Monday, January 31, 2005
1. In the show Nanny 911, a team of nannies headed by an older "master" nanny, sit around a table like the justice league and figure out who is best suited to "fix" the particular family that week.
2. The correct spelling of Will Smith's fish character Oscar in the film Shark Tales is Osc'r.
3. The long running Fox show Cops is now broadcast in high definition. You can finally read the tattoos on the wife beater wearing, drunk dude's arm.
If you bought Ghost in the Shell 2 and thought the subtitles sucked ass (only hearing impaired ones were selectable), you were not alone. Dreamworks is now replacing the discs, read more about it here, and fill this out.
Check out this awesome "tribute" to Metal Gear Solid 3 courtesy of PSM. I'm not sure this is meant for official distribution online (I think this was originally on their PSM DVD), but surely the handful of folks here won't break the link. Enjoy!
Friday, January 28, 2005
So, the lesson for today is being sick is still not much fun and back up your data in more than one place even though it seems crazy.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
This year marks the 40th year of normalized relations between Korea and Japan. To celebrate that milestone and also promote further kinship, 2005 is designated as Korea-Japan Friendship year. 200 events are planned highlighting each countries traditions and culture.
The recent co-hosting of the 2002 World Cup was a major step forward, but it’s the growing exchange and demand for each country’s pop culture that is leading the new bond. This ties in with yesterdays post on Hyung-tae Kim, but at the time, I had not come across the news of this friendship year. Must be some psychic connection with my peoples.
I gained a greater appreciation of Korean culture during my time working at a local game store. The owners were Korean and they celebrated a great sale or other significant event with a night out filled with various regional cuisines. Good times.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
One of my new favorite artists is Korean sensation Hyung-tae Kim. He mainly does character designs for games like Magna Carta, but has done illustrations for comic book covers in the US and other work in Japan. I was lucky enough to have picked up the Japanese version of his rare and expensive Korean art collection Oxide. Aside from being about 1/3 the price, the Japanese version is hard cover, so its quite an amazing deal. The illustration above, a poster Kim did for Japanese Arcadia magazine, should give you a good idea of his dynamic work. I highly recommend the book if you can find it in stock anywhere. The PlayStation 2 version of Magna Carta (originally a Korean PC game) recently came out in Japan and may get picked up here. Although it was greatly enhanced for the PS2, the word is that it’s still somewhat ass.
A bit easier to find is the domestic release of the Street Fighter 15th anniversary art collection, Eternal Challenge. A treasure trove of Capcom art taken from every 2D installment (It only briefly mentions the 3D EX games) in the series. It’s been completely translated to English so you get interviews with most of the artists behind the landmark fighting game series. From what I’ve heard first printings are limited to 4500 so snag a copy ASAP.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Finally got around to watching the first installment of Iron Chef America: The Series. Impressions in bite size chunks below:
The Food Network has wisely tried to mimic every aspect of the Japanese show minus the wild costumes of the chairman and the chefs. The reports from the floor, the “booth” commentary from Alton Brown, as well as a few blurbs from the judges are all classic Iron Chef. There are some aspects they did not do, like cool mini video segments that explain the origins of the main ingredient, or fanfare filled bio of the challenger. Not having these doesn’t kill it, but it would add more drama to the battle ahead if they had. Nice presentation overall though.
The Iron Chefs
Bringing back Morimoto is a great move. As much as I detest Bobby Flay, his first match against Rick Bayless was entertaining and he kept his childish tantrums in check. Mario Batali is another good choice, but definitely lacks the prestige as say Wolfgang Puck. In the future, I’d love to see some other food Network heavyweights like Emeril get into the action. They have to keep the talent top notch though. Although I’m a fan of hers, I would take a pass on Iron Chef Rachel Ray.
Looks like they have a good mix of famous chefs with restaurants and/or TV shows. No real blockbuster challengers though. With only ten shows in this initial run, it’s unlikely the Iron Chefs will run out of tricks and be really tested. It won’t be till Bobby Flay collects his 20th or so victory that other big name chefs will want to go on the show and put it on the line, much like the prestige one would win on the Japanese show.
The mix is about right for this first show: One hard ass grumpy expert, one moderate critical expert, and one “I’m used to eating fine food” celebrity. I can’t say how future shows balance this out, but this is a good start. One bad note is the scores. MINOR SPOILER AHEAD ………… The winner of the match won by one point, which came down to the presentation of the food. I love a close match, but come on!? Pick which guy’s food you thought was better dammit! You people are the judges! ………………………………. SPOILER END.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
If anyone remembers, the US box of Rumble Roses had the blonde Dixie punishing Reiko. Seems Konami of Japan wanted Reiko in the dominant position for the still upcoming JP release of the game. "Take that saucy blonde devil!"
I couldn't resist checking out a first look at The Godfather from EA via scans off various sites. I know, scans are the evil. Looks sweet though.
Available for pre-order in Japan is the Godzilla Final Box that comes with every movie in the series, booklets, special features discs, and this ginormous head thingy. Amazon JP says it should ship in the next few weeks and wants roughly $1199 for it. Um, it's sort of ugly though. Godzilla's facial expression is a mixture of fright (perhaps realizing he is bodiless on a slab of plastic) and impending orgasm. Now that I put it that way, I think I want it after all.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I was sure I wouldn't watch the new season of American Idol, but there was a big surprise. Now, the show is as good or bad (depending on your tastes) as it ever was with the usual mix of terrible singers and talented hopefuls. No, the thing that got me hooked is that it's broadcast in high definition this year, a first actually for reality TV shows. Being a "reality" based program, the video quality rivals what sports telecasts look like. Very true to life, ultra vibrant. Man, I can't wait till they start taping the Amazing Race in HD, the world locales would just pop.
That reminds me, I switched to Alameda Cable for broadband and TV service, dumping the ever expensive Comcast. Even though I'm saving a lot of money, I was a bit bummed because I lost some normal HD channels like CBS and KRON. Luckily last week, I get a letter from Alameda cable saying they have just added Fox and KICU HD channels. SWEEEEET. As of this writing, Comcast still wasn't offering Fox in HD. That means NFL playoffs and the super bowl. Football isn't my favorite sport, but how can you pass that up. You can't I say. Now if only they could add CBS, I can start watching CSI in HD again. Oh it's so hard to go back.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Yesterday’s Oakland Tribune had a neat article about what Dr. King would do if he were alive today, some were funny, others very serious. Stuff like, he would be overjoyed to know there are actually black head coaches in football and in higher VP positions (the article names many such folks, but I can’t recall off the top of my head). It truly is a different world we live in now from just a few decades ago, but it’s still sad that you could name all the key people of color in great positions of power in just one newspaper column.
On a slightly lighter, but related note, I finally watched Harold and Kumar go to White Castle on DVD. Oh man, I don’t think I laughed that hard in all of 2004. It’s a movie I wished were made back when I was a teen, not because it was hilarious, but because the racial issues it tackled hit home. Highly recommended.
Other weekend notes
Kimi’s company had a post holidays outing in the city so I got to enjoy some fine Italian cuisine and a show afterward. Like many bay area residents, I’ve seen some commercials for Bleach Blanket Babylon and thought it looked pretty silly and “how funny could big hats really be?” Let me tell you, I had an absolute ball. If you live in the bay area and have never gone to see it, GO SEE IT NOW. Click on the link for more details about the show. BBB changes regularly to incorporate timely political and pop culture material so I’m looking forward to making it a regular thing to go to.
This was also the weekend I was going to follow through on my previous vow to WoW it up. I even installed Skype to chat with fellow adventurers. As you may have guessed from the thousands of message board and blog entries on the topic, it wasn’t very good timing. So, my quest is delayed a bit, but my resolve is firm. The leveling will continue in earnest and then social exploration will flourish.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Dr. Darrell Y. Hamamoto, a professor of Asian American Studies at UC Davis decided to make the first ever Asian American porn movie, Skin on Skin. Why? There are a large number of Asian females in the US porn industry, but no males of the same race. He feels this further emasculates the Asian male, already underrepresented in mainstream media. Masters of the Pillow is a documentary by James Hou focusing on Dr. Hamamoto’s crusade and looks at the issues it raises from a variety of viewpoints. They have other professors and fairly known actors and directors weighing in, the consensus opinion being it’s probably not the best way to get this point across, but it can’t hurt.
The documentary itself is very interesting and I recommend it to anyone intrigued by the topic. Don’t be afraid to watch it if you’re not Asian, but it does contain scenes from Skin on Skin so it’s not for children.
Personally, I think with the large amount of adult movies from countries like Japan and China, there is no shortage of available imagery of Asian on Asian action for the porn consumer. Now as a statement on social issues, it’s certainly an attention getter and opens up discussion. That’s always a good thing.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
The new Iron Chef America: The series kicks off this Sunday on the Food Network. The previous attempts at an American version have been horrid, but this one "might" be ok. I actually just want to tune in to hopefully watch Bobby Flay lose to some nobody chef. That would rock. Anyway, more comments about this after it airs.
The Frostman hit me with a link to this amusing ad. From what I hear, it's a lot cooler than the actual game.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
A few years ago, very expensive 12" tall figures of the Seven Samurai were released in Japan. They looked awesome, but way too expensive. Figures from other Akira Kurosawa movies (Yojimbo and its sequel Sanjuro) have just gone on sale, this time in more affordable, smaller capsule toy size (roughly 2 1/2 inches). There's even a figure of the famed director himself. Very neat. They're starting to appear on eBay and other specialty import stores.
Famistu just put up the intro to Tekken 5 for the PS2. I don't want to give the ending away, but isn't this like the 3rd time this person has died already? Hmmm...
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
The somewhat famous Sushi House (not pictured) in Alameda is temporarily closed in order to work on their new, much bigger location a few feet away. It's not even funny how exciting this is to me as I live across the street from the place. It's almost always packed, making dining there a hassle. Hopefully the bigger digs means they will get more staff too to handle the extra bidness. Who wants to go when it's done?
BTW, the above photo is from a sushi night at my place. (Sob) Julie's last sushi night...
(Update!) The Mac Mini and iPod Shuffle are revealed! Neato. Now to find out if I actually need them.
Looking through Apple's updated site now...
Wow, very cool. I don't have a pressing need for either right now, but I can totally see walking into the nearby Apple store and picking up either ones on impulse. Perhaps use the Mac Mini as my main computer and my current PC for games and things the Mac can't do. The size and price of the Mini makes this scenario fairly practical. I use iTunes on my home PC to manage my music, but don't own an iPod (yeah I use another feature packed lower cost device). The Shuffle would be perfect for some trips and workouts though.
Monday, January 10, 2005
5. Get back into Dance Dance Revolution. The time is right.
4. Walk across the street more. I basically have three grocery stores and an outdoor mall over there and far too often I get there in the car. Ridiculous.
3. Print out more digital pictures.
2. Go out and eat with more people.
1. Play World of Warcraft before everyone who plays now gets tired of it and I have to party with idiots.
On my mind at the moment is the hilarity that is the 4th season of The Surreal Life. Don't worry if you didn't catch the first showing yesterday, it's on everyday this week at some point on VH1. Now, I usually stay far away from most reality shows, but this is something else. Anyway, I don't want to give anything away since there's plenty of time to watch it so, check it out and we'll chat about it.
Kimi is a big movie nut so around Oscar time we're always running around trying to watch all the buzzed about movies. This weekend we took in Million Dollar Baby and the Aviator. Both are great, but the former is the one that made a bigger impression on both of us. Kimi insists Finding Neverland is still the best movie she has seen this year so I guess I'll have to check it out.
I barely watched any of the People's Choice awards last night, but I did tune in to see Farenheit 9/11 win for best movie. That was about all you really need to know about the show.
Friday, January 07, 2005
Finally finished Metal Gear Solid 3, and I can now confirm that it is a two-way tie for Game of the Year! Yeah, yeah, I should pick just one, but both are just too damn good. This is quite a surprise to me too you know? Ninja Gaiden had a virtual death grip on that honor. Seriously, it was very close, and the reason for MGS 3 squeezing in is that it touched me in a different, but equally powerful way that reminded me why I love games so much.
Even though the core of the game is still sneaking around, the different mission scenarios felt fresh. The situations Snake found himself in were engaging, and the characters, ah the characters, I’ll remember them for a long time. Especially the Boss. She wins the award, hands down for the most interesting and coolest character of the year. To say more would ruin the story. If you’ve ever liked any Metal Gear games, this is the pay off, the greatness you knew the series would eventually attain. How weird is it to say a prequel story is what it all was leading up to? Well, somehow it happens that way and it makes you want to play through each installment again.
If you’ve played MGS 3 for a bit then quit, I don’t blame you. Even with the new tweaks, the controls are still not as slick as the Splinter Cell games, and it starts really slow ... BUT it just builds, and builds, and builds, and unlike other big titles of 2004, the ending is great. I will say no more on it. Seriously, I want to give you more hints, but it’s better to find out for yourself. Avoid spoilers!
Ninja Gaiden on the other hand just out right kicked my ass. It’s the type of game that raises your expectations for everything that comes after it, setting the bar if you will, but that’s not all. It makes you realize we’ve been settling for less than stellar gameplay in this 3D generation. Yes it’s damn hard and that turned a lot of people off. I can see the point the developers wanted to make though, as the challenge of the game is so great, so much more difficult than any recent game I can think of, that the natural reaction of a person is to go back and choose an easier setting. But the true beauty of this game is that its like life, you stick to it, push yourself, and all of a sudden everything becomes easier. Ok, the camera isn't perfect, but neither is life. The important thing is, the game totally makes you feel like a bad ass ninja master, because if you beat the game, you truly are.
Half-Life 2 was also insanely awesome, but it’s hard not to feel a bit cheated by the ending. There were so many things that just left me in awe playing through the game that it was just so anti-climactic. I know a lot of folks are griping about Halo 2’s ending, but it didn’t bother me. Mainly because the story just wasn’t that strong, I had no personal investment. Same for Doom III and Far Cry, all were loads of fun to play through. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I enjoyed Dead or Alive Ultimate and Rumble Roses, but they didn't crack my top five. For those of you who know me, it's quite shocking isn't it? There are tons of other great games I played last year and still more I haven't, but I'll leave it at this for now.
Evil is around the corner
I’ll tell you what though, if Resident Evil 4 came out in 2004, it would probably be a three-way tie for top honors with MGS 3. I was lucky enough to finish the game for a review last month and good god, it was fantastic! I admit to being a Resident Evil freak, but that doesn’t mean I’m forgiving of weakness in the series. I’m so glad it’s finally coming out next week because I’ve been itching to play through again, and again. I would tell you what else I want to do in the game, but this post is spoiler free baby so deal with it. Although it sucks for Gamecube hardliners (all 10 of you out there), I’m so glad RE 4 is coming out for the PlayStation 2 because this is another shining moment for a veteran franchise (like MGS 3), and it needs to be experienced by as many people as possible.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Ok, the posts have been pretty comic/manga heavy recently, so I promise something different for tomorrow. For now though, another title I picked up that I highly recommend is Samurai Executioner. It's the series the creators of Lone Wolf and Cub worked on before that mighty title and it's just as good. It's a bit heavier on historical details and definitely not for kids due to graphic content.
Also, if you're a fan of Taiyo Matsumoto (no. 5, Black and White), he's got a new book on the shelves. Blue Spring, released here by Viz, is a collection of wacked out high school stories that follow different characters as they get through life. As with his other work, its very surreal and bizarre, but quite fascinating. If you've never experienced Matsumoto san's work, you should start with no. 5 first, which is both his most nonsensical and most accessible work at the same time.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
I’m surprised I haven’t run across this earlier, but comic legend Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit, has passed away. You can read more about it here. I can still remember going to my first San Diego Comicon back in 1992, walking around the cavernous convention hall, then stumbling across a table with just one person chatting with an elderly man. I looked at the name on the table and it was Will Eisner! It’s a bit morbid to say now, but I thought he was dead already. It was so exciting getting to meet a true living legend, and his groundbreaking Comics & Sequential Art book was the only one of its kind, at the time, to really break down the craft of telling a story in comic form. He was very nice and genuinely warm. Over the years I would take a picture here and there, but the last time I got out to the con was in 1999. In any case, both his books, Comics & Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling are well worth picking up if you’ve ever had a desire to create a comic or just appreciate more about the art form.
In related news, Bill Liebowitz , the owner and operator of my childhood comic book store Golden Apple, had also passed away. I read about it rather late (he passed October of last year), but it brought back great memories of going to the Golden Apple comic book store every Thursday with my dad to get a batch of comics. My dad was a bit tight fisted when it came to buying me toys, but he loves books in all forms and I was free to purchase them to my hearts content (within reason). That included comic books, which makes sense considering manga in Japan is read by folks of all ages. Little did he know the US market was packed with just super hero tales. I still go to the store almost every time I travel back to LA, so it was especially sad knowing the news and walking around the store this past holiday season. I highly recommend you check it out whenever you’re in LA.
Of course the massive devastation in Asia is on a far greater scale of tragedy. A disaster of this magnitude is just hard to take in and fully wrap your head around. The death toll is still expected to climb, which is just unreal. I've donated a bit already, but I plan to do more soon. Everyone is worried that donations will dry up after this initial rush so that's when I'll pitch in some extra. It's already set aside so no new DVDs or games for the next few weeks.
Monday, January 03, 2005
Although I’m interested in a wide variety of electronics to be shown at the CES, (which starts this Thursday) I’ll be keeping to closest eye on the next generation DVD formats. At this point, I’m not sure which to root for and even more unsure which format I would invest in first. My instinct says to get a HD-DVD player first, then wait for the PlayStation 3 for Blu-ray. That is unless Microsoft decides to incorporate HD-DVD into the Xbox 2. That would be the best of both worlds for sure.
It’s easy to forget the troubled first two years of our current DVD format and it’s worth revisiting some of those problems and ponder if those things can plague us again. One of the major issues at that time was player compatibility with every disc. Disc authoring was still in its infancy and manufacturers also had to rush their product out. To this day I have two DVDs that I can't watch on any of my current DVD players (it worked on my old, old Toshiba I no longer have) and are pretty much unsellable. There were picture quality issues, movies that require you to flip the disc, and very few anamorphic transfers. Are we going to see similar problems? Absolutely. Probably not as bad, but the margin for error is certainly going to be greater with two formats out there. Of course there’s the practice of releasing a basic version of the movie and later parading out a special edition with tons of features, which the studios are sure to continue with the next generation DVDs.
Other than that, I’m more excited than usual about the upcoming MacWorld expo taking place January 10th – the 14th. I don’t use an Apple at home anymore, but the hot rumor that a cheap, sub$500 Mac (sans monitor) may be announced is pretty neat. Actually, my deepest desire is for them to announce some sort of tablet laptop. Oh my they would surely get it done right and with enough power to really be of use, unlike the current tablet PCs on the market.
Thanks to the Awesomelord who sent me the html info, I’ll soon be addings site links to the side of my page. Now I can return the favor to the other blogs that are giving me some nice traffic!