given a modicum of power whatever that might be, are absolute tyrants and assholes. With a lot of people in fandom, their fanishness is their armor.

All too true, Evan.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

I managed to get out of work at a decent hour so I'm going to spend some time relaxing for a bit. Unless something earth-shattering occurs tomorrow, enjoy this Retcon Redux Yule Log and we'll return with programming on Wednesday.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Into the Wild


I finally finished Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild yesterday. What began as an in-depth article in Outside magazine, Into the Wild examines the life of Chris McCandless during his short time here on Earth. The book has since inspired a film adaptation directed by Sean Penn (available on DVD February 12).

Personally, I loved this book. Reading about Chris from the people whose lives he touched during his journeys truly made me wish I could have met the lad. Normally I don't buy into sappy stories but I couldn't help having to wipe away a tear upon finishing the last chapter—when his parents visited the bus that had been Chris's final home.

Critics will immediately write off Chris McCandless as a stupid, spoiled rich kid whose sole purpose was to piss off his parents and had no business traipsing off to the Alaskan wilderness. Nothing could be further from the truth. The point of this book was not to examine Chris's outdoor skills, but to learn about a remarkable lad who inspired others in life and many more after his death. "Happiness only real when shared" is what Chris scrawled next to a passage in the novel >Doctor Zhivago. We would all be so lucky to realize this before we die.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My First Comic Meme

What started as Bill's unnatural mixing of LOLCats and Galactus became a comics meme. Here's my not-so funny contribution:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Strange Change


This dollar bill was given to me a few days ago after buying breakfast from the cash-only cafe nearby. The F Bomb is scrawled on the other side. The office vending machines refused to take it. Their delicate sensibilities can only take so much.

Mobile post sent by julianbaischir using Utterz Replies.

Blogs, They Are A Changin'

As you can see, I've changed the layout of the blog to make it a bit easier on the eyes and more friendly for the sidebar stuff. Ooo. Aah. Speaking of the sidebar, I've joined the rest of the planet on Twitter. Since I can only type 140 characters max with it, you can find quick, thought-of-the-moment updates there when time allows (no standing ovation necessary).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mid-Week Update

Sorry for not posting yesterday. Yesterday was what we in the writing biz call "a full day." Between the meetings, assignments, a medical appointment, and dinner with a friend (more on that later), there was simply no more time left in the day to post. Moving on...

* * * *

The commute back to Ballston via subway on Monday was a tad on the weird side. I managed to snag a seat on the last car, which is an oddity unto itself but that wasn't the weird part. At the next stop, a bunch of folks boarded including a semi-attractive woman who sat next to me and a guy I can only describe as Karl Rove if he had just emerged from a cave. The Rove lookalike had the world's worst five o'clock shadow and a fedora with both sides flipped up—kind of an urban Howdy Doody.

The woman whips out a huge stack of papers about as thick as a phone book. Reading on the Metro isn't unusual, but the ginormous stack smelled like urine. I wish I were kidding. The odd thing was this woman seemed fairly well put-together unlike the Renaissance Festival reject that gave me the stink eye (pardon the pun) the other night when my bag accidentally brushed against her.

If sitting next to the port-a-john manifesto wasn't enough, the Karl Rove lookalike absolutely refused to use the handrails nearby for fear he'd lose his place reading some real estate brochure. During the rush hour, the ride can be a bit turbulent so without fail, this guy was flailing about like an extra on the original Star Trek. He came close to colliding with me (still seated) a couple of times as I tried my best to ignore it.

* * * *

Dinner last night was had at Ned Devine's Irish Pub Restaurant. Drinks were ordered and conversation ensued. About ten minutes later, the PA system comes on where an obnoxious DJ welcomes us all to Country Tuesday—your favorite country hits and line dancing lessons! Much to my surprise as I tried to eat my pub steak as quickly as possible, the place was suddenly swarmed with line dancing enthusiasts moving like some drunken chorus line to some godawful cacophony filled with twangy voices, the occasional violin, and the same three guitar chords. Needless to say, I tried to get out of there as soon as humanly possible since there was no amount of ale that could make the situation any better.

* * * *

While I appreciate Congress passing, and the President eagerly signing, the new fuel standards bill, it seems like a giant piss in the wind. Vehicles will be required to get 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Whoop de friggin' doo. In the meantime, the US auto industry will complain and probably not do anything until the eleventh hour. And who's to say the auto or oil lobbies won't do their damnedest to get the law overturned before then? Sorry to be such a skeptic, but I'll believe it when I see the 2020 Hummer getting that kind of gas mileage and not a second before.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Week Ends, the Week Begins

DVD

For the first time in quite a while, I watched an entire DVD box set including the supplemental material. The box set in question was The Office Season Two. I bought it on sale from Amazon for $14.99 during their Black Friday DVD sale. At $14.99, that's quite a steal because the set is friggin' loaded.

In addition to 22 episodes that still very much hold up to repeat viewings, you get 10 commentaries that are fun and sometimes interesting; deleted scenes for every episode (some of which you know nearly killed the creative staff to axe); all of the NBC.com material from that season (The Office: The Accountants webisodes and the sometimes funny fake PSAs); a blooper reel (watch Dwight totally lose his intense composure); Michael Scott's Faces of Scranton video (a Great Scott! production); and the original NBC promo material for the Olympics and The 40-Year Old Virgin.

Incidentally, I watched this before I began watching The Office Season One. No clue as to why; I just did.

Also watched Doctor Who: The Five Doctors but haven't had a chance to listen to the commentary yet. The adventure itself isn't bad, but it isn't great either. It's pretty much an excuse to get nearly everyone together, even if it is for only a minute or two in many cases (most notably Tom Baker—the Fourth Doctor). The supplemental material includes the aforementioned commentary, a Who's Who gallery that serves well as a dramatis personae, and a "Special Music" section that's kind of like having a soundtrack of the film at your disposal (not that it's any great shakes unlike Murray Gold's awesome music for the current series).

iPod Viewing

During the commute, I've been watching Robotech. At the moment, I'm in the middle of Episode #23: "Reckless", where a number of Zentraedi defect to the SDF-1 during an invasion attempt. Aside from some assorted silliness, the series holds up surprisingly well 20 years later.

Books

Before hitting the hay of late, I've been reading the comic series 100 Bullets. This series is a return to film noir using a modern setting and breathtaking illustration by Eduardo Risso. The result can be a bit brutal at times, but I have yet to be disappointed after reading the first 17 issues. The basic premise is that a guy calling himself Agent Graves gives someone a briefcase containing an untraceable gun with 100 untraceable bullets to take revenge on whomever wronged them (evidence of which is included in the briefcase). It's a really interesting morality tale where each person is essentially asked whether they'd want to get away with murder and if that murder would provide closure in their lives. Interspersed with all of this is a conspiracy story involving an Illuminati-esque organization known only as The Trust. As much as I hate, hate, hate conspiracy stories, this one doesn't fall into the trap of being convenient when the story clearly suggests otherwise—at least it hasn't yet. If you want something different than the standard superhero fare, this is definitely something to try; especially if you don't mind films like Reservoir Dogs and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

I'm about halfway through Into the Wild. Jon Krakauer has taken a bit of a detour from chronicling the life of Chris McCandless to relating similar tales of enlightenment-seekers from decades earlier. It's an interesting read thus far and it appears the next chapter will return to McCandless's life as he arrives in Fairbanks, Alaska. Incidentally, the film adaptation (which spurred me to read this book) will be available February 12 on DVD.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday's Grey and Wednesday Too...

For those following all things De: I'm a little less lethargic today but am still rather listless. I have to attend a two-hour meeting this afternoon; otherwise, I wouldn't be here. Could really use some quality rest (and less sentence fragments).
* * * *
Dave's Long Box is having Star Trek Week this week. If you'd like to read some irreverent commentary about going where no man has gone before, check it out.

Not Blog X is on hiatus for another week or so, but Señor Kendall has a number of YouTube's "greatest hits" embedded in the meantime. The creepy passionate wrestling fan is especially amusing and could be the panacea to my aforementioned drudgery if the agency currently employing me didn't block YouTube.

TV Shows on DVD has cover art pics of the Justice League: New Frontier high-definition releases. Between this release and the Star Trek remastered set, I'm very very tempted to pick up an HD-DVD player and not give a crap about the possibility of it being a dead format in a couple of years.
* * * *
That's it for me today. Hopefully, I'll have something a bit more interesting tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Safety Tip

After swearing I'd never eat anything from McDonalds again (especially since I wasn't feeling so great in the first place), I had lunch there today as I needed a wi-fi connection and they were closest. However, I had to buy something consumable in order to use the Internet (this particular location has a problem with the local homeless population coming in and loitering). I order a Royale with cheese "value" meal and then proceed to eat and check on some personal business.

You could have tied a giant block of granite to me as walking the block and a half back to the office felt pretty much the same. And of course, all I wanted to do when I sat down at my desk was die. Still feeling pretty crappy, thanks for asking. A lesson learned for me becomes a safety tip for you.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

I'm not sure if it's seasonal depression or what, but I'm not feeling too perky as Major Bill Smith once said. We'll see how tomorrow goes.

In the meantime, enjoy this creepy link that has to be loved by stalkers everywhere. In fact, I feel pretty dirty right now.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It Sure Ain't Carrot Top

Hello hello!

Tom Servo here. As you can see I got here okay. Here being the bucolic splendor of Manassas, Virginia -- a scant 25 miles outside of Washington, DC. The guy I'm staying with reminds me a lot of Lewis Black, Drew Carey, and Penn Gillette all rolled into one big ball of hilarity. Though I'd stay out of the bathroom after he's done if you know what I mean.

Anyway, the big guy doesn't seem to mind me commandeering his blog every once in a great while so I'll probably jot down some bon mots to keep myself from going crazy in this not-even-one-horse town.

Catch you later folks!

Friday, December 7, 2007

He's huge!


Tom Servo arrived today! He'll be renting the basement for a while.

Mobile post sent by julianbaischir using Utterz Replies.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Say Hello to My L'il Friend!


I finally replaced my late, lamented Kia Rio with a Honda Civic Hybrid. It's one of the best cars I'vev ever driven.

Mobile post sent by julianbaischir using Utterz Replies.

Monday, December 3, 2007

"Murdock... I'm coming to get you!"

I forgot to mention that I saw the movie Hitman last week. It's not a terrible waste of a couple of hours if you like movies about super-assassins in far-off, exotic locales.

Yet, I digress because the comedy gold was found in the trailers. Let me warn you for a moment that you may need to sit down for what I'm about to tell you. Are you sitting? Good.

Because three films just weren't enough, there is a fourth Rambo movie coming in January.

That's right, the over-the-top symbol of violent idiocy returns next month for an even more ludicrous adventure. Let's assume for a moment that John Rambo was 20-years old in 1968 (the height of the US involvement in Vietnam). That would make him 60-years old in this film. Not only do you have to pretty much swallow Rambo's ability to fire arrows from a mile away, but a 60-year old Rambo firing arrows from a mile away.

Part of me is curious as to how much of a train wreck this movie will undoubtedly be. However, should I pay the $7.50 for the privilege? Decisions, decisions...

Comic Book Not-so Confidential


As the legend that is Smacky has already extolled, the two of us joined forces to tackle a local comic show at the Dunn Loring fire hall. I was quite the bad boy and dropped "a bill" (as the kids would say) on comics. However, I managed to snag nearly complete runs of Suicide Squad and The Question for a song.

It was surprising to see that the Comic Book Guy stereotype was pretty much nowhere to be found. Something else that was surprising to see, but certainly not unwelcome, were kids seriously looking for their favorite heroes to read about. It's good to know the myriad movies are bringing at least a few kids into the fold. Hopefully they'll be able to leap over the wall of public inaccessibility most modern comics have built around themselves.

After we decided we had spent enough of our hard-earned cash, it was lunch time at Sweet Water Tavern. Pretty darned good food and some pretty good beer to wash it all down.

It was cold and rainy upon arriving home so I did what any other lad would do: I took a nap. Upon waking, it was auction time where it became clear that a certain robotic film-viewing companion will be joining me for all sorts of cinematic mischief soon. I'm sure he'll have something to say when he arrives :)

Quick Linker