30 June 2010

New Peter Parker is chosen

It looks like 17 year-old Josh Hutcherson will be the new Spider-Man. According to various sources, including Blue Sky Disney, the actor, who appeared in "Bridge to Terabithia," "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" will now play the High School bound Peter Parker. Look for the official announcement any day now.

Andy Serkis will don the motion capture suit once again, as he'll play Caesar, the chimp who leads a simian insurrection against humanity in 20th Century Fox's "Rise of the Apes," their prequel to "Planet of the Apes."

Two casting rumors that first sprang up the other month have finally been confirmed: Tommy Lee Jones will play US Army Colonel Chester Phillips in "Captain America: The First Avenger" and Jon Tenney has been cast the father of Ryan Reynolds's Hal Jordan character in "Green Lantern".

Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Frances de la Tour and Richard Griffiths have all joined the cast of Martin Scorsese's 3D adventure film "Hugo Cabret." The movie, based on Brian Selznick's novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", is the story of an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station. He is soon caught up in a magical, mysterious adventure that could put all of his secrets in jeopardy.

Fresh off securing Michael Fassbender as Magneto and getting Alice Eve to play Emma Frost, there's news of yet another casting role for "The X-Men" reboot. Caleb Landry Jones, probably best known from his work as Jimmy Adler on Friday Night Lights, will play the Irish mutant Banshee.

27 June 2010

The Week that Was

Semi interesting week here. While work continues to be somewhat of a pain -and I've discovered that I want my GM these days to get mad at me, at least then I know he's alive with passion. I mean, what Borders management lacks (from the GM on up) is any passion for what they do. It's all about tracking sales in every mathematical aspect.

Anyways, after spending most of last weekend trying to call my family in Chicago due the the severe storms that moved through, I did the same again on Wednesday, which was also my mom's 75th birthday. It seems odd to me that she has reached this milestone, though I'm sure she does not feel that way.

Yesterday was the wrap party for Hidden Frontier Productions. As of now, with our fan produced Star Trek series finished (the two-hour movie is due later this year), and the fate of HFP's original production, Frontier Guard, not yet decided, I'm done working there. Anyway, the party was held at our friends house near LAX. Barb and her husband Oz have this great house with a pool and hot tub. While I did not partake in either of the two, I got to see some friends I've not seen in months, like writer Dan Crout and our Scotland pals (and creators of Star Trek: Intrepid fan series), Nick and Lucy Cook in for a visit. It was a blast to be with them.

One of our fans who has since become a good friend, Rick has been here since the prvious weekend. Rick lives in Maryland, and comes here often. Last Saturday we all got together in West Hollywood for a night of drinking and fun times. The above photo is Logan, our server at the bar. Super nice guy, handsome and not shy.

Anyways, today Rick and I ventured out to Griffith Obsevatory. It's funny in many ways. I've lived here for almost 5 years, and visit the Silverlake area of Los Angeles many times, but I've never been there. Does this happen often, where we wait for visitors before we see the local tourist attractions? And I've yet to see Mt Baldy, which is very close to where I live. And I do want to climb it, but really don't want to do it by myself.

It was nice, an I should go there more often. But like many things in this money tight times, it seem illogical to drive so many miles just to walk around a park.

So the last week of June is here. Half of 2010 is gone and it astounds me thst time is flying so fast. I want to slow it down, I want to live more.

At times, it seems, life can be unfair.

Books: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (2009)

According to Wikipedia, Sarah Waters’ fifth novel, The Little Stranger, started out as a book about the economic changes brought by socialism in postwar Britain. Somewhere along the way, though, it became a ghost story as well.

Set in 1947, the novel is narrated by Doctor Faraday, a middle aged country doctor who is called to Hundreds Hall, an 18th Century estate that has seen its glory days long since past -and, ironically, Faraday’s mother was once a maid in the house. There he becomes involved with the Ayres family, Caroline, her brother Roderick and their mother, along with maid Betty. Faraday, thinking he can help Roderick with his badly healed wounds from World War II, becomes wrapped up in a gothic drama he does not see coming.

This ghost story is stylish and intelligent, and Waters writing abilities prevents the tale from becoming a cliche. Waters also tells a tale about the shift away -more or less- from the class struggle that permeated the centuries before, essential aspects of a these gothic, macabre novels. Here we see the Ayres family trying to stave off the inevitable - the true aspect that during this time period, impressive estates like Hundreds Hall where broken up, either turned into museums or bulldozed into suburbia - but continue to “pride themselves on living like the Brontës out there," someone observes.

The Little Stranger is, in the end, an old fashion ghost story with social commentary thrown in with large doses. Sarah Waters has a deft hand at creating this world, these characters, and her compelling style will make you want to continue reading when you should have longed turned off the light or gone back to work.

Doctor Who: 31.13 The Big Bang

The Big Bang brings Doctor Who’s 5th season (or 31st) to a stunning conclusion, and thus closes out a somewhat uneven year.

When we last left our heroes, the Doctor was trapped in the Pandorica, Amy was dead, and River Song was about to be blown up with the TARDIS. Then, within mere minutes, the Doctor has escaped his imprisonment and we discover Amy is not that dead - and when things shift 1,894 years into the future, who was not surprised to see, when the Pandorica opened in 1996, it contained Amy instead of the Doctor, in what must be the longest pre-credits sequence since the series returned?

Anyways, as with part one, The Big Bang resembles the old RTD era, down to the deus ex machina Moffatt unleashes here, along with the paradoxes and a lot of techobabble. And once again, the Doctor needs to sacrifice himself to save the universe, and as he flies the Pandorica into the heart of the exploding TARDIS, insteading of dying, he finds himself back in his TARDIS and rewinding in time. As the Doctor unwinds through this last season, he sees events which relate to The Lodger. Next he visits the events of Flesh and Stone, revealing that his message to Amy seen in that episode was given by a future Doctor -and one of the first clues the fans got that somehow the Doctor was traveling back through his own time stream. Finally, he arrives in seven-year-old Amelia's house after she waited for him in The Eleventh Hour. It is here, where the episode gets a bit of let down. Much like in the Last of the Time Lords, it seems all it takes to save the Doctor is to speak his name or remember him. Again, this deus ex machina can be forgiven if only because the performances are brilliant. Matt Smith, once thought too young to play the Doctor, really shows why he was chosen to play this role. Yes, he’s young, but behind his eyes, hides an old soul.

Karen Gillan is perhaps her best in this story, as well is Arthur Darvill, who appears to become the first male companion in the TARDIS since Turlough left in TOS. And, I think, this is the first for Doctor Who, by having a married couple travel with the Doctor -even though Rory is a Nestene.

What's most unique about this episode was that the sinister rasping voice that said "Silence will fall" was never explained. Nor was the reason for the TARDIS exploding. For one thing - as some people have suggested - it was too late to introduce a villain, even a classic Who villain like Omega (that rumors earlier in the week thought it might be), so there was no space left in the episode, I guess, to explain any of those things.

So it means season 32 will start with an already established mystery, with a lot of time explain what or who is behind all of it.

23 June 2010

Beneath a Spielberg Sky II

My home town once again is under the gun from severe weather tonight. Chicago gets hit with a lot of storms, but this has been the worst outbreak to hit the area in decades.

22 June 2010

The E-Reader War has begun

Er...well it began yesterday really. But the groundwork was laid months ago when Apple announced its iPad. And 2 million iPads later, and on the week that the Kobo, an upstart e-reader backed by Borders, shipped to its customers, Barnes & Noble dropped the price of their $259 Nook e-reader to $199. Not to be outdone, Amazon, who was first with an e-reader device, dropped the price of their Kindle from $259 to $189, giving them the cheapest 3G device on the market. Of course, one would be remiss not to note that this is also the week that Apple releases its IOS4, which will bring the iBook format and the IBookstore to the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Also, B&N introduced a $149 Wi-Fi-only version of their Nook.

As noted, Borders got into the fray with Kobo, a $149 e-book reader, and will introduce the Libre e-book Reader Pro for $119 in July. These price ranges, according to consumer research company Boston Consulting, are what the mass audience would be willing to pay for an e-reader. As of now, blocking point for more sales of these devices was that most people thought the price was way out their range -that only well-off and tech savvy people could afford the product. Now with the price dropping to what they call the “sweet spot,” the devices now become accessible to everyday people.

Meanwhile, Borders announced today that people who buy the Kobo will get a $20 gift card and double points on their Reward Card that can be used for future purchases. Also, they announced the availability of an Apple app for the iPhone and iPad and customers who download it will get a free cup of coffee just by showing the app.

So, what we got here is a good old battle between retailers for the cheapest e-reader on the market. And who wins? Well, it looks like the customer, but will that be good in the long run, or is technology developing so fast that the e-reader is already doomed?

One man, Allen Weiner of Gartner, believes the because of the “new tablet technology, reading-only devices have been forced into a race to the bottom. We've only begun to see the price cuts."

E-reader manufacturers were banking on the easy reading ability of the E-Ink technology, which boasts a backlight-free display and reflects light like regular paper does, to make their devices must-have gadgets. But Weiner believes that the iPad will push the e-readers toward obsolescence.

But with tablets, the iPad imitators, eventually hitting the market (just as MP3 players did after the iPod), what will be the long-term fate of reading-only devices, or even the ones that have 3G or Wi-Fi access ability? How many people want multiple devices that can do the same thing?

Weiner also sees that this type of competition, the price of the Nook, Kindle, Kobo and other reading-only devices could to less than $100 by the end of 2010. He feels the “devices just didn't evolve quickly enough. It's possible that this E-Ink tech has had a very short life.”

20 June 2010



This is what 75 miles per hour winds do to electrical poles. Des Plaines, a suburb near O'Hare airport, was the most damaged area around Chicagoland when storms pushed through the area on Friday afternoon and late Friday evening.

Beneath A Spielberg Sky

On this past Friday, my home town was hit with a one-two punch of severe storms. These images are from the one that hit in late afternoon, with winds packing 75 miles per hour -which is hurricane strength. No one was hurt, including my family, but nearly 500,000 people lost power, which included my family. As of today some 60,000 people still remain without power, which also includes my Mom and Dad and my sister.

Happy Father's Day

While he’s been married to my Mom (this November) for 25 years, I’ve known him collectively for nearly 31 years. I was 17 when I first met him, when my mom, coming out of a nasty, bitter divorce from her second husband started dating him. All of us, my siblings and I, was sort of wary of him. My older sister, me and my younger sister had called my mom’s second husband “dad” because we so wanted one. Our real father was dead, cancer taking him in July 1968 at the age of 33.

But when my moms marriage fell apart in 1979, we all tried to rally around her, and hate the man who screwed her over. And over the years, I grew less resentful of the man who first replaced our father; we’ve seen him at certain family functions over the years. Still, its hard to fathom just what he did and still not remain bitter over it.

But this third man, this nice Italian with three kids of his own, seemed to take a shine to my mother, despite four rebellious kids of her own. Well, only my older brother was rebellious, and was the only one who refused to call my mom’s second husband “dad.” He perused her for nearly six years before she agreed to marry him.

But see, in those six years before, I kind grew to like the man, and my siblings and got along with his three kids, so by the time they did marry in 1985 I knew this one was for keeps. It didn’t hurt that I think he kind of worshiped the ground my mom walked on, even though I felt at times it was silly for him to do that. And, I always thought my mom married Guy because she was getting older, and did not want to spend the rest of her life alone. I know that sounds mean, bitter and stupid, but after all the issues with her second marriage, those thoughts stayed with me.

That was until he had a heart attack. While it was a mild one, he none the less went through bypass surgery. I remember, with the clarity of the day, my stepfather laying on the doctors table at the hospital, my mom hovering like the mother hen she can be, while the doctor explained the situation: a bypass would be mean he would recover completely while a shunt would only prolong things. She stood there, her hand in his, looking at her husband while tears streaming down her cheeks. It was then, that I knew she really, really loved him.

Over the last 25 years, I’ve grown to love this man as a husband to my mother and the father I lost 42 years ago this July. And this man, who does not share a single gene with me or my siblings, has tried (rather successfully) to love all of us nonetheless. And that is great.

So on Father’s Day, I can remind him that while we are genetically not connected, he is my dad. And I think, and I hope, that my real dad would approve. And I have 31 years of fond memories, three step-siblings who I care for (even the one has forsaken his family due to his religious beliefs) and hope that my mom and dad will be together for the rest of their lives.

All my love.

18 June 2010

Idiots on a stick

As my co-worker pointed out, our customers are like kids. Insomuch as they don't listen to us.

Had a customer call this week looking for a certain title. It does not matter what it was, though I giver her props for knowing the title and the author (you don't know how many times we get neither, but we're expected to know what they are talking about). What I love about Atlas, our relatively new inventory system, I can show a title anywhere a Borders store carries it. And as it happened, out of 500 plus Borders stores, only 3 stores carried it.

I told this lady, very clearly because I know they don't hear the words I'm telling them, that it's barely carried on the brick and mortar level, and out of the three stores that do carry it, the only California Borders is somewhere in the heart of Los Angeles, like some 60 miles from my store.

Now, there are two Borders within 10 miles of my store, one in Mira Loma and the other in Montclair. Now, just after telling this lady that the book she wanted was essentially not readily available, she says "So, Montclair does not carry it?"

There are times when I just want to hang up, or say some snarky remark when I get this type of behavior from people. But it's a tough job market, so after I rolled my eyes, gathered a deep breath, I re-explained the situation.

No, Montclair does not carry it, only one Borders in California does, and that's 60 miles away. This still seemed to confuse her. But after a moment, where universes crashed together like mashed patotes and peas, she said that was too far to drive.

Yes, I agree. Idiot on a stick.

Anyways, the point is as always, pay attention to what we say. We might not have fancy cars, big homes, graduate papers and what not, but we know our job. We know what we're talking about, we know...things.

It's calls like that, people who probably yell at other people for not listening, that make me worry for our species. But hey, if I was an alien and had to talk to the people I have to talk to on a daily basis, I say it ain't worth landing. Just blow them up.

17 June 2010

Former Doctor Who actor Christopher Ecceleston explains -sort of - why he left after one season

After five years, actor Christopher Eccleston revealed the reason he left the revived Doctor Who after only one season.

Well, somewhat.

In an interview with The Sun Newspaper, Eccleston said that he did not enjoy playing the Doctor. While he did not elaborate too much, some fault seems to lie on the doorstop of the BBC itself. It’s been suggested that the Beeb wanted David Tennant all along, but understood the that if the show was to come back -and sold into a much wider audience - it needed a well know, recognizable actor in the role -Eccleston was known in the UK for numerous television appearances, including The Second Coming miniseries, written by new Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies.

But Eccleston suggests that it was the culture of “Doctor Who” made the work not enjoyable.

“I was open-minded but I decided after my experience on the first series that I didn’t want to do any more," he told The Sun newspaper. "I didn’t enjoy the environment and the culture that we, the cast and crew, had to work in. I wasn’t comfortable. I thought 'If I stay in this job, I’m going to have to blind myself to certain things that I thought were wrong.’ And I think it’s more important to be your own man than be successful, so I left."

Still, the BBC did mishandle is departure. At first, it appeared that the star was doing this because he was afraid of typecasting. This eventually turned out to be red herring on the BBC’s part. The BBC was already aware -even before the first episode of the new series aired - that he was not returning, and it was suppose to be a secret. But as history has proven, all it took was one person to spoil it. And even though it was an honest mistake, the BBC was forced to apologize to Eccleston.

“They handled it very badly but they issued an apology and I dropped it,” Eccleston said. “But the most important thing is that I did [the show], not that I left."

Still, one wonders what the BBC was doing, and going to do, with its most successful franchise. Was the fact that Tennant signed so soon after Ecceleston proof that the BBC always wanted him? Was Davies “gaying” up the show? Was it true that he and Billie Piper did not get along?

Unless Ecceleston writes a tell-all book, we may never get a full, detailed explanation of what he means. Still, without his as the Doctor, I don’t think the show would be as popular as it is today. In give props to Tennant, who really made the revived series an international phenomena, but it was Christopher Ecceleston who lead the way.

And for that, Doctor Who fans should be grateful.

14 June 2010

Just saying...

that 20 year-old Jeremy Roloff of TLC's Little Big World is kinda twinky like. Though the show paints him sort of directionless. It also appears he's NOT ready to join the real world, and live outside the bubble his parents and the show has created. I'm not saying his Christian upbringing has been bad, but I know some (including wives of family members) who don't know how the real world works due to the sheltered world they grew up in.

Jeremy needs to be ready. And his parents need to push him more. At the end of the day, yes its cool to hang out at the farm or the Diary Queen and have teenage Twilight fan girls swoon over you, but it's not a reason to live.

13 June 2010

Blog Changes

So, I discovered that Blogger has added a new design gadget, which enables me to sort re-design the way this blog is laid out. I was never happy with the ones they always offered -they were uninspiring and rather dull, plain and prosaic. And since I'm not good with design in itself, I could never figure out how to create my own and upload it.

I like the black and white design. Which is not to say anything of my personality of any point of view. It's simplicity is what impressed me to use it, I guess.

I also added some more sites to my blog roll, while deleting dead sites. I'm also unsure why Blogger continues to get rid of certain blogs, like Donnie at (1) Famous Like Me and then (2) hip n edgy, while others stay up. His site was never, ever dirty. And his Mug Shot Monday was always a delight.

I'm also considering changing this site over to a book blog (or starting another one dedicated to just books, the book industry and what not). I'm trying to figure out a new title, something that talks about books that generally don't show up on NYT best seller list. There are so many titles that are good, that get missed by the mass audience because factory writers like James Patterson and Nora Roberts prevent them from getting any notice. I mean, publishers like writers who push books out on a yearly basis (Roberts and Patterson push out 5 to 6 books a year). While I love Stephen King, even I know that quality is being sacrificed for quantity.

So, we'll see what I do. In the meantime, I will continue to read as much as possible and try to hope that someone who stumbles onto this site will see a book I've read and reviewed and decided to give it try.

12 June 2010

Books: I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells (2009)

It appears that when I Am Not A Serial Killer was released in hardcover, it was displayed in the Young Adult section of the bookstore. Now out in paperback, the novel is actually in the mystery section. Perhaps, though, it should be in the horror section.

The novel is a sort of hybrid of the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay and the early works of Stephen King (in particular IT), with the added bonus of teen angst and you get this clever, gruesome, yet boldly written story about 15 year-old John Wayne Cleaver.

John has realized he is turning into a sociopath - his therapist knows he is - who spends his days and nights (while not at school) helping out in his family's mortuary. He is also obsessed with serial killers, which disturbs his mother. He has very little emotion or empathy, and frequently has to stop himself from losing control of his inner demon. He has his own set of personal rules that helps keep the monster that is in him at bay.

But when a serial killer begins stalking his home town, John decides he must find out who is doing it, and sets out to discover what exactly is the killer, all while trying not to let the evil that is in him get out.

I can see why this novel was removed from the YA section; while some teens maybe interested in serial killers, I’m guessing this won’t appeal to a mass audience of teens. His loneliness and alienation from his family and the folks around him could help teen readers relate to him, but the novel is also gory and gives great detail of what happens in a mortuary - you get a great discourse in the art of embalming. More than I really cared to know, to be honest.

Still, Dan Wells has created a dark, very satirical voice in the character of John. He speaks bluntly, even though some of its quite dark. He’s chilling and endearing, and you sometimes could not help but feel some sympathy for the boy. Yet, as I finished it, I wondered if I or anyone else should.

09 June 2010

Books: How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper (2007)

In Jonathan Tropper’s fourth novel How to Talk to a Widower, we meet Doug Parker. Doug is 29 and it’s been just over a year since his wife Hailey (who, by the way, was 11 years older than him) of two years was killed in a plane crash. He has spent that year drinking copious amounts of Jack Daniels, moping around the house in his grubby underwear, and generally pretending that he doesn’t exist. He is pathetic. He is painfully vulnerable. And he is undeniably annoying to the rest of the world who, although they “understand his need to grieve,” feel that it’s time for him to buck up and get his life back in order --- especially in time for his younger sister Debbie’s wedding. And then there’s his late wife’s troubled 16 year-old son to add to his misery.

The problem is that Doug is not ready to move on with his life, but that does not stop his wholly dysfunctional family from stepping in and putting him on the right road. There’s his pill-popping mom, who is odd as can be, his twin sister Claire, who has issues herself - she’s left her boring husband, is a pregnant, has attitude and is a huge potty mouth - and his father, who suffers from bouts of dementia after a stroke a few years earlier.

But its Claire who finally kickstarts Doug’s program for recovery and from where we see how things go from bad to worse, all with hilarious outcomes.

Tropper is brilliant at creating hugely flawed, yet loveable characters who circle around ideal backdrops to explore the human condition.

The book packs some emotional wallop, yet even as tears bubble into your eyes, he makes you laugh at the same time. As an example, early in the novel, Doug learns of his wife’s death and calls Claire. As any good sister does, she immediately gets in the car to see her brother.

She says, “You’re in shock. Okay, I’m in the car.”
Moments later, there was a loud , protracted crashing sound.
“What was that?”
“I just backed through the garage door.”
“Jesus. You okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “The whole damn door came down. I’ll just drive over it.”
“Drive carefully.”
“Whatever. Listen -“ But she forgot that she was on her cordless and not her cell phone, and as soon as she turned out of her driveway she was out of range and the line went dead.

Before he calls Claire, you are weeping because the man has to comprehend the death of his wife, and mere moments later, you are laughing at image of a sister trying to get to her brother.

I love this guy. Sad now that I’ve read everything he’s produced now, but I’ll get over it. Not like I got 30 of 40 books sitting around I have not read.

06 June 2010

Quote of the Day

"By the way, if you paid to see ALICE IN WONDERLAND, this is your fault. This probably wouldn't be happening if that film hadn't made over $1 billion."

Merrick over at Ain’t It Cool News on craptacular director Brett Ratner’s comments on how he and Relativity Media are making an edgy, updated (as in closer to the original source material) 3D version of the Brother’s Grimm tale, SNOW WHITE.

Books: Plan B by Jonathan Tropper (2000)

Plan B was Jonathan Tropper’s first novel, released in 2000 and is about 5 friends who graduated from New York University and went out into the world, fresh-faced and full of dreams for the future.

And then they turned 30.

I remember when I turned that age, it was 1992. I had been living in Northern California for almost 2 years, and things were going from good to rotten quickly. Part of the reason was my room mate had left the Bay Area to return to the Midwest to continue what he studied for in college, leaving me alone (well, sort of) in a seemly strange land. Then a return trip to Chicago reenforced the feelings of loneliness. A short time after I returned to California, my grandmother passed, followed a few weeks later of me turning 30. All this angsty stuff eventually led me back to Chicago. Oddly, it was the biggest mistake I could make. It would take me 13 years to get back here, but you all know that.

Anyways, back to Plan B. Ten years have passed since Ben, Lindsey, Chuck, Alison, and Jack left college, but turning thirty shows was never supposed to be like this: Ben's getting a divorce; Lindsey's unemployed; Alison and Chuck seem stuck in ruts of their own making; and Jack is getting more publicity for his cocaine addiction than his multimillion-dollar Hollywood successes.

Tropper delves into the heart of what thirty has represented for all of us, which is usually realizing we are past the age when our parents had us; that your older than the current popular actors, athletes and musicians. And what we hoped for at twenty sometimes does not happen by the time we reach that milestone.

With this debut, Tropper would explore the themes that have become his staple; that life never goes as planned, love is messy and that no matter what, you are growing older, and not, in fact, immortal.

In some ways, however, I’m glad I read some of his later works (starting with This Is Where I Leave You and The Book of Joe, which are stronger novels), as the book relies on too much sentimentality and sitcom one-lines, but it’s a cute comic riff on growing up and learning life, like friendship, will sometimes take its time course correcting your life. But I like this guy a lot, anyways, and will now take How to Talk to a Widower, his 2007 release (and last of his current canon that I’ve read).

01 June 2010

At 146 minutes, Sex and the City 2 is...

"...an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls."

Lindy West