Sad news

I found out about this when posting a casting call on the Voice Acting Alliance board. Tony Jay -- prolific, extraordinary, well-respected voice actor, has died. Sources say he had surgery in April to remove a tumor from his lung, and never recovered from it. My reaction was first a strangled, enlongated "NO!" and then a quick check with other sources to confirm it. I was very upset.

I knew Tony Jay as Megabyte from ReBoot, before I knew the actor's name. He brought a lot to that role, and really stood out. The next time I recognised his voice in something, I took note of his name. I liked his voice so much, I started imitating him, doing Tony Jay impressions along with my Kermit the Frog and Worf impressions. Since then, I've noticed him as Shere Khan in the Jungle Book 2, the Administrator in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the storybook narrator in Treasure Planet, and the protocol-obsessed fiancé of Lwaxana Troi in a Star Trek episode, where you actually get to see the man himself. On that latter occasion, when I was pointing him out to my roommate Tom at the time, Tom said he knew him as Virgil in Mighty Max. With Tony Jay's long list of works, it's hard to imagine any English speaker who grew up on cartoons and video games not to have heard his acting.

It had been my goal to become successful enough to eventually hire Tony Jay to act in one of my animations, and regrettably I have failed in that goal. It only reinforces my feeling that has been growing clearer and clearer in recent years, that if there is someone you respect or admire, you should make an effort to see them, meet them, let them know what they mean to you, before it's too late.


It's "poseur".

While I'm on the subject of abuses of the English language, here's another thing that has gotten my goat for a long time, but I've never written about publicly. If you're describing someone who pretends to be something he or she is not, the word is "poseur", not "poser". Compare the two definitions with the links provided (check both definitions of "poser" you'll find there) -- neither of them apply.

Yes, they are pronounced essentially the same way in English, and yes the etymology of the word "poseur" is the same as that of "poser," but there is a reason we have both words in English: so that we can be specific and exact when we speak. If you say one thing when you mean another, it should be from wit, not ignorance.


Vault, son of Surge

I am someone who loved the late lamented Surge. I became acquainted with it almost immediately before its discontinuation around 2000-2001, at the house of my friend Brendan. Thereafter I bought several cases of it, perhaps even the last cases in the area, because for several months afterward, I saw no more coming in, even after I asked about it at the store. While visiting Brendan's house around this time, I was surprised to find he had a 12-pack of Surge left, and he graciously shared it with me, even after I told him I was unable to find it anymore. He believed it could still be obtained through ThinkGeek.com, and maybe it could at the time, but soon enough, it was all gone, and I later learnt it had been discontinued.

Other drinks I loved which were discontinued include 3 drinks from Sobe: Wisdom, Karma, and Zen Blend. The first two may have been discontinued for a good reason, as they contained St John's Wort, which may not be the best thing to put in drinks. But Zen Blend was a wonderful blend of several kinds of tea, 3 or 4 kinds of ginseng, and several fruit juices. It became harder to find, and eventually vanished, only to be resurrected with a changed recipe a year later or so. It wasn't as good, had far fewer ingredients, but I took it anyway. I was only able to find it at one small gas station about 2 hours' drive away. I stocked up whenever I happened to be passing by that way, but soon enough it was gone from there, too. I still have a single bottle of the original blend, which I have the semi-joking fantasy of replicating someday when we have access to molecular or chemical samplers that can reconstruct a substance from a sample. If it hasn't horribly spoiled by then. I have no idea of the shelf life of this sort of drink.

Anyway, I finally tried Vault. Well, it was only released nationally 5 months ago, and may not have shown up here until last month. I know I'm the only one on the Frappr map in the Central Valley. But last year I was in Virginia, which was test marketing it at the time. Just never got to try it until now.

I admit, my memory of the taste of Surge is rather cloudy, but Vault pleases my palate quite nicely. I think it's a worthy replacement, though perhaps it wasn't necessary to increase the amount of caffeine. I think it's second only to Jolt in this recipe, while Surge was below Mountain Dew (another favourite of mine). At any rate, my taste result was that yes, I accept Vault in place of Surge, and after finishing the bottle, my opinion remains the same. I'll be getting more. In fact, if I had a Vault T-shirt, I'd wear it proudly to spread the word of our new saviour.


It's BATED breath!

I don't know if it's coincidence, or if this phrase has been used in some popular media recently, but I've seen several people use the phrase "waiting with bated breath," except they spell it "baited," which doesn't make any sense. The phrase is "bated breath", as in "held breath." Look it up here. More examples: I'm holding my breath in anticipation; don't hold your breath waiting. It actually means something, when spelled correctly. What would "baited breath" mean? You're putting bait in your mouth and blowing? Merriam-Websters is your friend.


Another supermarket rant

One of the reasons I go by "the Touched" is because people have always had a hell of a time pronouncing my last name (or spelling it, if they hear it pronounced). But some places have this irritating policy of addressing their customers by last name whether we like it or not.

Safeway is the culprit in this case, because their method of doing it is especially egregious. Picture the transaction, me at the cashier. The groceries are all passed through, and I've paid. I use a Safeway club card for extra savings, which prints my name on the receipt. Yes, I could probably evade this issue by paying more and not using the club card, but hey.

So this is what happens every time: after the transaction is complete, and my receipt prints out, instead of handing it to me so I can go on my merry way, the cashier holds it back from me, squints at it, and demands that I pronounce my name for her, so that she can repeat it back to me. And for some reason, even the times when I state in advance "Don't try to pronounce my last name" or "Address me by my first name," they either ignore me, don't understand what I'm saying, or forget. This is another case of company policies Wasting My Time, and annoying me with the name thing at the same time.

That's the second, lesser annoyance. It's one of my little eccentricities. I think shopping should be a relatively anonymous activity. I know the company thinks it's some kind of 50's-era "respect" to address the customer by his last name, and pretend they know him. But to me, it doesn't matter if I'm buying a sack of potatoes or a box of condoms -- you shouldn't act like you know me.

So don't hold my receipt hostage to read it and stumble over the name issue when I want to be heading home. Knock off this policy and hand over my goods. But if you must call me by name, just call me Shawn, for the love of mike. It's 1 syllable, and easy to pronounce, and I can get out of the bloody store that much faster.


Richard Williams' "The Animator's Survival Kit"

I've been hanging around the 10 Second Club lately, and everyone has been recommending this book, The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams. I already own Preston Blair's Cartoon Animation and Shamus Culhane's Animation From Script to Screen, and I've read numerous other books on animation that I recommend whenever anyone asks, but I had to see why this book comes recommended so highly, so I checked it out from the library.

It's a great book. I've learnt new things, and been reminded of things I'd forgotten. His writing is clear, instructive, and doesn't get muddled down too much in archaic or obsolete terminology or methods. An old-school animator who has a clear love for his animation mentors, masters of the art who are no longer living, Williams acknowledges and embraces the modern ways of doing things. And of course the principles and tips are universal to any animation medium, whether modern or old-fashioned.

There is a large and detailed section on how to animate a walk. Preston Blair showed many different walk and run cycles in his book, but Williams doesn't just show you how, he shows you why. This book has given me an understanding of walks that I didn't get from Preston Blair, or even from having animated many walks in my own experience!

Anyway, it looks very useful, and I think I need to get my own copy. I probably won't get rid of my Preston Blair book, but I don't think I'll have much occasion to refer to it anymore.

Wildly inconsistent Pepsi prices

A couple of days ago I was thirsty, so I went to the nearest convenience store with my X-treme Gulp 52-oz insulated beverage mug, and filled it with Pepsi for about 99¢. Personally, I was expecting to pay less for a refill, especially since 52 oz is around 1.5L, and a 2L bottle of Pepsi cost 89¢ at the store last time I was there. So today I went to the store, and found that 2L Pepsi was on sale for 78¢, so I bought 2 of them. At the register, I noticed in the little refrigerated section they had some 20-oz bottles of Pepsi. Now, I've long known that 1L bottles of soda generally are priced nonsensically higher than 2L bottles, but the 20-oz bottles are much smaller -- only 0.6L...and yet they were selling these 0.6L bottles of Pepsi for $1.80, in the same store where they were selling 2L bottles for 78¢. I got 4L of Pepsi for less than the cost of 0.6L.

It has to be the refrigeration. I never see 2L bottles in the refrigerated section. So the extra cost must be because it's cold. Of course, this doesn't explain how sometimes I see Dasani or Aqua Vita being sold for more than the same size of Pepsi or Coke. It's the same filtered water as they use in their sodas, just without the syrup and carbonation -- and they price it higher for this.


V For Vendetta (the graphic novel, not the movie)

I just finished reading the graphic novel yesterday. If you like dystopian fiction where there's no real "hero", and you know who Guy Fawkes is even if you're not British, then you ought to read this novel.

As for the movie...I ought to have learnt my lesson about seeing movies someone adapted from an Alan Moore comic, after The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was an excellent set of graphic novels made into a crappy movie, and my friend Taliesin says the same of From Hell. Still, though I've not yet seen the V For Vendetta movie, something tells me I probably will. I know they totally changed the ending, but I was surprised to see characters listed in the cast list on IMDb that I expected would have to have been cut. This is a long graphic novel -- there's no doubt they had to condense it. So I'm curious about what they did cut.

But being the Wachowski Brothers, I'm expecting they'll be emphasising V's superhuman quickness in a fight -- which, while it certainly was there, and was pointed out many times, it was definitely not the focus of the story. Even more supernatural than his speed was V's ability to plan for every tiny detail in his complex plan for revolution, and his ability to carry it out with surgical precision, all the while quoting from various works of culture.

So far, I've enjoyed everything I've read from Alan Moore, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say about Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman's not so much a writer, as he is a collector and reteller of fairy tales and legends, and a weaver of atmosphere. As far as plot, pacing, and characterisation goes, his writing is weak. Much like Dan Brown's not so much a fiction writer, as he is a composer of essays on some neat ideas, and a writer of travel guides. Hmm, I could keep adding to this, but I think I'll expand on this and some others in a later entry I'll call "Writers Who Increasingly Piss Me Off the More I Read From Them."


Dr Who

Just so there's no repeat of the Shaun of the Dead thing from a few years ago, since I see last year's Dr Who series is about to be shown in the US, let me just say in advance that it's a great show, and you'll probably like it. I anticipate a great big wave of new Dr Who fans who have never known about it before. I saw the whole season in mid-2005 when it was airing originally, and it's much better than the older seasons. Better budget, more dramatic, less corny. I thought the new regeneration of the Doctor was a great choice, despite his short haircut and rather normal clothes. There's still corn and cheese in the series, but in a fun way, so enjoy, all!


Suggestions for corporate voice mail

Businesses: If you want to keep me, the customer, happy, consider these suggestions. They all really boil down to the same thing -- speed it up. But here are some specifics.
  1. Talk faster.
  2. Do not inform me to listen carefully as your menu has changed. If this is the first time I'm calling, as it usually is, then I've never heard your menu options before, let alone developed a habit of punching in numbers in advance. And if I'm a returning customer doing so, then I'll easily find out your menu has changed when I find myself listening to more questions from the wrong area, and I'll just try again. Better to waste the time of an occasional instance like that than to waste everyone's time every single time they call.
  3. Do not include useless extra submenus that have only one option ("press 1"). Just pass through to the meat of the issue.
  4. Do not entreat me to visit your web site. If I'm calling you, it's usually because I already tried your web site and something wasn't working correctly. And you irritate me more and more the longer your web address is, pausing after every dot and slash, after every careful and slowly-enunciated word (or worse, spelling) in the URL.
Sure, there's more, but these are the only things annoying me right now.