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Bullet Sunday 239

Posted on July 3rd, 2011

Dave!Oh, wipe your tears away... Sunday, bloody Sunday...

   
• Plus! Annnnd... Google debuted their "Google+" social media services this week. As a so-called "Facebook killer" it's pretty interesting. I like that its smarter at controlling who sees the things you post. I like being able to organize people into my "Circles"... which are kind of like old rotary phone dials...

Google Plus Circles

Of course, if you have a hundred friends, you can only see thirteen in your little dial until you click on it, but I guess that's better than nothing.

Except...

I've already got Facebook, Twitter, and this blog sucking up my time. Do I really need another "thing" cutting into my already mega-packed offline life? I mean, I suppose I can give up sleeping and going to the bathroom, but is Google+ really worth it? Time will tell.

   
• Colbert. This past week Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's Colbert Report received approval from the FEC to form his own Political Action Committee. But, unlike regular PACs, he formed a Super PAC which has no restrictions on the amount of money he can raise. I'm absolutely fascinated at the prospect of a comedian having access to a PAC, and can't wait to see how much he can raise and what he's eventually going to do with it.

So I donated some money. And got an autographed photo for my trouble...

Colbert Super PAC Autograph

Whatever he does with his money, I'm betting it's going to be a heck of a lot more interesting than what Sarah Palin has been doing with her PAC monies.

   
• Roundabout. I noted an article link over on Neil Turner's Blog about how the British roundabout is conquering the US. This is something I can confirm as true. Years ago, the only roundabouts I'd ever seen in the USA were in Massachusetts. But now they are popping up everywhere. The first I remember seeing in my home state of Washington was at the I-90 interchange in North Bend...

North Bend Roundabout
Image taken from Google Maps

And now, even small local cities like nearby Wenatchee are getting roundabouts.

The problem is that nobody here seems to know how to drive on them. Most of the time I've seen people encounter a roundabout, they full-stop instead of yield. And, even then, they don't know what to do, preferring to just sit there for a while until they get up the courage to enter. Hopefully this will change as they become more prevalent, but right now they're more trouble than they're worth.

   
• Arrietty. The next film by animation genius Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli is called Arrietty, and is based on the beloved book The Borrowers by Mary Norton. As with everything Miyazaki touches, it looks stunning...

My loved of all things Miyazaki is well documented. He has been a massive influence on me for decades, and his works are without peer in the animation world (the people at Pixar practically worship the man, for example). That he has continued to work after his "retirement" in 1998 has been a source of absolute joy to me, and seeing yet another film with his fingerprints on it makes me happier than I can possibly express. And while his role at Ghibli seems mostly supervisory now (though he appears to still be doing some writing and drawing too), he seems to have good people (including his son) carrying on his work...

Arietty English Poster Miyazaki

Arrietty was released in Japan almost a year ago and I have yet to see it. Today I learned that it won't reach the USA until FEBRUARY, 2012!! And while I would prefer to see the movie with the original Japanese soundtrack and subtitles, the North American release is certain to be an English dub (as usual). I don't even care. I just want to see it! Then hopefully the Blu-Ray release will preserve the Japanese version like Ponyo did. In the meanwhile... I wait.

   
And that's all she wrote since I have to get up early for work in the morning. Here's hoping all my fellow USAsians have a good holiday tomorrow!

   

Bullet Sunday 206

Posted on November 14th, 2010

Dave!It's a blah blah blah kind of week. Thankfully it's Bullet Sunday with some good things to the rescue!

   
• Music! One of those shows that I wish I could quit, but can never seem to stop watching is Grey's Anatomy. They just keep doing things to keep it interesting, and the stories are (usually) pretty good. But the best thing about the show is the music, and I've lost count of the number of great songs I've found from watching Grey's. This week it was Mackintosh Braun (a band I had never heard of before) and their song Could it Be. Turns out the entire album is great, and now I'm a fan...

Mackintosh Braun Photo

Well done Shonda Rhimes and the rest of the people responsible for Grey's Anatomy not sucking too badly. Now please fix Christina and move past the whole "hospital shooting" crap which has been lingering for far too long.

   
• Pooh! This caught be completely by surprise... Disney is coming out with a new Pooh movie on July 15, 2011 called (appropriately enough) Winnie the Pooh!...

Beautiful! Thank heavens they didn't feel the need to recreate the look of the series in 3-D or use computer animation or some other stupid shit like that. The Keane song is perfect, and just the icing on the cake. I hate seeing movies in theaters any more because people are assholes, but I'll make an exception for this.

   
• Veterans! Thanks once again to Applebee's for treating veterans to a free meal on Veteran's Day this week. It seems as though they were making money hand-over-fist from all the people who were there with veterans that were not veterans (like me!), so I can only hope that it's a win-win event for them.

Applebees Vets Logo

   
• High! I've mentioned plenty of time that I have a paralyzing fear of heights, and always have to psych myself up when traveling because all the good touristy stuff seems to be up high. Recently I watched a television program about the "Grand Canyon SkyWalk" which goes beyond scary for somebody like me...

Grand Canyon Skywalk
Photo from the official Grand Canyon Skywalk Site.

While searching for a photo on the internet which shows the glass floor, I came across this shot...

Grand Canyon Skywalk Glass Floor
Shiiiiiiit! Photo from GloboTreks.

The GloboTreks article is called "7 of the Most Impressive Skywalks in the World", and I've only seen one of them in person: the Sears Tower "Ledge" in Chicago...

Sears Tower Ledge Glass Floor
Yes, it's just as scary as you'd think it would be.

They might as well call this list "7 Places Guaranteed to Make Dave2 Crap His Pants"... because, damn... just look at some of these terrifying things. Of course, if I should ever visit any of these instruments of torture, I'd definitely force myself to experience them. I always do. But I'm sure my "experience" would consist of me crawling on my hands and knees while crying for my mommy. After crapping my pants. Because, damn...

   
• TV on DVD! Tonight I found out that one of those long-forgotten television shows I've been begging to come out on DVD, Palace Guard, actually DID get released on DVD back in July! Apparently all nine episodes are included on some kind of massive 10-disc retrospective called Prime Time Crime: The Stephen J. Cannell Collection. It seemed a total bargain at just $22, so I scraped together the money and ordered it immediately. I previously described the show thusly...

The best role of D.W. Moffett's versatile career, and a show that I find impossible to understand how it failed... The Palace Guard certainly seemed like a crowd pleaser, and was mindless fun in a way people usually respond to. PLOT: Moffett is a career jewel thief who is caught and imprisoned. As a part of his parole, he gets a job as a security expert in a megalith hotel chain. A Moonlighting-like twist is thrown in when he starts to fall for his boss (Marcy Walker) who pretends to despise him but, of course, is falling for him as well.

I can't wait to watch the show again and see if it holds up as well as I remember it. If only television studios would get off their asses and release some of my other favorites (even selling them on iTunes so they don't have to go to the expense of pressing DVDs would be great)...

  • Cupid (the Jeremy Piven ORIGINAL, NOT the shitty remake... probably the best television show ever, created by the same guy behind Veronica Mars).
  • Oh Grow Up! (Alan Ball's hilarious pre-Six Feet Under comedy).
  • I'm With Her (Funny "Notting Hill" type story... PLUS Betty White cameo!).
  • Grapevine (Again I am wanting the ORIGINAL, not the sucky remake).
  • Now and Again (Really good drama/sci-fi mix).
  • The American Embassy (A very good "American in London" show).
  • Sam & Max Freelance Police (Coolest cartoon show).
  • The Palace Guard (Funny, smartly written-thief-turned-hotel-security-expert).
  • Strange World (X-Files type conspiracy show).
  • P.S.I. Luv You (CONNIE SELLECCA!!).
  • Duet (Alison La Placa hilarity).
  • Marker (Yes it's Richard Grieco, but doesn't suck!).

   
Now it's back to blah blah blah...

   

Amazonia

Posted on October 12th, 2010

Dave!I am starting to really, really despise Amazon.com — not because they suck or anything... for the most part I find their pricing and service to be excellent. No, the reason I hate them is because they make it entirely too easy for me to spend money I don't have. Stupid Amazon and their stupid product suggestions and their stupid One-Click ordering!

Here are three of my latest totally non-essential purchases that I just had to own or else I would die...

   
THE MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Star Wars is awesomeness defined. So awesome that at the time it was released, it was nearly impossible to process. Most everything about it was so new and revolutionary that the brain had no choice but to explode at the thought of it all. But by the time The Empire Strikes Back came along three years later, we were accustomed to all the amazing special effects and mind-blowing elements that made Star Wars such a phenomena. We wouldn't be surprised again.

Or so we thought. The Empire Strikes Back proved us wrong. Upping the ante in every possible way, the film raised the bar so high that few... very few... films have managed to top it. It remains one of my top-five favorite films of all time, and cemented my love of Star Wars for all eternity (even when the franchise turned to shit with Return of the Jedi and the horrendously craptastic prequels).

So how could I possibly not purchase The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler's stunning follow-up to The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones? This massive 372-page tome has a definitive look at every aspect of the movie's creation taken from countless hours of research and interviews. It includes numerous pieces of production art, behind-the-scenes photos, and other tidbits which gives the reader an insider's look at Empire in a way that will make you not only fall in love with the film all over again... but have an entirely new appreciation for the people behind it...

DAVE APPROVED: The Making of The Empire Strikes Back

It's a complete and total steal at $49.72 (list price $85.00!), and I give it my highest possible recommendation for Star Wars fans and anybody who's interested in film production. The Force is indeed strong with this one!

   
THE SECRET OF KELLS BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO
Where to start with this one. Probably with the fact that I am a total animation whore. I remain hopelessly fascinated with the artform and obsess over its every incarnation. Everything from a simple flip-book to full-blown computer-generated animations captivate me. But hand-drawn animated features are my favorite. Even when Pixar unleashes their latest computer-rendered genius, I still find myself pining for the animated classics I grew up with.

So imagine my surprise when I happened across a production blog back in 2006 for an animated feature called The Secret of Kells. I had visited Dublin and seen the jaw-dropping beauty of The Book of Kells the previous year, and thought it was pure genius to use it as the foundation for a movie. For years I followed the updates, watching with amazement as the film took shape...

Blog of Kells Art

With each update at The Blog of Kells, I became more and more excited at the visual feast that was being created. Even at its very earliest stages, you could feel this would be something special. When peeks of the animated sequences were revealed, you knew it was something special. And when it finally opened in limited release in Washington State back in May, I finally got to see it and know that "special" was a drastic understatement. The film was magic. And I don't use that term lightly.

Infused with Celtic mythology, The Secret of Kells tells the story of a young boy named Brendan who sees an unfinished book of secret wisdom and magical powers which holds the hope of banishing darkness and defeating evil. Leaving his world behind, Brendan undertakes an amazing journey through an enchanted forest to help complete The Book of Kells. Along the way he meets mystical creatures and the fairy spirit Aisling to aid him in his quest...

The Secret of Kells Art

The Secret of Kells Art

The Secret of Kells Art

The Secret of Kells Art

The Secret of Kells Art

The Secret of Kells Art

The Secret of Kells Art

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Every frame of this movie is a sublime work of art in its own right. Every frickin' frame! The fact that it's all beautifully animated in old-school stylings is just the icing on the cake. I could use words like "stunning" and "breathtaking" and "Glorious" to describe it, but there is simply nothing I can say which would adequately prepare you for the experience of viewing the film. Though a part of me wonders if the story is a bit too abstract for younger kids, I can't imagine anybody not enjoying The Secret of Kells.

For $25 you get a combo Blu-Ray/DVD pack (alas, no digital version to be found) and it's worth every penny. Again, my highest possible recommendation.

   
GRINDHOUSE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION BLU-RAY
Finally... finally... Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's wonderful experiment in old-school double-feature cinema has been released on home video as they intended it to be seen... an uninterrupted back-to-back experience complete with all the pseudo-trailers, aged film damage, missing reels, and intermission card goodness!

Grindhouse combines two films of senseless campy violence, horror, and action by two of Hollywood's most genius and unconventional directors... Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino, and Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez. You also get a bunch of brutally cool "faux trailers" for films like Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie and Don't by Edgar Wright (and, of course, Machete which was later made into an actual film!). It's not going to be for everybody, but any fan of shlock horror films will probably love it...

Grindhouse Movie Poster

While both films have their charms, it's Death Proof that I can't get enough of. When it comes to Tarantino movies, it's but a blip on the radar of his impressive oeuvre, but it's still genius when compared to most of the shit that gets released. Kurt Russell(!) plays a psychopathically homicidal stuntman who likes to stalk lady drivers in his "death-proof" stunt car, eventually running them off the road and killing them. It's all fun and games for the maniac... until he terrorizes the wrong women! This twisted tale of suspense and revenge has one of the best car chase sequences ever put to film, and is chock-full of Tarantino's witty (and borderline scandalous) dialogue. As I said, it's not going to be for everybody, but it's dead-on target for its intended audience. If that's you, I give Grindhouse my highest recommendation. Amazon has it for just $23, which is more entertainment per dollar than you can shake a machine gun at!

   
And there you have it. $100 of my hard-earned money blown with three clicks. I wish I could say this was a rare event but, alas, there are even more unnecessary but essential items waiting for me, I'm sure.

Don't act surprised when I'm selling myself on the street for Amazon gift certificates. It's only a matter of time...

   

Bullet Sunday 196

Posted on August 22nd, 2010

Dave!It's a boring day for Bullet Sunday, but here it comes...

   
• Read. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the Curious George. It was George who ignited my life-long love of monkeys, and his books remain some of my favorites of all time (the best being Curious George Goes to the Hospital. For this reason, I was happy to see that the Library of Congress was using him to promote reading with a series of cool ads...

Curious George Reads

Curious George Reads

Books come and go, but the classics are forever.

   
• Digital. As a long-time fan of comic books, there's something... wrong... with the idea of reading them digitally on an iPad or computer screen instead of the wonderful tactile experience of flipping through the pages of a book. But, after downloading a bunch of freebies on my mom's iPad using the Comixology app, I have to say... I'm almost convinced. I'm growing to love the effortless navigation, brilliant colors, and distraction-free panel-by-panel "Guide View" that leads you through the stories. As if that weren't enough, you can store a lot of comics on a digital device, which beats having to lug around stacks of books and finding room to store them all...

Comixology iPad App

However... pricing and availability sucks ass.

Take for example the acclaimed Vertigo series Y: The Last Man. I've never read the series, but have always wanted to. The first issue was FREE on Comixology so I snapped it up and was immediately hooked. I wanted more. So I click on the "Full Series" button only to find this...

Comixology iPad App

WTF?!? They have just THREE issues of a SIXTY issue series... FOR A DOLLAR-NINETY-NINE EACH!! Even if the entire series was available, who is going to pay $120 when you can get PHYSICAL COPIES of all ten trade paperback volumes for $90? Heck, you can get all the OVERSIZED DELUXE HARDCOVER volumes for $100. This is insanity. Nobody wants to pay more for less. No printing. No shipping costs. No distribution. No retailer markup. No resale value. Nothing extra or special. Except the price, which just sucks. I would gladly pay $60 for the entire digital series, I may even pay $90, which is what the trade paperbacks would cost me. But $120? Screw that. Especially since there's no guarantee they'll ever release all the issues for digital sale in the first place. If this is the future of publishing, count me out. EPIC FAIL!

   
• Emmy. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Betty White won an Emmy for her hilarious guest host performance on Saturday Night Live...

Emmy Statue

It's Betty White!!

To this day, I remain astounded at how she cut no corners... she appeared in every sketch, plus an SNL Short, plus all the MacGruber interludes plus Weekend Update. Truly one of the hardest working people in show business (she just signed on for a TWO-book deal!), this is Betty's fifth Emmy win and she deserved every bit of it. As always, I can't wait to see what she'll do next.

   
• Miyazaki. Good news for fans of Hayao Miyazaki (perhaps the greatest animator in history). Despite saying he was going to retire years ago, a recent interview revealed that he has no plans to retire. In fact, he's planning two films and is musing over a sequel to his underrated gem, Porco Rosso...

Hayao Miyazaki

When I flew to L.A. and met up with Howard for a rare live appearance of Miyazaki-san discussing his career, I thought it was a kind of "retrospective farewell," and am happier than words could express that this is not the case. Next up, Karigurashi no Arietti (The Borrower Arrietty) based on Mary Norton's 1952 novel The Borrowers...

The Borrower Arrietty

If there's anything you can rely on, it's that this movie will be yet another awesome Miyazaki work of art.

   
• Eggs. My fried egg sandwich was delicious. So far so good... but salmonella can take up to three days to incubate, so I could have a diarrhea explosion any minute now. I'll keep you posted.

   
Annnnd... I'm spent. This is going to be a loooooong week.

   

Miyazaki

Posted on July 28th, 2009

Dave!Imagine that there's somebody whose work you so admire that they inspire you every day. Imagine that what this artist creates fills you with such joy that your life is better because of it. Imagine that this visionary is one of your greatest personal heroes and you obsess over everything they've released.

Now imagine that this person has decided to make a rare public appearance to discuss these works which have been an inspiration to you for your entire adult life... and you have an opportunity to see them do so live and in person.

That's exactly what happened to me when I found out that animation legend Hayao Miyazaki would be speaking in Los Angeles today.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. You just don't pass up an opportunity to attend a lecture with the man responsible for My Neighbor Totoro...

Totoro!

Blogging buddy Howard (from the Web Pen Blog) and I attended the event, and it was an amazing, incredible, wonderful night.

Too many times the best days of our lives go by unnoticed and are only realized upon reflection.

I know this was one of the best days of my life.

   

To read more about Hayao Miyazaki, here's a Wikipedia entry.

But to really understand him, just go watch his films.

   

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