Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Red Screen of Death

If you have a PC, you've likely experienced the Blue Screen of Death. And if you have an Xbox 360, you may have heard about or experienced the Red Ring of Death. But here in my house, we are experiencing the Red Screen of Death!!!

About two weeks ago, we finally hunkered down, bit the bullet, and bought a High-Definition Television. In our research, we were looking for something that was at least 37", at least 720p, and under $800. We basically had a lot of TVs in mind, but the prices were never right. It turned into a waiting game. But with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption coming out on the Wii, we wanted to hurry the hell up and get a TV so we can play that game in all its 16:9 480p widescreen glory.

We heard from a friend that CostCo had a Vizio 37" 1080i TV for only $750. Our only concern became... "Vizio who?" Asking around, we learned that many people in our inner circle have Vizio televisions and that they are very happy with them. At CostCo, they have the Vizio sitting right next to a Panasonic equivalent, and when you compare the two, the Vizio ain'tn't looked too hot. The colors were all orangy and washed out, while the Panasonic was crisp and beautiful. But, the Panasonic was also about $200 more. At our friend's house, we showed us what his Xbox 360 looked like on his Vizio and without any other TVs to compare to, it looked awesome.

So we bought the Vizio.

I've been playing Resident Evil 4 in glorious 480p for about two weeks until something disturbing occurred. After playing and returning to the Wii menu, the TV suddenly became awash with red. Fuzzy redness. After a long while, the TV returns back to normal, but after a session of Resident Evil it was flooded again with the red sea. So obviously, I suspected the Wii. Specifically, I suspected the Wii component cables that I bought cheap from I thought that maybe it was frying something in the TV. But the same thing happened while just watching TV and also with the included Wii composite cables. So the TV is definitely faulty. We're going to exchange it today and pray that the replacement works as intended.

It had better work before Metroid arrives or else.

In calmer news, I went out for a nice birthday dinner with Erico Suave and MacArthur. My first time (finally!) at Cheesecake Factory. Their extensive menu makes it hard to choose, so I went with what was proclaimed as "[their] most popular chicken dish": Chicken Madeira. From the description, I sort of expected something different from what I got, which was two chicken breast pieces in a mushroomy sauce and two giant heaps of mashed potatoes. It sure was a lot, but I couldn't really see how this was so popular. It was good, but not great; rather salty actually. I wish I got something mor pasta-y or maybe even Erico Suave's plate: giant portion of chicken tenders. But I would definitely go back because I wish to try a lot more of the menu.

Then after, they showered me with gifts: a Wii points card (I'm loaded now!), a very nice pair of dressy pants, and a white fitted shirt. I had been really dying to buy just a white dress shirt, but for some reason I could never bring myself to buy it. The only white shirt I have is egg shelly with an iron burn right in the middle. Every time I've worn it to work, it's embarrassing. I could throw on a tie to cover the stain up, but my co-workers would only make fun of me more for the tie. Also, they gave me a fitted shirt because I had complained that my current shirts were all too big for me and it made me appear fat. I had a serious muffin top in my work clothes. But trying on this new shirt, it might be a little tight in the front which means I have to lose the gut I've been nursing.

Lastly congrats to Ellvin Kelvin for completely finishing eye doctoring school! He comes home in T-minus 3 days!

Packing up faulty electronics,


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Welcome to the "2" to the "6" to the apostrophe "S"

Erico Suave texted me that this morning at 6am and I just thought it was completely awesome. I had to steal it. : )

So that's it. Today I am twentysix years old. Twentysix. That's like starting a new quarter century. And that sucks.

But it was a pretty good day. I went to a very good restaurant for lunch with a bunch of co-workers (L'Angolo Café) and then almost immediately had my department birthday party with a carrot cake from Porto's. That's a very well known, very fancy and expensive bakery in Glendale. Honestly, when I requested carrot cake, I was expecting Ralph's or Vons. I certainly did not expect, nor really feel I deserved, Porto's! That's stuff our Vice President gets on his birthday.

But moving away from my birthday for a while, I completely neglected to mention in the past few days the first annual KFC Dinnergether. Yes, it was the Kwan Family Cousins night out. It was just us kids who went to T.G.I. Friday's and bonded over steaks, ribs, burgers, and salads. We are so damn close that we decided to do the same event every year. Aren't we adorable?

And now back to my birthday, I gotta publically thank Angel Wing Jasmine for her lovely gifts: a Dean Koontz book (Watchers), the 2008 Futurama wall calendar, a Wii Points card (with which I've already purchased Super Metroid), and SSX Blur for the Wii. I love me some gifts!

And now since I brought up the Wii, you may be interested to know that I'm trying desperately to finish Resident Evil 4 quickly by next Tuesday before Metroid Prime 3: Corruption comes out.

God I love me some games.

Whoa whoa whoa whoa yah yeh ya ya yeh yeh yeh ya yah yeh yeh yeh ya yeh yeh,


Friday, August 17, 2007

KFC: Mammoth: The Movie

When I brought two cameras along for the hike, they said I was crazy. And I was. All my electronics are caked in dirt. But for this video, hosted by the talented K-mart, it was worth it.

I'm really proud of this video because it's really my first official music video. I did a short WDW Boating video earlier this year with music, but this was the first time video was actually cut to the song. Expect many more of these in the future because I had so much fun editing this one.

Well anyway, I think it's great. It certainly could have been much worse. I mean, I could have cut together some hiking shots with "The Phantom of the Opera" repeating 20 times...

While you watch, try to find the one person who didn't enjoy the hike. Look closely and don't blink or you'll miss it!

Warning: Two instances of profanity exist at the end of the video when the song ends. Please take precaution to shield little ears.

Thanks for voting for Director 3,


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Spider-ick! Chronicles: The Web Trap

Thems espideres are awful tricky. Yessum, I do declare that thems espideres have brains the size of peanuts... and for somefin that's smaller-like than a peanut, that's pretty darn big!

Each morning, right before we head off to work, our house is SWELTERING! So today, I had enough of the dry indoor stuffy heat and aimed to take in the cool morning breeze. I opened the door and Timotei yelps, "Whoa! Watch out!"

I looked back to see what he was talking about, but also pushed forward not taking any chances. That's when I saw a giant blackish dot fall right behind me. It was a damn espideres that narrowly missed me. After I realized what it was, I then felt the webbing in my hair.

This incident reminds me of one of my favorite Far Side comics. The single picture shows two spiders building a small web at the bottom of a playground slide, with the caption: "If we pull this off, we'll eat like kings!"

You see, this espideres had spent all night webbing up a trap to consume my blood and body whole. After it rigged a few lines down and across the doorway, it built a webbed plank right above the front doorstep. Then, as a wicked display of heartlessness, it spelled out a message in its web: "MMM SOME HUMAN".

Then it simply waited. When it heard my alarm, it smacked its hairy lips and drooled a bit. Then, when I stepped through the door, tripped the web, and triggered the plank to fall, Timotei's counter-spiderist reflexes sprang into action and alerted me of the plot.

I pushed passed the dropzone quickly and the spider smashed into the ground at a deafening speed, killing it instantly (after Timotei squashed it with his shoe).

We then found two more white espidereses hanging around the door. Is there any sort of repellant that can shoo these pests away?

I'm just happy I lived to tell another Spider-ick! tale.



Thursday, August 09, 2007

It Only Hurts When I Breathe

I don't know if it's the weather with its muggy stuffy air or my health deteriorating, but lately I've been having trouble breathing. That may have come off too sharp. It could be all in my head, but as I take deep breaths, I don't find my inhalations all that satisfying. It's like I'm taking breaths right up against a cardboard box. It's stuffy and I feel like I can't breathe at all.

Today, we helped Timotei's long time friend and commuter buddy Mr. Mikey buy and deliver a bed from CostCo. Before the task, he treated Timotei and me to dinner at Curry House where I destroyed my plate and felt oh so stuffed. Then after we loaded up the bed in the bed, while sitting in the backseat of the truck, I had the strongest feeling of claustrophobia in my entire life (and that is no exaggeration). In the backseat, the side windows were open, but I could not feel any air. The front seats sat right near my frontside, leaving little room in the back. The mattress covered the rear window behind me. My stomach hurt as I felt overstuffed to my throat with food. These factors, plus oddly enough, the fact that my hands were dirty, built up an incredibly scary sensation of crawling in my skin; I felt the need to just jump out of the car or I would jump out of my skin. I needed to scream because I could not breathe. I had to claw off my feet because they felt like they were caked in blocks of cement and I had been tossed off a cliff into the deep ocean; suffocating. I was seriously having a breakdown and it's giving me an anxiety attack just thinking about it again.

I asked Timotei to turn the air conditioner on so that some breathable air would find me. It only helped slightly. I still felt the need to stretch out and scream; to escape. I kicked off my shoes and laid my legs out across the backseat bench, which seemed to work; to calm me down. I focused on taking in the very nice, cool air; focused on a breathing pattern. Is this what asthma attacks are like?

I felt that I was okay again. Luckily the ride was on the short side or else I would have probably thrown myself out the back window and into oncoming cars. Things were getting back to normal until Timotei, as always, shut the air conditioner off 1/2 mile from our house (he does this as a habit because leaving it on when the car is turned off makes the air smell). I knew at once that he had done it because suddenly I could not breathe again. Instead of punching myself in the face, I shut my eyes and beared the minute left in the drive.

I made it through okay, but this feeling scares me. What could this possibly mean? I noticed this irregular breathing weeks ago, but thought nothing of it really. Yet in Mammoth, where the air is crisp and biting, I felt that I was breathing perfectly fine again. It's got to be the air quality here mixed with the Summer humidity. But whatever the case, I hope to never feel that sort of anxiety again.

Waiting to exhale,


Monday, August 06, 2007

KFC: Kwan Family Camping

This past weekend, 18 of us went up on the VERY FOIST KFC. KFC was a thing I came up with when we were planning our Kwan Family Cruise. It has since become the motif for our family outings. It seems that the rule is: if the activity does not start with a C, and therefore does not fit in with KFC, we cannot do said activity. But luckily we were able to equate a Mammoth hiking trip to camping - See? C? Camping! Clever!

Anyway, it was a really fun time. Those who went included (deep breath): Razor Ramon, The Debster, Prisoner Tribbiani, Cat, MEG, Rionheart, Em, Agent J, K-mart, S-Dawg, R-man, Agent K, Charmin, Tony Toni Tone, Samantha Wu, Faux-hawk Ernie, Timotei, and yours truly. All of us packed together like sardines in a two bathroom townhouse; we slept whereever we could find floor space. Just about everyone went up Friday morning, but Timoeti and I had to work a half-day and left in the afternoon, in traffic, and didn't meet up with everyone till 10:00pm.

When we arrived, we found everyone playing different kinds of games. We simply folded ourselves into the mix and joined the fun.

The next morning, The Debster made us french toast and after several hours of trying to get everyone out of the townhouse, we departed for a hike. The plan was to hit two landmarks: The Devil's Post Pile and Rainbow Falls. After Razor Ramon bought us shuttle tickets to the hiking trail, we journeyed not more than 10 minutes to the first stop.

The Devil's Post Pile is a lavalic rock formation that's... er... rocky. It's got these cool, tall rock columns; almost like corduroy pants. Then there are a ton of rocks below with chipmunks that like to do the nasty. It's mating season; you can't blame them. We also hiked to the top of the columny rocks and found a pretty spectacular view of a giant hill with trees. And off to the left, a burned down charred forest.

Then, since the initial hike was so simple, we were primed for the 2 1/2 mile hike to Rainbow Falls. With a small group, the hike would have been a piece of shamuka. But we had Em in tow and we were concerned she needed much water and many breaks, so we stopped every few yards. But she was a trooper and trekked along really well. Never did I hear her complain. The hike was entirely on a sandy road, so that meant dust kicked up with every step. By the time we were able to blow our noses in Kleenex, I swear an entire beach fell out of our nostrils; like sand through an hourglass, so are the mucus of our lives.

Our entire hike lasted 4 hours total. I don't remember it really being that long, but it was. And we happened to hike during the hottest part of the day. There was shade scattered throughout, but when we got to charred Fern Gully, there was not an escape from the sun in sight. But we marched on. We got to Rainbow Falls and took pictures galore. It's a giant waterfall with an everlasting rainbow stretching across it. It's quite beautiful. We did take our time enjoying the area, but we were starving and desperately wanted to head back.

Razor Ramon and The Debster had made some sandwiches for us and we scarfed them down back at the car.

With so many people back at the house and only two bathrooms, patience became a virtue. There was hot water for two people at a time, so I didn't get to take a shower until about 5 hours after the hike. My neck was caked in sand and dirt and what had to be 40% horse manure. But I had my hot water.

We left the following day. Car rides go quickly when you have a DVD player in the car. But all in all, it was a damn fun time. I love spending time with the family. We really know how to occupy time with games galore. This KFC was definitely a huge hit, even though it was so short, but we are already busy planning the next one: Kwan Family Chill and Kwan Family Casino. I'd better get cracking on some matching shirts!

Finger-licking good times,


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Misfortune Cookies: Fantastic Four & Finally Finale

To call the four shows I saw in New York all "fantastic" would be a lie. But for blog titles, I gotta bend the truth for something clever. And yet, is it clever if it isn't true? This final entry of our New York getaway could easily be called "Super Panda Awesome Time" which is, you have to admit, pretty damn clever, but not really related to the subject at hand. We did not meet any pandas on this trip; and certainly none that were anything spectacular or super-powered. Though we did have a "time" that was indeed awesome, at times, so maybe there is some truth to it. But "Fantastic Four" shall stick because this entry is mainly about the four shows I saw, two being fantastic.

The very first show Timotei, Prisoner Tribbiani, and I saw was Spamalot. Here is a show that had been sold out the past two times I'd gone to New York and finally it was offered at a heavily discounted price. With the original all-star cast gone, there wasn't much hype in seeing it, but I wanted to see what all the fuss had been about. Now I had never seen the original Monty Python movie Spamalot, but I had seen Mr. Bean in a trailer for his new sequel which I beg everyone to avoid like the plague. All I knew was that it was an off-the-wall spoof on Camelotian movies.

So what's the verdict? I laughed more than a couple of times, but it didn't seem to gel well as a complete show. I've never seen a show shrug off an ending this much since "Who cares who the father is! You are all my fathers to me!" F- THAT! But here, throwing together a bunch of random end moments to close the show works in a way since the show never takes itself seriously. I say that I probably would have liked it better if I had known the movie, but in return, seeing the stage show does not make me long to watch the movie. It just made me shrug my shoulders.

The second show Timotei and I watched was Legally Blonde: The Musical. This show I was actually looking forward to. Last year, I was a HUGE fan of The Wedding Singer musical, so I had high hopes for Legally Blonde, considering I very much, though I'd never admit, like the movie.

So what's the verdict? Meh. This one was a huge disappointment. First the positives: the show is filled with hot leggy sorority girlish women. Humina! They have this thing they do like Muses where Elle can talk to them and only she can see them. It's really quite dumb (especially when the Stiffler's Mom character randomly sees them too during a "Bend and Snap" number that SHOULD HAVE BEEN FUN). Oh I'm sorry, I was supposed to be focusing on the positives. Well, there was this really hot asian mixed muse girl.

Okay, to the bad. The music sucks. It begins with a song called "OMG You Guys!" which... I'm not complaining about. That opening number is really great, fun, catchy. But after that, things get dumbed down for the 12 year old set. The lyrics start to get really lame and bland and the songs random and ridiculous. And I always come down hard about this point, but one of the greatest moments of the movie is when Elle tells her ex "Remember that hot, steamy night we spent in [wherever]? This is SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT!" Yet in the show, that moment gets lost and buried in a song and I know I'm being nitpicky, but really, I think the show in general feels lost. Everything about it is just forgettable. There is one thing I enjoyed. And this should have appeared in the positives paragraph above, but anyway... they used real dogs! That was cool.

I understand that I'm definitely not the demographic that this show appeals to. This show is just too sugary, pink, sweet, girly. I'm sure if you're a Lizzie Maguire loving girl, you'd love this show. But to me, big fat meh.

The third show that I saw alone (and later saw again with Prisoner Tribbiani, Timotei, and Ellvin Kelvin) was Spring Awakening, the show you've probably not heard much about. I had heard nothing prior to the day we saw Legally Blonde when I overheard a couple of girls talking about wanting to see it. Then I read what I could about it, including a review posted outside the theater it was playing at. Basically, it was to be the next RENT in that it had a rock score and a bunch of unknown actors/actresses.

So what's the verdict? Considering I saw it twice and dragged along three others to see it, it's pretty safe to say that I agreed with the reviews. After my first viewing, I was simply amazed at what I had seen. Firstly, the music rocked. In fact, I still listen to the soundtrack nonstop and plan on singing the duet "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind" with Amazing Grace at a Karaoke bar some day. Secondly, it pushes the envelope (or perhaps just mine) in what it displays during the show. I don't want to spoil nothin', but it was pretty shocking. There are no sets; just a single stage, but it's amazing in its presentation. Bleachers are set up on stage right and left that seat some of the audience. The actors also sit in the bleachers when not needed on stage. But during various songs, they stand and sing along and it's really amazing to watch; the movement fills the stage simplistically, but brilliantly. And the lighting occurs all around the theater. I feel it's an amazing experience.

But my compadres did not share my same enthusiasm, mainly due to the story. The show is based on a very controversial book written in the way-back-when's and had been banned by various institutes and governments. It's basically the story of German kids learning about the opposite sexes in an ultra-conservative society. Yes, the story could have been stronger. It certainly isn't as likable as RENT's story about living life in the present.

In fact, I would agree that the story leaves much to be desired. It's hard to follow at times and ends abruptly. But the presentation is what sells this show. And the songs! The songs are tremendous. Most of them could be hits on the radio.

Okay, I think I've gushed enough about that one.

The last show we (The Routes Family and Prisoner Tribbiani) saw was the only one we bought tickets in advance for - Mary Poppins. Since I was a kid, I always thought Mary Poppins would make a killer live show. And you know what? It exceeded my childhood expectations. Now, the music isn't all that great. You've got most of the songs from the original movie and a few new ones that are pretty average. But it's the show itself that's the thing. This one is a true-to-form spectacle. Each scene brings about a cool special stage effect; the enormous Banks' mansion is impressive on its own. This show flows with imagination. It's a really sharp contrast from the abomination that was last year's Tarzan. It was weird thinking that you pay the same price for these shows; with Mary Poppins you get amazing special effects, pyrotechnics, impressive sets; with Tarzan you get green silly string on the walls and ape suits on rubber bands.

And here, you get a really engrossing story to boot! It's not just the movie on stage. The musical is based more on the books and feels more cohesive than the actual movie (which I can NEVER stay awake through). Mary Poppins is the best Disney on Stage show out there (even better than The Lion King!) Just the final image of the show alone is worth the price of admission.

So those are the shows we saw. I may have bored you with overlong critiques, but I hope I kept it interesting. One of the best happenings on the trip was going drinking with two actresses from the cast of Mary Poppins. Prisoner Tribbiani had worked with one of them in a show and she hooked us up with upgraded kick ass seats. So we bought her a drink at a bar and her friend joined and we just had the greatest time chatting.

What else to say? Amazing Grace invited us to her home on Long Island for dinner, which was very nice of her. We got to meet her friendly chows.

The flight back returned to the hell we faced at the start of our trip. A storm were'a brewin' on the day of our flight and JetBlue pulled away from the gate on time, but told us we would be up to 45 minutes late to take off. There we sat on the plane at the front of the Take-Off queue. Half an hour into the wait, we started to move, people sighed with relief, and suddenly, we spun around and moved to the end of the goddamn line! Those jackasses. But we made up time in the air and got back just fine. Of course, going into work the next day completely sucked.

So that's it! New York in a candy-coated nutshell. A simple six-parter with no longwinded explanation of magical wands in sight. I hope you enjoyed reading this torturous (with shining spots of glory) trip as much as I enjoyed postponing writing it. And hopefully my vacations in the future won't be as misfortunate or cookie-based.

The End.