Tuesday, April 29, 2008

300 + 1

I recently picked up season two of Samurai Jack. It's a shame the story will never be completed, but it's a brilliant series anyway.

Season two contains the episode used for the following mashup:

That would have been a much better movie.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

David Ford - "Go To Hell"

Meant to put this up Friday. Whoops!

Working, Reading, Babysitting...

I closed at Target last night. I'm opening this morning. This should mark the final switch in shifts for me. At least until the mystery job comes through. (If it comes through. I'm still waiting to hear back).

Last week the month of unemployment finally caught up with me, and I'm still behind in bills. My first significant paycheck from Target is already spent two days after receiving it, and that's not even including the food and gas I'll need between now and the next one. Hopefully the next check will have me caught up, and hopefully my internet and/or electricity won't be shut off before then.

I'll pick up a few extra bucks tomorrow watching my friend's baby while she takes a final. I have no prior baby experience. Never changed a diaper. I think I'm qualified.

Last week I finished an entertaining sci-fi novel, Sun of Suns. It's a "world building" novel. A lot of science fiction takes place in standard universes we've seen before. Giant space stations and alien worlds or future earths are the norm. Sun of Suns contains a world completely original, unlike anything I've seen elsewhere.

The basic concept is that a giant atmosphere-filled balloon is somewhere out in space. Within the balloon (Virga) are numerous free floating cities and nations. Most cities rotate to create gravity, but many of the smaller ones are left in zero G. Oceans exist as large spheres of water, complete with aquatic life. Because the world is completely enclosed, the people have to create their own suns. This is the cause of most of the world's political turmoil, as powerful nations with suns try to prevent subservient smaller nations from creating their own suns and becoming independent.

The story is a bit more typical. A young man seeks revenge against a large empire that killed his parents, who were part of a small radical group attempting to create a new sun. Along the way he discovers that his enemies are not who he thought they were, and that there is a reality outside of Virga that is much different than anything he knows.

Overall it's a great opening to a series. The zero gravity world makes for some great original settings, as well as some spectacular action scenes (and there are quite a few). Think Ender's Game, only with large ships and jet bikes as well as hand-to-hand combat.
Now I'm just waiting for the sequel to be released in paperback.

The book I'm reading now is The World Is Flat. I'm not very far into it, but it's interesting so far. I'm just at the part that describes what the huge call centers in India are like. I've gotten most of those details from other sources by this point, so it's not new, but it's still an entertaining read.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Redemtion for I Am Legend? We'll see...

Garfield - Garfield

"Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb."

Garfield minus Garfield

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Required Viewing List

A list of must-see, environmentally-conscious movies for Earth Day.
In no particular order:

1. Koyaanisqatsi
A study of the world told entirely through images and haunting music by Philip Glass. This movie manages to make you view humanity as something eerily unnatural.

2. Princess Mononoke
A brilliant fantasy film by the genius, Hayao Miyazaki. A warning of the dangers that arise when the arrogance of mankind infringes on the precious balance of nature.

3. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Another classic by Miyazaki. This film explores a world struggling to survive amidst the environmental devastation left behind by previous generations.

4. The Road Warrior
Thanks to the current administration's efforts, we are now closer than ever to this post-apocalyptic world in which petroleum is fought over in the desert by warring gangs.

5. The Lorax
I wore out the betamax tape of this when I was younger. I bought the book for my niece last Christmas. This is perhaps the best eco-parable ever told. And the soundtrack is great.

6. Planet Earth
Not only is this one of the most incredible nature documentary series ever made, with gorgeous images of rarely seen animals and locales, but Planet Earth also contains numerous warnings of human civilization's negative impact on the environment.
None is more tragic than the fate of this polar bear. Weakened, and dangerously underweight after having to swim miles over open water in search of food, the polar bear makes a desperate move:

Shorty after this clip, the polar bear dies from injuries sustained during the futile battle. The reason the polar bear was forced into this situation in the first place is the real tragedy. Due to global warming, the arctic circle is melting earlier and earlier during the year, erasing the precious time these animals need to hunt food in their natural environment.
I've heard several reports about the future of polar bears. The general consensus is that they will be extinct within the next century.

To Boldly Go...

My friend and star/producer of Star Trek: TCM, Patrick McCray, has been interviewed by fansite, TrekWeb.

Check it out, and check out the new episode, "Integration", on May 4.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Busy Weekend

I went to the first Sundown of the year. One of probably only two that I'll actually attend. The crowds are unbearable unless you really want to see the band. So many people show up just for the social event, and don't really pay attention to the music. This was especially apparent if you walked through the park at the south end of Market Square. It looked like the entire emo population of Knoxville was setting up a shanty town. It's the biggest concentration of losers I've seen in a long, long time. I really wish I'd snapped a picture of it.

Market Square, before it got crowded.

This guy was trying to make money by
looking like an idiot and standing very still.

The band playing was Galactic, who I like a lot. They have a "jam band" vibe, which wears a bit thin, but it's funky. The best part was that they had an MC performing with them. Boots Reilly is part of the hip-hop group, The Coup. I hadn't heard of them before, but he was great. Very high energy, great stage presence. And the song are very good, too. I've checked out some of The Coup/s stuff since Thursday and it's really good. Very political, socially conscious hip-hop, but great party music at the same time.

I went with a friend to see the Knoxville Opera Company's production of Puccini's Tosca. I'm kinda late to the whole opera thing, but it's grown on me very quickly over the past several years. Puccini is by far my favorite right now. I wasn't familiar with the music or story of Tosca before going to see it. The production was fantastic, overall.

The soprano playing Tosca was amazing. The lead tenor, Mario, had a good voice but it was a bit on the weak side. When they sang together he nearly got drowned out.
The show was stolen, however, by the villain, Scarpia. The guy who played him was phenomenal. And he knew it, too. He completely owned the stage, even during the curtain call. One of the best villains I've ever seen in a show.

The thing I like about Puccini is how simple all his stories are, but how masterfully he handles each moment. Tosca has the best use of a chorus I've ever heard in an opera. The only minor complaint I have is that the final act is a bit weak compared to the first two. It's not bad at all, but the first two blew me away. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Scarpia is only in the first two acts. You really miss him in the third.

Saturday was the Rossini Festival. Hooray! Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera with me so I didn't get any good pictures.

I got there a bit late because I had to work that morning, but I'm just glad the weather cleared up enough for the festival to go on. It was pouring rain Saturday morning, and I was worried the festival would be ruined. But it was mostly clear throughout the day, with occasional light (but cold) sprinkling.

I was happy to find out that the Pellissippi Variations choir was performing. I still have a lot of friends in the group, and it was great to see them perform. Especially since I missed their spring concert on Thursday to attend Sun Down. It was a good show, but the sound system was terrible. The guy running the board never really got a good mix, and there were several instances when we were assaulted by loud feedback.

Immediately after this, the Knoxville Chamber Chorale performed. This is a smaller group consisting of members of the Knoxville Choral Society. Both this choir and the Pellissippi choir are conducted by Bill Brewer.

By the time they were finished the sun was going down and it was starting to get cold, so it was time to leave. I'm glad I got a chance to enjoy myself before the week of hell I'm about to have at work!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

To Boldly Go...

Something is astir at Star Trek: Continuing Mission:

Finally, a release date for episode two! May 4, woohoo!

In the meantime you can check out the latest podcast, featuring a Q&A with the producers and some of the cast, including my friend, Patrick McCray, who happens to be both. Hear them discuss why episode two is so long in coming. Tim Renshaw (Captain Edwards) talks about his pet project, the full sized shuttlecraft he's building in his garage. Also: circus freaks! Check it out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Jay-Oh-Bee

So Barnie's closed at the beginning of March. I'm sure most of you have heard about that by now. I closed the store down one Friday evening, and got a call the next morning from my manager informing me that we were all out of a job. There was no warning whatsoever.

It took me pretty much an entire month to find a new job, during which I spent my entire savings (meager as they were). Part of that was due to the fact that I already had a week-long trip to Colorado planned. Great trip, bad timing.

So I gots me a job, finally, at Super Target in Turkey Creek. Not an ideal job, but they wanted to hire me, which puts them ahead of every other place I applied at (including another Target location). The down side is that they screwed up my schedule hardcore for the first few weeks. I was supposed to be hired on for day shifts, but my first week of training was at night, because there was some confusion as to which department I was hired into. So not only was I training at the wrong time, but for the entirely wrong area. They fixed it for this week, but because next week's schedule was made two weeks in advance I was put at the wrong time again. Which means I have to switch from nights to mornings to nights to mornings. My sleep cycle is going to be completely screwed up by the end of it.

And the worst part is, because I'm working night shifts next week, I had to drop out of the Choral Society concert. I was really looking forward to singing with the symphony. I'm not happy.

The good news, and something I'm very excited about, is that I probably won't be at Target for very much longer. I got a call from someone today about a job offer.
Nothing is official yet, so I can't really say more. But better things are on the horizon.

Unnecessary Remakes

The Weinsteins are doing a remake of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.
If you haven't seen Seven Samurai do so immediately. It is one of my favorite movies, and I consider it a "perfect movie", a movie that I can find no fault in whatsoever. But that's not surprising considering Kurosawa's perfectionism.
I don't see the point in remaking this movie unless they are going in some completely new direction (sci-fi/fantasy perhaps?). I consider this on the same level as remaking Citizen Kane or Casablanca. There is no reason for it.

I can understand remaking a flawed or unknown movie. Ocean's Eleven is an example of a so-so movie getting made into something much better. The Departed is an example of a good foreign film getting made into an equally good (perhaps superior) movie for a different culture. Those remakes both work very successfully.

I Am Legend was probably ripe for a remake. Unfortunately it's also an example of a remake that gets it more wrong than the original. Although I Am Legend shares its title with its source material, it is actually much farther removed from the original story than the seventies film version, The Omega Man. It's a completely missed opportunity. (Also, the special effects sucked, but that's a completely different topic.)

I just can't picture a Samurai remake that could improve on the original in any way. Especially since the cast is going to contain American and European stars, in addition to Asian. Hwuh? Whatever.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Strong Bad's On Wii!

Telltale Games, the same attractive people bringing Sam & Max to the Wii, has just announced a series of episodic games based on Strong Bad! The five episodes, entitled Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People, will be available on a monthly basis on the new WiiWare channel which launches in America next month.

That makes this my first must-have title on the new service.

The Telltale site now has an official Strong Bad page.
Also: trailer!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Berlioz Requiem

On the 24th and 25th of April, the Knoxville Choral Society will be performing the Berlioz Requiem with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

I can get discounted tickets if anyone is interested.

Here is one movement from the Requiem performed by a massive choir and orchestra:

Muse - "Butterflies And Hurricanes"
(Live at Wembley Stadium)

Here's another album I just picked up. Muse's H.A.A.R.P., a live CD/DVD combo.

I've posted a couple of their videos before.

The live concert is very impressive. The stadium it was filmed at is massive, and every seat is filled, with a massive throng of people standing on the field in front of the stage. The stage itself is pretty simple, but has a cool jumbo screen behind the band displaying a variety of images and light patterns throughout the show. There are also two large dishes that look like satellites, but I imagine are used to project the sound out to the far corners of the stadium.

I recommend picking it up if you like music that rawks.

Gnarls Barkley - "Open Book"

On Friday I posted the video for Gnarls Barkley's new single, "Run", from the album The Odd Couple

I went out and picked up the album today, and it is fantastic. I decided to make a video for my current favorite track. This is my first time really using iMovie, so I kept it basic.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

First Friday, April

Various artists at the Emporium Gallery:

Nintendo-themed art at Versus:

Jessica's art opening at Host:

Host's Leviathan entrance:


Sam & Max

A while back I stated my hope that the episodic Sam & Max games from Telltale would be ported to the Wii. Then there were rumors for over a year that this would happen, including a mysterious German press release that seemed to confirm it. Now, finally, Telltale is officially announcing Sam & Max for the Wii.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mike Myers Is The New Robin Williams

When I was a kid I thought Robin Williams was the funniest man alive. Then I graduated from middle school and my tastes matured somewhat. These days, if I see a preview for a new Robin Williams movie, chances are I'm going to groan and shake my head.

Likewise, I used to think Mike Myers was hilarious. He was part of my favorite lineup of SNL performers ever, with the likes of Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, and Dana Carvey. I loved both the Wayne's World movies. I even really liked So I Married An Axe Murderer. I became a fan of Austin Powers, but only after a second viewing. I politely chuckled through most of The Spy Who Shagged Me, and tolerated Goldmember mostly for old time's sake. Then there was The Cat In The Hat, an abortion I avoided altogether. Even Shrek was entertaining only in spite of Myers' involvement. But that series has worn out its welcome, too.

Now we have The Love Guru. The trailer contains so many warnings of typical re-treaded Myers material, it's practically anti-marketing:

There's so much mugging and winking here it makes me wonder why Myers bothers to play a character at all. It seems he would be much more comfortable making a movie about Mike Myers laughing at himself. It's only a matter of time before his movies start placing audience cues at the bottom of the screen like, "Big Laugh!" or "Uncomfortable Groan".

Other tired Austin Powers scraps being dusted off here, include the awkward "I'm going to tell a joke and then explain the joke I just told" motif.
And don't forget all that midget humor! Midgets! Which wouldn't be half as bad, except for the fact that I just saw In Bruges which now holds the monopoly on good midget jokes.

And we get it, Justin Timberlake! You don't take yourself seriously. Point taken, again and again and again.

Best April Fool's Day Joke

I'm not one for pranks, generally. But Google's elaborate April Fool's joke is definitely worth checking out.

I have to admit my nerd heart skipped a beat when I first saw the article at Boing Boing. But while perusing the actual website the truth quickly dawned on me. The sad thing is, I so very much wanted to believe it was real. I mean, how awesome would that be? Isn't this the future we were promised to have by now?

Still, it's a very entertaining read. The "Flying To Mars" section of "The 100 Year Plan", is particularly amusing. And I highly recommend taking the Application Quiz.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

First And Ten

1. Henry Mancini - "Fallout!" from Peter Gunn

2. Shoji Yamashiro - "Wind Over Neo-Tokyo" from Akira OST

3. Utada - "Tippy Toe" from Exodus

4. Andrew Bird - "Imitosis" from Armchair Apocrypha

5. Ben Harper - "Like A King/I'll Rise" from Live From Mars

6. Dave Matthews Band - "Cry Freedom" from Crash

7. Missy Elliot - "Slide" from Under Construction

8. Richard Cheese - "Buddy Holly" from Tuxicity

9. Phish - "Free" from Hampton Comes Alive - 11/21/98

10. Sarah McLachlan - "Fallen" from Afterglow