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will avatar be the engine that drives blu-ray to the next level?

There has been plenty of talk of all the money Avatar has made, both in theaters and in home-viewing formats. Yet, while Avatar is the ‘highest grossing film of all time’, that is only due to the fact that those figures never adjust for inflation. Were actual attendance the only criteria, leveling the playing field regardless of the value of the dollar, then the highest grossing film of all time is and always will be Gone with the Wind, which by today’s standards would have made over $1.5 Billion (numbers courtesy of Box Office Mojo).

No, the place where Avatar is truly making history is in Blu-ray sales. So far, James Cameron’s little movie has sold, oh, only twice as many copies as any other Blu-ray.

This has had me thinking lately about whether or not Avatar and all its visual treats might be enough to power Blu-ray into everyone’s living rooms, ending forever the days when Blockbuster employees need to check to be sure you know what a Blu-ray player is before you leave the store with a Blu-ray disc.

The reason I am wondering this is because back when we were all making the switch to DVD, it was The Matrix that finally got everyone to cough up the money for a DVD player. It was a perfect storm of DVD players finally lowering in price to the point of affordability, and a movie that was visually thrilling enough that people wanted to be sure to see it in the best possible format. The result was that for some time, based on sales figures, more than half of the people who owned DVD players also owned a copy of The Matrix.

Could Avatar be the straw that finally breaks the proverbial back of the camel that is America’s apathetic attitude toward Blu-ray? Will the idea of watching all that high-tech sexiness on anything less than High-Def, combined with lowering costs for Blu-ray players finally get people excited about the wonderful world of 1080?

I sure hope so. The difference between Blu-ray and DVD is considerable… considerably awesome. It is high time we finally fully enter the era of Blu-ray. DVD is sooooo 1998. C’mon! Get with the times, Grandma.


The Wolftrap

The Wolftrap, from Boekenhoutskloof (that’s the vineyard in South Africa), is a red blend consisting of 68% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, and 2% Viognier. Picked it up on a whim. Just perused the wine aisle at Whole Foods and found an intriguing wine for under $10, of which there are many.

I am not very familiar with South African wine … on New Year’s we drank a South African sparkler … outside of that, I don’t know that I’ve encountered another South African wine. So, I conducted a bit of research …

South African winemaking dates back to 1659 and has experienced a rather varied worldwide interest since. South Africa’s current production puts it in the top ten wine producing countries in the world, though this wasn’t always the case. Before the end of apartheid throughout much of the 20th century, South African wine received little attention worldwide.

“Its isolation was further deepened by boycotts of South African products in protest of the country’s system of Apartheid. It wasn’t till the late 1980s and 1990s when Apartheid was ended and the world’s export market opened up that South African wines began to experience a renaissance”

Once the export market opened up, the renaissance experienced in the South African winemaking was helped along by the Vine Improvement Programme. This program(me) was brought into existence in order to bring up the standards of South African wine by bringing a better understanding of the viticultural arts, if you will, to the winemakers. This has spurred the winemakers to strive toward a more “international style” of wine, that would find fans on a global scale. In some cases, winemakers from France, Spain, and California were flown in, bringing with them new techniques and styles to the already unique style of South African wine. Today, as I mentioned earlier, South Africa is in the top ten of wine producing nations in the world. It should be an exciting world of wine to delve into …

The Wolftrap

Traditionally, many South African wines have been characterized by very rustic flavors, and The Wolftrap certainly hits on the rustic side. It is a very substantial wine; full and heavy, with a touch of gameyness (Some describe it as meaty. I don’t like the sound of meaty) to it, which I didn’t find unappealing at all. Loads of spice and smoke throughout. There is a subtle floral quality I picked up on that was soon washed away by heavy berry influence (blackberry, strawberry). With all of these heavy flavors (the smoke, spice, gameyness), the subtleties remain intact, interestingly enough, which added to the surprising balance achieved in this red blend. If you like big, red blends full of spice, smoke, dark berries, this wine is for you … just be prepared for the gamey aspect, it could be a turnoff to some. For around $10 you could definitely do a lot worse.


y: the last man. [graphic content.]

As a brief intro, this is first post in the ‘graphic content’ series. We’ll also post these with the book posts which still don’t have a title, as well as in the nerd candy category. ‘Graphic Content’ posts will all be about graphic novels/comic books.

In case you haven’t figured this out by now, I’m a huge nerd, and, like many other nerds, I love graphic novels and comic books. Feel free to judge me accordingly if you like, I’m used to it.

Anyway, on to the post.


The Y chromosome has self-destructed. Every male mammal on the planet has dropped dead in horrible fashion, killed by what appears to be a mysterious virus. Every male embryo is dead, sperm banks are filled with lifeless sperm, there seems to be no present or future for men. Yet, every female on the planet who has survived the crashing planes and such has been left untouched. In some sort of macabre gender-rapture, mankind has become extinct. Extinct, that is, except for the last man on earth, Yorick Brown, and his male Capuchin monkey, Ampersand.

That is where the story begins in Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra. What follows in the graphic novels are the adventures of a lone man and his monkey in a world full of women. No, it’s not porn. It’s a post-apocalyptic rumination on what the world might look like in the wake of the death of men.

Yorick travels across the country and around the globe in search of his girlfriend Beth, some answers as to why all the men died while he and Ampersand survived, and hopefully a cure. His travel companions, aside from Ampersand of course, are Agent 355 of the Culper Ring, assigned to keep Yorick safe, and Dr. Allison Mann, a genius who specializes in genetics and hopes to find a way to save humanity.

I can’t go into much detail beyond that without ruining the story for those who decide to read it for themselves.

For the most part, the characters are flawed and likable individuals wrestling with the aforementioned catastrophe. Vaughn does a great job offering one imaginative possibility of what would happen if all the men died in a world which still slants heavily toward patriarchy. Again, I don’t want to go into much detail.

The story Vaughn and Guerra tell is engaging, and it continues to gain momentum throughout the ten volumes. The tenth and final volume is strong, unexpected and fitting, it also pissed me right the fuck off. Vaughn sticks with a semblance of realism, which sucks when you want the characters you have grown to love to have a happy ending. Instead, the ending is a mixed bag, like life. There are moments in the final volume that genuinely moved me, even though I did kind of want to punch Vaughn in his big fat face.

So, you have been warned, if you decide to read these and you want a nice, clean, Hollywood ending, stop reading after Vol. 9 and make up your own ending.

If you don’t read graphic novels often (or ever), try to get through the first four volumes before you make up your mind about the series. It can take time to adjust to the style of graphic novels in general, and this particular story takes some time to get up to full speed.

Y is a good introduction for those who want to dip their toes in the comic book medium outside of capes and tights. This is a fun post-apocalyptic story, and the fact that it is told with more than just words, but also with artwork, shouldn’t count against it.

As with any sci-fi/post-apocalypse lit, we get to play with several questions, so you might especially like Y: The Last Man if you feel you would enjoy story/conversation/dialogue around such questions as:

What if there was only one man alive, and that man were both an an amateur escape artist and a smart-ass, pop-culture quoting fanboy?

How would women organize the world without men?

What would hope look like after the apocalypse?

Also, Vaughn does a great job playing with the sexism and gender roles in our current culture through the story of what would happen if the world as we know it became purely past tense. Most obviously he does this with his primary characters.

Yorick is a sweet, sensitive, laid-back, non-violent type; Dr. Mann is an insensitive, fairly closed-off, outwardly angry person; and 355 is a strong, dangerous, well-trained killing machine, and also the story’s anchor of courage and goodness. None of the three fit the typical gender slots characters normally get slotted into.

I can’t really tell you anything else, otherwise I would spoil things for you, something I intend never to do. Suffice it to say, Y: The Last Man is worth a look. Check it out.