Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award!

Yay, I just received the Versatile Blogger Award from Ambiguous Geek of Geeky ambiguous me. I never thought of myself as that versatile a blogger... I guess I talk about fantasy and sci-fi stuff while also posting photos (and some videos) of Hawaii. Anyway, I am truly honored. Thanks, Ambiguous Geek!

As usual, this award comes with some rules:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award
2. Share seven things about you
3. Nominate 15 newly discovered blogs
4. Let your nominees know about the award!

Any seven things about me? Whoa. Not sure where to start. Well, since this is the versatile blogger award, I'll try to think of some of my varied talents that don't often come up on this blog.

1. I played the flute from grade school all through high school, and I got quite good. Not that good--I wouldn't have made it into my university's prestigious orchestra--but good enough that people who don't know better are very impressed.
2. I sing pretty well, too. I was semi-professional in college (and by that I mean I was paid to sing but I didn't deserve it). I sing second soprano, and I once hit a high C (though I'll almost never attempt anything higher than an A).
3. I took dance classes from age four through high school, and I took one dance course in college. I did tap, jazz, ballet (including pointe), modern/contemporary, and a bit of hip hop (which I never really liked).
4. I can recite all of Shakespeare's Sonnet 129 in one breath at a volume loud enough to be heard by an audience.
5. I have been able to recite the last names of all the U.S. presidents in order of office since the age of seven.
6. Stupid human tricks: I can wiggle my ears, raise one eyebrow, curl my tongue both like a hot dog roll and like a little cloverleaf, plus twist it over both ways, and I can move my pinkie toe onto the toe next to it all by itself. And I can snap my ear, but I already mentioned that recently.
7. I'm quite good at foosball. I used to play doubles with my friends in college (we had a table in one of the common room areas), and I had some killer offense moves.

Now I'm supposed to nominate fifteen newly discovered blogs. First of all, fifteen? I couldn't even come up with twelve people to give one previous award, and that one didn't even stipulate they be newly discovered. And second, newly discovered by whom? Me? Like Columbus "discovering" the New World when there were plenty of people who'd known about it for thousands of years? OK, OK... Well, it's supposed to be the Versatile Blogger award, so how about I nominate some bloggers that I think are versatile in some way or another. Here goes.

Note to winners: Feel no pressure to follow the "rules" or do any follow up to your receipt of this award. I have no expectations :)

Sebastian - He's been posting a lot of TED talks recently, but he sometimes tackles really meaty subjects, talks about geeky things, and posts beautiful photos.
Hezabelle - She discusses her adventures and misadventures, posts photos from her travels, and sometimes teaches us about classics and Greek mythology.
Floreta, Solitary Panda - She talks about deep questions on her path to finding herself, plus she writes wonderful poetry.
Mei, of Diary of a Fair Weather Diver - She's funny and sweet as she talks about her life, and she has mad artistic skills.
Mary of Quarterlife Adventures - She's recently been detailing her adventures in Indonesia, but she also gives great restaurant reviews.

Hmm, total fail at coming up with fifteen. Anyone else reading this who wants the award, just say the word and it's yours!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Story time Sunday: The Chocolate Orange

Following my first Story time Sunday post a couple weeks ago, here's another one in which I recount an embarrassing tale of momentary stupidity. I don't know why I end up telling people this story, because it is a little humiliating and I was alone at the time of my stupidity so no one ever had to know about it. I guess it just comes up sometimes.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hobbit update, Dragon Age anime, and Scott Pilgrim

It has come to my attention that BioWare will be teaming with FUNimation to make an anime Dragon Age movie ( Production has supposedly recently started, and the movie is planned to be released on home video some time in 2011. Dragon Age may be a bit overshadowed by its BioWare sibling Mass Effect which, if all goes according to plan, will be getting the big screen treatment. Still, it is a strong young franchise itself, and the game is being kept fresh by considerable new downloadable content continually being made available (I may get around to playing some of it...after I've dealt with Mass Effect 2's latest DLC). Home video is a reasonable venue for a movie continuation of the world of Dragon Age, and anime should be a cool medium for the storytelling. I'll be keeping an eye out to see what comes of this.

Despite the fact that director Guillermo del Toro stepped down last month due to delays, production on The Hobbit goes on (Studio Briefing). Apparently, cave-like homes are being constructed near Matamata, New Zealand for use in the movie, though it's not apparent who is funding the construction. And now, the word is that Peter Jackson is in talks to take over the direction of the two planned films (EW). Nothing is set yet, and MGM, which owns half the rights to the film, continues to have financial troubles. Still, it is good news that The Hobbit is at least getting itself a new director. I was excited at the idea of del Toro bringing something new and different to the franchise, but Peter Jackson has more than proven himself capable of handling Middle-earth.

This last bit isn't so much news, but it's something on my mind I wanted to share. Today's daily poll at IMDb asks which of the many comedies being released before the end of the year we most want to see. At the top of the results--the only movie with more votes than "I am not interested in any of these movies"--is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Even though I have never read the comics, I have to say I agree. I don't know what a few of the comedies on IMDb's list are, but of the ones I do know, the only one I'm actually excited for is Scott Pilgrim. I like a lot of the people involved, and I found the trailers hugely entertaining.

Furthermore, today I came across the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Avatar Creator site that has been linked to by many people of late, which, as its name suggests, allows you to create a Scott Pilgrim-esque avatar for yourself. Well, I couldn't resist...

Anyone recognize the outfit? (Sadly, pointe shoes were not an option).

As it says, in theaters August 13. It's supposed to be epic.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Humuhumu Epic Video!

As promised in Tuesday's post of photos from Hanauma Bay, here is the epic video of the humuhumunukunukuapua'a you have all been waiting for! Or, well, at least I've been waiting to post it.

Even though there is no sound to go along with this epic video (anyone have a suggestion for a good soundtrack?), I think it speaks for itself.

It really is a shame the camera didn't capture any sound for my epic video. Full disclosure: I made quite a comical scream into my snorkel as the fish lurched towards my fingers. I actually have a very early memory from my first trip to Hanauma Bay at the age of five, when I got my fingertips bitten by fish. I was bleeding and my dad had to walk me over to the lifeguard for some band-aids. So an alarmed shout into the snorkel was not out of line.

Really, I was kind of asking for it. I knew that the fish was being feisty/moody, but since usually when I film fish they swim away from me, I just had to get some more footage of the humuhumu. You can see the "trigger" on his back/on the top of his head go up and down. I never knew what it was for, but the fish seems to use it when he's alarmed, or maybe as a warning. And thanks to the fish coming in for a, uh, closeup, you can even make out the detail of its little scales. Pretty cool. I was planning that all along...

Well there you have it, my epic video. I am hoping to get a new underwater camera of my own this summer (as the one that filmed this belongs to my Housemate), which will take HD video that can zoom while filming and will have sound. So here's hoping for more epic videos to come.

By the way, my fingers are all fine, thanks for asking.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another trip to Hanauma

I mentioned in a post last week that I had gone back to Hanauma Bay, the most popular snorkeling spot on the island (see my post on Hanauma from last summer here). As before, the Housemate and I went armed with his underwater camera (Olympus Stylus Tough 8000).

We didn't see any honu (sea turtles) this time, but we saw lots of different nice fish. I even got an awesome, epic video of a humuhumunukunukuapua'a (Hawaii's famous reef triggerfish). Here are some of my favorite pics (taken by me unless otherwise noted):

Taken by the Housemate, this spotted guy is pretty cute.

The colors aren't any good, but it was fun to swim with a school of fish.

The Housemate took this one; he liked that part of its tail looks a bit like a clownfish (as in Finding Nemo).

I thought this coral was a nice color (and there's a little fish).

The Housemate took a bunch of photos of this fish, and while this one wasn't the clearest, it had the best shot of the angel fish's interesting dorsal fin.

Again, not a very clear picture, but this raccoon butterflyfish was so cute.

Some threadfin butterflyfish down below.

I love the way the light plays underwater.

In the past, I've only seemed to be able to take pictures of the humuhumus swimming away from me. That was not the case with this guy. And see his "trigger" raised on top of his head? Yeah, that pointy thing is usually down.

This is the same humuhumu who stars in my epic video.

This is not the epic video. Sorry, the epic video gets its own upcoming post. This is a calm, lazily-following-the-different-fish video, including a somewhat... shier... humuhumu than the one in the photo above (notice the trigger is down). Don't bother messing with your speakers; there is no sound (I don't know if the Housemate's camera doesn't do sound or if we just had it on the wrong settings). Enjoy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Super comments award!

Yay, another blog award!

I recently was awarded the Super Comments Award from both Angel of Nerd Angel and (while in the midst of writing this post), RAY J from Point Me to the Sky Above. Thanks to both of you--you write super comments yourself!

The Rules:
1. Thank person who nominated you.
2. Copy the award. Paste it in your blog.
3. Link to the person who gave me this award.
4. Answer the 10 questions that come with the award.
5. Nominate of few of your favorite bloggers for the award. (Uh, just nominate? Who will then vote on the winners?!)

The Questions:

1. Why do you blog?
I started blogging because, while I've always had a strong inner monologue (or sometimes dialogue), I'd never regularly written down my thoughts in a coherent manner, and I figured it would be nice to air those thoughts in a blog. This is still a large part of why I blog, but now that I have actual readers and blogger friends, I write to share my thoughts, experiences, and life with these readers and friends. Also, I am very passionate about my geeky interests, so I blog to share the joys of geekery.

2. What are your 3 best memories?
It's hard to pick the three best, so I'll just choose three of my best memories, and I'll try to make them things I haven't talked about before on this blog.

Fall break junior year in college, I stayed at a beach house in Rhode Island with nine of my best friends. It was the perfect setting, with perfect weather, we had perfect little adventures, we played fun games, and I just loved all those people. I was completely and totally happy that week.

My high school graduation, I got to give one of the graduation speeches. The only person I'd actually told what I would be talking about was a slightly crazy freshman (don't ask why that came about), so I wasn't sure what people would think. But it was very well received (better received than the other two student speeches), and though I'd never been popular in school, I was proud and felt appreciated.

OK, for the third I'm going to go with the first time I went to the aquarium when they had sea otters (it was some time in middle school). Sea otters had been my favorite animal for years, but I'd never before seen one in person. I just sat there watching them for an hour. I was thrilled.

3. If you had to change your real name what would you change it to?
There are all sorts of cool names I could think of--like names in Elvish, or names of characters in fantasy books--but if we're talking about what I really would change my name to, I'd have to say Bryony. OK, so it's kind of a fantasy book name, too, since the first time I ever heard the name was in Outcast of Redwall. But it's a legitimate name, and I've loved it ever since I read that book.

4. What are five things you can’t live without?
Can't live without, or just would be miserable without. I'll go with the latter, since it's more interesting than the former's "food, water, shelter, love, etc."

Video games/TV shows/movies/books (some sort of diverting media)

The internet (not the same as the above)

Candy/cookies/something sweet to snack on

A nice cold glass of milk


5. What are the 4 best books you’ve ever read?
Best books? Or my favorites? The first is too complicated (I don't think I have enough of a critical eye to judge that), so I'll go with the second and list four of my favorites. No guarantees they're actually good books, though.

The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan
Martin the Warrior, by Brian Jacques
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling
The Elfstones of Shannara, by Terry Brooks

6. Tell me something unique and interesting about yourself.
I wrote a term paper for an engineering course at a prestigious university on the Lord of the Ring's Bridge of Khazad-dûm. Ack, I always bring that one up, and it's not even unique because I had a partner on the project (and who knows, there may be other people who've done it as well). I can also make a snapping sound with my earlobe that's as loud as a good finger snap. Maybe in combination those are unique.

7. What do you love best about yourself?
I am interested in the most interesting things! OK, obviously I'm not an objective judge in that matter, but I guess what I'm essentially saying is, I like that I'm a geek. I think I have good geeky taste. Again, I don't know if I can say this is what I love best, but it is one thing I like about myself.

8. What is the best movie ever made?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They filmed them at the same time, so it's basically one movie. I have to choose just one? Really? Oh dear. Two Towers? No, RotK? No, Fellowship? No--Aaaahhh! Shutting...down...

9. If you had a “freaky Friday” experience who would you trade places with and why?
I wouldn't want to trade places with someone in power, since I wouldn't have a clue what to do. I wouldn't want to trade places with a celebrity, because paparazzi might get in the way. Really, I think I would be embarrassed to intrude on anyone's life that I respect. I wouldn't mind trading places with Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly so that I could ruin them but that would be a total ripoff of Angel's... Hmm. Right now, I'd go with someone who gets to test the Kinect. Or The Old Republic. Or maybe someone who's at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park that just opened. That's all I got.

10. What’s the best part about being a woman?
Angel may have gotten it right when he said wearing pretty dresses, though I might change it to wearing long skirts (I looove wearing a long flowing skirt on a windy day). But to come up with something different... OK, so you're at a party/neighborhood barbecue/in-laws' house/social gathering of some sort. Someone forces you into a game of pool/ping-pong/tennis/basketball/whatever. You are absolutely terrible at said activity. If you're a man, it's embarrassing when you totally fumble, try after try. Other guys shake their heads, express their disappointment, and you scramble to make excuses. If you're a woman, you just laugh about it and people think you're cute and say you're good for just trying. This may not always be the case, and maybe it's just a symptom of low expectations for women or something, but I have found it convenient.

Whew, that was quite the questionnaire! OK, so the bloggers I now choose for this award (no pressure to follow the rules, I have no expectations :-) are Sparkling Blue who writes Tales of a Gemsinger, and Mary of Quarterlife Adventures. All of you wonderful commenters deserve this award, but several of you have already received the award, and others of you recently got an award from me. I don't want to be too easy ;)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fireworks, take two!

It may seem like I'm jumping the gun on the Fourth of July with this post about fireworks. But Waikiki, in all its tourist-geared extravagance, has a fireworks show every Friday night--a show that we are lucky enough to be able to see from our apartment window. Some time after I moved into my apartment last summer, I did a post with a rather unimpressive picture of our view of the fireworks show. Well, a couple Fridays ago, they had a special fireworks show with two simultaneous sets of fireworks at locations different from their normal spot. I don't know what the occasion was; it was actually the weekend in between two holiday weekends (Memorial Day and Kamehameha Day). But it was pretty awesome.

My lease runs out at the end of July, and the Housemate's runs out soon after that, so we've been considering looking at other places. But the things I don't like about this place (they don't allow pets; in lieu of a yard we have a dusty, weedy slope; and while our other housemates are perfectly nice we've never really become friends) are outweighed by the things we love: the clean, newly-renovated interior; the big windows looking out at the Waikiki skyline and Diamond Head; the mango tree; the convenient walk to school; and, of course, our weekly fireworks show.

On a mostly unrelated note about things to come, I will mention that I took another trip to Hanauma Bay to go snorkeling with the Housemate's waterproof camera. I will have a few new pictures...and an epic share some time next week.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I want a Kinect.

E3 this week has brought a flurry of exciting news, not the least of which revolves around reveals of the new Kinect. It's hard to believe that it was over a year ago when we were first introduced to Project Natal, a device for the Xbox 360 that uses motion capture as well as voice and face recognition to turn YOU into the game system's controller. I was excited then at the possibilities this technology promised, particularly with the "Milo" demo. Now, it has an official name (Kinect), a release date (November 4, 2010), and a number of games they're showing off at E3 (where lucky people get to try them!) and in promotional videos.

The stage demo for the Star Wars game was underwhelming (it was so...staged), but I have high hopes that the actual game will deliver. I don't know how it will work with lightsaber fighting if you can't feel the contact with the opposing lightsaber, but I look forward to doing some Force throws. The sports games look fun enough that I actually might be inspired to work out. I don't really see myself playing Kinectimals, and the name is pretty weak but, uh, the tiger is awfully cute.

You can find tons of promotional videos on their website; somehow, though, there still aren't enough of them. Check out the videos where such cool people as Chris Hemsworth, Zachary Levi and Josh Gomez, and Felicia Day give the Kinect a try. Felicia Day, as ever, is my hero:

"I can't wait to, like, throw a fireball like that." [Does fireball throwing motion.]

Yes! My thought exactly. This would be so perfect for a fantasy game--one could use hand movements and/or voice commands to specify which spell to cast... Just picturing it makes me squeeeee! Game developers, get on that.

The Housemate and I are already making plans to get an Xbox 360, and we've upped the size of the TV we plan to buy so we can better "get in the game". And on November 4, I'll totally be there.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Story time Sunday: The Princess Diaries in Prom Dresses

Do any of you have favorite stories from your amusing life experiences that you like to bring up at parties, hanging out with friends, or basically any time the opportunity arises and you're with someone who hasn't heard the story before? Maybe I'm kind of lame, but I have a bunch of those stories. I guess I can be a bit repetitive; my brothers have probably heard me tell some of these stories (to other people) tons of times, and sometimes I have to stop and ask people, "Have I told you this before?" because I lose track.

Now, I don't tell these stories out of nowhere, I'm just good at taking opportunities in conversations where I can smoothly (or maybe not so smoothly) transition into them. This means, however, that they mostly haven't come up on this blog, where I am (almost) always the one initiating the conversation. So I've decided to do a series of posts on my favorite stories. I've called it Story time Sunday because, well, it has the alliteration. But I haven't decided how often I'll do these posts. I don't want to run out of stories too fast, after all.

Because these are stories that I'm accustomed to telling verbally, in conversation, I figured it was only appropriate for me to tell them in audio on my blog. It's part of the experience, me rambling on about something I think is funny. Blogger is kind of stupid, however, and I couldn't figure out how to insert just an mp3. So I've been forced to turn it into a sort of video, hastily thrown together, so go easy on me. Anyway, without further ado, here is my first favorite story.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

TV show finales

Lost had its huge series finale last month, which was a big enough deal that I discussed it in its own post. The rest of the shows that I've been following this season I decided to lump together into one season finale post. While most shows ended several weeks ago, Glee was the late finisher, concluding only this past week. So now I finally get to do my finales post.

As you might have guessed, each section contains SEASON FINALE SPOILERS for its respective show.


V started off strong last November, but after only four episodes it went on a long hiatus, coming back in the spring with many fewer viewers and, in my opinion, worse writing. I was disappointed by a number of things this spring, and Tyler and Chad really got on my nerves. Still, I was overall satisfied by the season finale.

There were a couple weak points. I thought the whole situation of Ryan's wife giving birth on the V ship was ridiculous: obviously they were going to kill her--Ryan even expected as much--so why would he let them shuffle him out of the room as she was giving birth?! Even human hospitals, primitive as their technology is compared to V technology, can handle people in the room with a woman giving birth. That room on the V ship was very spacious! He couldn't have been in anyone's way. Seriously, he believed them when they told him he had to leave? Dumb, dumb, dumb. I also thought it was kind of unrealistic that, after Joshua told Chad about the bad things the Vs were doing to the live-aboard people, Chad was able to just wander down the hall, unhindered and unnoticed, to the secret rooms where the weird experiments were going on. I'm glad he's finally on the side of the resistance, but it was a little silly that it was so simple.

Luckily, there were enough cool things that happened in the finale to satisfy me. Erica has successfully infiltrated Anna's circle of trust: Anna is rather pleased with herself that she has recruited Erica for her side to help in the investigations to bring down the Fifth Column, but, ha ha ha, Erica is the Fifth Column. Sweet. And Lisa has now officially chosen sides, and she has chosen the Fifth Column. Yay for her. I like her character a lot. Lastly, when Anna flipped out when she saw that almost all of her soldiers had been killed? So freaky. So cool. So satisfying.

The show has been renewed, though it won't be returning until midseason. Another long hiatus. Hopefully things will continue to get better when they come back.


I love this show. The characters had a fascinating foray into the "Other Side", and they met up with Leonard Nimoy who made a fitting exit. I find it a little hard to believe that no one noticed they had the wrong Olivia at the end there, though I guess they were in a hurry. Still, if it takes Peter more than one episode to realize she's the wrong one I will be very upset. It leaves a very interesting setup for the next season. Will Other Olivia (Fauxlivia? She's not really "faux"--that would be more like one of the shapeshifters taking her form--but it has a nice ring to it) realize the error of her ways and help to set things right? How will Our Olivia cope on the other side? The look Walternate gave her as he observed her in her cell was chilling--he wasn't looking at a person there. But will have to be some developments on that side, as well. She can't just stay isolated in that cell until the others come to save her.

I'm definitely looking forward to this one coming back next season. I can't wait to see where they take it. We'll see whether I get used to Olivia's new hair. I think I liked it better before.


So many characters with so many flash-forwards to cover. I was really impressed with how all the flash-forwards panned out. All of them were pretty close to how they were "supposed to be", but some with little twists. Olivia and Lloyd in the right place, but not exactly how their flash-forward had pictured it. Benford finally figures out the message on his mosaic board just in time nothing about it. Janis's baby is fine but--*gasp*--it's a boy! (After stressing that she wanted that exact baby so much, did it turn out she did the wrong thing?) Tracy is OK! Bryce and Keiko find each other (aw!). Nicole was actually saved from drowning! The coolest part, I thought, was the stuff that happened at NLAP. First, how Janis got from there to the hospital where she needed to be while helping the others gain access was clever. Second, the two characters at NLAP, Demetri and Simon, happen to be our two main characters who didn't have flash-forwards, which is good because that would have been the most spoiler-y place for a flash-forward. Nice planning there.

This show had some rocky moments, but I think it's a shame it didn't make it to a second season. Luckily the season (and now series) finale cliffhanger wasn't too bad. I mean, everyone had a new flash-forward, but we only got to see one, so it's not like we had multiple cliffhangers taunting us. It would have been nice to see where the story was headed, but I'm not too tortured by the open ending.


First, I have to say we had some great episodes recently. I loooved the Joss Whedon episode. Neil Patrick Harris is awesome, as always. Artie finally got to get up and dance. And Shelby is Rachel's mom! Whose idea was it to cast Idina Menzel as the birth mother of Lea Michele's character? Perfect! I also liked the Lady Gaga episode. I've never been a fan of Lady Gaga, but the Glee girls and Kurt doing "Bad Romance" was awesome. I thought Santana was a standout in her part there. I wasn't sure about the "Poker Face" duet. OK, it was an interesting arrangement, but I couldn't believe that the song that Rachel had always been longing to sing as a duet with her long-lost mother was..."Poker Face". Some people really liked it--the Housemate said he got choked up during it--but I wasn't convinced. I got choked up during the part with Kurt's dad defending him. Aw. And Finn at the end in that red dress? Great.

Now the finale. I thought it was awesome. The numbers were great, and I was happy to hear them break out "Don't stop believing" again. Vocal Adrenaline doing Bohemian Rhapsody was very cool, and it worked surprisingly well as a soundtrack for giving birth. Though, while it is a long song, it's still probably not as long as it would take for someone to give birth the first time (ah well, it's TV, what can you do?). I can't help but try to figure out how the judges' voting must have gone, since Josh Groban seemed to like New Directions and we learned that Sue put them first, but whatever. It was good that they didn't win their first year (or else how could they improve, and still feel like underdogs worth rooting for next year?), though of course they had to find a way to keep the glee club together or else there would be no show. I loved Sue's development in the judging panel--when she is no longer the meanest, most successful person in the room, she finds her heart and identifies with the glee club. *Sniffle*. And Shelby adopting Beth was a nice touch.

A very strong first season for Glee. I hope they can keep it up and find ways to keep it fresh.

Final comment about the Glee finale. You know how at the end Will Schuester plays the ukulele and sings "Somewhere over the rainbow" Iz style? Well, I sing and play that song on the ukulele, too! It was the first song I learned (it's easy--five chords that change at regular, long intervals). I even sing it with the traditional (aka "right") lyrics just like Will did, because unlike Iz's mix-up, they actually make sense. So you may understand why I got way more excited about this song than probably most people did. And I can confirm that Matthew Morrison's fingerings on the uke are correct.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chili dogs and nostalgia

Tonight, I enjoyed my third night in a row of eating chili dogs for dinner. It would have been four, but I skipped one day. I can't let the buns go bad, you know. Of course, the package of buns had eight, while the package of hot dogs had seven (weird: seven?), so we'll need to buy another package of dogs to use up the last bun... and then more buns for the extra dogs... And then more dogs... As xkcd has put such things, it's a "delicious cycle".

Here's a picture of the bad boy...

Mmm. Sorry it's a little blurry and I need better lighting. Also maybe a surface that's not the same color as everything else in the photo would be good, but you get the idea. I don't put on a little bit of chili to fit nicely on top; if there's no mess, it's no good. The dog is a Hebrew National beef frank, the best kind in the supermarket (they have to be better because, as they say, "We answer to a higher authority"). My boyfriend aka the Housemate was very pleased when he found out that they were both of our favorites ("I like your taste in wieners"...we're terrible, I know). Anyway, it's a really quick meal, since I use canned chili. I stick the bun in the toaster oven, put the chili and then the hot dog in the microwave, and it's all ready at about the same time. Bang--dinner. Supplemented with veggies, of course.

It had been a long time since I'd had a chili dog. The Housemate and I have a few favorite "quick meals" that we whip up when we're too lazy to cook (really, when he's too lazy to cook, since I always am), but chili dogs are only a recent addition to our menu. An addition I'm very happy to have.

Why do I love chili dogs so much? High sodium and fat content--they've certainly got that going for them. But I think there's just something so guiltily decadent about putting meat on more meat. Like the much-touted Double Down. Ground beef (with beans and gravy) on top of an even more questionable meat processed in a way I'm pretty sure I don't want to know. Delicious. As long as you're a meat eater.

But I believe there is one more important factor in my love for chili dogs. Sonic the Hedgehog. When I was six years old, my older brother got a Sega Genesis, but of course everyone in my family played it (except actually my dad). We owned Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the console; I don't think I was particularly good at either, but I believe we beat both at least once. The second one had Tails, who was cute and I liked very much, but I really liked playing the original because we knew the level select cheat for it (where did one learn cheats like that before the internet?). We also had Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, which doesn't actually have Sonic in it but does have his villain. And though we didn't own them, I have played Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic and Knuckles as well.

There were also two different TV cartoons about Sonic the Hedgehog that I recall watching around that time. I remember what a few of the supporting characters looked like, though I can't recall a single plot from any one of the shows. What I do remember very distinctly is that Sonic loves chili dogs. That was his thing, like how the Ninja Turtles love pizza. So the first time I was introduced to a chili dog at a young age, I remembered that this was the food that Sonic loves. That made it automatically cooler, and perhaps yummier than it already was.

Unfortunately, Sega's successors to the Genesis all failed miserably against tough competition. As his consoles crashed, Sonic faded in popularity while Mario dominated. I would be lying if I said that didn't make me a little sad; I guess it's kind of like playing the Genesis over the Super Nintendo was like picking sides, and my side lost. I came across this video recently that made me laugh pretty hard...and pout a little bit.

Come on, he should have at least remembered his name! *Sigh.* I still like Sonic (in spite of the fact that he doesn't look anything like a hedgehog). And I still love chili dogs. My love of chili dogs may have outlasted Sonic the Hedgehog's popularity, but I still always think of him whenever I'm digging into a good chili dog. So, Sonic the Hedgehog, tonight I raise my chili dog in tribute to you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It happens sometimes when you're a geek...

So today I happened to do a Google Image search for

namarie tengwar

"Namárie", of course, is the Quenya (Tolkien's "high Elvish" language) word for "farewell", but more importantly in this case it is a commonly used title for a poem that Galadriel says in The Fellowship of the Ring. Tengwar is the Elvish script invented by Tolkien. Basically, I was looking for an image of the poem written in tengwar. Because that's what I do sometimes.

The top result for this search was from Wikimedia Commons. That page also happens to be the top hit for a regular (web) Google search of the same terms. The second top result and several other top hits use this same image. However, I was shocked to find that this image--the first, seemingly most authoritative one someone would find when looking for "Namárie" written in tengwar--has an egregious error! It is missing an entire word!

I am loathe to reproduce it, but for the sake of education I will put it here.

Bad example from Wikimedia Commons. DO NOT USE THIS ONE!

You see it, right? Appalling! I mean,

Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date...

Seriously! OK, for those of you who don't see it (our minds do tend to fill in missing words we know should be there, right?), it's missing the word "lumbule", or "shadow", at the end of what appears to be the shortest line in the poem (but it shouldn't be! It should have lumbule there!). It makes me so mad that this is the top search result. It must be fixed!

Luckily, the third hit for my search yielded this lovely image by Danny Andries that does not omit any words (you can see "lumbule" at the beginning of the line just above the center point of the first yellow leaf on the left):

Very pretty. Though he does make a few stylistic "corrections", such as writing "sindanóriello" and "hísie" with súle insted of silme, which is kind of snobby, going into way more technical detail than I would be interested in myself. Man, what a geek.

If you need a refresher, the non-tengwar text of the poem and its translation can be found here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

ThunderCats are loose! and a couple other news bits

A few news items from the past week or so...

ThunderCats, a classic 1980s cartoon, is being revived by Warner Bros. Animation for Cartoon Network (Variety blog). WBA will be teaming with Japan's Studio4°C to give the new series a new anime look. I loved this show as a little girl; I have very early memories of watching it with my older brother, and we had a bunch of episodes recorded onto VHS that we'd rewatch a lot. I'm happy to see that a new generation of kids will get to experience the joys of Thunder, Thunder, ThunderCats Ho!

Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, FlashForward) and Eva Green (Casino Royale) are set to star in a 10-episode miniseries called Camelot as Merlin and Morgana, respectively (IMDb). I'm always interested to see new incarnations of Merlin (I took a whole college course on him, after all), and I like these actors. We'll see how it turns out.

Stanley Tucci has been cast in the upcoming Captain America movie as Dr. Abraham Erskine, a scientist behind the experiment that turns Steve Rogers into Captain America (Variety). He joins Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving in the cast. Tucci is an awesome character actor who has been in so many great things, so I'm always happy to hear about a new role he's been cast in, especially if it's a cool movie that I'm looking forward to.

In further Marvel movie casting news, Jeremy Renner has been cast as Hawkeye in the Avengers movie (IMDb). I thought he was great in The Hurt Locker, so I'm excited about this casting. My first exposure to the Avengers was in a Sega Genesis game we owned where players could choose from Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Vision. Regardless of which heroes true Marvel comics fans consider to be the core Avengers, these four are the ones I most associate with the team. I have to say that Hawkeye was my least favorite of the four to play, but still, he's cool. I really hope this movie turns out to be awesome.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prince of Persia: Video game movies can be not bad!

A follow-up of sorts to my previous post, Prince of Persia: Can video game movies be good?

Well, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opened in U.S. theaters last weekend with $37.8 million, coming in second for the holiday weekend (Memorial Day) behind the second weekend of Shrek Forever After. Considering the $200 million budget, this was considered a disappointment, though not a disaster thanks to its $87.5 million so far from overseas markets. (Studio Briefing) So thus far, the box office suggests the movie is neither a hit nor a flop.

What do critics think? Studio Briefing's handy summary of the critical reception suggests the critics thought it was bad, but the two full reviews I read were marginally favorable. From my last post:
A review at Variety said that the movie was enjoyable enough, but forgettable. Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it a lukewarm to favorable review at EW, summing it up with a respectable grade of B.
Metacritic finds that critics have given it an average grade of 50 out of 100, "Mixed or average reviews" (in this case, both). Smack-dab in the middle. That's not good, but, strictly speaking, it's not bad either.

What do audiences think? At the time of writing this, from 12356 votes on IMDb the movie has an average user rating of 6.9. Compared to other movies out right now, this puts it just below Robin Hood (7.0) and just above Shrek Forever After (6.7). But to put it in perspective by comparing it to movies that have had a little more time to settle into their reputations, Prince has the same rating as X-Men: The Last Stand and Terminator Salvation. Both of those movies are considered to be pretty big disappointments.

But perhaps it is unfair to compare Prince of Persia to those two films, since both were sequels in franchises with some previous successes, giving them high expectations that they could fail to meet. Let's compare Prince of Persia to other movies based on video games. Suddenly it looks really good. As I mentioned last week, the previous record high IMDb user rating for a video game movie was 6.4 for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Prince of Persia comes in 0.5 points above this. That is a significant difference, and even though the score may fall a bit before leveling off over time, I think it is unlikely that it will fall that far. IMDb users have spoken: We have a new winner! It's the best movie based on a video game, ever! But...still not great.

What do I think? I went to see it in the movie theater on Saturday. I've never played the game, so I don't know how much of the plot they changed or embellished, though I did pick out some very game-friendly action sequences, maneuvers, and baddies that I imagine are straight from the game. I can't compare the movie to its original source, but I can give an action video game fan's perspective on the movie.

Really, I'm a little like the average IMDb user: the movie could have been worse, but it could have been better; it's the best video game movie so far, but that's not exactly a lofty accomplishment. When I say it that way, it makes it sound negative, like I didn't like the movie. This is not the case. Let my try again:

I found Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time to be really entertaining. Sure there were flaws--the writing had some awkwardness, the editing was uneven in places, there were a few kinks in the acting, etc.--but I can forgive all that stuff as long as it doesn't hurt the fun in the movie. And it didn't. I found the two leads very appealing, the action sequences were exciting and cool, the actors for the most part did a good job with what was given to them, the story held together pretty well, there were moments of humor, and of suspense, and the ending was very satisfying.

I had a really fun time seeing Prince of Persia. It definitely raised the bar for movies based on video games. Of course, seeing as the bar was only up to my knees before, that's not saying much. But it's a start. It's progress. It is finally proof that movies based on video games can be not bad. Even kind of good. This is reassuring, and I only hope that future video game movies will continue to improve. Maybe someday they will be respectable. Eh, don't dream too far, right?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hobbit troubles, Sir Patrick, and a funny video

A couple recent news items...

There is turmoil in Middle Earth as Guillermo del Toro over the weekend stepped down as director of the two planned Hobbit movies, prequels to the hugely successful Lord of the Rings trilogy. He will remain one of the writers, along with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens of the LotR trilogy. MGM's troubles are largely to blame for this; the studio, which shares financing rights to The Hobbit, has been trying to find a buyer since November, and its inability to do so thus far has put The Hobbit as well as other projects including the next James Bond film on hold. Because MGM is still in limbo, it hasn't been able to give an official green light to The Hobbit, and thus a start date for filming and a budget have yet to be set. Del Toro explained his decision in a statement: "In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming The Hobbit, I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien's Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures." (Variety)

I am very saddened by this news. I thought del Toro would have been a great director for The Hobbit. And I can imagine how hard it must be for him. He was willing to commit three years to living in New Zealand working solely on this project. He had already worked on it for two years (he signed on in April 2008), designing sets and costumes and planning battle sequences, etc. And now, considering that it may instead take six years, he feels he has to walk away. That's rough.

There is, however, a small possibility that Peter Jackson will end up directing. He obviously cares a lot about the project and might be willing to direct if necessary. "If that's what I have to do to protect Warner Bros.' investment, then obviously that's one angle which I'll explore." He does have other projects, though, that might prevent him from directing. (Variety) Hopefully it will all work out. I'm looking forward to seeing Gandalf and Gollum on screen again.

On a lighter note, Patrick Stewart was knighted today by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. Sir Patrick Stewart. Though I know and love him as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies (playing opposite another knight, Sir Ian McKellen), I know that he has long been a key member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I'd love to see him on stage. Ever gracious and admirable, he said of his knighting, "It was an unlooked-for honor but as I grew up as a child, falling in love with the theatre and Shakespeare, my heroes were Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Alec Guinness. The knights of the theater represented to me not only the pinnacle of the profession but the esteem in which the profession was held. And now to find myself, to my astonishment, in that company is the grandest thing that has professionally happened to me." (E! Online) A toast to Sir Patrick.

And now an amusing video:
Retro games destroy NYC