Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Il est fini

Well, after several days of intensive video editing, I can proudly say that our wedding reception DVD is finished. Well, not technically finished if you want to pick nits (as I type this, iDVD is compiling the whole project so it can be burned to DVD), but completed, as far as I'm concerned. There are still a few things that could be edited, and might well be edited, in the near future, but I'm very happy with it as it now stands. I must say that my frustration level in making this video was very low, especially compared to projects I used to do in iMovie. The more I learn about Final Cut Express (which basically is Final Cut Pro, minus a couple Hollywood-level options), the more I like it and find myself experimenting, and often being pleased, with the results. There's a slow-motion feature that blends frames together to create an incredibly fluid finished product, and I especially enjoyed employing it during the video portions of Feel Good, Inc. by The Gorillaz.

Oh, and remember the movie I sent back? Turns out I might be watching it...sort of. Today's Netflix selection is The Magnificent Seven, which I found out about an hour ago is a remake of Seven Samurai. Only this one is shorter, in color, in English, and stars Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Yul Brenner. Impressionnant!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Spicing it up

There are few boxed dinners, of the pasta-n-sauce variety, upon which, when supplemented with frozen peas and/or sliced hot dogs, are not improved. Tonight's case in point, inspired by a conversation with my brother Andy: Pasta-Roni, the Shells and White Cheddar variety. It's magical. And because Netflix shipped me a thoroughly cracked disc of The Magnificent Seven, I began watching The Shawshank Redemption with director's commentary as I dined on my delectable dinner. Now back to digital editing!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Finally Cutting

I have spent the better part of today working with Final Cut Express, and thanks to the 1000+ page user manual, as well as some hit-and-miss Googling, I am slowly starting to get it. I'm having to re-learn all the things I knew about iMovie, while struggling to suppress the urge to ditch everything and revert back to that program's clumsy finger-crossing methods of performing editing operations. Thing is, everything iMovie does, Final Cut does way better...it's just a matter of coaxing the program into carrying out my bidding. I couldn't figure out why some simple transitions were not working, but it wasn't until I understood exactly what was taking place upon inserting a transition that I realized what was happening. In fact, this whole day has been a series of tiny Final Cut revelations. But oh, it's so worth it. :)

And yes folks, it's finally happening. Today was the first day of shooting for Indiana Jones 4:

All we need now are some Nazis "and tanks" and we're all set. Bring it on!

"Well, I'm back."

It was a fantastic week, folks. It always is, even if the weather is bad, which was certainly not the case this time. I spent many hours fishing with my brother-in-law, as well as my dad, uncle, brother, and others. There was a near-perpetual campfire thanks to my uncle Pete, around which many hours were spent just whiling away the time with good conversation. My niece continues to be the cutest baby in the entire world, and it was good to be able to spend so much time with her as well. In fact, the idea of simply spending time with others is what makes our annual family vacation so singular. Aside from the fishing, tubing, skiing, eating, card-playing, and swimming, the yearly vacation is really about building relationships with family members whom I do not get to see as often as I would prefer. In fact, as people grow older, the activities take an increasingly backstage seat to the relationships, which are increasingly becoming the focal point of these vacations for me. It's awesome to visit with family members, especially my parents and siblings, especially among the beauty of the Minnesota North Woods.

That being said, some of the highlights of this year's vacation were, in no particular order...

• Burning a laptop and several cell phones in the campfire
• Playing cards with my cousin Eddy
• Choking down the *extremely* spicy cheese dip we concocted
• Dropping a worm on a hook right off the dock and watching a half-dozen fish swarm around the bait
• The boat ride on Monday (I think my jeans are still drying out)
• Sunsets. Seriously, man.
• Eating. All. The. Time.
• Playing tennis

I had no camera this time, so maybe I'll post some photos if I can get them from my dad and others.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

To the lake!

This weekend marks the annual family reunion in Cass Lake, and I am very pleased to be heading up there tomorrow with my sister, her husband, and their daughter. We have been getting together every summer for about 25 years, save for a couple years here and there, and it's always a good time. Nothing much actually happens at the lake, but it's awesome just to be with my family. We play lots of cards, go fishing, skiing, tubing, geocaching, burn bonfires, and other typical Lake-type things that are best when shared with relatives. Since it's my family, there's a healthy dose of nerdiness as the uncles and cousins show off their latest cell phones, laptops, computers, GPS devices, and other sorts of techie/geeky/nerdy apparati. For about twenty years we went to a resort called Noka Sippi, near Brainerd, but realized we were outgrowing its relatively small lake, and limited amenities, as the family expanded. Cass Lake has been serving us wonderfully for the past five or so years, and I can hardly wait to get up there again. I'll be coming back one week from right now, hopefully with some good stories and photos (such as the one at the top of this blog, which I took a few years as the sun set over the small cove in which the resort is neatly nestled).

Due to the fact that we live in an apartment, car maintenance is sometimes a tricky business. I'm no gearhead, but I do change my own oil and perform other small bits of fix-it operations as needed (such as a few weeks ago when, much to my surprise, I plugged a hole in my wife's car tire into which was lodged a little screw she had ran over). Usually I change the oil at my cousin's house, but since he and his wife are moving soon, I am in need of another location. This afternoon my friend Sarah's parents graciously let me use their garage, and hopefully I can do that from time to time in the future (thanks again, Sarah and your parents!), but it will be nice to have a house someday where I can dirty our own floor and not feel guilty about doing so.

While the oil was draining, Sarah and I took her car and went to run some errands which eventually led us to the food court at Costco. I was about to get one of their delicious ice cream sundaes when a giant slice of pizza caught my eye, as well as my stomach. It soon became mine, and after washing it down with a soda (Sam Jackson would be proud) I realized there was no way to fit the ice cream into the few loose spaces available in my tummy. I guess I'll just have to head back there tomorrow if I'm in the neighborhood. If only their food wasn't so tasty, and so cheap...

Time to get the laundry and finish watching The Godfather Part 2 with a tall cold frothy mug of Allen Wright's. Ahhh....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Medium Core

Ok, so I like to study movies, but in a sort of casual way. I like to keep an eye on the opening credits for names I recognize, like the Visual Effects supervisor, the writer of the musical score, the producer, etc. Nothing really serious, but somewhat more than most people, I think. Anyway, you may recall from an earlier post, I am somewhat interested in the history of action movies, which is why I watched the movie Ran, which was directed by Akira Kurosawa several decades ago. Ran was pretty good, so I thought I would check out another of his works, "Seven Samurai."

Turns out I don't have what it takes.

See, when the movie arrived (yay Netflix!), I didn't give it a good once-over like I should have. I set it on the shelf and a few days later sat down to watch it with a huge pile of Grandma's Spaghetti. I soon discovered that the movie had three strikes against it (more or less): It was black and white, it was subtitled, and it was four hours long.

Four hours.

Now, in and of themselves, any two of those three things wouldn't be such a bad thing, but good gravy, when I'm munching on spaghetti and trying to relax, I just can't handle a four-hour black and white subtitled Japanese movie. So with all due respect to Kurosawa (and with apologies to Gavin, who did watch it a few years ago), I mailed it back without watching it. But hey, that's how things go, I guess. I'm making my through Goodfellas right now, with Heat sitting on the shelf waiting to be watched, as well as The Godfather Part 2. Summer is a good time, folks. :)

Friday, June 08, 2007

DMV Hero

Two notable things happened this morning, one involving the Department of Motor Vehicles and the other involving the Department of Heavy Metal.

I had to go to the DMV to get the address on my license changed (shoulda done it a year ago, I know...) and I only had to wait in line for about five minutes. Crazy, you say? No, says I! I mentally prepared myself for a half-hour wait, but it was not to be so. As an added bonus, the procedure itself was quick and only cost $11. Kind of a bonus if you ask me. And even if you didn't. :)

I also played Guitar Hero for the first time while wandering through the aisles of a Best Buy. I have been hearing about this game for months, and many people I know like playing it, but I never really got around to giving it a try. The concept seems simple enough: play notes, which correspond to colored buttons on a guitar-shaped controller, as they fall down the screen, and when done correctly, you will actually be playing the lead and rhythm guitar parts on some of the best rock tunes in the last few decades. I fired up "War Pigs" on easy mode, and was jamming away in seconds. It took a little bit to get the hang of the thing, but after the seven-minute song had run its course I was mesmerized. I play guitar myself, and could just go learn how to jam out to many of the songs on the game, but oh my...it was so awesome to be doing it in the game. It's probably not a game I'll buy, partially because it's pretty expensive, but it sure is fun.

We made delicious tacos for dinner last night, and wow, were they yummy. That's all I have to say about that. :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Musical Grammar Lessons

My friend Sarah let me borrow a DC Talk CD called "Welcome to the Freak Show," which is basically a live compilation of 16 songs from various tours and such. One of my top songs of all time is DC Talk's live rendition of "Jesus is Just Alright" from the Jesus Freak single, but their live cut of "Luv is a Verb" is suddenly giving it a run for its money.

My wife and I snagged Terminator 3 for $5 at Circuit City two days ago, and while it is easily the weakest of the three in the series, it is a seriously stunning slice of celluloid. Easily one of the best five dollars I have ever spent. It is more action-oriented than T2, which was mostly about character and the essence of humanity, and certainly more entertaining than T1's dark (literally and figuratively...it's James Cameron, after all) and cynical take on technology and warfare. But its entertainment factor is what hinders it, because it rests more in the realm of a summer popcorn blockbuster than its predecessors. But still, a bad Terminator movie is like a bad Ferrari--I'd take it over a Plymouth Reliant any day.

Time to shut down the computer and do some old-fashioned reading. "Whoa."

(And Sarah, thanks for the CD!)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The sky's the limit

A good finish is often difficult to come by. How does one conclude seven years of intelligent introspection, of examining the human condition, of traversing the stars and the heart, of warp drives and inertial dampeners, of Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Bajorans, Vulcans, and dozens of their ilk, of ensigns expendable and holodecks fallable, of charting the unknown possibilities of existence, of watching the continuing mission of the Starship Enterprise, with dignity, respect, and honor?

By writing the episode "All Good Things..."

When I was in middle school and the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, I could not watch it (though I have since forgotten exactly why). My friend Mark did, though, and refused to tell me any information except the final line of the show. I was glad of it, as it made my viewing of the episode a few days later all the more special. It's a grand episode, folks, and one that ranks among the top 90-minute segments in science fiction history. The brilliance of the episode lies partly in how it is able Braga and Moore were able to bring a fitting end to a show with no overarching plotline, revisit characters, scenes, and locations from much earlier in the show, wrap up a conflict that had begun in the very first episode of the series, and even find a way to make Picard prevent the destruction of humanity itself.

After a few years of Netflixing the series, we finally watched the last episode this afternoon, and while I continue to be amazed at the brilliance of the show and at the same time slightly lament its passing (after all, it's only a TV show!), I do look forward to watching the entirity of DS9 and perhaps even Enterprise after that. Picard and company will be missed, but I could hardly be more pleased with how their trek through the stars finally came to rest, while leaving room for almost anything to still happen.