Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kraam! Where are duh too snakes faycing each udder?

I've been cracking up all afternoon to Youtube videos of pop culture movies and video games being placed to musical renditions. This one, based on the John Milius "Conan the Barbarian" movie from the 80s, is my fave so far! It's set to the melody of Basil Poledouris's moving soundtrack to the film. And oh damn, it's HILARIOUS! Especially the fake Ahh-nuld accent:

"AND HEAR THE LAMENTATION OF THE WOMEN!!!"  LOL! I can't get enough of that. :)

Granted, it's funnier if you've watched the movie before. And even more so if, like me, you've seen it like a bajillion times.

I have a short work week, so my weekend begins tomorrow. Enjoy yourselves!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Almost There . . .

As we get nearer and nearer to the April 1st season 2 premiere of Game of Thrones, more and more glimpses into what's in store for us fans are starting to leak out. Case in point, this awesome behind-the-scenes invitation which aired last night. Watch it below and weep, then dry your tears (of pure joy, of course!) and read what it is about this clip that makes me so giddy like a schoolgirl:

Well, well. Ain't that just something? I mean, WOW! There's so much awesome jammed into such a short video that I don't even know where to start.

It goes without saying that many of the reveals to geek out over in this clip only have real weight with those who have read the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, "A Clash of Kings." But since I know so many fans of the show have not in fact also read the books, I will refrain from going into spoilery detail about what it is we're seeing. However, I will run down a list and commentary of all the cool character moments to be found in the clip:

1) Early on right off the proverbial bat, at the 0:12 mark, we see slain King Robert's youngest brother, Renly Baratheon, alongside his new bride Margaery Tyrell (played by Natalie Dormer of The Tudors fame). Renly was briefly shown a few times last season as part of King Robert's Small Council, but remembered most scandalously for his steamy spa, shaving, and "happy ending" scene with the dashing Knight of Flowers, Ser Loras Tyrell (Margaery's brother). So, um, needless to say this is going to make for one thorny situation should the wrong people learn of certain details. Add on top of that the little matter of Lord Renly vying for young King Joffrey's throne while insinuating that the little brat is really the product of his mother's incest, and . . . well, you'll see!

2) At the 0:42 mark, we briefly see Arya Stark sitting atop the battlements of Harrenhal. If you recall last season, Arya goes by the name "Arry" now and has disguised herself as a boy to escape the Queen's men who are searching for her. Yoren of the Night's Watch is leading her and a bunch of dungeon-scraping criminals north to serve on the Wall, accompanied by King Robert's bastard son, Gendry, who is himself being smuggled out of King's Landing to escape the Queen's wrath. And oh what a tangled plot we weave!

3) @ the 1:18 mark, we get our first and very brief glimpse of what I believe is Craster's Keep north of the Wall. This location plays a pivotal role in the future of the Night's Watch and the safety of its Rangers being led by Lord Mormont as they traverse through Wildling territory. Of course, all you really care about is that this location should feature lots of Jon Snow and Sam! Who doesn't want more Jon and Sam adventures, I ask you? While most of what goes on north of the Wall this season was filmed in Iceland, Craster's Keep itself was filmed in Ireland in pretty much the same location as the opening scene of last season's first episode. Iceland has no trees, and Craster's Keep would not be filmmable without them.

4) We get a quick glimpse of Davos Seaworth--aka, the "Onion Knight"--at the 1:34 mark. This is another new character to the show, and is Stannis Baratheon's right hand man. Which is funny since Davos is missing a few fingers on his own hand. Which is even funnier when you discover that it was Stannis himself who deprived him of those fingers. He's going to be AWESOME! Just take my word for it.

5) 1:36 gives us a very far away shot of Brienne of Tarth. Everyone's been waiting to get a glimpse of this character, as she is also new to the second season and is one of the few highborn ladies in the books who actually dons armor and kicks much ass! She's also being constantly ridiculed by everyone for not only fighting like a man, but looking like one as well. Let's say Brienne spends a lot of time getting shit on for her looks and demeanor, and this has not made Brienne a very happy lady Knight at all. Not at all. She's also in love with Lord Renly, whom she has sworn to protect. And oh yeah, she looks GREAT, btw! Spot-on as in the books! :)

6)  We get another glimpse of Melisandre, the Red Priestess, at the 1:38 mark just after Davos and Brienne. She's a bad mama-jamma, I'll just say. She's Stannis Baratheon's mysterious new adviser, bringing with her promises of the Iron Throne along with a new religion from the East. She'll also be responsible for some of the more scarier dark magic moments this season if they pull off a certain pair of scenes just right, I'm thinking. But I've already said too much--shhhhh!

7) We get to see the man himself, Lord Stannis Baratheon, at the 1:50 minute mark. The middle brother of the Baratheons, he holds the castle of Dragonstone after proving himself a formidable commander under his kingly older brother against both the old Targaryen Dynasty as well as Balon Greyjoy's failed rebellion a few years later. Now that Robert is dead, he believes that he himself, and not Lord Renly, is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne in light of current King Joffrey's illegitimacy issues. In addition to marshaling his forces against House Lannister and King's Landing, Lord Stannis must also contend with his younger brother's forces. Hence why the second book in this series is called "A Clash of Kings." There are many kings in this chapter, and they WILL be a-clashing!

8) Speaking of more kings . . . the King in the North, Robb Stark himself, can be glimpsed staring fondly at Jeyne Westerling @ the 2:03 mark. We only see the back of her here in this clip, but know that she will play a very key point in Robb's quest to gain support for his own campaign against the Iron Throne. He has the Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister, as his captive, and you best believe he intends to get satisfaction after what the Lannisters did to his father, Ned, in the first season. In fact, the very first episode of season 2 will be titled: "The North Remembers." Oh yes, that they do. And it is a very looooong memory.

9) And perhaps the most geekgasm moment of the entire video happens @ 2:15 -- Tyrion fucking Lannister holding up a vial of the volatile pyromancer's brew known as "wildfire!" Fans of the books know exactly where this will be going, and I really can't say anymore for fear of spoiling the awesome. But just know it is that, awesome!

"I have dreams of this show, you know? It's created a world in my head, it's . . . that I can't shake. Which is a testament of how good the show is."                                                                          -- Peter Dinklage

What an awesome quote to end the video with, eh? This is why Tyrion is the dude, because of this man right there! I've said it before but it bears repeating: look for Tyrion to have a much larger, intricate, and awesomer role this season. If you loved him last year, you should pretty much get double your fun this time around. I think the Emmy's and Golden Globes' folks are going to shit the proverbial brick when they realize they're just going to have to honor this actor a SECOND time all over again.

This is going to be fun!

And there you have it. Excited yet?

Well as if that isn't enough, we're almost at the point when the entire season 1 will be released to home video. In 2 weeks, as a matter of fact -- March 6th! I've already pre-ordered the Blu-rays long in advance, and so that weekend is going to involve a rewatching of EPIC proportions at my house. Oh how the walls shall shake!

And if you're thinking of getting the DVDs, fine. But just know that you might want to invest in a Blu-ray player instead. Click on this link and you'll find out why. Let's just say the Blu-rays give you a whole lot more bang for your bucks.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To Boldly Go . . .

I'm going to pointedly ignore that today is that Hallmark-created holiday and instead tell you all what I did over the weekend.

Which is to say: nothing. Nothing much at all.

Ha! Wouldn't it be funny if that was my blog for the day. Just that?

Okay, perhaps not. Of course, I did do something. But that something involved sitting on my hind quarters and watching television for the most part. How EXCITING, huh? Hey, sometimes my weekends are like that . . . perfectly uneventful. I did get to finally crack open my complete Star Trek: The Original Series Blu-ray sets, though. I had these since Christmas and had meant to check them out back during my two-week hiatus then. But as you know, the best laid plans and all that jazz.

Anyway, I wasn't expecting much from this upgrade, as ST:TOS is not exactly my favorite of the Star Trek series. It is responsible for my whole-hearted love of all things science fictional, though, so it always commanded a healthy level of my respect. In fact, some of my earliest television watching memories are of this show from circa 1981 when I was only four years old. Most of my childhood, in fact, would be spent watching and rewatching every single syndicated episode until the show seriously began to get on my nerves. Still, when the Trek relaunch series "The Next Generation" premiered in the late 80s, I was reluctant to get into it due to the fact that, for me, the original crew was still the ONLY crew.

Of course, The Next Generation would quickly come to be one of my most favorite tv shows of all time -- so what the hell did I know back then, right?

Anyway, the original series has never looked better on Blu-ray! They went back and totally remastered the hell out of these episodes, to the point that I feel like I'm seeing them with new eyes. And they didn't just clean up the dirt and mend the scratches, no. They actually re-tooled all the outdated special effects as well!

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: BLASPHEMY! But hear me out, some of these changes are really good! I'm not a purist, though, so that could be it. I certainly did enjoy the remastered versions of the Star Wars films, for example. But in my opinion the original Star Trek series was seriously long in the tooth with these crappy effects. And now they look a lot better.

Check out the vid below which does a very quick overview of some of the many improvements. The first frame is taken from the 60s originals, while the second frame(s) of any comparison is from the newly remastered footage. You might want to use the pause button judiciously, though, to slow the speed of the comparisons down.

See what I mean? Now, yes, not all of the new effects look as snazzy as I would have preferred. In fact, some of them are too CGI-ey for my tastes. But overall I find that the textures are a vast improvement, not to mention that the obvious changes like the phaser beams and multi-directional camera views of the Enterprise make for a more dynamic immersion into the viewing experience. Especially from a modern sci-fi fan's point of view.

One of my favorite improvements occur in the classic episode, "The Corbomite Maneuver," when the U.S.S. Enterprise approaches the Fesarius ship. You can see it at the 2:27 mark in the above video clip if you pause it just in time. Or you can click on the image below to see a more detailed comparison:

The original shot is on the bottom, while the remastered block is on top. Check out those textured layers--WOW! Talk about a vast improvement, yo!

See, for all the grumblings on the net about how they shouldn't have messed with the purity of Roddenberry's vision, it's instances like this one that make the remastered version all the worthwhile to purchase for my collection. Since I'm a story-first kind of guy, as long as the core performances are kept intact I couldn't care less if the bells and whistles of the presentation are tinkered with. So much the better, I say!

Over the weekend I was able to watch the first 6 episodes of season one and find myself totally impressed. The transfer is simply GORGEOUS! It makes this fan squee uncontrollably at the thought of seeing my beloved ST:TNG get this same treatment later this year. I still haven't figured out when exactly they'll start rolling out those episodes on blu-ray, although a sampler disc of sorts was already released earlier this year. But I have no desire for a paltry taste -- I want the whole meal!

And so I will wait.

In the meantime, I have these TOS blu-rays to tide me over. And of course, Netflix streaming service for Deep Space Nine and Voyager rewatchings.

I do so love my Trek geekdom!

And so, how was your weekend? Scratch that: how's your Valentine's Day going? Oh come on, don't be like THAT! :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The French Method Seems More Like My Method

 . . . At least, according to this book on child raising over there. I was reading this article on Yahoo today, Are French Women the New Tiger Mothers?:

"Parents used to look to doctors for advice on raising kids. Now they look to other countries. The latest contender for the world's best mom is from France. Author Pamela Druckerman's new book, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, asserts that the Jerry Lewis-loving culture is better at raising children than Americans."

Needless to say this book must be filled with generalizations, but I admit I find the premise intriguing. According to the article, the "French" way seems to be perfectly in line with my idea of how I would raise my own children, were I to have any (and I'm not planning on it anytime soon).

I've always believed in the philosophy of my mother and grandmother, which is pretty much the old-fashioned adage that children should be "seen and not heard." In other words, children should know their place and never, ever talk back to adults. But, to be honest, I would simply settle for teaching them good manners. Wishful thinking, I know, since I don't yet have children and have no idea what it's really like to wrangle them in. Yet I've watched my sis-in-law with hers, and I'm impressed by how well my nieces and nephews are not just in public, but at home when we come to visit as well. And she's definitely not into this new-agey "let's be friends" style of parenting I see in the parks and on the sidewalks of posh neighborhoods here in NYC.

"But there are some things we can teach the world, too. 'American parents are known for putting their children first,' says Newman. 'As a result, children overall feel and know they're special.'"

Uh, yeah. I don't much care for this line of thought. I think kids are coddled too much these days. And if you make them feel *too* special, chances are they'll just grow up to be entitled dick wads expecting the world to fall to their knees at the slightest command. No thanks. We already have enough dick wads in this country to begin with. Let's not feed that, m'kay?

Anyway, yes, my views are easy to hold for someone without children. I've already established that. But what do the rest of you think? I'm eager to know.

I'm also kind of intrigued to read this book now. I don't for once buy into the conceit that the French are better parents than Americans. Or that you can even judge such a thing to begin with. But I would like to read more about what these differences are. I do believe in teaching children a more realistic view of the world, which is that life is pain and suffering and full of assholes.

Hey, it's how I was brought up. And I turned out okay. Uh . . . right?

Yeah, it might best if no one answers that! :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pictorial Of A Miracle Win

Wow, it's absolutely bananas here in New York City the day after that momentous win at Super Bowl XLVI!!!

You know, I feel bad for non-sports fans because it's like the whole damn media won't shut the hell up! I'm thrilled as all get-out that my Giants won, though, so it's hard for me to complain too loudly. But, yeah, I can see how this might be annoying to some. Were I a Pats fan, I would just refrain from watching tv or listening to the radio for the next week. It's better this way.

Anyway, the game for me was extremely good up until halftime. Then I started getting this sick feeling. I just felt . . . it was over for us! And that 3rd quarter was no help. I felt like I was on the worst roller-coaster ride of all time. Emotions all over the place!

For me, this game was more down to the wire than even 2008's Super Bowl. In that game, because of how expertly the G-Men dismantled the Pats' defense, I kinda had a feeling they were going to win. But this time? HELL NO! I came, I saw . . . I laughed, I cried, and finally I cheered!

But when all was said and done, I felt like lady luck was a NY fan on this night. I've already had heated discussions with other sports fan today who disagree with me, but I feel like we could have lost spectacularly in three key places were it not for blind, stupid luck:

1) If Mario Manningham doesn't catch that ridiculous 38-yard pass with some serious heat on his back

2) If Wes Welker--usually so clutch in situations like this--doesn't fumble that tricky, so crucial catch

3) And if, in the very last seconds of the game, Tom Brady's desperation Hail Mary connects with Aaron Hernandez

If either one of these three points had happened differently, I'd be singing a terrible song of woe, heartbreak, and despair this fine day.

But Lady Luck smiled down on us, for reasons no one will ever know. And I thank her. :) This win lifted my spirits like nothing else could, even though I usually don't let sports outcomes hold much sway over me. But this was different. I mean, this was BIG! I initially thought we had lost because I was on a DVR time delay and I didn't hear any wild cheering and carrying-on outside my windows in the streets below. It happened with the win over San Fran, after all. But I think the folks of the Bronx were simply too stunned to act out. And when I finally caught up with real time on the television, I understood why:

They did it. Those boys in blue DID IT!!! Twice in 4 years! Who the hell would have thunk it at the beginning of this season?

Anyway, tomorrow is going to be the big parade. Ugh! As much as I love this win for us, I happen to work directly on the same route these championship parades wander down. Worse, my office building is located just short of where the parade ends, so all the crowds congregate right where we are and block off any possible exits from our lobby. It's going to be a zoo out there tomorrow . . . makes a fella almost want to work from home.


Naturally, I wouldn't miss it for the world! I'll try to take pics from the big communal corner window there if possible. It's going to be nice to hear some positive chanting and crowd demonstrations so close to Wall Street for a change.

Happy Monday, folks. I certainly couldn't have asked for a better start to the week. WOOO-HOOOOOOO!!!!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Are You Ready For Some FOOTBALL?!!!

Today is the big day, oh yes!

So here we are. I can't say I knew this would happen. I distinctly recall at the beginning of the season saying that my team didn't have a chance in hell of making it past the regular season, let alone the Big Dance. Yet here they are, and I couldn't be more stoked!

I've been avoiding social media all day so as not to run into all the too-boisterous fans of either team. Actually, I wanted to avoid the naysayers the most. I have a few of them on my friends list, all locals. Or rather, I should say, recent transplants to NYC from other locales throughout the U.S. For some reason these people--almost to the last woman--feels the need to loudly talk trash about the home team and root for that OTHER squad instead.

The hell is up with that?

I'm not saying you're required to root for my team or shut up . . . but have a little respect at least. These people always come across as extremely butt-hurt that *their* hometown team didn't make it to February. And because they know they now live among the "hated enemy" of New York sports fans, they feel the need to denigrate our collective festive spirit into vile negativity.

Well, I'm not having it today! So I've banned Facebook for the duration of the night. Maybe I'll check in tomorrow morning when the dust clears.

In the meantime, I'm about to get my 4-mile run in for the day before settling down to the game with some fresh fruit and a protein shake. Yeah, I'm sorry to say . . . but that's how I roll! :) I'm in what I call "training mode" for the past 3 months or so, whereby I have a strict workout and dietary regimen to get all lean, mean, and fit. I do this every other three months, with my off months being a more relaxed eating and exercise schedule, but still health conscious all the same. As such, I won't be pigging out on barbecue and chips during tonight's extravaganza as is traditional, but I will still enjoy myself.

And who knows, maybe the wife will sneak in a pizza when I'm not looking. And then, you know . . . who could blame me for joining in, right? I mean, you can't let a perfectly good pizza go to waste, can you? There might be buffalo wings involved, too, I hear. What's a guy s'posed to do, I ask ya?

By the way, sorry for being M.I.A. this weekend on most of your blogs (you know who you are). Unfortunately, I had to attend the funeral of a very close family member and these past two days has been a restless nightmare for me. I slept for 12 hours straight last night, I was so tired! Woke up late this morning (or early afternoon) feeling a whole lot better, but still I have this lingering sadness hanging over me. My wife, too. I've been to far too many of these in my short life, and unfortunately I know I will have to go to a lot more before my time eventually comes.

Sorry for the turn toward the morbid. I've been thinking about life and death and all that fun stuff these past 48 hours or so. I'll be fine, but I just need some time. Needless to say I haven't been online much since about Thursday, so please bear with me.

Tonight's game will be more for distraction and relaxation. Whatever the outcome, I intend not to take it too seriously. In fact, I find that I wouldn't be too upset if the other team wins. Not because I want my team to win any less . . . but because they are a tough opponent and have the better record. And because we kinda embarrassed them that last time 4 years ago, so there's that whole revenge undercurrent going on. As a writer, I do so much love a good revenge story!

So, good luck to the fans of both sides tonight. Either way, it plans to be a great show of athleticism and sportsmanship (one hopes). May the best team win.

Have 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 ...