It’s been a very long time since I have last taken a peek into the Grab Bag, which, for the uninitiated, used to be a monthly take on stuff that caught my eye that had little, if anything, to do with comics — because we’re nothing if not well rounded men and women about town here at iFanboy. As the days get shorter and the notion of wearing a sweater flashes, ever so briefly, into our consciousness, let’s see what’s been bagged so far!
Clearly, the big news in our household has been the ongoing work with MSL, or, as everyone else calls it, Curiosity, the roving science lab that is currently on its 42 sol (Mars day). So far, the mission has been a resounding success, and it’s been fun to see the rest of the world reacting to what has been the reason why I hadn’t seen Whitney all that often for the past few weeks (things are a bit more normal now). The arm tests are almost done, and it will only be a few weeks before the science-y part of the mission begins in earnest. Of course, it’s not all about Curiosity — Opportunity is still doing a lot of work and just sent back some analysis (crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle!) of those “blueberries” that caused so much interest when we first saw them in 2004. Here on Earth, we’re getting all excited about the space shuttle Endeavour coming to Los Angeles on Thursday. They are going to fly it fairly low all around the Los Angeles area, so expect some very cool pictures to come out (similar to the amazing ones taken in New York and Washington D.C. ) And while I have it on pretty good authority that we’ll see similar footage, this “Ultra HD” version of Curiosity’s landing is pretty cool — but please know that the sound was added later in post!
No, I am almost loathe to mention the iPhone 5 in this article, but I must admit to you — despite the fact that I have been an Apple guy my entire computational life, I still felt kind of skeevy during that keynote presentation. Like, when the phone rose up from the ground, like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, I just felt embarrassed. I get it, we want drama, but a bit of perspective would have been appreciated, I think. The device is going to useful and provide several moments of coolness, but at the end of the day, it’s an expected iteration of technology that we all knew was coming, that had to come, that will be replaced in a few years. I pre-ordered the damn thing out of kind of necessity — I am borrowing a friend’s old phone and would like a new one as quickly as possible — but I felt less excited about doing so, I just felt that I was part of this mass capitulation: Apple said “jump” and I did so, at 12:08AM on a Friday morning. I’ll probably mention the phone in future articles (I’m curious to see whether or not the screen size will require digital comic apps to work differently or not), but I’ve never felt this kind of mild resentment (completely and utterly ridiculous, I know) about the whole affair (perhaps due in part to having to pay even more money get all the various adaptors I will need to keep the sucker charged throughout the day). However cool the phone is, however much money it will make money, as a piece of theater, as a piece of story telling, I thought Apple kinda (and I hate to use this phrase but we’re friends) jumped the shark when the phone went up, then down, on that silly podium, like a microphone at some self-indulgent awards show. Which, in a way, I guess the keynote was.
Long time readers might know that I appreciate a good video game every now and then, with the cycle usually being that I get excited about a game, buy it, play it for 20 minutes (after waiting 15 minutes for my XBox to download a few months’ worth of updates), complain about not having enough time to play it for a few weeks, forget about the game all together for a few months, then finish it 10-12 months after the release. (I still haven’t played Mass Effect 3 for more than an hour, and yes, I am literally just real realizing that now.) This has everything to do with lack of time and the fact that the room my XBox is located in gets so much sun during the summer that I should just basically rent it out as a Bikram Yoga studio, because I never hang out in there. But it’s getting cooler—and Borderlands 2 is coming out. The first version of this cel-shaded shooter, with it’s Diablo-like loot and fantastic co-op play, was a ton of fun, and I am looking forward to hanging out with my friends and playing this thing…tomorrow! Of course, it will more of the same, which is fine, but as I think about the upcoming games…that just seems to be the theme, with more versions of Halo, Gears of War, and Assassin’s Creed coming out in the months to come. All well and good, sure…but it seems like it’s high time for some new stories.
Speaking of new stories, I must admit I’ve watched the trailer for Cloud Atlas a few times (via the AppleTV Trailers “app,” which I use way more than I thought I would) and am wondering how this movie (which reminds me vaguely of The Fountain) can be shorter than, say, six or seven hours. I was talking about the upcoming Wachowski epic with a friend, and while he agreed it looked interesting, he kept getting pulled out of the trailer whenever Tom Hanks showed up — “it was just jarring, he makes everything into a Tom Hanks film, you know?” I didn’t have that problem, but can see his point. A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of watching Logan’s Run at the Arclight Cinerama dome, and while the movie is obviously quite dated, it was super fun to see on the big screen and reminded me just how exciting, at least from a conceptual level, the science fiction films of the 1970s were — perhaps Atlas will scratch that itch a bit? Looking ahead at the rest of the year’s upcoming movies, I can honestly say I am interested in The Master (out now, I love P.T. Anderson), Lincoln, This Must Be the Place (Sean Penn as aging Goth rocker on the quest for revenge!), Skyfall and, The Hobbit. There are other films that look interesting, but these are the ones I keep thinking about.
Of course, there is a lot to watch at home these days (I just started watching the first season of Homeland and am fiending on it utterly), with the new TV season starting soon and lots of movies coming a disc tray near you. I guess there’s going to be a big delay with the Marvel Cinematic Universe ( though Amazon is doing their best to placate frustrated fans) — I wasn’t really interested in buying that set, but I do like the art on the actual disc sleeves. In a fit of clumsy optimism, I pre-ordered the 3D versions of Avengers, Prometheus and Avatar (if only to have more than three 3D movies in my library). I don’t know if this happens to you or not, but I am finding that I tend to like more the movies I previously did not like that much after a subsequent viewing. The other night, like, late at night, we started watching Super 8, and I enjoyed it much more than I did when I saw it in the theaters. Same thing with The Dark Knight Rises. I think it’s because since I already know the limitations of the film (how good it could possibly be), I am much less critical and can just enjoy the movie for what the movie is, freed from the hope/expectation of what the movie could be. We’ll see. Or not. (Speaking of old movies, you may find this story about the discovery of the world’s oldest color film interesting.)
The end of summer (such as it is, it’s still quite hot here in LA) is always an interesting time. The big comic book and movie events are either done or finishing up, and you tend to end up spending more time inside, often times just reading or watching something. I kind of love this transition — I love having more excuses to not drive someplace, and am already opening up the books and videos earlier than I anticipated (I mentioned it before, but as big as it is, the New X-Men Omnibus is very easy to recommend, by the way — I’ll have a review in my next trade round up). As you pack up your summer gear and take a look at your bookshelf and the coming months, what are you looking forward to doing (or not doing) for the rest of the year? Share your recommendations!