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Tuesday, December 30, 2003  

2003 Octy for Best in Technology and Gadgetry
Each Octy Category was a difficult decision for me, but all for different reasons. For the sake of brevity I decided to condense nearly all non-media products into this one category and I ended up with a field that was nigh impossible to narrow down. The runner up in the category is Cell Phone Cameras! phonecams finally started to hit the US shores in 2003 and for the first half of the year I thought they would spread across the country like the SoCal wildfires bringing a new information revolution with them. After all, if everybody had a camera (that was capable of wirelessly transmitting its pictures to almost anyone at anytime) on them at all times thinks would HAVE to change. The phonecam revolution wasn't as quick or dramatic as I had hoped but at least the installed base is steadily climbing upwards. Now if Joe Sixpack could overcome the learning curve, ridged stupidly of the cellular carriers, and controversy surrounding phonecams we could get on with the damned revolution! I've heard people bitch that it is too hard to change ringtones yet I expect them to figure out complex workarounds to e-mailing attachments under SprintVision, all the while fearing they will loose their jobs if they are caught with a phonecam in the workpalce? Good luck J6P...

But at any rate, the 2003 Octy in Tech/Gadgetry goes to: Apple Computers! Thats right a whole damn company. My "nominations" for this category included (among others) the 12 inch Powerbook, the iTunes Music Store, the G5, and the new iPods so I shoehorned them all into one and am giving the Octy everyone's favorite Cupertino CA computer company. Say what you will about Apple, but they had a HUGE year in 2003, and there was certainly more than one comparison made to 1998 (when Steve Jobs returned and the iMac was introduced.) Not only did Apple release two of the coolest portable computers to ever make a geek cry with desire (the 12 and 17 inch Powerbooks) but 2003 saw the update to the unstoppable iPod line which further cemented its dominance of the Digital Music Player market. 2003 was also the year Apple changed the way people bought music with the launch of the iTunes Music Store in April. The service was almost instantly cloned by a half dozen competitors and for the first time since the RIAA beat back the original Napster is is looking like we might actually see a change in the was the Recording Industry works. And lets not forget the introduction the the G5 Powermac, one of the fastest desktop computers on the planet. It was a long time in coming, but when it finally arrived it blew everyone away (especially the people at Virginia Tech who built a cluster supercomputer out of 1100 dual 2.2Ghz G5 towers for a total computing power of 10.3 TERAFLOPS at peak performance, making it the 3rd fastest supercomputer in the world.) Throw in the release of the next version of OS X (Panther) and it was a particularly banner year for Apple Computers. It was also the year I officially switched. Go Figure.

And finally the Honorable Mention in the category goes to the Pioneer TiVo/DVD burner units. These devices blend the super-bliss of a TiVo with a DVD burner that allows you to archive recordings you have made on the TiVo to DVD-R(W) discs! This unit is SO close to being exactly what I want in a Tivo-Burner, but it has a few minor shortcomings that have prevented me from upgrading. First there is no way to edit shows before burning them, so you are stuck with the commercials and other TV detritus, secondly it lacks a Firewire connection which I feel is important for any device dealing with digital video, and thirdly it lacks any kind of automated batch recording features; all the recordings have to be manually set up by the user. Oh, and then there is the price; the unit lists for just over one thousand bucks (though its street price has already dropped into the high $600 range.) Once these issues are addressed in the second-gen models the TiVoBurners will be an über-device to swoon over.

posted by JMV | 12/30/2003 01:14:00 PM

Monday, December 29, 2003  

The first Annual Octy Awards!
I've been planning highlighting some of the things that I've enjoyed over the past year for quite a while now and now that 2004 is days away I had better get to it! The format for the awards will be simple. Each day I'll give out an Octy for a different category (Videogames, Music, Movies, TV, and Technology/Gadgetry.) I'll first mention a runner up (or two) in the category and then present the winner with some thoughts as to why I dug it so much. Then I'll briefly make an honorable mention of another title that, in another time or place, could have been the Octy winner. So I hope everyone gets a kick out of these, and feel free to tell me I'm a dumbass for my choices in the comments.

2003 Octy for best Videogame:
This was a tough category for me as I haven't really been playing a whole lot of video games this year, and the one that I REALLY got into was from 2002. The first runner up in this category is Enter the Matrix. This game got shafted by reviewers, but both Julie and I had a lot of fun playing through it. But the really notable thing about the game is the way its story was presented and how it perfectly complemented the second movie. Hell, one of the characters from the Videogame has become my favorite character of the whole trilogy, and he only has like 2 lines in the movies! And more importantly, the action in the game is top notch and a lot of FUN. Slow-Mo gunplay has been done before in videogames, but that doesn't mean it isn't still fun. Plus there are some really memorable sequences in the game (the first helicopter, fighting an Agent in the plane, the shoot-out in the bank lobby) that match anything in the movies for excitement and explosions.

Had I actually played a lot of videogames this year the Octy would surely have gone to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic or Prince of Persia, but as it is The Octy goes to: Mario Kart Double Dash! The third incarnation of this venerable series has something none of its predecessors have: co-op play, which reinforces my belief that multiplayer doesn't HAVE to be competitive to be fun. MK:DD is all about getting friends together in the same room to play, and when the de-facto standard of multiplayer gaming is to meet up with your buddies on the internet having people to shout at in the same room goes a long way. I have had several notable evenings sitting down with friends for some exceptionally fun racing and battling since MK:DD was released. And in these days, when often videogames seem to be nothing but a frivoulus time-sink, there is A LOT to be said about spending some quality time with friends trash talking and loosing red shells while the blue sparks are a'flyin'. And you KNOW I bring the blue sparks like the Jesus!

The Honorable mention for Videogame goes to Soul Calibur 2. Any other year this game would have DOMINATED my life, after all I still hold its predecessor as one of the greatest videogames of all time. But I didn't have the time or the hardware (namely arcade sticks) to really get into the game this time, plus it was released during the craziness of our move to SoCal. This isn't to say that I WON'T get into it though. After all the first Soul Calibur dominated our videogame playing for several distinct epochs. But I know that trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice will only leave you singed and I would never want to sour the memories I have tied to the the OG Calibur.

posted by JMV | 12/29/2003 12:56:00 PM

Saturday, December 27, 2003  

More Holiday Pics

A picture of me on Christmas eve next to our tree and displaying two of the oddest gifts from this year's haul. The Didgeridoo was from my Father-in-Law and has been a hit even though I don't quite have it down yet, and the (octopus)hat is from Andrew and Jodi and I will don it every-time I'm having difficulty writing a blog post. And you will soon get some post of substance as Monday begins the first annual Octopus Hat Excellence Awards (the Octys? Octos? OHEAs? I'll figure something out...)

And so I leave you with a picture for Matt and Meli's wedding.

posted by JMV | 12/27/2003 01:22:00 AM

Friday, December 26, 2003  

Happy Holidays!

Another Christmas come and gone, and just a few short days until it is time to say good bye to 2003. Christmas at "Verive's Hollywood" was very interesting this year. It was Julie's very first SoCal xmas and she was treated to quite a few old Verive traditions, from the Italian Cold Cuts on Christmas eve to the Ravioli cooked by my Auntie Kay on Christmas day. I felt very much at home again this year, more so even than during college when I would come back to OC for winter break, and I really got into the holiday spirit.

We are also now the proud owners of a Weber Genesis Silver A gas grill! The grill was delivered this morning by Santa (read: two guys from Home Depot) and as I was getting it all set up I realized they had not delivered the manual, LPG tank, regulator or manifold coupler. I was dreading the thought of entering Home Depot the day after xmas, but I REALLY wanted to get the grill working... I am happy to say that Ray in the delevery department of Home Depot really knows the meaning of customer service (which is a rare thing indeed these days.) He immediately remembered me from our brief phone conversation this morning pre-grill-delivery and was very apologetic. He then walked me back to the grill area and handed me the missing hardware, apologized about 3 more times (they didn't have any manuals in the store) and walked me out of the store. No waiting in line. No paperwork. No problem. It was really refreshing (especially the day after christmas when every jerk-off in Hollywood was trying to return something or spend their new gift card.) So (octopus)hats off to Ray from the Hollywood Home Depo!

I got the new parts (and a full tank of pure, clean burning, Liquid Propane Gas) back home, put it all together, and fired the bad-boy up! I feel like a MAN now. I then immediately ran out to Trader Joes to buy stuff to cook on it. Which got me thinking. You know how some bloggers have a link to an Amazon Wishlist so their readers can buy them DVDs and stuff? Yeah, I think it is lame too... But if any of you out there have been wishing they could send me something, I suggest mailing me meat.

(Just kidding about the meat donations.)

posted by JMV | 12/26/2003 06:05:00 PM

Sunday, December 21, 2003  

Do it for the Kids
If you have 30 seconds to spare, pop on over to The American Family Association's "Marriage Poll" and sign the petition (that will be presented to Congress.) It asks for your position on Homosexual Marriage, so lets make sure that the AFA realizes the internet is not the place to drum up support for unjust and backwards legislation.

posted by JMV | 12/21/2003 01:27:00 PM

38 Hours, 800 Miles, Christmas, and a Wedding.
Julie has a good breakdown of our crazy weekend, so I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say I am rarely more happy that Red Bull and its like exist than when I am barreling down some dark and lonely stretch of god-forsaken highway at 2 in the morning. But it was all worth it! I'm very glad that we had the chance to visit the in-laws for an early Christmas celebration. At weddings you always hear about how the bride or groom is being welcomed into their new families, and it is these big family holidays where I realize that it is true; I really AM part of the Hindt/Voros family now! I hope that Jules feels as welcomed into my extended family as I do into hers. But why wouldn't she! Everybody loves her so damn much! And why wouldn't you! She is the best!

Ok... So evidently I'm still a little emotional from the BEAUTIFUL wedding of my oldest friend (as in friend for the most years and not Chris Adler) Matt Holohan and his kick-ass wife Meli yesterday! The ceremony took place at a Catholic girls boarding school in Monetary which had exceptionally beautiful grounds. The wedding party and half dozen guests then moved on to The Inn at Spanish Bay on Pebble beach for a very intimate dinner. I REALLY wanted to say something during the toasting phase of the evening, but I knew If I tried I would totally loose it and nobody wanted that... You see, I've known Matt literally ALL of my life, he was the Best Man at my wedding, and to see him SO happy was really a treat! I wish them many many wonderful years together!

posted by JMV | 12/21/2003 12:25:00 PM

Thursday, December 18, 2003  

'Bout Time I Weighed In
We of course did the whole midnight movie thing on Tuesday night for the big Return of the King opening, and I've been kinda avoiding posting about it because I'm not really sure what to say about it. I don't just want to spout out some superlative filled review, but if any film deserves one it is Return of the King. I could say it is good or great, I could say easily the best film of the young decade, I could quote the many glowing reviews or the insanely good rating over at www.rottentomatoes.com, but really it would just be another geek getting all hyperbolic about the film. The film is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but its flaws are very much over shadowed by its brilliance; everything comes together just right in the final chapter of the trilogy. The film is at the same time the most emotional and kinetic of the three films with Jackson blending the epic scope of one of the biggest battles in cinematic history with the intense character drama between the hobbits and Gollum alone in the wastelands.

Now that the whole Lord of the Rings saga is complete (well, it will be when the extended cut of RotK comes out next November,) I think it is safe to say that it will go down in History as one of the masterpieces of cinematic achievement. And I challenge anyone to say differently. Against all odds Peter Jackson has gone from making tiny shlock-horror cult movies to one of the biggest trilogies in the history of Hollywood, and it is only fitting that his next project will be to tackle the very heavy cinematic burden of remaking King Kong. I think everyone would agree that there is no need to remake King Kong (again.) The 1933 original is one of the most iconic movies ever made and was to Hollywood in the Thirties what Lord of the Rings is to the Hollywood of today: an impossible achievement. But Jackson has done the impossible more than once, so I'm all for him giving Kong a shot, if anyone can make the big ape as awe inspiring and relevant as he was in the Thirties it's Jackson.

posted by JMV | 12/18/2003 05:07:00 PM

Monday, December 15, 2003  

It has been one of those weeks where I just don't really feel like sitting down and writing a post. Which is of course counter to the whole reason I started Octopus Hat in the first place: to always keep me writing... So yeah. I suck.

I had another shoot yesterday... One of the people on the last show gave another production my info and they called me up to grip for a three day shoot (for $50/day even!). I couldn't make the call on the first day (Saturday) but told the UPM I could do Sunday and Monday. So I show up to set (somewhere in Malibu Canyon) having no idea what the film was, how big of a production, or really any details at all. Turns out it is a pretty big show, with a crew of between 20 and 30 and being shot on 35mm. It is also a 22 page script with a three day schedule, which is friggin INSANE. 5 pages a day is A LOT to shoot on 35mm and they were planning for over 7! It wasn't long before I somehow managed to piss off the gaffer (I think he smelled my inexperience and he had no patience for rookies,) and was given the shit jobs if given a job at all. Then it began to rain which turned the large dirt lot that the grip truck was parked in into a muddy quagmire and in turn covered all the grips in mud and muck. To top it all off at about 7pm I totally fucked up my back trying to help heave a 400 pound dolly down a flight of stairs. I had difficulty breathing as my lower back spasmed away for about 20 minuets, then it got better only to return, much worse, as we were loading the truck. I didn't really feel comfortable with doing any lifting today (it was hard enough to get out of bed,) and a grip that can't carry shit is a pretty useless grip so I called the UPM this morning and informed her I wouldn't be able to make it to set today. Which really sucks and makes me feel like shit. I don't like not completing a job that I agreed to do, I wasn't able to do any networking on the set and my rep with the crew of that production is pretty much shot, and I was going to use the $$$ from the show to buy Jules an xmas present.

So all in all it was a pretty crappy shoot, which sucks because the last one was so good and I had so much fun. Oh well, there is always next time.

posted by JMV | 12/15/2003 03:33:00 PM

Sunday, December 07, 2003  

"Snap Back to Reality..."
...And to the normal world that isn't illuminated with giant lights held impossibly aloft on seemingly flimsy stands. A world where there isn't long tables of junk food and snacks sitting just around the corner and a world where time passes at a normal rate. Sixty seconds a minute, sixty minutes an hour. I'm been on a short-film shoot for the past three days, and when I'm on set I always feel like I have slipped into a different dimension. I can't yet explain the exact feeling, but it has something to do with so many people expending so much energy to obliterate reality on the set so that a perfect simulacra of reality can be created in the camera.

A film crew is very much like a sailing vessel in my mind. There are so many people doing so many different things, but all with the same eventual destination. The Director is of course the captain, the AD the First Mate, and each department has its specific task that is integral to the ship making it back to port. There is a very well defined hierarchical structure to both a film crew and a ships crew, and this allows everything to operate smoothly. On paper. But a film shoot is like a voyage at sea in that there are so many variables and once your underway the hole endeavor hangs by a hair and everyone is flying by the seat of their pants. (Well I think I've beaten that metaphor to death now...)

This shoot went very well, and I actually had a lot of fun on it. I am always amazed at how much new stuff I learn on a shoot, and I wonder if you ever STOP learning new techniques and tricks on set (another reason that I love making movies,) and this shoot was no different. The whole crew was also super-cool. A really great bunch of people with a very interesting mix of seasoned veterans and people fresh off the boat and on one of their first sets in LA (in fact no less that 5 crew members had been in LA less than 5 months.) The whole energy and vibe on the set was really cool, and I think it has something to do with it being a "freebie" (a shoot where everyone works for free.) When you have 20+ people putting in 13-18 hour days and NOT getting monetary compensation the passion for filmmaking really comes to the surface.

posted by JMV | 12/07/2003 02:16:00 PM

Monday, December 01, 2003  

Turkey Day has come and gone and so have the leftovers. We had a nice, if hectic, holiday weekend and now it is back to a Christmas tinged reality. Andrew and Jodi were down for the Holiday in OC and were our first official multi-night house-guests at Verive's Hollywood. We had a wonderful time and it was REALLY great to see a couple of friends from up north having missed the whole lot of them pretty darn bad during the first few months of this new life-phase... (I absolutely must plan a Santa Cruz/Valley/Bay Area trip for early 2004!)

Out with our guests on Friday night we finally ventured into a bar that has been on my list for a while: Daddy's on Vine St (all of a block from Julie's place-of-work.) It is described on Digital City as "Hollywood's coolest bar," and as having a "James Dean-meets-Frank Sinatra atmosphere," which pretty much sounds like heaven with booze to me. It turned out to be a pretty darn cool place with ample booths and plush seating, a large well-manned bar, and a kick ass juke box. We will defiantly be returning, especially since it is within that all-important walking radius from our beds! After a few drinks we decided we needed food badly and set out for places unknown. I have often remarked that you cannot throw rock without hitting a Thai place in Hollywood (there is one LITERALLY on every block. Usually both sides of the street to boot,) but I think it would be hard to beat Toi on Sunset, a rock-n-roll themed place open till 4am. The food was GOOD and the atmosphere really rockin' (and did I mention that it is open 'till 4?)

posted by JMV | 12/01/2003 01:05:00 PM
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