If you're not using Google Reader to keep up to date on everything, you're missing out. I'm still surprised when I find out folks still check tons of sites every day manually. I don't know what I would do if I still had to do that. Now there is a cool new feature of Reader called Google Reader Play that uses your subscriptions and things you mark as "Like" in Google Reader to present a slide show chock full of pictures, articles, videos, and other assorted awesomeness that you will enjoy. It seems to be an even more intelligent version of Stumbleupon.
Speaking of Stumbleupon, I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but it has become completely unusable for me thanks to the friend shares feature. In my Stumble heyday, I was adding everyone as a friend who asked since I figured that was a good thing to do and I didn't see any reason not to. Then they added a sharing feature where friends could send articles to their friend's toolbars so that the next time they hit the Stumble button, they get the shared article. I get so many shares now that I can't actually Stumble. Every time I hit the button, I get a shared link from someone that is usually something lame and/or some kind of spam. There is no way to turn this off. As far as I can tell, there isn't even an easy way to remove people from my friends list. Is anyone else experiencing this?
I got invited to a D&D game. I am super excited. I've never played Dungeons and Dragons with other people. I've just read the books and the rules, created characters, longing for that chance to finally let my geek flag fly. When I was a kid my dad was way into Avalon Hill games and some of the serious Milton Bradley games like Shogun and Axis and Allies. We played tons of those games and one Christmas we got a new game called Hero Quest. It's the closest I've come to D&D and I loved it. I just never had the time or the geeky friends to take that next step. Thanks again to Josh for finally making that happen.
For some reason I was thinking about how I got to this point in my life on my car ride home yesterday. When you have no stereo due to the fact that it was stolen by savages and you have a 45 minute commute, you tend to do a lot of thinking. At this particular time I was thinking about the first time I saw the World Wide Web. It was 1995. I was attending a small private school at the time and while the facilities had yet to be improved to the impressive structures they are now, we were one of the more technologically advanced schools in the state. This was thanks to the efforts of John Couch, one of the pioneers at Apple who for some reason has no Wikipedia page. He had acquired a lab full of top of the line Macs and we had what was at the time a blazing fast internet connection.
Looking at the page of text, if you had told me this technology would end up putting entire industries out of business, I would have never believed you. But it sparked something, just as years before I had felt it the first time my dad sat me on his lap in front of one of the giant PCs at his office, the first time I made a line in LOGO at school, the first time I logged in to BBS to play LORD, and everything after that.
What are your geek roots?
Holy crap. If you've ever been a fan of action films, I think you'll enjoy this. I still wish they had managed to sign Van Damme. That would have been pretty epic.
A couple years ago I was riding to Disneyland with my friend Matt and he played a podcast he had recorded with our friend Jesse. It was going to be released on Quickstop Entertainment, which is now known as FRED. It was one of the funniest podcasts I'd ever listened to, one that definitely catered to my interests and sense of humor. Last week Matt and Jesse recorded their 50th episode. The content is completely NSFW, the subject matter varies so much I can hardly keep up, but that's what I love about it. Also, since episode 23 they've let me yap away for a couple minutes every week. Here's to you, Matt and Jesse. I couldn't even come close to 50 episodes back in my podcasting days so I definitely salute you.
This shouldn't surprise anyone but Comic-Con is completely sold out. It keeps happening earlier and earlier every year, yet folks still wait and then get mad when they can't get a badge. I do know the SDCC folks do sell a good amount of badges at face value closer to the date of the convention to combat scalpers so there is still a chance.
Yes, this is kind of becoming Brendan's Blog About Comic-Con and other related things. I guess that's been on my mind quite a bit lately. I know some people are turned off by the absolute mob scene the convention has become, but I absolutely love it. I love the fact that we, the geeks, take over the entire downtown area. People are friendly, I don't feel awkward when I go out at night after the exhibit hall closes, and there is so much to do that even if your first five choices of things to do at any given time don't pan out, there is still like ten more things to do. Not to mention that this year I will get to take vacation days while I'm there so I will still be getting paid! It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Oh yeah, I booked my plane tickets yesterday for my trip to Portland next month. I'll be visiting my brother and attending a certain someone's wedding. No, I will not be flying Southwest. Good times!
I already thought movies were too freaking expensive. Then 3D came along and jacked up the prices. Now it appears the increasing popularity of 3D is resulting in yet another ticket price hike.
Ticket prices will be going up at movie theaters across the country this weekend as the entertainment industry looks to cash in on growing demand for 3-D movies following the success of "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland."
Starting Friday, prices for adult admission to 3-D movies will increase an average 8.3% at box offices nationwide, according to market research conducted by investment firm BTIG. Ticket prices for IMAX movies are expected to jump 10%, while prices for regular 2-D movies will rise about 4% on average.
Seriously, for the cost of that ticket I can buy the movie and watch it in my home in peace. Boo!
It's that time of the year again, time to try and get in on the discount rooms for Comic-Con. This year was even more of a disaster than last year. Why? Because at this point I do not have a hotel room at all. I was on the site at 9 AM, assured that this new system would be smoother than the last. I entered 12 choices for hotel and was told I would receive an email with what hotel I got and I would then be required to make a one night deposit. This deposit was the big difference this year because it would prevent people from booking large blocks of rooms only to release the ones they don't want later. Or so they said. I never got an email back. I asked some friends, many of whom said the same thing. I then went to the Comic-Con hotel page and discovered that now they had the old reservation system in place but it said every room was sold out. So yeah, that's what is going on right now. Basically I'm hoping someone can help us out or that all those cancellations they say are going to happen start happening. I keep thinking there has got to be a better way to do this, but I really don't know what it is. I'm thinking next year I'm going to have to drop more cash and just reserve a room directly with the hotel I want well before all the madness starts. It will probably be worth the peace of mind.
I got this email from Travel Planners today:
Dear Comic-Con Guest,
Thank you for your email!
We are still processing these requests and apologize for the delay. We received thousands of requests within the first few minutes that housing opened and we really want to help you. We expect rooms to become available as the deposit due date passes and you will receive communication regarding your request by Friday, March 26. Again, we are very sorry we were unable to process your request right away and assure you we will do our best to accommodate you as quickly as possible.
We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience!
We'll see how that goes.
A friend of mine saw this post on my Facebook page and invited us to crash at his room at the Marriott next door to the convention center. So yeah, this story has a happy ending. I just feel bad for the folks who don't have the good fortune that I do.
I was sorry to to hear the news that Alex Chilton, frontman for the band Big Star passed away. While they were never super huge, Chilton and Big Star influenced a generation of bands including R.E.M., Wilco, and The Replacements. I got into them after hearing Elliott Smith's cover of the song "13," featured in the video above being performed by Chilton and Big Star. He will definitely be missed, but the music will definitely live on.
I remember coming back to school from Spring Break in 1999 and everyone was buzzing about The Matrix, myself included. I had already seen it twice in the span of a week and couldn't wait to tell my friends in the dorm what I had discovered and ask them if they had seen it yet. Most of the guys already had, but some hadn't so we all went to see it the night before classes started back up. When we left the theater Phil was surprisingly quiet and when I asked him if he liked the movie, he replied that he didn't really like it as it was pretty much a ripoff of Dark City. Having not seen that movie and having just seen for the third time what I at the time thought was the greatest movie EVER, I proceeded to argue about how insane and wrong he was. Upon finally watching Dark City, I kind of saw his point. After watching the Director's Cut Blu-Ray this weekend, I regret ever saying how insane he was.
Now let me just say that I still enjoy the hell out of the action sequences in The Matrix. But for me, at the time it was released, it was the story that really captivated me. The story that I thought was so new, so original. The virtual worlds, the chosen one, all that stuff. Stuff that had all been done before in Dark City, revealed even more so in the Director's Cut, which delves even deeper into the idea of the artificial world created by aliens (machines) and the man (The One), John Murdoch, who manages to break free and bring it down. Mr. Hand (Agent Smith) attempts to track down Murdoch (addressing him as "Mr. Murdoch" more times than I can count) as Dr. Schreber helps Murodoch unleash his full potential. Seriously. I could go on and on about the similarities, but I don't want to spoil what is a very incredible movie that everyone should watch if they haven't yet. It's definitely worth a look.
It's that time again. You can join our bracket league by clicking here. The password is apples. Feel free to tell your friends. I don't know how, but I am the defending champion. Bring it on...
We all have those movies that we're drawn to on cable when they are on, but back in the day there was another category of movies, movies that still haunt those of us of a certain generation and they are different for everyone. I'm talking about movies that were taped from TV and then watched ad nauseam. Kids these days have it lucky. We live in a world of dirt cheap DVDs, Tivo, multiple movie channels, Netflix, Instant Watch, it goes on and on. When I was a kid, there were many fewer options. There were a couple movie channels on cable that my family couldn't afford and then there was Blockbuster (or Wherehouse, or the mom and pop video store), which was pretty much a weekend only thing for us. For most of my youth, actually owning a video was pretty out of the question. VHS movies were not priced to own in their early days. I got a copy of Ghostbusters for my birthday and it cost like $75. It wasn't until Blockbuster started selling previously viewed movies and the studios started selling movies for cheaper (but still pretty pricey compared to today's cheap prices) that we actually had anything resembling a home movie library.
So where did that leave us? Well, the pay TV channels were pretty clever and they would offer free preview weeks and weekends every few months. During this time any movie fan worth their salt would stock up on blank VHS tapes and tape pretty much anything remotely watchable that came on. We would then end up with a random assortment of movies that quickly became treasures to us, even though most others wouldn't consider them so. These tapes would be pulled out on rainy days, sick days, late nights, slumber parties, long summer days, you get the picture. The movies became legend. Here are my top titles from VHS days of yore:
Troop Beverly Hills: The big one for me, my brother and I taped this off HBO and watched it so many times we could quote every Velda Plendor line. It also fueled my giant crushes for Jenny Lewis and Carla Gugino. In addition to Lewis, this movie featured Harriet from Small Wonder, Margot from Punky Brewster, and Nikki from Good Morning Miss Bliss. It was 80's sitcom supporting girl heaven!
If Looks Could Kill: In my 12 year old mind, Richard Greico was an awesome action star. I watched this recently on Netflix Instant Watch and it totally holds up. Also, I noticed that Roger freaking Daltry is in the movie. Crazy.
Toy Soldiers: It's basically Die Hard in a boarding school, and it's awesome. You can watch it for free on Hulu, and yeah, it totally holds up. An epic teaming up of Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, and Keith Coogan to kick Nikolai from Lost's ass. Can you tell I love this movie?
Shipwrecked: Taped off the Disney Channel back when it cost money. I actually saw this in the theater and nearly died with excitement when they premiered it during one of the Disney Channel free preview weekends. Gabriel Byrne is a fantastic villain. I just loved the idea of being stranded on an island, especially after reading The Cay and Island of the Blue Dolphins in school and it also has elements of Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson. A great adventure movie!
Adventures in Babysitting: One of our lower quality recordings as I think we grabbed it off of KTLA so it had commercials. This is the only one on the list others would probably consider a "classic." When younger folk ask what the big deal is with Elizabeth Shue, I just point them to this movie. Someone later pointed out to me all the racial stereotypes present in the film, but it still doesn't ruin it for me. Vincent D'Onofrio as Dawson/Thor is pretty much the greatest thing ever.
Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Feel free to post yours in the comments!
So yesterday pretty much sucked. I was home sick from work with a pretty bad cold. Around 10:30 the power went out. I then remembered a notice I had received saying there would be power outages between 9 AM Monday and 9 AM Tuesday. I had thought that was a window where there might be sporadic power outages. Nope. The power was still out when I left this morning. I'm not going to be that dude that complains that he couldn't watch TV or whatever. It just really sucked not being able to take a hot shower or cook anything while I had a 100 degree temperature. So I pretty much just slept in the dark and when I felt a little better I went to go eat. Then I slept some more and tried to read in the dark, but I had a hard time seeing with a flashlight as my eyes aren't that great. Now I really sound like Abe Simpson.
When it got so dark I couldn't see anything and I was starting to feel better, I went to the movies and saw Shutter Island, which I thought was really great. I thought it looked fantastic and the performances really made it wonderful. On a side note, I was a little perturbed when two couples walked in the empty theater and sat in the same row as me. They had the whole theater and they chose the row I was in. I don't know what the deal was with that.
I drove home thinking there was no way they would keep the power off through the night but I was wrong. Luckily my iPhone still had a little juice left so my alarm went off this morning as I woke up to more darkness and another cold shower. Worst sick day ever.
Dang, where is 2010 going? Pretty soon it will be 2012 and we will all die in spectacular nonsensical Roland Emmerich fashion. Or something.
I finished Deadwood. As much as I prepared myself, knowing it didn't get a proper end, it was still a giant bummer when it was over. Amazing show though. I'm also working my way through Heavy Rain on PS3, which is incredible. I'm resisting the temptation to go back and fix what I think were mistakes. I'm just going to play all the way through on this story and then go back. It's tough though. I haven't killed any of my characters yet, at least.
We are making some progress on the Brax book as we will be publishing our 100th strip on Friday. If it wasn't for Phil's determination I'm pretty sure we would have missed 100 deadlines by now. Instead we have missed none. The book should be ready in time for Comic-Con and we will have our first copies for sale at DWEX. Of course it will also be available online since we are going to publish it through Lulu.
Enough shameless plugging. Holy crap, LOST. Am I right?
Let me just preface this by saying that I saw an early cut of the film several months ago so there have likely been changes made since then. I might revise this post based on those changes, I might not. That being said, I enjoyed this movie a lot. Yes, yes, I am a huge Kevin Smith fan but I can honestly say from an objective standpoint, as much as I possibly can do so, that I enjoy this flick and I think many folks who might not normally enjoy Kevin's films, as well as those who do, will enjoy this movie.
I think a lot of critics who have been harsh with the film misunderstood a couple things about the movie. First, a simple IMDB search, in addition to reading any of the press attached to the movie, or, well, not living under a rock will reveal the fact that Kevin Smith did not write this film. It is NOT a "Kevin Smith film" or a View Askew film. I'm thinking some folks were expecting that. Some were expecting his regular cast of characters and his regular humor. Seeing as how he had nothing to do with the writing of the script, none of that is there. Jason Lee is in the movie though and he is pretty awesome in his brief role.
Second, I think some folks missed what this film was trying to do. I would call it a homage to the 80's buddy cop film. It's not trying to be a gritty action movie. It's not trying to be an all-out comedy. It hearkens back to the times of Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours and films like that. Perhaps some people don't remember those movies. I don't know. Cop Out takes that formula and modernizes it a bit.
The cast for me is what really made this movie great. I enjoyed Tracy Morgan the most. I think he actually dialed it down a bit from his Tracy Jordan character on 30 Rock and I think that's what makes this movie really work. He and Bruce Willis do a great job together. Bruce Willis is Bruce Willis. Another star that really shined for me was Guillermo Diaz, who plays the villain. His character in Cop Out is a tad more intense than his character in Weeds and just as enthralling.
The bottom line with Cop Out is if you're looking for an enjoyable action comedy and can appreciate what the folks who made it are trying to do, I think you'll enjoy it. For a Kevin Smith project it is a pretty "soft" R so if that's holding you back, I really wouldn't let it. I am hoping the film does well to give Kevin some momentum for his next project, Hit Somebody, which really looks promising.
Yesterday after work I went with Phil and Janelle over to Disneyland to catch an opening day performance of the newly re-opened Captain EO. I was 6 years old when the 3D movie made its debut in Tomorrowland so there was a huge amount of nostalgia for me. I was a little worried it wouldn't be as great as I thought it would be but my fears quickly dissipated once the movie started and the audience started cheering.
For those not familiar with the movie, it is a 17 minute 3D movie starring Michael Jackson and Anjelica Huston that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and executive produced by George Lucas. And not crappy George Lucas either. This was fresh off of Return of the Jedi George Lucas. Michale stars as Captain EO, a captain of a ship of a misfit crew of creatures sent to deliver a message to a seemingly hostile planet. For fans of MJ, it's a must see. Concerned fans of the attraction will be happy to know that the film has not been altered in any way. Some of the physical effects (lasers, etc.) have been removed but many new effects have been added. I really enjoyed it and definitely plan on going several times while I have the chance as it is supposedly a limited engagement.
I got Deadwood: The Complete Series for Christmas and started watching it last weekend. I'm already 2 episodes into season 3. It's freaking awesome. The biggest factor making it awesome is Ian McShane. The dude is just a badass and the idea of him as the villain Blackbeard in the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie has me very excited. I mean, Blackbeard was one of the baddest pirates ever pretty much and now that it's been rumored I can't see anyone else but McShane in this role. Here's hoping it will actually happen.
Since Lost is pretty much the only show I watch regularly that seems to be airing right now thanks to the Olympics and various other hiatuses, I've had a chance to catch up on movies. I've watched all the films that are nominated for Best Picture except for The Blind Side which, despite folks saying it actually is good, is going to be a tough one for me to actually watch. Don't get me wrong, I like football and I like stuff similar to this, I just can't get over the Sandra Bullock factor. I know I need to just suck it up, put my prejudices aside, and watch it, but it's going to take a little bit of time for me.
So who do I think should win Best Picture? Well, my top ten for 2009 is a bit different than the Academy's but that is to be expected. If there were a BrendoMan awards, I would give the bespectacled, bearded statue to Where the Wild Things Are much to the dismay of many folks and I wouldn't care. I loved that movie. But as far as the films nominated for Best Picture, I think a case can be made for several of the nominees. As a technical achievement and as a huge multi-year undertaking, many would make the case for Avatar. As pure awesome, well made flicks, many would make the case for Inglorious Basterds and District 9. And so on. My pick is The Hurt Locker. I was blown away by this movie, especially since going into it I had no idea what to expect, especially since I haven't enjoyed most of the previous movies about the war in Iraq. I was captivated from start to finish and I believed in those characters. Not to mention the film itself looked incredible.
2009 was a great year for films. I could easily come up with a list of 20 movies I enjoyed, something I've had trouble doing in some years past. There were lots of small quirky films and many of the larger event pictures paid off as well. There were many great animated movies, which always makes me happy. All the flicks were enough to get me really excited about movies again after I'd gotten a little apathetic. So nice job with that, folks. Hopefully 2010 will keep the momentum going.
I am NOT going to comment on the Kevin Smith/Southwest Airlines fiasco since I know it will attract trolls and I fear I will be unable to control myself in responding to them. I'm only posting this because folks have been asking.
So how bout LOST, eh?
Remember when I was talking about St. Brendan a while back? Now this book is coming out and it got a good review. I don't know why the reviewer put an accent on the "a" though. That's not Irish at all. This is almost as cool as having one of the original spellings of your last name become the title of a comic book. Yeah. Also while researching this I found out that the name Brandon is of Germanic descent so by calling me Brandon not only are you getting my name wrong you are insulting my heritage. So stop that.
People are always asking me (well, a couple people have a couple times) why I keep watching Heroes if I hate it so much. I think this article from Topless Robot sums it all up pretty nicely and reminded me of the number one reason why the show sucks now:
Seriously, where the hell is future Hiro? You guys want to save the show, bring on future Hiro. Also, stop sucking. But really, I hope tonight is the series finale. It pains me to say that, but at this point I just want it to be over. That way I can just kind of forget the last 3 years ever happened and hold on to my Season 1 DVD and pretend that was all that happened.