August 27, 2008

Death of a Legend

One of my favorite authors died just over a year ago, but I didn't even know about it until late last night. David Gemmell, author of Legend and the other 10 books in the Drenai Saga, died at his writing desk after complications from a quadruple bypass.

I enjoyed Legend immensely, plus the rest of the Drenai books. Gemmell's writing style reminded me of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan. Gemmell's heroes were often larger than life men, but themselves brave and honorable. Even the flawed or corrupt main characters were able to find redemption through their good works. His books were always entertaining, but at the same time set great examples of how to stand up for yourself the right way. He will truly be missed.

August 26, 2008

The 'Service Engine Soon' Saga

As I posted way back here, I've been having a problem with my 'Service Engine Soon' light. The shake is now a thing of the past, that was resolved by a newer set of bearings...apparently the ones from NTB weren't shiny enough. But this idiot light tests me. So much so, that I was tempted to title this entry Episode IV, envisioning a grand saga told in six parts, to include three prequels. But I digress...

Two weeks ago, I'd scheduled three days off from work to relax and take care of a few things, chief among them was dropping the Mustang off in a shop. I chose another garage, one willing to open the engine up and do what needed to get done.

After 2 1/2 days, they were finally ready to release my vehicle, but without being able to solve the problem. They were seeing a cylinder misfire (which they resolved by replacing the plug), but were unable to figure out why with their diagnostic equipment. They suspected a clogged injector was causing the plug to foul, but could not pull the injectors because the connectors appeared too brittle; at $100 a pop, they didn't want to run my bill up too much. So the garage suggested the dealership, who has a machine that can clean the injectors from the inside, plus better diagnostic equipment.

When I got the car back, the 'Service Engine' light was out because they'd reset the code. 'Clogged injectors,' I thought, 'Maybe I should just put in some Gumout, just so it runs smoothly until I take it in to the dealer.' So I immediately stopped at Auto Zone and got the Gumout (which they assured me was the best product for my problem, plus it was on sale!) I only had a 1/4 tank of gas, but I figured 'What the hell, can't hurt'...I ran 1 bottle of Gumout in that 1/4 tank, then another bottle when I fulled up (which is what Gumout actually recommends).

The 'Service Engine' light stayed off the rest of that week and all through the weekend, something it hasn't done the entire time I've had this problem. Every single time it's gone into the shop, no matter what they did, the damn light would be back on within an hour or less. Four days, no light? I was convinced that my gremlin was not gone, instead lay dead but dreaming somewhere within the block.

So on Monday I dropped it off with the dealership. They gave me a rental car from Enterprise, who had only trucks, so I got a Toyota Tundra. The Tundra, by the way, is an absolute beast, it's much larger than any passenger vehicle should be. It felt like flying the shuttle Tyderium, there was room in the back for an entire strike force of rebel soldiers and a couple of robots, not to mention a Wookie could have easily been my copilot. The gas mileage was unspeakably bad.

Anyway, after two days I got word that they could not find even a hint of my problem. Not one fault code, no idiot light, everything's cool. Now I should point out that the dealership gave me the same weird line they did the first time, which goes something like this; 'We can't find your problem, but we think it's a valve hanging up. This is very expensive. Since this car has high mileage, you really don't want to spend this kind of money fixing it. If you open the engine to fix it, that will only lead to more problems. We wouldn't even do the work here, so you'd have to wait longer.' Then, as a final irony, they always seem to tack on 'So, what do you want to do?'

I opted to return the gas-guzzler they so kindly lent me, and run my Mustang until the light came back on and it started to run really rough again.

Now we're going on two weeks later. My car's running strong, not even a flicker from that thrice-damned light! I suppose I'll keep running Gumout every once in a while and see what happens...

August 19, 2008

James Taylor Has Censorship In His Mind

I've liked James Taylor for as long as I can remember. After all, I grew up on the music of the 60s and 70s, so when I hear a lot of those songs they take me right back to my childhood days.

I used to own a CD called James Taylor: Greatest Hits. It's a great collection, though lacking some of his well-played songs such as Walking Man (which was included on Volume 2).

A few years back Warner released The Best of James Taylor, a 20-song collection all on one disc, which includes just about every great James Taylor song there is. Hooray for me!

But there is one oddity about this album, something that really bugs me...censorship.

The live version of Steamroller has a curse at the end of the song, the only time I know of that James Taylor uses adult language in a song. Steamroller was also included on the earlier collection, but there it was unedited. For some reason, on this new collection, either the power-that-be at WB or J.T. himself have deemed it inappropriate to exist in its original form. They have dubbed over the word...and did a very poor job of it at that. The dubbing is very obvious, it's jarring to the human ear. They may as well have inserted the old-timey BEEP.

Here's how the song originally went:
...This here low down
No where
Half life
Freeze dried
Fat fried
Chicken chokin' motherfucking cocaine
[audience cheers wildly at blatant use of profanity]...

Now, here's the much improved, newer version:
...This here low down
No where
Half life
Freeze dried
Fat fried
Chicken chokin' motherFLUBocaine
[audience cheers wildly, clearly awed by the clever editing job]...

That is literally how bad it sounds, I listened to the cut several times to get it just so. I've heard dubbing done well and poorly, but this ranks as worst among the worst. They may as well have hired a voice actor from a non-english speaking country to say something like 'Mother loves race day', the edit is really that bad.

The edit itself is senseless. Just how many fans were out there complaining about that one word in one of his songs? If it was so offensive, why even include it in the new collection at all?

August 13, 2008

Tropic Drizzle

I viewed Tropic Thunder in the theater today. I'm normally not one for the goofy comedies (though Kung Pow! does hold a special place in my heart, as does the jingoistic Team America), but the trailers for this looked so good and I heard good buzz about Morton Downey Jr.'s performance as a white Australian actor playing a black American soldier.

It starts off great, with awesome fake trailers for movies the three main characters star in (plus a commercial for a 4th character's 'Booty Juice' soda and 'Nutbusters' candy). Then we see what looks like the end of the film, which is a nice parody of 'Platoon', which devolves into the offset problems very nicely. We get to know the actors a little better, all of whom play their parts well:
Ben Stiller as a fading action hero, and Jack Black as an overweight out-of-control comedian, the British director who's failing, the author of 'Tropic Thunder', Ben Stiller's agent in Hollywood, and the Hollywood producer (a stunning extended cameo by Tom Cruise).

With the movie-within-a-movie publicly failing, the actors are dumped in the jungle to capture a grittier, more real take...and manage to run into real trouble.

With such a great setup, somehow this film manages to get lost in the wilderness. What seems at first to be an ironic Hollywood spoof turns into an all-out parody partway through. So in the beginning you've got actor stereotypes in what seems like a real situation, but midway through it turns into one of those unbelievable comedies just short of the 'Scary Movie' genre as situations just get more and more ridiculous.

There are also a lot of character problems that develop in the middle of the film. Jack Black quickly devolves into a one joke sideshow, as the fat comedian who's going through withdrawl. Ben Stiller's character somehow gets lost in his role while being held in captivity for less than a day. And Morton Downey Jr.'s blackface performance, which is both excellent while managing to stay out of racially insensitive territory, gets dull as he seems to be the only one pulling the film along; it doesn't help that he mumbles most of his lines at a deep voice, at time's he's impossible to understand.

Perhaps my experience was ruined due the audio, which kept cutting out during action scenes. I actually had to leave the theater to complain, because the sound kept going out for minutes at a time. After alerting management, I was surprised that I had no desire to see how it all turned out...I simply left.

I can sum this movie up in three words: Last Action Hero.

August 12, 2008

Year Zero Television Series?

Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails has talked to HBO about making his concept album Year Zero into a two year series.

August 08, 2008

Free Legal Advice

This is perhaps the best legal advice I've ever heard, it goes a long way to clear up things when it comes to being questioned by the police. It's the first half of a lecture, "Don't Talk To The Police", that really explains how what you say may be used against you in a court of law.

(Incidentally, the second half of the talk, though somewhat dryer, is just as informative.)

August 05, 2008

Batman Interrogates The Joker

I'm surprised this scene was cut from the final film.

August 03, 2008

I Can Make The Birds Fly

Yesterday I was over at Rusty's and got to see Tori-Emaki on his PS3. It's a very simple game...matter of fact, it's not really a game at all, more like an interactive display. Basically, the environment is a huge Japanese-style painting that you navigate a flock of birds through, so you're flying through the painting.

This game requires the Playstation Eye to pick up your movements, to control the birds.

Here's a demo video.