Friday, April 29, 2011

TIME Interview With GRRM

James Poniewozik, TIME's TV critic and the man behind the site's popular blog, "Tuned In," recently sat down with George R. R. Martin and asked him a bunch of questions about his novels, the new HBO show based on them (Game of Thrones), and where he stands on both. The interview was broken up into 4 parts, which are now over at TIME's website. I'll list each part below as a link, along with some poignant excerpts from each. Some of George's observations really hit home with me as: 1) a struggling writer; 2) a fellow fan of Tolkien; and 3) someone who grew up ridiculously poor.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Game Of Thrones Season 1, Ep. 2 Reactions -- "The Kingsroad"

(Ep. 1 -- "Winter is Coming" reactions.)

So here we are, episode 2 of Game of Thrones: "The Kingsroad." I actually saw this one immediately after the premiere episode, so needless to say I had a double-dose of pure awesomeness in one sitting! As before, I will provide you with my scene-by-scene reactions exactly as they occur while I sit in front of the tv and bask in this show's glory.

But before I do, here's a recap of where we left off last episode:

King Robert Baratheon asked Eddard Stark to be his next Hand. After much deliberation, he finally agreed.

Catelyn, Ned's wife, believes the previous Hand, Jon Arryn, was murdered. Her sister and Arryn's widow, Lysa, believes that the Lannisters were behind it.

Queen Cersei and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister, are aware that Jon Arryn went to his grave carrying knowledge of a troubling secret they're keeping from the King.

Jon Snow, Ned's illegitimate son, is going to head north and "take the black" -- becoming a man of the Night's Watch at the Wall. Tyrion, younger brother to Cersei and Jaime, will accompany him there to get a glimpse of the marvelous structure himself.

Across the Narrow Sea in Pentos, exiled scions of the previous Targaryen Dynasty plot to raise an army that will retake Westeros and restore the Iron Throne to its rightful occupier. Viserys Targaryen marries his younger sister, Daenerys, to the lord of a vast army of nomadic horsemen, Khal Drogo. He hopes the alliance will bring him the crown.

At Winterfell, home of the Starks, Ned's 10 year old son, Brandon, stumbles across Cersei and Jaime's secret -- they are lovers! Jaime pushes Bran out of a tower window to protect this secret.

"The things I do for love."

And now, on to episode 2!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Trip To Westeros . . .

So, some of you have been asking me to put up my impressions of the show now that I've watched the first two episodes. Seeing, after all, as I've been its cheerleader on this here blog now for going on two years. And to that I say: well, I could do the standard boring review . . . by which I'd be forced to think of something witty and erudite to dazzle my readers with.

But then I thought -- nah! I'm too lazy for all that. Instead, I thought I'd try something different. What I'm going to give you is my gut reactions "live" as each scene plays out. So, in other words, this is going to be a written blow-by-blow account as the episode is playing out on my tv screen. You'll get to hear my unadulterated thoughts on the plot, dialog, and acting of the show exactly as it first enters into my skull.

Yes it's going to be THAT visceral, folks!

Or, in actuality, it'll just be plain and straight-forward. I simply don't know! And that's the beauty of this. You may think that because I'm such a huge fan of the books that I might be predisposed toward loving each episode even if the end result is a steaming pile of polar bear turds wafting gently in the icy cold winds of the Far North. But, nah-ah. Not on my watch, mister (and mistresses). Let me tell it to you straight right now: if something about this show stinks, you best believe I will call it out. I can do it no other way.

That being said, I have confidence that this show is going to live up to my expectations because the reviews have been, by and large, extremely positive so far.

So while I will call it like I see it, I don't expect that there will be any egregious mistakes for me to get all huffy over.

One more caveat, however, before I go on and start this puppy up: I am indeed a super fan of the book series, with near encyclopedic recall of most of the major (and some of the minor) threads being woven at any given time throughout all present 4 novels. As such, I probably won't--but most likely still will--make any n00b-like mistakes like calling Eddard Stark "Eddy" for short, or not knowing which pale-faced, clean-shaven adolescent boy is Jon or Robb. No, such things I leave to those less familiar with the books.

What I can promise, though, is that I won't spoil anything for future episodes. When I point out any divergences from the books, I won't then blab away about how this chicken deflowering scene doesn't work because in book 3, chapter 53 we learn that Tyrion the dwarf does not, in fact, enjoy poultry in either its plucked or feathered state, and would thus never be caught dead in a chicken coop at some ungodly hour of the morning. No matter, I say, no matter how many barrels of ale he's consumed!

So we cool, ese, we cool?

Cool, I thought so! And now, without further ado . . .

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jammin' To Bollywood

Despite the implication of this entry I wrote a few days ago, I *do* listen to music frequently and throughout the day. Mostly when I'm at work and need something to distract me from the brain-numbing boredom of it all. As such, I was rocking out on this fine day to some very awesome tunes from the sub-continent. Yes, that's India to some of you!

Now, despite the title of this post, it's not really fair to call it "Bollywood" music. True, most of the music does in fact come from Indian cinema, or filmi . . . but they're not technically Bollywood movies since some of them were filmed in other locations other than Mumbai, and in languages other than Hindi. Which is why I use the term "Indian filmi music" to represent my playlist.

Actually, this particular playlist today at work revolved specifically around the compositions of one A. R. Rahman. He's one of my all-time favorite composers/musicians still working today -- and not just in India, but all over the world! I don't know if anyone who reads this blog listens to world music, or Indian music (either traditional or cinematic, or both) in particular, but if you don't you might want to check out some of his work.

Really, though, this post is just my excuse for pimping out one of my numerous Apple iTunes playlists once more, as I did back in this blog entry in January. Still, I hope that maybe some of you will find the means and the time to sample some of these tracks if you haven't already. This is some seriously cool music!

Anyway, here is my filmi playlist courtesy of A. R. Rahman (movie titles are italicized):

"Chanchan" -- from Water
"Dheeme Dheeme" -- from Zubeidaa
"Rasika" -- from Star 
"Narumugaiye"* -- from Iruvar
"Maargazhi"* -- from Sangamam
"Uyire Uyire" -- from Bombay
"Shyam Rang Bhar Do"-- from Water
"Anbendra" -- from Minsara Kanavu
"Chinna Chinna Aasai" -- from Roja
"Usilampatti Penkutti" -- from Gentlemen
"Kannaalaney"** -- from Bombay
"Naina Neer Baha"-- from Water
"Kannodu" -- from Jeans
"Kannamuchi" -- from Kandukondain Kandukondain
"Yaro Yarodi" -- from Alaipayuthey
"Poraalae" -- from Karuththamma
"Piya Ho"*-- from Water
"Evano Oruvan"* -- from Alaipayuthey

*this is one of my favorite tracks.
**this is my most favorite track.

And if you would like a little taste of one of these songs, below is the music video for "Kannaalaney" as it appeared in the filmi Bombay:

Despite all the colors and joyous dancing, this is not necessarily a happy movie. It's a "Romeo & Juliet" type of story between a Hindu man who falls hopelessly in love with a young Muslim woman during a time when rising tensions between both religious factions comes to an explosive head in the city of Mumbai.

Because of this song in particular, Chitra is my favorite singer! I think she has the prettiest voice out of all the filmi singers, and a range like you wouldn't believe. That's her voice you hear in the clip, but Manisha Koirala is the actress going though the motions. She's fantastic, too, btw. I've seen a few of her movies now and absolutely love this actress!

What music have you been jammin' to this week?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Study In Ice and Fire

So, as you know, last Sunday was the premiere of the very first episode of Game of Thrones on HBO, titled appropriately: "Winter Is Coming." Now, beforehand much ado had been made about the opening credits sequence. Apparently it got a huge thumbs up from the rabid fan community, with some praising its innovative design cues while others applauding the main theme music. Well, here it is below for you to judge yourselves:

Now I for one don't see what the big deal is. It's nice, don't get me wrong. But I was told that the theme would be so memorable you wouldn't be able to forget it. And then I promptly forgot about it. Ironically enough, whenever I try to call it up in my head, I instead get the theme from the new show on Starz, Camelot. Hmm, that's not such a good thing in my book.

However, I do love all the inside clues and imagery that only true fans can pick up on. I know many of you are not walking, talking encyclopedias of all things related to the A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF) series, but I thought I'd list two of the more intriguing aspects of this intro that might go without notice.

1) Scene locations. Each book in the ASoIaF series has a detailed map of the lands of this intricate world on the inside flap. Running with that theme, I thought it was rather apropos to use a moving map as the basis for the show's opening credits sequence. What's even more interesting is the fact that this portion of the opener will change from episode to episode depending on the locations being used for that night. So, because 4 specific locales were used in the premiere episode, we get to see those 4 cities highlighted here in the opener.

The map starts us off at the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms--King's Landing--which is dominated by the King's castle and seat of the Iron Throne, the Red Keep.

From there we travel far up the King's Road to the Kingdom in the North, and its central seat of power: the citadel of Winterfell. This is Lord Eddard Stark's residence, and the focus for much of this first episode. Note the giant white Weirwood tree with a face engraved on its trunk. Known as a "heart tree," this represents the religion of the Old Gods, which is only still practiced in the North.

Next the camera zooms a bit farther north to the Wall, where the Night's Watch man the frozen barrier to keep constant vigil for possible threats from the mysterious Far North. Note the special elevator which transports the men too and from the various battlements along the Wall. Nice!

Lastly, the camera returns south all the way back to King's Landing again, before suddenly turning east and dashing across the Narrow Sea toward Pentos. Here the exiled Targaryen children reside, with Viserys scheming a plan to gather a nomadic army to his cause in order to win back his rightful place on the Iron Throne.

2) Sigils. Along with the locales, interspersed throughout this sequence are brief flashes of Westeros' history, using engraven sigils to paint in broad strokes the political landscape as it exists in this opening episode. Before I explain further, however, you must first know what each sigil means.

In ASoIaF, each major House has its own sigil. This icon is used to identify not just the Lord of the House, but his seat of power and the bannermen under his protection as well. For the purpose of this first episode, 4 sigils in particular are important to bear:

The Dragon. -- The sigil of the three-headed Dragon belongs to the Targaryens, who were invaders from Valyria across the sea and whom used three dragons to conquer Westeros.

The Stag. -- This is the sigil of House Baratheon and, thus, the sigil of the current king of Westeros, Robert. Robert Baratheon led the rebellion which ultimately broke the nearly uninterrupted rule of the Targaryen Dynasty sixteen years earlier. The Stag, therefore, is now the patron sigil of King's Landing.

The Direwolf. -- This sigil belongs to House Stark, who's motto is "Winter is Coming!" For the sake of the show, it represents Eddard Stark and Winterfell. The direwolf is a fierce, dangerous predator larger and more powerful than a normal wolf. They can only be found in the Far North, beyond the Wall, at the start of the series.

The Lion. -- House Lannister's sigil. Tywin Lannister was Hand to the former Targaryen King, Aerys II, when Robert Baratheon's rebellion broke out. But by playing his cards right at the most key moment toward the end of the uprising, he made himself an invaluable ally to the rebels led by Robert and Eddard. After the war, the Lannisters became the richest House in all of Westeros and Tywin's daughter, Cersei, became Robert's Queen. The Lion is the banner which flies over the Lannisters' seat at Casterly Rock.

So there you have it. The 4 most important sigils you need to know for the sake, at least, of this first episode of the series. Now in the opening credits sequence, you see three events unfold with use of these sigils:

The very first one shows the Dragon sigil screaming in anguish as a volcano erupts. This represents the "Doom of Valyria," when the homeland of the Targaryens was destroyed and they fled across the sea to Westeros, conquering the Seven Kingdoms and ruling there for the next 300 years.

The second event displays the Stag, Lion, and Direwolf sigils locked in combat against the three-headed Dragon, representing the uprising known in Westeros' history as "Robert's Rebellion," which would eventually remove the corrupt Targaryens from the Iron Throne.

The last event shown in this sequence is the peace after the rebellion, with the Lion and the Direwolf paying fealty before the triumphant Stag. Houses Baratheon, Lannister, and Stark become the most powerful in the Seven Kingdoms.

If you note, all 4 sigils are situated around the emblazoned lettering "GAME OF THRONES" at the very end of the opening sequence. I can't confirm it, but I wonder if this will change in later episodes as more sigils and their Houses are introduced into the mix? I would think so.

All in all, while it might not be HBO's best series opening sequence, it does in fact share the same gravitas and grandeur as, say, the openers for Rome or maybe even Carnivale. So in other words, not bad at all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In The Mail

I got a surprise in the mail the other day: A magazine that I've never subscribed to. Oh, joy.

What's more, it was an issue of Rolling Stone! WTF? I might have mentioned it on Facebook before, but I'm actually not a huge music head. I'll listen to my favorite tunes here and there, but I'm not obsessed about music the way most people are. Definitely not to the point where I need a magazine devoted to the subject arriving in my mailbox every month.

How did this happen, I wonder? I've never even once expressed interest in Rolling Stone magazine. Not that it's not a fine publication. It has a pretty good rep from what I hear tell. It's just not for me.

However -- here's where it gets strange. Although I may have never even so much as thumbed distractedly through an issue of this magazine, I did in fact have my eye on purchasing the current issue off the newsstand for one very obvious reason:

So how freaky coincidental is it that the very issue I was ogling at the supermarket just happened to show up in my mailbox--addressed specifically to ME, mind you--just a mere couple of days after setting eyes on this cover?

And, yes, oh what a fabulous cover it is -- good lord!!! *drools*

Those of you new to my blog might not know this, but I have a HUGE crush on Rihanna. Prior evidence of which exists in entries found here and here. Sure, this came about during her pre- crazy-as-a-cat-in-a-burlap-sack phase which she seems to be in at the moment . . . but HOT is still HOT. I cannot deny it. And neither should you.


Back to . . . um . . . magazines now. If you really must know I subscribe to Scientific American, Astronomy, Archeology, and Discover mags. These are the subjects which rock my boat, magazine-wise. And they're also about all I have time for these days. If Rolling Stone keeps coming to me for free, though, then maybe I'll add it to my stack. But somehow I suspect this is just a one-time promotional ploy due to my recent purchase of concert tickets to go see Def Leppard live in July. It's an anniversary gift for my wife, in case you're wondering. But me and my Rihanna-obsessed daydreams thank the bulk mail gods nonetheless. Good looking out, y'all!

So, er, if you want something to talk about in the comments: which magazines do you all subscribe to?

Friday, April 15, 2011

I, King David Of House Batista . . .

Do solemnly swear to uphold the laws of this kingdom. To herald the Light and shepherd the poor, to . . .

Aw, the hell with this! Steward, make sure the ale's flowing -- and send in the wenches! :)

And before you ask: No, this is not photoshopped. This is indeed the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, as it will be seen in Game of Thrones. And, yes, this is me sitting upon it.

Nice fit, wouldn't you say? A guy could get used to this.

Actually, the folks at HBO are going around New York City dragging this replica from landmark to landmark and offering free PR photos to any and all passersby. I found them today at the entrance to Central Park on 59th and 8th. Yesterday they were at Union Square. And tomorrow I think they'll be in Times Square. Thank goodness I caught them today when traffic was relatively light. Times Square, otoh, is going to be a ZOO!

But, yeah, HBO's PR people had a professional photographer there--complete with blocking and lighting--to do the job. After my pic was taken, I was directed to a table with iPads strewn about where I could find my photo already uploaded and e-mail myself a copy. I was impressed by the fluidity of the process, and the young gorgeous PR ladies on hand who were very, very nice to chat with.

Of course, this quickly became my profile pic on Facebook as well. Hey, it was too fraggin COOL to pass up!

Damn I love living in a big important city sometimes.

Wow! This Is David Hyde Pierce Like I Never Thought I'd See Him

I always liked David Hyde Pierce as Dr. Crane's wacky little brother, Niles, on the hit tv show "Frasier." But never in a million years would I have ever pegged him for being the perfect replacement for Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. No, he's not playing that iconic role in his latest upcoming movie, The Perfect Host -- but damn if he doesn't display the glimmer of a Tony Hopkins-esque functional psychopath here. Watch the film's excellent trailer below and tell me you don't see it:

What do you think? Couldn't he totally be Hannibal Lecter if they were to make another movie in that series? Not that I think they should, mind you. But wow, DHP, I'm impressed. And what an intriguing premise! I'm now completely psyched to catch this thriller. How about you?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How To Read To An Audience Effectively

Jennifer Hillier, over at The Serial Killer Files, just updated her blog yesterday concerning her attendance at this year's ThrillerFest VI here in NYC. As a writer who's debut novel, Creep, will be out in July, Jen is understandably a little nervous about participating on one of the panels during the convention.

I don't blame her. I would be terrified! Although, like Jen herself stated, I would also be *thrilled* too. But, yeah, mostly terrified.

However, I think the biggest obstacle I will have to overcome first is reading my work in public. I'm sure Jen has already surmounted this particular fear. But as for me? Nope, I've never done it before. So needless to say I have a lot of misgivings on how that whole scene might play out when it's my turn. *gulp*

Luckily, another writerly friend of mine has a very cool seminar on effective public speaking which she gives at conventions whenever she can. Earlier this year, at a Superstars Writing Seminar in Utah, Mary Robinette Kowal gave a super fast rendition of this workshop to all who would stop in and listen. And what a lesson they got! Luckily, someone was kind enough to record and post it on Youtube. As a master puppeteer in her "day job"--and, of course, as a touring new writer who's debut novel just appeared last year--Mary knows a things or two about dramatic presentation and throwing one's voice around. She's really good, in fact. Check out her blog sometime and find out more about her if you'd like.

I'm going to embed parts 1 and 2 of her Effective Speaking workshop below for convenience sake. And, also, so that I have a place to find these very helpful vids in the future. Something tells me I'm going to need all the help I can get. *whimpers*

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last Call For Game Of Thrones!

Okay, so this will be the last promotional video I ever put up on this blog for this show . . . this season . . . er, this week?

As Sunday's premiere fast approaches, I thought I'd provide one last très cool glimpse at the awesome job HBO has done on bringing the content of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series to the screen. I know most of you are already sold on this show (or not), so one last video isn't going to change things for you. But this is a fairly lengthy 25-minute behind-the-scenes look the folks at HBO were kind enough to feed us last week. If you have the time, please take a gander won't you? I believe it will be well worth your trouble. No, seriously -- this is really good!

There are surprisingly no spoilers in this, so those of you coming to the series fresh need not fear. Watch at your own pleasure and bask in the goodness that is Game of Thrones. I found myself fist-pumping happily several times at various details they got so right. My ultra squee moment came when I got to see the face on the weirwood tree up close and clearly for the first time.

Oh, and if you listen closely at the 22:40 mark, you'll be able to hear the show's main theme tune playing for the very first time! Personally, I'm liking it. Can't wait to see the title card and credits flashing along with this.

This show is so going to rock!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Evening At The NY Public Library

If you love SF (that's speculative fiction to you, partner) -- and if you're in the NYC area -- then have I got the event for you! On May 24th, at the main branch of the New York Public Library on 5th avenue, you'll get to hear from not one, not two . . . but FOUR highly regarded names in the SF arena these days. From left to right, they are none other than:

Lev Grossman (The Magicians), John Scalzi (Fuzzy Nation), Scott Westerfeld (Behemoth), and Cat Valente (Deathless).

Can we say: teh SEXAY???

With the exception of John Scalzi, I've had the pleasure of meeting three of the four of these amazingly talented writers in person, and will no doubt immensely enjoy seeing them again. But since Scalzi is one of my favoritest of SF writers today -- and since this will be my first time seeing His Baconess in the flesh -- I get the feeling this is going to be quite the memorable night to, er, remember. Like, for the ages. Or just for the rest of my meager existence, whichever ends first. (Happily, I might add).

I don't know how many of my blog visitors live in the Tri-State area and have the means to show up, but the event is FREE if that helps any. It begins at 6:30 pm, which is just perfect for me and my work schedule. I can hop on the 4 subway train after I'm done for the day and be there in 20 minutes, tops. Oooh, I so can't wait! :)

If you would like to register for the FREE event, or read more details about it, just click here.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I have some books in desperate need of signing to go dig out . . .

Friday, April 8, 2011

Running Errands . . .

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this here before, but my job has a sweet setup by which we get to work extra hours during the two-week pay period in order to have one day off within that same time. So myself, I get every other Friday off throughout the year! This is great because I tend to use these days to get most of my errands done that I can't get done on a work day or on weekends. Some of the time I use it to go to doctor and dentist appointments. Sometimes I visit friends. Mostly, though, I use it just to chill out at home and recharge my batteries since Friday happens to also be my one and only non-workout day of the week.

But then there's days like today where I have to go to the nearby parking garage in my neighborhood and take out the Zipcar to replenish our dwindling food and household supplies at home. Zipcar is awesome for those of you who don't know what it is. It's a car rental service, but you can rent by the hour -- or even half hour, if you want. Best yet, if you live in a big city like I do, chances are there's a parking lot near you that has anywhere from 4 to 8 cars available to all members. You call or go online to set up your reservation, stroll up to the lot closest to your house, and find the car that matches the one you picked out. Then you simple put up your membership card to the RFID box behind the windshield, and the doors automatically unlock for you. It's so simple! Once you're done, you bring the car back and never have to worry about finding parking or maintaining the vehicle. Oh, and insurance and gas is already included in your reservation price.

Like I said -- AWESOME!

So, anyway, around every 6 to 8 weeks or so I make a Zipcar drive up to the Costco in the next county. It's a chance for me to get out on the road (which I love), but then I have to shop (which I loathe). Still, it's a necessary evil since what I buy at Costco saves me a helluva lot of time, effort and money at the local grocery stores here in the city. But today as I went about my normal routine, I stopped in the refrigerated section where all the milk and orange juice is stored. And I realized, not for the first time, how strange the arrangement here is. Take a look:

See? That there is the side of the room where all the many gallons of milk are stacked. I'm a big milk drinker, always have been. So a sight like this does a body good for me. But here's the funny thing I noticed about this arrangement -- all the healthy, fat-free milk is kept as far away from human contact as possible. See, first up there in the forefront of the image are all the red-labeled whole milk. Right behind them are the blue and greens of the 2% and low-fat milk. And what about the pink fat-free milk? Well, they can't be seen from here . . . not until you walk all the way to the back and find them hiding in some forgotten corner like heartbroken step children sent to the basement with no supper. The nerve!

Seriously, what's the deal with that? Why is it always such a chore to find the non-heart attack causing milk in stores? Is it a conspiracy? Or, perhaps more people want--nay, DEMAND--their fatty fat fat dairy? I know, I know . . . most likely it's for the kids. The kids, they say, they be needing their whole milk. And I guess that's true. I would never want any kid to go without their essential daily fat content. Lord knows this country has a serious skinny-kid epidemic, after all.

Still, for a wild moment there I thought that perhaps all my precious fat free milk had fallen off a truck somewhere in Jersey -- ACK!!! I was so relieved to find out such was not the case. *phew*

Anyway, I ended up making my usual circuit around the giant Costco warehouse. I always get a lot of stares from people--mostly mothers--because I'm a young guy shopping by myself with a TON of food in my cart. And because it's Friday in the middle of the morning, too! But that's just the way it has to be. It's too expensive to keep a car full time in the city, so Costco runs can only come when we can get the Zipcar and when we really need to go.

Oh, and I should mention that it wasn't all serious grown-up shopping I did today. Of course I had to snag a nice new tech toy for me to play with on the way out of the warehouse. Now usually I don't look to Costco for my gadget needs. I mean, ewww! But lately my crappy bargain printer at home has been going through its last moments on this Earth. I had gone to Costco with the intention of buying some replacement ink cartridges for it, but to be honest . . . this thing needed to be put out of its misery already. So, even though I had not intended to go all out like this, I ended up wandering over to the electronics section of the store and snagging this:

That there is an HP 4500 Wireless all-in-one machine sitting on my desk in the den! It does print jobs, faxes, scans -- and photo copies, too! And all within pretty much the same footprint as my old crappy printer-only contraption. See, here it is all properly set up and beautiful, sitting in the spot where our old Lexmark ink-jet used to be:

And it runs like a charm. I absolutely love it! I can't believe I waited this long for something that is so essential to a household of professional working adults. Hooray for technology!

Speaking of technology, I had a funny moment when I was leaving Costco and heading for the car in the parking lot. See, Zipcar has an Apple iPhone app (naturally, of course) which you can use to make reservations or edit an already existing reservation. But the coolest feature of this app is the ability to lock or unlock the car from afar before you even get to it. This is useful if, like at Costco, you're pushing a heavy shopping cart full of supplies through the lot while dodging clueless drivers seeking that elusive empty spot. Simply pull out your phone before you set off and push the "unlock" button in the Zipcar app. And by the time you get to the car -- presto! You don't need to fish for the keys!

But Zipcar has this amusing message when you first push the "unlock" icon. It says: "Your request is being sent to space and back. This should only take a sec . . ."

As a sci-fan fan and writer, I get a huge kick out of this! But it also reminds me of the stand-up comedian Louis CK, and his rant about how we don't appreciate all the cool technology we have nowadays. Here, check out this clip below where he takes on people's ridiculous frustrations with something as wonderful and useful as cell phones (the relevant part begins at the 1:40 minute mark):

LOLZ! This is so true. People need to have more patience. Especially considering the alternatives we used to have not all that long ago.

How do you feel about today's technology? Useful tools you find yourself increasingly unable to live without? Or annoying demon gadgets placed here on this planet to annoy the crap out of you? Sound off in the comments below.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Fistful O' Trailers

Well, it's a slow week around these here parts. Baseball season has begun, and my Yanks are doing their thang rockin' the Bronx into the late hours of the night again. :) They just won three out of their first four games of the season. Here's hoping that, despite my severe misgivings about our pitching this year, that maybe just MAYBE we'll have enough to muscle our way to the top spot in the league again. I don't care how many power bats we have at the plate -- it won't mean dick without power on the mound as well. At least our bullpen is looking fairly decent, though. It's our starters I'm worried about. I smell a big trade coming up in the next month or so to help on that front, because as of right now we are sorely missing Andy Pettitte.

Anyway, I didn't come here to talk about baseball. Nope. Actually, hadn't planned on saying much at all. What I *did* come here for was to show off two new and exciting video clips. The first one is for the new Thundercats cartoon coming out on the Cartoon Network sometime later this year. I talked about this project two months ago here in this entry, and even showed a very rough teaser. But now they've just released an actual full-fledged trailer.

Check it out by clicking here.

Now, I'm a little iffy on this. To me it looks and sounds good, sure. I like some of the nods to the original cartoon, but not so much some of the departures for some reason. It's interesting that Mum-Ra still looks pretty much the same, as does Jaga. But Lion-O is very different compared to his 80s counterpart. Slithe seems more bluish this time around, too. But as a massive mutant toad, I suppose he could go either way, right -- green or blue? The only major element missing from this trailer, though, is Panthro. Where the hell did he go? We know he's in the series thanks to the promotional art that's been circulating, but I guess he just didn't make the cut for this particular trailer. Oh well. You do, however, catch a glimpse of Snarf. Ugh! I hated Snarf. Luckily for me, it seems that he will be voiceless this time around. Just a sidekick/pet I'm guessing, rather than Lion-O's incessantly annoying nursemaid. Which, to be honest, was just straight up weird in the original series.

Ultimately I will have to wait and see with this. From the trailer, I'm not liking how it's implied that the entire race of Thundercats live on 3rd Earth -- rather than hailing from another planet called Thundera. Perhaps the original story was just too uncomfortably close to Superman's Kryptonian origins? I always thought this was so even back when I was an 80s kid watching this cartoon. But of course these days Superman is even more in people's faces, so it's kinda hard to ignore blatant ripoffs now without hordes of avid followers crying foul. Of course, it could be that the trailer is misleading. There could be more going on here than what we can assume. Like I said, we will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, the other big video I wanted to show off is, of course, the airing of the first 14 minutes from the premiere episode of HBO's Game of Thrones. It appeared this past Sunday night just before the 3rd episode of Mildred Pierce. I didn't watch it. Like I've mentioned before, I wanted to save the awesome for when the full episode airs on the 17th. But for those of you who don't care about such things, or who just want a glimpse to decide whether or not to invest in this show . . . here's the first 14 minutes for you to take a gander over:

(Please click here for the Youtube version if the above vid doesn't work or is too choppy.)

I'm hearing from a lot of sources that this first episode is beyond amazing! For those critics who have been privy to advanced screenings, some are saying that it is the best of the new crop of cable shows premiering this month. Meaning, it's better than even Camelot (no surprise there) and The Borgias (whoa!). A lot better, in fact. Hmm, I don't know. I've seen the first episodes now of both these shows, and they're only "okay." So it could be that Thrones doesn't have a high bar to hop over. Still, as a big fan, I am optimistic and do honestly feel that this show is going to surprise a lot of people.

If any of you are brave enough to check out the preview clip above, please voice your opinions in the comments section below. You don't have to worry about spoiling anything for me as I already know, story-wise, what's going on in this clip. But at the very least tell me if what you've seen so far is enough to make you want to watch the rest of the episode, and perhaps even the rest of the season.

Okay? Cool beans!

Ta-ta for now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Boozing It Up, Weekend Edition

Well, it happens once in a blue moon . . . but I went out and had a few drinks over the weekend with my best bud, T. It was in celebration of his 35th birthday, and he's big into single malt whiskeys. So we headed over to a cozy establishment on the Lower East Side he's been wanting to take me to for a while now -- The Whiskey Ward.

It's located at 121 Essex Street, close to Delancey but also not very far from Houston St. The Whiskey Ward is one of those old-timey saloon type of bars, the ones where you feel like you've stepped back into the days of Prohibition and need a password in order to enter. It has a mind-boggling and extensive menu of not just whiskeys (including single malts, blendeds, and scotches) but a various assortment of bourbons and ryes as well, along with the requisite pilsners and lagers on tap -- wheeeee!

As you can see, the atmosphere is pretty chill. Dim candle lighting, a jukebox in one corner, and a fairly live billiards table in another corner. I also liked the large oaken cask barrels which served as tables as well, which is where T and I sat. We decided to have one "whiskey flyer" each -- which is a tray with three round slots into which three glasses are placed and you choose the different whiskeys you want to fill them up with. T picked out single malt scotches as our 3 choices-- a 14yr Oban, an 18yr Bowmore, and a 15yr Laphroaig un-chill filtered "signatory" scotch. Wow! That last one was definitely an experience.

The bartender was kind enough to label each one with a marker on the wood. But of course, no serious drinking can be had without a trusty chaser chosen first. As usual, I tend to go pretty heavy with my chasers -- so I fell back on an old favorite that was on tap, Guinness Stout. To me, nothing beats Guinness! I have to get it at least once every time I go out drinking.

When we arrived at the establishment roughly around 8:30 Saturday night, the place was only sparsely filled with regulars. However, by the time 10:00 rolled around it started to pick up HEAVILY. Pretty soon, it was standing room only. But I have to say it was a nice mix of patrons at this pub -- mostly twenty- and thirty-somethings like us. T and I slowly sipped our way through the three scotches in front us, chatting about this and that. They were pricey, the drinks (though not obscenely so), and I wanted to savor the distinct flavors among the different brands. But I have to confess that my chaser didn't last very long:

Here I am looking rather put-off by the sad state of affairs that is an almost-drained Guinness. Poor me!

We got a couple more rounds of excellent single malt scotches after the initial three went the way of the dinosaurs . . . although for the life of me I cannot remember their names. I know one of them was an Aberlour, though. That one was SMOOTH!!!

But alas, eventually the evening got late and we had to bow out just as the joint was really starting to get jumping. We were both starving, though, so we stopped off at a nearby Japanese Ramen shop for some grub. It was really good--exactly what I needed at nearly midnight out in NYC. Yes, it truly never sleeps here; you can always find someplace to go to in the Big Apple regardless of the time. It's one the many reasons why I can never leave here, I think. It annoys me to no end when I go to other places, even major metropolises like Paris or Rome, and discover that everything seems to shut down shortly after sunset. WTF is up with that?

Guess it's just the New Yorker in me. We expect things A CERTAIN DAMN WAY . . . DAMMIT! :)

But, yes, I had a good time. Happy bornday to my bestest friend! We have to do it again sometime, T, for sure. I won't turn 35 myself until September, but perhaps we can find an excuse to go back before then?


Friday, April 1, 2011

I Have A Confession To Make . . .

Okay, this has been weighing heavily on me all these years. But, finally, at the start of the new baseball season, it's time for me to come clean. Yes, I'm sorry if I've hurt anybody with this terrible secret I've been harboring over the last three years I've run this blog, but today I will once and for all put all the rumors to rest.

Yes, for today I reveal that I am not David Batista. I am, in fact, this man:

Yup . . . I am really Carlos Beltran, center fielder for the NY Mets! Some of my more savvy followers have remarked upon the resemblance on more than one occasion here. Needless to say I had to quickly edit those comments out before the secret got out of the bag. But alas, you guys were right. All along, you knew the truth. The secret is too much for me to bear, I'm afraid, and now I can finally breathe with a sigh of relief.

Phew! That feels good.


Okay, okay . . . that was my very lame attempt at an April Fool's Day prank. Seeing as how it's rather late in the day (against the rules in some countries, in fact), it's probably not a very effective prank now.

But on a serious note I thought I'd use this opportunity to address an issue that's been bugging me. Which is: that I'm getting so f'ing tired of people telling me that I look "JUST LIKE" this dude Carlos Beltran for the Mets. Sometimes people think I *am* him. But most of the time they just wonder if we're related.

Ick! As if. In case it wasn't made clear before, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fan. Born, raised, and still residing in the Bronx. I've lived only a long home run away in the very shadow of Yankee Stadium for most of my life. Hell, I can see into the place from my windows:

That's the old Yankee Stadium on the left; the current one on the right.

So it goes without saying that the last team I'd want to be associated with are the NY Mets. Damn! Why couldn't Beltran be a Bronx Bomber? You know, it's probably only the fact that I wear a NY Yankees fitted cap so often that people don't think I'm him outright most of the time. You should see the double takes thrown my way whenever I walk around my block during game time at the stadium. Hil-lar-ious!

To be honest, though, I really don't think I look that much like this guy. Okay, maybe a little bit. But not enough. Here's a side-by-side comparison:

So what do you guys think? Were we separated at birth?

I'm actually one year older than Beltran, however. And he was born in Puerto Rico, whereas I was born here in New York City. Also, the portion of my father's family (including my pops himself) that hails from that part of the world is from the Dominican Republic, staunch enemy of the "Ricans."

Still, if only I could parlay this resemblance into some VIP treatment here in the city. Unfortunately, the Mets suck donkey balls. Always have. Just look at their season opener earlier today. They were left drawing blanks against the Marlins for 7 freaking innings, to eventually end up losing 6-2!!! SMH.

Oh well, at least New York has more than one baseball team. That's our saving grace right there. Can you New Yorkers imagine a world where the Mets are our only hope? I shudder to think . . .

Oh, and YAY to the official start of baseball! I'm very excited for the new season. I have to decide how many games I'll get to go to this year, though. I need to scale back a bit because tix at the House That Steinbrenner Built are obscenely expensive. Damn tourists! But since it only takes me 5 minutes to walk from my house to the front gate at Yankee Stadium, I feel kind of guilty not taking advantage of that convenience.

Anyway, Happy April Fool's Day to everybody! Hope's it's been a good one.

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...