Thursday, July 27, 2006

So Many Head Jokes, So Little Time

Bored with summer TV? Listless in the absence of your favorite shows? Posessed by the distinct sensation that there simply aren't a sufficient number of gun-toting chimpanzees in your life? Then by all means, make haste with great speed to the SciFi Channel's Web site, where you can watch the insanely wonderful new pilot, The Amazing Screw-On Head.
The pilot episode airs at 10:30 p.m. tonight on SciFi! (My apologies for not posting this sooner, but we've had Internet connection problems at home thanks to The New AT&T and, meanwhile,'s availability has been up and down over the past week.)

The Amazing Screw-On Head is a one-issue comic book by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy. You might think that would make it easy to find. But I had to look through many, many booths at a number of comic conventions before I finally found a copy.

If you watch the pilot, take the "short online survey" to share your opinion with SciFi. How often do you get to tell a network you like (or don't like) what they're doing? I've been waiting for the TV premiere (well, and our Internet connection has been erratic), so I can't give my opinion just yet.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

24 Minutes of 'A Scanner Darkly'

IGN is pleased to bring you the first 24 minutes of Richard Linklater's new film, A Scanner Darkly!

Like a graphic novel come to life, A Scanner Darkly uses live action photography overlaid with an advanced animation process (interpolated rotoscoping) to create a haunting, highly stylized vision of the future.

Scanner has been rated R by the MPAA for "drug and sexual content, language and brief violent images." You'll note that the extended excerpt is age-gated -- you will have to enter your date of birth to view it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Yes, "Weird Al" is still active

Someone recently asked me if "Weird Al" Yankovic was doing OK, since we hadn't seen or heard much from him since the death of his parents in April 2004. I'm happy to report that there have been multiple sightings in the last month.

First, I got an e-mail stating that:

We're very sorry that the new "Weird Al" Yankovic album is taking a little longer than expected to make its way to a record store near you. We'll let you know as soon as we have a confirmed release date.

In the meantime, we thought you might like to download a free mp3 of a brand new Weird Al song (which won't be on the album). Our gift to you, just for being so darn cool.
The song is a parody of James Blunt's wildly overplayed You're Beautiful titled You're Pitiful. Apparently Blunt's label, Atlantic Records, objected to its release on the album.

Then, not even a week later, I get another e-mail regarding The Weird Al show:
That's right, all 13 glorious episodes from Al's 1997-98 CBS Saturday Morning kids' show - complete with commentaries and animated storyboards and all kinds of junk - will be hitting the stores in a spiffy 3-disc DVD box set on August 15.
And to promote that DVD set, he was listed in Entertainment Weekly's annual Must List as #43 out of 113 "people and things we love right now." He penned a parody song (albeit very reluctantly) called I Will Comply (set to the tune of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive).

Dark Chocolate M&M's

You asked... we answered! Thanks to popular demand, summer 2006 features the launch of one of our most anticipated products—M&M'S Dark Chocolate Candies! Look for the purple pack and experience these delicious candies for yourself.
Delicious, anticipated and demand are definitely the words I would use. And they're supposedly in stores today.

The 53rd Annual Willie Awards

Stockton Civic Theatre held its 53rd annual Willie Awards (named for William Shakespeare) on Sunday, June 25, for its 2005-2006 season, which included:

  1. South Pacific (at Delta College's Atherton Auditorium)
  2. Over the River and Through the Woods
  3. Amahl and the Night Visitors
  4. Don't Dress for Dinner
  5. Picnic
  6. Kiss Me, Kate
Over the River received a total of seven nominations:
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor:
    • William Smith (Nunzio)
    • Tom Kelly (Frank)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress:
    • Dorothy Mulvihill (Aida)
    • June Spencer (Emma)
  • Outstanding Set Design: Gary Scheiding
  • Outstanding Lead Actor: Eddie Hargreaves
  • Outstanding Production: Lora Hinson
Megan and I attended the awards ceremony and saw a lot of folks from Over the River as well as some from Delta College: John White (who directed Urinetown, The Musical) won Outstanding Lighting Design and Valerie Gnassounou-Bynoe (who choreographed Urinetown) won Outstanding Choreography, both for South Pacific.

Tom and June won their respective categories and gave some very nice speeches. It was unfortunate that they had to go up against their counterparts, but I guess that's just the nature of the process.

Although I did not win, it was great to see the show get recognized with so many other nominations and wins, especially our director, Lora.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Comic Con Fans

Since the San Diego Comic-Con is looming on the horizon, I thought I'd take some time every day to do a drawing of some of the types of fans that attend. I've been attending the Con regularly since 1979 so I've seen a few characters in my day.

Hero's return wows original director

The original director of Superman, Richard Donner, was astounded by the big-budget relaunch of the Superman franchise, which opens in the UK ... nearly 30 years after he brought it to the big screen.

Monday, July 17, 2006

FBI plans new Net-tapping push

The FBI has drafted sweeping legislation that would require Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and force makers of networking gear to build in backdoors for eavesdropping, CNET has learned.

Terror On The Strip
Las Vegas Review-Journal

As its Internet preview suggests, "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas" has the makings of a kick-ass video game.

But the fictitious adventure could also present a marketing headache for Las Vegas because of its on-screen setting, sources said this week.
Yeah, you wouldn't want the city of Las Vegas to be associated with illegal or harmful activities.
"It's based on a false premise," [Las Vegas Mayor Oscar] Goodman said.
Does that mean Con Air, Ocean's Eleven, CSI, Project Gotham Racing 3, and Mars Attacks! were based on true premises?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Escapists

Discovering his late father's decades-spanning vault of Escapist memorabilia at the age of six, Max became a fan of the Master of Elusion almost overnight. After exhausting the extensive stash of Golden and Silver Age comics, he needed more-and started writing his own Escapist stories. Now nineteen, he's determined to make the character a sensation once again, but where is he going to find an artist-in Cleveland? Meet Maxwell Roth and Case Weaver, latter-day versions of Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, in part one of The Escapists!
This 32-page comic is only $1 and there are no ads (other than the one for issue two) so anyone who enjoyed Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay has little excuse for not picking up a copy at their local comic book store. At the end of the comic is a column by Steve Duin, Metro columnist for The Oregonian, that's in the spirit.

The Apple Store That Wasn't

So, Apple wanted to build this Apple Store here in Portland, Oregon. And not just any old Apple Store — this was to be a built-from-scratch, non-mall, original-design Apple Store, one of the few in the world. It was to be something fairly special.

That was four years ago.
Anybody could write about this story (and many of those anybodies have) but what makes this take special is that it's written by Cabel Sasser, who is close to the issue both as a Mac software developer and:
I'm a Portland native, born and raised. I remember when the Blazers were awesome, I pronounce "milk" funny ("melk"), and I was once a serious contender in Ramblin' Rod's "Smile Contest". I also just so happen to live on NW 21st Avenue, exactly two blocks from the proposed site of this ill-fated store.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The 100 best products of the year

You know how many new-product pitches we get every year? Thousands, each declaring that the item is the best in its category. Though many of the companies making these claims are clearly delusional, some creations do stand as superbly designed top performers in their field--and you'll find all of them right here in our roster of the 100 best products of the year.
I'm not entirely sure what qualifies as their year, nor how Google can qualify as a product of that year, but the list is still relevant.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pop Culture Beats the Street

You know a studio's marketing department has done a good job when a fictional movie tricks the Wall Street men. This morning I was watching CNBC when their morning anchor, Joe Kernen, reported on how Pirates of the Caribbean broke the opening weekend record, recording 132 million in ticket sales. Kernen said that Pirates broke the record held by last year's Aquaman.
What? You haven't heard of the Aquaman movie that held the all-time three-day box office record? Here's a link to a video recording where Kernen made the claim (although I'm sure he was just reading a Teleprompter).

It kind of makes you wonder what other facts they've gotten wrong on CNBC. I guess it's not a big deal, though, since people are only using information from that network to invest their money.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Why Ebert's opinion is wrong

A shocking title to a shocking post, as I'm sure most of you know that I'm a fan of Ebert and his reviews and opinions, even if I don't always agree with them. (And I certainly pray that he recovers soon and gets out of the hospital.) But it's not just that I disagree with his review of Superman Returns, it's that his opinion of the film is wildly hypocritical and, in a way, wrong.

It's often said that opinions can't be wrong. That's true if it's an actual opinion, such as "I think this ice cream tastes better than that one." But not if it's "I think this ice cream is colder than that one." Coldness is measurable, so you could simply measure one ice cream and definitively find out if the person's opinion was right or wrong. Thus it's not really an opinion at all. Similarly, what if you write that Superman should expect Lex Luthor to have kryptonite because he's done so in every Superman movie prior? Well, since Lex Luthor has not, in fact, had kryptonite in all of the movies prior, doesn't that invalidate the opinion formed from it?

If you have not yet seen Superman Returns, do not read his review and do not read any further in this post. I made that mistake and no one else should have to. It's not due to the fact he gave it two stars, but rather because he spoiled a major plot detail. So if you have not yet seen the movie you should neither read his review, nor the rest of this post (this is your second!).

(scroll down for more ONLY if you have seen the movie! Seriously, this is your final warning!)

The major plot detail spoiled is that of Lois' son:

Now about Lois' kid. We know who his father is, and Lois knows, and I guess the kid knows, although he calls Richard his daddy.
Most of the people I've talked to did NOT know or even suspect that the kid's father is Superman (even Megan, who has an astonishly high rate of predicting surprise twists). So thanks for spoiling that for me and everyone else who trusts you enough to read your reviews ahead of time. Post in the comments if you were not surprised. But even so, it doesn't excuse the revealing of it in the review. Unfortunately, it appears that even Ebert is willing to ruin a good surprise if he doesn't care for the movie.

This quote also brings up another major problem with the review: making assumptions that aren't necessarily true. Does Lois know that the kid's father is Superman? Certainly she knows when she visits Superman in the hospital. We don't hear what she whispers to him, but I think, at the very least, it is a fair assumption. And thus she probably knows after he throws the piano across the room. But did she know before that? We know that the two of them slept together in Superman II. But at the end of that film, Superman used a 'super-kiss' to give Lois amnesia, so she would not remember that Clark was Superman. Surely she would also have forgotten that she slept with the 'mortal' Superman. So what evidence is there (prior to the piano stunt) that Lois knew the kid's father is Superman? Unless she hooked up with Richard very quickly after Superman left, she probably doesn't think it's Richard's. Speaking of whom, what does he know? Does he truly think he's the father or is he playing the part of Joseph of Arimathea? I'm guessing Ebert would think Richard knows, since Ebert also guesses the kid knows. I have to think the kid doesn't know either, since, as Ebert points out, he calls Richard his daddy. Would a kid call someone their daddy if they knew that person wasn't? I don't think so.

Unfortunately, Ebert's misconceptions don't end there. In his TV review, he said he guesses that Lois knows Clark is Superman. I can't think of a single scene which would indicate that is true, and there are a handful which would refute that.

The other major problem regarding Ebert's review revolves around Superman's abilities:
Watching Superman straining to hold a giant airliner, I'm wondering: Why does he strain? Does he have his limits? Would that new Airbus be too much for him?
If we want to talk physics, we could say that maybe Superman could immediately stop the airliner. But what would happen to the airliner and everyone inside if they went from hurtling toward the ground to complete stop in less than a second? Well, imagine driving a car into a brick wall at 90mph. We saw him try to slow the plane from spinning and eventually the wing just gave way. So the limits are partly that of the regular world and trying to keep from overdoing things.

And if we want to talk drama, what's particularly interesting about being perfect? What if Superman were able to solve all the problems perfectly without any question? Would that be dramatic? Ebert said it himself in his review of Blade
Wesley Snipes ... makes an effective Blade because he knows that the key ingredient in any interesting superhero is not omnipotence, but vulnerability.
Ebert does not allow for Superman to have any vulnerability but one:
Superman is vulnerable to one, and only one, substance: kryptonite. He knows this. We know this. Lex Luthor knows this. Yet he has been disabled by kryptonite in every one of the movies.
First, Director Bryan Singer is not counting the third and fourth movies (and I don't recall kryptonite being in the fourth anyhow). And he was not disabled by kryptonite in Superman II, either. So really he's only encountered kryptonite once before.
Does he think Lex Luthor would pull another stunt without a supply on hand?
Lex was, in fact, going to pull the stunt without a supply on hand. It's only after Superman returns that he goes to get some. And Superman may not even know Lex Luthor is involved with the oceanic disturbance. We know Lex is the one pulling the stunt, but it's not a certainty that Superman does. And Lois isn't conscious to tell him. Maybe he could figure it out based on the missing crystals and the fact that Lex is out of prison. But Batman is the detective, not Superman.
Why doesn't he take the most elementary precautions?
What precautions? Inject himself with anti-kryptonite serum? Even if he knew ahead of time that Lex was out there, why would he expect him to have kryptonite? As far as Superman knows, there was only the one sample that was lost.
How can a middle-aged bald man stab the Man of Steel with kryptonite?
As Lex notes, "mind over muscle." He is the "greatest criminal mastermind of our time" and Superman is no mastermind. This is the same reason Lex was able to best Superman in the first movie, which Ebert and I both hold in high regard. And while it's certainly fair to compare this movie to that one, Ebert doesn't seem to allow for the concept of characters changing over time.
Jimmy Olsen, the copy boy, such a brash kid, seems tamed and clueless.
Apparently he considers "brash" to be a compliment. I would equate it with stupid or idiotic. There's no doubt the 1978 Jimmy Olsen was funny, but he was certainly clueless. If anything, this film's Jimmy is less clueless because he clues Clark in to insights about Lois and what's happened over the years.
Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has lost her dash and pizzazz, and her fiance, Richard White (James Marsden), regards her like a deer caught in the headlights.
This is supposed to be a criticism, but it's really a plot summary. Yes, Lois is not the same Lois as five years ago. People change. Back then she was sneaking onto the Eiffel Tower and risking her life to win a Pulitzer. Now she's won one ... for an editorial that didn't require her to leave the office. What's her motivation now for risking her life? And, let's face it, she knew Superman could always save her. Would you get near a hydrogen bomb if you knew Superman hadn't been around for years?
Even the editor, Perry White (Frank Langella), comes across less like a curmudgeon, more like an efficient manager.
Apparently this is also a criticism. I don't understand how, though. I would think someone who worked at a newspaper might recognize that an editor is bascially a manager, and being efficient is not bad.

Ebert apparently will not allow for change, even though the story is following the instructions he gave in his review of Spider-Man 2, which he called
the best superhero movie since the modern genre was launched with Superman. It succeeds by being true to the insight that allowed Marvel Comics to upturn decades of comic-book tradition: Readers could identify more completely with heroes like themselves than with remote godlike paragons.
And again in his review of Blade, he notes
There is always a kind of sadness underlying the personalities of the great superheroes, who have been given great knowledge and gifts but few consolations in their battle against evil.
Ebert uses that sadness against Superman Returns:
But when the hero, his alter ego, his girlfriend and the villain all seem to lack any joy in being themselves, why should we feel joy at watching them?
You can't have it both ways.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

ABC Looks To DVR, Commercial Ratings Issues

ABC has held discussions on the use of technology that would disable the fast-forward button on DVRs, according to ABC President of Advertising Sales Mike Shaw, with the primary goal to allow TV commercials to run as intended.

"I would love it if the MSOs, during the deployment of the new DVRs they're putting out there, would disable the fast-forward [button]," Shaw said.
Since the article appears in a trade publication, it doesn't define what an MSO is. Regardless, I'm opposed to the disabling of the fast-forward button. And if you're going to disable it, why not just remove it? I think it would be more irritating for the button to be there, teasing you with its impotence, than to just not exist at all.
Shaw ... threw cold water on the idea that neutering the fast-forward option would result in a consumer backlash. He suggested that consumers prefer DVRs for their ability to facilitate on-demand viewing and not ad-zapping--and consumers might warm to the idea that anytime viewing brings with it a tradeoff in the form of unavoidable commercial viewing.
A change in temperature from absolute zero to minus-50 degrees could technically be considered warming, but no human being would consider it warm.

Who's Counting: Cheney's One Percent Doctrine
ABC News Commentary

In his heralded new book, The One Percent Doctrine, Ron Suskind ... describes the Cheney doctrine as follows: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty."
Mathematics professor John Allen Paulos looks at the consequences of an "if at least 1 percent, then act" doctrine. He also notes a bit of inconsistency:
A companion to the Cheney 1 percent action doctrine is the administration's non-action doctrine (if the probability is less than 99 percent, then don't act). This latter doctrine is generally invoked in discussions of global warming, where it seems absolute certainty is required to justify any significant action.
Yeah, now you're begging me to go back to comic books, aren't you?!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Comic Books and the Human Condition

"Comic books provide valuable insight into the human condition," I've been known to proclaim. It was in search of such insight that I curled up last week with the hotly anticipated conclusion of a DC Comics series called Identity Crisis.
This column was published long ago (January 2005) but I still think it's interesting. And seeing as how the focus of this blog has been superhero-related lately, it's about time I linked to it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Monterey Bay movie

Megan shot photos while we were at Monterey Bay and I shot video footage. You've seen the results of her work, and now you can see the results of mine. I edited approximately 30-40 minutes of video of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and stops on the 17-Mile Scenic Drive down to an 11:15 clip that is 16MB in file size. Broadband users shouldn't have any problem with that, but it'll probably be a long download for dial-up users (an hour, maybe?). Come visit and I'll show it to you in full size! And if you don't recognize the songs I used but would like to know what they are just send me an e-mail or leave a comment.

Monterey Bay movie

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Missing 'Superman Returns' Sequences

The trailers for "Superman Returns" featured more dialogue from Martha Kent than made it into the film, while also highlighting an elaborate sequence illustrating Supeman's return to Krypton. So what didn't make it into the film? We'll likely never know about everything that Bryan Singer & Co planned for the film ... but we can examine some important moments that were cut from the theatrical release of the film.
This blog is fast-becoming totally devoted to Superman, but I thought this story from CBR News would be of interest to anyone who has already seen the film.

I also got a hold of three of the four prequel comics, two of which add enlightment to the film's story threads.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Truth, Justice and (Fill in the Blank)
New York Times

In the first screen incarnation of Superman, the Max Fleischer cartoons that ran from 1941 to 1943, each episode's preamble informs us not only of the origin and powers of this relatively new creation (Krypton, speeding bullet, etc.), but also the kinds of things he fights for. It's a shorter list than you think. Before World War II, Superman fought 'a never-ending battle for truth and justice.' Back then, that was enough.
Erik Lundegaard puts the lie to the 'controversy' over the omission of "The American Way" in Superman Returns.