Archive for May, 2004

Monday, May 31st, 2004

Computer Age

It may have taken 20-odd years, but the first in-depth RPG for the Atari 2600 video game console will be coming out this June, and it will star none other than Homestar Runner. It will be comparable in size and function to early RPGs like Ultima and be released as an actual 2600 cartridge. For those without the foresight to hang onto their old Atari decks (me, I never had one. My introduction to the world of console video games was a Haminex, an Intellivision clone) it will also be available as a ROM so as to be playable through your favorite emulator. There is a demo ROM available to try out at the developer’s website here. Some screencaps here.

Oh, and if anyone missed the Homestar puppet jamming with They Might Be Giants, go to the Homestar homepage and wait till the button in the top-right rotates to ‘Puppet Jam’, then click.

Like many, I have been really anxious to see Garden State when it comes out this Summer. And now that this new trailer actually gives me some idea of what the film is about, I want to see it even more. It opens July 30.

The blogosphere is quiet today. A little too quiet. What, one long weekend and everyone just vanishes? We had our May long weekend last week and I was still here, dutifully posting. Cause I’m hardcore. And I had nothing else to do. But that’s okay, I don’t need anyone else. I can come up with interesting topics to write about without their help.

So I bought a stick of medium cheddar cheese a couple days ago, and I’m thinking I should have spent the extra $0.70 and gone with the old cheddar. I like the extra zip. Ah, hindsight.

np – The Wedding Present / Singles 1995-1997

Sunday, May 30th, 2004

Static & Silence

Today’s Doonesbury acknowledges Memorial Day by listing the names of over 700 names of soldiers who have fallen in Iraq. Which is more recognition than the Bush administration seems willing to give them.

Al Gore gets a lot of shit for being dull beyond words, but when he decides to tear Dubya a new one, he doesn’t mess around. For this I applaud him, though I do wonder if anyone is listening or if he’s just preaching to the choir.

Interesting how I seem to be getting politicky on Sundays.

Sea Ray has expanded the Eastern leg of their Canadian tour. In addition to being at the Rivoli in Toronto Jun 27, they’ll be at Call The Office in London the 26th and at venues to be determined in Ottawa on the 29th and Montreal the 30th.

The first issue of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men came out this past week. Ostensibly the flagship title of all the X-books, its debut was decent if not overwhelming. Cassaday’s artwork is quite good though some of the characters looked a little warped at times the new costume designs are questionable. Whedon’s script has excellent dialogue as you’d expect from the guy who wrote Buffy for all those years, but it remains to be seen if he can put together a compelling storyline. I realize it’s only one issue in but he hasn’t incited the same level of excitement and anticipation that Grant Morrison did on his first issue of New X-Men a few years ago. Still, we’ll give him some time before passing judgement. And points for bringing back Kitty Pryde.

np – Wilco / May 20, 2004 @ Otto’s, DeKalb, IL

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Do You Believe In Magic?

I’d never really had any interest in the Harry Potter phenomenon, not least of all because it seemed to me to be a not-too-subtle ripoff of Neil Gaiman’s Books Of Magic, which predated the Potter books by nearly a decade. For those unfamiliar with The Books Of Magic, it was a miniseries published in 1990 by DC Comics that introduced the character of Tim Hunter – a bespectacled English boy with an owl companion who was destined to become Earth’s greatest wizard. Sound familiar? Granted, that was about where the similarities ended – Hunter wasn’t orphaned, he still had a father (for a while at least) and instead of being enrolled in a school for magic, he was given a crash course in magic by almost all the occult characters in the DC universe and was nearly murdered on several occasions by evil-doers. So yeah, it was considerably darker than the Harry Potter books, and while it was sufficiently different from Potter in tone and content, the superficial similarities were enough to put me off of Harry Potter-mania.

After the initial mini-series, Hunter returned in an ongoing Vertigo (DC’s ‘mature readers’ imprint) series of the same name which started out strongly but tailed off towards the end of its fairly long run. After a cancellation, Tim Hunter got a fresh start in The Names Of Magic miniseries which set up a new ongoing series, Hunter: The Age Of Magic. The new title never quite found its feet and was again given the axe after a couple years. Still, the powers-that-be weren’t ready to give up on Hunter and after bringing Gaiman back as a co-plotter, a third ongoing series – The Books Of Magick: Life During Wartime – will kick off in July and apparently be even darker in tone than its predecessors.

So what’s this got to do with Harry Potter? Not a helluva lot. As I mentioned before, I hadn’t read any of the Potter books nor seen any of the movies and all I knew about it was what I read in newspapers or magazines reporting on the books or films. So after seeing trailers for the third film and being stymied yesterday afternoon in my attempts to rent Run Lola Run and Seven, I decided to give Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone a whirl. Verdict? An overwhelming ‘meh’. I realize that the movie is not the book but I’ve also heard that the film was quite faithful and thorough as adaptations go, so I think I can reasonably assume that perceived shortcomings on the part of the film would also apply to the book. My main complaint was that it was boring. It was charming, visually impressive and obviously a lot of work went into getting the look and feel of Hogwarts right but looking past the window dressing, the story itself was awfully simplistic, cliched and unoriginal. The story functions fine as a morality play, but not much beyond that.

The young actors are nothing to write home about, seemingly cast more for their ability to look the parts than act them – Daniel Radcliffe is mighty wooden in the title role and only Emma Watson shows she might have better things ahead for her. Of course, that might not be their fault – they’re not given terribly complex characters to begin with. Yeah, yeah, I know – they’re children’s books and I probably shouldn’t expect enormous depth, but from the number of adults I know who are devoted fans I’d hoped to be pleasantly surprised. I gather that there’s an overarching story to all the books (Potter vs Voldemort) that might be more interesting and I know that things get darker as the series goes on, so they might get more compelling as the films progress. I will likely eventually see them all but won’t be harrassing the video store clerk to any extent for a copy of the next one. And I really doubt I’ll be bothering with the books. Those things are huge.

Stolen Wine Social tonight at the IV Lounge, on Dundas in front of the AGO. Scruffy cardigans and taped-up glasses optional.

It’s absurd how much stuff is available on Sharing The Groove. Right now, I’m downloading Wilco’s second show at Otto’s from May 20 as well as a Tanya Donelly show from 2002, and that’s just barely the tip of the iceberg. I need to buy a new CD-R spindle.

Usually I accomplish, um, nothing before I get a post up in the morning. Not today! Gary persuaded me to go for a good long bike ride early (for me) this morning, ostensibly to train for the Ride For Heart next weekend (sponsor me! If you’re not against heart disease, you’re for heart diesease!). It took about two hours to cover 30 km (just over 18.5 miles) through downtown Toronto – first along Davenport to just past Lansdowne, into High Park, down onto the lakefront trail, west a ways past the Humber, then back into the core through Ontario Place and the Exhibition Grounds, finally back up through Queen W and the university. I’m feeling surprisingly good, which bodes well for not dying during next weekend’s 50km ride. Sure could use a shower, though.

np – Spiritualized / Amazing Grace

Friday, May 28th, 2004

Eternal Life

It seems like stating the obvious now, but Jeff Buckley had barely scratched the surface of his monsterous talent when he died far too young in May of 1997, seven years ago tomorrow. I remember when I heard he’d gone missing – I was sitting in the cafeteria of a summer co-op job in Ajax, Ontario (way out in the boonies of Toronto) where they made aircraft landing gear. The newspaper was the Toronto Sun, our local mostly-crap tabloid rag, and the Jeff Buckley piece was just a short blurb in a sidebar. At this point, he was just ‘missing’ after going for a swim in the Mississippi, and while deep down I knew better, I held out hope that he’d be alright. I didn’t have internet access of any sort at the time, so I checked the newspaper every day for the next week hoping that there’d be some good news. Obviously there wasn’t, and when I read they recovered his body, I was immensely saddened by the news. Even more so since I was the only person I knew who cared at all.

The many posthumous releases didn’t have the same magic as his debut album Grace, and I didn’t care for the stench of opportunism by his estate. While I do own the originally-discarded second album Sketches: For My Sweetheart The Drunk and the live Mystery White Boy, I’ve done my best to avoid supporting the cash-in on his legacy. That said, I will admit that the Legacy Edition of Grace out August 24 has my interest. Consisting of the original album digitally remastered (is that really necessary for something barely ten years old?), a second disc of bonus material (which has some stuff I’ve wanted to hear and it’ll save me from having to shell out for a silly box set of EPs) and a DVD (the specific contents of which are still being hashed out, but will surely have some stuff worth seeing). I don’t listen to it all that much anymore, but every once in a while, I still put on Grace and just marvel at it – so much potential lost. Who knows what amazing music he might have gone on to make? Grace was just the tip of the iceberg. Too late, too soon. News of the Legacy release from Burned By The Sun.

Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous will be out July 27. Write it down.

The Onion A.V. Club interviews Stephin Merritt. I’ve linked so damn many of these Magnetic Fields interviews, I’m done trying to come up with clever ways to present them. So there. From the Global Pop Conspiracy.

Stylus loves Nellie McKay, having compiled the Top Ten lines on Get Away From Me. Much of the peanut gallery commenters disagree. Nellie is in town June 30 at Lee’s Palace and could have a new album out as early as October.

Almost as good as a Lonely Planet guide to Springfield USA.

np – Jeff Buckley / Mystery White Boy

Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Sunshine Superman

Long given up for dead, there’s suddenly buzz a-plenty about the next Superman movie. Comic Book Resources has the following predictions: Rose Byrne (Troy) as Lois Lane, Adam Brody (The O.C.) as Jimmy Olsen, Henry Cavill (The Count Of Monte Cristo) as the big blue banana, and Johnny Depp (21 Jump Street) as Lex Luthor Jor-El (Superdad), filming schedule permitting. McG (Charlie’s Angels) will direct and J.J. Abrams (Alias) is writing the script, Summer 2006 being the target release date. Go here for all the up-to-date info on the new Supes movie. And if that’s not enough Supes news for ya, the second Seinfeld/Superman AmEx mini-film is now up here.

Solo New Pornographer A.C. Newman, AKA Carl Newman, will be pimping his solo album The Slow Wonder at Lee’s Palace August 8, admission is $12. The album is out June 8.

Aussie popsters Sekiden will be playing a couple shows in the Big Smoke in June – June 8 at the Horseshoe and then a NXNE show at the B-Side on the 10th. I caught them earlier this year at a post-CMW show and they were loads of fun. Catch em if you can – the Horseshoe show is free, even.

Break out the medallions! The Urge Overkill reunion tour brings Chicago’s suavest to Lee’s Palace June 19th. $18.50 will get you past the velvet rope.

Retrobuzz had a good long interview with Sea Ray about their current tour and the general upwards turn in their fortunes. Head for the May 27 post – the ‘Buzz has no permalinks to individual blog entries. And yes, I’ll admit I’m a little flattered to have been name-dropped in the interview. In case you missed it, June 27 – Sea Ray at the Rivoli! Don’t miss it. I’m serious. No kidding around.

All the Toronto newspapers – well, NOW, eye and The Toronto Star at least – want to find out what’s been going on in the Royal City of late, besides playing the Three Gut 4th anniversary show at the ‘Shoe on Friday and releasing their third album Little Heart’s Ease on June 8.

Billboard has a preview of Guided By Voices’ swan song, Half Smiles Of The Decomposed, out August 24.

Elvis Costello’s new (rock) record with the Imposters will be out on Lost Highway on September 21. Still no title, however.

np – Feist / Let It Die