Friday, July 31, 2009

It Will Be Mine. Oh Yes, It Will Be Mine!



Above is the official trailer for the new Batman: Arkham Asylum video game coming out at the end of August. I've been keeping silent on this because I no longer like to spoil games until just when they're about to drop. In any event, this game's got me jizzing in my pants!

Lessee here:

Kevin Conroy reprising his role as THE voice of Batman? Check.

Mark Hamil back voicing the Joker? Check.

A slew of other original voice actors from The Animated Series, including Efrem Zimbalist (Alfred), Richard Moll (Harvey Dent), Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn), and Michael Ansara (Mr. Freeze) back as well? Check. Check. Check. And CHECK!!!!

And, to top it all off, Paul Dini is back to pen the script. OH HELL FUCKIN YEAH!!!! This is a veritable "Batman: The Animated Series" family reunion, all in video-game format! I think I'm in comic geek heaven!

Arkham Asylum is looking to be *the* definitive Batman game fans have been clamoring for. Batman has been done many times before on the consoles and PC--from comics-inspired, to the various cel shaded and lego games, to movie tie-ins--but never has so much awesome talent been gathered under one banner like this. Rocksteady Studios upped the ante and delivered the goods! I know it's a bit early to be praising a game that's not even out yet, but seriously: this is looking GOOD! And some of the advanced buzz is really, really positive.

From what I've been reading, this will be Batman done proper. Not only is the story dark and moody, but the visuals are looking to match! And, honestly, could you have picked a more perfect adversary and chilling location than the Joker at Arkham? The answer is NO, no you could NOT!!!

But even more impressive is the gameplay. Check out the trailer below and you'll be able to get a sense of what I'm talking about. In this game, you'll have to take on enemies the way the Batman really would. This means using stealth, gadgets, and scare tactics to weave beautiful takedowns and jaw-dropping acrobatics onto unsuspecting goons. And with Bane, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler to name a few tossed in, the boss battles should be something epic to boot! And of course, Batman doesn't kill, so this will also be implemented into the choice of combat and execution styles the gamer has to pick. How brilliant is that?



Lastly, for us Sony fans, the PlayStation 3 version of the game will offer a bonus exclusive whereby you'll be able to unlock the Joker as a playable character in one of the mission room challenges and, perhaps, even more. Check out the video below to see how the Joker's mechanics play out:



Honestly, after seeing that, I don't know how anyone can settle for the Xbox 360 or PC versions. For real!

Batman: Arkham Asylum hits stores on August 25th. I'm going to be starting up Dead Space real soon, but hopefully I'll be done in time to get this on the day it drops. If not, I'll save it for my birthday in early September.

But mark my words: it WILL be mine! :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What I Give Up To Write

Yesterday John Scalzi wrote on his blog about the sacrifices, if any, one must make in order to have the free time to write. His advice to one fan was to cut out 1 hour of television, claiming that 1 hour of free writing time can yield at least 250 words a day, if not twice that. And if you do that even just 5 days a week, you can crank out a novel and a half in a year's time.

This is true. I learned that rule from reading Stephen King's educational book On Writing back when I first started to get serious. I figured getting in at least 2 hours a day, or 1,000 words (whichever came first) EVERY DAY of the week would be pretty decent progress.

Problem was, of course, finding those 2 hours.

Since I work a full-time office desk job, and must devote at least 1 hour when I get home to working out, this is trickier to pull off than you'd think. Complicating matters is that I am incapable of writing creatively before noon, so that rules out early morning writing before work.

It therefore became pretty clear to me that something in my life would have to go in order to give me the proper time and solitude I needed to craft fiction. Like Scalzi suggested, the easiest place to look towards as the prime eater of my evening hours was the television. Did I really need it? True, I had grown addicted to several really awesome shows over the years (Battlestar, House, 24, Lost, Survivor, etc.) and could not dream of cutting them off. But then it dawned on me that I had Tivo, and could watch these shows whenever I wanted! Like on weekends. Furthermore, I realized, tv wasn't even all that compelling in the grand scheme of things. Out of writing or tv watching, I get much more fulfillment from writing.

So, yeah, cutting out tv was easy and freed up about 1 hour of writing time for me. Still needed one more to go. And that's where video games came up on the chopping block.

But surely I couldn't cut out gaming? I'd spent 4 years in college without tv, but even my beat-up old 8-bit Nintendo accompanied me to Vermont.

Still, I was adamant that I would place my writing first. So I got rid of video games from my evening post-work pursuits. And, yeah, I now had 2-hours to write (after making and eating dinner, of course) -- but I was miserable! Suddenly without these comforts in my life I felt as if writing was this all-consuming monster demanding more and more of my time. It almost came to the point where writing was now the boring chore.

That's when I learned what most people already know: moderation is the key to life.

Nowadays, my schedule pretty much works like this:

8:30-4:30 - Work.
4:30-5:30 - Commute home.
5:30-6:30 - Exercise.
6:30-7:30 - Game
7:30-9:00 - Make dinner; watch a little tv; spend quality time with wife.
9:00-11:00 - Write!

There's some overlap there among all the categories, but this is pretty much it. Some days, it's all I can do to not come home and immediately jump on the PC and start writing. If I wasn't so dedicated to my workouts, this would be grand. Unfortunately, it makes me more grumpy during my workout, and this is terrible. The hardest part of keeping to a good workout schedule is convincing yourself that you WANT to be there. And of course, after running 4 miles or doing 3 sets of every single weight-training routine, the last thing you want to do is immediately sit before a computer screen and get creative.

But, yeah, I'm happy with this schedule regardless. Those 2 hours at the end of the evening really do add up. And this is not including the 4 or 5 hours I devote to writing on the weekend. It's really quite simple once you dedicate yourself to the fact that you MUST write during those 2 hours, and every day. Because, honestly, how long is 2 hours? It's nothing, really.

So, how busy is your day and how much time do you devote to writing? Where do you find the time? Are you consistent?

These are answers I need to know.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How To Survive An Urban Disaster (Sci-Fi Edition)

Face it--whether it be alien motherships, giant Godzilla ripoffs, photo-sensitive zombies, or even global freezing--New York city is the favorite go-to conurbation for spectacular disaster visuals and gruesome destruction sequences in movies. My city gets picked on in pretty much every 3rd horror/sci-fi flick that comes out these days, and as a fellow New Yorker, I must say the time has come to set some ground rules about surviving here when the end seems nigh.

I mean, true you might not exactly be thinking straight while decapitated national monuments come hurling your way down 6th avenue, but that's no excuse for shoddy urban survival skills people.

So here are some common mistakes people make in urban disaster movies and how to avoid them. I'll use New York as the basis since, like I've already pointed out, I'm from here and it happens to be Hollywood's favorite sticking boy when it comes to these types of doomsday scenarios.

(Btw, while I'm on the subject--way to skull-fuck a real life national tragedy, Hollywood scum! It's been 8 years now. Bravo.)

Anyway, on to the tips:


1) Don't Use The Tunnels!
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Have you *seen* NYC during rush hour traffic? The tunnels are the first to go in a jam-packed scenario. Such as, oh I don't know: millions of dumb-struck citizens fleeing for their lives as meteorites fall from the sky. The tunnels are SAFE, that's right. Long, twisting and narrow tubes under the ground already crammed with vehicles of various size and function. What could possibly go wrong down there? And, no, finding a maintenance closet at the last moment while a huge geyser of flame is baking human potatoes behind you is not something you should be pinning your hopes on. You cannot outrun stupidity.

2) Zombies Don't Take Time Outs, And Neither Should You.
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So the neighbors want to eat your brains. Congratulations, you've just entered the fucking Twilight Zone from HELL! Here's a tip to the ladies: leave behind the high heels and tight-fitting skirts. Mr. Right is not coming to your rescue on this day. To the men: leave her behind if she falls because--dude, she's already noggin nosh. Saving her will only get you killed and allow her to live another 5 minutes. Was it really worth it? Another thing: run like your gas stove just sprung a leak next to the faulty iron, not like you're jogging a charity 5k. One might get you a charlie horse; the other might get you dead. Choose wisely. Zombies are slow and dumb as dodo shit. And even the fast ones can't tell the difference between you and a mirror, so--come on! Use the zombie meat in that big ole skull of yours! Don't head for the rooftops, head for the sewers. Don't roll down the freeway in some husked-out jalopy, hop on that speed boat in the harbor. Zombies will climb stairs to get to some fresh meat, but they'll never figure out how to open a manhole cover. And I've never seen a zombie swim before. Have you?

3) Engage In Racial Profiling.
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Contrary to popular belief, minorities are not always the first to die when Manhattan gets overrun by mutant flesh-eaters. Have you seen these movies? According to them, NYC is made up almost completely of white people! Do you know why? Because brown folk know to get the fuck out of Dodge when the apocalypse comes! Monsters love window shopping in SoHo, so chances are you better hike your ass uptown if you want to live to see tomorrow. Blondie, now might be the time to give in to Pedro's advances and accept that offered bike ride up to Kingsbridge. Pedro only asks once. Besides, you ain't never seen Godzilla go toe-to-toe with a five-story tenement walk-up in the South Bronx before, have you?

4) Avoid Helicopters.
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On the one hand, they're expensive, elitist, fast, and you get to look down on the heads of poor people as they get fed to the shitter. Every New Yorker's aspiration. But on the other hand, helicopters are like fat turkeys trying to outrun the farmer on Thanksgiving eve--slow and doomed to fall splat! Do what Sally Richardson and that hot Pakistani chick from Cloverfield did not do: avoid the first chopper out! All you'll be doing is painting a big target sign on your back saying: "Shoot me down, alien fighter pilot!" Don't be stupid, take the government yellow bus out of town. It's slower and will probably end you up in a concentration camp in New Mexico, but at least your guts won't be sprayed out in a 4km radius along the East River.

5) Don't Leave Behind Breadcrumbs.
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There's nothing a tough, bad-ass alpha male hates more than when whiny kids drop their cherry icees on the way back to the top-secret, well-armed sewer bunker. Acid-mouth-dripping aliens LOVE cherry! And they can smell it like sharks 5 miles away, even through the typical NYC underarm and fat-people funk that cloys the nostrils on a ripe August night. Do yourself a favor, ditch the liability. Timmy didn't really need to live to see what dystopian hell-hole was waiting for him on the other side of daybreak, anyway. Same thing goes with cute, spunky Rover. Wagging his tail and barking at the most inopportune moment. Leave him tied to a streetlight as a peace offering for the slavering vampire hordes. He may be man's best friend, but everyone knows REAL men have no friends!

6) Don't Be A Camp Follower.
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In the old days, people would follow armies around hoping to be the first to scavenge off all the dead bodies. But if monsters are invading the city, the last thing you should do is go in the direction of the marching soldiers. Especially if they're National Guard. If you see humvees traveling south on 9th, make sure you're heading north on 3rd, because the Guard is a great big honking magnet o' death in urban survival scenarios. Unlike in a forest fire, you don't go in the same direction as the running soldiers. Running soldiers are just ambulating meat-kabobs on legs--sooner rather than later, something's going to take a bite. Don't let all the weaponry and technology fool you, either. A Guardsman armed with an M9 against a mob of rabid Cloverfield dandruff is like a man with a spork trying to eat his way out of a bucket full of steaming turds. One way or another, he's going to drown in shit. It ain't pretty folks. Stay far away from the boys in camo, s'all I'm saying.

7) Street Cred Means Jack To The Undead.
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You might be the king of the homies where you're from, but when sewer muties come jumping out of the manholes after you, your gold chains and frosty grill are just gleaming fast-food signs beckoning in the dark. Finger lickin' good! But fear not. If you're a respectful hoodie and good to your white trash wifey, you might just make it out alive. Just, please, whatever you do -- don't aim your platinum-plated glock sideways at the lab experiment gone horribly wrong. That only insults its dignity, and you don't want to do that. In these cases, it's not unmanly to drop the attitude, hike up them baggy knee-huggers, and run for the hills. Screaming like a little bitch is optional, because sometimes it annoys the nightwalkers. And then you're in a whole different world of hurt.

8) The High Way Is Never The Right Way.
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Perhaps the biggest killer of white people during a citywide monster attack is bridge collapse. If you live in lower Manhattan and you're white (I know, redundant), chances are your first instinct is to head for the bridges and toward those typical bastions of Caucasian escape--Staten Island and New Jersey. Or, nowadays, DUMBO. But like the helicopter situation in no. 4, it's a target you don't need hanging over you. Crossing, say, the Williamsburg at the height of panic in NYC is just begging for the giant harbor creature to come on over and partake of the smorgasbord of fresh humanity sliding across the bridge. Why tempt him? Your best bet is to stay low when giant sea creatures attack. Keep to the side alleys and service streets. And for god's sake, stay away from the water! Brad the power broker driving his Beemer down the West Side Highway will bite it 19 times out of 20 before Naphtali the cous-cous delivery boy on his moped does. It's a fact.

9) Never Trust The Suits.
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If Big Brother has the city on lockdown and you're asked by some pale politico from D.C. to deliver an all important suitcase to his "man inside," chances are your life's not worth squat to this spooge. Whatever you're delivering is probably expensive to the man charging you with it's delivery, marginally less valuable to the man receiving it . . . but almost definitely a sick alien retrovirus ready to take over you body so that you can play Typhoid Mary to a city of misfits and ex-cons. If you absolutely cannot turn the job down (say, if your name is "Max" or "Snake"), then when you're finally jettisoned into the city, do yourself a favor and find the nearest pimp or hopped-up turf king to hand the goods off to. Chances are they'll find all sorts of interesting things to do with the mysterious contents, and you'll be spared the brunt of the next super-AIDS outbreak. But only if you find a way back out of the city, which brings me to the last tip on this list:

10) No Showboating, Please.
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When you finally make it across the river to what you think is safety, don't suddenly stop running and commence end zone dancing. It ain't over yet. For this is traditionally when the zombies catch up (you thought you'd left them back on 8th street, eh?), or when that doe-eyed girl-next-door type you rescued decides it's cute to roll back her eyes and start foaming at the mouth. Point is, it ain't over until you're sitting in a bar in Tijuana sipping a double shot of Tequila blanco and laughing about it all. Although, even then, it's never really over. After all, there was that one Robert Rodriguez movie . . .


And so, there you have it. Hardly a comprehensive list, but these are the basics. Of course, the real key to surviving the destruction of your city is to move to Duluth or Fargo or someplace equally benign. Nothing ever goes on there. Of course, you run the risk of dying from sheer boredom. But that's better than expiring from chronic cranial hollowing disease, don't you think?

Consider yourself informed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quality Programming You're Missing Out On . . .



Finally got around to watching the so-called 2-hr "pilot" episode of HBO's mini-series, "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" last night. And, wow! It's been a while since something has come out of left field and completely blown me away like this. Honestly, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't catch this.

The pilot is in actuality a movie filmed over a year ago by the late Anthony Minghella and is based on the best-selling detective series of the same name written by Alexander McCall Smith. Like the mini-series, the movie was filmed on location in Africa, a first I believe. It stars Jill Scott as the fictional Mma. Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's very first female private detective. Based on the movie alone, HBO, in association with the BBC, picked up the rights and developed six more episodic segments filmed a year after the pilot and airing earlier this year on the network. You can catch a teaser of the pilot at the top of this entry.

I'm completely in love with this series right now. I'm amazed by the lengths the producers have gone to make the sets, dress, and even language authentic to the location. The show has amazing writing, quirky humor, and most importantly, fantastic acting by all concerned parties. Jill Scott is simply dazzling as Ramotswe. And having seen her performance now, I'm extremely miffed that she didn't even get nominated for the Emmy this year. WTF?

I'm also equally impressed with Anika Noni Rose, who plays Ramotswe's indelibly off-beat assistant and secretary, Grace Makutsi. Rose is simply a scene-stealer in the pilot, and from what I've seen in previews for the rest of the show, only gets better. Really, I think I have a crush on her character now. She's great!

I burned the pilot to DVD, but you can purchase it now in stores, or rent it on Netflix if you want to check it out. The actual mini-series itself has already aired and is not yet available in stores, but I have each episode saved on my TiVo, and so will be burning those as well as I watch each one in turn during the next few days. I so wish I could get each one of my friends to watch this -- it is THAT good!

Here's another teaser to whet your appetite in case you're not already intrigued:



I beg of you, PLEASE watch this at all costs! Trust me on this, you will NOT be disappointed. I'm that confident. Jill Scott is too awesome for words. I never knew she had this kind of honest acting in her. What a delight!

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's So Good To Be BACK!!!

Despite having such an awesome week in the Caribbean, there inevitably came a time, like on all trips, when I desired to stop bleeding cash like a stuck piggy bank and to head back home to my normal life. No matter how much fun I'm having abroad, I eventually start yearning for the mundane.

Is that strange?

So even though we were saddened to leave paradise behind, it was with a huge sigh of relief that we entered our Bronx apartment and set our bags down. Phew! I don't care how much fun there is to be had, travelling is still a major pain in the ass. I hate, hate, hate airports and security checkpoints, baggage claim lines and taxi queues.

But what I hate even more than all that, is coming back home to a dirty apartment.

Because of Lisa's hectic and overwhelming workload at the hospitals, she never has the energy to clean the house. Which leaves it all up to me. But since I work a full-time job, too, as well as do all the cooking, grocery shopping, fixing-uppery, etc., you can imagine that the house can sometime fall into a haphazard mess. Thing is, I'm so anal about cleanliness. I absolutely cannot live around clutter. And I definitely cannot come back home to it.

Lisa never understood this until now. Before any major trip, I always pestered her to make sure the house is in order so that we can return home and not feel even more like crap. And she would promptly stare at me like I'd grown a second head. See, even though she's a Virgo like me, she's a cusp -- September 22. Almost a Libra! Whereas I'm full-blown OCD Virgo mode on my best days. We cannot abide by slovenliness, even though we are generally lazy to begin with.

However, this one time, I finally convinced her of my wisdom! (yeah, right). Actually, it consisted mostly of me taking matters into my own hands and making sure everything was put away and the floors cleaned, the dishes washed, and the garbage taken out. I even cleaned out the refrigerator and stocked up on some favorite food items so that we wouldn't have to go grocery shopping when we came back.

And it worked perfectly! Coming home to an orderly, neat apartment not smelling like dirty dishes and stale garbage really works wonders for one's attitude. It allowed us to just drop our things, open all the windows, and relax on the couch. And now Lisa finally understands what I've been getting at! :)

Over the weekend, we took our time unpacking and returning back to the normal order of business here in the city. I myself immediately went into a new story, one I'd been itching to write all week while in the Bahamas. I wrote 3 scenes over the course of Saturday and Sunday, and it's going pretty well so far. Yay!

Also, sometime while I was out my pre-order of the Watchmen director's cut DVD came in the mail. So that was full of win right there! I've only barely dipped into the set, but I'm liking some of the additions that were inserted into the film. I'm disappointed that there is an even superer-duperer version coming out later in the year, though. Why must they DO this shit? I thought I had the definitive version, and now I'll have to wrestle with the decision to get this better set in December? Argh!

I'll still buy it, though. Because I'm a sucker for this movie. But I'll get it on Blu-ray this time. Yeah, that's my excuse. :)

Anyway, it's great to be back. I like order and normality, and this trip totally recharged my batteries so I'm ready to jump right back into the thick of things.

Hope you all had a good week. Ashe, you're going to have to call me to let me know wtf happened to you. I only barely glimpsed your FB updates, but seems like a whole lot went down while we were gone. Must tell me more!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Smooth Return


Had a great time in the Bahamas this week! Harbour Island was beyond perfect, if such a thing is possible. The locals are friendly if you take the time to stop and say hi (not all the tourists seemed to practice this art), and the laid back Caribbean attitude that permeates EVERYTHING there was a welcomed difference of pace from frenzied city life.

Lisa wants us to try Paradise Island next, but honestly I don't think I can ever go back to a heavily visited tourist trap ever again after this vacation. While there were plenty of visitors on HI with us, I was sure hard-pressed to see many while we were there. The 3-mile wide stretch of beach was damn near deserted most of the time. I couldn't believe our luck!

It only rained 1.5 days of our stay, which is amazing considering it was the rainy season. So for the most part, we did nothing but soak up some rays, read, and play in the gorgeous waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean. Exactly as I said we would. Ha!


Anyway, if you ever get the chance to visit the Bahamas and can't deal with the crowded zoo that is Nassau and Paradise Island/Atlantis, then please take the little extra effort to hop on over the sea to this little out-of-the-way gem. Trust me, you won't regret it!


Oh, and if you want to see a pictorial of our week in beach heaven, stroll on over to my Flickr account and catch my photostream. I'm providing the direct link to my Harbour Island album right here. But I also just installed a new Flickr widget on the upper right corner of this blog. For now, the direct link is your best bet to see all the photos in the order I prefer. So, yeah, click on that. And don't forget to read the captions! :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Away For A Wee Bit . . .


Well, that time is upon us once more. This time, for pleasure. I am of course talking about travelling. We leave for the Bahamas tomorrow, on the trip I mentioned almost two months ago here. And, boy, has no vacation ever been more needed than this one!

I'll be out of touch the entire time, I'm sure. I think a few places on the island we're staying at have Internet connection, but I'm almost certain it's spotty at best. In the meantime, I'll be relaxing and reading. What will I be reading? Probably a little science fiction with some science fact. I'll be taking along Tobias Buckell's Ragamuffin (which I've been highly anticipating), as well as an interesting look into quantum physics in Lee Smolin's Three Roads To Quantum Gravity.

The former book is rather appropriate given how it wraps sci-fi and space-opery goodness within a neato ball of Caribbean sensibilities! While the latter title will be to satisfy my seemingly unquenching thirst to learn as much as I can about the exciting discipline of quantum mechanics. Just a hunch, but I think I'll be using these theories as all sorts of interesting springboards for my fiction. I'm particularly interested in space travel and quantum gravity, hence the title of the book.

I'll throw in a few Conan and Dark Tower comics, too. For lighter reading.

Yup, besides venturing into the ocean as much as possible, this will be all I plan on doing. Very little sight-seeing, no touristy stuff, and no adventure sports. Unless snorkeling is considered an adventure sport. Just sleeping and reading and spending quality time with my wife.

Sounds glorious!

See you all in about a week.

Aqua Pix A Go!





Was planning to do some snorkeling while in the Bahamas, and figured: why not get a waterproof digital camera to document the experience? While the Canon I use regularly still gets the job done at 7.1 megapixels, it is not immune to the H2O, unfortunately. I didn't really *need* another camera, sure. But when has that ever stopped me from buying something shiny and electronic?

I did my research, and seems this Fuji FinePix 10 megapixel is just what I needed. Not too expensive (as far as digital 10mp cams can go), it's light and small, and is waterproof up to 10 feet.

Now, if I was going scuba diving, I could not bring this with me. But for snorkeling and general marine/pool duty, it should be perfect. You can see it has a pretty big LCD screen in the back. Bigger than my Canon, at least. From the reviews I'm not expecting the greatest, most spectacular pics, but users seemed impressed by the clarity under water. It suffers slightly indoors, but is a champ outdoors in both natural light and with flash in murky depths.

Time will tell. I'll be sure to bring lots of examples back, and post them up here.

(Took the pics with my iPhone, which is why the focus is on the wrong subject, and the Fuji cam looks so blurry. Argh! If only I had the new 3G S iPhone!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Eddard Stark Has Been Cast!


Or has he? It seems to be more of a rumor for now (albeit, a rumor with a very good chance of being true), but apparently the casting choice was made yesterday. So if this does indeed turn out to be true, word should be getting 'round either later today or tomorrow. And if so . . . just remember you heard it here first! :)

My thoughts? Not quite who I imagined Ned looking like from the book, but I think Sean Bean is great, so this will do. He's also been the guy fans have been clamoring for the most to play this role, so good on them! I was thinking more of a Jeremy Irons type for Ned. You know, someone leaner, older and with grayish hair. But, again, I admire Sean Bean's work a lot, so this is hardly a lose mark in my column.

I first wrote about HBO getting the greenlight to adapt George R. R. Martin's wildly popular fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, here, and so this news just gets me all kinds of giddy. It means that pre-production is starting to get under way!

Earlier it was announced that Peter Dinklage would get the role of fan-favorite, Tyrion. An inspired casting choice, and exactly who I'd imagined to play the character. Tyrion would be a dream for any actor to portray, due to his wonderfully nuanced character arc in the novels. Of course, due to his dimunitive size, it narrows the casting field considerably. But Dinklage is a tremendous actor, and would have been a a great choice no matter these constraints.


More and more this series is sounding TO DIE FOR. I almost wish I were an actor, so I could try and worm my way into this project. I hope it's even better than HBO's previous epic opus series, Rome, which kind of spoiled me for all other shows.

Those of you who might have a hankering for grown-up, down n' dirty fantasy with a ton of smart political intrigue and NO prissy elves or (virtually) no magic -- seriously, check out these books! Or wait for the series to air.

Personally, I'd be too impatient to wait for the tv show if I hadn't already read the books.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Sad Day For SF Fandom


This weekend brought sad news of the passing of an icon in the SF community. Locus Magazine founder, publisher, and EIC, Charles N. Brown, died of apparent natural causes while returning from Readercon yesterday afternoon. He was 72.

I've written about Locus in the past here, mostly excerpting articles or interviews. There's no denying that it is a huge resource to both fans and professionals alike in the SF market. And no bigger fan existed in the field than this wonderful man. Despite being so busy running the magazine, he still managed to come out to all the big yearly conventions, and quite a handful of the smaller ones as well. I never met him, but as a long-time subscriber to the magazine, reading his personable and hilarious editorials at the end of each book afforded me a sort of armchair insider's view into his personality quirks and sense of humor. It was always a dream of mine to be a writer and to someday stop by the Locus office to be interviewed by Mr. Brown. From all accounts, his interviewing style was laid back and great at putting the writer at ease.

To read more about this ultimate fan, check out the obituary now up at Locus here.

R.I.P, Charles.

Jet Blue Rocks!

Our Bahamas trip is fast approaching for this coming weekend -- WOO-HOO!!!!

Now, originally the plan was for only 4 and a half days since I wasn't sure we needed any more time for a place, Harbour Island, that is really nothing but a long, isolated beach and some snorkeling/dive sites. There's a surprising number of cool eateries in town, sure, but that's about it.

However, after all the stress and heartache of last week, I decided we should add an extra day to our trip. So we'll be heading out a day earlier, which would put our stay on the island at roughly 6 days now. Because, you know what? I don't care anymore if all we do is lay out on the beach and work on our tans. Well, my tan (Lisa doesn't need one!)

Problem is, I was suddenly forced to scramble and contact not one, but two separate airlines to see if I could change our flight itineraries to a day earlier. It came as a surprise to me that the Jet Blue leg of our journey was the easiest to change last minute. All I did was go to the website, check out my itinerary (JFK to Nassau), and change the departure flight to the same identical flight a day earlier. I found the corresponding flight, checked it off, selected our seats, and -- VOILA! Done.

Seriously, why can't all airlines be this accommodating? All I ask for is a fairly decent website with easy to navigate menus and intuitive functionality.

I've always wanted to fly Jet Blue, but never had the opportunity. I almost did with our flight out to San Diego recently, but the times were not conducive to the schedule of Lisa's nursing conference. Jet Blue strikes me as a very cool airline, although I've heard recent rumblings from travelers that they've been going downhill as of late. And of course, there was that debacle a year ago when those poor passengers were stuck on the runway for almost an entire day with no one coming out to talk to them.

Hopefully our flight down to the Bahamas will be smooth. It's only a 3 hour jaunt from NYC, so that will be refreshing for once. When we get to Nassau, we'll then hop a tiny local prop plane to the outer Bahamian island of Eleuthera. That flight's only 15 minutes, which should be a hoot since the plane only seats around 12 people single file.

I also called the inn where we'll be staying to see if we could get the same room but a day earlier. The very nice manager told me that a couple was just leaving our room that same day, so it wasn't a problem to tack on an extra night's reservation for us. Awesome!

So, this time next week I shall be snorkeling, reading on the beach, sleeping on the beach, eating on the beach . . . or all of the above. All I know is, pink beach and sky-blue ocean will be involved. And, really, who could ask for anything more?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The New 'District 9' Trailer

A while back I mentioned how stoked I was for a new independent sci-fi film coming out later in the summer called "District 9." I even posted up the teaser trailer. Well, here is the next trailer -- the official one.



Oh man, as if I wasn't excited enough! Damn, this is *really* starting to look awesome. It's leaning more towards action sci-fi than I had originally assumed based on the teaser, but I won't hold that against it. Action-y sci-fi, when done right, is fun for all. And the August release date seems to put this in theaters right around the same time as Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds", so looks like yours truly might have to schedule a not so impromptu sick day in late August . . .

Is no one else excited by this? A sci-fi movie by a South African director, filmed in his homeland, and based on a previous short film of his own? And produced by none other than Peter Jackson? Neill Blomkamp is also the guy PJ had tapped to helm his project based on the Halo video game franchise, so you know he has the chops.

I sure hope this movie lives up to the excitement I'm prematurely building. But this latest trailer makes me think everything's going in the right direction.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Beat It, You Turkey!"

OMFG!

This is too hilarious. A co-worker linked us to this earlier today, but I just have to share. I mean, honestly, prepare yourself folks -- this cannot be described. It has to be seen. Here's what happens when the repo men try to take away a deranged individual's DeLorean. Pay close attention near the 2:00 minute mark -- I swear to you, it's freakin GOLD!!!



LOL! I showed this to Lisa and her response? "See, this is why I refuse to work in the psych ward."

HA! No doubt.

Of Charts And Numbers

Ever since starting a blog here on Blogger, I've been scratching my head trying to figure out how to determine the number of people who actually visit (but don't leave comments). There is no inherent function in Blogger itself to help with this, but I knew of third-party applications that would help. Problem is, most of them came with a price.

But lo and behold, I actually found an off-site service that will do all the dirty work for me. And all for free! Which, let's be honest here, is the preferred way to go about things when you're a hungry, unpublished writer trying to get OUT THERE in the world.

Anyway, for those who might be interested, check out BlogPatrol.com and get your own free blog counter service. You can add a counter widget on your blog too, in either visible or "stealth" modes. I'm using a stealth one myself at the moment, which means that only I can see the number of visitors that come to my site. Right now my daily count is a miserable average of around 6-7 unique IP addresses per day.

Dang, what must I do to whore myself out to more readers? Hmmm . . .

In all honesty, I'm sure these numbers will slowly increase with the more content I add to the blog. I'm slowly reaching the 300 post mark since starting the Bimillennial Man less than a year ago, so I still have a lot of growing to do. Although, looking at the detailed breakdown that BlogPatrol provides in the form of useful, cool-looking charts, certain topics are getting way more searches than I would have thought. Pretty much all my Paris articles are getting top billing.

I've provided below just a small snapshot of all the charts and numbers BlogPatrol collates for me to browse through at my leisure. For someone as obsessed with numbers and micro-management of statistics like me, this is like an OCD's nirvana!

See if this is the right service for you:

DAILY VISITORS


SEARCH ENGINES AND KEYWORDS


PIE CHARTS


There's also a breakdown of visitor's IP addresses, the browsers they use, monitor resolutions, and countries of origin. Aside from knowing who to ban should it come down to it, at the present I can't find much use for some of this info. But I'm glad to have the option anyway!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Random Greatest-Rock'n'Roll-Band-Of-All-Time Sighting!


Lookie what I spied whilst browsing through the local Hallmark card and gift shop down the block -- Queen-themed greeting cards! *gasp* How f'n AWESOME is that?

I've seen musical cards before, and I *think* I've heard somewhere the concept of using licensed music recently. But Queen? Gargghhh! I almost bought the whole lot of them just for the cool factor alone! Had a good selection of songs, too: "You're My Best Friend," "We Are The Champions," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Another One Bites The Dust," and "(I Want To) Break Free" to name a few. Rock on, rock on!

Anyway, I was in there picking out a card for our upcoming wedding anniversary this week. 4 years, huh? My how time flies!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Movie Review: Moon


Two months ago I mentioned in an entry here that I was anticipating this small sci-fi film, Moon, which was first scheduled to come out later in the summer. Well, turns out the date was pushed up to last month for certain cities, and I finally got to see Moon during what I think might be its last week in select theaters. Hopefully there will be a wider release in September. (Check out the link if you want to watch the trailer.)

Moon is a small budget, independent sci-fi movie directed by none other than David Bowie's son, Zowie (billed here as Duncan Jones). It stars primarily Sam Rockwell (of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame) as Sam Bell, and Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects; K-PAX) as the voice of the lunar base robot, GERTY.

Basic premise: In the near future, Earth's energy crisis is virtually solved by the mining of Helium-3 rich regolith from the Moon. Sam Bell is a miner on contract with an Earth-based energy company contracted for a three-year stint alone on the Moon to oversee the mostly autonomous operation. When enough He3 is gathered to fill several canisters, his job is to trek out in his lunar surface rover and retrieve the canisters, then bring them back to base and place them in a launcher to send back to Earth. Except, on the eve of his contract expiration, something goes wrong during one such retrieval mission, and Sam makes a disturbing discovery that promises to turn his life completely upside down.


Kevin Spacey does an amazingly understated yet nuanced job voicing the likable robot AI who serves as Sam's only companion. The movie asks the audience to decide whether what Sam is seeing is real (as improbable as such a prospect seems), or if his discovery is really just the end-product of too much time in isolation from real human contact.

At first, the viewer is reminded strongly of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and there is a fear at the beginning that the movie is treading on cliched territory. Later, the plot develops to a point that seems to be mimicking another sci-fi character study film: Solaris. But I'm happy to say that Duncan Jones's film wisely steers clear of these tropes. Ingeniously so, in fact.


This is actually what elevates the film above most other well-intentioned but ultimately mundane character-driven sci-fi flicks. Just when you think you've got the story figured out, the plot surprises you. On more than one occasion I felt I had the entire film pegged, only to discover that what I'd thought was going to be some closely-held secret reserved for the climax, was in fact an intentional direction the director wanted me to head towards all along. One crucial twist surrounding Sam's accident comes surprisingly early in the movie, thus ruining my smug notion that I had already pegged the entire plot to come.

Now that's good filmmaking, folks!

I love movies that can take my premature assumptions and not just turn them on their head, but use these assumptions against each other to the point that I have to throw up my hands and just take what comes my way. :)


Sam Rockwell does an excellent job portraying a wide array of emotions and states of disarray. He sells this entire movie pretty much on his own shoulders, and HARD!!! Kevin Spacey as the sullen-toned AI servant/companion/caretaker is pure and simply a master study in acting through voice only, reminiscent somewhat of Alan Rickman's turn in Hitchhiker's--but much, MUCH better.

Another surprise is the polished and realistic look of the visuals. Simply put, a movie this low-budgeted (a rumored $5 million, which is paltry by comparison to any other sci-fi film being produced today) should not look THIS GOOD! The moonscape looks fantastic, the overhead top-down satellite shots appropriately eerie, the base interiors are utilitarian and simple, and the lighting is gorgeously soft and evocative! Also, last but not least, the inspired score by the wonderfully brilliant Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream; The Fountain) is both creepy and poignant at the same time, eerily reminiscent of the score to American Beauty, yet so perfect for the small, claustrophobic film that is Moon. If you want an idea, just watch the trailer for snippets of the score. I swear, I'm still humming the main tune in my head as I write this. Mansell has a knack for creating memorable themes that just won't leave you months, even YEARS, after hearing them.

To tell you to go see this movie is an understatement. But please do, if you can find it in a theater nearest you. And especially if you're into the type of sci-fi movies that don't involve aliens, explosions, laser-beams, or inaccurate science (which excludes like 90% of the genre, I know). If this is any indication of Duncan Jones's talent (and he co-wrote the story and script, one must add), then I've just become an avid follower of this new and promising director. Yay!!!


Rating: 9/10

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Tragic Loss . . .



Summerland
----------------

Feel the cool breeze on electric air,
Tempest is over, the stars shine bright,
July born of lightning storms.
But all is calm now.
Dream, my friend, dream.
Your sorrow ends tonight.

They gather, in threes and fours,
Kin and stranger, friend and foe,
Together in grief, separate in mourning.
Can you hear their whispered wailing?
Dream, my son, dream.
Feel the cold no more.

Their eyes search the distance,
For answers, for revenge,
Straining for your presence.
But your laughter's only memory.
Dream, my love, dream.
Leave behind regretful tinge.

I stand alone in the clearing of sorrow,
Family, companion, outsider, entity.
Would that I could but crawl into you,
Embrace them with your arms and smile.
Dream, my father, dream.
May your rest consume eternity.

Moon rising austere, disproving,
The age of your fire has ceased.
Winter dissolves under warm tears,
Dreaming long of summer, dreaming sweet.
Dream, my brother, dream.
May you rest in peace.


(Dedicated to Leshaun Gordon, 6/30/2009. A brother as much as in flesh and blood, who will be missed.)

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