Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holy Blu-ray, Batman!

I was barely paying attention to the fight between HD-DVD and Blu-ray (mostly because I knew if I paid attention, I'd have to get one...) The only time it really registered on my radar when it first came out was when I saw a display in Staples near the Blu-ray drives for computers. Looking at the specs, I was rooting for Blu-ray to come out on top, but my heart told me the mass-market consumers would probably go for the dumber option.

Fast Forward to this time last year. I tend to put stupid shit on my Christmas list every year. My in-laws ask for a detailed list with model numbers and distinct descriptions because I tend to want high-tech shit that nobody else knows about. One year my list included a Bell UH-1. I didn't get it.

Last year, I put on my list, "Blu-ray or HD-DVD player with any/all available Pixar and Pirates of the Caribbean movies." That was my Bell UH-1 for 2007.

Funny thing is, I fucking got one. Based on my list of movies, my wife's parents got me a Sony Blu-ray player. The one thing in my favor as far as getting the "right" box was that I picked all Disney movies. Disney was a firm supporter of Blu-ray from the beginning, along with Fox and a few other big studios. The day I realized that those studios, with Star Wars, James Bond and other huge franchises were Blu-ray exclusive, I knew I was going to be on the winning side of the battle.

Fast Forward to February 2008 -- A week before the big consumer electronics show in Vegas.

Warner Brothers announces that they will no longer offer HD-DVD titles and will be Blu-ray exclusive. Within weeks all of the other studios follow.

The question then turned to - "When will it take off and start replacing DVD in homes the way DVD replaced VHS?"

Now, a year after I first started to allow my interest in high-def home video to get beyond slightly-curious to full-blown hi-def geek, the answer to that question is becoming clearer.

Last week, Warner Brothers released what is probably the biggest film of 2008 on Blu-ray and DVD.

And how is The Dark Knight doing on Blu-ray?


A week after hitting store shelves, the Blu-ray release of Warner Brothers 'The Dark Knight' has sold over 1.7 Million units worldwide, shattering all previous Blu-ray sales records. The film, which stars Christian Bale as the caped-crusader, is set to break $1 Billion at the box office, and some execs feared that home video sales would be hurt by such success. Those fears were alleviated after selling through 600,000 Blu-ray units on the first day, and sales of the landmark title have been continuing at a record pace.

The worldwide numbers include retail and rental sales in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Benelux, and Australia. The majority of sales came from US buyers, which bought over 1 Million units of the title. Blu-ray sales represented nearly 13% of all home media sales for the title, which sold 13.5 Million units on home video formats.

In comparison, 'The Matrix' DVD release in 1999 - which is generally recognized as the title to spark sales of the [DVD] format - sold 780,000 units in one week. The Blu-ray release of 'The Dark Knight' has more than doubled that accomplishment.

Blu-ray has been recognized as one of the most wanted items this holiday season, and consumers are responding aggressively towards lower player prices and the high definition releases of many film favorites. Interest in the format has exploded as consumers budgets become tighter and they realize they can get the same or better movie watching experience in their home with Blu-ray for a lot less money.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

painting a picture of a picture

My friend Michael took a picture this past summer. It looks like this:

I liked it and thought it would probably make a nice painting if I could muster up the time and energy to attempt it. Finding a nice 18"x24" canvas just sitting around (in a store, waiting to be bought...) I scratched out a representation in charcoal.

A day or two later, I attacked it with the paints. I used broad tones as a sort of underpainting, but it was a pretty thick underlayer.

Last night, I started putting more detail into it. It's not finished yet, and it's not a true representation of the photograph, but I like it so far. I think it captures the mood of the original photo in a different way.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Movies & Toys

I like movies. I'm probably addicted to them. My mother claims that I will watch any movie. Moreover, she claims that I like any movie I watch.

I'm sure this isn't true, because I remember hating every minute of The Doom Generation. If I ever see Greg Araki, I might just have to punch him in the jaw.

And, despite my total devotion to Nicole Kidman and anything she is in, I can say for sure that I hated every minute of Batman & Robin, but I watched it all the way through. And I wouldn't part with my Chase Meridian poster. Also on the Nicole Kidman front, I have still to this day not managed to make it more than 30 minutes into The Portrait of a Lady. It's just way too fucking boring.


I've been hunting for Blu-ray bargains. Blu-ray, being on the cutting edge and all that, is still enjoying the "HEY THIS IS NEW LET'S CHARGE A LOT MORE FOR IT" days when it comes to buying movies. But there are some good deals to be found. For example, I got Transformers on Black Friday for $9.99. I got Reservoir Dogs and Crash at Wal-Mart tonight for $10 each.

But, in searching for crap on Ebay, I forgot that I was in the TOYS department (as I was watching the special features on the Transformers disc and wondering whatever happened to my Megatron and my Soundwave guys) and I punched in a new search. "Blu-ray" I typed into the box.

But, since I was still in TOYS, I got the results for Blu-ray toys.

Now, you might not think there are any results for Blu-ray in the TOYS department, but you'd be wrong. You see, last year when Disney/Pixar released Cars on Blu-ray, they included a coupon with it. Actually, all Disney movies come with a code you can punch in online and get points toward prizes. And, just like with Skee-Ball, if you collect 50,000 points you get to pick something you might, but don't really, want.

But, with the Cars Blu-ray, just punching in the coupon gave you an immediate reward. The reward was a blue version of Lightning McQueen as seen in his dream sequence when he is wearing the Dinoco colors. Sure, it was a few bucks for shipping and handling, but I figured my little boy would like it, so I paid the whole two-dollar shipping and handling charge. A few weeks later, a little blue car showed up in the mail. It was made by Mattel, and was clearly a Hot Wheels style car, but it didn't say Hot Wheels on it.

So, back to my search results... there is the blue Lightning McQueen shown about 30 times on the page. And I stared in amazement at the prices. $49.99 with five bids and two days to go. $99.99 buy it now. Over and over, most with bids above $50. I clicked on the Completed Auctions option and saw prices from $45 to $99. For a free toy. All the auctions said the same thing: Limited edition of only 15000, never available in stores, the promotion has expired there is no way to get a new one ever.

So, hoping for the best, I went to find Roland's blue Lightning McQueen. I wasn't sure if it would be scratched up or if it would still look shiny and new. He hadn't played with it much, but I recalled several times he was playing with it making ramps in the living room.

After a few minutes of looking around, I found the little blue car in the bottom of a box of other cars. I picked it up and looked at it hoping for the best.

And right there on back of Mr. McQueen - along the top edge of his spoiler was exactly the thing I was hoping for. The paint was scraped off right down to the metal. There were dings and scratches in other places, too.

I never thought for a second that I would sell the car on Ebay, even if it was in pristine condition. On the contrary, I was elated to find that it had plenty of signs of being played with and loved by a little boy. I think that's especially fitting for this Pixar toy given the way Pixar's Toy Story 2 plays out.

But, thinking about it now, I'm tempted to take a picture of it and put it on Ebay anyway. I would do it if there wasn't a stupid fee just to list something. I could take a picture of it showing off the scuffs and list it as "Blu-ray Lightning Machine Car - Limited 15000 - Absolutely Perfect." I'd put a starting bid of a million dollars on it with a Buy-It-Now of infinity.

No matter how much money some collector thinks those cars are worth wrapped up in their plastic bags or their custom collector cases, it's worth infinitely more to me to know that my little boy has loved playing with that car.

Monday, December 01, 2008

New painting

Since I got out of the hospital earlier this year (an all-together unpleasant experience, which I'm not going to post here) I haven't painted very much. I started a landscape painting but it still sits -- mostly white with a dozen shades of green denoting leaves and grass and shadows.

I've been fending off the urge to paint for about a month now (mostly due to the fact that it takes quite a bit of time just to set shit up to start painting and with a new baby I don't really have a whole lot of time. Oh. I forgot to put a post about that. We had another baby. Oliver was born on October 20th, 2008.

I finally found some time when my wife took the kids to visit her family at Thanksgiving. I chose not to go with her, opting instead to visit my own mother. This left me home alone on Wednesday evening. I got Batman Begins on Blu-ray and watched it start to finish. I had also gotten Hellboy on Blu-ray for $4.00 so I threw that in and grabbed my sketch pad.

While watching Hellboy, I started sketching the ideas that had been floating in my head. None of them seemed to be going anywhere, so I sketched the cat as he was sprawled out on the couch. I tried a few more times to get what was in my head on paper, then I gave up. I decided to just my subconscious guide my hand and I started drawing lines and curls. After a few pages of this, I ended up with a few elements I really liked, so I set up the paints. What you see above is the result. While I have a name for this one, I'm not going to say what it is at this time. I think it probably gives away too much of what I see in it and I'd rather people see it and get their own impression without being burdened by someone else's viewpoint.