Thanksgiving, cont’d

freedomfromwant.jpgI spent most of actual Thanksgiving digesting and being thankful for the traditional stuff — the health of my family and friends, having pretty much exactly the job I’ve wanted for over a decade and as far as I’m aware I’m keeping it despite the wishes of several people on the internets, and the fact that the world hasn’t completely blown up yet.

The day after Thanksgiving is reserved for being thankful for gross consumer excess and frivolous entertainment. Considering I’m always bitching about stuff on here, including the stuff I like a lot since I can’t seem to stop criticizing, it should be a nice change of pace.

The iPhone
I think I’ve mentioned once or twice that I paid a bit more than was necessary for this thing. But once you get past that — especially now, since it’s been reduced to “really expensive” instead of “holy crap you’ve got to be kidding me” — it’s pretty neat.

Especially for plane flights. I’m not having to fly as much as I was last year (another thing for which I’m extremely thankful), but plane flights back to Georgia are still 4 hours long, and there’s only so much time even I can spend sitting staring at nothing. On the way out here, I watched three episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” on the thing, and the picture is startlingly clear, and the sound is even better than watching from home. (Trucks are constantly passing in front of my apartment, and the Edward James Olmos, he tends to mutter). The picture’s at least as good as the Sony PSP’s, if not better, and it just makes more sense to lug the phone around than a videogame player that has only two good games for it. Plus, even if the phone didn’t have a longer battery life than my laptop, it’s a lot easier to deal with than a computer and DVDs. The seats on economy flights are so cramped these days, I can’t even unfold the laptop all the way.

And three hours of video fit on the thing, even the 4GB version, in addition to over 700 songs. For the seven-hours-including-layover flight back to SF, I’m loading the phone up with Minority Report, which I’ve ever seen, plus more episodes of “Battlestar” and “Flight of the Conchords.”

The iPhone SDK
This is still tentative, but the optimistic part of me is already thankful for it. Since all the stuff the device does works this well, I’m looking forward to seeing the stuff the device can do. And Apple finally did what they should’ve done months ago, and announce that they are indeed planning on releasing an SDK for the phone.

It can all still go horribly awry, of course, when we learn that you’re kept from accessing any of the data or private storage of the phone, or you have to pay some obscene developer’s fee to develop for it, or you can only release stuff through the iTunes store or some nonsense. But there’s still a chance they’ll do things right. And it’s still a lot better than having them lie to us with nonsense about bringing down the cell network, or telling us how sweet it is to make web apps for a device with a slow internet connection.

30 Rock
Alec Baldwin’s performance a few weeks ago is probably the best 2 minutes of television this year. And even the MSNBC caption scrawls from the Edie Falco episode (“Mysterious Visitor from Future Wins Lottery Yet Again”) are funnier than 90% of the other stuff on television. Points go to their Lifetime movie parody, as well, if only for the title: “A Dog Took My Face And Gave Me a Better Face So I Could Change the World: The Celeste Cunningham Story”. Loss of “30 Rock” is about the only genuine reason people should be upset about the writers’ strike, and reason enough for the networks to capitulate.

Lobster Johnson
This is a new series based on a character that’s been in backup stories in the Hellboy and BPRD comics. And it takes all the potential that’s been bouncing around all the other comics and finally realizes it: a pulp adventure about supernatural evil that’s got some of the humor of The Amazing Screw-On Head, the epic feeling of Hellboy, and the Shadow-inspired team stuff of BPRD.

Plus, Jason Armstrong’s art is outstanding. He doesn’t slavishly mimic Mike Mignola’s style, but it still feels very much like a Hellboy comic that’s been put into a blender with the whole of comic book art history. Even better, he uses a style exactly when it’s needed — you’ll see characters with Mignola-style hands and Jack Kirby-inspired faces, plus I’m sure several other artists I can recognize but can’t pinpoint exactly what’s the influence. The end result is that you get the mood of a Hellboy comic, but you can actually follow what’s going on.

Teen Titans Volume 2
The DC Showcase series is a great idea that turns out to be disappointing in practice — for those of us who are more readers than collectors, it’s the chance to see all this comic book history that we missed, with all of the stories compiled in one affordable place. But as it turns out, the stories were never all that deep in the first place. And you’re not actually missing out on all that much by reading a synopsis online.

Except for Teen Titans, and that’s almost entirely due to Bob Haney. The man just knew how to make a shamelessly pandering, goofy comic book story and make it more awesome than it had any right to be. Volume 2 is lighter on his stuff than Volume 1 was, and as the comic moved into the late 60s and early 70s, it lost some of that goofy innocence of the early 60s. Still, I doubt you’re going to find anything that’s as just plain fun to read as these Teen Titans collections.

The Outstanding Videogame Glut of 2007
I can’t remember the last time so many great games were released in the same year. At least not since the Dreamcast’s golden year. Game of the Year for me is still Team Fortress 2 and The Orange Box in general, but Bioshock and Super Mario Galaxy were both outstanding enough that if they’d been the only good thing out this year, it would’ve been a banner year.

And I haven’t even gotten around to playing much of Final Fantasy Tactics or Jeanne d’Arc for the PSP, or The Phantom Hourglass for the DS, or the Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword expansion on the PC. Then there’s the list of games that I keep hearing are great, but for the first time I can remember, I’m not buying any more games until I actually have time to play them. I’m even still spending time with the latest Sims 2 expansion, and that game’s at the point in its life cycle where it’s supposed to suck.

The best aspect to it all is that the success of The Orange Box and Bioshock have invalidated all my long-winded worrying about the death of storytelling in games. Stories aren’t getting squeezed out of games, they’re just getting started.