Archive for September, 2004

An Open (Thank You) Letter to Neil Gaiman

Posted by Arlo on Sep 30, 2004 under Life of Arlo

Neil Gaiman Photo from www.neilgaiman.comDear Mr. Gaiman,

Recently I’ve been enjoying the benefits of a newfound technology – RSS feeds. There’s no way to remember the trail of links that brought me to your online journal, but I’m quite happy to have found it. In the two months that I’ve been reading, you’ve greatly impressed me in the amount of time you spend communicating with your fans.

One day, as I waited for one of your linked pages to load, my mind wandered. I realized that I was rather jealous of the fans that have, for some small slice of time, captured your attention online. I used the time to reflect on what keeps me coming back to your journal. Was it that your interactions with your fans gives me an alluring glimpse into the life of a celebrity? Probably. Too bad I can never tell Neil Gaiman how his work has affected me, I thought. But, boy, wouldn’t that be cool?

How I managed to miss it for so long I’ll never know, but just then I had a tiny epiphany: Waitaminute…I’m actually reading Neil Gaiman’s responses to his fans’ e-mails. And I’m a fan. Thinking back, it’s embarrassing to admit that I needed a revelation for that to sink in, but it simply never occurred to me that with so many fans, you might actually read a “thank you” letter from me.

Once I realized that there was a chance, I decided to write one.

I have two things to thank you for. The first “thank you” is, I suspect, both easy and common: Thank you for American Gods.
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Movie Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Posted by Arlo on Sep 20, 2004 under Movie Reviews

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Movie PosterBack in May, I attacked my blog with renewed vigor and tried to post an entry every day. Didn’t work, but I did up the content (while simultaneously lowering the quality) of my blog in the process. One of the filler ideas I had was to post short movie reviews for the summer blockbuster season. So, I did.

This summer, the critical consensus seemed to be that the blockbuster season would be kicked off by Van Helsing and I set a goal to see and review as many movies as I could before Labor Day, four months later. Eventually I saw 14 movies (add two more for second viewings of Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2) and spent somewhere north of $130 for ticket prices alone. When September 6th finally arrived, I was close to burning out and I couldn’t generate the interest level necessary to make it to the last few movies that I probably would have enjoyed. I’m thinking of Open Water, Hero, and Garden State, among others.

No matter. Taking a short break has rejuvenated my interest and I’m now looking forward to other movies like The Forgotten, The Incredibles, Shaun of the Dead, The Motorcycle Diaries, Shark Tale, The Life Aquatic, and maybe even some guilty pleasures like National Treasure, Team America: World Police, and Blade: Trinity.

While writing short movie reviews never really felt like work, they did always have the annoying habit of tumbling around in my mind after the movie was over. I felt like I had a responsibility, to myself if no one else, to write down my thoughts and post them online. I’m not saying that I won’t do that again in the future, but I think I might enjoy going back to irresponsible movie watching for awhile.

That being said, I just watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow a couple nights ago and thought I’d at least mention a couple things about it before packing up my movie critic bag.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was an interesting movie… from a technological standpoint. And by that, I don’t mean that the killer robots and submersible WWII airplanes were what made it interesting. Rather, SCatWoT (is that a great abbreviation, or what?) is the first movie to have been filmed entirely in front of blue screens. Every location was created with computers and matted in after the actors had already delivered their lines in what was, I suspect, a very blue room.

The director went for a decidedly noir-ish look to the “film” and everything had an ethereal, sepia tone look to it. Perhaps that glow around each character was to mask some particularly bad edges, I don’t know. I didn’t like it, but then… I’ve never gone in for film noir, anyway.

To make matters worse, I didn’t bite on the story, either. Comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark are inevitable, I suppose, but none of the characters in Sky Captain had any real depth. At times I felt like I was watching the sequel to some other movie. The characters were presented as if we should already know who they were, and there was no stage of the movie devoted to character development. Similarly, within maybe 5 minutes of the movie beginning, we were hurled headlong into a strange world with no background. There were familiar things — New York City and the Hindenburg docking with the Empire State Building – but we were only left to assume that it was some sort of Post World War I, comic bookish, alternate reality. I had no troubles picking up on the homage to the sci-fi movies of the 50s, I just got hung up on “Why?”

Despite not caring much about the world they had crafted, I have to admit that I was curious where they were going with the movie. I found myself quite bored with the paper-thin characters, but I must admit that I wanted to know what they were chasing. When the movie finally delivered, I must admit that the anagnorisis surprised me. I won’t spoil it for you, but there’s a neat little sci-fi idea buried beneath the script of SCatWoT. Too bad it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

The final line of the movie almost saved everything, though. It was telegraphed like the worst (i.e., best!) of shaggy dog jokes, but it still made me laugh out loud.

Well, heck. Let’s stick to the format for one last review:

Trivial Thought: I caught a couple tip-o’-the-hats to George Lucas and to The Iron Giant. Makes me wonder what else I missed…
What did I find worthwhile about the movie? The proof-of-conceptness of it. It sure kept me guessing what was “real” and what wasn’t.
Would I recommend the movie? Depends. If you like deconstructing special effects, then yes.
Will I buy it on DVD? You know what? I just might. I’d love to see the behind-the-scenes of how they made this movie (and if I’d liked it more, I’d probably be scouring the Internet for that information right now).

And for the sake of closure, here’s my definitive list of the summer movies I saw – in the order of which I’d most like to see again. Looking over them with my stellar 20/20 hindsight, I’m not convinced I wouldn’t rearrange things a little bit, but it’s close enough for government work. (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, opening after Labor Day, was not included.)

Overall Summer Movie Ranking
Spider-man 2
Shrek 2
The Village
I, Robot
The Bourne Supremacy
The Day After Tomorrow
The Terminal
The Chronicles of Riddick
Fahrenheit 9/11
Van Helsing
Aliens vs. Predator
The Stepford Wives


Posted by Arlo on Sep 18, 2004 under Website

A Piece of MindwheatBlogging has become pretty damn popular and the internet is filling up with all sorts of creative uses for them. You’ve got the personal journal blogs, the photo album blogs, the current events commentary blogs, and the ever-delightful link-disseminating blogs.

Oh, damn. I shouldn’t have used the second-person singular in the last sentence. First-person works better because I, myself, have each of those blogs!

Okay, so yeah, you know about the personal journal one; you’re reading it. And if you’re any sort of repeat offender, you know about my photoblog, too. But there’s a good chance that this will be your first introduction to

Mindwheat is, for lack of a better label, a “Community Blog.” Four of my friends and I decided that Greymatter might be up to providing the interface for a site where we could swap internet links. If nothing else, the theory was that it would cut down on the number of “This site I found is so funny – YOU HAVE TO READ IT!” subject lines we get from each other in our inboxes.

Each of us five primary participants is an avid internet surfer and while there’s some crossover in the sites that we frequent, we maintain distinctive and diverse interests. We figured that Mindwheat might be a great way to share those interests and, after a month of steady posting, it looks like we were right.

There are profile pages on each of us at Mindwheat, but I think a short introduction might help you get a feel for who’s going to post what.

There’s Calder; He’s got the market cornered on the pro-Republican side of things. Maasman digs up all the cool music and Amelia is our resident librarian. Mike should change his name to Mr. Non-sequitur because it’s quite impossible to guess what his next post will be about. I’m all over the board, too, as I embrace my inner Liberal Artist, but if anything I’m more likely to gravitate to the multimedias (Did I just say “multimedias” – someone please interrobang that!) Oh, and for the record, all of us have a nasty habit of posting just plain goofy shit every now and again.

Mindwheat is a great site for me because I don’t spend hours writing and editing each entry. In 5 minutes I can post a quick link to something that I found interesting or comment on something someone else has posted. I’m don’t concern myself with improving my writing there nor do I worry that I might offend someone. If you read both A Midgett Blog and Mindwheat, you’ll likely find that my Mindwheat persona is the more irreverent one.

So, take a look at the site and see if you like it enough to grace us with a bookmark. Comment on an entry if you’ve got something to add, or give it a karma point to show how much you liked (or didn’t like) it. If you have any suggestions to make the site better, let us know!

Oh, and why is it called “Mindwheat?” Well, for the answer to that you’ll have to watch Doctrine.

Doom 3

Posted by Arlo on Sep 16, 2004 under Life of Arlo

Doom 3 ScreenshotJust about 10 years ago now, I was caught up in a routine where some friends and I would gather at Joe and Karl’s place to hang out. We’d do all sorts of things, but the ones that stand out in my memory were pretty high up on the geek scale: Watching endless hours of the Simpsons, taking turns playing X-wing on Joe’s computer, painting miniatures, and making up new rules and maps for Axis & Allies. In retrospect, the only thing that saved us from debating the merits of the latest in pocket-protector technology was that we also played a fair bit of pool and used chainsaws to cut up the forest behind their house to make trails for four-wheeler races.

We were geeks, but there was still hope.

Just before a few of us packed up and headed off to college, someone managed to get their hands on the shareware version of Doom. I can’t imagine that we downloaded it… in those days, 9600 baud was still a fantasy. No, it probably came on one of the first PC Gamer disks. Not a compact disc – the floppy kind.

Years before, back in middle school, I had played Castle Wolfenstein. In fact, I beat that game on my Apple IIc. I don’t remember much – PC-speaker-garbled German shouts, an overhead view of a white-on-black maze, and a race against the clock to escape the castle after planting a bomb next to Hitler. If I remember that much of it even now, it must have been a good game.

During my first year of college, Wolfenstein 3D came out. I played through the shareware version of that, too, but didn’t find it that remarkable. Yes, it pushed the technological envelope, but it never fully captured my imagination. Perhaps that was because the graphics engine made me motion sick. Still, it couldn’t have been all bad since I played through physical illness just to complete the game. That’s gotta count for something.
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Jury Duty

Posted by Arlo on Sep 14, 2004 under Life of Arlo

Juneau’s Courtroom BA long time back, years ago, I read somewhere that one of Alaska’s requirements to serve jury duty was that a person had to be a Responsible Citizen. Just like that, too: Capital R, Capital C. The trick to being a Responsible Citizen was that, among other things, you had to be a registered voter.

Since discovering that lovely little loophole, I’ve used it as an excuse not to vote. Not that it always works – invariably someone always tells me that the Alaska courts obtain the eligible jury list from the Permanent Fund. Yes, I always say, that’s the “among other things” part. Then I’d go on to state what little proof I had: I’ve never been called for jury duty.

The most recent time I’ve had this conversation was with my mom just this summer. She was so convinced that the Permanent Fund is the only source that she was ready to fire up the internet to prove it. I was ready to do the same. We both got online and tried to prove our respective cases… and turned up a whole lot of nothing.

At any rate, it’s time to eat some crow. I was wrong. In mid-August I got my first jury summons. Oh, well. It’s time to admit that even us Irresponsible Citizens have to do their civic duty.

But wait! The night before my first day of service (servitude?), I jumped on the internet to make sure I knew exactly where to go. Lo and behold, what do I find, but the exact regulation I was looking for before! What’s the deal? According to this FAQ, I shouldn’t have been called!

Unfortunately, I don’t think I could site that web site as grounds for why I should be able to skip jury duty. Especially since all the local media is abuzz about how one of the judges is exasperated with the low jury turnout and has issued Trooper-delivered subpoenas to 83 people. Those irresponsible Responsible Citizens now have court dates where they must give damn good reasons why they shouldn’t be held in contempt. If they don’t show, arrest warrants follow.

Great. Now if I forget my nightly call to the duty hotline, I could actually go to jail. Wonderful way to start off my first month ever of jury duty!
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World of Warcraft Stress Test

Posted by Arlo on Sep 10, 2004 under Life of Arlo

World of Warcraft Screencap (25k image)I’ve been meaning to update my blog lately but I’ve been struggling mightily just to stay awake during my lunch hour, so trying to write anything coherent has been out of the question. But for the first time in over a week I got a full 8 hours of sleep last night. I’m a new man!

What’s been going on? Well, unless you’re an avid computer gamer, you won’t understand. Really, I’m having a hard time explaining to myself why I should stay up past 2am on a work night… how can I convince you?

World of Warcraft is responsible for my lack of sleep and it’s a game that hasn’t even been released yet. Blizzard allowed me (and 100,000 of my closest friends) to download the 2.3 Gigabyte(!) installer and participate in their server “stress test.” You see, the company has already let 6000 or so players participate in their beta test, but they wanted to know what kind of server load they’ll be looking at when the game is finally released.

World of Warcraft is my first foray into the world of Massively Multiplayer Online Games and I realize now why they are so addictive. World of Warcraft in particular has a frightful allure – the artwork is extremely varied and downright gorgeous and the gameplay is remarkable non-tedious. Multiplayer games of this sort wouldn’t be much fun at all to play by yourself, but fortunately for me, my friend, Karl, was also selected to play in the stress test. We’ve been playing an embarrassing number of hours together each night.

The stress test was supposed to end yesterday, but Blizzard decided to add even more players and keep it running until Sunday. I’m conflicted about that. I’m having a blast playing the game and don’t want it to end, but yet I can’t help but miss the full nights of sleep (not to mention seeing my wife!) When this stress test ends, I won’t be able to play World of Warcraft again until it’s in stores – and that can be anywhere from 3 months to a year from now. It’s a long time to wait, but I look forward to a time when I can play with even more of my friend and there isn’t a game-ending deadline right around the corner. At least then I won’t feel like sleeping is wasted time!

Anyway, for those few interesting in online entertainment, I’ll probably post a more detailed account of my impressions of World of Warcraft sometime after the stress test ends. Oh, yeah… and I should really finish up those half-written blog entries on Doom III and my stint of Jury Duty, too.