One Crazy Week (with Movies!)

So work deadlines have been looming this past week.  Tomorrow is the final filing date for E-rate funding, so I’ve been neck deep in crossing t’s and dotting i’s, making sure Uncle Sam doesn’t come after me with a big stick because I didn’t report something just quite right.  Fundamentally, I really appreciate the E-rate program, in that it enables schools the like the one I work at to integrate and acquire hardware and networking equipment that there is no way we could afford otherwise, or at the scale we need.  On the other hand, I loathe paperwork.  And yet my life the past few weeks has been paperwork.

I have become the thing I hate.  *existential moment*

Okay, now that the moment has passed…

To survive this onslaught of tree slaughter, I’ve been heading out with the two other resident knuckleheads for some movie watching.

Last weekend was John Carter, and just this last Saturday we went and saw Arrietty.

Both movies were good, but not great.  John Carter trips over itself in some fundamental ways, and I personally had a hard time connecting with any of the characters or caring what happened.  I actually found the character of John Carter far more interesting before he ever arrived at Barsoom.  Woola was amusing, at least.  You can truly see a bit of the Pixar magic shine through when it comes to the eager-to-please xenodog.  Otherwise, it is competent sci-fi, with a storied pedigree… and for that reason alone I support it.

Arrietty also has an excellent pedigree, but I would say the more disappointing of the two movies.  It truly felt like Studio Ghibli was restrained when making Arrietty, and the depth and amazing Japanese charm and craziness I have come to love about their movies just wasn’t there.  I suppose that’s somewhat to be expected, given the already heavily adapted source material of The Borrowers, but I was hoping for something more.  Don’t get me wrong, the animation and care taken into each scene is evident throughout.  It is a truly beautiful movie.  The most scathing criticism I can level at it, in all honesty, is that it felt “safe”.  Maybe I’ve been spoiled lately by watching Mushi-shi.  (Which I’ve now finished and highly recommend.)

What’s next?  Well… Avengers is coming.  That should be sufficiently crazy, and I’ve made promises to one of my former bosses that we’d go see it together.  I am also strangely drawn to the Michael Bayesque trainwreck that will be Battleship.  I’m not sure why, exactly.

Also Frankenweenie and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter both tickle my unconventional side.

More recently, 21 Jump Street has been receiving good buzz… but I’m just not convinced.  Maybe if Johnny Depp has a cameo in it, I could be convinced to watch it.

At any rate, it should be an interesting year for movies.  Which is great, because I’ll need something to stave off all this work.

Scrumptious media.

Anyone knows me will realize that I am a complete media whore. Whether it’s movies, books, music, games… you name it… I generally am interested in it. Lately I’ve been upset because I don’t spend the time reading like I used to… but I do still manage to catch a movie or two here and there, and I still am an avid gamer.

So I saw two things last week that really piqued my interest.

First, on the gaming side, Tecmo has announced Fatal Frame 4. For the Wii! This makes me happy.

Fatal Frame 4

Fatal Frame (or Project Zero, for those of you in non-US territories) is a fantastic series of games, and its good to see it come out for a platform that is a perfect fit for it control wise. I’ve yet to play through all the Playstation incarnations of this game, but fully intend to before the new one releases this summer. This has to be up there with Fallout 3 as my most looked forward to game this year.

The other little gem I’ve found is a movie by producer Guillermo del Toro and director Juan Antonio Bayona, named The Orphanage (imdb link, official site, quicktime trailer).

The Orphanage

One of del Toro’s previous movies, The Devil’s Backbone, is one of my favorite movies of all time, so when I saw that his name is attached to The Orphanage, I was immediately intrigued. Unlike Devil’s Backbone, however, del Toro is strictly a producer on this movie, but Bayona’s directorial work looks not only polished, but chilling. Just watching the trailer gave me shivers for this movie. And the reviews and critical comments have been resoundingly positive. Right now it’s in limited release in several large cities, but I’m hoping it eventually comes out a little closer to home, much like Pan’s Labyrinth eventually did.

Bridge to Dear Lord This Is A Depressing Movie

So, after my successful completion of yet another floss fairy mission today, Shawn and Danie asked if I wanted to go see a movie. When I queried as to what movie we could possibly go see, they suggested the recent release, Bridge to Terabithia.

Now I know I read this book as a child. I distinctly remember the name, and I vaguely remember it being about two friends and a magical fairy tale kingdom they create with their imagination. I remember it being good, as well. But that’s about all I remember.

What I had completely forgotten is how truly sad the story is.

I did like the movie for the most part. It’s mainly aimed at a younger audience, so don’t expect something too terribly deep and engrossing. There are also a few places, early on, where they try to hard. Growing up and adolescence is awkward enough as it is. They didn’t need to make it even more awkward by throwing in poorly done caricatures of bullies and typical teen social angst. It does get it’s point across, but there are still parts of the movie where I couldn’t help but cringe.

But this story is still mainly about those two friends, and something special that they share. Even if they do seem completely schizophrenic and insane at times. They are acted beautifully by the two starlets that portray them, and was one of the main saving graces of the film.

I’d recommend giving it a view, if only because I have always had a great love for tragedies.

If anything, it makes me want to read the book again.

Farscape and slack.

I finished watching the second season of Farscape tonight. And was fairly impressed. The first half of the season started out pretty slow, with a few rather predictable, plodding, uninteresting episodes here and there. But the second half grew progressively better… and the season finale was downright good. I chalk it up to that whole “trying to secure finances for the next season” thing. Whatever the reason, it was appreciated. And I’ve been able to nominate Scorpius as my new favorite villian.

Of course, now I get to begin watching season three.

In an attempt to break up the Farscape-fest a little bit, I’ve decided to insert a little anime here and there. For season three, I’ll also be watching a little Witch Hunter Robin, a show that fascinated me when it aired on Cartoon Network not too long ago, but something I was never able to catch all the episodes of.

In other news, things pretty much suck. I am unimpressed with my lack of ability to set and persue goals, especially when I know I am fully capable of doing so. I’m starting to apall even myself with my level of slack.

I’m just realizing once more that I need to kick myself in the ass. Perhaps with some strange Rube Goldbergian device.

I’ll think of something.

Memorial Day

They say that this a holiday to remember all the men and woman that have died in military service.

I say that’s only partially true.

The deeper purpose of this holiday is to give the typical American household the chance to fire up their barbecue.

You couldn’t go outside today without the smell of roasted meat and barbecue sauce assaulting your senses.

Which brings me to something peculiar about American holidays. It seems they have all begun to revolve around one predominate facet.


After all, we are the only nation to have Thanksgiving, a holiday edifying the mass destruction and consumption of large poultry.

Of course, I’m just as guilty as anyone else. Don’t dare deprive me of my Halloween sweets, or the miles and miles of goodies that come with Christmas.

And they wonder why America has an obesity problem. We worship food. We glorify it… even celebrate it.

Which kind of brings me to the movie I went and saw tonight.

Yes, another movie. I think in ways it was an attempt to wash away X-Men 3 from last night.

Anyway… we went and saw Over the Hedge.

It’s cute. And rather entertaining. It’s also slow at times and rather methodical. It strives too hard to be a kids movie a large portion of the time, even though there is some content there for the older crowd as well.

And there’s an entire scene explaining human’s strange obsession with food.

In reality, though… there’s only one reason to watch the movie.


How can you resist an adorable, hyperactive squirrel?

You can’t. It’s just not possible.


The summer movie train wreck has begun.

In other news…

I went and saw X-Men 3 tonight.

It was nearly as bad as I expected it to be.

Even the action scenes are kind of a sad affair, the one thing this movie was supposed to have going for it. You don’t end up really caring about the characters by the end of it, and the story is pretty damn weak all in all.

So in other words, it’s a summer blockbuster through and through.

Millions will go see it simply because they’ve invested so much into the previous movies… and the comics and characters themselves. I worry that it will simply mean more formulaic trash coming out in the future until they truly kill the fans off.

Not that I have room to speak, really. My comic collection is a sad affair of a couple Sandman anthologies and Lenore.

It didn’t stop me from giggling upon seeing the trailer for the upcoming Ghost Rider movie though. I mean… c’mon. Nicolas Cage?

I may go see it just for the absurdity of it all.

So basically… the short-list of movies I’m actually looking forward to at this point:

Cars we’re going to go see for Danie’s graduation. That should be fun. Pirates of the Caribbean… I have some reservations about it. The trailers I’ve seen so far haven’t dissuaded my fears that it will be another crappy sequel. But it has Johnny Depp. And pirates. I figure you can’t butcher something like that too badly.

And I’ll probably be eating crow in a month when it comes out.

Stranger than (science) fiction.

I’ve survived the day.

And none the worst for wear at that.

Thankfully I can get back on a somewhat sane schedule tonight. Well… as sane as usual for me.

Through the joy of Netflix, I’ve been catching up on Sci-Fi series that I missed. I decided to start with Farscape, as I have always enjoyed the Jim Henson creature shop’s work. I remember as a child being thoroughly enthralled by The Storyteller series on TV… something that I may have to find on DVD just to re-live those memories.

In Farscape, however, I have been somewhat disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong… the series certainly has its high points, and to be honest, I have only made it about half-way through the first season so far.

But there is certainly something missing. The episodes lack focus in ways… as if certain elements were brought in simply to flesh out an episode that was drastically needing something more.

I think that’s the heart of my troubles with the series, really. I get the feeling that it would of made a much better series of half-hour episodes than simply trying to fill in a full hour, even if the core of your story needs much less than that.

This is, of course, just one critic’s opinion however.

I fully intend to watch the whole series, no matter what my qualms may be.

There’s just not enough Sci-Fi out there.

I’m undecided at this point what to catch up on next. I’m thinking possibly Stargate SG-1. Or possibly Battlestar Galactica. Not that new stuff they’re putting on the Sci-Fi station, though I plan on watching that eventually too. The original… another childhood favorite.

Of course, I’m always open to suggestions, too.

Spring Break

Things have been in a bit of turmoil the past few days.

Shawn’s little car, which I had hoped would last at least another month, has decided to become very ill. We still don’t know exactly what’s wrong with it at this point, but at the moment it has the terrifying characteristic of feeling like it’s going to tear itself apart if you get it much above 50 mph. So it’s not exactly comforting to drive. And if there was an automotive equivalent to laryngitis, this car would sound like it had it.

This has, of course, put me in a bit of a position, since I require vehicular transportation to get to work, 30 miles away.

Luckily I’ve been able to secure some financing for a vehicle, and though I’m not completely happy with the terms, it’s the only avenue I have available at the moment. The financing does dictate that I have to get a newer vehicle, which I wasn’t intending to do, as I just wanted something simple that I could commute with, but I have to admit the thought of a newer vehicle which I won’t have to worry about as much is nice. And, looking over my budget, it should fit into the big financial picture without any issues.

All I need now is for the financial packet to arrive in the mail, and to start shopping for a vehicle. Unfortunately, I’ll have to do my shopping over the phone for the most part, though it helps that I know what I want. I’m looking for a Nissan Altima, or possibly a Maxima. I’ve always liked the Nissan vehicles, and Altima and Maxima have an excellent record. Plus they make excellent commuter vehicles, with low gas consumption and a rock solid service record. I had thought about looking into a Toyota Prius, the hybrid vehicle which has been hyped quite a bit recently, but the prices for one are extravagantly high here. I’m not entirely sure why this is, especially after talking to my overseas friend and confidant. The conspiracist part of my brain says that it’s probably due to some sort of price locking by the oil companies. The rational part says that its simply what the market here will bear. At any rate, they are simply out of my budget.

That pretty much covers my car woes for now. This next week is going to be… interesting. I have to find some way to get to work without a vehicle, and shop for a car at the same time. I’m lucky that this week was actually spring break, so it wasn’t necessary to go in to work for most of the week. Shawn and I will be borrowing a car for tomorrow so that we can at least get a day in. Then next week… I’m not sure yet what will happen.

It gives me something to stress about for the weekend, at least.

In happier news, this week has given me the opportunity to catch up on a few movies.

First up, I watched Gattaca. This is one of those movies I’ve been meaning to watch for some time, and has been popping up repeatedly on my recommend list in places like Amazon and Netflix. So I took the plunge and finally rented it. And was quite pleased by what I saw. Now, I’m not a big fan of Ethan Hawke. For some reason, he just grates me the wrong way. But I was able to tolerate his acting as the lead in this film. I think it helps that the story was something I find incredibly intriguing, and was presented in a very compelling way. Jude Law’s character was also fascinating, and he truly does steal the scene when he’s given the chance to act. This is very well done science fiction, set in the not too distant future. It’s also good to say that I’ve finally found a movie that doesn’t completely genuflect at the audience at the end. The characters stay true to their convictions. And that’s something.

Next up, I watched Cronos, the first movie directed by Guillermo del Toro. I have to say up front that I absolutely love The Devil’s Backbone. Enough that it would possibly be in my top ten most liked movies of all time. Cronos isn’t quite in the ranks of Devil’s Backbone, but it was thoroughly entertaining, and a recommended watch if you like del Toro’s work. It’s a well thought out, sometimes touching, vampire piece. The movie is a little slow in places, and has a few things that don’t completely make sense if you start picking it apart, but is balanced quite well by some fantastic imagery and a cast of characters that you actually grow quite fond of as the movie progresses. And it has Ron Perlman. Definitely worth a rental, though I don’t think I’ll be adding it to my DVD collection.

And finally, I watched Lord of War, an entertaining commentary on guns and the people that sell them. I actually wasn’t expecting much from this movie, as I’d heard mixed things about it… and you generally never know what you’re getting into with something as volatile a subject as gun running to countries in a state of unrest. The story is told very much from the point of view of a gun salesman, though. And Nicholas Cage actually plays the part quite well. To him, it’s not about what the guns are being used for. It’s not his war, or his fight, or his concern. This brings up a lot of moral conflicts in the film, some of which are presented better than others. But it does point out that even if one gun runner is stopped or put away, it wouldn’t stop the killing, as there are plenty of others out there that would take his place. You could say that the movie advocates gun control in a way, but leaves a lot of the interpretation to the viewer. I was a bit dissatisfied with the ending, though that might possibly be because its likely how it would of ended realistically. This is more of a scathing commentary on American government than anything else in this film. I’d say this is another movie that I think is worth a rental, and is actually more likely to be added to my DVD collection than Cronos. It is controversial however, so don’t expect to always enjoy or agree with the views presented. Oh… and Ethan Hawke is in it. And I did find his morally heavy-handed character as annoying as usual.

So… three movies… and all three of them I’d recommend for at least a single watch through.

I guess I could say this was the spring break of cars, stress, and movies. I’ve also started reading Enchanter, the second book of the Wayfarer Redemption series by Sara Douglas. I can tell that I’ll be spending some quality time with it over the weekend.


It’s been a pleasant past couple of days.

The weekend was spent mostly wasting time on World of Warcraft. And quite happily, I might add. It’s incredibly fun to play through again from a fresh perspective, with new players and playing a different class. I’m having a blast leveling up my rogue at the moment, and from what I can tell, those I played with had a rather enjoyable time as well.

Somehow I have the feeling that World of Warcraft may take up a chunk of my weekend once and awhile. Not every weekend, I hope… as I know there are things I still want to do… but it’s good to just lose yourself in something simple and enjoyable once and awhile.

Especially when you can do it with friends.

Work bits were mostly back to normal today. I’ve been able to tinker more with Cisco equipment, and was able to setup a video conferencing unit as well. Which can be a little tricky to do considering the levels of security and firewall protection that are in place. I also broke down and ordered a couple of new CD’s today. I had been poking around on iTunes and was having a bit of fun putting in known artists I enjoy and seeing what else people had purchased that was similar. I still have a hard time buying songs directly from iTunes, though. I’m a bit of an audiophile, and the 128Kbps just doesn’t cut it for me quality wise. Plus I’m a little old fashioned in that I like to have that physical disc with the liner notes and inserts.

At any rate, the CD’s I ended up buying were Ladytron’s Witching Hour, Imogen Heap’s Speak For Yourself, and Depeche Mode’s Exciter. The first two are newly discovered artists, which I hope to post reviews of at some point. The Depeche Mode, though, is to fill in one more album gap in my collection. I don’t aspire to track down everything they’ve ever done, because I think that would be a lesson in futility in ways… but I certainly don’t mind picking up an album here or there.

Otherwise, things are fairly quiet. Shawn’s girlfriend is on spring break, so I expect to see her a little more often this week, which is good. Shawn has officially declared that he’s going to take a bit of a break from work this week, for somewhat obvious reasons. We watched My Neighbor Totoro tonight, which Danie hadn’t seen. It’s definitely a kid’s movie, but it’s still amusing nonetheless.

And, one of the happiest bit of news, I finally got part of the long overdue overseas package off today. There was just way too much procrastination on my part, and it was starting to make me a little upset at myself. I feel better knowing that a large chunk of the stuff I’ve been wanting to send is finally on its way… and hope to still be able to put together a few care packages here and there in the months to come. Hopefully with more maple and cinnamon goodness.

And Cthulhu? He’s just happy to be on his way.

Gunpowder, treason, and plot.

Tonight I went to go see V for Vendetta.

And was pleasantly surprised.

I hadn’t heard much about the movie up to its release, because, frankly, movies lately have been crap. I understand that it’s based on a comic that was put out by Vertigo, but I only just found this out when their logo showed up at the beginning of the movie.

This may be a good thing. I’ve read some reviews that say the characters deviate quite a bit from their comic underpinnings. This is to be expected, though.

But, from what I’ve seen, they’ve made it into a rather enjoyable movie.

It may also be the best movie to come out this summer.

Though that’s not exactly a hard title to earn.

At any rate, I recommend it.

And remember… remember, remember the fifth of November.


A week since my last post…

Needless to say, I haven’t done as good as I had hoped I would.

This week has been a rough one, to be honest. Things at work have actually picked up a bit. I was hoping it would be fairly quiet until the end of the year, as it has a tendency of being this time of year, but a few major software updates made things a little shaky for a while. Plus I found out earlier in the week that a couple high school students wanted to job shadow me, of all people, for their senior projects.

I find it amusing that there are kids in high school eager to join the IT market that don’t have the faintest idea of how the guts of a computer or a network work. I can’t blame them completely. There’s not really a curriculum here that covers something like that. The vast majority of computer oriented classes at the school I work at consist of how to touch type and use Word and Excel. Which are excellent skills to have, to be sure. It’s just pretty far from things like actually building your own computer, for example. Or putting together a simple network.

I guess that’s why they have job shadows.

Although the blank stares I got while describing what I was doing as I added a VLAN to the network for use with our DMZ was entertaining.

All this has meant, though, that I have been having a hard time finding moments to dedicate to my goals.

And I’m upset at myself because of that.

Thankfully I was able to get a little bit on track last night, though it meant that I didn’t have the time really to post things here. So this a little later than I wanted it to be, but the good news is that I’ve actually made some progress… and spent some time away from work.

Shawn, Danie and I spent most of the day yesterday in Moses Lake. Just having fun for the most part. We were able to have a nice dinner at a favorite mexican restaurant in town, and fit in a little bit of shopping as well.

And me, being the impulse purchaser I am, managed to snag up a movie I’ve been looking forward to tremendously.

So, needless to say, we watched a movie when we got home.

Howl’s Moving Castle is another gorgeous work of art from Hayao Miyazaki. I am slowly beginning to collect all his pieces, including Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke. Howl’s Moving Castle is actually more straightforward than most of his others works, with a storyline that is fairly simple, and familiar in some ways, echoing a lot of fantasy tales. It is, however, still stunningly animated and an absolute joy to watch. I’ve found out the story is actually based on a book, which I may have to track down and read. If I ever get around to doing so, I’ll have to compare and contrast the two here. This is something I would actually like to do more often when watching movies, as most of them actually are based on some literary piece of some sort. I know that when I watched the first Narnia movie, the desire was quite strong to go reread the books… and see if somehow my childhood memories of them where somehow rose tinted compared to my mixed reactions of the movie.

At any rate, so far its been a rather pleasant weekend. I’ve even managed to get a couple more chapters into The Wayfarer Redemption, and it is still my solemn goal to get the rest of the way through it before the end of the month. Which I think is still entirely possible at this point.

I do have to admit another addiction that has been stealing away some of my time once more as well, though. World of Warcraft. I’ve tried to hide this addiction for the longest time… because there was a time when it was actually a serious problem for me. Though not lately, thankfully. When I was inbetween jobs and wasn’t sure if I was going to have full time work at Royal, you could almost gaurentee that I was playing that evil game. That was a dark time for me… where I didn’t know where my life was going or how I was going to make ends meet. That game was an escape… and much worse, in ways, than drinking. I’m not saying it’s evil incarnate, because honestly, I had an absolute blast playing for the most part. Blizzard has done something amazing in building a game in the massively multiplayer genre that is genuinely fun to play. They make it easy to get started, make questing easy to do, and weave in a storyline that is actually quite intriguing. There are still some balance issues between classes, but considering the choices you have and their very differing skillset, I think there are some things that can be forgiven. That being said, I reached a point playing where I lost a lot of interest in the game. And, thank god, I was able to start working full time in Royal, which simply made it so I couldn’t put in the amount of time required for one of the most frustrating aspects of the game.

The end game content.

Unless you have absolutely no life and all the free time in the world, World of Warcraft becomes virtually unplayabe at level 60. At that point it stops becoming a matter of questing or simple runs through dungeons with a small group of friends. At level 60 you have to start running instances that require raids of 40 people… with the hope that something for you drops that you can use… and that you don’t get out-rolled or out-bid on the item by one of the others in your class that is going to invariably be there. These raids generally will take multiple days to complete… and will require being in a guild that takes such things seriously. And will likely kick you if you don’t have the time to seriously take part.

This is where it all falls apart, and, in my opinion, the game stops being fun.

I hold out hope that the expansion pack will solve some of these problems, but honestly I doubt it will. At least until you hit the level cap at 70 once again. But I have found myself playing the game once again despite these drawbacks. Because, honestly, though reaching level 60 might be rather anticlimatic, getting there is still an absolute blast. I’ve been leveling up a character with my little brother once more, and having a fun time doing it. Partly because I’m playing an Alliance character for the first time, but also because we are playing on a PvP server, which is a different experience entirely. It adds a level of apprehension to the game that constantly keeps you on your toes while you’re playing. And, of course, there is something satisfying about randomly battling the other faction and, hopefully, coming out victorious.

Add to that the fact that two other good friends have started a character on another server, and I find myself once more happily trying to level and quest to catch up to them.

The game may have its faults… but its still well worth a play through in my opinion. And maybe some day they’ll fix those end game issues.

Until then, I’m not too worried about it sucking my life away again, at least.

There are too many books that need to be read instead.