Saturday, February 27, 2010

January Birthdays

My daughter and my mother have the same birthday and this was the first year they were able to spend the birthday together. Much cake eating ensured. Plus little Elliot is growing up and wants to be involved with his surroundings now!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty

I love anything to do with the history of animation. Thus this movie about the fall and rise of Disney animation in the 80's is now on the top of my must see list:

Most people don't realize how close to redundancy the animation wing of Disney came in the 80's. With less-than-successful movies like the Black Cauldron and The Great Mouse Detective and competition coming from Don Bluth (An American Tail, Land Before Time) the Disney animation department was struggling for relevancy. It took the passion of young twenty something who were trained by the retired masters of the 30's - 60's (and the tust of those in charge) to revive the program with The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc.

Can't wait to see this film!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jay's Playlist: Gattaca

Welcome to my playlist, where I discuss the music which is currently entertaining me. Below you will find a video, press play to begin the song and then read my feelings on the album.

I still bring up Gattaca in conversation even 13 years later. I'm not sure if the film can be called a cult favorite, and it definitely wasn't a box office success, but I will call it an entertaining film (even if the science is a little off, but what movie doesn't have that). But this post is not about the movie but its music.

Michael Nyman's score is somber, emotional, and thought provoking (at least if you've seen the movie). The album is not one I can listen to for extended period of times because it almost depresses me. But no matter what emotion it invokes, the music is beautiful. I'm sure it would make a great playlist when interspersed with lively pieces.

Overall, I love this music because it moves me. It is thinking music. It relaxes me, almost to a fault (see above). And the movie memories it invokes are very positive even if the film's tone is not (at least until the end).

Random Gattaca facts:
  • The film's name is spelled only using GATC, the letters of the building blocks of DNA
  • The building used for the film is Frank Lloyd Wright's Marin County Civic Center just a few miles from where I live. It was also used in THX 1138, and it is where my grandmother was (re)married.
  • 13 years later, the cast selection would be considered an "all-star, A-list" cast. At the time, Jude Law was a relative unknown, Ethan Hawke was still only known mainstream from Dead Poet's Society and was escaping his 20 something roles from Reality Bites and Before Sunset, and Uma Thurman was probably the most successful due to Pulp Fiction (although her next movie would be franchise-killer Batman and Robin) and was likely more memorable due to Dave Letterman's failed Uma/Oprah Oscar joke. The supporting cast adds even more: Ernest Borgnine, Alan Arkin, Tony Shalhoub, Xander Berkeley, Gore Vidal, SNL'er Maya Rudolph, and Elias Koteas (who will always be Casey Jones to me).
  • a Gattaca TV cop drama is in development for the 2010 fall season.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Penny Arcade live!

I began reading the webcomic Penny Arcade back in 2000 before anyone really knew what a webcomic was. Back then no one thought that you could make a living drawing comics for a website (or newspapers for that matter). The people who drew the comics did it because they loved the art and were passionate about the subjects they drew. And not too surprisingly, a number of webcomics were based on video games, a topic which tended to be popular among college (art) students who generally had the most free time and internet savvy to create the comics.

A select few of the comics stood out over the years and soon the modest video game comic with a few thousand readers grew to a few million and became a very profitable enterprise. This week, the creators of Penny Arcade are celebrating the release of their 11 1/2 year anniversary book. They have a knack for celebrating the inane, even their book titles having nothing to do with the actual contents of the book and are nothing more than a reason to create a funny, genre-satire phrase ("Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings", "Birds are weird", "Attack of the Bacon Robots", "The Curse of the Mummy's Gold", etc). They began their book release with a tour which stopped close to my home, so I decided to visit the artists who made me laugh over the last 10 years.
The amazing part of their "presentation" was that they were exactly who they started out as: down-to-earth geeks who love what their do. Talking to them felt no different than talking to a group of gamers about the cool new game or geek collectors item. Even though their company now employs 10 people full-time, raises millions of dollars for charity each year, and hosts some of the largest gaming conventions in the world, these guys acted no different than the fans sitting in front of them. And all of their success is based on their weekly action of drawing characters who enact a funny punchline within 3 panels.

And did I mention they were hilarious?

The entire presentation was a no-holds-barred Q&A session that went to some pretty weird places. People in the audience asked whatever was on their mind and these guys would comment on it. A few of the stand out moments included:
  • When asked how they continue to make time for games even after having young children they jokingly replied that it was definitely difficult, but if a new, must-play game came out it was nice that their kids didn't know how to read a clock: they could put their kids in their lap, look at a clock and make that knowing, fatherly nod that says it is "bed time" even if it was 2 hours until bed time. Suddenly they had two hours to play!

  • One girl asked how she could "please" her gamer boyfriend (maybe she meant it to be more innocent than it came out, who knows). They were too embarrassed to announce on the loud speaker the answer, so one of them began singing a sea shanty (yes, an actual 19th century shanty) while the other took off the mic, ran to her chair, and whispered in her ear. Who knows what he said, but she was embarrassed and laughed afterwords, and then both guys gave her a big thumbs up and congratulatory nod.

  • When asked how someone who is borderline OCD would be able to get a tattoo, they replied to find the largest tattoo artist possible and have him place his hand on your chest as being obsessive compulsive really doesn't mean much when a sumo wrestler wants you to stay in one place. They then showed off the Pac-Man tattoos and described the 400 behemoth who held them in place.
All in all, it was a wonderful time. I look forward to their 14 1/3 anniversary book tour in a few years!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Christmas Photos: pt 8

On the final day of my Christmas visit we took the girls to the park and played. We watched a beautiful sunset and overall had an amazing time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Clothes no more

This weekend I did something I had never done before: I actually went through my clothes and got rid of a few!

I've always been a nostalgic pack rat. For the longest time I would keep clothes just because they reminded of previous (good) times when I wore them. Which means there have been times I've worn ugly clothes from the 90's because they remind me of high school. Well, that and part of me was proud that I could wear them again, as I gained 40 lbs at the end of college and only returned to my high school weight in the last few years. Not only that, but I "collected" a lot of shirts as well just because they were free or geeky. My many trips to comic conventions gave me free schwag that most people wouldn't be caught dead in (anyone want to wear a 2005 "War of the Worlds" t-shirt?). For a while there I also collected Hard Rock Cafe shirts from the cities I visited; it got to the point where almost half my wardrobe was Hard Rock shirts.

I just didn't get rid of clothes. My family would find ways to quietly remove clothes from my wardrobe but occasionally I would ask where a certain Tommy Hilfiger shirt or ratty comic book T-shirt went and catch them after the fact. They learned to be more creative after that. One of my best birthday presents was a blanket made from my favorite college t-shirts (mostly frat shirts) which weren't exactly proper attire for work.

Anyways, the past few months I have been working on new outfits that I enjoy wearing. After a few rounds of laundry I realized that I was wearing roughly the same 10 outfits (mixing and matching pants and sweater combos) and that some of the stuff in my closet hadn't been worn in years. So I dumped all my clothes on the floor and proceeded to throw away all the shirts that just didn't match my new outfits (or were so stained it was pathetic). It didn't take long to fill an entire trash bag. I then drove 30 miles to the local Goodwill and bid goodbye to the clothes without a second thought. This was a first for me, a surprisingly it was easy than I expected. Who know, maybe in the next year I will be donating my current outfits after buying all new ones...

And somewhere out there someone now is showing off their new-to-them Iron Man t-shirt (or maybe a No Fear shirt). Hope they have as good of times with their new clothes as I did when I wore them!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Holidays among the stars

I'm a little behind on these photos thanks to the craziness of Christmas with the family. But one of the coolest events I have ever been too happened at 2009's Animation Mentor Holiday Party. The entire party theme was kept secret, we were told to meet at the Claremont hotel and be ready to be shipped to our location. That location turned out to be...

The Chabot Observatory!

Most companies throw parties where employees have a good time; at our parties your have a good time and actually learn something in the process. The many exhibits became party decorations full of fascinating information. Between hors d'uoevres and drinks we read about the asteroid belt and Uranus...

A meteorite served as desert garnishes while a giant rotating Earth accented the bar...

Each table also had "star hats" which no normal person would be caught wearing, but we are anything but normal at AM...

A good time was had by all!

Although the open bar made learning more difficult as the night went on, it did make the smoke machines and oversize lava lamps for more amusing.

Finally, the one part I have no pictures of is us going to the three observatories, which were open for us throughout the night, to view different celestial bodies in motion. I felt bad for the astronomers manning the telescopes as I can only guess how distracting it can be to try to do work while 75 inebriated people file through your workspace. But they seemed to be having a good time (I'm sure the food and drinks available to them helped, not to mention the funds).

Finally, we ended the night with dancing (not pictured to protect the innocent) and gifts to everyone in the company!

I have no idea how we will top this in 2010, they'll probably have to fly us to the space station...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Penne Rigate with Spicy Tomato and Beef

I've been doing a lot of experimentation with cooking recently and am slowly figuring out meals that I enjoy both cooking and eating. These early early food posts won't contain "recipes", per se, as I am experimenting and won't cook the same meal the same way twice. But they will give an insight to my process.

Today's meal is:
Penne Rigate with Beef and Vegetables in a Spicy Tomato sauce
or (in bachelor words)
"pasta with meat, veggies, and hot red stuff"

One of my ideas with "fancy" cooking is to cook in large quantities so I can eat it again during lunch without spending most of my free time in the kitchen. This meal (and its variances) is enough to last 4+ meals and tastes great even after reheating.

Basically, I begin with lean ground beef (1 lb), and boil eggs in a pan starting at room temperature. The hard-boiled eggs are not part of the recipe, I just figure if I am going to be boiling water for pasta I might as well make easy-to-grab protein snacks as well.

I also begin grilling the vegetables at this time, for this meal I choose broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and yellow carrots.

My meat pan only holds 1/2 lb of beef at a time so by the time the eggs are done and the pasta, Penne Ziti Rigata in this case, enters the boiling water the first batch of meat is ready to go into the mixing bowl along with the vegetables. If I was cooking all the meat at once I would start boiling the water first (add salt!) and only begin the meat once the pasta was in the pan, then start the vegetables on the grill. After beginning the second batch of meat and veggies I also make my fruit drink while I wait for everything to cook.

Next I drain the pasta, add final batch of beef and vegetables into the mixing bowl, and add a single serving of sauce to a low heat on the pan.

I mix the pasta into the mixing bowl, toss it, then dish out my serving. The mixing bowl is sealed and placed in the fridge for future lunches.

Finally I add the tomato sauce, some oregano, a little Tabasco (the title is "spicy" afterall), and garnish it with pepper jack shavings:

I then add my drink: today's was a mix a fresh raspberries, yogurt, dried blueberries/cherries/acai berries, flax seeds, and a touch of pineapple juice.