Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

This article both cracked me up and pissed me off all at the same time. The "10 Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Century," eh? Where to begin?

Well, for starters, there's the humor value in that any group would even make such a list. You'd think that after all this time, the people behind these sorts of things would learn that their derision makes anything they say attractive by default to a large portion of the population. They might as well call the list "10 Books You Must Read."

Can a book really be harmful? Only in the video-games-lead-to-school-violence way of thinking, I'd have to say. I mean, I'd argue that Hitler himself did a lot more harm in the 20th century than his book Mein Kampf did.

Even if you do subscribe to the notion that a book can be harmful, can you really take any list seriously that includes their entry for #7: The Feminine Mystique? Yeah, that was really harmful, encouraging all those women to get out of the kitchen and seek fulfilling careers for themselves. It's bad enough that they'd been given the right to vote 43 years earlier.

The people who made this list probably wish every copy of these books could be rounded up and burned. Me, I think we should burn people who want to ban books.

Save It For the Cadbury Bunny

With TV in reruns now, I've been watching DVDs a little more than usual lately. Let me tell you how much I hate, hate, HATE DVD Easter Eggs.

I pay good money for the DVDs I purchase. Often, special features tip the balance to make me pick up a title I would not otherwise have bought. I like extra stuff: commentaries, featurettes, and the like. And because I have already paid money to see them, I expect to be able to see them.

The studios making the DVDs have already gone to all the trouble and expense of putting together "feature X" to put on the DVD. Why the hell do they think it's a good idea to then hide it away where a large percentage of their customers won't even see it?

Am I supposed to enjoy wasting my time pushing arrow buttons in every direction from every point on every menu of the damn thing? Do the studios have some kind of stock in web sites like this one and are trying to drive people there? What the hell is wrong with these people?

Is there anyone out there who actually enjoys these things? Not the actual eggs themselves, I mean -- some of them are quite funny, if you can actually find them. I mean the searching. Does anyone actually enjoy it? If so, what the hell is wrong with those people?

Of course, my experience has been that most people who buy DVDs do it exclusively for the main content -- the movie or the TV show, that is. Seems like most people don't care about any of the special features at all. Which means probably that most people don't find this at all annoying like I do. Which, if true, makes this an entire conspiracy engineered to annoy me personally.

Mission accomplished.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day Activities

I helped a friend move across town this afternoon. He had enlisted family and many friends to help, so there were like 15 of us, and it got done very quickly. Free pizza for my effort too, so all told, not a bad day.

This was the first time I was involved in a "moving project" since my big move out here from Virginia. Very different, this time. For one, it wasn't me and all my stuff being loaded up. Second, it was a cross-town move. When you don't absolutely have to have everything loaded to take in one trip, it makes a big difference.

Still, between all the moving, and the fact that it's Memorial Day and I'm therefore missing Tim's legendary cookout for the first time in six years, I was thinking a lot about Virginia Beach and my friends there today. I miss you guys.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Anguished Exclamation

I promise this isn't going to turn into more Episode III bashing. Well, not true -- it sort of will be, but I'm trying to make a different point here. I've pretty much said what I mean to say about Episode III.

SPOILER WARNING here for those who haven't seen it yet and still mean to. Nothing major though.

So, at the end of the movie, when Vader staggers off the table like Frankenstein and is told news he does not want to hear, he screams "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" This moment is hideously, laughably awful. There was actual snickering in the theater when I saw it. Poor James Earl Jones. He probably had like 50 takes, and they decided to use the worst one. Or maybe he had one take and begged to do it again, but that's what he was stuck with. Whatever. In any case, the performance is pitiably, horribly, awfully bad. He sounds like Sloth in The Goonies, or Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade, or Forrest Gump. If you're not picking up on the subtext behind my marginal attempt at political correctness, I'm saying he sounds mentally retarded.

I wondered if it was just me that found this moment unintentionally comical. Well, as it turns out, no. (Or should that be: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"?) Fark ran a Photoshop contest this week, Give Vader something to scream "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" about.

But that was only the beginning. It this week's 24 season finale, when Marwan makes his final, ultimate escape from Jack Bauer, Jack looks up into the helicopter searchlight and screams "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Well, there was a live "commentary thread" going on Fark about that episode, and when that moment happened, they let loose on Kiefer Sutherland with the whole arsenal. Never mind the fact that Kiefer had given an infinitely better performance. All any of the geeks could think of was Franken-Vader.

Apparently, the line "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" has now been ruined. I'm not sure what the statute of limitations on this is going to be. A few months? Years? Forever? In any case, writers beware.

I find this interesting, as this is not the first time someone has screamed "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" in a Star Wars movie. Mark Hamill made that pained exclamation famous. And let's face it, he's no Oscar-winner, but he gave a better performance than poor James Earl Jones. I'm simply too young to remember whether "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" brought out the giggles then, and how long it took for that association to go away. Of course, I couldn't log onto the internet then to see what other geeks were thinking anyway.

I was having this conversation with some friends last night, and one of them pointed out that maybe the loss of "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" from the entertainment lexicon is not so horrible in any case. When you get right down to it, it's totally ridiculous. All of us in our lives have had a moment or two like that, of sheer anguish and/or outrage. How did you react? Odds are, you didn't do anything but quietly seethe. Maybe you screamed incoherently, just a general "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Maybe it was a choice profanity shouted at the top of your lungs.

Whatever it was, I guarantee you didn't scream "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

That's phony. That's Hollywood. And hey, if James Earl Jones' Raspberry-worthy performance is enough to make us all realize that, then maybe something good came out of the Star Wars prequel trilogy after all.

Say Yes to Drugs

We were holding the line at Serenity for quite a while Thursday night. (Ha! Get it? That was for you, Guy!) We passed some of the time with an Uno deck, but we got kind sick of that after a couple of games. Fortunately, we also had a few decks of regular playing cards.

Somehow, the classic game of Spoons came up. I haven't played Spoons since high school. And neither had most of the rest of us. One of the people with us had never even heard of Spoons. In case you're like that, let me explain. (If you know, you can skip the next paragraph.)

A number of spoons that is one less than the number of players are placed in the center of the playing space, in reach of all players. Each player is dealt four cards. The dealer then begins looking at cards from the top of the deck, one at a time. He has the option to exchange what he sees for a card in his hand. Exchange or no, he then passes his rejected card to the player on his left, who repeats the "examine, optional exchange, pass" process. The cards continue to circulate around the table. This is all done as fast as possible. The goal is to get four of a kind in your hand. Sort of. The real goal is to get a spoon. See, when any player makes four of a kind, he takes a spoon from the center of the table. Once any player has taken a spoon, all other players may do so, whether they've got four of a kind or not. It's "musical chairs" -- the last player to grab a spoon loses. It's also the basketball game "Horse" -- if you fail to get a spoon, you take a letter, and when you've spelled out S-P-O-O-N (-S, depending on who you play with), you're out, a spoon is removed, and the remaining players continue. Stupidly simple, but way more fun that it sounds.

Now, if you'll recall, here we are in the line, with a deck of cards we don't mind mangling. (Nothing tears apart a deck of cards like a game of Spoons. Except maybe a game of Spit. Or Speed. Or Egyptian Ratscrew. Essentially, these are other "Slapjack"-ish type of card games.) Of course, we don't have any spoons with us. Which was pretty much always the case back when I played the game in high school, too. Substituting pens or pencils is pretty much the norm if you're not playing near a kitchen somewhere.

So out come the women's purses, as the five of us try to come up with four pens for us to play. You'd think no problem, but sadly, there aren't four pens between the two purses, only three. But -- and here's the reason I've bothered telling you this meandering story -- what we do have four of (five, in fact) are drug prescription bottles.

Creepy, no?

So we played "B-O-T-T-L-E." Of course, the five of us playing with prescription bottles got looks from other people in line. At one point, a guy in front of us commented to his buddies that it looked like we were playing "Valium Poker." I'm not sure what that is, but sounds like it could be fun, too.

Let me tell you, those pill bottles are slick. Hard to get one, hard to hang onto. And when one is disturbed during the mad dash for them at the end of each round, it rolls across the playing space, totally out of your reach. This made the game hugely more fun and... well, "challenging" is not the best word for Spoons, so let's stick with just "fun."

If you should ever find yourself in a situation to play Spoons, and you have enough prescription bottles handy, I highly recommend making the substitution.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Shiny x 2

Well, I just got back from the second sneak preview of Serenity, and I have to say I liked it even more the second time. All the emotions that the movie made me feel the first time, I felt even more strongly the second time. You could attribute that to the notion that the movie is of a stature that it holds up to repeat viewings. You might also attribute it to any or all of the following:

In the last three weeks since I saw the movie the first time, I've gone back and watched every single episode of Firefly again. It was wonderful to relive once again how great that show was, and seeing the movie with it all fresh in my mind just put a bigger exclamation point on the end of it all.

The crowd was much more active this time. They were wired. Don't get me wrong, the folks at the first screening were laughin', hootin', and hollerin', but they had nothing on this group.

After the last movie I saw, something as great as Serenity became even more great by comparison.

This time, there was swag! Last time, all nine of the other cities reported getting some modest studio goodies. Denver instead got surveys to fill out. But this time I walked off with my own shiny Serenity keychain.

Jewel Staite, the actress who plays Kaylee, attended our screening! She arrived to a standing ovation, watched the movie with us, answered audience questions for a half hour afterwards, then proceeded to give autographs. I've got a personalized one on my very own mini-poster. Suitable for framing. Which I think I will.

All this love, and it's still not even a finished movie! I'm so looking forward to the finished, quality print with the real music four months from now. This movie deserves to be a monster hit, and I hope it will break out farther than just the dedicated fans who will go to see it.

In case not, here's the backup plan. Come September 30th, any time you go to the movies, to see any film, you buy a ticket to Serenity, and then sneak into whatever film you're actually there to see. Not that you can't go see Serenity a bunch of times, too -- I know I will. But I encourage everyone to pad its box office take with all the other movies you plan to see in October.

"You can't stop the signal..."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Fall of the Mormon Trivia Robot

Creepy gun nut Brad dethroned Ken the MTR in the Jeopardy! tournament today. But in today's final game, I was more entertained by the third contestant, Jerome -- because today it hit me just how much he reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite.

"I'll take Rocks for $1600, gosh!"

Alex Trebek: "Do you agree that playing here in this tournament is not just about the money, but also about the fun?"
Jerome Dynamite: "Well, I have $0 right now, whadaya-think?"

Finales Finale

There you have it, the last of the finales for this season. Sure, there are a few shows coming up this summer -- The 4400, The Dead Zone, Six Feet Under, Battlestar Galactica -- but for now, things are pretty much on a break.

I have so many disjointed thoughts about tonight's Lost and Alias, I've decided the "fragments" presentation that's been so popular lately would be most appropriate.

The "Previously on Lost" clips package seemed unnecessarily thorough. It basically started with "once upon a time, there was a plane crash," and ran for like 3 or 4 minutes. If you haven't watched the show by now, maybe this isn't the episode you should be starting with. DVDs are coming in just a few months.

Best exchange of the night --
Hurley: "How did this happen?"
Rousseau: "Are you on the same island as I am?"

Exploding Arzt! (And I was pleased to later see Hurley make the "you've got some Arzt on you" reference I myself was making already.) Of course, he should have known better than to be "the new guy" going off with the gang of five established characters. He had everything but the Red Shirt.

Locke asks Jack if he's ever played Operation. He's pretty much moved onto the real thing.

Walt's GameBoy makes Donkey Kong and Atari 2600 Pac-Man noises.

You'd think they'd be more careful about carrying around those backpacks and the torches after what happened to Arzt. (Again, leave it to Hurley to later say what I was thinking.)

Dominic Monaghan is gonna have to spend the rest of the series getting a makeup scar applied to his forehead now.

The sheer number of 4s, 8s, 15s, 16s, 23s, and 42s in Hurley's flashback sequence was staggering. The dashboard readout on his rental was pretty cool, but the soccer uniforms took top prize.

If I was the gate agent, I would not be very happy about Huge Sweaty Guy giving me a hug after I let him on the plane.

The sound of the radar blips during the raft scenes sounded an awful lot like the noise we get when the local affiliate crushes up the screen to run weather advisories across the bottom. We've been getting those a lot this May. Very distracting.

No, Walt! Don't let them take you! Quick, think of polar bears or something!

Come on, you didn't seriously think they were going to show us what was inside the hatch yet, did you?

And as for Alias...

Look, it's that guy that was in the season premiere for like 10 minutes. What an odd, obscure character to bring back for another short 5 minutes, ending in untimely death. Of course, he's part of the J.J. Abrams Repertory Company -- he used to be on Felicity.

Ooo, look, Zombie Apocalypse #647! (Well, it's new to Alias, but still... seen it.)

I don't understand the point of Jack picking up the cell phone and the whole "Leonid is dead" beat. I thought for sure it would pay off later in the episode, but nope. Was it supposed to make Jack look sympathetic somehow? Has he really been such a jerk lately that he needed softening up? I thought his behavior in past seasons was far darker.

Hmmm. Zombie Nadia looks like she's possessed by the Kosst Amojan.

If it takes as long for Irina Derevko to reappear next time as it did this time, we might not see her again before the show is cancelled. That makes me sad.

Is it wrong of me to be rooting for Nadia not to come back next season? She's not as obnoxious as pre-evil Lauren Reed, but still, I think the show would improve without her.

Ugh. Santa Barbara gets the "destination title card" treatment. Kyle will never let me hear the end of this.

Holy crap! Big surprise car crash! Reminds me a bit of the first episode of Six Feet Under, but still -- totally shocking. Of course, that's what Vaughn gets for driving like he's on a TV show, looking at the passenger instead of the road.

I sure hope Vaughn's "big secret" is better than what Sydney ended up finding in the box following last year's cliffhanger. That was a big, fat letdown.

See you in September, you Bad Robot, you.

Crap Imitates Art Imitates Crap

I've not watched one minute of the bizarre E! television reenactments of the Michael Jackson trial. But this story was just strange enough to make me almost wish I had. Almost.

It's definitely not "art," by any definition -- hence the title of this post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The New Dave Chappelle?

Meet Comedy Central's newest star: Ken Jennings???

It was only a matter of time before someone snatched up the Mormon Trivia Robot to host a game show. I just never figured it would be Comedy Central. After all, you could use many words to describe this guy. Hypnotic. Frightening. Creepy. But funny? I guess we'll see once this as-yet-untitled, as-yet-formatless game show hits the airwaves.

In the meantime, it seems to be a good thing for MTR that he inked this deal already. He's sort of getting his ass kicked in the Mega Champion Tournament Thingy on Jeopardy! right now. There's another contestant that seems to be even faster on the trigger than him, and has command of even more useless knowledge. And this other guy is doubly scary, since he completely ran a category on Guns and Ammo in today's installment.

What kind of game show do you suppose they'd give him?

Monday, May 23, 2005

See Jack Run? Run, Jack, Run!

Just as with "day three," "day four" of 24 punched out strong with a kick-ass finale to redeem an uneven season. I thought the action was exciting and the character beats perfect. Marwan's stubborn refusal to be taken alive, Audrey's reaction to Buchanan at the end, Tony and Michelle's reunion. All brilliant.

In fact, the only "false beat" to me in the entire thing was, I would have thought if Jack had a single one-minute phone call to anyone, he would have made it to Kim. That can be explained away both behind-the-scenes and within the fourth wall, though -- perhaps they could not get Elisha Cuthbert for a cameo; and you could plausibly assume that Jack just might let his daughter believe him to be dead. But then, perhaps this is an issue that might be addressed when season five rolls around.

And wow! What a stage they've set for season five. The writers have managed to set up a great way out of the corner I'd worried they'd put themselves in: that they've portrayed basically every form of terrorist act. They've had nuclear threats, bio-weapon attacks, assassinations, meltdowns, sabotage, abductions -- many of those all in one season. The stakes have run the gamut from individual to family to city to nation. (I don't subscribe to the "save the world" hyperbole in that last Fox promo after the show.) So how can they escalate from there?

Answer? They don't! They could completely shake up the entire nature of the show now, if they wanted to. Instead of bringing on some mad genius to cause global earthquakes (about the only way I can think of to increase the scope again), they can go very personal and place Jack Bauer in the role of Richard Kimble or David Banner -- on the run from people looking to bring him in on day five. Although I have to be realistic, too. Fighting terrorism has been what the show has been about from day one, and I can't think of very many shows that have so thoroughly changed their core concept mid-run. Season two of Alias, for sure -- but they weren't pulling in ratings so high, and weren't really central to the success of their network. Odds are, we'll find ourselves back at CTU on day five.

In any case, it's going to be a long wait until January 2006 to see what they do.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

An End of Desperation

Poor Steven Culp. Lately he's been having a rough time staying alive on the TV series he hooks up with. After a year long stint on Enterprise, his Major Hayes character got the ol' red-shirt treatment. And tonight on Desperate Housewives, his Rex Van De Kamp became the latest casualty of what has to be the "non-cop drama" with the highest body count on televsion. I wonder if Speaker of the House Haffley on The West Wing is going to meet some untimely end next season?

Anyway, what a fun ride Desperate Housewives was this year -- schlock entertainment without the schlock. A soap opera with better characters, writing, acting, production values, etc. Good thing I did like it, because given the way it jumped straight to being the #1 show on television, you can bet every network (including ABC itself) is gonna have a clone on their fall schedule, vying for a piece of the pie.

And you know what? I'll happily take a parade of Desperate Housewives and Lost knockoffs over another America's Top Extreme Celebrity Newlywed Idol Swap.

Why Don't You Get Things Started?

Friday was a good day to be a fan of the Muppets. The Muppets' version of The Wizard of Oz aired on TV, and it was announced that -- at long last -- complete season box sets of The Muppet Show will appear on DVD starting in August.

I will say that in the last decade or so, the Muppets material has been pretty sub-par. And their Oz was no exception. It had a few moments that made me smile, but overall was nothing wonderful. But as for these classic Muppet Show episodes that'll be lighting up my DVD player on August 9th? I can't wait! Best of all, season 1 includes what I believe to be the single best Muppet bit of all time: The Mahna Mahna Song.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Return of the Mormon Trivia Robot

It's just like any other TV show. You "kill off" a character that boosted ratings and viewers responded to -- you start thinking about ways to bring him back for another episode.

So it is that this coming Monday through Wednesday, Ken Jennings, Mormon Trivia Robot, will be returning to Jeopardy! for the conclusion of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions they've been running for months now.

And if you think it's a coincidence this is happening in the last week of May, you don't understand how TV and Nielsen ratings work. Well, wait... I'm not sure anyone really understands how Nielsen ratings work, cause they were pretty stupid to begin with, and are getting more antiquated every week. Anyway, not the point I set out to make...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Catchy Title

I saw this book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble this week.

Needless to say, it made me laugh.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Revenge of the Shit

Those of you who have resolved not to see Episode III, I commend your willpower. And now, I reward you too, by telling you that you had the last laugh on us all. The abbreviation of the third film's title is ROTS. And that's pretty accurate -- Star Wars ROTS.

"But wait," I can hear some of you saying -- those of you who caved like I did and saw it, "it wasn't as bad as the last two." You're right, it wasn't as bad as the last two. But come on... what wouldn't have been? Saying that Episode III was better than Episode I and II is like saying that getting kicked in the crotch is not so bad as being shot in the face.

In fact, I'm not entirely sure that Episode III was actually better than Episode I. (I know it was at least better than Episode II, though.) My line of logic there is, if you take the raw number of minutes of Menace and Sith that I thought were actually decent, they'd come out about the same. Menace was only good for about 5 minutes at a time, spaced very widely apart. Sith was no good at all until 25 of the last 30 minutes. Either way, you get about 25 minutes' worth of good material. Paper or plastic? Capsules or tablets?

Here is the obligatory SPOILER warning before I elaborate on my reaction to the movie.

I knew we were in trouble right out of the gate when the opening crawl appeared on screen, and the first sentence is "War!" Simultaneously, I'm thinking, "Good Gawd, y'all; what is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!!!" and recalling The Onion's Our Dumb Century calendar in which they parodied large-font headlines for their "World War II" cover page.

The crawl ended, and we panned down to the most grandiose display of over-the-top CG you're likely to get all year. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. How far we've come since a dozen ships attacking the Death Star was the most amazing (and suspenseful) thing we'd ever seen. Now the screen was filled with thousands of objects flickering by so rapidly as to risk inducing seizures.

The designs in the film have been pushed in a way to bridge the gap back to 1977. Ships look more like the designs of the classic trilogy. Anakin has shaggy hair. Padme's wearing sticky buns on her ears. But it doesn't feel like it matches with the first trilogy at all. The screen is constantly too full to plausibly synch up with the sparser world of the original trilogy. For example, R2-D2 is so mobile and dextrous, he's ready to audition for the Ringling Bros.

If you thought the "the sand of Tatooine is rough, not smooth like your skin" dialogue from Clones was grating, well, there's more love talk between Anakin and Padme in this film to face off against it in the Cliche Bowl. Pretty much the only good lines in the film are words that Lucas stole from speeches given by George Bush and his key staff to stuff in Emperor Palpatine's mouth.

You get 90 minutes of mind-numbing action sequences interspersed with wooden "dramatic" pieces, until things pretty much hit rock bottom for me at the moment Obi-Wan is watching the hologram of Anakin butchering the children -- oh, excuse me, that's "slaying the younglings." Obi-Wan says:

"I can't watch any more of this."

I wanted to stand up and cheer that sentiment.

I'm not sure if things really did start to improve at that point, or if I simply gave up my mental struggle. But from that point on, the movie actually took hold and managed to entertain me for nearly half an hour. Right up until newly-suited Vader staggers from the medical table like Boris Karloff himself. FIRE BAD!

From there, we got to watch Padme, formerly strong woman of the last two episodes, apparently wither and "die of a broken heart." And then we got to see fucking Jar Jar Binks survive the whole mess to attend her funeral. At least he never had a line of dialogue in the movie. I swear, if he'd opened his pixelated mouth, I'd have burned the theater down.

So now it's over. I feel like I've just been through the emotional equivalent of vomiting. I felt awful for hours. I tried to fight the feeling. But in the end, I gave in, I purged, and now that it's over and the worst is behind me, I feel a lot better.

Oh, and kudos to Liam Neeson for apparently refusing to come back for a cameo at the end of the film. Yoda has a short exchange with Obi-Wan to explain away how the whole "Force Ghost" thing worked in the original trilogy, saying that Qui-Gon has mastered the art from beyond the grave, and will spend the next 20-odd years teaching Obi-Wan. I envision a phone call between George Lucas and Liam Neeson going something like this:

GL: "Hi! Liam! I've finished my script for Episode III, and I'm calling to let you know that I have a part in it for you. I'd like you to..."

LN: "I'm busy, George."

GL: "Oh, but see, it's just a small part. It's a cameo where you appear as a ghost to..."

LN: "I really don't think I can fit it in, George."

GL: "But we'll be able to film the whole thing in just one day, and..."

LN: "Okay, I was trying to be polite. Seriously -- go to hell, George." (click)

GL: "Uh... hello? Hello? Well, I guess I could change one of Yoda's lines..."

And...... scene.

George Lucas, you have failed me for the last time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Penultimate J.J. Entertainment Block

Because Lost and Alias are being surgically separated next season, this week is the second-to-last time I'll be able to refer to the back-to-back Abrams-aganza.

Lost was the better of the two, I thought -- as per usual. It was fun to get little snippets of multiple characters in flashback. It was also neat to get so many different threads pulled together in one episode. The return of Delenn -- er, Danielle. Sawyer finally revealing he'd met Jack's father. The launch of the raft. The return of the vaguely Jurassic Park-esque monster. I have a feeling there's quite a lot of cliffhangeriness in store for us at the conclusion of next week's season finale.

Then there was Alias, with the return of Lena Olin as Irina Derevko. As has been the case with so many other "such-and-such actor returns to so-and-so show" headlines this season, I'd had this spoiled for me many months ago. Still, it was fun to have her back either way.

My favorite moment in either show, though, had to be Vaughn going to ask Jack's permission to marry Sydney. It was a nice echo of the pilot, when Syd's first fiance tried to do the same thing -- and got roughly similar results.

Beyond that, though, I don't think there's much I can say about this week's Abrams block. Both the Lost and Alias episodes seemed pretty thoroughly connected into next week's forthcoming installments. We'll see if both shows can go out for the summer on a high note.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

FOX Gets a Few Things Right

FOX is a long, long way from atoning for the cancellation of Firefly, Wonderfalls, and others, but they did manage -- contrary to what years of bad decision making would lead us to suspect -- to make two good decisions in the last day or two.

One, they picked up Arrested Development, the funniest comedy on television, for its third season.

Two, they avoided letting 24 slip to another network, renewing it for two more seasons.

ABC, on the other hand, has some splainin' to do. They announced their fall schedule today, and have chosen to feed Alias to the wolves next season. Alias will air on Thursdays at 8:00/7:00 C&M. For those that maybe don't have electricity in their homes on Thursdays, that's the time slot dominated by Survivor, filled respectably (ratings-wise) by Joey, and (pending FOX's schedule announcement later this week) also fought over by The OC. Plus, the WB has "proudly" announced they're moving Smallville into the same time slot. I'm sorry, but when a person who owns two TiVos (that would be me) is complaining about a TV pileup, there are some serious issues.

Add in Jennifer Garner's rumored pregnancy, sure to cause some creative difficulties for the show if true, and you can virtually guarantee next season will be the last for Alias. Though, to be honest, if it slips again and loses any of the quality they've managed to reclaim in the last few weeks, it's surely for the best.

Oh... and almost forgot... ABC is bumping Lost an hour later on Wednesday nights next season. Where it would be airing opposite The West Wing, except that NBC has elected to move that to Sunday. (Thankfully, they're putting it in the hour before Desperate Housewives would have ground it into mulch.)

Yes, there will be a short quiz later. Hope you took notes.

Monday, May 16, 2005

More Serenity Comic Humor

Like the title says...

4:00am - 5:00am

For the second time in three weeks, 24 has managed to deliver (in my opinion) the best installment of the season. Good enough even to make up for the fact that, once again, some bastardly headline writer spoiled the return of Mandy in tonight's episode.

Tony and Michelle reconciled. Huzzah!!!! Of course, you knew the minute Buchanan agreed to let him go out in the field that it was going to go badly for him. It remains to be seen whether or not he'll survive the day. (Knowledge which, thankfully, has not been spoiled for me.)

Jack had his most emotional phone call since the best ever episode of 24, when he made his "Daddy's gotta go kill himself now for the greater good" call to Kim in season two. I really don't think I'll buy it if Audrey and Jack do end up getting back together after all this, but I still was swept up in the emotion behind his attempt to reach out to her.

Nice to see both Secretary Heller and his son return for a surprisingly effective character beat in the midst of the crisis. Again, Kim Raver shows that on those rare moments they do give something meaty to the character of Audrey, she will deliver.

Fun seeing Palmer act out his ruse with Logan for the benefit of the Speaker of the House. It was another moment where I was ahead of the writing, yet I completely enjoyed the moment anyway. 24 doesn't always have to surprise me to give me "the rush." I hope that really was the end of the "coup within the cabinet" plot thread, though, as I think that idea was quite thoroughly covered in season two.

Two hour finale next week! It'll be the last time for a while that I scream and cheer for the "graphic violence" advisory at the the top of the show. I can't wait!

Following the Trail of Fragments

Several of the blog links listed to the right will start you on a magical, hyper-linked journey down Decipher Memory Lane. I didn't want to be left out just because I hadn't set this blog up at the time I got laid off four months ago. So, on with my random memories (hopefully without too many reruns from other lists):

Hearing about "Old Man Kaltenbach" for the first time, and having the phone ring less than 5 seconds later.

New Lunch Fridays.

Radio Free Decipher -- interviews from Richard Taylor to Wil Wheaton, pineapples, aimless chatter, and fun with Kyle.

In a span of six months, going from never having played DDR to being willing to invest $300 in a "Super Nerdy Dance Mat."

Learning that I have some modicum of firefighting skills.

Fighting the good fight to keep Bruce's grill. (And winding up with two.)

Making a friend or two in Norfolk that didn't actually work at Decipher.

Getting to visit Paramount and see the Star Trek sets in person -- even if it was the Voyager sets.

Learning to play Conkers.

Monday lunches at Chili's.

The saga of the Star Destroyer Venery, and all its subsequent namesakes.

"Not a sausage."


"But SIR."

"Simplify, simplify, simplify."

"Never not."

"Your Mom." "(Ooooh!)"

Helter Skelter.

Building my top 100 movies list.

Photos at the "Moulin Rouge"... in Amsterdam.

Becoming obsessed with The Princes of Florence. And Puerto Rico after that.

Learning the hidden mysteries of "The Wheel." And trying to "reinvent" it while working on the Voyager expansion set.

Voodoo dolls and Jesus nightlights.

Telling off Helge on two occasions.

Impromptu Sprite jingles.

Passing the pig.

Afternoon "porn" runs. (Later to be less dubiously known as "drinkies?")

Finding out what constitutes a "snow day" in Virginia Beach.

Brad showing me the famous "Borg deck," and tweaking it with him to obnoxious perfection for GenCon 98. (And the stupified look on the face of the first player I defeated with it.)

Keeping track of rain on Tim's annual Memorial Day cookout.

German phone sex commercials.

The "thong underwear vs. granny panties" graph.

Escaping to Atlantic City, and seeing in person all the places at the Taj shown in Rounders.

The Malc's review of The Fellowship of the Ring: "I never want to not be watching this movie."

Mission Specialists -- my first great design idea, and also my first idea to get horribly warped beyond my conception. (I'd do it to myself many times thereafter.)

Hawking a spitball at the White House on the company dime.

Kendrick's imaginative use for duct tape.

Keeping Bianca "in the family."

The Holographic Tal Shiar Barbering and Engineering Guild.

Watching a Guinness-certified World Record be set in my living room.

Beating a Squadron Leader armed with two Darth Vaders in a sealed deck tournament -- and going on to lose every other game of the tournament.

Closing the doors to "the big room" so that we might gossip more freely.

Coming off the plane in Vegas for the 1997 Star Trek CCG World Championships.

Being in the 4% of the population to keep their electricity after Hurricane Isabel tore through.

Driving alone in both LA and NY traffic, and living to tell the tale.

The AK Test.

Pod shit, and the importance of proper spacing when writing on the whiteboard.

Staying at the Mondrian hotel -- twice -- back when the money flowed with cavalier abandon.

Working on the Tribbles "game within a game," in particular determining how many degrees from Kevin Bacon a tribble is.


Finding out you can turn a hobby into a career.

Becoming long-distance friends with people long before ever meeting them in person... and staying in touch now that the journey has come full circle.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Island Madness

Those of you who follow Survivor will recall a few weeks ago when I pronounced the remaining contestants too stupid to win, and officially starting rooting for Tom. So, on that level, I'm happy with tonight's result. But things didn't end without a few more truly bizarre displays of behavior.

Coby, who had started out as one of the most fun and entertaining people on the show, must have had some kind of psychotic break the episode he got voted out, and it carried through all the way to jury day. I have absolutely no idea what lies he thinks Tom told. I have even less idea what he was all bitter about. He just went completely mental.

Ian was doing great all the way through the game until the episode last Thursday, where he began repeatedly opening his big mouth, saying the wrong things to the wrong people, and generally making stupid decisions. I can't decide whether his resigning from the final challenge was a redemption, or the final stupid decision in his chain. I'm inclined to vote "stupid" if for no other reason than the fact he could have given up a whole lot sooner and saved himself 12 hours on that buoy.

I will say that either way, I take issue with Jeff Probst's behavior. At the reunion, he got all up in contestant Jeff's grill about asking to be voted out of the game, but then at the same time essentially praised Ian for asking exactly the same thing of Tom. Total double standard.

And Katie. Poor, deluded Katie. What ever made her think that her "strategy" had a chance of working? Where did she get off getting so enraged with Ian when she just days earlier had tried to jump ship from him and Tom and join with Gregg and Jenn? And why, oh why, did she stand by Ian and vote against Jenn?

In short, there was plenty of island madness to go around.

Once More Unto the Rulebook

I've covered the value of reading a game's rulebook. Today, let me add the value of reading a rulebook a second time.

We all know the best way to learn just about any board game is to have someone else teach you. Sometimes, though, you've bought something entirely new, and have to slog through the book yourself to figure it out. I have found that in these cases, once you've played about two or three times, it's generally a good idea to go back and read the rules again. By that point, you have enough of an understanding of the flow of the game that you'll probably find a point or two in the rules that somehow got into your head wrong when everything was completely alien to you.

Case in point, I finally re-read the rules to Der Untergang von Pompeji, aka the "Death by Volcano" game from the creator of Carcassonne. I was prodded to do so during a recent game where I managed to draw into a hand of nothing but 4 Omen cards. I'm thinking "this sucks! I can't possibly have this rule right!"

I didn't. Turns out, when you draw an Omen card, you immediately reveal it, and toss another player's piece into the volcano right then. You then draw another card for your hand. As those who have played with me before know, we'd been playing it that using an Omen card took up your entire turn -- a turn where you place no pieces, and kill an opponent's piece. In actuality, an Omen is a completely bonus action, an automatic killing.

What a difference this makes, let me tell you! You go from an average one or two Omens per game to an average of about eight. And because every one of those Omens drawn causes another card to be drawn immediately, you end up burning through the deck faster too. The net result is that there are far fewer pieces on the board -- more than a dozen less, total. Each player has around 2 to 5 fewer pieces.

This in turn makes the "running from the lava" phase play very differently too. With fewer pieces out there, there are far fewer opportunities for a piece to move several spaces -- generally speaking, you're only sharing a space with one other piece, if any at all. The handful of "three piece" spaces that do exist get moved away from in the very first rounds of fleeing.

In the end, the average score of a 4 player game has dropped from around 9 or 10 to around 5 to 7. A very, very different game. I can't decide which way I prefer it; it still feels like there might be just a little more randomness in that game that I typically prefer. Still, it's a fun one to pull out every now and again, and I have decided regardless that I'll be playing it correctly from now on.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Final Final Frontier...

...until the next time Paramount tries to dig up Star Trek, anyway.

What can I say about the final installment of Enterprise? "It didn't totally suck." I suppose that would be damning with faint praise. In fairness, there were some good moments, but most of them featured Riker and Troi.

Marina Sirtis looked clearly aged from 1994, and clearly caked with makeup trying to hide that. No shame in aging; we all do it. I'm just saying they could have avoided this issue by setting the "future scenes" post-Nemesis on the Titan instead of during TNG years. Though I suppose the "Enterprise" symbolism wouldn't have worked then.

They came dangerously close to humanizing Archer a little bit in the last few minutes. Why they waited until the last possible moment to do that is beyond me.

Bummer that they killed Trip -- he was like their one character. T'Pol was constantly constrained behind "being Vulcan," Archer was stubborn "yelling guy," and the rest were lucky to average 5 lines per episode all season. And they gave him a totally stupid death too. He got killed because the crew was too arrogant in their victory to notice aliens sneaking up on them and boarding their ship. I guess Reed was off making dinner with Chef/Riker when he should have been manning his station.

In all, though, still better than the Voyager finale.

And so now, for the first time since 1987 -- 18 years -- there won't be a first-run Star Trek series on the air. There are kids graduating high school now who've never been alive when there wasn't Star Trek on. Weird.

Happy Holidays

If you have Tridecaphobia, happy holidays to you!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Making Waves

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know what I'm about to tell you (or perhaps are one of the unlucky ones it's happening to). Still, I'd feel remiss not to mention that my former employer of five years had "wave two" of layoffs earlier today, taking almost all my remaining friends there that survived "wave one." My thoughts and best wishes go out to those who are now looking for jobs. If there's any way I can help any of you, even if just to listen, please call me or drop me a message. It's the least I can do, as so many of you did the same for me three months ago.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Canine Ethnic Cleansing

You may have seen this story already thanks to Fark, but since it's going on here in Denver, I felt a need to bring it to everyone's attention. I'm not much of a pet person. I don't own a dog and don't want to. I don't have anything in particular for or against pit bulls. But this seems pretty crazy to me.

Now, I know the grey area here is pretty large. Because I'm suggesting it's lunacy to pass a law that takes everyone's pit bull away, would I therefore argue someone's right to keep a Motaba-infected monkey in their apartment? Where exactly do I draw the line between safe pet and unsafe pet? I honestly don't know.

I just know that ordinarily I find the "I know obscenity when I see it"-type argument to be generally aggravating. And yet... this somehow rubs me the wrong way anyway. I suppose that makes me a bit of a hypocrite.

Great. Now I'm having a crisis of ethics and politics over some stupid dogs I don't even really like.

Sith Happens

This speaks for itself.

Bad Robot = Good TV

On Lost this week, Walt's apparent psychic powers expanded a bit as he pulled a page from the Johnny Smith playbook and gleaned Locke's plans for opening "The Hatch" by touch. And given Walt's reaction, it would seem that the only thing waiting beyond "The Hatch" is untimely death. Maybe there's a whole family of polar bears hibernating inside.

Meanwhile, Arvin Clone returned to Alias after a few weeks away. (Although this time it was Elena Derevko's turn to vanish for a week. Alias just can't juggle multiple plot lines like it used to.) On the one hand, I was a little disappointed to see "reliving the past to gain useful information in the present" be the way to solve the crisis two weeks running. On the other hand, I did find it all an intriguing payoff to the Arvin Clone arc. It's a shame it had to end so soon, really. I think during the Golden Age of Alias a few years ago, this sort of thing could have carried on for quite some time.

And I don't know if any of you noticed, but Jennifer Garner actually directed that episode of Alias, and did a respectable enough job. As if she doesn't have enough to do on the show already.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The $1,000,000 Head Shaving

I'm very pleased that The Amazing Race finished up tonight the only "right" way, with Uchenna and Joyce winning. Rob (of Team Robbinambuh) and Kelly (of Team Ron and Spoiled Bitch) stayed smug, self-centered, and unlikeable to the very finish, leaving U&J as the only team I would have been truly happy to see win. Still, anyone but Rob and Amber would have done in a pinch.

This is the first time I've ever watched The Amazing Race, and I've enjoyed it a lot. Still, if Rob and Amber had walked away the winners, I honestly don't know if I could have come back for another round next fall. I know it wouldn't exactly have been fair of me to hold it against the game if the team I hated had pulled it out -- I'm just saying, it would have ruined my past enjoyment of it that much.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. And U&J pulled it off after having all their money taken away too! Begging for two days and even going the extra mile not to stiff their cab driver at the end. That's the kind of skill and style I'm quite sure neither of the other teams could have shown in the same situation. They earned it. Well done. I'm happy.

And Now We Know

The season finale of Veronica Mars has now come and gone. All our questions have been answered. Is Keith really Veronica's father? Is Mom back to stay? Who killed Lilly Kane? The episode was so full of answers, there wasn't even 45 seconds to spare for The Dandy Warhols after the teaser.

The way the murder was solved through a heretofore unknown video tape reminded me a little of the first season of Murder One. Still, any comparison between the shows would only be good -- I consider both the series to be great.

Of course, no self-respecting mystery-based show could go away for the summer without leaving us a cliffhanger. In this case, the question is: who came to Veronica's door? Seems to me the only possible candidates that match her reaction are Duncan and Logan.

My money's on Duncan. After all, her reaction to Logan I think would have been much more like, "oh my God, what happened to you?!" Because if he didn't actually go through with jumping of the bridge as his mother did before him, then surely Weevil and his gang beat him to within an inch of his life. Hmm... I suppose that's through true cliffhanger: is Logan still alive?

That answer and more when Veronica Mars returns this fall. Score 1 for quality television.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Information Undertow

My personal "password buffer" has gotta be reaching overload at this point. E-mail access, ATM codes (different from bank account access passwords), my blogger account, maybe a dozen different web site accounts, work computer, AIM account, voice mail. All ideally different, all ideally not something completely stupid and guessable like "password." This is a modern frustration past generations didn't have to deal with so much. But I suppose the conveniences are a fair trade-off.

(Big bonus points to anyone who actually recognized that the title of this post was a reference to a song from a Dada album.)

Everybody Loves Chloe

The best moment of 24 tonight was Jack's reaction to Chloe after she said: "Jack, I just want you to know that if you ever need anyone to talk to, as a friend, I'm here for you." The look on his face might just make up for all the "nuke-ya-lers" from him thus far and evermore.

Other than that... I'm sort of waiting to see where they go from here. This week left me feeling just a touch of season 2 deja vu. Season 2 was my favorite season, but still -- they've been there, I've seen that. It think it depends on how they pay it all off in the remaining three hours to come.

I don't know if you've heard this bizarre story, but apparently there's some chance that next season, 24 will be jumping ship from Fox to NBC. If it happened, it would on the one hand be very odd tuning into a different network for the Bauer Power Hour. On the other, it only makes sense that Fox would let another good show slip away (though, granted, in a different way for a change).

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The "Lost" West Wing Episode

As I believe I've mentioned before, I only saw The West Wing for the first time around a year-and-a-half ago. I loved it immediately, and between DVD and Bravo reruns, I set about catching up in time to start watching the sixth season when it debuted last October.

But there were a couple of holes. When Bravo has rerun the fifth season episodes of The West Wing, they've skipped two episodes consistently every time: the Thanksgiving episode and the Supreme Court episode. In the case of the former, it turned out it had been left out of the Bravo cycle intentionally, because they planned to air it on NBC for the week of Thanksgiving a few months ago. I caught the episode then. But that left "The Supremes." I have no idea what about that episode caused it to be skipped not once, but twice in cable reruns. Did someone at Bravo have something against Glenn Close?

Once it had come down to that being the only episode of The West Wing I hadn't seen, I turned to TiVo's handy Wish List feature, and told it that if ever that episode should come up on any channel at any time, I wanted it recorded. And bless you, TiVo, tonight you came through for me. The local affiliate that does weekend reruns here in Denver ran the episode Sunday night. And so, after enjoying Family Guy and Desperate Housewives, I watched "the lost episode."

For the fifth season (which, though I'd have to say was still good television, is generally the series' worst), this was a very good episode. One of the best. It kind of got back to the core of the show -- offering wish fulfillment to viewers of the way many of us dream our government ought to work, and doing it in an entertaining way with likeable characters and snappy dialogue. I quite enjoyed it.

But now I have to wait until next fall like everyone else to get a new episode of The West Wing.

Happy Mother's Day!

My actual mother isn't likely to read this, but that's okay, as I'm seeing her later today -- first Mother's Day in six years I can say that. Which sort of brings me to the point. There are a couple of people out there who will read this (or who might at least hear about it from people who do) that were really Moms-away-from-Mom to me during my time in Virginia. Hugs, kisses, and thanks for that!


As long as I'm talking about movies, I should actually point out that I had a trifecta last week, beginning on Wednesday night when I saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And I didn't especially like it. Or hate it. It was just sort of, "enh." And in that respect, I found it to be exactly like the book.

See, I've never particularly liked Hitchhiker's. I mean, I think there are some brilliant and hysterical moments in there. The paragraph about the horridness of Vogon poetry. Outstanding. The sentence about "hung in the air exactly the way bricks don't." Absolute genius. (Incidentally, as I don't have a copy of the book, I can't verify the exact text of that quote. The internet was no help, either. Check out this Google search. Every result on this first page lists the quote slightly differently! Though granted, some are ripping it off from Douglas Adams without acknowledging the source.)

Sadly though, I find that in between these all-too-brief moments of hilarity, I turned 9 or 10 pages without so much as cracking a smile. And the plot is rather meandering (because the original material was a serial radio show), and to me not very engaging. Which means that the book left me generally "enh."

Same goes for the movie. I thought it offered moments of hilarity, spaced by 5-10 minutes of boredom. The film was perfectly cast, and they were giving their all, but ultimately I found myself looking at my watch a lot.

Sorry. It's not a "British thing." I love The Office, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, (hmm... can I think of one America didn't steal and re-do?), Dave Gorman, Eddie Izzard, and plenty of others. I know some of you out there are huge fans of Hitchhiker's. I'm just not with you on that one.

Wax Sux

I have a soft spot for horror movies. I understand and accept that you have to be willing to see about 10 bad ones just to find one good one; sit through Darkness Falls, Boogeyman, They, Cursed... eventually, you'll find The Ring, Jeepers Creepers, and Dawn of the Dead. So, in this spirit, I went to see House of Wax yesterday with a small group of similarly minded people.

House of Wax had some good "set piece" moments of gore, and some neat concepts in there. And it was fun to see Elisha Cuthbert of 24 back in the role of "disaster magnet" for a couple hours. But anything remotely good about this movie was completely undermined by how phenomally stupid the characters were.

Be warned here, from this point on, there are SPOILERS, if you care. But trust me, you don't.

Like I said, the characters did dumb things. Not a few dumb things. These people were willfully, actively, and aggressively stupid. Among the whole lot of them, they did like one smart thing in the movie. Here are some examples:

We all know the horror movie cliche about the girl being chased by the killer and runs up the stairs instead of out the front door. (The brilliant movie Scream even calls this out.) Well, they do that cliche in this film -- in a house that is made of wax, and on fire at the time. So rather than try for the door, Elisha runs up the melting staircase instead. At least there weren't any cougars up there.

Elisha and her boyfriend are caught twice snooping around town, and are politely but creepily chastised by a local both times. You'd think this might dull their snooping spirits, but no. After being led into Creepy House (TM) to use a bathroom, the guy takes off wandering again into clear "Don't Get Here" territory. Guess how that turns out.

Another character comes across his buddy encased alive in wax, and starts picking at his face to get him out. All the buddy's layers of skin peel off with the wax, exposing blood and gore. But does the character go "oh my God!" and try to put it back or something? No! He goes, "oh my God!" and then keeps peeling!

Even the bad guys are not immune to moments of complete idiocy. When one gets shot through the arm by a crossbow bolt, he goes back to his house to extract it. He has the presence of mind to pull it through his arm rather than backing it out and tearing up his innards with the arrowhead -- but he decides for some reason not to clip off the end of the shaft before pulling it through. So he gets to endure the pain for like twice as long, and brings all the fletching right on through the hole in his arm as well. And then he grabs the pliers to clip off the end of another bolt stuck in his chest.

This is just the tip of a giant Stupid Iceberg. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't expecting a cinematic masterpiece here. But I think I could feel myself getting dumber just watching all this dumbness being inflicted on me.

In the end, about all I could take away from the movie was enjoying Paris Hilton's death scene, which me and my friends applauded and cheered in the theater.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Tales from the MP3 Player

You'll recall earlier posts of mine speaking about 1) the proliferation of CSI shows; and 2) Funny things that happen when you're listening to your MP3 player on shuffle.

Today, a couple of songs by The Who came up in the shuffle, and I had a very strange/funny image of how many CSI spin-offs we'd have to get before "Boris the Spider" was used as the theme song for a CSI show.

And, for the KVSC trivia gang out there, the "Theme from Fish" also came up in the shuffle today. I have this CD with over 60 TV theme songs on it, all stored in the MP3 player of course. Fortunately, during the trivia contest, someone on our team correctly identified the song. I would have been bummed out if we'd missed it and now, months later, it randomly came up on my MP3 player and I realized that I'd had the means at my disposal to identify the song if only I'd ever paid much attention to the CD.

Serenity Wow!

The following comments are completely spoiler free. (I would never do that to you.)

My only complaint about the movie Serenity is that I have to wait almost five months to see it again. And again. And again. I'm already busy trying to figure where in my top 100 movies list it will fall.

I felt the movie struck a perfect balance. The plot and tone resonated beautifully with the series; this could easily have been a two-hour episode of Firefly. But it was also lavish and whiz-bang; it pushed all the buttons a sci-fi blockbuster needs to. (If it had been an episode of Firefly, it would have been a gorram expensive one.)

Seeing the movie made me want to go back and watch all the episodes of the series again. And when I do, I'll definitely be seeing things in a new way. It's all the more criminal now that Fox canceled the show. But all the more awesome that such a kick-ass movie is now following in its footsteps.

Joss Whedon himself recorded a roughly three-minute introduction that ran before the film. Amidst warning us that the film was still not completely finalized (a few special effects shots and some of the music was incomplete, and the whole film had a little bit of a washed-out, "work print" quality), he praised the fans of the show. He pointed out that "sci-fi blockbusters based on canceled series do not get made. This movie should not exist. But because of you it does. And because it's all your doing, if it sucks, that's your fault too."

Don't worry, Joss. Anything but.

"You can't take the sky from me..."

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Spot of Indecision 2005

The Daily Show did an awesome segment on the British elections last night. If you missed it and can still catch a rerun, I highly recommend it. Their clips showing the difference between a "town hall meeting" in the UK and one here were approaching that "maybe this isn't actually that funny because it's so true."

One of the highlights had Stephen Colbert talking about the general demeanor of the English: "The most manly guy here is David Beckham, and he wears earrings and isn't allowed to use his hands."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Geek Trumps Entrepreneur

So, I'm now less than 24 hours away from the big sneak preview of Serenity. And bouncing off the walls in excitement, let me tell you. I caught the movie trailer tonight on the big screen in front of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and that was enough to make me dizzy. I think tomorrow night, with all those Browncoats in one place, the room might literally explode when they start up the projector.

I'm very grateful to have got the tickets. But now I'm wishing that my entrepreneurial instincts had jumped in a little more when I managed to get in and buy them a couple weeks ago. When I heard about the screening, my only real thought was, "I wonder how many friends of mine will want to (and be able to) go?" I guess-timated I wouldn't have any problems finding 7 other people who'd want to go, and so I bought 8 tickets. And that worked out to be a perfect guess. Another friend of mine was able to get 4 tickets himself, and together we found exactly 10 people (plus us) to go.

But now I find out this week that single tickets to these screenings are selling on e-bay for $100-$200. And I'm thinking, if only that thought had also come to me, even if I'd been able to get only a couple more tickets... well, that would be a nice chunk of cash.

Still, don't get me wrong. In the end, I'm not in any way complaining. Turns out that I snuck into a window that was open only for about 20 minutes, so I'm very, very grateful to have made off with any tickets at all.

The J.J. Entertainment Block

A pretty solid two hours of entertainment tonight from J.J. Abrams and Co. Some moments that jumped out at me:

On Lost, it was a very nice flourish at the end of the Sayid's backstory that he delayed his return to LA for a day to claim his friend's body, and consequently ended up on the doomed Oceanic flight.

Sawyer's scenes, though a bit of a re-tread of the classic "crying baby" cliche, were still pretty damn funny.

I think the writers made a serious mistake letting Charlie refer to the baby as Turnip-Head. Cause I don't know about you, but I think I'm probably always going to call him Turnip-Head forever, no matter what Claire ends up naming him. (What do you think the odds are she goes with "Boone?")

On Alias, I found the "dressing up as Evil Mom" to be a fairly compelling plot. I still want to know what happened to Arvin Clone, though.

Michael Vartan has a very asymmetrical face. Every now and then, directors reverse camera angles in editing, or deliberately choose to shoot into mirrors as they did tonight while Sydney was preparing to portray her mother. With some actors, you can't tell the difference. But our agent Vaughn looked just wrong. (Jennifer Garner, however -- perfect as always.)

I'm always amused to see what sort of "cover up" the props department on a TV show will use to conceal the Apple logo on the cover of a laptop computer. On this week's Alias, it was a big red dot. Dots of various colors seem to be the popular choice -- I see them on most shows. But my favorite cover up ever was in an episode of Angel where a Post-It Note was stuck on the top of Cordelia's laptop. Nothing written on it. Just stuck there.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Obligatory Tuesday TV Talkback

This week was the first episode of Veronica Mars in a long while -- maybe ever -- that I haven't been totally enthusiastic about. I think it's that it felt a little too serious for me. I enjoy the wit and humor that the show usually mixes in with its continuing plot and sleuthing. This week was pretty heavy on the drama and almost devoid of the usual humor. Of course, the subject matter was honestly too serious to have been treated lightly. And we did get some pretty big resolution on a couple of season-long mysteries. Futhermore, I appreciate that the show was trying something a little different and not trying to follow the same "formula." I guess in the end, I'm not complaining. (A rare thing for this blog.) But I'm hoping to be more entertained by next week's season finale. (Ah... season finale. Not series finale. Again, how awesome is that?)

Meanwhile, a pretty lackluster installment of The Amazing Race. All the teams were back to their usual patterns. Rob and Amber were ridiculously and undeservingly lucky. Ron showed saint-like patience while Kelly grew still more irrational and unsympathetic. Uchenna and Joyce were wonderful to each other and played hard, but not enough to place first. Meredith and Gretchen showed their typical, strange brew of heart, bumbling idiocy, determination, and ineptitude -- and finally got eliminated for it. Basically, the same behavior as every episode but the last one. I'm really hoping next week's season finale is more a replay of last week than this week.

Monday, May 02, 2005

I Am Jack's Uncompromising Sense of Duty

Well, Jack Bauer's chances of keeping his relationship with Audrey were slim to none already, and slim left town just before 3:00 am. You could kind of see the direction the plot was heading as they rolled Paul Raines back into surgery, but I thought the ride was good anyway. It gave Kim Raver (the actress playing Audrey) some good scenes to play, and it had been a while since she'd had that.

Speaking of Paul coming back into the plot after a few episodes away, it was fun to see Tony's bitchy girlfriend back, too. I never would have guessed she'd make an appearance again this season. But it did start me thinking about some abandoned plot threads that have gone by this season, and made me wonder if we'll ever come back around to them. I ranked them in descending order of how likely I think it is we'll see them again:

Marwan and the Nuke -- Just what exactly was Marwan up to all hour? I would have expected at least one badgering phone call to the guys in Iowa working on the warhead. I'm sure we'll be hearing tons from them next episode, of course, but it was odd for the true threat to sort of vanish off the radar this week.

Secretary Heller -- Many hours ago, he left to (if I recall correctly) go brief the president in person. We know he wasn't aboard Air Force One when it was shot down, so just where the hell did he go? He's had enough time to reach Washington DC by now, if that's where he was headed.

Behrooz Araz -- Last we saw of this poor kid with the terrorist parents, he was being hauled away in a van by Marwan's goons. Did CTU ever recover him? Did Marwan's people drop him in a ditch somewhere?

Mitch Anderson -- Last we saw of him, Mitch had successfully shot down Air Force One and was flying away in a stolen stealth fighter. Did he get away with it and escape? Would there be no further information he could provide if he were captured?

McClennan-Forster -- This corporation set off an EMP in downtown LA, supposedly to hide information in their computers on Marwan. It was truly odd behavior, them doing that. I mean, they weren't actually helping Marwan plan the attacks, were they? Marwan was just working there. But they set off the EMP to hide something they felt made them look particularly guilty, and the info Jack finally recovered from their office didn't even begin to justify the need for EMP action.

Your opinion of just how loose some of these loose threads are may vary, of course, but I would hope we get answers on at least a couple of these issues by season's end. (And you never know, we just might. After all, they did bring back Marie Warner for a surprise Hannibal Lecter-esque scene in the Season Two finale.)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Freakin' Sweet!

Family Guy is back!

I've been a huge fan of this show since back during its first run on Fox, and I'm thrilled to see it back with new episodes. I guess that's an advantage of being an animated show -- you can actually be uncancelled without too much difficulty. And speaking of cancellation, what a great opening they started with to this episode, naming no less than 29 other shows that have come and gone in the time since Family Guy was last on the air with new episodes (including greats like Firefly, Wonderfalls, and The Tick). The episode had everything, even a Wilhelm Scream!

Welcome back, Family Guy.

Entertainment Almost-Weekly

I love my subscription to Entertainment Weekly magazine. (Thanks, Kyle, for getting it started in the first place!) But I also have a little complaint. No issue this week! Why? Last week, they published their "2005 Summer Movie Preview" in a giant "double-sized issue." The double issue is counted as the April 29th and May 6th installments of the magazine, issues 817 and 818.

I find this suspect behavior. If you want to do a double issue, knock yourself out. But it seems to me that should be all "extra." You don't see newspapers going, "we're going to publish a double-sized paper on Monday, and then skip Tuesday." That doesn't work. Doesn't the whole notion of skipping a week pretty much undermine the meaning of the name "Entertainment Weekly?"

Entertainment News

Some random entertainment pseudo-news that I know a couple of you reading this in particular will find interesting: Tina Fey is pregnant.

This concludes our news broadcasting day. (Cue The Star-Spangled Banner and cheesy video montage.)