Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Old Year

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TRON: Legacies

The countdown is over. Have you seen it? After decades of anticipation I found TRON: Legacy entertaining, thoughtful and, with the exception of a computer-generated face that looked like a computer-generated face, everything I hoped it would be. Travelling hundreds of miles to see it with my oldest friend and his son skewed my objectivity and in all honesty it would have had to be an unmitigated disaster to rate any less, but I liked it. A lot.

It was the Year of the Geek when we met, my friend and I, the same year of the original TRON's release, yet 1982 seemed a long time ago in a galaxy far away as we stood at the front of the line for its sequel. His seven-year-old son brought an identity disc along, a toy replica from their summer visit to the elecTRONica exhibit at Disneyland, and afterward as we ate dinner and digested what we had seen kept it close at hand like he was ready to dive back into the game grid at any second.

For sights and sounds a peerless spectacle, were it not for one glaring problem we'd have unanimously embraced TRON: Legacy right then and there as the first great sci-fi classic of a new generation. It doesn't cross the uncanny valley. Common to animation, the uncanny valley is what you get when a face doesn't look real. The more animators attempt to realistically render a face, the steeper the valley wall. Pixar manages to climb out every time, but they are alone in this category.

The adversary in TRON: Legacy wears a computer-generated face that looks uncanny as can be. Every time he appears, you want to reach up and slap that stiff mannequin face. Every movie has its flaws and this one's has cartoony eyes and a stiff upper lip that imitates a gumming action when rubbed against its stiff lower lip, like the villain just put his dentures out. Weird. Distracting. Less Grandpa Tron and more light cycles, please!

Was that all we talked about over dinner? Of course not. Between bites of taquitos and tacos, we griped briefly about the uncanny valley problem and then got back to remembering the movie's many fantastic scenes. It was a great movie. The legacy of 1982 lives on.

TRON: Legacy has so much that is entertaining and fun. The breathtaking light cycle sequences could go on forever. Jeff Bridges is terrific as an aged Zen hacker. Balletic scuffles with discs flying hot and furious are dazzling. Great stuff. Honestly, I can't wait to see it again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Sound of Wonder

What's today
What will be tomorrow
Don't think
Sing with me humanity

Dama Dam Mast Qalandar
Sakhi Shahbaz Qalandar
This is the Song of Wonder
Sound of Wonder

Get together
Don't be lonely
Life is a game of a few days only
What's happiness or what is sorrow
Don't think
Sing with me humanity

Live and Let Live
Love and Give Love
Love is God & God is Love
What you lend or what you borrow
Don't think
Sing with me humanity

What's today
What will be tomorrow
Don't think
Sing with me humanity

Dama Dam Mast Qalandar
Sakhi Shahbaz Qalandar
This is the Song of Wonder
Sound of Wonder

-M Ashraf

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Three More Days

On top of ending twenty-eight years of anticipation for the TRON sequel, what I'm looking forward to most this weekend is celebrating Thanksmas with family. My sister and cousin live in the Bay Area and I'll be flying down from Seattle to have a holiday celebration with them that is a little bit country, a little bit rock n' roll. Whatever it is, I can confidently say it won't be traditional. We're planning to gather at my cousin and her husband's lovely pad in Oakland and watch 70's kung fu movies whilst dining on delicacies -my cousin is an excellent cook and whatever we eat, it will be delicious. The best part is that none
of this was discussed in advance, it was automatically agreed upon.

With there being such a small number of us, the possibilities of a psychic network are not totally in the realm of fantasy; it doesn't hurt either that we've known each other since infancy. That kind of connection runs deep; it also apparently excites a deep-seated and irresistible desire for chop socky cinema.

In short, I've got a lot to look forward to this weekend -and so do you: an end to my TRON rantings! It is, after all, the Season of Miracles.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Wet of the Samurai

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything. -Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Purple Swan

If I directed Natalie Portman in a film about the trials and tribulations of a ballet diva (the trials! the tribulations!), this is what it would look like:

Friday, December 10, 2010

One Week!!!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Zoo Station

Six good years at Zoo Station, home longer than any other but the California house where I grew up. Moving out next month won't be easy. I'll miss the camaraderie and the memorable mixers we've thrown, and after I'm gone I'll pine for long walks through the park, located with the zoo right across the street.

My day starts with a walk, rousting myself in the wee hours to trudge through the park for a nice warm dose of caffeine. There's a dirt path that winds past the eastern border of the zoo that during the rainy season turns into Gravy Lane. Splorching your way up the muddy incline, it leads to a footbridge that after traversing Aurora Avenue debouches into the park proper. Lovely spot. I've had some of my best walks there, at times developing into a full trot when the ideas are flowing so freely that I can't wait to get home and write them down: most if not all primary plotting of my novel occurred during walks in Lower Woodland Park. I'll miss it a lot.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Free Julian

The US Government is screwed over this whole WikiLeaks boondoggle. They can't win. No matter how disingenuous they try to appear, what with their unseemly and short-sighted focus on Julian Assange, this year's poster boy for nose-thumbing, they come off looking the bully with their boot on a nerd's throat. Assange gave himself up for arrest and is facing the music for personal misdeeds, which, in case you missed the headline, have nothing to do with leaking secrets. Maybe he did rape and molest the women accusing him. I'm not defending the guy, but I'm not saying he did it, either. The timing is quite convenient. It's no mystery where the pressure to prosecute comes from, one of many aspects that make out the USG to be ugly, vindictive and just plain stupid.

Officials griping over damage done to the USG seem to suggest that things were better before the documents were leaked. Hmmm. Should we go back to spying and bombing under the cover of diplomacy, serving up blatant falsehoods
through the complicit media? Naturally this isn't what officials intend to say, but their disingenuity is clear. Those that go a step further and call for the death penalty and hunting him down only increase the stature of an unlikely hero. These people should keep their ugly ideas to themselves until the whole thing blows over. They aren't the only ones.

Assange is on record stating his innocence. Whether or not Pentagon honey trap is the leading thought on his mind is up for debate, but a recent article includes suggestive statements like this one from his accusers:
In her interview, she dismissed the idea, seized on by many conspiracy theorists that ‘dirty tricks’ lay behind the rape allegations, because of WikiLeaks’ defiance of the US government. She said: “The charges against Assange are of course not orchestrated by the Pentagon.”
It's possible she was asked a leading question, but such an assertion is curious. I'm not saying a conspiracy is afoot; that would be WikiLeaks' department, wouldn't it? I do recall the first rule of journalism, never believe anything until it's officially denied, and this comes pretty damn close to fitting in that category.

The USG should declare a moratorium on official statements concerning Julian Assange. They are playing into WikiLeaks' strategy of obfuscation and serving merely to distract from issues of substance, namely the flimsy security that allowed such massive troves of secret documents to be exposed. It's too late to quell the uproar and there's no way to gag Assange, who has the world waiting on his every word, so why not focus instead on damage control and address real problems.

To read Assange in his own words, I recommend this eloquent statement released this week from The Australian.

The Brothers Miser

The Year Without a Santa Claus is a neglected classic. I know only a handful of people who have seen or even heard of it. That's not right. Other Rankin/Bass holiday specials Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town enjoy prominence this time of year, and this one should too. Disillusioned that children no longer believe in him, Santa stays in bed rather than deliver gifts, causing Mrs Santa to rally the elves and send two off on a flying reindeer to find kids who still believe. You can guess how things turn out, and I recommend watching this special wherever you can find it. Among the great characters the elves encounter during their travels, none are quite so memorable as the Brothers Miser. For this pair alone The Year Without a Santa Claus deserves to be in permanent rotation.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Two Years is Not Permanent

Got an email from the government today saying that I judged the President too harshly. Out of fairness and gratitude, since I am one of millions of recipients of continued unemployment benefits thanks to his efforts, I share with you what the President has to say for himself, most importantly that the heinous compromise to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent is not permanent, that we have two more years to abolish them.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Divide and Capitulate

The fix is in. Lame duck season is open. Anybody (like me) who believed that fiscal conservatism would return with the end of the Bush Administration is crying in their beer. Not any fancy beer, either. Who can afford quality lager these days, when jobless rates are at historic highs and tax rates only benefit chuggers of champagne? No, I'm watering down my PBR with salty tears, shaking my head at the President's complete and utter capitulation to the forces of economic ruin, my own as well as the nation's.

I ended my job contract over a year ago and haven't worked a day since, being way over- or under-qualified for the jobs that are available. Now my benefits are set to run out at the end of the year unless tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent are extended.

What's truly sad is that job prospects will not be improved by this compromise; quite the opposite, in fact. Small business, the main engine of job growth, is being left out. While $70 million in tax credits is on the plate for the majority of citizens, $140 billion goes to the tiny minority of the wealthiest among us, none of whom will be inclined to do anything but squirrel those savings away. This will pump up the federal deficit beyond its already astronomical bulk and do nothing to improve our dismal economy. This isn't fiscal conservatism; it's fiscal madness. This is the kind of thing we saw in the Bush era, and now Obama is working with the opposition to keep it going. Meanwhile his own party lays blame and squabbles with each other, creating a new paradigm in US politics: divide and capitulate.

Lame duck season is open to all comers and those with the biggest guns are walking away with all the greatest gains. The way things are going, it might be the last time hunting is this good.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

This Week's Face

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet is a little vague. Things. Presumably these things include faces. As in, what face are you wearing this week? A question with special meaning on Facebook, where you can look like whomever you please for whatever reason you want. Some reasons are political.

The Face of the Week phenomenon came to my notice a year back or so, when the idea spread, phage-like, that everybody should change their profile picture to whatever celebrity they most resemble. Response was surprisingly swift and widespread. It was amusing to see who looked like whom. The only rule, if you could call it that, was to keep the pic posted for one week, an arbitrary length of time. Not as fleeting as a day nor as trying as a month (a lifetime on Facebook) and just long enough to register on the newsfeed.

Then it was childhood pic week, and then favorite author week, and on and on. What I thought a one-time deal turned into an outright phenomenon. Things (that word again) turned a corner when changing your profile pic meant showing solidarity for a political cause. When the Mavi Marmara was attacked off the shores of Gaza, wearing a protest sign as profile pic displayed your sympathetic support. A long way from Let's Pretend We're Celebrities.

This week's is to fly an image of your favorite childhood cartoon character in opposition to child abuse. I can get behind that, yet the impact of changing your pic is so limited. What purpose does it really serve? I'm against it, but solidarity doesn't fight child abuse or even address it. The only people who will see your profile pic are friends, none of whom (we hope) are abusers and who are therefore already in agreement with you. Some of my friends have railed against the stupidity of taking part in such a pointless exercise; others, instead of changing their pic, posted links to get actively involved in fighting abuse against children. I did both. Does it matter?

Facebook is a self-perpetuating experiment in groupthink, where unanimity is preferred over quality decision-making, a heaven-earth mashup teeming with Hamlet's things, philosophical or otherwise, wise or foolish, altogether human. Which is not to say I take it so seriously that I believe my profile pic is of any consequence outside the arena of faces. Still, it's more fun to take part than stand apart... when it comes to things dreamt of in my philosophy.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Happy Cookie Day

Thanks to the Dutch, today is Cookie Day. Party on! To appreciate a bit more just what this day represents, Bill Smith gives us some background on one of humanity's most dangerous inventions:

While you likely won't find any cards at your local Hallmark, there are a few people out there who celebrate National Cookie Day. This obscure cookie holiday occurs every year on December 4. In deference to the cookie, here is a little history on this venerable dessert treat.

The English word "cookie" is derived from the Dutch word "koekje," which means little cake. Bakers used to place a small amount of cake batter in the oven to test the temperature. They soon discovered that these little bits of cooked batter were quite tasty on their own, and the cookie was born!

The humble cookie has evolved a lot since then, and now there are hundreds of varieties baked across the world every day, from the classic chocolate chip to more exotic offerings with caramel, macadamia nuts, dried fruits and more. Cookies can be broadly classified into 3 categories. First are "drop" cookies. These are aptly named because the batter is dropped onto the cookie sheet. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin are all examples of drop cookies.

Second are "rolled" cookies. Rolled cookies are rolled out like pie dough, and then cut-out using a cutter. Sugar cookies are the most popular rolled cookies, followed closely by gingerbread. Rolled cookies may also be "rolled up" into a cylinder and then sliced off and baked. Rolled cookies bake up firmer and flatter than drop cookies, and are therefore ideal for personalizing with icing and other toppings. Third are pressed cookies. For pressed cookies, the dough is loaded into a cookie press, and then extruded, typically using various dies to create interesting shapes. Spritz cookies are the most common pressed cookie variety.

Some also consider bars and brownies as a fourth cookie variety, since the ingredients are very similar, and the resultant treats are typically cut into single serving sizes.

Cookies are a multi-billion dollar industry in the US, ranging from packaged cookies at the grocery store to fresh-baked cookies at the mall, and even Internet bakeries that ship direct to your or your gift recipients. So this year when December 4 comes around, remember this humble little cake by munching on one or by sending a cookie gift to your loved ones.

13 Days and Counting

Look carefully at the right edge of this still frame from TRON. Can you see what Mr Red Antenna sees? Here's a hint: he's yellow and lives on a steady diet of ghosts.

I've always thought this is one of the more unique cameos in film history. In 1982, when TRON came out, it was definitely not cool to be a geek, not like it is now, what with the booming popularity of The Big Bang Theory and so on. Little inserts of geek culture like this were few, if they occurred at all. Part of the abiding charm of that year for a science fiction fan. It was the year that every month brought a new classic of the genre. Blade Runner, the second Star Trek movie, E.T., Poltergeist, The Road Warrior, The Thing... a seminal year for geekdom, without a doubt.

We're watching an odd double bill today, TRON and Die Hard. Originally just intending to watch the one, when word got out that one of the gal's friends has never seen the greatest christmas action movie of them all, we decided to double down. Should be fun. We'll watch 40 Stories of Sheer Adventure (Die Hard's tagline), break for an intermission supper and then fire up TRON himself, which nobody present will have seen before; or if they did, it was long ago and is now a distant, barely perceptible memory.

That's why I'm here: to create good memories.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Like and Drop

"Like and Drop" brings to mind "Lycanthrope" -could there be some kind of Twilight thing happening here? It's not the first thing on my mind, not even the last thing, to be honest, but here's hoping I don't wake up covered in hair.

I'm not funny. I've been told. A couple strangers went out of their way this week to let me know this on Facebook. Griefers, we call these folk in the world of the interwebs. Strangers who camp out with no other intent than to harass and provoke. I've felt their sting. They didn't like the videos I was posting. Unlike anyone else that found them unamusing, however, these unsolicited guests communicated in no uncertain terms that I'm not funny. Which means that not only did I waste their time, but they turned around and wasted mine in return. Hoo-rah.

What does this have to do with anything, you might ask, dear reader. What, indeed. You see, I've finally finally realized how Entrecard and Facebook are connected (and it's not that they're both a waste of time): they let you appreciate the better things, each one in its unique but connected fashion. I'll let you in on what I mean.

Something appreciated on Facebook has the option to be liked. There's a "like" button at the bottom right of everything posted on the newsfeed, and you can choose to click it or not, depending on your preference. Entrecard has a similar function, in the form of a "drop" button. A similar function in my mind, anyhow.

I don't see a great divide between "liking" and "dropping" in any other light than dropping has an attached value of Entrecard credits that can be used to advertise, in the loosest form of the word, on other blogs. The value of liking on Facebook is advertising on someone else's profile that what they posted was found worthwhile. Not terribly similar, but not miles apart, either.

Both are positive acts of reinforcement and miles apart from what griefers will do to you, at least.

Signs of Apocalypse

Found whilst wandering the neighborhood in the wee hours, portents of pending doom:

The Blame Game

No good times, no bad times, there's no times at all, just the New York Times -Simon and Garfunkel

(Resemblance of any characters to Aquaman is purely coincidental.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TSA, Eat Your Heart Out (In Two Servings)

Touch My Junk:

Touch My Junk Part 2

Monday, November 29, 2010

So Long, Leslie Nielsen

As tribute to the late comedian, I recreated my favorite scene from Airplane!:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Legacy vs Lebowski

What's Your Definition of Cool? My attempt at machinima polemic tackles the timeless question:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Beastie Boy Says: Have an Ivory Friday!

Pondering those folks insistent on referring to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday, she came to the conclusion that it's better to stay in and stare at her ivory socks. Beastie Boy, also known (unfairly, she'd have you know) as Devil Cat, is decidedly feminine; she is strong, supple, and totally shopping-averse, preferring to skip that step in getting to the second half of the "shop till you drop" equation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Have a Great Weekend

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

24 Days and Counting

This early effort at TRON getups is amusing and I'm so very grateful they went with something else (though some might question the aesthetic sensibility of frisbees with bike helmets). Our hero wants to play keyboard in Duran Duran, while Yori has this cyber-Pocahantas vibe going that might play well at the Renaissance Fair.

I used a website to tweak the image for my Facebook profile, but they call it Obama-izing the image. Obama-izing. That doesn't sound natural or right. And for such a brutal neologism, totally inaccurate as well. You can sanitize, patronize, and weaponize, but Obama-ize? Change your birthplace to Hawai'i and we can talk. Awful, vile word. The President should be ashamed.

De Se Brosser La Lune

Monday, November 22, 2010

First Snow of the Season

I love that in the snow our table becomes a flying saucer with its landing gear down.

The bus was ninety minutes late and though the view from Aurora Bridge was compensatory, I'm still billing Metro for frostbite.

Then fell the night and rendered the roads an apocalyptic gridlock, this kid getting home, by bus and on foot, in five hours and relieved beyond words when stumbling down the hill to see that the power was still on.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

26 Days and Counting

-and tomorrow begins 25 days of Tronmas. I'm really milking this, aren't I? You bet your grain-fed Holstein, I am. And speaking of cash cows, see if you can peep one in the still below:

Clever programmers, eh? Then again, Disney has always been at the forefront of animation and Mickey Mouse serves as herald of the future in TRON just as he did in Steamboat Willy. Stay tuned for more hidden prizes like this in weeks to come, as the countdown continues for TRON:Legacy.

I've already laid out what I'm looking forward to in the sequel, and since posting that, though in a more sober frame of mind, there's been even further ruminating on the subject. Just yesterday it hit me that, with all the videos and articles I've scoured about TRON:Legacy, I know too much about the blasted movie; too much, that is, in relation to your average moviegoer, who'd prefer I think going into the theater knowing as little as possible. Not this guy. When it comes to spoilers, I'm pure teflon. They bounce right off. Additionally, with such a long gestation period as this sequel has had, I've no doubt there will be surprises a'plenty when opening day arrives.

My expectations, contrary to how it must appear, are actually quite low. Why, you might ask, gush so frequently about something that in any reasonable estimation is certain to be another bad sequel? Excellent question, and one to which (you saw this coming) I have an answer. A well-rehearsed reply, I might add, that hopefully doesn't sound too defensive. Because I don't care if the movie is good or bad, it could be pure trash and I'll still be glad I put down my coin (yes, I've had my ticket for over a month now); the simple fact that a sequel to my favorite film exists and was made with full participation of the folks who made the original is sufficient cause to get my heart racing with anticipation.

Okay, that was totally defensive. Apologies. I've got a chip on my shoulder, what can I say.

Anyhow, you'll only have to put up with my TRON froth a bit longer. Meanwhile I've got my eye on the prize that's less than a month away, and counting....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roman Holiday

Finding wireless in 16th century Rome is a drag, and I've been busy seeing the sights between fights with Borgias. My new friend Niccolo Machiavelli makes an excellent tour guide, but who has time to blog when rooftop archers left and right are giving you the shaft. One has to have priorities. Ah, but it's worth it, every scrape and puncture wound, and a snort off the old medicine flask makes me right as rain again. Now, if only I can track down the new pope, we have some policy issues to review; the last one was corrupt and... let's just say it didn't end well for him. Not that I had anything to do with it. I was nowhere near the Vatican that night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Destiny's Child: A New Dad

You can make web movies at Xtranormal, time-consuming but fun. If I remade The Empire Strikes Back, it would go a little like this:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

30 Days and Counting

Twenty eight years later, my anticipation of the sequel to TRON is reaching a fever pitch. It's ridiculous, I know. When has a decent sequel come so long after? This could be The Phantom Menace Redux -but who wants to be negative?

Asked what I'm looking forward to most in TRON: Legacy, some reflection was needed. Great visuals, sure, and sound design; the soundtrack by Daft Punk hopefully won't be some ear-scorching techno hybrid. These leapt to mind, then I started thinking about Yori and had my answer.

Our man Tron had a girlfriend in the original film. People forget. Her name was Yori, and Tron saved her from a soulless existence of solar sailer customer support. Good god, what a fate. He even kissed her, very un-PC. That's got to be a gateway drug in the antiseptic, analog world of programs that could develop into all kinds of drama. So, obviously we have to wonder what Tron and Yori have been up to all these years.

Well, obvious to me, at least.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Speechless Tuesday

Monday, November 15, 2010

Let's Do It Again

With big changes in the pipeline, I've been sifting my movies and piling up the ones that are past their shelf date. This has been a mostly successful exercise in discernment, with a couple exceptions. Let's Do It Again is one of the standouts, appearing at first glance like a disc I could do without but upon further inspection proving itself invaluable.

Sidney Poitier, concerned in the mid-70's that his public persona was too aloof, produced, directed and starred in three films aimed squarely at regular folks. Up to that point, he had portrayed powerful upright figures that stood for social justice and equality, and far from discarding those values Poitier instead married them to comedy -with devastating results, thanks in no small part to Bill Cosby, then at the peak of his comic genius.

This was the second of the three films Poitier and Cosby did together: Uptown Saturday Night is fine if slow, as is Piece of the Action, but neither has the brilliant invention or timing of Let's Do It Again. You can believe me, too; nobody is more fickle when it comes to comedy than this kid, and if I laugh out loud at a movie it's a special occasion. This one floors me every time. Check out this beautiful scene of Bill Cosby and see what I'm talking about:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

33 Days Till TRON: Legacy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Till We Have FaceMail

My gripe about the lack of fmail was premature: Facebook is set to announce its new mail service on Monday. Whether this move is timed to silence me, only Zuckerberg can say; he's been very disciplined when it comes to bringing me up in casual conversation, so I don't see any reason why he should change now.

I'm glad to see fmail happening, it is a natural outgrowth of Facebook's social preponderance. Rumbles of this being a gmail killer are already being heard, as if Google is the only other party in town. Social network activity historically resembles the boom-and-crash patterns of capitalism, but when it comes to mail service users are not so fickle. How many of your friends use Hotmail? Several of mine still do. What I think will happen is that Facebook will further dominate socnets and folks will stay loyal to their mail providers, as they have for many years running.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying RockMelt -what I fondly refer to as FaceMelt, seeing how full integration of Facebook is its big gun for future browser dominance. I can dig it. The timing is good, dovetailing as it does with fmail hitting the scene: separation of my Google contacts from Facebook friends will be that much cleaner and the cognitive dissonance of mixing and matching between the two will be greatly reduced.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FaceMelt; or, life's a b, then you reboot

A friend pointed out to me, in advance of recent Halloween revelry, that the best holiday movies are the ones we ourselves create by living them. No argument there, particularly as said revelries this year were fantastic. Celebrating the harvest in San Francisco isn't what it once was, not since too many shootings in the Castro District forced the city to outlaw mass gatherings of Soylent Green-like proportions; that is to say, mass over-population that sang and danced like it was 1999. Those were the best. Still, though we might miss brighter days, it's just as fun creating new ones: it's all about having the right company along.

To a former denizen like myself, SF visits are rife with sentiment. Around every corner lurks a pocket of memory. The least expected naturally has the greatest impact, such as finding a comic shop thought gone for good. Just as gratifying was being recognized by the proprietor, Al himself, and chatting it up like it was only yesterday rather than a decade ago that we last saw each other. A moment right out of The Big Bang Theory, geek nirvana.

Family and friends made this a memorable Halloween, as they have in the past and will yet again for many more to come. Life and its fragmentary burdens underwent a soft reboot, provided by that offline service called Holiday. It makes all the difference, not least thanks to the ability to go online and further utilize it to maximum potential.

The lazy Sunday that followed was spent partially online, as we reviewed and renewed the previous night's joys by posting pics to Facebook. Happy little editors of our memories, tagging old friends and new, sharing the brilliant costumed figures who populated the night. I couldn't help but pity those in my life not blessed with a Facebook profile: they missed out!

Next year I may feel less hemmed: RockMelt lurks around the corner, with its premise of Facebook-integration. This will add yet another delightful dimension to Halloween, as FaceMelt gives distant relations sights as well as sounds of celebration, transcending borders real and imagined, coming to you like the thing itself, realer than real: we will not merely live the best holiday movies, but have an audience to cheer us and by vicarious association live the very best of times.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Looking Forward to RockMelt

I'm ready for the next thing, ready for my browser and social net to be united in the next step towards a click-free era. While my anticipation of Facebook offering email any time soon is purely optimistic, it looks like Marc Andreessen's Chrome experiment will be the next best thing. I hope to have a chance to play with RockMelt soon and get rid of this web fatigue that's been lately dogging my keystrokes.

Co-author of Mosaic/Netscape, the web's first browser, Andreessen got my hopes up for a unified service two years ago with Ning. Unfortunately it didn't pan out, but now he's having another go at web convergence. Will this one stick? With its unified presentation of mail, social service, search function and video streaming (and geospotting!), RockMelt's chances look very strong.

I'm spending more and more time offline and welcome a service that will enable me to reduce web surfing further: a one click solution is just the thing I want to maximize my online interaction. Though I've not seen any sign of it, including Skype with this new browser would make it unbeatable.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From the Desk of Bone Daddy

However you choose to celebrate this harvest season, I send best wishes for a fun time. My San Francisco sojourn will take me off the grid, as it were, and I'll return next week with what will doubtless be a mighty tale of celebrating Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. Tidings of good cheer from the desk of my sole decoration this year, Bone Daddy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kitchen Heroics

Comic book scribes hail from a variety of backgrounds, yet I doubt any can match Gail Simone for pure mojo: the former hairdresser challenged the mistreatment of female comic book characters with her website, Women in Refrigerators, and used its popularity to start a career in comics. She writes with wit and style, often portraying traditional heroes doing non-traditional things, like the following scene, written by Simone and illustrated by the great Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez:

She might have baked for her Justice League friends in the past, but I doubt Wonder Woman evinced such funny and logical reactions before. "I'm afraid to try it," says Flash, "and I'm afraid not to try it." Batman and Martian Manhunter (don't you love superhero names?) don't hesitate diving right in. She's saved the world countless times, how bad can her cookies be? No, it's safe to say they must be tasty. It also appears that Superman was in the kitchen with her and for all we know he helped bake the cookies with his heat vision: if that isn't teamwork, nothing is.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekend Wonders

How was your weekend? This is a shout-out to the San Francisco Giants for making mine when they took the National League pennant, as well as to Battlestar Galactica, a delicious dinner, and one strange, obscure 70's sci-fi film. The Giants haven't played at Candlestick Park since the turn of the century, perhaps most memorably in 1989 during the Loma Prieta earthquake, and admittedly I've not followed them as closely since childhood days when we would watch them at the 'stick in the freezing fog or under blue skies. Be that as it may, I'm thrilled that they'll be at the World Series this year.

Friday night I was gifted with a member's-only pass to the Science Fiction Museum for a world premiere of Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition. It was a dream come true, as I had the privilege of attending a Q&A session with the main movers and shakers of the show (Mary McDonnell, who played President Laura Roslin, was sadly absent). Michael Hogan (Colonel Tigh) sat at the far left, with Richard Hatch (Apollo on the 1978 show, Tom Zarek on the new one), Glen Larson (creator of BSG), Kate Vernon (Ellen Tigh), Ronald Moore (driving creative force behind the re-imagined version), and Edward James Olmos (Admiral Bill Adama). Anybody who adores this show like me can understand that this was simply awesome; everyone else, your patience is appreciated!

I mentioned a delicious dinner. The gal was up to her usual kitchen antics when she created a feast for me and a friend, and let me tell you it was hog heaven. Nothing complicated, as the gal herself can testify: Chicken thighs for cheapness, pounded flat, wrapped around cheese and chutney, 350 degrees for an hour. The stuffing will leak all over the pan but it makes sort of a gravy so that's okay. Nice to put a pan of little white potatoes in at the same time. Hear that rumbling? That's my stomach, the old sentimental fool.

For dessert the oddball confection Z.P.G. envisions an over-populated world choked by smog, thus the meaning of the title: zero population growth. That's Charlie Chaplin's daughter, Geraldine, clutching her infant on the right. Though breaking the law of the land by bearing a child, she and Oliver Reed seem quite unaware of their crimes against fashion. Such a desultory tale populated with screeching dolls and Ringo Starr hairstyles is understandably and deservedly obscure. I'm surprised it even made it to dvd, unless a 3D remake is around the corner. I'm seeing Joaquin Phoenix and Lindsay Lohan.

The Boon of Entrecard

Entrecard has been good to me, creating access to great blogs that I might otherwise have missed in the teeming multitude of the online community. Dropping on these sites enables me to see the latest (if any) posts by writers whose work I admire and enjoy. Though it might appear a bit hinky to acknowledge others' work by dropping on it, this form of currency is not meant to compete with pigeons but to establish an exchange rate of real value, which is to say established by the quality of the work. I've really come to appreciate this unique aspect of Entrecard.

Forums are something I miss, a bygone aspect of Entrecard that seems now like part of a distant and simpler past. They provided direct contact with the network on a variety of topics, the kinds of things you don't often discuss in personal messages with people you've never a met but enjoy conversing with on intelligent and stimulating subjects. Now I fall back on comments, which are even more impersonal. I would like to see the forums return. It would also be good to see better diligence on buggy sites. Not that it happens often, but every once in awhile there is a run of bad blogs that make me question Entrecards' due diligence. I've come to realize the value of connections with "good" blogs sufficiently to keep me dropping; by the same token, the slightest increase of viral sites in this community could easily drive me away.

Overall, Entrecard has been a positive experience and I expect to continue dropping for the foreseeable future.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Witchy O'Donnell

Is she or isn't she? This is the question across the nation as Christine O'Donnell, Tea Party challenger to Delaware Democrat Chris Coons' Senate seat, equivocates and contradicts her way out of teenage dabblings in witchcraft. Quite a quandary. At first she admitted to the dabbling. Soon after emerged the now-notorious campaign ad in which she said into the camera, "I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you've heard. I'm you." (Are these the two options, she's a magic user or mirror?) The novelty of a politician taking a stand whether they are or aren't they a broom-carrying member of the local coven wore off quickly -or seemed to: this week O'Donnell is back on topic and saying that not only does she regret the ad but, yes, she did dabble. Doesn't mean she'll be dressing up for Halloween, except maybe as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Ha. That's cute, but the joke's on us: airhead politics, sadly not a novelty, is keeping O'Donnell's name in the media and makes very real the possibility that she will unseat the incumbent. That's sad.

Campaigning in 2008, Barack Obama had a name for this kind of thing: silly season. He was referring to ridiculous attempts by his opponents to focus on superficial details of his background, but the idea here is the same: make enough noise and your recognition factor goes up, regardless of the quality of the racket. Too often voters go with name recognition rather than any true understanding of candidates. Thus the ongoing saturation parade of the likes of O'Donnell will likely prove more effective than Chris Coons' strategy of sitting by. You would almost think he wants to lose his job and be remembered as old what's-his-name. Maybe it's not too late for him to come out as a warlock.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wayback Wednesday

Mesmerizing footage shot from the nose of a San Francisco cable car days before the 1906 earthquake leveled most of the city. This is so wonderful I had to share it:

And here is chilling footage taken after the devastating quake:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Best Halloween Movie

If there is such a beast. There has to be a "best" in every category, right, when it comes to pop entertainment, meaning most enjoyable and capturing the essence of the category in which it figures, in this case Halloween movies. Donnie Darko leaps (hops?) to mind, an odd little theory generator -there are as many theories about what it means as there are people who have seen it- and autumnal costume drama. Best rabbit mask, to be sure.

Does a movie have to take place in October to qualify for this coveted slot? That qualifies ET the Extra-Terrestrial, which might not be scary to anybody but those of us with a horror of raisins on legs from another star. (Personally, I'm hesitant when I encounter them.) Or does "best" mean "scariest"? Day of the Dead takes place on Halloween, is terrifying, and has zombies in it -that automatically puts it at the top, right? Trick 'r Treat and Halloween are no-brainers for contention. When it comes to scary, The Exorcist and Poltergeist and The Nightmare Before Christmas can't be forgotten. So many good movies for one day of the year.

Thinking about this brings me back to Frank, the scary rabbit-angel from Donnie Darko. He inspires me to extricate myself from the couch and remember what's best about Halloween: strapping into a good costume and getting out there to enjoy the holiday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing on the Wind

A quote comes constantly to mind as I prepare the manuscript for its nationwide tour of publishers. When asked if he revisits his old work, writer/illustrator Frank Miller replied, "I'm not a masochist." Tell it like it is, Frank.

I would reply that though there is some resemblance to my hand, the old work in hindsight seems to have come from another's. A tacit admission of masochism, this also speaks to my social graces: even a stranger who writes as poorly as they that penned my past drafts, I can see past that and be their friend. I can make the effort; though not guaranteed, odds at success are good.

Sentimentality should be tossed out the window. Write on the wind, like the arrow from a bow. Remove your preconceptions. Pulling the catgut taught, the conviction for a bull's eye fills your vision, clearing at the peak of tension and release, your handiwork revealed in honest light.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Poison Arrow

Discovering a new writer can be one of life's gifts, that first encounter with an incredible, unimagined dimension miraculously captured in words. China Mieville's latest, The City & The City, just started this week, could be miraculous or something else altogether; a new writer is just as easily and all the more likely your worst enemy. I'm not deep enough into the novel to know either way. Authors can hide what is magical in their writing, what really grabs and bridges the page to your mind, revealed with patience and careful reading; just as easily and all the more likely nothing's there. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

One writer is always new yet old, magical at a glance but upon closer scrutiny vile, scurrilous and loathsome. Any writer in love with their first draft please contact me immediately and spill the beans how it is done. What feels so good, so right, flowing onto the page loses something in hindsight, is a complete mess and beckons with hours of editing. What can you do.

Sounding less than thrilled is not the same as reluctance. I look forward to shaping the raw work into something readable. It's going to be work, that's all, to cobble together disparate sections of what will one day compose my second novel. Editing on the first one is a horse of a different color. I'm shaping it beyond readable, which is most certainly is, into publishable form, but laying out the intimations of the next was an act of nothing less than self-defense.

Other writers have warned me against finishing a manuscript. If you don't have another project to jump into, the ensuing dread is akin to facing the end of existence: What if I don't have another book in me? The question punctures your skin like a poison arrow, devours the belly, burns the spleen and dissolves the heart, worming its dirty way up your spine like it was a ladder of doom and bursts your brain. The real downer is that you shot yourself, concocted your own doom. Who wants that? So, overlapping the end of one project with the beginning of another provides good protection against being your own worst enemy.

That's how things stand so far. If this is my last blog post, you'll know why!