Thursday, September 25, 2008

Anthony Carney skating in Brea

This is one of several short videos I took with my little camera a while back of my friend Anthony skating in Brea. He's the guy I designed the bearing package for.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Update to "Stop sagging"

While browsing Superpoop this morning, I found another perfect image for my "Stop sagging" post.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stop modulating your voice

You guys know what I'm talking about? Those pop-y techno-y dance-club songs with male vocalists that use a computer to raise and lower the pitch of the vocals? I remember when I first heard a song that used this a few years ago. I thought, "Huh, that's unique." The next time I heard it I thought, "Hey, they're copying whoever that other guy is." The time after that I thought, "Oh good, this is a trend, isn't it?"

There's a new CD we're playing in the bookstore by a group of super hipsters called Family Force 5. The picture of the five of them on the inside features them all wearing their most ironic-est clothes and best worst haircuts. Their songs are a Very Ironic throw-back to 80s pop with modern computer modulation and mixing. Some of them are also boring yelly modern "rock." So they combine my two favorite musical trends. EXCELLENT. I hope the CD comes packaged with a gun so you can shoot yourself in the liver 30 seconds into the first track. That would be considerate.

(While we're at it, "Stop getting the same horrible-on-purpose haircut as everyone else in your band.")

I really thought something as gimmicky as this modulation thing would die off faster. It's been several years now and it's still around, which means teenage girls are still buying these CDs. Stop it!

**update** I've identified two of the worst songs on the CD, having listened to it about a million dozen times now at work: track 2, "Get Your Back off the Wall" has the lame screamy stuff, and track 8, "Share It with Me" has the stupid modulation stuff during the chorus. I read the lyrics, too; track 2 is about getting angry or pumped up or dangerous or something, and track 8 is the whiniest cry-baby "she left me because I stole her jeans and make-up" song ever. EVER.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Xbox died

While watching an episode of Seinfeld at lunch yesterday, my Xbox 360 froze and then started flashing the dreaded "Red Ring of Death."

I've only had it since January. So, while it is under warranty and Microsoft will be fixing it for free, that's pretty poor product performance (alliteration unintended). My friend Sean had to send his in this summer, and I think Brendan recently did as well, if I remember correctly, which points to something crappy going on in that box. While I appreciate Microsoft stepping up and fixing it, I wish it had been better designed in the first place. Especially if I bought it new in January! I know they were aware of the problems before then, so why didn't my Xbox have new internals that avoided the problem?

Fortunately I'm not knee-deep in a game at the moment, and we have another DVD player, but if this had happened a few weeks ago when Castle Crashers came out, I'd be pretty mad. My customer service rep "Jason" said they'd be giving me a free month of Live Gold, but after I hung up, I began to think I deserved more. You can get a year's worth of Live Gold for $40 on Amazon, so a month is worth $3.33. I paid $350 for this thing (and now the 60GB version sells for $300, as opposed to my 20GB), and it doesn't even last a year? That's crap, man.


Forgot to mention: instead of sending a pre-paid box to ship the console, they're only emailing me a pre-paid label. Everyone else I've talked to has gotten a box. I have to box it up myself. What gives?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy birthday, Sugar Buttons!

My lovely wife turned 28 today. Happy birthday, Amy!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Redbelt (2008)

David Mamet's fight picture.

Mamet movies I've seen (written and/or directed), as just now revealed to me by IMDB:
The Winslow Boy
Ronin (I had no idea!)
Wag the Dog
The Edge (!)
Glengarry Glen Ross
The Untouchables
The Verdict

So, as it turns out, I've liked most of the movies of his I've seen. In fact, all of the above rank at least in my "hey that was pretty ok" level. Ronin I love.

Redbelt ranks similarly to Ronin, helped by it's main character's adherence to a samurai-like code. Mike Terry is an honorable man running a small jui-jutsu dojo in LA. He has a dedicated student, a police officer, in whom he has instilled the same sense of honor. His wife runs a textile/clothing design business and helps him stay afloat. He is well-known and respected within the martial arts world, but has never found great financial success, and refuses to compete. A series of fortuitous and tragic events and people test his code of honor to the furthest degree.

The movie is carried equally by its writing and acting. It's a fight movie, and you figure the quiet master will have to fight in the end, but Mamet's screenplay takes interesting routes to get there. The time spent with Mike Terry (the truly great Chiwetel Ejiofor) makes the choices and conclusions feeled earned rather than obvious. Chiwetel is supported by a uniformly excellent cast, including Tim Allen in a serious role, Emily Mortimer, Joe "Fat Tony" Mantegna, and Max Martini (who does a lot with a relatively small amount of screen time as the cop student).

I read some reviews that complained about the ending and some of the story's loose ends not being tied up, but I think each of those elements was consistent with the way the story was told and needn't have been elaborated on. (One example: it is hinted that Terry has a military past and has overcome an alcohol addiction, but, while never elaborated on, we see the sort of man it has made Terry, and these hints do strengthen the character without needing to be spelled out.)

As far as the visuals go, the beginning really stood out to me. Very moody noir-ish stuff in the rain. The rest of the cinematography doesn't draw attention to itself (to me, anyway), but the direction allows many lingering shots that afforded some great introspective work from Chiwetel.

I recommend it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pickled garlic cloves

Pickled garlic cloves are heavenly. I first had them when a roommate found a jar at some truck stop. He offered me one, I tried it, and it became addicting. I kept sneaking them from his jar in the fridge after that.

Then I discovered them in the Weird Pickled Stuff section at the local grocer. Now they are in my fridge, and on the rare occasions when Amy OKs it, I have one and fall into the bliss of tart garlicky sweetness.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Productive weekend, comic-wise

This weekend I inked two complete pages of my comic. It's the most productive I've been in a while. I also penciled and inked a potential cover, but it didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. It's not bad, it's just not the best-designed composition. I'll probably post the cover up here when I get the chance. I'm still debating whether or not to post some of the pages. Over the last 2 years I've been working on this thing, I've wanted to keep the pages to myself until I was done, but now I wonder if releasing a page per week would be kind of fun, in addition to an incentive to keep working. We'll see.

While inking I watched a bunch of movies: The Rocketeer*, The Fog of War, Thirteen Days, Master and Commander, Gorillaz videos, and Ocean's Eleven. I also took breaks to play Castle Crashers, and I unlocked the Ninja.

*The Rocketeer really needs a good Blu-Ray release. The DVD release isn't even anamorphic (meaning I had to jimmy with my TV's settings to get it to fill up the screen, and it was still stretched), the tranfer is very soft, and there are no special features to speak of. Come on! This is a popular movie that launched Jennifer Connelly, featured one of the coolest costumes ever designed, and is just a lot of fun. Side-note to the side-note: Amy and I identified Melora Hardin ("Jan" from The Office) as the singer in the South Seas Club! Further side-note: Josh, the other boss from The Office, played the pilot who gets shot down in Thirteen Days!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Blu-Ray complaints

I don't know if I announced it here, but I love Blu-Ray. I have a 1080p TV and a PS3, and the difference between SD (standard definition -- DVDs and regular broadcast television) and HD (high definition -- Blu-Rays and HD TV signals) is incredible. Amy and I watched the Olympics in widescreen hi-def, and I can't imagine being content to watch them on a 4:3 SD screen ever again. Blu-Rays like The Life of Brian and Blade Runner show a vast improvement over their DVD counterparts. (Go to and click through some of their Blu-Ray vs. DVD comparisons to see what I mean, especially The Life of Brian BR vs. the old Criterion DVD.)

I've spent the last several months dumping my obese DVD collection in favor of picking up their superior Blu-Ray counterparts. I've met frustration at several turns, however, as I realized that some of the releases have been sub-par in various ways. Here are some of my biggest disappointments:

Master and Commander - The word in the reviews is that the picture and sound quality are incredible. Happy day! But the studio this wonderful film belongs to, Fox, has quite a track record right now for releasing movies sans most or all of the special features that the SD-DVD had, and this title is no exception. All the great behind-the-scenes features about the filming of the movie, all the cool stuff about the miniatures, the hours of footage hosted by Peter Weir himself, all absent on the Blu-Ray. Now, Fox, why would I "upgrade" and not expect the Blu-Ray to be better in every department? Sucky move. (The same goes for Fox's releases of Predator, Cast Away and The Usual Suspects.)

The Fugitive - Just rewatched it recently, and it still holds up well as an entertaining thriller. But the Blu-Ray not only upscales an old transfer of the movie (that displays only a marginal improvement over the DVD), it's actually older than the print used for the DVD! There is a scene after the train crash where a crew member's head is visible in the shot, and they digitally removed it for the 2001 DVD release. There's even a special feature that mentions this. But the Blu-Ray version of the film still has the guy's head! And it includes the special feature that talks about removing it! Lazy.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Another Fox job. This time they included most of the special features that the recent DVD release had, but the transfer is reportedly all kinds of messed up: brightened, processed, and lacking in detail. The scenes with the riders following the titular pair occurs in near blackness on the DVD, but the Blu-Ray looks like a cloudy day.

Patton - A Fox Blu-Ray that includes all of the special features that the DVD had! Excellent! Unfortunately, the picture is weird. At first glance it looks fantastic. Great clarity and crispness. As I watched it, though, I wondered to myself, "I wonder if these guys went overboard with the Digital Noise Reduction." The faces look waxy, and there is absolutely no film-grain. A movie like this surely had a fair amount of film grain originally, I thought. I checked the reviews, and sure enough, they all complained of the overly processed and artificial looking picture. (This is an excellent article on the subject, and it includes a link to a comparison of two Blu-Ray versions of Pan's Labyrinth as an example.) I'm really hoping that the upcoming Godfather Blu-Ray preserves the grain as part of the original film. I understand the reasoning behind the DNR, as the picture of Patton really does look spectacular to your average consumer. But it isn't true to the original film, and thus should be corrected.

The Fifth Element - Excellent picture and sound, no supplements.

Terminator 2 - Nowhere near the depth that the Ultimate Edition DVD had. No different versions of the movie, none of the featurettes on the effects, etc. Includes two commentaries. You know a better version of this is coming. I just wish it was out now.

Terminator - Same deal. Even worse, the Blu-Ray doesn't include the original mono soundtrack. Instead you're stuck with a decent but sometimes gimmicky and distracting 5.1 remix.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Hopefully most of these issues will be rectified with future releases, but it's a shame we have to go through the same cycle we went through with DVD.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Recent movies - Amazing Grace, The Darjeeling Limited

Amazing Grace (2006)

For some reason I had it in my head that this was about the guy who wrote the hymn. It took Amy and I several weeks to finally pop this one from Netflix in, but once we did we discovered a really wonderful film. The story of William Wilberforce and the era in which he strove to abolish the slave trade from England are compelling and fascinating, and Michael Apted and his team put together a very polished production. The cast was wonderful, full of familiar faces like Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell (in a rare non-villain role), Ioan Gruffudd, and Albert Finney. Ioan looked so familiar but I couldn't place where I'd seen him. Turns out he was Mr. Fantastic. Well, I haven't seen either F4 movie, but he was indeed fantastic (a ha! a ha! a ha ha ha!) in Amazing Grace. I'm glad Amazing Grace was the first movie I had seen him in.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Yawn. Some sorta interesting character stuff, but stretched out over so much nothing it became very tedious. The best part was the when the brothers' rescued the other brothers.