Saturday, March 28, 2009

Test post

Can I update my blog via iPod? If you can see this, yes!

Sent from my iPod

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cute Doctor Who

The success of the Star Wars "Galactic Heroes" led to the line expanding to include other Hasbro licences such as Transformers, Indiana Jones and Marvel comics. Fans, like myself, really liked the chibi-esque deformations to beloved characters.

Other toy developers have followed this trend to varying degrees of success. UK company Character Group have done a great job with these Doctor Who Time Squad figures. The line is companion free, populated by adversaries of the Doctor, and one David Tennant Doctor. The product is still very new so I can't wait to see what they do with the later waves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tales of the Cocktail

I was delighted to discover "Tales of the Cocktail" a mixology convention in New Orleans. There is no part of that phrase I don't like. Over five days in July, the French Quarter hosts "mixologists, authors, bartenders, chefs, and designers — for a five-day celebration of the history and artistry of making drinks."

What sort of things can one expect at such an event? There are seminars like "The Molecular DNA of Classic Cocktails" and "Low Country Libations: Obscure Cocktails & Spirits from the Netherlands, Belgium & Luxembourg". Some of the better bartenders will be participating in Iron Chef style mixing competition. A "Spirited Dinner Series" sends attendees to some of the best restaurants in town, where a fine meal has been crafted and to learn mixing and pairing techniques straight from the menu designers. Doesn't the phrase "Vintage Bar Ware Collectors Symposium" fill you with warm feelings?

As fantastic as all this is, it sounded like an industry-only event. I contacted the organization with this concern and they assured me that a cocktail enthusiast like myself would be more than welcome.

I don't think I'll be able to attend this year, but perhaps in the future. Until then, my porkpie hat and cocktail shaker lie in wait.

Rachel Maddow: Mixologist.

I really enjoy a well mixed drink. I also enjoy watching "The Rachel Maddow show." These two thoughts would not typically be joined in any meaningful way. As it turns out Rachel Maddow is not just a Rhodes scholar and a talented radio and television host, but a amateur mixologist.

Cocktail mixing would make for a great cooking show series, would it not?

[Youtube video link]

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Science Fiction vs Sci-Fi

When Forrest J. Ackerman coined the term "Sci-fi" in the 50's it met a mixed response. Serious writers equated it with the sound of crickets mating. These serious people preferred the term SF, which stands for "Science Fiction," "Speculative Fiction" and (should the occasion arise) "San Fransisco." It is clear many believe that by simply not removing enough letters, Mr. Akerman did not abreviate the phrase correctly.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term that should include tales of fantasy and horror that are traditionaly excluded from strict science fiction. It also draws a separation line to exclude all the fiction that is entirely bereft of speculation.

These terms head up two broad schools of thought, which still trade ideological jabs half a century later. The best description of the schism I have ever read is quoted here in its entirety.

"Here is the difference:

Science Fiction is the serious realm of speculative literature that deals with such interesting speculations as aerospace travel, intelligent life on other planets, futuristic weaponry, and speculations into areas otherwise taboo, such as an enlightened approach to sexuality, that other genres shy away from.

Sci-Fi is the pulpish hack writing that deals with such geekish ideas as rocketships, bug-eyed aliens, rayguns, and orgies with hottie space-babes!"

As we can see, there is no relation whatsoever between the two. - John Wright, November 24, 2008 Comment on SF

Hats off to you John Wright for setting us all straight.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dharma Jumpsuit now available

With this season of Lost viewers will be treated to some of the Island back-story, including the Dharma Initiative.

ABC has obliged fans with providing Official Dharma jumpsuits, as seen in the show. Only the "main logo" patch seems to be available currently, but enterprising fans know where to get the various others.

The jumpsuit is not exactly like the ones seen on the show, but given the different variations seen, it is close enough for most fans.

It is nice to see big networks understanding that fans don't necessarily want trinkets with the show name on it, we want replica items from the world the show is from.

[ABC Store Jumpsuit]

Friday, March 13, 2009

Youtube Mashups

Using Youtube videos as a source, artist Kutiman made some phenomenal musical mashups. There are historical performances, ebay product demos, high school band recitals, and low budget instrumental instructional videos. There is a mix of genres here, funk, bossanova, speedcore, dub, breakbeat and r&b.

I guess we are all playing the same song in the end, just not at the same time or place. It takes an artist to show us this.

All the videos can be viewed at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watchmen Review and thoughts on media

By request, this is my completely redundant and superfluous, though spoiler free Watchmen Review. Included are some free-floating thoughts on media.

I believe part of the depth of Watchmen fandom comes from the fact that it was only a 12 issue series. There was no second series of comics, no action figures, no Saturday morning cartoon, no time crisis, no re-boot. It could retain a purity that few superhero stories could claim.

The Watchmen "graphic novel" is one of a handful of works that deserves that somewhat pretentious term. To me the term "graphic novel" is to "comic book" as "working girl" is to "hooker". It is a gussied up term to be used in polite conversation to hide what you are really talking about to make it sound more respectable. But there is nothing shameful about comic books, so the term is unnecessary. However the depth and layered structure of Watchmen really sets this work apart and the bar high for works that followed. There are layers of the story found only with symbols, with background text, with appendix material. A book-within-a-book is interwoven between the panels providing counterpoint to the main story. This is not simply "sequential art" this book is something more. Those who have read it should not question why it has made Time magazine's list of the top 100 modern novels.

Film rights were sold in 1986 and a merry-go-round of scripts, studios and directors followed. Early limitations on special effects made many story elements difficult hurdles. The understandable desire of directors and developers to make there own mark on a film led to some interesting scripts, but nothing that pleased the fans that read them, or the studios that backed them. In the end director Zack Snider and screenwriter Alex Tse restored the look and content of the film to something that was as close to the source material as one could expect from the format.

Changing the medium of a story can be difficult, and one of the most problematic is adapting a beloved book into film. These are very different media, each with their own rules, strengths and limitations. There is a tension in the mind of the fan who's beloved book is being adapted into a film. There is a desire of seeing your imagination made real, while a dark shadow is cast by the knowledge that characters and dialogue will be cut, subtleties glossed over, and (perhaps worst of all) the point of it all will be missed. This tension was released last week and fans and neophytes alike got to see what all the hype was about.

The Watchmen film is a fantastic looking adaptation. The colour palette, cinematography and editing are all spot on. It may be cliche, but the pages really do come to life. Spanning 40 years of costumed adventurism, the opening credits are a fantastic montage which sets up the alternate 80's and are worth the price of admission. However the the musical choices throughout the film are heavy handed and, in IMAX, extremely loud. We don't need to hear "99 luftballon" to understand that we are in the 80's and cold war fears are running high.

The casting was well done; all the actors fell into their roles and filled out their latex well. All of the changes from the source material were fair, in my opinion. Smoking was a common feature in the book, and aside from the character cigar chomp of the Comedian, this has been cut to meet our modern sensibilities. The electric car had come to the world of the Watchmen, thanks to the alchemy of Dr. Manhattan, but this too was cut to make a point about 2009 energy consumption.

The story in both the book and film jump around in time, place and perspective. This is part of what made the comic so rich, but I don't know how well that plays on film. It was a pleasure to watch a story I was familiar with on screen, but in the end I don't know how good a film it was. Does it stand on it's own merits? After only one viewing, I can't say.

However it has been said that there will be additional material available in the subsequent DVD sets. Like the Lord of the Rings extended editions have shown, the theatrical Watchmen release may just be an extended trailer for the ultimate fan editions that will follow.