Tuesday, December 28, 2004

e-Column #108

The best, worst of 2004
The year is almost over, which means it’s time to rank everything from gadgets and gizmos to goofy commercials. And there are plenty of sites on the Web willing to participate in the “best of” tradition.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Informer 2004

The 2004 edition of the Hargreaves family Christmas newsletter - The Informer* - is now available for download. It is a 684KB PDF file, which translates into about a 2-minute download for you dial-up users and 40-second or less download for the broadband folks.

There are also now links to the last five Informers in the right-hand column under the newsletters heading. Mmm, consolidation ...

* There is no relation to the 1992 Snow song

Monday, December 20, 2004

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb review

After both the critical and commercial success of 2000's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" and its accompanying Elevation tour, where else did U2 have to go but down? I privately wondered if the group would hang up their instruments and finish on a high note rather than risk future disappointment. But I'm nothing if not a U2 junkie, and would rather have more music than less, regardless of general reception.

Every U2 fan has a favorite album and nearly every one wishes the group would revisit that sound and create another album just like it. Personally, after hearing their cover of The Ramones' "Beat on the Brat," I hoped they'd revisit their post-punk roots and really rock hard. Information about the album preceding its release fed that desire, especially since their original producer, Steve Lillywhite, was aboard.

The first single, "Vertigo," which everyone has probably heard a million times, is a great song, in my opinion. And it's almost exactly the song I wanted them to make. Its success is only icing on the cake. So I had high hopes when I first listened to "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb."

Unfortunately, "Vertigo" is the only song on the album that sounds like itself. Thus, my initial listen of the album was a bit disappointing. It seemed a little boring. Not only were they not revisiting past glories, they didn't seem to be breaking any new ground.

Certainly there are shades of "The Unforgettable Fire" ("Miracle Drug" and its heart-on-the-sleeve earnestness) and "The Joshua Tree" ("City of Blinding Lights" and its driving rhythms invoke "Where The Streets Have No Name"). The unabashed social conscience of both those albums has returned without the politics. Bono isn't afraid to speak honestly and isn't afraid of being uncool (like naming a song "Yahweh").

Of all their albums, "Atomic Bomb" is most like "All That You Can't Leave Behind," with its variety of slickly-produced songs. But that album had more variety and its songs were simply more unique and compelling. Only the slow ballads on that album were boring. The ballads on "Atomic Bomb" are the highlights.

But should an album be judged solely based on past works? Certainly not. In the iTunes five-star rating system, I've given three songs five-star ratings and two four-stars. That's better than most albums and not too far behind "All That You Can't Leave Behind."

Of course, musical reviews are incredibly subjective. What one person finds fresh, someone else finds awful. Some think "Numb" is the lamest song the group has ever made, while others think it's the coolest. So while an Associated Press reviewer calls "A Man and a Woman" easily the best track on the album, I call it the one I'm highly likely to skip over given the opportunity.

Although the rocker "All Because Of You" is the next single to be released in America, "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" will be released in the rest of the world. "Sometimes" is the superior song. Incredibly personal, passionate and grandiose, it's easily one of the best the group has ever made.

What makes that situation even worse is that "The Complete U2" has alternate versions of a handful of the songs on the new album and I consider those superior to the released songs, including "All Because Of You."

"How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" is not a return to whatever you consider their previous greatest album. It's not a step forward into a strange new era of aural satisfaction. It's also not the best album they've ever made. But it's a good album. And I can be happy with a good U2 album.

  • Vertigo: 5 stars
    alternate version, Native Son: 4 stars
  • Miracle Drug: 4 stars
  • Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own: 5 stars
    alternate version: 4 stars
  • Love and Peace or Else: 3 stars
  • City of Blinding Lights: 5 stars
  • All Because of You: 3 stars
    alternate version: 4 stars
  • A Man and a Woman: 2 stars
  • Crumbs from Your Table: 3 stars
  • One Step Closer: 3 stars
  • Original of the Species: 4 stars
  • Yahweh: 3 stars
    alternate version: 4 stars
  • Fast Cars (bonus track on some editions): 4 stars
    alternate version, Xanax and Wine: 4 stars

Monday, December 13, 2004

e-Column #107

Christmas online about more than just shopping
This Christmas season, many news reports will once again focus on how much money is being spent at online stores. But there’s more to Christmas than shopping and there’s more to the Internet than spending money.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

macCompanion December 2004 Reviews

The December 2004 issue of macCompanion has now been released in PDF form. Dial-up users take caution: this one's even larger than normal. There are two reviews by myself, one of which is only a slightly different version of my blog review of The Complete U2.

December 2004 - 3.5MB PDF

  • The Complete U2 – Page 18
  • Picture Rescue 1.1.0 – Page 109

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Complete U2 - A Review

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a big U2 fan. And that I'm a big Apple Computer fan. So the combination of the two lately has been pretty exciting. But I was a little suspicious about The Complete U2, since it was advertised as having more than 400 songs - 25 of which would be rare and unreleased tracks. *Only* 25?

I've been collecting U2 singles since I first got ahold of the One single, which had three excellent b-sides. Believe me, I've checked the U2 bin at every single music store I've ever visited. It is not easy to find them all, and many are only available on vinyl. So I was happy to see that not only are all the U2 singles included in this set, but also the original cover art of each one.

Of course, songs that were released as singles are also included on their respective albums, and on one of the two greatest hits albums. So almost every song that was released as a single is duplicated three times in the collection.

A unique part of this collection is the included digital booklet. It's a PDF file that appears as a track in iTunes and opens in your default PDF-viewing application when double-clicked. It includes liner notes on all of U2's albums by Bill Flanagan and commentary by The Edge on the unreleased tracks.

The unreleased tracks are from the recording sessions for All That You Can't Leave Behind and How To Disable An Atomic Bomb, including alternate (and sometimes superior) versions of songs from the latter album. There are also three early demo tracks from 1978.

There are also three complete live shows included:a March 1981 club show in Boston; the final Love Town concert in Dublin on Dec. 31, 1989, before they went away and "dream(ed) it all up again;" and a Popmart concert from Mexico City in December 1997. The latter show was released as a fan-club-only CD, but the first two have never been officially released. Bootlegs of those shows are considered great.

I've had difficulty locating the other fan club CD – Melon – which is composed entirely of Achtung Baby and Zooropa remixes. It is included in the collection ... mostly. The liner notes mention that it contained 9 remixes, yet only 7 tracks are included. There are a number of inconsistencies like that: two of the remixes listed in the Unreleased & Rare section were actually released a few years ago on The Best of 1990-2000's B-Sides disc; the Perfecto mix of Lemon appears twice but is only two minutes long (the original song is nearly six minutes); a live version of New York is said to have been performed in 1997, even though the song didn't exist until 2000.

And every single track is dated 2004. That's a problem with the iTunes Music Store in general - albums are dated by their latest release (or addition to the store) rather than their original release date. I don't mind hand-editing ID3 tags, but 446 tracks is a lot of work.

Although the collection is very large, it is not 100% complete. But I noticed that most of the missing tracks are covers: Dancing Barefoot, Don't Take Your Guns To Town, Everlasting Love, Fortunate Son, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Neon Lights, Night And Day, Paint It Black, Pop Muzik, Satellite Of Love, and Unchained Melody. I imagine there are legal issues involved, but it's certainly disappointing because some of them are really great recordings (some really aren't) and I don't have a couple.

It also would have been great if the songs from the Rattle and Hum film that couldn't fit on the original album were included. The film version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," performed after the 1987 Eniskillin bombing, is considered one of their greatest live performances ("#&^$ the Revolution!").

All in all, "The Complete U2" is not 100 percent complete. But it's a massive and far-reaching collection, nonetheless. It's difficult and expensive to find all of the b-sides and remixes since some exist only on vinyl and some are only on European imports which tend to cost $10 for approximately two songs.

I was happily surprised to find that most of the tracks can be purchased individually for $0.99 a piece, so if you don't want to spend $150 for the 400+ collection, you can pick and choose your favorites.

It's only worth the full price if you can count up at least 150 or more tracks in the collection that you don't have (this can now be easily done with iTunes 4.7 by dragging the songs from the Music Store into a playlist). Of course, if you've bought the Special Edition U2 iPod, you've got a $50 instant rebate, so it only took 100 songs to make it worth my while. ;)

I'll try and post an iMix of my favorite U2 b-sides at the iTMS soon. And, of course, I'll post a review of the new album. It's been a good week for this U2 fan.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

When I was looking for an old publicity photo of Alan Rickman as Snape (for this post), I came across the Teaser One-Sheet for July 2005's "Charlie Chocolate & The Chocolate Factory." Although it's now up on the official Web site, I haven't seen it in any theaters yet, so I thought you all might enjoy it and this brief, official synopsis:

    Acclaimed director Tim Burton brings his vividly imaginative style to the beloved Roald Dahl classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, about eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) and Charlie, a good-hearted boy from a poor family who lives in the shadow of Wonka's extraordinary factory. Long isolated from his own family, Wonka launches a worldwide contest to select an heir to his candy empire. Five lucky children, including Charlie, draw golden tickets from Wonka chocolate bars and win a guided tour of the legendary candy-making facility that no outsider has seen in 15 years. Dazzled by one amazing sight after another, Charlie is drawn into Wonka's fantastic world in this astonishing and enduring story.

I liked Burton's Planet of the Apes "re-imagining" more than most, but still consider the original film superior. However, as a fan of Roald Dahl's book, I found the original Charlie & The Chocolate Factory film disappointing (Gene Wilder's performance notwithstanding). So I'm looking forward to seeing what will surely be an improvement.

e-Column #106

Refine your searches with these tips
Search engines have been essential tools for finding information on the World Wide Web since its earliest days. And although search engine usage is at its highest rate ever, not everyone has learned the tricks to performing great searches.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

On the weekend before Halloween, The Haggin Museum was host to An Evening At "Haggwarts" – its inaugural Harry Potter-themed event. Despite my adding the extra 'g' and putting it in quotes, many people still complained that Hogwarts was misspelled. Sigh.

I ran the potions bar as Prof. Severus Snape, who is deliciously played in the films by the talented Alan Rickman. I had a lot of fun being even more snarky and bitter than normal and scaring young children (no tears, though). And it may have been the first time I wasn't pale enough for the part.

In October, Megan and I visited the Museum of Pez Memorabilia in Burlingame, since it's only about 90 miles away from Stockton.

It's a very small museum, but Pez dispensers don't need a lot of space. Besides telling the interesting history of Pez, there are many unique dispensers on display as well as other antique/collectible Pez-related merchandise. There are even some plaques built for classic Star Wars characters dispensers that have been signed by the actors (Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse).

One of the more interesting aspects is that there are a number of Pez dispensers made every year in other countries that are not sold in the United States. Hello Kitty and Mr. Bean are Japanese- and British-only, despite having made a name for themselves in America. But even The Lion King and Shrek & Friends are European imports that are not available in the States. What's with the licensing issues, there?

Earlier this year they added a Classic Toy Museum, which is also small (shares the space, actually) but is still a lot of fun and informative. I didn't realize Mr. Potato Head had a number of other vegetable friends, including an onion, cucumber and sweet potato.

One of the old View-Masters on display there (circa the 1940s, I think) is also on display at the Nov. 28-Jan. 16 "Toys & Games: 1880-1980" exhibition at The Haggin Museum.

Little Help?

Blogger (somewhat) recently added the NavBar that you see at the top of this page. I find the Search feature quite useful and imagine it could also be useful for visitors. Unfortunately, it hasn't been working for a little while. Searching for the word "eddie" gives the following error:

Your search - eddie - did not match any documents. 

No pages were found containing "site:home.earthlink.net~meged/blogger.html"
It looks like there's a problem with the underlying code, since the actual URL of this site is home.earthlink.net/~meged/blogger.html but I have no idea how to fix that since the only control I seem to have over it is to turn it on or off. And a search of Blogger's Help section hasn't turned anything up. Anybody out there using Blogger's SiteSearch NavBar with success? Anyone know how to solve my problem?

macCompanion Oct.-Nov. 2004 reviews

Although I've had some reviews published by macCompanion in the last two issues, I haven't linked to them here because I was waiting for them to be posted on the macCompanion Web site. But apparently a Web editor has not been found to replace the last one that resigned (yet someone is still editing the reviews incorrectly). Thus, you can only read them by downloading the PDF editions. Here are links to the last two issues and the page numbers of my reviews.

October 2004 - 2.3MB PDF

  • iPod 2100mAh Replacement Battery – Page 60
  • Audio Hijack Pro 2.0 - Page 66
  • Data Backup 2.0 - Page 68

November 2004 - 2MB PDF
  • 1.8GHz G5 iMac 17-inch widescreen computer - Page 60

I'm Not Dead Yet!

If you visit this blog regularly, I'm sorry ... for not having updated it much since early October.

See, my former manager at The Sacramento Observer had a baby, so the paper's president asked me to keep SacObserver.com updated while she's out on maternity leave.

I'm glad to be able to help out, but it does take up most of my evening. And seeing how I work at my full-time job at The Haggin Museum during the day, write my column for the East Oregonian on a bi-weekly basis, and write the occasional monthly review(s) for macCompanion, that leaves me very little time to blog, iChat, e-mail, or basically communicate at all with friends, family, pets, etc.

But that doesn't mean Megan and I haven't been trying to make the most of our weekends. So I've got plenty of backlogged items due to hit soon. Hopefully by the time you read this there will be one or two posts already above it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

e-Column #105

Firefox next browser to challenge Explorer's online dominance:
After Microsoft's Internet Explorer gained 95 percent share of the Web browser market against nearest competitor Netscape, the product stopped being updated. But now it faces a challenge from the newly-released 1.0 version of Firefox.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

e-Column #104

Electronic data still not as reliable as hard copy

Wow, this one got cut up something fierce. I guess I'd better start writing shorter columns. Although the posted version is linked above, I'm reprinting the original below:

The often-repeated saying is that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Roughly 15 years ago, I was given a nifty present: an electronic calculator that also stored contact information like names and phone numbers.

Naturally, after entering all the information into the tiny device (though large by today's standards), I threw away the various pieces of paper that held the original names and numbers.

It was easy and fun to call up contact information for friends and family by using the simple buttons and view it on the tiny LCD screen.

But one day that screen didn't display anything. The battery had died.

I figured it was a minor setback, seeing as how the device had a removable panel where the pill-shaped battery could be swapped out. But upon the purchase of a new battery and its subsequent installation, I was surprised to discover that all of the information stored inside was gone.

Those discarded scraps of paper seemed quite valuable all of a sudden. And I vowed to never again to solely trust an electronic device with important information.

Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are today's equivalent to that rudimentary device. PocketPCs and PalmPilots can carry phone numbers, e-mail addresses, calendar appointments, to-do lists, notes and much more, depending on the capabilities of the specific hardware.

But some things haven't changed. Although some PDAs can function as cell phones, music, photo and video players, and surf the Web wirelessly, users need to keep an eye on their battery life.

Many models will lose all their data if the battery runs out or comes loose (a not uncommon occurrence for those who accidentally drop things).

The caveat is that synchronizing the PDA to a computer means your data will be backed up, preventing you from rummaging around for old scraps of paper.

And modern computers certainly don't lose their data when they are unplugged or even when their internal battery is removed. That information is stored safely on the internal hard drive ... right?

Last month, I was planning to attend an out-of-state wedding. As a member of the wedding party, I had received various e-mails with dates, times, locations, phone numbers, links to registries, and other important information. I had also made plane and rental car reservations online and had the confirmation numbers stored on our home computer.

One week before I was scheduled to leave, the unexpected happened. An ant crawled into the computer and died. Its legacy was that my computer would no longer boot up.

Yes, it was a true computer bug.

Although the machine itself was still under warranty and repairs would cost nothing, it meant it would be out for at least a week (which actually turned into two).

Luckily, I had made a complete backup of the computer's hard drive only a few days prior. But without an actual computer to access that backup drive, the information was inaccessible.

Computer users are often advised to keep a backup of important data on their computers. But also advisable is the concept of keeping a hard copy.

Certainly, few can print out every important document they have stored electronically. But consider how you'd fare if you couldn't access the information on your home or work computer for two weeks.

In the end, both the airline and the car rental business were willing to accommodate my situation. Although their records are kept electronically, they always print a copy for you, and I dread the day when boarding passes are electronic.

Working at a museum, I'm well aware that paper does not last forever. But unlike electronic data, you won't open a three-year-old book and suddenly find that the words have mysteriously vanished.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to print out this column.
Eddie Hargreaves was the Webmaster of eastoregonian.com. He can be reached at meged@earthlink.net.

Monday, October 18, 2004

e-Column #103

Sites benefit, suffer from the Slashdot effect: "If you used Google during this year’s summer Olympics, you probably noticed the standard logo was replaced by stylized versions depicting Olympic sports."

Not only did the last sentence of this column get cut (understandable), so did the last word of the headline (huh?). Once you've read the posted column, select the invisible text below to read the original final sentence (don't worry, it's not that exciting):

Perhaps someday Slashdot will feel its own effect from another site and start thinking about it a little more.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Choked with fear

Megan and I went to Paramount's Great America last weekend. Since it was the first weekend in October, the attendance was a lot lower than the normal summer rush. That made it better, since the lines were shorter. It also meant that some prices had been lowered, including that for the Xtreme Skyflyer. Here's the description:

Xtreme SkyflyerExperience the breathtaking thrill of hang gliding and skydiving. You'll be hoisted 153 feet above ground, and dive at speeds up to 60 miles per hour while free-falling 17 stories toward the Earth skimming just six feet above the ground.

It's like reading how food tastes. Although technically accurate, it can't convey the experience. Having inherited some fear of heights, hanging face-down from 153 feet up is scary for me. And then plummeting toward the ground is pretty freakin' terrifying. But I can now say that I've done it and, unlike the woman that took her turn before us, didn't scream or weep. Heck, I was even able to pull the rip-cord ("Smithers!").

I didn't purchase the video to show you all, since it came on an VCD and I was told it was Windows 98-compatible. Yeah, that's not selling me on it.

The difference between .com and .org

I suspected I wrote my column on the Internet's relation to politics a little too early, but I think it was confirmed when Vice President Dick Cheney said folks should visit FactCheck.com. It is the first time I've heard a non-candidate Web site mentioned in a nationally-televised debate.

Unfortunately for Cheney, FactCheck.com is not the address of the "independent Web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania." That Web site is FactCheck.org. Making this even worse for him is that liberal billionaire George Soros bought FactCheck.com and linked it to his own Web site.

Hmm, maybe I should make sure hagginmuseum.com doesn't get bought by, um, its adversaries.


When our Strawberry iMac died, it wasn't too big a deal to us because I could just pull the hard drive out, pop it into a FireWire case and connect it to my iBook. Granted, that machine also served as our Web server, but I didn't think too many of you were checking out our Sims scrapbooks, anyway.

Unfortunately, within a week, my iBook became unusable, leaving us with no Internet access at home. Worse, we were flying to Portland in a week and all our flight/car rental/contact info was inaccessible.

I immediately dropped it off at the local Apple Authorized Service Provider, who said they'd probably have it back in four business days. Of course, that didn't happen (it's me!) and it wasn't available again until about a week after their estimated date. Apparently they shipped it off to Apple to fix (I could've done that) but failed to provide me with the note that Apple provided with the repaired machine explaining what they did.

Since it had actually died at work (we were reviewing a controversial DVD), the Museum had offered to foot the bills for the repairs. But it was still under warranty, so I didn't pay a dime. Also, I had backed up all the data just four days prior so we were up and running again without too much trouble. And our trip to Portland was a success.

Oh, what happened to the iBook to cause its problem? We don't have official confirmation, but we're pretty certain that it was caused by ants. Seriously, a few days prior, we found ants crawling out of and around it. So far there's no Apple TechNote detailing what to do if an ant dies on your motherboard...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

iMac G5

After 5-1/3 years of service, our Strawberry G3 iMac finally gave up the ghost. Although we had upgraded a number of its components over the years (512MB RAM, 40GB HD, 16X CD-RW) the death of the monitor pretty much spelled the end of our beloved, but aging, all-in-one.

Since Apple had just announced the release of G5 iMacs, it seemed only fitting one of those would become its replacement. We were able to pick one up at the Arden Fair Apple Store in Sacramento and, after a couple of weeks, I'm happy to report we're both pleased with it. I may write a review for macCompanion, but here's a few things I found notable about it.

  • The computer seems Kubrickian; like a white version of the monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey."
  • The power button's location on the back of the machine seemed odd to me. But it turns out we never use it. Instead, we just let it sleep when it's not in use.
  • I thought the vertical CD drive might result in slow burning and ripping speeds. But we've been able to rip CDs at rates as high as 17x (the G3 topped out at 3x).
  • The built-in speakers sounded much more impressive than I expected.
  • The screen is incredibly:
    • Bright. We have the brightness level set to nearly its lowest point and the image is still striking.
    • Large. We have a 17" model, and it seems gigantic. The native resolution of 1440x900 allows for a large working space, but is impossible to find appropriately-sized desktop pictures (wallpaper) for.
  • The 1.8GHz G5 chip is incredibly fast (at least for now). I noted with some amazement that SETI@Home units that took 18.5 hours to finish on our old machine get completed in 3.5.
  • Comes standard with a one-button mouse. As Scotty would say, "How quaint."

Monday, October 04, 2004

e-Column #102

Planning to get married? Get some online tips
Weddings are steeped in tradition, with faux pas noted constantly in the columns of Dear Abby and Ann Landers. But although doing things electronically used to be considered inappropriate, the Internet has become a significant tool in planning a wedding.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

U2 // Vertigo

U2's newest single has been released to radio and is also available for purchase via the iTunes Music Store.

But if you want to hear the whole thing (instead of a 30-second preview), click here.

For more information on their soon-to-be-released album, "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb," visit U2.com (which now works correctly in Safari)

Sunday, September 05, 2004

e-Column #101

Internet provides outlet for filmmakers: "Although Hollywood has been fighting to keep its movies from being pirated via the Internet, a different group of films not created by the studios has been flourishing."

Friday, September 03, 2004

macCompanion September 2004

RadTech BT-500 Bluetooth Mouse
RadTech's BT-500 Bluetooth mouse works better than Apple's, has greater functionality and costs less. Its small size and light weight make it an excellent choice for mobile Mac users who are willing to shell out for AAA batteries every few weeks.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Santa Cruz

Megan and I visited the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk yesterday. With temperatures hitting 99˚ in Stockton and Sacramento, we figured the coast would be a bit cooler. The weather forecast said Santa Cruz would have a high of 85˚ and be mostly sunny. As you can see by the picture, there was no sun, only fog. Oh, and the temperature was off by about, oh, 20˚!! So much suntan lotion wasted...

I rarely read Parade magazine, but felt compelled today to see what ridiculous celebrity questions were posed to Walter Scott in his PersonalityParade® column and what his often-judgmental answers were. But I never expected to see the following Q&A, which was sandwiched between questions about one of the stars of Fox's summer series North Shore ("Is that his real hair?") and "Whatever became of actor John Kerr?"

Q: The Saudi army recently dealt al-Qaeda a major setback by killing its military commander. Does that mean the Saudis are finally getting a handle on their home-grown terrorists? – Samuel Z., Miami, Fla.

A: Yes–but only for the time being. Al-Qaeda has lost several of its senior operatives in Saudi Arabia in recent months, but it's already regrouping. We expect its new military commander, a 38-year-old militant named Saleh Mohammed al-Oufi, to try to unleash a wave of terrorist violence in the near future.

Ignoring the fact that Walter Scott consistently refers to himself as 'we,' why would anyone write to Parade's PersonalityParade column to ask questions about Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda, terrorists, etc.?

Well, if someone tells me that Al-Qaeda's new military commander isn't planning to unleash a wave of terrorist violence in the near future, I can pull out my copy of Parade and show them how wrong they are.

Monday, August 23, 2004

e-Column #100

Politics having a big year online: "Because this is an election year, politics is a big topic online. But the Web has had a decidedly stronger impact this year in politics than it did during the last presidential election."

USATODAY.com: Students crazy about iPod follow the music to Apple laptops: "Now that Microsoft Office is available for Macs, (University of Arizona's on-campus store salesman Jeff) Guba says, students can work with many Windows programs, such as Outlook for e-mail and Word for documents. 'That made a big difference,' he says."

Apparently both the store salesman and USA Today are unaware that Microsoft Office has been available for Macs since at least as far back as 1998, three years prior to the introduction of the iPod.

Monday, August 09, 2004

e-Column #99

Subscriptions for online gaming far short of expectations: "In 2002, a new business model for computer gaming set video game publishers' expectations high. Two years later, those expectations have been dashed."

Ignore the posted first sentence of my latest column. It's actually the headline I suggested.

Monday, July 26, 2004

e-Column #98

Choices abound for online photos: "Between traditional photo companies and new dot-com businesses, there’s a proliferation of photo service Web sites. These sites offer photo storage, organization, editing, sharing and printing."

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Conservative Television Watchdog Targets Movies: "A Miramax spokeswoman said the (Parents Television Council) seal of approval helped the studio position its recent feature 'Ella Enchanted' as a 'film that offers quality entertainment for the entire family.' Warner Bros. Pictures used the seal in print ads for its Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie 'New York Minute,' ... Universal Pictures is employing it for 'Two Brothers' ... New Line Cinema ... used the PTC seal in advertisements for 2003's 'Secondhand Lions.' ... None of the four movies made a dent at the box office."

See, here's the deal: So many people complain that there are aren't enough family-friendly films. But when some come out, they never go see them! (Not that I want anyone to see "New York Minute")

Other films that were made with much care for families that saw little reward were 1997's "The Borrowers" and last year's "Peter Pan." Money talks!

"Noting that at least six of the 18 shows that PTC sanctioned to its members during the 2003-04 season had been canceled -- including ABC sitcoms 'Married to the Kellys' and 'Life With Bonnie' and NBC's 'The Tracy Morgan Show' -- one network executive called the PTC seal the 'kiss of death.'"

Director McG Flies Out of 'Superman': "'Charlie's Angels' director McG is no longer attached to shoot the next installment of 'Superman,' becoming the latest filmmaker to leave the long-stalled project."

Yay! Better no movie than the horrendous one he would have made.

e-Column #97

Return receipts tell you if e-mail is read ... sometimes

Ironically, this column didn't run for weeks because the editor never received my e-mail.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Lego Spider-Man

The Peril of Doc Ock:
"Catch a comical spoof of the latest 'Spider-Man' movie, as Spidey tangles with Doc Ock in a world comprised solely of LEGO pieces."

The film is by Spite Your Face Productions, which also created amusing Lego films for Lucasfilm and the Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD. It's available in Windows Media and QuickTime.

The Corpse Bride

The news that Johnny Depp is teaming up with Tim Burton again didn't surprise me. What did was the news that their next project is "The Corpse Bride," a stop-motion animation film like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James & The Giant Peach." In addition, some of the work will be done at Will Vinton Studios in Portland, OR.

Yahoo! Movies - Greg's Preview - The Corpse Bride

Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2It's not too surprising that Spider-Man 2 is such a good film, considering all the great people involved. Those talented folks include co-writer Michael Chabon, whose "The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay" is a must-read; Alex Ross, whose stunning paintings depict the first film's events in the opening montage/recap (and will now have no reason to complain about not being involved, like he did when I saw him at WizardWorld Chicago); composer Danny Elfman, whose soundtracks are second only to John Williams (and whose Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban soundtrack sounded remarkably like one from Elfman); Tobey Maguire, who brought real emotion to the role of Peter Parker; the surprisingly effective James Franco as Harry Osborne; and director Sam Raimi, who still managed to provide amusing cameos for Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Stan Lee.

My only real complaint is that the truly excellent new rendition of the "Spider-Man Theme" by Michael Bublé (who Megan and I had the pleasure of seeing open for Chris Isaak in Sacramento) was cut in half and pushed to the tail end of the credits in favor of Dashboard Confessional's "Vindicated."

My ranking of Best 10 Comic Book Superhero Movies is now adjusted as follows:

  1. Superman: The Movie/Superman 2
  2. Batman
  3. The Rocketeer
  4. Spider-Man 2
  5. X2: X-Men United
  6. Hellboy
  7. The Crow
  8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  9. Spider-Man
  10. The Mask

Comments are welcome...

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Disneyland 2004 Vacation Photos

We got our other roll of film developed, so now all the photos I could fit on a single page are up on our Photo Album.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Internet Explorer for Windows

US-CERT: Beware of IE:
The U.S. government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team is warning Web surfers to stop using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Friday, June 25, 2004

American Bible Society's Comic Book (non)Efforts

Metron Press Pulls Up Stakes?: "It's very easy for religious organizations and churches alike to criticize and complain about how society is running amok and is out of control. But when it comes time to put your money where your gripes are, indifference and non-commitment are the end result. ABS worried how they would be perceived in the religious community and what effect it would have on their donor base. When they saw what it would take to reach this market, and how it would ruffle the feathers of some in the religious community, it was better to play it safe and not serve the secular market and save face in their own community."

Michael and Them: Moore Foes Hold Fest

Michael and Them: Moore Foes Hold Fest: "Conservatives complain about institutional bias in Hollywood. They need to stop whining and get out there and produce."

My thoughts exactly. Rather than complaining about "Fahrenheit 9/11" and the liberal bias of Hollywood, go make your own movie that espouses your own viewpoint. Considering the unprecedented amount of funds raised for President Bush's re-election campaign, there's obviously enough money out there.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Even Better Than The Real Thing?

This is the first U2 tribute band I've seen and I was impressed. Not only did they sound quite good, but they played the extended concert versions of most of the songs they played. 'Bonalmost' even sounded like the real thing during the banter in between songs. Although I doubt the real Bono has ever passed out a clipboard for folks to write their e-mail addresses on.

The songs they played in their first set were:
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
New Year's Day
Angel of Harlem
The Unforgettable Fire
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet The Blue Sky
Where The Streets Have No Name
When Love Comes To Town
With Or Without You

They'll be playing a number of shows in the Bay Area this summer, so maybe I'll catch their '90s set.

Zoo Station: The Complete U2 Experience

Celine Dion's double

I've been published in The (Stockton) Record! OK, so it was just a letter to the editor in response to another letter. But the important questions of our time deserve answering:

Dion's double or double vision?

My Printed Response

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Why DRM systems don't work

Cory Doctorow: Microsoft Research DRM talk

This talk was originally given to Microsoft's Research Group and other interested parties from within the company at their Redmond offices on June 17, 2004.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Free Comic Book Day is when participating comic book shops around the world give away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their stores (no purchase is necessary!). This year it will take place July 3, the Saturday after "Spider-Man 2" premieres. Some of this year's giveaways include: Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Teen Titans Go!, the Image Comics Summer Special, and an IDW Sampler featuring 24, CSI, The Shield, and 30 Days of Night.

Iraq, Al Qaeda, and what constitutes a 'relationship'

The Christian Science Monitor has a pretty good article asking the question: "What exactly qualifies as a relationship in the early 21st century? Is it chatter that doesn't lead to anything, or something more?" Or does it depend on what the definition of 'is' is?

Iraq, Al Qaeda, and what constitutes a 'relationship'

Friday, June 18, 2004

Proto A Go Go

If you read my blog, but don't visit my brother's Web site, it's probably news to you that his newest album, "Proto A Go Go," is now available for purchase at Ranch Records in Salem for only $6. I've written a semi-detailed review of it on his message boards.

10 Notable Black Superheroes

This is a sidebar I wrote to complement the Burning Dark story:

Black Panther
First Appearance
: Fantastic Four #52 (1966, Marvel Comics)
One of the first mainstream Black heroes to be portrayed in a positive light, the Black Panther is T'Challa, the dignified king of the imaginary, technologically advanced, African nation of Wakanda. The character came under fire by some for not being radical enough. He received his own series in 1977 and gained the spotlight more recently in a series written by Christopher Priest (whose comments about Firestorm artist ChrisCross can be seen in Burning Dark).

Wesley Snipes has lobbied studios for years to get a Black Panther movie made.

Luke Cage
First Appearance
: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972, Marvel Comics)
Luke Cage was the first Marvel comic to take its title exclusively from a Black character. A former gang member, Cage is framed for a crime he did not commit. In prison he volunteers for a medical experiment that ends up giving him incredible strength; he then escapes and becomes a mercenary "hero for hire" under the moniker of Power Man. A sign of the times, he sported an Afro and dressed in open-chested threads with a butterfly collar.

First Appearance
: Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973, Marvel Comics)
Blade's mother was pregnant when she was bit by a vampire and died giving birth to him. Blade gained the strength of vampires and immunity to their bites, making him their most feared enemy. Vowing to avenge the death of his mother, he became the leader of a small group of vampire hunters.

The 1998 film "Blade" and its 2002 sequel, both starring Wesley Snipes as the title character, earned more than $150 million. A third film, "Blade: Trinity," will hit theaters this December.

First Appearance
: Giant Size X-Men #1 (1975, Marvel Comics)
Storm is one of the rare Black female superheroes and undoubtedly the most well-known. Born Ororo Munroe in New York, her family moved to Africa when she was only 6 months old. Her parents died when a plane crashed into her home and she still suffers from claustrophobia due to the incident. Her mutant power - the ability to control the weather - garnered the attention of Professior Xavier, who convinced her to join the X-Men, of which she is the only Black female member.

Storm was portrayed by Halle Berry in the 2000 film "X-Men" and its 2003 sequel, "X2: X-Men United."

Black Lightning
First Appearance
: Black Lightning #1 (1977, DC Comics)
Black Lightning was DC's first Black superhero. Jefferson Pierce, a famed Olympic athlete, returns to his old high school to teach and decides to end the school's drug problems. His powers, including an electro-shield that can repel bullets, come from his costume's belt. The character was revived in 1995 for a 20-issue run.

Green Lantern John Stewart
First Appearance
: Green Lantern #87 (1977, DC Comics)
John Stewart was selected to act as alternate Green Lantern should Hal Jordan become incapacitated. Idealistic, John championed the oppressed, and was eventually given full status in the Green Lantern Corps. Although his overconfidence resulted in the destruction of a planet, he was later reinstated.

John can be seen as the Green Lantern in the "Justice League" animated series on the Cartoon Network.

First Appearance
: New Teen Titans #1 (1980, DC Comics)
Victor Stone was a child genius whose scientist father forced him to constantly study. Finding solace in sports, Victor excelled in boxing, track and basketball. He became Cyborg when half of his face and body were severely damaged in an attack at his father's lab. His father used his inventions to save his son's life.

Cyborg can currently be seen in the "Teen Titans" animated series on the Cartoon Network and on the Kids' WB lineup.

First Appearance
: Spawn #1 (1992, Image Comics)
Al Simmons was a former CIA agent who was killed during a covert operation. He made a deal with the devil to return to life to be with his wife Wanda and their daughter. But the devil sent him back to Earth years later - after his wife has remarried his best friend - as a Hellspawn. He has tremendous powers, but also a hideously scarred appearance.

One of the best-selling comics of all time, Spawn has been an incredible financial success for its author, Todd McFarlane, who named the character after his real-life friend, Al Simmons. In addition to the multiple comic book series, Spawn has had an animated series on HBO, a 1997 feature film, numerous toys and a Playstation video game.

First Appearance
: Superman, Man of Steel #22 (1993, DC Comics)
Scientist John Henry Irons invented technology that found its way into lethal street-gang weapons. Distraught by the destruction his work had caused, he created an armored flying suit to fight crime. Inspired by Superman, who had recently died, he wore a metal S-shield. After Superman returned, he continued to fight crime as Steel, but no longer wore the crest.

The character was the basis for the 1997 feature film starring Shaquille O'Neal.

First Appearance
: Static #1 (1993, Milestone Media)
Virgil Hawkins is an average teenager, struggling with the experience of high school. After being beaten up by bullies, he decides to buy a gun. Reconsidering his decision, he is later given powers of static electricity in a freak occurrence.

Although his comic book was canceled years ago, along with the other Milestone Media titles, he is now the star of the "Static Shock" animated series on the Kids' WB lineup.

Burning Dark

The following is a story I pitched to the Sacramento Observer and I finally got around to finishing it. In case it doesn't see print there, here it is:

DC Comics ignites 'Firestorm' of controversy by reintroducing popular hero as Black teen

Fans of the comic book character Firestorm were excited when DC Comics announced the superhero would once again be starring in his own series. But that excitement turned to concern and outright anger when they learned the character they remembered – White high school student Ronnie Raymond – would be supplanted by a previously unknown Black teenager.

Dan Didio, DC's editorial vice president, says the impetus for a new Firestorm series was based on the character's ongoing popularity, unique powers and the urge to draw in younger readers.

"We've always believed Firestorm should have his own series again, but we wanted to do a new take. We wanted to take the character and make him interesting to a younger audience," Dido said. "In examining the character, we came to the conclusion that this would be an excellent opportunity to introduce a strong African American character into DC's pantheon using an existing franchise."

The character first debuted in the late 1970s as high school student Ron Raymond, who was duped into protesting the opening of a nuclear power plant. The protesters turned out to be eco-terrorists who attempted to blow up the plant. During the incident, Ron and Dr. Martin Stein, one of the plant’s designers, were bathed in radiation. The should-have-been-deadly experience instead granted superpowers and merged the two characters into one: Firestorm, The Nuclear Man.

The new hero could fly, had a level of invulnerability, could shoot energy blasts from his hands, and transmute materials on a nuclear level. With a wave of his hand, bullets could turn into flowers.

Also, the top of his head was a pot of fire, and his costume featured puffy sleeves that would be at home during Carnival in Rio.

Although the character’s original series lasted only six months, a second series in the mid-’80s ran for 100 issues, thanks in part to his recurring appearances in the various DC-based Saturday morning cartoons, such as “Superfriends.”

The new Firestorm is African American Jason Rusch, an abused, downtrodden 17-year-old who agrees to do a "little job" for a local criminal - only to become mysteriously infused with the power of Firestorm.

"The fact that he's African American is an important part, but we really want to play to the fact that it's a young lead, it's a contemporary story," Didio added.

According to Didio, series writer Dan Jolley came up with the Rusch character with series editor Peter Tomasi. Both felt the DC universe needed more diversity in regards to its cast of characters and the idea piqued the interest of veteran African American comics artist ChrisCross, who Didio says latched onto the character.

“I waffled a bit when I was first asked to do the project,” Cross said. “But after reading the first script I was hooked. It definitely made me want to draw it.”

“Jason Rusch’s personality brings more realism to the character of Firestorm. We also pay a lot of attention to his ethnicity, which can be very important to the motivation of the character,” Cross said, also noting that Rusch “talks like a real kid. His speech pattern doesn’t sound like bad hip hop slang or ebonics.”

Cross signed on as the book's lead artist and redesigned the costume.

“While his ability to transmute objects always fascinated me and attracted me to the character, I didn’t love his appearance. He looked more like a flamenco dancer that plays the maracas and salsa music than a superhero,” Cross said.

But before a single issue was released, fan reaction on the company’s online message boards was largely negative. Jolley thinks the response has less to do with race than it does with nostalgia.

"The original Firestorm had, and still has, a very solid, dedicated, loyal following, and — as they’ve expressed to me very clearly — they’re not happy that the character they grew up with isn’t the star of the new series," Jolley said. "I think it’s a pretty natural human reaction; people grow comfortable with something, and they don’t want it to change. They don’t even want to hear about the possibility of it changing.

"But, y’know, at the same time, I’m very, very proud of the new series, and I think it’s going to find its own audience. If some of the original series’ fans are among the new readership, that’ll be even better."

One aspect of the book that hasn't drawn criticism is Cross' art, which has been praised by even those critical of the character’s direction.

At San Francisco's Wondercon in May, Jeph Loeb, writer of DC’s top-selling Superman/Batman series, who had seen the comic before it was released, said Cross' work on the title was impressive and that the artist "decided this book will make him a star."

That elevation in status would likely be a welcome one for African American comic book writer Christopher Priest, who has worked with Cross and called him "one of the most inspired and gifted artists I know" and "one of the greatest living comic book storytellers working today."

"Cross has an unparalleled instinct for dramatic storytelling, one that is wholly underappreciated by the major companies," said Priest, who recently wrote a Black Panther series for Marvel Comics (See 10 Notable Black Superheroes) and has been critical of the industry’s treatment of both its Black characters and talent.

"Being an enormously tall Black man with big fists and a deep voice doesn't help Cross much in this, a business dominated by short, pudgy white guys who never dated much in high school," Priest said.

Jolley and Cross will continue as the regular creative team on the series, detailing Rusch's ensuing struggle to control his new powers and cope with the new life they offer him on a monthly basis.

The "Eye Contact" story arc introduces the new incarnation of Firestorm during the first three issues, which shipped in May, June and July to comic book retailers nationwide.

Now that the book is available, Didio said the feedback has been mostly positive, especially from stores in urban cities where a lot of Black readers have embraced the book.

"We're pretty proud of this book," Didio added. "We're very happy with what we're putting on the shelf.”

Cross said, “I hope that everyone has fun with the book and looks at the comic for what it is and not for what it used to be.”

The comic book store nearest you can be found by calling the toll-free Comic Shop Locator Service at 1-888-COMIC-BOOK (266-4226) or visiting http://csls.diamondcomics.com

Sunday, June 06, 2004

e-Column #96

Google suffers unjust criticism for free e-mail service: "Most e-mail providers offer roughly 10 megabytes of storage space. So when Google announced on April 1 that it would launch a free e-mail service that provided 1,000 megabytes of storage, some thought it was a practical joke. And some politicians and privacy advocates still wish it was."

Update: I was originally not aware that the published version of the column was missing the last few paragraphs. Here they are:

You can read more about Google's response to privacy concerns at http://gmail.google.com/gmail/help/more.html. Although Gmail has not officially launched, you can use it in its beta form at https://gmail.google.com/.

Of course, if you prefer giant, flashing, slow-loading, graphic advertisements and like to have all your e-mail messages stamped at the bottom with ads for Yahoo or MSN, you're free to stick with those services.

And let's all hope Sen. Figueroa didn't give the telephone companies any ideas.

Friday, June 04, 2004

macCompanion June 2004

Here are links to my software reviews for the June 2004 issue of macCompanion:

Data Recycler X 1.2
Data Rescue X 10.4.1

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Microsoft gains double-clicking patent: "Microsoft has successfully patented using short, long or double clicks to launch different applications on 'limited resource computing devices' - presumably PDAs and mobile phones."

Do we really need any more examples of how broken the U.S. Patent Office is? Will AT&T be granted a patent for the 'redial' button of a telephone?

Moving picture ads turn Japan's train tunnels into advertising gold: " A new advertising medium that turns subway tunnel walls into colourful motion picture commercials as trains pass debuts this week in the Japanese capital, capitalizing on one of its most plentiful assets -- miles of subway routes."

Friday, May 28, 2004

Ignorance is not bliss

Recording industry sues first Minnesotan for thousands, but she's a single mom earning $21,000: "(Tammy) Lafky says she doesn't download free music. Her daughter did last year when she was 14, but neither of them knew it was illegal because all of Cassandra's friends at school were doing it."

That's a great message to teach your daughter. I can't wait for a lawyer to defend them using the "But everyone else was doing it" defense.

The article also notes that the 41-year-old mother cannot pay the fine because she only clears $21,000 a year. So why does she have a computer that she doesn't know how to use?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

e-Column #95

Undeterred by laws, spam being spread by viruses, worms
Have you been receiving unsolicited e-mail relating to pharmaceuticals, get-rich-quick schemes, low mortgage rates, fast weight-loss plans or of a pornographic nature? You’re not alone, and the problem of spam e-mail has only gotten worse.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Megan and I are back from our vacation at the Disneyland Resort and I've posted a few photos on our Photo Galleries site.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Achtung Baby as Clock

With a total running time of about 55 minutes, two nearly evenly-spaced cassette sides of 6 songs, and each song averaging roughly 4-1/2 minutes, U2's "Achtung Baby" has become something of a trip-measuring tool in the car. Modesto isn't an x mile or x minute trip, it's a nearly one Achtung Baby trip. And instead of being x miles or x minutes away from your destination, you're really only an "Acrobat" away. Getting burgers from In-N-Out is a Side 1 trip. How do you know if you're running behind schedule? If "So Cruel" hasn't started by the time you reach a certain landmark, the traffic has been slower than normal. And what if your destination is further away than 55 minutes? Hey, cassette auto-reverse was invented for a reason.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Mummy Returns

Back in 2001, Megan and I were approached to possibly write movie reviews for the local paper. The movie I chose to review was "The Mummy Returns" and although that gig did not come to fruition, I'm releasing that review from the vault due to popular demand and to coincide with the release of director Stephen Sommers' latest monster mash, "Van Helsing":

Picture, if you will, a fedora-clad hero, with a gun in one hand and a torch in the other, wiping away a wall of spiderwebs to explore ancient ruins. And when he removes a treasure from its resting place, it triggers a catastrophic booby-trap.

No, it’s not “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but “The Mummy Returns” sure tries hard to replicate the Indiana Jones franchise. Unfortunately, Brendan Fraser is no Harrison Ford. And Stephen Sommers is no Steven Spielberg.

Sommers stuffs the two hours with wall-to-wall action and special effects, stopping every fifteen minutes for a deep conversation between Fraser and co-star Rachel Weisz, followed by a deep lip-lock. And while much of the action is exciting and entertaining, the rest of it is tedious and sometimes incomprehensible.

For instance, when did The Mummy become Darth Vader? In addition to having a black outfit, a mask and an echoing metallic voice, he lifts people up with a wave of his hands and flings them around.

Of course, logic was a casualty of the first film, and its sequel is hardly on a Spock-like course. It wouldn’t be so noticeable if the computer-generated visual effects made up the difference. But most of the baddies — mummies, dog-warriors, unexplained pygmy creatures, or the laughably bad giant scorpion — seem more like cartoons, stretching their features and their believability beyond reason.

Thankfully, the gleefully greedy John Hannah and the spunky Freddie Boathe provide official comic relief while Oded Fehr brings a healthy dose of seriousness, and explains the plot.

And if you just want to see The Rock, plan on staying ten minutes. He probably spent more time on the promotional circuit than he did on the set.

Thursday, May 13, 2004


Not being able to attend the San Diego Comic-Con International this year (thanks for the conflict, 10-year high school reunion!) I went to the WonderCon in San Francisco on Saturday, May 1. Here's a quick rundown of my experience at the show:

Having missed out on scheduled sessions and signings at WizardWorld Chicago, I arrived about 15 minutes early to the DC: Charting the Universe session, which turned out to be unnecessary since WonderCon is obviously not as crowded as WizardWorld. It was a fun session, though, as DC's Editorial VP gave a slide show presentation of the current and upcoming DC Universe titles and gave a panel of popular DC writers and artist Howard Chaykin a chance to comment on them all. They all had good things to say about everything presented ... until the slide with the upcoming "Catwoman" merchandise. There was a definite groan from the audience at seeing Halle Berry in that ridiculous costume and at least one of the panel members turned his head away in disgust. A fun time was had by all, I think, though I headed out a little before it ended, since the Q&A was dragging on a little. Somehow, my questions always seem to provoke a very negative reaction.

An exclusive preview of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" was shown and it was absolutely incredible. A Q&A with the director and producer of the film revealed that the film is almost completely untainted by Hollywood studios and was financed and shot before shopping it around. Unfortunately, the release date has been moved from the summer to September. They said they are hoping to garner a good buzz through word of mouth. Watch for it, definitely. The only low point of this segment was the Q&A, where some doofus asked about whether all future WWII flying movies would use this movie's technology instead of real planes and whether the movie could succeed with matinee prices having risen so high. Thankfully, the moderator stepped in to cut him off and insisted that all future questions be related to the film. That garnered a round of applause.

There were a lot of summer movies previewed that day, as Fox presented exclusive previews of "The Day After Tomorrow" (it was the 10-minute segment that aired on FOX last night prior to American Idol), "Alien vs. Predator" (I missed that one, but did hear Lance Henriksen tell a hilarious story about "Aliens"), and "I, Robot," which also featured a video introduction from Will Smith, who addressed all the WonderCon attendees and admitted he'd had some summer hits and misses.

The big event of that day was the appearance of Tobey Maguire, his only convention appearance this year to promote "Spider-Man 2." Yet some people still left after the "I, Robot" segment which directly preceded Tobey's appearance...? Tobey told us how he was sick (it was apparent) but was committed to not canceling his appearance. Unfortunately, the Q&A session then began with a bunch of Tobey Maguire-obsessed, "Tiger Beat"-reading girls who asked him questions like "I love you so much! Can you just give me a hug?!" and "I came all the way from Los Angeles and it's my birthday and I've dreamed of meeting you in real life!" Ugh! I never thought a comic book convention wouldn't be geeky enough! Thankfully, there were some good questions asked, although the award for the funniest question is a tie between some dude dressed up with a big red mask over his face who complimented Tobey on his subtlety in acting and asked for advice (Tobey's response: "I don't know, you're pretty subtle already") and a question from Wonder Woman, who, when she spoke, clearly revealed she was actually a he (shiver!).

Steve Sansweet, the head of fan relations at Lucasfilm, gave an hourlong presentation on Star Wars (Q&A from WonderCon), including some small peeks at Episode III. The presentation was delayed for quite a while due to technical difficulties hooking up his Windows laptop to the projector, yet the presentation itself was just a DVD that had clearly been made on a Mac, since there was a giant Apple logo in the bottom right corner of the menu screen. Mostly he showed some short documentaries that are available at StarWars.com, but he also answered a few questions. The one that was most interesting was when someone asked which version of the classic trilogy would be released on DVD this year: the original or the special edition. His carefully-worded answer was that the movies included would be "as George Lucas sees them today," which seems to leave the possibility open that there will be even more changes made to the films (Hammerhead shoots first now?).

Of course, there were also comic books to be had at the show, and I found a few I'd been looking for. My favorite find, however, was a rejected "Hellboy" movie poster drawn by the inimitable Drew Struzan. If you want to see it in all its glory, you'll have to come visit.


Sometime between April 26 and May 11, Blogger implemented a number of changes, which I'm trying to sort out. One such change is the addition of comments. Simply click on the time-stamp of any of my blog postings and you'll be taken to the post's individual page. You can read and post comments there. Hopefully I can go for a month without spam showing up there.

macCompanion - May 2004

My reviews for macCompanion's May 2004 issue include:

Keyboard SleeveCase

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

e-Column #94

New digital music formats cook up an alphabet soup
"With the growth of the online music market, purchasing music on the Internet has never been simpler. And turning your CDs into digital audio files on your computer, or 'ripping' them, is still surprisingly easy. But choosing which format to use is a different story."

Monday, April 12, 2004

e-Column: Big screen information found on Internet
This links to my 92nd column for the East Oregonian.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman
These five-minute commercials are funnier than most 30-minute television sitcoms. Don't watch the "Yes, Wyoming!" sing-a-long until after you've watched the "Uniform" segment.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The April 2004 issue of macCompanion is out, and here are links to all of my reviews:

Adobe InDesign CS PageMaker Edition
Macaroni 2
Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Panther Edition

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

'Hellboy' Is Hella Good
I predict at least one newspaper will use that headline for their review of the movie "Hellboy." Either that or 'Hellboy'? Hell, Yeah/No! (depending on the review)

I was able to see an advance screening of the film Monday night (apparently, comic book fandom does have some perks) and I can state definitively that it ranks in my Top 5 Comic Book Movies list.

To be a little more specific:
As a big fan of the comic books, I could sit around and point out all the many, many areas of the film which were made up for the movie. But it's obvious that what was altered was done in order to make it simple enough for movie audiences.

The character of Hellboy looked, sounded and acted probably as close to the comic book character as is humanly possible. Ron Perlman made him likable, powerful, vulnerable and funny. And everyone else in the movie was outstanding, including Selma Blair, David Hyde Pierce, Jeffrey Tambor and John Hurt. The villain character Kroenen was particularly memorable and ranks up there with Darth Maul on the evil-meter. I'm surprised he didn't give the film an R rating.

The special effects are quite good, especially for a $60 million film, and that's largely due to the experienced Rick Baker and Phil Tippett, whose make-up, prosthetics and puppets are still far more realistic than computer-generated effects.

The overall tone of the film was funny (and a little bit romantic?), as opposed to the book's general tone of dark horror with a touch of humor. But Mike Mignola's artwork is what creates the scary, serious atmosphere of the comics and since that is a singular talent that cannot be directly transferred to a live-action film, it's better to have the audience laugh with you than at you.

It's obvious that much care was put into the making of the film and the director loves the character and the strange world he inhabits. That love came through on the screen both visually and emotionally, emphasizing the core message of the comics: it's the choices you make that determine who you are.

Best Movies Based On Comic Books
With the upcoming movie releases of "Hellboy," "The Punisher" and "Spider-Man 2," this year is shaping up to be another good one for comic book fans ("Catwoman" notwithstanding).

After seeing a preview screening of "Hellboy" Monday night (see 'Hellboy' Is Hella Good), here's my list of the best motion pictures based on comic books: (I promise to flesh out this list and provide some more details and explanations)

  1. Superman: The Movie/Superman 2

  2. Batman

  3. The Rocketeer

  4. X2: X-Men United

  5. Hellboy

  6. The Crow

  7. Ghost World

  8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

  9. Spider-Man

  10. The Mask

Honorable Mentions:
These are movies it would be unfair to either include or not include in the list

  • Dick Tracy (based on a comic strip, not a comic book)

  • Unbreakable (not based on a comic book, but see it and you'll know why it's on this list)

  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (an animated feature)

  • Road to Perdition (based on a "graphic novel")

Not Seen:
These are some movies based on comics I have yet to see (gasp!), so they are not excluded from the Top 10 list based on their merits.

  • From Hell

  • Blade 2

Monday, March 29, 2004

How E-Voting Threatens Democracy: "Over the past year, doubts about the accuracy and integrity of e-voting equipment have been growing"

Having had the distinct (non)pleasure to use the e-voting machine in March, I can say that, due to the wonkiness it displayed, I was not impressed nor felt my votes were secure. Unfortunately, our county elections official will brook no dissent and is protesting our Secretary of State's request that the machines print paper receipts.

Music Lover to Exhibit Rock Concert Posters and Memorabilia at Pacific's Cawein Gallery

I'm glad to see Steve Klein is still at Pacific and keeping the place a little bit rock & roll. Just visiting his office was fun, so I wish I could see the exhibit.

e-Column: When high-speed Internet isn’t exactly high-speed Internet

Here's my 91st column for the East Oregonian.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Disney Studio Chief Sees Big-Screen 'Toy Story 3': "Pixar and Disney plan to part ways after two more films together, but Disney retains the rights to make the sequels to the movies they have already produced, including the two 'Toy Story' movies."

The question this article fails to answer is whether or not "Toy Story 3" will be 3D- or 2D-animated.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

My work has been cited! On a random Googling of my name, I discovered that one of my college newspaper stories was listed in the bibiliography.

Item 31 "For a description of the academic controversy surrounding S/M, see, e.g., Eddie Hargreaves, Professors’ Grant to Study S/M Stirs Controversy, U. Wire, May 14, 1998 (describing controversy stirred when two Pacific University Professors received a $5000 grant to study sadomasochism)"

Sunday, March 21, 2004

In The Name Of Love: Artists United For Africa
This album contains cover versions of U2 songs by Christian artists, including Audio Adrenaline, Delirious?, Jars Of Clay and Sixpence None The Richer. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the album goes to help fight the AIDS crisis in Africa.

Despite an awful first track, it's better than the previous tribute album, "We Will Follow." It's nice to see that even though U2 is not officially a Christian band, their music has been (and continues to be) inspiring. It's also notable that although songs spanning 20 years of their career are accounted for, the album appearing the most is "Achtung Baby" - originally criticized as a sell-out that refuted their past work and glorified sin over salvation.

Hellboy: The Movie
As a fan of Mike Mignola's Hellboy character since the original comic book mini-series "Seed of Destruction" was released in 1994, I was a little baffled when I first heard (way back in late 2001) that a movie was in development. On one hand, I'm happy in general when a comic book movie gets made, and even moreso for a character I care about. But on the other hand, Hollywood has made some execrable films from comics ("Howard The Duck," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2," "Batman & Robin," "Superman 3," the list is too long) and I'd rather have a good comic that no one knows about than a bad movie that turns everyone off to the character completely.

Adding to that level of queasiness is the fact that the entire Hellboy comic universe is drawn by the master artist Mignola, whose art, though not 100 percent unique, is highly-stylized and one of the main attractions of the comic. Thus, how could a live-action film hope to possibly capture the look and feel of the very two-dimensional, yet compelling comics.

Helping to assuade much of my fears, though, are the facts that the director, Guillermo Del Toro ("Mimic," "The Devil's Backbone," "Cronos," "Blade II") is a big fan of the comics and that Mignola has been very involved with the creation of the film. Also, a 10-minute feature on the film is available at BestBuy.com which reveals that not only is the screenplay based on "Seed of Destruction" but that many of the film's stars look strikingly similar to their comics counterparts.

Aside from creating an animated film in the style of Mignola's art, the upcoming Sony Pictures film is looking like the best live-action film anyone could possibly make about Hellboy. Come April 2, here's hoping that's enough.

Official Movie Web site

Friday, March 19, 2004

Repeat of 'The Passion' Seen as Leap of Faith
This Reuters story covers all the bases, noting that there is "no doubt that film executives are poring over ideas for Bible-themed projects that might appeal to a large, underserved audience of Americans who are devoted church-goers but relative strangers to the multiplex" but there is much "evidence that a Godly theme is no guarantee of box office miracles," noting last year's little-seen film, "The Gospel of John," the story of Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection.

The iTunes Music Store has a new treat: William Hung's "Inspiration" EP. Do you dare listen to even the 30-second preview of "I Believe I Can Fly"?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

March to madness for Forest Grove's Pacific University : "The erroneous faxes and phone calls started coming in to Division III Pacific University in Forest Grove before the NCAA selection show ended Sunday."

Pacific University. University of the Pacific. There is a difference, people.

e-Column #91: Online help available for tax season
Apparently my column did run this past Sunday, so here's a link to its location on the East Oregonian Web site.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Fortune.com photoStrip Clubs, Daredevil Trips, $1 Million Paychecks
Fortune.com has posted excerpts from "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise And Scandalous Fall Of Enron." They're interesting, revealing and disturbing, including this one:

"To many who knew him well, Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow seemed an incredibly insecure man. There were many people at Enron who kissed up to (Jeff) Skilling, but few did it as overtly as Fastow. ... Fastow named his first son Jeffrey; after the birth, as Fastow was passing out cigars in the office, he had to fend off jibes accusing him of being a 'suck-ass' for naming his son after his boss. According to one former managing director, Fastow replied, 'Hey, who's done more for me other than my mom and dad?'"

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Lucky charms?: "The Celtics won six straight after the team's owners gave each player an iPod engraved with his name and number."

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Simpsons-Related Dear Abby Column Pulled: "Somewhere in Springfield, state unknown, Bart Simpson is in detention, filling a chalkboard with the words 'I will not write a fake letter to Dear Abby.'"

How long will it take before an even funnier episode gets sent in as a letter?

Dear Abby,
My son doesn't think I pay enough attention to him, so he pretended to be an orphan and got a Big Brother appointed to watch him. To take revenge, I'm looking after a real orphan boy. If we accidentally meet while on an outing, how should I handle it?
Unappreciated in Springfield

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Apple Opens a Store, and It Clicks: "Lately, (San Francisco) has been a city of long, expectant lines. First came the throngs of same-sex couples outside City Hall, waiting to be married and to make history in the process. Then, last Saturday morning, came the Apple Computer faithful..."

I can personally attest that the lines got confused, as a wondering passerby asked us "Is this the line for the gay marriages?"

USATODAY.com - Pepsi Super Bowl promo airs before caps available: "'If the caps aren't out there, what's the point?'"

Way to go, Pepsi. You spent millions advertising a product that wasn't available for weeks (and won't be in Los Angeles until mid-March).

RollingStone.com News In Brief: "Songs by ... Elvis Presley will be included on Songs Inspired by the Passion of the Christ, due April 6th"

I guess that means he really isn't dead. (Elvis)

Sunday, February 29, 2004

e-Column: Yahoo leads new charge in ongoing search engine battle: "In January, 114.5 million Americans, representing 76 percent of the active online U.S. population, used a search engine. And Yahoo, one of the longest-lasting Web directories on the Internet, took a step to regain its former distinction as the Web’s dominant search site."

Here's my latest column for the East Oregonian.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Low-tech 'hack' takes fizz out of Pepsi-iTunes promo: "CNET News.com confirmed that it is not only possible to pick out winning bottles in advance; careful scrutiny can reveal the full 10-digit redemption code, meaning no purchase is required to get a free iTunes single courtesy of Pepsi."

Does ZDNet or CNET bother to name a single person who has been able to read the entire redemption code from an unopened bottle? No, and I seriously doubt most people can. It's hard enough to decipher the winning codes even after the cap has been removed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Forbes.com: Disney's Eisner finds something to laugh about: "'He created the computer, or at least Windows, or whatever he created, and did a good job,' Eisner said to peals of laughter from analysts attending the company conference in Orlando, Florida."

But were they laughing with him or at him? Keep in mind, he had problems with Apple's "Rip. Mix. Burn." campaign because he actually thought 'Rip' was short for 'Rip Off.'

Disney buys Jim Henson's Muppets and Bear: "The Walt Disney Company and The Jim Henson Company today announced that they have entered into an agreement under which Disney will acquire the beloved Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House properties from Henson."

Monday, February 16, 2004

e-Column: Directories that locate people a little scary: "The Internet has made it easier for people to retrieve information, and people directories and mapping services are good examples. But that ease of access is troubling to some"

Here's my latest column for the East Oregonian. They remembered to run it this week!

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Long-Time Keynote Watcher, First-time Attender
Here's my review of January's Macworld Expo Keynote for macCompanion.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

FCC To Investigate Jackson Breast Exposure Incident: "The (National Football) League said it was led to believe the (halftime) show produced by MTV would be clean"

Why would they believe that? What was the last thing MTV produced or aired that was clean? Where are the videos where Nelly doesn't grab his crotch or Janet Jackson her breasts?

Using New Technology Without Leaving Your Car: "As always, Microsoft is on the cutting edge of technology, this time with its Windows Automotive."

Without discussing whether or not Microsoft is ever on the cutting edge of technology, who thinks it's a good idea for their car to run on Windows? 'Hmmm, my wipers aren't working quite right, I'd better pull over and reboot.'

Friday, February 06, 2004

Pepsi iTunes Music Giveaway
Not only is Pepsi giving away iTunes songs via their 20oz. bottles, but 7-Eleven is doing so via 32oz. Big Gulp and Slurpee cups. So far, I'm one for one.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Music Biz Urges Download Harmony: "While this is not specifically an Apple and Microsoft matter, many of the practical issues center on compatibility between the two tech giants."

One day Apple is 'just another niche company' and the next it's a 'tech giant' on the level of Microsoft.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The missing e-Column...?
My latest e-column for the East Oregonian has not yet been published on their Web site (making me suspect someone also forgot to publish it in the printed paper). I would normally just wait another week or two for it to be published and link to it here. Since its topic is the Super Bowl, though, I'm going to make an exception. Here's a link to download it so you can get your e-Column fix.

That'll teach me to write about something time-sensitive...

Our Photo Galleries
It seems that sometime between when I first published our wedding, reception and Disneyworld photos and last week (a space of only a few years...) the links got stale and broken. I've now fixed everything on our old photo galleries pages and added some new galleries with more recent photos.

Our "Sims" Neighborhoods
Megan and I have six neighborhoods in "The Sims" that we've created and I've now posted links to the four best and most-lived ones in the right-hand column. The most entertaining parts are the photo galleries, but be sure to marvel at Megan's handiwork in crafting an entire college campus.

The neighborhood Web pages are pre-built by the game using templates, so I don't have a lot of control over them. They don't work in Safari correctly, but will in Internet Explorer. Also, there's a graphic at the top of most of the pages that links to some area of Aspyr's site that no longer exists, so just ignore that.

Since they take up more than 100MB of space, I'm serving them up off our home iMac. So if you have any trouble with those pages, e-mail me.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Remembering Martin
In observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, here's a quote from him that, unfortunately, is eerily accurate even today:

"If our nation can spend $35 million a year to fight an unjust war ... $20 billion to put man on the moon, it can spend billions to put God's children on our own two feet right here on earth."

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Selling on eBay almost as easy as buying
I recently auctioned a few items on eBay, so this seemed like a natural topic for my e-column.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Vacuums are often advertised by demonstrating how they can pick up bowling balls. As if anyone has ever left a bowling ball lying around and thought, 'Gee, I'd better get the vacuum cleaner.' Even bowling alleys don't stock vacuums for customer use.

Why not advertise the vacuum doing something useful like picking up cat hair ... or cat whiskers ... or cats?

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Daring Fireball: Die Hard
My favorite Mac curmudgeon (besides myself) included me in one of his recent posts. I'd also like to be put in the camp of those who seriously miss "Put Away" in OS X.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

e-Column: Icons move from desktop to Web sites
They may not be the newest or greatest Internet feature, but favicons are a nifty addition to the Web.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

It's time to back off a little from the letter X, which has been completely overused, especially in the last few years:

    X-mas (there's actually an interesting story behind this variation)
    Planet X (acceptable, since X is a variable)
    The X-Files (the explanation of why the cases had this title was a little silly)
    Mac OS X (somewhat acceptable, since X is the Roman numerical equivalent of 10)
    Windows XP (Completely Unexeptable)
    Sonic X
    Sonic Adventure DX (Director's Cut?)
    Megaman X
    XXX (the movie, perv)
    X2 (you already know how I feel about that title)
    XBox (At least the Box part is true, kind of)
    PSX (Playstation, Playstation 2, Playstation X?)
    Static-X (pretty cool name, actually)
    The XFL

Online music's winners and losers: "And when you come down to it, Wharton marketing professor Peter S. Fader says, people really don't care much about having physical ownership of their music."

How did this guy get to be a marketing professor? He claims that streaming model used by RealNetworks' Rhapsody will become the dominant business model for online music because "Streaming will win. It always (does)." OK, name a single example...

Seriously, Rhapsody has been around for a year or more and hasn't made as much money as the iTunes Music Store has in the last four months. How would you explain to those millions of people that "obtaining the songs is a nuisance."