Saturday, April 30, 2005

It's the Con That Got Small

Before I left Denver for Virginia almost six years ago, I used to attend Denver's local Star Trek convention every time it came around, spring and fall. I'd been to every one for about 7 or 8 years, and always really enjoyed it. When I left Denver, of course, that came to an end. My convention-going in general came to an end, too. I attended over a dozen events during my time at Decipher, but always as an exhibitor. Always to work. I hadn't gone as a fan since my last Denver Trek convention. Well, this weekend was the spring Star Trek convention here, and I decided to go down and check it out, to see if I could recapture any of the fan feeling I used to get from conventions.

If you needed any further proof of the decline of the Star Trek property, it was this convention. The last time I'd been to "StarFest" in 1999, the event drew about 5,000 people. Depending on the guests, they sometimes had even more. (Patrick Stewart came one year, for example, and they nearly pulled in 10,000.) Times have changed. Despite having William Shatner on the guest list (albeit for Sunday only), there were I'd estimate under 2,000 people there this time.

The con had moved from its regular hotel to a new, smaller venue. They neither needed nor could afford the older, larger one. I'm told the normal spring/fall rotation is no longer in effect here. The local fan organization has cancelled the fall incarnation of the con, and now does spring only. The dealer's room was roughly the size of the art show room at one of the large summer game cons. There were only around 20 exhibitors. There were only about 7 or 8 rooms of scheduled programming.

There was still a little fun to be had. I saw a few of the guest actors in their talks on stage. In particular, I quite enjoyed hearing Jeffrey Combs (the awesomely talented actor behind Brunt, Weyoun, and Shran). Nevertheless, within only a few hours, I felt like I'd seen everything worth seeing at the show. I could go back tomorrow for Shatner, I suppose, but it doesn't seem worth shelling out money for a pass for another day. I saw Shatner the first time the Denver con hosted him back in the 90s. There were about 8,500 con attendees that year.

I think my fanboy factor is still big; it's the con that got small. That said, maybe five years of working cons did sap me a little of the ability to go to one for fun as a fan. Who knows?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Sickeningly Sweet

This week's 24 actor crossover trifecta is complete, as Gregory Itzin (currently appearing as idiot president Charles Logan) showed up -- very briefly -- on this week's Enterprise.

Other than that, I'm not sure what I thought of the conclusion of the Mirror Universe two-parter. The plot was rather interesting, I suppose. However, I felt like even more than usual, the writers were trying to "impress" me or something with the cavalcade of original series references. Let's see, we had an Orion female, an Andorian, a Gorn, a bunch of Tholians spinning a web, a mirror Vulcan with a goatee, and a bevy of classic original series sound effects. Way too much of a good thing. It was like pigging out on Halloween candy until it makes you sick. Complete with all the people dressing up in strange costumes.

Only 3 more episodes (and 2 more weeks) to go before I'm free of this prison.

This Week's Trivia Knowledge

You'll recall last Thursday's post, where I explained about weekly bar trivia. You can probably expect as a pretty regular feature on this blog the "random factoid of the week" I learned from playing.

The "big question" of the night was to rank these four "numeric sports career records" in order from largest to smallest:

* Number of horses ridden by Willie Shoemaker
* Number of passing yards accumulated by Dan Marino
* Number of "at bats" by Pete Rose
* Number of points scored by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Most of our team was missing tonight, including any with any strength at all in the category of sports. But this one was sort of mathematical in nature, and we felt we could work it out. We had what we thought were pretty good "guest-imates" for how many games are in a football, baseball, and basketball season; how many seasons those three players played; what their game average for the feat in question probably was. So, we decided... "come on, how many horses could you possibly ride?" And thus we arrived at this order:

* Dan Marino's passing
* KAJ's points
* Pete Rose's at bats
* Shoemaker's horse-riding

I am pleased to report that our mathematically driven estimates on the football, basketball, and baseball parts of the questions were spot on. When they read the actual figures for each, our guesses were relatively close, and we had indeed placed them in the right order.

Here's the thing: Willie Shoemaker rode 40,351 horses in his career. Damn. That would make you sore, sore, sore. Consequently, the correct order was:

* Marino
* Shoemaker
* Abdul-Jabbar
* Rose

And as you can see, as good as our guessing was, our mistake on the horses meant we only got one part out of four right. That landed us in third place when we'd been first going into the big question. (sniff)

Damn... 40,000 horses? He must get up very early in the morning. What must his diary look like? "Get up in the morning, horse, horse, horse, horse, horse... lunch... horse, horse, horse, horse, horse, horse... afternoon tea... horse, horse...."

(Thanks once again, Eddie Izzard.)

Another 24 Crossover

Apparently, getting your hand chopped off by Jack Bauer will turn you into a self-mutilating, psychopathic rapist. Kudos to James Badge Dale for his guest shot on CSI this week, which couldn't possibly have been farther from CTU Field Agent Chase Edmunds.

Also, this CSI episode had the biggest "they can really do that?" moment I've ever seen on the show. When they played back sound "recordings" etched into the surface of a clay pot, I was reduced to the language skills of Keanu Reeves and Joey Lawrence:


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fine, If You're All Gonna Be That Stupid...

...then I'm going to start rooting for Tom. If the remaining morons on Survivor are too dumb to seize upon possibly their one and only chance to vote out Tom, none of them deserve to win. Here's hoping Tom sweeps the three remaining immunity challenges and takes it all.

Of course, I've been watching the show enough to have realized that Survivor logic in no way resembles our Earth logic. I suppose living in those conditions for 40 days makes you do wacky stuff, but still, how fargone do you have to be to miss this opportunity?

Me and My Shadow

Interesting day at work today. I agreed to have a 14-year old kid "shadow" me at my job for a little over half the day to see what "being a game designer" is like.

A little background, for those who don't know, but I went to a high school where this sort of thing was incredibly common. Students were not only encouraged, but required to complete a series of several large projects before graduating. One of them would be to identify a "practical skill" and set about learning it. Another would be a "logical inquiry" where you would pose a hypothesis and learn how to statistically test it and report back on it. The relevant one here is the "career exploration" project, where you would set about trying to learn as much as you could about a potential career path you were interested in.

So... with that in my own personal history, I feel a bit of a "what goes around, comes around," "pay it forward" sort of vibe about the "help a student out" thing. Two weeks ago, our office was contacted by this kid who wanted to do a work shadow, and it fell to me whether or not I wanted to host him. I immediately said yes.

Well, I hope I didn't bore the kid too much. It's not all fun and games, making fun and games, as many of you reading this will know. Don't get me wrong, part of it is, but not all of it. And my daily routine often involves a lot of spreadsheet wrangling, number crunching, proofreading, and staring into space waiting for the next idea to come. I don't sit around and play Halo 2 all day, which is what I worried a little bit this kid was expecting.

Fortunately, he seemed a very bright student. He was attentive, and asked smart questions, and I didn't find myself regularly checking the watch to see "how much longer I would have to entertain him." But I do hope that he wasn't checking his watch going, "how much longer do I have to be here?"

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Where Did Arvin Clone Go?

Just when Alias had grabbed maybe a hint of traction with the "Arvin Clone" plot, they completely abandon it to instead go this week with a largely stand-alone story about another random terrorist organization we've never heard of. Grumble. Maybe something will come of the "third Derevko sister" they've now introduced. Or maybe she'll vanish completely like Arvin Clone did.

The cross-pollenation between 24 and Alias continues this week. After getting killed off on 24 about a third of the way into the season, Nestor Serrano showed up for a one shot on Alias tonight.

I am sort of interested in the "dying Jack" plot, but not because I believe they'll actually kill him off. (There could be a miracle Rambaldi cure in store for him, for example.) It sort of made me think of President Roslin on Battlestar Galactica, with her terminal cancer. And that's where the interest comes in. How long can you sustain having a main character on a TV show with a terminal disease? At some point, don't you have to make good on killing the person? If you sweep in with a miracle cure, is that a cop-out?

BSG helps themselves a bit with this problem by their relatively tight passage of time. Season 1, for example, unfolded over a period of just over a month. We've been told Roslin can expect about 6 months to live. So at that pace, she could live for several more seasons before we'd be pushing credibility. Jack on Alias, on the other hand, is already "molting." It makes me question if Alias is even going to get much dramatic mileage out of his sacrifice before they go wrapping it up.

I was sort of disappointed in both Alias and 24 last week. Then 24 rolled out what I thought was an incredible episode this week. I guess I was hoping that Alias would have a similar resurgence. I'm feeling like I have to wait another week now, though.

Too Shiny For Words

I can't even begin to express my delight when, early this morning, I learned that an advanced screening of Serenity is taking place here in Denver next Thursday, May 5th. Denver's one of only 10 cities to get one. And I managed to get a ticket.

So, I'm basically bouncing off the walls that I'm going to get to see (as I said before) the movie I'm most looking forward to this year a little more than four months early.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The New Leader of Pop Culture

Quality reference on Veronica Mars tonight to "that Star Wars Kid." VM is absolutely the undisputed heir to Buffy-esque cutting edge pop culture references.

(It should be noted that Arrested Development also alluded to the Star Wars Kid a few weeks ago. I am not detracting from the brilliance of that show, but VM is more frequently a Buffy-esque source of trendy slang and pop culture references. Which is the subject at hand.)

Anyway, the above link will take you to the original video, plus a number of very funny remixes. But arguably the best use of the Star Wars Kid footage comes from a different web site. Enjoy.

Serenity Now!

Here it is, the trailer for the movie I am looking forward to this year more than all others combined, Serenity.


September 30th is so very far away...

A Hint of Justice

I just want to say, how cool was it that Rob's generally ass-like behavior on The Amazing Race finally came back to haunt him this week? His pointless bluff to the other teams about "an earlier flight" set them about actually looking for one... and what do you know? They found one!

Here's hoping they stay at towards the back of the pack next week. Unfortunately, even if they get eliminated it won't be the last time CBS inflicts them on us. They've decided to air their wedding for May sweeps next month.

I promise you, TV slave though I am, I will be nowhere near that.

Admitting You're Wrong With Style

The Back to the Future Trilogy was released on DVD about a year-and-a-half ago. The first film is my very favorite movie of all time, so I of course was there on day one to buy the set.

But there was trouble in paradise. Apparently, in mastering the DVDs for Parts II and III, they messed up the framing in a couple of scenes, cropping out parts of the picture. But Universal stepped up to the plate, admitted they were wrong, and offered a free exchange for a corrected version to anyone who bought the set.

I had known about the mistakes and the offer for some time, but had been a little too lazy to actually see about getting it done. I guess I thought it would be a bit of a hassle. But another Back to the Future lovin' friend turned me on to this web site, which thoroughly explains the problem, and what you need to do to fix it.

I called the number, they sent me the pre-stamped mailer to return the defective discs in, and yesterday I received the corrected versions. From phone call to replacements, the whole process took a mere three weeks. And all at no cost to me. So bravo, Universal, for sucking up a sizable expense and doing the right thing. opposed to 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm, who screwed things up on the Star Wars DVD and won't admit it. I'm not talking about the stupid tinkering Lucas admits to, I'm talking about the audio glitches detailed here.

"I am altering the trilogy. Pray I don't alter it any further."

Monday, April 25, 2005

Best 24 This Season - No Contest

Well, just as I was starting to write off this season of 24, they whipped out the best installment so far this year. Chloe in jeopardy and kicking ass! Genius! The episode was in fact so good that I was able to completely overlook two things that would have otherwise brought me way down.

1) Again with Jack Bauer and the "nuke-ya-ler." This time, it was when he was trying to convince the Secret Service agents not to come into the club and arrest him.

2) I already knew David Palmer was coming back for the end of the season. Dammit.

Everyone who knows me knows that with the exception of the two reality/game shows I watch, I never, never, never watch the "scenes from next week" of any show I follow. The way I figure it, I'm already know I'm going to watch next week. I don't need convincing. (More on this below.)

The trouble is, I also visit a lot of entertainment news web sites. And while they generally do a pretty good job of labeling spoilers, occasionally one of them has a horrifying moment of "dumb fuckery." Usually, it involves announcing in their headlines that "such and such actor is returning to such and such show." Consequently, here are some of the grand returns I had totally ruined for me so far this year:

Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeida)
Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle Dessler)
Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O'Brien -- after her early season departure)
and now... Dennis Haysbert (David Palmer) (As you can tell from the date on the article that this was ruined for me over three months ago!)

Not to mention, on Alias:
Gina Torres (Anna Espinosa)
and David Anders (Julian Sark)

And some other spoilers too, which I won't ruin for anyone else. All without clicking a single link, dammit!

Anyway, if you can sense how much that ticks me off, then you'll get a sense of how much I love, love, loved tonight's 24 episode. Because right now, I've just got a warm, fuzzy feeling instead.

A final footnote: as proof of why my "don't watch scenes from next week" policy is a good one, I looked back after the end of tonight's episode at last week's "scenes from next week" (Thank you, TiVo!) to see if they'd spoiled Palmer's return. Sure enough, they did. (Up yours, Fox!)

A Costly Squeeze

I know I don't really have to complain about gas prices to you. If you live in America, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you live in a foreign country, then you've been paying around twice what we pay for gas (or more) for ages, and you're wondering what we're complaining about and what country we're going to invade next.

Still, I had a jarring experience at the pump this weekend. You know when the "auto-shut-off" kicks in, but then you grab hold of the handle and squeeze that last little bit of fuel into the tank? (I know... the stickers say you're not supposed to do this.) Well, I remember when that last little bit of "top-up" (thanks, Eddie Izzard!) cost about 10-20 cents. My last fuel-up, it cost just under 50 cents.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

(Insert one or more flavors here) Soda

Okay, this whole soda pop thing is getting out of control.

It used to be there was Cherry Coke, and that was about it. I was happy when Pepsi spawned its own version of that, because I prefer Pepsi to Coke. Then came Vanilla Coke, and again, Pepsi lagged behind in bringing their version to market.

But now these two soft drink giants are doing some sort of weird performance from "Annie Get Your Gun."

I'd seen the Coke With Lime commerical blaze by on my TiVo as fast-forwarded. Today, I saw Pepsi's version at the store. I also saw the third (or fourth?) "spin-off" of Sprite, "Aruba Jam Sprite Remix." If you think that's something, though, Dr Pepper takes the prize for "most adjectives in front of a brand name" with "Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper."

I actually picked up some cans of the non-Diet version of CVDP and gave it a taste. I swear to you, I cannot taste the difference from regular Dr Pepper. Maybe I need to line up the two side by side and have some sort of taste test. I will say this, though: it certainly looks different. After I took a swig, I caught a glimpse of the soda on the rim of the can, and it was bright red. We're talking almost Welch's Strawberry red. So, all the additives, none of the taste.

They've gotta be running out of things people would want mixed in their soft drinks, don't they?

May "the Force" Be With You!

As if I had a choice. Right now, "the Force" is everywhere.

That's right, I'm talking about marketing tie-ins to Episode III. Thumb through a magazine, walk through a grocery store, turn on the TV -- you'll be flooded with images of Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and crap CG Yoda. ("CG creature, I knew Yoda. I loved Yoda. And you are, sir, are no Yoda.")

The grocery store near my apartment has a display up front complete with giant actor cut-outs, where all the illogical tie-ins are gathered. Star Wars Pepsi, Star Wars Lays, Star Wars Pop Tarts, Star Wars Cereal, you name it.

I think the weirdest tie-in I've seen so far is an ad in Premiere magazine for Cingular Wireless, something to the effect of "don't turn to the Dark Side, use our cell phone service." Second weirdest, putting C-3PO and R2-D2 on the front of the Corn Flakes boxes. As if they could have a bowl.

May 19th can't get here fast enough. Not because I'm eager to see the movie, but because I'm eager to jab a stake through Star Wars' heart and be done with it. No, check that. George Lucas stabbed a stake through Star Wars' heart 6 years ago. He whacked on the end of it with a hammer a bunch of times 3 years ago. But the damn thing hasn't died yet.

It's like Jason Vorhees, only the evil killer is wearing a different color mask.

Land of the Lost

TV Guide this week comes with a poster for Lost which, as I understand, features a "map of the island" on which the cast is stranded. I find this unlikely, seeing as how (and this is one of the tiny handful of things that really grates on me about the show) to this point, not a one of the 47 castaways has bothered to explore the island. I mean, come on, they've been there for about a month of "show time" now. But, as a friend of mine put it, there could be a Starbucks on the other side of the island, for all they know.

I'm betting if there is, then its phone number is 481-516-2342.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Wonderfalls + Felicity + Tru Calling = Joan of Arcadia?

I watch Joan of Arcadia. I'm not ashamed to admit this. I have this side that loves emotional drama of the type many people would call "sappy." Really, I think some of those people just aren't secure enough to let themselves feel genuine emotion. (I'm not saying "you have to watch JoA." I'm simply saying that lots of people don't give anything even remotely in its genre a fair chance.)

So anyway, like I said, I watch Joan of Arcadia, and enjoy it. It's like Wonderfalls and Joan of Arcadia came to a clearing in the woods together, and where Wonderfalls said "I'm taking the comedy trail," JoA said "I'm taking the drama trail." That's where the elements of Felicity come in -- a little touch of emotional teen/tween drama to spike the mix. Incidentally, I did think Wonderfalls was the superior show, but since it got effing cancelled, it's not like I have a choice about which one to keep watching.

Well last night, for their season finale, JoA decided to add a touch of Tru Calling to the mix, by introducing a "works for the forces of evil" character to oppose Joan in her efforts to do good in the world. An interesting twist, I guess. The potential I see in this is lower than I feel the execution of the same idea was on Tru Calling. But, here again, one of the shows was cancelled, so it's not like I have a choice about which one to keep watching.

The thing is, JoA is struggling for survival. After a strong first year, it decided to go much, much darker in tone in year two, and apparently this turned off a lot of the viewers. I would agree year one was stronger for the show, but year two was still quite good. Anyway, the TV gossip oddsmakers are saying that JoA is about 80% likely to be cancelled. CBS announces its fall schedule in a few weeks, and then we'll know. The creators have basically conceived this "evil nemesis" plot as a sort of attempt to show new creative potential and earn a third season renewal. Problem is, we've seen how well this worked for Tru Calling.

I suppose that's Fox, and this is CBS, so Joan's fate isn't yet completely sealed. Still, it's just as likely CBS would cancel the show anyway to make room for CSI: Albuquerque or something.

Seems like too many of my favorite shows are in creative crisis, facing cancelation, or already gone. I suppose it means I might have more free time to catch up on my reading next fall, though. Who knows what I'd find to yak about on my blog, though.

Free Me Before I Slip Away

Tru Calling. The show Fox hated so much, they cancelled it twice.

For those not up on the whole saga, here's the Reader's Digest version. Last year, the show was struggling on Thursdays (opposite Survivor, and the last season of Friends, so what wouldn't struggle?) and on the verge of cancellation. But it had a major creative upswing with the addition of Jason Priestley midway through the season, and got a miracle renewal for season two.

Except then, during the summer, the Fox execs (making a typically incomprehesible decision) looked at this new pilot they had called Point Pleasant, and decided it would be a much better fit for their schedule than Tru Calling. So they called up the Tru Calling folks, who had already completed six new episodes, and told them "never mind, you are cancelled after all." And then they shelved the six completed episodes.

Fast forward to this winter, when Point Pleasant finally aired... and totally stank on ice. Sorry. I wanted to like it. It had two Buffy writers on it, including Ben Edlund, creator of The Tick. But the show was like a reverse black hole. Anything that came near it (like a viewer) was pushed away by this powerful gravitational force. I watched one episode, and I was gone.

Fox soon yanked Point Pleasant, and decided to fill the time slot with "the lost Tru Calling episodes." Now there was no expectation of this leading anywhere. The sets had already been torn down, and the actors and crew had moved on to other things. Good ratings weren't going to bring Tru Calling back or anything. This was just a chance for its handful of fans to get some closure.

This week, they aired the 5th of the 6 episodes. And now, Fox has "cancelled" Tru Calling again. They have decided not to air the final episode next week after all. Maybe they feel they have to save an "unaired episode" for the DVD. Or something. Who knows? They're Fox, so I'm probably giving them too much credit to assume they even thought that much about it. These are the people that cancelled Firefly and Wonderfalls.

I'll admit, I had mixed feelings about Tru Calling last year anyway. I enjoyed it very much, but acknowledge it wasn't great. When I heard it was renewed, I was sort of happy, but also sort of angry, like "out of Firefly, Wonderfalls, and Tru Calling, you decided to renew Tru Calling??!" Well, I guess be careful what you wish for.

The saddest thing of all is, you know the "creative upswing" I mentioned in the last half of the first season? Well, these 5 episodes of Season Two carried the momentum brilliantly. The show was getting even better. Still a little rough around the edges, maybe, but it was starting to deliver on the "intriguing, continuing story arcs" in exactly the sort of the way I was just this days ago complaining that Alias hasn't been. There was even a glimmer of hope -- just a glimmer, mind you -- that, if given the rest of a full season to sort itself out, Tru Calling might just have found it's way into the area of quality I associate with cult shows like Veronica Mars, early Alias, Angel and Buffy, and the like.

In short, Fox has cut down another great show. This one they hated so much, they canceled it twice. Those farging iceholes.

Looking in the Mirror

Most people know that I've looked down my nose at Enterprise for quite some time. When it started up four years ago, I really wanted to like it. Voyager had been so bad, and Enterprise had Scott Bakula, who I loved from Quantum Leap. I gave the show every chance to win me over. And there was this period right around the end of the first season where they had like four really good episodes in a row, and I thought -- well, this looks like a big improvement.

But then there was season two, which by and large was terrible. And I know the Xindi arc in season three won some people over, but I thought the whole season was a complete lost except for the episodes "Twilight" and "Similitude."

I have no problem walking away from a Star Trek series. Sure, I'm a Trekkie (I'm not one of those people that cares whether you call us "Trekkies" or "Trekkers" or "geeks" -- whatever), but I did give up Voyager for a while in the fourth season. I was finishing school I think, and doing plays steadily, and I thought Voyager basically sucked, so I quit watching it for about 2 months. But then I got my job at Decipher, and I needed to start watching again to keep current. (Eventually, I did catch up on all the episodes I'd missed.)

A similar story applies to Enterprise. I would have given up on this show long ago, except that I felt I needed to stay current for the sake of Star Trek CCG, which I was working on. Well, that all changed on January 24th. (I can personally vouch for what that British psychologist said, it is the most depressing day of the year.) Thing is, it was announced that Enterprise had been cancelled quite soon after that. So at that point, it became, "well, dammit, they've trapped me for this long -- can I really walk away now when there's only like 9 episodes to go?" So, I'm still watching.

Which brings me to this week's installment, the first of a two-part episode taking us to the Mirror Universe established on the original series and continued brilliantly in several great episodes of Deep Space Nine.

For Enterprise, it was pretty good. The reuse of footage from First Contact in the opening teaser was quite inspired. The re-done opening credit sequence was quite entertaining, and I was ready to stand up and cheer at not having to listen to that damn Patch Adams song again.

However, I found a lot to dislike as well. For one, I was rather annoyed that in many cases, the mirror universe versions of the characters were better, more fully-developed characters than the normal versions. Poor Travis Mayweather, for example, delivered more dialogue in this episode than he has in the last two seasons, combined. (I don't count the episode where he was possessed by an Organian, since it wasn't really him.) Mirror Archer's an exception. Regular Archer is a stubborn, pig-headed, stand-offish jerk that yells at his crew on a regular basis, so as far as I was concerned, the only difference between that and the mirror universe version was the haircut.

And even though I'm not normally part of the Continuity Gestapo on shows I watch regularly, I am bothered when Enterprise messes things up. Mainly because they do it so often, it's like they don't care. Some examples from this week, and my "fan-wank" attempts to explain them:

1) We saw the Tholians construct one of their webs in the original series. It took like hours to do. How'd they do it so damn fast in this episode? I suppose this was like 7 ships doing it instead of 2, so maybe there's some exponential math involved. And it's the mirror universe, so maybe they're just better at it.

2) "The Emperor's New Cloak" established that there are no cloaking devices in the mirror universe. Apparently, though, this doesn't count one the Suliban invented (and the Terrans stole) 200 years earlier though. Now, very geeky DS9 fans will know that even DS9 screwed up this bit of continuity, since the first mirror universe ep had decloaking Klingon ships even though five seasons later, they'd change their minds. Still, since they did a whole episode about there being no cloaking, you'd think they wouldn't go and write an episode where there was. It's not like the cloak even turned out to be a major story element. They could have snuck their way toward the Tholian installation using some other form of crap technobabble like they always use on Enterprise. So I guess we have to assume this Suliban device was a prototype or something, and the only one in the entire universe, and since it was destroyed on Enterprise, that's why the technology doesn't exist by the time of DS9. Or something.

Point being, I shouldn't have to work this hard to explain away sloppy fact checking. Fortunately, there's only a few episodes left to go before I can finally give my brain a rest.

He Missed A Day!

After maintaining a steady stream of posts for almost the entire first week of my blog, I missed posting yesterday. It most assuredly won't be the last time. :-) Sometimes, it'll be because I simply have nothing to talk about. This time, it was because there was a lot going on in the last 36 hours or so. Here's the breakdown:

Thursday night is "bar trivia" night for me. A group of us, typically ranging between three to eight people, go to the local Hooters for 21 questions on random stuff. No cell phone calls allowed, but the top three teams get money taken off their bills. It's a fun way to spend a couple hours. And I know there are a lot of trivia lovers out there reading this who will agree. We usually place "in the money." Regardless, I always learn at least one fun and completely random factoid every week.

This week, unfortunately, we had a very strong first two rounds but totally blew it in the final round. We didn't even place. But as always, there was a fun random factoid to be picked up. What American Civil War general was known for the group of women that followed his soldiers around from place to place to provide "entertainment?" Why, that would be General Hooker. Yes, that's where the word comes from.

Friday night was the theater. There are two stage managers in my circle of friends. One of them lives in Chicago (for the moment), so unfortunately it's not so easy for me to just go out and see her shows. The other is right here in Denver, though, and last night was the first time I'd been able to go in a long, long time. In fact, the theater scene being what it is in Norfolk/VA Beach, I believe I've only been to maybe four plays in the last five years -- a near-tragic development.

This was a fun little production in a small theater that didn't even exist when last I lived here. It was an original piece titled "Kill the Moment," a sort of a murder/revenge plot featuring four actors in a series of about five or six plot/role reversals. Yes, the ripple effects of The Sixth Sense are still being felt. Actually, the play had much more to praise about it than not. It was a fun time. But the script was newly written, and probably could have been much improved by some editing and re-writing. And I think the actors could have used a little more rehearsal time. They had moments where they were connecting very strongly to the words, but also a few moments where it felt to me like they were really "out of the moment" and just reciting the dialogue. But like I said, much more good than bad.

And of course, there was the set. My stage managing friend also designed and built the set, roping in a couple others in the circle of friends to help. (Like she always does. Most have learned this, and avoid her at appropriate times. ;-) ) It was the interior of a log cabin in some mountain area, and was actually quite impressive. Fireplace and everything. (Not a working one, but a convincing-looking one.) It was quite honestly a lot more set that one usually expects or gets in a theater this size. For those who have only gone to the theater to see, say, the big touring Brodway productions, this theater had seating for about 55 or so.

After the show, we squeezed in a couple of late night board games, including Robo Rally -- the first time I've played it in many, many years. Having fun with that game is all about how you set up the boards, how many checkpoints there are, etc. Sometimes, it's loads of fun. Sometimes, it's an eternity in hell. This time, I'm pleased to say, was the former.

We played with an optional rule we picked up somewhere that's designed to combat the problem where one player gets out ahead of the pack and then stays ahead because no other bots are around to mess up their movement plans. You play with each checkpoint having a "four point shield" around it that acts like a wall on all four sides, preventing access to the space until robot laser shots have taken out the shield. And this "catch-up factor" rule worked like a charm last night. I got in my opening hand the Option card that allows you to make a single 8-space flying jump across the board, which put me well ahead of the group. But the checkpoint was awkwardly placed near a conveyer belt, and by the time I'd taken out the shields, two other players were in the hunt. I ended up taking enough damage that it was one of those other two who went on to win the game. (We played only two checkpoints. That's another secret of having fun playing Robo Rally. You're just asking for it if you play more than about two boards and two checkpoints. Unless you really, really like Robo Rally and want to play it for like 4 hours, that is.)

Anyway, lots of fun over the last couple nights. But it has caused me to fall totally behind in my normal TV viewing. So guess what I'll probably be doing most of this afternoon? Thank you TiVo!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Gandalf councils Forrest Gump while Doc Ock tries to thwart them

Seeing as how The Da Vinci Code has been at the top of the bestseller list for over two years, odds are you've read it. And if you didn't know it already, it should come as no surprise to you that a film is being made of it. (Something with that kind of track record is a no-brainer even for your average Hollywood exec.)

Well, Ron Howard is directing, which has had my attention for a while. They cast Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon a while back, and I heaved a big sigh of relief. (The rumor to that point had been that Russell Crowe was going to get the job.) They've also got the industry standard "French-speaking character actor" Jean Reno on board.

Now, word has arrived that Ian McKellen and Alfred Molina are entering the mix. Whether you thought the book lived up to the hype or not, you have to admit they're putting together a pretty great cast, and likely the "movie to beat" in 2006.

It's not World of Warcraft addictive, but still... might find this game vaguely addictive. I had to at least score "Rocketing Rabbit" before I could finally give it a rest.

Here's a tip... I found it much easier with the sound off.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

M.I.A.: Alias?

Of all the many shows I regularly watch, Alias has frequently been one I followed without anyone else joining me at the "watercooler" to talk about it. I know plenty of people who stay current with 24, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and others, but it's always been a smaller crowd that hung with Alias.

And lately, that crowd has been dwindling. In fact, I don't know anyone else who is still with it at this point. All the old Alias friends I've talked to have "fallen behind" at some point this year, having missed as many as a half dozen episodes or more. (If you're actually still up to date, I'd love to hear from you!)

It's not hard to see why. It just hasn't been very interesting this year. I thought Alias was struggling a bit in year three, but little did I know what year four would bring. The show I loved just doesn't much resemble the show today. In an effort to draw in ratings, they gave up much of what made the show great -- the complex ongoing storylines, the weekly cliffhanger endings, the unexpected twists and turns. Sad thing is, airing in the cushy time slot it has after Lost, odds are they could have not changed a thing and the ratings still would have taken a huge spike compared to previous years.

Lately it seems they've been trying to reclaim their former identity. They had a plot involving Vaughn searching for his father that lasted several weeks. They've now introduced a recurring adversary. They've even brought back the Rambaldi storyline. And yet for me, it still doesn't feel right. Maybe things went too bad for too long. I just know that the feeling I got seeing all the Rambaldi stuff this week was the same feeling I get when they randomly mention Organians or Orions or what-not on Enterprise -- like they're just name-dropping stuff they think will get a rise out of long time fans. But I'm just not feeling it.

I remember watching the very first episode of Alias years ago, and thinking to myself, "wow, that was really great -- but I have a hard time seeing how they're going to keep this concept intact if the series should go on for several years." Well, mild spoiler for those who haven't watched Alias yet, but that turned out to be somewhat prophetic when they totally re-engineered the show halfway through the second season. Now I'm starting to wonder if it wasn't even more prophetic than I realized.

It's funny, because I now find myself on the opposite side of an issue I've faced before. I only discovered the brilliant series The West Wing roughly this time last year. Fans already with the show praised my good taste, but warned me that after the first two amazing seasons, it would start to go downhill. Season 5 was the pits, they warned me. But I gobbled them all up, and while I would agree that seasons 1 and 2 outshine anything that followed, I still found the entire run to be high quality television. Now here I am, the guy claiming to be a long time fan of a TV show, but whining about how it's not like the good ol' days.

I'm going to stay with Alias a little while longer and see what happens. Is there anyone else out there with me?

Happy Stoner New Year, Everyone!

How are you planning to celebrate the holiday?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It's a Photo Finish!

Hey there Race fans! Amazing Race fans, that is. Tonight we had a photo finish... that is, at least, in the competition for who could say something that made them seem like more of a jerk.

In lane 1, we have "Boston Rob," who enlisted local children in India to help him and Amber push a giant wooden elephant through the streets of the city. When they didn't drop everything and come to his aid, he quipped: "It's tough organizin' Indian labor."

In lane 2, we have "Beauty Queen" Kelly, who (in the "scenes from next week") began bitching at her boyfriend Ron for about the 47th time. This time, she was complaining about how he lacks commitment and never follows through with anything. Wearily, Ron pointed out his time in the military. Kelly remarks, "And you got out of that one... by being a P.O.W."

The judges are still reviewing the tape. We still don't have a clear... uh, loser.

Putting the ICK in America

I was sent this link by a very courteous neighbor to the north. (Yes, I mean a Canadian.) It is a brilliant example of... well, actually, I'm not sure what it's a brilliant example of. Cheesy symbolism? Misguided patriotism? The land where Lee Greenwood meets 80s Metal Bands? All of the above? The only things I'm sure of are these:

1) I don't know anyone who lives in this "Amer-UH-ca" country he keeps referring to. (Yes, I'm now officially on a pronunciation rampage.)

2) That is indeed Patricia Tallman (Lyta Alexander of Babylon 5) as the single mother at the gravestone roughly halfway into the video.

Before you click, check your gag reflex. You've been warned.

PopeCon 2005

If you hadn't stopped by TicketMaster to pick up your PopeCon 2005 tickets, don't bother. You missed it. I know this by the tintinnabulation now coming from the nearby churches. (BTW, that's a truly awesome word you just don't get nearly enough opportunities to use.)

And if you think I'm being somewhat irreverent, consider that I'm not the web site with the live "Vatican Smoke Cam." That would be these guys.

Monday, April 18, 2005

I'm sorry... our domestic WHAT arsenal?

I gotta say it takes me right out of the moment a little bit every time I hear Jack Bauer use the word "nuke-ya-ler." I suppose we got past the worst of it last week with the repeated references to the "nuke-ya-ler football." But now that a "nuke-ya-ler warhead" has gone missing, I fear it's going to be an assault on my eardrums from here until the end of the season.

I have to say the best moment in this week's episode of 24 was the Family Guy commercial just before the last act:

"You... you wanna see him go to the bathroom?"


New Workplace Terminology

The same friend who thoughtfully read the AntiGrav rulebook also gave me a fairly funny list of "vocabulary for the new workplace." I've culled some of my favorites to share:

blamestorming - Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and deciding whose fault it was.

seagull manager - A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, then leaves.

mouse potato - The online generation's answer to the couch potato.

stress puppy - A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.

stress master - A person who thrives on causing stress in their co-workers.

percussive maintenance - The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sound FX Awards

And the award for "Best Use of TiVo Sound Effects in a Prime Time Television Series" goes to The Simpsons, for Sunday night's installment titled "Future-Drama." If you missed it... sorry, it's one of those things that's just not going to be funny if I try to explain it. Suffice to say, I'll never hear the "spook-a, spook-a" noise in quite the same way ever again.

It's worth noting that as hard as the joke make me laugh, it still paled in comparison to the brilliance of the season (series? gosh, I hope not!) finale of Arrested Development.

And speaking of exercise-oriented gaming...

Last weekend, I had some friends over for Saturday night fun, and we popped in AntiGrav. Another quality Christmas gift from my old roommate, but I'd been really struggling to get any better at playing it. Well, last Saturday, one of my guests did the unexpected. The unthinkable.

She read the rulebook.

Hot damn! What a world opened up then! It turns out that when you catch big air in AntiGrav, a series of symbols pops up on the bottom of the screen, showing a series of hand motions you perform, in order, to put together a "Super Trick." Suddenly, you go from an on-average 500 points per landed trick to 4,000+. Next thing you know, we're being shower in new tracks, new boards, new everything.

You'd think after all that time playing SSX and Tony Hawk, I'd be asking myself "I wonder how you do Super Tricks?" They do seem to be a staple of that genre. And yes, as someone who has written my share of rulebooks, it pains me to find myself in the RTFM situation.

Suffice it to say, that's not going to happen again any time soon.

This Week's DDR Milestones

For all you crazy hoppers like me, here are the highlights from this week's stepping (all DDR Max2):

AA on Kind Lady in Challenge Mode. (A full combo!)

C on Afronova on Heavy. (I survived to get to the end. You can forget about the "all doubles" steps at the very end, though.)

C on Break Down on Heavy. (Another "first time I survived it" milestone.)

Basically, I'm getting to the point where I can pass 9s, but not in a pretty way.

And no, 8-bit fans, I still can't get through Burning Heat.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Six Degrees of Quality Television

I'm surprised it took until my fourth post on this blog to start talking about TV. After all, I watch tons of it. Not random junk, either. I'm in "appointment TV" land on over a dozen different shows right now. I think people who say there's nothing good on TV really aren't looking hard. Or have a Grinch-esque lump of coal where their heart should be. Or both.

Not only is there actually quality TV out there to be viewed, but this week, I discovered that there are some fun connections between some of the best shows. Case in point: I've been watching the complete series of Wonderfalls on DVD over the last week or two. (Just finished this afternoon. What a great, great show! Strongly recommended.)

Well, in episode 2, there's a class reunion party going on in a bar, and surprisingly enough, the song they're playing in the background is The Dandy Warhols' "We Used to Be Friends," aka the theme song from Veronica Mars. (As an aside, how unexpected -- but totally awesome -- was this bit of news?!)

Then, as I was drawing near the final handful of Wonderfalls episodes (sniff), who should show up as a recurring character but Jewel Staite, Kaylee of the veritable Citizen Kane of brilliant-but-cancelled TV shows, Firefly.

It's all connected, you see.

The also brilliant-but-cancelled TV show Miracles comes out on DVD this coming Tuesday, and I'll probably be tearing into the unaired episodes there in short order. I guess we'll see if any more fun kinds of connections show up.

Comedy and MP3 players

While I'm on the subject of Eddie Izzard (see the story of the "naming of the blog," below), here's a small episode from this week at work. (Which is going great so far! Thanks for asking!)

I used to not do well with background noise while I was working, but I've gradually gotten to the point where I like to play my MP3 player. Actually, the thing I most like to do is play DVDs and listen to the director's commentaries and so forth. I really like the behind-the-scenes stuff on DVD commentaries, but it's pretty rare that a commentary is actually entertaining or insightful enough to merit sitting down and listening to exclusively. I find that for the average commentary, the fractional focus I can give it while I'm working is just about perfect.

Anyway... no commentaries on deck this week, so I had the MP3 player. Like most people, I have all my CDs ripped and stored in the player. This includes a couple of Eddie Izzard concert CDs I have (Glorious and Dress to Kill, if you were curious). I always have the Player on random shuffle. So usually, it's a bit from a John Williams film score, followed by an 80s one-hit-wonder song, followed by The Offspring, followed by Carmina Burana, followed by... you get the idea.

So it was the middle of the day on Wednesday, and on comes Eddie Izzard, talking about how Achilles should have encased his heel in concrete. Except then that would have given him a "radius" of effectiveness, and he'd have to be like, "hey, come over here!" (Sword stabbing sound.)

Suddenly, I want to laugh out loud. I've heard it several times before, but it's still funny. And I really need to laugh. I decide spontaneous laughter cutting through the silence might not be the best thing. So I try to stifle it. Unfortunately, what ends up coming out is this weird quarter-snort.

Ok, so now one option is I can stop and try to explain this weirdness. But you've seen how long it's taken for me to explain it to you, and I haven't even done that good a job. So that's not looking like the best option. Or, I can try and pretend like I was sneezing or something. And I'm actually seriously considering this option when I look over and see the only other guy in the room with me also has his headphones on, and is blissfully ignorant of the whole event.

So, if you listen to comedy on your MP3 players in a public place (especially if it's Eddie Izzard), know that you do so at your own risk.

Romeo and Juliet; Act II, scene ii

I don't often go against what Shakespeare said, but I have to say that titles are pretty important. I procrastinated starting up this blog for a long time, trying to come up with a halfway decent title for it.

I started in the pretty obvious realm, looking for some handy pun I could make incorporating the word "blog." I thought it might be fun to include a pop culture reference or two. This came up really dry.

I could have gone with "Blog, Blog / It's Better Than Bad, It's Good!" But that's a ridiculously long name for a blog, and the truth is I'm not that much a Ren and Stimpy fan.

I thought about "My Blog Says Hi," but I wasn't sure anyone would get that I was trying to refer to Twin Peaks. And "The Blog Lady" was right out. AND I don't much like Twin Peaks either.

I didn't want to completely categorize myself as a Star Trek geek, so "Captain's Blog" was not considered seriously. Not to mention the fact that it's not very clever. Try a Google search on that phrase. Don't worry, I've done the legwork for you.

That's when I realized there are so many blogs flooding cyberspace, I was never going to think of a "blog" pun I liked that hadn't been thoroughly covered by plenty of other people. So I decided to just stick with the Eddie Izzard reference I'd been using so much lately (to "Dr. Heimlich" -- aren't you paying attention?), and "invent a Maneuver."

I thought I'd cover all this in the event someone came to read my blog before I got around to posting something on it. I looked at the lonely "yup, I got a blog" post and decided it needed company before I went to bed. Now I've taken care of that.

And If Everyone Else Jumped Off A Bridge...

It's trendy. All the cool kids are doing it. I didn't want to be left out.

Or something like that.

So I got in the cyber soup line, and in short order received my very own blog. This one, in point of fact. But then, you knew that. You're so smart. And such great taste, too.

Oh... and if you haven't filed your taxes yet, you have exactly 5 minutes to take care of that.