Thursday, June 30, 2005

Which Came First?

This weekend is the first Origins convention in six years I'll not be attending. Joe blogged about one of the major attractions at the Columbus convention center. (Personally, I'm a fan of their "Buckeye" -- a peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwich.)

Let me mention the other major attraction in that food court, though: Chicken 'n Egg. They actually serve a decent breakfast there. And reasonably fast, considering the lines they always have. I pretty much had Chicken 'n Egg for breakfast every morning of every Origins I attended.

I might have to make myself some French Toast this weekend to commemorate it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Mars Attacks!

I caught War of the Worlds tonight. My bottom line: I'd give it a B.

The action moments were impressive, the images breathtaking, the suspenseful parts were, and so forth. Not that you'd expect any less out of Steven Spielberg. However, I'm not sure I ever felt the presence of a compelling plot. The movie felt more like a series of "set pieces" strung together.

You had your wonderment moment, your horrific moment, your "fleeing action sequence," your grisly moment, etc. etc. etc. And the movie just seemed to bob along from one moment to the next as if that were enough to sustain it. Ordinarily, this might really annoy me, except in this case, each given "set piece" was so well done and really damn good.

I guess I'm saying the parts were greater than the sum of the whole. Or something strange like that.

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

So, I forgot my anniversary yesterday. Or, what would have been my anniversary, except that now I'm "divorced."

I'm talking about Decipher. It would have been six years ago yesterday for me. I suppose the fact I forgot is a sign that I've moved on and am happy, because the date never went by overlooked during the time I was there.

Here's hoping the other "displaced" are having success with their own moving on.

A Streetcar Named Bizarre

If you missed the premiere of the new show Stella on Comedy Central, I suggest you look for one of the many reruns this week and check it out.

It's not that I'm necessarily endorsing the show. It's that the show is so unbelievably, indescribably bizarre that you really ought to experience it for yourself. I realize this is a little like saying, "I think this milk is spoiled, taste it." But it's not that I'm necessarily panning the show, either. I'm already eager to see the next episode, to see if it could possibly be as strange as the first one.

I can only describe my final reaction to Stella as, "how the hell did this get on television? What the hell is this?"

How strange is this show? The TiVo description of this first episode was: "The guys gain co-op approval with a dance routine and perform open-heart surgery on their landlord." And that barely does it justice.

I guess I'll take anything that puts the hysterical Michael Ian Black on TV more often than "I Love the [Decade]s." But seriously, if anyone else can tell me what this show is, I'd be grateful.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

They Paved Paradise...

Here are two "guidelines" that I personally try to maintain on my blog:

1) I try not to blog about political subjects very often.

2) I try not to just blog about all the funny links I've seen on Fark.

I'm making an exception to both of these guidelines to bring you this, detailing how a private developer is trying to get the government to seize the land on which the house of Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter stands, to make way for a hotel.

Let me be clear... I don't actually expect anything to come of this. I just think this is a quite creative form of protest. By contrast, let me offer you this:

I work three blocks from the State Capitol building in Denver. Often, I walk into the lower downtown area for lunch, passing right in front of the steps of the capitol. Two or three times a week, there is some protest or demonstration of some kind or another going on there. Like today, there's a horse in front of the capitol, telling me to "vote no on C." Apparently, if this amendment passes, Achilles and his cohorts are going to come bursting out from inside the law and slash apart the government from the inside. Or something.

The opposition was there in force today, too. Not that their presentation was any better. It was about 50 people waving hand-made signs, chanting (a la "less filling!" "tastes great!"): "Yes on C and D." "Save Colorado." I suppose I at least have to credit the horse for 1) showing some creativity, and 2) not comparing the people they don't like to Hitler.

But it's all nothing compared to trying to bulldoze Souter's house for a hotel. That's just awesomely creative, no matter what side of the issue you're on.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A Show Before Its Time

I've been watching the complete first season of Murder One on DVD lately. It's been a group thing, actually. Once or twice a week, I take it over to a friend's house, and a small group of us watch episodes together. Some are seeing it for the first time. Others, like me, saw it 10 years ago when it originally aired, but haven't caught it since.

The show is really excellent. It's a law drama from Steven Bochco, creator of shows like NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser, L.A. Law, and Hill Street Blues. (And yes, Cop Rock. Cringe.) This show's gimmick: a single crime followed over the course of an entire season, from arrest, to hearings, to jury selection, to trial, and everything after. But it was more than the gimmick, it was a truly excellent series.

Frankly, it was a series about 6 or 7 years before its time. Because when you really get down to it, this was a sort of proto-24. For whatever reason, TV audiences in 1995 weren't generally willing to hang with a show this serialized over the course of a year. (Or networks weren't willing to believe an audience would do so.) And DVD wasn't around yet as the perfect way to deliver a serialized show like this. Sure, soap operas like Dallas, Falcon Crest, and Dynasty had ruled the airwaves in the 80s, but Murder One was not camp, it was real drama.

Amazingly, Murder One did get a second season. But out of fear that the "one crime" gimmick was alienating viewers, the show switched to "three crimes over the course of the year." It also changed out much of its cast, including the "unconventional TV lead" that was Daniel Benzali in favor of the "more conventional" Anthony LaPaglia. (So conventional, in fact, that he's now got a hit show in Without A Trace. BTW, I have nothing against him. I'm simply pointing out that Murder One was seriously altered from its original first season vision.)

I have to wonder if Murder One had come along now, in the era of 24, Lost, and Desperate Housewives, if it would have been more successful and managed to last longer than two seasons. Still, I'm very grateful to have at least one of those seasons now on DVD. And I've been enjoying the episodes just as much now as the first time around.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Broken Covenant?

While I'm on the subject of not recommending things, let me add to the list the book "The Mirror of Her Dreams," by Stephen R. Donaldson. Unless you happen to be a teenage girl. (I mean actually a teenage girl, not in the internet sort of "40-year old man masquerading as a teenage girl" way.)

I'm a fan of fantasy, though in practice I haven't really read that many different fantasy authors. So I get a lot of recommendations from people. Stephen R. Donaldson is one name that has come up periodically. Usually, it's in the context of the Covenant books, but a close friend and her mother (both of whom I've known for about 15 years) strongly recommended his two-book "Mordant's Need." They're both well-read, intelligent women and I had to take their recommendation seriously. I borrowed the first book, The Mirror of Her Dreams, and started in.

That was about two months ago. I have read nothing else in that time frame. For a while, I was lucky to average two chapters a week. I just found the book to be ploddingly dull. For starters, essentially nothing of consequence happens in the first half. There are at least three points where characters get together to debate a course of action, and decide to do nothing as their course of "action."

The main character is a girl snatched from our real world into a fantasy land. And she's the most spineless, helpless, worthless girl you could possibly imagine. About once every other page, there's a sentence or paragraph about how "Terisa had never done this," or "Terisa was totally unfamiliar with that." Don't get me wrong -- I understand that a protagonist should go on some sort of character journey in the course of a good story, and often that journey is the discovery of self-worth. If a character starts mighty and with a high opinion of themself and ends up in the same place, that's not a good story, that's a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. But this girl starts out so weak and so incapable that once she does actually start taking an action or two (somewhere around page 400), I found it completely unbelieveable.

While I was struggling with this book, I mentioned it to another friend of mine who works in a bookstore. Her reaction was, "The Mirror of Her Dreams? That's a chick book! I read it when I was 13." She's also quite the liberal and feminist, though, which prompted me to ask how she could possibly like the main character. She just shrugged and said, "it's a girl thing."

Anyway, the book finally picked up enough at the halfway point for me to pick up my reading pace and make it to the end. Ordinarily, I'd abandon a book I was not liking this much. But in this case, it being a recommendation, I felt a little more compelled to see it through to the end.

I'm imagining that the Covenant books must be a little better for this author to have drawn the acclaim he has. Yet still, another part of my struggle with the books was the writing itself. I know a lot of fantasy writers have trouble with long passages of exposition (though the truly good ones deftly handle the problem). SRD embarks on page-long flights of backstory and world-building, then tries to buy it back by having the character doing the explanation say something like, "oh, but I'm sorry, I'm rambling." Sorry, bud... it's still bad exposition even if you point it out yourself.

So basically, I'm prepared to avoid everything by this author unless somebody out there who has read something else of his wants to step up to the plate and defend him.

And now, of course, I'm in a bit of a dilemma. As I said, it's the first book of two. Do I want to hunt down book two? I've come this far, so I sort of have to. Maybe. One thing's for sure, though, I'm going to read something different (maybe several somethings different) between now and then.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Stay Away from Hispaniola

I got to try out a new game tonight -- Hispaniola. And I'm giving it the big "thumbs down." I rated it a 3 on BGG, and I don't think anyone I played with would dispute that.

Superficially, the game has a pirate theme, which could sort of be fun, I guess. But it's a trick taking game, and the theme felt like sort of a mismatch or afterthought. Or both. There's also a board involved, where winners of tricks jockey for good position. Again, possible pieces of a good idea here.

Unfortunately, in practice you have virtually no control over anything. If you're dealt a bad hand, there's nothing you can do with it. It's not like in Hearts, where you have a prayer of dumping off a few bad cards. Or the pinnacle of all standard card games, Up and Down (sometimes called Up and Down the River or Dump), where even the bad hands can be bid and played for a winning score. Instead, you just sit there and lose, or win, through very little control of your own.

Add to that a couple of superficial issues that brought the game's score down even more. The 9s and the 6s on the cards were indistinguishable in your hand, with only the pirate's picture telling you right-side-up -- the picture of course being covered while you're fanning your cards. And then they made the board fold the wrong direction, so you can't easily scoop the pieces into the bag at the end of the game -- a subtle, but important detail that a few other games I've played have also messed up.

(I'm looking at you, Pompeji!)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

This Week's Trivia

We won this week's trivia contest by 1 point. Both our team and the 2nd place team aced the 4-part final question, which also happened to be the most interesting piece of trivia this time out. The question:

There are 6 U.S. state capitols whose names end in a letter than no other state capitol name ends in. For example, Frankfort, Kentucky, ends in a "t," as no other state capitol does. Name any 4 of the other 5 state capitols.

We hammered this one out by brute force, naming states alphabetically and fishing for someone at the table who could produce the capitol. (I've really got to learn that song Wakko did on The Animaniacs.) Keeping track of the names on a napkin, we found all 5 answers. We were briefly deceived by Juneau, Alaska, until we arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii. (Those non-contiguous states have to stick together, I guess.)

Anyway, the answers: Phoenix, St. Paul, Salem, Raleigh, and Sacremento.

Finding Serenity

To those lucky few of you who have tickets to Serenity tonight, enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Inside Out

I don't know if any of you has been watching the new TV series The Inside. If not, it pains me to say this, but: don't start.

It pains me because I like many of the people involved. On the writing side, the show was co-created by Tim Minear, who had a hand in Angel and Firefly, as well as Wonderfalls. Jane Espenson, also of the Whedon fold, is on the writing staff. So is Richard Hatem, co-creator of Miracles. On the acting side, there's Peter Coyote (best known perhaps for E.T., but also recently on The 4400), Katie Finneran of Wonderfalls, and Adam Baldwin of Firefly. With a team like this, I wanted to fall instantly in love with the show.

The trouble is, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Three episodes have now aired, and while none have been "bad," none have been notable. It's been a rather unremarkable "procedural crime drama," and I think we all know how little TV needs another one of those.

There have been moments of good writing and witty character here and there, but they've been completely overshadowed by one giant problem I have. The lead character, a Clarisse Starling-esque criminal profiler, is shaping up to be as big a "disaster rod" as Kim Bauer. Every episode has seen her put into jeopardy -- once by her own boss, once by her own actions, and once by a combination of the two. It seems "jeopardizing the heroine" is part of the formula of this show. And it's tired, boring, and predictable already. It also undermines her credibility, I think. If she's such a brilliant criminal profiler, how does she not see at least one of these situations coming?

So, despite the show's pedigree, I think I'm stepping off at this point. It's not "Point Pleasant" bad in terms of creative people I like letting me down. But it's also just not worth my time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Casting a Long Shadow

Those wacky Wizards of the Coast announced a few weeks ago that they are beginning a Hall of Fame for Magic players this year. For those who don't want to read through the rather boring link, the important points are: 1) five players will be inducted every year; 2) nomination has rewards besides recognition -- members actually get paid $500 appearance fees to play on the Pro Tour; 3) four of this year's five inductees will be decided by voting among select members of the Magic community, who will actually make their votes public.

So, fast forward to this Monday, when designer Mark Rosewater made his votes public in his weekly article. You want the good part? Brace yourself, click the link, and jump ahead to #5.

You back yet? Yup, Mike Long. This will mean something to many of you reading this. For the rest of you, the "sound bite" is that this guy is the most notorious cheater in the history of the game. To my knowledge, he's never done "that one thing" to get him banned once and for all, but he has received numerous suspensions over the years.

In any case, web trollers are in an uproar over this vote. We're getting Pete Rose analogies, the typical threats to "quit the game" that accompany any unpopular decision a game company makes, you name it.

The few rational folks (yes, they do have some of those on the internet) do seem to have a valid point. They say that if the "Hall of Fame" were truly just a place to commemorate the history of the game, it's hard to deny Mike Long made a huge impact, and he may well be worth including. But in fact there are actual rewards to membership (the $500 appearance fees I mentioned), and because of that, allowing Mike Long into the Hall of Fame is a de facto endorsement of cheating.

It's an interesting situation, which I'm only too happy to watch from afar. Anyone else have any opinion on this whatsoever and want to weigh in?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Spare a Square?

Yesterday afternoon, I'm trying on clothes in the changing room at the department store. Some other guy walks into the changing room and, of all the available "stalls," he takes the one right next to mine.

I don't know why, but suddenly I'm seized by the almost overwhelming desire to reach a hand under the divider and say, "hey man, you got any extra toilet paper over there?" You know, just to see what his reaction would be.

Man, I should have done it.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day all you fathers and fathers-to-be reading this.

Pro-Prostate Cancer?

Okay, this is a little thing, really. But as you probably know by now, it's all about the little things.

Today at the grocery checkout, the clerk asks me if I want to "donate money to prostate cancer?" No. Who would want to donate money to prostate cancer? I'm 100% anti-cancer, in all forms, thank you very much.

I believe the words this clerk was looking for are "donate money to fight prostate cancer." Or even, "donate money to prostate cancer research."

That is, unless Safeway has a really strange socio-political agenda.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Following Takes Place at a Theater Near You

There's a rumor circulating that a big-screen version of 24 is being contemplated. Much as I like 24, I don't think it makes sense to me.

A "real time" movie has already been done several times before. Hitchcock's Rope not only was a notable "real time" movie, but founded Hollywood's fascination with "one-ers" -- long, continuous takes with no camera cuts. Nick of Time was a more recent effort, starring Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken (ergo, it had to be good). And both of those films were totally "real time," not this bizarre hybrid as mentioned in the above story about 24.

Not that I wouldn't be right there on opening day to see it if they did make it.

Let's Groove Tonight

It's here! In the Groove, the new "cousin of DDR" game for PS2, was released this week. I picked up my copy last night (thanks for the GC, Tom and Kathy!), and am already stepping away to a brand new selection of songs, blissfully devoid of J-Pop. Huzzah!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

No Fascinating Trivia This Week

I don't have any terribly insightful knowledge picked up from this week's trivia. The questions we missed were either "didn't know it; wasn't interesting" or "couldn't think of the answers in time."

For example, one question was "which three teams in the NBA have exactly seven letters in both parts of their name (city and mascot)?" We were able to get two in time -- one being a gimme, as they were on the TV at the time. The third we came up blank on.

Did you get it? It was the Detroit Pistons, the Houston Rockets, and the Toronto Raptors.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Dark Knight Re-Returns

Batman Begins. Indeed. Because now that I've seen it, I could just as soon go on as though the first four Batman movies had never been made. Yes, including the Tim Burton ones.

Bear in mind that all of this is coming from someone who isn't that big a fan of comic books or superheroes, but for my money, the two Spider-man movies are the only superhero films that have ever been done better than the new Batman film. The cast is just incredible, and give true performances beyond the summer action norm. The movie manages to have a coherent plot (more than I feel I can say of the Burton pair), and not a trace of neon (up yours, Schumacher!).

This still wasn't top 100 material for me, but that would have been a truly exceptional accomplishment. Nevertheless, I'd probably rate it a B or B+ and recommend it. Based on the reactions of the group I went with, I would guess that fans of action films and/or comic books are going to like it even more than I did.

I'm ready for the next one. Mark Hamill or Crispin Glover as The Joker, anyone?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Play It Again, Sam? No Thanks.

I was having an interesting conversation with some friends recently about going to the movies. We were talking about how most of us had seen Serenity twice already, and trying to recall the last movie we'd gone to see more than once in the theaters. For a lot of us, it was very difficult. I'm not sure I remember myself, outside of Serenity. The Sixth Sense, maybe? In any case, it's been a truly long time.

This struck me a little odd, because I have such vivid memories from 10-20 years ago of going to see some movies two, three, four times or more in the theater. Back to the Future I saw twice in one day. So what's changed? Here are a few of the theories we floated:

It used to feel more like if you didn't go see a movie again in the theater, you might not see it again, ever. Renting wasn't all that common, it seems to me. And buying movies was unheard of, with commercial copies of movies on VHS running around $80-$100 a shot.

The movie theater used to be far more technologically sophisticated than the home. But now I can get a decent-sized picture and kick-ass sound right at home. I only go to the theaters because I can't watch brand new movies at home instead. Going back to see a movie a second time in the theater? No way. Especially when...

It'll be out on DVD in about four or five months anyway. And it'll probably only cost around $15-$20. That's roughly the cost of a movie ticket and a trip to the concession stand.

Cell phones and talkers. As Shepherd Book of Firefly said, there is a special hell reserved for people who talk at the theater. And that hell is going to be overflowing, because I can't remember the last time I went to the movies (again, outside of the Serenity sneak previews) that didn't have people talking, babies crying, cell phones ringing, or some cacophonic cocktail of the three.

In short, it seems to me that the reasons I'm not going back to see movies in the theater multiple times are the same reasons theater attendance is down in general these days. Hollywood must be grateful for inflation, because only the soaring costs of tickets gives any of today's movies a prayer of pulling in box office grosses that compete with the movies of decades ago.

And by the way, yes I am aware that the line "play it again, Sam" is not actually spoken in Casablanca. But I figured no one would understand the reference I was alluding to in the title of this post otherwise.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Entertainment That Hurts

Tonight it struck me that Six Feet Under and The Office (original British version) feel like they have a bit in common to me. Both of them seem to have many "cringe-worthy" moments in each episode, moments where the characters are saying horrible things to each other, or making awful mistakes that you're just sidelined helpless to do anything but watch. The Office, of course, always plays these moments for comedic effect. Six Feet Under does that at times too, but also often plays them for dramatic impact. In any case, I know I'd be more likely to watch one of those shows through clenched fingers than any horror movie.

Censor Deprivation

How did Growing Pains ever get away with having a character named "Boner?"

Probably the same way shows get away with using Brit slang like "bollocks."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Feel No Shame For Your Missing Theme Song

Hot on the heels of the return of The 4400, this week brought new episodes of The Dead Zone to us. I've been a fan of this show for a while. Not from the very beginning, I admit, but USA's frequent reruns helped me get all caught up near the end of the first season.

The thing is, I really don't have much in the way of commentary on tonight's episode, other than to say: what the hell happened to the theme song?! They used to have the very cool, eerie, and interesting New Year's Prayer by Jeff Buckley. Now they have a rather uninteresting instrumental composition -- running over the exact same credits sequence. (I guess that's so you can hit "mute" and easily imagine the old song in its place.) What happened? Did the price for the rights to the song go up?

It's kind of the opposite of what went on with the theme song to Enterprise for four years. Just about everyone hated it right out of the gate, and begged the Powers That Be to change it out for something instrumental. Here, almost everyone who expressed any opinion about The Dead Zone's theme loved it, but now they've swapped it out for something instrumental.

The grass is always greener...?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Parlez-you English, Mademoiselle?

Tonight, I saw this French horror film that's had a bit of buzz about it, High Tension. I have some very mixed feelings about it. For the capsule review, I'd have to give it a C+. But there's a little more to it than that.

First of all, the way Lion's Gate chose to bring the film to the States is very questionable in my mind. They were faced with a real problem, that subtitled films rarely show outside of "art house" theaters. And a gory slasher film is not the sort of thing one goes to the "art house" for. Nor is it likely slasher film fans would travel there to see the movie.

On the flip side, they apparently felt that dubbing the film into English wasn't a great solution either. There's very, very little dialogue in the movie, so it's not like the audience would easily acclimate to watching people's mouths move differently from the words you're hearing -- the assumption made was that every new time you saw it, it would be jarring since you hadn't seen it for the last 10 or 15 minutes or so.

Unfortunately, the decision they made was to do both. Some of the dialogue is dubbed into English, and some of it is left in French and subtitled. I found this even more distracting. If you stretch a bit, you can make the assumption that, since several of the characters are American, they are in fact speaking English at times, and French the rest of the time. Still, this theory didn't make it any less distracting for me at the time. Plus, I did some net research and learned that originally the entire film was in French, which to me just blows the integrity of the hybrid translation notion anyway.

I'm trying hard to set that all aside though, and just remark on the film itself. It's a slasher very much along the lines of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film doesn't even have the minimal plot that Halloween had -- this is just the story of shit happening to poor people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The violence is very unsettling and well-depicted. The movie was pulling me along very well for more than an hour.

But then, things took a left turn. It would appear the film tried near the end to become something else. And to me, the sudden alteration didn't work at all, and made the whole suffer. It's hard for me to get much into the specifics of what went wrong and why without perhaps taking some enjoyment away from anyone who would want to see the movie. Suffice it to say, after paying homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for most of the movie, the influence of a few specific other films popped up, and the hybrid was no more successful than the hybrid of dubbing and subtitles.

One of my friends who went with me also informed me that the plot was very similar to the Dean Koontz novel Intensity. I know I said the movie didn't have much of a plot, but apparently what was there was ripped almost entirely from Intensity. From my friend's description of the book, I'd be contemplating a copyright infringement suit if I were Dean Koontz. And a quick Google search showed me that several reviewers have noted the similarity.

Yet all this, and I still rate it as high as C+? Well, I guess I'm saying that despite the language problem, the movie really engaged me and entertained me for a while. That was until the abrupt shift near the end, and before I learned of the apparent plagiarism going on. I think the movie was rating a B+ until then.

In any case, the movie did have us talking at length after we left the theater, which is more than most summer movies manage.

Verizon, Now With Color-Safe Clorox 2

A couple nights ago, my friend unintentionally stumbled onto what might make a great advertising campaign for Samsung. He left his cell phone in his shorts pocket while doing his laundry.

Not daring to hope, he poured the thing out and sat it down next to a hair dryer for an hour or so. After a false start, he called tech support, who downloaded some kind of software patch to his phone, and this morning he was back to making and receiving calls like nothing had happened. Well, there's still a little condensation you can see on the inside of his screen, but other than that -- perfect.

That's one hell of a software patch, I must say.

Now if they could just get the phone to adminster an electric shock any time it rings in a theater, it might be just about perfect.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Trivia Replay

Thanks to the annual KVSC Trivia contest, I was able to pull an answer out of nowhere in this week's bar trivia. It was for the highest-valued question outside of the final question, too. The question in question:

"What living room item was first introduced in the late 1950s with the name Lazy Bones?"

While everyone else in the bar was writing down "recliner," I remembered this same question coming up during "the big trivia weekend" (though I can't recall if it was this year or last year). I correctly told my team to write down "remote control," and we were the only team to get it right.

Actually, in the last third of the game, our team came on strong, and the questions being asked were right up our alley:

Alphabetically, what squares on a Monopoly board are first and last?

Place these four cable networks in the order they debuted, starting with the earliest: The Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon, The History Channel, and Lifetime.

(Answers: Atlantic Avenue and Water Works; Nickelodeon, Lifetime, Discovery, History.)

We were on fire tonight, and won by a very healthy margin. Ah... good times.

Bring on the Violence!

If you're part of the crew I used to watch 24 with every week, then you'll know where I'm coming from when I say that one of our favorite parts of each episode is the very beginning, when Slightly-Too-Happy Fox Guy comes on and says: "Due to some graphic violence, viewer discretion is advised." We would always cheer collectively at that. In fact, even though I had to watch the last half of the season alone each week, I'd still cheer out loud when STHFG made his weekly announcement.

Recently, I've been watching the TV series Miracles on DVD -- another promising, but canceled show. This one was sort of a "religious X-Files," if I had to distill the concept down as quickly as possible. ABC pulled the plug on it after 6 episodes aired.

Anyway, I was watching an episode tonight. To my great surprise, before it started up, a similar warning appeared on screen. It was voiced by Possible Brother of STHFG: "Due to intense subject matter, viewer discretion is advised." It wasn't part of the episode content itself; it popped up special, separate from the episode. (In other words, this wasn't some warning left over from TV broadcast.) How odd, I think, for such a warning to be on a DVD like that. I mean, you have already bought or rented the DVD, and you know what sort of stuff you're in for. Why the warning?

I will say this, though. Purely out of reflex, I cheered out loud. Of course, half a second later, I'm thinking, "wait a minute... they put that on the DVD?" And half a second after that, I was sort of hoping that maybe when the fourth season of 24 comes out on DVD, that they actually put it on that DVD. Just because to me, that's all part of the show.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Joss Is Boss

It's official. Serenity, June 23rd, 35 cities. Including Charlotte, for those of you who've recently relocated there. And Indianapolis. And all the cities that had one last time, for those of you who missed it previously.

The tickets will likely be on sale Thursday morning, so get clicking like you're sniping an eBay auction. And good luck!

Bush on the Stanley Cup, Part 2

When I tore off yesterday's page from my calendar, I found there was still more to the stupid Bush quote about the Stanley Cup:

"It showed up at the Bob Edmunds restaurant in Brunswick, Ohio. Went to Filthy McNasty's Bar and Grill in Toronto. I don't know who took it there but I'll bet you're pretty happy the cup can't talk -- if you know what I mean."

Okay... wow. Again, are these "famous sites" in the mind of George W. Bush?

Now, I assume that he's talking about a Bob Evans restaurant. That would be Bush trying to appear like "a normal American," mentioning the "down home cookin' restaurant" that many "simple folk" eat at. But he can't get the name right. Partly because he's an idiot, but mostly because I can pretty much guarantee he's never been in one in his life.

And apparently, someone is providing intelligence on Filthy McNasty's Bar and Grill. Why we have someone undercover there reporting back to the president escapes me, but the evidence speaks for itself.

Hopefully, tomorrow's calendar page will be more tame so I can resume my regularly scheduled blogging.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Famous Fast Food

I have a page-a-day calendar of stupid things George W. Bush has said. Yes, you could do many more than one a day. And yes, most of them are stupid enough that I could rant extensively about them. But doing so would do too much to disrupt my normal flow of analyzing TV shows. Nevertheless, I'm making an exception for today's quote, which is truly something special.

"One of the things that's interesting about the Stanley Cup is that the players -- each player gets to spend time with it. Must be pretty neat. The cup has traveled throughout North America and Europe. It's been to some famous sites. Ah, recently it was at the McDonalds drive-thru in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Must have been a pretty interesting moment for that burger flipper -- filler-up."

I think it's pretty telling of Bush's knowledge of other countries and (lack of) respect for history that he considers a McDonalds in Nova Scotia a famous site.

Whoring Out Star Trek

Tonight I bought the new 2-DVD souped-up version of Star Trek: Insurrection. Inside, there was a small ad for Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas. It had this awful slogan:

"Beam up the showgirls, Scotty."

I'm not kidding you. That's what it said. Ordinarily, I'd ask whose job it was to approve such things, except that in this case I know exactly whose job it is to approve such things. So instead, I'll say, "come on, at least try to pretend like you care."

Monday, June 06, 2005

1.8288 Meters Under

Thirteen weeks until I can cancel my HBO subscription. Since they pulled the plug on Carnivale, Six Feet Under is the only thing to keep me watching. And they began their final season tonight.

I enjoyed the episode throughout, but the big highlight for me was the conversation Brenda imagined with Lisa at her wedding. It was a nasty, drag-out, right-for-the-jugular attack on all of Brenda's insecurities. Of course, the writers of Six Feet Under would never sweep their backstory under the rug; still, I appreciated seeing Brenda's self-destructive behavior from season two coming back to haunt her.

I know I lost some of you back at the beginning when I threatened to cancel my HBO. You're asking "What about The Sopranos? What about Deadwood?"

I've missed the boat on Deadwood, I'm afraid. Sounds like it could be good, but I need to find someone who can loan me the season one DVDs so I can check it out. Or maybe I need to suck it up and go to Blockbuster or something. (It's just that that seems so ludicrous when you own as many DVDs as I do.)

As for The Sopranos... I've never met a mob drama I liked. That's including the godfather of them all, The Godfather. Brilliant actors, sure. But the story just plain bored me. I couldn't bring myself to care which criminals are successfully going to "whack" the other criminals before the final reel. I just couldn't relate to any of the characters. I realize this is cinematic sacrilege to a lot of people out there. I don't begrudge anyone who liked The Godfather. But I gave it a chance, and a few episodes of The Sopranos too -- they're just not for me.

I guess I like my death Alan Ball-style.

The Worst Film Ever

The cover of this week's Entertainment Weekly magazine posed the interesting question: "What's the Worst Movie Ever Made? SEE PAGE 46"

I start working my way through the magazine, expecting to get to an article on a handful of famously bad movies. Or maybe a piece on Plan 9 From Outer Space, or something. I was surprised when I got there, though. In fact, they did a complete article on the very worst movie of all time:

Manos: The Hands of Fate.

If you haven't seen this film, I can't possibly begin to describe to you how bad it is. We're not talking subjective, "oh, you're such a critic; it can't be that bad" bad. We're talking absolute, objective badness. On IMDb, this movie is actually rated as the very worst movie ever made. The fact that its title translates to "Hands: The Hands of Fate" ought to begin to give you some inkling of what's going on with this movie.

Manos was featured in what is arguably the most popular, well-known episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. (Which is how I saw it.) Odds are if you've ever seen even one episode of MST3K, this was the one. And Joel and the Bots brought their "A game."

Once you see this movie, it will stay with you forever. The ridiculous handprinted robe of "The Master," the convulsive stagger of the inconceivably strange Torgo (and his accompanying theme music), the "night" scenes shot in broad daylight, the 5-minute catfight among the women in the oversized girdles... if you were trying to make a movie worse than Manos: The Hands of Fate, you would fail.

Anyway, reading the article made me laugh out loud several times. I thought I'd share the enjoyment with those of you like me who have scene The Worst Movie Ever Made.

Accept No Exceptions

I'm probably about to cross the line of social acceptability with this one, but oh well...

There's a stretch of 6th Avenue near downtown Denver that's a popular spot for beggars. They write up their signs, stand near the traffic light, and hit up the cars that get stopped. Today, I saw a guy with a particularly wordy sign. I didn't read the whole thing. I got stopped near the top by the sentence:

"Will except change."

I understand homonyms and proper spelling and all that aren't high on this guy's list if he's standing on a street corner. Still, the editor in me just couldn't help but notice. What, is he asking for any bills you have to give him, but will reject any change?

I know. This sort of makes me a terrible person now.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The 4400 Have Been Returned

The 4400 returned with its second season tonight, with a more or less average installment, I thought. Not really bad or anything, but for me the only real highlights were seing Summer Glau (River of Firefly) and Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun, Brunt, and Shran, of various Star Trek series) together on screen. Even that wasn't the best, though. She was apparently just hired to do her "crazy chick" routine (which wasn't nearly as powerful without Joss Whedon dialogue driving it); meanwhile, he was hired to deliver two lines of dialogue total in a two hour episode. What a waste. Unless they bring his character back for future episodes, anyway.

I wonder if any part of my lukewarm reaction to the show's return is due to the fact that in the time since the first season of The 4400, some truly stellar shows have started up -- shows like Battlestar Galactica, Veronica Mars, and Lost. I'm not saying there isn't room to enjoy them all, just that since last August, when the last 4400 episode aired, the bar has been seriously raised.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Season Tickets to Serenity?

Based on an "Advanced Screening" in Houston on June 23rd that showed up on Fandango, speculation and rumors are now flying that there's going to be a third round of Serenity sneak previews on that date. It's expected that, if this is true, the tickets in the other cities will go on sale Monday morning.

Some of you have seen it once or twice already. Some of you haven't seen it at all. If you have any interest in getting in on this latest possible screening, I suggest you check the online ticket retailer appropriate to your location (Fandango or periodically throughout the weekend, and especially early Monday morning.

Will I try to go a third time, thus cementing my "season pass" to the movie? Maybe. There's no question that I want to see this movie many more times. That said, I'm also very ready to see the final, finished product. I might call around to the Denver crew and see what they want to do. If even a couple of them wanted to go, there's no question I'd want to throw in.

Of course, I suppose it might be nice of us to let some other Firefly fans get in this time who couldn't get tickets previously before they sold out.

But then, why would I do anything nice for a total stranger?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Home Delivery

How is it that the phrases "take issue with" and "subscribe to" mean the opposite of each other? If you "take issue with" something, you disagree with it. But if you "subscribe to" something, you agree with it. I guess the moral here is to beware of any trial subscriptions people try to push on you. One day, you might suddenly find your moral compass completely reversed.

This Week's Trivia Factoid

This week's "Hmmm" bit of trivia courtesy of the bar: "What race runs 1,036 miles in even-numbered years and 1,131 in odd-numbered years?"

The answer, as we correctly guessed, is the Iditarod. The race runs from Anchorage to Nome, and alternately is run north-to-south and south-to-north, along slightly different routes, hence the different lengths.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Holy Crap!!!!

George R.R. Martin fans, rejoice! It's done! A Feast for Crows is done! (Well, with the provisions noted by the author here.)

I've checked this guy's web site probably twice a week for over a year, waiting for some word that book four of A Song of Ice and Fire was finally going to see publication. Well, here we are, five years after the publication of A Storm of Swords, and that word has finally arrived. I can't believe it. I was beginning to think they'd cure cancer before this book made it to print.

I guess that means it's about time to begin re-reading the first three volumes of the series. I want to have the characters and events fresh in my mind when I tear into volume four. In a way, this is a moment I've been sort of dreading. I loved the books, and will very much enjoy reading them again. But they're very long. Colossally long. Ridiculously long. I think A Storm of Swords alone is roughly the length of the entire The Lord of the Rings. So, this is likely to take me a while. Especially at the pace I've been reading books lately.

If you like fantasy books and you haven't read this series, then... well, I'd say "I can't recommend it highly enough." But there is a catch. It's an as yet unfinished series. When he began it, he said it would be three books. It grew to six. Now he's saying maybe seven. And, as mentioned earlier, it took him five years to write book four. In other words, closure and completion are not going to be in your immediate future if you start this series.

On the flip side, I can say nothing else negative about the books. And by now, you know how critical I can be, so I hope you understand what that endorsement means. These are the best fantasy books I have ever read.

And soon I'll be getting another one! I'm just plain giddy right now.

Warning: Explicit Post

As long as we're fresh off the subject of censorship (or things near to it) and things I can't take seriously, let's talk about the "Parental Advisory Label" that appears on some CDs. And let me stress, that's some CDs. Therein lies the reason I can't take the label seriously.

Compare two Green Day albums, American Idiot, and International Superhits! Both have lyrics including profanity (not constantly, but they use it). The same profanity, in point of fact. I'm not going to be like one of these people and sit there and count the "fucks" -- I'll only assure you that both albums have more than a couple.

American Idiot has the Parental Advisory Label. International Superhits! does not. Alright, what the hell? There must be some standard by which these labels are being applied, right?! So what is it about the one album that merits the label when the other one doesn't? (Gasp!) Could it be that being branded by the label is completely arbitrary? Say it isn't so!

Could it be that no ignorant parent has ever bought an album for their child, got it home, and then written an angry letter to the RIAA complaining that the "profane music" didn't have an advisory label?

Probably not. I'll tell you why:

1) Most parents aren't actually checking out what books, music, TV shows, and movies their children are exposed to. They're lazily and inappropriately putting responsibility on others to do that, which is how crap like the Parental Advisory Label comes to exist in the first place.

2) Any parent who did actually hear "the F-word" on their kid's record would be quick to fire off angry letters to the record label and the band, plus a spam chain e-mail warning everyone to stay away from the record in question. Would they ever write to the RIAA, the people who were actually responsible for making sure their beloved warning label got on there? Not a chance!

Ah, now see, here I go letting facts into a perfectly good rant, but I've now done my Google research and learned that it is voluntary whether a CD accepts the label or not. So, apparently, there's nothing to stop an album with "explicit lyrics" from shunning the label.

Really, though, this just changes the nature of the rant a bit. The question remains, what possible good does this label do at all?

Let Me Flask You A Question

So I'm watching this random DVD (if you must know: Millenium, Season Two), and a guest victim-of-the-week pulls out one of those pocket flasks of alcohol. (Pretty much like this one here.) Randomly, it occurs to me: it seems awfully hard to me to get the liquor into one of those things. I suppose maybe you use one of those metal pour-tops you see on all the bottles at a bar? Or a funnel, maybe? I don't know, that seems kind of silly.

What's more, once you've got your filling method nailed down, the flask doesn't actually seem to hold that much liquor. Enough to get a buzz, I suppose, but seriously -- the whole thing strikes me rather like a PEZ Dispenser in terms of the Difficulty to Load vs Amount of Actual Contents ratio. But then, I'm not much of a drinker, as most of you reading this will know.

So, my question to you is, have any of you out there actually used one of these pocket flasks before? If so, how did you fill it? And did you find that it held a satisfying amount of liquor? ("You lick 'er, you brought 'er!")