January 2011 Grab Bag!


Hey guys! The time has come! It's the first Grab Bag of the month, where I take a step back from comics and just write about what ever seems to be going on, stuff that you might find interesting.  Let's see what we've got for the first one of the year!



I'm thinking a lot about movies right about now. Kevin Smith has been in the news everr since his rant at Sundance on Sunday (click the link to see a video of it), after the premiere Red State. From what I gather, he had told distributors that there would be an auction for the distribution rights for the film, and instead it turned into a long speech telling them why their business sucked and that he was going to distribute it himself, and by the way, he's going to use the Internet to market this, his second to last film. At a time like this, where we are seeing so many elaborate and expensive marketing campaigns for genre movies, it's exciting to see if this can actually work.  One has to wonder, you know?  Smith has over 1.7 million followers on Twitter.  Can he use his network to build an audience for his movie?  I'm looking forward to seeing if he can make it happen and, if he does do this right, if we'll see the same kind of thing happen for other forms of media.  (We know that several artists in music have made money selling directly to fans, so I guess there is some precedent. 

Thirty minutes before this article you're reading gets posted, the Oscar nominations will be announced. The "awards season" is in full swing here in Los Angeles, which is great, because I end up getting to see a lot of films for free.  Fox did something very smart–earlier this month they offered SAG screeners (SAG is Screen Actors Guild, the union I belong to) for rent via iTunes, for free. You get 30 days to watch the film, on your computer or TV or whatever. It's a pretty elegant way to make sure these films get seen.  I watched The King's Speech, which was terrific, and I am still bracing myself for 127 Hours.  It's always interesting when big companies actually use technology in an appropriate and totally useful way.  Shocking, almost.




When the AppleTV came out, I picked one up so I could stream music to my stereo, replacing an Airport Express that died (I wrote an article for n on murmur.com if you're curious).  It's been a few months now, and I must admit — I am surprised with how often I am using it. My wife Whitney uses it more than I do, actually, to stream Babylon 5 when I am not around. While I am annoyed with some aspects of it (TV shows are not in 5.1 surround; the rental rules just suck completely), I can actually imagine myself "cutting the cord" and just relying on the Internet for watching TV, like Ron and Josh do. While the AppleTV is a good product, it's just one of many, and Wired has a pretty good write up of some options. Even though the Logitech Revue box has a lot of cool features, it's pricey and early reviews haven't been too kind (not always the box's fault–content providers are freaking out and clearly are not sure how to deal with boxes and services like these). The box I've been tempted by is vudu…but I don't want any more boxes–I mean how many ways do you want to get Netflix anyway? I meet more and more people that don't care about broadcast TV, it's just not nearly as culturally relevant for some people. I remember "watercooler shows" when people would talk about what was on TV the night before. Aside from major sporting events, does that ever happen anymore?  Sites like iFanboy and services like Twitter have replaced that, too. I'm curious–how many of you are using one of these set top boxes? Which ones do you like? I like AppleTV a lot but I don't think it will be a true game changer until Apple opens an app store for it. (Of course, I could jailbreak and use XBMC, which looks pretty awesome, but I'm a total dork and will wait.) Finally, anything good on TV? I've been watching Lights Out and I am thinking about Justified, but other than Modern Family, I'm just watching Mad Men on Blu-ray…



In the gadget part of my brain, I realize that everyone's excited about the Verizon iPhone (which might come in white! It might come in white!!), I'm gonna just stick with what I have quietly hope that things get better on AT&T after a ton of folks leave and go on to Verizon. Probably won't work, I know, but I don't want to pay the money to switch over, either.  I still use my iPhone more than the iPad–it's just what I reach for first, not to mention it's where the "better" saved game of Infinity Blade, picture above, resides. I must admit, when I saw that game demo'd at WWDC last year, I thought it looked fine, but never actually thought I would play a melee combat game on my phone, but I must admit, I played it all the time (until I finished it, now it's just going to repeat ("infinity") until there's another level released. Though I was irritated that it wasn't really an RPG (you just bounce from battle to battle), it's fine–like, it's not like I have a ton of time to play a game on my phone, you know?  There have been a few times when I've been stuck in my car playing this thing to beat the next boss…funny, I thought those days were way behind me, but I guess not.   I'm just surprised I'm playing something other than Words With Friends, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised–the iPhone (and iPod touch) are turning into the most popular portable gaming devices out there, so I found it interesting to see a new PSP being introduced in a few days and Nintendo's got a 3DS coming out too–competition is great, but the idea of carrying around another device…eh, I guess maybe it's for kids…or something? I've been kind of getting back into videogames ever since I finished Mass Effect 2 awhile ago…though now that work is back in full force that'll die down soon. (Though Dead Space 2 looks kind of crazy).   How about you guys?  Do you use a PSP or DS?  Why? What iOS game should I be playing now — here's the list of the top 10 selling iPad apps, by the way).


Finally, I've gotta go into the rapid fire mode before I pass out (it's been a long day).  I was going to wait for the iHome "Airplay" ready soundsystem, but when I found out the first one was going to be $300 and still not out yet, I need to look at another bedroom speaker thing for an idevice. This "Perch Speaker" looks cool, but it's still $180 and too small…I gotta keep shopping, I think. …Ars Technica has this great article on the evolution of computer displays, which reminded me of playing Vectrex, pictured above. My friend had that system–it was so awesome! …I think it's cool that we can still discover new species of dinosaurs (ah, science!) like the Linhenykus…While I haven't eaten there in awhile (really), I used to eat lots of tacos at Taco Bell when I was a kid, and it's kind of scary that the whole "Where's the Beef?" ad really should have been asked about Taco Bell's tacos, I guess…and if this pollution-sensing shirt works in New York, I better not wear it in LA.!


So that's what I found in the bad this month. Kind of light, but hey–the year's still young, it'll get unwieldy soon enough. Have a great week!


Mike Romo is an actor and writer in LA.  He still can't figure out how he's going to make it to the party this weekend and is bummed about it. Email/twitter.


  1. I’ll probably see Kevin Smith’s film just because it’s Kevin Smith (I find him interesting).  He had some interesting points in his rant, but I don’t know that anything he said will have any effect.

  2. Fantastic article as always Mike.

    Something I tweeted on the Kevin Smith discussion earlier, that I think is worth reading can be found on Tech Dirt. It covers how Smith could make a lot of money going the route that he’s set for himself.

    As for TV. If you haven’t dug into Dexter or Californication, I’d check them out. Both are fantastic.

    If Jailbreaking for the new Apple TV is anything like the older one it’s pretty easy. I mean plug in a thumb drive into your computer click a button, then plug it into your Apple TV easy.

    I have both a DS and PSP. They’re essentially reserved for when I feel like randomly playing a game around the house that isn’t my Xbox or trips where I’ll need lots of entertainment. I can agree with you on the fact that it’s annoying to have one more thing to carry, but it gives you tons of more options for games. Also in comparison to the iPad or iPhone, they were made for gaming. I love me some Infinity Blade, but other than Cut the Rope or Angry Birds, which get old fast, I rarely use it for games. You can ask anyone I’m playing Words with Friends. It sometimes takes me days to make a move.

  3. This week, after years of not thinking about him and his output at all, I have become increasingly fascinated by Kevin Smith and Red State. I really want what he is attempting to succeed; in Hollywood as in comics, it is time to move on to the New Way of Doing Things that we’ve been saying is right around the corner for years and years.

  4. Hi, this is my. First grab bag. Good read…..Kevin smith. All the best

  5. Great article! Grab bag is my favorite regular column on the site, and look forward to reading many more in the new year.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) The apple TV is intriguing, and I’m trying to sell myself on the idea that I don’t NEED cable, but there isn’t an elegant solution for streaming sports on the internet so that option is out for me for now. NBA TV blacks out local games, as does MLB TV. Directv’s NFL streaming packages says that the local games are blacked out, but I was always able to watch the Giants game if I needed to.

    2) TV wise; I’m not watching anything that’s currently on other than Modern Family, and Lights Out. The Biggest Loser is my guilty pleasure that I watch with the gf. American Idol just isn’t the same without Simon, and Paula so that’s out.

    3) Console wise; The Nintendo 3DS seems interesting; but as someone who has trouble seeing things in 3D I will need a must-have game, and the ability to see the 3D before I take the plunge. Thus far, the ipad has served me well on long flights; between reading comics on comixology, watching/renting vidoes, and playing cut the rope/angry birds/plants v zombies/world of goo, and infinity blade I have more than enough on my plate.

  6. @RocketRacoon We’ve been talking about cutting the cable here at work and we’ve come down to the conclusion that 99% of what you want is streaming – UNLESS you’re a sports fan. The only legit reason to keep cable or satellite is for sports events.

    That said, I had the original AppleTV and had buyer’s remorse for about 48 hours. THEN I started to subscribe to video podcasts (like the iFanboy video podcast) with it and haven’t looked back and I just recently got the new version. I love it even more than the old one.

    Mike, we’re going to have to play Words With Friends soon. It’ll give me something to do during a certain weekly meeting. 🙂

  7. @BrianHuberd  agree about the sports fan thing. If you are internet/tech savy, and don’t like sports then there’s no reason to have cable. If you are a sports fan then the streaming solution isn’t for you.

  8. I hope Red State is good because he just needs to make a better movie. His latest efforts have been terrible.

  9. @RocketRacoon  @BrianHuberd  ESPN 3 is now available on Xbox, which allows for streaming of a virtual buttload of sports. The only thing I haven’t seen is NFL stuff since, in general, they seem to be the worst at blacking out games. I live near Detroit and sadly some of the best games The Lions have played in probably 10+ years we couldn’t watch because the NFL decided to black them out.

    If you have an XBox I would seriously check out ESPN on it. My roommate’s head almost exploded when she saw that it had KHL games.

  10. I am two weeks away from living a cable TV free existence. In reality with the exception of football games I haven’t watched cable in about 3 months. I have owned both versions of the Apple TV now (the original is now used in another room in the house) and have been thinking about cutting cable for two years now.

    I have an antenna that picks up a few local channels for some sports and news, plus my Xbox 360 carries a good chunk of sports through ESPN 3. There is also the old bar/friends/family’s house option for watching sports.

    Over all I’m excited to be ditching cable. We’ll see how I feel in a few months once football starts up again.