Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shake It Like a Mint

My willpower is getting a workout. Shamrock Shakes are in at McDonalds. I stopped in this afternoon and had the first SS -- hell, the first McDonalds' shake -- that I've had in years. It was magnificently minty. Not a hint of chemical aftertaste. Not even that close-proximity-to-fries aftertaste I've come to associate with McDonalds' shakes. Must... resist.. . rapture...of the mint.

Score on Gore

If you've got a strong stomach, I recommend this quiz on bloodstains. I got about half right. (About 15 years ago I went to a seminar at the LA County Coronor's office about forensic science, but I don't think that that helped.)

The Talking Kindle 2 is Silenced

Authors Guild successfully kills Kindle 2 text-to-speech feature, it’s now optional for publishers

The Author's Guild has persuaded Amazon to make a feature in the Kindle 2 that reads books out loud optional for publishers to activate.  The Guild's concern was apparently that Kindles could become de facto audiobooks, and thus cut into sales of audiobooks.  (Never mind that the Kindle wouldn't provide the benefits of audiobooks, such as expressive readers).  Makes one wonder if they will seek to turn off the text-to-audio feature in Microsoft Outlook -- the one that reads your e-mail to you.
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Friday, February 27, 2009

Fury-ous Negotiating

Samuel L. Jackson's Ironclad Marvel Deal - E! Online

In the comics, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, has headlined several comics series, but his titles could never go the distance.  He has been far more successful as the Marvel Universe's favorite supporting player, showing up in other folks' comics to lend a sense of continuity.

Samuel L. Jackson, who played Fury in the post-credits sequence of IRON MAN, has signed on to serve the same function in Marvel Studios' future flicks.  The rumored deal would have Jackson portraying the SHIELD ramrod in IRON MAN 2 and at least eight other Marvel movies.

Good thing the deal didn't fall through. Marvel might have had to turn to the only other actor who has played Fury in live action -- The Hoff.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Brighter Night for THE DARK NIGHT

THE DARK KNIGHT has reached a billion dollars in international box office; and it's won two Oscars so far -- including the crucial above-the-line Best Supporting Actor award for Heath Ledger. It is losing a lot of the technical Oscars to Academy darlings like BENJAMIN BUTTON, but that's still a bit of respect for the 70-year-old Caped Crusader.

Cafe Balcony Interrupted

Alas, one of my favorite wi-fi watering holes, Cafe Balcony at Arizona and Centinela, will be closing for a couple of months at the end of February. The building in which it's located was sold, and the cafe lost its lease. It is looking to relocate to Santa Monica.

I'm sitting there now, doing (or not doing) some weekend work, enjoying a cup of siphon coffee, and savoring the last days of a wonderful place to sit and blog.

Written SF and Movies: Light Years Apart

A few years ago, an article in the LA Times calendar section lamented that while science fiction has been a profitable genre for films, the ideas for SF films had run dry, leading to nothing but remakes of old films.

Which of course led those of us who have read SF novels to think of the multitude of the great novels that have never been adapted to film.

Here, John Scalzi discusses why your favorite SF novel will probably never be turned into a movie.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Who Drinks the Watchmen

WATCHMEN Nite Owl Dark Roast Coffee

Organic Coffee Cartel is selling an odd item of merchandising for the upcoming WATCHMEN film: a limited edition run of organic coffee, "Nite Owl Dark Roast," in a collectible can.

OCC is promoting this as the "World's First Movie Tie-In Coffee." I have to disagree. When we were in Japan in 2007, UCC Coffee was selling canned iced coffee in cans emblazoned with characters from the animated movie NEON GENESIS EVANGELION 1.0: YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE. I collected several of the cans.

The Skinny on Vaio Lifestyle PC

If I didn't already have a netbook and a 15.4" laptop . . . .

If anything can entice recession-wracked folks to buy a new notebook computer that costs more than $500, it's the recent Fry's ad of a guy pulling a Sony Vaio lifestyle PC out of the vest pocket of his sportscoat. Now that is a slick-looking Babbage engine.

Photos are from

Video Spying

I'm very glad that books such as THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TV SPYS are still around. In an era in which you can google the most obscure two-episode TV series, and find treatises about it in Wikipedia, video of it at Hulu, and multi-stanza fan poems about it at, one might legitimately fear that encyclopedias of genre TV on honest-to-god paper would become anachronisms. Fortunately, that's not the case.

I'm a sucker for TV reference books. I got this one delivered at work yesterday, and by this morning I'd read several entries. The author, Wesley Britton, neatly balances his roles as historian and fan -- the entries are neither breathless nor boring. I do take issue with his definitions of some shows as Spy shows -- I think characterizing THE SAINT, WONDER WOMAN, and THE X-FILES as spy shows is stretching -- but at least he starts his book with a working definition of spy TV that justifies his choices.

I'm also glad to see my cousins Lee Goldberg, Tod Goldberg, and Burl Barer repeatedly mentioned -- indeed, Lee's blurb takes up half the back cover. I like to think that the history of video spies cannot be written without mentioning my family.

L.A. County Courthouse Seizes Arsenals

Enough Weapons to Oufit a Small Army Seized at Courthouses

This is not a comforting report to those of us who frequent LA County courthouses.  If these are the weapons that are seized, how many get through security?
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Antique Rayguns with Attitude

WETA, the New Zealand special effects house and prop manufacturer, sells these cunning old-fashioned prop rayguns. The merchandise itself is pricey enough to discourage the idle buyer, but the smart-ass sales pitches are hilarious.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Metatextual Buccaneers

Those who have read the graphic novel WATCHMEN (a growing number, since publicity for next month's movie has made sales of the 22-year-old graphic novel soar)will recall TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER. The backstory was that because superheroes were real in the WATCHMEN world, superhero comics never became popular. Instead, pirate comics became all the rage. In the background of several chapters of WATCHMEN, a young boy free-reads an issue of TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER; and its nightmarish tale becomes an ironic counterpoint and a Greek chorus to the actual storyline.

TOTBF won't quite fit into the upcoming movie; but in a bizarre yet cool move, the WATCHMEN director is releasing an animated direct-to-DVD TOTBF feature to coincide with the movie release. Here is the trailer:

In Brightest Day

Comic Book Resources > ReTales - 2-12-2009

In this era of blockbuster comic book movies, with the actual comics themselves receding in importance, we can forget the grip a comic book can have on a young fan.  Here, comics shop owner and Comic Book Resources columnist Jud Meyers tells of the day when, as a kid, he sneaked out of his home in Long Island and took an unauthorized trip to DC Comics to speak his peace about what was happening in GREEN LANTERN.
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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Putting the "T" in Valentine's Day

For Valentine's Day yesterday, Amy and I decided to skip the hassle of the Valentine's Day dinner, and instead opted for an afternoon tea at the Tudor House in Santa Monica.

The service was great; the food, tea and champagne were quite civilized; and the setting (a sparkling afternoon by the sea) was hard to beat. Oh, and the company was nice, too.

Kindling the Heart

After selling out its initial version of its Kindle e-book reader (and building up a substantial waiting list), Amazon has put out a second version, which is reportedly smaller, lighter, and has a larger capacity.

One somewhat unexpected market for the Kindle: Judges. Most federal courts (including all of the ones in California) require court papers to be filed in electronic (pdf) form; and according to anecdotal evidence, federal judges have been acquiring Kindles to allow them to review court papers away from their chambers.

As for me, I still read books the old-fashioned way: on paper.

Apple vs. Palm: the in-depth analysis - Engadget

For those who care about the future of smart phones: a lawyer reviews the patents that might be at issue in the saber-rattling between Apple and Palm about whether the forthcoming Palm Pre infringes Apple's iPhone patents -- or whether the iPhone infringes some of Palm's patents.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blossom Dearie, R.I.P.

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK premiered when I was about eight, and it played a large part in my early education (addicted as I was to Sat-Am TV). I learned my multiplication tables from it without even realizing that was what I was being taught.

I've been fortunate enough to see in concert the main musical force behind SR, Bob Dorough, as well as Jack Sheldon, the gravelly-voiced trumpeter behind "Conjunction Junction" and "I'm Just a Bill." But I never got to see Blossom Dearie, the wispy-voiced chanteuse who sang "Unpack Your Adjectives" and the ethereally-beautiful "Figure Eight":

Embedded Video

Ms. Dearie died last weekend at the age of 82, after several decades of performing live and on record. But her voice will keep on teaching kids forever.

It Could Stop a Clock

There's something about a clock that speeds up and slows down, and yet keeps time and looks fabulous, that appeals to me.

Embedded Video

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Coraline: Unlocking the Papered-Over Door

Some years ago, I bought Neil Gaiman's book CORALINE in hardback, but somehow never got around to reading it. More recently, I bought the hardback graphic novel adaptation of CORALINE, by P. Craig Russell, but I haven't read it yet either. This weekend, Henry Selick's stop-motion-animated movie adaptation of CORALINE opened in 3-D in theaters; and in light of the critical acclaim for it (and my admiration for both Gaiman's writing and Selick's skills) I figured we'd better go see it.

I'm very glad I did.

CORALINE is one of those extraordinary movies that uses a high level of craft to make you completely forget about the craft, forget about the 3-D gimmickry, forget that these are wooden figures being painstakingly moved by hand a few millimeters between frames, and just get sucked into the story.

The movie plays to both Gaiman's and Selick's strengths, in that it combines the ancient with the modern. Gaiman often puts modern characters through the paces of old stories and fairy tales, where a likeable (though usually not entirely) character enters another world and must learn and use the rules of that world. Selick works with the ancient art of puppetry; and stop-motion animation, one of the oldest kinds of visual trickery in film (one that is possible only with film), which gives the movie a tactile reality that computer animation cannot (yet) achieve. Yet he also uses the more modern technology of 3-D (far more advanced than the old red-blue-lensed cardboard glasses) and high-definition photography to make his imagery even more vivid.

Selick puts out few movies, likely because they are so time-consuming. (The lasting merchandising value of his NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, however, shows that his work can be commercially valuable.) Each one he does is a treat.

And hey, how many fantasy films (let alone stop-motion-animated ones) are set in Ashland, Oregon?

As for Gaiman, one can hope that the newly-Newberry-awarded writer's work achieves more box office success here than the last film adaptation of his work, the enjoyable but underperforming STARDUST.

Photographing That Which Is There and That Which Isn't

Here are a couple of fascinating photographer sites that I've come across, mainly because the photographers have photosets dealing with  cosplay.  Eric Hoeber
creates black and white prints with an old fashioned large -format camera.  Ed Pingol is a wedding photographer who features stunning color photos on his website.
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Friday, February 06, 2009

Quiet Capitol

Earlier this week, business took me to the state capital, Sacramento. I snapped these photos of the capitol building. It was just as quiet as the photos showed -- no one going in or out. I guess the stress of dealing with the state budget has worn everyone out.

Two things I noticed about the neighborhood around the capitol building: everything shuts down at 5 pm. Even the local Rite Aid closes at 5. The only exception: watering holes. The other is that the city seems way too small to contain all of the legislators, bureaucrats and lobbyists that inhabit Sacramento.

He Was Innocennnnnnnnnnt

news from me - ARCHIVES - February 03, 2009

Mark Evanier blogs about BRANDED.  I have to admit that I remember the opening credits to the series far better than I remember the series itself.  And in fact the credits are practically a mini-episode in themselves.  Particularly memorable are Chuck Conners's superior breaking Conner's sword across his knee (I remember wondering why army swords were so flimsy that they could be snapped like that); and the deep-voiced singer stretching the word "innocent" to match the song's meter.

I found Chuck Connors's earlier series, THE RIFLEMAN, to be more memorable.  Any guy who could raise his son as a single father, and yet handily dispatch bad guys with his rapid-fire Winchester rifle, was pretty darn impressive.  The Rifleman would certainly never let his rifle get snapped across some officer's knee.
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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Steelers Win Nailbiter Superbowl

As the scion of a structural-steel family, I'm happy to see the Steelers win an unbelievably close Superbowl. I'm glad that I managed to catch all of the history-making plays (including Harrison's 100-yard run), despite being stranded for about 40 minutes at Starbucks during the Third Quarter.

I'm surprised that (to my knowledge) the upcoming WOLVERINE movie didn't have a Superbowl trailer (Lamarr Woodley's Wolverine tattoo doesn't count).

One thing that I regret about Superbowls: the losing team always gets ushered off the gridiron without a word or interview -- even where, as here, they come within a few points of winning.

Joe Knows

Saw the Superbowl ad for G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA.

They may actually get me into the theater to watch this thing.

Super-Commercial Sunday

I'm sitting down to watch the annual Super-Commercial Sunday.

I think they're supposed to play some kind of football game during the breaks.

Community Organizer and Comics Collector

An Onion story after my own heart.