Friday, September 25, 2009

flash forward is going to ruin my life.

I'm proud of the fact that I watch very little TV. When basketball is on, I'm a junkie and I watch damn near as many of the games as I can. So when it's not on, I don't really watch anything. My addiction to LOST is well-chronicled, and it's not like I'm immune to TV on DVD (hello, The Wire, which I'm just starting and I can already tell will completely enthrall me) so I'm not trying to play the, I-Don't-Watch-TV-I'm-So-Cool card or anything like that. It's just that, well, I prefer the Internet, I prefer reading, I prefer TV on DVD, I prefer the outdoors, etc. There's a lot of other things that I'd rather do.

But last night I watched the premiere of Flash Forward, against all my better judgment. I knew it would suck me in. And suck me in it's done. The advertisement that was up for Oceanic Airlines was just the icing on the cake! A great premise, plenty of intriguing questions, some reliable actors...what more could we really ask for when it comes to addictive television?

I'm a fan of shows that seem to have specific plot points in mind, and, obviously, this date they planted (already) in the premier coincides pretty well with the end of the TV season. However, I'm curious what they're going to do after that point. Obviously, this is not a one-season affair. The point that I'm driving at, though, is that a lot of folks are talking about this show as the next LOST. If I've seen a show in recent memory that literally begged for the LOST treatment, it's this one. But perhaps not in the way that some others are suggesting.

This show obviously needs an expiration date. From what I understand, this has kind of been a normal thing over in the UK. Here in the US, though, we apparently need our TV to work like the Big Two run their comic companies: an endless, constant storyline, stretched to the limit, not only in believability but in testing our patience. Superman will never truly win, because it'll always be profitable to publish his books, even if they're terrible. The same goes with sitcoms and the new wave of Lawyer/Doctor/Cop shows. They're all the same and they stretch on interminably. However, the best Superman (or Batman, if we're gonna get specific) stories are those limited series, such as All-Star Superman (lately) or the Dark Knight Returns. They get to do things that the regular books will never get to. LOST works as a show because we, as viewers, are promised that there will (eventually) be a payoff. (BTW, this would have put X Files as one of the best shows, too, if Chris Carter had been allowed to say, "Look, this is the story we're going to tell. And after that, if we want to do some movies, we can and we will, but we're not going to stretch things just to keep making money, because it's going to dilute the product." But that's over and done with and now X Files is just a shoulda-beena contender.)

So now, there's a new show on before LOST is even gone. Please, let's do the right thing with it: support it for now, so that they can get the ratings to justify going to the network and saying, "It has to end." It'll be better for all of us if that's what we get. Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy the ride, cursing and screaming all the way, because now there's more TV that I'm addicted to.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

zombieland is a good movie.

Thanks to my wicked friends, I snagged some sneak peek passes to go see Zombieland last night and let me say this about that: that is one damn good movie. The movie was nothing like what I was expecting, but mainly because I had no idea what to expect. I knew with Woody, there was going to be some comedy, and I knew that with the new kid, Jesse Eisenberg (BTW, oh my God, he was in the Squid and the Whale?!) it would be pretty decent. But I didn't expect it to be nearly as good as it was. After a killer (haha) intro that sets a hell of a tone, but maybe not the same one as the rest of the movie takes, the flick gets pretty quickly to its comedic roots. There's this great recurring gag where the rules that Jesse's character, Columbus, has for himself interact with the screen and the things that are on it in a great way. These rules include simple and obvious things for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse such as "Cardio" and "Always Check the Back Seat" and go on to get more and more in depth, like "Enjoy the Little Things." The way these words play off the visuals of the movie is one of the best touches.

A second great touch is how no one in the movie has a real name. People are referred to by the places they're either going or where they're from. (There's a great sequence between Columbus and his next door neighbor, wherein we learn a different name for the main character.) This has value insofar as it reaffirms one of the central tenets of the movie: despite the humor and the over-the-top violence, these people really are supposed to be alone. They're not going to stumble across some hidden reservoir of humanity in a colony somewhere.

Rather, this is a funny, super gory movie where four people travel along in a jacked up version of the world. They get to know one another, they all grow, and we learn a bit about why they were the way they were when we met them. The last thing that I'll just allude to is that the cameo (if that's even the right word for it) is one of the funnier examples of this new trend that I've seen. Congrats to the movie for snagging this actor and big ups to him for doing such a cool job with what must have been a fun gig.

Zombieland is a great movie, and I'd definitely recommend it. Seeing as how movies are so expensive, though, and how Sony thinks that iPods are used to bootleg copies in theaters, I'd also urge you to explore other options than going to the theater and plunking down cash. If you do choose to do that, however, I don't think you'll regret it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

things i've heard related to work.

I want to stress that these are rumors. I'm not a guy who knows guys. These are things that I've heard that I want to keep track of, that I'm unsure where else to do so, ergo they're here.

I've heard that next year, all middle schools in Albuquerque will have the same schedule.

I've heard that schedule will be a block one, which will mean less time for my subject, but more time for most of the others.

I've heard that this block schedule increases the likelihood that electives will be a thing of the past in Albuquerque public schools.

I've heard that APS is running out of money faster that anticipated, and will use money that was earmarked for next year to cover the shortfalls from this year.

I've heard that if they do this, the budget for next year will be catastrophically off.

I've heard (for more than ten years) that APS is too big of a school district and that we'll be split in (at least) two.

I've heard that the political battles (mainly coming from the Mayor's office) being waged over control over APS are reaching new highs.


I'm working on assimilating all these thoughts into an opinion on something having to do with my work and the political climate in the city. But for now...they're just things that I've heard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

coming october 6: a mayoral election.

Albuquerque has an election coming up. First of all, I'd urge anyone who reads this blog to exercise their right. Secondly, read that Alibi piece in order to find out where and when you can vote early, which is always a good idea.

I'm going to hold off from my endorsement (for all the weight that it carries) for now, until you all have a chance to watch the debate from last night. But do some research, make a choice, and go do the right thing.

That's it for now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

the trials of wanting (and eventually buying) a new phone.

My hate of the iPhone is semi-well documented. At long, long last, my horrid contract with AT&T is almost up. (It's actually not up until February, so this might seem like counting my chickens before they hatch, but every day is another day closer. And I've been waiting for this for just about 2 years [yes, the whole time] at this point.) Based on my terrible experience with AT&T, I'm leaning toward either Verizon or T-Mobile after this dark period of my life ends, and I'd love to hear any feedback anyone has. I've excluded Sprint from this list because I don't know anyone who has Sprint service, so I've heard neither positive nor negative. I previously used T-Mobile to rock out with a Sidekick II, which I was in love with. Verizon, on the other hand, seems to be used by nearly everyone I know and 99% of those people love their service.

The phones I'm leaning toward are as follows:

The G1. Problem: it might not be sold in March of next year, which is the earliest I'll be shopping. Also, my good friend Greg has one and reports that, even now, it's still la bit buggy, as it was the first Android phone to be offered. Advantages: It seems like (and has been billed as) the grown-up Sidekick. It's been reported as having one of the best keyboards.

The Sidekick LX 2009. Problems: everyone talks smack on it, and I'm honestly not sure I'll be as enthralled with it as I was earlier in my life, after being under the spell of the iPhone. Advantages: I've had the Sidekick II in the past, as I said, and I loved it. It was the best phone I've ever had.

The Motorola CLIQ. Problems: as the newest phone on this list, I have little information on the CLIQ. Advantages: I'm ecstatic over this latest development, perhaps to a bad degree. My enthusiasm might blind me to some bad spots.

The HTC Hero. Problems: it's going to be on Sprint when it comes out. Plus, it doesn't have a physical keyboard, which, I think, is an issue for me. Advantages: the geek squads are saying that this is the single best Android phone that's dropped yet.

The Palm Pre. Problems: again, with the Sprint network. I don't know anything about their network and the last time I took a gamble on that (screw you, AT&T!) I didn't get service at either my home or my work. I know that I can check online, but that's hardly ever a reliable indicator in my hometown, seeing as we're not one of the coastal metropolises. Advantages: I'd love to support something that bills itself as the iPhone-killer. Plus, I love the fact that it runs multiple applications in the background, much like my Sidekick II did.

An unlocked iPhone 3GS. Yeah, I know, this makes very little sense. But here's the thing. I don't really hate the iPhone itself. I think it's an overhyped device, and I hate the cult of personality revolving around it (and all things Apple) at this time, but it works well enough. Problems with this idea, though, include the fact that if I wanted to unlock the iPhone 3GS, I'd have to buy it outright, which would up the price considerably, plus it still lacks a physical keyboard. Advantages: I've been using the iPhone for almost 2 years. I know how it works.

Some of the issues not mentioned above: I'm pretty sure that I need a physical keyboard. The virtual keyboard on the iPhone, while functioning pretty well for what it was, really dissuaded me from writing serious emails on the device. I'd like to be able to bang out responses to any email I get on my phone, not just ones that I convince myself will be short enough that the keyboard won't bother me.

I'd love to support an Android device, because I'm a fan of Google and (even more so) open source platforms. I think this is the way to go for someone like me, but it's not a must. If a phone turns out to be the best option, except it's not an Android device, this won't stop me from taking the plunge.

It's got to have an option for push email. I had no idea what a big thing this was while I had my Sidekick, but when I got the iPhone and it didn't support Exchange, I was shocked. Now, as I understand it, I don't need Exchange support. If the phone I end up with has it, that's great, but I don't care about the proprietary technology, I just care about the fact that when someone emails me, I get it on my phone in a timely manner.

One of the biggest things that I'd like to explore further is the interaction between phone calendar and online calendar. This is a large reason why I'm leaning Android, because I use my GCal pretty frequently and I'd love if there was some kind of consistency between that and my phone. I'd like to think, though, that that could be arranged even on a non-Android device.

Other than that, honestly, I don't give a shit about applications. I use plenty on my phone, but none so often or so thoroughly that I'd miss them. It's nice to have music on my phone, but it's not a must. The camera should be better than decent because, despite my love for my semi-recently purchased digi cam, I do find myself snapping flicks on the phone with regularity.

So, those are my general issues, and the phones that I'm thinking about. I know it's kind of a mishmash list, and there are some unbelievables up there, but I'm just trying, at this point, to keep an open mind. Please, let me know any opinions you have.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

sexism in comics? i can hardly believe it!

It's known as Women in Refrigerators Syndrome: there is a subtle (well, some people think it's pretty damn blatant) undercurrent in mainstream comics wherein they're seen as geek out lit for boys, by boys and about boys. Girls (women, really, but there's a lot of derivatives flying around when it comes to this subject) have no place in the genre and should know their place.

I don't agree with the whole thing. I think there's a vibrant subculture of women in comics, not only creators (such as Gail Simone) and characters (such as my one-time favorite series ever, Strangers in Paradise) but with many of the men who are in charge of things who have plenty, and have shown plenty of, respect for women and their work, ideas, etc. But in saying this, don't get it twisted: I believe that women are shat upon in general by the genre, and I certainly don't think they should be. (I hope that goes without saying, but when we're dealing with comics, sometimes it's better to be safe than sorry.) Women kick ass. Their ideas should be welcomed, embraced, not just accepted, but adopted readily. Female characters offer plenty of fertile ground for multiple storylines, as leads, sidekicks, secondary characters, everything. There's no reason for things to be the way they are.

But it's hard to disagree that there is a lot of truth to the accusation.

Which is why, today, when I read this week's DC Nation, by Dan Didio, I was shocked at the pretty upfront sexist tone to it. As I texted with one of my friends just a bit ago, it's a marketing ploy at best. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt for just a moment. Maybe he just wants to get 6,000 postcards. Maybe he wants to be able to brag about how many people love Wonder Woman. (I certainly don't. I think the book's weak, and I honestly just don't care for her as a character.) But if that's the best case scenario, we have to acknowledge that the worst case one is truly bad: the Editor in Chief of one of the Big Two comic companies have dismissed, in a sexist manner, a serious claim that fans of a character (that he's tried to push on us for years now!) have been making.

That's a dangerous thing to do, as evidenced by some of the comments here in this DC Message Board thread.

I certainly don't want to jump overboard and label someone a sexist, but I do think this is something worth thinking about and, as careful as Didio has been in the past, I would have thought he would choose his words a bit more carefully. For what it's worth, I think anyone who took the time to read this whole entry should send a damn postcard. The info is available at the DC Nation link or here, as well. I'm gonna send one and, like I said, I don't even like Wonder Woman. It's all about principles, people.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

disney buys marvel?

As can be see here at Penny Arcade and here at Worth 1000, the semi-takes on Disney buying Marvel have already been registered. However, what I can't figure out, and they don't seem any closer to over at the comic boards that I read is what exactly this means.

First, let's go over the facts: four billion dollars is a lot of money. We're not in the best financial times, so if Disney's willing to throw down this coin, they must think they're going to get their money's worth. DC Comics has been owned by Warner Brothers for a long time (since 1969, according to Wikipedia) and I've rarely heard anyone say terrible things about that. And, last but not least, this isn't going to change Marvel Comics in a tremendous way anytime in the near future, since most people's interaction with the company comes in the way of movies, and most of the deals that people are really amped on are already in the pipe.

So, if we don't have facts, what do we have? Hearsay and rumors. Let's dig in!

Now, keep in mind, I have no basis for any of these statements other than a lifetime of comic book fandom and a weird relationship with the Walt Disney Company. That being said, DC's deal with WB never seemed like a bad thing. I've always heard from comic books guys that a lot of the time, DC comics are given more rope, they don't have to prove themselves as quick, because WB doesn't care if they lose a little money on the product in the short term. Do I have any evidence to back this up? No, but look at how truly shitty the Batman movies had to get before they stopped, and moved to a reboot. I mean, damn.

Also, I think it's rad that DC has had this outlet for movies for a long time. That WB sign meant something when the first Superman and Batman movies dropped and it meant that, even if they weren't going to be great, they weren't going to suck. (So what happened?) Course, this doesn't really apply now, since Marvel had worked out distribution deals and finally just circumvented the middle man, and we have rad graphics in the 21st century that they couldn't even dream of back in the day. So this one's a wash.

Last but not least, though, the worries: is this going to mean, like was rumored with (and, in reality, I'm kind of sad that I know this) the ICP release The Great Milenko, that we're going to have to worry about Disney caving to pressure in regards to censorship when it comes to particular books? I hate having to make the comparison between comic books, which I love and think have great artistic value, and Insane Clown Posse, whom I think of as worthless. However, this was a big thing when I was in high school, and I still remember thinking how weird it was that the Walt Disney Company could have anything to do with this weird-ass band and their CD's release. It's not like I care about ICP, but it doesn't necessarily end there. we have things to worry about?

I have no idea. I think as long as the company's making a profit - and here's the first time (and maybe only) you'll hear me praise Joe Quesada: he brought this company back from the brink! - I think they'll leave well enough alone. Here's to hoping that'll be the case and that this will mean nothing, if not good things. But with Disney, I think, the past has taught us that we should be vigilant, if nothing else.

Friday, September 4, 2009

it's a recession.

This comes from Rachel who was so kind to snap a pic of this bag and send it to me. If they were really concerned with paying less, maybe they should have learned the correct usage of quotation marks and saved themselves a little bit of money by not including two unnecessary punctuation marks.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

blueprint 3, on the way.

I wrote with Sharpie on a blank CD almost a year ago: Jay-Z The Blueprint 3. It was supposed to drop. I had a list of things I was excited for. It was near the top. Almost a year later, it's leaked, almost two weeks ahead of time. Part of me has always wondered how involved artists actually are in the leaks of their albums. I mean, they have to know it's going to happen. It's going to happen. Period. So wouldn't the smart ones just do it themselves in a tricky way, something that would benefit them somehow?

So now, with the leak of Blueprint 3, my thinking got taken even further. I mean, Jay-Z held a press conference yesterday for his 9/11 concert! What better press could there be for the concert than an advance on some of the music that'll be played there? Part of me hopes that he's smart enough to control this on his own. Part of me knows that he might be, but he'd never take that risk. Regardless, the product is now out. Before we take a look, a brief aside: I hate how long it takes for me to absorb an album, because even while I was just listening, Joey from Straight Bangin' tweeted what was my first thought upon finishing the album: meh. It's got some great stuff. But that greatness is seriously limited to less than half.

With that general introduction out of the way, we'll get into a brief breakdown of the individual tracks.

The album starts pretty strong. I'm a fan of the first track, wherein Jay goes briefly and tangentially at some of the folks in hip-hop that've been going at him lately. (This made me think: Jay's been pretty good at avoiding beef. I know that sounds paradoxical with the big time Nas feud not in the distant past, but think about how many people take shots at him and how rarely he responds. I'm crazily reminded of the first track off the first Blueprint: "All you other cats taking shots at Jigga, you only get half a bar/fuck y'all n***as." [Hm. That was weird to censor myself on a direct quote. But it felt right.]) I like the verse that he'd been starting shows with, where he gets to talk about how he's not talking about Dame, Jimmy, et. al.

Track 2 is called "Thank You" and I didn't care for it on first listen, but by the second, I could see that it was just Jay doing his Sinatra thing. He's really pushed this comparison harder in the past, but there's some obvious allusions on this one. I love how the Clipse line "Keys open doors" has become a frequently-referenced refrain in hip-hop. "Do me a favor, don't do me no favors" might become my new motto.

"DOA" we all already heard, but it sounds even better here in the context of the album, and the same is true for track four, "Run This Town," which we've also already heard. Interesting to hear two of the leaked singles back to back, but they work well.

"Empire State of Mind" is a stand out track. Alicia Keys does her thing, not just with the chorus but with her (tiny) guest bit as well. One of the best on the first listen-through, this has a chance to become one of my faves.

"Real As it Gets" presents me with a dilemma - I don't like Jeezy very much, but this song is good and his work here is pretty damn great. I'm pretty sure that I love it when Jeezy gets the intro verse to a song, because, despite my overall dislike of him, his voice has a place for me right now. It fits perfectly here (esp. with a reference to Uday Hussein!) and this is a great song.

"On to the Next One" kind of starts the problems. It sounds like Swizz heard "Paper Planes" and thought, "I can do that!" Jay's verses are all right, mainly talking about how much better he is than everyone else, although, sure, he's got a few clever lines, including re-upping his semi-feud with Cristal.

"Off That" has Drake on it and, therefore, was leaked (intentionally? to build hype?) but got a piss poor reaction when that happened and the official release isn't going to change that. With Drake, Jigga, and a song centering all around the idea that whatever you're repping, they've already done, it would have been great to catch a beat that didn't sound like yesterday's recycled trash. When this album was supposed to come out a year ago, there were some reports that Kanye was going to produce the whole thing. This might be the single biggest disappointment in that department. If Kanye had been the guy pushing a different sound onto this song, it would have killed. As is, it's the beginning of the end for the Blueprint 3.

"A Star is Born" is really weird. First time, I hated it. Just another Jay track where he's semi-shouting out the rappers that everyone can agree on. But...the second time it wasn't so bad. And, honestly, I'm sure that I'll like this track after a few more listens.

"Venus Vs. Mars" however, as has already been covered other places is wack. I've never been into the idea of slow, sexy jams from Mr. Carter. I think he must have gotten some of these ideas from R. Kelly when they were working together, but he should have known better to just let him keep all of those. (Seriously, all of his slow jams are terrible. Is there a single one worth the time it takes to listen to it? And, no, "Song Cry" doesn't count. Of course it doesn't.)

"Already Home" has a great beat and some of those signature Cudi echoes, but Cudi's relegated to a bit spot if that even covers what's happening here. Jay's lines seem lazy at best, and the whole thing doesn't take on the weight that it should, considering Jay's status and Cudi's hype. This track is semi-wack, but it doesn't kill my enthusiasm for Man on the Moon. Here's to hoping.

"Hate" is the first half of the only truly good pair of songs from the second half of the album. Kanye and Jay team up and the results are as one would expect: stellar. "Reminder" is, again, Jay at the point that I like him - going after people in that way that he does: putting out vague, generalized statements about how hard he'll kill you. Because he already has.

The last 2 tracks are terrible. I'm not even sure how much more I want to say about that, except to make these couple remarks: what the hell happened to Pharrell?! I used to rep him hard, but this shit just doesn't fly. And lastly, ending your album with a sample of "Forever Young" by Alphaville better be the best damn song you've ever done, otherwise it comes off corny as hell and you'll be ridiculed for the rest of your career for that shit. And believe me, it's shit.

Overall, Blueprint 3 almost couldn't help but disappoint. Still, though...we've come to expect a certain MC to defy the expectations. And this time, he doesn't. Jay-Z has always been kind of a meta-type of guy (he used to literally talk back to his samples in the 90s) and I'm almost positive that there's a reference to him having "the blueprint for every rapper to follow" on every single one of these tracks. But with so many of them coming out of the final product as weak versions of stuff we've already heard, it really makes me wonder: where's "Jockin' Jay-Z"? Where's "Brooklyn (We Go Hard)"? Where's "History"? There was some seriously good material dropped over the last year that was rumored to be on Blueprint 3. And this is the final version that we get? It got enough that Joey tweeted, wondering if this commercial was the best thing about the album finally dropping. We never would have expected a question like that to arise about Jay-Z. At this point, it's a question worth asking.