Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Every Car Has Their Day....

As I'm sitting here at work, waiting for the inevitable flood of projects to come down the pike and wondering what to post next in my blog, I happened to glance over on my desk to the latest issue of Locksmith Ledger magazine, a publication I happen to be the layout artist on, and decided to write about that. Why the hell would anyone reading this care? Ah, my loyal subjects, because like every other month, I recieved little to no help in getting materials for the cover art of this issue, and being the topic of the month was "Automotive 2006", I decided to chance it and put my own car up on the cover. No one complained, so up it stayed.

So now my car's famous. Thinking back, I probably should have picked a photo where I was visible in the reflection, just so I can say that I, too, was on the cover of an international trade magazine. Actually, my torso IS slightly visible, so if I wanted to get real technical, I can say I have a famous pelvis... but that would only serve to open me up for a huge amount of wisecracking jokes at my (and my pelvis') expense. And nobody wants that.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bif Naked in NYC

Last night I was finally able to cross off a big item at the top of my life's "To Do" List.... I saw Bif Naked in concert. Those that know me can tell you that I don't get all that excited about too many things in life; sure I may obsess about the next great computer game coming out in 6 months, and I did check the forums every day for a month before getting my Scion tC for any relevant news, but other than that I don't really have a strong opinion about too many things, especially in the way of music. Up until recently there was not one band I would undeniably say is my favorite, a band that I would buy anything they put out, with the possible exception of Rage Against the Machine. That has changed with the discovery of Bif. Out of maybe....MAYBE four bands I would spend the money to see in concert nowadays, she was #1 on my list. Was it worth it? You have no idea.

Everyone knows I'm a big worrier. I worry... alot. This night was no exception. I was worried about: Being late; not getting a good seat; not being able to see Bif; was the venue going to be too big? too small? Were they going to take my camera away? Hell I was even worried about meeting Bif in person. Why? Because I'm not cool. That's not a put down, it's not low self-esteem, it's just a simple fact, like saying "I'm not blonde". I've come to accept this. Just the fact that I thought I MIGHT actually meet her is evidence that I'm clueless. Need more proof? How about the fact that I spent $50 on tickets, then come to find out she put a password up on her website prior to the concert that lets you in for free? Yeah, I'm a chump. But at least I feel better knowing I'm contributing to the arts, I just hope she got a decent portion of the proceeds.

Anyway, long story short, all my worrying was for not. We were early (2 HOURS early, thanks to an apparent mix-up with the time). Being so early allowed us first choice and essentially got a spot right up against the raised stage, about 3 feet from the mic stand. The venue was slightly larger than my apartment, so it was pretty intimate. I could see her just fine, especially when she sang to the girls right next to me. I was able to snap over 100 photos, although most ended up being of her elbow or back of her head, since she was moving around the stage faster than my crappy camera could capture. And no, I didn't get to meet her.

So, the concert was awesome. Short, but awesome. I was surprised that she didn't play every song off her new album, given that it was what she was there to promote. And she didn't sing my favorite song 'Religion', but in the hour or so she had to squeeze in her songs, a few of my favorites were bound to be missed, and I was just happy enough that she dove back and played some earlier stuff. Lyrically Bif's music is unlike any other band I've heard. Every song is intensely personal drawing from her own life experiences; it seems almost autobiographical in nature. And as such, I almost feel like I know her as a real person as opposed to just some rock star, and when she took the stage it was almost like watching a good friend playing in a band.

Suffice to say, I'm really glad I finally got a chance to see Bif Naked live, up close and personal. Even if I never get another chance, this experience will last a lifetime. And Bif, if you're reading this, I was the annoying F**ker to your left taking all those pictures... Sorry!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Film Review: The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

One of the things I always wanted to do, either for the Coffee Crew readings or on my own website, was movie reviews(with my own twisted warped point of view, naturally.) Here is as good a place as any to jot them down. So here it is, my first official movie review. (warning: possible spoilers here.)

Review: The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy

First off, let me say this first and foremost: I loved this movie. Was it a masterpiece? No. Did it have a mind-blowing plot? Not really. Was it particularly well acted? Eh. So why did I love it? Because 1) I'm a huge fan of the HHGTTG universe, and 2) They didn't screw it up... at least not as much as I was expecting, and a fraction of the amount they could have. Not perfect, but for the most part, they got it right.
If you are a fan of the series, if you've read at least the first few books, watched the 6-episode mini series, and/or heard the BBC radio broadcast of the Hitch Hikers Guide, or even played the infocom text adventure game, then you know the story, and chances are this movie will definitely appeal to you. If you've never heard the phrase "Don't Panic!", are clueless as to what to do with a Babel fish, or the number "42" just doesn't do it for you, you may be a bit lost with this latest installment of the Guide. This movie tries to stand on it's own while keeping remarkably faithful to the original material; however without some background knowledge of the story, the characters and even the Guide itself, newcomers may find themselves wondering what the heck it's all about. Scenes and concepts that naturally flow together in the mind of veteran fans may seem disconnected and random to the average patron. Naturally (being the former) I can only give my opinion in the gleeful subjectivity of an avid fan. And I won't even apologize for it.
The movie roughly covers the content of the first book (or first 3 episodes of the miniseries), occasionally straying from the original material to connect the dots left open due to time restraints of a feature film. Unfortunately it's difficult to tell the story of the Guide in the 1 1/2 hour span of a film, and because of this the movie feels crammed, as though they are trying to jam in as many jokes as possible. Much of the brilliant writing and dialog between characters tends to simply get lost in the rush to get it all out. Also, the addition of a love interest between main characters doesn't really fit into the whole "Guide" story; I assume it was put in to appease those that would otherwise be completely lost as to what's going on.
Despite this, there was much included for the fans of the Guide. Snippets of familiar sound bytes; cameos of several actors and characters; even the occasional appearance of the late Douglas Adam's likeness. And let's not forget the main attraction: the Guide entries themselves. There was much concern that these would be left out, in favor of a more cinematic blockbuster feel. Have no fear, the Guide is in, and as campy and endearing as ever. Rather than update the entries with fancy computer generated 3-d holographic images, the producers chose to stick with the basic line drawing feel of the original series which, in my opinion, makes it that much funnier, given what today's technology would have allowed them to do.
So, the bottom line is: If you're a fan of the guide, this movie doesn't disappoint. If you're not, well, nobody's perfect.

Paul's Movie Ranking: 7.5 out of 10

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Peer pressure

Well, I'm officialy screwed.

It seems that everyone and their mother (what about fathers, or siblings?) has a blog now. Out of my carefully selected hand-picked group of friends, 4 of them now have blogs other than me. And out of them, 3/4ths are professional writers by trade, and the other 1/4 is an English Lit major. So where does that leave me? Naturally this is not some contest, there's no award for coming up with the most posts, the best blog entry, or the wittiest comments; but still it seems slightly competitive to me. Knowing that my little corner of the world can't possibly be as well written or more enjoyable than the others tends to discourage me from trying. Conversely, reading the threads and threads of blogs being submitted by my cohorts fills me with this dreadful need to catch up and keep my own blog updated regularly.. in other words, to 'keep up with the Jones'. Ah, to have been born into the Jones' family, they always have such nice things....
Ahem... anyway, why stress about it? It's not that important, nobody will think less of me, at least not any less than now. Why not just put down my musings like I have been, and let it flow naturally like it's meant to? Well, 2 reasons: One, when I feel like I have to do something rather than doing it just for fun, it becomes a job or a chore, and therefore I have less of a desire to continue it. This is why I could never become a comedy writer or comedian; as soon as I was required to spit out funnies on demand, I'd never be able to do it. Some of (in my opinion) funniest moments were in the middle of random conversations with friends which spiralled into ludicrous scenarios, something not easily duplicated in a lab.
The second reason for my lack of blog upkeeping is simple: Time. Yes, I seem to use this excuse excessively for just about any and all of my problems and shortcomings; everything from "My bathroom is moldy because I don't have time to clean" to "I haven't gotten laid lately because I just don't have time to meet people". Cooking? HA! No time. Reading? Nope, too busy. Updating a blog? When you spend roughly 60 hours in front of a monitor a week, the last thing you want to do is sit down and start typing. "But Paul, you come home at 11:30 at night and start playing computer games... Why do you make time for THAT and not blogging, you jerk!" one may ask. A valid question, if not for the plain fact that it's not even remotely the same. Games are an escape, a recreation, requiring little to no actual thought, and to me it's immensely entertaining. Not that blogging isn't fun mind you, but it's the equivilent of having company over and having to be "on" all the time, versus just wanting to wind down and walk around in your underwear.
So here I am, unwittingly pressured to blog away, keeping it fresh and humorous for the lucky few that have found my site. Thanks to this update, I can sleep well tonight.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Faux Pas of Film, Pt. 2


• Obvious Product Placement
This one may seem to be an obvious pet peeve, as most people with reasonable intelligence can pinpoint product placement in television or movies and roll their eyes exclaiming, Gee, you think Lexus paid ‘em any money?” I’m not talking about the ‘casual’ placements, such as someone using an Apple computer or something. No, the ones that drive me over the edge are the incursions so blatantly obvious, you can almost envision the executives being handed bags and bags of cash, while laughing sadistically at the thought of ruining another film just to buy another 50 kilos of coke. There are two such over-the-top placements in recent memory that particularly struck a cord with me.

Example 1: Matrix.

Setting: Our protagonist, computer hacker Thomas Anderson, has just been instructed via cell phone to escape capture by climbing out onto a window ledge. This he does reluctantly, as he is naturally several stories high, but not without the cliché slipping-and-almost-falling-to-his-death scene. In the middle of slipping-and-almost-falling-to-his-death, he loses his grip on the aforementioned cell phone, and as it is flung into the air, it pauses momentarily on it’s faceplate, clearly showing the world that this is, in fact, a Nokia-brand phone, before continuing it’s fall to the ground. I could almost picture the words “4 out of 5 Computer Hackers recommend Nokia for their cell-phone needs” as it pauses so unnecessarily for the audience. Now, the so-called “bullet-time” effect was pioneered and used in this particular movie several times, but mostly to demonstrate how the characters could move much faster than normal, dodging bullets and the like, hence the name “bullet time”. Our Mr. Anderson had no such powers at the time, so there was absolutely no reason to slow down his falling phone other than to sell Nokias to the viewer. I would have accepted this commercial a lot more readily had our character dropped his phone while having this ability to slow time, and as the phone slowly reveals it’s make and model, he grabs it quickly to demonstrate he now has this amazing ability. No, come to think of it, it would still piss me off, but not nearly to the extent it does as it stands now. Had I owned a Nokia phone at the time I, too, would have flung it out the nearest window.

Example 2: I, Robot
There is absolutely no excuse for this one, no matter how you look at it. The movie is set in the future, 2035 to be exact, the last place you’d expect a new sneaker from 2004 to show up, right? EERRR!!! Wrong! Within the first few moments of the film Del Spooner, a Chicago city cop with a pension for chasing down robots, displays his winning online bid: a brand new pair of “vintage” 2004 Nike’s! If that didn’t remind me of the purposely blatant product placement in “The Truman Show”, I don’t know what does.