Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wedding Bells

Congratulations to my boy Brian Austin Green, who just married his longtime girlfriend Megan Fox. Nice! Fox is the best thing BAG has been in since 90210 went off the air.

Read more about it here.


I logged into Netflix today and saw this waiting for me on the front page. As I'm sure you could guess, I was shocked that Netflix thought I would enojy this. Why would any computer program allow for the possibility that any human would ever enjoy Sinbad: Afros and Bellbottoms?

And even if I did watch it and enjoy it (who knows?), they really thought I'd give it 4.5 stars out of 5?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Korat Grey Band -- Video Clip

My girlfriend Shannon is a singer in an awesome blues band called The Korat Grey Band (or the KGB if you're cool). Here's a quick video clip I took with my digital (non video) camera when they performed last week at the SummerStock music festival in Hopkins, MN. This crummy video clip doesn't do them justice.

Shannon is the one in green. Her cousin Nina DeNio is the other singer, Brent Hedtke plays guitar, Pete St. Martin plays bass, and Brandon Day does drums. And that's Brandon's daughter dancing in the middle.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Random Thought of the Day:

Why are there still bottles with caps that don't twist off?

Why do some companies insist on making me use a bottle opener? We know the technology is there, and that it has been around for years. When manufacturing bottles, why not just avail yourself of the latest technology and make them twist offs? Is it really that prohibitively expensive to update bottling machines to make this a reality? Or am I missing something and there's some kind of drawback to twist offs?

Seriously, bottle manufacturers! Get on this.

Friday, June 18, 2010


This is just about the coolest video ever. This guy is the best musician ever.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Samsung Gravity 2

I had to get a new phone this past Sunday. And when I say "had to," I mean that, since my other one broke. It had been breaking in bits and pieces over the past couple of years, mostly because I kept dropping it. The screen was cracked all over, the ringer no longer worked, and it had been well over a year since I could really see much on the screen because there was so much dust under the glass. But on Sunday I reached into my pocket at one point to check my phone, and the screen was completely dead. Ah well.

So Shannon and I went to T-Moble to get a phone, and not for the first time either. I had been there a few other times with her over the past couple of years to look at phones, because mine sucked and didn't work properly, but I never got one. I mean, it didn't work properly, but it still worked. And I don't really care about phones, which is odd I guess because I text all the time, but that's about it. I don't need it to do GPS, facebook, twitter, or play music. I don't even really use it to make phone calls.

Long story short, I got the Samsung Gravity 2. I was going to get the Gravity 1, because it was cheaper, but Shannon talked me into upgrading to the newer (and more expensive) version. I figured after three years using a cracked, dusty phone, I could afford to splurge just a little. And I do mean a little, since this was still a fairly cheap phone with my 2-year renewal with T-Mobile. Since I was out of contract, I was able to get a good deal on a smart phone, but I like my phones to just be bright, not smart. Like I said, I wanted a phone, not a webbrowser or music player. That's what my ipod is for. Also, I didn't want any features that would up my monthly rate.

So far, it's a pretty good phone. For starters, I can see the screen and it actually makes noise, although the speaker isn't as good as on my old Nokia Music Xpress. But that was a music player as well as a phone, while this one is just a phone that can also play music. Texting is easy, with better, more raised buttons on the front, and a full qwerty keyboard that slides out. I'm still getting used to the qwerty board, since I'm so used to texting with T9 on a numeric pad, but it's nice to have. It is really small, however, and I have big fingers, so it feels a little off. Also, the buttons on the keyboard don't always register, so there is a lot of hitting backspace when texting, which is a little frustrating. But I'm sure I will get used to it if I keep it up.

Transferring data to and from my phone and computer is easy as pie. I could've bought a $15 data cable, but bluetooth works just as well, although it's probably a little faster. If I didn't have bluetooth on my Mac, however, I'd be annoyed that I'd have to by Samsung's proprietary USB cable. My Nokia phone worked with the same USB cable that came with my digital camera. And speaking of cameras, the 2 Megapixel camera on this phone is way better than the one on my Nokia.

Here's a comparison of a picture I took on my old camera and one that I just took on my new one:

Sorry I didn't go to the effort of putting on the same shirt, but you get the idea. It's a pretty decent camera, which is a step up from my old one which was a really awful camera. There's also a video function as well, which I haven't tried yet. Hold on and I'll test it out...

Yeah, that's not very good, both the quality and the content. But I guess it's a nice feature to have.

As far as phonecalls go... I dunno yet. When I call Shannon's cell, she says she hears an echo. She also said she heard a bit of an echo when I called her on a landline as well. But I've called a couple other people, and they heard no echo. So maybe there's a problem there, but maybe there isn't. I'll have to look more into that and get back to you. It sounds fine on my end. I mean, it sounds like a cell phone.

It has the option for other stuff, like Facebook, email, web browsing, and even GPS, but I'll never use that stuff because you have to pay for data as you go. I'm not even sure how that works or what it costs, which is fine because I don't care. If you do care, however, there you go. And there are also all those other options that come standard these days, like a calendar, alarm clock, calculator, tip calculator, etc. No games came preloaded, however, which is also fine because games on cell phones suck and just take up memory.

Bottom line: It's a nice phone. It's not going to change my life or anything, but it will make texting easier and pictures I take on my cell look better. So far the only real caveats are that the qwerty keyboard is a little hard to use if you have big fingers and the screen is almost impossible to see in direct sunlight. But I still like it.

Site Changes

So if you've visited the blog more than once over the past couple days (and you haven't), you would have seen it change a few times. That's because Blogger changed and updated their design features giving a little more freedom to the way you can rigidly construct a blog from a now slightly less narrow set of options. I'm not a huge fan of any of the new features, and this new background kind of hurts my eyes, but I don't like most of the other options.



One of my personal heroes and all time favorite writer Stan Lee was on Craig Ferguson recently. Check it out here. He's still funny.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Smurfs Teaser

Offered without comment, the teaser for the upcoming Smurfs feature film:

Well, ok... some comment:

Who knew they were making a Smurf movie? And that it was going to have CG Smurfs? And that it was going to take place in... New York City? That's just weird. But I have to admit, I laughed, especially when the Smurfs la la la song morphed into Wild Thing for some reason. Really? That was their song choice? And Smurfhappens.com was the only domain name they could get?

Whatever. I'm in.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Xbox 360

Microsoft just announced the launch of a redesigned Xbox 360. Of course, this comes just a month after I finally bought a 360 myself. The new design is slimmer, has a bigger hard drive (260 to my version's 120), and has... wait for it... built-in wi-fi. This is pretty sweet and makes me a little sad that I didn't wait an extra couple of months before I bought mine.

But what's done is done and I can't say I really have regrets since I've been more than happy with my 360. But, anyway, if you don't have one yet, this is a great deal. Go buy it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


The Onion A.V. Club has a fantastic interview up with William Zabka. Go read it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Goonies -- 25 Years Later

Picture it: June 7th, 1985. Ronald Reagan was just six months into his second term as president of the United States. New Coke had just come out and changed the way the world drank soda. The WWF had just had its first ever Wrestlemania. Mikhail Gorbachev was elected president of the Soviet Union. The entire planet was singing along to the massive hit "We Are the World." I was 8 years old. And The Goonies had its world premier in theaters.

The world would never be the same again.

Well, Ronald Reagan came and went. The Soviet Union dissolved. The WWF changed its name to the WWE. Coke quickly got rid of New Coke in favor of Coke Classic. And after breaking records with We Are the World, fan favorite recording artists Dan Akroyd, Yoko Ono, and Kenny Loggins went on to bigger and better things. But the world still needs the Goonies, perhaps now more than ever.

I don't remember if I saw the Goonies exactly on June 7th of that year, but I saw it, as did everybody else in America. And then I saw it again and again and again. This was one of a handful of movies that I rewatched in the theatres more times than I can even remember. And remember that this was a time where you could actually go into a movie with no knowledge of what it was all about. I don't remember having seen any commercials or trailers beforehand, which was pretty common back then because often you could only see trailers for movies while you were in the theater seeing a movie. There was no E! channel back then. There was no youtube. So when I saw the Goonies, it was because it was a birthday party and that was the movie my friend choose.

I still remember when it first started... and you saw the opening logo where that skull and crossbones zooms into the screen. I knew I was in for something special. And from there it just kept getting better and better. This was one of the first "kids" movies that I remember seeing that hit me on a truly emotional level simply because it didn't talk down to the audience. This was a kids movie that actually showed a bunch of kids who were just like me and my friends. They were funny, irreverent, often dirty, and got on each others' nerves. Who didn't want to be one of the Goonies?

The Goonies is the kind of movie that's so good, I can't pick a favorite scene. My favorite scene is every scene, from start to finish. From the moment Jake Frateli breaks out of jail by faking his own suicide (in a kids movie!) to the ending where One-eyed Willy's pirate ship sails off into the sunset, this was just the greatest adventure movie I've ever seen. The actors were wonderful, the script was hilarious, and the sets were amazing. I still think Warner Brothers should open up an underground amusement park where you can go through caverns, ride down water slides, and then enter a secret chamber with a giant Pirate ship. Who wouldn't want to visit that?

And now it's 25 years later, and I still love the Goonies. I still wish I was a pirate. I still value friendship and live to have my time, my time down here. I still believe that at the bottom of every wishing well, there is a gorgeous waterfall where your dreams float for all time. And somewhere at the bottom of that waterfall is my dream that I would someday become a Goonie.

Sure, there are some odd bits here and there that don't add up. How did Willy actually build all those crazy traps? Nobody every really noticed an elaborate system of tunnels, even though a bunch of them had water pipes going through them? What was the deal with Sloth anyway? And were Chunk's parents really ok with the idea of letting him movie in? And what was a pirate doing sailing off the coast of Oregon anyway? 

But whatever. Most of those questions add to this film's charm. It's a fantasy. It's an epic. It's a romance. It's a coming of age story, and not just for the characters, but for the audience and for the world as well. And now it's 25 years later, but it seems like only yesterday, or the blink of Willy's one good eye.

And remember: Goonies never say die.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Xbox 360 Game Demos

A little over a month ago, I bought an Xbox 360. In that time, I've bought a few games, but I've downloaded the demos for about a million more. Some are a lot of fun, others were a complete waste of time. I'm not going to comment on every game I've played so far, since I don't even remember or have much of an opinion on many of them, but here are my incredibly brief (I hope!) thoughts on most of the demos I downloaded and played over the course of the past month or so:

In no particular order...

Batman Arkaham Assylum
This is fun. The graphics are incredible and the fighting was awesome. But there are too many awkwardly placed puzzles that were more lame than they were fun. What was with the detective vision mode that basically tells you exactly what to do? More fighting, less detective stuff. Or, at least, have puzzles that make sense and are fun to solve. But download this one. It's cool.


The other day I watched every episode of Archer on Netflix instant viewing. It's a James Bond-esque parody on FX that I always thought was actually on Adult Swim because the main character is voiced by that guy who does every character on Adult Swim. Or maybe just one, I dunno. Anyway, he's in it, and so are Chris Parnell, Judy Greer, and the mom from Arrested Development, who basically plays the mom from Arrested Development. Long story short, this show is hilarious and I recommend it. You can watch it on Netflix or on Hulu.

Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3: ODST came free with my Xbox 360 bundle, and it was worth every penny. As pack-ins go, this game is phenomenal and offers hours and hours of fun, both online and off. It's a fun game with a cool story, great voice acting, tight control, and great graphics. But all things considered, I'm glad I didn't pay for it and I don't really recommend you do either, unless you are a die-hard fan of Halo or FPSs in general.

It's just too short and too awkwardly paced to standout as a standalone title. Storywise, it's more of a side-story or supplement to the actual Halo trilogy, taking place between parts 2 and 3 and adding very little to the actual game universe or mythos. The cast of characters is cool and fun to watch, but I was never really sure what was going on nor was there really any real narrative momentum that kept the story going. I kept playing because the game was fun and the action was intense, not because I wanted any closure to the completely unengaging story.

Although the voice action was phenomenal, with a dream cast that included a veritable Firefly reunion with Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and Alan Tudyk. Morena Baccarin must've been busy filming V or something, so they got Battlestar's Tricia Helfer to play the female lead.  The Halo games have always had great voice actors reading smart, funny dialogue, and this game certainly didn't disappoint in that area. This game was actually more of a love story than anything else, with the reunion between Fillion and Helfer's characters being the only real story point I remember caring about. And I guess that's cool. 

The graphics are outstanding, when you could actually see anything, that is. The majority of the game takes place at night, so you have to turn on your nightvision goggles to see anything at all, which gave everything an unappealing, florescent glow. There are a few "flashback" moments that take place during the day -- and by the time you get to the end, the sun is starting to rise giving you a little more light -- but most of the game looks darky and murky, keeping the beautiful visions from really being able to shine through.

But this game ultimately worked because it's still a Halo game, and that means it has awesome action set pieces and absolutely perfect control. In my opinion, Bungie is one of the best game developers on the planet, and few games feel as perfect and comfortable to play as their Halo games. It just feels... right. Give me a pistol in Halo and I feel as though I can target a ladybug off the tip of a thumbtack. This game is a little harder than the other games, if only because you are playing as a normal soldier instead of the virtually indestructible Master Chief. Your health decreases super fast and ammo is more of a precious commodity than in previous games. So while it was shorter, this increase in difficulty made it seem like more of a challenge.

The multiplayer includes every mode and map from Halo 3, with a few other bonuses thrown in for good measure. If you don't already have Halo 3, this is almost worth getting just for the multiplayer alone. It's good fun, and has enough options and game modes to keep you coming back long after you complete the very short single player campaign.

At the end of the day, this is a truly fantastic game that just wasn't quite long enough, substantive enough, or ultimately satisfying enough. But I'm glad I own it, I'm glad I played through it, and I'll be happy to keep playing it both online and off. If you can find a copy for about twenty bucks, you'll get your money's worth. Unless you're a Halo fanatic, in which case you already own it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

In Memoriam: Rue McClanahan

A moment of silence for Rue McClanahan.

This is my third obit in the past few days. This is getting to be a really depressing blog.

Make it Sir!

That's Sir Captain to you. Nothing could ever be cooler than being captain of the Starship Enterprise, but I'd imagine that being Knighted is a decent second. Read all about it here.

Captain America Movie Costume

Here are some preliminary designs for the costume for the upcoming Captain America film:

Personally, I wish his helmet had the little feathers on the side, since it just doesn't look right to me without them. I also don't understand why he has to have a utility belt and utility suspenders. What does Captain American really need in all those pouches? And there are too many lines and creases everywhere but I guess they wanted to go with a more utilitarian, military look. I don't see the point for that, since he's a superhero and not just a soldier, but whatever. It could be worse. I don't think they royally messed it up. In fact, I even like it. It's not the costume we all know and love from the comics (although, it's better than a few of the versions that have appeared in the comics over the years), but, again, it's ok. As film costumes go (and lord knows I'll never understand why they always have to be drastically different from what the character has always looked like to much critical claim and fan appreciation), it's not bad.

Anyway, I don't have much else to add, other than I'm actually really looking forward to this movie. I've heard some wacky rumors about it that have me skeptical, but this costume looks cool, and I am actually really excited about the casting of Chris Evans. He's a cool, underrated actor in my opinion, who will bring a lot to the character. And it's Captain America, the hands down coolest Superhero of all time, in my opinion.

We'll see. I just hope they don't mess it up, or the terrorists will really have won.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mass Effect

It took me a while to get into this game. At first, I was blow away by the graphics and the sc-fi setting, but the controls felt awkward, the story was awkwardly introduced, and there was little explanation about what was going on or what you were supposed to do. So I put it down and played some other games, but finally came back to it, and it all clicked after a couple hours of playing. But as soon as I started to really love it, it was over.

To begin with, don't be fooled into thinking this is an action-oriented shooter, even though you can play as a soldier, you're given a machine gun, and the whole thing looks like Gears of War. If you try to play this like Gears, you're going to die. To begin with, the control simply isn't that fluid and the cover system is broken, but that's ok because the action isn't as intense and it puts the emphasis on strategy and leveling up your stats and skills. But even so, it would be nice for the cover system not to lock you to walls accidentally or for your aiming reticule to be a little more responsive during firefights.

But at heart, this is a pure, straight-up RPG, full of character development, an in-game monetary system, and dozens of quests ranging from the boring to the out of this world -- literally. I got about 30 hours out of the game before I completed the main quest, but I would guess I only finished about half of the side-quests I had started, and there were many more I didn't even begin. I didn't finish all of the quests because, frankly, the main story was so epic and intriguing that it felt weird to spend my time on silly little fetch quests for unimportant NPCs. I just wanted to see what happened in the story, but I'm sure on my next playthrough I'll take things a little slower and pace myself a bit to see more, since most of the quests are pretty fun and take you all through the entire galaxy. No kidding.

This game is huge. There are dozens of planets littering numerous solar systems, most of which you can land on and just explore in your all terrain vehicle, complete with a machine gun and missile launcher. At first, I absolutely hated driving around in the Mako (or whatever it was called) because the controls felt so unintuitive, it gets stuck on everything, and the weapons felt useless. But then I accidentally discovered the jump button that gets you over obstacles and the zoom feature that  makes the gun absolutely awesome and devastating to use. Still, driving around on the planets to get to your mission objectives can start to drag on after while, and I doubt you'll ever want to randomly search random planets for items or ore you can mine. I did that a few times and I never saw the point. To be honest, there are way too many items strewn around every planet. I converted 99% of what I found into health, and never had to buy even one item from a merchant.

As RPGs go, it runs the gamut from being incredibly forgiving for novices or extremely in depth for hardcore fans of the genre. You can set the level of combat from so-easy-you'll-never-die to ridiculously-hard, and you have to option to allow the game to level up your stats for you if you don't want to worry or care about that stuff. But letting the game handle all that takes away some of the fun of playing an RPG. You are giving a team of character, from which you can choose two squad mates to accompany you on missions, though they are all kind of bland and boring to be perfectly honest. None of them really stood out much as characters, at least not during the actually playable missions. During the cut scenes, they all had a lot of personality and charm. But while in combat, none of the characters really felt as though they were doing much, and the control you have on each of them is nowhere near as extensive as I would've liked.

But this game is just fun to play. It may not be a straight up shooter, but the game is action-packed and thrilling all the same. Once you get into the feel of the combat, there is a lot of freedom to experiment with different playstyles for each character class. The engineer definitely feels different from a soldier, for example, and it will almost seem like a completely different game. And the story is just epic, with a great central threat that is actually really scary when you learn more toward the end. Characters die, people change, and there was even a sex scene, though it was tastefully done, if a bit awkwardly handled.

Give it a try if you are a fan of shooters, RPGs, or just well told sci-fi space operas. Great game.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Total Recall 20th Anniversary

20 years ago today, June 1st, Total Recall had its theatrical premier. I don't have anything clever or insightful to say, I just think this was a seminal event in geek history so it was worth mentioning. Everybody, go and rent Total Recall and relive this awesome movie. It's not available anywhere online for free, but you can watch the entire run of the TV series Total Recall 2070 on Hulu. I can't vouch for this series, since I've never actually watched it, but maybe it's really good? Maybe I'll check it out and report back to you. Or, better yet, somebody else check it out and report back to me.

Or go here and read the entire text of Philip K. Dick's original short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale." This one I can vouch for, and it's... ok. It's Philip K. Dick, which means it's brimming with brilliant ideas and flat, ponderous prose. I used to be a huge fan of his work when I was in highschool, but I grew tired of it. But this one is worth reading, even if it isn't as fun as the movie.