Monday, September 29, 2008

Baltimore Comic-Con: A Not-so-Live Blogging

I was at the Baltimore Comic-Con this year and wow, what a difference a year makes.
Some quick thoughts:

  • Attendance appears to be WAY up; there was a definite San Diego vibe at one point, given how densely packed the aisles seemed to be. It didn't last all afternoon but... it felt a lot busier than last year.
  • Adam Hughes is one of the most talented artists out there--he is also one of the nicest. Visit his website and buy his sketchbooks; they are a bargain at any price. And if you're lucky enough to get a commission from him, I envy you greatly.
  • Darwyn Cooke is a riot. He was willing to chat with Kat on my cellphone while he signed my two volumes of DC: the New Frontier. He and his wife struck me as real nice, genuine folks. Consider me a fan.
  • Jim Lee is immune to the passage of time, except that his art keeps getting better.
  • Saw Pop Mhan again this year and enjoyed it even more than last year. He's an ex-WildStormer like me and it's great catching up.
  • The bar at the Sheraton doesn't stay open late enough--though I was ready to bail at 12:30.
  • Rain, rain everywhere. Lucky for us, there was a roof over the line going into the con on Saturday.
  • the Kirkman-Bendis panel was great (you had to be there to see Kirkman pull out graphs of relative sales and how working for the Big Two doesn't necessarily mean a spike in your creator-owned work)
  • So was the "Marvel: Your Universe" panel, where I asked a question about the way events lately seem to reset the status quo to a decades-past iteration OR strive to create a new status quo; Tom Brevoort, Brian Michael Bendis, Dan Slott and C.B. Cebulski were very good at answering the audience.
  • Said hi to Jim Shooter, Bernie Wrightson and a flock of others (reminding them of either long-ago or trivial connections in the process; I interviewed a bunch of Shooter's team at Valiant back in the day and was working at Chaos! when he drew a story for our horror anthology mini).
  • Thought Howard Chaykin was astounding in his Sunday panel with Adam Hughes. He gives Harlan Ellison a run for his money when it comes to snark.
  • Caught a glimpse of Tim Sale, at the tip of a long line of fans.

And that's the quick notes from the con. I might blog a bit more later but... it was a fantastic two days.

I suspect Baltimore has been "discovered," though, which might be good or bad. The number and celebrity of the professionals here is amazing; plus, it's a comics-driven show (until SDCC, which has been Hollywood driven for a long time now).

If you have the chance, come to Baltimore next year. I think you'll find it is an event you'll want to revisit over and over again.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fighting the Good Fight

My former boss' husband received truly bad news--he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Their blog discusses the start of treatment, the struggles they've gone through, and words of encouragement from friends, family and colleagues.

The most tragic part? He's not even 30 years old.

To judge from the blog posts, his and Jen's spirits are quite strong and optimistic. I'm glad about that; attitude can be one of the most crucial aspects of healing. And lots of community support doesn't hurt, either, so I hope you'll join Kat and me in praying for Kurt Owen's quick and total recovery from this illness.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Look at the TV: Pushing Daisies

Kat and I can't wait until the new season of Pushing Daisies begins. We were lucky enough to see the pilot and cast panel at San Diego Comic-Con last year and have been fans ever since.

To get warmed up, we got the DVD set of Season 1. The episodes are charming, and we saw one and a half episodes we had missed the first time around. I'd strongly urge all the show's fans to buy the set; it is well worth the money.

My only complaint is that the extras, on the third disk, were not very generous. There was a bit of commentary--usually with Bryan Fuller (the show's creator) and Lee Pace (aka Ned the Pie Maker)-- and some illustration of how the show's team conceives the color palette, the different elements, and how various performers tackled tricky material. It's nice but I would have liked full commentary tracks, more from various actors, and so on.

Still, that's a pretty minor quibble. We're eager to see how Ned and Chuck resolve the cliffhanger/big reveal in the last episode, as well as what will move the story forward this season.

A Look at the TV: Heroes

HEROES is back on the air, after a long hiatus following a somewhat-wretched (and abbreviated) second season. The two episodes airing this past Monday were "The Second Coming" and "The Butterfly Effect," which essentially showed us (invisotext on):

  • Sylar gets Claire's power, and we see how his power really works at last;
  • Sylar is also Angela Petrelli's son (but who is his father?);
  • Future Peter is a dick and definitely not as smart as he thinks he is (as Mama Petrelli noted);
  • Modern Peter is a shmoe (honest, couldn't he have helped the two people being carjacked and murdered right in front of his eyes?);
  • Nathan finds religion and new job opportunities as he recovers from being shot by Future Peter;
  • Parkman finds a wise black man (oh jeez);
  • HRG finds a way to escape from the Company, along with a dozen "villains," and inexplicably decides that hunting them down is more important than, say, helping his family reestablish their lives;
  • Elle loses a dad and a job on the same day;
  • Angela Petrelli's power is precognitive dreams (though that may not be her only power) and she has a doozy in this one--literally half of the cast is lying dead after the villains (including Adam Monroe and Tracey Strauss) attack;
  • Hiro probably saw the wrong thing in the future (my money is on Ando being the good guy and Hiro being the villain);
  • Hiro has no idea how to handle women;
  • Linderman is dead to everyone but Nathan (WTF?);
  • Tracey Strauss finds that not only is she the spitting image of now-dead cybertease Niki, but she has a super-icing power of her own (my money is on Tracey being a clone or duplicate of some proto-Niki who has not yet been seen)--and it looks like she'll be a villain;
  • Bruce Boxleitner as a sinister NY governor? Gold.

Okay, that's enough for now. What did YOU think?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Music I Can't Get Out of my Head

For the longest while, I thought that it was a Monkees song. You know, it had that poppy, fast-paced and chorus-heavy style I associate with their work. Know what I mean?

But no.

Take a look at the song I've been head-playing since Saturday...

(Darn Lennon and McCartney anyway...)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Watching Justice League Unlimited Again and...

Damn that show was good.
Despite one or two clinkers in the lineup, the show as a whole was an incredible piece of animated storytelling that was (even better) faithful to the DC Universe. More faithful than the comics, in some respects.
I'm glad that Mattel and Target between them are keeping the JLU flame alive. It'd be nice if it were easier to get the toys--my sporadic trips to Target leave me staring at empty spikes where JLU toys should be stocked, and even MattyCollector (Mattel's fansite for toys) doesn't have anything beyond the SDCC Giganta toy. The customer service in that respect is pretty weak, but at least it's possible to find the toys on eBay.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Can You Guess Why I'm Happy Today?

Should be arriving this week.


It got here last night.
Kat was giggling over how happy it made me; she said she got a real good glimpse into how I was as a kid.
Hey, sometimes it's the littlest things, you know?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sept. 11- Seven Years Later

Everyone has their "where we you?" anecdote about 9/11. Here's mine:

At 8:30 that morning, I was up and getting ready to go to the library at my school, the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, and do my twice-weekly stint helping out. Contemplating a morning no more demanding than shelving books, working on a library-sponsored website and maybe some other light paperwork, I was only halfway listening to the TV when it came in.

News of a plane crash at the World Trade Center.

I thought it was pretty damned odd that someone would hit one of the Twin Towers. It was crystal clear outside, beautiful weather and perfect visibility. Had the pilot had a heart attack? I had no idea, but got ready to leave and went to the library.

Wasn't long before someone came in and said, "The other tower was hit."

Okay, one might be an accident, two is... terrible.

We--that is, the two or three other people in the library and I-- hurried upstairs from the third to the fifth floor, where we would have a view of Lower Manhattan and the WTC. Sure enough, the buildings were nearly invisible inside the biggest puffball of smoke I could have imagined. They had not yet collapsed, btw, but then, collapse was inconceivable.

We went back to the library.

Wasn't long before someone came in and said, "One of the towers fell."

And the day spiraled down from there. I went back upstairs but there wasn't much to see. So, needing information, I headed to my dorm for my tiny portable TV (not thinking that the biggest TV antenna around had just fallen). I found Kat about a block away, heading toward my school building--I like to think she was trying to find me--and we got my TV but found the school was already being evacuated and the students dismissed.

Among the other students, we talked about what it could mean and how it might have happened, and milled in the courtyard in front of our building. Kat and I headed to my dorm room with her friend, then watched TV for a couple of hours trying to absorb what had happened. I called my mom and she called her dad, then I escorted her to where her dad waited to take her home. (It was my first meeting with the man I now call Pop and the first time Kat ever talked to my mom.) We'd only been going out for less than two weeks but sharing that awful afternoon somehow cemented a bond between us.

The rest of the day passed in a haze of grabbing lunch at the nearby deli (which miraculously had not closed or run out of food), searching for a place to donate blood, and hearing that our gym (the Golden Dome) would be a temporary relief station and staging area for rescue operations in New York City.

The weather that day, and for days after, could not have been better. It was astounding, as if Nature wanted to console us with all its beauty and give the rescue workers the best chance they could have.

By that afternoon, we knew we'd been attacked. I felt this murderous rage that was slow to disperse; even to this day, I want revenge against the people who did this to my country. I wish we had gotten it.

9/11 has a powerful place in our nation's history. My only hope now is that something will eventually come out of the madness and panic of the past seven years that is better than what we've endured-- that this dark age has not been endured in vain. We'll see if history validates me or not.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Some Random Stuff

Hey folks,
I don't know why but short weeks are rough. Last week seemed to go on forever, after Labor Day.
Of course, we had a lot going on.
We went out Wednesday night to attend a book signing by Terry Brooks (author of the Shannara epic fantasy series-of-series) He's a real nice guy-- I think I met him first in '88 here in DC-- and perked up when I mentioned the reviews I've done for SFRevu. His sister has a book in the works and hopefully we'll review it when it comes out.
Thursday night we went to join our usual pack of comic book readers, the former UCBB (alas), and were out kind of late. We weren't lucky with trains and got home around 10.
And Friday night was First Friday for WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association). Fun bunch of folks, and I picked up the newest Wild Cards novel in ARC form. I'm reading it now for review.
Well, that was our week last week. I mentioned T.S. Hanna already. Good news: my mom got through Gustav just fine, but now they're worried about Ike. I think I could hate Ike...
Join me next time when I pick up the exciting adventures of my second stay in Hollywood.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tropic Thunder

If I haven't posted on this yet--and it seems I haven't--I should have weeks ago.
This movie is not for everyone's tastes but it is one of the funniest films I've seen in ages.
Ben Stiller plays a clueless and aging action hero whose stock is plunging at the box office; Robert Downey Jr. plays an Australian Method actor who immerses himself in roles a bit too deeply; Jack Black plays a comic actor who's success hinges on fart jokes and fat suits; and Brandon Jackson plays a rapper whose self-promotion hits new highs.

These four are tossed into the jungles of Vietnam, where (thinking that they are making a movie) they fall afoul of real drug lords. Hilarity ensues. And Robert Downey Jr. proves that Iron Man was not a fluke; the man is an acting genius. He has the best and most quotable lines of the movie by far.

The movie is about as un-PC as it can be, with the most vile and inappropriate laughs of the year. If you like your humor edgy and even a bit unsettling, this is the movie you've waited for. (And don't miss Tom Cruise in the funniest cameo of the year.)

Hanna Passes By, Barely Stops to Visit

Hurricane Hanna came through the area today. We got treated to a very heavy few hours of rain and some wind.
Basically, we got off extremely lightly, compared to our friends and fellow countrymen in the Deep South and in the Caribbean. Between Gustav, Hanna, Ike and Josephine, it seems like we're in for a very active late-season round of storms.
Kat and I hope that all those in the path of danger will be safe and that these storms will pass by, leaving lives and homes unscathed in their wake.

Playing Video Games for Money Pt 2

Getting a job playing video games is definitely... interesting. For one thing, it is not a way to pick up chicks (but more on that later).
I got the job at Activision through an artist (Jo Chen) who referred me to a friend who got me an interview and the rest is resume fodder. That's where we left off the story last post.
Once in the company, the orientation was pretty basic; here's the game console, we play games and look for programming problems, and go to it. It wasn't long before I learned some fairly elementary things:
1- being in Quality Assurance (QA) is not a career destination, more of a waystation to becoming a Producer;
a) there were a LOT of ex-lawyers in QA and, as far as I could tell, all of them
were aiming at being game producers;
b) not many people lasted long and those who did either moved into supervisory
positions or moved up the chain;
2- playing games all day will kill your hands until you get used to it;
3- everybody in the room knows somebody cool, interesting or famous;
4- $10/hour is not much dough

But the work was interesting. You'd be amazed how many bugs a video game has during development; upwards of 300 was not unusual, as far as I could tell. There are some basic types of bugs: "showstoppers" (things that freeze the game), rubber bands (colored strips of light that either look like scratches or rubber bands zipping around the screen), and miscellaneous breaks between the control and the gameplay (like you try to shoot your weapon and it doesn't shoot IF the game figure is standing just so or aiming this way, etc.).

It's time consuming to debug each new build of the game but the end result (once it's finished) is cool, and you do get your name in the credits. My first game was BLAST CHAMBER, which had some cool gameplay to it-- you race through a series of rooms which have ever-changing challenges, alone or with up to three other players. No idea how it did in the market, though.

After BC was wrapped, I bounced between projects for awhile and ended up subbing for our office admin assistant, who was moving to Arizona with her husband. (Foreshadowing!) My job turned into managing timesheets and a lot of other miscellaneous tasks. They asked if I would take that job permanently, but I viewed it as a career deadend... and it also suggested that my gameplaying skills were either not up to par (and this would avoid them having to fire me) or that they needed someone immediately and I fit the bill well enough.

Ah well.

I qualified for a raise after a few months on the job and was wondering what the hell to do next.

Our group, which was the day shift at Activision, was pretty sociable; we went to a few movies together and hung out a bit. A couple of the guys, it turns out, were from Gulfport, MS (my mom's hometown) and so we shared thoughts about the Gulf Coast and our favorite places. Turns out they had made a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark (which they showed all of us one night after work). Their film and story got some attention and I believe it was optioned for a movie.

Another guy left shortly before I did. He'd sold his first screenplay-- you might have heard of it: Elf. Can't say I knew him as more than a nodding acquaintance but I wished him well. That was about the time I got a job offer of my own... but more on that later.

Politics Out Again

One of my readers has commented that the political content is not why they come by the blog.
I understand-- and I would rather have the link to people, so I'll reaffirm my previous commitment not to post my politics here.
Hope that if you were turned off by the last few days, you'll come on back.
best, Drew

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Playing Video Games for Money, Pt 1

I did that for a living, briefly.
After getting fired from WildStorm, I was given two months paid severance--which helped me a lot, as I had no idea what I'd do next. So I contacted pretty much everyone in my rolodex and... lo and behold, one of the WildStorm artists knew a guy.
Jo Chen, I still owe you big.
Activision was looking for quality assurance folks. These are the game jockeys who playtest games to destruction, seeing where and how they break. It's not for the squeamish, folks.
Anyway, Jo's friend got me an interview and I talked up how much I was a big video game fan, etc. etc., and they bought it-- I got a job, making $10/hour to play video games.
I moved from San Diego to Hollywood, setting up in a comfy apartment off Gower, and settled in to master the intricacies of being a professional video game player.
On my second day at work...
Just kidding.
In the next installment, I'll talk about what games I started on, how my promising career seemed to derail early on, and more.

Pleasant Valley Sunday (and Monday)

Hey folks,
Had a truly wonderful weekend. Kat and I celebrated a little anniversary of ours on Saturday with dinner at 1789, went to see Dave Attell at the Improv on Sunday (got an autographed DVD too), and on Monday... pretty much did nothing. At least, I didn't do anything; Kat went to Alexandria and knocked around awhile, enjoying some truly beautiful end-of-the-season weather.
Only aggravation: Metro chose this weekend to literally close a stretch of railway, meaning we had to ride a shuttle bus from Braddock Road to Reagan National and back again. The shuttles ran quickly and the inconvenience was about as minimal as they could make it... but what gang of idiots does major reconstruction on a gigantic holiday weekend?
Rant over.
Back on the positive side, it couldn't have been a prettier weekend. We capped it off by enjoying our condo's pool on its last day of operation till Memorial Day (argh), sitting in the hot tub as the sun coasted behind the neighboring buildings.
Pretty sweet way to say goodbye to Summer 2008.
Hope you all had a great Labor Day Weekend too!

PS, Kat is at about 14 weeks-plus now and doing great

In a World...

Sad news, friends.
Don LaFontaine, aka "The Voice" of countless movie trailers, has passed away.
Ain't It Cool News had a nice tribute here.
I don't think I'll ever watch a movie trailer again without thinking "in a world..." as made immortal by Mr. LaFontaine.

Of interest: LaFontaine's website