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L33t/l33+: elite
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  xSaturday, May 24, 2003

asian link of the day

Check out actress/hottie Zhang Ziyi in this Chinese anti-SARS PSA. Translation:
With a usual attitude, together, we will go through this unusually time. How to prevent SARS, it seems, we should wash our hands (more) frequently, keep the indoor air circulated, and don't forget wearing your surgical mask properly when going out. In this this usually time, besides paying more attention on personal hygiene, (one should) also be responsible for the health of other people. I believe protecting yourself means protecting others. Keep Going, Chinese! Sponsored by Mengniu Diary and the Commercial Department of CCTV.

zhang ziyi
Speaking of Ms. Zhang, here's her IMDb photo gallery.

(via Destroy All Monsters via BoingBoing)

  xFriday, May 23, 2003

the queen of my life


Five years ago just about this very minute, my lovely wife Crystal and I were married.

gregory & crystal

Crystal is an amazing woman (she must be, to have put up with me all these years, har har). I realize that I've fallen into the same trap that often happens in a long-term relationship: I'm so accustomed to the joy she brings me that I fail to marvel every day at just how lucky I am. Crystal is at once everything I've ever wanted in a woman -- beautiful, intelligent, tolerant, enthusiastic, and sexy -- and a unique person who still surprises me with her depths and compassion.

Faithful readers know that I enjoy many geekish unusual tastes. Crystal has embraced my love of anime, movies, gaming, and so many other things more than I'd ever expected, and I know well how lucky I am for it. We share many passions, such as science fiction and fantasy, dancing, cooking, and music. And she has also sparked my enjoyment of gardening and camping -- not to mention the fun we have playing house.

Crystal and I were friends for some time before we started dating, but once we started, we both really knew we wanted to be together forever. I've never experienced anything like it before, and in my younger and more cynical days, I'd have denied I could ever feel such a thing. Although she came along late in my life -- we were both a member of the statistically improbable set who marry for the first time in our 30s -- I'm so glad I met her when I was both sick of the single life and ready to do what all those soul songs had always told me I needed to do.

Our wedding day was a beautiful, unforgettable experience. Five years later, I'm also fortunate to still be close to so many of our friends who joined us on that special day, despite having moved 120 miles away shortly after. And of course my wife and I have given each other the precious gift of two wonderful, adorable daughters. They're both as beautiful, as intelligent, and as assertive as their mother, and I cherish them for it.

Thank you, Crystal, for making me one of the happiest, luckiest men on Earth for these past five years, and for continuing to do so every day.

In honor of my beautiful bride, here's a song* that sums up the way I feel about her: "Some Kind of Wonderful," by Grand Funk Railroad.

Can I get a witness?

*subject to removal without notice


astronomy pic of the day

the earth from mars

The first picture ever of the Earth as seen from the surface of Mars. c00L!!!

Courtesy National Geographic, who quite appropriately quote the opening of H. G. Welles' The War of the Worlds:
No one would have believed, in the last years of the 19th century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.—War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells (1898).

(via The Modulator)


day of the dead dvd details determined

w00t! DVD File has the details of the just-announced Anchor Bay edition of the third installment in George Romero's zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead.
Anchor Bay has informed Fango of the final specs on its amazing two-DVD release of DAY OF THE DEAD, coming August 19. This is the first Anchor Bay title to use the new DiviMax high-definition transfer process, and will present the film in 1.85:1, 16x9-enhanced widescreen. In addition to 6.1 DTS-ES and Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks, the movie will come with audio commentary by George A. Romero, Tom Savini, production designer Cletus Anderson and star Lori Cardille, and a second commentary track by filmmaker Roger (KILLING ZOE) Avary.

The second disc will be packed with a wide array of bonus materials, as follows:

• The Many Days of DAY OF THE DEAD—An all-new 39-minute documentary featuring interviews with Romero, producer David Ball, Savini and makeup FX artist Greg Nicotero, Anderson, assistant director Chris Romero and actors Cardille, Joseph Pilato and Howard Sherman
• DAY OF THE DEAD: Behind The Scenes—31 minutes of production footage from Savini
• An audio interview with late actor Richard (Dr. Logan) Liberty
• A promotional video for the Wampum Mine location
• Theatrical trailers and TV spots
• Production stills and behind-the-scenes photos
• Zombie makeup photo and continuity stills galleries
• Posters and ad art
• Memorabilia gallery
• DVD-ROM features: Romero’s original draft of the screenplay and production memos

The package also comes with a 16-page booklet designed to look like Dr. Logan’s notebook, containing liner notes and original production sketches from the film. And it’s all for just $29.98! Romero fans, start salivating now…

I am! While Day is undoubtedly the least of the three films (hey, it's stacked up against Night and Dawn, after all...), it's still a nightmarish vision of a world where the zombie plague has all but eradicated humanity, and people still can't cooperate enough to save their own sorry lives. The gore effects by master Tom Savini are amazing (among my favorites: When a vivisected zombie sits up on the operating table and his guts slide onto the floor...). Of course, Romero's refusal to trim down the gore to avoid ratings limbo resulted in much funding being yanked, so he couldn't fully realize the vision he created in the screenplay. That screenplay has been kicking around the Internet for some time, and it's good to see that the DVD will provide it as well, so fans will know what might have been.

(via Musashi)


spinning platelets

My apologies for the lack of posts so far this morning (although this week, it should hardly be surprising). I've just returned from donating platelets at the Indiana Blood Center. This time I was able to do a "double;" for a little extra time on the machine, they were able to collect twice as many platelets. I passed the time with the classic 1957 Stanley Kubrick film Paths of Glory. Actually, one of the nice things about donating is it's about the only time I ever watch any of my video tape collection, any more.

The film ended before I was done; in flipping channels, I arrived at TCM's broadcast of the 1940 comedy Tear Gas Squad. It amused me for the 15 or so minutes I had left. A nightclub crooner (who dresses as a policeman for his act) offends a young woman by being "fresh;" as revenge, she invites him to her home for dinner without telling him that all the men in her family are Irish cops. The crooner (Dennis Morgan) gets a ticket on the way over and arrives complaining about "flatfeet," to the ire of her father and burly cousins.

Of course, Morgan proceeds to sit down at the piano launch into a rendition of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." You don't need me to tell you that they all join in, misty-eyed, and are clapping him on the back by the end of the number. The plot if further complicated when the ticket-writing cop shows up and proves to be one of the young woman's suitors, and complicated further still when Morgan decides to become a cop and draws the suitor as his police academy drill instructor. At that point, I had to go. I think I would have loved being a screenwriter in the 40s.

As always, I urge everyone to donate blood if at all possible. Contact your local Red Cross or other blood collection center in your area. It can truly be a gift of life.

  xThursday, May 22, 2003

tia update

The Pentagon's massive program to institute unprecedented governmnet surveillance of US citizens, the Total Information Awareness program, is no longer operative. Good news? Not quite: Same program, new name: it's now the Terrorism Information Awareness program.

From the WaPo:
DARPA conceded in a statement that the "program's previous name, 'Total Information Awareness' ... created in some minds the impression that TIA was a system to be used for developing dossiers on U.S. citizens. the solution is simple, and so typical of this administration: Don't change the program or its aims at all, just give it a nice, voter-friendly name. Bah.

(via CalPundit, and probably noted with derision by eveyrone else by now...)


miscasting of the week

Keanu Reeves as John Constantine?!?! I know Sting's too old to play the part now, but this is outrageous!


i'm in there somewhere

Last week's unemployment figures are out...I'm among the 428,000 who filed new unemployment claims in that time.

  xWednesday, May 21, 2003

new at dam

In addition to posting today, I've (gasp!) also managed to post some news items over at Destroy All Monsters.

Musashi has also posted my review of the just-released old-skool Jackie Chan flick, Project A 2.


zombie game of the day

house of the dead

Yesterday I dug out an old copy of the zombie shooting game House of the Dead. What fun! I'm not terribly fond of "rail games" -- in which the player is just taken along a preset path -- but HotD is pretty cool. Not only does one get to shoot tons of zombies, but there are actually numerous minor branches the path can take (for example, if you rescue a certain person from a marauding ghoul, you go one way; if you fail, you go another).

The game makes a cameo in the insane Hong Kong horror/comedy flick Bio-Zombie; it explins how the layabouts-turned-heroes know that the zombies can be killed by a shot in the head.

Speaking of movies, apparently someone's making a movie based on the game -- or at least sharing the title.

The opportunity to take a ten-minute zombie-shootin' break from all the job searching is a definite stress reliever.


so long

I haven't yet commented on the recent announcement of the impending departure of White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and today I learn that EPA head Christie Todd Whitman is resigning too.


bad idea of the day

I'd been meaning to comment on Disney's proposed time-delimited DVDs, and fortunately, along comes Wired News with an article to link.
On Friday, Flexplay and Buena Vista Home Entertainment, a division of Disney, announced they will sell DVDs of popular movies that, once opened, can be viewed for 48 hours, then tossed in the trash.

Dubbed the EZ-D, the product will be in test markets in August. It's designed to appeal to those who want to simplify their renting experience, eliminating worries about late fees or scratches.

"We've developed a new type of DVD that (can be) sold at any point of sale that your imagination can think of," said Art LeBlanc, president of Flexplay, which manufactures the discs. "It brings an unprecedented level of convenience. This is intended to address people who find renting inconvenient."

Yet for the environmentally conscious, that argument is as appealing as the pile of garbage these DVDs will create.

"This is taking the idea of planned obsolescence to a whole, absurd new level," said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, a nonprofit environmental group. "This is one of those disposable products that we don't really need. This is actually building a limit into the device.

"It's just perfectly lame," he said.

"It's unintelligent and illogical to take a durable, reusable product like a DVD and turn it into a product that becomes waste in 48 hours," said David Wood, organizational director of the Computer TakeBack Campaign.

After the EZ-D is opened, consumers can view the film as often as they like for a two-day period. After 48 hours, a bonding resin on the DVD reacts to the atmosphere around it, making the disc unreadable. The movies are wrapped in packaging similar to that used in the food-service industry so this chemical reaction does not begin until after the package is opened.

What a terrible idea. Plastic is one of the world's great non-biodegradable substance, and waste from obsolete or otherwise unwanted electronic products is already a big problem at the nation's landfills. I agree that if the target audience is identified as being unwilling to return rental discs, it's disingenuous to suppose that they'll take the step of mailing disposable DVDs in for recycling -- although if Disney were committed to the idea, they should supply a postage-paid envelope for the purpose.

I shudder to think of all these plastic discs headed off for the trash; I don't even like it when my CD-ROM burner fails on the job, 'cause I hate throwing the darn things away. (On the other hand, I think it's cool that there's a company devoted to recycling computer media.)

Fortunately, according to Wired, consumer reaction doesn't seem favorable, at least in light of the alternatives:
Consumers have a number of other environmentally friendly alternatives, such as video-on-demand services, Murray said.

For instance, travelers can check out DVDs and DVD players at airports, then drop them off when they arrive at the next airport. NetFlix also gives consumers a convenient way to rent films and avoids the disposability issue.

"Those are companies that are creating a convenience, but also a wasteless structure for rental and return," Wood said.

Of course, even if the notion flops, there's still be all those hunks of plastic headed for the landfill.

  xTuesday, May 20, 2003

unemployment diary day 7

At least when I was let go, my supervisor did it in person...I wasn't shed via a text message on my cell phone like this guy.

(via FARK)


videogame link of the day

Entertainment Weekly (registration required) lists its picks for the 100 greatest video games of all time. Surprisingly, I don't have a tremendous beef with any of the top 10 entries, although the fact that the magazine's editors cease commentary after entry #50 (Pitfall) strikes me as fairly cheesy...entries #51-100 become less an homage than a name-dropping marathon. I also learned that the creators of Metal Gear Solid used LEGO models to help them construct the game's various levels.


megatokyo update

In Monday's rant, MegaTokyo creator Piro had some further thoughts on the whole Ping/Chii controversy.
[T]he reason for the irritation wasn't the fact that i was getting emails, its that these similarities were getting in the way of what i am trying to do in the comic. If people look at Ping and see Chii, it changes what i'm trying to do, and it's irritating because it is something I have little control over. At first, i thought it was just superficial similarities between the shows that was the problem. What's curious to me is that people get worked up about the similarities between Ping's ear pods and Chii's, but the truth is they are far closer to Nuku Nuku's ear pods and Multi's ear pods than Chiis. I think i'll actually draw a detail drawing some time of the pods and what they do and the reasons for them sometime, just because i really did think it out.

I wrote my comments in my last rant just to let people know what was on my mind when i was writing all this, and commented that I developed Ping long before Chobits came out. The problem here is that I made two errors, and understanding these errors helped me understands WHY i was getting the feedback i was getting.

First off, Chobits did come out around the same time Ping first appeared in the comic. Even though the truth of the matter is that I personally didn't know this, there will always be people who say I got the idea from Chobits. I should have checked before saying that. I apologize for that, my bad.

Secondly, I now understand why i was getting the feedback i was getting in the volume I was getting it. There is a scene in Chobits where Chii wants to download information on how to bathe. I haven't watched enough Chobits to see this episode, so i was completely unaware of the similarities between the two scenes. In my defense i'd like to think that the outcome of my scenario (which no one out there actually knows yet unless i actually continue it) is far different than the Chobits one, but it does raise the issues that I would never have done such a direct spoof without it being more obviously a spoof. In short, i'm embarrassed to have made such a goof. I didn't think the idea was 100% original of course, but in light of knowing what happened in chobits, it really does seem 'lifted' from the show. I would never do that, but it doesn't change the fact that it certainly appears that i did - regardless of the facts.

Piro's comments illustrate the difficulty of basing a storyline around such a rich genre -- it's hard to break truly original ground; someone may have been there before even if you're unaware of his or her work.

Monday's strip is about the terrible experience MT editor Dom had while traveling to the Anime Central convention; his rant describes the experience in further excrutiating detail, capped by the ultimate airline kiss-off for the passengers' marathon delay:
To top the day off, they didn't give me a meal voucher, a discount on a future flight, or anything except an apology and profuse thanks for my patience. In other words, United Airlines gets a nasty e-mail/call to customer service and none of my future business.

I realize United is in financial trouble, but execrable customer service is one of the hallmarks of the airline industry and undoubtedly a chief culprit for the notion that many people don't mind so much if an airline goes under -- they can get the same cruddy service anywhere. Seriously, how hard would it have been for the gate agent to whip out a little booklet of restaurant gift certificates kept on hand for such an emergency? So often, the tiniest gesture of acknowledgement that yes, the customer has been inconvenienced and yes, they're sorry about it can make a world of difference.


economy watch, personal log

As you might expect, I've been madly applying for work over the past several days. Yesterday I submitted my résumé and cover letter by fax to a particularly promising lead around noon. When I called the HR department an hour later to confirm it had arrived, the HR representative mentioned that she had received 60 applications so far that day, and more were flooding in. Fortunately, I know that she had at least glanced at my résumé.

Sixty applications in five hours! Yow! Something tells me the job picture is still pretty bleak if there's that much piling on a single opening. I'm confident of my qualifications for the position; with a bit of luck and a due application of skill, the job could conceivably be mine by the end of the month. Of course I'll keep ya'll posted.

  xMonday, May 19, 2003

milestone of the (yester)day

Some time on Sunday, the hit counter reached 28,000, which is especially nice as posting has admittedly been light the past week. Thanks for visiting, and rest assured that I plan to return to blogging in full force as soon as I'm able!


comix link of the day

Destroy All Monsters editor-in-chief Musashi gives the rundown on the Top 10 Asian comic book heroes and villains. I'm impressed that he was able to come up with ten...I came up dry after Shang-Chi and Silver Samurai, although I'm embarrassed that I forgot Lady Shado (I really dug the Longbow Hunters story), Sunfire and the third incarnation of Grendel (although I never really read that story line, I was aware of it).

Also, DAM has just posted my DVD review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.


many thanks

M4d props to blogger J. Bowen of No Watermelons Allowed, who took note of my unemployment woes and kindly emailed me a job tip. I'm following up with that today. You have my gratuitude.


chop socky image of the day

way of the dragon

I stumbled across this awesome still of the climactic battle between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in the Roman Coliseum at the conclusion of the brilliant Way of the Dragon (known in the US as Return of the Dragon).


i'm back

We returned from the family gathering in Louisville late yesterday, but I was pretty much too bushed to blog. It was an inordinately pleasant weekend. My grandparents came to town from New Orleans; obviously, we don't get to spend much time with them, so visiting was a real treat. Saturday afternoon we took the girls to swim in the hotel pool. Cecilia takes swin lessons at the Y, but I haven't seen her swim since last summer. She's really quite a swimmer!

(That's quite a relief, actually, in light of last week's accident in which a four-year-old drowned in a backyard pool. I don't plan on leaving her unattended around a pool, of course, but it's heartening to know that she's more than capable of swimming to the edge and pulling herself out if need be.)

I'm working on a thing or two at present; I need to post a couple of quick things and then take care of some business. I'll be back again directly.

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