Monthly Archives: June 2009

When you’re being an idiot…

…it helps to have good friends to let you know.

Earlier today I was sitting at my work computer doing a seemingly endless series of mind-numbingly boring, repetitive tasks. I was annoyed that I couldn’t figure out a better way to do them, I was annoyed that the system wasn’t flexible, and I was annoyed that I even had these tasks to begin with. Both hands were bothering me a bit as a warning to stretch to avoid repetitive stress injury. Basically I was not happy.

I needed to take a break and vent a bit, so I flipped over to Facebook. I updated my status with the light-hearted, but still complaining:

My life is an endless repetition of point-click, Alt-Tab. Then there’s a flurry of Ctrl+C, Ctrl+P, just to keep things interesting.

I got a couple of sympathetic comments incorporating the same light-hearted computer references from people who have similar jobs. But I also got a comment from one of my oldest friends who, in the same light-hearted tone, told me I was being an idiot:

life’s tough for you Jeff I can see that 😛

I can completely hear the sarcasm in my friend’s voice as he says that, with a little laugh at the end.  He’s right, of course. I’ve got a relatively cushy life. First of all, I have a job — far from a given in the current economy. I work most days from my home, in nice air conditioning, listening to music when I can, and barely needing to leave my home office.  I’m not doing any heavy lifting. I’m not sweating in 90 degree temperatures. I’m not working in dangerous conditions. Many people work way harder than I do, and many are unfortunately not compensated as well.

Beyond that, I live in America, where (along with other “developed nations”) the standard of living even in the poorer areas is orders of magnitude above that of the “third world” — something that’s all too often forgotten or ignored (more on that).

So I was bored and my wrists hurt a bit. It’s not that that isn’t a problem — it is — but it’s also important not to lose perspective.

I hope you all have friends you can count on to give you a reality check when you start to feel sorry for yourself. We’ve all got problems, some of them major, but there’s always someone worse off than you and it’s helpful to remember that sometimes.

The Andrews Sisters – Tuesday TubeWatch

Today’s videos harken back to a simpler time when the world was at war and the news of death was constant. Then, as now, the US Army combated morale drops with women entertainers and humor. At that time, Boogie Woogie was popular.

Luckily the Andrews Sisters were around at that time, and we ended up with this (from the 1941 Abbott and Costello film “Buck Privates”):

That’s probably the most well-known Andrews Sisters song. It’s certainly the first one I always associate with them, and could very well be my favorite. It’s a lot of fun and showcases their talent, too. Think it’s easy to sing like that? Try it. Be precise. They’re not sliding around those notes unless they mean to, and those harmonies are always on (and they’re not easy harmonies, either). That’s some serious talent.

Here’s another example – a bit more silly – “Six Jerks in a Jeep”:

And a bit out of season, but my favorite version of Jingle Bells, with Bing Crosby (I like the lights in this video, especially once the sisters join in):

What are we going to do today, Brain?

The same thing we do every day, Pinky. Try to take over the world!

Yeah, okay, this blog is read by people in at least 17 different countries (though really 5 or 6 are the primaries). So I’ve at least been read internationally. But is that enough? Does that make me known? Does it give me the power I need?

I say no.

Pinky and The Brain

Pinky and The Brain

But now, in glorious monophonic sound, you can hear my voice, on demand, in your very own ears. Why would I provide such a service to you? It’s simple. I need more people stopping me on the street and saying “how can I serve you?” on my next trip to England or The Netherlands (yes, “first” also qualifies as “next”).

So I decided the best way to do that is to contribute to a podcast. No, I’m not hosting my own podcast. That would require effort. A far better method is to contribute to someone else’s podcast. And remember, it’s got to be internationally hosted so I seem to be a man-of-the-world.

Enter Quit Your Day Job. Hosted in Australia, it’s almost as far from me as physically possible. Pop-culture and sci-fi are the orders of the day (usually) over there, and Lee has started doing weekly podcasts now. He takes contributions. I saw my shot. I started slowly, writing in my contributions. Now he and his listeners are used to that so I’ve moved to the next stage of my plan: submitting audio contributions.

Once people start craving my voice on that podcast, my segments will get longer and longer until finally I take over the entire podcast. Then I will repeat that process with other podcasts until eventually I am the most well known person on the planet. Everyone will listen to me and do what I say and I will be the ruler of the world!!!

So let’s get the movement started. Head over to QYDJ and listen to his latest podcast on the Robocop films. You’ll hear the longest bashing of Robocop 3 on record, and the first ever comparison of the Robocop franchise to Wagnerian opera. But more importantly, you’ll hear me.

Viva la revolution!

Happy Fathers Day

Another year has gone by, and more fathering lessons have been learned. Hopefully my kids have learned a bit, too.

For my part, I’ve learned – perhaps more than in other years – that being a father is simultaneously the best thing I’ve ever done, and the most frustrating thing I’ve ever done. Thankfully the former outweighs the latter by a large margin.

I’ve got a lot of years left doing this job, hopefully, and I’m looking forward to them. (Well, most of them, anyway. I’m pretty terrified of the teen years with two girls…)

And as I consider my role as a father this year, I can’t help but think of my father’s role. Thank you is insufficient, so here is a reminder of what he started…

fathers_day_2009

Doctor Who/Torchwood news

Okay, I’ve been remiss in getting the Doctor Who news out lately. ‘Cause I know you all depend on me alone to let you know what’s going on with that show. I mean, seriously, where else would you go? BBC? Any of the completely sci-fi focused blogs out there that cover this stuff by the minute? psshh… that’d be crazy.

Anyway… here’s what’s come across my radar.

First, a minor point: when the new season starts with Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor next year, the credits will change. I’m not just talking about the actor’s name being different, I mean the style of the credits will change. In fact, they’ll be reverting back to the old style, classic Who credits where the titular character’s face appears on screen. I imagine they’ll also change the music slightly, as they tend to do from time to time. Same theme, different arrangement.  I think that’s one way that the new Stephen Moffat-led show is tipping its hat to the classic series.

In a behind-the-scenes photo from the Christmas special this year, we get a reveal of a guest actor and a possibly major spoiler harkening back to a guess from earlier last year. In fact, this is such a major spoiler that I’m going to use the Spoiler Guard.

[if you’re reading this in email or RSS feed, it’s possible this won’t protect you, so go directly to the article to skip over this].

[spoiler /click for spoiler/ /hide/]

In a post last year I reviewed an argument someone made that the season finale last year would focus on the return of Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet. The Doctor, you’ll remember, is the last of the Time Lords because in the Time War he destroyed Gallifrey in the act of destroying the Daleks. Well, some Daleks and the renegade Time Lord The Master escaped this destruction, as we discovered through the series. With the release of the below picture, we now have a strong hint that at the least another Time Lord has survived.

Timothy Dalton, David Tennant, and John Simm - three Time Lords

Timothy Dalton, David Tennant, and John Simm - three Time Lords

Notice two things here: first, John Simm is in the picture, which means The Master is back from the dead… again. How they’ll explain him regenerating into the same body will be interesting. Second, Timothy Dalton’s costume is very reminiscent of the Gallifreyan robes seen in the classic Who series. Is he, perhaps, another surviving Time Lord, or are we going to be treated to the full-on return of Gallifrey? If the latter, that could make things interesting for the Doctor. On the one hand, he would be far from the only Time Lord again, which would make him happy. On the other hand, he destroyed them all and it’s possible that they wouldn’t be too happy about that, which could very well make him a fugitive. Or maybe they’ll agree and make him President again. Could go either way (though I’d bet on the fugitive thing).

Or maybe the whole thing is a flashback.

[/spoiler]

So, interesting stuff there. I can’t wait!

On the Torchwood side of the house, we’ve got the newest trailer (which by now has been out for a few weeks) and a release date on BBC America (which will coincide with the channel’s switch to HD programming).

Told over five consecutive nights starting July 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, the series re-joins Captain Jack (John Barrowman), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) as they are still coming to terms with the death of two of their closest friends. Yet despite their pain, they know they have a job to do. This time they are faced with their fiercest threat to date – one which throws the future of Torchwood and the entire human race spiralling into danger. Battling against the odds, do they stand a chance of saving mankind?

Here’s the trailer:

That grabs me a little bit more than the original trailer, but not much, sadly. There is just enough of a hint, though, that I think the show will be good and the trailer’s where the failure lies. Maybe it’s just high hopes. We’ll see in July.

Finally, we have a piece of Who related news that makes me sad on multiple levels:

Wales’ Sebastian Neale loved “Doctor Who.”  How much you ask?

Enough to have a “Doctor Who” themed funeral.  The 26-year old fan recently passed away.  But instead of the standard funeral, Neale had a “Doctor Who” themed one, including having his casket look like the exterior of the Doctor’s TARDIS.

Attendees to the funeral were greeted by the a line from the fourth Doctor story, “Pyramids of Mars,” saying, “I’m a Time Lord, I walk in eternity.”  And the usual comforting words from scripture were replaced with William Hartnell’s first Doctor speech from “Dalek Invasion of Earth” and later re-used in the prelude of “The Five Doctors,” saying, “Someday I shall come back, yes I shall come back.  Until then there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”

A return to Middle Earth: The Hunt for Gollum – Tuesday TubeWatch

What kind of a movie can you make with $5000 and some talented friends?

If you choose wisely, apparently a pretty good one.

This is the trailer for a fan film based, obviously, on Peter Jackson’s take on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It attempts to cover the story just prior to the trilogy, where Aragorn (Strider) and Gandalf the Wizard try to locate Gollum.

Apparently there are a few inconsistencies in the story as compared to the books, but the quality of this thing is unbelievably impressive to me, especially given that they made this for under $5000. That’s just astounding.

The full movie is 38 minutes long. You may have to crank your speakers to hear it, as they didn’t consider their medium well in that regard, creating their sound with the theater in mind rather than a PC.

The look of this thing is great though. Nice locations, good camera work, better acting than a lot of fan films… kudos to all who worked on it. It really does evoke the feel of Peter Jackson’s movies, which I assume was their goal.

In general, fan films have really improved in quality over the last few years. Perhaps that isn’t a huge surprise, as technology continues to leap forward in usability and power, and become cheaper at the same time. Still, most of what gets produced is obviously cheesy and lacks talent. It’s great to find a gem like this one.

Graphic novels are all the rage – Tuesday TubeWatch

Okay, that may be overstating it slightly, but comic book properties are getting a lot more attention in the last few years. The encouraging thing is that they are usually not being given a campy treatment, but rather are presented in a manner more consistent with the source material.

Mostly this is evident in the movies – Iron Man, Spider-man, Watchmen, X-men, The Spirit, Green Lantern, Superman, and many, many more examples have been trotted out in recent years, many of them very successfully. There have been others that are sourced from graphic novels but aren’t super-heroes. Usually those go out without most people realizing they are watching an adaptation.

I’m sure it’s happened before, but now TV is getting into the act. In the fall, Fox will be airing the show Human Target, which is based on a graphic novel. I don’t know anything about the graphic novel itself, but this trailer makes me want to see the show.

That really looks like a good show, to me (and it’s got Six in the premier, so it’s got that goin’ for it). I’d love to see some other non-super-hero graphic novels come to TV. The Losers, or 100 Bullets, for instance, would make exciting episodic TV. They’ve got great arc stories behind them, but could be mostly broken down into individual episodes, with a bit of embellishment here and there. (In fact, they would both need to be toned down for TV.) To do either of those as movies would likely do harm to the overall story as it have to be compacted too much.

What graphic novels would you like to see translated to live action? Do you think it would be better served as a TV show or a movie?

Jon and Kate Plus 8… plus 10 million… minus one

I’m willing to bet that you’ve heard of Jon and Kate Plus 8, even if you don’t watch the TLC program yourself. It’s getting a lot of publicity lately, led by a focus on the potential break-up of their marriage. For any who may not know what it is, a family with a pair of twins followed by sextuplets have invited cameras into their home and lives to follow them around and show what life is like for a family of multiples.

The kids are cute. The interplay between Kate and Jon – her harshness and his laid back, almost disconnected demeanor – was entertaining to watch, especially at first. But very quickly I began to feel like I was rubber-necking an accident. At the very least, even early on, it felt somewhat exploitative, if still a bit humorous.

This isn’t typically the kind of show I’d watch. I prefer my TV scripted. But the Gosselins live in my area and periodically some local landmarks would turn up on the show, and it was fun to see that. Even so, as the popularity of the show grew, two things happened: the toll of the intrusion into their lives was beginning to show, and I became even less interested. With the increased success, and the stresses and “poor choices” reaching their high this summer, the season premier drew a lot of attention: “will there be a divorce?” was the question on over 10 million people’s voyeuristic minds. I admit it – I was one of them. It wasn’t like I was waiting for it to come on, but when I heard it in the other room I came in and watched for a while.

The question on Kate’s lips, though, was more like “how did we get here?” The answer to that is obvious. She has moved her focus from her family to her fame.

Maybe the difficulty in their marriage would have happened without the show’s existence – I don’t know. But I certainly think it’s been exacerbating the situation and we’re already past the point where the plug should have been pulled.

So what’s got me writing these thoughts down? Why bring it up? After all, reality shows and celebrity gazing are not typical topics for me, nor are they likely to come up much again.

Walt Mueller.

Walt is a friend of mine, my former youth pastor, a nationally recognized speaker, and the founder of an organization that focuses on kids and families, and frequently on the media with which they are bombarded – Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. He was also a neighbor of the Gosselin’s and met them before the show started. He’s finally broken his public silence.

I’ve known Walt for years (decades, truthfully), and his thoughts are always well considered and humble. I’d strongly encourage you to read his entire post.

Here’s are some quick excerpts:

For some reason, the world is enjoying watching this train wreck. To be honest, those of us who knew enough to see it coming can easily fall into the proud and self-righteous “I told you so” mode. To be honest, I have. And, it’s even easy to wish ill-will on people who seemingly did everything they could to steer their train off the tracks through an endless series of unwise decisions and caving in to the ways of the world, thereby bringing all of this on themselves. Yep, let them get what they deserve. The Gosselin family has gotten themselves into a ridiculous mess. We watch them tearfully ask “Why?” and “What can we do?” and they look even more ridiculous. The curiosity factor is off the charts. Jon and Kate Gosselin and their kids are in trouble. We all know it.

[…]

But from the time they moved into the neighborhood until the time they left, generous offers of help, meals, etc. were turned away. . . and usually not with even a polite “thank-you.” The stories are multitude. And, they are consistent. These offers were not given to celebrities, but to neighbors in need. Nobody in our neighborhood was starstruck. . . simply because these were neighbors and not stars. In addition, there was a growing awareness that something was just not right. One member of the marriage would walk the kids in their six-seat stroller and was willing to engage neighbors in friendly conversation. The other immediately developed a reputation for being rude, self-centered, and demanding. Those in our neighborhood who had known that person for years were not surprised. Sadly, the one who ruled the roost set the tone, and it wasn’t good. Eventually, we never saw the friendlier half of the couple.

And now we know. The family’s choice to live their lives in front of the world has yielded undeniable evidence that the train has not only derailed, but wrecked.

[…]

For a minute, remove all the rumors and stories (many of which are true), and think only about how the family has chosen to present themselves. Think too about the fact that when the cameras are on, we usually put on our best smiles and best behavior. . . and then think – long and hard – about what that best behavior has been on this particular show. Then, imagine what life is like and how people act when the cameras aren’t rolling. After taking that all into consideration, we shouldn’t be surprised by the train wreck that’s taken the world by storm.

[…]

So let me humbly suggest some responses. . . because I don’t think it’s too late for this couple and their family. God is in the business of redeeming all kinds of situations. To Jon and Kate, it’s not too late for you to save your marriage and your family. To those who care about Jon and Kate (and we all should), it’s not too late to do your part to see this thing redeemed.

Walt goes on to offer some specific thoughts to each of the parties involved ending with himself:

And finally, to me. I know that I’m a part of the culture, the media world, the church, and the human race. While choosing to be silent would promote the downfall of this family, any words I speak about this situation have to come from an introspective heart that seeks humility, love, the Kingdom of God, and the greater good. What I say to myself is what I will say to everyone who is thinking about the Gosselins: You are no better. The seeds of what you don’t like in them live in you. Your life and family are far from perfect. Keep looking in the mirror to see where you might be doing the same things. . . although not in a highly-publicized and public way that the world can see. And if you/I don’t. . . then shame on you/me.

I couldn’t agree more. We’re all tempted in one way or another, presented with choices of what we really want to do vs. what is best for us (and our families). If I was given the opportunity for the money and fame that the Gosselin’s have, it’s certainly possible that I would have chosen the same way, and I’ve made some dumb and detrimental choices even without that level of temptation. The key, both for me and the Gosselin’s, is to recognize the mistakes, pray, and work to fix it. In their case, I firmly believe that it starts with the end of the TV show, before it becomes Kate and 8 (Plus Jon).

If only the Star Wars films were like this…

This is quite simply one of the best Star Wars trailers I’ve seen.

The problem is that it’s the cinematics associated with the game, and no in-game footage, so the actual game experience will be much different. But that’s also the cool thing about this… it’s high-resolution and looks awesome, because they aren’t dropping down to game-play resolution.

I don’t know a whole lot about the Old Republic time period, other than what I know from playing Knights of the Old Republic and some references in a few novels. This trailer brings it to life for me in a new way.

I love the idea of having a female Mandalorian (I assume that’s what she is) as an infiltrator, and assisting in the battle. I love the massive battle raging and then focusing down onto two powerful combatants. And I love the moves. The good guy avoids the thrown lightsaber and then gets thrown himself, through rubble, and still recovers to continue the fight. So perfect.

There were parts of the Obi-Wan/Vader battle in Revenge of the Sith that I loved. But it still seemed like it didn’t quite get where it should have gone. It didn’t get here. This is what I wanted to see in the movie. It’s a shame this is only a trailer.

It does the job of a trailer, though. It makes me want to go investigate more about the game.

If you’ve never heard Bach on a mandolin… – Tuesday TubeWatch

… you’re probably not alone. But it’s really good! I love hearing songs performed in an unexpected way, especially when it doesn’t diminish the song. Parodies are one thing, but to (somewhat) seriously perform a song in a new setting is always fun to hear.

Peter Ostroushko and the Mando Boys playing Bach’s “Fugue in G-minor” on mandolins:

Along the same lines, here’s the Scott Joplin tune “Solace”:

Love the fez and sunglasses…

On a side note, does anyone know which Oscar-winning (Best Picture) film – one of my all-time favorites – features “Solace?”