July 28, 2008

Anime, eh?

My daughter is crazy for anything from Japan. It doesn't matter what -- food, art, people, style -- she loves them all. Her last two haircuts were inspired by Anime characters she likes and she dreams of the day she can go to Japan (though I'm pretty sure she thinks Anime characters walk the streets over there).

So how did this start? I think it may be my fault (not that liking Japan is a bad thing, of course). When she was just a baby, I wanted to paint some characters on her playroom walls. Being a good Dad, I of course painted Barney, in all his purple glory. I also painted a cute character I didn't even know the name of. Little did I know how this character would insinuate itself into our lives in the coming years.

This is Pikachu, of course, a key player in the Pokemon animation series. As my daughter matured, so did her likes. Soon to follow this little yellow sprite, was Sailormoon and Cardcaptors, a more mature girl-oriented type of anime. This was quickly followed up by Yugioh, a more boy-oriented, dark-edge series.

It was around this time that my daughter started to show an extraordinary interest in drawing and art. This lead her beyond the video versions of these series into the incredibly intricate trading cards and soon to the anime graphic novels. Being a writer, her interest in the novels was particularly satisfying to me. Of course, up until then I had only been exposed to English graphic novels (i.e. Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and the like) so the structure of the Japanese graphic novels was interesting to me. While in English, the structure was the same as the Japanese versions, each page's panels being read right-to-left. It's like second nature to her, since she's been doing it so long. Mostly, it gives me a headache. :)

Well, she's since moved on to the more mature anime series like Inuyasha, Deathnote, Full Metal Alchemist, etc., but all the while has kept up her drawing. She used to want to be a Vet when she grew up. Now she wants to be an Anime/Manga artist. I guess some parents would prefer the former. Nothing makes me happier than seeing her creatively express herself. And the kid is good. Here's a couple of her most recent drawings:

If she can do this at 11 years old, I can't wait to see what she'll be drawing once she gets some life on her. I just hope I can help with that. If you hear about a sale on plane tickets to Japan, be sure to let me know.

July 26, 2008

Milo's Graduation

A few months ago, we added a new member to our family: Milo the Dog. Milo is really my daughter, Kiersten's, dog, but somehow I find myself standing outside and shouting "Make, milo!" more than I thought I would.

Well, in an attempt to have SOME control, Milo and Kiersten went to Puppy Kindergarten recently. I had no idea this existed, either. In any case, Milo, at four months old today, graduated last week. I guess if he didn't he'd have to go to some sort of Puppy Summer School, which would make no sense, since the school was in the summer. Anyways...

And now I would like to present, the dynamic duo:

July 24, 2008

Enterprise Surprise

I've long been a Star Trek watcher, if not a fan, and have enjoyed most of the series in the franchise. (I never was a DS9 guy, not sure why.) I'm also a huge Quantum Leap fan. So back in 2001, when a new Star Trek series was announced starring Scott Bakula (of QL fame), I was very happy. But for some reason, though I watched most of the episodes, the show just didn't click for me. I thought T'Pol was an attempt at taking 7 of 9 and making her a 15, Bakula's acting was wooden (which baffled me, since he was remarkable on QL), Malcolm Reid was a cheap Scotty ripoff and the technology that was supposed to be from 150 years before the Captain Kirk era was vastly superior to what it should have been. On top of that, the theme song was terrible (a Rod Stewart song?!) and the uniforms made the crew look like they should be UNDER the Enterprise draining the oil out of the warp engines.

In short, I thought it sucked.

It was no surprise to me that it was cancelled after only 4 years. Every series in the franchise since Kirk's had ran a full seven years before going away of their own volition. I was still a Bakula fan, so losing a chance to see him (wooden or not) was sad; and I still liked the Star Trek universe, so moving into the first time in almost 20 years when there wasn't at least one ST series in production was strange. But it seemed inevitable.

And, as they say, time passed. Tick tock. Flash forward to Spring of this year.

I have a PVR (a DVR to some...basically a Canadian version of Tivo) and I've developed a habit of picking an older show that's on in reruns (usually once a day) and setting the box to record the show whenever it's on. It's my little "the days over, wash over me boobtube" treat. And it's kind of neat to watch a show's entire library in a couple of months.

Well, I'd just finished watching all 6 years worth of The Rockford Files and was looking for another show to record. I knew Enterprise was in reruns (and had been for a while) but my memory (I thought) was still a little sour on it. But I noticed they were about to start the Expanse arc, which I seemed to recall I thought was pretty neat with the Spheres and gravimetric anomolies and all, so I figured I'd watch a few for the hell of it. I set the box and pretty much forgot about it.

A few weeks later I had a whack of shows recorded and came down with the flu (I'm sure the two events weren't cause and effect). So I watched them. And they were good. Really good. From then on, it was rare if my PVR spooled more than a show or two before I watched it. All the way to the end of the fourth season. Except for the terrible last few episodes, this wasn't the show I remembered at all. The characters had flaws and depth, the writing was, for the most part, crisp and reverent, and I didn't even mind the theme song anymore. In fact, I was starting to really like it.

Well like I said, the final season wrapped up, and the network wrapped around and started showing the series from the beginning again. I hadn't picked another show, and the PVR was still set, so I figured I'd watch a few again. Well, damn, these were good too! I don't know if it was knowing how the characters were going to develop made them more fun to watch in their broadcast infancy or what, but I'm still watching. I'm just about to where I first started watching the reruns and I have to say, I'm really going to miss this experience.

It may be some sort of homage to the original series' popularity (it was never as popular as when it was in reruns) or maybe the idea that it was the last of a dynasty and there's no more to be had right now. In any case, I'd highly recommend giving it a second look if you felt the same way I did the first time around.

You might just be surprised.

July 23, 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten

Roger Hall died on Sunday. Who was Roger Hall? I've known about him for over thirty years, and I have to admit if someone had asked me about him last week, I would have been stumped for an answer. But, if someone had said "Do you know Roger Hall, the author of You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger" I would have said yes immediately.

I remember digging through the upstairs walk-in hall closet, barely a teenager and already a bookhound. I'd read every mystery and science fiction book I had several times over, but I remembered seeing a box of books in the closet when I was in there looking for treasures when I was just a kid -- probably the season before. I found the box and it was filled with wonderous books, including Roger Hall's masterpiece.

These were my father's books. We didn't have bookshelves anywhere in the house (or at least, not with any books on them, unless you count the bound National Geographic my Aunt sent us periodically from Maryland). In fact, not counting me or my brother doing homework, no one was ever seen with a book in the house. This was baffling to me, since books were about all I could think about.

As it turned out, my father used to be a bookhound himself. But he was from a different generation. Reading books was spurious. A grown up didn't have time for that nonsense. (I would learn a few years later that my father was also a writer, and in fact had a poem published in his school yearbook, but that's another story for another time.)

I asked my Dad about one of the books in the box, and a strange smile came across his face. He soon was convincing me that this was the greatest book ever written. I clutched it to my chest and padded into my room to devour this new morsel. I read it several times over the next few years.

It was a wonderful book. A humorous tale about life in the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) in WWII. As it turned out, Mr. Hall's book was semi-autobiographical. He himself was in the OSS in WWII, and in fact had parachuted behind enemy lines during the war. He and his buddy, William Colby (who would become the first Director of the CIA after the war), actually accepted the surrender of over 10,000 German troops in Norway in 1945.

As great a book as it was and as great a war hero as Mr. Hall was, I read it repeatedly because it was my Dad's. It was the first book we had both read that we could talk about. I'm sure he enjoyed the discussions, but I have never seen him pick up a book again to this day. Not that that matters. This book would be just as important to me if my father owned a library. It would still have been the first.

I hadn't thought about this book (considered a classic, now) in years, until I heard that Roger Hall had passed away. After the life he'd lead, it wasn't a sniper's bullet or a ravenous fan that got him. He had knee surgery and contracted pneumonia in the hospital, ultimately dying of congestive heart failure at the age of 89. Sometimes life can be funny and sometimes it's just an asshole.

Interestingly enough, the manuscript for You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger was rejected 11 times before Hall sold it into Classic-dom. And he only wrote two other books after that.

Without his effort and the fates conspiring to get it into a musty box in my parents' closet, I would have missed out on a connection with my Dad and a little understanding into how I was (and am) who I am.

Thanks, Roger. I owe you one.

"I hope God has a sense of humor, because if he doesn't, I'm in a lot of trouble."

-- Roger Hall to his wife, Linda, a few days before he died.

July 22, 2008

Old Pics Gone

Hmm. Looks like in my exuberance to change things, I killed all the images I had posted before the conversion. I'll see about replacing them in the coming days.

July 21, 2008

Revamped Website and Blog

As is obvious if you're reading this, I recently changed the look of my blog.  I MUCH prefer this design.  I think it's easier on the eyes to read, as well.
On top of this, I've just finished a revamping of my website (both design and content), which again I believe is now much more concise and readable.  As a bonus, there is now a free ebook available for download, my short story collection Orphans.
If you get a chance, please check out the website.  Of course, any comments, good or bad, are always welcome.

Dr. Horrible Final Chapter

Well, it wasn't horrible, excuse the pun. But the final chapter wasn't close to the calibre of the first two parts, unfortunately. (I'm actually rewatching the first two parts as I write this because they were SO good.)

I watched all three parts with my daughter and when the final credits came up she said "That's it? That makes it not even worth watching." I think that's a little harsh, but you get the sentiment.

I'm glad I watched, for several reasons, and I'd still recommend it, but just go in knowing the yummy-blog-goodness isn't quite as long-lasting as it should be.

July 19, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

This has to be the coolest thing I've ever seen on the Internet. I'd heard about it over the past few weeks and was mildly amused at the idea, being a Firefly, Nathan Fillion and Joss Whedon fan. Heck, I'm even a Neil Patrick Harris fan to a degree after watching Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle. But I didn't really think I'd watch the thing. I've now watched two of the three parts and this thing ROCKS!

All three parts are available for free until midnight Sunday, afterwhich you'll still be able to get them off itunes, but not for free. Eventually there's suppose to be a DVD, but I'm guessing they might charge for that.

Anyways, go see this. Now. I mean it.