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Friday, October 31, 2008

Speaking Of The Weather

Vicki grabbed this shot on Tuesday morning (Oct 28/08) when we woke up to find that we were living in a winter wonderland (all of a sudden).

Take note of the cedar hedges at the rear of our yard (middle-left in the photo)... bent over under the weight of all that wet snow! Neither of us noticed that precarious situation until later in the day, at which point Vicki subtly suggested that we needed to go deal with that problem before we lost a future set of noise bafflers (against the neighbours behind us). I went out and shook off all of the accumulation, and it seems like they may yet survive. And that predicament, of course, was nothing compared to the array of downed branches that now adorn our neighbourhood and beyond.

Mind You Don't Drop That Laundry In The Snow Now..

That was my thought this morning, as I was in the backyard, hanging up a load of laundry while standing about an inch deep in the white stuff! The temperature and forecast for the rest of the day certainly warranted putting laundry on the line - high of 17 and sunny - but something about seeing that much snow on the ground just made it feel... surreal!

At least all of this wacky weather has set up next week to look like a great week for cycling, which should give me an opportunity to add November 2008 to my streak of biking months. It's also sizing up to be a busy week for me, though, as I've got a lunch date or two, Resistance 2 coming out on Tuesday, and a university lecture to do on Thursday! Good thing I'm not trying to get much writing done over that week!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bye Bye Beta

The Resistance 2 Beta gets shut down at midnight tonight, and so I've partaken of my last round of it now. I finished Co-op play with a Level 10 Medic (the highest you could get, unfortunately, in the Beta), a Level 6 Soldier and a Level 6 Special Ops. I'm looking forward to getting the chance to level those roles up considerably higher (after starting back at Level 1 again) once I get my hot little hands on the game itself (Tuesday of next week).

I'm also eagerly anticipating the single player campaign, as there was no part of that included in the Beta. From what I've read, it sounds like the Nathan Hale Experience is full of jaw-dropping moments and an even better storyline than the first game had.

I didn't play a whole lot of Competitive mode in the 7 short days of opportunity that I had, but I imagine that I'll get into that big time once the game is out. After all, that's the part that sucked up a couple months of my life with Resistance: Fall of Man... many more hours than I spent playing through the single player campaign!

So that makes 3 very different but uniquely exciting components that should be just 5 days away now... (and I think I'll have to buy a new PS/3 controller while I'm picking up the game, since one of my two seems to have worn out a couple of its parts, based on the results I've seen this week).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Guess This Was Inevitable

Given the current love affair between comic books and Hollywood, it only stands to reason that Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's wonderful 1990s Preacher series, which had nearly made it onto cable a couple years back before being killed, would instead pop up now as a film project. With some of the questionable comic book properties getting optioned as movies these days, including some that even I've never heard of, it's not exactly rocket science to take something as well-loved as Preacher and put it on the big screen.

As with the Y: The Last Man movie that's currently in pre-production, I have serious doubts that Preacher will get the right sort of treatment when translated to film. But as Alan Moore always says, making a mediocre movie out of a great comic story does nothing to diminish the source material. So it's sort of a no-lose proposition.

Phillies Win Championship In Weird Finale

3 innings of play tonight was all it took the Phillies to win the World Series, thanks to a suspended game 48 hours ago. We started off in the bottom of the 6th, and Tampa continued the trend of having to play catchup when they gave up a run to "start" tonight's mini-game. The Rays had one more comeback in them, scoring in the top of the 7th to re-tie things up at 3-3, but then the Phillies went ahead in the bottom of that inning... and this time for good, eventually winning a 4-3 nail-biter.

Now that the city of Philadelphia has ended their 25-year professional championship drought, I don't even know... who now holds that dubious honour? Which city that hosts at least one team in each of the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB has now gone the longest without winning it all? Off the top of my head, I can rule out some obvious ones: New York (Giants, last year), Los Angeles (Lakers, not long ago), Detroit (Wings, last year) and (stretching a point with the Patriots) Boston (Celtics, last year).

Maybe Minnesota? Or Washington? Atlanta? Anyone know definitively?

Truth In Advertisement?

There are enough things wrong with Superman & Batman Versus Vampires & Werewolves # 1 that it's unlikely that I'll lay down more cash for any of the remaining 5 issues in the series. It wasn't a terrible read, by any means, but it also didn't wow me in any way. Let's start with the title itself.

I understand that the writer, Kevin VanHook, had another name in mind for the story, but that DC wanted to go with what we got. VanHook's choice was literary in nature, whereas DC's was more literal. Except that it isn't, really, at least for the first issue. You see, the Man of Steel doesn't actually appear anywhere in the book itself! Not in a single panel, not in a word of dialogue (Batman doesn't even think, "Hmmm... perhaps I should consult with Clark on this" or anything oblique like that) and not even by inference (Gotham City is featured prominently; Metropolis is not even mentioned). That would seem to me to be a serious flaw in a comic that features "Superman" in its title! Now, I'm sure he'll show up later on, and by the time all 6 issues are collected into a trade paperback, it won't be a problem... but this is issue # 1 that I'm talking about. When plotting out the general arc of the tale, it wouldn't have been difficult at all for the writer to ensure that each of the 4 "promised" stars show up in each issue. That's just good comic storytelling. (And why exactly did we need a Superman & Batman mini-series right now when there's a monthly, ongoing Superman/Batman title where the story could've easily landed?)

Along with the absence of one of its titular characters, the comic also suffers from a poorly portrayed Batman-Alfred dynamic. VanHook, it seems, sees the famous butler as serving only as a vehicle by which the World's Greatest Detective can let the reader in on what he's thinking. Alfred arrives in the Batcave at just the right moment to prompt his employer and longtime confidante to spill the beans on what he's learned so far about a grisly killing that occurred in Gotham. There's none of the witty back-and-forth between the two that we'd expect, and Mr Pennyworth is actually written as something of a dummy.

While the artwork by Tom Mandrake is suitably dark and atmospheric, all of the prose (in the form of caption boxes) is seriously overwritten. Here's an example, around a scene in which a young woman is attacked by a vampire as she goes to her car late at night: "But now the REALITY sinks in. Reality and TWIN FANGS that pierce the FLESH of her neck... then the HOT BREATH that reeks of DEATH." Yeek.

With the second issue of the mini-series due out today, I moved the debut from midway down my "to be read" pile of comics right up to the top this morning, and just finished it moments ago. I figured that I should make sure that it warranted additional purchases... and it doesn't. Good thing I checked out # 1 before spending any more money on this rather mediocre offering.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some Ruminations On Playing Co-Op In The Resistance 2 Beta

Having now played a couple dozen hours of Co-op in the Resistance 2 Beta, I figured I should record some more thoughts before the full game comes out and I get too busy for such things... ;-)

Unfortunately, there have been numerous network problems encountered while trying to get into online matches over the past five days, and I hope that's not going to be the situation when the real load starts after the game actually goes on sale. Both times AgileBoy's been over we've seen this happen, and Boneman's experienced it, too (including one time when he and I were going to play online). The good news is that, once you get in, things usually go very well, although I've had a couple different games end abruptly... which were either connection breakdowns of some sort or a host quitting the game and taking all of us with him (more likely the former, I assume). Since the game updates stats in real-time, at least you don't lose whatever you've earned up to that point.

Having played as each of the three roles (Soldier, Medic, and Special Ops), I still prefer being the trusty Medic. And that's lead me to appreciate watching how others play as Medics, when I'm not in that role. I've seen all kinds of performances, including those who spend all of their time using their Rings of Life to suck health out of enemies to the exclusion of all else. The funniest example of that came tonight when I was a Soldier, down to my last thin sliver of health, and I was jumping up and down in front of a Medic, trying to get him to send me a bit of restorative health. This doofus clearly had no idea what his job was, and so it's not that surprising that we failed that mission. That's a pattern that I've seen several times: Medics who don't have the backs of their teammates often cost the entire team the mission, because Soldiers and Special Ops can't get enough health, otherwise.

I'm starting to like Special Ops, for a similar reason: a big part of that job is to hand out ammo on a frequent basis. So, just as when I'm a Medic I keep one eye on the health bars of as many teammates as I can, I'm always watching out for the "ammo needed" icon to pop up when I'm a Special Ops player. In either of those two roles, I have an easy metric for whether I'm doing a good job or not: if no one's actually calling out over the voice channel for health or ammo (whichever of the two I'm responsible for at that time), then I'm serving well!

And then there's the Soldier. As AgileBoy observed after watching me play one round online in that role, I play with considerably more abandon when I'm one of the guys with the big gun. I tend to charge more aggressively toward packs of enemies, hoping that some Medic is around to recharge my health and that Special Ops is tossing ammo my way before I run out of rounds. Many times I've been disappointed in both regards, but when it's working, I always feel appreciative to the ones who are keeping me alive and shooting.

I don't think I've ever played a game as well-balanced as this one, where you can get tons of points no matter what part you play, but where you also can bring everyone down if you're not a team player. Insomniac deserves a lot of credit for getting the mix so right, and we'll see if other game shops try to copy it. I expect that some of us will be playing R2 online for many months to come, thanks to the variety and challenge that are provided with each type of gameplay.

A Great Review Of Resistance 2

For those who'd like to really know what Resistance 2 is like (the full game, not just the Beta that I've been playing), you should look no further than right here. This review really does its job well, as you get a good sense of what the game looks, sounds and plays like, without giving too much away. I even learned a thing or two about the Co-op mode that I've been enjoying!

One week from today, the battle to reclaim the planet resumes (in more ways than one)...

The Rays Live To Play Another Day

Tampa Bay Rays were that close to losing the World Series tonight, as they trailed the Phillies 2-1 in the top of the 6th with a worsening rain coming down around them. Had Carlos Pena not driven in BJ Upton to tie the game at 2-2 with 2 outs, it would've gone into the rain delay (as it did after the top of the 6th) still 2-1 and the Phillies would've later in the evening been crowned 2008 World Series Champions. Instead, because the score was tied, it's a suspended game and they'll resume - weather permitting - tomorrow night.

To which I say again: if only all MLB parks had retractable roofs! What a travesty it would've been if Philly had won the championship in a rain-shortened game, under conditions where little of what brought those two teams to the World Series were allowed to shine. Major League Baseball dodged an embarrassing bullet tonight, I think.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Medic: 10 And Out

I found out the hard way that the Resistance 2 Beta version caps each of the three Co-op at Level 10... by getting my Medic up to that point and then seeing that the 24,000 experience points that I'd just earned were all for naught... I guess I'll have to wait for the real game in order to get past Level 10 and have a chance to buy the rest of the upgrades that I had my eye on.

I've spent a little time today getting my Soldier up to Level 3, while Special Ops still sits at 2. Additional guns for each role are: Medic - Carbine (machine gun), Soldier - Rossmore (shotgun), and Special Ops - Bullseye (targeting rifle). You get your 2nd weapon once you reach Level 2, although for my Medic I've rarely used anything other than the Rings of Life.

AgileBoy is on his way over for round 2 tonight. I've hooked up my PS/3 to be wired to the Internet (rather than wireless) to see if that has any appreciable (positive) effect on performance and/or reducing connection problems.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Are We All Just Acting Out Superman's Origin?

For some strange reason, it occurred to me recently that Al Gore and the rest of the environmentalists have been playing the part of Jor-El (Gore, Al?) just prior to that fictional scientist sending his infant son, Kal-El, away from the doomed planet of Krypton. In each case, attempts to get the attention of the reigning power structure (the Bush Administration here, the Science Council there) were not only unsuccessful but also treated with scorn and contempt, despite the fate of the planet hanging in the balance.

Now, I don't believe that Gore has an infant son that he can rocket away to another planet just as ours goes down the toilet, but by the same token you wouldn't think that we'd need to repeat the sort of mistake that's foretold in one of our best-known myths, either, now would you?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Level 5 Medic After Less Than 48 Hours

I played some more Resistance 2 in Co-op mode today, both by myself and with Boneman over the network. I've got my Medic halfway through Level 5 already, and I think I get an equipment upgrade when I reach Level 6... though I don't know for sure just yet. There's still one launch point (out of the five or six that come with the Beta) that I can't get through, so I clearly must be doing something wrong (besides playing "co-op" by myself!).

There's some trick to the Medic as far as using the Ring of Life (his weapon's name, as well as any obvious dig at Microsoft's infamous Red Rings of Death on their XBox 360s) to set up a "healing area" of some sort, which I'm wondering if it may help the Medic out when he's low on health and can't easily get any off of an enemy. I keep seeing messages on-screen saying that I can do it at certain points, but I have no idea how. I guess that's one of the downsides of playing a Beta: you don't have the manual that comes with the purchased copy of the game!

Speaking of which, I'm also trying to figure out the best way to get the game on the 4th. I can pre-order it from various online sites (Best Buy, Future Shop) but none of them seem to allow "pick up in store" as an option. I don't really want to pay for shipping, but more importantly, I'm not looking to wait 2 - 4 business days to get my copy in the mail! I can always go shopping for it on the release date, but I'd rather have a copy reserved so that I know I'm not coming home empty-handed. Has anyone else out there figured out a good strategy?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Resistance 2 Co-Op? Now That Was Fun!

AgileBoy and I just finished about 3 hours of playing through the Co-op campaign in Offline mode, and WOW! It definitely suffers from the "go back to the main menu and start all over" each time you both die at the same time, but other than that it was amazing! And at least it starts you off in different places when that happens, so you do get some variety. Better, of course, would be to continue from your last checkpoint, which is how I hope the final version of the game will work.

With just the two of us playing, I'd say the levels were challenging, but not ridiculously difficult. Therefore, considering that neither of us are particularly adept players of the game, I imagine the game simply must scale up when there are more of you present (it can handle up to 8 players over the network)... otherwise it'd be pretty darn easy! I can hardly wait to see what gets thrown at us when there are 8 people instead of 2.

I now "get" the Co-op setup much better, so here are some details for those who care.

Each player has to choose to be a Soldier, Medic or Special Ops. There are no health packs or ammo to be found in the Co-op levels, and (unlike in Single Player and Competitive mode) you don't regain health by simply avoiding fire. Instead, you get health from the Medic(s) on your team, and you get re-stocked with ammo the same way, but from the Special Ops dudes. Therefore, logically, you should really have a good balance of the three types in any group. AgileBoy and I started off with a Medic and Special Ops, but eventually settled on two Medics. Why? Well, a couple of reasons. Without a Soldier in the group, there's less need for Special Ops, because the Medic has unlimited ammo for his "health-stealing-and-dealing" gun. The way it works is that primary fire sucks the health out of enemies, giving you XP (experience points) as you do so. That health not only replenishes the Medic doing the stealing, but also builds up in his gun so that he can use secondary fire to health-up his teammates. And the other reason we were both Medics is that they're just really fun to play as!

The Special Ops role works similarly, where hits on enemies build up your ability to drop ammo for your teammates. Soldiers, as far as I can, tell, just benefit from both of the other roles, and presumably do most of the grunt work. However, we found that with two Medics, each able to help the other out with health in a firefight, we could get through almost anything. That's probably the best configuration when there are only two of you, although Medic + Special Ops also works (anything else is likely doomed on account of the health/ammo angle).

We both picked up all kinds of XP in our 3 hours, to the point where my Medic is now up to Level 3 already. I also have a really good feel for how to play as a Medic after that session, and really like the role. AgileBoy started off slow but got really good once he got used to the controls and the game itself. I think Co-op will be absolutely amazing when there are 4 or more of us, all mic'd together and knowing each other. Even just with two of us, we developed a lot of strategy, and I imagine more will be even better.

We tried doing some Competitive Team Deathmatches, too, but kept having network problems shortly after joining. Not sure what that's all about, as I'd had no issues last night when I played online. Maybe having two of us joining in from one machine may've made the difference, but obviously the game servers have to be able to handle that.

I'd give my experience this evening about a 9 out of 10, and would say that it's gotten me jazzed all over again for the possibilities of this game. It may end up being the best $60 I spend this year!

Holy Satire, Batman! Who Can Save Us Now?

You can get your very own print of this hilarious image here or a T-shirt with the Obama and Biden portion here.

The World Series, Then And Now

Last night's game, while not quite as exciting as Game 1, still had the tying run come up to the plate in the 9th inning. In each of the two games so far, whoever scored first has gone on to win the game without ever relinquishing the lead. The teams seem fairly evenly-matched so far (as indicated by the 1-1 series result), although the Phillies are going to self-destruct soon if they don't start hitting with runners in scoring position. I believe they've sunk to something like 1-for-26 in that statistic after last night's 4-2 loss. More damning was the stat that they were 0-for-7 with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs. As I said to Vicki when they flashed that up, "That's 7 golden opportunities to hit the ball out of the infield and score a run... and they've come up empty on every one of them!" It should be interesting to see what happens in the next 3 games, as they're all played in the relatively tight confines of Veterans Stadium [Edit: oops, I guess they play in Citizens Bank Park now!] in Philadelphia... the Phillies will be glad to be home, but the Rays will no doubt enjoy launching a few rockets into the unfriendly seats there!

While I was looking something up regarding the World Series today, I happened upon this particular link: a nice, concise write-up on the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal. I've been fascinated by that particular World Series ever since seeing Eight Men Out for the first time, long before I realized that it was a John Sayles film or even had any idea who the heck Sayles was (only one of the best directors ever). In that re-telling of the throwing of the 1919 World Series by "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and seven of his White Sox teammates, you get a real sense for why the players would've done what they did, and also for the trust that they broke with the fans of the day. (Many people don't know, for example, that the expression, "Say it ain't so, Joe!" comes from the period in 1920 when the players were on trial for fixing the series.) It's an incredible tale of human failings - all kinds of them! - and I just love finding out more and more about it.

Read Someone Else For A Change

Here's someone else's "Resistance 2 Beta First Impressions" for your enjoyment. I found that I agreed with most of what was said there, other than the expression of love for the menus. Admittedly, though, I haven't yet had an opportunity to build up a friend list within the game (is there anybody out there?) so maybe I'll appreciate it more when that happens.

It looks like AgileBoy is heading over for the evening tonight, which should entail some split-screen action of the gun-toting variety. And let's not forget that sidekicks, like programmers and testers, do make excellent human shields!

Once More, With Clarity

Boy, was I tired when I wrote that last post!

So here are some more thoughts on what I experienced last night (and early this morning) on my first foray into Resistance 2 Beta-land.

I spent a lot of time on the 60-person map (which I forget the name of), in a Team Deathmatch (red vs blue). They were always 1000-point rounds, meaning that whichever team got 1000 kills against the other team first, won. We had one round where the final score was 1000-999... I kid you not! Another one was 1000-985, so that gives you some idea of just how close the games can be, despite having 30 players on each side and a high score to achieve. With 60 people all on one map, things can get a little insane if the various squads (each 30-person team is made up of 6 5-person squads) happen to converge on one spot. If that happens, it's mass carnage, and I found that I needed to simply spawn, throw my grenade in the other team's direction, start firing my weapon at them, and see if I could get a kill or two in before dying. Most of the time, though, it's not like that, and you get to move across the map at your own pace, looking for victims (and vice versa).

Though this may turn out to be configurable, the Sprint function now seems to require you to hold a button down, rather than toggling into Sprint mode. I found that quite disconcerting, because I kept forgetting to keep my finger on the button (and so would resume walking again).

I'm also finding that having the primary and secondary fire on the right triggers isn't working for me. I tend to prefer the bullseye, and I was pretty adept in R:FoM at sticking the homing device (secondary fire) on my enemy and immediately shooting at it (primary fire). With them now requiring the same finger (pointer on right hand), it's a lot harder to pull that off, and so I was mostly using the Bullseye without the homing feature. Maybe that change was made to weaken those sorts of weapons, for all I know... [Update: I found where you can configure the control layout, using a few templates that they provide, or setting each button the way that you want it to be! Yay! I did that, played a couple of Team Deathmatches, and had more kills than deaths each time! Much, much better!]

Similarly, the Berserker mode that you can go into as a Chimera requires you to press the down arrow on the directional pad, which numerous times resulted in my map coming up, full-screen, blocking my view (it's activated by the left arrow on that same pad). There also seems to be only certain times when you can invoke the Berserker rage, such that I'd stop to find that damn down arrow, press it, see that nothing had changed, and then take a sniper bullet through the noggin! I'm hoping that all of these issues are just a learning curve and will be things that I'll never think about again after playing a few more (hundreds of) hours!

It seemed, at times, like I was lightly "sticking" to some objects, although that may've simply been a lack of coordination on my part. For example, I was backing away from an enemy and ran into a narrow pillar on a building, but couldn't seem to move around it easily (and hence was a sitting duck for the other guy). That happened a few times, in different situations, and I started wondering if they'd introduced a Gears of War-like "sticky surface" feature into the game. Hopefully not.

For some strange reason, for an extended period last night I was on a squad that apparently was made up entirely of Spanish speaking players (plus me). It made for a very surreal experience, as it felt like I was listening to Radio Espanol the whole time... and I did actually hear a few "Ay Carumbas" during that time! I didn't bother using my headset last night but I'll probably add that to the mix shortly.

Speaking of such things, Boneman tells me today that he now has access to the Beta, thanks to a co-worker not wanting to use the one he got! Therefore I may get to try stuff out with an online friend, which would be awesome! Since 2-player split screen is supported, we may actually be able to try out a 4-person Co-op adventure (Boneman, his son, Vicki and I). I couldn't make it into any 8-person Co-ops last night, because they'd fill up too quickly. I thought about creating my own, but then figured that I'd just get 7 idiots joining and wouldn't want to stick with it for the entire level (and as host, if I leave, everyone else is booted out, too, I think).

It's still too early for a verdict on this game, but I will say that the quality during gameplay has been high. You never know, with a Beta, just how many glitches you're going to experience, and I still may encounter lots. Last night, however, it was pretty much seamless and felt like production-quality to me. As noted in a previous post, though, they need to improve some of the menuing and flow outside of the matches themselves.

Getting Better; Dying Less

After another couple of hours of Resistance 2 Beta (yes, I'm posting this at 2:30 a.m.!), I've started to get the hang of the Team Deathmatch, at least. I haven't yet had a round where I've had as many kills as deaths, but I came close in one: 44-49! Overall, I'm at 75-109, but did finish 14th (out of 60 players) in the round where I was almost even.

I'm finding the controls really hard to adjust to, especially secondary fire (I'm always pressing the wrong trigger for that). I could do without the splatter effects that they've amped up, but I guess the kids go for that. I like that you can pick which weapon to use (each time you re-spawn) and as far as I can tell, you're limited to carrying just one at a time. I think I need to play around with the targeting sensitivity, as it seems like it's set too high for my chaotic style of aiming! There are lots of things that I don't know how to do yet (but see other players doing them) so clearly: more game time is called for! :-)

I expect to spend a few hours tomorrow at this, filing reports as I go. Because I know of at least one or two readers out there who'll find this stuff riveting...

Resistance 2 Beta: First Impressions

So I've now played for about an hour, mostly between Competitive Team Deathmatches online and Cooperative Campaign in Offline mode (the latter, in order to learn the controls and weapons, after getting my butt kicked in the online version). Way too early to say anything with conviction, but I figured I should record my first impressions before I lose them.

1) The graphics haven't been as good as I'd hoped. Some of the scenery seems kind of rough, so maybe that's a reflection of the beta status, but somehow I doubt it.

2) I'm not sure why they decided to switch the controls around (secondary fire is now the bottom right trigger instead of the top left one, primary fire is the top right, sprint is bottom left, and you change weapons with the triangle... all of which seem wrong to me!) but they have. That's going to take some getting used to, plus maybe I need to see if there are alternate control layouts that may work better for me.

3) Speaking of which, I still have my issue with R3 (pressing the right thumbstick in) being the Melee control... I'm doing that as I dance around an opponent, trying to shoot him dead!

4) The flow of the menu is really onerous right now, as dying in Cooperative mode (Offline) means that you have to start back at the main menu and make all of your selections again. I really hope that's a beta thing!

It's great to be playing a new Resistance game, and I think I'm going to like it once I get used to it, but right now it's all just a little unsettling.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not A Reject, After All!

The following arrived in my e-mail inbox just moments ago:

"Congratulations, you've been accepted into the Resistance 2 public beta."

Even the presence of a comma splice there can't dim my unbridled joy at the sight of this gift!!

I now know what I'll be doing after the baseball game finishes tonight (and probably most of tomorrow, while Vicki's away)!! Online play, here I come!

Lost Season 5 Trailer


Hell, yes! I'm so there!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Bad Omen For The Phillies?

They just showed what I consider to be an interesting stat on the baseball pre-game show tonight. The Phillies are appearing in their 6th World Series this year. They've won once, against the Kansas City Royals (1980) and lost 4 times, going into this year's match-up with the Tampa Bay Rays. Those 4 losing trips to the championship saw them defeated by the Red Sox (1915), the Yankees (1950), Baltimore (1983) and Toronto (1993)... all of whom, of course, make up four-fifths of the current American League East. The other one-fifth of that division? That would be the team from Tampa who the Phillies are up against this year!

If the Rays win it all in 2008, then I'd suggest that Phillies fans in the future expend all their energy hoping for World Series contestants to come from any division in the AL except the East!

Quite The Week Of Comics


It kind of sneaked up on me, but this turned out to be an impressive week of comics... possibly the best we've seen all year. Consider what came out:

Final Crisis # 4 - The first issue of the mini-series after "evil wins," and it's pretty hardcore: only a few of the DCU's heroes are still unaffected by Darkseid's Anti-Life Equation, while the vast majority of the Earth's population is held under its sway. I just finished reading it, and it was perhaps the finest issue yet in a series that's been growing on me more and more.

Final Crisis: Submit - This FC one-shot, written by Grant Morrison himself, showcases Black Lightning and the Tattooed Man in some sort of struggle against Darkseid's forces. It ties into FC # 4, but I haven't checked it out yet.

Superman: New Krypton Special - This one-shot launches the Superman-family event that will run through Action Comics, Superman and Supergirl over the next several months. Each of the regular staff for those three titles contributes to this double-sized special, and that's great news to me! The story, in a nutshell: the bottled city of Kandor has been rescued from Brainiac, and expanded in the frozen reaches of the Earth. So what does the addition of 100,000 Kryptonians, all with the same powers as Kal-El and Kara mean for the rest of the world?

Secret Invasion # 7 - The penultimate issue of Marvel's big summer event is out today, and while I'm sure we'll get mostly padding and water-treading (leading up to next month's finale which supposedly then introduces some big change called "Dark Reign"), it's obviously fairly significant. Too bad the art's so weak and the storytelling's so stretched out.

Captain America # 43 - Marvel's most consistently-excellent series adds another issue to the legacy, as Bucky begins to really grow comfortable in his new role as Cap.

Daredevil # 112 - DD continues his introductory run-in with Lady Bullseye, who apparently learned everything she knows about fighting and killing from watching her male counterpart (that would be Bullseye, the killer of Daredevil's love interests, Elektra and Karen Page, I think).

Criminal 2 # 6 - Completing the Ed Brubaker trifecta (along with Cap and DD), here comes the 3rd part of "Bad Night," which I just had the pleasure of reading the first 2 installments of, last night.

Thor: The Truth of History - A favourite creator of mine, Alan Davis, writes and pencils this one-shot recounting a past tale of the Thunder God back in the time of the Pharaohs. With a long-lived hero like Thor, it's kind of surprising they haven't done more such stories over the years, since you can plunk him down in just about any period of history!

So there's 8 comics, all of which came out today, and most of which are enough to make a pretty good week all on their own. I'd say that constitutes an amazingly strong line-up, wouldn't you?

Quality Shmality!

Here's a current sub-headline from CNN.com (under the headline "E-Mailed the wrong person"):

"Misdirected e-mails are unaviodable, annoying and embarrassing. Avoid a mistake with these expert tips"

So let's start with the fact that whoever posted this (on CNN.com!!) misspelled "unavoidable," as any spell-checker (even the one here on Blogger) could tell. Wow, that's an incredible display of laziness and/or stupidity on somebody's part!

Then there's the combination of an assertive statement - misdirected e-mails are unavoidable - followed by the promise of expert tips on how to avoid the situation that was just asserted as being unavoidable! Hello? Is anyone even thinking about what they're posting on this supposedly-prestigious website?

It shocks me how low the bar was fallen recently...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Overheard" At The Office Today

Boneman and McChicken allegedly encountered each other in the halls of my former workplace today, and had the following exchange:

McChicken: "So... how long?"

Boneman: "Two weeks."

McChicken: "I knew you'd know."

I love shit like that.

In other, related news, this evening's broadcast of Fringe featured a very cool, albeit rather strange, commercial for Resistance 2. I pity the fool who missed it (although it's probably online somewhere by now).

DC Comics Can't Win For Trying

I was really disappointed to read this brief update on the news from yesterday that Final Crisis will get a fill-in artist for its 7th and final issue. I've really loved J. G. Jones' art in the three issues of Final Crisis that have come out so far, and when it was simply a matter of some pages in upcoming issues having another artist on them (starting with # 4, out tomorrow), that was one thing. But hearing that the finale won't have Jones doing interior work at all, and reading his obviously dispirited response to the situation (which, after all, he brought upon himself by either agreeing to too aggressive a schedule in the first place or not working quickly enough once he got started)... well, it makes me sad, indeed.

DC is on quite the losing streak these days... People hated Countdown (and it was such a waste of $100+ that I'm not even bothering with their followup weekly series, Trinity, even though some reviewers have praised it), Final Crisis has been plagued by delays (and we now know why) and they keep giving up more and more market share to Marvel. It actually reminds me of the situation between Microsoft and Sony, in the battle of next gen consoles. In each case, I have some loyalty to each combatant, but my favourite is getting the crap kicked out of them by the other.

The economy's collapsing around us, the environment's going to Hell in a handcart, and we can't even get a 7-issue miniseries all done by the same artist. It's really too bad this didn't happen to Secret Invasion, instead, as I'm really not fond of the artwork on that bad boy and would've welcomed a change!

The Intersection of Music And... Dr Pepper?!

Thanks to AgileBoy, I got to read this amusing article, about Dr Pepper's pledge to give every man, woman and child in the U.S. a free can of their delightful pop if Guns 'n' Roses finally released some (apparently) long-delayed album before the end of 2008. Indications are that the GnR CD may happen, and the soda pop company has stated that they'll indeed go ahead with the promotion, if so.

If this all comes to fruition, I just hope that I can get my hands on Vicki's can (so to speak!!) since she's an American citizen!

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Get It Now: Hiro Is Wile E. Coyote

Tonight's episode of Heroes, while still chock-a-block full of things that made me cringe, was still better than anything that preceded it this season. It had the usual problem of too many characters acting stupidly when it services the plot, and enough coincidences to choke a horse. On the positive side, though, lots of plot advancement was delivered, and not all of it was gibberish.

But all of that pales beside the realization that I had tonight about Hiro: he isn't just written like a moron, he's actually the personification of a cartoon character! Tonight he was clearly (and very humourously) Wile E. Coyote, what with his repeated attempts to catch the future-painter only to get whacked from behind by his prey. All that was missing was him holding up a sign that read, "Help!" just before the shovel came down on his skull. I think in previous episodes he's probably also been cartoonish, with perhaps a bit of Elmer Fudd here and a touch of the Tasmanian Devil there. I guess if you can get your head around that, and not be bothered by the fact that he's a caricature interacting with people who are supposed to seem real (sort of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, for those with long memories), then maybe it works better.

Now if only someone can explain to be how Traci has only just recently discovered her Ice Maiden powers, despite having them since childhood and them being triggered by extreme emotions (just what kind of Life has she had that she's never been angry before?)...

When Is A 6-2-1 Record Not That Good?

That's easy: when you started 5-0, and have gone 1-2-1 since then, like the Rangers have over their last 4 games. Very disappointing that they handed Dallas their first road victory of the season tonight, but at least the boys get a break in their schedule now. Their next game isn't until Friday, making this the longest "vacation" of the season so far for the Blueshirts.

I hope that the 5-0 start wasn't a fluke, but it's sure starting to feel that way.

She Ain't Much To Look At Yet But Just You Wait

As part of my preparation for the upcoming launch of the second AgileMan book, I decided to start up a Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan blog, which you can take a peek at by clicking here. I plan to include a reference to it in the book itself, and I've also set up an AgileMan e-mail account for visitors to the blog to use if they'd like to communicate with me directly (and less publicly than using Comments). I suspect it's all much ado about nothing, but as AgileBoy reminds me every once in a while, "If you actually promoted that book of yours, you'd sell a lot more copies!"

Sarah On SARA (And Vice Versa)

This would be funny if it weren't so absurd... OK, on second thought, I guess it's still pretty funny.

Vicki and I are quite enamored of the show, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which has had a very strong second season so far. Despite being big fans, we actually missed one episode in the first season, and the reason for that is the point of this blog post. No matter how many times I set my SARA box to record all episodes of this program at any time - and I've done it more than a dozen times by now - the moronic set top box will only record the next one. I just set a request of that sort a few minutes ago, and I'm 95% confident that it'll put tonight's episode onto the hard drive for us. However, regardless of whether or not we watch tonight's episode (and delete it) over the next 7 days, if I simply waited around until 8:00 p.m. next Monday, confident that I'd get next week's installment as well, I'd be sorely disappointed (as I've been in the past). Despite this process working fairly reliably for all of the other programs that we watch, SARA just will not record Sarah more than once per setting! SARA seems to have a 1-Sarah limit!

I have a theory on this, weak though it may be. My suspicion is that there's a key difference of some sort in the name of the program itself, and that's somehow screwing up the recurring nature of the recording-request. Specifically, the show has a very long full title: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and yet it almost always shows up in the SARA guide screens as simply Terminator. The one exception is the "Set Recording" screen, where the full title appears. I've seen this sort of thing before, with titles that one week will have "(HD)" at the end of them and other weeks don't, and that can cause recurring recording requests to be ignored. This particular scenario, though, has proven to be 100% reliably broken to date.

Has anyone else experienced this, or is it just a gremlin in our box?

Getting Up Early Sucks

I got woken up shortly after 8:00 a.m. today, when someone called the Executive Vice President of the local women's club that Vicki's the EVP of... meaning, they called here! At 8:00 a.m.!!

Normally I would've just gone back to bed after that rude awakening, but since I was meeting someone downtown for lunch today anyway, I figured that I'd get up at a half-decent hour for a change. Ever since, though, I've felt like I used to for all those years of working: tired and totally lacking in energy! I've gotten awfully used to getting adequate amounts of sleep over the past 2 and a half months now, and so it was an interesting flashback to the bad old days today. It's hard to believe I operated that way for so long, but I guess you just get caught up in the rat race and don't realize how bad it is... until it's over.

Anyway, that's my news (such as it is).

Rays Vs Phillies For All The Marbles: Who'd Have Thunk It?

First off, I have to say: hats off to the Tampa Bay Rays for keeping it together after blowing a 7-0 7th inning lead in Game 5 of a series that they were up 3-1 at the time. When they fell by a 4-2 score in Game 6 I really believed that the series was over, and that tonight's Game 7 would be a Boston blowout. Instead, both sides got excellent pitching from their starters and relievers, and the Rays earned a nail-biter 3-1 victory and their first ever trip to the World Series. Will they repeat the amazing accomplishment of their state-mates, the Florida Marlins, who've made the postseason exactly twice in their franchise history, but won the World Series each time (1997 and 2003)? It'd be quite impressive if the Rays did follow suit, as that would mean that the state of Florida would be 9-0 in MLB playoff series, all-time!

I have no idea who will win between the Phillies and Rays, but I just hope it's not a series of one-sided games. Let's have some lead changes, and some last-minute comebacks, guys! Otherwise it could be a very boring finale to what's already been a somewhat lacklustre postseason.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Work Here Is Done

Or rather, my work on the second draft of More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year Two: Easier Said Than Done) is complete. It's now in Vicki's hands, and she's already begun her tour of duty as first-level editor. In general, it wasn't as scary a proposition this time, handing it off to someone else like that, because I know that she quite liked the first book. On the other hand, though, I'd had her read a few of the early Issues of the first book as I was going along, just in case I was completely off the rails in terms of readability... I didn't do anything like that for this book, and that could spell disaster.

Oh well, que sera sera, as it were...

3 Up And 3 Down

As a result of tonight's 4-2 victory by the Boston Red Sox, we're going to a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series. It's still hard to believe that Tampa actually blew a 7-run lead in the 7th inning in Game 5, but here we go to a winner-take-all finale tomorrow night that nobody would've bet on happening just 50 short hours ago. In fact, over that period of time, Boston's outscored their opponents 12-2... on the heels of being outscored themselves 29-5 over the preceding 24 innings. A fan could get whiplash from the sudden change in direction that this series has taken... and I love it!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

And Has A Schedule Ever Started Out Busier?

Speaking on the Rangers, I'm astounded at how many games they had scheduled to start the NHL season. Not only had they played two games against Tampa Bay in Prague before 26 of the 30 teams had even gotten one in, but they'll play their 9th game on Monday night... around the time that several teams will be playing their 4th! By my count, they'll have had 7 games (following the 2 overseas) in a stretch of just 11 days (Fri, Oct 10 thru Mon, Oct 20) which seems closer to a baseball schedule than a hockey one to me! The good news, of course, is that they're so far 6-1-1 after the first 8 of those 9 early games, which is a fantastic start by anyone's standard. I'm extremely relieved that they didn't conversely record a 1-6-1 start, as that'd obviously put them behind the 8-ball right off the bat. And who wants that, when you've had a killer schedule to begin the season?

A Tale Of Two Games

Last night, the Leafs and Rangers spent sixty-five minutes of game time - three regular periods and a 5-minute overtime - not scoring. Going into the decisive shootout, both goalies had already secured their shutouts. The Rangers would eventually outscore Toronto 2-1 in the 3-round shootout, and pick up the 2nd point (the Leafs would get 1 point for their troubles).

This evening, facing their 2nd Original Six rival in as many nights in the Motor City, the first goal came less than 30 seconds into the game! Detroit started the scoring, got up 3-1 at one point in the 2nd period, fell behind 4-3 early in the 3rd period, and then tied it at 4-4 before that frame ended. In the overtime, the Wings required only 23 seconds to win the game. This time it was the boys from Broadway who were only going to collect a single point, despite their 4-goal outburst 24 hours after being able to muster none (prior to the shootout).

It just seems very weird to me that one team could be in two such radically different games 24 hours apart, but I guess that's sports for you! About the only sure bet in the NHL in recent years has been that the Wings will beat the Rangers, and that much came true once again. I literally can't remember the last time New York picked up a win over Detroit, but I'm guessing it's probably been six or seven years by now.

She Was Much Nicer In My Dreams

Last night, both Tina Fey and Sarah Palin showed up in a dream of mine! They were both over for a visit (yeah, go figure!) and I spent a lot of time talking to each of them individually. Tina was hilarious, as you'd expect, but Sarah actually seemed very warm and intelligent... proving that it was just a dream! I kept feeling sorry for the Alaskan Governor, though, because in the dream it was clear to everyone but her and McCain that they were going to lose, and yet she was so confident that victory was going to theirs. The other thing I distinctly remember thinking in the dream was that, as soon as they all left, I was going to blog about getting the chance to talk to her, and how impressed everyone who reads my blog would be.

Well, at least the first part of that came true!

Feb 17, 2009: The End Of The TV Era For Pre-Boomers?

Thanks to a friend, I got sent to this hilarious YouTube video in which a very confused old woman attempts to deal with the impending elimination of analogue TV broadcasts in the States.

I particularly enjoyed the scene where she places her remote in the microwave...

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Real Scoop On Sarah Palin And SNL

Thanks to the Man from Mars, I saw this link confirming the fact that Governor Palin will bring her evolution-doubting self to Saturday Night Live this weekend. I think she's kidding herself if she really thinks that she can zing Tina Fey half as well as Tina does to her, but we'll all just have to judge for ourselves.

The Man from Mars also tried to distract me from my writing duties this afternoon with this very funny link, at which you can see dinosaurs, oil rigs, potential baby names and much, much more!

Flurry Of Gaming To End The Week

Last night I finished off Lost Planet, a game which I enjoyed way more than I would've expected after I'd played its demo for the first time, almost a year ago. The boss battles, of which there was at least one in each of its 11 levels, were probably my least favourite part; the rest was great fun, with each mission adding some new element to the gameplay and thus keeping it fresh.

Tonight, McChicken and I played a couple hours of Gears of War in Co-op mode (online), and I finally got to see the impressive graphics in the game. On my original XBox 360, I'd left the video in Standard Definition mode (by accident), and couldn't understand why people talked about the great visuals in GoW. When I got the new box home last month and was going through the settings on it, I discovered my mistake and have been enjoying High Definition loveliness ever since. The explosions in Lost Planet looked amazing, and tonight I saw that Gears is pretty strong visually, as well.

There was one part of the game tonight that it took us about 10 tries to get through, but that's OK... it just means that we got to play it longer! :-)

Only 18 more days until Resistance 2 comes out...

Halfway Through Draft # 2

Despite getting a late start to the week - um, Thursday is a late start, right? - I plowed through roughly half of More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year Two: Easier Said Than Done) over the past two days. Vicki should be getting her crack at it sometime early next week, which is when the fun will really start!

I think it's a good read, but what do I know?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hey Universe, Must You Always Prove Me Wrong?

Things looked so promising in the League Championship Series this year, when it was 1-1 between Boston and Tampa Bay, and the Dodgers had just crushed the Phillies to draw within 2-1 in their series. Since then, though, it's been one team only dominating each of the series, making for a 4-1 result (Phillies over the Dodgers) in the National League and a 3-1 Tampa Bay advantage along with a 7-0 lead in Game 5 tonight over in the American League. Assuming the Sox don't come back - a pretty safe bet, considering how ineffective they've been in the last two games - that'll set up a Rays - Phillies World Series... which has to be pure poison for TV ratings and general interest level across North America!

It will also mean that the first 2 rounds of the MLB postseason will have taken only 25 games (of a possible 34, if every series had gone the distance). That's not very good from a baseball-watching perspective, but it's still better than last year, where we only got 24 games! Worse, though, this time around: most of the games lately have blowouts, with the team leading in the series doing the blowing out! In the series that will almost certainly wrap up tonight, Tampa Bay has scored 9, 9, 13 and (so far) 7 runs, making for some boring games (in fairness, that first 9 was a 9-8 extra inning game.. the last time this series got exciting!)

You'd think with two powerhouse teams headed toward a meeting in the World Series that we'd get a good one for a change, but the last few years have put the boot to that theory, too. I was all ready for a great month of baseball playoffs this time around, but I guess you get what you get.

[Update: Wouldn't you know, shortly after I wrote the Red Sox off, down 7-0 in the 6th, they scored 4 in the 7th, 3 in the 8th and one all-important additional run in the bottom of the 9th to win the game, 8-7! Baseball on Saturday night! I love it!]

No Resistance 2 Beta-Testing For Me?

I'd applied to take part in the 2nd Beta testing session for Resistance 2 a while back, but haven't heard a peep in response since then. Today, I see notes on the gaming sites that I visit, indicating that the "beta keys" have been mailed out to those who'll be participating. Since my e-mail inbox remains ominously quiet, I guess that means that I didn't make the cut. That's a bit saddening - after all, I have the time now like I never have before! - but also something of a relief, I guess: it means that I'll get to enjoy the game completely fresh when I buy it in less than 3 weeks!

See? Dark cloud, silver lining... they often go hand-in-hand!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Onion As Seer For The Future

Thanks to Neil Gaiman's blog, I got pointed to this Onion article from Jan, 2001 in which Bush's ascendancy is 'hailed' as the end to an era of peace and prosperity. Boy, did those comedy writers nail it or what!? At the time that it first appeared, in fact, even the biggest Bush-haters probably would've laughed off some of the predictions in it... but if anything, the article understated just how incredibly bad things were going to be under this particular Commander-in-Thief! The past few months have, at times, felt like the end of the world, economically-speaking. While I don't necessarily lay all of what's happened recently at George W's feet, he certainly put his country into the precarious situation where they became so incredibly overextended in every way that counted. Hey, his reaction to a terrorist attack on his nation was to tell the people to "go shopping," so is it any wonder that they're in a credit crunch of historic proportions now, and are dragging the rest of the world down with them? I think not.

P.S. This mixture of humour and gloom-and-doom? Post # 1800! Yay, me!

History Was Almost Made Tonight In New York

Going into tonight's home game with the Buffalo Sabres, the 2008/09 edition of New York Rangers were attempting to start their season 6-0 for the first time ever! They'd beaten the Lightning twice, by identical 2-1 scores in Europe, followed by a 4-2 win over Chicago, a 4-3 squeaker over the Flyers and a 4-1 continuation of their recent dominance (from last year) over the Devils... all in the course of winning their first 5 games of the year. They were also perfect on the penalty kill, having gone 21-for-21 (I think) in that scenario.

With Buffalo's 2nd period power play goal, that latter flawless start came to a screeching halt, and it also erased the Rangers' 1-0 lead at the time. The Sabres would go on to win the game 3-1 (and start 3-0 themselves), ending one of the best kickoff streaks in the Blueshirts' long history (tying the team record, but not setting a new high water mark, unfortunately).

Now, if you'd asked me before the season started whether I'd be thrilled with a 5-1 record after the first 6 games, I'd have quickly responded with, "Hell yes!" And so I am. But it's also the sort of streak that you just hate to see end, because the longer it goes on, the more you start to believe to believe your team may never lose. And that's a very nice dream indeed.

A Day Away

Vicki and I decided to get away for 24 hours after our investment planner gave us a gift certificate to a small inn located a couple of hours from here. We headed out yesterday morning and got back today around noon. It was more of a "Vicki trip" than a "Matt trip," what with the shopping and the fancy food... but not every vacation can take us to a comic book convention (I guess).

Now I just need to start that second draft of the AgileMan sequel...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Biking Streak Reaches 34

I forgot to mention last week that I got two bike rides in (one to get comics, one to meet a friend for lunch downtown), bringing the number of consecutive months in which I've biked at least once all the way up to 34 (Jan 2006 thru Oct 2008).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sad And Shocking Hockey News

I almost couldn't believe my eyes as I read this breaking news about the death of 19 year old New York Rangers prospect, Alexei Cherepanov, at the end of a game today in Europe. This would be a shocking development to me even if he hadn't been drafted in the first round by my favourite sports team, but add in that element and I'm practically speechless. 19 years of age is way, way too young to shuffle off this mortal coil at.

My thoughts go out to the Cherepanov family, his teammates on the Omsk hockey team, and the members of the New York Rangers organization.

League Championship Series Shaping Up Nicely

With Tampa Bay's 11th inning victory against the Red Sox in the wee hours of Sunday morning, tying that series at 1-1 before heading for three at Fenway Park, that series looks like it could be a long one.

The Phillies had jumped off to a 2-0 lead against the Dodgers after two home victories, but when the Dodgers drop-kicked them 7-2 last night in Game 3, things got a lot more interesting.

Thankfully, there won't be any sweeps in the LCS this year!

One Draft Down, Several More To Go!

About 2 hours ago, I put the finishing touches on the first draft of More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year Two: Easier Said Than Done). It weighed in at around 63,500 words, which is more than 25% higher than the equivalent draft for the first book. I'm still putting my money on it pushing over the 70,000 word barrier before I'm done, but you never really know until you get there.

If you're one of the handful of people out there eagerly awaiting your next AgileMan fix, then you can spend this Canadian Thanksgiving appreciating the fact that I actually went through with writing it, despite all kinds of reasons not to. Vicki was visibly surprised to hear that I still wanted to proceed with the project after quitting my job in July, but I just felt as though it would be a good way to exorcise some of those demons... and I think it has been, to some degree.

There's still lots of work left to do on the book, but today definitely marks a major milestone in its creation. Hoo-hah!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

AgileMan Book Update

With visiting-Tammy and her mother gone to Michigan for the day today, I got lots of writing done. I was actually just starting the final Issue when they came home, which leaves me hopeful of finishing the first draft tomorrow. I've already warned Vicki that she may be getting Draft # 2 to review as early as late next week (in other words, around Oct 23rd). Of course, it may end up taking me more than a week and a half to make my way through all 63,000+ words, from start to finish, and craft something better out of the raw material that's there right now. What loose ends did I leave dangling? Is the tone too harsh? Am I being fair to the people whose job performances I'm criticizing over the course of the book? How many times do I contradict myself over the span of 32 Issues? Is it still a book about adopting Agile, or has it degenerated into nothing more than my memoirs?

Those are the sorts of questions I'll be wrestling with, along with the English language, as usual. What fun! And to think that I get paid to do this... oh wait, no I don't! It was that other job that paid! Rats.

Start Warming Up The Popcorn, Honey!

We've added 8 DVDs to our collection in the past week, thanks to a DVD sale at Amazon that piqued my interest. Half of the new additions are in the Blu-Ray format, with the other half being regular DVDs. The average price across the entire set was $10, which I just couldn't pass up once I realized that the sale included some movies that I actually wanted to own! Two of them, in fact, were titles that I'd been actively seeking out (for a good price) at the time that the sale notice showed up in my in-basket.

Only two of the group are "new" to us in terms of being films that Vicki and I haven't already seen, but the rest are all favourites that we've watched several times over the years and expect to dive into many times more. Your tastes may vary, of course, but that's OK: that's why these gems are now in our collection, and (probably) not yours! ;-)

Anyway, here's the list:

Alien Vs Predator: Requiem (Blu-Ray)
A Clockwork Orange (Blu-Ray)
Contact
Dial 'M' For Murder
Full Metal Jacket

Rescue Dawn (Blu-Ray)
The Terminator (Blu-Ray)
The Thing From Another Planet (1951 version)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Working The Weekend

I've actually gotten on such a roll with the latter part of the book that I've continued to poke away at it today (on a long weekend!), and will probably do more tomorrow. I've got two more Issues to go besides the one I'm working on right now, but I'm just that close to finishing Draft # 1.

Just.

That.

Close.

Very exciting for me, anyway.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sarah Palin Appearing On SNL This Week?

Lots of different sources are suggesting that the real Sarah Palin may show up on Saturday Night Live tomorrow night, presumably either as a foil for Tina Fey's portrayal of her, or perhaps, as someone suggested to me today, as "Sarah playing Tina playing Sarah." Since she's supposed to be dropping the puck in Philadelphia around 7:00 p.m., I guess it's reasonable that she could make it to NBC Studios in New York City in time for an 11:30 live broadcast. It remains to be seen - if the rumour's even true - whether the Alaskan governor has a good sense of humour about herself, but I guess we may soon find out.

Halo 3 Expansion Pack News

This article should be of interest to anyone fond of the Halo franchise (like me) as it brings news of a Halo 3: Recon expansion pack, although it's a bit disappointing to hear that we have to wait until "next fall" for it to get here! Still, it sounds like fun and I'm sure there will be plenty of other games to occupy us between now and then!

And, of course, I couldn't help but enjoy, and maybe even conjecture a bit, about this sentence from one of the people working on the game:

"This is the first time we've tried to have a smaller, nimble, more agile team of people on a project while the rest of the team tackles other projects."

Way to go, Bungie! Maybe you guys will actually get it right! :-P

Thursday, October 09, 2008

In Zod We Trust (He Can't Be Worse Than Bush)

Election year + Photoshop talent = fun site to check out!

This Casting Rumour Might Get Tammy To A Green Lantern Movie

It's just a rumour, but it's still intriguing.

Art Imititating Art

Joining the ranks of Captain America's death, Spider-Man's (temporary, as it turned out) public unmasking, and Barry "Silver Age Flash" Allen's return from the dead, we now have this week's Action Comics # 870 (cover shown here). For those who don't want to know any more, stay away from various news sources who are reporting the story this week... and stop reading now!

We'll get back to what had Superman comics in the news this week, but first I want to ramble on a bit about the 5-part "Brainiac" storyline that this issue wrapped up (and provide a little more spoiler space for those who didn't heed my warning up above).

In a word: Wow! There was such a palpable sense of terror in this arc, especially thanks to the way Johns used Supergirl and the fact that she knew of Brainiac from her days in Argo City (after Krypton was destroyed). I absolutely loved the atmosphere created by just how terrified she was of what was going to happen, and based on what we saw over the last few issues: with good reason! Here's a great exchange between cousins Kal-El and Kara Zor-El on that very topic, as Superman tries to convince his fellow Kryptonian survivor to save the Earth from Brainiac's attempt to cause our sun to go supernova while he dealt with the villain himself:

Kara: I-I'm not fast enough.

Kal: Yes, you are.

Kara: I can't do it.

Kal: Yes, you can.

Kara: I'm scared.

Kal: It's okay to be scared.


And then she flies off to save the day, with more determination and maturity than we'd frankly seen out of the character since they revived her several years ago.

This was also new and refreshing take on Brainiac, although incorporating elements from the past fifty years or so, not the least of which is his modus operandi of shrinking alien cities and putting them in bottles! Recent Superman lore has added the wrinkle that ol' Brainy then destroys the planet from which he stole the city, but that's just cuz we're all grim and gritty these days, don'tcha know!

All in all, this was a marvelous arc, even better than the Legion of Super-Heroes tale that preceded it. The seriousness of just what a threat Brainiac posed was really accented in # 870's final pages, though, with the death of Jonathan "Pa" Kent (as the result of a heart attack when Brainiac attacked the Kent farm). That's right, following in the footsteps of the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, the Smallville TV show, and others, writer Geoff Johns this week killed off Superman's Earthly foster father. In the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths mythology, Ma and Pa had both died when Clark was still a teen (Superboy), and the adult version of the Man of Steel had had to soldier on without any parents (Earthly or Kryptonian) to further guide him. With this latest development, the post-Crisis Kal-El is now done to one.

So, how do I feel about all of this? Well, I'll miss Pa Kent, to be sure, but the character had been used rather sparingly of late anyway. More worrisome to me, though, is Johns' tendency to idolize those 1970s Superman movies in his work of late. Sure, he's a good friend and former assistant to the director of the first and (uncredited) second film (Richard Donner), and it's kind of touching that Action Comics artist Gary Frank draws Clark/Superman just like Christopher Reeve, but do we have to re-tread that material yet again? Bad enough that Brian Singer turned 2006's Superman Returns into a love letter to the first two films... do we need to do the same to the flagship comic title? As Boneman said to me today, all we need now is for Superman in the comics to fly around the world really fast and turn time backwards! Enough looking backwards already!

Still, I'm a big enough fan of Geoff Johns (and Gary Frank) that I'll get past any reservations I have about the nostalgia angle. Right now, Action Comics is probably better than it's been in... well, practically forever! And that's a very good thing, especially for the title that started it all!

Post-script: I forgot to mention above that the reason Superman wasn't able to hear his foster mother's anguished cries as her husband fell to the ground was that his ears were being assailed by the sounds of Kandor, "Krypton's bottled city," being restored to full size somewhere in the Arctic. Interesting use of irony there by Johns, as the former "Last Son of Krypton" is occupied witnessing a hundred thousand actual relatives of his (the same species, at least) getting a new lease on life and freedom at the same time as one of those closest to him, but no blood relation, loses his own life. And yes, that means there are now going to be thousands of super-powered Kryptonians running wild on the Earth... at least for awhile!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Golly, She Really Must Be A Hockey Mom!

As if playing their first two regular season games in Europe this year weren't enough of a thrill, my Rangers get to watch Sarah Palin drop the puck for the Flyers' home opener this Saturday. Given what we know about the Alaskan Governor, she probably thinks hockey was invented in America... and in the last twenty years!

The End Is Nigh

I had a big burst of (probably, pent-up) creative energy today, and knocked off nearly two full Issues of More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year Two: Easier Said Than Done). Not only that, but I'm close enough to wrapping it up now that I can clearly see the finish line! I expect that the first draft should be in the drawer by sometime early in the week after next (or even late next week, if I really go nuts). It's funny, but these later Issues are the ones that I've been most looking forward to writing, and so now that I'm there, they're flying off my fingertips. I guess in some ways I've already composed parts of them in my head over the past three months, so maybe it's not all that surprising.

Nice of baseball to wrap up their Divisional Series early, as it turns out... gave me more head space for other things yesterday and today!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Four Weeks Usually Aren't A Month

Watching the post-debate coverage on NBC tonight, I heard anchor Brian Williams repeatedly state that the U.S. election is "one month from tonight." Now, when someone in that much of a position of authority makes a statement with such conviction, it makes me question my own knowledge. So I quickly searched online to confirm my own belief that Election Day is actually November 4th (the same as release day for Resistance 2!), which of course is four weeks from today, but not one month (which would be November 7th).

I know that this is picking nits, to say the least, but that inaccuracy still struck me as rather lazy journalism. Either Williams (or his script-writers) are too stupid to realize that four weeks only equals a month if you're going from February to March (in a non-leap year), or else they think that their viewers are. Either way, it doesn't say much for NBC. Hopefully no one watching the broadcast has now circled Fri, Nov 7th on their calendar for going to the polls, as they'll unfortunately show up 72 hours too late!

This reminds me of the days at work when we were doing month-long Iterations, and people would say that half-Iterations were two weeks long. Well, no, they often weren't; but they were always a half-month long!

Four Weeks And Counting

Two fortnights from now, about 46% of the eligible voters in the U.S. will head out to the polls, but more importantly: Resistance 2 will finally make its way to thousands of eager PS/3 owners!

With time on my hands to surf the gaming sites these days, it almost seems like I may hear too much about this game before actually getting my grubby fingers on it on November 4th! As someone who likes to experience video games' mysteries and puzzles himself, while "in the moment," rather than having them spoiled ahead of time, I'm having to be careful just how much I read right now.

I'm also wondering if they'll do a midnight sale on Resistance 2, as usually happens with new Halo games? If so, I'm in the perfect situation right now to take advantage of it, and then stay up until 3:00 a.m. (as I'm doing many nights, already) killing Chimera! How apt that this game should be coming to us from Insomniac Games!

Baseball's Divisional Playoffs Are Over

None of the four series went the distance, although the LA Angels may have been a successfully-executed 9th inning suicide squeeze away from forcing a Game 5 last night. In one of the worst attempts at it that I've ever seen, the runner streaked from third on the pitch only to have the batter feebly wave in a bunting motion at a pitch right down the middle of the plate... and miss! The runner still almost made it safely back to third base, but was tagged out just a few steps short. Had the Angels been able to pull off that exciting play, they'd have been up (at least) 3-2 on the Red Sox heading to the bottom of the 9th, which might have put enough pressure on the home team to get them to choke. Instead, buoyed by their amazing good fortune in the top half of the inning (the other team has a runner on third, with only 1 out, and they didn't score?), they pushed across their own 2-out run to win the game and the series.

In fact, it was the Boston/LAA series that provided most of the drama, as Game 3 in that series went 12 innings before the Angels forced a Game 4. The fact that every Game 1 winner went on to win their series, with no series going 5 games, seems to me to be cause enough to expand the Divisional round to best-of-7 in the future.

At any rate, it's Dodgers/Phillies in the NLCS and Red Sox/Rays in the ALCS. If Boston and LA prevail, then Manny Ramirez would be making his return to Fenway Park in Game 1 of the World Series! That potential matchup would also see ex-Yankee skipper Joe Torre once again going up against his old nemeses from Boston. Hopefully the Championship Series will provide some great entertainment before we get there, though!

Monday, October 06, 2008

4-Day Roofing Adventure Done... More Or Less

I capped the peak of the shed's roof this afternoon, leaving only a few nail-heads to tar before calling the job completely finished. It ended up taking 4 days, although we were only doing about 1 - 2 hrs of effort each day, in an attempt to keep either of us from being completely wrecked by the uncharacteristic physical exertion (it's a lot of kneeling and crouching up on a slanted roof, which tends to put a lot of pressure on muscles that don't get used in that way most days!)

The final total came in around $170, after I bought a 6th bundle of shingles (and used all but one of them).

Tomorrow, I get back to my real "day job:" writing that second book!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tina Fey & Sarah Palin... A Match Made In Comedy Heaven!

I missed seeing Saturday Night Live's lampooning of the recent Sarah Palin interview "granted" to Katie Couric, but fortunately YouTube came to my rescue! If you haven't watched it yet, you're in for a treat!

One of my first thoughts after hearing about McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate and seeing my first photo of her was just how much she looked like Tina Fey. However, I'd never have guessed that she'd provide nearly this much material in such a short period of time! The funniest aspect of it is that Fey and the SNL writers aren't even making some of the dialogue up... it's actually very close to being verbatim out of Palin's mouth! This YouTube clip shows just how close the parody actually was!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

With An Awesome Cover Like This...

... I should've known that the current Captain America series was going to a classic! I spotted this cover in my wanderings today and thought, "Wow! It's actually been about 3 and a half years now since Bru launched the new Cap run with this boffo set of images, and there hasn't been a bad issue over that time! In fact, other than some scheduling shenanigans around the big death event, I don't think we've even seen any lateness from Mr Brubaker and his artists.

To sum up: same creative team, high quality writing, excellent art, exciting storylines and every issue comes out on time! That's a winner of a comic book, at any point in history (but especially right now)!

"Offer Accepted! Now Let's Consider The Subject Closed"

You gotta love Nathan Hale, who, a quick check of the calendar confirms, will be making his recalcitrant return just one month from today! Woohoo! Only thirty-one more days to go... I'd better be done writing that book of mine by then!!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Can Our American Cousins Right Their Ship?

With the U.S. election now only a month and a day away (and considering that this is post # 1776: birth of a nation!), I can't help but wonder if the U.S. voters will finally address the folly of the past 8 years when they head to the polls on Nov 4. Granted, Bush Jr did even more damage than a left-leaning observer like me could've predicted, and yet he still managed to get re-elected (or, elected for the first time in 2004, since we all know that he, brother Jeb and their cronies in Florida stole the 2000 election from future Nobel Prize winner Al Gore). Does that mean that the Americans really might put yet another Republican into the White House on the heels of Bush's debacle? Clinton (Bill, not Hillary) spent 8 years cleaning up after 12 years of Reagan and Bush (Sr), leaving the country with a huge budgetary surplus... only to have Dubba-yuh not just take them back into negative territory, but actually produce the largest deficit in the 230+ year history of the country! I know that most people don't have the aversion to debt that I do, but this is ridiculous!

As I watched the Obama/McCain debate from last week, I was struck - once again, for the umpteenth time - how Republican candidates always attack their opponents and mindlessly repeat their talking points, while Democrats explain their own position and occasionally acknowledge the other's good points. Is the "bully" just such a well-loved American archetype that half the country (or more) actually sees that kind of behaviour as something that they admire? Don't they have any idea how it makes them look to the rest of the world? Or do they just not care, and value toughness more than they do class, civility or integrity? And don't get me started on Sarah Palin (besides, I think Kid Dork said it well enough here).

It's just such a strange place...

Lucky Few Get Partial Sneak Peek Of Watchmen Movie

Now this is weird... a bunch of comic industry insiders (I guess?) got to screen about 30 minutes of Zack Snyder's Watchmen film, despite the release still being over 5 months away. From what I can tell, what they saw was well-received, and comic fans and pros can be a demanding bunch. I like the fact that, so far at least, the director's still maintaining the need for a long running time (about 163 minutes, according to the linked article), despite pressure from the studio to dumb it down... oops, I mean, shorten it.

Can I Pick 'Em Or What?

So I was favouring an all-Chicago World Series this year, and now the Cubs and White Sox are both down 0-2 in their best-of-5 Divisional Series! The Cubs look absolutely pathetic, having lost both games at home and to the playoff team with the worst seasonal record (LA Dodgers), all the while being outscored 17-5.

Interestingly, just as all 4 home teams scored first in each of the Game 1s, all 4 visitors have now put runs on the board first in each Game 2! That's kind of wacky!

The only Game 2 still not decided as I write this post has the Red Sox up 4-1 on the Angels, playing in the 4th inning. If LA doesn't come back in that game, that'll mean that every series will be 2-0, with half of the leaders heading home with a chance to sweep (Boston and the Dodgers) while the other half try to achieve that feat on the road (Phillies and Tampa Bay). I really, really hope that we don't end up with a bunch of short series, as happened last year! Let's play a little harder than that, boys!

AgileMan Takes The Day Off... Matt Does Not!

We had a big ol' messy leak show up in the roof of our shed last month, but with the back pain I'd been in over the past week I'd almost convinced myself that we'd pay someone else to deal with it. It's a pretty small job (only 170 sq ft) but our bad neighbours' trees, vines and bushes right behind the shed had grown over the back half of the roof, meaning that someone first needed to clear all that away (in order to be able to work on the shingles). Even just that part of the job was daunting, when it hurt to exist!

This morning, for no discernible reason, I woke up feeling great, full of energy and convinced that I should just stop procrastinating and get 'er done! Vicki was somewhat surprised at my about-face, but keen, as always, to help out. So we spent part of the day clearing away a huge pile of branches and vines, and then another couple hours laying down several rows of shingles. I'd say the job is about 1/3 of the way done now, and we've quit for the day. Hopefully tomorrow and Sunday will be enough to finish it off, and then I can stop worrying and feeling guilty about not taking on a job that I should rightfully be able to do myself.

Total for the DIY effort so far: $148 in shingles and nails. We'll see what we're up to by the time it's complete, though!

As for progress on More Real-Life Adventures of AgileMan (Year Two: Easier Said Than Done), I completed 3 more Issues this week (#s 23, 24 and 25)... which means that I have 7 more to go, if my current calculations are right. That probably works out to 2 or 3 more weeks on Draft # 1, and then maybe another week or two bringing it up to 2nd Draft quality. I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Self-Publishing Is About To Get More Expensive

I got an e-mail from Lulu Press today, indicating that around the end of the month they'll be increasing their prices due to escalating costs on their end. When I ran the numbers, it became apparent that future copies of the first AgileMan book, if I were to print any more after the end of October, will cost me about $2 - $3 more than they have in the past. What that means is that I'll have to start charging $25, rather than $20, in order to make more than just a few dollars per copy. I've still got 8 copies on hand that I can still sell for $20, but after that... (hint, hint).

It still looks like $30 will be the right price for the second book, as it'll be bigger and hopefully even better!

What Home Field Advantage?

While all three home teams yesterday, in the first day of the MLB playoffs, put runs on the board first, only one of them went on to win the game! Philly got up 3-0 and then held on for a 3-1 victory (the tying run was on 2nd base when the game ended), but the Cubs squandered a 2-0 early lead (losing 7-2 to the Dodgers) and the Angels fell 4-1 to Boston after scoring first.

Just to complete the Game 1 picture, Tampa Bay several minutes ago jumped off to a 1-0 lead in the second inning on the strength of an Evan "Don't Call Him Eva" Longoria solo home run in their home opener against the White Sox. That means that all four of the series started with home team leads, which is something.

I also saw an interesting stat about teams that win Game 1 in the best-of-5 Divisional Series: in the National League, something like 23 out of 26 of them have gone on to win the series, while in the American League, that's only happened in 12 of the 26 series! What a weird difference to have between the two leagues. That would seem to suggest that Philadelphia and the Dodgers are now sitting pretty, whereas the Red Sox actually have the odds slightly against them thanks to their win in LA last night.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How Did August And September Treat Me, You Ask?

Here's your proverbial thousand-word answer...

Baseball Playoffs 2008: From 0 To 100... And Beyond

There are lots of great stories in this year's baseball playoffs, which of course has to start with the fact that the Cubs have gone 100 years without a World Series championships. At the other end of the spectrum are the Red Sox, who technically haven't yet gone even a full year without one, on account of being the 2007 winners. You've also got the Milwaukee Brewers, playing in their first postseason since 1982 and still looking for their first championship, along with the Tampa Bay Rays, playing in their first ever postseason (and thus, also looking for their first title).

The Rays are the odd men out in the American League, as the other three teams duking it out this October are all recent champs: Boston (2004 and 2007), Chicago (2005) and LA Angels (2002) have each added World Series banners to their stadiums in this young 21st century.

It's much more of a mixed bag in the National League, with the Dodgers winning it all twice in the 80s (1981 and 1988) and the Phillies once in that decade (1980 - their only World Series win), but nothing more recent than that among the four contestants. As irrelevant as it may be a century later, the Cubs were actually quite the powerhouse 100 years ago, as shown by their back-to-back (and only) championships in 1907 and 1908!

Also fascinating to me are quirky facts like how, going into today's Cubs/Dodgers Game 1, the two franchises had played 2,024 times with each team winning 1,012 games! Now that's parity!

There's no clear cut favourite this year, although the Red Sox may be the closest, despite being the AL Wildcard team. I'll be rooting for the Cubs in the NL and possibly the White Sox in the AL (I'd love to see Ken Griffey, Jr finally get a long postseason run after all his years languishing on bad teams in Seattle and Cincinnati). If we got the all-Chicago match-up for The Big Show, I guess I'd be with the Northsiders and cheer for another "great oh-eight" for the Cubbies! Regardless of who wins and who loses, though, it should be a great month of October!