May 31, 2012

Frozen Drink Wars

So, who’s thirsty?

I wish I had discovered the simple joys of the Slurpee much earlier, but since I never really lived near any 7-Eleven stores, I didn’t catch on. However, I learned the error of my ways thanks to my good buddy Guber, who was sired in the Slurpee capital of the World, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnepeggers love their Slurpees. Guber lived in Montreal for many years, a city devoid of 7-Eleven stores, so whenever he was in Toronto he’d go on and on about the coveted and elusive Slurpee. I didn’t really see the big deal because Guber is kind of a weird dude anyway, but I got it eventually. They really are good.

Before I moved up here to the barren wastelands, I made a point of taking a solo journey to downtown Toronto and taking in as much of the cool places that I like as I could. Before I went back home, I made sure to get a Slurpee. Even though it was a cold day, I just had to get one because I knew it would be a long time before I got one again, as there are no 7-Elevens up here. It was a Strawberry Kiwi flavor and I still remember how good it tasted.

I mostly forgot about the Slurpee-scene and went about my way until I noticed another challenge: The Froster. Produced by Mac’s, a home-grown Canadian convenience chain, Frosters are a lot like Slurpees. I tried a really small one once, and though it was alright, but I started paying more attention when Mac’s ran a special promotion this month where you could buy any sized Froster for $1. At that price, I gave it a shot, and of course I got the largest size possible (1000 ml). I got hooked. Even though there are no 7-Elevens around here, there are 4 or 5 Mac’s in walking distance from me, and I made frequent excursions to all of them, sampling all the different kinds and multiple combinations, scrapping together a dollar’s worth in dimes and nickles each time I visited. So I drank a lot of Frosters. And the Froster would be the only thing I get, prompting many clerks to ask “That’s it?!” before I handed them my annoying handful of change.

The Froster is a decent alternative to the Slurpee. The flavors have some punch and they come in sturdy plastic cups with thick, wide straw. So they are a good product overall and not just a cheaply produced rip-off like I expected they’d be. And yet, I still miss the Slurpee. Froster can have a gritty ice texture while the Slurpee is much smoother. Slurpees also seem to have more unique flavors and I was never able to try very many. But beyond that, maybe it’s just the unattainable appeal that makes Slurpees so treasured to me in comparison to Frosters. I can get a Froster any time I want, but I haven’t had a Slurpee all year, and dammit, I want one! Much like the plight of Guber when he lived in a Slurpeeless land, not being able to have one makes me want it that much more.

What’s your favorite icy drink? Who wins the Frozen Drink Wars?


May 12, 2012


The word on the street is pretty much out, but I’m not going to let that stop me from putting my two cents in and saying that The Avengers movie is awesome.

Think back to what it must have been like when The Avengers comic was a brand new thing. Comic books were pretty much the height to fantastical fiction, capable of telling stories and showing images that movies and television could never come close to replicating at the time. Movies like that would be unfathomable. There are all of these different characters, each with their own histories, and you could pick your favorite. Then Avengers comes out and a whole bunch of them are on a team together and that has got to be just the coolest thing ever.

Now think back to a little over 10 years ago. Movies like X-Men and Spider-man have come out, captured people’s imaginations, and done very well, kicking off a string of films inspired by comic book characters. Now, movie making has advanced to the point where so many of these cool comic book concepts that never could have been realized before have become real films. Most of them are pretty good, or are entertaining at least, but a few missed the mark in the storytelling department. Still, with the way these characters were being licensed to different studios, it seemed unlikely that there would be a movie crossover featuring many different heroes like Avengers. And even if that eve did happen, if you consider that a number of other movies had a hard time dealing with just one super hero character, would a movie featuring 6 or 7 even be any good?

Well, somehow, here we are. Not only is The Avengers is a real movie, they actually pulled it off and made it good. It is so good in just about every possible way, from the biggest action scenes to the smallest moments of character development. They did it. They actually did it. For everything working against it, I don’t think it can be overstated just how good this movie really is. It’s an incredible feat.

Much has been said about what it is that makes this film so great, with the level of humor being one of the main draws. While I agree with that, it’s not enough to say that it’s a funny movie. All the humor actually served a purpose: it informed the audience. All the humor, be it clever and witty or simple slapstick, told something about who the character is and where they come from. It wasn’t just entertainment on a base level, it was actually engaging! And because so much of the humor was grounded in who these characters are, it rewarded the audience for paying attention.

In the time since Hollywood really started pumping out these big comic book movies, there have been a number of them that made a lot of money but aren’t really remembered as being all that good. The Transformers movies are a good example. I like those movies fine, but they are what they are, entertainment and not much more. Avengers, on the other hand, is everything you’d ever want in a big Hollywood super hero blockbuster, but it’s also a really good movie! And both audiences and critics seem to be on the same page on this one as everybody seems to love it. So I have to wonder… is this going to change things? Is The Avengers going to raise the stakes and make people demand better quality? Money talks, and Avengers is a huge financial hit, so I think that message may be getting out there.

Personally, I think it would be great for Hollywood and the movie going audience if The Avengers made more money than Avatar and became the #1 film of all time. That’s a tall order but I’d say it certainly deserves it.

That artwork at the top was a fun, quick drawing I made earlier in the year. I’ll have it up on the site properly soon enough, along with a few other things. But hopefully I’ll get to see Avengers 11 more times first. Now who’s up for some shawarma?


May 3, 2012

Blue Misery

I’ve been using two computers for the past few years. One mainly for general use and another for art. I was using my art computer to draw with my Cintiq on Easter Weekend, and I started to notice the cursor stutter. The computer would freeze for a second or two and then start back up again. This basically made digital drawing impossible. But it didn’t matter if I was drawing, or using a mouse, or typing on the keyboard, it would always happen. Something was causing the computer to just lock up for a moment. I did my best to try and figure it out by looking in the Event Viewer for errors. It seemed like the problem was centralized around a driver issue, but attempts to clear that up resulted in yet more problems. I witnessed more instances of the Blue Screen of Death than I had ever seen since Windows 98. Eventually, the whole thing became unbootable.

I used a live Linux boot disk called BootMed to try and fix things, but nothing worked. I figured there was only one way around this, and that was to start from scratch. So I used BootMed again to access my hard drive and back everything up, which happened with no problem. Then I formatted the hard drive and reinstalled Windows. Now just try to imagine my frustration when it started locking up again as if I had done nothing.

One big problem in dealing with this stuff is when these errors happen, there could be any number of possible solutions. There is usually some kind of error message or code and when you Google that you get a million results with different solutions, plus a ton of schemey sites trying to get you to pay for some generic solution. It’s next to impossible to uncover an applicable fix.

If reinstalling Windows didn’t work, then it must have been a hardware issue. I was unplugging components left and right. My best guess was that the motherboard was to blame. I decided that whatever the fix was, it must be beyond my capabilities to repair, and that it may be time to look into some replacement parts. But I didn’t give up entirely. I found a few old hard drives in some unused computers lying around, so I plugged one in in to the offending machine, installed Windows onto that, and everything worked fine.

What?! It was the hard drive all along?! Sheesh! Not that I’m complaining but if the hard drive went bad then how come I had no problems backing up?

While all this is happening, I took the opportunity to reformat and reinstall on my other computer as well, which went very smoothly. That’s an old piece of junk but now it’s working better than ever. Talk about polar opposites.

Anyway, after a month of dealing with this nonsense, I’m back in business again, such as it is. Hopefully I can get a little more usage out of these computers before I need to upgrade and/or the zombies show up.