Tuesday, January 29

around the web - 1/29/08

greatest invention since Water Joe:
cheeseburger in a can? YES PLEASE!

stuck at work with no time to exercise? want to constantly feel like you're on the teacups ride at Disneyland?
then you need the Hawaii Chair! (yes i'm ashamed this is named after the state i live in)

funniest thing from last week (that i forgot to link):
dos and don'ts with babies (funniest thing is his face when he's at the table playing chess and gossiping with his mom)

funny to me, maybe not to you:
David Lee Roth "Runnin' with the Devil" vocal track only


Monday, January 28

movie review - 28 Weeks Later

watched the movie 28 Weeks Later Saturday night. now, i'm a big fan of 28 Days Later, so i've been looking forward to seeing the sequel for a long time. how was it? let's just say i was let down.

it's a good movie that has its moments, but it doesn't hold a candle to the original. the worst part is that there are SO MANY times you'll find yourself saying "well that's stupid, that wouldn't happen - nobody is THAT stupid!" someone on the message boards called them logical fallacies. now, i'm one for suspending disbelief in order to have a good time, but the number of things you would have had to look past was just staggering. and it sort of ruins the movie.

if you can look past all the stupid writing (there's a lot of it, but i managed to look past some of it), the movie is STILL not the best. it just didn't take the 28 Days Later world in a direction i wish it would have.

i liked that it advanced the overall story (not necessarily where it advanced it to, but just that it did), and that this one was more personal (basically dealing with this family of 4), but damn everyone involved was STUPID! oh, and i don't know if it was on purpose but the writers made the US Army seem like the dumbest bunch of mother f*ers in the world. wow.

2 stars out of 4.


ps - it looked gorgeous on blu-ray

i beat it! - Eternal Sonata

i finished a video game this weekend! as most of you know, that's quite the rare occurrence for me. what did i beat? how did i like it? read on, dear reader!

i beat the RPG Eternal Sonata for the 360. started the game a little before Christmas and have been playing it for about an hour a night since then (well, not over Christmas break). clocked in at a little under 30 hours of game time, which is a little short for your typical RPG, but felt just about right for this game.

the basic plot of the game is that the composer Chopin is on his deathbed and he arrives in this (dream?) world. he meets up with a ragtag group that is going to the capitol city (think Wizard of Oz) and it goes from there. themes dealt with are life and death, alienation, love, and believe it or not, environmentalism.

while i loved the art direction and the story, the battle system became repetitive after only a few hours (more repetitive than other RPGs, and the game didn't do anything really about alleviating the repetition later) and the WAY the story was told and the characters developed (or not developed) really bothered me.

in terms of the way the story was told, there would be a bit where you'd be running around fighting or exploring (usually lasting about an hour), then there'd be 15 minutes of cutscenes - rinse and repeat. they could have cut the cutscenes up a bit and peppered them throughout the fighting/exploration bit.

in terms of character development, there were a lot of missed opportunities between characters, and declarations of love that came out of nowhere (with one that WENT absolutely nowhere). lots of underdeveloped characters. lots of underdeveloped and dropped plotlines.

oh, and even though i liked the overall length of 30 hours, to its determent the game rushed to its conclusion. suddenly i found myself fighting the main enemy of the game, then there was a bit more to finish up, and that was it. very anticlimactic. reminded me a bit of Radiata Stories.

however, when all was said and done, the story was quite whimsical and the game was absolutely gorgeous. the story let you fill in a lot of the blanks (maybe too many), but after reading some of the message boards and getting other people's thoughts, i think i've formed my own opinion now, and i liked the story overall. and as far as the art direction of the game goes, it was refreshing to see such a colorful and vibrant video game in the middle of all the browns and grays of modern gaming.

Eternal Sonata has its faults, but it has something that a lot of video games lack nowadays: charm. beauty. at under 30 hours (rather short for an RPG), it's worth a playthrough.

8 out of 10 (+/- .25)


28 weekends later

notes from the weekend:

- rocked out with some Rock Band with coworkers Friday after work. actually almost lost my voice. not my best session. still a good time was had by all.

- cut the Halo time down this weekend, only playing about 4 hours Friday, 4 hours Saturday, and 2 hours Sunday. did not play well at all. i'm either reaching a level where the other players are just plain better than me and the only reason i'm ranked so high is because my teammates do well and win for us, or i'm just getting a little sick of the game - which is weird, because i still LIKE the game. might have to cut back some more.

- continued watching Star Trek: The Next Generation this weekend. about 2/3 of the way through Season 1. still liking it, but still can't believe it ever aired - it's way too slow by today's standards. still on track to finish it sometime this summer.

- watched the movie 28 Weeks Later Saturday night. see the above post for more.

- i finished a video game! Eternal Sonata for the 360. see the above post for more.

i read this weekend. A LOT.

- read the first volume of the Scott Pilgrim series, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, written and drawn by Bryan Lee O'Malley. this author/artist previously wrote/drew one of my favorite graphic novels, Lost At Sea, a real soul-searcher. this new Scott Pilgrim series is a complete 180 from Lost At Sea. it's a comedy/drama with lots of nerd humor. follows the life of 23 year old Scott Pilgrim and his trials and tribulations with his band and his love life. it's a good read, and there's 3 more out currently that i'm thinking of picking up - but i gotta say, i really wish O'Malley would have done another soul-searching graphic novel. oh well. OH! almost forgot - Scott Pilgrim is being turned into a movie, directed by Edgar Wright - the creator of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. right up his alley.

- read the first volume of a comic called DMZ. this first trade is called DMZ: On the Ground, written by Brian Wood and drawn by Riccardo Burchielli. reason i picked it up is because Brian Wood is the author of another one of my favorite series, Demo. anyway, DMZ is set in a not-too-distant future where the US is suffering from another civil war and New York is the current battleground. the island of Manhattan is the DMZ. series follows a photojournalist straight out of college that is thrust into the DMZ and decides to make the best of a bad situation and report on how people live there. the series so far reminds me of Y: The Last Man and The Walking Dead - series that both deal with a dystopian future. it surprised me how much i liked DMZ (i thought it might be too preachy, too anti-American policy, too political - but it's not really, it just tells it how it is, or would be) and am going to pick up the next volume ASAP.

- read the 3-volume series The Waiting Place written and created by Sean McKeever with art by Brendon Fraim, Brian Fraim, and Mike Norton. reason i picked this up is because McKeever is the author of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (you all know how i feel about that one) and another series i liked, Sentinel. oh, and he's from Wisconsin, and The Waiting Place deals with life in a small fictional town in Wisconsin. never before have i read such a real portrayal of small-town life. it also had one of the most real portrayals of high schoolers i've read in a while. the series deals with an ensemble cast of about 20 characters, most of them high schoolers, and all their different problems. it's about the trappings of small-town life. it's about hook-ups and break ups, friendships formed and friendships lost. it's about life. my only complaint is that there were a few too many loose ends when it concluded, but the author explained that away with a speech he gave one of his characters at the end. it's New Year's Eve and the character has this to say about New Year's: "Everyone thinks, like, when the clock strikes midnight you've suddenly entered this new chapter in your life, but it's nothing like that, you know? You still have the same bills to pay, you still have to go to the same job. You still have to look at the same you in the mirror. Life isn't made of nice, neat little chapters. Not really." to drive the point home, another character checks his watch and notices it's 12:42 - well past midnight. they didn't notice because, well, another chapter HADN'T started. it's the same chapter. same everything. still... just out of sheer reader's curiosity, i wish a few more plotlines would have been wrapped up.

what did you do this weekend?


Wednesday, January 23

around the web - 1/23/08

i know the Chuck Norris craze is pretty much over (you could probably cite the Mountain Dew commercial as being the nail in the coffin) but still, Walker Texas Ranger had some crazy-ass moments in it. here Chuck takes on nature:
note how he wins by STARING IT DOWN

perhaps a Russian knockoff of Hot Fuzz?
one bad-ass cop with the serious skillz

as if i weren't geeked up enough for the new Rambo:
see the charted progression of death in the series

a great actor is cut down in his prime and this is your reaction?
Best Buy is a sensitive corporation

some extremely talented people make homemade video games on their own time. this is the funniest homebrew game i've seen in a long time. let me have the developers set the stage for you:

The Great B-Ball Purge of 2041, a day so painful to some that it is referred to only as the "B-Ballnacht". Thousands upon thousands of the world's greatest ballers were massacred in a swath of violence and sports bigotry as the game was outlawed worldwide. The reason: the Chaos Dunk, a jam so powerful its mere existence threatens the balance of chaos and order. Among the few ballers and fans that survived the basketball genocide was Charles Barkley, the man capable of performing the "Verboten Jam"...

Flash forward 12 years to the post-cyberpocalyptic ruins of Neo New York, 2053. A Chaos Dunk rocks the island of Manhattan, killing 15 million. When the finger is put on the aging Charles Barkley, he must evade the capture of the B-Ball Removal Department, led by former friend and baller Michael Jordan, and disappear into the dangerous underground of the post-cyberpocalypse to clear his name and find out the mysterious truth behind the Chaos Dunk. Joined by allies along the way, including his son Hoopz, Barkley must face the dangers of a life he thought he gave up a long time ago and discover the secrets behind the terrorist organization B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S.

that's right. it's an role-playing game ala Final Fantasy where you play as Charles Barkley in a post-apocalyptic world. the name of the game?
Charles Barkley: Shut up and Jam: Gaiden


Tuesday, January 22

no reservations: vancouver

i just got done watching the most recent episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel. tonight he visited Vancouver.

why was i so compelled to write? well because i think he did a good job of showing and explaining why Vancouver is such a wonderful place to live. sure he missed some stuff (and i, apparently, missed some stuff too), but the message he hit right on the head.

Vancouver is a wonderful urban melting pot that's got one of the densest populations on earth in the downtown core but yet manages to keep nature all around you. it has wonderful food, friends, and work (if you can get it).

so check it out on reruns if you can. see why i love the city of Vancouver so much. it doesn't cover everything, but it covers enough. oh, and i recognized some of the places and streets they were filming. at one point they were about 2 blocks away from where i used to live - right in front of where i used to grocery shop.

Vancouver. the best place on earth that i've been to.

i will return.


Monday, January 21

of all the weekends i have encountered in my travels, this was the most... human

*bonus points to anyone that knows what movie quote i'm referencing in my blog title. hint: it's extra dorky (as if anything i quote would be any less).

yes, the weekend. mine was good, how was yours? here's what i did:

- jammed with some coworkers Friday night. real instruments? no. we played a little Rock Band. the game is simply amazing. top 5 pick for me for 2007. now, there's no way i would have shelled out the money to buy the thing (it's like $180), but that's why i'm glad i work at a video game company. they buy stuff for us. since the game came out last November, we've been playing it quite a bit - though it has trailed off a bit since Christmas. what once used to be a daily after work routine has become a Friday night jam session. this week we played for about 3 hours - not bad, but we've gone for 4 or 5 before. Rock Band. great game.

- the question answered this weekend? "can one play too much Halo?" the answer - in my case at least - is "yes." over the course of Saturday i played over 8 hours of it. first i played some multiplayer online with a friend, then we later met up and played some co-op online, and finally i topped the night off with even more multiplayer with a different friend. now, i didn't play 8 hours straight - that would be murder. no, i took a couple of breaks, but they weren't enough. by the time i was playing with my other friend later at night, i was sucking pretty bad. hey, i was on my 6th - 7th - 8th hour of Halo for the day! give a guy a break. there IS such a thing as too much Halo.

- watched the Packer game Sunday. watched them stumble and throw away all they worked so hard for this season. Giants shut down their running game, Packers panicked like usual and put the game on Brett's shoulders, Brett couldn't handle it this time. what bothered me the most is that he didn't look distraught over how badly he was doing either. oh, and our pass defense was pretty abysmal. it doesn't matter anyway - nobody can beat the Patriots. good luck Giants.

- read the graphic novel Good as Lily this weekend by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm. i picked it up on a whim at a 50% off sale a few weeks back. it's about a teenage girl that is visited by her 6-year-old self, 29-year-old self, and 70-year-old self - all at the same time. well, you know me and time travel... i had to give it a shot. i'm glad i did. it's pretty cleverly written, with each of them coming to terms with problems at the points in their lives, with the main character (teenage one) having the biggest revelation of them all - and they don't go and try explaining the whole time travel thing, it just happens. sort of like Big. and i liked that. it was a good read.

- also reread 2 novels this weekend. wow, 2 whole novels in just a weekend?!? ok, they're "young adult" novels. inspired by the Ultimate Spider-Man universe, these tell the tale of a younger Spider-Man ensemble cast from the eyes of Mary Jane. the books are Mary Jane and Mary Jane 2 by Judith O'Brien. while they're "inspired" by the Ultimate comic, they don't quite have the same story. the novels are actually more like another favorite comic of mine, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane... but the stories in each differ as well. anyway, i've been pretty upset with what Marvel is doing with mainstream Spider-Man (they split Peter and Mary up and are acting, for the moment, as if they weren't married for the last 20-some years), so i go to the more obscure tales and find solace in them. these novels aren't great by any stretch of the imagination, but they're good reads if you're a young Spider-Man fan (i mean young as in Spider-Man is young, not the fan is young, but it's good for them too - i guess maybe i'm young at heart when it comes to Spidey). what can i say? i love my Spider-Man, and i love my Mary Jane.

- 2 of my friends are in a band called Spiral Trance. they played out Saturday night for the first time in a while. since i'm thousands of miles away, i was unable to attend. (and even if i was back home, i'm sure i would have been too busy playing Halo.) i hear the show was a bit rusty, but nobody noticed, and the place was packed, so i'll let it slide. next time i expect perfection. unfortunately i won't be able to make that show either, but someone will tell me how you guys did. i've got my sources. (it's Paul.)


around the web - 1/21/08

it's that time of year again. the Oscars? no. it's time to take notice of the worst that Hollywood has to offer:
the 2008 RAZZIES are upon us (thanks Matt)

actually wouldn't mind playing a few of these - you know, i am a game designer after all. it'd be research:
the world's most controversial board games

from Fatal Farm, the guys behind Lasagna Cat:
Infinite Solutions on youtube (fake how-to videos)

and because i can't get enough of Lasagna Cat (and missed posting one last time), here's two more to take us home:


Thursday, January 17

around the web - 1/17/08

this is exactly why i don't listen to most of what's considered "today's music" on the radio today:
Nickelback is really, really original (thanks Matt)

drunk on a lawn mower:
stick around for the end - it's great

god i love the Japanese:
Super Terrific Japanese Pizza Time!

remember the game Guess Who? well here's how you win in one move. it's horrible, but oh so funny. why did i never think of this move???
Guess Who('s Coming to Dinner)


Tuesday, January 15

around the web - 1/15/08

an interview with Todd Holland:
director of perhaps the best adver-movie ever - The Wizard

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale - Uwe Boll's latest monstrosity of a movie - made a measly $3 million at the box office. it's budget? $70 million. what does this mean:
Uwe Boll is ejected from the big-budget ring - huzzah!

the 80s were a simpler time, with unassuming advertising. wait, what do you mean the ad is slightly racist? i'm a tall, gangly man. aren't all us white folk?
banned sony ad

and, because i fear it didn't get enough attention yesterday, i'm going to be posting a Lasagna Cat clip every "around the web" post until i run out. here is your Lasagna Cat for the day:


around the web - 1/14/08

the name of the show: Cinematic Titanic. the premise: watch a movie and tape yourself make funny comments while watching it. sounds familiar right? maybe like a little show called Mystery Science Theater 3000? well, Cinematic Titanic stars all the original players of MST3000. their first DVD is out. here is the trailer:
Cinematic Titanic: The Oozing Skull

i have to admit, the first few of these i watched i didn't really get it. but after a few, you start to laugh your ass off. a team of guys (Fatal Farm) decided to take "unfunny" Garfield cartoon strips and act them out. then after doing that they set what they just did to music. the unfunny brought to life is hilarious, and then the songs they choose and what they decide to do with them? priceless. some of the best are 05/22/1980 and 08/18/1978. here's the rest:
Lasagna Cat on youtube

i never knew ignorance and bigotry could be so god-damn funny! (oh, and i'm not anti-religion - far from it. i'm just anti-ignorance and anti-bigotry):
the 100 greatest quotes from fundamentalist Christian chatrooms

finally, with almost all the movie production houses moving over to blu-ray, it looks like the next-gen format war might be over. and Hitler ain't happy:
the downfall of HD-DVD


my weekend - let me show it to you

notes from my oh-so-glorious weekend:

- purchased 3 games over the course of the weekend. first off was Eye of Judgment for the PS3. it comes with the PS3 camera and it's a card game that you play using the camera. for $45, it was quite the steal (the camera alone is $40 retail). then i also bought 2 more RPGs for the PS2 - Steambot Chronicles and Digital Devil Saga 2. the first i bought after reading about it on destructoid (my gaming news site) and the second i bought because it's by the makers of Persona 3, and i LOVED Persona 3. both were steals again at only $15 a piece. now, when will i have TIME to play these games? who knows.

- watched the latter half of the Packers/Seahawks game Saturday and wow - color me impressed! with the Cowboys loss on Sunday, i'd say we've got a pretty good chance of making it to the Super Bowl! here's hoping we mop the floor with the Giants. GO PACK!

- read the graphic novel series Love as a Foreign Language. i'll dedicate a post to it later this week, but overall it was pretty good. the first 4 books were a lot better written and paced than the last 2 (ESPECIALLY the last one). but i still liked it.

- watched the premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on FOX. the first episode was ACTION PACKED! the only time you had to catch your breath was really during the commercials. again, i'll dedicate a post to my thoughts on the show so far (also watched the 2nd episode tonight), but overall i'm liking it. a lot.

- decided with the writer's strike on i'm going to try and tackle some of the series i've been downloading over the past year (like i did with Babylon 5 this past summer). first up? Star Trek: The Next Generation. watched the first 4 episodes last night and hope to watch at least an episode a day until i'm finished - sometime this summer. the series is LONG!

- played lots and lots of Halo 3. Sunday-Thursday nights i play for about 2 hours a night, but on the weekends i sometimes play for 4-6 hours a night. it's unbelievable. i don't know why i don't tire of the game, but i don't. it's seriously impeding my making progress on any other games. damn you Halo 3.

- finally, it was my friend John's birthday on Saturday. i heard there was a party. unfortunately, i wasn't able to attend. hopefully you guys made do without me. miss ya buddy. have a happy 26th year of your life! i know i'm sure living it up!


Friday, January 11

around the web - 1/11/08

everybody loves game shows. i especially like #2 and #1:
the 6 most insane game shows from around the world

yet another great exclusive TV offer... wait, where do you put the reel? read the comments for extra laughs:
the amazing fishing rod pen

great political attack ad - and hey, he's from Wisconsin:
Paul R. Nelson won't spend your money on sex


Thursday, January 10

around the web - 1/10/08

ah, the hero's journey. Joseph Campbell would be so proud:
the trailer for "harry potter and the chronicles of the lord of the golden compass of the jedi"

i've heard of touched-up photos in magazines but... wow:
a little photoshop magic

the "whore of the year" awards are not what they sound like. they are given out to movie critics that wrote rave reviews about crappy movies, most likely for money (hence the "whore" thing). i love the last guy - every movie is "the most _____ movie/film of the year!" ah, to be a critic:
four stars for the whore of the year awards


Wednesday, January 9

around the web - 1/9/08

DC Comics started this All-Star line of comics a couple of years ago that would bring in top writing talent to tell tales of the big superheroes (Batman and Superman) that weren't necessarily part of continuity. Batman got Frank Miller - writer of 300 and Sin City. i was actually thinking of picking up the series one day:
needless to say, i don't think i'm going to anymore
part 2 of the worst Batman story to ever be told

from the freaky to the just plain weird:
current genetic experiments most likely to destroy humanity

a fake children's book explaining the wonders of home servers. be sure to read the forward and then check out the author's bio on the back. impressive stuff:
mommy, where do servers come from?


Tuesday, January 8

around the web - 1/8/08

normally i'm not one for top __ lists from the previous year, but this one by the BBC had a lot of factoids in it AND links to the individual stories the factoids are pulled from:
100 things we didn't know last year

cartoons today have NOTHING on the cartoons from my childhood - case in point:
the absolute worst (best?) episode of The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3

nothing like proclaiming to the world that you're an idiot:
signs with spelling mistakes

i actually saw the sign about ninjas up in Vancouver (though i don't remember if that's the guy - does that make me a bad person that i saw the sign and not the face? aw who cares):
homeless people i'd give money to


the writer's strike and late night Comedy Central - plus, No Reservations: Singapore

the final two late night shows returned tonight - The Daily Show and The Colbert Report - both sans writers. how did they do?

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show "winged it" a little more than Colbert did (or he gave the impression that he was winging it a bit more at least, maybe to subtly show that they need writers - like Conan), but he was still good. they both were in their own ways.

both he and Colbert covered a little bit of politics but then devoted most their time to the writer's strike, doing rather funny bits in regards to the whole situation. then, Jon's guest for the night was an expert on strikes, and Colbert's guest was an expert on unions. it was actually pretty bold, and i'm surprised Comedy Central let them get away with all of it.

i learned that the WGA is granting more and more smaller companies leave from the strike (like Letterman's company, which i talked about last week) and that hopefully that will light fires under the larger companies to the point where they say "look, we need to get our writer's back - they've got theirs back!" interesting tactic.

i also learned that now that talks have broken down (they did before the holidays), it will take a LONG time before they talk again, because whichever side approaches the other first will look like the "weaker" side, as if they caved to the pressure. so expect the strike to go on for a few more months (i was predicting it would be over in April, but we'll see).

i've said it over and over again - this whole thing simply fascinates me. i'm going to try and tune in to a couple more episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report this week to see how things are going, but we'll see how long i can keep it up - i've already missed 2 nights of Conan and Leno (last Friday and then tonight).

- kawitchate

PS: the new season of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations started tonight on the Travel Channel with an episode on Singapore. i had a particular interest in it because some video game companies look to Singapore for outsourcing. heck, George Lucas set up a branch of his company there to work on animation and video games!

there was very little i knew about Singapore going in: that it's hot and humid there, it has very strict laws that keep crime down to a minimum, and that they cane people there in extreme cases. what i DIDN'T know is what a cultural melting pot it is! one of the people on the show said that you should head there to get a crash course in Asia 101. there's Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian - plus it's being Westernized, so a lot of people speak English there. anyway, where cultures meet, so do their foods. and wow did the food look good. yum.

i may have to add Singapore to my list of places to see. for now, it's still way down on the list - somewhere below Korea and England.

Monday, January 7

weekend notes

- caught the latter half of Jurassic Park on cable this weekend and i've got to say, i forgot just how much fun that movie is. is it a GREAT movie? well, i don't know. there is some great camera work, and they try to work in some deeper issues, but honestly it still is just a popcorn summer blockbuster that pales in comparison to the book. however, it's great FUN.

- as many of you know, i haven't been to the beach yet since i've been here. 10 months and counting. first i just never went, and now it's like "well let's see if i can live here in Hawaii without ever going to the beach." well, my aunt and uncle are in town for the week and tonight we were walking around Waikiki (the Disneyland of Hawaii) and we ended up on the beach. now, i'm not going to count it as "going to the beach" because 1) it was night, so i wasn't soaking up any sun, and 2) i didn't go in the water. for me to "go to the beach," it would have to be during the day either to soak up some rays or to go swimming (or both). what i did tonight, that was just a stroll on the beach. :)

- anyone else think the NFL playoff games this weekend were rather lackluster? granted, i was only able to catch one of them in full (the rest i caught highlights of on ESPN), but they just lacked a certain something. even the Pittsburgh/Jacksonville game (the one i watched), where Pittsburgh came back only to lose in the end... it almost felt like it was all staged, fixed. i don't know. well, go Packers next weekend. they got a tough game ahead of them, facing the red-hot veteran Seahawks.

- k

Saturday, January 5

i love me some well-written Spider-Man - a review of Spider-Man: Reign

so mainstream Spider-Man hasn't been treated the best lately.

first there was the questionable Spider-Man 3 movie (which i still loved, but saw many of the flaws that everyone else did - i just chose to look past them and enjoy the overall experience). if you want my lengthy remarks on the movie, check for my post from a few months ago.

then there's the debacle that is Amazing Spider-Man the comic book. ever since "The Other" storyline 2 years ago, it's been tainted by what i'd call "editorial mandates" - meaning maybe the writer (the wonderful J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame) wanted to do something with the character but the editors of the books had ol' Spidey fitting in to their plans in a different way. first Spidey moved in and joined the Avengers and Tony Stark/Iron Man became his mentor/father figure. not so bad, so whatever. THEN they had Spidey do something quite uncharacteristic in Civil War (it made national headlines it was so out-of-character). and NOW... well let's just say that the editorial machine that is Marvel has lost a faithful reader with their latest mainstream Spidey decision. i am done collecting Amazing Spider-Man for the foreseeable future.

however, there ARE creators out there still writing great Spider-Man stories. two of my ongoing favorites are Ultimate Spider-Man (which focuses on a younger Peter Parker and isn't bogged down by 40 years of history) and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (which is more like a high school drama, focusing on the friendships of Mary Jane, Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, and Spider-Man).

and then there are the mini-series.

Spider-Man: Reign was a 4-issue mini-series that got collected in a hardcover trade that came out last year i believe. it's written and drawn by Kaare Andrews - someone i had never heard of up until this series.

you know Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller? came out in the 80s, was a dark, gritty look at Batman's future... yeah, well Spider-Man: Reign is the dark, gritty look at Spider-Man's future. and while it's probably not going to be the classic that Dark Knight is, it certainly was a great read.

set 30-some years after Peter has hung up the costume, the city of New York needs him again. it is being turned into a totalitarian state, and by a familiar foe. however, Peter doesn't go rushing to the rescue. see, he stopped being Spider-Man for a whopper of a reason and it takes a few familiar faces to make him don his costume once again.

ok, since the cover gives it away i'll tell you the reason. Mary Jane is dead, and he feels responsible. he feels responsible for ALL the deaths of those close to him - Uncle Ben, Aunt May, and Mary Jane. let me tell you - once you find out HOW Mary Jane died... wow. it's pretty shocking. i'm surprised it got past Marvel's editorial staff.

anyway, it's fairly obvious that Andrews pulled from Dark Knight for inspiration, as the art style, storytelling, and even story mirror it quite a bit. it's a very dark, brutal, and unforgiving story. speaking of the storytelling, it's written from a few points of view, and the dialogue early on is kept intentionally vague - so it can be a bit confusing at first (like "who's that guy?" or "why are these people speaking so cryptically?") but the story is better for it. all will be revealed, don't worry.

the only faults are that 1) it almost mirrors Dark Knight (and other future stories like V for Vendetta) a little too much with the whole totalitarian state thing, and 2) the main villain, while a good fit, just doesn't have the emotional punch that it should. see, Batman has his Joker (the villain in Dark Knight) but Spider-Man doesn't have a Joker. the closest foe would probably be the Green Goblin, but he's been dead for a while. as it is, they did the best they could with the villain, but it just lacked a certain something.

Spider-Man: Reign. read it if you can.

- kawitchate

around the web - 1/5/08

wasn't really any good finds yesterday, and that's what it'll usually mean when i don't post any links - either that or i'm too busy at work (or too lazy at home) to post anything.

i DID however find a gem today. it's a SNL TV Funhouse cartoon that is a parody of Dora the Explorer. and it's hilarious:
Maraka (and her cat friend, Mittens)

- k

Friday, January 4

RIP SiP: 1993-2007

i haven't talked much about comics on this here site yet, but i am to change that - starting tonight with the end of a long-running favorite of mine, Strangers in Paradise.

the series started way back in 1993, and, while i had heard of it when i first collected comics in the late 90s, i didn't start reading it until the second time around, starting in 2002 i think. i picked up some of the early trade paperbacks (collections of the single issues) from an ebay auction, loved what i read, then picked up a collection of single issues from another ebay auction after that to continue the story and get me up to speed. after that i collected the singles each month as they came out for a year or two, then moved back to the trade paperbacks when i made the overall move from single issues to trades (stopped getting singles 2-3 years ago).

the final trade came out late last year (that's 2007 - remember, it's 2008 now), and i just finished reading it tonight (after receiving it as a present for Christmas).

107 issues. collected in 19 trade paperbacks. 14 years in the making. written/drawn/published by just one man - Terry Moore.

it's the story of 3 friends - Francine, Katchoo, and David. David wants Katchoo, Katchoo wants Francine, and Francine doesn't know what she wants. this is the basic framework, but the tapestry woven by Moore is so rich and multi-layered that it's truly fantastic to behold. there's crime drama elements, sordid pasts, a ruthless shadow organization, extremely dark moments, and a large supporting cast - and yet the core of the book is never lost.

it's the story of 3 friends. it's a love story - a story about the power of love.

oh, and the HUMOR! the man can write the most wonderful humorous real-life situations. granted, as the book went on there were fewer and fewer of these moments, but they would always pop up and remind you that laughter is truly the best medicine (besides love, and being loved).

there are a few questions i had after finishing off the series, so i tracked down a number of interviews and blog posts he did around the time the final issues came out last year. yeah, that's me - uber-nerd. of note:

- he was thinking of starting to wrap up the series in 2001 when 9/11 happened. after that, he decided to continue a little longer on it and change the end he had in mind - which would have been darker and more depressing - to an uplifting one full of hope and love. i'm SO glad he did this. most times i'd vote for the dark/depressing ending (like in movies), but this series shouldn't have ended on that note. it should have ended just as it did. wonderful job.

- because the series deals with lesbians (remember, Katchoo loves Francine, and Francine thinks maybe she loves Katchoo), Moore was eventually asked to leave his church. simply amazing the close-mindedness of organized religion. it's not a book about lesbians - it's a book about LOVE. people, in love. it just so happens that the two people are women. to be honest, Moore handles it so well i often found myself saying "oh yeah, i guess they could be considered lesbians."

- there is a flash forward to the future midway through the series that i remember being simply amazing at the time i read it. however, reaching the end now, it seems that the flash forward didn't exactly get incorporated just right. it might have had to do with Moore changing his ending from dark and depressing to uplifting and of hope, i don't know. all i know is i REALLY want to go back and reread that spot to make sure i'm not crazy. too bad the rest of my collection of SiP is thousands of miles away.

actually, after reading the finale, i immediately wanted to go back and reread the ENTIRE series. he sort of invites you to with some writing tricks in the final issues. he certainly did a good job bringing things full-circle.

Strangers in Paradise. an excellent series. can't recommend it enough. if you can, pick up the pocket book versions that have come out. they are a little cheaper than the trades and collect all the issues in 6 rather thick pocket books.

what's Moore up to next? oh, only WRITING MY FAVORITE COMIC RIGHT NOW, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane!!! the original writer of the series jumped ship from Marvel and Moore's taking over sometime this spring. they couldn't have picked a better successor. he's also got another independent coming out called Echo, and taking over writing duties on Runaways, also for Marvel.

- kawitchate

the writer's strike and my subsequent television watching - Thursday edition

well, the third night of basic cable channel-hopping with the writer's strike in full force and i'm starting to see a pattern emerge - one that i basically fell into when all my shows ended last year. i watch reruns of Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and Without a Trace. tonight it was SVU and Without a Trace... oh, with a rerun of South Park and Drawn Together thrown in for good measure.

also tuned into the opening segments of both Leno and Conan. both still gave ample time to the issue of the writer's strike - even incorporating it into their bits/jokes more - and it was pretty good. Leno's monologue is spot-on. he must have written the majority of that himself to begin with. it's the segment after that where we see Leno "wing it," and it's really interesting seeing such a seasoned veteran wing it... same with Conan. good stuff so far.

- kawitchate

Thursday, January 3

around the web - 1/3/08

not that much funny or interesting today.

this one should keep you busy for a while, as it's a top 10 list with writing AND youtube videos! yay multimedia!
products you didn't know you can't live without

i love local news clips:
weather girl getting jiggy with it

i really hope this becomes a series of webisodes:
drunk history starring Michael Cera

- k

the writer's strike and late night television

so i've been looking forward to tonight for a few weeks now. you see, i learned back then that the late night mainstays - Leno, O'Brien, Letterman, Ferguson, Kimmel - were all going back on the air tonight after most of them had been off the air since the writer's strike started 2 months ago (most of them being members of the guild). how would the show be without writers? what would be said? would they pull it off? well i tuned in to Leno and Conan and, well, it was interesting.

Leno did the better job of the two in terms of pulling off a pretty normal show without writers, but that figures because the guy is a workhorse! in the midst of doing the Tonight Show he's still doing his own stand-up acts regularly and writing a good chunk of the monologue of every show. so he had his normal monologue, went to the audience for unscripted questions for the bit after the monologue (where you could really tell it was unscripted, as Leno was stumbling and/or rambling a bit with his answers, which was kind of nice to see - a natural, human reaction), and then moved on to the usual 3 guests.

Conan skipped his monologue, did bits on his new beard, what he's been up to for the past 2 months, and a wedding ring spinning contest, then had his usual 3 guests. he was pretty uncomfortable at times, way more so than Leno. with his uncomfortable moments and the obvious time-killer of the wedding ring spin, i'm wondering if Conan was trying to send a message to everyone that yeah, i'm back on the air, but i'm nothing without my writers. get them back or this is all you'll get out of me.

both guys gave ample time at the start of their shows to explain their situations - that they're members of the WGA but could not go on not working. they each have a staff of 50+ that AREN'T writers, and those people needed to work. of course, i'm sure that NBC was also breathing down their necks, but whatever. the sad thing is, the WGA is now picketing both of them.

i'm going to try and tune in to at least the start of each program to see how things are progressing over the next few days/weeks, because it's kind of interesting. hour-long late night television unscripted. these guys aren't particularly loved now by either side (the companies that employ them or their writer's guild). we'll see what happens.

on the flip side of things, i heard that Letterman and Ferguson both got their writers back due to some loophole. i guess CBS doesn't actually "own" the two shows, but rather Letterman's company Worldwide Pants does... so the WGA made a separate deal with Worldwide Pants that allowed the writers of those shows to go back to work.


kudos to Leno and Conan for returning on the air with no writers. good luck to both of them. now the next thing to watch out for is the return of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which are both apparently coming back next Monday - sans writers.

- kawitchate

the writer's strike and my subsequent television watching

a funny thing is happening. the majority of shows i was interested in are now over - with some probably over forever - and i'm starting to watch the most curious of shows.

see, after a 8-9 hour day of sitting in front of a computer, the last thing i want to do when i get home (at least immediately) is get on the computer here, or even play video games. i usually veg in front of the TV for a couple two three hours. if there's "nothing on," i search until i FIND something on.

tonight started off with 2 hours of Law & Order. yes, an old favorite of mine is back for its 18th season (holy crap!) and, while i normally wouldn't watch it (haven't watched the original for a few years now, save for the episode here and there), there's ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE ON! so i gave it a shot, and it wasn't half bad.

in the midst of watching Law & Order i continued my basic cable channel-hopping hoping to learn which channel is what number. well, i happened upon the Travel Channel and the Food Network tonight (the History Channel was busy with shows on bunkers and WWII, no lie) and i rediscovered shows i had stumbled upon in the past.

first was Dinner: Impossible on the Food Network. this is a show that's got this uber-chef that goes into "impossible" (or improbable) cooking situations and has to work with the staff at hand to make this huge, delicious meal to feed sometimes hundreds of people. it's fun to see the interesting dishes he prepares and of course HOW he prepares them. tonight he had to work in a school cafeteria and in the famous ice hotel (that was pretty interesting).

next was Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel. he's a chef and author. think of the chef on Hell's Kitchen, but this guy is a little more reserved. anyway, what he does is travel to a city or region and partake in their food and culture. his observations are always a little off the wall (and blunt) which is why i like it so much. tonight he was in Osaka, Japan and it was just amazing. i have to get to Japan. oh, and i had actually heard of most the dishes he tried and had actually eaten a few myself!

last was Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel. he's a food writer, dining critic, radio talk-show host, TV personality, chef and teacher (got that bit from the official website). this guy is really nice, quite the opposite from the guy above. he also travels to a region of the world and takes in their food and culture, but some of the foods tend to be a little more on the "interesting" side (read: bugs, fermented things, etc). tonight he was in Taiwan and wow... every little restaurant he visited was amazing, especially the one where everything is made/prepared with tea leaves in some way or another. now i'm thinking i might have to make it to Taiwan too! gotta try that stinky tofu!

it'll be interesting to see what i find to watch tomorrow night, as there's not one single show on network television that i want to see.

good thing i have basic cable.

- kawitchate

Wednesday, January 2

around the web - 1/2/08

i've been told that i should share my daily internet finds with more people. instead of emailing a bunch of you, i just figured i'd post it to my blog, since i want to post more anyway. here they'll be archived too. win win.

so, without further ado, here's the funny and/or interesting stuff from around the interweb today. enjoy.

better than all of last year's Skittles commercials combined:
finally, comfort in your car

*and yes, it looks to be a real product:
though they could stand to hire themselves a website designer

a little post-Christmas Christmas cheer:
everyone wants a holiday sweater!

bootleg edition of Star Wars Ep. III: The Backstroke of the West:
bad Chinese subtitles make for a better Episode III

want to play games? have no money?
best freeware games of '07

- k

basic cable channel-hopping

my roommate recently downgraded us from digital cable (comparable to satellite in terms of number of channels) to basic cable. without telling me. initially i was upset, but then he explained that we've still got 70+ channels and that most of the main ones were still there. i was skeptical, but upon inspection, he is right. however, now all the numbering is wrong and i have to discover which channel is what number all over again.

while i was basic cable channel-hopping tonight, i happened upon the History Channel. now, i've never been one to really watch the channel - in my mind it's always been the "WWII channel," with tonight's episode focusing on the tanks of WWII - so imagine my surprise when there was a show about space on there. and not some history lesson on space - oh no. this was like Discovery Channel-type stuff.

it was a program called Universe, or The Universe. and the episodes i caught were on cosmic holes, the moon, the Milky Way, and a bit of the episode on asteroids.

cosmic holes and the Milky Way episodes were by far my favorites, as they dealt with things that i've never really grasped - wormholes, time travel, white holes, black holes, solar systems, galaxies, the universe, and how they're all connected. it really reminded me of just how wonderful and vast a place space really is.

and i just read two graphic novels about space - Orbiter and Ocean. both are by Warren Ellis and both are pretty good reads (Orbiter being the better of the two). maybe i'm on a space kick. who knows.

check out Universe on the History Channel if you can, paying special attention to the episodes on cosmic holes and the Milky Way. great stuff.

- kawitchate

ps. i'm back from a week-and-a-half-long vacation home for Christmas and ready to pay more attention to the blog in the new year. it became a little Heroes-centric there for a while... but with the writer's strike, i won't be writing about TV much for a while (unless it's to say how bad it is)!