Just forget the words and sing along

Friday, October 31, 2003

La la la.... Killing time before Dad comes and gets me and takes me home for the weekend. I can't find any information on the Internet about T.H.I.N.G.S. Remember these? It stood for "Totally Hilarious Incredibly Neat Games of Skill." This was a series of games put out by Milton Bradley in the late 1980s. They were single player games of skill (like the name said) that utilized a little wind-up motor. You pull a lever, it starts moving, and then you have to knock all the flies off of the tree or flip marbles into the hippo's mouth. Stuff like that. They made 9 different ones, and I was so obsessed with them, I collected all nine. Still have all nine, too, and eight of them are still in perfect working order. Maybe it's time I make a website dedicated to T.H.I.N.G.S. Seems like it's time.

Next Issue...This is Halloween
Lots of tidbits to share this morning:

- James Nichols, brother of Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, is suing Michael Moore over Bowling for Columbine. Nichols maintains that Moore tricked him into doing the interview, and then defamed him by editing the interview in a way to link him to the Oklahoma City bombing. Nichols is seeking between $10 and $20 million in damages. Moore cannot be reached for comment.

- Disney's disposable DVD, the EZ-D, is starting to be chalked up at a collosal failure. After being for sale in four test markets for a few months now, they are gathering dust on the shelves. Why are people not buying them? The cost. With the discs costing $7, people are complaining that it's too much for something disposable.

- Rumor has it George Lucas has applied to the Director's Guild of America to see if he can alter the credits to The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This ties into the rumor that Luxas has secretly been working on "super special editions" over the past few years. Essentially, Lucas feels that he's altered the films so much now that he deserves a "Directed by..." credit.

- After the success of 2000's Chicken Run, people have been wondering where Aardman's next animated film is. Well, Aardman Studios have finally begun work on it. Their next film is called...Wallace and Grommit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Our two heroes go hunting this mythical beast when it appears that it's attacking London. Two big name voices have already been cast. Helena Bonham Carter, best remebered to my friends as Marla in Fight Club, will voice the wealthy socialite who finances the hunt, and Ralph Finnes, who was in Schindler's List, Quiz Show, and most recently, Red Dragon, will voice the prime suspect.

Next Issue...Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

I'm very sad. I've lost Sailor Jupiter. I've had this Sailor Jupiter keychain for the past two years. Ever since I got back from Japan, it's been dangling from my utility belt. Some where between my car and my first class, she jumped off and went to fight the forces of the Negaverse. I know it's what she has to do, but I'm still sad....

And I was shocked in my broadcast writing course this morning. The assignment was to write (in TV script format) a rant about something that bugs us. I was having trouble coming up with a topic, so I decided to do the very silly, "I hate that I don't hate." It began with the words, "Do you know what bugs me? Nothing at all. And I can't stand it!" It built to this huge climax of, "I'M GOING TO FAIL BECAUSE I LOVE ALL OF YOU!" At that point, one of classmates burst into tears. She was moved to tears by how much I hate to hate. Wow.

Next Issue...The Search for Sailor Jupiter

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I've been wanting to rant about this since Monday night. Who else watched Justice League? Great episode!! Only a Dream followed the exploits of the League's battle against Dr. Destiny. This telepathic villain had the power to control dreams, and so he trapped Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl in their worst nightmares. Martian Manhunter used his telepathic powers to enter all of their dreams and try to help them snap out of the nightmares and take down Dr. Destiny. Meanwhile, in the waking world, Batman was fighting off three days of no sleep as he tried to find the doctor's stronghold. In case you're curious:

- Superman's nightmare was about him getting so powerful that he destroyed all he loved with a single touch. Martian Manhunter eventually found him curled up in the fetal position in the rocket that brought him to Earth. "This is the only place I can be now," lamented Superman. How's that for symbolism?

- Green Lantern's nightmare was about his experiences in the Green Lantern Corp making him so alien that no one on Earth would accept him anymore.

- The Flash's nightmare was about him getting so fast that the rest of the world slowed to a standstill, making him completely alone....

- I couldn't figure out Hawkgirl's greatest nightmare. It was either claustrophobia or death, because she was locked in a coffin and buried alive.

Great comic relief came from Batman's attempts to stay awake. Batman, smashing into Starbucks, charging to the front of the line and demanding a triple latte to go. Great stuff!

Since Dr. Destiny was borrowed to be the villain in Neil Gaiman's first storyline in The Sandman, I kept hoping that the episode would end with an appearance by Dreams. "You've desecrated my domain!" he could bellow to Dr. Destiny, and then he could forever banish Dr. Destiny from the dream world. Just my thoughts.

Anyway, this whole episode reminded me of an episode of G.I. Joe that I watched when I was a kid. Remember this episode? Cobra was using a special machine to trap the Joes in their nightmares, but the only one this had no effect on was the sniper Low-Light, because Low-Light had serious problems with nightmares when he was a kid and was the only one adept at fighting nightmares. Finally, a special machine was rigged up by Doc to bring all the Joes into one common dream world, where Low-Light rallied them together to fight their nightmares. I'll never forget the nightmare of computer expert Mainframe. He was literally replaced by machinery as he slowly turned into this freaky cyborg. Totally freaked me out!

Speaking of fears, I'm off to write my Law and Ethics midterm. I'm having flashbacks to Augustana. I got through Introduction to the Old Testament thanks to the fact that I saw The Ten Commandments a dozen times. Something tells me that I'll get through this class courtesy of Law & Order reruns. At least, that's what I told myself last night when I watched Law & Order: Special Victims Unit instead of studying.

Next Issue...In the Criminal Justice System....

Monday, October 27, 2003

A couple of quick movie news tidbits before sprinting to class:

- While on his book tour, Michael Moore is revealing what he has planned after Fahrenheit 9/11. Entitled Sicko, it's about how the American health care system is less-than-kind to mental health care patients. Don't forget, Fahrenheit 9/11 comes out next year and is all about how the Bush administration has taken advantage of the September 11 attack to push his personal agenda.

- And here's happier movie news. Click here to see the first movie poster for the live-action Garfield movie!

Next Issue...Out of Order

Sunday, October 26, 2003

It's that time of the week, folks! Over at my real website, Chaos in a Box, I've got my latest column up! This week's offering is called Play the Part. Here's a sample:

"Japan has this form of entertainment known as the hostess bar. At the outset, it seems like a regular bar, but there is something different. After you sit at your table, you are joined by an (usually) attractive young woman, who is, in reality, an employee of the bar. This is your hostess. Throughout the evening, she will entertain you with stale jokes, shower you with false compliments, and get you to spend more money at the bar by buying more drinks for yourself, and her. Once she starts getting inebriated, she'll go to the back room to sleep it off, and you'll be joined by a different young woman. And so the evening goes, until you are hammered and broke."

Click here to read the whole thing!

Next Issue...Testing Testing....
Some think that I had a sheltered upbringing because I don't watch a lot of horror movies. Not true. On TV right now, I'm watching one of the horror movies I watched quite a bit when I was growing up: Poltergeist. That is still a good movie.

It's interesting reading about that film's history. It was written and produced by the god of film himself, Steven Spielberg. It was made at the same time that Spielberg was making E.T. and actually hit theatres two weeks after E.T. Spielberg meant for the two films to be point and counterpoint; two sides of the same coin. Whereas E.T. was the suburban dream, Poltergeist was the suburban nightmare. Together, they were the fairy tale and the ghost story.

And because of that relationship, it still debated as to who really directed Poltergeist. The onscreen "directed by" credit goes to cult film director Tobe Hooper, who also directed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But, because it was written by Spielberg, produced by Spielberg, and has a general Spielberg style to it, many argue that Spielberg himself actually directed most of it. To me, it doesn't matter. It's still a good movie.

I'm also watching more of my Star Trek V DVD. One of the bonus materials is an interview and retrospective with Herman Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the production designer on the Star Treks V thru Nemesis, and on every series save for the original. He is the man directly responsible for the "look" of the Star Trek universe. And do you know what he says was his biggest design challenge? Creating the space station Deep Space Nine. When he was given the task, he was only given two design critera: 1) Make it look kind of like an oil platform in space. 2) It had to be as instantly recognizable as the Enterprise. How he tackled it was quite in-depth. Since the station was meant to be built by the Cardassians, he first sat down and planned out what Cardassian architecture would be like. Then worked from there.

Next Issue...Live from New York

Friday, October 24, 2003

So, I got an invitation to my cousin's wedding. Contemplating whether I should go or not. Did I mention that this cousin has always been a snob? Ever since, well, ever, we've existed in two different worlds; him in Lacombe and me in "not Lacombe." That's just the way things work on my Dad's side of the family: you either live in Lacombe, or you don't. I think I'll be RSVP-ing in the negative.

Right now, my mind is still tacking a math problem. I do love a good math problem. My Dad approached me last night. His company has asked him to derive an equation for calculating the securities value for the reclamation of land. There are methods that exist, but his company wanted a simple basic mathematical forumla for it. So, he knows all the values that go into determining the securities value and how they all relate to each other, so he sat down and threw them together into an equation, tried it out on a few examples, and noticed that it consistently produced a securities value that was 1/10 of what it actually should be. His solution was to just multiply the equation by a constant with the value of 10. My Dad's math problem was, when his company asks him how he derived the value of the constant as being 10, what does he say? I took a look at his equation, took out "10" and renamed it "c," and then rearranged it to solve for c. I then told him that he should go into his company's records, pull out maybe 5 securities values that were assessed over the past few years, and plug in the numbers and solve for c. If he consistently gets a value that's darn close to 10, then he could say that it was derived through experimentation. I tell you, I'm thinking about billing his company for being their mathematical consultant.

But enough about me! Let's talk about...Trivial Pursuit! I tell you, I love that game. I kick ass at that game. And sadly, I have no one to play with me. But, I saw advertised on TV last night, the latest version of Trivial Pursuit, and I must have it! It's the new "Pop Culture DVD Edition." The questions are all about pop culture, but here's the new twist. The questions you must answer in order to win a wedge are on DVD. When it's time to answer the wedge-winning question, you hit play on the DVD, a video clip comes on with a narrator asking the question, and if you answer correctly, you win the wedge! Is that cool or what? But for now, I'll just settle for someone to play my Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with me.

And I had a very wonderful dream last night. I dreamt that, thanks to the whole 80s nostalgia thing, Visionaries had made a comeback and ToyFare was offering an exclusive Visionaries figure. It was a very good dream....

Next Issue...You Are Cordially Invited!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

WOO! Now that I have my super special edition of Star Trek V, Paramount has finally officially announced the 2-disc super special edition of my favourite Star Trek film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country! This set contains a running commentary by director Nicholas Myer, the now-standard text commentary by Dennis Okuda, and a dozen featurettes, including the requiste "making ofs" and how the film was designed to mirror the then-topical end of the Cold War. The official announcement says it comes out Friday, February 27, but since DVDs always come out on Tuesday, most are assuming that this is a typo, and they reall mean Tuesday, January 27.

And now, a scandal that's rocking Canada to its core. It has finally been discovered that, for the past 6 months, now, Tim Horton's no longer makes their donuts fresh in the store! They are now made at a warehouse in Ontario, frozen, then shipped out to Tim Horton's locations across Canada. The store then simply defrosts them. This revelation was made by the co-founder of the company, who is selling off his remaining shares and getting out of the donut business. Don't forget, Tim Horton's is now owned by Wendy's.

And, last night, as I was coming home from school, my Dad wanted to take the long way, by the Wabamun Power Plant. You see, the Wabamun Power Plant is scheduled to be decomissioned. Demolition begins in 2005, and it'll be completely gone by 2010. My Dad's environmental firm won the contract, so now my Dad has to write the environmental impact assesments for the demolition, plus lay out plans for the reclaimation of the site. We went driving by it because he needed to visualize things. But my point is, have you ever been up close to a coal-burning power plant? My God, they're ugly. Huge, concrete monstrosities covered with 50 years worth of soot.

And if you have any good plans for reclaiming ash lagoons, my Dad would like to know!

Next Issue...Tim Horton vs. Mr. Donut

Sunday, October 19, 2003

It's that time of the week, folks! The latest column's up! This week's entry is I Really Shouldn't. Here's a sample:

"My office sits on the fifth floor. There is a fire escape out back. I often go out on the fire escape to eat lunch and enjoy nice weather. Today, I stand on the fire escape. I look at the parking lot five stories down. The sky is overcast, but it's warm. There is no wind. The parking lot down below is a darker shade of grey, and strangely inviting. I hang over the edge of the fire escape, taking in the scene. There is only one thought in my head: "I really shouldn't." But I'm going to. "

As always,
Click here to read it all!

Now, I must go back to studying. Midterm tomorrow. I think I've still got it, babe!

Next issue...The Power of Sybok!
So, this weekend was NAIT's open house, and I foolishly volunteered to help out. Being a first semester, I was stuck playing tour guide; showing around prospective students. And I made the shocking discovery that most of my classmates are puzzled by my selection of the radio program. I was helping out one of my classmates on a tour, and she described the average radio student as being, "The class clown. The one who'd always be listening to music rather than paying attention in class." That was rather descriptive, but then she pointed at me and said, "Except for Mark. We still haven't figured out what Mark's story is. At the start of the year, when we were all asked what we did before we came here, all he'd say was he taught English in Japan. That's all we know about him." Well, I'm sorry, when you've spent a year overseas, we'll see how it messes with you. So I'm just a little saddened right now that most of my classmates question why I'm there, and, as I've learned from watching too much G.I. Joe growing up, that serves to weaken the team. (They make a big deal about teamwork in this program. 90% of my projects are group projects.)

But then, there are things to cheer me up. In the break room, one of my other classmates came up to me and said, "I hope you don't mind, but on a tour, I used you as an example." I said, "Well, what did you use me as an example of?" She then explained that she was showing around this mother/daughter duo. While the daughter was very interested, the mother kept going, "But she has such high marks in math and science! Why should she waste her time doing something like this? Isn't the money better if she gets a math degree?" My classmate said, "Look, we've got a student here with degrees in math and physics. He's here because he loves this." So, maybe some of them do know me.

And in other news, China has successfully launched and returned their first man in space. I thought this was great and everything, until I was reading how this taikonaut carried a small arsenal of handguns and knives in case he landed in "unfriendly territory." Just when you think the world is getting better....

Next issue...Showtime!

Friday, October 17, 2003

Seeing more criticism of Michael Moore. I was reading a transcript of his appearnace on Bill Maher's new show, and Moore cited the statistic that more American soldiers have died in Iraq now that in the first two years of Vietnam. Maher's response was, "Well, yeah, because the first two years of Vietnam were fought by the French. American involvement was less than minimal in the first two years of Vietnam." Moore said, "I stand by that statistic." Maher said, "OK, but I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean."

On a completely unrelated subject, would you think any less of me if I were to go rent the latest Barbie straight-to-video animated movie? The third one, Barbie of Swan Lake just came out. I still kind of want to see the first two, Barbie in the Nutcracker and Barbie as Rapaunzel. Why do I want to see these? Because they were made by Canada's own Mainframe Entertainment, and I've always been a fan of their work.

Actually, I was reading in today's Edmonton Journal how Mainframe won this contract with Mattel, which was a major coup in the animation world. Back in 1999, Mattel had this idea for a "Barbie in the Nutcracker" and started auditioning animation studios. Mainframe said, "Well, The Nutcracker's a ballet, right?" So, what they did, was the hired a ballerina (from Edmonton!) where they hooked her up in their motion caputre rigs and had her perform a few highlights from The Nutcracker. (For those not in the know, "motion capture" is the process in computer animation where a performer wears a special sensor suit, and it records the person's every movement. Using this information, the computer animators can produce highly realistic motion.) They used this motion captured ballet dancer as the model for a computer animated ballet Barbie, sent the demo to Mattel, and won the contract. For the final production of Barbie in the Nutcracker, Mattel got Mainframe in touch with the New York Ballet which performed all of the motion captured ballet.

At first, the New York Ballet was reluctant to do this, but then, someone pointed out how the average age of a ballet fan is 60+, and that this might help draw a younger crowed. All of the Barbie straight-to-video movies have been ballet-related now, and Mattel has begun giving a portion of the profits to ballet programs.

Next Issue...The Life and Times of the Scarecrow, starring Barbie as...Her.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

So, I did my first radio show in four years this morning. I forgot how hard it is to just talk and talk between songs. But I think I did it admirably. It'll all come back to me.

And, I had a few extra hours after class today, so I went across the street to HMV and finally bought the 2-disc special edition of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. I know it's the worst Star Trek movie, but this was kind of a big deal for me. Flash back to 1989. The Next Generation just wrapped its second season and I'm on the cusp of turning 12. I had just discovered Star Trek and I had a voracious appetite for it. I was devouring ANYTHING labeled Star Trek. So, as you can imagine, that summer, Star Trek V was THE big movie for me. And that's saying a lot, seeing as to how 1989 still stands as one of the busiest summers for movies ever. I mean, in order for Star Trek V to be THE big movie it had to beat out: Ghostbusters II, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, UHF, and the movie that dominated that summer, Batman.

So yeah. I was just nuts for Star Trek V all those years ago. And now I have the DVD!

Next Issue...The Final Frontier

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

So, when my sister came up for Thanksgiving, she asked to see one of my new favourite movies, Bowling for Columbine. A few days earlier, as I was hanging out with Trouble before she left for China, she and I were talking about the film, and she is one of the many who are starting to turn on that film, and Michael Moore. Essentially, there are a lot of people out there right now who are starting to pick the film apart and are finding many innacurracies. The one article that kind of spearheaded this charge and is often cited is called The Truth About Bowling.

The big thing that a lot of people are hung up on is the pro-gun rally that the NRA held in Flint, Michigan after that school shooting, where one six year old shot another six year old. In the film, Moore says that the rally happened "shortly after" the school shooting. When you look at the hard numbers, the rally was held 9 months after the shooting. Moore defined "shortly after" to be 9 months.

The one thing that stuck in Trouble's craw was the scene where Moore walks into a Canadian Wal-Mart and buys a bunch of ammunition. Now, under Canadian law, in order to buy ammunition, you need to present a valid Canadian firearms license. Nowhere in the scene do we see Moore present his license. Apparently, the government of Canada has notified Moore of this and bluntly asked him, "Now, was that staged for the cameras, or did you willfully break the law?" Moore has yet to reply.

Now, these articles are interesting reads. Let me say right now that I'm still a fan of Moore's work, and I still love Bowling for Columbine and its message. But, from day one, I've agreed with the critics who've said that it's not really objective enough to be a true documentary. So, learning stuff like this really doesn't surprise me. And I guess it helps that Moore also agrees that Bowling isn't a true documentary. When presented with some of these inaccuracies, and he's struggling for a defence, Moore's fallback response tends to be, "Well, it's political satire. It's just a comedy." So, yeah. I guess I'm not too surprised.

There's a column brewing here. I'll pen it this weekend. Ever since my battles with Brad Goertz back in Augustana, I've always found it somewhat hypocritical that political activists don't like to be held to the same criticism that they hold to politicians and corporations. That'll be the central theme.

But until I write that article, find out for yourself who watches the watchers.

Next Issue...Watching those who Watch the Watchers

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Ooo, I'm feeling giddy. And it's not the cold medication. I don't watch The Wonderful World of Disney anymore, but apparently, they just had a whole big preview for Pixar's next movie, The Incredibles, written and directed by the man who made my all time favourite movie, Brad Bird. Finally officially confirmed in the voice cast are: Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, and Pixar "good luck charm" John Ratzenburger. My God, it comes it in one year and I still can't wait. At the website I read this, they also showed some of Bird's concept art for the film. They look like superheroes in the Iron Giant universe. I don't know what to expect more: that this movie rocks my world, if it just doesn't suck.

Next Issue...It Was the Cold Medication

Monday, October 13, 2003

Watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture again. Can I let you in on a little secret? It is my dream to someday make an entrance like Spock's. You know, that kind of entrance where things are looking dire for your friends, and you're the last person they expect to see, but as soon as they see you come in, there's that look of joy and relief on all those faces as they suddenly know everything will be all right. And why? Because you've come. Does that make sense? It's kind of tough to articulate. Go watch The Motion Picture again. Fast forward to Spock's entrance. You'll get it.

And woo hoo! The long-awaited 2-disc special edition of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier comes out tomorrow. Boy, I want to get that one. I really want to see the Rock Monster footage. I think I've blogged about this before. See, in the original ending, Capt. Kirk was going to do battle with these Rock Monsters on Sha Ka Ree. Well, they built one animatronic rock monster, shot some test footage, and then abandoned the idea because the rock monster just looked terrible; incredibly fake and phoney. And they put that test footage on the DVD!

Yeah, it's pretty much acknowledged that Final Frontier has the worst effects in the franchise. Some DVD reviews I've already read say that the computer animated Enterprise in the DVD's menus is better looking than the original Enterprise in the film's effects!

Speaking of 2-disc special edition DVDs from Paramount, I read a little DVD news from them today. As most probably know, Paramount at long last is releasing the Indiana Jones movies to DVD next week. At their big launch party, Paramount made a few announcements as to what's coming out in 2-disc special editions in 2004. Of course, the big boxed set The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: The Complete Series was a given, but thy also announced that work is underway on 2-disc special editions of such recent hits as Top Gun, The Untouchables, Titanic and...are you ready for it? Deep breath. A 2-disc special edition of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Did you hear me right? A 2-disc, super special edition of the South Park movie! That was always high on my 2-disc special edition wish list, and I never dreamt that it would happen. But it is, and it'll be coming out next year sometime.

Let me just say that again: A 2-disc, super special edition of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is being made. I am a very happy worm tonight.

Next Issue...The Final Frontier Concerns Women's Undergarments

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Dude, I almost went to bed without following through on my new tradition. My latest column at my real website is up! It's the thrilling final part of Don't Panic 2: The Female Buddha, and here's a clip:

"Adding to its size somewhat was the fact that it was on top of a hill. Once I reached the top, I was able to look around and check out the scene a little more. The statue sat in the middle of a park. Off to one side was a requisite temple to Kannon, where they sold the same charms and trinkets I had seen at many other temples. I started snapping pictures like a true tourist. I had learned my lesson from Mitsumeniguchi well. This was late February, and I was still confused as to whether the administrators of the museum considered this to be winter or not. In winter, the museum closes at 4:30. I glanced at my watch to see it was 4:40. I decided to wander up and see if it was open. "

Click here to read it all!

Next Issue...Dial M for Marvelous!
So, I was reading in the paper about this series that the Canadian business show Venture is doing entitled "Back to the Floor." In it, they take the CEOs of some of Canada's largest companies and, for one day, put them in the lowest job of the company. In tonight's premiere installment, the CEO and President of La Senza - Canada's largest chain of lingere stores - spends a day as a salesman in one of his stores and a day running a forklift in a warehouse. Apparently, it takes him 8 minutes to figure out the cash register. Now, I tend to avoid business news shows, but this might be something worth tuning in for.

It reminds me of what Michael Moore once did on his show TV Nation. On one episode, he hosted the "Corporate CEO Challenge." As Moore explained, he was inspired to try this when he was footage of the CEO of a Japanese car maker go down to the factory floor and help out in making cars. So, Moore thought, "Would American CEOs do the same?" This led Moore to go around to several US companies and challenge thier CEOs of they could use and/or manufacture their products. He challenged the CEO of IBM to format a floppy disc. He challenged the CEO of Phillip Morris Tobacco to roll a cigarette. The only one who took him up on his challenge was the CEO of Ford Motors, whom Moore got to change the oil in a Ford Explorer. I loved TV Nation. I watched its first season religiously in the summer of 1994, and it's what brought Michael Moore to my attention. Never got to watch the second and third seasons, as it moved to the Fox Network and we weren't getting Fox in Canada yet.

I'm still sad that Trouble's gone. She's spending her first weekend in China right now. Despite my asking, she never came out to Entwistle. I never got to take her on the "walking tour" of the town. This has become a tradition for me. Last time Mr. Anderson was here, I took him on the walking tour of Entwistle. When Streiff came up to see me before I left for Japan, I took him on the walking tour of Entwistle. I now extend this open invitation to all readers! If you ever come to Entwistle, let me take you on the walking tour! You've never experience a white trash trailer town until you've seen it through my eyes.

Next Issue...Latest Column's Up!

Friday, October 10, 2003

Well, by this time, Trouble is now somewhere over the Pacific, winging her way to her teaching assignment in China. I'm really going to miss her. It's like I just got back from Japan yesterday and we were just getting to know each other again and now...she's gone. She says that she'll only be gone for six months. Weren't those Diane's final words on Cheers? Oh, well. I hope she gets settled soon and finds out what her mailing address is so I can flood her with Alberta postcards, like she did to me.

And in other news, Kill Bill: Volume I comes out today, and boy, does it look like a cool movie! But, I'm starting to have second thoughts about going to see it. Now that I'm doing some more reading about it, I find that a great deal of it actually takes place in Japan and there's this huge anime flashback in the middle. Now, I don't know how to describe this. Ever since I got back from Japan, I've noticed the little bits of Japanese culture that have permeated North American culture, and it gives me a strange, queezy feeling. Maybe it's because, nine times out of ten, I kind of notice that it's not really Japanese, but more a North American perception of what Japan is. And it makes me long for the real thing. That's probably the primary reason why I haven't bought Spirited Away on DVD yet. That's why, at the movies, I kind of wince when I see the trailer for Tom Cruise's next film, The Last Samurai. I think I also fear that a day will come when my memories of Japan have all been tainted by this North American rendition of Japan. Maybe it's already begun. Maybe that's what the queezy feeling is: a defense mechanism.

But let's look at happier things! Last night, after I finished my homework, I sat down and finally finished Lego Racers. The last thing I had to do was complete the time trials, and then I won Veronica Voltage's block set. I won by the skin of my Lego teeth. So now, I've unlocked every block set and track, so I think that's what "finishing" a racing game is. I mentioned in a previous entry that each brick set is representative of a different Lego subset. Veronica Voltage's block set was that "Time Twisters" time travel Lego from a few years back. I see that Lego Racers 2 is in discount bins, now, so maybe I'll pick it up.

Actually, why doesn't Lego accept this as a brilliant idea for Lego Racers 3? As we all know, Lego has gotten in on the licensing game. That's how we got the Star Wars Lego, the Harry Potter Lego, the Spider-Man Lego, and currently, the NHL and NBA Lego. So, if they ever make Lego Racers 3, could they somehow work all these licensed properties into the game? You know, have the Tatooine Pod Race be a track, Anakin's Podracer as a car, and the prize being the Star Wars Lego set. Create some kind of Hogwarts track, give Harry Potter some kind of mystical go-kart, and the prize is the Harry Potter brick set.

But how about all the other Lego subsets that were around briefly? Incorporate them into the game! I seem to remember Ninja Lego and Wild West Lego from just 4 or 5 years ago. Surely some crazy cars and tracks can be made from that. Or go back even farther! I remember reading how, in the early 90s, Lego experimented with "Lego for girls," which was Lego molded in pastel colours and designed for building Lego-style Barbie dream houses. Get the girly Lego in there! C'mon! Lego Racers 3. There's money to be made!

Next Issue...I Have...A STICK!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

So, I'm starting to think maybe I should shut down the blog. I'm just a little stunned when my friends tell me that they don't have time to read my regular site anymore, but they always read this. I guess the columns I spend hours lovingly crafting just aren't as interesting as, "Hey! Guess what I read about Star Wars?"

Hey! Guess what I read about Star Wars? Ever since the special editions came out a few years back, rumors have run rampant that George Lucas is working on some "super special editions," that will help to bring the original trilogy more in line with the prequel trilogy. A week or so ago, I was reading how a 20th Century Fox employee recently saw a re-filmed ending for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. (That's the real first one. The one that came out in 1977. The one that the whole world just calls Star Wars.) As we all know, it ends with a final duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in which Vader slices down Kenobi. Out of all of Star Wars, it's the least dynamic lightsaber duel, as it's just two old men swinging sticks at each other. Well, apparently, it's been re-filmed so the lightsaber duel is at least on par with Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul from Episode I. I told this to Mr. Anderson, and he replied with, "That's not true, is it?" Know what? I really don't know. Whenever asked about stuff like this, George Lucas always denies its existence. These "super special editions" are starting to get more and more like the classic UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico: The more it's denied, the more people are conivnced that it's actually happening.

Speaking of special editions, Disney's special edition DVD of The Lion King came out a few days ago. You know, as much as I love animation, I'm not so sure I want this disc. Back in the early days of DVD, like, 4 years ago, Disney had a great strategy for DVD. They would always release 2 editions of a disc. There was the "family friendly" version. This was the one geared for families so their kids could watch the film over and over again. Bonus materials tended to be games and similarly-themed Disney shorts. Then, there were the "special editions." These were the 2-disc version for geeks like me, where you got director's running commentaries and test footage and character designs and such forth. That was then. But now, Disney is trying to cram all of the family friendly and geek stuff onto one 2-disc special edition, and it's failing miserably. Usually, the geek stuff is lost for the family friendly stuff. For example, on the 2-disc special edition of the Lion King, there aren't any pencil tests, but there is a new Circle of Life music video by Elton John. Plus, most of what Disney is advertising as the geek stuff is little more than advertising for what The Lion King spawned. Yeah, there's no test footage, but there's a featurette about the making of the Broadway musical and a travelogue for Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. So, I don't think this'll be going on my shelf.

Plus, like on the Beauty and the Beast disc, on this disc you have the option of watching either the original theatrical version or the IMAX special editon that came out back in January. Disney has really taken to this IMAX special edition concept. The IMAX special edition of Aladdin comes January 1, 2004, and the Little Mermaid is tennativly scheduled for January 1, 2005. I remember reading how this all began. Back in 1997, when the Star Wars special editions came out, the directors of Beauty and the Beast were talking about it. One of the directors jokingly said, "Hey, you know how much money could be made off of a special edition of Beauty and the Beast?" Well, Michael Eisner was walking by the door when this joke was cracked, and Eisner popped his head in and said, "What was that? A special edition of Beauty and the Beast? Great idea! Make that movie!" Eisner left, visions of dollar signs in his head, and the Beauty and the Beast directors began wondering what the hell they got themselves into.

Anyway, better start heading off to class. If I thought my breathing test from a few weeks back was brutal, then I should get ready for this afternoon's loudness test.

Next Issue...Can You Hear Me Now?

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Mr. Anderson is right. I am too sensitive. As always, I'm reading too much into something he's said to me and obsessing over it.

So you know the whole story. Last December, when I went to Sapporo to visit Mr. Anderson, he wanted me to watch this cartoon he discovered called Popee the Performer. It was this very surreal series of CGI shorts about Popee and his friend; this dog who wore masks, I forget his name. They were performers at some sort of circus set up in the middle of a desert, and the general formula is: Popee does some kind of act, the dog upstages him, they get into a duel of sorts, and it escalates to Itchy and Scratchy levels of violence. I thought it was incredibly twisted and had a certain degree of brilliance to it. I think I expressed this to Mr. Anderson by saying, "Yeah, it's pretty cool."

So, here we are, 10 months later. Now that he's ready to come home, Mr. Anderson has finally amassed the complete Popee collection on DVD. He was telling me this today, and he said, "Now, Mark, I know you didn't like Popee, but..." and he proceeded to tell me again why he likes it. And I knew why he likes it, because I like it for pretty much the same reasons. But he began with, "Now, Mark, I know you don't like it." So, I've come to one horrible, horrible, conclusion:

My best friend has been in Japan for so long that he no longer knows me. *sniffle* He doesn't know me any more! *sob* When he comes home at Christmas, I'm going to run up to him, give him a big hug, yell out, "It's so good to see you again!" and he'll just look at me with a quizzical look and say, Shitsurei desu ga, o-namae wa nan desu ka? (Openly weepy voice) I'VE LOST MY BEST FRIEND! WAAAAAAAAA!! HE PROBABLY DOESN'T EVEN REMEMBER WHO MY FAVOURITE DINOBOT IS! *sniff sniff* So, Mr. Anderson, please remember me!

But then, he just might be razzing me, because in this e-mail, we were also debating The Matrix Reloaded. He still believes it's a work of genius. I'm of the growing camp that says, "Yeah, it was good and all, but did the Wachowskis really take it as far as they could? Really, what new did they do?" And it's probably irking him that, even though I think this way, I'll be seeing The Matrix Revolutions before him.

So, one last time for the record, I think Popee the Performer is brilliantly twisted and you should do what you can to seek it out.

And, in other news, I did send off a description of my radio show to the NAIT folks. Right now, I'm trying to decide if I should go with some kind of sequel-related title for the new Chaos in a Box, seeing as to how this is the second go around. What do you think? Chaos in a Box Reloaded? Chaos in a Box: Episode II? Chaos in a Box and the Chamber of Secrets? Chaos in a Box & Robin? I will admit, with Lord of the Rings on the horizon, I'm liking Chaos in a Box: Return of the King.

Next Issue...Return of the Queen, too!
So, I'm starting to make some heavy overtures about wanting to do a radio show on NAIT's station, and the instructors (who are, in essence, the managers) are being very welcoming. I was speaking with one and he's already talking about producing ads for my show to run on other radio shows. I'm just so...awe-struck at how real this feels.

Only thing is, they need a few notes describing my show, so they know what to slap on the schedules. How, o how, do I describe what I do?

Next Issue...The Description

Monday, October 06, 2003

Just got an e-mail from Mr. Anderson. He's all giddy with girlish glee that he's into his final 48 hours with the company in Japan. And like I told him, sure, he's happy now, but then, on his final day, when they're locking up the front doors, a student that was always kind of sweet on him but too shy to say anything will just show up to spend one last moment with him, and it'll break his heart....

One last time for the record. Let's answer the questions that were on everyone's after I'd been home for about a month:

Do I miss Japan?

From time to time, yes.

If given the opportunity, would I go back?


Next issue...Big Changes

Sunday, October 05, 2003

OK, folks, got some housekeeping stuff to pass along. Firstly, this week's column is up over at the main site. It's the thrilling second part of Don't Panic 2: the Female Buddha. Here's a clip:

Since it was early afternoon on a workday, the train was pretty deserted. I counted myself lucky as being able to get a seat. I sat down, removed the new roll of film from my pocket, and loaded my camera. There was the familiar hiss of the doors closing, and with a gentle tug, the train was off. At first, it was a little odd. I had never gone very far down the line before. Within 5 minutes, we reached the first stop on the line, Kagohara. This was the farthest I had gone, as I have a co-worker who lives in this town and I went to visit her one day. The doors hissed again and again we were off. Next down the line was Fukiya. This is where my most remote students live. Another hiss and I was off to unexplored territory.

Click here to read it all!

And also, because it is the dawn of October, here's my latest issue of The Monthly Spam. Typically, this is exclusive to the dozen people in my address book, but for once, I show it to you, the general public:

Hey All! Mark/Scarecrow with the latest and greatest at his site.

Well, I've now officially been back in school for a month. It seems to be going OK. I have to take courses in basic grammar and basic computer skills that I find so easy that they're insulting. They leave me with a bit of a moral conundrum. Should I drop them and free up my days, or should I stick with them? I mean, if I stick with them, it'll inflate my average and put me in a better position for some sweet, sweet, scholarship cash. So, for now, I'm sticking with them. But what else is going on?

Not much, as I don't seem to have a lot of free time anymore. Still got the weekly column, though. Before my laptop broke down for the third time, I was finally able to back up all the columns that had been imprisoned on my hard drive! Right now, I'm in the middle of three part epic entitled, "Don't Panic II: The Female Buddha," so please please read it! Got the new poll for October up. Plus, the new sister site, Midnight Ramblings (http://chaosinabox.blogspot.com) is still update pretty much daily. So, it's pretty much business as usual.

Yeah, the laptop broke down a third time. Let me share the wisdom I've learned from the past six months: 1) Don't buy Compaq 2) Don't go to Future Shop or Best Buy for computer repairs.

As already mentioned, I've been back in school for a month now, and I'm getting a bit of a reputation. Suddenly, I'm the "performer." Now, I'm sure you're all saying, "But Mark, you've always been a performer," but believe me, there's a difference between having your friends say it about you and having strangers expect it of you. And I don't know what the heck I'm doing to get that reputation. I'm sorry, but when my radio script says, "Scream," I'm going to scream. When it says, "Nervous voice," I'm going to do a nervous voice. It's just the same hammy overacting I've done since junior high.

Actually, I know why this is upsetting me so much. When I stood up before the class to do my most recent script reading, one of the women in my class said to her friend, "Just looking at him makes me laugh now." I'm sure that's what EVERY man wants to hear from a woman.

And I'd like to take a minute to point out that my good friend and recurring character Trouble will be leaving us soon. After spending years of longing and hoping and wishing for the chance to teach English in Japan, she's off to teach English...in China. "It's just to get closer to Japan," she says. But anyway, we just spent our last day together in Edmonton, where we did things like laugh at people who learn two or three words of Japanese from poorly dubbed anime, only to use those two or three words incorrectly in an effort to sound worldly and express their dream of going to Japan someday. Part of the main reason why Trouble's going to China is to get away from these people. But still, it makes me sad. It's like I just got back from Japan, and we hardly had any time together, and now she's going. Oh, well. I'm going to flood her with Alberta postcards for her classroom, like she did to me. Good luck, Trouble!

Sorry, I got nothing. Not keeping a very close track of quotable quotes right now.

And that's all for this month! Seeing as to how I just did all this, I'm wondering exactly how much I have to study for my computers test tomorrow. "Introduction to the Internet." At least acing that course impresses the girls. Did I tell you about my class? 30 students. 21 girls. 9 boys. The odds are definitly in my favour.

Mark/Scarecrow (wondering if his Spider-Man Halloween costume from last year still fits.)

Next Issue...The Money's Great!

Friday, October 03, 2003

Wow. Just got a message from Mr. Anderson. Richard Husfleon is no longer with us. He was the President of Augustana University during my time there as a student. I always wanted to have him as a special guest on my radio show, but I never had the courage to just knock on his office door and say, "Dude. You wanna?" I remember at graduation. When he presented me with my degree, I gave him a big hug, much to the amusement of the crowd.

I'm actually having a lot of Augustana flashbacks now that I'm back in school. I can now do a radio show whenever I want. Due to my commutte, it'd have to be a morning show, but all I have to do is knock on the door of the program head and say, "Dude, can I?" Same thing with NAIT's paper. They're taking submissions. I keep wondering how much of the Scarecrow still exists.....

But anyway, I have a topic for discussion! I was playing around with my DVDs the other night, and watched the opening sequence of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. For those who've never seen it, the film opens with a wonderful piece of Jerry Goldsmith music called Ilia's Theme, and it plays out over a field of stars. It's just there to set the mood for the film. Once it finishes, the Paramount logo comes up and the opening credits start.

So, the topic for discussion. Which song - ANY genre - do you think would be most evocative when played out over a field of stars? Discuss.

Next issue...The Monthly Spam: October 2003 (and this time, I mean it!)
IT'S BACK! According to this morning's Edmonton Journal, '90s nostalgia has officially begun! Some are wondering if it can really be called nostalgia, seeing as to how many of the icons of the 1990s, such as Starbucks, Friends, and The Simpsons, are still going strong. But, most others say that it's never too early to be nostalgic, and that Heart of the Ocean pendants from Titanic will be the next mood rings! Apparently, this new trend is being brought to you by...me, and my demographic. (That would be people in our mid-20s.) See, the way the analysists see it, my demographic is now finsihed with being nostalgic for our childhood (which was what fueled 80s nostalgia). We're all grown up now, and have become nostalgic for our high school and college years. I don't know about you, but I'm going to go home this weekend, crack open a Crystal Pepsi, crank up some Spice Girls tunes, and watch Jurrasic Park.

Speaking of '90s nostalgia.... Classes finished early yesterday, so I went across the street to Kingsway Garden Mall and browsed through DVDs. One I saw in the discount bin that I was really tempted to get was Godzilla (1998). Despite everyone now proclaiming that this movie sucks, I still like it as big, goofy fun. I would by the DVD simply for the teaser trailer that run in front of Men in Black in the summer of 1997. I still think that it's one of the best teasers ever made. Remember this one? It's the one with the kids on a field trip at a natural history museum, and they come up to the T-Rex skeleton. As their teacher describes the T-Rex, the students hear the distant booming of something that sounds like thunder. And it's getting closer and closer. And the walls begin to shake. And suddenly, Godzilla's foot comes through the skylight and crushes the T-Rex skeleton in a single step! The words "From the Creators of Independence Day" flash on screen. We go back to the museum, where Godzilla raises his foot and begins his walk, while the children watch his giant tail swaying with his steps. The words appread, "Guess Who's Coming to Town?" They fade away, and, matching up with Godzilla's trademark roar, we see the title: "Godzilla. May 1998."

I thought that was the best teaser ever until the ill-fated World Trade Center teaser for Spider-Man. Remember that one? Bank robbers pull off the ultimate heist and make their escape by helicopter, only to be caught in a giant spider web that Spider-Man spun between the Twin Towers. Throw in some gratuitous footage of Spidey webswinging, intercut with the words, "Next summer. Take the ultimate spin. Spider-Man. May 2002." This was in the summer of 2001 that this teaser ran, and it was pulled from theaters after the 9/11 attacks. But I digress.

Also in that discount bin I saw Terry Gilliam's Brazil. That's another film I always wanted to see, but my local video store never seems to have it. I mainly want to see it because, way back in high school, when my class was studying 1984 and I adpoted it as my all-time favourite book, that was the one film that my teacher always drew analogies with. Plus, Yves highly recommends it, so why not? If fishing it out of a DVD discount bin is the only way to see it, then maybe it's worth the $15.

But they're actually quite low on my DVD wish list right now. Right at the top is The Tick: The Complete Series. The short-lived live-action TV version of Ben Edlund's comic creation comes to the digital format for the ages! It doesn't have much for bonus features, though. Just running commentaries on every episode by creater Ben Edlund and executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld. You might remember Sonnenfeld as the director of such fine films as The Addams Family movies, the Men in Black movies, and Get Shorty. He was the man who brought the live-action Tick to television, and even directed the pilot episode. And, I say now we have to make Sonnenfeld stick to his word. Shortly after The Tick made its TV debut, Sonnenfeld said that, if the series failed, he would LOVE to do the live-action Tick movie.

And then, there's always the DVD dream projects. Now that 20th Century Fox has just one season left to go for The X-Files, I'm hoping that, for completness, they'll do the DVD boxed set The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series. I loved the quirky charm of this short-lived X-Files spin-off, and DVD is really becoming a format for such projects. If you believe that your TV show was sheer brilliance, but only 12 people watched it, and those 12 people thought it was sheer brilliance, then there's a good chance that the studio who made it will put all 6 episodes in a huge DVD boxed set so those 12 people will buy it. It's all about the money, people.

Next Issue...The Quest for Crystal Pepsi

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Well, I've officially been a student again for a month, now. The first reports and papers are due. It's kind of silly. I've been digging out all kinds of stuff from my old Augustana days, reminding myself how to do a title page.

And I just have some miscellaneous ramblings. Hugh Jackman is in negotiations with Fox to not only reprise Wolverine in X-Men 3, but also in a Wolverine solo film. Marvel Comics finally settled their lawsuit with Captain America co-creator Joe Simon over who owns the good Captain. Marvel won, so now producing a live-action Captain America movie has become a top priority. The guy who did Field of Dreams and the more-recent The Sum of All Fears is in negotiations to finally bring us Iron Man. And Catwoman has begun filming, starring Halle Berry as Patience Price/Catwoman, and by george, I really don't want to see that movie.

Oh, and this a few weeks old, but I'll report it anyway. It's been long-rumored that George Lucas is working on "ultimate editions" of the original Star Wars trilogy, with the new goal to bring them up to the level of the prequel trilogy. Rumor has it that the lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and old Obi-Wan at the end of A New Hope (that's the first one) has already been completely re-filmed with stunt doubles so it's at the same level as, say, Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul.

And Pixar has begun work on their animated film for 2006. It's called "Ratatouile," and is about a rat who lives in a restaurant in France.

Next Issue...The Monthly Spam: October 2003.