February 2009 Archives

WonderCon 2009: Saturday

Today I went to WonderCon 2009, and while it feels like the line management has gotten better over the years, the con itself has gotten bigger (and smaller) at the same time; last year, Hall B was used as the equivalent of Hall H in San Diego -- this allowed for squeezing several thousand people in to see studio-sponsored panels; this year con-goers squeezed into the Esplanade Ballroom in order to see the stars. I'm not quite sure which is more massive; for all I know, Hall B and Esplanade may be the same size, but the lines for Esplanade are likely easier to manage. The impact of the economy can be seen in the number of exhibitors at WonderCon; the exhibitor's hall seemed smaller and focused more on selling and less on showcasing.

Today's big Esplanade event was no doubt the Watchmen panel, which featured a good amount of the cast and creators of the Watchmen. Notably Dave Gibbons, the artist, who unfortunately did not get a question tossed to him in the panel. Director Zack Snyder spoke of the challenges of Watchmen and also revealed Warner Bros.' massive plan to milk the consumer for every dime they can get out of the Watchmen.

In summary: Watchmen releases in March. This is a 2 hour 40 minute long version of the film. In July, there will be a director's cut of the film at about 3 hours, which includes a lot of cut footage; additionally when the Blu-ray version comes out it will be packaged with a mockumentary which covers the current events of the Watchmen, bringing the length to 3 hours and 40? minutes.

Michael Chabon (Kavalier and Clay, Summerland, and Yiddish Policeman's Union) and Matt Fraction (current Writer of the X-Men) held a panel in which they talked about their work, and how they see fandom moving forward. One of the audience members asked "What is the endgame for this culture of comic books?", to which Chabon cheerfully replied "Well, President Obama is a Conan the Barbarian fan of the Barry Windsor-Smith variety, so maybe that is the endgame, getting one of us in the White House."

When asked why Sitka as the setting for the Yiddish Policeman's Union, Chabon replied "Well, I lived in Seattle for a while, and I think that translated into what living in Sitka would be like. I had already done a section in Kavalier and Clay in which I had to describe Antarctica and look up thirty different adjectives to the word barren, so I figured I'd save myself some trouble and set it in Sitka instead." The idea for Sitka came from an idea the U.S. government had during World War II in which the U.S. would set up some reservations for Jewish Refugees.

Another audience member asked Matt Fraction essentially "Why isn't the X-Men more multi-ethnic?" To which Matt Fraction responded "I think it's because for a long time now, the guys in charge of the X-Men have pretty much all been white guys." In bringing the X-Men to San Francisco, he hopes that he can make the X-Men more multi-ethnic and more multicultural. He also mentioned to keep an eye on Astonishing X-Men, under Warren Ellis' helm for more upcoming diversity.

Make Your Own UAV (for under $500)

At DIY Drones, they now have a Autopilot modules for 24.95. Essentially, these amateur UAVs are garden-variety remote controlled airplanes which have been hacked to include tiny computer processor to control functions traditionally operated by the human operator.

Yet Another Reason Against HFCS

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HSFC) is in most processed foods as a cheap, low cost alternative to sugar, and for the last five years, I've been on a Quixotic crusade to cut out as much of it out of my life as possible. Two new studies indicate the presence of mercury in HFCS and HFCS-containing products; apparently, as part of the production process of HFCS, caustic soda is used, and this is the chemical reagent which is commonly contaminated with mercury.

Every time you eat fish or seafood, there's likely a small amount of mercury you're taking in; however, an average American eats several times more HFCS containing products in a single day than he consumes in fish for a month.

Some may call me eccentric for not microwaving plastic or banning plastic containers from my food and drink; and I admit, it is quite crazy at times how far my obsession goes, but at the same time, there are long-term health benefits to living a lifestyle free from processed foods, and every time a study like this comes out, I feel vindicated.

Dragonball: Evolution

A few years ago, when I first heard about an Initial D live-action movie, I thought, "This could be okay -- after all, it's just a manga about racing and drifting cars; how badly could Hong Kong filmmakers screw it up?" Then I saw the movie, and I remembered that only Americans have the money it takes to purchase a license and make it look high budget; everyone else winds up with a low-quality product which looks low-budget. The latest movie I speak of is the upcoming Dragonball movie. Take a look at this teaser poster, and try to tell me it doesn't look terrible.

Amazon's Kindle 2

On Monday, Amazon introduced the Kindle 2, the latest version of Amazon's e-book reader. Since the release of the first Kindle, the elusive e-book reader which has often remained out of stock at the online retailer; the most recent purchasers of the outgoing Kindle were moved from the waiting list to a waiting list for the Kindle 2. The price of the e-book reader is still $359.

As much as Jeff Bezos wants to be Steve Jobs, and the Kindle to be the equivalent of an iPod, the problem is that e-books are quite different from downloadable music; although some of the same challenges apply, the fundamental difference is between the active nature of e-books and the passive nature of music; it is quite easy to listen to music while walking or driving a vehicle, but to do the same thing while reading a book is more difficult. This is one of the reasons why one of the new features of the Kindle 2 is a Read-To-Me mode in which the Kindle will read the text of the e-book aloud. This feature of the Kindle 2 has the Author's Guild claiming copyright infringment, stating that the audio generated is in effect a derivative work. I see this as a useful feature to the Kindle 2, as it places the Kindle into a passive state, which makes it far more accessible to those of us who drive.

The People Vs. George Lucas Trailer


A documentary about the love/hate relationship of George Lucas. Think the fanaticism of Ringers: Lord of the Fans meets the self-loathing of Trekkies...

The trailer also features a decent amount of footage from the Hot Waffles video George Lucas Raped Our Childhood:

Why What We See Outside Matters

The Boston Globe has an excellent article up on "How the City Hurts Your Brain", which goes a long way in explaining why life in the city is exhausting.
    City life can also lead to loss of emotional control. Kuo and her colleagues found less domestic violence in the apartments with views of greenery. These data build on earlier work that demonstrated how aspects of the urban environment, such as crowding and unpredictable noise, can also lead to increased levels of aggression. A tired brain, run down by the stimuli of city life, is more likely to lose its temper.
In one of the findings, they suggest that modern human life needs to be balanced by places of nature, and that a diversity of flora is actually more helpful for the brain.

Coraline Mystery Boxes

After production on Coraline wrapped, LAIKA sent out special gift boxes to bloggers and websites they admired as a special thanks; ASIFA Hollywood and Boing Boing were among the recipients, and ASIFA Hollywood has a list of Coraline Mystery Boxes, as well as the exteriors of the gift boxes (and interior photos of their own special gift).

Midway Games Files Chapter 11

Midway Games, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Gamepolitics has a list of the top 30 creditors who Midway owes money to. At the top of the list is Wells Fargo Bank at 150 million. When you consider that Midway has approximately 160 million in assets, and 281 million in liabilities, it doesn't take a accountant to deduce that Midway has some serious issues to work out in the reorganization process of Chapter 11.

Coca-Cola Classic: Avatar


It's interesting that MMOGs have become so mainstream that Coca-Cola is now using them in advertising. plus Points for making the big WoW-esque male orc a lady, minus points for including the Asian with the laptop stereotype.

Miyazaki on Animation

From the Asian Reporter: Miyazaki Says He Can't Stand Modern Animation In the age of digital animation and computer special effects, Hayao Miyazaki is a purist. The 67-year-old Oscar-winning master animator known for his hand-drawn movies said in a newspaper interview he hasn't seen any of the major digitally animated films in the last two decades. "I can't stand modern movies. The images are too weird and eccentric for me," Miyazaki told Hong Kong's Sunday Morning Post in an interview to promote his latest movie, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Miyazaki said his recruits are tested in a boot camp where mobile phones, iPods, and other electronic devices are banned. "Young people are surrounded by virtual things," Miyazaki was quoted as saying. "They lack real experience or life and lose their imagination. Animators can only draw from their own experience of pain and shock and emotions." But the president of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, a former Disney executive, was quoted as saying the studio is open to computer animation. "I don't shut the door on digital technology either," Koji Hoshini said. "Just because Ponyo was 100-percent drawn doesn't mean we're stuck with that approach. My job is to come up with the best approach to make the most of Ghibli and try to come up with those untapped opportunities." Miyazaki's credits include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Kiki's Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro.

Progress is Beautiful... Audi Superbowl Car Ad


When we saw the Super Bowl ad for Audi tonight (which was by far, the favorite of mine during the Super Bowl), I thought "What an interesting ad, as marketing people have managed to turn Jason Statham's car-centric roles in movies to being a spokesman for a car advertisement". In each one of the switches, Statham is driving what is considered mid-sized sedan. He goes from the venerable Mercedes Benz 300SEL to the BMW 535, opting to skip a Lexus ES300 (essentially a plush rebadged Camry) to finally end up in an modern Audi A6.

Of course, on viewing the ad a second time, I think the hidden message there is that Audi A6s are great cars to steal.

Monthly Archives