What You Say?!?

January 27, 2005 10:39 pm

Vic and I are both voracious readers, and one of the many literary interests we share is an insatiable appetite for comic books and graphic novels. A couple months ago, he purchased all the Sin City collected editions by Frank Miller, and I fell madly in love. Frank Miller is most well-known for The Dark Knight Returns, but I think in Sin City he really shines with amazing original characters and a unique brand of noir sensibility. The tense artwork, the unforgiving plots, the terse monologues, the wry catchphrases, the captivating panels; everything just fits so elegantly that I could write pages waxing poetic over it.

So, being somewhat of a comic snob and certainly an artistic purist when it comes to this series, I was very afraid when word spilled about a Sin City movie. Sin City is no X-Men, no Spiderman, no popcorn-and-soda, good-guys-bad-guys, the-hero-always-wins, moral-of-the-story, message-to-society feel-good box office fodder-for-the-masses fun-romp. It's dirty, it's gritty, it's sinister, and holy mother, I am so afraid cinema is going to ruin its dark beauty.

But, hope lingers. The first two trailers (one is a San Diego Con leak that I've only found on BT and the other at Apple, bless their QuickTime souls) are promising. The fact that panels from the comics are featured alongside the scenes lifts my spirits. In terms of casting, the characters look the way they should and many of the names are big, but I'll hold my breath. While the dialogue isn't Shakespeare, a delicate serious-yet-not-cheesy approach needs to be taken, and I'm not sure most of the actors can pull it off. On the other hand, Frank Miller has both writing and directing credits and Robert Rodriguez, who took a stylistic leap of faith with Desperado and polished it into an incredible artistic statement, is producing. This would be a risky project for any studio - bringing something this cultish into mainstream theatres is always hit-or-miss, and while the credentials are brilliant, it's so easy to fuck up the art form, especially when Sin City is such a fanboy driven book. I fear the worst, but the silver lining is definitely there.

And so, I leave you with some lovely movie posters that showcase just the tip of an iceberg full of booze, broads, and bullets:

January 23, 2005 12:50 pm

Last week, we went an entire day without corporate e-mail. It was actually quite refreshing, and I got more items knocked off my task list than any average day at work. Without e-mail, the only means of communication we had left were phone and person. Only the most important requests got through via these alternate channels. It's easy to write an e-mail detailing some new feature or report you need. But are you willing to pick up the phone and explain your request, knowing you'll need to answer questions and justify your need for giving that person more work? Or even worse, if the phone fails to pick up, are you willing to walk over and tell them in person what you want, knowing you'll experience both physical and verbal reactions to your request? It makes you think twice about whether the things you ask for are worth the effort, and as a result, only half the requests came in that would normally come had e-mail been up that day.

Obviously, the amount of e-mail one gets varies depending on position. I try to keep e-mails to our devs minimal by forcing everyone to send me all requests. I filter through the deluge so they can work on the important things. I usually get around 80 e-mails a day, which doesn't sound like much, but considering we have about 65 employees, this means everyone e-mails me at least once a day. But for me, the issue with e-mail isn't volume, it's distraction. I'll be concentrating on a task, then a message comes in. I'll check it right away, for reasons I'll explain later. So I pause my thought process to read the e-mail, and usually it causes me to abandon my current task to work on a new one. Afterwards, it always takes a while to pick up where I left off.

I do have a few rules for dealing with e-mail: filters and folders are my lifeblood. I'm consistent in categorizing e-mails so I can find them later. I allow in-cell editing (this is an Outlook feature; I'm not sure other clients have this) so I can rename subject lines at will. No messages in my folders can be left unread - in fact, I don't touch anything in my inbox unless all e-mails in my folders have been dealt with. And absolutely no personal e-mail in the corporate domain. I also abide by the 100 Message Rule: there should never be more than 100 messages in your inbox at the end of the day. Which means following up on e-mails as fast as possible and clearing them to a searchable, archived folder right away. This leads to the "distraction" issue I mentioned before. Because I don't want to spend hours catching up on e-mail (and I had to do this about once a week before I started using the 100 Message Rule), I'll handle e-mails as soon as I can. There are situational exceptions, of course, but most of the time, I leave work under the limit.

The distraction e-mail creates is mainly good. It forces me to tackle problems quickly. It lets me stay on schedule by making me to finish this, assign that, or look into those. It makes sure no requests are allowed to languish, forgotten and late, in a stew of inbox messages. For the most part, my e-mail policies have worked out. But it's still amazing how much more peaceful work is without e-mail - I wish we had one day every month where no e-mails were allowed. Just so everyone can think without interruption for once.

January 11, 2005 9:01 am

Something I don't understand about New Jersey is why so many people who live here take so much pride in the state. They'll defend this place with almost holy passion, when really it's a pretty shitty place to live. I mean, off the top of my head, I can already tell you:
  • 45 minute average commute.
  • Why such a long commute? Because we have the highest average property tax rate. So nobody can afford to live anywhere close to work.
  • High cost of living. For a state lacking competent public services, it sure is expensive.
  • Camden. Hooray for us.
  • One of the most, if not the most, corrupt local governments in the country. I have a bit of first hand experience with this. I don't trust any of our elected officials, even the ones I vote for.
  • Did I mention the long commute? Another reason this occurs is because real estate here is so inflated, they can sell you an outhouse for half a million.
  • Utter lack of subculture. We have malls, malls, and more malls. The entire state is one giant, painfully boring suburb. People here are more vanilla than Georgia. The only difference is that the rednecks here have more money, so they build malls everywhere. Even the "asian" community in central jersey is whitewashed like a new plaster wall.
  • Super high car insurance. I had to pay almost $2000 annually with a perfect driving record. Fuckall.
  • Did I mention utter lack of subculture? Hoboken has lots of bars. Those bars suck, both in terms of atmosphere and quality of clientele. Atlantic City also has lots of bars. They suck just as much. Rinse, repeat with any other city.
  • People here are rude. When you smile and say hi, they react like you just insulted them. You live in New Jersey. If you want to be a snob, move to NYC.
  • New Jersey Civil Engineers on Crack. Nuff said.
  • And last but not least, HORRIBLE drivers. Learn to drive in the rain (start by turning on your lights - you do realize this will help you see through the sheets of water). Learn to pass correctly (going 50 mph in the leftmost lane is not passing). Learn to obey traffic laws (see how that sign says right turn only? Don't go straight through that lane). Learn physics (there are 6 cars ahead of me. No matter how closely you ride my ass, I won't be able to go through those cars. Don't count on quantum mechanics here). And most of all, learn spatial coordination (half of you have no idea how long your car really is, do you?).
Given all this, why do I still live here? Because unfortunately I couldn't get a job anywhere else. That doesn't mean I like it here. I can't comprehend why people think this place is so grand - in terms of a location, it holds nothing redeeming, nothing of cultural or social significance, except maybe the uncanny ability of its citizens to defend its crappiness to the bitter end.

January 10, 2005 8:00 am

Finally posted larger images of the Star Destroyer!

January 4, 2005 8:30 pm

To the late Will Eisner: No eulogy I write could do you justice, so let me just say thanks and rest forever in peace.

January 4, 2005 8:52 am

Happy New Year to all! Welcome to 2005.

For Christmas, Vic's brother gave us the ultimate toy: a 3 foot long Lego Star Destroyer. When I finally got a day off work, we decided to crack this puppy open and take a magical journey through a sea of grey:

The first section we completed was one of the bottom supports:

Picture of me holding this thing, for scale (it's gigantic!):

So the support structure ended up being these two triangle pieces:


The two supports were snapped together by their sides, and a stand was built in. At this point it was very unbalanced (I had to hold the tip up to prevent it from falling), but it made sense, as the bulk of the pieces were going to be directly over the stand:

Cool rear lights:

Direct shot of the lights:

After the base was done, the next step was to create the long panels making up the sides of the ship. These panels were also HUGE and here is Vic holding one of the bottom ones:

First bottom panel attached!

A brief interlude showing our "workspace." We had Legos strewn over 1/2 our loft. We made an attempt at organization by categorizing into separate trays and bags. Even still, there was a lot of crawling around on all fours hunting particular pieces and also a lot of counting. At the end, I think we were able to tell a 2x8 flat brick from a 2x10 flat brick simply by sight:

More Legos all over the place:

It might be hard to see in this pic, but the little round black pieces are actually magnets. Instead of snapping on the long panels, the Lego developers came up with a cool system of magnets that aligned the base support with the large panels. Once the magnets were attached, carefully placed "angle" pieces locked together to hold the panels firm:

The magnets also allowed for the cool tilt of the panels. Since they were resting on joints, they could bend and slope. Once everything was lined up and attached, the structure was quite secure, and looked pretty damn good:

Angle shot!

Here's the first of two sections that make up the top of the Destroyer. The nifty thing about this was it didn't snap either. Instead, this section rested snugly in the hole between the top panels, thanks to some clever engineering:

Voila! It's amazing how precisely they crafted this so one large chunk fit smoothly into another:

And now, the final tower section. This slid right into place. Notice how it's bigger than Vic's head:

At last, the finished product. That is one kick-ass Lego set:

Rear view:

Again, for the sake of scale:

Front view:

About 8 hours later (not counting our dinner break) we finally have the complete set. This includes a plaque (which you actually build out of Legos) detailing the Star Destroyer specs. It also has a little blockade runner, which is like an $8 mini by itself, to show off the sheer enornity of the Destroyer:

This concludes the pictorial guide to a day of Lego goodness. High res versions of these photos should be linked up soon. Many, many thanks to Vincent for giving such a glorious gift - it's not everyday one gets to play with 3,104 Lego pieces!

See archived entries for December 2004.
See archived entries for October 2004.
See archived entries for September 2004.
See archived entries for August 2004.
See archived entries for July 2004.
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See archived entries for May 2004.

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