5 O’clock Shadow: 21 June 2007 – More Than Meets The Eye

5 O'clock Shadow: 21 June 2007It’s been a while since I posted a 5 O’clock Shadow picture. This one is from a week ago and it was probably closer to 7 o’clock. Over my right shoulder you can see Optimus Prime rolling southbound on I-271. Over my left shoulder, a minivan cruises north, toward I-90.

Minivans are neither Autobots nor Decepticons; they — along with station wagons and most mid-size sedans — belong to a separate faction of Transformers known as the Domesticons. Rather than searching for the AllSpark and/or trying to utterly destroy their age-old enemies, the Domesticons concern themselves with making sure the kids get to harp practice, hauling fifteen bags of red mulch home from the WalMart Garden Center, and changing their oil every 3,000 miles.

When the MVoD transforms, it is into a giant robot named IdiotLight. For a variety of reasons, I have forbidden him to assume robot form. Ever.

Non Sequitur: Vuelva a la Biblioteca!

I’m back in good graces with my local library, so I’ve been a multimedia fiend for the past couple of weeks. Here’s a list of the audio, video and printified goodness that I’ve enjoyed recently or will be enjoying shortly:

  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Read by Lenny Henry. Gaiman’s follow up to American Gods focuses on African and West Indian deities. Anansi Boys has a much more sympathetic main character (Fat Charlie), and the world felt much more fleshed out than the stark landscapes of American Gods. Top-notch narration by British comedian Lenny Henry adds even more flavor to the rich story.
  • Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen. Read by Lee Adams. I’m a little over halfway through this quirky tale of lust, revenge and the general decline of basic civility, but I’m enjoying it quite a lot. The main character is a bit of a nutjob, which makes her difficult to sympathize with at times.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Read by Simon Prebble. This will take a good chunk of time to get through, and it doesn’t help that it was Laura, not me, who checked it out of the library. I haven’t started listening to Jonathan Strange just yet; I’ll begin as soon as I finish Nature Girl, if Laura will let me.
  • M:I:III, also known as Mission: Impossible III, starring the actor formerly known as Mr. Nicole Kidman. I heard rumors that Tom’s talkshow antics really hurt this movie’s box office performance. I’d dismiss those rumors as whiny excuse-making, except for one thing: M:I:III is the best of the series. It’s got tons of over-the-top action, lots of super-cool spy gadgetry, and Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a damn good villain. I only wish I’d had the option to get a widescreen copy, as the pan-and-scan on the fullscreen version is practically painful at times.
  • The first season of Sledge Hammer! starring David Rasche. Sometimes the things that we thought were funny and cool two decades ago should be relegated to fond memories and not revisited on DVD. Sledge Hammer! doesn’t seem anywhere near as funny today as I remember it being. I got a few chuckles out of it, but the show feels incredibly dated today.
  • Date Movie starring Alyson Hannigan. Date Movie — along with its even more inane cousin, Epic Movie — are proof-positive that the writers (or some subset of the writers) of Scary Movie have shot their collective wad. Alyson Hannigan barely (and I do mean barely) makes this unfunny parody worth watching.
  • Smokin’ Aces starring a whole bunch of folks.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. The only ink-and-paper title on the list. I’m only a few pages into this tale of heroes and villains of the super variety. I like what I’ve read so far.

Podcast: Volcanicast

Volcanicast is the latest podcast from Planet RetCon Radio, and it ventures where none of the other RetCon shows have gone before: reality. Volcanicast is a round table discussion of all the search terms classified as “volcanic” by Google Hot Trends in the past week; everything from celebrity arrests to phallic bivalves.

In the beginning, Volcanicast was hosted by Wesley & Bob, whose voices can also be heard on other fine Planet RetCon Radio productions, such as The Stargate Cafe and The Log of The Crimson Lein. Wesley was foolish enough to invite me to join in the current-eventy fun, so Episode 4 marks my first appearance.

A word of caution: Volcanicast is intended for mature audiences, which is somewhat ironic given the relative immaturity of the hosts.

Another word of caution: Although the topics discussed on Volcanicast are researched by the hosts before the show, the research is often half-assed at best. We may speak with an air of confidence and authority, but that’s usually just the booze talking.

Gamestuff: Free RPG Day

Free RPG Day - 23 June 2007Today was the first annual Free RPG Day, during which nearly 300 hobby gaming stores across the United States gave away free role playing game quickstart rules and adventures modules to their customers. A handful of stores in the Cleveland area participated, including I’m Game, an excellent gaming store in the Great Northern Mall (about 45 minutes from the International House of Johnson).
I’m Game StoreI met J.J. “Working Man” Lanza and Victor “Tangent” Cantu (Fist Full of Comics and Games) at I’m Game to check out the free swag. There were a dozen or so different sets of quick-start rules and adventures up for grabs, including:

  • Quick-start rules for White Wolf‘s upcoming release, Changeling: The Lost.
  • A preview of the science-fiction RPG “Septimus”, from West End Games.
  • “Dungeonbattle Brooklyn”, an adventure for the Xcrawl campaign setting from Goodman Games.
  • “Goblin Lake” a solitaire adventure for Tunnels & Trolls from Flying Buffalo.
  • “The Pig, The Witch and Her Lover”, a Warhammer roleplaying adventure from Black Industries.

We also interviewed Wendy Kerschner, co-owner of I’m Game, and “Jeff Venture”, an employee and RPG-enthusiast who — after our interview — ran a demo of “Temple of Blood”, another freebie adventure from Goodman Games. The interview will be up on the Fist Full of Comics and Games website in the next few days, and will probably make an appearance in one of The Harping Monkey feeds, too.

TV Stuff: Censorship Gone Wild

I just witnessed what may be the dumbest bleep in the history of bleeps.

The show: Comedy Central Presents.

The comedienne: Megan Mooney.

The joke: Dad calls Megan and her sister “ladies”. “Thanks a lot, coach,” Megan says.

The bleep: “You just earned yourself another clipboard for Father’s Day, a-<bleep>.”

Now, I want to point out that Megan did not say “ass”; she said “a”. A-hole. She censored her own joke.

And they bleeped the “hole”.

Happy Father’s Day

A few days ago, after changing the left front turn signal and putting new wheel covers on the MVoD, I decided it was time to re-stow the jack that has been rattling around in the back for several months.

Like folding a map or trying to get an inflatable bad back into its original packaging, stowing the jack turned out to be nearly impossible. The handle comes apart in two separate pieces, which must be inserted into a plastic sleeve that in turn wraps around the jack. The whole bundle is then crammed into a little cubby hole and held in place by a plastic bracket that will not fit around the jack and handle once they are removed unless one is willing to defy at least one of the fundamental laws of physics.

“Sometimes,” I heard my dad insist from nearly eight hundred miles away, “you just have to talk to it.”

Mowing the Field
image-638
He grins every time he says it—the same grin I know I’ve inherited—because by “talk to”, he means “swear at”. Colorful invective is one of my father’s specialties; his bilingual tirades (usually directed at uncooperative machines) are practically works of verbal art.

My mother disapproves, of course. She is appalled that any of her children would heed their father’s horrible advice—which makes it all the more vexing when a stream of profanity proves to be the perfect lubricant for whatever needs unsticking.

“Come on, you miserable piece of-” I muttered under my breath, trying to wedge the jack and its handle back into the space behind the right rear wheel well, “get in there!”

Frustration increasing proportionally to the seeming futility of my efforts, my utterances grew ever more inappropriate until, finally, I was able to tighten the wingnut that held the retaining bracket in place.

“Sometimes you just have to talk to it,” I muttered to myself, wiping the sweat from my brow. “Thanks, dad.”

Podcast: The Round Table – Season 4, Episode 4

The Round TableEvery couple of weeks or so the planets align ((The particular planets are not important, as long as they’re aligned. And not necessarily with one another. It’s very complicated.)) and we sit down to record another episode of The Round Table. “We” are, of course, Master of Monkeys, Misfits and Ceremonies, Mick Bradley, Desperadicus Unquietus, Chris Miller, me and—if our audience is incredibly fortunate—someone, anyone else. Sadly, it was just the three of us this time, and the aforementioned audience (assuming one still exists) is doomed to wail and gnash its collective teeth.

The show is just over an hour long and we discuss a great many things, not the least of which is Mahalo, the no-longer-super-secret project our Mr. Miller has been working on lo these many months. There is also mention of books, movies, RPGs, more super-secret projects, and making holy matrimony safer for all involved parties through the introduction of closed-cell foam padding.

Moviestuff: Adaptations.

I knew I was forgetting a few things in yesterday’s Geekstuff post, so here are some tidbits about upcoming movie adaptations of comic books, graphic novels and cartoons.

Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday, by Alan Dean Foster, is the “official prequel” to the upcoming Transformers live-action movie. I’ve got mixed expectations for the movie and I generally avoid movie tie-in books like the plague (ditto for comic book tie-in novelsA recent exception was Devin Grayson’s Inheritance, a novel set in the DC Universe. Unlike the handful of other comic book tie-in novels I’ve read, this one managed to make the jump from panels to prose pretty well.); on the other hand, I’ve enjoyed some of Foster’s earlier novels (particularly his Spellsinger series) and I do loves me some transforming robots. When a bookstore gift card was dropped in my lap earlier this week, I decided to give the novel a look.

Zack Snyder, who directed the brilliant, beautiful and brutal movie adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300, has apparently been tapped to helm“[T]apped to helm” is officially part of the Hollywood vernacular, it seems. another movie adaptation: Alan Moore’s Watchmen.The likelihood of Alan Moore’s name appearing anywhere on screen is slim to none, as Moore wants nothing to do with his works being adapted to film. Thanks to tricksy comic book companies like DC taking ownership of the works their artists produce, several of Moore’s graphic novels — most notably V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell — have been turned into movies without his consent. I thought 300 was a fantastic movie, but is about a stylistically removed from Watchmen as you can get; it will be interesting to see what Snyder does with a graphic novel whose fans are sharply divided as to whether it can (or even should) ever be properly adapted to film. It’s been a while since I read Watchmen, but I think Bruce Davison (Lathe of Heaven, X-Men) is well-suited to the role of Dan Dreiberg, AKA Nite Owl.

I had a copy of the new, extended cut of Fantastic Four in my hands twice a couple of days ago, but ultimately left it in the store. It seems that “Ultimate Collector’s Limited Edition” DVD — which came in a round tin that won’t sit nicely with the other DVDs on my shelf — isn’t quite as ultimateCome on, Twentieth Century Fox, get with the program. Once you’ve released an “ultimate” version, there should be no more versions. The word has a meaning; look it up! as one might expect, as the new release contains twenty minutes of previously unreleased footage and a second disc, undoubtedly jam-packed with new special features. Tempted though I was by this new version, I realized that those twenty minutes are far more likely to contain scenes of Johnny and Ben bickering than an extended battle sequence with Dr. Doom. I’m sure I’ll pick it up eventually, as special DVD features are like a kind of crack to me.

I’d say something about the Wachowski Brothers’ live-action adaptation of Speed Racer, but I’ve never actually watched the cartoon. If you’re the enterprising sort, you may be able to find a photo of Speed’s car, the Mach 5, on the Internets, perhaps even here somewhere.

Geekstuff: Superheroes in the News

My finger is, as always, on the pulse of entertainment newsTechnically, my RSS feed reader is on the pulse., especially where it pertains to all things superheroic. A couple of things have recently caught my eye:

Stan Lee has signed on to create superheroes for Disney. I love Stan Lee as much as the next guySo long as the next guy is a huge superhero geek., but I’m wondering if Disney has taken a good look at some of Stan’s more recent creations. Mosaic was decent, but Lightspeed (starring Jason Connery) was positively abysmal. I haven’t seen The Condor yet, but the trailers prominently feature a half-pipe and Tony Hawkish skateboarding sounds, all of which reminds me of Night Thrasher from the New Warriors, and that’s not a good thing (sorry Night Thrasher).

City of Heroes

Tom DeSanto (producer of the upcoming Transformers movie) is reportedly working on a live-action City of Heroes movie. City of Heroes is the MMORPG that sucked up massive quantities of my time a couple of years ago until upgrades to the game surpassed the capabilities of my computer and puny dial-up Internet connectionI’ve switched to a cable Internet connection, but my computer is still only barely capable of running the game.. One of the things I really liked about the game was the massive backstory NCSoft built around Paragon City and the surrounding area. Quotes from DeSanto lead me to believe that the movie will cover the alien invasion that takes place before the game begins. Color me interested.

Soon I Will Be Invincible @ Amazon.com

Soon I Will Be Invincible is Austin Grossman’s first novel, and there are already rumors that it is being adapted to film. Grossman is a game design consultant who has worked on two of my favorite video game franchises: Thief and Deus Ex. According to the official site, Invincible is “[a] wildly entertaining first novel, brimming with attitude and humor, featuring a cast of dozens of super-heroes and super-villains…” The buzz I’m hearing is very good, perhaps even good enough to make me break my “no hardcovers” rule.

Geekstuff: May 2007 Roundup

One of these days I’m going to write another real blog entry, but for now a little of the stuff that’s currently flipping my geek switch will have to suffice.

Star Wars Roleplaying Game. My copy of the core rulebook for the new “Saga Edition” has been shipped from Amazon and should arrive in a few days. I’m looking forward to digging into this one, as from most accounts the changes made by Wizards of the Coast make for faster, more cinematic gameplay than was possible using previous editions. Ken Newquist has posted a review on SciFi.com and more thoughts in two separate Nuketown posts.

Game Night. On the 29th, Chris Miller, Miscellaneous G™ and I got together intending to play Primetime Adventures, the roleplaying game in which players create a television series then roleplay episodes of the same. We got a little carried away during the creation phase and before we ever got around to deciding who our major protagonists would be we had outlined the major story arc for season one leading up to and including the cliffhanger season finale. I’m not sure whether we’re going to pull it back into Primetime Adventures or take it in another direction, but it was three solid hours of a very interesting creative vibe and we could all see a lot of potential in the end result.

Habeas Corpses by Wm. Mark Simmons. I bought this book at the airport in Oklahoma City because I didn’t relish the idea of three hours on two planes with nothing to read. Had I realized that Habeas Corpses is the third book in a series, I definitely would have bought something else. As it was, I was in a bit of a hurry and the cover doesn’t in any way indicate that it’s part of a seriesNot that I saw anything on the cover but cleavage and bare midriff., so I put my money on the counter and rushed to my gate. It’s a decent read that involves, vampires, werewolves, Native American tribal spirits and Nazis. I would give it a wholehearted recommendation except for one thing: the puns. I could understand giving the protagonist a propensity for punnery, but it seems like every one of Simmons’ characters spews puns left and right and after a while it just gets annoying and detracts from the story.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth. This is quite simply the best movie I’ve seen in recent memory. Over the past few evenings, Laura and I have been watching Pan’s Labyrinth with director Guillermo del Toro’s audio commentary. It’s clear that this project was a labor of love for del Toro, and his commentary explores everything from mythical elements in the story to how scenes were lit to how Doug Jones’ faun makeup changes during the course of the film. Unfortunately, del Toro has a voice that puts Laura to sleep after about fifteen minutes, so it’s taking us a bit longer than usual to get through the commentary track.