Friday, December 31, 2004


Okay, in the 70's there was an anime, Casshan, about an extraordinary human who battles robots to free an enslaved mankind. Now we have a live-action movie containing some of the key elements of this story, but as it turns out, a lot more depressing.

I saw the trailers for this a while ago, and Tom got me the movie to watch. Kelly and I just finished watching it. All I can say is, MEGA-BUMMER. It was at times hard to follow, but I think we figured out most of the storyline. The ending seems to be a symbolic rebirth of humankind after most are wiped out in a war that's escalated until humanity's ultimate ancestors are destroyed, reborn and turned against us. Hows them apples?

Anyway, if you care, here's a link to the official site.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Well, my tolerance for long, melodramatic Wu Xia remains undiluted. Jean gracefully allowed me to join my friends Tom and Alan downtown this afternoon/evening to see a theatrical screening of House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou's second Wu Xia movie, after Hero.

Turns out that there were a couple other people I recognized as well. James was there, with his friend Jeremy (and one other guy I confess I didn't recognize). So we had a little crowd in our own row.

All the principals (Takeshi Kaneshiro as Jin, Andy Lau as Leo and Zhang Ziyi as Mei) were great. The action sequences were fun, sometimes lyrical, and almost always over the top, though usually more polished and believable than in classic flying people movies like Deadful Melody. In the last few years, the bar seems to have been raised for credible special effects and martial arts stunts. I'd credit Storm Riders and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for this shift, though what do I know?

This seems to be my week for seeing movies about blind martial artists, as Zhang Ziyi plays a blind daughter of a now dead revolutionary. Or is she really blind? Zatoichi had folks asking the same thing...

Dead Lines

I finished Dead Lines by Greg Bear last night. To call it a horror novel as the jacket blurbs did is a bit of an exaggeration. Overall a quick, light read, and fun. I thought the ending two or three pages were kind of weak, though.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Phantom of the Opera

Wowser. The kindest critics really dislike this musical, if not the movie made from it. After having sat through it, I suppose I can understand that. You have to like Andrew Lloyd Webber a lot to start with, as this is not his best musical. I do like him a lot, having gotten started back in high school with Jesus Christ Superstar, and taking samples over the intervening years.

The critics were mixed in their response to Evita as well:

"The music, like most of the Webber/Rice scores, is repetitive to the point of brainwashing. It's as if they come up with one good song and go directly into rehearsals."

That's Roger Ebert, one of the fans of the film adaptation of Evita. I liked it enough to buy the 'repetitive' soundtrack, and I still listen to it. 'Phantom' is not as memorable. Maybe two songs stand out, including the title song. But I was entranced while watching it, and glad that a movie version was made, since I'll never get to Broadway.

Monday, December 27, 2004


One last post tonight. I've still got several days until my schedule at work precludes it, so I need to get my bod downtown and see the theatrical screening of House of Flying Daggers at the Fox Tower Stadium 10. This is the second Wu Xia movie by Zhang Yimou, the first being Hero, about which I wrote here recently.

Ocean's Twelve

Can you tell I'm taking holiday time right now?

Today I took Kelly to Christmas Camp at the YMCA, and then I decided to treat myself to a movie. I went to see Ocean's Twelve. I'd seen the previous movie as a NOVA movie, I think, so I was prepped for the premise.

This movie, like the previous one, rests more on the banter than on the high tech heist flummery that is also liberally strewn about. I won't pick favorites as it is an ensemble cast and that's what makes it work. I laughed out loud several times, as did the couple who were sitting next to me in the theatre. If you've seen the first, this is more of the same, but if you liked the first, you won't be disappointed with the sequel.

The Office

One of my Christmas presents to Jean and myself was The Office Christmas Special. We have seen both of the two seasons of the show, and it ended badly for several characters. That's kind of the point of the show, that it is not a sugar-coated comedy, but rather raw and pointed. Sometimes it went over the edge into the most uncomfortable of situations, which I generally don't care for, but most of the time, it was very amusing.

They broke with the tradition of the series, and allowed two characters happiness, and one a ray of hope. I think that's only just for a Christmas special, and I was never satisfied with the raw deal, however realistic, Tim received at the end of the second season. So I'm happy, and Jean's happy. Merry Christmas, fictional people!

Six Feet Under

Last night, Jean and I watched the first episode of the first season of Six Feet Under, which I more or less bought to watch with her over the Christmas break. It's too soon to tell, but I'm intrigued enough to want to see another episode (or thirteen, given that we've got the first season).

This is the second HBO series that I've sampled in the last few years. Jean rented the first season of the Sopranos a year or so ago. All I can say is that you can tell immediately that you're not watching regular television. Lots more swearing, sexual references. But also generally quite interesting writing. Maybe I'll update more as we progress, but for now, color me interested.


Christmas night I made a nest in the den, curling up on the captain's bed with a comforter and my iBook. I loaded Zatoichi, given to me by one of my anime friends (John Jackson) for Christmas. I watched it beginning to end in the dark with headphones on. I'm gonna have to do that more often!

The movie itself is entertaining, with Takeshi Kitano giving a sometimes subtle but charismatic performance as the blind masseur Zatoichi. I'm giving away my age here when I compare this character, somewhat tongue in cheek, to Jim Bronson, in Then Came Bronson. The basic story line goes: exceptional man sees all the mysteries and tragedies of the world, stands tall after every disappointment, but one day tires of working within the system. He sheds his old life like a discarded skin and embarks on a pilgrimage. Where it leads and how it will end, he doesn't know. But in the meantime, he wanders from town to town, and being the exceptional man, cannot help but aid the downtrodden where he meets them. Bronson did it from the saddle of a Harley motorcyle, Zatoichi shuffling along on tattered sandals. Bronson with his wits and fists, Zatoichi with his wits and his cane/sword.

But no, I'm also reminded of Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone films. Particularly Fistful of Dollars, where the nameless stranger enters a town and plays two greedy families against each other to his own advantage. That's not the plot of Zatoichi, but captures the amoral, elemental nature of his character. I wonder if the creators of Zatoichi hadn't read Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett (published in 1929). In it, the nameless detective in the employ of the Continental Detective Agency brings a tower of corruption crashing down by guile and playing on peoples' greed. Neither of these stories has anything to do with Zatoichi's storyline, but I kept coming back to the central characters, essentially amoral, unjudging, yet always seeming to come down on the side of the weak.

There have been a couple dozen Zatoichi series movies. He's a popular character in Japan. Kitano's movie is an irreverent tribute to this original series. Now that I've seen it, I'll almost certainly have to check out some of the originals.


Yes, it is a real word. Kelly watched most of Mary Poppins last night and was singing the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious doggerel, so I decided to share a 'real word' with her. Took her til today to pronounce it correctly. "Now, you must learn it's meaning!"

Friday, December 24, 2004

Now There's Something You Don't See Everyday

Me without a beard! Don't worry, it'll grow back. We just wanted to see what I looked like without one after wearing one for over twenty years.

I should scan in some of my wedding pictures. I didn't have a beard then, in fact that was the last time I was without a beard. Coincidence? I think not!

Christmas Play

Okay, it's like a week later, but I finally got off my butt and processed the photos I took at Kelly's church, where she participated in the yearly Christmas performance. Public photos, at Flickr, as usual...

Friday, December 17, 2004


So I'm officially no longer middle aged. I'm late middle aged.

Only a few days ago, some Gen Y clerk offered me the senior discount. I graciously corrected him.

Today, I went to visit Dr. Selby to see if he could do anything about some painful welts I had on my back and side. He stepped in and said "so you have some sort of rash? Lift up your shirt and let's have a look."

So I barely get the shirt above my ribs and he says "that's shingles."

Yes, just like that. Quickest diagnosis in my life. So I'm taking Acyclovir to block replication of the virus, and Dr. Selby swears that I should see dramatic improvement in five days (good thing too, as the prescription runs out in seven).

So just like that, I get the one two punch. See you in the managed care apartments.

Monday, December 13, 2004


A friend asked me to explain how we were adapting the movie for the stage, and I thought about it and said, "O.K., you know how, in the movie, there's a cow that flies out of a castle and lands on a page? Well, in the musical, the cow has a singing part."

Mike Nichols on "Spamalot", the 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' Broadway Musical

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Breakfast with Santa

I took Kelly to the Sherwood YMCA this morning for breakfast with Santa. I snapped a few pictures, and the banner is my favorite.

If that's not enough for ya, I uploaded a few to my Flickr page. They're all public, so enjoy. Season's Greetings!

Monday, November 29, 2004


Okay, I was listening to Adam Curry's podcast, The Daily Source Code, and he played a song from an 'album' I'd only heard about. It's called Beatallica, and is a mashup of Beatles songs sung as if written and performed by Metallica. The example he played was Hey Dude, and it's ... just ... wrong.

Others I don't intend to try, but am amused by the titles:

  • Got to Get You Trapped Under Ice

  • Leper Madonna

  • I Want to Choke Your Band

  • The Thing That Should Not Let It Be

Just visit the link and try to match up the originals with the mashups.

Extended Holiday

Off this Monday, just lazing about. This morning I finally got the kitchen computer (Jean's machine) fully restored. Feels good. I spent the better part of the four day holiday attempting to rescue the original disk, and when that clearly wasn't possible, running the computer to the Apple Store in the mall for a replacement disk. Now it has a slightly faster (5400 rpm, versus 4400 rpm), somewhat roomier (30 GB versus the original 20 GB) disk drive, and all of Jean's applications are installed. All her data too, thanks to a CD backup and my nearly failed hard drive mirror. All that's missing, and that's still admittedly a lot, are the various bookmarks and preferences.

I plan to let it cycle for a week or more, maybe even to the Christmas holiday, then I'll try to make a complete clone image onto the backup drive.

So once I was satisfied with the state of the machine this morning, I exercised, then spent the rest of the morning watching bad scifi movies while nibbling a fish lunch. I may even spend a little time playing Shadow Hearts this afternoon. So I get some holiday time after all!

Oh, and Kelly's diorama got finished this weekend too. It looks quite nice. It ought to, considering that Jean and I have been helping her work on it for two weeks now.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving is having a fun holiday. We celebrated in the traditional manner, making more food than we could comfortably eat. I ate to the edge of discomfort, then took two steps over.

Jean made homemade cranberry sauce, the Turkey and apple pie (with Kelly's help). I made my favorite tofu chili, mashed sweet potatoes and a pumpkin pie (with homemade whipped cream). We'll be eating leftovers for several days. In addition, I'm thinking seriously about trying out that Turkey Tettrazini recipe I've got.

Bad vibes today were due to a mysterious disk failure on my wife's computer. I tried backing up the data, most of which was backed up just a week or so ago, so I'm not too worried about data loss. But the disk itself is being really stubborn about recovering. I even tried a tool called Disk Warrior, which is supposed to be a miracle worker. It ain't working. I'm guessing I'm going to have to do a clean install over the weekend, then restore documents afterwards. Ugh.

Kelly and I are plowing forward on her school project, a diorama depicting a scene from the book The Tale of Despereaux. She has to do some project each month as an integral part of a book report. I usually donate a chunk of time to help her out (Jean does too, of course). Initially I thought this was a hassle, but I've come to enjoy the time with her, modulo the engineering arguments we engage in from time to time.

If Kelly completes enough of her project early enough tomorrow, we'll be going to see The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. Oh joy!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Baby Teeth and the Hierarchy of Needs

Sometimes it's fun being a parent. Kelly is in the process of losing another baby tooth, and she's obsessing over the idea that it'll fall out in the night while she's asleep. And she could choke on it. She was literally standing over the washbasin tugging it to and fro trying to get it to come loose before bedtime so she wouldn't risk this scenario.

I think I've steered her away from her nightmare scenario, assuring her that I've yet to see a recorded case of night strangulation by baby tooth. At worst, I said, she'd swallow it and never see it, or it'd fall out and roll under the bed, to be lost amidst the junk she's accumulated and refused to throw away over the last nine years. This of course led next to lawyering. If she didn't have the tooth, how could she 'extract' (heh) payment from the tooth fairy? I told her that since Jean and I knew about the tooth, we could issue an affidavit to that effect and place it under her pillow, which would be as good as a tooth. So then, Dad, what if we find the tooth later? Will the tooth fairy come and get it then?

Enough! In the nicest voice possible I explained to Kelly that while her tooth was surely bugging her, and I of all people, given my various sleep misadventures, sympathized with her, she at least had to make the attempt to sleep, given that she was a growing girl, school was tomorrow, blah, blah, blah. Then for some reason I got onto a monologue concerning the pillars of a healthy life, i.e. balanced meals, exercise, and sleep. And then, after she had agreed to try sleeping without obsessing over the tooth, we got to talking about what a person needs to live, and I spent awhile recounting Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Huh? How the heck did I get here? But she got it. That is so cool!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Happy Belated Halloween

Okay, now that we are well away from the holiday, I thought I'd get around to posting my banner photo for Halloween. Kelly is a cat girl. More photos are on my Flickr Site. None of them are all that good. I was more focused on being the holiday than capturing it, so sorry for the muddy images...

Monday, November 15, 2004


So where is the best authentic ramen in the Portland Metro area? In the Southwest 'burbs? Or am I stuck with Top Ramen?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Idle Animation

Kelly's school was closed for Veteran's Day (and Friday too, for teacher conferences). I knew about this last weekend, so last Sunday Kelly and I made a field trip to buy a game. We started by looking for something educational, but couldn't find what she wanted, so we ended up getting Pokemon Colosseum, a game that's been on her Christmas list since it came out. Kelly's got limits on how much television and video game time she can burn in one day, but we lifted it for the two-day school vacation.

Now Kelly plays games pretty intensely. Without a brake on her involvement, she'll play for hours at a stretch. Too much of this is not a good thing, and she eventually becomes grumpy. Two days of this isn't really enough to bring out the brat, but it does bring out the zombie:

"Kelly, are you hungry for lunch?"

... silence ...


... "uh huh? Um, what did you say?" ...

"Are you hungry for lunch?"

... "okay" ...

I won't belabor the point, this goes on for awhile unless we step in front of the television, which we do. Now for a little seque, which will seem pointless, at first, but bear with me.

Many video games, action, adventure, platform, whatever, give you a chance to breath when your character is in 'safe' areas, i.e. places where there's no action or goal as yet. Save rooms in Resident Evil come to mind. This comes in handy if you've been locked in battle for an hour, unable to stop without losing your progress, and your bladder is just about to burst (I'm talking to you, Final Fantasy X).

Step away from the game controller long enough, and your character will begin to move on his own. He'll reach up and scratch his head, look around impatiently, tap his foot. Sometimes he'll even make rude remarks. I've even had games where the character will break the fourth wall and call out to me, "hey, I'm ready to go here!"

In Pokemon Colosseum, there is nothing so overt. The 'idle animation' looks a lot like the active animation, but stands out when you're not controlling the characters. This is because no normal person displays idleness by bouncing gently on their knees while matching tempo with their crooked elbows. That is, they push their elbows back just a little bit as they lower themselves, then straighten knees and elbows to stand upright.

Ready for the end of our seque? Good. I'd been watching this activity on the screen for awhile as I waited for Kelly to surface enough to talk about lunch, when it twigged. Without saying another word, I positioned myself so I was in Kelly's field of vision. Not in front of the television, just where she could see me. Then I began imitating the idle animation of her characters. Saying nothing, looking straight ahead, rocking on my knees, crooking my elbows.

Maybe half a minute passed, then Kelly looked up. At first she looked puzzled, then, as she had stopped running her characters, they went into their idle animation. She looked at the screen, then at me, then jumped up and tackled me.

I've been having fun the entire rest of the weekend tweaking her. Whenever she makes me wait, I go into my idle animation. Then she stops whatever she's doing and chases me. Too amusing.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

The Incredibles

Saturday was NOVA, and also the premier weekend of The Incredibles, so naturally, we had to take a crew to see it. Sunday I was telling Jean about it, and Kelly piped up "I wanna go!" So it looks like I'll be racking up the viewings.

This is the first Pixar movie which was not helmed by John Lasseter. According to reviews I've read, he was concerned that Pixar would become stale, retelling the same successful stories for years on end, like a certain animation company Pixar has worked with. Instead, he asked Brad Bird to create a movie, giving him complete creative control. Bird is responsible for another cool movie, The Iron Giant, and as a result, I was looking forward to seeing The Incredibles.

Well, I wasn't in any way disappointed. While this movie has many of the earmarks of a Pixar film, it also is new, having a viewpoint that appeals more to the adult eye. Family quarrels, boring work and ungrateful people populate this movie. Bad guys don't just get knocked down and look humiliated ("and I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you gosh darn kids!"), they die. And there are no musical numbers at all!

There are clever references to other icons of pop culture. One was a tribute to the speederbike chase through the forests of Endor from The Return of the Jedi, only done better. The villain's lair is straight out of the most extravagant Roger Moore era James Bond movie. And subtle details are constantly flying by.

I was trying to explain it to Jean, and this is the best I could come up with: It's as if they filmed the entire movie with live actors on location, with a tremendous budget. Then they sat in a theater and watched it over and over. Each time they noticed a little detail of light, or some bug moving in the background, or the way an actor stumbled when turning a corner, they wrote it down. Then they animated the entire thing. And added more stuff that can only be done with animation or CGI. It's that full of detail. Detail that happens in the background, not waved in your face, "look at me, look at all the cool stuff I can do!"

The writing is also a lot of fun. Now I did a lot of comic book reading both growing up and when I should have known better, and I still watch the usual superhero and scifi movies. So maybe I'm more steeped in the conventions than the average viewer, and can more easily appreciate the way this movie has fun with them. But I suspect that most folks who enjoyed Finding Nemo themselves, and just used their kids as an excuse to go see it, will enjoy The Incredibles as well.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Candy Taxonomy

Halloween was fun again this year. I don't know why I enjoy it so, but I do. Kelly was dressed up as a cat (photo banner to follow when I get some time). As usual, she alternated between racing from house to house in an attempt to maximize candy collection, and engaging in lengthy conversations with homeowners about her costume, or cute pets greeting her at the door. Speaking of cute pets, I visited with at least three cats wandering the neighborhoods this evening. I'm surprised folks let their cats out on Halloween night, especially that one black cat I petted.

We started at 6pm, and around 6:45, I let Kelly know that we should wrap things up by 7:30 so she could get her shower and what-not. She groaned, but agreed. 7:30 came and went and we were far enough away from home that I moved the deadline to 8pm. By this time Kelly was starting to tire out and get cold, so I received no argument. When you see the picture of her costume, keep in mind that she wore no jacket or hat with that outfit, as she didn't want to hide the costume. I on the other had, had my winter jacket, muffler and sock hat on.

My timing on the second deadline worked out almost to the minute. We got home with two buckets full of candy, only to discover that Jean had candy left over from our own bowl of treats. She said that we only got about twenty-five kids visiting our house. Funny, I'm certain Kelly and I visited at least twenty-five houses tonight.

So Kelly's teacher strikes again. I was warming up, fixing Kelly a snack, and she was in the living room counting and sorting her candy. She does this every year, but this year she was writing it all down. I finally realized that her teacher had given her a handout assignment to count all the kinds of candy she got, chocolate, hard, soft, etc. Then she had to write the total. "What do you do if something is soft and chocolate? Do you count it twice?" I asked. Jean caught my eye and shook her head. Oops. Still, I couldn't help but smile.

So now Kelly's had her shower, tooth brushing and good night kisses, and is snuggled under a record number of blankets and comforters, trying to fall asleep. Jean's already abed, and I'm winding down. Score one for another fine Halloween.

Gamer Halloween

Kelly and I did a 'reconnaissance' walk around the block, and no one is TnT-ing yet. No one really outside except for a scary guy with a chainsaw stumbling around cutting wood inside a big trailer. I just know I'm gonna see him on late night news this evening...

Anyway, waiting to go out and freeze my tuckus, and saw this cartoon on Penny Arcade. Too neat, if you play videogames.

I may give a report after the TnT quest, but I'll probably be too beat. Later.

Not Sweet At All

In her role as nurse (student), Jean has a glucose monitor kit. This morning we measured my blood glucose:

  1. Eat breakfast.

  2. Wait one hour.

  3. Measure glucose.

I hate all things pokey (needles, stinging insects, small children ()), so this is a major sacrifice, but since it's Halloween, and Kelly will be sure to cram one or two sweet samples into my maw whether I want 'em or not, hey, gotta be sure I'm not diabetic, what?

Drum roll, please...

91. This is considered good (64 to 110 is normal), so I'm safe for one more holiday!

What's This, What's <em>This</em>?

I spent a large part of this morning riffing through my iTunes music collection playing Halloween appropriate music for Kelly. It started when I was at the music store and saw they had a Halloween playlist, and visited it. Nightmare Before Christmas was prominently displayed, so I played a number of samples for Kelly. She liked it, so I went hunting for my Danny Elfman stuff, playing some of his soundtrack music (Beetlejuice, Tales From the Crypt) and his work from Oingo Boingo (Dead Man's Party, Weird Science).

I played Glass Tubular Bells, explaining it's origin in The Exorcist, and what that was all about. Sifting for words like ghost, witch and monster yielded still more goodies, though I stretched the point and played Ghost Riders in the Sky (instrumental version by The Mermen). Finally we went back to the thirty second sample land of the iTunes Music Store, and Kelly played Jack's Obsession about a hundred times. So now I'm at work, and Kelly is at home in the den listening to the entire soundtrack to Nightmare Before Christmas, since I had to buy it after the hundredth repeat of Jack's Obsession. Welcome to Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Katamari Kelly

As if my own awkwardness wasn't enough, there are other impediments to my progress in Katamari Damacy. Kelly has decided that even when I replay a stage ('build a star 4', for instance) and double the size of my katamari, I should abandon my progress if there is a danger of replacing a 'cute' star name with a less cute one. After a few minutes of frustration I finally copied over the game save to a second memory card, and I'm now allowed to save my new gains without damaging her aesthetic.

I wonder if there's a name for forces outside of a game limiting your progress in that game? Oh yeah, 'life'!

Scuppered Again

I think I've mentioned before that getting books from the library reservation system has a couple of disadvantages. One, you get the books when they arrive, rather than when it would be most convenient. So I put in requests for books that are checked out, and I'm sometimes sixth or seventh in line. Then one day, three or four of these long-term reservations become available at once. Take 'em or leave 'em. Right now, for instance, I've got two on hold and one 'shipped'.

The other problem is that the local library system gives you two renewals on any given book, unless someone else puts in a request. Then you try to grab one of those renewals through their online system, and oops!, can't renew, so sorry. That happened this morning with Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore. I'd only gotten about twenty percent into the book, but I was just starting to pick up steam, so now I have to screech to a halt until I can get it again. I could buy it, but I'm not sure yet whether it's a keeper.

Which brings me to the upside of the 'federated' libary system. They have enough of the titles I'm curious about that I can reserve titles, browse them and return them without having to drop twenty or thirty bucks on every book I hear about on Booknotes. This is a good show, by the way, if you get C-SPAN. The host, Brian Lamb, is almost transparent, asking brief drawing questions, and then fading into the background so the night's author can hold forth. I've gotten several ideas for books to read by scanning this show. As the show motto goes: "One Author, One Book, One Hour". Fifty-two weeks a year. Bound to be some hits.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Audrey Tatou

Heads Up, Tom!

A new Audrey Tatou movie on the horizon: A Very Long Engagement. From the same director who brought us Amelie.

Halloween Traditions

Last night Kelly and I took a small pumpkin and went to her school to participate in that cherished tradition, Pumpkin Math Night. No really. Measuring, weighing and graphing our pumpkin, all the while ripping it's guts out and carving arcane symbols through it's skin. Much fun was had by all.

We took a tablespoon and one feeble little pumpking carving implement. Some of our neighbors had Exacto knifes with a dozen blades, others had plastic marking tools, multiple saws in different grades and stencils. I joked to myself that what we really needed was a Dremel kit. Imagine my surprise tonight reading Slashdot when I find a pointer to the Dremel Pumpkin Carving Kit.

I hunted around and found some posts of other peoples' experience using the kit, and the phrase 'orange liquid spray' seemed to occur a lot. I guess I'll skip this one.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The King's Coat

I finished The King's Coat by Dewey Lambdin last night. This is a naval adventure set during the Revolutionary War, told from the viewpoint of an English midshipman. As the point of the series seems to be the coming of age and success of a ne'er-do-well illegitimate son, it's hard to see how he can sustain victories over several volumes (given that, you know, we won). But the first book was entertaining, and I'm gonna at least try out the second one before burning out. Overall, it was better than the usual David Weber space naval adventures I've been reading recently.

What's up next? Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. This is a huge book, 800-some pages, so I've no hope of finishing it in the nine weeks I can spin out from the library (assuming someone else isn't waiting in line before one of my renewals). As usual, in this case, I'll use the time I've got to determine if this is such a fine book that I actually want to buy it. Nothing to report yet.

Friday, October 22, 2004

<em>The</em> Inter<em>net</em>

Alright, stop it. Some people have decided that it's cute, or something to pluralize the Internet, as in "I found it on the Internets." I first noticed this on Boing Boing (bad Boing Boing, no linky for you). Today i was listening to a podcast from Engadget (likewise, stinkers), where they repeatedly used it, in arch tones, stifling giggles and everything.

Who started this? Who thinks it's cool? The Internet is the network of all connected networks. To have two Internets, they'd have to be not connected, got it? Like one is on Mars, or something. So get over your coy abuse of terminology and use the right terms, okay? Also, unless you wish to have a midlife career change to soprano, don't let me catch you ever saying "the Interweb."


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Gojira 'Versus' 'Zilla

Funny, I just read in this article that Toho is making a 'final' Godzilla film for his 50th anniversary, sounding sorta like Destroy All Monsters. Aliens attempt to invade Earth using ten classic Godzilla foes, and one 'wild card', the Tri-Star CG Godzilla which was just an undercranked iguana, here referred to as Zilla, to underscore it's imposter creds.

The kicker which draws me to see this cheese fest is that it will be directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, the creator of Versus, a totally cheesy and fun apocalyptic battle for supernatural supremacy in a zombie graveyard.

Can't wait!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Katamari Fumble-fingers

Except for the more deliberative RPGs and turn-based strategy games, video games almost all require two or more of:

  • Quick reflexes

  • Fine motor skills

  • Grace under pressure

This applies to platformers, action/adventure, fighting games, the list goes on. Unfortunately, I lack all three of these skills in spades. I'm undoubtedly the slowest on the trigger of any gamer around. Where the controller requires a light touch, I almost always peg the joystick all the way over. And get me in a fight with two or more enemies and my conscious decision making falls apart in a cascade of button jabbing. I can't help it.

So it should come as no surprise that I've stalled out on Katamari Damacy. I cannot for the life of me complete 'Build a Star 7'. I'm given 10 minutes to complete a katamari that's 6 meters wide. I've never been able to get above 4.5 meters. And I've tried a lot of times.

My friends who've seen me play know this about me, but some haven't really internalized it. Adam still tries to get me to play various flash games requiring coordination, and while he makes a nod to my awkwardness when talking up various games, he still keeps pointing me at the challenging stuff. Maybe when I tell him I got stuck 'making a star', he'll really understand what a clutz I am.

In the meantime, I'll be replaying the levels I can finish, trying to rope Kelly into playing versus mode, and conning her into using her young reflexes to overcome 'Build a Star 7', though it'll take practice, which for her is usually too much like work. I've read that '7' is one of the hardest levels, so if I can Tom Sawyer her into beating that one for me, I might be able to enjoy the following levels myself!

Taking My Money - By Strategy

I know where I'm going to drop my next thirty bucks. I was browsing Asian Mack Super Filter ("We sift through Apple's iTunes Music Store so you don't have to!") and there was a link to Viva! Roxy Music. I followed it, which opened iTunes and went to the music store. Then I checked out an iMix labelled AllEnoRoxyFerry, and clicked. And there was the pot of gold. Three of the pop rock albums by Brian Eno, which I glided through college on:

I can't tell you how many times I listened to these albums, on vinyl. Eno was as innovative in pop as he was in ambient and new wave, and I'm buying all three of these suckers the next time I do an iTMS purchase. I've been cursing Apple that they hadn't gotten the rights to sell these, for the longest time; now I'm cursing them for getting them all at once!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Conspiracy Done Right

I always maintained that the one thing I never liked about the X-Files was the -- interminable -- government conspiracy plot. I loved the weaving of Fortean phenomena into an otherwise pedestrian police procedural plot. I vastly enjoyed the episodes where they placed tongue firmly in cheek and took themselves not one whit seriously (Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose with Peter Boyle being a marvellously understated example, Bad Blood a less understated, hilarious one). I'll even admit to enjoying the appearances of William B. Davis, the 'cigarette smoking man', who was otherwise unnamed throughout most of the series.

But the constant side stories of government projects, Area 51, alien-human hybrids and super soldiers undermined the fun of the show. I'm pretty sure Chris Carter, the creator, intended this thread all along, but as it came to dominate more and more episodes, I lost more and more interest, until I was watching mainly out of inertia. The suggestion that the sinister cigarette smoking man shot Kennedy, and then that he might be Mulder's father ("Luke, I am your father!), left me shaking my head. I'm still planning to see the second movie if it ever gets made, but I think the series died a deserved death.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that I'm not really averse to government conspiracy stories. Last night was a NOVA meeting (and also our Halloween party, as this is the second and last meeting of October), and Bob, our show coordinator, showed the last two episodes of season one of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The entire season has been one long story arc, though it wasn't always apparent, especially in the beginning.

Players such as The Laughing Man, an uber-hacker who quotes J. D. Salinger, a host of sentient tanks called tachikoma and a diplomat infatuated with an android seem unrelated. But all come to play a part in the larger story.

I'm not reviewing GitSAC or handing out spoilers. I just wanted to note that this season is how a conspiracy story should be done. It is intricate, consistent, does not talk down to the audience, and manages to contain a surprise or two. Moreover, by the end of the story, the players have not so much won as they have held back the tide for one more day. Much more satisfying than simply sweeping the slate clean.

Also notable from this weekend's meeting, my friend Tom managed to find DVD images of the original editions of the first three Star Wars movies (V, VI and VII) from the Laserdisc releases. So now I can show Kelly the DVD boxed set edition where Greedo-shoots-first-but-Han-is-quick-enough-to-duck-and-shoot-back, ridiculous as it is, then I can show her the original, where Han simply shoots Greedo sucker-punch style. It makes for a much different character, believe me.

After the meeting, there was talk of seeing a movie or going out to get some food. I'd eaten freely of the Halloween junk food, so when they decided to go to the Raccoon Lodge for afters, I took a pass and went home early. I'd been there once before, and it's farther away from home than the meeting place, so I decided to just get my rest. Maybe we'll get to see something next meeting, in November.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


For my own reference, here's the MySQL command to close comments on posts over 20 days old:

% mysql --user=me --password
UPDATE mt_entry SET entry_allow_comments=2 WHERE entry_allow_comments=1 \
AND TO_DAYS(NOW()) - TO_DAYS(entry_created_on) >= 21;


And... It works!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Continuing Theme

Continuing on the theme established in this post, I should note that my latest computer, the iBook, is named Mikura, while my iPod is named Sumomo. Still anime females (though Ryo-Oki was a cabbit (cat/rabbit) and Sumomo is a miniature robot, fitting for the iPod).

You Found Me!

Okay, either you followed my note on the old website, you got redirected from that home page, or you've been using (good for you), which redirects to this new location. Anyway, this is the same ISP, same basic directory, just a fresh tree to support using MovableType 3.11 and mySQL. I'm hoping the improved comment management facilities will let me tame the comment spammers while allowing those occasional helpful comments I still get. Crossing fingers!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Deconstructing Derrida

Looks like Christopher Reeve isn't the only famed one to die on Sunday. Jaques Derrida also passed on, aged 74. If you don't know him, read up on Deconstructionism. Neat, huh?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Videogames, Game Music and Too Damn Little Time!

I've been sitting here thinking about what games I've had the time and energy to play recently, and what have I been listening to while pondering? The soundtrack music to Katamari Damacy. I grabbed it off the net because it struck me while playing various levels with Kelly that it would make wicked cool background music. And it does! Now that I've sampled it, I'm afraid it's time for a trip to CD Japan to see if I can get a legal copy.

Never one to spend great wodges of time playing videogames (no really, Jean, Final Fantasy X, Resident Evil: Director's Cut and Silent Hill are the exception!) I've certainly been buying a lot of them recently. And paying full price too. Of course, Katamari Damacy wasn't too painful, at $20 new. But before that was Fable, at full price, and before that was Tales of Symphonia (full price), and before that was La Pucelle Tactics (another chunk of great music, by the way), again at full price. I promise I'm going to cut that out, having blown my allowance right out of the water.

And I've enjoyed playing every one of them, though I hardly seem to start them before the next one rolls along (katamari, hah!). Fable is languishing downstairs, Symphonia is on hold as the Gamecube has moved back to the living room. At least Katamari Damacy is holding up. I played last night and got through another level (added another star to the sky), but then failed on the following level and got roundly dressed down by the king. He really tears into you.

I was so disappointed () that I popped La Pucelle Tactics in and cleared a couple of stages (still in the training phase, I know, I know). It reminded me how much I enjoy this type of game, and how I was disappointed that I'd missed it's predecessor, Disgaea. It's back in the stores again, but at full price! Remember where I swore off buying games at full price? Especially if they've been out for awhile?

And to make matters worse, the follow-up to La Pucelle is out now. Phantom Brave sounds like a lotta fun, but is of course full price. So I'm gonna be a good guy and just put it on my want list for the future. Okay, so final confession. Remember when I was talking about Shadow Hearts? Gamestop's web store was offering it as a freebie to those who pre-ordered Shadow Hearts: Covenant. It turns out, in the fine print, that this was "while supplies last." Translate that as "lotsa luck, bub." So I succeeded in skipping buying a full price game, even if bundled with a free one.

So I was at Fry's looking for an extra Katamari Damacy for Jean's nieces, and there on the shelf, directly above Shadow Hearts: Covenant, was a $20 copy of Shadow Hearts. So okay, I bought it, and have yet to open the sucker. I might do it tonight after putting the little women to bed, and I might wait for a week or two. It wouldn't be my nature to just sit down and play the darn thing!


Funny! Winding down for the night, I'm reading the MP3 weblog Music (For Robots). I go there for ideas for new music, only occasionally finding something I like (they're really into house, hip-hop and the like). But tonight, TONIGHT, the headline review is for ... Katamari Damacy Soundtrack. They like it a whole lot, too!

And for reference, CD Japan has it, and yes, it costs more than the game. Ugh.

Cookin' Weekend

While I was somewhat busy with the usual weekend chores, the big adventure this weekend was cooking. And at that, some folk will consider this tame (Brenda). But for me, I really cook so infrequently that it's a fun outing.

Saturday, I tried a recipe from a magazine I subscribe to, Cook's Illustrated. The dish was Pork Tenderloin Medallions. I've had pork chops before, but never tenderloin. This is quite tasty and tender (as named). Two tricks from the recipe: one, brown the tenderloins in a pan on all sides, to seal in juices; two, bake in the oven, but judge how done it is by the temperature from an instant-read thermometer. This lets you cook the meat just enough, so it is neither dry nor tough. Even Kelly found it great. I skipped the suggested sauces as neither Kelly nor Jean were interested. Kelly went so far as to mime gastric eruptions at the suggestion, but she's at that age...

Tonight was something even more homespun: macaroni and cheese. Now I won't call this 'from scratch'. I didn't make my own cheese, or even milk the cow. And I didn't roll my own elbow macaroni. But given those basic ingredients, I did all the rest homestyle. What we ended up with was very rich, with a nice texture to each mouthful. There was enough for a couple plastic containers to set aside for more meals. Kelly said that Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese, which she went through a phase of living on, rated a five out of ten, while this recipe rates eight or nine. Coming from Kelly that's high praise indeed.

Next weekend, I might try my hand at their recipe for Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart. Since I'm usually the one to try main dishes and Jean is the baker, this'll be a bit of an invasion, but who cares!

And when Thanksgiving rolls around, I've got a use for all that leftover Turkey: Turkey Tetrazzini. Go, man, go!

Thursday, October 7, 2004

No Accounting

For taste, that is. Pat Holmes, writing for the Portland Tribune, gives Ghost in the Shell: Innocence two thumbs down. He's really quite nasty, and can only think of Blade Runner (it's superior inspiration) and The Matrix (another example of shallow trash) when talking about it.

I wonder if he's seen any of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and if so, whether he thinks it stinks so badly as well? Seeing as how GitSAC is my current favorite anime series, that would pretty much shoot any credibility he might have with me.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Police Procedural

God help me, I'm old. Saturday afternoon, with the consent of my loving wife, I took off two hours early for NOVA, and drove downtown to meet my friends so that we could see Ghost in the Shell: Innocence at Cinema 21, the best art theatre in the metro area.

I've enjoyed the various incarnations of Ghost in the Shell for years, starting with the manga by Masamune Shirow (a genius with many other great stories, don't even get me started on Appleseed). Next was the first movie, which I've seen, but don't yet own (now I have to go get it!). Most recently I've been enjoying the hell out of the first season of the television series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The television series more or less ignores the continuity of the movie, what we anime/sci-fi buffs call an alternate timeline.

What I like so much about these stories is the intricate plotting, with deep twists and turns, of crime in the future. We get all the attention to detail that Larry Niven gave in his early years when technology impacts human lives. Here the crimes are cyborg-augmented violence, computer aided graft, diseases inflicted on the post-human mind. The theme threaded throughout the series (manga, movies, television) is declared in the umbrella title. The Ghost in the Shell. Soul, spirit, animus, whatever breathes life into clay, the ghost investing the shell with more than simple motion, mimicry.

So is it any wonder that I was excited to see the second movie, set in the same timeline as the first movie, but with a major emphasis on Batou, who is the cyborg policeman best fit to a role in film noir? Alan doesn't like the art style of Production IG, the company doing the graphics for this movie, but I thought it was delicious. And the plot was Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner perfect, a plot to -- oops, I know none of my regular readers (all three) are going to care about a spoiler, but I'll skip it nevertheless in case someone googles here. Suffice to say that it was most satisfactory.

At the end, as the house lights came up, I noted that GitS was a prime example, perhaps the only one, of a proper science fiction implementation of that tried and true genre, the police procedural. James said "what?" I said, "you know, a police procedural." It turns out none of these guys has ever heard the term before. Is this just me? Is it my reading and movie history, or has this term gone out of vogue? Oy, do I feel old!

Rolling Along

Kelly and I are now playing Katamari Damacy. Rather, I'm playing and she's watching, commenting and directing me. At least in this game she's not demanding to play, then throwing the controller at me whenever there's a battle (leaving me to fumble for the controller during the crucial first moments of conflict).

Penny Arcade (more specifically Tycho) reviewed the game, and said "Katamari Damacy is, in no uncertain terms, the finest 20 dollars I have ever spent on a new game." I have to agree. For $20 I usually am buying a used game, a 'greatest hits' game, and many of these have been tons of fun. But $20 for a new game rarely yields this level of fun.

Now if only I can get far enough along to rope Kelly into playing versus mode. I think she's fast enough to beat me, and I know she'd be tickled to roll over my guy with her ball, and watch him wiggle his little legs as he gets swept away!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

New Music

Forgot to mention this, over a week ago:

  • Barbara Ann - The Beach Boys

  • Kokomo - The Beach Boys

  • Surfin' Safari - The Beach Boys

  • Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash

  • I've Been Everywhere - Johnny Cash

  • Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash

  • Lay Down Sally - Eric Clapton

  • You Can Leave Your Hat On - Joe Cocker

  • Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival

  • Money for Nothing - Dire Straits

  • Canned Heat - Jamiroquai

  • It's Not Unusual (Single) - Tom Jones

  • She's a Lady - Tom Jones

  • Burning Down the House - Tom Jones & The Cardigans

  • All Shook Up - Elvis Presley

  • Hound Dog - Elvis Presley

  • The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh) - The Tokens

  • Wild Thing - The Troggs

  • Velcro Fly - ZZ Top

These are mostly purchases for Jean, for a mix CD she wanted for long drives. But I enjoy nearly all of these, probably even more than Jean.

Monday, September 27, 2004


It took me nearly three full library loan intervals, but I finished Declare, by Tim Powers. I've always liked his work, though I haven't followed it compulsively. He and James P. Blaylock both met Philip K. Dick and were each scarred in their own unique way.

Declare is some five hundred pages long, and I just don't read books with the same obsessive passion I used to lo these many years ago. I still read compulsively, but include magazines and tons of Internet reading as well as work material in the mix. Declare is a marvellous mix of history with a fantasy story that fits neatly in the cracks. Powers manages to tell a complex and convincing supernatural tale surrounding the life of double agent Kim Philby without altering any of the historical reality. Really quite neat.

More disappointing is another novel I've had in my 'current reading' stack for some time now, False Memory, by Dean Koontz. I've really enjoyed Koontz over the years, but this book just rubbed me the wrong way, and eventually I had to decide to let it go. Koontz has always had a tendency to build characters who are just so gosh darn likable, and quirky, individual heroes, that you can't help but want to kick them in the teeth. But usually I've been sufficiently enthralled by the myterious evil he throws in, that I can deal with that wholesome, lovable hero shtick.

This time he went over the top, and his criminal mastermind, while posessed of strange powers, is too close to an earthly evil to be tolerable. I like my villains cartoony and implausible, I guess. This guy seemed more serial killer/rapist than spooky poltergeist, and it just made me a little queasy. So bye bye, False Memory.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


It seems that every year I have my physical exam, then I have two or three follow-on visits to other doctors. Not because I'm ill in any noticable way, but because my doctor is thorough. The result is that my physical, which typically happens in June or July, stretches out into these other visits. I've always gotten a clean bill of health, but I end up waiting for closure.

This year, I made a trip to Dr. Rudoff, the cardiologist, to evaluate my blood pressure, and got five gold stars. No really. He said "don't stop whatever you're doing. Your LDL cholesterol is 75, and when you were born you probably had an LDL of 50." No blood pressure medication, high marks all round.

I also made a trip to see Dr. Marilyn Rudin. She is a pulmonary specialist, and I was there because I made the mistake of telling my family doctor that I sometimes started myself out of sleep just after bedtime, as if I'd forgotten to breath. He said "that could be apnea, which can be dangerous, so let's get you checked out."

Dr. Rudin asked that Jean come along, and she asked Jean questions about my sleeping behavior. Nothing I said made her want to do anything to me, but Jean told her about flailing arms, snoring and such stuff. "Classic apnea," exclaimed Dr. Rudin. So I got scheduled for a sleep study. Friday night was my night.

I didn't write this up on Saturday, because I was sort of a zombie. Sleep study is sort of a misnomer. I suppose there are folk who sleep soundly enough that they could doze through this thing, but I am not one of them. The sleep technician, a friendly young guy named Anthony, hooked up several electrodes to my scalp, behind my ears, beside my jaw and my eyes, my chest and my legs. He attached two bands around my chest to measure breathing, and most annoying, stuck a sensor consisting of two insulated wires up my nose!

Around ten, not my normal bedtime, it was lights out. First we went through a calibration drill, opening and closing eyes, flexing leg muscles, thrusting belly in and out, breathing only through the nose, breathing only through the mouth, for a few minutes. Then silence. The room was nice and dark, and most of the time quiet. I could hear doors opening and closing, and interns chatting, so of course I couldn't go to sleep until they shut up.

What's more, every time I turned around there were these wires dragging on me. I forgot to mention that I had a oxygen sensor attached to one finger, and whenever I reached to rub my nose (full of wires) the light on the sensor would shine bright red in my eye. Turning on my side drove the nose sensors deeper into my nose, precipitating a round of snorting and eye-watering.

Eventually I managed to get to sleep, I don't know when. Around 4am I woke with the need to visit the restroom. You have to speak out, and the microphone in the room picks up your request. In comes Anthony, to detach the central switchbox from my droud of wires, so I can walk to the bathroom. Afterwards, I got back into bed, hooked up and struggling to get to sleep again.

However, sometime shortly thereafter a hideous shrieking hiss filled the room. Along with other noises, I was able to figure out that another sleep study subject had arisen and was taking a shower. This went on for so long that only a half hour or so after it stopped, Anthony spoke over the loudspeaker. "Well, you haven't really gone back to sleep, but we got some good measurements. It's six am, time to get up!"

I'd optimistically say I got six hours, probably more like five, of sleep in this 'sleep study'. But of course, they don't need you to sleep for the whole night, only long enough to observe your full sleep cycle (light sleep, dreaming, deep sleep) and breathing. According to Anthony, I have a mild manifestation of apnea, but it wasn't enough that he would have entered the room to try a C-PAP on me. This is basically a breathing mask which forces air past an obstructed throat to ensure proper breathing all night. It's just as well, since I generally don't get back to sleep when someone else wakes me, much less when someone else straps a blower onto my nose with a weird yarmulka to hold it on my face.

I took a shower in the adjacent bathroom, working gingerly to remove the six larger sensor patches, which were heavy adhesive squares on my legs and chest (just where the hair is heaviest). When I left the hospital, I saw only one person as Anthony had gone home. I got to peek into the control room, sort of a mini NASA. Then I drove home, had some breakfast, and stumbled through the day.

Last night I went to bed at ten, got up once during the night, and slept in to 7:45am. I felt really rested.

Now I wait three weeks, then have a follow-up visit with Dr. Rudin. Assuming she doesn't try to burden me with one of those C-PAP machines, or otherwise meddle with my physiology, I will finally be able to pronounce my yearly physical over, in mid-October!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Is It A Cookie?

Last weekend, Kelly and I burned through the better part of five hours (spread over Saturday and Sunday) working on a poster project for her 4th grade homework. This was on top of the work Jean had done with Kelly conceptualizing and gathering materials. So Kelly did a lot of work, even with our help. This week we got the result: 5+!

But what does that mean? Kelly's teacher, Miss Tilney, doesn't seem to believe in grades, and also says she slides the scale as the term progresses. So a 5+ today, will be a 4 next month, and so on. But on to the scale. It's defined in terms of Oreo cookies, and I was very entertained when she explained it during a recent parents' night.

  1. Is it a cookie? Here we are shown a bag full of Oreo crumbs. There's no organization, no structure of any kind, just a bunch of ideas.

  2. Parts are missing. We've got the complete bottom part of the cookies, but no filling, no tops. Some of the work is missing, though there is some sense of structure.

  3. Not Quite There. All the parts are there to make a cookie, but they're kinda loose in the bag. We've got all the parts we need for our project, but they're in a random jumble.

  4. This is a cookie. We have complete Oreos. The requirements of our project have been fulfilled, just.

  5. Double-stuffed! You did something extra, something creative and beyond what was required. I like it!

  6. Hardly ever is there a six. This represents the "knocked my socks off" category, and is symbolized by a fudge-covered Oreo. Any kid who gets a six, also gets a fudge-covered Oreo, for real!

So there you have it. Work hard on a poster, and get taunted with an unattainable fudgey Oreo!

Sky Captain

Yesterday evening was NOVA. It was also time for the annual election of officers. I ran for Veep, just to give Chris Arneson some competition. I didn't seriously think I'd win, since Chris is younger, personable, and invested with more energy than I. Nevertheless, I got elected, by a narrow margin. This makes the second time I've been an officer. I was Veep for a couple of years when the founder of the club, Jeff Milburn, was Prexy. I don't expect the office will require any real work, but I'll help where I can.

Afterwards we all flocked to Tigard Cinema to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This movie, like Lucas' Star Wars films and Spielberg's Indiana Jones epics, was inspired by the adventure serials of the 40's. It successfully aped the genre, the period and even made a nod to black and white film with it's sepia toned color scheme.

There's a danger in aping the original too closely, though, as this film proves. The beginning imagery is very muddy, and somebody put the interns in charge of vaselining the lens, 'cause it's pretty blurry there for the first half hour or so. The pace is not so much rapid as telegraphic, as the creators try to cram the first five chapters of Saturday Morning Serial Adventure into twenty minutes.

There was some good. The sensawunder was occasionally able to rise above the conventions, and while the dialogue was usually by-the-numbers, there were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. I'm happy I saw it, but I'm glad I didn't sneak in a Friday lunchtime viewing before the Saturday outing, as sitting through it twice in quick succession would have been tedious.

Happy Birthday, Leonard

Leonard Cohen has [...] given pleasure and even laughter to the million or so people who buy his records.

He will be 70 on Tuesday, the first of the 1960s singer-songwriters to reach 70. He was born in 1934, shortly before Elvis Presley.

Tim de Lisle

Because, yes, Leonard Cohen is the prophet.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


Why is there always a glut of games just when the new television season is starting? Maybe that's why the networks are watching their viewer numbers take a nosedive. All I know is, Tuesday I'll probably get a call from Gamestop telling me my reserve copy of Fable is in. While I'm there, if I'm not very self-controlled, I'll probably see if they're doing the same offer as their website for Shadow Hearts: Covenant (reserve one, get the original Shadow Hearts free). If so, I'm in. Not that I have time to play these things through from start to finish. Me just likee pretty pictures!

Saturday, I joined Tom and the gang over at his place, and among the strange nonsense such as the 1978 live-action Japanese Spiderman episode we watched (complete with Giant Robot named Marveller), there was a demo of Burnout 3: Takedown. It's a racing game, but with a twist. The creators have acknowledged something that every guy secretly knows. We like to crash stuff. So you can actually get points for stylish crashes. There's even a mode where you just drive your car into an interesection with the goal of maximizing damage in multi-car pileup style.

Remembering how much Kelly enjoyed Simpsons Road Rage, I got to thinking that this would be a swell game to kill a few Sunday afternoons with. Now I'll be honest. Even given that there is an emphasis on crashing, I don't think I can play this game well. No, I'd generally run off the road and then watch while the other cars buzz by. I'm really that bad. But I'd get a lift out of watching Kelly wreak havoc, so it's still a candidate. I'm just hoping I can wait for this one to come down in price.

So you see my dilemma. I haven't really even made a complete list here. These are just the ones available in the next 30 days that I want. Where am I gonna get the money? Where am I gonna get the time?

Yeah, I can hear those tiny violins already.


Wednesday, September 8, 2004

iTunes Music Store

New Purchase:

  • Crowning of a Heart - ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

  • La Podrida - Gato Barbieri

  • Are You Happy Now? - Michelle Branch

  • Yakety Yak - The Coasters

  • First We Take Manhattan - Leonard Cohen

  • L.O.V.E. ((English Version)) - Nat King Cole

  • (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Devo

  • Girl U Want - Devo

  • Working in the Coal Mine - Devo

  • White Flag - Dido

  • Do It Clean - Echo & The Bunnymen

  • Worry About You - Ivy

  • Ceremony - New Order

  • Blue Monday - New Order

  • Confusion - New Order

  • Thieves Like Us - New Order

  • The Perfect Kiss - New Order

  • Shellshock - New Order

  • Bizarre Love Triangle - New Order

  • True Faith - New Order

  • Touched by the Hand of God - New Order

  • Round and Round - New Order

  • Regret - New Order

  • Crystal - New Order

  • 60 Miles an Hour - New Order

  • Here to Stay - New Order

  • Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas) [Live Version] - They Might Be Giants

  • Whatever Lola Wants - Sarah Vaughan

  • Catch Me If You Can - Angela Via (Pokemon - The First Movie)

  • Leave It - Yes

The Michelle Branch song was a Kelly request, and the Ivy song was one Jean heard on a television show and asked for, though for the record, I like it too. Going down the list otherwise...

Trail of Dead is an interesting band, I heard about them on a weblog, so I grabbed a single to wet my appetite. Gato Barbieri and I go way back, in fact all the way to high school, so make that thirty years, gosh! The Coasters are probably my dad's influence, but Kelly likes Yakety Yak, so now we can play it whenever the urge hits.

Leonard Cohen. Leonard. My wife and daughter both think I'm nuts, but Leonard is the prophet. I'll be buying more of his songs, mark my words. I recommend him to anyone, even folk who can't figure out why I like him.

Nat King Cole was Kelly's idea, but I took the initiative to hunt down the song, since I like it too. Devo goes back to my early college days, and it's about time I had some on my computer. Dido just sounded nice.

Echo & the Bunnyment and New Order are both the result of a posting of Blue Monday on Jason Kottke's weblog. His post of that sampled song, and the ensuing discussion in the group comments, spurred me to get off my keyster and buy a best-of album for NO. Echo & the Bunnymen was just a happy bonus. So now I'm wallowing in 80s New Wave. It helps that NO were the spin-off of Joy Division, another personal favorite.

They Might Be Giants are icons, so I grabbed one I could harass Kelly with. I'll be getting more in due time. The Pokemon movie song is for, wait for it, Kelly.

That leaves ... Leave It. I first heard this song on MTV, on April Fools day, the year it came out. Yes were promoting the album, and as a bit of clever silliness, they'd filmed over a dozen videos dubbing this song. In each one, the members of the band appeared, but in each successive video, they altered some bit of the scenery, or changed the order of the band, or shot upside down. Lots of silliness, and MTV played the same song for several hours, or so it seemed. I was at a friend's house playing videogames on his TRS-80 at the time. A dungeon crawl with vector graphics if I recall. So fun memories...

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Whole Foods

Our big adventure this weekend was a trip to Whole Foods Market in downtown Portland. I'd read about it in this article, and decided that it sounded interesting. It is, like Nature's Fresh Northwest, an upscale grocery store with an emphasis on natural, organic and world foods, though they try to carry locally grown produce whenever possible.

It was a lot of fun, and we spent over twenty bucks on healthy junk food, such as four varieties of cheese, vegetable juice, and wheat berries. Yum yum. I think I'll go back for their cheese selection alone. The guy at the counter said they carry something like two hundred types of cheese, and I can believe it. They let us sample any cheese we were interested in, which was a diabolical plot, considering the amount we ended up buying.

Next time, I'm going to buy some of their Peary, and perhaps a cider. What a glutton I am.

Friday, August 27, 2004


While I already own the DVD, purchased at last year's Anime Expo, I was thrilled to see that Hero is actually showing in a fair selection of theatres in town. Not just the downtown art theatres, but the megaplexes in the burbs, too.

So I took some vacation time, and went to see it on the big screen today. Wow. One very neat visual treat. If you have the DVD, don't think you've seen the movie until you watch it in a darkened theatre, on a big screen. Of course, if you don't like Wu Xia movies, never mind.

Fruit Loop

Finally with the images! Go to my usual Flickr site to catch more images like today's banner image. Nine photos from our trip haunting Hood River and the surrounding area.

About Flickr

So some guy named Peter asks if I recommend Flickr. The answer is that it works for how I use it, but you really need to go read their FAQ yourself. I've no idea how any other person uses the web for photography, and I know at least a couple who are not all that impressed with Flickr. So judge for yourself. It's only a few minutes of browsing to get the idea. Good luck!

Sunday, August 22, 2004


Okay, that's not a Fruit Loop shot. I just had to take a shot of the Heron sitting on the roof of our building at work. There are two full size images here and here. These were taken with the camera we keep at work for whiteboard snapshots, so it isn't the best telephoto camera around, though for close work it's pretty nice.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Not Without My Daughter

Saturday we picked up Kelly from Camp Collins, and she was already asking about going next year. Fortunately she didn't come up with the innovation Jean feared, asking to stay another week on the spot. Kelly then proceeded to catch up on her television viewing

Today Kelly's been more active, doing the shopping rounds with Jean, and lopping branches off defenseless bushes in the back yard. I had the brilliant idea that she and I should drive to Tryon Creek State Park (which I always catch myself calling the Thomas Tryon State Park) and walk the trails.

Kelly had other ideas. She decided that she wanted to ride her bike. Her bike, however, is one we bought her several years ago, with the training wheels still attached. When she sits on it, she crouches with her knees not-quite-topping the handlebars. I followed her around the neighborhood as she struggled with it, but it's clear she can no longer use the pathetic thing. She's been asking for a new bike, and she renewed her plea today. I'm hesitant since I don't really believe that she's all that interested in learning to ride a two wheeler, but I checked G.I. Joe's online, and I can get her a Huffy girl's bike for around $80, so I suppose we'll be going to the store in the next week or so...

After that misadventure, and Kelly's gardening, we hopped in the car and drove to the park. We walked the trails for an hour, visiting Fox Trail Bridge, Iron Mt. Bridge and Obie's Bridge (bridges were our landmarks for progress). By the time we were done, I was pretty soaked with sweat, and wishing I'd brought more than one water bottle, but I was happy we'd gone.

Next weekend, we will very likely be doing the Fruit Loop. My kind of trip: a day trip by car, with plenty of stops.

Friday, August 13, 2004


Yesterday evening, Jean and I watched Pieces of April, a nice understated family comedy which wasn't afraid to touch on mortality a bit as well. I suppose in the minds of the creators, mortality is what makes family special.

Today, while my work group was out jet boating the Willamette, I went to see Alien vs. Predator. They have pretty well put the torch to any sense of continuity to these films, but then I never cared for some of the continuity anyway. And hey, so long as you admit this is a movie about scary monsters and things that go boom!, then you're in the right place. Better than I expected.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

H.M.S. Pinafore

Before Kelly went to Camp Collins, she joined the cast of the Willowbrook production of H.M.S. Pinafore, where I got this highly posed shot, which she assured me was her impression of George Washington.

More photos can be found at my Flickr site. If you're not on the list and wanna see it, contact me and I'll send you an invite.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Kelly Grows

Jean called me earlier today with Kelly's status. First some background...

Kelly was feeling very uncertain about the whole Camp Collins trip, and expressed anxiety to both of us in the days bordering the event. We finally made a deal with her that she'd have to try at least two nights, and could call to be bailed out on Tuesday morning if she needed it. I had my fingers crossed, as I knew she would enjoy it if only she gave it a chance.

So the report came in today. Kelly has decided to stay the entire week. In fact, according to her councilor, she'd made up her mind on Sunday night. I am truly surprised at the magnitude of my feelings at this news. I'm downright bubbly. I feel like Kelly has taken a giant step forward, and it feels really good!

Happy days. She could still have a backslide and end up calling for a bail-out later this week, but this step alone is just great.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues

So I finished another Yukari Oshima epic. She was pretty young in this one, but still a stunning fighter. The storyline is a bit dry, unfortunately. A lot of these late 80's / early 90's triad movies are like that. But the martial arts is what I came for, specifically the martial arts of Yukari Oshima, and that was worth the price. If you split the cost of the DVD over the two movies, this one cost $7.50, and I got three good fight scenes with Yukari-san, so I'm happy.

What's next up in the Asian movie train? Probably Jiang Hu. Another triad movie, but this one is from just this year. Lots of big name HK actors. James got it for me at Anime Expo this year. He must have too much money, as this is a boxed director's set. Really nice. As usual, I'll post a report, if only a simple thumbs up/down, after viewing.

On the other hand, Tom just gifted me with a copy of Master of the Flying Guillotine, that uber-classic of chop-socky schlock. I was fortunate enough to see this the way I think it was meant to be seen, in a crappy theatre with ripped seats and a stained screen (the Clinton Street Theatre). And now, thanks to another friend with too much money, I own a copy on DVD. And it's not some pirate junk either, but the sanctioned American disc with some nice features besides, such as original trailers. Too much Kung Fu goodness!

She's Leaving Home...

Kelly is off at Camp Collins for a week (or less, if she chickens out). Jean and I dropped her off yesterday, and we're supposed to pick her up next Saturday. It's a really nice camp; I wish I were staying there a week. But this is Kelly's first extended away-from-home trip, and while the head councilor assures us that lots of kids get homesick, Kelly, like me, doesn't like being away from home for long periods. Add to that being away from her parents for more than one night, and things are dicey.

I tried to be positive, in my Finnish low affect way, last night, since I knew Jean would be feeling the Mommy Jitters. But apparently I ticked her off instead. She wanted to have the phone nearby in case there were an emergency, and I showed her how to set the ringer on. Then she asked me if I wanted the phone, and I declined, saying the odds were much higher of getting woken by a wrong number. "Well, you're a superior human being," she quipped. So my plan to spread contagious calm failed miserably. Dunno how well she'll hold up over the whole week...

Tuesday, August 3, 2004


Lemme see, now...

Thursday night, take Kelly to Willowbrook (her day camp) for a 'singing play' performance she's in.

Friday night, drive to Sherwood to see a co-worker's digital art exhibition.

Saturday night, attend NOVA, possibly hit a movie afterwards.

Sunday afternoon, drive Kelly to her YMCA camp, ostensibly for a week, but given her waffling, probably for a couple of days.

Sunday night, nurse nerve-wrecked mother over absence of daughter.

Guess I better get to bed early Wednesday night!

Budding Naturalist

Kelly likes to visit with the neighborhood cats. Some are friendlier than others, and she sits with them and plays with them and feeds them and on and on.

One cat is a bit tiger tom, and he's somewhat standoffish. Kelly has run out on a number of occasions to visit with him, only to have him skitter when she shows up. This weekend she went out to meet him, while I was working in the kitchen. After a bit, I realized that I couldn't see her down there in the back yard, but I could still see the tom.

Craning my neck, I could see her on the second story deck, 'pawing' at a tree branch and 'nibbling' at the leaves. She was trying to win the trust of the tom by acting catlike.

Jane Goodall's got nothing on this kid.

The White Stripes

I have come to the conclusion that a little bit of The White Stripes goes a long way. I bought "Fell in Love with a Girl" and "St. James Infirmary Blues", and obviously like them both. But I've heard some other samples, among them "Hotel Yorba" and "Jimmy the Exploder", and, well, do they ever sound any different?

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Godfather's Daughter Mafia Blues

Good review, luke-warm review.

This is paired with Avenging Quartet. More on my own impressions later...

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Avenging Quartet

I just started watching Avenging Quartet, one of the two movies on a single DVD I found at Suncoast recently. I already knew it was a weak movie, and I'm only interested in the cheesy value of seeing Moon Lee, Cynthia Khan, Yukari Oshima and Michiko Nishiwaki all in one film.

It's painful to watch for more than the cheesy plot. This 'DVD' is obviously a bad video transfer from a third or fourth generation videotape copy of an original. The colors are washed out, the sound is muddy (all English dubbed by the way) and whole frames will drop out without warning. If this wasn't out of print, I'd certainly hunt down a better copy.

More to report, perhaps, when I've finished it...


Okay, this is another movie with Moon Lee as the star. She's mostly sharing the bill with Cynthia Khan. Michiko and Yukari are peripheral villains, and Yukari once again gets limited screen time. She gets to do about two decent martial arts scenes. So while I'm glad I saw the movie, I wouldn't inflict it on any of my friends.

Friday, July 23, 2004


First I want to thank Tom, who bought Ong-Bak for me while he was at Anime Expo this year (I asked him to, but he made it a giftie). I'd been reading about this movie, and seeing interviews with the various participants, for over a year, and was planning to buy it soon, so thanks Tom.

Phanom Yeerum took the name Tony Ja and a star was born. He's been training for years, inspired by the likes of Jacky Chan, but with a distinctly Thai flavor, specializing in Muay Thai, his home-grown martial art. The director, Pracha Pinkaew, obviously likes the Jackie Chan comparison, as the movie is filled with stunts replayed lovingly from multiple camera angles, a signature that Jackie Chan uses a bit more sparingly.

This has the feel of an early Chan-helmed movie. The production is inexpensive, the stunts small, and the story simple. Overall, I'm glad I had no idea what to expect, since if I'd been expecting a faithful later-Chan extravaganza I might have been disappointed. But taken on it's own terms, Ong-Bak is definitely worth watching.

Bad Santa

Jean rented Bad Santa Wednesday. I remember when it came out that I gave it a deliberate miss, as I figured it was another one of those sappy spiritual transformation stories. You know the sort. Loser with no self-respect is brought out of his nosedive by the innocent trust of a cherubic child.

Well, that's the generic plot outline, except that the loser hardly ever gets the chance to climb out of the gutter, more or less stumbling into redemption. While recognizing some good fortune has come his way, I wouldn't say he ever decided to straighten out his act. This one is unrepentantly low-rent.

In other words, fun to watch, if you don't get turned off by swearing, of which there's copious amounts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Alan Young

For Tom, who was talking about Duck Tales at the last NOVA:

Alan Young was the voice of Wilbur Post in Mr. Ed, as well as the voice of Scrooge McDuck.

If a talking horse isn't 'goofy' enough for you, how about a talking mule?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Queen Triton

Bow down, my subject!


Okay, I just couldn't pass up the snarky caption for the banner photo, but now I'll share. This was taken at the Tennessee Aquarium, one of the outings at the Moyer family reunion. Chatanooga is actually a nice town, and their aquarium is very nice. The emphasis is on fresh water fauna, as they are blessed with lots of rivers around there. It is a much larger aquarium than the aquarium in Newport, though I really liked that one as well.

I'll try to cobble together a gallery sometime soon. It'll take awhile, as my demo version of Photoshop CS ran out (Fry's is out of stock of the upgrade package right now), and Nikon's software is so much slower loading those NEFs. Be aware that I fumbled the ISO on a couple of occasions, so the pictures are noiser than I'd like...

Beauty Investigators

I've always been a fan of Yukari Oshima. I've seen a number of her movies, though I'm not enough of a fanatic to have tracked down everything she ever did. In fact, I've had a movie in my stack for a year, Beauty Investigators, which I only watched the night before flying to Chatanooga. It's a corny story, with much bad acting. But I think it is a good showcase of Yukari Oshima's martial arts prowess, perhaps better than Kickboxer's Tears. I only wish she'd been given meatier roles...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Chasm City

One thing long plane rides are good for is chewing through a big fat book. That's how I finished Chasm City during the recent Chatanooga trip. I enjoyed it, and plan to read Redemption Ark sometime in the next few months. About the only thing negative I can say is that the plot was a bit more predictable than Revelation Space. I anticipated several plot points throughout my reading, and that was a bit annoying. Still, plenty of fun.

Hot, Hot, Hot

We're back from Chatanooga, Tennessee. Jean and Kelly flew out on Thursday, I joined them on Saturday, and we all sweated together until we returned yesterday, arriving late in the evening. I'm sure I'll complain about the summer heat here in Oregon, but it'll have to work hard to beat Sunday in Tennesee/Georgia, where the Moyer clan went out to Lake Winnepesauka, an amusement park, and we later learned it was 101 degrees (and very high humidity).

I'm done travelling outside the state for awhile now, thanks. Certainly no plane flights for around a year, when I hope to make the next Anime Expo. Good to be home.

Sunday, July 4, 2004

Bubba Ho-tep

Tom lent me Bubba Ho-tep to watch between meetings, and I finally did. Really cute movie, very small-scale. It's sure to be a midnight cinema classic. I was pleased to discover it was based on a story by Joe R. Lansdale, who's known for quirky horror stories, among other things.

I liked the legal wordage in the ending credit roll:

"This is a protected work and violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and maybe the wrath of Bubba Ho-tep."

They Might Be Giants

I'm sure Tom will be pleased to hear this. They Might Be Giants are now selling their own MP3's, both in 99 cent per song batches and in $9.99 album lots. Once their selection rises, I'll probably be shopping there myself.

Saturday, July 3, 2004

NOVA Absence

At least I won't have to miss more than two NOVA meetings in a row. I've checked the calendar and I'll be back in time for the July 17th meeting! See you guys then!

Missing Expo

My personal favorite way to spend July 4th weekends is at Anime Expo. But I only go every other year, since it would be too much doing that and the Moyer family reunion. So I'm not at AX this year. But I can live vicariously this year, due to Tom posting live from the con. Thanks Tom! I'll be checking every day, so force yourself to write, or draft Alan, James, John and Dan (and Adam and whoever else falls into your snare).

By the way, only your first gallery seems to be working. The others are all 'page not found'.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Front Mission 4

Seems like ages ago, I signed up for a free sample of a new video game coming out, Front Mission 4. Well, the game is out now, so of course my demo version arrived this week. I've been playing with it a bit, and it seems like fun. There's no save in the demo, and none of the missions are complete, but it's clearly a Square strategy game. I might even buy it when it's price drops.

I originally wanted to get the demo to share with James, Alan's roommate, but by now he's bought it, being such a mecha fan. Strike that, he probably bought the Japanese import with kanji menus a year ago.

More Office

I bought the second season of The Office at Fry's on my way home today, so Jean and I could watch it over the holiday. This is the final season, so I'm a bit sad it'll be over after this weekend. There's a Christmas Special, apparently, but it's not available on DVD (yet), so we're stuck waiting.

Does Whatever a Spider Can

My office was slow, and my development environment was kinda messed up, so I gave myself a holiday treat and took a long lunch to go see Spiderman 2 today. Was it worth it? Sure, I thought so.

The first movie was a lot of fun, true to the spirit of the original story, with casting that seemed to ring true. It may have suffered a bit due to needing to introduce the characters, introduce (or remind us of) the superhero conventions (secret identities are important to protect loved ones, for instance), and get the origin out of the way. But it was still a great romp.

This movie finds Peter Parker developing a reputation for unreliability, since he can't very well tell his friends, family and teachers that he sometimes needs to step out and save the world. I'm not sure, but I think the pace was a little faster, even a little smoother than the first one. But it had many Raimi moments, something that tickled me.

It's been several hours since I saw the movie, and I'm pretty sure I'd sit through this one again. I was sitting in the living room telling Jean about one particular attribute I enjoyed, and I could feel the geek excitement in my voice as I described it. So, yeah, anyone at NOVA wanna go see it, I'm there.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Office

Jean and I often relax in the evening by watching a show together. One of our more successful series recently was Colonial House. What made it successful was that we enjoyed the entertainment aspect of the show, but also had a lot of fun talking about the series, how it was set up, the interactions of the participants, and how we might have run things if it were up to us.

Our interests overlap in odd little areas, but this often results in a demographic that seems doomed to cancellation. For instance, Jean 'turned me on to' both Lucky and The Peacemakers. They are now both in the television graveyard, disappearing with not so much as a whimper after one season each.

We've had better luck in the animation arena, as Jean got me started on King of the Hill and we've totally exhausted the reruns to backfill early seasons. Now the most recent season is in reruns too, so we are casting about for things to watch. One show we've been watching is South Park. I've seen quite a few of these on my own, but it's fun watching them over with Jean. And there are about a hundred episodes a week to choose from. The downside of that is that even when it's funny, it gets to be a bit too much.

Enter the Internet! Da tada TAH! Somewhere, sometime, I don't recall, I read a rather glowing review of The Office. It's showing currently on BBC America, which we don't get. It's not showing on PBS. So the only way to see it is to buy it. After several weeks of cogitating, I finally decided to take the plunge, and bought the first season, with some trepidation.

To make matters worse, when I told Jean about it, she seemed unenthused, at best. I didn't know that she had a migraine and was running on limited sleep, so I thought, "oh dear, guess I'll have to watch it on my own." But she sat down with me the next evening to watch it. We watched the first two episodes, which really just introduce the characters and build their personae a little. Jean announced "that's cute." Okay, maybe I'll still be watching the rest on my own.

Well, she stuck with it, and the show has gotten better and better. Not for the characters, but for us anyway. The framing device is that the characters are on camera and they know it, via a documentary film crew. The film crew never intrudes on the action -- this is in fact like Colonial House in that respect. They just follow the poor sods of The Office around and capture their lives for us to see. This has an interesting effect in a comedy, as the characters get to actually direct their attention at the camera, at you, and share their feelings. Reaction shots can slip by in a second, but the looks are priceless. In one episode Gareth is riding in a motorcycle sidecar as he is driven past the camera, and he's only there for a fraction of a second -- I had to back up the DVD to catch it -- but his face, so apologetic, embarassed, defiant, conflicted, all at the same time. I bust a gut laughing at that shot.

Follow the link to get a summary of the series, setting, characters and what not. But a warning to my friends, I'm gonna be handing this one around when I'm done with it!