Saturday, December 31, 2005

Out With the Old

Here we are, the end of the year. Almost time to put 2005 in the history books. And I think I'll be very glad to do so.

A lot of people I know had their lives totally turned around this year. Fortunately, it seems like almost all of them have put things right back on track, many happier and better off than they were before. But sometimes, even when a change is for the better, change is still hard.

So here's hoping for more of the happy and less of the turmoil in 2006.

And before this post degenerates into a completely maudlin retrospective, I'll sign off by pointing you to the only truly funny sketch that has run on Saturday Night Live so far this entire season.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Rabbit Season

Angry Alien Productions proudly presents famous movies performed in 30 seconds by bunnies.

Personally, I like The Exorcist.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

You're Entitled to Our Opinion

Alright, this really pisses me off.

Next week, a new television series called "The Book of Daniel" is premiering on NBC. Being the TiVo loving, commercial-skipping person I am, I have not seen one ad for this program. I actually knew nothing about it whatsoever, until I heard this week that the American Family Association is protesting the show and trying to get it canceled.

Here's their call to arms. It's the beginning of the second paragraph that really annoys me (the following emphasis is mine):

While the public has not seen the program, NBC is promoting "The Book of Daniel" as a serious drama about Christian people and the Christian faith.

They basically acknowledge in their own damn protest that they have not seen the show yet, but then go on to condemn it anyway and call for its cancellation.

This show could be the next great drama on network television. It could be a total piece of crap. God forbid we should evaluate it in its actual context.

Hmm... apparently, the AFA's God does forbid it.

As a footnote on all this: GLAAD, as you might expect, has praised the show in public statements. And I have to say, I'm not really any happier with them, as it seems unlikely that people in their organization have seen the show yet, either.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Before Anyone Knew His Name Was Ben Stein

On January 10th, a new edition of Ferris Bueller's Day Off is being released on DVD, this one tricked out with various special features not available on the previous release. Yes, we're all familiar with this particular scam by now, and I've been trying more and more not to get suckered into buying movies I already own. But I just can't draw the line this time. It's Ferris Bueller's Day Off!!! This is #6 on my top 100 movie list!

In honor of this upcoming occasion, I bring to you this link to what claims to be an earlier draft of the movie script. I don't really know if it's for real or not, but it's a fun little curiosity either way, I suppose.

(And yes, I guess this could count as two Matthew Broderick posts in one week. Unlikely, but there you go.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Musical Review

Continuing my movie-going spree, I went to see The Producers this afternoon.

I was more or less indifferent to the original film version. I personally think Mel Brooks didn't reach the heights of his brilliance until the period beginning with Blazing Saddles and ending with Spaceballs. The play version, on the other hand, I thought was pretty genius. Better than any of Mel Brooks' film work.

I was never lucky enough to see the original Broadway production of the musical. I had the soundtrack. I caught a touring version of the production, with no particularly noteworthy actors in the main roles. But I thoroughly enjoyed both, and I was really looking forward to the new film.

And it really delivered. In fact, it really illustrated for me just how important the performances were in creating the perfect mix, because I basically knew every line of every song, but still laughed out loud all throughout the movie. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick were both outstanding. Roger Bart (who had a good run as the creepy-stalker-pharmicist on Desperate Housewives) deserves an Oscar nomination for how freaking funny he is in this movie.

My only real complaint about the film was that at times it felt a little too much like a stage production in watching it. Oh sure, they opened up the budget left and right. Songs which on Broadway took place on a single set went indoors, outdoors, in a taxi cab, and through a park in the film. But nevertheless, 90% of the film was made up of long, uninterrupted takes looking into a clearly three-walled set. It basically felt like a front-row seat at a theatrical production of the play.

Not that I'm complaining much. After all, that is what I'd long wished I could have seen. And truthfully, the film probably wouldn't have been nearly as funny if much had been done to adapt it away from the stage play and photograph it in a more "motion picture" sort of way. It worked on Broadway for a damn good reason.

So, I'm giving it an A. And it's making it onto the top 100 list. For the moment, I'm sticking it in at #84, but I am sort of wondering if this is a movie I won't think quite as highly of upon multiple repeat viewings. Will it still generate the big laughs when I'm seeing it for the fourth, the fifth time, like other comedies on my top 100 list do? I'll guess we'll see down the road. I just know I've had the giggles all day since seeing it, and I highly recommend the movie to everyone.

And by the way -- stay all the way until the end of the credits. There's a great song that plays over the second half of the crawl, and another great surprise waiting at the very end.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Up Wolf Creek Without a Barf Bag

Roger Ebert thinks that I'm going to hell. Well, I'm paraphrasing, but that's pretty much the thrust of it.

I had my Christmas with my family yesterday morning and afternoon, and had a very nice time with them all. And then in the evening, I got together with my "horror movie lovin' friends," because we found it simply way too novel that a horror movie was opening on Christmas Day. We knew we simply had to go see Wolf Creek.

First of all, let me say that I've never seen the movie theater so crowded. We tend to go to this "undiscovered treasure" of a theater in the Denver area (the Belmar, should you ever find yourself in Denver). Nice seats, nice screens, and strangely, no one ever goes there. It's just not very popular. It does cost more than any other theater in Denver, but I'm willing to pay it to just be able to walk up any time and get into any movie I want. The "talking and cell phone" factor there seems lower too. Anyway, this horror movie on Christmas night nearly sold out at this theater that's typically a ghost town. The theater was hopping. The parking lot was packed. I've never seen it so busy at this place as it was last night.

But I digress...

Wolf Creek. This is an imported movie from Australia that claims to be based on a true story. "Loosely inspired by one or more true stories" would be closer to the truth, as I learned upon doing some net research. (I looked at more places than Wikipedia -- but that was one of the more succinct.)

The movie took its sweet time getting to where it was going. I was honestly just a little bit past the point of boredom when things finally started to kick in, about 50 minutes into a 1 hour, 35 minute movie. But once it got there -- DAMN! This movie was everything High Tension should have been, had that movie not taken its bizarre and implausible turn near the end. It was really damn creepy. It managed to move along with a minimum of "why are you doing that, stupid woman?!" moments. (There was one BIG one, I'll not deny, involving an ill-conceived plan to avoid the baddie, but that was about it.) It was unsettling. It was creepy. And it had a creepy and unsettling ending. It managed to redeem my boredom from the first half nicely enough for me to give it a B.

Now, I understand that my review of this film is totally irrelevant to you. This is the sort of movie where you're either a fan of the genre and would have gone no matter what I said, or you would never have gone no matter what I said. But it's not so much my review of the film that's the thrust of this post. Instead, let's get back to Roger Ebert.

In his review, Roger Ebert basically says the movie is so horridly despicable in its misogyny and violence, that any kudos it might earn for its incredibly evocative direction and solid acting are irrelevant. The movie makes him "want to vomit and cry at the same time," and that if anyone tells you that this is the movie they want to see out of all the movies at the box office right now, "my advice is: Don't know that person no more." And he gives it zero stars.

Hey, if you want to follow his advice and navigate your browser elsewhere now, I guess I understand.

Certainly, his opinion was echoed by part of the audience last night. I can't recall the last time I saw so many people get up and walk out of a theater. I was a little perplexed as to why they came in the first place -- did Narnia sell out that night and they just decided to see whatever other movie started next?

But I find Ebert's review to be bad. If he wants to not like it, if he wants to proclaim it misogynistic (and he's not without a case there), if he wants to tell people "don't see it," that's fine. But I don't see how he can give it zero stars. I know I'm making quite a leap to call a slasher movie art, but hey, Ebert himself would no doubt be at the forefront of the "film is art" camp. And the best art provokes an emotional response in people. Joy, sorrow, rage, take your pick. I say that if a movie makes you want to "vomit and cry at the same time", then it must have some serious artistic merit. By all means, hate the film. By all means, discourage people from going. And by all means, listen to him if you think this is the sort of thing that will disgust or offend you. But if the movie made you feel something so strongly, it can't be worth "zero stars," I say. It can't be more devoid of merit than Rob Schneider's latest crap, or some noisy summer sugar like Stealth.

I mean, A History of Violence was pretty damn violent too, but Ebert gave that three-and-a-half stars. Granted, that movie didn't portray much violence against women, as Wolf Creek does. Wolf Creek doesn't try to make any intellectual point about the price of having a violent past. But seriously, I for one had my emotions provoked far more strongly by Wolf Creek than A History of Violence. And it sounds like Roger Ebert did too. So what gives?

Again, to be clear -- this is not me saying "go see the movie Roger Ebert doesn't want you to see!!!!" This is me saying, "if you like thriller/horror/slasher movies, then you owe it to yourself to see this one, because it is incredibly impactful."

And don't try to claim that art isn't art because you don't like the way it makes you feel.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

O Holy Crap!

Here's another holiday tradition I have: visiting "The Holy Trinity," as my friends have dubbed them.

There are three houses in the Denver area that are basically the Griswold family's Christmas decorations brought to life. All three run it every year, from December 1st to the 31st. One of the houses actually welcomes you inside to view their porcelain collection. The Hummel factory itself doesn't have this many figures, I'm telling you.

It was night, of course, and I didn't have a camera tripod or anything, so this blurry picture is going to be a long way from doing it justice. But I think you'll still get the general sense of just what "The Holy Trinity" is.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Golden Oldie

I was recently involved in a discussion about the world's ugliest dog, the dancing banana (and Family Guy's recent take on it), and various other "internet forwards" I've received.

My conclusion is that in all my years of using the internet, nothing has come even close to being as funny as one of the first chain e-mails I ever received: The Gerbil Story.

The version of it you really have to see is this one (which is what I originally received), the one with the snarky "top 10" list attached. See, I could have sent you to the Snopes article debunking the story. (Uh.... DUH!) But they were missing the all important top 10 list.

Still makes me laugh to read this.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Festive Films

Tonight I upheld a small but longstanding Christmas tradition I have -- I watched the movie Scrooged. Some people never tire of watching It's a Wonderful Life, or some particular version of A Christmas Carol, or what not. But for me, it's Bill Murray that can ring in the holiday like no one else.

Of course, I have some more meaningful, family-oriented traditions I'll be honoring in the next couple days. But now that I've watched Scrooged, I feel like 'tis truly "the season."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

When the Ends Don't Justify...

It's getting near that time when you start doing "year long retrospectives." I was starting small and rather impersonally, thinking back on what has overall been a lackluster year at the movies.

I got to wondering how much, if any of it, has to do with the fact that a lot of the major films this year have been... well, "predictable" isn't even an apt enough word. Many of the movies this year, you have known the ending to before ever setting foot in the theater.

King Kong is of course the best, most recent example of this. But it's certainly not alone. Most people had already read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Jarhead held no surprises. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was going to change a few things from the book/prior film version, but was going to end up in the same place. Most people know how the aliens get defeated at the end of War of the Worlds (hint: Tom Cruise was not around for the Orson Welles radio broadcast). Revenge of the Sith -- you already knew where things would end up. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- you've read it, or watched the TV version, or listened to the radio program. The Amityville Horror -- another remake.

And none of this is counting the movies where the ending (or significant events in them) was ruined by the "shows-too-much" trailer.

There's still enough time in 2005 to squeeze in a few more "you know the ending" films, too. I loved the stage version of The Producers, and I'm looking forward to the film. But, of course, I know the whole thing very well. The events portrayed in Munich are a matter of public record.

I'm not suggesting that "surprise" factor is necessary for a movie to be good. But I do wonder if I'm ready for a break from predictability. After all, the best movie I saw all year was crammed full of surprises.

(That would be Serenity, of course. Available this week on DVD. Plug, plug.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Following Takes Place Between 9-0 and 2-1-0

I was looking at my season 4 box set of 24 the other night, and I notice on one of the discs there is an episode commentary featuring one of the writers and "Shannen Doherty."

I think to myself "oh... well, there must be someone on the show who happens to have the same name. And how unfortunate being them."

But I popped the commentary on, and nope -- it is indeed that Shannen Doherty. Which begs the question:

Why the hell is she giving commentary on a 24 episode?

They pretty much invite the question right at the beginning of the commentary. The two come on and say some crap about how she's a big fan and happened to be in the area and so here she is to give commentary on this episode.

I'm a big fan too. You don't hear me on the any of the episodes.

But hey... if you've been dying to know what Shannen Doherty thinks of 24, then think of this as a little Christmas miracle come true for you.

Monday, December 19, 2005

If All the Other Blogs Jumped Off a Bridge...

I realize that posting links to "what kind of [blank] are you?" surveys is generally considered bad blogging... but it seems like all the other kids are doing it. And besides, this one was pretty good:

Which fantasy/sci-fi character are you?

Mostly what makes this one good (in my mind) is that I know quite a few people who have taken it, and we have yet to see the same result twice. It seems pretty thorough. Not bad for a small number of questions.

By the way, I am Kosh, the cryptic Vorlon ambassador from Babylon 5.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"We Thank You For Your Service"

In case you haven't heard, Friday morning, actor John Spencer died. He's popped up in a few places over the years (for example, as the soldier who won't turn his key at the beginning of WarGames). But he's most known, of course, for playing Leo McGarry on The West Wing.

Not that I'd really claim there was a "weak link" in The West Wing cast, but John Spencer's performance on that show was always top notch. He was one of the best parts of the series, and I was very pleased him back closer to the center of the storytelling this season as Santos' running mate. He'd been on the sidelines a little too much during the sixth season.

Now it appears the show will have to carry on without him. I'll definitely miss his presence.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Major Spoiler: The Big Monkey Dies

Well, I caught King Kong this afternoon. And my take on it isn't much more favorable than Shocho's.

It may be coming out in December, Oscar-bait season. It may be a remake of a classic film respected in cinema history. It may be directed by Peter Jackson, with the credibility of an Oscar win and several nominations behind him. But don't let any of that fool you...

This was a big, dumb, summer action movie.

The film flailed about like a fire hose with no one holding onto the end, moving from "set piece" to "set piece." You could make an argument that each piece in and of itself was pretty dazzling. They certainly looked cool -- no one could fault the production values or effects of this movie. And I'm not saying that the sequences were all boring. A few were actually pretty tense.

But they were big and dumb. No real sense of story... just "run for your lives, everyone." The level of writing, directing, and acting may all have been far superior to the prequel Star Wars films, but King Kong was no less a "stare at the green screen" waste of time. And a lot of time at that. Even when a sequence did come along that was somewhat engaging, it was only to be followed by hours more movie -- 187 minutes in all.

On the strength of the look of the movie, and on those moments that do work, I'll rate the film a C overall. Even though for most of the time, "Z" is the letter I had in mind.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Blogging at Light Speed

Some techno-geeky friends of mine were explaining a little about quantum computers to me tonight. It's apparently the next expected major breakthrough in computer processing, and very cool in a techno-geeky sort of way.

I'm still stuck at the part where I could possibly in my lifetime have a device in my house that actually slows down light. And that I'll only be using this marvel to send e-mail and post to my blog.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Let's Go To Our Audience

It's funny how you never can quite guess which blog posts will spark lots of comments and which won't get any.

I had a feeling about that last post, though...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

There Was No Water Cooler

One of the players of the Lord of the Rings Online TCG has an amusing concept of new items up for grabs in "The Company's" online store.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

All's Well That Ends Well

It seems like it's rare, but sometimes these reality shows do turn out the way you hope. In tonight's final installment of The Amazing Race, the Weavers finished last of the three teams. That was really all I was looking for, but the Linzes were my pick to win, in a perfect world, and I got that wish too.

The Weavers were horrible to the very end. For the second time on the race (the last being the non-elimination leg that kept them in the game), they totally threw it in and wanted to quit, dismissing the stadium search as "stupid." I was almost feeling bad for Rolly for a minute. As before, when they should have been eliminated, I found myself screaming at the TV: "if they want to quit so badly, then let them!"

Hurling names at the other teams inside the stadium, they bumped into one of them (literally) outside, and then the mother has the nerve, hypocrisy, short-term memory, take your pick, to say say it's wrong of the other teams to call them names. I can't tell you how freaking ecstatic I was to see them come up with the last plane departure time after that.

It's funny how nerve-rattling that last challenge, simply putting together a geographical jigsaw puzzle, turned out to be. For one, it appeared to be a really close finish. How much pressure would be on you, to be the one working the puzzle? How horrible would it be to be one of three stuck on the sidelines, unable to do anything to help in the one challenge that was going to ultimately decide it all? Ugh.

And as a fun little coda on the whole thing, I had a small thrill with the scenes of the next installment of The Amazing Race. It looks like the next Race begins (began, technically, I suppose) right here in Denver, in Red Rocks Amphitheater. Neat!

"Hey... listen... I'm starting in The Amazing Race tomorrow. Do you mind dropping me off on your way to work in the morning? It's only 10 minutes away."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mayan Musings

I was visiting friends down in Colorado Springs last night, so it was only this evening that my "Survivor buddy" got to come over for both of us to enjoy the finale of our guilty pleasure.

For the first time in a long time, I'm content with who won. I knew looking at the final four that I was gonna be happy with whoever won. (Because I knew Lydia had no chance.)

But, I also think that a month or two from now, I'll be hard-pressed to remember much about this Survivor. Jeff Probst was saying at the reunion show, "thanks for giving us a great season," but I'm wondering how sincere he really was. Yes, it was certainly more physically demanding, but there wasn't much else going for it besides that.

Those three women in the back row at the reunion? I'd totally forgotten about all of them. Between "firefighter" and "Butthole Surfer," I couldn't remember a single distinguishing thing about any of them. And most of the people who stayed on longer weren't much more memorable, really.

Judd, a total, buried-in-denial, giant, whining baby until the very end.

Bobby Jon and Jamie... strangely getting along now. I was seriously getting just a bit of a Brokeback Farmstead vibe from them. (My Survivor bud said "Bobby Jon is totally the bottom in that couple.")

Rafe, who just didn't know when to stop being a "good guy." He totally lost $1,000,000 because Steph cried.

And the rest... I'm already starting to forget.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Theory of Magnetism

It was not long ago that I remarked how some people take their Lost way too... minutely.

Not a day or two later, a friend points me to a particular thread on that Lost fan site detailing one guy's "Ultimate Lost Theory." This thing is completely out of control.

I don't know how many of you happen to watch Stargate as well, but suddenly I'm hearing Richard Dean Anderson explain to me how it's all done with "magnets."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Swingin' Santa

Brian Setzer (of the Stray Cats, and front-man of the oh-so-humbly named Brian Setzer Orchestra) use to do "rockabilly" music. Then he did big band swing.

But now, apparently all he does is Christmas albums. One right after another.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Trivial Concerns

My Thursday night trivia crowd has been going to a new venue for the last month or so. The atmosphere is better, the food is far better, and we just generally seem to have a better time.

But one complaint I must make is the difficulty of questions within certain categories. It seems to me that the "hard questions" in certain categories are much easier than the "easy questions" in others. Some of this you could chalk up to the particular strengths of our group, of course, but I think this goes much deeper than that.

For example, last week, you'd net 4 points for naming the coach for whom the NBA Coach of the Year award is named. This answer to this supposedly middle of the road question was Red Auerbach, which got enough "who?" stares around the bar that I got the feeling this was a far more difficult question that the score would suggest.

By contrast, tonight's penultimate question, worth 10 points, asked which of Shakespeare's plays contains the line "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Okay, seriously?

I'll admit, Shakespeare would be "one of our categories," and is likely more difficult for the average bar patron than a basketball question. But seriously, 10 points for Hamlet? It seems to me if you just said to somebody, "name any one play by Shakespeare," you're gonna get Hamlet more than half the time. (You'd probably get Romeo and Juliet from every other non-theater geek that could name any at all.)

My point is, you could easily know almost nothing about Shakespeare and pull Hamlet out of your ass for 10 points. But where is someone who knows nothing about basketball going to pull Red Auerbach for 4 points? There's just a total lack of parity in the scoring here, if you ask me.

I suppose I should be grateful that some of the questions we know nothing about are worth less -- it's fewer points for us to miss out on. Still, I feel more strongly that one of the most valuable questions in the game should require at least a little bit of special knowledge in the category.

Next week, "what is the name of the Vulcan science officer played by Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek?" (20 points.)

The week after, "name the only U.S. state that starts with the letter F." (14 points.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

No Sloppy Seconds Here

I freely acknowledge that of all the TV shows I watch, Survivor has to be most devoid of any real quality. It's total fluff. It doesn't hang with you like a good episode of say, Battlestar Galactica -- or even a bad one. (Quick, name the winner of Survivor: Amazon. See what I mean?) It's cotton candy.

But one aspect of Survivor that is worthy of some praise is the "second unit." The second unit of a film or television production is the group of people who film "other stuff" that doesn't necessarily involve the main actors (or "contestants," in this case). Close-up shots of hands opening bags, establishing shots of the city in which a story is set -- these sorts of things are the domain of the second unit.

The second unit on Survivor totally kicks ass. We're getting some interview about how "Player A" thinks "Player B" is a total jerk that could turn on them at any minute... cut to footage of a huge spider eating some hapless insect. "Player C" is explaining how her strategy is to try and lie low, waiting for the others to screw up... cut to some crocodile sinking down in the grass. Yea, second unit! They are always there with the on-the-nose animal kingdom metaphor for the current situation in the game.

Not to mention, the second unit is always providing the footage explaining how a challenge is going to work before it is run. You'll often see members of the second unit (not their actual faces, of course) walking an obstacle course during Jeff Probst's explanation, or depicting how tiles of a puzzle will look when assembled, or what-not.

The second unit on Survivor totally kicks ass.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wardrobe Malfunction

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. A title as unwieldy and long as the movie that bears it.

I caught a sneak preview of the film tonight, and I am extremely grateful not to have paid anything to see it. In truth, the film clocked in at just 2 hours, 10 minutes. But just as time passes differently within the land of Narnia, so it felt like an age elapsed inside that theater.

I vaguely recall reading the book many, many years ago. I might have been somewhere around 10 or 12 at the time. The point is, I have so little recollection of it, I was basically coming to the film new. So I'll have to leave it to those who have read the books more recently, possibly those who are fans, to tell me whether the fault lies in this film's adaptation, or whether the book is that way too.

It's going to get somewhat spoilery from here on out... but if you've read the book, you can probably safely forge ahead.

The story seemed gravely lacking any sort of connective tissue. It seemed as though about 10 characters had dialogue, and the rest were mere scenery. The motivations driving the few characters to get any play were left almost completely unexplained, and it seemed to me like they don't actually do anything to warrant having a story centered around them.

The children just have to show up in Narnia and everything starts thawing out and going right again? They don't actually have to do anything? I guess it's a good thing, because they don't do anything. They're chased around for half the story, finding Aslan only thanks to the help of others -- they do essentially nothing to help themselves. Oh... well, there's this moment where Peter kills a wolf that stupidly just jumps on his sword without a real fight.

Aslan is played up as this great and wonderful hero of the land. If he's so wonderful, then what are the kids for? Could it be because Aslan doesn't actually do anything either? Aside from his being a lion, which I guess carries some level of gravitas, we see him do nothing to explain how he's risen to be such a great leader before he simply hauls himself off to the Stone Altar to be sacrificed. He's good at dying. (Really good, since he comes back to life.) I guess that's why he's the leader.

Susan and Lucy are there to witnesses Aslan's death, but instead of going back to personally warn the army that trouble's afoot, they send some tree messenger to do it so they can stick around and cry for a while instead. (Never mind the fact that we were told earlier in the story that trees were in service of the White Witch.) These two girls themselves are supposed to be these wonderful saviors of Narnia, but they spend most of the battle crying over Aslan's body when there's a war being fought without them.

Fortunately, Aslan returns. Not that he gives the girls anything meaningful to do. Instead, he gives them a ride to the Witch's fortress, where he unfreezes all the statues the Witch has made of various citizens of Narnia. Now at least we're starting to get an answer for what makes him so special. But what the role of the children is supposed to be in all of this is foggier than ever.

Then some CG creatures crash into each other, a deus ex machina or two resolves the plot, and the story ends. Can I go home now?

NOPE! Because there's a little extra crap stuck in the credits, about a minute in. Just worthless exposition laying pipe for the sequel I now have no interest in reading. (Or seeing, should they film it too.)

It's a very pretty movie, I will at least say that. But in total, I must grade it a D. Unless you're a fan of the books, I can't fathom what might be there for you.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Feast is Over

It took me a little while to carve out the time for it, but yesterday I finished reading A Feast for Crows. I did quite enjoy it. I'm not sure if I "three years of waiting was worth it" enjoyed it, but it was still a great read. Not at all what I hear from fans reading the Robert Jordan series "The Wheel of Time," which as I understand it has been spinning its "wheel" (ha!) for about five books now to little effect.

Without getting too spoilery, I'll simply say that the "mammoth plot developments" of the book were not up to the high water mark of A Storm of Swords. But it still took some exciting twists. I think perhaps I was feeling the absence of some of the characters a bit too strongly. I knew going in that some characters would not be featured again until book five, A Dance of Dragons. Unfortunately, it turned out to be some of my favorite characters.

In the interest of remaining as spoiler-free as possible, I won't explain any further than that. I'll just plug away on behalf of this series one more time, for those of you who haven't read it.

This is the last you'll have to hear of it from me until the release date for A Dance for Dragons is announced. Some very, very distant day, I'm sure.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Lines That Divide Us

You've all probably heard hundreds of ways to divide people into two categories. Here's my latest realization along those lines:

There are two kinds of people in the world -- those who regularly make use of a soldering iron, and those who don't.

I have two key fobs for the auto-door locks and alarm of my car. In the last couple weeks, both of them have started flaking out on me. Turns out both of them had bad solder joints inside, and both of those were going bad at about the same time.

I had a helpful friend over tonight who offered to take them home with him and bring them back to me next time I see him, better than before. And I thanked him for the service, because I am one of the people in the latter category -- I can't think of anything I've ever needed a soldering iron for in my entire life. But he falls into the former category -- he owns a soldering iron because he uses one on quite a regular basis.

By the way... whoever decided that an English word could have a silent "L" in it is having a big laugh at everyone's expense.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Barber Banter

Ah, the ritual of the haircut. Specifically, the ritual of having to banter uselessly with the person giving you the haircut.

What are your plans for the day? they'll ask. What do you do? Do you have family in town? What are you doing for the holidays?

Does the person really care? Somehow I doubt it. But there's this charade the stylist has to go through, and somehow you are expected to participate, thus perpetuating the belief that the charade is necessary.

Friday, December 02, 2005


In my opinion, the people in these forums are missing much of the point when they watch Lost. To my mind, if you're scrutinizing every frame of every episode so thoroughly as to:
  • Figure out what "drippy Walt" is saying in reverse,
  • Spot the Dharma logo on the shark in the one frame of screen time it's visible, and
  • Counting and cataloguing all the times the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 43 appear,
then it's likely most of the actual drama -- the heart of the show, I think -- is flying by you completely.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Elton John Meets The Lone Ranger Meets Bill Cosby

Soon, the movie Brokeback Mountain will be hitting theaters. This is the independent film of growing notoriety, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall as gay cowboys.

I don't think I'm going to be seeing this movie. Not because of the subject matter, mind you. Well, wait... it's exactly because of the subject matter, but it's all South Park's fault.

Some of you may recall the rather well-known South Park episode, Chef's Salty Chocolate Balls. It used to be well known for Chef's titular song. But now, I'll always think first of Cartman's prophetic statement, that all independent films are about "gay cowboys eating pudding."

I don't care how amazing the acting is, or how good the story is... if I go see Brokeback Mountain, I will be waiting for the scene in which one or both of the main characters starts eating pudding. Hell, if I went, I might have to sneak a cup into the theater myself. But there's no way I won't have a horrible case of the giggles from beginning to end, thank you very much Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

It turns out, of course, that not all independent films are about gay cowboys eating pudding. Here's one entertainment web site's opinion of the 50 greatest independent films ever. I was somewhat surprised to find that I'd seen many more of them than I'd have guessed. 14 out of 50, in fact. (Which is a way higher percentage than the number of films I've seen on the AFI Top 100 list.)

I don't know that this list makes me really want to make an effort to see the others, but hey... there you go.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Week 8: Veronica Mars 5; Lost 3.

As with last week, I could have gone either way in the VM v L matchup this week.

Lost's very aptly titled episode "What Kate Did" painted in a key missing piece of the backstory, and did so in a very interesting way. We had strange new animal life on the island, in the form of Kate's horse. (I wonder if it has run into Jack's dead father out there in the jungle somewhere?) Jack-and-Kate "shippers" got cause to scream for joy, while Sawyer-and-Kate "shippers" got cause to scream in anguish. We got to see Eko and Locke really interact, and it was as interesting as we knew it would be. And the "missing bit of film" led to a very cool ending for the episode. Really, the only down side was that we don't get another episode until January 11th.

Veronica Mars managed to bring back Alyson Hannigan, even though she's busy on How I Met Your Mother every week. And not just for a walk-on scene or two. The Trina Ecchols plot was twisty and cool. We saw Veronica finally get played herself -- though she showed the intuition to figure it out in the end. And there was a tantalizing revelation on the "uber-plot" front, that apparently Jake is the father of a baby, with another girl.

In the end, the only way I was able to call this race was to let them play on my Buffy nostalgia. I ate up the Trina and Kendall Bitch-Off (reuniting "Willow" and "Cordelia") and enjoyed every delicious bite.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Sex Was Bad

I've been aware of the existence of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for a couple of years now. For those of you who aren't (and who didn't click the link), it's a "prize" akin to the Golden Raspberry award, given by the Literary Review to highlight the "worst, most redundant, or embarrassing description" of sex in a novel.

This year's nominees are in, and I for one think that of the three criteria I mentioned, "embarrassing" is the one being singled out. Reading these things gave me a pretty icky feeling, almost like a parent was in the room watching me or something.

Naturally, I wanted to share this icky feeling with all of you.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Soft Shoe Routine

A friend of mine did a little text editing to create this humorous illustration of one downside to living on the third floor of an apartment building.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Cucumber Croissandwiches?

Just because you're rich enough to ride around in a limo doesn't mean you have good taste.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Unnoticed Gem

It snuck into theaters a couple weeks ago, and at the rate it's going, it's going to sneak right back out again in less time... but I went to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang this afternoon, and I'm very glad I did. Outside of Serenity, it's the best movie I've seen in quite some time. Like Serenity, it somehow got lost in the shuffle and really deserves to be seen by more people.

After nearly two decades of trying to be in "serious" movies, Val Kilmer finally gets back to doing comedy, which he did so brilliantly in Top Secret and Real Genius. And Robert Downey Jr. has always been great on screen, even if in real life he's a complete mess. The two make a great pairing for a humorous but loving take on the private eye genre. It has action, it has mystery, it has a neat plot, one of the best uses of voice-over in film I've seen in years, and more funny lines than you can possibly remember.

At this point, it may well be too late to catch it "at a theater near you." But this movie gets my enthusiastic recommendation, and you should be watching for it on DVD if nothing else. Definitely an A. Which I suppose means I might have to do some thinking about where it might fall on my top 100 list, since I honestly think some of the films near the bottom of that list would probably only rate an A-.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Alias Compromised

On Wednesday, ABC made official what had been pretty well suspected for some time: this season will be the last one for Alias.

I'm sorry to say this move was probably long overdue.

I've still been watching the show every week, which I suppose goes to show you that I didn't find the show terrible. (Though I had talked about maybe giving it up a few times last year.) Still, it was a pale shadow of what it was in years one and two. And the longer it went on in such a sub-par state, the more it seemed to weaken those first two years. As the whole grew larger, that part of it that was so outstanding was becoming a smaller and smaller part of it. Every new episode was making Alias less a "great" TV show.

They're getting enough notice to be able to work toward a big series conclusion, one that hopefully gets back to the original "Rambaldi" roots and ties up the story in a satisfying way.

It'll be interesting to see, once the next fall season rolls around, what impact this has on Lost (if any). Lost co-creator (and Alias creator) J.J. Abrams has been splitting his focus between the two shows and the upcoming Mission: Impossible 3 he's directing. Actually, he's been giving the movie most of his attention, and leaving most of the day-to-day show running responsibilities on Lost to the other major co-creator, Damon Lindelof. But it seems to be the norm in Hollywood that when a show folds up shop, much of its writing staff is absorbed into other shows under the same production umbrella. (Several Buffy writers moved to Angel, for example.) There had already been a little cross pollination between Alias and Lost, with writers of one turning in a script for the other.

Are there going to be Alias writers on Lost next season? If so, is that going to be a good or a bad thing? I for one would say it hasn't been individual scripts one can blame for Alias' decline -- it's more the sum of those scripts, as the season arcs simply haven't been as compelling as the glory days. Would some of those Alias writers do better on a show more clearly being "steered" in a good direction?

The TV season is not even half over yet, so I guess it will be some time before we find out. For now, just mark it all down as further mysteries surrounding Lost -- these behind the scenes, for a change.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Bird-Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans reading this. (You foreigners can have some too... it's just that I know you have other days of the year for this sort of thing.)

It's a particularly noteworthy Thanksgiving for me this year, because it's my birthday. It happens about every five years, as my birthday skips through the week and eventually lands on Thursday. The last time it would have happened was 2000, so leap year spared it -- the last time I got turkey for birthday dinner was 1995.

And it's a particularly noteworthy birthday for me this year, too -- I'm turning 30. As per usual with birthdays, I don't feel any older as I begin this revolution around the sun than I did finishing the last one, despite the "roundness" of the number involved. 30 really isn't what it used to be. And as most of my friends are older than me and have already turned 30, I suppose I don't really need to tell anyone that.

Let's see what decade number four has in store...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Week 7: Veronica Mars 4; Lost 3.

This week's TV face-off was another photo finish, and a tough one to call.

On the one hand, Lost brought us all the fallout of the shooting. Ana-Lucia's backstory was very interesting. I'm not sure it made her any more sympathetic to me (and I'm not entirely sure it was supposed to), but it certainly did explain her behavior. We now know why she's so jumpy, quick to judge, and why she was so protective of the two kids on the island, and took it so hard when The Others came for them.

On the other hand, Veronica Mars brought a story with strong dramatic and emotional impact. We got to see Veronica herself in some serious jeopardy at the beginning of the hour. We got to see a really tense torture scene involving Logan -- only to find out moments later that the whole thing was staged by him and Weevil. And we got the great line about being on the bottom bunk in "Fisty McRapesalot's" cell.

In the end, what tipped the balance for me were the two reunions at the conclusion of tonight's Lost: Bernard and Rose, and Sun and Jin. That was strong stuff, especially for Bernard and Rose. It was hard not to be moved by it.

Lost is on a streak now. Can it tie up the series? Tune in next week!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pilot Safety

Last week, while we were right in the middle of a cold spell of weather, the pilot light on my water heater went out. Not exactly a big deal. The water heater's in a separate closet in my apartment. The door is probably supposed to be locked so that people living here don't store stuff in that closet -- but the door is unlocked. They don't need to worry about me storing anything in that closet, though. Because the last water heater I had dealings with did this:

Or, for those seeking the cartoon-ized version, it did this:

It was just over two years ago that a flame from a "not protected by a guard plate" water heater lit up a stash of mops, plungers, and the like, and very nearly burned down the house I was living in. Had I not been home, old "Torchy" would no doubt have been successful. It should come as little surprise to you, then, that I discovered last week that my experiences have left me pretty skittish around water heaters.

I opened up the closet and looked. Yup, pilot light out. So I went to grab my long-stemmed lighter... and my fire extinguisher. I know, paranoid and ridiculous. But I simply had to. I relit the heater with the lighter in one hand, and the fire extinguisher in the other, I kid you not. I then, after it was lit, I sat there watching it for several minutes with the fire extinguisher still in hand. I left the extinguisher nearby, sitting out, for the rest of the evening, only finally putting it away just before I went to bed. And yes, I took me just a little bit longer to fall asleep.

But hey. That closet door didn't wind up looking like this:

And I had a hot shower ready the next morning.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fired Up

It took me until Sunday, but I made it out to see the newest Harry Potter film, Goblet of Fire. It was quite enjoyable, but when it was all wrapped up, it had made me realize something about the book itself that I'd never quite articulated in my head:

Goblet of Fire is my least favorite of all the Potter books.

It took seeing it on film for me to figure this out. It suffers from classic "middle of the trilogy" syndrome. Granted, this is a seven-chapter series, not a true trilogy, but Goblet of Fire nevertheless lands right smack in the middle of the saga. And just like a middle chapter, it's all about setting up the conclusion.

The truth is, despite the huge revelation at the end and the boldly dark turn in tone, it seems to me that not much of consequence happens in book four. In distilling down the hefty book into a screenplay, all the bits not key to the narrative (and even a few that some might argue were) had to be stripped away. In the end, you're left with "the Tri-Wizard tournament" as the plot, and when you compare it to Chamber of Secrets or Prisoner of Azkaban, it's pretty flimsy. How J.K. managed to spin 700+ pages out of it seems something of a mystery to me, now that I reflect on it.

Now, I know I must sound quite down on the movie and book after all this, but in truth that's not really the case. The conclusion of Goblet of Fire is really a great one, and well-realized in the movie. There were certainly good emotional notes played in both. And the acting in the film was really quite remarkable, watching many very talented actors really wring a feast out of a few limited scenes. (Hell, Gary Oldman only appears in the movie in CG form.)

Still, I believe Azkaban was the most artistic, well-made of the films to date. And I've always loved Chamber of Secrets for its plot, from the moment I first read the book. Goblet of Fire, hamstrung by its duty to "lay the pipe" needed for the second half of the saga, can't quite compete. I still recommend it. It still probably rates around a B+ for me. But, as with the book it's based on, I'm more left with a sense of waiting for the fifth installment than anything else.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Winning Score

Ever since AFI released its "top 100 films" list a few years ago, they've been doing their best to follow it up semi-regularly with other "top" lists. They've done "thrills," "laughs," "quotes," and several others. Most recently, though, they've done top film scores.

I've always loved movie scores. My CD collection is about 40% soundtracks. This is a list that really speaks to me.

There was an actual top 25 scores list, but that was culled down from a complete list of 250 nominees that they've also made available. And it's a damn good list, I have to say. I agree with more of the entries on this list than on their actual, original "top 100 films" list. In fact, it's been a tempting reminder to me lately: "oh yeah, I don't have that soundtrack, but I really liked the music in that movie. I should go get it."

I don't know if AFI is getting any kind of cutback from soundtrack sales, but hey... good for them.

Friday, November 18, 2005

She Can't Take Any More, Cap'n

You wouldn't expect a space ship with Scotty on board would have engine trouble, but apparently even he cannot work his miracles from beyond the grave.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Deep Freeze

This very nifty pattern of frost was on the roof of my car tonight.

It's an incredibly small thing, one I could never have named off the top of my head, but it's one of the many things I've missed, not living in Colorado for so many years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Week 6: Veronica Mars 4; Lost 2.

After a serious losing streak in this "series," Lost finally bounced back to put one over on Veronica Mars this week. It was a close "game," though.

The "Tailie's Tale" was an interesting hour (and extra) of television. It could almost have been a second pilot for a different series, but for the rapid pace it moved through its 48 days. Interestingly, it was the first episode of Lost ever where every single scene took place on the island.

Nice trick, choosing the name "Nathan," to deliberately sound so close to "Ethan," the known infiltrator of our main heroes. I'm not sure I ever completely fell for the bait-and-switch, but then this show does teach you to be on your guard. Anyway, "Goodwin" works just as well for the name of an Other -- apparently your name has to end in an "n" sound.

Yes, I could be an Other. Deal with it.

Tension, revelation, fun little connections with what's come before... (Boone's transmission from the drug plane, chiefly)... all the elements the best episodes of Lost have had.

Veronica Mars did alright. There was a truly creepy mystery for her to unravel in the child abuse case. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, some of the funniest pop culture references yet (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Big Lebowski, Doogie Howser), and the amazingly snarky like about Logan hurting Kendall's "feeling." But somehow, the parts didn't quite make as compelling a whole as the rest of the season so far has managed. Maybe it has to do with so many of the "A-string" players being on the bench this week -- no Wallace, no Weevil, and hardly any scenes involving Keith.

It's still the most brutal scheduling conflict on TV, though.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Popcorn and Anti-Depressants

In front of the movie I saw this weekend, I was accosted by the usual array of crap commercials, and a truly depressing procession of movie previews.

'Tis the season, people. I know because the displays at the local shopping mall have been telling me so since the day after Halloween. But judging from what I saw on the screen, we're in for anything but a "happy holiday."

I understand that it's around the post-Thanksgiving period that movie studios roll out the things they've been saving for Oscar consideration. And that usually means dramas. But the dramas aren't all always deathly serious. And they aren't always to the apparent exclusion of other, light-hearted fare.

Also granted, I wasn't going to see a particularly happy movie. Nevertheless, if I can get romantic "chick flick" comedy previews in front of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or King Kong previews in front of... well... basically anything, I would have expected some sign of something light coming by year's end.

Instead, we had a litany of previews for films that were so deeply depressing, each more so than the one before -- I really can't keep them straight. Munich, I remember, only because Steven Speilberg's directing. Really though, that was just an auteur's flourish at the end of 10-15 minutes of priming you to slit your wrists.

I know that the movies this year have largely been dreary for an entirely different reason (quality), but does it seem to anyone else like the coming crop is more downbeat than usual?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Revolting Development

It looks like the writing is on the wall for one of my favorite TV shows, Arrested Development. Apparently, FOX has cut their season order from 22 episodes to 13. Unless you're a cable network, that's not a full season, and not much of a sign for any future.

On the one hand, I must once again extend a raised middle finger to FOX, who have canceled so many of my favorite shows over the years.

On the other, I suppose that with ratings like Arrested Development has been getting for the last two years, it's a miracle (and not a minor one) that the show is even still here as it is.

But really, I suppose I have to give a big "what the hell?!" to TV viewers everywhere, who for reasons I cannot comprehend have not been watching this show.

This is the funniest thing on TV today. It's the funniest thing that has been on TV for many years, at least since Seinfeld. And frankly, I think it's probably funnier than Seinfeld. This show makes me laugh out loud, repeatedly, every time I watch it. Even when I watch an episode I've seen before. Even when I'm completely by myself, and not laughing for anyone's benefit but my own. The show is just plain funny.

I guess I should be glad it lasted as long as it did. It got better treatment than Firefly or Wonderfalls, at least.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hry Ptr n t Gblt f Fir (abridged)

This Friday, the newest Harry Potter movie opens, and I know I'm really looking forward to it. But just as much as I'm looking forward to the movie, I'm looking forward to hearing the reaction to it from two of my sisters.

Almost everyone in my family is a Harry Potter fan and has read all the books. That's both parents, and all the siblings (except, I think, for the one brother that doesn't really do much reading). This is an impressive testament to the quality of the books (a quality I doubt very much I have to convince you of), as two of my sisters are among the harshest critics imaginable. (Some of you right now may be thinking of my emerging "pot"-like qualities as I speak of my "kettle"-like sisters and just where they might fall on the color spectrum. All I can say is, they put me to shame.)

The first two Harry Potter film adaptations thrilled the both of them. But then came movie three. Of course, a great many people regarded this as the best of the three Potter films so far, but not my sisters. And not, in my opinion, for any rational reason. They were simply horrified (I think that not too strong a word) at some of the changes that had been made in adapting Prisoner of Azkaban into a movie.

I tried to point out that to cut a 435-page book down to a movie of reasonable length, some cuts were going to have to be made. The spirit of the book, I argued, was present intact.

Oh no! groused one sister. Some of their changes were totally unacceptable.

Such as?

And her example (I kid you not), is that in the movie, Harry receives his gift of a new Firebolt broom at the end of the story, rather than in the middle, as in the original book.

Big fat Harry deal, I thought. But I knew there was no point in continuing the discussion.

Now we're facing down Goblet of Fire, which in print weighed in at almost 300 pages longer than Prisoner of Azkaban. So basically, cut all 300 of those pages out, on top of the type of trimming made to get Azkaban down to a shorter-than-a-Peter-Jackson-film length. I expect a total fit from my sisters. Should be fun to watch.

I love you two!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Marine Psychology

Well, after some indecision last weekend, I finally did get out to see Jarhead late this afternoon. And my conclusion is, it was a very well-made movie that I didn't like even one little bit.

The acting was top notch. It was another great turn from director Sam Mendes as well, with very neat imagery and clearly a lot of thought behind the filming. It was also mind-numbingly dull, and had me looking at my watch almost from beginning to end.

Of course, on some level it was supposed to be mind-numbingly dull, is the funny thing. The whole point of the movie was not political, but rather was the tale of a guy who really wanted to go to war, kick some ass, and kill people, and gets robbed of the opportunity. But in depicting his boredom with his situation, I think the movie bores its audience.

And moreover, you're either on board with the main character, or you're not. If you can get at all into the mindset of a guy who wants to kill people, then you can probably get on board with this movie and enjoy it. But if you can't identify with this bloodthirst, there's nothing here for you. Being upset that you didn't have to take lives during a war? Aw, I suppose your diamond-studded shoes are too tight, as well?

I accept there are those with this sort of mindset. I accept that these people are the backbone of the armed forces. I'm glad they're there to do the work and I'm not. But it's such an alien mindset to me that I regretted giving two hours of my life over to it.

So, in the end, it's almost impossible for me to try to grade this movie. I suppose I give it a C. It's simply too well-made, having too many amazing artistic qualities and tons of great acting, to give it any less. But I didn't like it, so I certainly won't grade it any higher.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dr. Heimlich Went to Washington

Veteran's Day is drawing to a close as I write this. I clearly remember where I was for the occasion last year -- in Washington DC. I was on what turned out to be my last work trip at my old job (though I didn't know it at the time), a road trip up the coast. I had two-and-half days in the DC area, and only in the evenings did I have actual obligations related to the job. So my mornings and afternoons were mine to do with as I pleased.

My pleasure: to go into DC and be a tourist. I didn't realize at the time that one of the days I was going into town was Veteran's Day, but it became readily apparent once I got there. Yes, some things were closed for the holiday, but really not that many. And of course the big landmarks are mostly open spaces anyway.

The instant I saw the crowds at all the war memorials, I remembered what day it was. The Vietnam Memorial was so mobbed, I chose not to even try to get near it. People were piled up 20 deep along every single inch of the wall:

Still, I got to see pretty much every other landmark in DC I would have wanted to see, including one or two I didn't even know existed:

A good trip. Pretty much the last good memory I have of my old job. (Though fortunately, there were lots of other good memories in the earlier years.)

I know these sorts of memories aren't the sort of thing one is supposed to think of on Veteran's Day, but I suspect I'll have this association for many years to come.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Coming From a Console Near You

Okay, I liked the original Castlevania on NES as much as (or more than) the next guy. I bought many of the GameBoy and PS2 follow-ups. But seriously, a movie based on Castlevania? Puh-lease.

I simply don't understand how all these video game movies get made. Is it just because two of them -- the original Tomb Raider and the original Resident Evil -- managed to actually make a little money? Two films among dozens? I mean, look at the crap video game movies that have been inflicted on us. Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros., and of course, most recently, Doom. None of them have made any serious money.

I know that people are spending tons of money on video games, so it would seem logical that it's a market waiting to be tapped, butts for the seats of the local cineplex. But time and time again, the attempt has been made, and people have made it clear: when you can play the game, you don't want to watch a movie movie about it. But studios keep on making them.

You've all heard the saying about the lunacy of making the same mistakes repeatedly, yet somehow expecting different results.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Week 5: Veronica Mars 4; Lost 1.

Veronica Mars keeps piling on the great episodes.

No question, tonight was a solid episode of Lost. But really, the big punches came in the first five minutes and the last five minutes. It was fun to see Boone again, and Locke's scenes were great as usual. Still, all the real drama and tension came at the beginning and end, with Shannon's visions of Walt... and of course what they led to. It still would have been enough for a solid win this week...

...except that Veronica Mars brought its A game once again. This episode was a huge tale reaching back into the first season to weave Abel Koontz, Clarence Weidman, and Aaron Echolls into the current season's uber-plot. Keith lost the sheriff election, another person Veronica had met turned up murdered, and we got outrageously clever lines like "what are you the head of again?" And the big cherry on the sundae: a cameo appearance by Joss Whedon. This episode had tension and excitement throughout -- not just at the beginning and the end.

Don't mistake me. I'm loving Lost so far this season. It's just that the little-UPN-show-that-could is putting it to shame week in and week out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Amazing Rant

After tonight's double installment, The Amazing Race is taking the week off next Tuesday. And I'm almost glad in a way, because I need a break from the Weaver family.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm thrilled the Paolo family got eliminated tonight. Every time they opened the first clue to start a new leg of the race, they couldn't even make it off the mat before they were yelling at each other. They were simply horrible to watch (and went out doing exactly what they do "best," berating each other even as they reached the pit stop).

But the Weavers. As much as I hated Rob and Amber last time around, this family is putting them to shame. What have the Weavers got they they didn't have? Hypocrisy.

"What did we ever do to them?" Hmm... check last week's installment when you called one of the Paolo sons a retard and mocked their family for having their team picture taken in front of a garbage truck.

"They play dirty," they said of the Linz family. Conveniently, they'd already forgotten how just moments earlier, they'd tried to get the park ranger at the entrance to the Grand Canyon to delay the Linz van.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. They behave horribly, deny having done it, criticize far less objectionable behavior in others, and then wrap themselves in a cloak of Christianity.

No, I'm afraid we were only rid of the lesser of two evils tonight.

(On a separate note, I loved that in the montage depicting the first hour's pit stop, they showed us the place where Hawke and Santini park Airwolf.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Watch Your Tongue

Here's a bar trivia question from a few weeks ago to fill in on a night when I don't have much else to talk about.

Place these languages in order according to which is spoken by the highest number of people as their primary lanugage (starting with most prevalent): Hindustani, English, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish.

Answers inside, as usual.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Days of Our Lives

Soon I'll be in the market for a new page-a-day calendar.

They're always cheaper if you wait until the new year begins, of course. But at that point, you're left choosing from whatever crap is still in the store and didn't sell. And you have to see this thing every day for a whole year, so why cheat yourself just to save about $5? Hell, that's not even 2 cents a page!

I never do the same type of calendar two years in a row. This year has been George W. Bush quotes. That's been a load of laughs. The year before that was Dilbert. One year, I actually had three calendars, because I'd bought myself a Shakespeare quote calendar and received two others from friends as Christmas gifts. (Though The Onion "Our Dumb Century" and the space photos calendar were great, if excessive.)

What will it be in 2006?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Sid Vicious

I picked up Sid Meier's Civilization IV this week. And it comes down to this:

Is this really a game worth $1,000 to me?

My poor computer is too old. It's just not burly enough to handle this game. I can boot it up, I can go through starting a scenario. I can hear Leonard Nimoy's voice tell me about how the Earth used to not have any voids ("In the beginning, the Earth was without form and void"), and then I pretty much freeze up.

There haven't been any other games that have come out for PC in quite some time that I want to play. I don't foresee any other games coming out in the near future that I want to play, either. This is because 95% or more of all the games coming out are either First Person Shooters or Massive Multiplayer Online games. I hate FPSs and MMOs.

FPSs are all about who has the best sense of direction and knows the map. And of course, who has the best aim. Which is never me.

MMOs are just obnoxious. I long for the days of Ultima, when I got to be the savior of everything. The avatar. The hero of Brittania. The one and only. Not basket weaver #498. Or rat slayer #34,473. I have a life already that is at times tedious. I don't want a tedious online life to supplement it. I want to do heroic things. And I don't want to be at the whim of the "least common denominator" playing the game. I want my own world, one not messed up by other people playing.

The only other things I use my computer for are browsing the net, reading my e-mail, playing poker, and posting to this blog. I'm not editing movies. I'm not entering Photoshop contests. I'm not doing anything that calls for more processing power than I have now.

So... since they really aren't making PC games that appeal to me anymore, it pretty much comes down to buying a new computer just to play Civilization IV. And that brings me back to the question:

Is this really a game worth $1,000 to me?

I just don't think so.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

War (But No Roses)

The movie Jarhead opens this weekend, and I'm really torn over whether I want to see it.

On the one hand, it's a war movie. War movies don't often do it for me. Steven Spielberg has somehow been a consistent exception to this rule, as I liked Saving Private Ryan (though I have terrible story about going to see it that I'll relate on another occasion). Schindler's List is high in my top 100 (though, of course, it's not the sort of perspective on a "war movie" I'm talking about). And I love the mini-series Band of Brothers, which he and Tom Hanks produced. Outside of those, though, I can't really think of any that pass muster for me.

On the other hand, Jarhead is directed by Sam Mendes. He's the brilliant director behind American Beauty (which rates even higher on my top 100 than Schindler's List -- a great deal higher). I wouldn't say the man can "do no wrong," since he also made Road to Perdition, which I wasn't crazy about. (Hey, there's another genre I'm not wild about -- gangsters.) Still, I loved American Beauty so much that I'm probably willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on anything else he directs for quite some time to come.

So... to see, or not to see? Anyone else planning a trip to the movie theater this weekend?

(Yes, this post was too liberal with the parentheses.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sweet Torture

If you've ever lived in the Denver area, or if you're a regular viewer of South Park, then you've heard of Casa Bonita. It's a unique Mexican restaurant that Cartman dubbed (not entirely inaccurately) the "Mexican Disneyland."

From the outside, it's a garish pink monstrosity with tall spire, poking out from the back corner of an otherwise almost totally defunct strip mall. It's also rather like the Tardis, in that on the inside it seems many times larger than it appears from the outside. After going through an almost cafeteria-style food line, you emerge in a crazy, decorated environment complete with a 30-foot high waterfall. Cliff divers, fire jugglers, and mariachi bands entertain the guests. There are different "rooms" in the restaurant done up to look like caves, mine shafts, dinner theaters, and more. There are two video arcades.

And the food is so far beyond God awful, I can't possibly muster the words to describe it. Imagine the worst Taco Bell you've ever had in your life. Cut that quality by a factor of 10, and we might be in the neighborhood.

Why would I go to such a place? Because it's a child's paradise.

See, my former roommate from Virginia is currently on a cross-country voyage to start a new job in California. He's traveling with his mother and young daughter, and they swung by Denver to visit me for one afternoon along the way. And I was absolutely thrilled to see them.

He grew up in Colorado Springs, and has fond childhood memories of driving up to Denver for a special trip to Casa Bonita. We all agreed it was something his little one should experience. My boss let me off work early for the special occasion, and so it was I caught a late lunch at Casa Bonita.

I knew the food was bad. I'd just forgotten how bad. Here I am typing this, about 7 hours later. I just burped, and I tasted dog meat tacos all over again. Vile.

And yet, it was worth it. Worth it to see my good friend again, and worth it to see moments like this:

I wish them all continued safe travels to the other coast.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Protecting Your Basketball From Freezer Burn

Since I got a TiVo, I think I've seen maybe five commercials total that weren't broadcast during the Super Bowl. But tonight, I happened to watching a show in just-a-little-bit-too-close-to-real-time, and caught up with the live broadcast before it was over.

I caught this ad for these new, giant Ziploc bags. The commercial shows someone zipping up a bunch of sports equipment inside and carrying it off. At this image, a couple of thoughts came to me.

First, was there something wrong with duffel bags? Were people really disappointed that they couldn't share their stanky gym clothes with the rest of the world via a transparent plastic? Is our society so anti-conservation that we had to find some way to turn a perfectly acceptable, reusable product into a disposable one?

Second, how long do you give it before we hear the story of some little kid (about six years old) zipping up his baby sister inside one of these things and accidentally suffocating her to death? Ordinarily, my comment for this sort of thing would be "didn't that come up in playtesting?" In this case, though, I'm guessing somebody probably did think of this, and I fully expect there's some bit of legalize on the product packaging warning against this sort of thing (and, of course, insulating the company from lawsuits in such matters).

Yellow and blue makes green... then blue... then purple...

Monday, October 31, 2005


Happy Halloween, everyone.

Halloween was always a big deal with my college friends. They'd always throw a big party, and everyone would come in costumes. It was a good time. After being away from them for years while I lived in Virginia, I was looking forward a grand return to an old Halloween tradition. Unfortunately, Halloween is on a Monday this year, and various other things were going on -- so there was no party.

On the up side, though, you can always count on Mom to make things better. When it became apparent that my apartment complex was devoid of trick-or-treaters and was going to be for the entire night, I decided to give my family a call and see what they were up to. My youngest two siblings were out in the neighborhood, but otherwise the family was all around, and their Halloween traditions were in full force. My Mom made chili for dinner, and had hot apple cider and cinnamon rolls waiting for the kids when they came back. And I got in on all of it.

Maybe I got back to the better tradition, after all.

I will say this: weather-wise, it was the best Halloween I can remember ever coming to Denver. Growing up here, I can tell you that all I remember every year was bitter cold and snow. I was always an evening of staying out as long as you could possibly stand (which wasn't long), then going home to thaw. You'd beg to go back out, but the parents (being parents, naturally) couldn't bear to see the kid-cicles come through the door one more time. This year, no snow. And the temperature was a relatively balmy 40 degrees this evening.

Halloween really isn't a holiday you'd normally think of as "good to be back home for." But tonight, I learned otherwise. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to pop on a DVD and watch Michael Myers terrorize Laurie Strode before bed.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Steppin' Out in Public

Today I went to Elitch Gardens, the major amusement park in Denver. It's their closing weekend, and my friend had some "half-off" passes. We figured that between it being a Sunday, there being a Broncos game just a few blocks away, and today's high temperature being about 55 degrees, it wouldn't be very crowded -- even with the two haunted houses on site.

We were right. We went from ride to ride, doing basically everything in the park we wanted to without waiting more than 10 minutes for anything. In fact, we were able to pack in the rides so close together that we basically had to stop for a break mid-afternoon. A little too much lurching around without the needed rest periods of waiting in line had made us all just a little queasy.

As I said, we got to do basically every ride in the park, even though we were only there about four hours. We thought about staying for the haunted houses that opened up in the evening, but they were the one thing that actually did have a long line. And by that point, the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees and it was just starting to rain. (By the time I'm writing this, it's become snow.) Enough was enough -- we figured we'd more than gotten our money's worth already. It was actually quite a great day at the amusement park.

There was one other highlight of the afternoon. We were walking by one of the video arcades at one point, and there was an "In the Groove 2" dance machine right up front. One of the three friends I was with had seen me "stepping" before, while the other two had not. She insisted on a performance, and put up the 75 cents to make it happen.

It was actually a little more than a year ago that I played any of the DDR games for the first time. But until today, I'd never done it in public at one of the actual arcade machines. But hey -- it wasn't my dollar, so I figured "what the hell." And so my first public DDR-ing came to pass.

It turns out that you have to have your timing really damn precise on the actual arcade models to score well. I made it through my first couple songs with nearly full combos, only missing a step or two, but I was getting a whole lot of "greats" and "perfects" and not enough of the arcade-exclusive "marvelouses." (Or whatever the In the Groove equivalent was. I can't remember at the moment.) Consequently, my 200+ combo performance in one song only rated a "B." And the other two songs weren't even that high. Still, I gather no "baggy-panted super-dance freaks" had been to the machine lately, because I got to put my name in afterward. The whole thing managed to draw about a dozen random strangers for an audience, too.

A relatively useless skill, put to the tiniest of uses. Good times.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Playground Puns

This afternoon, I went to see Saw II. (Say that sentence out loud. The joke is still no funnier than it was when the first movie came out last year.)

I was honestly a bit nervous about seeing this movie. But it's Halloween time, and I'm pretty much obligated to go and see whatever "scary movie" is available. The trouble is, I had such high hopes for the first one last year, and was so disappointed. What a clever concept the first Saw had: the story of a serial killer who makes his victims kill themselves (or each other). I remember seeing trailers for Saw months before the film hit, and I just couldn't wait.

Unfortunately, Saw looked like exactly what it was, a movie made for about 1/40th the budget of even the most modest of Hollywood films. (It cost about $1 million, from what I understand.) Apparently, they were on such a tight schedule that they ended up filming a lot of the rehearsals and actually using them in the movie. And this is why actors I've quite enjoyed in other films (Cary Elwes and Danny Glover) come off just plain awful in it. And the ending? It somehow managed to be cool and ridiculous at the same time.

So you can imagine that I was very pleasantly surprised to really enjoy Saw II. I suppose that it failed utterly in being a "scary movie" like I was looking for. I don't think it was trying to be. There weren't really any scares in the entire film. (A cliche "whip pan and loud music sting" or two, but that so doesn't count.) But it was very interesting, much more so than the first film. It was engaging. It was truly horrific at times. And this time, I was not at all ambivalent about the ending. The movie was wrapped up in a neat little package. Worth a B-. (Maybe even call it a B, since 'tis the season.)

I'd actually like to say a little more about it, but can't do so without spoiling parts of the movie for those who want to see it. I guess I'll see how it goes in the comments thread. (Assuming anyone even has anything to say about the movie.)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Zany to the Max

I hadn't even come down yet from the high of having American Gothic finally released on DVD when I heard the rumor that another show I've long wanted to see on DVD should be coming next year: Animaniacs!

Not only did this show make me laugh consistently, but I owe much of my trivia success to them, too. I own the soundtrack album from the show, and it includes two songs with extreme trivia content. "Yakko's World" names all the nations of the world (as of the mid-1990s, anyway) in under two minutes to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance. "Wakko's America" covers all 50 U.S. states and their capitals in the same amount of time, to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw." I listened to both enough to learn the songs, and they've come in very handy at the bar on Thursdays whenever a geography question shows up.

But mostly, it's about the laughs. There are episodes of Animaniacs I love just as much as some of the best classic Looney Tunes. The drive to the circus (aka "I'm Mad"), Wakko being accosted by clowns while he's alone in the tower one day, the many machinations of Pinky and the Brain, and of course the epic of Anvilania (featuring the Anvilanian national anthem as sung by "Perry Coma").

One countdown ends, another begins. It's the circle of DVD life... or something.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Horror, The Horror!

I'm gonna have to put a GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING on this one.

An alleged photo of a "World's Ugliest Dog" contest winner was making the rounds on the internet a few months ago. According to, it's the real thing. I decided to save this gem of a photo until Halloween time, because it is truly a nightmarish spectre that will haunt my dreams for the rest of my days.

Take a deep breath, and prepare to be horrified.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The 80s Live Again... Again!

Nobody does "black hole entertainment" like VH-1. We're talking about programs with such a powerful gravitational force that if you're exposed even for mere seconds, you cannot escape. And at the pinnacle of this type of television is their "I Love the..." series.

This week, they're running an all-new third installment of "I Love the 80s," called "I Love the 80s: 3D." Having gone through the entire decade twice already (with "I Love the 80s" and "I Love the 80s Strikes Back"), the pickings are getting more than a little bit slim. Yes, we remember about tainted Tylenol capsules back in 1982. It was scary. It was news. But I can't say it makes me feel "nostalgic." And are there really no other movies left to talk about from that year other than "Quest for the Fire?"

And yet, even though we're down to "black Barbie" and Intellivision, it's still fun and addictive. Michael Ian Black, Mo Rocca, and Hal Sparks are all still there with the wise cracks, and just as before, they pretty much make the entire show.

So beware if you're channel surfing this week. You will get sucked in. No force is strong enough to resist it. And enjoy it while it's new, because you're going to see it every time you flip to VH-1, no matter what time of the day or night, for the next eleven months.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Someone's at the Door

Today was a mammoth DVD release day, loaded with all sorts of "super-expanded editions" of major films and full season sets of various TV shows. But the big highlight of the day -- particularly given that Halloween is less than a week around the corner -- was the release of the complete series American Gothic on DVD.

This was where I first saw Gary Cole, before he was the boss in "Office Space," or the captain on the not-so-good Babylon 5 spin-off Crusade, or "Bingo Bob" Russell on The West Wing, etc. Here, he played a manifestation of pure evil on Earth. And he did so masterfully. He made the show. I believe there was a little bit of an ongoing storyline, but now, 10 years after it aired on TV, I can't really remember any of it. I just remember what a delight it was to tune in and watch Sheriff Lucas Buck be purely, diabolically evil every week.

I have fond memories of a play I was in rehearsals for at the time, where half the cast and crew was hopelessly addicted to American Gothic. Every week, we'd come in taunting each other with the show's recurring tagline ("someone's at the door"), and gossiping about the perversely delightful evils that the sheriff was up to this week. I'm still friends with a couple of people who worked on that play, and we're all very psyched to watch "our show" again. One friend in particular tries to budget only one TV DVD a month, and she has resolved that American Gothic is the one for this month.

Ah, it takes me back.

Monday, October 24, 2005

We Thank You For Your Service

If you didn't catch last night's episode of The West Wing, turn back now, there be SPOILERS ahead.

Last night was possibly the finest hour of television I've seen so far this fall season. (Yes, beating all the amazing revelations on Lost, all the wit of Veronica Mars -- I'd say only the horrifying-but-wonderful mid-season finale of Battlestar Galactica topped it.) It's likely you have to have been a long-time fan of The West Wing to appreciate why, but if you are, you know what I'm talking about.

Watching Toby get dismissed was a stunning hour of television. From the solid minute of total silence between he and C.J., to the interrogation by Babbish (played masterfully by Oliver Platt), to the brutal words of President Bartlet... it just plain hurt. I've quite enjoyed this season so far, but sometimes the scenes set in the White House felt more like the "filler" you had to sit through to get to the interesting campaign trail material. All the more gripping, then, to find that entirely reversed last night.

The camera work was almost too obtrusive, so considered was much of the framing. And yet the shots were definitely appropriate, driving the message home. Toby, far off to one side of the frame, alone in the Roosevelt Room. People "mis-framed" on the wrong side of the screen. People viewed only in reflection. And Toby's final walk through the main hall.

Last night was as good as any of the best of the first two seasons. Pretty shocking for a show in its seventh year. Even more shocking for a show that many people were saying had gone irretrievably bad in year five.

Will The West Wing bow out on a creative high this year, having recaptured some of its former greatness? Or does it now have enough creative momentum to carry on with the winner of the current election in the White House? Right now, I think I'd be happy either way.

Either way, I'll definitely be looking forward to each new episode to come.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Entertainer, Indeed

I'm a big fan of movies, but I wouldn't necessarily call myself a "movie buff." To me, the distinction is this: the "movie buff" is a fan of Classic Cinema, of the old great films. The movie buff has probably seen most of the AFI Top 100 Movies list. Me, I just like to see a lot of movies.

Still, every now and then, I like to try out one of those classic films, to see if it lives up to all the hype, awards, and acclaim. Generally, I'm pretty disappointed. Over the years, I've viewed (and ultimately have not liked) Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather (Parts I and II), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and others. (I appreciated the cinematography of Lawrence of Arabia, but didn't think too much of the movie.) Maybe I'm just a snob when it comes to older movies.

However, I finally saw one today that I did quite enjoy: The Sting.

I know The Sting is not really that old a movie. It was made before I was born, though. It won the Oscar for Best Picture, though it did not actually make the AFI Top 100 list. Nor will it make my own top 100 list.

But it was nevertheless a very enjoyable movie. It's certainly a movie that casts a long shadow over many that would follow. For example, many people blame The Sixth Sense for Hollywood's fascination of late with "twist endings." But The Sting was there long before. (Hell... you could go back all the way to Citizen Kane for that, except that it's impossible to come to that movie not knowing the ending.)

The cast of The Sting is great, the writing is sharp, and of course everybody knows the music by Scott Joplin whether they've seen the movie or not. (I think I heard somewhere that a significant number of people actually think the song "The Entertainer" is called "The Sting.")

If you're like I was this time yesterday -- that is, a fan of "heist" movies that has never seen The Sting -- you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Special Saturday Edition of Trivia

This afternoon was the bar trivia tournament finals 10 weeks in the making. Teams have been accumulating points over the last two-and-a-half months to become eligible for the big event that took place this afternoon. (We'd amassed enough points for a lock some time ago.) The first place team won $250 cash.

And it was us. Happy day! We actually won by a pretty healthy margin, and had a good time in the process, so a nice Saturday all around.

The questions were a bit more difficult than normal today, as you'd expect. Many more questions in "multiple parts" than usual, and with more parts than usual. Take, for example, this final question:

Please give the exact names (as printed on the board) of the 11 body parts you can remove while playing the original version of the game Operation.

Our team of nine players managed 9 of the 11. See how you manage by checking the comments.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Day the (DDR) Music Died

Franky Gee, the gap-toothed frontman of the band Captain Jack, died today as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. Though I've never owned one of their albums and had never been to one of their concerts, they nevertheless hold a very special place in my heart: at least one or two Captain Jack songs were included in every incarnation of Dance Dance Revolution. (That includes the brand new one.) Usually, they were among the best songs in the game. Only You, Dream a Little Dream, In the Navy... yeah, I've done a lot of stepping to Captain Jack.

Rest in peace, captain.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Judd Not, Lest Ye Be Judd

I hate Judd more than any contestant I can ever remember being on Survivor. Even the memorable villain, "Johnny Fairplay," was playful in his asshattery, and entertaining to watch. I want to see Judd locked in a car for a day with the Paolo family from The Amazing Race. (I don't actually want to see that -- watching it would be excruciating. I just want it to happen.)

And based on the way Judd went totally off-the-handle at Tribal Council, I think he believes the phrase "bad sportsman" means "man who is bad at sports." He even started yelling at Jeff Probst. Not cool.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Week 4: Veronica Mars 3; Lost 1.

It was another solid, though this time not really outstanding, episode of Lost this week. But Veronica Mars was once again roaring strong.

I enjoyed all of the Jin/Sun episodes from the first season of Lost, and I definitely enjoyed this one too. The show is able to tap into something entirely different when they focus on these two characters... something really quite different from anything else on television. (Seriously... what other TV series has a main character who can't speak English? Though he's clearly improving on that front.)

The "missing wedding ring" was a blatantly transparent device for getting at the flashbacks, but I didn't mind so much. Hurley and Locke each appeared in only one scene, but they were both memorable. And the "Back-of-the-Planers" (Backies?) are drawing nearer to being integrated with the rest of the group. All fine stuff.

But Veronica Mars again delivered great stuff. Wallace has a Darth Vader style "I am your father" confrontation with creepy-Chicago-man who turns out to be a decorated cop? What the hell has Mom been hiding?! Who is Weevil's anonymous tipster? How great was it to see Veronica vamping it up, trying to tempt her crazy client's boyfriend?

And the line "Dim Sum... and 'then some.'" Genius.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Battlestar Soundtracktica

It's only been away for a few weeks, but I've already been missing having new episodes of Battlestar Galactica every week. Recently, though, I found something to help fill the gap a bit: the soundtrack album to the show's first season.

There are some truly exhilarating pieces of music on this album, including tension-ratcheting rhythms (The Olympic Carrier, Starbuck Takes On All Eight), uplifting anthems (Wander My Friends), and the very lyrical strings that underscored the very memorable montage in the teaser of Kobol's Last Gleaming (Passacaglia). If you've watched the show, you'll remember every piece when it starts playing, and enjoy the show in your mind's eye all over again.

And yes, the album starts off with the "Cylon theme" that accompanies the "saga sell" at the start of every episode. And it offers both the US version and UK version of the main title, so no matter your preference between them, you'll be happy.

Though if you think the UK version is better, you're wrong.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Martin, In Brief

It's now only about three weeks until George R.R. Martin's new book, A Feast for Crows, finally hits stores. I've talked about this before, about how this book has been around five years in the making.

In a perfect world, I would be re-reading each of the first three volumes in the series, to catch back up with the story. The books are so excellently written, I wouldn't mind at all going back in. The trouble is, they're also ponderously long. I probably should have started weeks ago to have any chance of being ready in time. But I'm also not going to wait one more day than I have to before starting the next book. So what's a person to do?

Go here.

Some fan has handily provided synopses of every chapter of the volumes thus far, which should catch me up to speed in no time. You might be in the same boat I am, so I figured I'd share the wealth.

That said, if you haven't read the books before, do yourself a favor and go out and grab the first volume, A Game of Thrones. Simply amazing. And only twenty-one days to go before the story continues.

...unless you live in the UK, where you can go out to a bookstore and get it right now, today. Lucky bastards.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Here's the Pitch

Here's another fun moment from Trivia Night this past week. The question comes:

"At a full octave above a flute, what small instrument is the highest-pitched woodwind?"

Almost immediately, a quick-witted person in the bar shouts out: "My ex-girlfriend!"

The real and not at all funny answer is the piccolo, by the way.