Archive for January, 2008

A book for your dog…?!

Many years ago, I was at a cousin’s house and I went to use the bathroom. I sat on the toilet, then began to peruse through the various magazines they had in a magazine rack. There were what looked like children’s books sitting among the magazines, which I thought was weird; most people don’t normally have books in the bathroom, just magazines. The two books were, “The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts” by Shinta Cho and Amanda Mayer Stinchecum, and “Everybody Poops” by Taro Gomi and Amanda Mayer Stinchecum. Each book is only 30 or so pages long, with cartoon illustrations that appeal to kids, and they’re about exactly what you think they are about. The pooping book is about pooping, the farting book is about farting. Simple.

That got me thinking, “You can write a book about anything and potentially get it published.” Maybe there’s a children’s book somewhere about sneezing, or boogers, or foot fungus. If the book is marketed right and priced accordingly, there’s an audience for it. And then I came upon a manuscript for a book called “A Book For Your Dog”, and it’s pretty much exactly what you think it’s about. With a slight twist. You can read the book to your dog, but your dog will probably be the only who can understand it. Here’s an excerpt from one of the chapters:

Woof, woof, woof, arf, arf, woof, bark, bark, bark, grrr, bark, arf, woof, woof, arf, arf, grrr, grrr, woof, woof, bark. Woof, bark, bark, woof, arf, arf, arf, bark, bark, woof, woof, arf, arf, arf, bark, woof, woof, woof, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, woof. Bark, woof, woof, bark, arf, arf, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, arf, arf, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, arf, arf, grrr, grrr. Grrr, arf, bark, bark, arf, arf, arf, grrr, grrr, woof, woof, bark, bark, arf, woof, bark, bark, woof, woof, arf, arf, bark, bark, woof, woof, arf, arf, arf, bark, woof, woof, woof, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, woof. Bark, woof, woof, bark, arf, arf, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, arf, arf, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, arf, arf, grrr, grrr. Grrr, arf, bark, bark, arf, arf, arf, grrr, grrr, woof, woof, bark, bark, arf, woof, bark, bark, woof, woof. bark, bark, woof, arf, arf, arf, bark, bark, woof, woof, arf, arf, arf, bark, woof, woof, woof, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, woof. Bark, woof, woof, bark, arf, arf, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, arf, arf, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, bark, bark, grrr, grrr, arf, arf, grrr, grrr. Grrr, arf, bark, bark, arf, arf, arf, grrr, grrr, woof, woof, bark, bark, arf.

I can totally see this sitting in an eclectic collection of books in someone’s bathroom. If this were to actually be published, how much would someone pay for it? If it were priced at $1, would you buy it?

(images from Amazon.com)

January 31, 2008 at 2:25 pm Leave a comment

Jericho Season 2 premiere (slight spoilers)

(ignore the July 6 date, the new season starts February 12)

When we last left the citizens of Jericho, Kansas, they were embroiled in an armed dispute with the neighboring town of New Bern. Actually, ‘armed dispute’ is a bit of an understatement; Jericho and New Bern were basically at war. New Bern, led by Sheriff Constantino, wanted Jericho’s farms and salt mine. Jericho, on the other hand, was dependent on New Bern for their factory and windmills.

Season 1 ended with the Green boys leading the defense of Stanley Richmond’s farm, which lies on the outskirts of Jericho, but is one of the largest farms in the township and a prime target for New Bern’s militia. Meanwhile, the mysterious Robert Hawkins borrowed Jericho’s tank to go stop a train everyone assumed was being used to supply New Bern’s offensive. And miles away, Heather, presumed dead by the rest of the characters, ended up with an Army unit moving through the area, attempting to bring the region under control. Heather is able to convince the commanding officer that the Army needs to intervene in the New Bern War (as the conflict is eventually called) and wrest control of the area from local militias.

Season 2 opens a month after the Season 1 finale. The Army has moved in and life ‘before the bombs’ seems to be returning to Jericho. The first half of the episode sheds some light on what really happened to the United States after the nukes went off and who the leadership really is. During Season 1, the characters learned bits and pieces of what is going on beyond their borders, but all of it was hearsay and nothing was confirmed. Apparently, the government fractured and the presidential line of succession was broken, leaving a power vacuum which was eventually filled by John Tomarchio, a young senator who establishes the new federal government in Cheyenne, Wyoming (I believe called the Allied States, or ASA). Unfortunately, not every state agrees with this and the states east of the Mississippi River rally around what’s left of the old government (the United States), now based out of Columbus, Ohio. Everything now rests upon the state of Texas, which has yet to ally herself with either government, but in doing so could tip the balance of power.

For the residents of Jericho, new lives must now be built (hence the name of the episode, “Reconstruction”). Stanley Richmond must once again deal with tax issues relating to his family’s farm, but this time with help from his accountant girlfriend Mimi. Gail Green lives alone now following the events of the previous finale. Emily, now openly in love with Jake Green, tries to console Gail. Speaking of the Green Boys, Jake and Eric are consumed with the belief that New Bern, and especially Constantino, were not punished severely enough for their attempted invasion of Jericho. This hate drives them to begin planning a raid into New Bern to kill Constantino. Hawkins is still putting together the pieces of what really happened when the nukes went off, only now he’s aided by his wife.

The story, as it seems like it’s being set up, will focus more on the far-reaching effects the bombs had on the American way of life. If season 1 was about a town attempting with withstand a new, lawless, Dark Age without electricity, fuel, or food, then season 2 will be about moving on. How does the world continue if the only remaining super power suddenly gets thrown back 150 years? The economy is decimated, the states are divided, the military is fractured. How can things possibly go back to normal, and what will ‘normal’ mean in this new future? Part of what made the first season work so well was how isolated everything felt. The characters were not ‘alone’, they had a whole town to support them (most of the time), but it made you realize how dependent we are on the convenience of things. If you need food, you go to the grocery store. The food doesn’t come from the grocery store, but that’s where you go to get it. What if the farm that the food comes from suddenly vanishes, or no longer sends their crops to the store? Do you grow your own? Do you go to the farm and get it yourself? What about law and order? Do the old laws still apply, or does a new and uncertain future prompt people to make their own laws?

There are some things that I want answered during this new (and almost definitely last) season. Where’s Kenchy, the drunk doctor who showed up in the latter half of season 1? He’s mentioned in the first episode, but not seen. I like Aasif Mandvi (who plays Kenchy); not only is he funny on The Daily Show, but he really showed some acting chops, especially in the episode Winter’s End from season 1. Also, if you look at the uniform of the Army soldiers, there looks like what appears to be the Confederate battle flag sewn below the new ASA flag. If it is the Stars and Bars, then that could make things more interesting from a political standpoint within the show.

(Note: I know episodes 2 and 3 are floating around somewhere, and maybe they explain some of these things. I just haven’t gotten around to watching them yet. )

Thanks to all the fans for the ‘nuts campaign’ that got this show back on the air. I’m glad to see Jericho back, even if CBS only ordered 7 episodes. If they can wrap up the show in that short amount of time, then I guess that’s OK, as long as we get to see what becomes of our favorite small town.

(images from Google)

January 31, 2008 at 5:24 am 3 comments

I’m an idiot

I just spent the last month panicking over a potential $500 fine from the Virginia DMV over an insurance problem.  I moved from VA to CA, and recently switched my plates to CA plates.  Because I no longer have an insurance policy in VA, I was going to get fined.  However, I have a policy for California.  After mountains over paperwork and several new gray hairs over a fine that costs almost a month’s rent, I realized that all I had to do was stay on the phone with the VA DMV to get everything straightened out.  Yeah…stupid.

January 30, 2008 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

$20,000 for a cup of coffee?! I’m in

Saw this on the local news the other night. There’s a cafe in San Francisco (Blue Bottle Cafe) that purchased a $20,000 brewing machine. Each cup of coffee (no espressos, no cappuccinos, just coffee) runs about $9-$11. I know I’m a poor college student, but I have to try it at least once.

the $20,000 coffee machine

(image from sfist.com)

January 27, 2008 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

TV shows I’m going to miss

In no particular order:

Chuck

Chuck – NBC’s surprise action/comedy is something I missed during it’s first two weeks on air. Then, on a whim, I tuned in and have been hooked ever since. What other show would have spies, retail salesmen, and g-men going after a large stuffed marlin? Or have hot blonde NSA agents posing as a hot dog girl? Or have the always-awesome Adam Baldwin?

Speaking of Adam Baldwin, I’m glad to see him on a successful TV show; his past endeavors haven’t exactly been smash hits. Firefly has a strong cult following, but didn’t get past a first season, and the movie was a commercial bomb (although a pretty good one). And 2006’s Taye Diggs vehicle Day Break was prematurely (and unfairly) canceled after less than a season.

Also, I can relate to this show because I, just like Chuck, worked at an electronics retail store. Some of the shenanigans they get into at the store (called Buy More) I have witnessed or experienced myself (sans the spy stuff).

Heroes

Heroes – The first season was great (even if the finale wasn’t as exciting as I hoped), and the second season showed great promise. It just started to get good when they decided to end the season instead of going on an extended hiatus. I’m hoping for a fall premiere of Season 3 instead of waiting until 2009.

Apparently the Strike has also ended this new Heroes web-only thing where they were going to debut two new Heroes online, then add them to the story later on in the series.

Grey’s Anatomy – Yes, guys watch this show, too. I first saw this show during a communications class and the professor let us watch a full episode from someone’s Season 1 set before classes started (I don’t know why). Season 1 was short (9 episodes) but good, Season 2 was even better, and Season 3 had it’s ups and downs. Season 4 started in a slump, with the relationships not really going anywhere (the ‘Mer-Der’ thing and the ‘George and Izzie’ thing is getting old really fast), but it started to get good when production stopped.

I am also worried about the longevity of this show ever since Isaiah Washington left (got fired), Kate Walsh starred in her own spinoff, and Katherine Heigl started landing leading-lady movie roles. I wouldn’t be surprised if Heigl left by the end of Season 5. And speaking of Kate Walsh and Private Practice, that show needs to find it’s own identity. All the doctors in the show seem to be going through a mid-life crisis, and they all act like they’re 20-somethings. I can understand a ‘mid-life crisis story arc’, but these doctors seem to not be able to handle any personal issue with maturity. I personally don’t see this show continuing for very long by the way they’re writing it.

24 – Season 6 started with a bang, and a really big one. With a good chunk of Los Angeles missing, the series was poised to have it’s best season yet. Unfortunately, the switching of plot lines mid-season turned off many critics and fans. I, however, stayed the course, watching until the bittersweet season finale. With Kim Raver now on a different show, and with only half the episodes filmed, it’s questionable of whether we’ll see the show debut at all this spring, or if it will be any better. I read somewhere that the producers prefer not to show any of the finished episodes until they get a finalized schedule for the rest, but that isn’t going to happen until the Strike ends.

Also, I applaud Kiefer Sutherland for doing time. Not that doing time is ever really a good thing, but he owned up to his mistakes, decided not to do the typical celebrity thing and wriggle his way out of jail, and spent 40-something days doing laundry and stamping license plates. It’s unfortunate that the Strike had severely altered the show’s production schedule; the producers had planned the schedule around Sutherland’s jail time, hoping to finish shooting once the actor got out. Now he’s out, but the Strike continues.

The Office – I was a late-comer to this season, watching around the end of Season 3 and catching up via the seemingly-defunct show-streaming website tv-links.co.uk. Now I see why everyone likes this show, it’s hilarious. The comedy is so oddball, so bizarre, it’s like a breath of fresh air compared to traditional sitcoms like Two and a Half Men or King of Queens. Not that there’s anything wrong with those shows, they’re fine except that the ‘laugh track sitcom’ seems obsolete on modern-day television.

30 Rock – I was a fan of this show ever since it aired in 2006. However, I did have some worries that this show would get cancelled since it’s initial ratings weren’t stellar. I’m glad it caught on, and with some Golden Globes and Emmy’s under it’s belt, I’m sure 30 Rock will continue for some time.

Battlestar Galactica – This show is way better than it should be. Season 1 was amazing. Season 2 was amazing, especially with the two-episode arc that introduced the Pegasus. Unfortunately towards the end of that season the episodes felt disconnected from one another. Season 3 began with some very deep social and political commentary set against the backdrop of the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, and continued with an amazing rescue of the population by the Galactica and Pegasus. Add to that a great made-for-TV movie (Razor); a series-wide arc about religion, faith, and morality; and some deeply flawed, but likeable (and even relateable) characters make this among the best on TV and among the best science fiction writing ever broadcasted.

The Strike hasn’t really affected the show since the new season apparently won’t air until April, and I believe most of the episodes have been filmed already, but the show’s cancelled spinoff prequel Caprica may be the only show benefiting from the Strike. With the pilot already written, and the networks in desperate need for new material, the production has a slight chance of being greenlit.

So here’s to hoping that the Strike ends soon. There are some new shows debuting this spring that show promise, like The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the new season of Jericho, but the Strike has already halted production of these shows.

(photos from Yahoo)

January 25, 2008 at 11:59 pm 2 comments

Fly away home…

It’s strange to be back in California after a month-long vacation. Honestly, being back in Virginia felt as though I never left. Everyone was still there, all the places are the same. It felt more like I was coming to Virginia after a 6-month-long vacation in California. Now that I am planning on not coming back until the summer of ’09, leaving now feels more like I’m moving away than it did in August. I wasn’t really sad or anything when I left then, just a bit excited. Moving away, starting a new life, creating a new identity for myself was more appealing to me than staying where I was, even though it was comfortable and familiar.

Now, after being able to experience my ‘old life’ for a few weeks, I feel like I’m going to miss it more. On my last day in VA, I was a little upset that I was leaving. I know that when I go back in a year and a half things will most likely be different. Friends will have changed, moved away, finished school. Places will have changed, new buildings will be built, the landscape will be different. It won’t feel familiar to me anymore. I guess it’s losing what I’ve known for so long that makes me apprehensive about going to California this time. Coming back after 6 months isn’t that big of a deal, but coming back after 18 months seems like a lifetime away from home.

That’s where the real change has to begin. ‘Home’ is no longer where I came from, it’s where my life continues, starts anew, or changes. And for better or for worse, ‘home’ isn’t in Virginia anymore. I’ve planted myself on the other side of the country, ready to begin the next chapter for real. August to December was the test run; when I landed in California on Saturday, it was the official end to an era of my life. I think I’m ready for it. I know what I want and what it takes to get it. It’s time to grow up now and stop being the person I knew.

So goodbye, Virginia. Don’t change too much while I’m away.

 

 

 

The above is just a collection of pictures I took of friends and family over the past few years. I was actually trying to find more pics from when I was “fresh off the boat” from PI, but I was an idiot and forgot to scan the pics from my parents’ house. The song choice was inspired by what was playing on the radio when I arrived in Virginia. It was the very first song that was playing in the car when I turned the radio on. It was fitting, if not a bit cliche. Thanks to Fate and Destiny to play appropriate songs at the appropriate moments.

January 22, 2008 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

Cloverfield…a spoiler-free opinion.

Poster

I was lucky enough to check the run time of this movie before going to see it, and saw that it was barely over 90 minutes. That made me think, “Hmm… that’s kinda short. I don’t think anything will be explained.”

I was right.

Earlier today I saw El Orfanato, and incredible thriller with a lot of heart. It’s only fitting that I end the day with a popcorn movie that would seem best suited for a summertime audience.

Cloverfield is the latest project from J. J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company, directed by T.V. veteran Mark Reeves. The story is told entirely through the eyes of survivors enduring a savage monster attack on Manhattan. With a non-traditional storytelling approach, and a moderately short running time, the plot takes a back seat to some incredible staged action scenes. The movie starts with home video clips of a going away party for Rob Hawkins, a twenty-something who recently landed a vice-president gig for a company in Japan. The clips continue as we learn he is having personal troubles with an ex-girlfriend of his, and how his friends and brother react and try to help him.

Then all hell breaks loose.

What they assume to be an earthquake turns into one hellish, nick-of-time escape after another. The monster that attacks the city is huge, strong, and apparently really really pissed off. Things explode, buildings fall, and debris fills the air as we watch this band of survivors, lead by Rob, make their way through the city in search of Rob’s ex, who is trapped somewhere among the destruction.

The story’s plot holes and suspension-of-disbelief moments are numerous, but you don’t watch a movie like Cloverfield because you’re expecting some Merchant Ivory deep-thinking philosophical masterpiece. It’s basically a 90-minute action set piece. Keep that in mind and you will enjoy this movie. The action hits fast and leaves you breathless until it’s over. There is one scene that takes place in the subway system as our heroes flee large insect-like carnivorous creatures that apparently hitched a ride with the monster from wherever-it-came-from. Because it’s shot handheld by the characters, the camera angles are uncomfortable and the creatures really get in your face. Some of the people I was watching it with literally were squirming in their seats during some scenes.

This handheld approach also works by helping give the audience some sense of the scope of destruction. Anyone watching the news during and after 9/11 will never forget the massive wall of dust that roared down the streets when the Towers fell. There is a moment early in the movie that is very similar; the monster (who stays partially hidden at first) knocks over a building, sending dust and debris flying down the streets toward the camera.

New York City under attack

Unfortunately this also works against the movie. The first fifteen minutes took me a while to adjust; I was feeling a bit dizzy while trying to focus on the screen. Though some people may not be able to, by about 20 minutes or so I had adjusted and was used to the camera movements. And as stated earlier, nothing is explained in the movie. If you want answers, you’ll have to do some digging on the good ol’ Interweb. Or just go here and read the summary.

And though I don’t want to give any major spoilers away, I believe anyone reading this who plans on seeing the movie must know something: this movie will end abruptly and leave you hanging on purpose. This was designed to be like a roller coaster ride (sorry if that sounds cliche), going from one crazy drop to the other. There are some genuine, “Holy crap!” moments spread throughout, as well as some comedy courtesy of the movie’s cameraman, and Rob’s best friend, Hud. This is a great way to start the new year and to usher in what will hopefully be a great year for movies. Keep your expectations low, grab some friends (this movie is best watched with company), and enjoy the hour-and-a-half thrill ride that is Cloverfield.

8.5/10

Things I didn’t like about the movie:

1. The events take place over approximately a 7-hour period. What the hell kind of miniDV tape were they using? One of my friends mentioned earlier that it could have been a hard drive-based camera, maybe something flash based or solid-state. But seven hours? I doubt it.

2. People were saying the same thing about battery life. I have an 8-hour battery for my camera, so I’ll let this one slide as I can imagine a camera operating for 8 hours before a recharge. However, they were using the camera’s built-in light and infrared.

3. I’m going to assume that the camera used is a fairly new one (a model made within the past year). So why the hell is there no ‘handheld’ option? My 4-year-old Sony DCR-TRV33 has a ‘SteadyShot’ mode that reduces shakiness when holding the camera. Yes, I got used to the shaking, but it sucks for everyone that couldn’t.

One thing that surprised me:

The teaser for the new Star Trek film. I’m not a Trekkie, but I admire the series and was planning on watching the new movie when it came out. The teaser shows absolutely nothing of the movie itself, but was so well-done, I’m actually getting a bit excited.

January 18, 2008 at 3:40 am 4 comments

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