Sunday, May 24, 2009

One of the best sitcoms on television
is a commercial

Two of my favorite shows on television, The Office and 30 Rock, feature a number of similarities:
  • Professional colleagues who, though they may disagree at times, tend to find ways to work together as peacefully as possible
  • Humor derived from characters more than situations
  • No laugh track
  • High production values
  • Terrific acting
  • Great writing
  • A high "rewatchable" factor, where seeing the same episode two or three times isn't such a bad thing (when I was a kid, "rerun" was a four-letter word ... or a character from What's Happening)
Both shows are released in bunches (they'll run a number of new episodes, air some reruns, and then run some more new episodes) and supported by Webisodes or other unique online content featuring video.

All of these traits are currently shared by one other program, of sorts, currently on the air: Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials.

I'm not sure if that speaks to the high quality of the Apple ads or the low quality of the current sitcom crop. I think it's the former; though I have my two aforementioned favorites, I'm not willing to concede that literally every other sitcom on the air stinks. I do, however, think that this Apple campaign is a master stroke.

If I had to list my three favorite sitcoms, then, the list would go like this:
  1. The Office
  2. 30 Rock (and this show may be on top soon)
  3. I'm a Mac, I'm a PC
I implore the networks not to try to expand this campaign into a full-fledged 30-minute show. (Remember Cavemen? Try not to.) Maybe it's just time we expanded the definition of "programming" to include 30-second jabs of humor. After all, that's more than many shows can deliver over a full hour.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bodybuilders take steroids? No way!

Courtesy of the Associated Press:
The Belgian bodybuilding championship has been canceled after doping officials showed up and all the competitors fled.

A doping official says bodybuilders just grabbed their gear and ran off when he came into the room.

“I have never seen anything like it and hope never to see anything like it again,” doping official Hans Cooman said Monday.

In related news, scientists were stunned to discover that water is wet.

Seriously, though: why bother wasting a doping official's time? Who can't take one look at these guys and know instinctively that they're full of more pharmaceuticals than your neighborhood CVS?

I once read that "good genetics" in bodybuilding circles referred more to a person's tolerance for ingesting large amounts of steroids and related substances than it did to his or her innate potential to develop huge biceps. I believe it.

Many large companies (looking at you, Weider) make a fortune essentially defrauding people into believing they can achieve a certain body type simply through a rigorous training regimen and some vitamins. The reality? Taking the drugs necessary to achieve such physiques can kill, as it did in the cases of Mohammed Benaziza and Andreas Munzer.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Convention costumes

You're looking at something I used to mock. No, not girls. (Well, maybe in grade school.) Rather, girls -- and/or boys -- wearing superhero costumes at comic book conventions ("cons").

I've been attending cons off and on for the last 25 years. But only in the last 10 years or so have I seen this particular sartorial phenomenon.

And when I first saw it, I laughed. How silly, I thought, that anyone would take affection for a fictional character to such an extreme as to dress like him or her (or, in some instances, it). If I was with a brother or colleague, I'd deride them aloud (though quietly). Alone, I would silently chuckle.

But an odd thing happened since those first few years: I grew to enjoy the spectacle. Quite a bit, I might add.

Why? Because of my son. When I took him to his first big show, the costumed folks were one of the biggest attractions to him -- they were like tiny one- or two-person shows (the Storm Troopers especially like to wander in groups) at which he could marvel. This jolted me into seeing them with a fresh perspective. Suddenly, I no longer thought it was silly. In fact, I think there's some serious effort going on here.

It got so that I actually complained to one show's producer for relegating the costume contest to a back corner of the convention space without so much as a stage. Only people in the front row saw the costumes these folks busted their butts putting together.

Unfortunately, the costume contest is typically the Saturday of this Friday thru Sunday show, and I think I'm done with Saturdays. It's the biggest day of the event, drawing thousands upon thousands of fans from two countries and several states. My problem with that? It's the biggest day of the event, drawing thousands upon thousands of fans from two countries and several states. Sunday's out, too: even with hours to go on what is the event's final day, some vendors are already busy packing up. That's not worth a day's admission.

Which leaves Friday. I snapped the above pic on Friday, and if I hadn't cropped it, you'd be able to see actual aisles behind these gals. Not throngs of folks pushing and shoving -- although no one is rude about it; imagine cattle milling about and you'll get the idea -- but actual aisles. And you can speak to the guests without waiting in long lines. It's actually very nice.

But, again, fewer costumes. It's funny how I went from hating them to appreciating them so much that I'm disappointed I won't be seeing too much of them in the future. But the peace that comes from the relative paucity of thronging masses is too much to pass up. From now on, I'm a Friday guy.

A note about the above photo: as you can see by the name tags, these gals were probably paid to dress up and sit at a booth. I'm just using this image to give you the general idea of what many, many people do for free.

Fal, Sprng, Sumer and Wnter

(Sign reads: "Tigers & Casino Trips All Sumer Long"; sorry for the poor image -- my cell phone camera stinks.)

I know what you're thinking: the worst part about that sign is the fact that the word "summer" is misspelled "sumer." But you'd be wrong, IMHO. There are a couple problems here, the least of which is a misspelling.
  1. Whoever hung this sign -- and it's probably a two-person job -- noticed the misspelling. It's simply too egregious to overlook. But instead of noting the misspelling, delaying the task and notifying a supervisor, the sign went up. You have to imagine there's some supervisor resentment going on here. Something like, "I know there's a glaring mistake on this sign and I shouldn't hang it, but I'm gonna stick it to the man! Haw!" Employees so openly contemptuous of their work environment are a great big problem.
  2. But our employee fun doesn't stop there. Because I'm willing to bet that another employee, and possibly more than one, noticed the sign and committed to doing something about it ... later. Like, maybe on their next shift. Maybe after the weekend. Maybe when they had the time. Perhaps they'd already punched out and couldn't be bothered until they punched back in. So the actions of the openly contemptuous employees are supported by the inaction of the candidly disinterested ones.
Reprinting the sign can't cost that much money. But successfully addressing that many human resource issues? That will cost a lot of money and even more time -- certainly longer than just one sumer.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quantum of Meh

NetFlix finally got around to shipping Quantum of Solace. It arrived Thursday and we watched it that evening.

My wait was much ado about nothing, it turns out. Entertaining enough, but that's about it. Just wanted to let everyone know NetFlix finally delivered.

Now if only they'd delivered a better movie.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

TV Break: Arrested Development

You've been working really hard lately. Take a TV Break®.

Arrested Development

The argument for "Best Sitcom Ever" is nowadays often made on behalf of Seinfeld. I always appreciated that show (and continue to watch it even today, 25 years after it went off the air) but I'm not sure it makes my top three.

The show firmly entrenched in my top spot is Arrested Development, as carefully orchestrated a display of familial folly as any ever aired. It's a joy to watch so many talented actors romp around with such terrific writing.

Oddly enough, I think the show's commercial failure -- it was a ratings dog and ran for only three seasons, the last of which was just 13 episodes long -- contributes to its greatness. Many shows start out strong but simply lose steam, something Arrested Development never had the opportunity to do. (Recall the disappointment with which the aforementioned Seinfeld left the air.) And the series ended on a great note, capping its run with an episode that offered just the right amount of closure without totally slamming the door on future tales.

As proof, here's that "great note," the final episode of Arrested Development. Never seen an episode before? Watch this one anyway, and I'm sure you'll want to go back to the beginning to get the full story.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Five reasons you should be reading Criminal

Yesterday, I sat down with Criminal Volume 3: The Dead and the Dying, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. I actually put off reading it because I've already read all the other volumes; after this, there's no new Criminal for me to turn to. (The creators will return to the title, but I don't believe there's a firm date for that yet.)

No one is crafting a better crime comic right now. There are some terrific titles out there -- I'm just getting into Scalped, for instance -- but Criminal sets the gold standard. Haven't read it yet? Here are five reasons I think you should:
  1. It's authentic: The characters think, act and look like the denizens of a shady world. We've all read crime comics where every man is as handsome as Hugh Jackman, every woman is as beautiful as Jessica Biel and they're all either perfectly mannered or perfectly villainous. Problem is, such representations frequently fly in the face of reality. Honest-to-gosh real criminals can be an unsightly and unpredictable lot.
  2. The writing is terrific: This is something of a continuation of that first point, but it deserves to be underscored. With Criminal, Ed Brubaker is writing scripts worthy of Elmore Leonard and Jim Thompson. One thing I really like: the plots aren't Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions, which goes a long way to lighten the load on your willing suspension of disbelief.
  3. The art is fantastic: There's no one better suited for these tales than Phillips. The best comic artists are part actor, part director, part cinematographer and all magician. And that's exactly what you get here.
  4. The price is right: Times are tough and we're all watching every penny. Each volume (there are four) costs about $10 each at Amazon.
  5. The monthly issues contain extras: Want single issues instead of a trade paperback? You're in luck: the monthly Criminal comic features additional artwork and copy not collected in the trades.
Pick it up today wherever you buy books, or visit your local comic shop for single issues. Either way, make sure you check it out. Anything less is a crime.

Quantum update

NetFlix has updated Quantum of Solace availability to "Short wait" in my queue. Woo-hoo! It only came out back in March!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ready to kick some zombie butt

Here's an early version of Kurt from Gone Zombie, courtesy of Mr. Scott Wegener. (Can you tell it's a sketchbook scan?)

Very "ready for action," wouldn't you say?

Yoko Ono

I don't think I've seen a better picture of Yoko Ono. Seriously.

And John? He always looked cool.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Quantum of Slowness

The most recent James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, has been at the top of my NetFlix queue since about two months before it was released on disc.

And it's still there. "Long wait," the queue tells me.

Granted, I've requested the Blu-ray version, but should it really be taking this long? I actually had the SD version IN MY HAND at the library -- yep, a freebie -- but passed on it, because I want to see the film in HD.

Unfortunately, it seems I'll be waiting until the next Bond movie comes out.

And then there's Maude

I don't know the backstory behind this painting, nor do I want to. But it strikes me that someone placed Bea Arthur's head on Helen Mirren's body, and Maude never looked better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Prelim sketch

An early zombie by Scott. Love the "Got Brain?" shirt.

Monday, May 4, 2009

We're live!

It's nice to pop on over to Zuda and see Gone Zombie there. Many thanks to Scott, Drew and Jeff -- they did a fantastic job.

Clearly, though, I've erred. I should have named the strip "AAA Gone Zombie," just to make sure I had the first spot.

Go directly to the strip: