Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Merry New Year


A sign of the times - a bloodied, crucified Kermit the Frog in the East Village.

Well, 2008 is almost over. It's a quiet New Years Eve. Jen is sleeping on the couch, and I'm just passing time, waiting for midnight with my bottle of Blue Moon. It was a so-so year. I spent more of it unemployed than I spent employed. No major milestones, no major tragedies. Wall Street monguls somehow got a few billion dollars from the government as a prize for destroying our economy. My weight fluctuated like William Shatner's. Jen is still beautiful. The kids got older. Mandy lost and gained new teeth, Joe discovered girls, obla di, obla da... I finished the first draft of a novel I've been dicking around with for years. I reconnected with a lot of old friends on the internet, and I lost two friends in real life - Rose and Mrs. Jackobick. Here's hoping that everyone out there is doing well, and that 2009 is better. We'll have a new president by the end of the month, and I'm hanging on with hopeful skepticism.

TTFN
-Tony

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nerds Without Cash

Someone was kind enough to post the new Dr. Who special, "The Next Doctor" on YouTube, sacrificing his account to the great gods of TOS violations to do so. (Sometimes, I wonder how long it will be before they start fining you for watching copyrighted material on YouTube.) Earlier, I commented that from the preview, it looked like the episode was going to be a ripoff of an audio adbenture, "The One Doctor." I was very happy to be wrong. Not only was it an original story from Russell Davies, but it was very well written. (A very nice retro-clip can be found here.)

I've been getting depressed over my cash situation. I know, everybody's economic life is shit right now, but I feel like I've gotten absolutely nowhere in the past eleven years. It took me almost nine years to get to the top rate for an NYC electrician, and ever since I got there, there has been such horrible unemployment that I've barely been working half a year at a time ever since. Meanwhile, since I started, my rent has almost doubled and the cost of living has skyrocketed. So even though my hourly wage is now five times what it was eleven years ago (and a higher tax-bracket means my take-home is only about three times,) the massive unemployment, raises in rent and other costs of living has increased so much that I'm barely doing any better than I was when I began. I know, I know, life sucks all over, I should be glad to have a place to live and the union finding work for me, etc., but it still blows.

On the lighter side, Jen Joe & I watched Love at First Bite last night. For those who haven't seen this pure 70's gem, I have to say Arte Johnson steals the show as Renfield. ("Noooo.... my lunch... will eat you!") It's also great to remember a time when films weren't terrified of being politically incorrect - I doubt many of the "catch the black chicken!" jokes would make it into movies today.

TTFN
-Tony

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Potpourri

A few weeks ago, my father grumbled that William Shatner used to play a hero, but, "now he just acts like a jackass." Sorry dad - although a living god, Mr. Tambourine Man has been acting like a jackass for years - but it raises an interesting point: Where did all the admirable heroes - even those as one-dimensional as Captain James Tiberius Kirk - go?

On the Caroline Kennedy issue: thank you Hillary Clinton, for cementing the NY senate seat as a holding place for celebrities without experience who want to get a very high step up into politics.

Isn't there simply something fundamentaly wrong with an economy that constantly rides a roller coaster? Shouldn't something be done about governments (or government agencies - I'm talking to you, NYC MTA) that are constantly crying poverty, and constantly cutting services and jobs while demanding more from your pocket?

A few years ago, I asked Jen, "do you remember as a kid seeing a really weird Christmas special about aliens being the three wise men or something?" She didn't - but after some searching, I found that it did exist, and it was called "A Cosmic Christmas." It's nice to know some things aren't just in my imagination. Anyone else remember this?

TTFN
-Tony

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nostalgia Just Ain't What It Used to Be

Having worshiped Ray Bradbury since I was twelve, I was thrilled to find out that The Ray Bradbury Theater - an 80's cable series dramatizing some of his short stories - was finally available on DVD. I had missed it the first time around, as back then my parents thought that cable = Satan, (they actually have FIOS now.) Netflix only had the first two disks from a set of five for some silly reason, but Amazon was offering the box set along with The Martian Chronicles for about $25. Cool beans.

Let me start off by saying the DVDs are of unbeliveably crappy quality. There are videos on YouTube that look better than this. The DVDs are about five hours each. Maybe six or seven DVDs would have been better than five. Consumers can buy a stack of fifty blanks for an average of $40 at Best Buy and a DVD publisher probably gets an even better deal for buyuing in bulk, so I can't imagine that the extra DVDs would cut into the bottom line that much.

Now we come to the adaptations themselves. Hmmm...

Perhaps the oddest problem is that Ray himself wrote the scripts. Bradbury's stories can be broken up into eras: Horror, Sci-fi, Fantasy, and Nostalgic. (Clive Barker made up the wonderful phrase, "to wax Bradburian" to describe nostalgic writing.) Sadly, this TV shows suffers from the same problem as Ray's script for his own Something Wicked This Way Comes: the source material was written by a young man in his horror phase and adapted by an old man in his nostalgic phase. (Seriously - how terrifying could a Disney horror movie be?) Many of the stories are changed, usually for the worse. Sometimes it's an updating of a 40's era story to the 80s. (In The Man Upstairs, for example, the plot device of a stained-glass window is changed to some sort of silly captain video binoculars) In some cases, it's taking a connection that the reader made for his or herself and making it painfully obvious for the viewers. (In The Playground, the annoying kid now chants "I'm the daddy, you are Steve" over and over again.) In most cases, however, the problem is simply that some five to ten page short stories - no matter how well written - just can't be stretched to 1/2 hour episodes. (The Pedestrian is a perfect example: An Orwellian robot cop arrests a guy for taking a walk. That's it.)

It's not all bad, maybe I'm just nitpicking because I love the stories so much. The Coffin is very well done (and it's pretty funny to see Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) playing a bad guy while the CEO of OCP (Dan O'Herlihy) plays the goody.) Michael Ironside's portrayal of a not-to-smart murderer in The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl is another gem, and played out almost like an old episode of Alfred Hitchkock Presents. I have to wait until I get the rest of the DVDs, but here's hoping there's more gems than turkeys.

Any other life-long Ray Bradbury geeks out there?

TTFN
-Tony

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tony's Parenting Tips

My friend Mike is going to be a proud papa soon, and asked me if I have any advice. Here's what little I have - not that I have the presence of mind to follow it as often as I like. And no, I don't claim to have thought of any of this on my own:

Adults are butterflies, kids are caterpillars. It's easy to think that kids are just little butterflies, but they're not. They are completely different,. They see the world differently, and they think differently than we do.

Kids are going to do stupid shit. When you get angry, ask yourself if what they did is worth getting angry about, or if you're angry because you're afraid other people are going to judge your parenting skills.

Your life isn't all about you anymore. You don't have all the answers and there is no more time to find them. You can't go off and do whatever you wanted to do or chase that dream, etc. Yes, you can still work on that novel or complete your med-school degree etc, but your plan to circumnavigate the globe in a lawn chair tethered to weather balloons or to run away to Bombay, India and be movie star has to be put on hold. Now your plans all have to be about your family. But the reward of having one outweighs it all. At least for me it has.

Nature takes precedent over nurture. Maybe you have a character flaw you blame your parents for, and you think, "If I don't do what they did, my kids won't turn out like I did." Then your kids start acting the same way anyhow, so you think that if you can punish the behavior out of them. It doesn't work. (It didn't work with you, did it?) Not that you should let the kids run wild, etc, just be prepared that the kids are going to act however their nature dictates them to, no matter what you do or how much you punish them, or how infuriated you get.

I need glasses because I can't see. Someone else might not be able to see either. However, my glasses aren't going to help them. I can go on and on about how my glasses helped me, and don't you realize I just love you and I just want to help you, why won't you let me help you, etc etc etc- but my glasses simply won't help. Problems are the same way - what worked for you might not necessarily work for your kids. Sometimes they need to figure it out on their own.

Don't compare your kids to your nieces and nephews or your friends' kids and don't compare your kids to each other (if there are more than one.) They all have their own personalities and abilities and they'll surprise you by how different they are. Just give them love and it'll work out.

Any more ideas?

TTFN
-Tony

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rambunctious

Illustration Friday: Rambunctious

Poor fellow looks like he's had a little too much caffeine. (Click on image for higher resolution.)

TTFN
-Tony

Monday, December 15, 2008

Paint Paint Paint

Sorry I haven't been on all week, but I've been painting the apartment. Well, half of the apartment. Some rooms took me all night. The place is ancient and has been patched a thousand times, but I did the best I could with it, and it looks a hell of a lot better. The next step is the living room/ foyer.

This week I'll be back on my regular walking/writing/etc schedule. Sadly, Jen and I have one of those "May your kids do all the crap that you did" things to deal with, so that's going to take up some time and energy.

TTFN
-Tony

Friday, December 05, 2008

Questions, questions

Joe & I have a nightly ritual: every night when he goes to bed, he asks me a question. Sometimes they're fiction based, (Star Wars, Metroid, Babylon 5,) sometimes they're science based, (how do blankets keep us warm?) and sometimes they're religion/ philosophy based.

Last night's was one of these. During the day, I said, "Oh poop!" (literally.) Joseph told me not to take the Lords' name in vain. I explained that the Lord's name was NOT "Poop." So last night's question was, "What IS taking the Lord's name in vain?"

(Let me backtrack here and explain that this question almost certainly comes from my father. Whenever he hears someone on TV or a movie or in real life say "Goddamn it," he goes into a tirade about how we shouldn't take the Lords name in vain.)

So I explained that it means literally to blame or to curse God when things go wrong. I added, however, that I don't think God really minds. First of all, He's God, He's pretty darn big, and His feelings probably aren't hurt that easily. Second of all, God created people, so he understands that people get hurt and angry and lash out from time to time.

"But God never answers my prayers," Joseph said.

Ok, this was a new one. "What do you pray for?" I asked.

"I ask him why we need to go to church to worship Him." (Let me interject here and say that Jen and I are not really church going folk, and Joe goes with my parents whenever we visit.) "And he didn't answer me."

So I explained that I don't personally think we do, as God is everywhere. Joe said that he liked going to church with Grandma and Grandpa and I said great- nothing wrong with that. I went on to explain that I think the only way prayers get answered is through other people. (Doctors heal, police & firefighters rescue, friends & family care, etc.) and that if we have any purpose in life, its to do God's work by answering each others prayers -or even our own. (Yes, I've blogged about this before. Sue me.) So if he has questions, ask people, and they may be answered. Or, the answer may come to him through life in general, and he'll have an "AHA!" moment.

Any thoughts?

TTFN
-Tony

Thursday, December 04, 2008

David Warner for Doctor!

It's always good to have things to look forward to. Being a certified nerd, I eagerly await certain movies (Watchmen) or games (Grand Theft Auto 4) or in this case, Doctor Who Unbound (audio adventures that take place in an alternate reality) episodes to come out:



I know the new Dr. Who is on a major "cute and romantic" kick that the young whippersnappers and the ladies seem to love, (and watching the trailer for "The Next Doctor" it looks like they once again remade an audio adventure: "The One Doctor"... grr...) but seriously- can't we get a petition started to have David Warner signed up as the 11th Doctor when David Tennant leaves? I'm really sick of my favorite show being turned into a soap opera.

TTFN
-Tony

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Webby is Back!



Illustration Friday: Balloon

To celebrate the restoration of Webby (my webcomic) I've done this week's Illustration Friday as an issue! Lucky you!

TTFN
-Tony

Delayed Blogging

Sorry it's been over a week since I was here. How much has happened? Not much.

You knew I had to bitch about it sooner or later: So let me get this straight. Obama has resurrected team Clinton (including Her Royal Heiney Herself) in pretty much the same way that W resurrected his father's and Regan's old team. I fail to see where the promised "change" comes in. As far as Hillary goes, I can understand wanting to keep your enemies closer (thank you, Michael Corleone,) but the number four spot is still too close. Couldn't he have rewarded her final-month, lukewarm support by making her ambassador to Madagascar or something? At least she'd have some lemurs to dance with...

I'm still unemployed, trying to keep busy. I go for two one and a half mile walks every day, with my Dr. Who Audio Adventures to keep me company. (Thank you, Big Finish, for selling downloadable DRM-free mp3s that I can play on my Pocket PC without any fuss.) Keeping up my 1000 words a day in the novel, meditating 15 minutes in the morning & at night, spending at least an hour a day working on False Idols, doing shit around the apartment (I have to paint sooner or later) And yes, playing GTA 4 once the kiddies have gone to bed. :D

Speaking of the X-box, thank you Sony for finally allowing Netflix to stream Columbia films to that wonderful toy. It took you long enough.

The pictures that were lost when AOL dumped its My FTP Space have been resurrected (the hard drive they were originally on is fried, I have to buy a new pcb board and see if I can repair it) by downloading them from AOL with Filezilla's client program. Why AOL couldn't have simply let users retrieve their old files through them I don't know. Anyway, the illustrations that were here back in early 2005 have been replenished. My project for the next few days is to bring EgotisticalProductions.com and Webby (my web-comic) back to life.

TTFN
-Tony