Month: May 2005

Holy CRAP owning a house is expensive!

Charlene and I are off this week and doing some home improvements. Our list includes, painting the garage, installing some garage shelving, adding crown molding to the kitchen, painting the kitchen, and maybe, doing some shelving in the basement. What I didn't expect is that a few simple projects would cost me an arm and a leg!

So far I've spent over $200 on paint, and at least another $200 on wood and various lumber supplies. I've rented a nail gun (best…investment…ever), and I've probably spent another $80 or so on various gadgets and trinkets (rollers, paint brushes, scrapers, putties, caulking and various other goos.

We've got the kitchen mostly painted today, and tomorrow my dad and I will start working on the crown molding and painting the trim. It's cool to see what a difference a little paint makes, the kitchen already looks totally different. The crown molding will hide the speaker wire in the ceiling (Char's dad dropped wire down the wall into the basement and then up the other wall to my stereo. I rean the wire along the ceiling to the new in-wall speakers that are in the kitchen.

It's hard work though, my poor baby soft hands are red and sore. My arthritic fingers in my right hand are throbbing and achy. My neck is stiff, and my abs…who knew I had abs? Plus my feet…my poor feet, why are they so sore?

Hopefully by the end of tomorrow the kitchen will be done and I can finish up the garage Thursday morning and take Friday off. I really need to just chill and do nothing at some point this week, maybe bust out the sketch book and do a little recreational painting. That would be cool.

Star Wars…how about those Star Wars?

Last night Charlene and I went to the 9:45 showing of Revenge of the Sith, the final episode in the new trilogy, and the bridging story between the new trilogy and the original one. If it had to stand on its own, it would be a bad movie, however as a Star Wars movie, it was pretty good (ham fisted dialogue, weak performances, and all).

What I liked:
There's just so much going on, every scene has a ton of little details, and you're caught up in wonder all the time watching the little things. Little droids flying around, cool creatures in the background, architectural details.

The little things. Small, subtle things like little lines thrown out, the fact that Threepio can pilot a ship, Anakin's fighter prowess, the combat droids are still cool, R2's comic timing (that little droid is friggin' hilarious).

It's fast, probably the fastest of all six movies with plot points racing by at hyperspeed.

Yoda; Best…little…dude…ever.

Anakin's performance, he was smoldering, he was angry, you could tell he was conflicted. The love stuff was crappy…but what did you expect? Lucas' love story always sucks.

The colour pallette; Reds and blacks in the end, Greens and browns in the middle. Greys at the beginning.

What a mess Anakin becomes. He falls apart, both mentally and then physically. Loved it.

Rise Lord Vader. Enough said.

General Grevious; Cool looking bad guy.

What I didn't like:
General Grevious; He was AWESOME in the Clone Wars cartoon. In the movie he's kind of a chump, and the wheezing, hacking, and coughing is just weak.

The love story, and particularly the chemistry between Hayden and Natalie Portman. She's actually a fairly talented actress, with two brilliant performances last year (Garden State and Closer), how she could be so wooden in this move is more of a testament to George Lucas' inabilty to direct actors than a testament to her ability as an actress.

The performances: Like I said George Lucas is a great technical director, but an awful director of actors.

The political story; The Geo-Political climate of the Star Wars universe is more convoluted than the Middle East in our real world. BAH!

The way the Jedi went out: Come on…they go out like CHUMPS! Weak.

The Wookies; WOOKIE PLEASE! Holy cameo appearances…why were they even there?

The Dialogue; “Hold me Anakin, hold me like you did by the lake in Naboo.” You can actually see the ham impressions left behind by Lucas' ham fisted attempts to write dialogue.

Overall I liked the movie, I didn't like the dialogue, thought that it tried to be too cute with tying everything in together, and most of the performances of the real live people were just pathetic…ironically it's the CG characters who seem more alive than their flesh and blood counterparts. Yoda has more little character building scenes (like rubbing his head as talking to Obi-Wan and Mace) than any of the real actors have. Most importantly, the sword fighting was awesome.

Yeah, it was a bad movie, but a damn good Star Wars episode.

MPAA doesn’t learn from RIAA’s mistakes

Last week the MPAA decided to begin shutting down Torrent sites which trade in TV shows. Apparently all of this downloading of TV shows is having an adverse effect on somebody…not sure who exactly. Right now the MPAA is suing the torrent sites themselves, but they've made threats about suing individual users (you know…their customers). As someone who has downloaded a lot of TV shows over time, I really don't understand this one.

I downloaded the first 8 episodes of Lost when friends started recommending it to me. Normally I would have just missed those episodes and probably knowing that I was that far behind would never have watched the show. I know that's why I never watched Alias, that's why I almost gave up on Buffy when I discovered it midway through season 4. It's why I was hesitant to try Angel, and why I've never watched Smallville.

This time I downloaded the show and enjoyed it enough to watch it when it came out (although I rarely watched it live, preferring instead to watch it after I'd PVR'ed it).

I've also downloaded several episodes of Penn and Teller's Bullsh!t, because from what I can tell nobody shows this program in Canada. It's impossible to even get the DVD's of the first two seasons here without having them imported.

The MPAA says that this is affecting international markets and DVD sales, throwing out some ridiculous unfounded number which can't be qualified of course…hey, I'm losing 8.9 billion dollars a year of HeadsDown business to Blogger according to that logic…damn, I should sue Blogger.

I just don't get it. I don't understand why you would sue your customers into compliance. I don't understand why you wouldn't figure out a way to use these tools for marketing and promotional purposes. I don't understand why everyone is so afraid of the future, and so sure that lawyers will be able to keep the wolves from the door.

What both the RIAA and the MPAA don't seem to understand is that the digital medium is the way that people will prefer to get their media in the future.

This is a world where I can get it “my way”, everyone's been telling us this for about 10 years that they want you to have everything customized. My car is customized to my needs, my house was custom built, the music that I listen to is custom made.

Our kids will eventually look at us like we're nuts when we tell them that Thursday nights were “must see TV”, and we all huddled around the TV to watch The Cosby Show, Cheers, Friends, and Sienfeld. “What do you mean?” they'll ask, “You couldn't watch them when you wanted? You had to watch them on Thursday night at a certain time? What if you had piano lessons?” They'll look at you with a mixture of horror and revulsion in their eyes. “Well Johnny…” I'll say to a child likely not even named Johnny, “Then you either missed the show, or risked being arrested for borrowing a friend's VCR tape….Oh, a VCR was a video cassette recorder, it recorded TV on a massive tape about the size of 100 of your music players, and it could only hold a maximum of 6 hours of really crappy video. It was dark times son. Dark times indeed.”.

Art and Artistic Styles

If I were to think about my favourite artists, the guys that I just love to look at, it would be a pretty long list with Cassiday, Perez, Quietly, Miller, Joe Queseda, Jim Lee, Travis Charest, Tony Harris and Arthur Adams in the top tier. When I think about the guys who have most inspired my particular style of art though, it's a totally different list. Vince Loke, Kelly Jones, Phil Hester, Michael Avon Oeming, Matt Wagner, and Kevin Maguire would probably round out that list.

I love the hyper-detailed style of Perez and Adams, but there's no way I could emulate it…I'm just not patient enough. I've tried Jim Lee and Frank Miller's styles but they're tough to pull off, and Miller's spotting of blacks has just gone leaps and bounds since his early days.

Vince Loke and Kelly Jones were my original inspirations, and I have reams of drawings that look like something out of a Kelly Jones sketchbook. Loke's work on Deadworld inspired me a great deal as did Jones' work on a couple of Batman hardcover graphic novels and more specifically, Sandman.

It was discovering Matt Wagner however which significantly changed my style. He was the first guy I can remember who used such an economy of line to express his intentions. Reading Grendel: Devil by the Deed, was definately an artistic life changing moment. I've got some sketches from that period where I totally emulated him, and you can see my struggle away from the Kelly Jones cross hatched, blacks heavy style to something that makes use of thick and thin lines. Since then, I've loved Tony Harris' drawing, which made me appreciate Alfonse Mucha (who was definately a genius when it came to design).

Recently though I've been playing with the styles of Phil Hester, Scott Morse, and Michael Avon Oeming to develop my “Chronicology look”. While the style itself is “easier” than a Perez look, it's also got more dynamics for me. Rather than worrying about every little piece of rubble, I can concentrate on the energy of the pose, something I never considered before.

I think it's made me much better, and others will have the chance to decide for themselves later this year when I start releasing my art online. I've rarely shared what I draw with anyone, so this will be a pretty big deal for me, but I'm very excited. Who knows? Maybe Chronicology could be the next Penny-Arcade or P vs P.

Exciting times

May has been relatively quiet compared to April, but there are a lot of exciting things in my pipeline that I'm working on right now. In addition to my web work, video game activities, house projects, and various TV season finale's, and there's a ton of good movies coming out.

I'm working on a couple of special projects right now which are pretty cool. HeadsDown will be going through yet another revolution this summer as I redesign the page one more time making everything a lot tighter and merging the three sites into one common template with similar messaging. HeadsDown, HockeyUpdater, and WritersQuill will all have similar templates with different branding. They'll have tight messaging, and comprehensive “What it's all about” sections. We're working on a nice little brouchure detailing what to do with your brand new website as well.

I'm also making some significant changes to the actual EasyUpdating application as well. Tweaking it a little bit and making it a lot more user friendly. Help documentation, error checking, and widgets that make adding links, bolding text and italicizing things easier.

Of course the TSN.ca 1997 project is going along well, and within the next couple of weeks the first phase will launch.

I'm playing with a few little house projects as well. We're going to paint a whole bunch over the summer, get a garage door opener, and install central air conditioning…

Movies this summer, man there are a lot. Mr. and Mrs. Smith will be awesome. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be cool just because of Johnny Depp. Fantastic Four could surprise and be decent…although I will be pretty shocked if it is good. The Island…Michael Bay, pure popcorn, probably not good, but it will be pretty. War of the Worlds should be entertaining. Domino will be typical Tony Scott popcorn, and Dukes of Hazzard will probably be funny in the same vein as Starsky and Hutch.

Star Wars, Batman Begins, and The Brothers Grimm (by my favourite director Terry Gilliam) all look cool, but I'm looking foward to finding out what this year's “Garden State” will be. By far that was my favourite movie of last year, and it had one of the best soundtracks of all time.

Yep, it should be a good summer.

Good News/Bad News

A few months ago I got a new HP iPAQ 3115. I really like it, although it doesn't really like my Samsung Access Point (but then again, nothing other than the Samsung Wireless Card really likes that particular Access Point). This week in Cannes, Microsoft has announced the latest version of Pocket PC.

Windows Mobile 5.0 will be available soon for the Pocket PC platform. Apparently there are all kinds of gui updates, and some significant back-end updates such as support for USB 2.0 (of course this probably means all new cabling/cradles).

<a href="http://www.pocketpcmag.com/_archives/jul05/winmobile5.asp"PocketPC Magazine has a great article on Windows Mobile 5.0 and what we can expect.

HP has already announced that they will have Windows Mobile updates for several of their units…but so far the 3115 isn't on that list.

Damn.

Shusters a moment in history

I've been sick all weekend, but I managed to make it down to the Shuster Awards on Saturday to see the presentations. The show was pretty good, and ran fairly smoothly for a first time event. What really impressed me however wasn't the hosts (Rick Green and Rob Salem were top notch, and kept the pace fairly light), it was the massive amount of history in the room.

Jerry Robinson, the creator of Robin and The Joker, as well as a champion of creator's rights, was there to present the Hall of Fame award to Joe Shuster's sister. His stories were terrific, and I again realized how much history there is in the Comics Industry. This is a medium that's been around almost 100 years. Superhero comics are coming up to their 70th anniversary.

What made me particularly proud though was the impact Canadians have had on the industry. From Shuster, who co-created Superman, to indy pioneer Dave Sim, Canadians have had a large hand in shaping comics.

You only have to look at the number of Canadian creators who have work on the stands today. Kaare Andrews, Darwyn Cooke, Ty Templeton (all award winners), Steve McNiven, Tom Grummett, Dave Ross, J. Torres, the Dreamwave and Udon crews, not to mention guys like Dale Keown, and Stuart Immomen. It's pretty cool to see what a thriving community we have.

I really like the Paradise show, it's nicer than the August show, more spaceous, and without all the Anime/Sci-Fi nerds running around you see that Comic fans aren't neccessarily the geeks that you see at the August show. By and large we're the highest order of nerd cache.

My cold had my head full of liquid, with my ears pretty much plugged up. I was listening to Bill Willingham for a while, but couldn't hear much of what he said. I asked Phil Jiminez a question, but I have no idea what he replied with because I could barely hear. That sucked.

On the good side, I got some pretty cool stuff. I bought a couple of trades for half price (Green Arrow Sound of Violence HC and Joe Madeuria X Men Legends) and three Hellboy Trades for $10.00 each (wicked good deal).

This was a pretty good show. I wish I had been healthier so I could actually enjoy it, but what I did take part in was pretty fun.