Blog Point Leader Board

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Counting Down To Lost's Return: 7 To Go

Only a week of waiting left now, people!

Another popular contender for my "favourite character" slot on Lost is Sayid. He's grown on me considerably through the 2+ seasons so far, to the point where I'd say I trust him more right now than just about anyone besides Jack. You always seem to know where you stand with him, even if he does keep some of his cards pretty close to his vest. (Which is usually the cue for the universe to prove me wrong by having it come out next week that he's a spy in their midst!) He's also got the whole Lost Love thing going, times two now, which of course makes him a sympathetic character despite the many rough edges. I think it was a good move on the writing staff's part to include an Iraqi castaway, given the current climate, and so far I feel they've been very responsible in not simply making him a cardboard cut-out version of a Middle Eastern man (unlike what we often get on 24, for example).

Geek out thought (which I've had before): I wonder who'd come out on top in a no-holds-barred throwdown between Jack Bauer and Sayid? They're both pretty hardcore bad asses when they need to be, and I tend to think it'd make for an interesting battle of wits and wills.

The Silence Is Deafening

I don't think I got a single comment posted anywhere on my blog yesterday. I'm not complaining; I'm merely reporting an oddity. I could understand if I hadn't blogged yesterday, but I put five thought nuggets out there for the world to see, and heard nary a sound in response. Weird.

I suppose it could be that there was so much happening in our corner of the blogosphere at that time. Two - count 'em, two! - quizzes posted by PeterJ was perhaps enough to send most of you scrambling and scratching your heads (I quickly realized I didn't know almost any of the answers, and thus only spent about 5 minutes thus engaged). Maybe everyone was just busy with their lives. Or maybe nobody had anything to say.

Can 2007 Really Be A Month Old Already?

I haven't even had an opportunity to use my "I'm still writing 2006 on my cheques!" joke yet - the joke being, does anyone really write cheques anymore? - and here we are about to bid adieu to the first month of 2007 in a few hours. Truthfully, this month seemed to fly by. It doesn't seem like it was more than a couple weeks ago that I was at the end of my Christmas break and trying to jolly myself up at the prospect of going back to work, little realizing that what I thought I'd be doing in January would be turned on its ear by my boss that first day back. Could that really have been over four weeks ago? I guess the calendar doesn't lie.

One of my favourite things about February is that it's short! Given that it comes toward the latter part of winter each year, and that I'm not a big fan of snow and ice, it's somehow uplifting to know that we're only the shortest month of the year away from March, and the hope of Spring (or hope springing eternal). February's notable for having Valentine's Day at its centre, and back in my desperate-and-dateless days that used to be an annual reminder of what a loser I was in the romance department. Now, happily, Valentine's Day has become a much more pleasant occasion, since Vicki and I not only have each other, but we still observe this fabricated occasion - by exchanging a gift or two - despite being nearly twenty years into our relationship now. My only concern each year is what to buy Vicki, since I'm pretty tapped out, idea-wise, after the Christmas binge, and I still have wedding anniversary and her birthday in March to stock up for.

I've also got a lot of vacation time still built up, and my plan is to take one or two days off each month, between now and my five week break that I'm targetting for July/August. That should definitely help get me through February and March, while I wait for the thaw and the resumption of the biking ritual.

This also marks the end of Blogging Month Four, of course. I appear to be averaging somewhere around 140 posts per month over that period, or nearly 5 per day. That seems worth mentioning, occasionally.

I'm just sayin'!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's A Blog Eat Blog World

In a cut-throat move that will undoubtedly earn me some nasty form of bad blog karma, I've removed the Man from Mars' blog from my list of blogs (down the left hand side of this page, between the labels and the archive). I know I get in trouble whenever I complain about people not blogging often enough - cuz, you know, we should all just subscribe via some feed software and never actually need to visit each others' blogs, don'tcha know! - but I just can't see directing other people to a site that so rarely gets updated.

I'm just sayin', is all!!

And it's not like I won't still click on my bookmark for his blog once in awhile.. I will! Just maybe once a month or so, instead of the daily routine I've been doing up to now!

And on the flip side, young Tammy has continued her torrid pace this month, already up over 80 postings in January with still a little over 24 hours left! Now that's what I love to see in a blog that I visit regularly! In fact, hers and Hinckley's are currently my two most-adored blogs, not that we should play favourites or anything!! In fact, I think I'll award Tammy a Blog Point just for putting so much out there for all of us to read this month! (Not that you'll be able to tell, now that croptop has bumped her off the leaders board!)

The Ignominy Of It All!

I realize that many of the comic book related postings I do are not of general interest to visitors who might be more inclined to read about TV, movie, sports or even work topics. This is nothing new to me, since comics have been a bit of a ghetto genre for most of my life, and I learned early on not to assume other people are interested in them. So normally a comment like "oh, I generally skip the comic ones" when someone is describing how they like - or don't like - my blog are water off this particular duck's back.

But when that notion was voiced by my VP boss over lunch today, I was taken aback. Why? Because he's probably the single most frequent availer of the comic library housed in our basement, that's why! True, he usually gets his reading material from me in trade paperback or hardcover form, rather than as originally published.. but still! By now he's probably read dozens of collections of mine, ranging from Justice League, Kingdom Come and Crisis on Infinite Earths to Watchmen, Sandman and Sin City... so you'd think he might be at least mildly interested in reading whatever I might have to say on the topic. But sadly, such is not the case.

I guess it shouldn't bother me, since he's a busy man, and also I've heard it said that I blog a lot. In fact, how was it put? Oh, that's right... Holy Shit, you write a lot.

Like that were a bad thing...

Counting Down To Lost's Return: 8 To Go

Potential Spoiler ahead, for those who haven't seen Season Two of Lost yet, but plan to. If that's you, then consider just skipping this one for now!

One of the delights of the seconds season was the introduction of "Henry Gale", who actually turned out to actually be Ben Linus, an "Other" (ostensibly their leader). Since that revelation, I've been referring to him as "Benry", for obvious reasons. Anyway, Benry represents another characteristic I love about the show: the addition of new characters who mix up or show off the established dynamics just through their added presence. Benry's capture and imprisonment were high suspense for the viewer, as we didn't really know what his story was until the castaways did. But it also highlighted the differences between Sayid and Jack, for example, as well as reminding us of the individual strengths within each man. The former Iraqi interrogator - who, by the way, in Season One, we discovered was initially put into that line of work by the US Army! - is firmly convinced that "Henry Gale" is lying, which is eventually proven right, but not before we wonder if maybe his judgment's been impaired by what happened to Shannon. And Jack once again shows his compassionate side, as he rebels against the brutal tactics being employed to question their captive.

The jury's still out on whether any of Season Three's new additions, including the lovely Juliet, will fulfill the same sort of role. But with 16 new episodes just 8 little days away from starting, I'm sure we'll soon have our answer!

Craziness On The Battlefield

Obviously only the dullards were online playing Resistance: Fall of Man shortly after dinnertime tonight, as I had my two best results yet! I finished 4th in a deathmatch involving 31 players, and then 3rd in one with 18 players! In each case, I had many more kills than deaths, which is also totally uncharacteristic.

I'm getting a lot of use out of the newfound Sprint capability now, and slowly figuring out when to run and when to jog, since you lose your gunsight when you're running, and there's a little pause when you start fighting again (so it's to your advantage to switch out of Sprint mode early, if you see an enemy up ahead). I've also gotten better at shaking the controller to knock off air-fuel grenades and bullseye tags that hit me, where before I'd just run around and eventually die.

And, as a cherry on the top of the aforementioned milestones, I just got a System Message telling me I've been promoted to Lieutenant (1 pip)! That'll put the fear into the enemy next time I show up, I'm sure.... (not really, but it's fun to dream).

[Edit] Later in the evening, I actually managed a 3rd place finish on a map with 28 players, and best of all: I had a witness! Vicki was home from a cooking class in time to see it all, and was suitably impressed, considering the results she was used to seeing me achieve!

Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow (Jan 30th Edition)

Another bleak week, but here we go:

Ex Machina # 26 - The adventures of NYC Mayor Hundred continue, as we inch closer to finding out what the deal is with the alien tech that allows him to control machinery with his voice.

Daredevil # 93 - Ed Brubaker continues to knock the ball out of the park on this title. Civil War has finally started to seep into even this Marvel title, making the whole shared universe notion that much more believable.

And that's about it for the exciting stuff...

Monday, January 29, 2007

GULP!

Yes, that was a pretty good translation provided when Hiro saw his father's face tonight, wasn't it? Heroes is quite the fun show! I have to mention the quibbles, though, because they always occur to me as I watch it. For example:

Do we think that the shot, from an earlier episode, of Hiro standing with his faux sword in front of the mock T-rex in the museum is going to be the extent of what we see in that regard? After the picture depicting it, painted by Isaac, was shown earlier, I think a lot of fans, including me, hoped for more than that. I guess it's not a cheat, but it does still feel a little disappointing.

I wish the writers would make up their mind on how Nathan Petrelli feels about his younger brother, too. He seems to vacillate between considering him a nuisance to his own political ambitions and wanting to move Heaven and Earth to save him. I can't help but wonder if that's inconsistent writing or clues that he's got a hidden agenda we're not privy to yet.

I noted to Vicki that it's odd, this far into the season, that we've never really seen Jessica in action. We've seen the results of her rampages, but even simple stuff like "is she just super-strong, or more than that?" have yet to be answered. It seemed like she had some invulnerability, ala Clare, when the hubby took her down with what looked like a fatal wound, and yet she recovered. I hope at some point we'll get to see her cut loose, as I'm wondering at this point why Nikki's even still in jail.. you'd think Jessica could just rip through a padded wall, after all, considering what she did to the door that Hiro and Ando were hiding behind at one point. And they weren't drugging her at first.

Definitely a good show, but it continues to feel like they leave out important bits. One of those tonight was, how did Ando and Hiro get away from the thugs initially, long enough to crawl under a car and hide, when it seemed like the bad guys were right on top of them before the commercial break? And did mind-reader Matt ever have the conversation with his wife, now that she knows about his power, on the topic of her affair with his fellow officer? That seemed like a dangling point of some significance, considering how those things weigh on spouses' minds.

Counting Down To Lost's Return: 9 To Go

The mysteries on Lost are obviously a sore spot with some fans, because those fans are under some delusion as to how quickly the answers are supposed to be provided. It's probably part of that whole entitlement thing that's rampant in society today, but the bottom line is that writers of fiction set the pace of their stories, not the readers or viewers. If the Lost staff is dragging things out because they actually don't have any resolutions to offer, then that stinks and we'll know that when the show's over. In the meantime, it's a leap of faith I'm willing to make, considering the high quality of the other characteristics of the program, such as character development, plot, dialogue, and suspense.

I love that there are at least 50 separate mysteries to follow on the show (so far). I can't think of any other show that's ever sustained this level of fan curiousity, excitement and chatter, which is saying something for a medium that's been around for half a century. Most TV shows these days are completely forgettable, but Lost continues to rattle around my brain days later. And that's a pretty cool thing.

It's Hard To Blog While Killing People

In fact, I found it next to impossible to even follow the reading Vicki was doing out of the Resistance handbook, while I was playing. She was trying to help, but meanwhile I was getting my ass wiped - and not in a good way! - by dozens of pseudonym-wearing, 15 year old masters-at-arms. Having said that, I did make some educational headway today in the online war arena:

1) I figured out how to sprint! Anyone who's familiar with the game is almost certainly laughing their ass off right now at the thought of me playing for nearly a month before unlocking that little non-mystery. Yes, it's true: I'm a loser! I had read that it was L2, but missed the part about tapping it! So I'd pressed L2 a couple times in earlier matches, resulting in a nice little crouching action, and promptly got blasted to Kingdom Come while hunkered down. Thus I was reluctant to try it again anytime soon, but tonight I felt like experimenting, since I was doing so poorly anyway. A quick tap put me into Sprint Mode, and opened up new worlds of opportunity to me! Once I started sprinting, my luck began to change for the better, ever so slightly. Nice new trick to have in my bag of them.

2) I also started switching which weapons I use a little more. I looked at my stats and realized that I had over 600 kills with the default (Carbine?) machine gun and over 100 with my frag grenade, and then my next best total was something like 30! So I consciously tried using the shotgun, rocket launcher, and the fuel grenade, a lot more, to see if I could up my kill totals on them a little bit. Again, I felt like experimenting. The one move I totally haven't gotten right yet is the "melee attack", where you kill someone by hitting them with the butt of your weapon. I'm always getting killed that way by others, if they get in close enough to me before I can kill them, but because of my re-mapping of keys - to compensate for the inadvertant pressing of the right thumbstick - I don't have a conveniently located button for this at the moment. I've tried to make the necessary contortion of my fingers necessary to hit it at the right moment, and every time I just get whacked by the other player long before I've completed the operation.

3) I also finally realized why I get three promotion System Messages each time: there are 'pips' included with each military rank, and you advance through 1, 2, and then 3 pips before moving up to the next one. I hadn't noticed the little dots beside my rank insignia each time, until tonight. I'm now a Sgt Major of the Army, with 3 pips.

And all of that is why I'm just now posting my first entry here. I guess you could say I got into a groove, in a pathetically-slow-learner sort of way!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Who Gives You More Entertainment?

I mean, really: this is my 8th post of the day, and my 143rd in January alone, with another 3 days still to go in the month! Sometimes I surprise even myself!

I also noticed that we set a record today for most comments on a blog entry of mine, with the 13 (so far) on the trivia quiz. Granted, a few of those were responses from me, but we still beat the old record by a solid 30%! So maybe you guys deserve some of the credit, too? You figments of my overactive imagination, you? Sure you do!

Today's also Day # 120 of me blogging, if I did the math right - Hinckley? Jimmy? Where are ya, man? - and that's gotta count for something. OK, maybe not. But it sounds impressive to me.

Movie Trivia For Blog Points - The Answers

Since most people have weighed in and would probably like their Blog Points sooner rather than later, and because I have some time free right now, I'll provide the answers 24 hours earlier than promised! You can still make your guesses as comments on the original post as long as you don't cheat.

Blog Points won were:

Tammy - 3 (#'s 1, 3 & 4)
PeterJ (whom technology sadly works against, it appears) - 3 (#s 5, 7 & 9)
Jimmy - 1 (# 2)
Vicki - 3 (#s 1, 6 and 6 bonus)

(Interesting that nobody got #s 8 or 10.)

Han Shot First!

I think I'm officially adding this one to our growing list of PopCultRefs, on account of it continuing to show up! I just saw a reference to it on Eddie Campbell's blog and it even poked its head up in the Lego Star Wars game Vicki and I were playing last night, after which I had to explain the reference to the lovely wife who doesn't track these things, hound-like, as I do. Both of those in the span of 24 hours warrants an entry here, I say! In case you're not in the know, and also to allow others to weigh in and correct any bits I get wrong, the story goes something like this:

In the original Star Wars cut that we all saw in the theatres in 1977 - some of you, dozens of times - there's a scene where Han is talking to the alien Greedo in the Cantina, something to do with Han owing Jabba money, I believe, and things turn ugly. As I remember it, Greedo makes some kind of threat, while pointing his weapon at the other, only to have Solo shoot him under the table, with the blaster he'd already had out and pointed at his companion. To some, I guess, this might've seemed a cowardly act.. shooting someone under the table, before they'd even completely committed to the gunfight. It never bothered me, even as a teenager, because I assumed those were just the rules of the Star Wars universe, where due process of law didn't seem to be in full swing as far as I could tell. However, George Lucas, he of the Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks, when he got his chance to tinker with the original three movies in preparation for re-releasing them along with the three prequels, decided to alter the scene so that the alien actually gets a shot off first, making Solo's reaction self-defense, I suppose you'd say. Purists - and you know who you are! - objected to this revisionist move on Lucas' part, this RetCon-in-re-release, and thus was born the Han Shot First! movement.

You can read the Wikipedia entry for it here, if you'd like. I typed the top part from memory before going to look for the official version, and the only things I changed were providing Greedo's name - I'm not that much of a Star Wars fan, sorry! - and confirming that Greedo did have his weapon out first.

A Few Words About The PlayStation Network

A co-worker/friend of mine is having some issues with his PS/3 - in fact, he's now on his 3rd! - and his online experience with it. That got me thinking of just how conversely pleasant my own PlayStation Network time has been so far, to the point where I guess I've started taking its availability and comfort for granted. I was shocked the first time I went online, via Resistance: Fall of Man, with how easy it was, how little lag there was - none! - and the fact that it was free. Specific to that particular game, the lobby setup is very intuitive, making it simple to just jump into a game at random or pick one that suits your particular tastes. Certainly my XBox Live experiences weren't quite that positive, over the time I was playing Halo 2 online.

I also like how the PlayStation Store is set up, with the free demo and download choices. So far I've only downloaded the one game - MotorStorm? - but that's more a reflection of how much I'm enjoying R:FoM than any dissatisfaction with the Store's offerings.

All in all, I'm very pleased with the arrangements Sony made with this console. I wouldn't have guessed that I'd get back into online play to the extent I have, but surprises like that are part of what makes Life so much fun!

Counting Down To Lost's Return: 10 To Go

With about a week and a half to go, I'm still counting down the days until this great show returns for a 16 pack of new episodes.

While my favourite character on the show changes from time to time, I'd have to say that Jack tops the list more often than anyone else. He's the heart and soul of the castaways, I think, and yet we can still be surprised as we find out more and more about him, like that he went a little crazy when his wife Sarah left him for another man. His relationship with his dad, Christian, has so many layers and nuances to it, starting with the you'll-never-amount-to-anything upbringing he received, right through to his being devastated about losing the old man's dead body in the crash that stranded them all there. I loved the way he was willing to speak out against his father's drinking problem once it started affecting his work, even though we could see the wedge it was going to drive between them. Jack may struggle at times, but in the end he always does the right thing. How can you not admire the Hell out of a man like that?

And of course Kate's better suited for Sawyer, if you ask me. She's a little too rough around the edges for a through-and-through hero like Jack. Maybe he'll end up with that nice Juliet... she seems more like what he deserves, although, of course, even she may prove to be unworthy.

Movie Trivia For Blog Points

Here's a bit of movie trivia, to stimulate the brain cells and generate some Blog Points. As always, if you can't summon up the answer by memory alone, you can't answer! One Blog Point per correct answer, and I'll allow multiple right answers - rather than just the first right one - with the understanding that you haven't read anyone else's comments/answers. We believe in the Honour System around these parts, after all. I'll post the answers in a separate entry tomorrow night.

1) In what movie did Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle exchange bodily fluids?

2) In Raising Arizona, Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter played a childless couple who decided to steal a bambino from a local family that had just been blessed with a multiple birth scenario. How many newborns did that blessed family take home from the hospital?

3) Long before his turn as Dr Mark Green on ER, Anthony Edwards starred in my chiropractor's all-time favourite movie, Top Gun. What was his nickname in that film?

4) Name Atom Egoyan's 1997 film that had the tagline, "There is no such thing as the simple truth."

5) In what movie did Clint Eastwood immortalize the words, "Go ahead, make my day" (and it's probably not the one you immediately think of)?

6) In Hitchcock's dark comedy, The Trouble With Harry, who made her big screen debut playing the female love interest for John Forsythe's character? Bonus Blog Point: What was Harry's connection to her?

7) What noir film, considered by many - though not this Humble Blogger - to be one of the greatest films of all time, featured Orson Welles as Harry Lime, along with an over-abundance of zither music?

8) Who directed, and who played the title role, in the 1980 masterpiece, The Elephant Man? (both answers required; no half Blog Points)

9) What famous directing brothers were responsible for Fargo?

10) In strict movie release chronology terms - meaning, in the order the various flicks in the series have come out - who played the first human to have his chest burst from the inside by a Giger alien?

Money Well Spent

Approximately a month after finally getting my PS/3, it's looking like a pretty good investment, in terms of entertainment value. I've used it nearly every day over that stretch, often for several hours a day. A lot of that relates to the attraction of both the offline - story mode - and online play of Resistance: Fall of Man, as it's turned out to be quite the draw. We've also played a bunch of hours of Lego Star Wars - The Original Trilogy in Co-op Mode, which Vicki seems to enjoy a bit more than me. One of my criticisms of that game is that it seems like there are things you encounter that you're just not supposed to be able to deal with yet, but instead are expected to go back and replay later, once you've achieved more abilities. That seems like a bit of a rip-off to me, but I suppose it does encourage replay and therefore more gives you more hours of playing.

Anyway, we haven't even tried the other PS/3 game I bought, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, yet. I expect we won't be starting that one until after we've finished at least one of R:FoM or LSW, which probably means sometime in the Spring! (And then there's my new Half-Life game for the PC that I've yet to even open!) I especially like the wireless controllers and better graphics that come with the PS/3. It remains to be seen how long this burst of PlayStation activity lasts, but certainly the early indication is that we're getting our money's worth out of it!

What's All This Talk About The Environment?

It seems that Global Warming has finally seeped into the public consciousness. I don't know how much of that is due to Davis Guggenheim and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, although I suspect it's quite a bit. Environmental concerns have been around a lot longer, but this one fear seems to have finally crystalized the threat in many peoples' minds. I see a change in Tammy's attitude toward it, a person who, despite growing up in a household that was fairly environmentally-conscious, until recently never really seemed to give it much thought. I see it in Bush calling for tougher fuel efficiency laws, and the auto makers coming out with hybrid and alternative fuel cars, and in Dell introducing a program to try to 'green' their products. I see it in John Q Public talking about it as part of everyday life.

Where I don't see it, though, is in everyday people actually doing much to change their lifestyle. I don't see a wave of people switching over to riding bicycles, carpooling or taking public transit to work, which are some of the easiest ways to reduce carbon emissions. I don't see lots of people out walking, but I do see more and more cars on the road, often with just a single occupant, often yammering on their recharge-requiring cellphones. I see people driving half a kilometre to their fitness club, rather than walking there and getting a bit of free exercise as well as doing the planet a favour. I see moms and dads still dropping their kids off at school every morning, many of whom live as close as a few blocks away. I see people at work still leaving their desk lights and TVs on, 24 hours a day, as if electricity grew on trees.

So I guess I'd characterize right now as, at best, a period of potential awareness. Maybe people are starting to recognize the need for a more replenishable energy model, but if they are, they're not doing much of anything about it. And maybe that's the normal process. Perhaps it'll be another few years before we see any actual change, as opposed to what we're witnessing right now: a belief that a change is needed - but hopefully it's those other guys who'll do the changing!

I mentioned that Vicki and I've tried to maintain a somewhat 'green' home for nearly two decades now. While far from being model environmental citizens, here are some of the things we've done to try to do our part:

1) I've biked to work on pretty much any day I could over the past four years (approximately 120 trips / year) and carpooled together the vast majority of the rest of the time.

2) We walk to any destination that's a kilometre or less away, including going for groceries (as we did yesterday) and visiting nearby friends - including one couple who always drive to our place. While the weather can impede this (we don't walk in pouring rain or if it's inhumanly cold), we try to never use "we're in a hurry" as an excuse to drive, since that's just way too easy, and also an indication of screwed up priorities.

3) We always hang out our laundry, rather than using the dryer, between about April and October each year. Considering how much of an electricity-hog those machines are, this is one that has probably saved us all kinds of money over the years, as well as being good for the environment. And in the other half of the year, we still hang up (inside) two thirds of our laundry - shirts and pants - because they'll dry quite nicely on hangers if you give them 24 hours. So I'd say our dryer gets used about 1/6 as often as it would if we just conveniently threw everything that came out of the washing machine into it.

4) One of our earliest adoptions was the introduction of a compost in the backyard. All of the food waste, as well as grass clippings and gardening refuse, go into the compost and eventually become mulch (or whatever it's called) for Vicki's gardens around the house. This has helped reduce what we put out at the curb every week, as well as giving Vicki richer soil to work her magic in.

5) We try to keep lights off in rooms we're not in, within reason. In other words, we'll typically pick a couple lights to keep on until bedtime, so that you're not having to wander into the dark, but we don't just leave lights on as we move from room to room. Our kitchen has a variety of lights in it, and the triple set that provides the most light is only on when we're in it. We've also begun replacing our lights with energy-efficient versions, of late - Vicki's good idea!

6) As I expect most people do, we've got a programmable thermostat and make sure that the temperature gets set down (in winter) or up (in summer) while we're at work, and overnight.

7) For awhile we were taking our own cloth bags, with nice strong carrying straps, when we'd walk to get groceries, so that we wouldn't need to use plastic bags. We've fallen out of that habit in recent years, but should really get back into it. After all, we've got more plastic bags right now than we'll probably ever have need of for garbage!

8) A minor thing, but we always use our solar blanket on the pool to try to warm it as much as we can without the heater.

And for all that, we still do lots of bad things, like having tons of electronic equipment that's never really off, and probably keep our house warmer (in the winter) and cooler (in the summer) than we should. But at least we've been trying, for nearly twenty years now, to do our part. As I've always tended to say, on this topic: "When it all comes crashing down around our ears, and our grandchildren ask us how we could ever have screwed up the planet so badly for them, I just want to be able to say that my conscience is mostly clear."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Counting Down To Lost's Return: 11 To Go

There aren't any other shows as jaw-droppingly gorgeous to watch in splendid High Definition as Lost. Whether it be the beautiful cast members, the lush vegetation - often filmed in rain, where each drop glistens! - or the amazing long vista shots of the land, sea and sky, this is what HD was created for! It's like the Discovery channel, but with great characters and an incredible storyline! I still remember seeing my first episode in HD and commenting to Vicki on how beautiful it looked. And now I can hardly wait for it to start up again and dazzle us once more.

Alan Moore, The Anti-Diluter

Hinckley provided a link to an English fan's loving review of From Hell, among other things Alan Moore-ish.

This got me thinking about how deceptively-dense Moore's writing often tends to be. It seldom feels dense (although one could point to a chapter or two of the aforementioned From Hell as being a bit ponderous) because much of what the author puts into the story remains below the surface and gets absorbed by the casual reader osmotically, as it were. As I was reading over Eddie Campbell's blog recently, on which he posted some script pages from From Hell, it struck me that Alan informs and delights us very subliminallly. An example was the scene in which the poor have paid a penny for the 'privilege' to sleep sitting up, with a clothesline tied across their chests to keep them from falling forward. This is in no way a main plot point in the story; it's simply part of the scene-setting that the author does, to familiarize us with the time and place in question, and draw us into it. He does this because he knows how much more effective his tale will be if the reader emphasizes with the characters, rather than regarding them dispassionately from a distance, as through a microscope, or telescope.

The other thought that struck me was how unusual it is to find a comic writer like Moore still so popular today when most of the top-selling genre writers are practicing what is, in essence, the opposite approach: diluting their stories in order to stretch them out. We see this in the form of fewer panels per page, less story development, decreasing contextual references and even sometimes less dialogue. Each of these stylistic choices speeds up the job of writing a 22-page comic tale, allowing writers to work on more titles - and thus make more money - as well as expanding two or three issues' worth of story to fill twice that much space. Logically, artists also have less work to do, which would be considered a good thing by them, too.

I do think a few good things have come out of this trend. For example, verbose writers are out of vogue, meaning I don't have to suffer through the sort of verbal diarrhea that Chris Claremont patented in the late 80s, and which eventually drove me away from the once-beloved Uncanny X-Men. There was a guy who took the whole "picture is worth a thousand words" just a little too literally, if you know what I mean! Also, the writing-to-fit-into-collected-form trend has actually shortened the odd storyline, since it's hard to package up a rambling 15- or 20-part tale in a single trade paperback, thereby forcing more writers to have a beginning, middle and end in mind when they start each saga. And most comics today do read like they've been written with trade paperback treatment in mind, as opposed to fulfilling the basic requirement of just telling a great story, whatever the page count.

But mostly what I see in my weekly comic haul is light-weight writing. There's very little substance to most of the stories, compared to the number of pages involved, which is never the case when reading an Alan Moore masterpiece. He tended to put more thought, research and detail into each issue of a comic of his than most writers currently inject into a six-issue epic! From a value point-of-view alone, I definitely feel like I got more bang for my buck when I bought an Alan Moore comic. I guess now I know how drinkers feel when bartenders water down their booze...

Avoiding The Blogger Cliches

Two cliches I've seen mentioned as representational of "the boring blog" are: writing about what you had for lunch, and diarizing the activities of your cat.

Upon reflection, and purely for our mutual entertainment: I think I've avoided the former, and very nearly skirted the latter!

Obviously, this sort of thing is irrelevant, because you should blog about whatever the Hell you want to, and not worry about whether you're falling into a cliche some other knobs have manufactured. But it's still fun to reflect on such things, because it's essentially a form of social commentary: you can probably learn as much from considering why society creates these cliches as you can from considering the cliches, or the people who fulfill them.

Let's Call It A Crappy Week At Work

It's not like anything terrible happened; just lots of little bad events. I actually commented to one person - who I trust not to take me too seriously when I say things like that! - "Sometimes I despair of us ever actually succeeding at Agile..."

Between the disconnect some departments are still exhibiting when interacting with the Feature Teams, and the pressure we're getting to crank out product while we still haven't really gotten our Agile feet under us, it certainly feels, at times, like we're out of control. Having been at the centre of the Agile Experiment since it's inception, I've been exposed to so many aspects of it that I often forget most of the people around me haven't been. I keep expecting them to get it, and some of them just don't. Given my personality, it's hard not to get frustrated when that happens. It's a little like teaching: every year, a new crop of kids arrive who are going to struggle with the same Grade 5 math you've been teaching for years, and so you have to start all over again with the basics. Clearly some individuals excel at that sort of thing - great teachers are almost criminally under-appreciated, in my opinion - but I'm not one of them.

On the other hand... it's an amazing cultural transition to experience, especially for someone in my role who sees much more of it than most, and here they are paying me to be a part of it! If I could just maintain that attitude every Monday to Friday, I'm sure I'd enjoy the ride a whole lot more!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Reading The Classics

Hinckley reports that he's currently reading the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, Tarzan of the Apes (the first in a 24-book series, all of which I read as a teenager, was a big fan of, and own copies of). He mentions being embarrassed to admit that he hadn't read it before now. When you say "the classics", most people probably think of novels along the lines of War and Peace, The Great Gatsby, or The Iliad. And while I wouldn't thumb my nose at any of those, I have my own personal list that I think everyone should read at least once before they die:

- Tarzan of the Apes would make the list, for sure, and there's a lot more to this universally-recognizable character than what you'd ever glean from most of the screen versions.

- Keeping in the pulp vein, I'd include a selection from the series of stories featuring Doc Savage and the Shadow, as great examples of the pulp-adventure and pulp-crime genres.

- The 5 books I described here all deserve a read: The War of the Worlds, Dune, The World According to Garp, Catch-22 and The Sheep Look Up.

- A few other science fiction gems would be required, like the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein and a great John Wyndham tale like The Day of the Triffids or The Midwich Cuckoos.

- My personal favourite mystery novel is And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians) by Agatha Christie, so I'd put it on the list, because it's such a perfect example of its field.

- Of course Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a must-read, because it's great, funny, and bits and pieces have entered our vocabulary now.

- I think everyone should dive into Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker, even if just to see where it all came from.

[Edit] - Tammy's comments reminded me of a shocking omission: 1984 by George Orwell, and probably Animal Farm, as well. You've got to have devoured those! How many times do I use the "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others" line? A lot!!

That's all I can think of right now - as I watch Super Size Me and marvel at all the fat people! - but I'm sure I'll think of more later.

What would be on your list?

Counting Down To Lost's Return: 12 To Go

I love the backstories on Lost. I know some people don't, but that's their loss, because those flashbacks are what elevates the show above most - I'd say all - of its peers. Being willing and able to flesh out its characters continually, rather than trapping them in simple archetypes like most television programs do, is an amazing feat. Sure, it occasionally can go off the rails - Locke may prove to be an example of this - but mostly it just adds layer after layer of depth to these castaways that we really don't know as well as we thought we did!

Andy Griffith Vs The Patriot Act

Saw a link to this on Brad Meltzer's blog and had to share. Check out this YouTube video of Andy Griffith, back in the 60s, espousing values that the Bush Administration apparently never learned about.

Maybe one of you Blogspot bloggers, who've posted video inline before, could give me a clue as to how you did that, and then in the future I can put the video right here instead of just providing the link!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Facelift That Almost Was

I just spent several minutes sampling different Blogger templates, thinking that maybe it was time for another new look here. After all, it's been about two and a half months since I changed to the current Harbour look. But wouldn't you know it: none of the other templates currently available look as good to me as this one does, even considering that I've been looking at the Harbour background for all this time.

I may still decide to change facades at some point, just to inject a little zest into the proceedings. But not just yet.

The Work Blog

I've been managing to keep up a pretty reliable one-post-per-day rate on my blog at work, a little over a month into the experiment. Regular visitors to this site will no doubt arch an eyebrow at the notion of me congratulating myself on a mere single new entry each day, since I typically do four to five times that output hereabouts. There are several key differentiators that contribute to my belief that a blogging rate like that, at work, is something to be at least a little proud of. First, and least importantly, I'm kicking the butts of any other work bloggers! Our blogroll page includes a snapshot of recent entries, in reverse chronological order (newest first), and of late the top three, four or even five spots have been held by "The Daily Happenings" by your Humble Blogger here. In other words, I'm sometimes three to four times as prolific as the sum total of all the other bloggers at work, even at just one new post each day!

More relevant, though, is the amount of careful thought and deliberation I have to spend in crafting each new work entry. Some of that's similar to what PeterJ wrote of here, in which he described the pains he always goes to when writing. I normally don't approach writing quite that way, as I'm generally happy with a thinner amount of self-editing, trusting in my own initial judgment not to cross too many lines. Where a work blog is concerned, though, I definitely feel the need to be careful. After all, I'm essentially being paid to blog (see my moment of revelation on this front replayed before your very eyes right here); and I'm also representing management and, to some degree, our corporate Agile culture. All of those factors add up to me wanting to word things just right. I feel the weight of the responsibility, you might say, and therefore cranking out several blog postings each day would be quite difficult to do.

Which leads nicely into: I also have a lot of other work to do! Between my current Feature Lead role, and my continuing Agile Manager duties, I generally have enough on my plate to fill an eight or nine hour day quite nicely, even without blogging. If I were bored, or under-utilized, then I suppose I might be blogging up a storm at my desk, but fortunately neither of those descriptions apply.

And so you see - he said - managing to blog once every day at work is nothing to sneeze at, no matter how much it may pale in comparison to the Herculean pace set here.

"Damn Them! Damn Them All To Hell!"



How can this amazing teaser image just released by DC Comics not remind me of Charlton Heston's emotional reaction at the end of Planet of the Apes? Well, clearly, it can't not!

And while I'm sure the significance of many of the details shown there are lost on most, trust me that this is the sort of thing that sends shivers down the spine of DC geeks like me! After all, why's Superman crying? What's up with the alternate Batman getup - from a What If? like Elseworlds series, if I recall correctly? What are the dead bodies doing there, since some of those people died awhile back? And of course, how'd the Statue of Liberty get all broke??

Possibly related: last week, all DC comics had a puzzle in them that I found ridiculously easy to solve - you simply took the first letter of every third word and it spelled out a message - the solution of which was a cryptic comment indicating that the multiverse still exists, despite seemingly being destroyed (again!) in last year's Infinite Crisis series. The multiverse was originally destroyed in 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths, after which there were no more Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-3, Earth-S, etc. Rumour had it that fans were quite jazzed at the thought of DC's multiverse returning last year, and then disappointed when it was disgarded once again. I certainly include myself in that group. Further rumour had it that DC is capitulating on this topic and has plans to bring the multiple Earth concept back, as hinted at in various comics over the last several months, since Infinite Crisis ended. The above-mentioned crypto-gram seems to cement that notion, although I have no idea just how it's going to play out just yet. But I wouldn't be surprised if the image shown here has something to do with it, since at least two of the characters - Batman, and the Red Robin figure to the left of Green Arrow - appear to be from alternate histories of the DC Universe. Fun, eh!

Counting Down To Lost's Return: 13 To Go

I can't get very far into this list without mentioning how damned hot most of the women on the show are! (And I'm assured there are a few hunky guys for female viewers to enjoy, as well.) My personal favourite stretch was when Kate, Shannon, Claire and Sun were all still 'in the game', as any one of them could turn my head, so having all four in one program was Heaven on Earth!

And lest anyone think I'm simply objectifying these four beauties, let me be perfectly clear that part of what makes them work - for me, anyway - is their distinct and interesting personalities! Yeah, sure, that sounds like rubbish, but I actually found Shannon grew much more attractive once we got to see beyond her bitchy debutante front that she started out with. So brainless or offensive hotties wouldn't cut it, but the well-rounded versions - in more ways than one! - served up for our viewing pleasure on Lost hit all the right buttons for this viewer!

The New Eternal Dilemma

Today left no doubt in my mind that we've got yet another big challenge ahead of us in our pursuit of Going Agile: figuring out how to get everyone on-side with the idea of forecasting, rather than planning. I sat in a meeting today in which it was painfully obvious that some folks just don't want to let go of the notion of having a medium- to long-range plan that they can comfortably stand behind. And it's not like it's their faul for feeling that way: they're the ones having to face customers and corporate parents and say, "Here's our plan for the next couple of weeks, and here's a forecast for what the months after that might look like" when what they're expected to say is, "Here's our plan for the next several months and we guarantee we'll deliver everything it says here by that date there." After all, we - and thousands of companies like ours - have been doing that for years. And history shows that we usually come up short, either in terms of delivering less than we promised, or delivering it late - or both! Which is one of the issues Agile is supposed to tackle: don't pretend that a big project can be planned with any certainty upfront, but instead focus on delivering as much as you can, frequently, in the order which provides the customer the greatest value.

So there I sat, hearing plans being made for the next four months, and much serious consideration of when features would come out, having been forecasted by product owners using Story Points and guessing at velocities! I finally said my piece, which was that it was silly to treat a forecast as anything other than a guess, and that what we really needed was a strictly-prioritized list of feature requests, so that what we would be able to guarantee is that we'll have delivered as many of the right features as we could, by the time such-and-such a date came around. Some of the people got it, but to others I suspect this sounded like a cop-out. Like, we could actually figure out exactly what would come out when, but we just don't feel like it!

And these are the sorts of things that give Agile Managers (more) grey hairs...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

All-Star Games

Tonight's the NHL's all-star game (held in Dallas, of all hockey hotbeds). The score's currently 9-7, with 15 minutes left in the 3rd period, which certainly looks more like a football score than anything related to hockey. I haven't watched much of the game tonight, but landed on it as I was surfing around after a couple hours of playing Resistance. What strikes me is how much more I enjoy the baseball all-star extravaganza than this, for a couple of reasons.

I like how baseball introduced the idea of basing the extra home game in the World Series on the results of the mid-summer classic. That obviously lent some importance to it that had previously been lacking, and you can see that in the way the managers have worked the game the last several years. The reward of an extra home game, in the most important series of the year, is heady enticement indeed for everyone involved, since you never know at that time who's actually going to make the post-season, so virtually the entire team and coaching staff can imagine they're vying to win that October advantage for their own MLB organization.

The other difference is that the quality and style of play in the baseball showcase is pretty similar to what you see the rest of the year, in stark contrast to hockey's version. In fact, if baseball's all-star game were played like what I'm seeing tonight, the pitchers would be lobbing the balls in and the batters would be using metal bats! I understand why they don't check in a game like tonight's - who wants to see someone injured in a nothing, exhibition game? - but it doesn't make for very realistic hockey.

Oh, and in the time it took me to type this, there've been two goals scored and it's now 10-8 with about 10 minutes left!

Counting Down To Lost's Return: 14 To Go

Two weeks from tonight, my favourite show of the last several years comes back from hiatus and begins a rerun-free stretch right through to the end of the season, sometime in mid-May. Leading up to its much-anticipated - by me, anyway! - return, I'm going to try to post an entry per day indicating some aspect of the show that makes it such a special treat.

The first thing I always think of about Lost is the character development. When we first realized that Kate had a shady path, I was shocked because up to that point I expected that she was just going to be your typical female lead/love interest role: good-looking, pure as the driven snow, and ready to be imperiled every week so the hero could save her. While I think hers was the most extreme case of writing characters against type, pretty much all of the castaways have turned out to be different than what we thought when we first met them. And that's like real life, if you ask me: most people are way more complex than whatever your first impression of them was, no matter how many two-dimensional personalities we're used to seeing on TV programs!

I actually find that most shows have become even more unwatchable afer getting used to the higher bar set by Lost, in terms of fleshed-out characters. Not that I needed another reason to not watch the vast majority of what passes for TV entertainment these days, though...

Least Favourite Comic Covers Part 10


So it turns out that the all-white cover to Civil War: The Return that had been floating around the Internet actually was the final product that would appear on the comic!

Obviously Marvel saved some money on this little package, since they charged the same as they always do and yet didn't actually have to pay anyone to pencil, ink or colour the cover! As a fan, I'll admit to feeling a little ripped off. I guess you could argue it's like the Beatles' white album, except of course that it's nowhere near that level of importance within its genre. To me, this just feels like a cheap stunt that deprived us of a cool cover image.

Oh, and not having read it yet, but having peeked inside to check out the interior page condition, it looks like the hero returning is (spoiler follows) Captain Marvel.

As Someone Who Works In Software

I quite enjoyed this short article on Halo 2's creators slamming the quality of the product in no uncertain terms. I consider it refreshing to see that kind of brutal honesty since I know how much pressure there always is, in the software industry, to put a brave face on whatever gets released. I've often taken flak, in various jobs, for arguing that software isn't ready until it's ready, regardless of the date on the calendar - and product people, it turns out, don't really like that notion! I appreciate seeing others express the same frustration on such a high profile property.

Don't Worry! We'll All Be Dead Soon Enough

Or at least that's the feeling you're left with after reading this article that talks about a bad strain of tuberculosis that's running through South Africa, with a 98% mortality rate among those affected.

Interesting that the real thrust of the article is around the question of whether or not you're violating someone's human rights by forcibly detaining and isolating them if they have such a highly contagious disease. This would seem to be an example of where society has really taken a wrong turn: anyone who thinks their rights are so important that killing everyone on the planet is an acceptable outcome of the support of those rights is.. well, pretty common, these days, I guess! After all, that's the same mentality, just boiled down, that allows people to contribute to global warming every day in pursuit of their inalienable right to drive their kids to soccer practice half a mile from their house!

(And credit where credit is due: I saw the above link on Warren Ellis' blog.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Where's That Glut?

Back in September of last year, when Magnolia Electric Co. released their new CD, Fading Trails, there was talk of a slew of new material coming out in its wake. In the concert we saw that month, in fact, they played a few selections that weren't out yet, and mentioned more studio stuff was on its way. Now granted, the Jason Molina solo release, Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go, came out around the same time, but I really got the impression we'd at the very least start hearing new singles within a few months. And yet, here we are over four months later, and there's been nary a peep. I keep checking their website every few weeks, hoping for news, but nada.

I suppose it makes sense, considering they're currently touring in Europe, that they wouldn't release anything while they're away and unable to support it. Logical, but not very satisfying to this fan, who wants more Magnolia!

Or maybe it's just that I miss biking right now, which is when I do most of my iPod music listening, including lots of Magnolia and Radiohead...

Is 45 Too Young To Retire?

The current financial plan Vicki and I are following has us potentially ready for retirement - in terms of having enough money for it - sometime next year (2008), which would mean I could afford to stop working at 45. Most of the time, this is a very appealing prospect to me! It addresses many of the biggest annoyances I have right now:

1) I hate getting up early in the morning because I don't sleep well enough to get 7 or more hours of sleep that way.

2) I don't have enough free time to do the things I want to do outside of work.

3) I think about work way too much when I'm not there.

4) When I can't bike to work (like now), I really hate the commute downtown and back every day.

5) Some - though not many - of the people I work with cause me occasional grief.

Hence, I'm looking forward to the prospect of leaving all that behind, within a reasonably short time from now.

But, on the other hand, I also worry about the downside of retiring early. The only exercise I get now - biking to work 8 months of the year - won't be easy to maintain if I don't have a job to go to every day. Obviously I could address this by just biking for fun, or getting a fitness membership, but as I wrote about here, the best thing about biking to work is that it's so natural: I do it because I need to get there! Forcing that sort of thing never seems to work for me.

Also, will I still have any drive, any ambition, if I'm retired at such a young age? I like to think I will, but I also have nothing to base that on. I've been working continuously for over twenty years, meaning that it's been a long time since I had to just get up out of bed and figure out what to do with myself, other than on short vacation stints when the relief of not having to go to work overrides everything else.

And yes, I realize that I'm describing a 'problem' that most people would love to have! That irony's not lost on me. But this is the place where I go to be honest, and so there it is.

Two Promotions Later

I'm now a Sergeant Major in online Resistance: Fall of Man play. I noticed over the weekend that I was starting to finish at or above the midway mark of most matches, in terms of where I placed in comparison to everyone else, and my Deaths to Kills ratio was starting to even out, occasionally even landing more heavily on the Kills side! Tammy seemed to bring me good luck, as she watched a few games and I did especially well, including going on a few tears where I'd take out four or five guys before inevitably getting killed myself.

I played one game tonight that was shotguns-only, and single-hit-kills... which was a weird combination! The shotgun isn't at all accurate, so in order to even hit your opponent you have to be pretty close, at which proximity it would normally kill him anyway (even without the single-hit-kills setting on). I did OK, although I didn't find it all that fun; plus there were a lot of "I killed him just as he killed me" exchanges which are never the most satisfying.

Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow (Jan 23rd Edition)

Another small week, but at least there's the following to look forward to:

Civil War: The Return - This is a one-shot Civil War tie-in about which very little is known except that there are two stories, one involving the Sentry (a Marvel hero) and the other chronicling the return of some big Marvel hero who's been away for awhile. Speculation initially was that it would be Thor, as he's been missing for many months. The cover hasn't yet been revealed - presumably it gives the second story's mystery away - but a nearly-all-white version was presented by Marvel not too long ago, within which you could just barely make out the emblem of Captain Mar-Vell, a hero who died (of cancer, of all things!) 25 years ago in the first ever Marvel Graphic Novel. So could it be Captain Marvel returning from the dead? Or Thor? Or someone else entirely? We'll know tomorrow.

Dr Strange: The Oath # 4 - The penultimate issue of this mini-series is due out tomorrow, and I'm still enjoying it every bit as much as when I first blogged about the debut issue, a mere fortnight after venturing into the blogosphere! Each successive issue has provided a twist or two, as well as further developing the characters of Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, and his faithful servant, Wong. And remember: Strange author Brian K. Vaughn, is joining the writing staff of Lost, which should only make the show even better!

A Mind Teaser From Hinckley

He used this one on me at work, so I'm going to pass it on to the world.

Consider the following four words:

absurd, high, delight, start

Now determine which one of the following words most belongs in the above group:

a) soft
b) plane
c) nose
d) great

So which word, and why?

Bush On TV Equals Good Night For Gaming!

With Vicki out at a play with a girlfriend, and one of history's worst US presidents on the tube for 2 hours tonight, this is a night made for gaming!

I know I shouldn't really skip Dubba-Ya's State of the Union Address, in which I'm sure he'll continue to praise the great job they're doing in Iraq and decry the evil environmentalists' fear-mongering tactics over climate change legislation, but I've heard it all before and am just counting down the days until he's out of there. I'm always left to ponder how different the last six years would've been if Bush hadn't been allowed to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Probably a lot less time - and money - spent talking about terrorism, and more of both spent trying to create an ecosystem that people could enjoy for more than a few decades after the current administration leaves office.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rena Sofer Was Almost Competing Against Herself

As I watched tonight's 24 episode, and Rena showed up as Jack's sister-in-law, I thought, "Wow! She's also on Heroes, as Peter Petrelli's sister-in-law - Nathan's wife - which is on right now, too, meaning she may be up against herself in the ratings battle!" But then, when we watched tonight's Heroes episode, she wasn't on it. That would've been pretty cool, but maybe there's some Screen Actors Guild rule against that, at least in first-run scenarios?

And Vicki immediately ventured that the son on 24 is (spoiler follows) actually Jack's son, since he'd obviously been carrying on with her before she married his loser-with-the-ear-clip brother. I think she could be on to something...

Both 24 and Heroes seemed a bit slow to me tonight, but maybe that's because we got 4 hours of 24 last week.

What A Revoltin' Development

Here I am with an hour or more of free time - Vicki's out at fitness with a girlfriend - and I can't even play any online Resistance: Fall of Man because the Playstation Network is down, and has been all afternoon, according to the PS/3 forum I visited! Don't they know I'm a very busy man, and that it's vitally important that online play be available for me whenever I get these opportunities?

Sheesh.

And I wanted to add a work buddy to my Friends list, too, since he bought both the console and R:FOM over the weekend!

More Comic Trivia - The Answers

As usual, I'll post the answers under Comments in case anyone wishes to take the quiz and doesn't want the answers spoiled for them before that.

I believe the Blog Points won were:

Tammy: 2 (Q's 1 & 2)
Jimmy: 1 (Q 6)
Vicki: 2 (Q's 5 & 10)
Chris: 3 (Q's 1, 5 & 6) (I'm trusting that Chris didn't get any of his answers from reading previous Comment posters.)

I'll try to make the next comic quiz easier, and before that I'll try to find time to do a movie and/or TV quiz.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Now That Was A Football Game!

In a much, much more entertaining demonstration of football excitement than the earlier NFC Championship game, the Colts and Patriots put on a barn-burner this evening! It's 34-31 for NE with about 3 minutes to go as I start this entry, and Brady and his Patriots just got the ball back around their own 40-yard line. After falling behind 21-3 early, the home town Colts stormed back to tie it up and make a new game of it in the third quarter. Since that point, there's been no lead bigger than a touchdown, making for a great finish in this oh-so important meeting (it'll probably decide the SuperBowl champion, at least unofficially).

Four and out for the Patriots, so now Manning and the Colts get another chance, trailing by 3, starting at their own 20-yard line, with just over 2 minutes and 1 timeout left. A quick 11 yard completion and they're outside their own 30-yard line now. On 2nd and 10, Peyton made a long completion for about 40 yards, and then another big gain followed by a New England penalty has put the Colts at the Patriots' 11-yard line. Eleven yards to take the lead, or a field goal to tie it. It's now 2nd and 6, so they're still dreaming of the go-ahead touchdown. 1:13 left.

3rd and 2 from about the 3-yard line. A handoff, and a Colt running back streaks into the endzone, giving the Colts their first lead of the game, 38-34, with an even minute left! So now it's up to Tom Brady to craft a miracle last minute comeback, with just 2 timeouts.

The kickoff return takes it from the endzone to the 21-yard line (a lot of running for next-to-nothing). 0:54 to go, and 79 yards between the Patriots and their fourth SuperBowl appearance in six years (I think).

A couple quick passes and the Patriots are at the Indy 45-yard line with 0:24 and 1 timeout left.

And then Brady throws an interception! Wow! What a way to lose a big game like this! And I love how the Colt who made the pick was smart enough to just fall to the ground after he caught the ball, instead of trying to get more yardage and risking having the ball stripped!

Final Score: Indy 38, New England 34

And I go 0-2 for the day, making me 4-6 so far and ensuring a sub-.500 result. Oh well... just wait'll next year!

I'm already picking Manning and the Colts to win the SuperBowl in 2 weeks.

More Comic Trivia

More chances for Blog Points, 1 per right answer. No cheating by looking up the answers or taking what other people comment as your own answers!

1) Whose most memorable line is, "Face it, Tiger... you just hit the jackpot!"?

2) What is Commissioner Gordon's first name?

3) What is the superhuman-like ability that all Skrulls have?

4) What group did Robotman, the Negative Man and Elasti-Girl all belong to?

5) What's "Pepper" Potts' real name?

6) Who believes that "criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot"?

7) Who was the first member of the Fantastic Four to leave the team for an extended period of time, and why?

8) What city does Green Arrow operate in normally?

9) In what order did the following heroes first appear: Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spider-Man?

10) What effect does Gold Kryptonite have on Kryptonians?

Original Comic Book Artwork

Erik Larsen, writer and artist of various things but best known, I guess, for his creator-owned Savage Dragon Image Comics title, is not someone whose work I've ever enjoyed very much. I haven't read much of his written work, but his art just doesn't appeal to me, and never has. As one of the hotshots who started up Image Comics - along with Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Mark Silvestri and others, if memory serves me - I've generally had no use for him and the rest of them because Image was mostly a creative wasteland, in my opinion. Vacuous artwork of women with impossibly long legs and quadruple-D cup size, involved in stories with little or no substance to them, isn't likely to cause even a blip on my personal comic book radar. After all, "image is everything" was the catchphrase the company seemed to be based on, except of course that it's actually next to nothing. All sizzle and no steak; favouring style over substance; and so on.

All of which is just preamble to explain that I'm not a fan of Larsen's, though I certainly hold no particular ill will toward him. (Unlike McFarlane, who's attempted repeatedly to screw over Neil Gaimain, which is pretty close to unforgivable in my mind.) But in a couple of recent online columns, Larsen has talked at length about the thorny issue of buying original artwork, when you're unsure of whether the artist ever agreed to sell it. He asks who really owns the rights to such pages, a topic that I'm very interested in as an owner of dozens of them.

In the first article, he rambles on (a bit more than he should have, actually) about some of his personal experiences, as well as his take on what it means to buy a piece of artwork that the artist never actually consented to sell. Although it was a tough read - because he repeated himself way too much - I found myself agreeing whole-heartedly with his stance: if you buy a page of artwork that you have reason to believe may've been stolen from the artist, then you're commiting theft. Steve Ditko, the original artist on The Amazing Spider-Man, is referenced again and again as an example of a very private individual who never approved any of his art to be sold, and yet tons of it showed up on the market. Larsen draws some parallels that those who know me will smirk at: comparing it to stealing music, movies or video games. He also writes a fair bit about integrity and doing what's right, which also resonates strongly with me.

Then he followed it up with a second article, this time passing along some responses he'd gotten to the first piece, along with a few more observations. It pleased me no end to read that at least a few people took his first set of words to heart and questioned the morality of what it meant to buy artwork that may not have been legitimately stolen. I know I reviewed many of the pieces I've purchased, trying to recall the situation of purchase for each. Many were bought directly from the artist - at conventions, or via e-mail - while others were acquired through the artist's agent, as directed by the artist himself. Very few of my pieces have come to me through a 3rd party, but where they have, they've been high profile pieces that are well known to have been sold by the artist. Having said all that, Larsen's two columns really opened my eyes as to how dicey this hobby can be.

Turnovers Kill Saints

The game's still got about 10 minutes left, but with the Bears having just gone up by 18 pts, I think it's pretty much over. When it was 16-0 Chicago, I started to give up hope for New Orleans, but then the Saints came marching back (sorry!) to make it 16-14, and then even had a field goal attempt that would've given them the lead... if only it'd been good!

I found I couldn't really believe in either of these teams, after only seeing them play one game each - last weekend - with neither of them being impressive wins. After today's game, I'm more sure than ever that the SuperBowl will be won by the AFC Champion once again.

Hey, a quick Blog Point to the first person who can - from memory - provide the last six SuperBowl winners. I'm looking to see what the AFC/NFC breakdown of late has been. Unlike the NHL and MLB, I can't do this one from memory at all.

Anyway, barring a miracle, it's the Bears over the Saints.

Update:

So much for it being a classic game this afternoon. The Bears pretty much owned all but about a 10-minute stretch in middle of the game, during which the Saints got 'all' of their points.

Final Score: Chicago 39, New Orleans 14

And yes, I'd picked the Saints, of course. What else is new? If the Colts beat the Patriots tonight, I'll be guaranteed a losing record in NFL Playoff picks this year.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Film Watching Marathon

We, the family three, along with PeterJ, caught a showing of Pan's Labyrinth tonight. I went in with few preconceptions, as all I really knew was that it "wasn't appropriate for small children" and was showing up on some critics' Best of 2006 lists.

While I had a few quibbles with the pace early on, overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The visuals were stunning, the young actress in the lead role of Ofelia was fantastic, and the story was gripping and unpredictable. It reminded me at times of Mirrormask, in that both feature a young girl wandering between reality and what might be fantasy, and both films showcase imagery that you're unlikely to see anywhere else. Pan's Labyrinth is much darker than Mirrormask, has subtitles and Spanish dialogue, and isn't as likely to leave you feeling good at the end, though. But both are great films that every serious movie buff should see!

When we got home from that, the three of us watched the first two installments in the Up Series: 7-Up and 7 Plus Seven, each of which was excellent! Seeing how early in life those kids start to show signs of what they're going to be as adults is scary! So far, the series has proven to be every bit as engaging, funny and poignant as I'd remembered.

Why blog? (Chapter Ten)

Having passed the five hundred mark, it seemed like a good time to do a little reflection on the whole experience of blogging. Specifically I thought it might be interesting to posit some Do's and Don't's on the subject, from my own personal point of view (so take them with a grain of salt, of course).

Do write about whatever interests you, and throw yourself into it whole-heartedly.

Don't try to guess what others will be interested in, because you'll probably be wrong anyway.

Do try to get into a rhythm with your blogging, as that seems to make it easier and therefore more likely you'll stick with it.

Don't just post quotes or other links, since those reading your blog want to know, at the very least, what you think about whatever you're referencing.

Do keep in mind, at all times, that every word you write could, conceivably, be read by anyone in the world. If you don't like the idea of needing to perform that much filtering, keep a diary instead, or use a by-invitation-only blog.

Don't blog carelessly about your workplace, because it's irresponsible, childish and you could always end like the Dooce lady and then you'd have no one to blame but yourself.

Do take at least a little time to spellcheck and proofread your entries before publishing them. You wouldn't enjoy a book that was chock full of typos, wrong words and incomplete sentences - it requires too much work, as a reader - so why would anyone else want to visit a similarly-haphazard blog site?

Don't be afraid to express your opinion, but remember that that's all it is.

Do get something out of it, or else why blog?

Signs You're Not Getting Enough Sleep

On Thursday this week, when I'd had several nearly-sleepless nights and a couple of mostly-standing and facilitating days, I experienced something that's probably typical among people who've been severely sleep deprived, although it was a first for me.

I was visiting one of my former teammates, on the first Feature Team I'd been involved with, and he was asking me what he should do with the feedback forms he'd gotten from the Retrospective he'd just lead. He said, jokingly, "Do I just, you know, deposit them?" and he waved his hand over his waste basket. We both laughed and then started talking about how demoralizing it'd be if you asked people to fill out a feedback sheet and then told them to drop them off in a box as they left the room, and the box was visibly situated over a shredder!

And then I said, "That reminds me, Vicki told me last night that she wanted to buy a personal shredder for our house..." But as the words were coming out of my mouth, despite me fully believing what I was saying as I'd started the sentence, I realized that I must've dreamed that conversation, because there was no way Vicki ever said any such thing! I don't know if I've ever before been so confused about the difference between a dream and reality, that many hours after waking up! It was a very strange experience!

Lest Ye Doubt His Greatness

Simply gaze upon his works, and bear witness to this snippet from Alan Moore's script to From Hell, in this case chapter 4, page 23, panels 3 & 4:

"PANEL 3.
SAME SHOT. HERE, GULL SITS IN THE FOREGROUND WITH BOTH HANDS RESTING CALMLY ABOUT THE HALF EMPTY BAG OF GRAPES. LOOKING BEYOND HIM WE SEE NETLEY, WHO HAS TURNED HIS FACE AWAY FROM GULL SINCE LAST PANEL SO THAT HE IS NOW VISIBLE TO US IN PROFILE ONCE MORE, FACING RIGHT. HIS EYES, HOWEVER (OR AT LEAST THE ONE THAT WE CAN SEE) HAVE SWIVELLED TO HIS RIGHT, SO THAT HE REGARDS GULL ANXIOUSLY OUT OF THE CORNER OF HIS EYE AS HE RIDES. THE RAIN CONTINUES TO FALL LIKE MORSE CODE FOR SOME HUGE, DEPRESSING RUSSIAN NOVEL.
GULL: Possibly… or have these stones and symbols’ morbid airs afflicted you?
GULL: Their language speaks direct to our unconscious mind; provokes unease, as
well the Dionysiacs knew.

PANEL 4.
NOW WE HAVE A BIG WIDE PANEL TAKING UP THE WHOLE TIER, FOR WHICH I THINK A SIMPLE LONGSHOT OF THE COACH AS IT MOVES THROUGH THE LONDON RAIN WOULD GO NICELY. JUST SOMETHING SCRATCHY AND TENTATIVE. A GREY MIST OF HATCHING TO SUGGEST THE DIAGONAL FALL OF THE RAIN; A SLIGHTLY DARKER PATCH OF HATCHING IN THE CENTRE TO SUGGEST THE CONTOURS OF THE COACH AS IT CRAWLS ALONG OVER THE SLIPPERY COBBLES, SOMETHING LIKE THAT? I DUNNO… TO BE FRANK, ED, I’M HAVING A BIT OF A CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE ABOUT THESE PANEL DESCRIPTIONS AND I’M NOT SURE WHETHER I’M JUST WINGING IT OR WHAT. I DON’T KNOW IF THIS RELENTLESS AND LIMITED SERIES OF IMAGES (LONGSHOTS OF THE COACH, FRONT REAR AND PROFILE; CLOSE UP OF GULL AND NETLEY FRONT REAR AND PROFILE) IS ENOUGH TO HANG THE STRIP ON VISUALLY, AND I SUPPOSE I WON’T KNOW UNTIL YOU’VE HAD A CHANCE TO READ THE THING AND GET BACK TO ME. BASICALLY, IF THERE IS ANYTHING THAT YOU THINK MIGHT WORK VISUALLY, THEN TRY IT. IF YOU WANT TO USE INCREASINGLY STRANGE-LOOKING COLLAGES OF LONDON BUILDINGS FOR BACKGROUND THEN GO AHEAD. IF POINTILLISM LOOKS GOOD ON THE EARLY MORNING MIST SCENES THEN FEEL FREE TO TRY IT. IF SOME BIG, WIDE, TIER WIDTH PANELS WORK BETTER AS THREE SMALLER ONES, THEN DO THEM THAT WAY, AND THE SAME IF THREE SMALL PANELS COULD SAY AS MUCH IF THEY WERE COMBINED INTO ONE BIG PICTURE. JUST LET DESPERATION BE THE MOTHER OF INVENTION AND TRY TO LOOK ON IT AS A CHALLENGE (ALTHOUGH I HAVE A FEELING THAT IN THIS INSTANCE I MIGHT AS WELL SAY “TRY TO LOOK ON IT AS A CHALLENGE” TO SOMEONE I’VE JUST ASKED TO CATCH A BULLET BETWEEN THEIR TEETH). ANYWAY, JUST FEEL FREE TO TAKE AS MANY LIBERTIES AS POSSIBLE AND CALL ME IF THERE ARE REAL PROBLEMS. IN THE MEANTIME, I’LL CONTINUE TO PUT DOWN WHATEVER PANEL DESCRIPTIONS OCCUR TO ME, BUT YOU SHOULD FEEL FREE TO TAKE ALL OF THEM WITH A PINCH OF SALT, EVEN MORE SO THAN USUALLY. IN THIS PANEL, UNLESS YOU CAN THINK OF ANYTHING BETTER, THE COACH CRAWLS SLOWLY FORWARD THROUGH THE RAIN, HEADING TOWARDS CAMBERWELL AND HERNE HILL.
GULL: Think of it: “Dionysiac Architects”. What CONTRADICTION, with the God
of instinct and unreason thus evoked by Architects; most sober, Apollonian of
men.
GULL: Yet they knew the unconscious was the inspiration whence their towers of
reason sprang. This, HARNESSING its power, symbolically, was their
sublime accomplishment.
GULL: Their symbol was the dreaming moon enclosed by seven stars that represent
Arithmetic, Music, Astronomy, Rhetoric, Grammar, Logic and Geometry,
the pillars of Masonic thought."


(For the rest of the script for that page, visit artist Eddie Campbell's blog here.)

Having read over the amount of thought and detail Moore put into each panel, and the interaction he encouraged between the artist and himself, as well as the trust he placed in the artist - despite it being Moore's name, for the most part, that was selling comics at that point - it's no wonder he's widely considered the best writer to ever work in the industry. When I compare what's there to what typically shows up in my monthly comics, it's like mentioning Lost and a daytime soap opera in the same breath: sure, they bear some similarities, but one is playing on a whole 'nother level.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Least Favourite Comic Covers Part 9


If ever there was a character not suitable for manga-ization, the Hulk has to be it!

I have very little use for manga, a style of comic artwork that's - I guess - based on the Anime movement within Japanese animation. But my reaction moves from indifference to disgust when the cartoony faces and out-of-proportion bodies invade the sorts of comics I normally buy! I've dropped titles over the past several years simply because manga-influenced artist took over, as I find it just looks too unreal for me to relate to. I can see how it would suit certain types of stories, but superhero comics ain't among them.

For What It's Worth

Here are my NFL Playoff picks for this weekend:

New England over Indianapolis - Despite me usually having great faith in Peyton Manning's ability to entertain, he just hasn't been up to snuff lately. Tom Brady can probably smell his fourth (is that right?) championship, since we all know the AFC Conference Championship typically decides it all.

New Orleans over Chicago - Call me crazy for picking two road teams on Conference Championship weekend, but with my 4-4 record I'm not exactly jeopardizing anything by taking a flyer. I don't really know what to expect at all in this game, but I bet it's going to be a good one!

Here's to the last two great games of the 2006 NFL year!

The World's Most Overwrought Show?

I used to think it was Little House on the Prairie or Touched by an Angel, but I think the torch has definitely been passed to Grey's Anatomy now! My God, what lengths the writers go to in order to put their characters into unbelievable situations that are supposed to tug at our heartstrings. Of late, it's even fallen into the Friends pattern-of-desperation: generating plots by combining and re-combining the various cast members into every possible couple, because, you know, that's so interesting (actually, not). I thought it was bad when it was just a re-tread of the old Sam-and-Diane "now they're together, now they're apart" merry-go-round involving the two leads, but this appears to be the new schtick. The only thing that surprises me more than how contrived the plotlines have become is how many people seem to be lapping it up with a spoon - including Vicki and Tammy! Maybe it's a female thing, although they're usually more discerning.

I've recently noticed that the show's soundtrack, with its sappy "now it's time to feel sad" turns, has really gotten annoying. I recall the first couple episodes had some pretty good music in them but those days are long gone, I guess.

It's a show that makes for great, ignorable background noise while I'm blogging. Well, except for the occasional snort it elicits from me when the improbability amplifier gets cranked up to 11 (and that's a PopCultRef now, isn't it?).

If you're a fan, more power to you! But it certainly makes Lost and Heroes look like Shakespeare by comparison!

And Onward, Ever Onward

Well, I certainly enjoyed that! How about you?

Some may've thought I forgot to do my "Exciting Comics Coming Out Tomorrow" post on Tuesday of this week, but the sad reality is that there were only six comics in total for me on Wednesday, none of them particularly exciting. It happens! I guess the highlight was the latest issue of 52, which has come out on time 37 weeks in a row now. This issue revealed the identity of mystery hero Supernova, and I think it was Booster Gold but I tried not to peek before actually reading it.

In the meantime I've been continuing to roll through my Preachers, with great relish (but no mustard or ketchup). I still intend to post a series overview but think I'll wait until I've finished the run before doing so. I just read the Preacher Special: Blood & Wine last night, which is a hilarious send-up of the Interview with a Vampire type of bloodsucker that totally took the piss out of Lestat and his goth-immersed ilk.