Friday, March 29, 2013

Broil-mate for the win

This is my BBQ, which I bought a good number of years ago.  It was at least 6-7 years if I recall rightly.  It's a Broil-mate built by Onward Manufacturing Company (OMC), a Waterloo Ontario company that builds the shit out of BBQs.  It's got ceramic coated grill that's plenty big and a warming rack in the top.  It's not fancy but what it is is solid.  I've left this bugger out every winter, I've used in every season and I've accidentally left the cover off in some pretty big snow and rain storms.  Even after all that I just went out to check it out, to clear them spider webs and sweep out the ashes, and it's all good.  It's not even rusty.  Well the burner is a little rusty - but it's surface rust mostly and after a few taps and passes with the brush all the little fire-ways seem to be clear and the ignitor still sparks it up by the second click.  I've been reading all those horror stories about $60 stainless burners that rust out after two seasons so when I think about paying less than $200 for this baby on sale at Home Depot, it makes me smile.

With all the other crap falling apart a little more in my yard every spring (I'm talking to you shed!), it's been good to know that this BBQ is ready to fire me up a sweet set of coffee steaks and a rack of stuffed jalapenos despite all the abuse it takes. 

*March 2015 now and this baby is still going strong.  I thought I might need to replace the burner but turns out it was just full of crud and a good brushing fixed it right up.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Broken Heart Kraken

So sad.

So you might notice something from the picture here, mainly that my Kraken has no heart counter. He was born this way apparently and that's how the game came from the store.  No I don't have a receipt to take it back to the store because I bought the game way back in the fall and didn't even open it until after Game Summit.  I did send an email to Iello about getting a replacement heart dial or something but they haven't replied.  Not even an automated reply which in this day and age is dumb for any company.  Love the game, not impressed with the customer service.  I wasn't even asking for a free replacement (although - hey why the hell should I have to pay to get all the pieces in a game I bought), but I didn't even get a form letter directing me to download an order form for replacements.  Boo.

Right now I'm using a d20 for the Kraken heart but I sure would like to get this resolved.  I suppose I'll send them another email.  If that doesn't work I'm going to have to start sending packages of calamari to Richard Garfield or something.

Also isn't that illustration a little odd - I mean look at the guys lower torso - those are some pretty spindly tentacles there.  No wonder this guy is spends all that time on his upper-body work...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful

Went to see Oz the Great and Powerful in IMAX 3D at the Kanata Empire Theatres.  A very nice theater,  they've apparently redone the whole place and it is pretty nice.  Actually this week I went on Wednesday to see Django Unchained with my Brother in Law, and then again tonight (Sunday) to see the Oz movie with the kids.  Both times I was impressed by how polished and clean the theater was and how well comported the staff was.  Also by how few people were in there which is a shame.  I hope don't go out of business because it's worlds nicer experience than going to the mall cineplexes, especially the South Keys one which is dreadful.

Anyway Rami/Disney's Oz is a amazing looking film and the 3D was really good.  Less popping out and lots of depth, which in my experience seems to be what works the best.  The first part of the movie looks really nice in old style aspect ratio and in black and white 3D with little flourishes here and there.  It looks very nice.  When the movie expands out into colour and full screen however everything looks amazing and there are some really nice design touches in all the environments.  There's even a nod to the IMAX experience via a cinematic trip over a waterfall that makes your stomach rise up into your throat.  Very pretty.

The acting is ok, not amazing but it is fine.  The kids didn't mind at all, and James Franco has enough charm to pull off the lead role.  My only complaint is that it was a bit draggy, this movie could have afforded to drop some 10-15 minutes and quickened the pacing on some of the characterization and plot points.  The china doll and the flying monkey butler were decent companions, Glinda was good (hehe) and the other characters were passable but they could have dropped one or two secondary characters and focused more on the ones they had. Plot wise, well movies today do tend to telegraph waaay too much, and they could have done a bit less of it, but it was a kids movie so I can forgive.  There is a nice little reversal that plays well, but after that some of the character elements and exposition could have been tightened up considerably.  Also there was too much time spent pointing out munchkins and emerald cities and comparing sets with the original OZ movie, which was also probably inevitable I guess.  I did enjoy pointing out Bruce Campbell to my kids though and was glad to see his cameo.   He got hit in the face a bit which was fun although they are too young to have seen the Evil Dead movies for that to make much sense to them.

I recommend going to see this in the IMAX 3D just for the eyeball candy, otherwise I'd just wait for the video to come out and watch it at home where you can pause for a pee break.  My two enjoyed the movie and now want to load up the original Wizard of OZ so they can see the 'next part', which is a lot more than I expected from the movie going into it.

Oh and Django was good in case you were wondering.  I liked it fine, and it was a very good movie, but I found it wasn't as quite as interesting as Inglorious Basterds.  Like most Tarantino films, I'm probably not fit to analyse all that is going on in there but this was as well crafted as you might expect.  I found the whole thing very enjoyable and the acting was exceptional.   I thought that the tone wasn't as consistent as Inglorious Basterds and I didn't find it as nuanced or on as grand a scale.  It seemed like a smaller movie, but it was a western, so that might have been the intent.  It was certainly worth a watch.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Games, whiskey and internet shows

I had a chance to play Eclipse and Agricola last night.  Both pretty good games.  Of the two, I think Agricola is the better game and I would be much interested in playing both of them again so that's a success I guess.  Agricola I bought like a year and a half ago at Hammercon with money I made selling a couple games I probably wouldn't be playing again.  I'd like to do more of that since I'm not as hung up on collecting as I am about having the right game available these days and I'm already making my list of 'trades' for the next con I go to.  It's been a thorn in my side to look over and see Agricola but not play it, and although I did do the usual learn the game run through, it hadn't clicked for me.  Now that I've had a chance to play it I know I will be bringing it out more.  I can see it as a light version of Le Havre in many ways - the shorter play time is a definite plus and the farming theme makes it more family friendly than the commodity theme (got to pick up some sheeples for this game, that would up the chances of playing it considerably) although I'd still probably want to play Le Havre if I had the time and the right group of players.

I don't think I'd buy Eclipse, at least not at it's current price.  It was a good game and I enjoyed it but I really thought the components were crap and although the mechanics were interesting I don't know if it's something I'd play over say Galactic Emperor.  Certainly not Twilight Imperium.  Ok, now that I've said that I can see how Eclipse has a more interesting research/upgrade mechanic than you see in most of these types of games.  If it had better components I'd probably buy it.  I played a three player game and it worked pretty well with three, the victory point mechanics offsetting the traditional last to fight wins the game problems so many three player war games have, so there is that.

I've also been sampling a number of single malt scotches in the last six months.  I made the mistake of cultivating the habit, and now I'm spending too much on it.  I started by trying a budget McClellands speyside single malt and it was alright but nothing special and I figured I just didn't like whiskey.  I much preferred a cheap bottle of St. Remy VSOP  or a dark rum.  However after buying a 12 year old Bowmore single malt on recommendation from a fellow at work, I realized that I really (really) like the single malts as long as they are good ones.  I like the peaty ones and Bowmore is my favorite as yet but I have been enjoying all of them quite a lot.  I've had a chance to sample about 8 or 9 different bottles now having worked my way through some Aberlour, Jura, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glengoyne, Auchentoshan, and I just got a bottle of Glenrothes which I'm eager to try.  All these are in the low price range and between 8 and 12 years but are still  more than twice as much as I used to spend on a bottle of booze. I do like a good glass of whiskey now, which is something I don't think I would have said last year. I'm both interested and horrified to realize that I am now becoming very tempted to spend even more than that to try something like a 15 year old Laphroaig or a 18 year old Bunnahabhain.

I've been drinking that whiskey and watching a lot of CrashCourse on YouTube.  This is a series of short educational videos that are both interesting and entertaining.  I have waded though the world history and the literature and am onto the biology and chemistry.  I think that these are a wonderful example of the best of the internet, engaging content designed to be accessible and done with a genuine joy.  I have to salute these guys (the Green brothers and all the folks they have contributing to this) for doing something so valuable and then giving it away to the world instead of hiding it behind a pay wall or using it as fodder for a premium cable channel.  The old promise that television would be a revolutionary medium for educating the masses has not seemed to pan out so it's nice to see another medium take a shot and that quality educational content is being developed alongside the dancing cats and extreme cooking videos.  I think there is a conscious philanthropic component to this as well, likely it has something to do with their DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) tagline.  Maybe I'm wrong about that and they are truly evil men in pursuit of unspeakable ends (the more terror connotation of the aforementioned "awsome"), but I am going to give them a big bravo regardless, since they are still very probably inspiring people, especially young people.  We can thank John Green for informing us that authorial intent means squat anyway.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Watchmen: the director's cut

I read the Watchmen long before the movie came out and I did think it was an amazing book and I did wonder what the hell did they think they could make a movie of this and I did remember thinking I had thought the same thing about Steve Jackson doing Lord of the Rings and look how that turned out. Whew, that's a mouthful. It's also pretty accurate because I was hesitant but not entirely dismissive about this movie when it came out. I wanted to like it. I didn't, but it wasn't terrible either, and so I thought that perhaps it was worth a second viewing when I saw the director's cut Blu-ray version in the bargain bin. Maybe the movie didn't get a fair shake, perhaps the director was forced to cut out some bits that would have made it work. Well I watched it and now I can say no, that wasn't the problem at all.

I saw the Watchmen at the theater and I didn't like it.  My wife liked the intro and the music and hated everything else.  Almost all the people I talked to about the movie said they liked the music but not much else.  I actually didn't mind the movie, although it seemed a bit off but I hated the music. Oh not the songs themselves, but the way they were implemented in the movie.  I thought that the music choices were obvious instead of interesting and the transitions were really really blunt and jarring.  I hate jerky music in movies, you have to seduce me with your mood altering sounds, not flash your baboon ass.

I also didn't like how the movie looked.  Ontario Canada has had the slogan Ontario, yours to discover for a long ass time.  It's a great slogan and it is all over the commercials and bumper stickers and says something about tourism and nature and stuff.  Ottawa, which is a city in Ontario, wanted something like this too so they paid a lot of money to have a PR company come up with a good slogan for the city.  Ottawa paid money to have the slogan "Technically Beautiful"  put on their signs and stationary.  Really.  It boggles the mind.  Ottawa needs to sell their slogan to the Watchman movie.

The movie looked very polished, all the right lighting and props and makeup was there (well with the exception of Nixon's makeup - that was bad), but there was a distinct wooden feeling to the scenes that ruined it.  The scenes were pretty but screamed look how accurate this shot is to the comic in a way that totally ruined the immersion and pacing.  Really it was amazing how much craft went into it and how that just didn't matter in the end.  This movie is a great example of the difference between comics and movies even though they are both highly visual narratives that do share so much.  The moved from comic panel to comic panel but we didn't have the chance to linger over the details like we would if we were reading it, and flipping back and forth to compare.  And when we were forced to move on to the next image, the movie didn't breath in any life between those panels.  So the move seem to be breathlessly rushing to tell the story but also very slow and plodding.

I also really didn't like the violent ubermensch take on the heroes as opposed to the comic's very human take on the masks. I have no problem with violence but here it was just done wrong.  A huge portion of the story to me is how Dr. Manhattan is the only actual superhero and the rest of them are very human.  This was especially true of the fight scenes with Owlman and Silk Spectre.  Having them wading through bad guys in super slow motion was totally wrong for this movie in exactly the same way it was so right for 300.  300 was an epic mythos, the watchmen was written as a response to that kind of story.  Those scenes should have been as paunchy and awkward as Owlman was in the comic.  Not to say that there was no place for that style in the movie.  Rorschach's combat scenes were better as he was a ruthless improviser and that super efficient slow time combat was appropriate for Veidt's fight scenes - he was kung fu enough to able to catch a bullet after all.  However it was over applied to the detriment of the theme in my opinion.

I had no problem with the way they adapted the story or the changes they made to the ending however, I actually thought that the ending was pretty good and made sense. I wish that they had done more adaptation. The story itself is pretty good and although it would be hard to boil it down into something more suitable for a movie instead of an elegant comic book, I think it could be done. It needed to be told for motion pictures however and not as a series of iconic images in homage to the comic.

After watching the extended Directors cut edition (over 24 minutes added!) I can say that there was no magic restored here with the additional content or that the cuts were not responsible for the movie's poor showing.  Sure the extra material filled in some parts of the narrative, but in the end it wasn't the narrative that was the problem, it was the presentation.