Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Friends Don't Let Friends Buy Cameras From Friends

A friend of mine sold me a complete dud of a digital camera. It's a Canon Powershot A70 which I purchased from him for about $45, which is fifteen bucks more expensive than Ebay. But he was offering it, and I wanted a digital camera.

Let's pretend, for a moment, that you were the one who bought the camera. You're anxious to try it out, but when you turn it on, the screen is completely black. You might think that this is just the screen malfunctioning, but when you take a picture in this mode, you discover that your image looks like this:

Free Image Hosting at *

Now, just as your seller (who will never be invited to your wedding or the bar mitzvahs of your children) explained to you, you hit your camera on the side. The screen gives you a couple different views of purple lines across a black screen, like so:

Free Image Hosting at

As you continue to pound the camera, you get your very own private and extremely frustrating performance of "Fantasia 2000." After seven or eight pounds, the camera turns off. You turn it back on and give it another try. A few pounds later, the screen shuts off off again.

Anywhere from seven to ten minutes later, a vague, purple-ish image appears on your screen. You excitedly snap a picture.

Free Image Hosting at

Not so good. You keep pounding. The screen switches back to black, to purple lines again, then back to the purple-lined image. Then it switches off again. You think you're back to square one, but you soon learn that - you're not! You're actually even further away! The camera begins to shut off every three or four pounds at this point.

Suddenly, though, the screen snaps into focus. A few short seconds later, you've taken your first real photograph.

Free Image Hosting at **

Naturally, of course, whatever big event you were prepping the camera for documenting has long since past. So you're left to take pictures of whoever happens to be around, which is usually no one, because nobody hangs out with a guy pounding a camera for more than five minutes.

Therefore I'm launching a photo gallery called Pictures In And Around The Room. I'll post some up tomorrow sometime. It's a whole different school of photography: the ease of use of digital cameras with the set-up time of a 1920's film camera, except without hand-loading flash powder. Though I'm not opposed to it.

*Ah, a visual aid for those of us who can't imagine what a perfectly black rectangle looks like! Let it never be said that I don't have faith in my readers.
** Those two photos are at least 15 minutes apart. I can't tell the difference either.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

Directed By: Brett Ratner
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKe... look, it's all the same people as the last two times, with a few notable exceptions that I'll get to.

Because I feel vaguely responsible to have some sort of journalistic integrity on this site I usually peruse Imdb's website about whatever movie I'm reviewing, if just so I get the names spelled right. Imagine my shock when I came across this little tidbit:

Halle Berry had initially decided not to reprise her role as Storm for this film, citing lack of character development in the previous two installments and a tense relationship with director Bryan Singer. However, after Singer's departure and suffering a major box-office flop with Catwoman, Berry agreed to return on the condition that her role be expanded. Consequently, in this film Storm serves as leader of the X-Men.

That bit of trivia explains essentially everything I was going to pick on about X3 right there. "Lack of character development?" They didn't give any of the backdrops character development either, but they aren't complaining, because at least they know that they're wooden. Berry's been, hands down, the weakest link of the series, and somehow she gets to strong arm the executive producers into giving her top billing because Catwoman bombed. And to think we might have saved ourselves all of this if we'd all agreed to bite the bullet and go see that bewildering S&M-lite flick while it was still in theatres. If only we'd known.

Instead we get Storm - Storm - being chosen by the usually brilliant Professor X (Patrick Stewart) as the new leader of the X-Men. Swell. Then again, there aren't a whole lot of X-Men to be leading anymore.

Let's sum up: at the end of X2, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is killed by a whole lot of water, but the movie characteristically ends with a bit of teaser - you see the outline of a phoenix gliding through the water, and the comic book nerd sitting alone behind you in the theatre* explained to no one in particular that she'd be coming back as Phoenix in the next movie. And she does.

gets to this point quickly, I guess because everyone knows it's coming, so why the hell not? They quickly follow this up by killing off a major character so innocuously that, while I'm writing this, I'm still not absolutely sure that they're actually dead. This becomes a theme for the film. The film eliminates characters so quickly that by the time the final showdown arrives, five of the major players from X2's big ending heist are gone. And that's when they were all on the same team. In this standoff, this "last stand," the X-Men are only able to boast six members. And one of those, Shadowcat, is so bland that the current version (Ellen Page) is the third actress to have played her in these movies.** Explain again why Gambit couldn't fit into this movie?

I don't think Ratner - more on him later - realizes the damage this does to his movie. What makes these films work is the grating of these personalities against each other: Wolverine and Cyclops pissing each other off, Jean Grey playing the tortured muse for both of them, Rogue pining for Wolverine while Iceman fights for her attention, Professor X floating serenely above it all, Storm doing absolutely nothing of value. Instead we have Storm and Wolverine mildly annoying each other. This was the character development Berry signed on for?

Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy X3. This is funny, because everyone that's written a review on the film has said exactly the same thing. There's too many flaws for a conscientious reviewer to look over all of them, but few people have walked out of the theatre feeling completely let down. Here's ten reasons why:

1. Hugh Jackman has made some strange career decisions (Van Helsing leaps to mind), but he is a kick-ass Wolverine and everyone knows it.

2. Kelsey Grammar and some yeoman's work by the make-up department have created something no one thought possible (seriously, no one did. We saw The Hulk): a Beast faithful to both his intelligent nature and ability to beat the snot out of anything that gets in his way. Plus, I got through the whole movie without finding a place to sneak a pop psychology joke, which I didn't expect to happen.

3. Stewart and Ian McKellen are now so fully enmeshed in their roles that one doesn't even blink at the idea of an 80-year-old man in a funny helmet picking on a bald guy in a wheelchair.

4. I'm always a fan of slapstick, and it does a heart good to see Juggernaut run into a wall and knock himself out. The sight of that is something that the comics could never match. Though, I will admit, it is former British soccer star Vinnie Jones, so I guess it's not that surprising.

5. Ratner's cast the two best young rising star actors into this film: emotional firecracker Page (Hard Candy) and the new Haley Joel Osment, Cameron Bright (
Birth, Godsend, Thank You For Smoking).

6. It's twice as big as any other
X-Men movie, with twice as much going on, and still - the special effects are cleaner, the explosions bigger, every detail is taken care of. Bravo for being careful. Singer was still shooting scenes a month before the release date of X-Men.

7. I understood when I paid admission I wasn't getting
La Dolce Vita. It was more fun than The Da Vinci Code or MI3, which is all I could have asked for.

8. I didn't expect all those people to die or lose their powers, so you certainly showed up my expectations, Ratner. The
X-Men series had been averaging about one and a half deaths a movie: Toad and Mystique (sort of) in X-Men; Deathstrike and Jean Grey (sort of) in X2. This movie opens with a eight-year-old mutant trying to cut his own wings off. You're not messing around.

9. Ratner, you might not be as good as Singer, but you're a whole lot more fun.

And, if you made an X4, I'd go see it. Speaking of which, Berry says that her character deserves a sequel. How did you make it through this movie without throttling her? It's more than I could've done.

Seriously, Ratner isn't my favorite - he's egotistical and brazen about how amazing he is, which considering the fact that this is the person who directed After The Sunset and Red Dragon, is a little presumptious. On the other hand, he did direct the Rush Hour movies, and X3 has that action/comedy type flair that so few directors can effectively handle. I don't think Singer can do that nearly as well, and I love my Brian Singer. On the other hand, Singer directed The Usual Suspects, so top that. That's a movie that has Stephen Baldwin in it and is awesome anyway.

To sum up: X3 is flawed and troublesome and expresses its emotions with the subtlety of a middle school production of The Tempest (or of anything, really). It's a Greek tragedy in leather. It's definitely worth seeing.

Three and A Half Stars out of Five

* It might have been me, but it probably wasn't.
** Though Ellen Page is

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I Learn Things Sometimes

While trolling the 'net, a dangerous pastime night or day, I discovered that VH1 has spent the last week doing nothing but cover the ongoing story of how a celebrity named Brandon Davis - "best known for his drunk driving arrest," which, in combination with dating Paris Hilton, seems to be enough for celebration these days - called Lindsay Lohan a "firecrotch."

Never mind that I never heard this story - I hope you never did, either - how is this news? Who in their right mind videotapes some greasy looking kid, whose expression reminds all of us that it's wise to wait at least until puberty to start your drug addiction, getting roaring drunk and ridiculing the former friend of his strangely famous girlfriend, then calls up E! News and sells the tape?* Okay, I would've sold the tape, too - but what the hell makes it newsworthy? I'm pretty sure this doesn't qualify under PICAN.

The story, naturally, gets much worse. Davis, apparently really plastered, also goes on to make some truly horrifying comments about Lohan's crotch, including that her... y'know, let's not go into it. If you're still curious, click on the link.

More bewilderingly, Davis also derided Lohan's wealth, explaining "I think she's worth about seven million (dollars), which means she's really poor. It's disgusting. She lives in a motel."

The lessons here are three-fold:
1. If you are a dick, or prone to be a dick after a few, and happen to be vaguely famous, don't get drunk near videocameras, cameras, or other people.
2. No matter how bad your press gets, no matter how many pre-teens you flash when you forget to wear underwear - again - on the Kid's Choice Awards**: there's always the off-chance that a wealthy heir will get slobberingly drunk and win the world back to your side.
3. Dating Paris Hilton is a bad idea. Always.

More adept readers might also note that being Paris Hilton is also a bad idea, and if the most stunning insult you can come up with is "firecrotch," you deserve whatever you get. But most importantly, remember: It's summer. Turn off the television. Walk away. It's just not worth it.

* It sounded funnier as a run-on sentence, so I left it. Suck it.

**Alright, I admit, that is still pretty awful.

Dani California

Has anyone else seen the video for the Chili Pepper's "Dani California?"

It's a cool idea: it plots, essentially, the history of rock'n'roll showmanship, with the band dressing up and performing like The Beatles, Elvis, Motley Crue, Prince, Black Sabbath, and The Clash. It's fantastically well done, too: Danny Kaye directed it, he's the same guy who did American History X. So it's unsurprising that it's so good.

And then, suddenly, the fun gets sucked away faster than an extra in Night of the Tornadoes (it was the only tornado joke I could think of). As the song hits the home stretch, the band's timeline hits the '90s. And suddenly, we're sitting there watching them imitate Nirvana, with Anthony Kiedis channeling Cobain while the band fakes the grunge band's famously intimate "MTV Unplugged" set. The camera shows Kiedis, slouched at the microphone in a particularly unfortunate ragged blond wig, his eyes closed. Suddenly, a candle in the foreground blows out. The camera cuts to a close-up of the candle, smoke curling up towards the ceiling. The song hits the chorus again, and the video cuts ahead to a present day version of the band. Meanwhile, I'm still gaping.

I'm sorry, did we just make fun of someone's suicide?

Review: BK's Italian Chicken Sandwich

It's rare that I review food on 10-4GB, but occasionally something is so noteworthy that it has to be mentioned. For example, Jack-In-The-Box's Egg Rolls received a 5 out of 5 review not too long back, and I stand by that opinion.

I was even having a discussion on this same topic when we pulled into Burger King on our way out to Maine to look at a car (which, unsurprisingly, didn't work out). While we bemoaned the non-existence of JITB in the New England states, we took turns ordering from BK's Value Menu, which is pretty much all people order from these days.

BK's Value Menu is a little Chintzy because while every other fast food joint in the nation has developed the "99 Cents Menu" or "Dollar Menu," BK has instead created a menu that says clearly - "these things may be cheap, but they give you a lot of bang for that buck or so." What I didn't realize is that they are lying.

I hit my fast food basics: the $1 Chicken Sandwich, the small fries, the small Coke. But I got cocky, I took it too far. I ordered the new Italian Chicken sandwich, which I assumed would be a loss leader bargain at $1.39.

I'll make a sidenote here: while my loyalties lie with McDonald's one hundred percent in all aspects due to the fact I spent all my formative high school years there discovering that some people never really leave those years, there are some things where McDonald's is simply not up to snuff compared to other similar dineries, and the Chicken McNugget is one of them. The McNugget is, when fresh, a tasty little beast, but it doesn't compare to BK's lean and zesty Chicken Tenders. The McNugget instead falls to fourth or fifth on the list, battling it out with Wendy's cheap but chewy 5-Piece Chicken Nuggets.

I throw this at you because the meat that was on my Italian Chicken sandwich was not a freshly deep-fried breaded chicken breast. Instead, it was as close to a Chicken McNugget as I have ever tasted outside of the Golden Arches. In fact, it was three nuggets, placed on a hamburger bun, and covered in marinara sauce. It was a sandwich clearly invented on freezer clean-out day. It was a travesty.

But I tried it anyway. My appetite held out as long as it could, which was still well under a minute. By the time we pulled out of the parking lot with our food, the sandwich was already crumpled back up in its paper and back in the bag, and I was halfway through my fries.

Shoulda gone with the Whopper Jr.

Rating: Half a Star out of Five

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This is probably how Frodo felt.

I still hate car hunting.

My old college roommate loves it, always has. He used to spend hours upon hours at Autotrader and, picking out cool cars that he could afford. He never bought any, but he'd figure out a way that he could buy them - selling his car, buying a ticket to Arizona from Southwest, doing it on Fall Break weekend so he'd have enough time to get it back for classes on Tuesday. He had no intention of ever doing so, of course. He just wanted to see that he could. It was bewildering.

I find it this confusing because it's so far off from where I am. I feel desperately lost when I car hunt. Friends will give me useful car advice about buying cars ("Above all, pretend you know what you're doing"), but when I actually get into the lot, I feel like Hansel after he figures out that animals have eaten all his breadcrumbs.

Every day I hunt for a good car until I find what seems a reasonable deal. That night, I explain to my family, friends, and roommate what kind of car I want to buy, and they explain why it's not a good idea. So I call the guy back and tell him I'm not interested in that rebuilt '84 El Camino he's selling, and I start over.

I think I'm only ready to talk about this now because I think I might have finally found a car. It's a '93 Volvo 850 selling for $2K just over the border in Maine. I'm driving up tomorrow afternoon, Hopefully, this time tomorrow I'll have agreed on a deal, so this trip won't be a complete waste of gas money and this long, merciless trek will finally be over.

But, if not, I can see if that Camino's still selling.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wedding Presents and Funeral Thoughts

Tomorrow evening Tyler Tate and Ruth O'Neil will be joined in really awesome marital bliss in Lexington, Kentucky. To my complete dismay, I will in fact not be attending, because
a) it's 1000 miles away, and
b) that's a long distance to travel on foot.

Still, all the best to both of them, and I do wish I could be there. I realized earlier that since I am now in both a legal and socially acceptable sense a full adult, it's probably de rigeur to buy them a present and ship it down. Poop. As a consolation, it's almost like a really lame adventure to poke through a registry and try to find something reasonably priced and reasonably appropriate to send the happy couple. I sent them a wildly expensive hunk of wood. I don't know why they want it.*

I've also decided it's no longer appropriate to post every few days with topical posting. Since I'm free enough to post more often, I shall, even though that may mean some fairly banal posting. But if you've known me for more than a week or two, you know which party I usually fall into in the quality/quantity conundrum.

Someone re-sent my last post on to the Bishop family. Though I suspected that might end up being the case when I posted, I now feel somewhat strange about it. Writing the piece was catharsis for me, and I considered deleting it forever after writing it, but when you leave something on a blog in the early hours of the morning, it seems unlikely that anyone will actually read it. Knowing that people have, if only a few people, makes me feel uncomfortable. And that's certainly a first for the 10-4GB site.

Finally, I've seen three or four movies since I've been back (MI3, RV, and the Da Vinci Code). Reviews on at least one of those to follow. I mean it.

*If you'd like to send a gift to the pair yourself, click the link. I recommend choosing from Macy's, myself.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Adam Bishop, June 1985-May 2006

I'd been at the wake for maybe a half an hour when a short tow-headed kid I'd never seen before handed me a small sheet of blue cardboard paper and a glitter pen in some emasculating shade - purple, I think.
"What's this for?"
"You're supposed to write down your favorite story about Adam," he stated solemnly, and scurried off. I opened the pen and scrawled something on the sheet, and dropped it into the box when I got the end of the line.

I'm telling you this because what I wrote on the sheet was nothing more than a platitude, a fairly worthless bit of reminiscing on Adam's character and God's love. Maybe it was the length of time since I saw Adam last, or maybe we'd never really known each other well enough, but I couldn't come up with a single event, a single anecdote, even a single shared experience. I wrote something about his smile. I'm sorry, Adam, you deserved more than that.

So let me tell you what I do remember about you.

I've known you as long as I've known anyone - you were born only two years after me - so there's no period in my life that I can recall where I haven't known you. We went to school together in both grade school and high school, you were always part of that group of omnipresent constant friends I called simply "family."

I'm glad we were such good friends in high school. We were in the same boat, "nice guys," that inescapable description that meant we were thoughtful and conscientious and always there to lend a hand, even if it meant that people would walk over you. But so much of what I did was show, while you really did toil unnoticed in the wings - there's a reason I never won those "Servant's Heart" awards at the end of the year, just as there's a reason that you always did.

You were all those things that don't count with people in high school - you were friendly and unassuming and eternally dedicated to your friends and deep enough to be worth talking to. You were relaxed and fun and willing to mess around with anyone. You really listened to people. You weren't all that cool by the sheltered Christian culture standards at our school, but then, the definition of cool at our school was "not being a virgin," (and we didn't know anyone who wasn't).

You disappeared out of my life for good after you finished high school, so I guess the last time I saw you was two years ago, when I came to Nashua to see your graduation. You'd grown up during the year while I'd been away at college, and suddenly you were taller, more broad-shouldered, and you had that grown-up... look. I knew - everyone knew - you'd do well.

I suppose too much had happened with awkward break-ups and bruised relationships, but you disappeared out of my group of friends that summer, and I'm sorry I never saw you since. I don't know what we would have had to talk about if I'd seen you this summer anyway. I found out tonight you'd switched to being a communications major a few weeks back because of your love of photography. So I guess we could've talked about that. I would've liked that.

And I really did like your smile, just so you know. I wasn't lying about that. I'll be glad to see it on the other side. Until then: goodbye, Adam. You did good. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Instant Messenger

I just logged back in to AOL Instant Messenger for the first time in at least a year, and remembered, again, the terrifying feeling of being IMed by ten people simultaneously. I didn't even really mean to sign back in. I just hit the iChat button while I was setting up to try to configure it right, and all of a sudden, I couldn't see my background anymore.

A lesson learned: don't hit this button. Ever.

The Graduate returns to his little room.

Hey. I graduated.

Jonathan, Dad, and I arrived home a few hour ago, and I'm at a loss for direction. Every piece of clothing I own is in a pile in front of the washing machine, all my belongings are in suitcases and boxes and laundry baskets all around me, spewing out onto the floor of my little room at home. My computer is basically all I've put together so far, and it's balanced on the edge of the other computer's desk, with an old newspaper for a mousepad. I'm feeling uninspired to do any more to change my state, though, like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, except that I don't have a pool.

I'm hoping to update this new website and get it launched sometime this month, but it might be a little while longer. Still, since I'm graduated and home for the summer, all of a sudden my e-life gains a great deal more relevance. So more effort and updates to come. And this time, you can count on it.