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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Comics With A Smile...

Heidi Meeley over at Comics Fairplay put up the following challenge:

Fans seem a bit burned out and irritated in general. I feel the same at times, and find myself grasping at straws trying to justify continuing in the hobby.

To help put a bit of a salve- a different twist on things, I am putting out a challenge to my fellow bloggers and site reporters and owners. Take one day next week from Sunday, July 29 to Saturday, August 4 and do a post that reflects on an event in the past year that is comic book related and has made you smile. Maybe it was one issue of a comic book you were happily surprised about. It could be a shared moment at a show meeting a creator or a fellow fan. It can be anything positive that can give your fellow fans something to think about on a positive tip. It is up to you.

Well, there’s the challenge. Thinking…thinking…

Ok, for a smile from a comic, I would definitely have to say getting into the Preacher series has been a trip. I haven’t read the whole series yet (only 3 trades in, so no spoilers please!), but Garth Ennis is writing some great stuff here. I’m quietly reading along, and I don’t know how many times I’ve just laughed right out loud at some of this stuff. Cassidy in particular – hilarious. The same goes for Ennis’ recent The Boys – again, laugh out loud stuff, and even The Punisher has it’s funny moments, though I’m smiling at that for different reasons. Ennis has the ability to write over the top, outlandish scenes and dialogue, and then bring a moment that makes you think right in the same story.

Then, for a different kind of smile, reading Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series and his Scene of the Crime graphic novel. These are noir and PI stories that I love, and had me smiling at the modern way of telling classic noir tales. These had me reading well into the late/early hours of the night to see how the story ends. Great Stuff.

CableDeadpool39And gotta throw a spandex superhero comic in here too as it’s the spandex set of crossover events that are burning out the industry – so let’s go with Cable & Deadpool. I picked up issue 39 and not having read what came before, I pretty much got it and laughed all the way through it. How can you not laugh at Deadpool’s quips and antics? He’s a crazy, messed up, non-stop talking assassin. Cable’s an over powered superhero from the future (I think) that wants to save the world. It’s a perfect match! Writer Fabian Nicieza brings the funny with quick quips, pop culture references, and fourth wall breakage. If you’re a superhero fan that’s tired of the mega crossover epic events from DC and Marvel, try Cable and Deadpool or X-Factor. You won’t be disappointed.

There are others as well, but these are off the top of my head. While I’ve never come across an industry that makes it so hard for the customers to get the product like comics makers do, these are worth the time, effort, and money and are the titles that make me smile and have me reading well into the night while the TV stays off. Speaking of which, I have to cancel part of the cable package – and somebody tell Deadpool I didn’t mean I was going to kill Cable again.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Heads up! Tomorrow is July 31, and we all know what that means:

DVD release date for 300 AND Hot Fuzz!!!!

Go get your 2 disc special editions. Yes, actually go buy a movie on the first release date. Normally, I'd never advise that, but these two are worth it. Plus, they're not being skimpy with the extra features either. Great movies, great features, why not. With the way movies are going this year, these may be the only ones you buy...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Me Mini Movie Reviews: Transformers

It’s the big blockbuster of the summer. Or one of them anyway. And so a friend and I went to see it tonight, as we were both in the mood to see things blow up good. And now having seen it, I have to say – that’s what all the hype was about? That’s it?

Now, I have to preface this by saying I wasn’t into Transformers as a kid, so there’s not much sentimental attachment for me like there was for a lot of the fans. But I still knew some of the characters, and I can appreciate action flicks with robots kicking each other’s ass. However, the ‘story’ (or whatever that was) was loaded with lots of cheese, and it seemed to take forever to get to some good robot ass kicking blow ‘em up action. The first half of the movie dragged, with more talking heads than I was expecting. The Transformers, once introduced onto the screen, were great, (Optimus Prime transforming from the big rig had me smiling) but there was too much mucking around – let’s get to the action already. Take for instance the “find the glasses” scene at the kid’s house while the Transformers were “waiting” for him. Sure it was funny at first, but it went on forever. There were some good spots of action, but they were far and few between until the last half of the movie with the big battle climax. That battle was fantastic though, with wall to wall action. However, by the time we got to it, the only characters I remotely cared about anymore were Shia Labouf’s Sam and the soldiers who had survived the initial attack and thrown down with a Decpticon again and lived to tell the tale. I didn’t even care when some of the Transformers got hurt or worse. It had taken too long to get there, and I had stopped caring. I still enjoyed the flat out action though, and Optimus Prime’s freeway fight was probably the best.

One surprise though was Shia Labouf. I thought he’d be annoying, but he was a lot of fun to watch and carried more energy and spirit through the movie than anyone else, including the big robots. Megan Fox was nice eye candy, but that’s about all I can think to say of her performance. And there is no way anyone is buying Anthony Anderson as the greatest computer hacker in the world that can crack the code. He was just annoying. I was also surprised at some of the pot shots they took at certain people and even a shot at George Bush in the middle of a summer action robot movie was rather disconcerting. Next time, cut the fluff and get to the robot action already.

The special effects were top notch though, and the action, once started, was a great ride. Not enough to really save the movie though. If you’re an ‘80’s Transformers fan, go see it by all means, but otherwise, wait for rental.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Crinkle, Crinkle, Little Bar...

I love Kellogg's Nutrigrain Apple Cinnamon cereal bars. Usually have them for breakfast, or take with me for a snack. But did they have to go and change the wrappers? New and improved - now with 100% more crinkly noise.

Whatever you do, don't open one of these in a theatre, or at a funeral (same dif, with the kind of movies playing these days). And don't unwrap one while you're sneaking over a border or playing spy vs spy.

This has been a public service announcement.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Writing Bits 'N Bytes...

Got my Windows XP hard drive rebuilt again. As cool as Ubuntu is, it's also quite troublesome. XP may be ornery sometimes, but at least I know where everything is and how to use it. Something nice and familiar about that.

With the hard drive back to usability and out of test mode, I got the writing bug back. Maybe I can crank out that 3rd part of The Stranger 10 story soon, or they'll be calling me Frank Miller or Kevin Smith for lateness (oooh, comic humor). The other morning, I wrote the epilogue for the story I hadn't even finished yet. Weird, eh? At least it hit me today why I had hit a roadblock on the story. I was writing the 3rd part from the wrong angle. There's a better way - I hope. Rewrote the first half tonight, hopefully the last bit will come just as well. Wouldn't want to keep my... um... reader... waiting too long for the story to finish :)

Got my iTunes setup again and cranking out the music from the Miami Vice Movie soundtrack. Good tunes for the background while I'm writing. Moody, driving rhythms, perfect for the story. Soon I'll get my hands on a shiny blue iPod Shuffle and can take the tunes a movin' with me...

Monday, July 23, 2007

TV Show News...

Word has it that the next season of '24' will feature a female president played by actress Cherry Jones. Of course, this begs the question: When will she be killed off? Because as we all know, unless your name is Jack Bauer on that show, you dead.

Also, word has it that with Bob Barker's retirement from The Price Is Right, his replacement will be none other than Drew Carey. Not a bad pick, and certainly way better than the first rumor of Rosie O'Donnell.

CSI Miami Spoiler Alert! News has it that Detective Tim Speedle will be back - he of the gunned down and dead character variety. How they'll explain that should be interesting - how did the crack forensics crew miss the fact he wasn't dead? And Horatio "Dramatically Repeat Myself" Caine is going to discover he has a son. Hmmm, note to David Caruso - your show is airborne and that's a shark in the water below you.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Me Mini Comic Reviews: Wolverine Origins Annual 1

WOLORIGANN001_int-0I managed to read the new Wolverine Origins Annual #1, and really enjoyed it. There's not much in forward plot movement in the whole "origins" storyline until the last panel, but as a stand alone Logan story, it's good. It reads like a noir-ish tale focusing on Logan's time in Madripoor circa WWII. He's back there now, looking for someone, and we get to read the tale in flashbacks before moving back to the current timeline as Wolverine goes searching for a link to his past. There's also the requisite femme fatale that isn't what she initially seems and more introspection into Logan's mind. All in all, it works well, and writer Daniel Way really seems to have Logan's tone and outlook down by now.

The art by Kaare Andrews is really great, in my opinion. As much as I like Steve Dillon's art as the regular on Wolverine Origins, it seems too 'clean' for a Wolverine title. Kaare Andrews style is darker and grittier and really works well for this story in the dark Madripoor. The backgrounds and colors all flow together smoothly, and some of the in between panel shots of close ups of Logan's eyes work great to convey his intensity at that moment. I'd like to see more of Andrews on Wolverine titles.

Overall, I'd say it's worth the $4.75. Good story, great art.

Ubuntu: A Weekend of Use Summary

Ubuntu desktop2Well, getting a little more used to Ubuntu. It's actually not bad, but they've got some ways to go to make it good. The bug with the Firefox and Thunderbird fonts is a huge one, and one they need to fix. It's fixable, but I don't think the average user is going to want to search forums to make his web browser readable. Get this fixed people.

Then there's the whole codec issue. It doesn't appear that any codecs are built in. After install, you still can't play MP3 or MPG files, let alone assorted AVI files. You have to go download VLC or MPlayer to get what you need. Simple enough, but still a pain. XMMS is a good substitute for Winamp though. And there are a lot of errors thrown up as you try to do the simplest things because it's missing what it needs. For instance, I tried to take a simple screen shot of the desktop to post here, but it was too much hassle to accomplish, so I gave up. I'm sure there's a way, but I don't have time to search the net to find out right now. [Edit: Thanks to OriginalLRU's tip, we now have a screenshot.]

So, once you've downloaded and installed Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC, MPlayer, XMMS, aMSN, Comix, BitTorrent, and WINE, you've got a reasonably usable system. I need to try out K9 and DVDShrink for ripping DVDs yet too. I still am looking for a good video editor (Kino or LiVES don't cut it), a DVD movie creator (devede doesn't want to download), something to make my Hauppage TV Capture card work to record video, and possibly getting iTunes running under WINE. If I can get those types of programs working, then Ubuntu Linux becomes a perfect Windows replacement. Otherwise, it comes up short.

As a newbie user to Linux who has worked extensively on Windows XP and just recently did a first time MAC OS X install, I would rate Ubuntu far behind MAC but on par with Windows. Looking at it from a newbie user viewpoint who's looking for ease of use and intuitive 'make it work' functionality, I would rate MAC OS X number 1 by a landslide, Ubuntu Linux second, with Windows XP very close behind in 3rd, and Vista at the back of the pack as something I don't even want to touch (playing around with it on computers in stores is just Ugh, Ugh, Ugh). So, with XP on it's way out in a few years anyway, that leaves us with MAC OS X and Linux at the front of the pack.

If the Linux community makes it just a bit more user friendly (include some basic codecs at least), there's no reason they won't keep gaining ground. My experience so far with Linux is better than Windows - way more stable, less rebooting, easier program installation (once you actually track down what you need), and a free open source alternative to almost any program you will need. It's got it's good points, and I think it's worth learning with the way the Microsoft camp keeps going. MAC is still the class of them all, but they are too costly and as they get more popular I fear they will wind up going down the same road as Microsoft. Learning an open source OS alongside your current OS of choice is just good common sense so that you're ready to go when one of the big corporate guys inevitably ticks you off.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ubuntu, Round 2

Well, that went a bit better.

I've reinstalled Ubuntu again, version 7.04, and it's running better than last time. I've even got it to a point of usability. Thanks to my experience with MAC installation recently and some web help, it was less daunting this time around. It still is quite misrepresented as something that can be easily used "out of the box". However, with a little work, it becomes usable pretty quick. The Synaptic Package Manager is a pretty slick way of downloading and installing programs once you get the hang of it.

I removed the Firefox that came with, and downloaded and installed the Firefox straight from the official website. It seems pretty stable, and so does the Thunderbird that I installed as well. I added VLC and MPlayer and somehow added some codec packs as well, and so now my media files actually play too. The included picture utilities are really pretty good (I like Eye for GNOME already), and of course OpenOffice is there ready to go as well. I also installed aMSN for a messenger clone, and though I haven't tested it out yet, the setup looks good.

Still got some major issues with font size and clarity in Firefox / Thunderbird, but I'll try to sort that out later. Some of the WMV files I played didn't look right either, so maybe there's a problem with my video card recognition. It's an old card.

So, no crashes yet (I'm staying away from the Evolution program this time), and once I figure out CD/DVD burning and video transcoding, it'll be at a major usable state. My bookmarks are up in Firefox and I'm sending messages from Thunderbird, so on the surface it looks pretty good. It still won't let me write to certain folders or access the root for anything (regardless of password), so that may pose a major problem yet.

All in all though, not bad for a free operating system. Just have to roll up your sleeves, slog through the help forums, and hope for the best. 'Course, it helps if you are familiar in any way with a MAC architecture. I think thats what helped me in round 2 here. It's not as good as MAC software for ease of use, but pretty downright impressive for free stuff.

Logan On His Way...

WOLORIGANN001_int-0CBR has an interview with Wolverine Origins writer, Daniel Way. Pretty interesting, as he talks about some of the reveals already told and where the story is going. I like the fact that while Origins is an ongoing, they have a finite number of issues in mind. Those tend to be better stories, when the writer knows ahead of time where he's going.

I wasn't a huge fan of them deciding to give Wolverine his memories back and tell his whole origin story, but the series has been ok so far and getting better. It'll be interesting to see where it goes from here, now that all the players are on the field.

I want to try to get my hands on an issue of Wolverine Origins Annual 1 (cover pictured). I really like the art and the story has Logan back in Madripoor - gotta read that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Get Yer Trailers!

Links below to download trailers (in glorious Quicktime!) for some movies I'm looking forward to. These all look like gold from the trailers, hopefully the movies will be just as good.

You've got fun action with Shoot 'Em Up with Clive Owen, an action thriller in Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid and Sigourney Weaver, a noirish mystery thriller from director Ben Affleck in Gone Baby Gone, a 70's style cop vs criminal with American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, a true western from the director of Walk the Line in 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale and a modern western thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones in No Country For Old Men. And of course, a comedy trailer that actually made me laugh with Steve Carrell as Maxwell Smart in Get Smart. Some real good stuff here.

Download and enjoy!

Gone Baby Gone
Shoot'em Up
Vantage Point
American Gangster
No Country For Old Men
3:10 To Yuma
Get Smart

32 To 17

So, the 32" Westinghouse TV/monitor went back to Best Buy today. It was a great TV, great for movies, but not a good computer monitor. I should have known, but it was worth a shot. Now it's back to the drawing board on upgrading my system. I'm still going to get a MAC laptop, but I want a nice big monitor to plug it into at times. We'll see...

Back to my good ol' BenQ 17" monitor for now, and it just keeps going. I've been pretty happy with this BenQ monitor, so I might stick with the brand if I can find a good deal.

Till then, I'll get back to planning out my Media Center PC (NOT with Windows :) to run or rip my TV on DVD sets through. I'll be cutting back the cable package as it's movie selection is just pathetic (I'd rather being reading my comics or novels I have on the shelf), and if I wasn't getting it for half price for these 4 months, I'd be pretty upset at the money drain. See ya later TMN, don't let the door hit ya on the way out.

And having read through a bunch more Garth Ennis Punisher MAX comics, I'm itching to get back to writing some more of my amateur hour stories myself. Hopefully I'll get some inspiration going here again...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sleep Like A Brick...

Oh dear. Should be in bed, but Brick is on TMN, so I can't turn that off. That's a heckuva two-fer today. Casablanca on TMC before I go to work, then Brick when I come home. Excellent.

Here's some interesting news. Comic seller Dynamite has licensed The Man With No Name property - specifically the three Leone films with Clint Eastwood, including The Good The Bad and The Ugly. They'll be telling more stories of The Man character with an ongoing comic series starting in November by writer Christos Gage. Now this could be really good - a gritty western comic delving into the character that is The Man With No Name. OR, it could be really bad. As in ruining the mythos of the character from the movies. As long as they don't do an origin story revealing the character's name and history, it might turn out well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Beep, Beep...

Had to get up early today thanks to fire alarm testing in my building. Listening to lots of beeping and "testing, testing" go through the building speaker here in my unit. Lovely. Didn't get much sleep either beforehand, so to quote Brendan from the movie Brick again, "I've got knives in my eyes..."

Anyway, to get me up and moving, here's the perfect antidote: Keith Urban's 'I Told You So.' Love the song, and the unique beat...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Odds N Ends...

Up to me eyeballs in tech stuff, computer parts, and hacking away at various OS options. Had a breakthrough though, so maybe I'll figure this out yet. When I'm learning new stuff, it's never easy for me until I can suddenly visualize it. It's hard to explain, but when I've got lots of data coming at me, it doesn't go well until suddenly it clicks and I can just "see" it in my head, like a 3D map. Weird, but so it goes. Maybe why it always took me longer to learn something, but once I get that click moment, it stays with me.

Not much of a LeAnn Rimes fan, but her latest single "Nothin' Better To Do" is actually pretty catchy. Kinda sticks in your head.

Was stuck in a traffic jam last night which was kind of annoying, but I had a good laugh at one guys license plate: "SLEPT N"

Speaking of which, I gotta get some shut eye here...

Friday, July 06, 2007

DVI to HDMI to VG Eh?

Not much in the way of posting lately as I've been busy researching and trying some tech stuff while trying to upgrade my system. And here's a tip - don't bother trying to use a 32" Westinghouse LCD TV as a computer monitor. Nice idea in theory, not so great in execution. Even if they say you can use it as a computer monitor. Not unless you want to go cross eyed reading the text.

I guess the answer lies in the difference between computer monitors and TV's. It's the resolution. Computer monitors always have way higher resolutions than TV's. To buy a TV with that kind of resolution, you're looking at 1080P categories, and that's too expensive. Especially since they are now coming out with 24 and 26" computer monitors.

Oh well, back to the drawing board for redoing my setup here...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Me Mini Movie Reviews: Pirates 3

Tonight a friend and I went out to see Pirates 3. Oh yeah, I’m so current with the movie landscape, aren’t I? It’s only been out for over a month. Anyway, I’d heard generally negative reviews of it around the ‘net, but she had already seen it and liked it and wanted to see it again, so off we went. I trust a friends opinion before the ‘net rumblings, and we both wanted popcorn, and it was a 3 hour movie, so at least we’d get our money’s worth. I was surprised how full the theatre was considering how long it’s been out. I thought it’d be a safe bet for no crowds, but apparently everyone else had the same idea.

All in all, it wasn’t that bad a movie. Certainly way better than the second one, but nowhere near as good as the first. Thank goodness they brought (Pirates 2 spoiler alert!) Barbosa back, or it may have been a dud. Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbosa gave Depp and company someone to play off of that the second one dearly lacked. Not to mention he got some great lines and appeared to be having a ball. Depp as Captain Jack was good, of course, and they seemed to get him back to the likeable, conspiring pirate of the first film instead of the odd hard left character turn they had in the second. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swan turned in excellent work as well, and had a major chunk of the screen time as her character got a lot of attention. And Orlando Bloom was…um…there. The music hit all the rights notes and the special effects were top notch. As fantastical as everything is, you’re never taken out of the movie by a moment of bad FX. The computer CG guys did a heckuva job to make everything look right.

On the down side, it was rather too long and definitely as convoluted as everyone had said. It gets hard to follow who is making or breaking what deal with who and why. I’d be surprised if even the writers had it all figured out. To quote a line someone says about Captain Jack, “Do you think he plans it all out, or just makes it up as he goes along?” I wonder if that was an in-joke about the script. Chow-Yun Fat’s talent was wasted as well, and there’s an out of nowhere new Calypso 'deus ex machina' character too. Don’t think about it all too hard and just go with it and it’s a pretty fun flick though.

I’d probably watch it again once it hits DVD, unlike Pirates 2, which really had no rewatchability factor. The humor is back, the action set pieces are fewer between but great spectacles, and Captains Jack and Barbosa are the real reasons to watch it. Bear in mind it’s heavy with the Swan / Turner show, but even that’s bearable enough. And hey look, no giant squid either. Oh, and stay through the credits if you want the whole story.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bourne To Be Bad...

Apple - Trailers - Universal Pictures - The Bourne Ultimatum

A new theatrical trailer for the Bourne Ultimatum is out over at Apple Trailers. It looks good, and I’m interested in seeing how this trilogy plays out. However, if you want to avoid any spoilers, I’d advise passing on the trailer though. There’s nothing huge given away, but there’s a few action moments shown that may have been “Woah!” or “Yeah!” moments when you’re watching the movie for the first time.

There’s some quick editing going on again, although I don’t know if that’s just the trailer or from the movie, so it’s unknown yet if the director took the shaky cam criticism to heart from the previous movie and will let us actually see the action this time. If he does, this could be a slam bang flick. If he doesn't, it could be really bad. There’s another great car chase going on, a rooftop foot chase as well, and some good hand to hand combat. Let’s just hope we can see it.

And why is Julia Stiles in this again? Anybody?

News View...

I don't watch much News stations as a rule, but this morning I've had recently added cable channel BBC World on and it's amazingly different from, say, CNN. It's classier to start with, and doesn't seem to rely on the usual sensationalism and fear mongering that North American news networks rely on.

And after the lead news stories were covered, instead of 24 hour Paris Hilton coverage, they did a human interest story on a sandwich maker in Thailand who lost it all in their financial crisis and started selling home made sandwiches which grew into a business again. Their sports coverage went with soccer, Formula 1, and cricket instead of Barry Bonds fake home run chase. They need to add hockey coverage though.

It's a refreshing tone of British class on the state of the usual depressing news of the world. North American news networks could learn a thing or two from them.

Holiday Weekend...

Um…Happy Canada Day for yesterday. Oh Canada, and all that. Now back to your regularly scheduled over taxation…

This is an odd holiday weekend around here. Stores were open on the Sunday Holiday, but are closed on Monday. Banks and government offices take them both off, and yet City bus routes are running full schedule on Monday – when everything is closed and nobody is going anywhere. Sounds like top drawer city planning to me…

Of course, to a true Canadian July 1st is all about one thing: NHL Free Agent season begins! Hockey players were moving all over the map as the big spenders came out in full force. The NY Rangers blew a stack of cash getting a couple big names, Philly continued to rebuild, Edmonton traded away another heart and soul player, and the Toronto Maple Laughs signed 40 goal scorer Jason Blake from the Islanders. Combined with their previous trade for mid level goalie Toskala, and they are shoe ins for the Stanley Cup next year – right Leaf Fans? I’m sure they’re planning the parade route right now. Sarcasm aside, it’s a decent signing, and might be just enough to get them into the playoffs next year so the top brass can get those playoff gate revenues. They’re still light years away from a Cup though…

I’ve got my computer just about all backed up, so the official reformat can soon begin. I think this time I’ll try to partition the hard drive again with Windows and Debian Linux. See how that goes. Then I’ll try KnoppMyth on my other test hard drive and see if that’s an easy enough solution to my dream PVR computer setup. ‘Course, if I could get a used AppleTV for about a 100 bucks, I’d just hack it and go that route. But I’m not paying $450 for what I might be able to do with some old hardware I’ve got and some headaches while I travel a learning curve. ‘Course that might change depending on frustration levels…