Wednesday, December 31, 2008
First of all, welcome back! We hope everyone had a festive holiday.
Second, welcome to what may end up being the final Den of Mystery post of 2008. Hooper and I both have some material in the works, but those may not be posted before the day is out.
This post is yet another amusing text message conversation. Except it didn't take place between Hooper and I, though it is all ultimately his fault. Confused? So was I...
It all started yesterday evening when I received a picture message. It was a picture of five books, accompanied by the message:"Went to Half-Price, picked up the following:"
Now, Hooper and I quite often fill each other in on bargains we find at used book stores, so this sort of message wasn't a surprise. What was a surprise was that it didn't come from his number. I responded with a bit of sarcasm (as I am wont to do), and so the conversation began (my half in blue, the other party's in black):
Congratulations? Are you looking for some sort of validation? And is this a new number?
Who is this?
Lol u sent me a message. My name is Jesse.
All I did was respond to the picture message I received from this number. I don’t know you, but you’re sending me pictures of books you bought. (While typing this message, another picture arrived, this time of some graphic novels. "It's Hooper," Mrs. Buck emphatically stated. "Who else is going to send you pictures of comic books?" I protested. "But it's not coming from his number!" I cried in vain.)
Lol I have no idea.
I’m getting pictures of books from this number.
Ok well idk what you’re talking about.
Are you from Orlando?
No. I’m in Ohio. Trust me, we do not know each other.
Oh ok then.
Finally, I sent a message to Hooper in desperation.
You didn’t send me picture messages of books did you? I appear to be in some sort of cellular twilight zone.
Some time later, I would receive this response:
Yes I did.
I immediately called him up and demanded answers. Turns out he sent the photos, and from his phone. But through what I can only describe as the 21st-century equivalent of a telephone operator connecting the wrong wires, they arrived on my phone as having originated from a different number.
And thus, a very confusing and partially frustrating situation came to a close, and some poor soul in Florida named Jesse thinks I'm a crazy person who texts strangers at random. Has anything like this ever happened to you, dear readers? If so, please share in the comments section.
-Buck Read on, faithful few!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Happy Holidays from Hooper and Buck!
NOTE: The views of Optimus Prime do not necessarily reflect those of The Den of Mystery. We merely encourage you to celebrate, be it Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus...whatever holiday you recognize, have a merry one. Read on, faithful few!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
"Twilight" fans are in an uproar after star Robert Pattinson shreds his signature hairdo.
Congratulations, Robert. You just became the new Felicity.
(And yes, I know the average Twilight fan is way too young to get that reference.)
(Let's see if having a post with a "Twilight" tag gets us more site traffic.)
Read on, faithful few!
What follows is the conversation Hooper and I had via text message this past Saturday, and my meager defense for expressing a liking for Tinkerbell. Please click through, because it makes for good readin'.
Buck: I'm pretty sure the voice of Sebastian the Crab in Disney on Ice is Hermes Conrad from Futurama. You know, I should be live-blogging this…
Buck: And the Lion King costumes look like live-action Thundercats…sort of. Are you enjoying these texts?
Hooper: What are you doing to have this useless info?
Buck: We brought Susan’s sisters (5 and 11) to the ice show. A friend of ours does the costumes and got us free tickets.
Buck: Leopards with some manner of cape/wing apparatus? This does not match the established continuity of the Lion King film.
Hooper: Director’s Cut – Simba also makes his own lightsaber before rescuing Nala from life as a dancer for Scar. There’s also a sandstorm.
Buck: Coming soon from the Disney Vault! Actually, the Pumba costume was pretty nifty.
Buck: What does it say about me that the eel costumes from the Little Mermaid portion reminded me of Megatron from Transformers: Beast Wars?
Hooper: …you need to get out more?
Buck: But I am out. I’m at Disney on Ice…watching fairies skate about…*sigh*
Buck: Oddly enough, I think I liked the Tinkerbell segment the most. I’ll explain myself/defend my masculinity in a Den post.
Hooper: That castle surrendered long ago.
Buck: How droll.
But I digress...
The show was Disney on Ice presents: Worlds of Fantasy, and included Pixar's Cars, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Tinkerbell. For the record, the reason the Tinkerbell segment appealed the most was simply because I haven't seen the recent Tinkerbell animated feature and didn't know what was going to happen next. The Cars segment, while interesting to watch six full-size automobiles navigate a small ice rink, was pretty short. And the Lion King and Little Mermaid segments basically told their entire films' stories in 10 minutes (and I'm sure the kids loved it, but if you actually tried to follow those stories considering everything they left out, you'd be hopelessly lost). And I grew up with those films, so the stories and songs are familiar. So speaking as an adult, it made those portions a little slow (although the wildebeest stampede costumes in Lion King were inspired). Tinkerbell simply offered something I hadn't seen before, so it held more appeal. (Well, the cute girls in skimpy fairy costumes certainly didn't hurt.)
I now open the floor to the inevitable snarky comments regarding my trip to the ice show.
-Buck Read on, faithful few!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Some of these have been floating around the intertubes for a while now, so you may have seen them already. But as NBC used to be so fond of telling us, if you haven't seen it, it's new to you!
First up is the very funny "Prop 8 - The Musical" from Funny or Die. John C. Reilly, Neil Patrick Harris, Jack Black as Jesus...what more could you ask for?
Next up is an outstanding John Williams tribute: Lyrics about Star Wars sung to the tunes of some of Williams' most famous movie scores. The lyrics and vocals are by an a cappella group named Moosebutter; the gentleman in the video simply added the visuals. I just read it's been nominated for a Peoples' Choice Award.
Star Trek - Okay, I agree with the disenfranchised nerds that having the Enterprise being built on Earth is kind of a dumb idea. But beyond that, this looks like a crazy ride that should be an interesting experiment if nothing else. Let's face it, this franchise needs a kick in the pants.
Watchmen - A large part of me continues to scream warnings about the hazards of adapting the seminal story. But damned if I don't get excited every time I see Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan brought to life in the previews.
Friday the 13th - I think I'm in the minority for liking the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake with Jessica Biel. But this new visit to Camp Crystal Lake is by the same director and crew, so I'm looking forward to it. Plus it's got Jared Padalecki, one of the stars of my current favorite show, Supernatural. And how can you not love the body count gag callback to the trailers for the original film?
Terminator: Salvation - Christian Bale takes over the role of Bruce Way--I mean, John Connor as we begin a new era of post-apocalyptic robot vs. human violence. Sounds good to me. The new giant Terminators in the trailer certainly don't hurt.
Race to Witch Mountain - Yes, it's a Disney movie. Yes, it's a remake of an old kiddie flick. Yes, it stars The Rock. But I think it looks like a lot of fun.
Duplicity - Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in an Ocean's Eleven-style heist? Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson fighting like schoolchildren on an airport tarmac? It's from Tony Gilroy, who wrote and directed Michael Clayton, one of my favorite films of 2007? Can I pre-order my ticket yet?
Well, dear readers, which video tickled your fancy the most?
Read on, faithful few!
So I feel dirty for purchasing a particular CD. See, I downloaded (for $5) Viva la Vida by Coldplay, and I don't know how I can rationalize it next to other CDs of true artistic merit in my collection. It's not a bad CD, rather catchy at times and better than other singles I've heard from them over the years. But I can't shake that by buying this, supporting this sort of...pop...I'm sullying my artistic integrity as a consumer!
This is tearing me up inside.
I understand, logically, that I shouldn't care about this. Buck thinks I worry too much about other people's opinion, but I could care less about the general public. What concerns me is me.
Friends who have discussed music with me over the years know I have broad tastes, but I tend to shy from mainstream pop & rock and hip hop/rap. All else is fair game. So the purchase of a Coldplay CD, one of the most successful pop-rock acts of the last decade forces me to reconsider, where I might not want to, those bands and CDs and genres I've so long avoided.
This is not the first time I've faced this dilemma.
When I met my wife, some six years ago, she (re)introduced me to country music, a genre I'd avoided like the plague since the early 90s and some...line dancing...that we shan't mention again. Back in Garth Brooks' heyday, I enjoyed some country, but not enough to buy any CDs. As country degenerated sharply during the 90s (not that it was at some creative heights before), I shut it out. Then came Mandy, with her bold appreciation for this type of music I had outright vilified.
Now I have two country radio presets programmed of my own free will. I found artistry within country music; more than any type, country best continues the storytelling tradition of balladeers and folk singers that form such a huge basis of American music over the last few hundred years. Dig past the top 20, and you'll discover a wealth of material that isn't all twangy, overproduced songs about wives in pick-up trucks running away with the dog.
Circling back around to Coldplay, I have derided them since I first heard "Yellow," a song still terrible to contemplate. Their emo stylings, masquerading as rock or mainstream pop didn't sit well, and I wrote them off to weepy girls and the guys who want to get them (sorry, Lindberg). So ignored, they slipped off my radar until this summer when I heard bits and pieces from their new album, which promised less falsetto and angst and arrangements more in line with the "alt. rock" tag they get in the press. It has more weight than previous material of theirs that I've heard (of course, it's also their first full-length album I've deigned listen to, so a full accounting might have to wait until I've gone to the library or dallied in illegal downloading).
In short, I like it. But I don't know if I like that I like it. Get me?
It's hard to set aside a musical elitism, especially one so finely cultured over hours of dead-end arguments with with other sonic snobs. Does this mean I've changed somehow, perhaps matured?
Do I have to vote Democratic next time?
Ah, but who cares? None of you. We're all sonic snobs in our own way (how many of you refuse to consider the idea that country music or rap or prog. rock might have merit?), and to overcome that obstacle and embrace new bands and genres (change you can listen to!) is a grudging thing.
Thank God Queen is still unpopular in the US outside of high fallutin' classic and prog. rock circles or I'd be screwed.
Read on, faithful few!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Comic Book Resources has posted the solicitations for DC Comics products shipping in March. I know Hooper reads most of the solicitation copy for the titles he regularly reads, but for me it's usually just an excuse to skim through the cover images, looking for interesting pieces. Like this one. Not a cover, but a shot of DC's latest Martian Manhunter figure.
Short of Leonard Nimoy, I've never seen a more expressive raised eyebrow. Kudos to the figure's sculptor. I have, of course, taken my own liberties with the image:
Feel free to share your own interpretation in the comments.
-BuckRead on, faithful few!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is having a going out of business sale! Zina Saunders brings us the below image:
Simply amazing. Hooper, the politics of your fair state never fail to entertain.
-Buck Read on, faithful few!
To give you flavor of the minds of Buck & Hooper, the Den presents the following exchange, originally over e-mail, from Nov. 17, 2008.
(And as a bonus, you also get a bit of debate over Blu-Ray DVD and whether it's prudent to buy a player now or just wait. It's more engaging than you think!)
Subject: The horror...
Hooper: I read [Steve Niles'] 30 Days of Night and [Mike Mignola's] Hellboy: The Troll Witch & Others. Both considered "horror" in their own ways, but with very different approaches. Of course I enjoyed the next outing of Mignola's big red and the contributions in this volume by P Craig Russell and Richard Corbett (?) on art. The stories are always fun and immersive; I'm even thinking about the archive editions being put out since I only have three of the trades, all purchased used or very discounted.
I understand your opinion on Niles' breakthrough work. How did this spawn so much? you more/less asked. I see it as one small story in a larger world of supernatural (vampire) terror. It's the prologue of a novel. I'll no doubt check out more as I see them. These vampires are almost more akin to zombies (destroy the head) than regular Draculas.
We've been watching Wonderfalls, the criminally cancelled Fox series from 2004. Four episodes aired, in two time slots, a year after they were supposed to debut. Thankfully, that meant we have a half season (13 eps) of a one hour show that form a mini-series, if nothing else. Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, soon-to-be Heroes, I've heard) is one of the main creative forces; the only two people it stars of note are Lee Pace (Ned from Pushing Daisies) and William Sadler (villain from Die Hard: Die Harder, and a Frank Darabont player). It's a great show, full of whimsy and wit. If you don't remember, it follows the exploits of slacker Jaye who, after nearly choking to death, now is talked to by anything with an animal face. She sees them move, hears them talk and they tell her to do things. Sometimes cryptic, but always helpful in the end (even if it takes a while to see how). It feels like a mash-up between Joan of Arcadia and Dead Like Me but that's not a bad thing. I suggest renting it, if you can. Lots of fun.
Speaking of Dead Like Me, a new direct-to-DVD movie is being released in February, "Life After Death." It doesn't have Mandy Patinkin in it (when has he ever stayed with a show past the second season?!), but his head reaper role is filled by a new character played by Henry Ian Cusack (is that right?), Desmond from Lost.
I look forward to Quantum of Solace regardless of bad reviews.
Buck: I know of Wonderfalls without having seen it. Might rent it, as it also involved producer Tim Minear (Angel, Firefly, Whedon's upcoming Dollhouse). Fuller said something in an interview recently that he may try to revisit some Wonderfalls stuff in Pushing Daisies (which probably won't happen now, as it looks like it's going to be cancelled). And he was actually on Heroes during the first season, so it would be a homecoming for him. (Are you glad they axed Loeb from the show?)
We'd gotten behind on House and Numbers lately, so Friday night saw us watching two weeks' worth of Numbers online and taping the new episode (which we'll watch this week) and last night we watched the episode of House where Cuddy almost got her baby, and have last week's taped and ready to watch. Also working our way through Buffy Season 3.
From the Cuddy/baby episode:
House: I need a genetic disease.
Wilson: I'm sure you're carrying a few.
Also, we might be getting a Blue-Ray [sic] player. Really weren't considering it too strongly right now, but Sears has a nice-looking Sharp player for more than half off the sticker price.
Hooper: Blu Ray, really? I hear there a lot of software upgrades needed and with prices what they are.... You know me. Where you had a book of DVDs started our sophomore year, I had somewhere like ten discs, and three of those were Shaka Zulu. It's not that I don't support new tech, but I want to see prices drop. And is the format really all its cracked up to be? Can you tell me, with an example, how this is a Great Leap Forward and not just LaserDisc or DivX come round again?
Buck: From what I've read, many consider it to be the last physical format we'll have until digital download becomes the norm. What do you mean by upgrades? You don't just plug it in? As for prices, I was looking at some movies from earlier this year and last year, that have been out long enough there's no "first week of release" price drop or anything, and for example, on Amazon, Transformers on Blue-Ray [sic] is actually $5 cheaper than the 2-disc standard format. The player itself is only $180, so considering the format it's a hell of a deal, and I imagine we'd get at least a good 5 years out of it. We've had our current player that long.
Again, it's not like we're running out and buying it. We just noticed
Hooper: When I say "upgrade," I mean when I buy a blu-ray release, what benefits (aside from audio/visual which, not having an HD TV, means nothing to me) does it offer over a regular release? You mentioned price, but from recent Best Buy and Target jaunts, they are still pricier. I mean features. Do I get everything from a 2-disc DVD plus more all on one disc? Is that the benefit?
Buck: Sometimes there are Blue-Ray [sic] exclusive features, but I believe all the usual standard features are also on the BD disc. I think many special editions are still 2 discs though.
Another reason for the considertion that I hadn't mentioned is that our current player is a DVD/VCR combo. We really don't use the VCR side of it anymore, and it's just getting a little old in general. So our basic thinking is why not upgrade to the fancy player while it's cheap? For the record, this doesn't mean I would buy exclusively in the Blue-Ray [sic] format. I really don't need to see Tropic Thunder in HD, for example, but stuff like Transformers, Iron Man and the like would look nice in that format (here I refer to the inevitable purchase of the sequels; not planning to double-dip just to get HD).
Hooper: See, that first paragraph is where I have an issue. I don't really care about the sharpness of picture as some people do; DVD video is, in general, great to me. What I look for with DVD is utilization of the format - i.e., taking that extra space and packing it with supplemental features. I think regular DVDs have been getting better and better at this, but I see the promise of a BR disc is two - or maybe three - discs worth of material on one disc.
Consider this. If I remember correctly, DVDs have around 5 GB of memory, but BR approach 45 GB (was HD 50?). Nine times the capacity. Granted, much is taken up with picture and sound, but that's not so much. If you don't film the extra features in the most luxurious definition, basically just a little better than regular DVD, are you telling me you can't get, say, the 3-disc Hellboy (first one) on one disc?
I do think we'll see a more formidable disc format before direct downloads (which I think are a decade off, unless T3 ethernet or fiber optic cables start replicating underground and jacking everyone into a system ten times faster than what we currently have). It's too capitalistic, not enthusiastic. Looking for the buck, not the bang.
Maybe I'm just too idealistic. You know what they say about Republicans: our dreams, like our vampire forefathers, are immortal.
Buck: The last line of your e-mail is going on my Christmas cards this year.
That aside, there's one thing that hadn't occurred to me until a few minutes ago: Originally, we'd planned on upgrading to an LCD television after we moved because the price is going down and many of our local stations are already broadcasting in HD. (We'll probably still do this.) Blu-Ray was something we'd discussed here and there, but hadn't seriously talked about it until Susan saw this sale price this morning. But if we're not upgrading the TV for another 6 months or so, what's the point of upgrading to Blu-Ray and not being able to enjoy it? If we just need a new DVD player, Wal-Mart's got a couple for $35. Or we could just watch it through the Playstation (which we did a couple of days ago when one didn't want to play in the regular player; sound's not as good going through the Playstation though). So yeah...maybe we won't upgrade right now.
Oh, and I think the 3-disc for Hellboy 2 is a 2-disc on Blu-Ray. Just for sake of argument.
Hooper: That's my point. This is next-gen media. Why get it unless you can go whole hog, and that means TV + player? Mandy and I have an all-in-one (TV-VHS-DVD) that is sucking hard and refusing to play DVDs (unless you open and close the tray a number of times), but we're looking to get a new DVD-VHS player to use until BR players drop in price in general, not just outside sales (and the hardware and software loses some of the bugs).
Buck: Good point. I think we'll stick with what we have for now, possibly getting one of those ultra-cheap players at Wal-Mart I mentioned if ours is in fact dying.
Who knows? By next summer they may have an LCD tv with a built-in Blu-Ray player (They already have them with standard players built-in).
[Note from Buck: I quite often send Hooper amusing webcomics I run across in my daily browsings. These sorts of images are a vital part of our e-mail interactions.]
Moving on to new topics, did you read either my Quantum mini review or the War of the Worlds updates?
Hooper: Yes to the first, no to the second. I intend to see QoS, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Is it better than Die Another Day? Then I shall enjoy it.
Buck: If you liked what I did the first time around with WotW, then you'll love the updates.
I like how your litmus test for Bond films is that it only has to be better than what was possibly the worst entry in the franchise. I thought on the way home from the theater about your disdain for that film, and again say that if you start the film with Bond's release from the Korean prison and stop it just before he meets Jinx, it's actually a pretty decent spy story. Of course, then it's only 20 minutes long and has no resolution, but we can't afford to be picky.
Now you know! And knowing? That's right.
Read on, faithful few!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
On Friday, I made a quick stop at the grocery store, as we were out of some of the essentials: bread, butter, and milk. The total cost for the three items confirmed something about myself that, quite frankly, I'd suspected for some time. (Click to embiggen.)
-Buck Read on, faithful few!