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Archive for July, 2010

iPad wins, Fatality!

So, I finally broke down… with my tail between my legs I walked into an Apple store and bought a fuckin’ iPad. 

It really does make a ton of sense – I can write on the plane… and… and… GAMES!  After playing some WiFi Flight Control and other great games with my friends in Cali, I knew it was only a matter of time.

I bought the cheap one – 32 GB, no 3G.  I figured this would be my test… if I like it, I will get a 3G one next year when they put a camera into it… and Bonnie can have the hand-me-down.  Bah, who am I kidding?  She just closed the door to the other room… I know she’s in there with her new lover.

Rant Time – I loathe the Apple store… it was 4pm on a random weekday and the place was mobbed:

Seriously, WTF?  There were Apple douchebags loitering at every table, a mac genius every 5 feet, and an air of superiority that made me want to whip out my vulcan minigun and get to work.

Do these people have jobs?  It’s my theory that Apple douchebags just hang in the Apple store because they think it makes them cool… if I ever become an Apple DB, please feel free to kick me in the nuts as hard as you can.

(I love my iPad!)

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Last Days in Cali…

So sad… though I miss my kids so much it is painful, I’m also diggin’ it out here. They don’t have mosquitoes in L.A.! Damn, that’s reason enough to pack-up and move here.

 Anyway, we went to the Tonight Show yesterday (no dinner with KISS tho), and it was pretty cool. Don Rickles is an old man who will say anything – I’m sure half of his racial slurs didn’t make it into the final cut. The big bonus was when we were taken backstage – that was cool! We got to meet the folks who work on post-production and ask them some questions. They were all very nice people – they didn’t seem to mind us in the room with them. While nobody was looking, I snapped a quick picture of Jay’s car:

Earlier in the day, we spent some time at Warner Bros. Animation studio (“The Ranch”) where all the animators work! I was able to see some artwork from the new Scooby Doo movies as well as all the new Thundercats pre-production art! Yeah, they’re re-doing Thundercats… I think it’s public knowledge  and I’m not “leaking” anything… they did ask that we not share pictures from the “bowels” of the campus, so I’ll just share the sign:

We also saw the Lethal Weapon House, Walton’s house, the Bewitched house, and that fountain from Friends (the fountain is real, but the buildings behind it are quite fake). The private tour was pretty amazing and one of the highlights of the trip.

We’re off to the Price is Right!  🙂

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Hollywood Bowl

We went to “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” last night at the Hollywood Bowl – it was pretty magical. When I first heard about it, I wasn’t sure what I thought about classic cartoons shown with a live orchestra playing the music… however, it was moving.

Before we got there, we stopped by the Brady Bunch house:

I always thought it was bigger, and not so close to the houses right next door. The new owners have a fence and ADT, but we weren’t too touristy. I mean, I could have peeked in the windows, but I wasn’t *that* big a Brady Bunch fan… if it was MacGuyver’s house, I would rolled up onto the stoop.

Anyway, the Bowl seats 18,000 – and it was a sell-out! The tradition is to bring your dinner and eat in the bleachers before the show starts. So, we did exactly that! I do have to say, it was extra special being there with the modern-day voice of Porky Pig. When the conductor introduced a Porky Pig short, he mentioned how the Pig was a huge star when Bugs came onto the scene. Of course, we hooted and hollered. The people around us followed our lead, and I found it ironic that they had no clue Porky Pig was sitting right next to them.

Anyway, hearing/watching a live orchestra playing the Looney Tunes theme was a very unique and awesome experience. I don’t know how they kept up with all the anvil drops and sledgehammer hits of the cartoons on the jumbotron, but they did… and it was a very memorable experience. These cartoons are part of the fabric of our culture – seeing them in this way touched a place in my heart I had almost forgotten about.

Warner Bros. theme and Looney Tunes intro

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Yeah… so, two days ago I flew home from Seattle, saw the kids, packed, slept for 3 hours, and got right back on a plane for L.A. So, ~6,000 miles in 2 days is rough!

The good part is I’m now on vacation again!  One of my closest friends from my childhood/high school/college lives near L.A. Another good friend of mine is Porky Pig. No, really – he is! We spent the whole afternoon with him yesterday and I revealed my love of Gummi Bears as my all-time favorite cartoon (of course we all talked about cartoons).  He called his good friend who lives down the street – she was the voice Grammi Gummi.

So, though they try to tell me their life is boring and “normal”,  here’s the schedule for the next few days:

– Tonight: Hollywood Bowl – classic cartoons with live orchestra.

– Sunday: Dinner on the ocean in Malibou — we will get to see the sun set over the Pacific from our table.

– Monday: exclusive access to the Tonight Show, will be there in the audience… and it looks like we’ll be having dinner with KISS.

– Tuesday: Warner Bros. backlot (animation) & Price is Right (again – exclusive “back door” access)

Yeah… ‘normal’.

Anyway, sorry for the quick post — too much fun goin’ on!  I’ll send pics of everything next week!

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To Seattle in First Class!

So, I guess I’ve accumulated enough faction points in “Delta” to get auto-upgraded to first class… it was friggin sweet – free dinner, plenty of leg/arm room, hookers & coke. They really do go the extra mile on Delta flights! 

I’m finally a complete traveler – I can pack for 9 nights in 45 seconds, I stole my wife’s iPod Shuffle (it was an x-mas gift from me) and I listen to tunes while striding thru airports, I have books with me on every flight, I can prep for a security scan in 10 seconds flat, and I’m a “Priority” member of the Delta family. The trip across the country wasn’t too bad – I got some reading, writing, and relaxing in. I thought the in-flight movie was “Ghostrider”, so I cracked open the laptop to write. However, as I kept glancing at the TVs, it appeared the movie was instead about a guy driving around in a car all the freakin’ time. Seriously – 9 out of 10 times I looked at the TV, the guy was driving. The movie was actually “GhostWRITER”, and I’m not sad I missed it… it looked lame.

Washington is quite rugged – I saw Mt. Rainer and Mt. St. Helens from the plane and they are MASSIVE. (the trees are huge too) Then, while driving on the freeway to Bellevue, Mt. Rainer loomed in front of me. I tried to take a picture from my phone, but it didn’t come out too well… so, here’s a google images pic:

Yeah, crazy!

So, I arrived in Bellevue and waxed nostalgic about all the Shadowruns I have completed here. I had to swipe my hotel room key to open an underground gate to park my rental car — yeah, I imagined I was parking in the bowels of Aztec Corp. or some other geeky shit. I wanted to get my Pred II out of my trunk and check the stairwell for hostiles…

So, the shitty part about this trip is the length – I’ll be here over the weekend… for the first time in this new career of mine. This job is a long one too… into October. I’m hoping the family can live with me out here for 3 weeks in August – that would be an adventure!

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Camping 2010

Okay – that’s a pretty bland title, I admit. Well, I’m back! Tried to take a nap, but there’s just so much to do (like blog). On my zero-G chair at the campground, I can fall asleep on a dime. Back home, however, I’m just too jazzed.

So, I made my yearly pilgrimage to the Book Barn, and I actually had some time to get through some books (as the kids get older, my “loaf time” increases). I love my movies, but nothing quite compares to walking into the Book Barn, staring at thousands of titles, and knowing each and every one of them can transport me to a faraway place. Say what you want, nothing compares to the vastness of experiences that lay waiting in the many books available to us today. Books are the ultimate entertainment – period.

For me, I’m not big on thrillers/suspense novels (though the rest of the world is – Grisham, Cussler, and Patterson are all quite wealthy – 1 in 17 novels sold in America have Patterson’s name on the cover). So, when I visit the Book Barn, I head downtown for the Sci-Fi/Fantasy “barn.” I’d definitely on more of a sci-fi kick recently, so I loaded up on some stuff I’ve been meaning to read… of course, I also loaded-up on some fantasy. At $1 per book, how can you go wrong?

Here’s the title’s I got through this week – it would have been more, but I did also enjoy trips to the beach, firepits, and bike rides with my family. Balance – all of life is a delicate balance:

The Lure, by Bill Napier

That blurb on the back of the book is so important – I usually buy on that alone. After strolling through the stacks at the Book Barn, I pulled the Lure, read the back, and popped it into my “yes” stack. Sci-Fi which deals with the hints of alien life set in modern times is one of my Achilles’ heels (that, and buffets). The Lure deals with an alien signal and the race to decode it. Good stuff!

While I thought the initial concept was excellent, and the setup was done quite well – a few things kept this one from “catching” me. First, the writer jumped tenses quite a bit. While this was intentional in the next book I finished, there was nothing intentional here. Sometimes, it makes sense to switch tense. For example – in dialog or when a scene recounts past events. This wasn’t the case. I can usually forgive a little sloppy editing, so let’s continue.

Call me kooky, but  I prefer 1 point-of-view (POV) character per novel. Or, at least, chapter-break me when you switch. In The Lure, we are sometimes inside 1 character for an entire chapter, and sometimes we float between 3 or more minds on the same page. I got a little dizzy at times, and I’m not sure it was the best approach. If Mr. Napier wanted omniscience, then a little consistency would have gone a long way. It was a tad jarring, but I was able to move on.

At the end of the day, my biggest complaint was the characters – nobody was really “evil”, nobody was really “good”… everyone was sorta “grey.” (back-off, I prefer the English spelling!) I mean, the story was enjoyable – not too many complaints there. However, the characters fell a tad flat for me. We jumped into so many minds, from so many different viewports, that by the end I wasn’t sure who I was rooting for. In a way, that could be a brilliant angle to take with a novel or work of fiction. However, here, there was a cohesive story with a clearly defined goal for the “heroes”. I just didn’t care if they won or lost… and I think the ending was a little too convenient.

Now, all that said – Mr. Napier knows his shit. I’m not a huge fan of “Hard” Sci-Fi (I prefer story and character to take center-stage), but this novel was clearly in the “Hard” realm. Some of the concepts were pretty awesome to read about, even if my irradiated brain could only comprehend 10%. I always give props to writers who reasearch the shit out of their topic, and Mr. Napier has the background and mind to convey his higher concepts to a lower lifeform, such as myself.

Star Dragon, by Mike Brotherton

While not as “Hard” as The Lure, Star Dragon had it’s share of monstrously technical passages. I usually glazed over these, but in-between was a fun little story about a small crew and A.I. out on a 500-year mission. (again, the book blurb got me)

Of course, if you believe in E=mc2 (I’m skeptical), then that 500 year mission is only about a half a year for the crew of the ship. (in case you fell asleep in science class: General Relativity

So, the crew is on a Dragon Hunt, funded by a mega-corporation in Earth’s future. An old earth probe recorded a few minutes of a “Star Dragon” floating in the super-heated disk of a white dwarf and the corp wants to study the alien tech or biology. Fun stuff! While the story doesn’t stand on it’s own (seems expensive to me, and a 500 year investment is almost too much for me to swallow), that’s okay! I’m along for the ride!

Mr. Brotherton paints a technological future where biotech has bloomed and is a part of everyday life (“chairbeasts” conform to your buttocks and temperature). All of that is done quite well, though there are a few head-scratchers. For a moment, the trip to capture the dragon was shaping-up to be a man vs. wild morality themed story. Awesome! I wish the writer had spent more time with humanity’s desire to catch and cage wild animals. While that struggle was hinted (and comprised the climax), the crew interactions spent the most time in the spotlight. In the end, the capture was the focal point, and all ethical observations and parallels to treatment of new animal species were promptly forgotten. Until the story turned away from the “animal question”, I was rooting for the dragons to win.

Again, here’s another example of a whole bunch of “grey” characters with goals of fame, personal achievement and curiosity. We jumped into all of their heads (and the ship A.I., which was well-done in present-tense), so their motives and pasts were all there for the taking. When they acted against each other, it was short-lived and they “made-up” quite quickly. If at least one character was farther to either end of the moral spectrum, I think things could have been a bit more interesting on the ship.

Bah, what do I know? I’m always preaching that “plot” is evil, and you should let the story evolve naturally. If one of them was more malignant, perhaps it would have felt contrived. I dunno, maybe it would have been more interesting if one of the characters second-guessed the morality of travelling 240 light years to bag a space dragon – that would make for some interesting conflict…

Triplanetary, by E. E. “Doc” Smith

I’ve been meaning to get to the Lensman series for quite some time. I finally did!

As a sci-fi enthusiast, it was pure joy to read some of the material that set the tone for all of our popular sci-fi today. Written in a time when women were useless and needed to be saved, and big lasers gave us big hard-ons, Triplanetary is a must read for anyone who claims to love sci-fi. You may roll your eyes at the clichés, but remember – this guy invented most of them! (and no, women were never useless, but they sure seemed that way in 1940’s fiction!)

Your socks won’t get knocked-off by anything between the covers, but you will be entertained! I promptly trekked back to the Book Barn to pick up the 2nd Lensman novel – I will get to that on the plane this week.

When pitching the concept in the 1930s and 1940s, “Doc” Smith wrote elaborate outlines and such.  However, he didn’t exactly follow them because he was a true fuckin’  storyteller:

“[my] characters get away from me and do exactly as they damn please.”   – E. E. “Doc” Smith

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