A Christmas Rambling

Chaos in Print

It’s taken this long, but, in my mind, the first Christmas season of the new millennium has finally begun. I’m sure, like with most of you, the Christmas season doesn’t officially begin until one little event happens. It may be the first snowfall. It may be when Santa first arrives at the mall. It may be when you see A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV. But, with me, it’s a rather recent tradition. It started, oh, only about three years ago. For me, the Christmas season doesn’t begin until I see the music video for White Christmas by the Jingle Cats. You’ve all heard this one. It’s with all various cats meows run through a synthesizer, so it sounds like a bunch of cats are singing White Christmas. That is, without a doubt, the most annoying Christmas song ever created. And MuchMusic plays it every Christmas, now. I saw it this morning, and I knew, Christmas was upon us, and that I should perhaps write a Christmas column.

Now, I know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself, “Why, oh why, Mark, are you writing a Christmas column? Why aren’t you finishing that one about your trip to Camrose at the start of November? Why haven’t you finished that one you started back in August? Hell, why haven’t you finished that short story you started in October?” Get off my back, you bastards! It’s my column, I’ll write whatever I feel like. It’s Christmas, a time for peace on Earth and goodwill towards humans, so leave me alone or I’ll blow your heads off, you nimrods.

Actually, my original inception for a Christmas column was going to be to provide a blow-by-blow description of my office Christmas party. But, it was dreadfully dull. That idea got abandoned pretty quick, and here’s the only surviving paragraph:

“I took a sip of the eggnog. The familiar sting of alcohol scratched at the back of my throat. Yes, I don’t drink, but I didn’t want to offend anyone. So, I kept drinking it. Another sip. Another sting. I filled my plate with the turkey, ham, pyrogies, and cabbage rolls all prepared by the boss. She, the big boss, and a few other department heads were already bad-mouthing the department heads and employees they didn’t invite. Another sip. Another sting. I headed downstairs to the rumpus room where the boss had set up a dining table. Most of my co-workers were already down there, having moved off into cliques and talking about their pathetic little lives. I had nasty flashbacks to many a lunch hour in high school. Another sip. Another sting. My eyes soon wandered to the boss’ video collection. Being the mother of four little girls, the home video library was filled with nothing but animated movies. Floor to ceiling of animated movies. True, there were a few gems in there, like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, but it was over-saturated with films like Disney’s Aladdin XIII: Buy This Or Your Kids Will Hate You. I took a step back, and all the clamshell packages looked the same. Nothing more than mindless pulp passing as children’s entertainment. Another sip. Another sting.”

See, that would have been dreadfully boring and depressing as a holiday column. So, now I’m stuck for an idea for a holiday column.

I suppose I could talk about my favorite holiday special. Actually, it’s not really a special, but it’s something I would like to see someday. I just want some TV station to do a back-to-back airing of both Christmas episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. The first one is called Christmas With The Joker. The Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum on Christmas Eve, takes over Gotham’s airwaves, and begins broadcasting his own warped Christmas special. Can Batman and Robin find the Joker and pull the plug on his show before he murders his special guests at midnight? The second one is called Holiday Knights, and was based on a comic called The Batman Adventures Holiday Special. It’s actually three Batman short cartoons. The first one has Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn using Ivy’s mind control formula to take over Bruce Wayne and make him treat them to a holiday shopping spree. Can Bruce Wayne snap out of it, become Batman, and stop these two before his credit rating is ruined? The second story has Barbara Gordon doing some last minute Christmas shopping, only to run into Clayface. Can Batgirl stop this shapeshifting menace? The third and final one takes place on New Year’s Eve. The Joker is going to set off a hypersonic pulse in Gotham Square at midnight, killing all the New Year’s revelers. Can Batman and Robin stop him in time? Just a simple back-to-back airing of these two episodes, that’s all I ask.

Speaking of Christmas specials, this resurrects the memory of something I proposed to Chuck Loves The World creator Kenten Bowick about a year ago. With the holidays upon us, we find ourselves all wrapped up in the revelry of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, the Winter Solstice, and all sorts of other religious and secular festivals. But, the most overlooked holiday at this time has to be Boxing Day. This is the one holiday where its true meaning has been lost over the years. So, my proposal to Kenten: the Chuck Loves The World Boxing Day Special. The plot was simple: Chuck and the gang head off to the mall on Boxing Day to return crappy gifts and take in the sales, only to learn the true meaning of the holidays. The Bug could be all hyper with the smorgasbord of people to sting. The Worm could be like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas: sort of mellow and the only one who really knows what’s going on. But, whereas Linus quoted scripture to get his point across, the Worm would get up on a table in the food court and start yelling at the people walking by. The Virus, sadly, would be left home, sick with “antibiotics.” And Ratsputin, well, someone this evil could have a lot of fun in a crowded mall. Who knows? Kenten once told me that he was attempting to write a Star Wars fanfic to exercise his creative muscles, and he suggested that I should try one. Maybe a Chuck fanfic would be more up my alley.

All this talk of Chuck reminds me of my recurring character, Chuck. He’s back from Nova Scotia for the holidays right now, and he says he’s got a present for me. I should track him down. He left his computer on the east coast, so I don’t think he’s checking his e-mail. At first I thought I did have his phone number, but then I remembered that it was the number to his old place. For Christmas, he’s probably at his parents, who’s number I don’t have. So, should I go through directory assistance to find his parents’ number, or let my laziness win the day? I guess it all depends on how badly I want that present, and how badly I want to give Chuck his. Yes, when he told me he got me a present, I felt obligated to get him one.

Speaking of obligations, I was really consumed with guilt over not being able to move in with L, so I got her a gift, too. I don’t know if she wants it, though. I mean, back in November, she told me she was thinking about becoming a pagan. So she probably doesn’t celebrate Christmas anymore. She probably does something like celebrate the Winter Solstice by dancing naked around a bonfire. But hey, I’m open minded and willing to try out other religious festivities.

But, in the interim, I’ll stick with Christmas. Sure, it means having to put up with the Jingle Cats, but we must never forget the true meaning: getting presents. So, sit back, raise a glass of eggnog, toast the name of Brian Boitano, and merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

A Different Kind Of Hero

Chaos in Print

My parents taught me a different lesson. Lying on the street, shaking in deep shock, dying for no reason at all, they showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to. — Batman, to Superman, during their final battle in The Dark Knight Returns

Our children would have been beautiful. Those were the dying words of Ja’dzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, when Gul Dukat burst in, possessed by an evil spirit, and zapped her into the next world with a bolt of energy. After hours of surgery by Dr. Bashir, he was able to save the Dax symbiot but not Ja’dzia. Her husband of barely a year, Worf, entered the operating room. Ja’dzia looked up at him, and with her dying breath, said, “Our children would have been beautiful.” That’s just the best I can come up with to describe how I’m feeling right now.

A few weeks ago, you read about how L called me out of the blue and asked me to move to Camrose and become her roommate. I readily accepted, and spoke to my bosses the next day about the possibility of transferring down to Camrose. They called the Camrose Extra Foods, and there was an opening for a grocery clerk (politically correct term for stock boy). My resume was faxed down, and I waited to see if the transfer would be approved. And waited. And waited. After a week, I finally spoke to my bosses to see what was going on. It seems that Camrose wanted someone to start immediately, and I said I wouldn’t be able to start until January. That said, my application was pushed aside and someone local was hired. But, we could try again in January in case something opened up. I thanked my bosses for their help, and then did the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do: e-mail L and tell her it wasn’t going to happen.

There were so many things I could have done differently. I should have said I could start right away. I’m sure Darmok would’ve put up with me for a week or two. I could still call in January, but it’s doubtful that something will have opened up in the next two weeks. What would the captains of Star Trek do in this situation? I’ve learned that a good captain doesn’t second guess his/her decisions. Not in front of the troops, at least. A good captain doesn’t go back on his/her decisions. They stand by them, even when they are wrong.

But still, in the back of my mind, I had an inkling that it wouldn’t have happened. I wanted it too badly. Whenever I work very hard to achieve something, I don’t get it. All the way from Slingshot, my most coveted MASK toy, to when I ran for VP External at University. They were all things I wanted badly. They were all things I worked my ass off to get. They were all things that went to someone else. This is why I’m not a goal-oriented person anymore. No matter how hard I work to achieve my goal, some how, some way, I choke at the finish line. What does that one poster say? “Winners never quit, quitters never win, but those who never win and never quit are morons.” I have to learn to quit, or I’ll become one of those morons.

But it’s hard to quit. From childhood to the grown-up years, we are taught that our goals can be achieved through hard work and determination. But what if hard work and determination aren’t enough? The stories we were told as children never took into account the trust-fund rich brats who are born rich, given a cushy job by their parents and never have to work a day in their life. There are too many intangibles; too many variables. Hard work and determination aren’t enough in the modern world. Hard work had given way to sucking up, and determination has been phased out and replaced with networking.

Yes, I’m aware I sound quite pessimistic here. I once read that it’s only pessimists that believe in things like fate, luck, and higher powers with plans, so you’ll understand if I invoke the name of God. It’s times like this that I get religious. It’s times like this that I find comfort in the fact that there’s someone up there in charge. Maybe He/She does have a plan. If so, then that implies that there was some reason why these things were taken from me. I hope there’s something planned for me. There’s got to be some reason why I’m beating my head against a wall. As a recent TV show said, “It’s nice to know that there’s a plan for me, but I’d like to be let in on it.”

But how do we get let in on it? I recently read Batman: Year One, and there’s this great scene near the end of the first issue. Bruce Wayne’s returned from his very first night of crimefighting, but it didn’t go so well. He’s still missing one crucial element to his crimefighter arsenal: how does he make the enemy fear him? He’s sitting in his study, slowly bleeding to death. Next to him is a bell. He knows that if he rings the bell, Alfred will come and tend his wounds. But Bruce doesn’t. He knows that if he doesn’t figure out this last crucial step to fulfil his promise, he may as well die. Now, very close to his deathbed, he starts seeking help. He begins pleading with his father, tell me, how do I do it? How do I make them afraid? Then, a bat crashes through the window. The bat lands on a marble bust of Bruce’s father, and glares at Bruce. Bruce smiles, rings the bell, and murmurs aloud, “Thank you father. I will become a bat….”

I feel very much like Bruce right now, as he sat there bleeding to death. I know that I have a wonderful support structure. I know that I can e-mail my problems to half-a-dozen friends, and they will send me kind words of support. I know I can head upstairs, tell this to my parents, and they will give me a hug and tell me everything will be better. But why? If I don’t figure out what’s going wrong with my life, we’ll be back in this position months from now. I may as well give up. I sit here, pleading with God, the Fates, whatever’s in charge, wanting to know what’s going on; what’s planned. How do I do it? How do I stop beating my head against the wall and find the door? But as much as I plead, as much as I ask, as much as I demand, as much as I scream to the heavens, no bat is crashing through the window. As I sit here bleeding, with the bell in easy reach, a startling realization comes to me. God’s not sending a sign. The Fates aren’t talking. My path is clear. I’m on my own to figure this out. And so, I ring the bell. I can’t figure it out if I’m dead.

Like the Iron Giant, I am what I chose to be. The decisions we make shape who we are. Which fork in the road we take determines our path in life. But like Forrest Gump, I’m willing to concede that something else might be in charge. As Forrest said, some say we choose what happens, others say we’re just a feather floating in the wind, but he thinks it’s a little of both. I’m inclined to agree. From personal experience, I know that the Fates can introduce you to the girl of your dreams, but it’s ultimately your own choice as to whether you introduce yourself or not. Yes, we are masters of our destiny, but sometimes fate may gently nudge us in another direction. And who knows? When you beat your head against a wall long enough, you just may break a hole in that wall.

I will continue applying for jobs that I’m qualified for. I will continue making my plans as to what I’d like to do next. And if God truly does have a plan for me, it’ll become visible in time. I am not a moron because I won’t give up. I can’t give up. Something else has to give eventually. I’ll change strategies. I’ll adopt new tactics. And if there’s more to success than hard work and determination, then I’ll add them to my arsenal.

Yes, my children would have been beautiful. But there are still so many ways to bring them into this world. They will be beautiful.

Movie Review – The Emperor’s New Groove

The Emperor’s New Groove

Directed by Mark Dindal.

Starring the voices of David Spade, John Goodman, Ertha Kitt, Partick Warburton, and Wendie Malick.

I wanted to see this film like how you slow down for a train wreck. I had been reading stories on the Internet for months about how this was Disney’s most troubled production to date. Let me give you the Coles Notes version: having started production in 1996, it was going to be called Kingdom Of The Sun, and simply be a retelling of The Prince And The Pauper in a Mayan kingdom. The directors of The Lion King were writing and directing, and Sting was hired on to write songs for it. But, in 1998, after test screenings, no one was liking this film. Tensions were running high at Disney studios. The Lion King directors were fired, and Mark Dindal was brought in and given two weeks to salvage the film. Half the work was scrapped. Voices were recast. Sting’s songs were dropped, with only one surviving to be the theme song. The movie’s mood shifted from drama to comedy. And the name was changed. So long Kingdom Of The Sun, hello The Emperor’s New Groove. Yup, Disney’s train wreck.

Taking place in a vaugly South American kingdom, we meet up with Emperor Kuzko (voice of Spade). As rulers go, he is truly one selfish brat. One day, he summons humble peasant Pacha (Goodman) to the palace. It seems that the Emperor wants to level Pacha’s village and build a summer home. This doesn’t sit will with Pacha, but he don’t dare question the emperor. Meanwhile, Kuzko recently fired his cheif advisor, Yzma (Kitt), because she was power-hungry and attempting to overthrow him. Her firing just makes her even more bitter, and she vows to poison Kuzko and take over the kingdom. But, her somewhat-dimwitted sidekick Kronk (Warburton), feeds Kuzko the wrong toxin, and Kuzko turns into a llama. Kronk tries to dispose of llama Kuzko, but accidently dumps him on Pacha’s cart, and Pacha takes the emperor home with him. Realizing that Pacha is his only hope, Kuzko and Pacha team up to get the emperor back to the palace and turn him back into his old self. Yzma, however, soon discovers that Kronk wasn’t successful in killing Kuzko, and soon she and Kronk are trekking all over the country side, looking for a talking llama. Can Pacha and Kuzko get back to the palace and restore Kuzko to normal before Yzma tracks them down? Can Kuzko learn a little humility and selflessness along the way? Hey, it’s Disney. What do you think?

You’ve all seen Adam Sandler movies, right? They’re all written by and starring Sandler, so his unique brand of humour shines through. Well, this film comes across like Disney asked David Spade to do a David Spade movie, and then they animated it. Spade’s Kuzko comes across a lot like Robin Williams’ Genie in Aladdin; the performer doesn’t really act, but just acts normal, and they animate it. But, I kinda like David Spade, so that didn’t bother me that much. Kronk is also a very lovable idiot. And, about halfway through the film, it just degenerates into an old Looney Tunes cartoon. It’s like Disney gave up all hope on this movie, and just went for broke trying to make it as funny as possible. And it is funny. Oh, and I have to give kudos to actress Wendie Malick. She voices my favourite character in the film, Pacha’s very spirited, and very pregnant, wife. I just wanted to see a whole film about Pacha’s family because I loved her so much. This film was a lot better than I expected. All in all, it’s no timeless classic, but you’ll laugh.

One final note. As you all know, I like to sit through right to the end of the end credits. This was the first time ever that I saw greater than 100 names in the “Special Thanks To…” section. I wonder if those are all the poor folks whose work got scrapped?

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

Directed by Curt Geda.

Starring the voices of Will Friedel, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Angie Harmon, Dean Stockwell, Melissa Joan Hart, Arleen Sorkin and Frank Welker.

This was, without a doubt, the most anticipated straight-to-video movie of all time. All of us fans of Batman waited in breathless anticipation for the October 24 release date. Then, we all gasped in horror. With violent kids programming having become a U.S. election issue, it was pushed back to Dec. 12 to be re-edited and made more “kid-friendly.” Many were quick to decry this “butchery,” and our breathless anticipation turned to nervousness. How would the Batman stand up to his most ruthless enemy: censorship? Luckily for me, it came out in Canada on November 28, two weeks ahead of the yankees, so I was among the first to find out.

I was quite successful in keeping myself spoiler-free, so I’ll do the same to you. Our film opens with Batman (Friedel) breaking up the Jokerz gang (among which are the voices of Joan Hart and Welker) as they swipe some high-tech equipment. When Batman returns to the Batcave to become Terry McGuiness and confer with Bruce Wayne (Conroy), he expresses his puzzlement. Jokerz usually don’t swipe this kind of stuff. But, they have other concerns. Bruce Wayne is about to once again become the active CEO of Wayne Enterprises, a decision that doesn’t sit too well with Wayne Enterprises exec Jordan Price (Hamill). But, all this has to wait for the gala to celebrate Wayne’s return. At the party that night, the Jokerz soon turn up to crash the party, and much to Bruce Wayne’s shock and horror, they are lead by the one, original Joker (also Hamill), and hardly aged a day. With the return of Batman’s mightiest foe, Wayne urges McGuiness to hang up the cape, but McGuiness refuses, determined to bring in the Joker. Both Wayne and Comissioner Barbara Gordon (Harmon) want McGuiness out of this affair and won’t say why. Why does Wayne want McGuiness to hang up the Batsuit? Why does the Joker want all this high-tech equipment? How did the Joker survive for 50 years and not age? What really happened when the first Batman and the Joker had their final battle 50 years ago? To get his answers, Batman will have to delve into the past of the original Batman and seek out a long-forgotten ally: a 60-year old communications engineer by the name of Tim Drake (Stockwell).

When I first watched this, I was amazed. This was, without a doubt, the best interpretation of Batman Beyond to date. While not quite the “darker and more anime-like” interpretation we were originally promised, it was still better than the average Beyond episode. I have to point this out, but I’ll try and keep it spoiler free. The flashback, in which we see Batman’s final battle with the Joker and Harely Quinn is very, very creepy, and the ultimate fate of Robin is rather disturbing. And then, the final battle between the Joker and Batman (McGuiness Batman, that’s the only problem with a movie like this) is beautifuly done. And how they bring the Joker into the future is ingenious. Then, after this, I went online, and read the list of cuts that were made. I saw screenshots of the scenes that were dropped and/or re-animated. Then I saw the film again. And you know what? This is still one damn fine movie. Even though they toned down how twisted the Joker is, the strength of the story remains. Seek it out. I was not disappointed. And after you see it, I’ll tell you what was cut, and then you can decide.

3.5 Nibs

Midnight Ramblings XIV

Chaos in Print

NOTE: OK, since I’m really putting off finishing the huge column about my trip to Camrose at the start of November, I’m writing my buddy Nelix with the latest pop culture wants, desires, and confusion.

Hey Neelix!

Last night, my Dad took me to my second hockey game. Yup, he got another set of free ones from a ruthless gravel company. I am fully convinced now that there is no more fun in sports. It’s all a business. There, in the Skyreach Center, I couldn’t help but think how much the game being played before me was so much like a movie. Shameless product placement, lots of bright pyrotechnic displays, and lots of sweaty men fighting it out. It wasn’t a game, it was an action movie. I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big hockey fan, but I’m not going to turn down free tickets at center ice, courtesy of our friends at LaFarge Construction.

There’s only one sport I only kinda sorta follow, and that’s WNBA. Yup, women’s basketball. Think about it. This is the only major league for women that receives any kind of major coverage. Well, it’s true I still have difficulty finding the standings in the Edmonton Journal, but they have the occasional televised game. But still, it’s the only major women’s league that I’m aware of, so that alone deserves our support. I’m still eagerly searching out a hat depicting the logo of one of the teams. Like with my other hats, I’ll simply choose the logo I like the best. They’re difficult to find in Edmonton, so I think I’m finally going to have to knuckle down and buy one at the WNBA online store.

But, why do I need hats when I’ve got my burgeoning action figure collection? Actually, I’ve been reading the latest ToyFare about something that Toy Biz is cooking up. See, people have been making the same complaints about the Spider-Man action figures that they’ve been making about Batman: too many variants on our hero. We’ve got “Anti-Grizzly Bear Spider-Man,” “Super Hyper Kinetic Power Guy Spider-Man,” and “Disguised as Batman Spider-Man.” So, Toy Biz decided to go back to their roots. They’ve got this upcoming line called Classic Spider-Man. The only notable feature is that this line will boast the most insanely poseable Spider-Man figures ever! Each Spidey will boast 30 points of articulation! (A point of articulation is a joint, for those who don’t follow the biz.) Series one, due out any day now, has: Spider-Man, black costume Spider-Man, the Man-Spider, and Venom. Series two, in the planning stages for the spring, will have: battle ravaged Spider-Man (Spidey in a torn costume), first appearance Spider-Man (Spidey in his original costume from Amazing Fantasy #15), the Scarlet Spider, and the Rhino. I hope they make a Spider-Man Unlimited.

Did I tell you? Spider-Man Unlimited has returned to the airwaves! This Spider-Man cartoon debuted a year ago, only to be inexplicably yanked from the schedule after only three episodes. Well, it’s back. Seems they want to burn it off, so they can do an all new, 100% CGI Spider-Man cartoon to tie in with the movie. The premise of Spider-Man Unlimited, in case you forgot, is as follows: Col. John Jamison (Yup, JJJ’s son), is going on a mission to a newly-discovered “counter-Earth,” but Venom and Carnage hijack the shuttle and Spider-Man is framed for it. So, in order to clear his name, Spider-Man hijacks the rescue shuttle to rescue Col. Jamison. On this counter-Earth, Spider-Man discovers that it is ruled by the High Evolutionary, and his half-human/half-animal creations the Beastials. Humans have been reduced to second-class citizens. Here, Spidey discovers Col. Jamison leading the human resistance against the High Evolutionary, and Spidey decides to stay and help the fight. He is assisted in the battle with his all-new suit, which Reed Richards helped him design specifically to fight Venom and Carnage. The new Spider-Suit is actually trillions of nanites covering his body. When Peter Parker needs to become Spider-Man, he just hits a button on his watch, and the nanites crawl out and form the suit. Of course, this gives him all sorts of new powers like: body armor, invisibility, and the sonics, which is a hypersonic pulse that stuns Venom and Carnage. It was a good show, and now we’ll be able to watch the whole saga.

But I digress. Let’s get back to they toys for a second. After all my sweating and waiting, the brand new Simpsons action figures have finally come to Canada! (Well, the Edmonton Toys R Us stores anyway.) This now makes us roughly one year behind the Americans. I had to snatch up Bart right away. Actually, the coolest feature of these figures is their Intelli-Tronic voice chips. You can also get these playsets, depicting a famous Springfield locale, and each set comes with an exclusive action figure. When you plug the action figure into the playset, they speak! Think those COMMTech chips from the Star Wars action figures, only with vastly improved technology. If I do get a playset (they run about $25-$30), I’d get the Quik-E-Mart with Apu. This’ll be the only way to get my Apu. Now if only my Radioactive Homer would come in the mail.

Mail is OK, but you gotta love e-mail better, and the world in which e-mail is from. My Dad got a call today from one of his friends. He was in a bit of a bind. It seems that his modem crashed. (I didn’t know you could crash a modem, but it’s what he said.) Anyway, after he was done talking to the Telus Help Desk, he was trying to reinstall his modem driver. In the instillation process, it asked for his modem’s serial number. So, what he wanted me to do was go to his house, tear apart his computer, find the modem, and read the serial number to him. I’ve tried to give this guy tech support before, but he’s a stubborn one.

A year ago, I tried to give him some help. He had just bought a new printer, some kind of Epson bubble jet. After he brought it home and hooked it up, it wasn’t printing as fast as it was in the showroom. He wanted me to make his printer print faster. So, I fiddled with the printer drivers. I unplugged a few unnecessary peripherals, and plugged them back in. I think I finally found what the problem was, but I didn’t want to say anything. Here, I’ll give you some tech specs to his machine, and let’s see if you jump to the same conclusion I did:

256M RAM

30G Hard Drive

56.6k modem


2 scanners; one hand-held, the other flatbed

Win 98 for his OS

All running on a 286

Gee, you think it was running slow because his processor was an antique? He said he’d run that by the guy at the store when he bought the new printer cable. When he came back with the new cable, he said that the guy at the store said, “Could be.” The new cable didn’t help.

I shouldn’t talk, though. My computer’s getting that way. The first trailer for Tomb Raider: The Movie has gone online, and my machine is too slow to run even the lo-res version. When I was Christmas shopping, I came across these Pokémon computer games. Each one was stuck on a 3″ CD (yup, the tiny ones), and featured a game or two featuring a pokémon. I was going to get myself the one featuring my favorite, Bulbasaur, but, minimum system requirements were for a Pentium 166. When my little ol’ 133 won’t handle a less than $10 game, it’s time to upgrade. I would like to home build my next one, and my buddy Darmok has offered to walk me through the process many times. But, I always say the same thing to Darmok: “Let’s wait until I have more money saved up.” Who knows? Maybe, after Christmas, instead of getting that DVD Player, I’ll call up Darmok and say, “Let’s do it.” Maybe I should buy that Pokémon game, as a goal-setting exercise: someday, I’ll have a computer powerful enough to run this game.

Speaking of video games, have I told you about the latest video-game-turned-movie? When I read the plot of the game, I knew it would be my kind of movie. The video game is called American McGee’s Alice, and comes out soon. The game is a sequel to Alice In Wonderland, and boy has Alice’s life been rough. Her parents were killed in a fire, and that, combined with her ramblings about a ‘wonderland,’ got her thrown into an insane asylum where she spent most of her teen years. Now, approaching 20, she escapes from the asylum and seeks refuge in Wonderland, but Wonderland has changed. The Red Queen has become a ruthless dictator, and all of the old Wonderland denizens have become dark, distorted versions of their former selves. Can Alice defeat the demons in her past and restore Wonderland to its former glory? Play the game to find out. Or, wait for the movie. Wes Craven (the Scream movies) will be directing. John August, who wrote Go, turns in his first draft of the script in January, and Natalie “Queen Amidala” Portman is being wooed to play Alice.

Actually, my movie sites showed a few screen shots from the game. How can I describe Alice’s look? Take Death from the Sandman comics, and put her in the blue dress/white apron combo that Alice wore in the Disney animated Alice In Wonderland. And be sure to embroider Death’s trademark ankh on one of the apron’s pockets. Some other symbol adorned the other pocket. I’ve got to play this game. This movie’s got to be made.

And that’s all for now. Guess I should finish that column about my trip to Camrose now.

Movie Review – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Directed by Ang Lee

Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Lung Sihung, Cheng Pei-pei, and Li Fazeng.

I must confess, I’ve never seen a foreign film in the theaters. But, with all my friends raving over Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I knew that perhaps I should check it out. After all, they listend to me when I similarly ranted over Iron Giant, right? That, and, with the Internet buzzing and the snagging of a few Oscar nominations, I knew I must have been missing something big.

The plot is somewhat complicated and I’m not sure I can distill it for you. But, I’ll try anyway. As with Gladiator, it all begins with a soldier wanting to give up his life of violence. We meet up with Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat), a warrior who wants to give up his life. As he speaks with Shu Lien (Yeoh), his big unrequited love, he asks her to take his sword to an old friend of theirs, as he will not need it anymore. It turns out Bai’s sword is the Green Destiny, a much-fabled sword passed down from warrior to warrior. Lien turns the sword over, and meets up with Jiao Long Yu (Ziyi). She is about to be forced into an arranged marriage, and that sits none too pleasantly with her. But then, that night, the Green Destiny is stolen, setting the stage for a tale of vengeance, royal drama, action, betrayal, and tragic love. To go into any more would be to give away too much.

This movie is just truly dazzling. Where do I begin? Well, being the typical geek that I am, the fight scenes truly stand out. These are some of the most spectacular battles ever seen on the silver screen, and they have this dream-like quality to them. And I must admit, that is one killer barfight. The characters are people that you actually care about, with flaws and foibles in tact. It’s not just the clear-cut good guy/bad guy set-up you typically find in movies like this. The plot, as previously stated, is a bit complicated, and it forces you to pay attention. But it’s worth it. And, being the hopeless romantic that I am, I’m just a sucker for a doomed romance. Do not miss this film.

4 Nibs


Chaos in Print

Ever notice that the most life altering things just seem to come out of the blue? You know, things like “You’ve won the lottery!” or “Will you marry me?” or “Honey, my period’s late.” What does the song say? “Worry not about the future. The real worries in you life will be things that come at you at 4:30 on some idle Tuesday afternoon.” Well, one of those things just recently happened to me, and, like most things in my life as of late, it tended to revolve around the-person-Chuck-happens-to-be-dating, L.

It was an idle Saturday evening. I was settling in to watch a 2-hour special of Star Trek: Voyager, when the phone rang. My Dad answered it, as I was engrossed in Star Trek. Much to my shock, it was for me. Shocking because, well, I’m a geek. No one phones me. They all e-mail me. And besides, they all know better than to call in the middle of Star Trek. I asked who it was, and Dad said it was L. Double shocking in that, well, I visited her about a month ago and I had nothing really to say to her until I finished writing the huge column about my visit (which is almost done! I swear! I meant at the end of this week!).

L had a proposal for me. It seems that her roommates have reached that special place in all roommates lives where they just can’t stand each other any more and want to go their separate ways. This means, that come January 1, L will be doing the single-girl-in-the-city routine. This fired some synapses in her brain. While visiting a month ago, I made the usual grumblings about how I hate my job and want to get out on my own again. So, L’s proposal: “Since you want to get out on your own again, why don’t you move to Camrose and be my new roommate?”

First thing that flashed through my mind: I’m not doing this unless I’m going to a job in Camrose. I was leaching off my parents for a year before I got a job, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do that to one of my friends. L said she’d thought of that. In my prior grumblings, I mentioned how my boss had said that I could transfer up to a Superstore in Edmonton. Surely, if I could transfer to an Edmonton Superstore I could transfer to the Extra Foods in Camrose. Now, as I recall, I did grumble that in the past. So, let’s assume for the moment that it is true. It requires confirmation from the boss. When I grumble, I tend to fill in the blanks with my own vivid imagination.

Let us assume that a transfer to Camrose would mean into a job of similar wages. Now, no longer in the comfy confines of my parents’ basement, this would mean that I am now thrown into the real world chaos of paying for food, phone, Internet access, cable TV, and rent. You know, the necessities. (Hey! Cable TV is a necessity. I’ll never go back to an antenna.) This would probably mean slicing into my savings, meaning I could kiss that DVD player good-bye. But, on this plus side, the Camrose Cable Company carries channels that still show Batman Beyond, plus TeleToon and Space: The Imagination Station, two channels I long to watch again. That alone would be worth the cost. And besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned while living in the dorms, it’s how to live on a budget. I could go without that DVD player for a few more years.

And it’s not like this arrangement would be long-term. L made it clear that after Augustana commencement ceremonies in May, she’d be back to her native Vancouver. So, we’re only talking about five months. And, let’s say, I do decide to go back to school in fall 2001 (broadcasting at NAIT, in case you’re wondering where I’m leaning). As I’ve convinced myself with my job bagging groceries, this would be in no way permanent. Who knows? A change of scenery might even do me good. Back to Camrose, a city that I fell in love with. Back to a circle of friends. Back to having a life. It would be worth the cost. But a job…. I know I’m not my job, but I can’t afford to be me if I’m broke.

I told L that I’d have to think this over. She understood. Of course, when I’ve got problems like this, I go to Mom. Mom, in her usual maternal way, was more than supportive. She instantly offered up gifts of furniture, money, and even the car. Great, add car insurance to that list of expenses up there. Although, she did mention that the Stony Plain Liberal Constituency Association would need to find a new treasurer. That also entered my mind. I’ve been a part of my mother’s campaign from day one, and I’d want to see it to the end. But, Mom has also said that I shouldn’t put my life on hold for her. The Liberals will survive.

But the biggest question of all would be L and I. I’ve only had a roommate once in my Augustana career, and about three months into that we did have a fight. But that was different. He was a jock, and I’m a geek. L has just enough geek in her to make her likable. Could we really live together for all those months and not build up a burning hot desire to kill each other? I think we could. And besides, it’s every young man’s fantasy to have a chick roommate. You never know when she’ll invite all her friends over and a pyjama party will break out.

I guess, right now, as we speak, the only thing keeping me from saying yes is the uncertainty over my employment. I will not do this unemployed. And the only thing keeping me from finding out about the possibility of transferring to Camrose is the fact that I’m not working this weekend, meaning I can’t talk to my boss until the week begins. But there is a downside to this. Do I really want to bag groceries in Camrose? I mean, it’s OK doing it in Drayton Valley. Yes, my childhood friends come in, but half of them don’t recognize me, so they can’t laugh and point at the geek who was going to rule them all who now bags their groceries. Doing it in Camrose, the possibility is the professors come in to bag their groceries, and they see this graduate with two degrees bagging their groceries. That…would sting. But nothing worth doing was ever easy, right?

The original question remains, however. It’s the question I’ve had ever since I finished university and came back to my parents’ basement. And that question is where does my life go from here? On the one hand, I’ve got the safety and security of a roof over my head, low expenses, and an ever-continuing job. On the other, I lose the safety and security, but get a chance to regain my life. Yup, the things you worry about are always the ones that come out of the blue. I’m starting to think of my life as some sort of strange adventure. Where does the next chapter lie?