Monday, January 28, 2008

Movie Trailers

So in the several months since I stopped posting regularly, I've seen some trailers for films coming out in 2008. This year looks like an awesome year for superhero movies.

One of the most anticipated is "Iron Man."

The trailer is genius. The second half is bursting with kick-ass action to make the fanboys go,"whoa!" But it's the first half that makes it rise above your average trailer. Robert Downey Jr. is shown in several scenes that establish the character of Tony Stark--mercenary, perhaps amoral, yet charming. The storytelling economy here is perfect. Action, effects, and an appealing, interesting character: this trailer has all the elements that make you say, "I have GOT to see that!"

Another one that I'm really anxious to see is "Hancock," starring Will Smith.

Good stuff. I mean, it's Will Smith doing his standard Will Smith schtick, but the action is over-the-top cool, and it's an interesting take on the hero genre. According to Wikipedia, the screenplay was originally titled, "Tonight, He Comes," about a hero with sexual dysfunction. I love the final lines.

Hancock: I don't even remember that.

Jason Bateman (character is not named in IMDB): Greenpeace does.

I'm also anxious to see "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

This looks like everything you want in a sequel: the same, but bigger. Ron Perlman in perfect form as Hellboy, same supporting cast in place, huge monsters, kickass action and special effects.

I'm not as excited by "The Dark Knight."

I liked "Batman Begins," I think Christopher Nolan is an excellent director, and I think the Bat-Cycle looks badass. But from what little I've seen of Heath Ledger as the Joker, it looks like he channeled all the aspects of Jack Nicholson's performance that I liked the least. Perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised, but seeing the trailer made me less excited about the movie, not more--not a good thing in a trailer.

Still waiting to see a trailer for "The Incredible Hulk," starring Edward Norton. The new film is supposed to be more action-oriented than the Ang Lee version. I actually liked the Ang Lee version, or aspects of it at least. I thought the size-changing bit was a pretty cool reimagining of the concept, and I didn't mind the fact that Lee gave Banner a traumatic backstory that explained why radiation turned Banner into the Hulk instead of giving him cancer. That being said, I was disappointed with the climax of the film. I thought it was a feeble payoff after a pretty good buildup.

So all in all, it's looking like a pretty good superhero year. One film I didn't mention is "Jumper," which features teleporters. I'm saving that for its own post, since I've been a fan of the book since it was published.

Friday, January 25, 2008

New Podcast? Back From the Dead

So reaction to "Astromonkeys!" on Escape Pod has been mixed, but mostly positive (which is probably pretty normal--if they don't like, they'll tend not to comment rather than comment negatively). But listening to it got me listening to other podcasts again, as well as searching Jonathan Coulton, of whom I am now officially a fan.

Listening to other podcasts made me start itching to try my own experiments in the Secret Lab again, so once more, I have returned to the World's Cheapest Microphone for an Adventure in Mediocrity. This one was fun to make, and I hope will be fun to listen to. I rushed things a little at the end, but I hope it gives you a smile. (19MB, 20:06)

Show Notes:

Back from the dead, appropriate for a discussion of I Am Legend.

First film adaptation was "Last Man on Earth," starring Vincent Price.

Second film adaptation was "The Omega Man," starring Charlton Heston.

Commercial interlude from "Space Patrol" (available at Internet Archive)

Spoiler-filled discussion of new Will Smith version of I Am Legend, interrupted by a danger alert!

Opening and closing theme music by Partners in Rhyme.

If you like the show, please drop me an email or a comment here. These are fun to make, but they're even more fun if I think people are enjoying them. Oh, an you can find old episodes here
and here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

King Midas's Lunch

A while back, I posted on the anniversary of the Big Mac, so now it's the Whopper's turn. 2007 marked the Golden Anniversary of the Whopper.

I have an odd ideological truce with the Whopper, since I have always been pretty much a Mustard Guy when it comes to saucing preferences on my burger. Mayonnaise just doesn't work for me. Yet something about the particular combination of mayo and ketchup on the Whopper (mixed with grease, of course) makes the Whopper the exception that proves the rule. The Whopper is the one mayo burger that I will occasionally go out of my way to eat.

Of course, part of the success of the Whopper was that it was more of a home-style burger than its competitors. McDonald's, White Castle... those burgers were fast and tasty, but you'd never make something like that at home. At home, you'd throw some burgers on the grill, then load 'em up with lettuce and onions and tomatoes, just like BK. The King tried to play up this feature of their burgers in the 80's when they trotted out what is possibly the worst jingle I've ever heard in a national campaign, "We do it like you'd do it when we do it like we do it at Burger King."

The ironic thing, of course, is that the Whopper's home-style goodness, its char-broiled flavor and the way it comes to your hands hot and fresh, is the result of a series of industrial, machine-fabricated illusions. There's no guy in back flipping burgers on a charcoal grill; the patties are run on a conveyor through a flame-broiling machine, which imparts their smoky flavor and burns in the sear lines. Then the cooked patties (caveat: I have never worked in a Burger King, so I may have some process details wrong, but I've watched the guys in the back enough to think I've got a good handle on the general process) are held in a warmer until a burger is ordered, at which time the precooked patty is assembled with the other ingredients, then zapped in a microwave to give it a "fresh-cooked" feel.

In fact, the first microwave I ever saw was in a Burger King in Oklahoma City when I was a teenager. We didn't have many Burger Kings where I lived. We had tons of McDonalds, a few Wendy's (urgh-square patties, greasy buns and no flavor to speak of), the odd Whataburger where rumor had it there was actual meat mixed in with the salt. When I was very small, we went to the A&W Drive-In. Soon enough, those phased out and we were stuck with Sonic and Coits (a local drive-in with excellent root beer).

Then there were the local independent places with really awesome burgers, although I'm sure I'd be horrified if I saw the kitchens. Charcoal Oven and Split-T and Johnny's all had real charcoal broiled taste and hickory sauce. There was another place that I loved, but can't remember the name of, where you ordered via a little red phone at your booth. Their burgers were good, but what I really loved were the curly Q's. Thin and long with the peel still on, they were the standard by which all other curly fries must be measured.

But Burger King... It was a franchise operation, and nobody in our part of town seemed willing to risk opening one or something. I wasn't introduced to Burger King in a big way until I moved away to college. There was one right across the street from the USC campus, and I ate there at least three times a week, and twice on Dungeons and Dragons Saturdays. And then, when I moved back home, why, there was a Burger King a half-mile from my house, so I became a frequent visitor.

It's been an odd strange trip for Burger King. Always relegated to the number two spot behind McDonald's. They tried competing with the Golden Arches for the kid market by introducing the "Marvelous, Magical Burger King" in the 70's, but it didn't go over. They tried competing by burger quality and flame-broiled taste, but they were never able to penetrate McDonald's market share. The Pillsbury sell-off in the late 80's really hurt their operations and morale, and next thing you know, they were trying desperate experiments like deluxe platters with table service.

But all of that is in the past, right? Burger King is now a resurgent brand, with off-the-wall viral ads like Subservient Chicken and a revitalized menu of politically incorrect choices like the Triple Stacker. And concurrent with the 40th anniversary of the Big Mac, BK could honestly say that the Whopper is even more distinguished at 50. This is the Whopper's time to shine, its golden age. Surely if there were ever a time that the Whopper could stand on its own with pride, without acting like McDonald's envious little sister, that time is now.

But sadly, no. I've got a Burger King tray liner in front of me, celebrating the 50th anniversary, where it describes the Whopper's attributes in what are supposed to be breezy, fun, light-hearted terms. Reading through it, though, the thing just reeks of desperate envy. "Burgers with a bun in the middle will feel much lighter." "Kissed by fire, never fried." "'Secret Sauce' not required." Reading the tray liner as I eat, I'm thinking, "Man, a Big Mac would sure be tasty right now."

Basically, I just want to grab the King by the throat and say, "Congratulations on your anniversary. Now get some therapy. Seriously."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


So "Astromonkeys!" is now up and available on Escape Pod. I have kind of mixed feelings about it, since the guy who reads the story sounds nothing like the voice in my head when I read it. But you know, it's so cool to have it selected and posted that I'll give not another word of complaint as soon as the check clears.

I know I haven't posted in a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-n-n-g time, and there's a long story behind that which I won't tell here. Suffice it to say that I think I'm back. I'm writing stories again, contemplating draft 3 of Hero Go Home (I think this one might actually be worth submitting to someone if it works out on paper the way it's feeling in my head), looking at job options. A lot of things got put on hold in the last three months, and now they're starting to get moving again.

Funny thing is, even though I haven't posted here in over a month, traffic has remained virtually unchanged. Mainly that's because hardly anyone ever reads this blog anyway. The other reason is because most of the people who do visit, do it because they're Googling "Whack the monkey" and landing on this. So if you came here from Baen's Universe or Escape Pod, thanks for dropping by, and please check out the T-Shirts. The link is at the bottom of the left column. Cafe Press shirts are expensive, but you would have the only one in existence (other than the one I wear to cons). Meet me at Conestoga this year, I'll even sign it. Such a deal!