Month: June 2007

A vacatin’ we will go

The Garsides took a small vacation this week, travelling to Niagra Falls to visit Marineland and check out the majesty of one of the 7 hidden wonders of the world. Of course travelling with a little person presents a whole series of challenges that we've never dealt with before, and have made us reconsider a big trip to Florida this year.

We went to Marineland in Niagra Falls on Thursday. It's $40.00 per person, and not really worth it. The signage is spectacularly poor, the “shows” are pathetic at best, and the place is so stuck in 1978 that it's not funny. This is the perfect example of a place that doesn't know what it wants to be, has all kinds of extra space, and doesn't know what to do with it.

Marineland is spread out over what seems like 100 acres, and you go literally 5 minutes at a time without knowing if you're going in the right direction to what you want to see, and then when you get there you're usually underwhelmed with the sparseness of the exhibit. The deer are in this huge enclosure with just a few trees off to the sides. The Killer Whale and Beluga exhibits have no shaded area to relax in, other than going to the underground area.

With that said, the Belugas were cool, and we were really close to them. Kaylin went and petted a couple of deer, and we got really close to Killer Whales, which were really neat.

Of course the “best” part of the afternoon came when we went to get lunch. They had this great looking 1/4 roast chicken breast special for $10.00 (1/4 chicken and fries), I got one of those and a chicken fingers deal for Char, figuring Kaylin would eat some of my chicken breast (and probably a few fries as well). We went outside because the restaraunt was unbearably hot. I put my tray down, and a seagull swooped in and knocked my chicken breast to the ground where 20 seagulls swarmed immediately devouring the breast. It took all of my willpower not to kick the moving mass with all my might…but I managed not to do it (which likely would have got me thrown in jail for cruelty to dumb-assed birds). Instead I had a piece of pizza and the fries. Those bitter, bitter fries which tasted like losing.

Kaylin fell asleep before we could get back to our hotel, and was out like a light before 6pm. We had to order take-out, and ate in our room while our poor exhausted mouse slept.

Friday we went down to Clifton Hill with the intent of going to the Aviary, but again the mouse had other things to say. We took her to the falls, but the majesty was lost on her. She really enjoyed the secret garden, and ran around climbing stairs chattering the whole time. We corralled her and went up Clifton Hill where she saw the Marvel Super-Hero place, and checked out a shark and snake at the Rainforest Cafe. By 11 she was exhausted, and was pretty much out of it by 11:30, she was out of it. We got her into the car by noon and started the drive back home.

She really was great the whole time, she was in a good mood the whole time, and didn't complain about anything other than not wanting to sleep yesterday for nap. She was even good in our hotel room, and wasn't too badly disoriented when she awoke in a strange room in the middle of the night.

She's definately too little to enjoy a place like Marineland, I think she probably gets as much fun out of Storybook Gardens as she did from Marineland, and Florida would be lost on her at this age. Juggling her schedule is pretty tough at this point as the 2 hour mid-morning/afternoon nap really bisects your day.

Chris Benoit gone

I rarely check out wrestling websites anymore, but tonight, as I was about to leave the office around 8pm, I popped onto Tha O Show to see what was up. The headline read “NO!!!”, and it said Chris Benoit had died. I was surprised, but not as much as I should have been. So many wrestlers have died in the last five years that I was kind of numb to it.

WWE canceled their live RAW show, and instead aired a special tribute show to the life of Chris Benoit. The show was what was needed. It was a mix of clips of Benoit in some great matches, and words from the stars of the WWE remembering their friend.

I met Chris Benoit on at least 3 occasions that I can remember. He was a great guy in all three instances, and was generous with his time, as well as just a good guy.

The first time I met him was at Mosquito Moe’s in Toronto where I met Chris, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Perry Saturn. Benoit, Malenko and Saturn were looking for websites, and I had just teamed up with the LAW to build websites for wrestlers. I ended up building a site for Saturn and doing some stuff with Malenko, while Benoit worked with ThinData.

Chris was quiet that night, but he told a couple of good stories, and seemed to be having a great time catching up with his buddy Jericho who had just recently moved to WWE. Jericho related a story that it was Benoit who had threatened to pummel him if he re-signed with WCW, the company that they had all been involved in, and which had continually kept all four of them down. Jericho moved to WWE and had an incredible run there. About a year later Benoit, Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Saturn all jumped ship as well. In WWE Benoit and Guerrero had great runs as main event level competitors all leading up to WrestleMania XX where both Benoit and Guerrero won their matches, defying the expectations of most critics who said that the “vanilla midgets” would never draw a dime.

I’ve “marked out” pretty few times in my life. The night I had dinner with the boys I was pretty cool, I thought they were all great, and I was a huge Benoit mark, but I didn’t want to come off as a fanboy.

The next time I met Benoit though, I was scheduled to do an interview with him at TSN. Before we started I told him that he was a TSN.ca match of the year candidate for a cage match he had on RAW with Kurt Angle earlier in the year. He seemed pretty happy with that and was ridiculously humble about it. I got a little markish about how amazing it was, and he seemed embarrassed by my praise of him. When I met Kurt Angle a year or so after and told him the same story, he told me “That’s Chris for you”.

I would wager that in the coming weeks we’ll find out that Chris Benoit was deeply depressed, and had been so since his best friend Eddie Guerrerro died two years ago. There might have been some trouble at home, he and his wife may have had some problems, and something happened on Saturday. The early reports were that he kept putting his flight off, calling WWE offices several times Saturday and delaying his flight until it was no longer possible to make Sunday night’s PPV show, and he may have been involved in a murder-suicide.

I hope that WWE will make sure that guys like Edge get some therapy, as they are going to need to talk out what’s happened. These guys have been so touched by tragedy this last few years, that they may need professional help to work through their emotions.

Better late than never: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Last night we finally got around to watching a movie that had been in our house forever. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang stars Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan in a bizarre murder mystery that has great twists, awesome turns, more than a little humour, and a gimmicky narrative reminiscent of “Ferris Beuller's Day Off”. This is one of those movies that if any piece of it was off it would be an utter failure. I watched the entire thing waiting for the sucking to begin, and it never did.

Downey Jr. plays the role of Harry Lockhart, a thief with a heart of gold who accidentally becomes an actor. Val Kilmer plays a detective who is hired to teach Downey Jr. how to act like a detective. Michelle Monaghan is a struggling actress, and all of them are thrown together in this wacky story.

The narration is awesome, it's self-aware but never cute. Director Shane Black (who previously wrote the Lethal Weapon movies as well as Last Boy Scout, and the very underrated Last Action Hero) does some very clever tricks with the way the narration is told to make it campy and yet at the same time not trite.

The film is very much a send-up to Film Noir, but it's more of an homage than a comedy, and while the situations are funny on occasion, there's a good mix of drama to the story. The murder mystery is awesome with tons of twists and tricks, and just when you think you've got it all figured out, another nugget of information is dropped in your lap and you realize you don't know Jack.

This is an awesome movie, and gets my highest recommendation.

I can see Paradise by the convention light

The comicon ended on Sunday, and I got home in the wee hours of Monday morning. The drive from Toronto to London gave me some time to mull things over and in the end I’d say that it was a fun weekend, and a mostly successful one at that. I got to meet some artists whom I’d always wanted to meet (Matt Wagner, Michael Avon Oeming), had a cool chat with one of my childhood heroes (Marv Wolfman), got to hang out with friends whom I haven’t seen in months, met a few of our customers, and had a good time every night of the convention.

Rather than a day by day blow-by-blow, here’s what happened in a nutshell.

Thursday night pre-convention met up with Liam and Kate for some eats and drinks. It was nice to see a couple of my former compatriots, as I really miss the folks I used to work with (not that I’d trade my current gig for the old one though).
Friday: 10am – 3pm set-up for the show.
Friday 3pm – 8pm show day one. There was a monsterous rain storm that I think kept people away because it was unusually dead.
Friday 8pm – 1am, party at Club Lucky. Had some food (not great), and some drinks (great)
Saturday 10am – 6pm show day two. Busy, but not as busy as I expected.
Saturday 8pm – 10:30pm Dinner with friends and then
Saturday 11:00pm – 1:00am EVIL DEAD THE FREAKIN’ MUSICAL!!! – Awesome, hilarious, and a blast.
Sunday 9am – 11am Breakfast with Char and then a drive by the ROM where we found out 1/2 of the west end was closed due to a combination of construction, parades, film shoots, street festivals, and a charity walk. Toronto may want to consider hiring someone who can, oh I dunno, READ A FRIGGING CALENDAR!!!
Sunday 11am – 5pm show day three.

After that it was unloading, eating, and accounting. We did roughly the same as last year, which is a little disappointing, as it seems like that’s the threshold for the show. The show has also become a bit of a dump thing where people take their overstock to get rid of. We had a lot of TPB’s and HC’s that we got during a big sale recently that we moved for good prices, and we went through a good number of variant editions, but some of the stuff I thought we would blow through just sat.

The big surprises for me were that we went through about 10 copies of the Marvel Zombies HC, and a similar number of Spider-Man Reign hardcovers.

I was also shocked by how many dealers were selling stuff for below our cost. One guy had Absolute edition hardcovers for $5.00 below cost. It makes no sense because they’re evergreen books that sell steadily because the Amazon’s don’t carry them after the initial shipments.

On Sunday I went and bought a few things like some prints, a couple of pages of original art, and got a few signatures done. My three big purchases for the show were;

An original page from Powers by Michael Avon Oeming
The cover prelims for the new Grendel Devil By The Deed hardcover from Matt Wagner
…and this absolutely silly 13″ Batman action figure with a cloth costume and 23 points of articulation.

In addition to meeting up with Donnie, Larry, Curtis, Don and Liam at the show, a few of our customers came by, which was an awesome experience. The thing about owning an online store is that you don’t have much face time with your customers, so putting faces to names is a real treat.

Thanks goes out to our crew who helped us. Dave, Gus, Erin, Heather, the other Erin, Larry, Curtis, Freak Daddy Donnie, the unofficial 3rd member of All New Comics Alex. Also thanks to everyone who worked with us this year for bringing 100% less of the crazy that we had to deal with last year.

Pete deserves mad props for the whole Women of Comics and the Comics for Kids things (not to mention bringing in Trish Stratus on Saturday) and the way he treats the guests. The man does so much for the show that he deserves a cut of the gate! It’s very cool to see the make-up of the convention floor change from middle aged nerds to families, and that’s largely due to the stuff that Pete worked so hard to make happen. I’m not sure he gets the appreciation he deserves, but I certainly think he is a terrific ambassador.

If only we could figure out a way to make money off of ambassadorship.

A good customer service story

So my Xbox 360 died on the 18th. It took Purolator about 5 days to get me a box (from the Friday night to the following Friday), last Monday I managed to find a Purolator depot (at the nearest Staples), and yesterday Purolator tried to deliver my Xbox. Today I went to the depot and picked it up, got home, ripped it open, and hooked it up to the new TV. Am I happy with the experience? Yup.

Inside the box were some instructions, a little love note from Microsoft, and a 1 month free Xbox Live Gold card…that was a nice touch, and will probably be the tipping point that causes me to get a 1 year subscription to Live.

Also in the box was a refurbished Xbox 360. Now refurbished is a bit of a dirty word, but I think it gets a bad wrap. Refurbished means that the unit has likely gone through way more stringant QA than the original factory unit got. It's probably been put through its paces, and found to be in good working order.

I hooked my Xbox up to our new TV (only through the composite cable for now…component goodness will come later when I get my new HDMI cables and have to venture to the back of the home theatre…a dark and evil place that I try not to go near unless absolutely necessary). Turned her on, and went through the setup screens.

The first thing I noticed was how much quieter this box is than the last one. My last machine was made in July 2006, and this one probably uses the newer BenQ DVD drives which are supposedly a ton quieter. In any case, the unit is much more silent. I loaded up a DVD since my games are at the next door neighbor's place, and went to town.

Good times!

I haven't had time to play anything tonight, but I'm pretty impressed with the whole experience. Good job Microsoft!

From a bad week to a good one

So the goodness that is going to be June just keeps on coming. Yesterday I found a place that sells cables so cheap that it must be a fantasy, this morning I get an instant message from one of my staff Mark, telling me that something he was worried would take the rest of the week took him under 4 hours to do…then I open up my Hotmail account this morning and I get another really good surprise.

Your Xbox Video Game system has been shipped! You can expect to receive it in 2-5 days. Thank you for your patience and get ready to get back into the action! Your shipping information is provided below for your reference:

YAY! My Xbox will probably arrive at about the same time as my HDMI cables, and definately before my trip on Thursday evening to Toronto.

Of course I was kind of silly yesterday and I loaned out all of my games to my next door neighbour. Oops.

Stupid cheap prices on cables!

This is my “great find of the month”, I just purchased 1 HDMI to DVI, 2 HDMI, and 2 Optical cables (all 6' in length) all for about half of the price that you would pay for a SINGLE Monster Cable from a site in the U.S. called Monoprice.

Check out my order:
HDMI Cable male to male 28AWG – 6ft w/Ferrite Cores (Gold Plated)
QTY:2, Price Each: $4.37
PREMIUM 6FT Optical Toslink 8.0mm Cable w/ Metal Fancy Connector QTY: 2, Price Each: $6.02
HDMI DVI Cable 28AWG – 6ft w/Ferrite Cores (Gold Plated) QTY: 1, Price Each: $4.24

Total: $25.02
Shipping: $11.71
Grand total: $36.73

Making it all the more sweet is the fact that the Canadian Dollar is right now at .94, which means with everything in I'm looking at less than $40.00.

By comparison, the cheapest HDMI cable you can find at Best Buy right now is $73.99

As Ryan would say “NICE”.