Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Grimm Movie

I managed to catch The Brothers Grimm over the weekend. And if it's not too late, I'm going to warn you off.

Know that I am no adorer of Terry Gilliam just on general principle. 12 Monkeys is one of my favorite movies (#24), but Brazil left me cold and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen put me to sleep. (No, I haven't seen The Fisher King.) There are "maverick filmmakers" out there I respect, but none solely for the fact they're mavericks -- you have to make a good movie to earn my respect.

I felt about The Brothers Grimm rather like I felt about Tim Burton's first Batman movie: you can put a bunch of pretty pictures up on the screen in rapid-fire succession, but they don't constitute a plot. Batman, at the very least, had some attempt at characterization, which is more than I can say for The Brothers Grimm. Everyone in the movie is either flat and uninteresting (the title characters) or a ridiculous one-note caricature (basically everyone else but the female lead).

The story, such as it is, is a careless melange of a bunch of classic fairy tales. I use the word classic a bit loosely, for although the most central tales are indeed works of the real Brothers Grimm, they are among the most obscure of their tales. At least, to this American viewer. One of the people who saw the film with me, who had taken a class on fairy tales and folklore in college on route to her English degree, informed me she believed the stories in question were more well-known in Europe. Imagine shipping a movie overseas in which Johnny Appleseed encounters a giant blue ox being ridden by Pecos Bill, who is whipping Casey Jones as he frantically races to build a train track that will soon be used by an engine driven by Annie Oakley. Lost? Hell, I made it up, and I have no idea what's going on.

Which is pretty much how I felt watching The Brothers Grimm. Pretty at times, but that just isn't enough. I give it a C-.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bachelor Party 2

No, not a sequel Tom Hanks never made. (Well, okay, I suppose technically...) I'm referring to the fact that this past Saturday night was yet another bachelor party for yet another friend of mine who's getting married.

There were actually many similarities to the last bachelor party I attended. It started off with a round of golf, and ended up with a long night of poker punctuated with alcohol, cigars, and general mirth.

Only the golf in this time was of the "Frisbee" variety. Technically, it's called "Disc Golf." My parents had a house for a while near a Disc Golf course -- though I'd never gone. Either way, I was familiar with it. Some of the people who went had apparently never even heard of such a thing before. In case you're one of those kinds of people, I direct you here for enlightenment. Actually, I learned a few things about the game myself -- like for instance, they actually have "driving" and "putting" discs for the game. Yikes. We all pretty much used the 99 cent "dog toy" special.

Let me tell you, you wouldn't think a 9-hole Disc Golf course would be much of a workout. I certainly didn't, going in. But by Sunday afternoon, and clear into Monday morning, I was aching all around my shoulders and chest. And I couldn't for the life of me figure out what I'd done to cause it. Finally, I remembered Disc Golf and thought, "that couldn't possibly be it." But it has to be. Maybe it's just that DDR mainly just works the legs.

This was a particularly diaboloical course that ran near a creek. Four of the holes played right along it, most of those requiring you to cross over the creek and around a grove of trees on your way to the "hole." Much worse, obstacle-wise, than a conventional golf course.

I had an amusing moment of density as I was reading the rules posted on a board near the first tee. In the section talking about what sort of "lie" after a throw was legal to play from, there was this rule: "A disc which comes to rest more than 2 meters off the ground incurs a 1-throw penalty." Except I swear it wasn't worded quite as clearly as that, because I stood there, mumbling aloud about how a disc could manage to come to a mid-air stop before someone reminded me about possible relatives of Charlie Brown's kite-eating tree. But, in case it should ever come up, there's apparently a rule in Disc Golf that also covers a sudden and unexpected violation of the law of gravity.

As for the poker, the night before I finally invested in getting a nice set of clay chips, which went over well. And I made a bit of a down payment on paying for them as I took second in our little mini-tournament. Basically, 4th place lost all his chips to 1st place when he went out, and 3rd place split his chips about 70-30 in favor of 1st place before he went out -- I just didn't have the chip lead to dig out of the hole and win it. Unfortunately, it was not the groom who won. But nevertheless, he was plied with copious amounts of alcohol and seemed to have a really good time.

So, this coming Saturday, the wedding. The last one of the season for me to attend, thankfully. Even the ones getting married have confessed to being sick of the whole business by now.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Great Escape

The new fall season of TV got off to a bit of an early start tonight with the premiere of Prison Break. Fox, the network behind such colossal stupidity as the cancellation of Firefly and Wonderfalls, has shown at least the tiniest bit of good sense in recognizing that 24 has been an ever-growing hit for them. Of course, fans of 24 all know it's the smart writing, excellent acting, and clever plotting of the show that makes it a success. But, given the rather limited intellect of a network TV executive, one can understand how they might assume it's solely the bizarre gimmick and highly-serialized nature of the show that's luring people in.

And so, to that end, Fox is bringing us two more "high concept" serial dramas this season. (The other one, Reunion, debuts next Thursday night.) I decided I'd check out Prison Break and see if there's anything there. After all, it is occupying the time slot 24 is going to reclaim come January.

So far, I have to say it's no 24. It did have a few good moments here and there, which is perhaps more than I would have expected from director Brett Ratner (who directed the first hour). But I still remember very clearly watching the very first episode of 24 that ever aired, back in 2001. That was only a 1-hour premiere, not a 2-hour, and it had me completely addicted long before "12:59:59 AM" came up on the screen.

The pieces are definitely in place. As a fan of heist movies like Sneakers and Ocean's Eleven, I'm intrigued to watch the details of the escape plan unfold. As a fan of mysteries, like the brilliant-but-canceled TV show Murder One, I'm looking forward to seeing exactly how Lincoln was framed and the reasons why. But so far, the pace is awfully slow. And the parts that so far have been meant to be clever have fallen short... it was no surprise at the end of hour one that Michael had had the prison blueprints tattooed on him, nor was it a surprise near the end of the second hour that "allen" was a reference to an allen wrench. So thus far, we have "not fast-paced enough to compete with 24," and "not unpredictable enough to compete with Lost." Which means those two kings of the "labyrinthine plotting" hill are at the moment in no danger of having to give up their land.

Still, the Prison Break premiere did have a couple moments of good tension, particularly in hour two with the threat of inmate violence. And it certainly ended with a cool display of torture (and resolve in the face of it) that would do Jack Bauer proud. Michael won't be needing his insulin-blocking pills to have an excuse to visit the infirmary next week.

So I guess I'm in for another episode or two... at least until the rest of the fall season starts up in earnest. I watch too much TV to make room for something I'm not totally enthralled with, so the clock is ticking for Prison Break.

Anyone else catch the first episode and have any thoughts?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

So Say We All

I've been mildly chastised for not posting my usual, weekly Battlestar Galactica commentary. I suppose I thought it might be nice to not be so predictable for a change. But I also suppose this was a particularly egregious oversight, given how great this week's episode was.

It has taken seven weeks to finally put the pieces back together that were smashed by the first season's incredible finale. And what a wonderful journey it has been getting there. I have to say that so far this season, Battlestar Galactica has risen from being just "one of" my favorite shows to my very favorite show. I believe it's the best thing on television right now. Yes, folks, more than 24, Lost, Veronica Mars -- best show on television right now.

The show has top-notch acting and writing. It tells a twisting and often unpredictable story with realistic, sometimes-flawed characters. It can spark long and interesting conversations not just about "what might happen next" (though talking about that can be quite interesting), but about dramatic subtext in the writing, allegories with our present times and our history, and story structure.

This week, our heroes finally got their first true taste of Earth, as the Tomb of Athena did indeed provide a small clue to point the way. But more than that: Tricia Helfer turned in an awesome performance as a more "Starbuck-like" version of Six; Baltar seemed to confirm his hallucinations were exactly that, even as one gave him future information he could not possibly have any way of knowing if indeed he was hallucinating; Adama (and Edward James Olmos) went through a phenomenal 60-second roller coaster of emotion in a bittersweet reunion with his son, followed immediately by confronting the face of the woman who tried to kill him; and many more great moments. Even the moment of Boomer pretending to be against Adama, only to turn against Meier, was elevated from predictable cliche to truly great by the powerfully-written speech she delivered before handing her gun over, perfectly delivered by Grace Park.

So, once again... kudos to Galactica. And I promise the fans reading this, I won't miss another opportunity to praise it. Tune in Friday night for the next one.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Time Capsule

Not long ago, I loaned out my copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for someone to read. When the guy brought it back to me (very quickly, I might add), he says, "I found this inside." And he hands me a tattered, beaten copy of "Sebulba, Bad-Tempered Dug," from the Menace of Darth Maul set of Young Jedi.

I hadn't cracked the book since I read it for the first time five years ago, and suddenly I remembered that I'd been using the YJ card as a bookmark. Hell, if you worked back at D-Company during those days, YJ cards -- even rares -- were a dime a dozen. We're talking about the days when the marketing department was run Wisely (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and "The Emissary" could have opened his own game store with all the product he'd somehow gotten his hands on. Not that he didn't share the "wealth."

Anyway, it got me wondering how many books I have from around 1999 and 2000 that have a YJ card stuck somewhere in the pages. More than a few, I'd wager.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Answer Is...

"...I can't imagine why anyone would want to own this on DVD."

The correct question: "What is Jeopardy!?"

Apparently, someone somewhere has a greater imagination than mine, because this press release announces that a handful of episodes of Jeopardy! (gotta remember the exclamation point) will soon be released on DVD.

In the movie Groundhog Day, wasn't one of the ways Bill Murray's character knew he was in a living hell was that was stuck watching the same episode of Jeopardy! over and over again? Who would subject themself to that on purpose?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Trivia Tussle

The French have a wonderful phrase, "l'esprit de l'escalier." It's the sensation of thinking of the perfect comeback too late after the fact. Tonight, I experienced the thrilling rush of the opposite feeling -- having the right comeback leap immediately into your brain, and saying it.

I also came as close as I ever have to getting into a bar fight.

Right about now, those of you who know me are maybe thinking you've somehow found your way to the wrong blog. But let me make it clear, I wasn't really all that close to getting in a fight -- just as close as I've come. Mostly, the significance comes from the fact that I just don't go to bars that often.

Thursday night is my gang's weekly trivia night, as regular readers of this blog know by now. Our team, named Unprepared, usually places in the top three. For reasons dating back to before I was a regular part of the trivia team, we have a bit of a rivalry with another regular team named PT-21. We usually trounce them.

But in the last week or two, they've been suddenly been placing very high in the standings. No new people in their team or anything -- they just managed to have a nearly perfect game last week, and after two out of three rounds this week, they again had missed only one question.

Well, after the round two standings were announced, we got a little bit snotty. And PT-21 was sitting right at the bar, near the woman reading the questions and scoring the answers. Our team has a bit of a history of writing joke messages to the question readers on the answer slips we hand in, so impulsively (but rather jokingly) we wrote on the bottom of our first round three answer: "How's the cheating going, PT-21?"

Two minutes later: pandemonium. The members of their team are getting into a major argument with the question reader. On the one hand, we're all thinking, "oh crap; we were just playing around, we didn't mean for this poor woman to start getting yelled at." But on the other hand, we're all thinking, "how the hell do you know what we wrote on our slip of paper?" Aren't they basically proving our point?

Well, in the two minutes before that kerfuffle broke out, we'd already written similar barbs on the bottoms of our next two answers, ready to hand in. And we only had a limited number of Post-It Notes, so we kind of had to go ahead and use them.

So in goes our next answer, and the arguing intensifies, and now the manager gets involved. Meanwhile, we're sitting there, letting one of the employees run our answers up to the bar from our table (as per usual). The arguement crescendoes, and a few moments later, team PT-21 moves away from the bar to a table on the other side of the room. But for the remainder of the round, they appear to take turns going up one at a time to renew their yelling with the manager.

Our two-handed feeling intensifies. One the one hand, "Man, these employees really don't deserve to be taking abuse like this!" But on the other, "Why would these people be getting so worked up over something so minor unless in fact they were cheating?"

A few more questions pass, and now the guy that had been coming around collecting answers all night and running them to the bar stops doing so. I have to go to the bathroom anyway, so I grab our answer for the current question and run it up to the bar myself.

A member of PT-21 is there, and starts laying into me. "Why do you have to be so immature, writing stupid notes about us like that?!"

Briefly, I think about saying something snide, but I decide this is so far beyond "not worth it." I say, as gently as possible, "Look, man, I just don't want to get into it," and turn away.

But he steps after me and says, "Hey, come back here and be a man! Why are you walking away from me?!"

"Cause I have to go the bathroom. You want to follow me in there and watch me be a man?"

I have no idea where it came from, or what pushed me to say it. It was just there instantly. And so perfect, I truly had little choice but to say it. I mean, how much would I have hated myself later if I hadn't said it?

Anyway, I turned away again and went to the bathroom. I was not followed.

A minute later, coming back to my group's table, I was still five steps away when they giddily start asking me, "what was that?!"

So I told them the story, culminating my witty rejoinder. One of the group was already cackling as I got to it. She says, "I thought it was something like that. I could kind of read your lips!"

Round three concluded, and somehow, mysteriously, PT-21 had only managed to collect half the points available after moving away from the bar. Now again, we were partly joking when we wrote what we did -- and yet, here they were, proving our point in yet another way!

The final question came, which we did alright on, and we ending up winning the trivia for the night, and $40 off our bill. When the manager came over to comp that for us, we apologized profusely for the trouble we caused. She assured us she knew we were being playful, and that hey, "testosterone and alcohol mixing -- I deal with this sort of thing all the time." Still, we told her we were very sorry to put her in that situation one more time. We also tipped the question reader and question runner for their trouble.

Hopefully, next week will go more smoothly. Which means maybe we won't change our team name to "PT-21 Cheats" or "PT-42 -- Twice the Team They Are," as we were considering early during that third round.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dimmer Light

Tonight I finished reading the book Dying of the Light, by George R.R. Martin. I discovered his Song of Ice and Fire books a few years ago, thanks to a friend of mine, and immediately loved them. And it seems most fans of his work found him there as well -- his previous books from decades ago are only now coming back into print.

I've read two of those earlier books now, Dying of the Light and Fevre Dream. The former is a science fiction novel. The latter is gothic horror. So both quite far removed from the fantasy series that made him famous.

And yet those two earlier books are quite close to each other. Both are told from the perspective of a single character who gets caught up in a clash where one figure of some socio-political stature is trying to bring about change within his culture. The particulars are quite different, but that raw set-up is the same. And perhaps for this reason, I was not quite so enthusiastic about Dying of the Light.

Fevre Dream is a great book, an unqualified A. It saw in it everything that I hear fans of Anne Rice and Stephen King claim to find from those writers (stuff that I've never really found myself in sampling them). It was tense throughout, at times frightening, at times horrific, and thoroughly engaging.

Treading in a similar area, Dying of the Light seemed to be an inferior work to me. It's worth the read. And it's certainly less close to Fevre Dream than other writers' books tend to be to one another. (Much as I enjoy Chuck Palahniuk, for example, his books are rather cookie cutter. And Dan Brown wrote essentially the same book three times before his fourth iteration -- The Da Vinci Code -- secured him naked treasure baths for life.) Maybe I've come to expect too much from Martin. But for whatever reason, I can only rate Dying of the Light a B.

However, it's a brisk, short book. So any who have been given pause by the epic, 1000-page nature of the Ice and Fire books might want to sample Dying of the Light to see if Martin's writing entrances them as it has me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I've Been Tagged

I have been tagged in a most righteous meming, and must now respond.

10 years ago today: August 23, 1995
Just this week or last, I'd have been heading in for my first sophomore semester at CU-Denver. If memory serves, I was performing a play right about this time, The Baltimore Waltz. Thanks to this play, I remember to this day how to say two things in German: "Can I speak to Mr. Lime, please?" and "Harry! How's it going?!"

5 years ago today: August 23, 2000
GenCon would have been just a week-and-a-half ago, where I believe D Company had just announced for the first time that it had acquired The Lord of the Rings TCG license. In less than a month's time, I'd be moved full time from the marketing department to CCG Design, and thrown into work with Tim on Mirror, Mirror. I'd been living in Virginia Beach for just over a year at this point, but it would still be almost another two years before it really came to feel like "home" to me.

1 year ago today: August 23, 2004
I was deep in the thick of concocting the new adventure path mechanic that would go in the next Lord of the Rings product, Shadows. I was getting used to the idea of once again living with a small child in the house after many years -- and what a sweetheart she was too. Just one week earlier, I'd returned from a visit to Colorado, where I had acted as officiant at the wedding of two good friends of mine.

Yesterday: August 22, 2005
A routine day. A more slow-paced day at work than I'd had at all last week, trying to make some refinements on a game engine we're developing. A quiet evening at home, playing online poker, watching a show or two on DVD, and reading -- Dying of the Light, by George R.R. Martin.

Tomorrow: August 24, 2005
They'll be laying new blacktop in the parking lot at my apartment, so no parking in my usual spot. I'll be enjoying my last quiet evening for the rest of the week -- Thursday will be trivia, Friday is my monthly game night with my college group (not to be confused with my weekly Saturday night gaming with a different group), and Saturday night will be a bachelor party for yet another wedding (they come in clusters).

5 snacks I enjoy
Only five? Well, judging by what's in my place right now: red licorice (Twizzlers or Red Vines), Ritz Bits, Pringles, Good Times' frozen custard, and Golden Oreos.

5 bands that I know most of their lyrics
Barenaked Ladies, Huey Lewis and the News, The Dave Matthews Band, The Offspring, and The Brian Setzer Orchestra. (Man, there's an eclectic mix.)

5 things I'd do with a million $$
Well, I'm tempted to answer "see where I just told you I knew most of the lyrics to Barenaked Ladies songs?" But let's see... get myself a house (hell, in these parts, that might about take care of it right there); get a keyboard/synthesizer, software, and MIDI equipment for my computer so I could resume composing music like I used to back in high school when I had access to such equipment; figure out some nice gifts to give my parents and brothers and sisters (hell, that might about take care of it right there); get a second Cobalt Flux pad for DDR-ing with my guests (and for doubles mode); and take a vacation or two to visit some old friends who've been scattered across the globe.

5 places I'd run away to
Atrip to Las Vegas is always fun, and there are several places in Europe I'd like to visit: London, Paris, Venice, and Athens.

5 bad habits I have
Too short a fuse when I don't get enough sleep, a tendancy to interrupt people when they're talking, a bit too free with the foul language, too much television, not very good at keeping up correspondence with friends.

5 things I like doing
Watching television, reading (especially fantasy), playing games with friends, online poker, DDR.

5 things I wouldn't wear
Plaid, a baseball cap, a tank top, a military uniform (major thanks to those who do so in my place!), an earring (or any other kind of piercing).

5 TV shows I love
Again, only five? Well, going by the five shows currently still in production that would make the cut if I had to cut down to five: Battlestar Galactica, 24, Lost, Veronica Mars, and The West Wing. (Though already I'd be feeling the pain of having to cut loose Family Guy, Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives, The Daily Show...)

5 movies I love
Back to the Future, The Sixth Sense, The Princess Bride, Memento, Moulin Rouge.

5 famous people I'd like to meet
Joss Whedon, Tom Hanks, George R.R. Martin, Doyle Brunson, Neil Armstrong.

5 biggest joys at the moment
Being back in Denver, check-raising stupidly aggressive players when I have a nut hand, sleeping in, cornering the elusive solution to a problem that's been dogging me, the fact that so many of my friends have these blogs so I can keep up with their lives now that we're separated by so many miles.

5 favorite toys
TiVo, big screen TV, DTS sound system, my Cobalt Flux pad, digital camera.

5 people to tag
Ford Prefect
Joe 'de Bold
Major Rakal
Tim (cause he's new to this blogging thing and might need a topic here and there to get things rolling)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Another Weekend at the Movies

It was another "movie-packed" weekend for me. I caught Red Eye on Saturday, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin on Sunday.

Red Eye was a very pleasant surprise. Wes Craven has made a fair amount of crap in his time, but he's also on occasion hooked up with a very strong writer who produced a very strong script (Scream being the best example), and in the process created something better than the average for his genre.

So it was with Red Eye. The movie zips along, being only about 85 minutes long, but it feels like a full meal. A decent, and not preposterous, number of "beats" are set up for our heroine to navigate. A small number of reasonable characters are established efficiently and early, to participate in these later beats. The heroine is given just enough backstory to be interesting and plausible -- and most importantly, she behaves intelligently throughout the movie. Her struggles are often clever, and she never succumbs to any of the dumb thriller cliches. The actors' performances were all very strong.

The only "off moment" for me in the whole movie involved someone not being able to get a cell phone signal from inside a major international airport. Ridiculous. Same cell phone then has some battery problems a short while later, which was also a bit laughable, but only because my belief surrounding this phone had already been eroded. Besides being a plague to theater patrons and a serious road hazard, I think cell phones are also really a bane to most writers, who must now contrive reasons why they don't operate when they should.

In any case, I give Red Eye a B.

Then there was The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Strangely, Rotten Tomatoes' net average at this point has this movie basically being the most highly rated major studio release of the year to date. I don't think I'd go nearly that far, but it is a pretty funny movie.

I really like Steve Carell from his days on The Daily Show, and he ably carries this movie. The supporting cast is also very good. If I can totally pick my comedy the way I'd have it, I think I'd pick giggles throughout more than belly laughs in two or three places. And this movie was more the latter than the former. Still, that's not a deal breaker.

Any geek should see this movie, because you're basically guaranteed to have at least two hobbies/idiosyncrasies in common with the main character. For me, it was online poker and hosting weekly get-togethers to watch a TV show (I've even done it for the particular show in question, Survivor).

Despite this hitting maybe just a little too close to home, I give The 40-Year-Old Virgin a B.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Six Feet Under -- 2001-2005

Most people who've watched Six Feet Under say the show was sliding downhill ever since its first season. I watched every single episode, and I can't help but agree with that. Some shows are just so amazingly brilliant in their first season that they have nowhere to go but down. They may still be better than 90% of what's on television, but they nevertheless become a shadow of what they were.

But in my opinion, the last four episodes of this final season of Six Feet Under have been extraordinary. And all the more so because the show had slid so far to then climb back to the heights of its original season. Tonight's episode (and the third-to-last one a few weeks ago) really got to me in a way the show hadn't managed to do since its very first episode. Yes, Six Feet Under wasn't always brilliant, but overall it proved that American Beauty (#12 on my movie list) was no fluke for Alan Ball.

I've tried The Sopranos two or three times, and just plain don't like it. Entourage just doesn't make me laugh (I'll stick with Arrested Development, which has me rolling every episode). And I feel like I've missed the boat on Deadwood. So, with the passing of Six Feet Under (which, unlike Carnivale, was not killed before its time), I think I'm pretty well done with HBO.

R.I.P. Six Feet Under.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I Don't Do Mornings

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you're so disoriented and zombified that after you pour the milk on your cereal, you go to put the gallon of milk in the pantry, and the box of cereal in your refrigerator?

How far did you get before you realized what you were doing?

And if milk and cereal aren't part of your routine, do you have a similar story of morning absent-mindedness?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Helo Too

I've blogged before about Battlestar Galactica's opening credits and the accurate and ever-changing count of the number of survivors. This week's episode was interesting in that the count went up one from the previous week, as Helo finally joined the fleet. (And how nice it will be for that actor to finally interact with the rest of the cast after a season-and-then-some being separated from them.)

Toasters are not counted among the survivors (and for a logical enough reason, I suppose), as the count did not go up two to include formerly-of-Caprica-Boomer. And my friend brought up an interesting point related to this:

Now-dead-Boomer told Baltar there were eight Cylon moles in the fleet. We don't really know if this is information she had or simply made up out of desperation... and even if she did know, we don't know if she was being truthful. But, for the sake of argument, let's say the number of eight Cylon infiltrators is correct. We now know that Cylons among the fleet aren't counted as "survivors" by the opening credits. We can perhaps then assume that because the count is omniscient, it doesn't include those Cylon infiltrators (however many of them there actually are).

Now, flash back to the first season and the scenes with Roslin aboard Colonial One. She also kept a count of the survivors on a dry erase board in her office. This count also was maintained and kept accurate from episode to episode, whenever it appeared in the background of a shot. But her count is not omniscient. So wouldn't it be interesting if the always-impressive BSG continuity is in fact so accurate that, if we see the board on Colonial One again in a future episode, her count differs from the opening credits count? Say... eight higher?

Fan wanking aside, tonight was a great episode. I'm totally in love with the way this show depicts characters at their best and at their worst. A character we love one week can take a very dark turn and become rather unlikeable the next week. They're actually realistic -- a better word would be real -- people. Indeed, the only level, conventional-TV-likeable character from week to week is Six, the Cylon. Clearly a deliberate statement by the creators.

I just love this show.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sign Post

Driving through a different neighborhood this week, I noticed two "Deaf Child" street signs in fairly close proximity to one another. It got me questioning some things about these signs.

1) How does one go about getting one of these signs put along your street? Who do you contact? Do you have to produce some sort of proof that you have a deaf child?

2) How long does it take to get the sign installed? We all know how slow most road work is, and while sign installation is not a job requiring graders and backhoes, I still think this must take months.

3) Do the signs ever get taken down? This is related to point #2 in terms of the "public works" actually doing work, really. Do you have to "renew" your sign periodically, or else someone comes to take it down? If not, can we really expect that when someone with a deaf child moves, they have the thought to tell the appropriate people they can take the sign down? Or are there orphaned "deaf child" signs scattered all around the suburbs of American cities, marking children who have moved, grown up, or what-not over the years?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

No Photoshop Involved

Need to get around Sandusky, Ohio? I suggest:

"I pity the fool who don't ride in my cab!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tales from the Apartment

I quite like the apartment I live in. Nice space, no real problems with the management, mostly quiet neighbors. Actually... relatively few neighbors at all. I live on the 3rd floor. For two out of the five months I've lived here, all four of the 2nd floor apartments beneath me have been empty. My "downstairs neighbor" actually moved out within about two weeks of me coming in, and it had been empty ever since...

...until last week. Sometime while I was on the road, people moved in. Which is no problem. I just hope they don't take issue with my DDR playing. I've been able to stomp away with totally impunity for months, but now I suppose the considerate thing to do would be to stop before 9:00 or 10:00 at night. We'll see if I get that knock at the door one day.

Elsewhere in the complex, in the building across from me, lives one of my friends. The apartment directly across from him was taken just hours before I signed my lease, and very likely would have been mine had I gotten to the punch quicker. I didn't know it was across from my friend until after the fact. In any case, whoever it was that kept us from living the Kramer/Jerry scenario was apparently just "stopping by," and moved out a month later.

Now there's a new tenant in that apartment. And I don't mean to be a snoop, but I can see right in his living room window every day as I walk from my car -- his blinds are always open. And his TV is always on. It doesn't matter what hour of the day I'm coming home, or what day of the week. I came back from the bachelor party a few weeks ago at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday -- the TV was on. I get home from work any time between 6:30 and 7:00 -- the TV is always on.

I know what some of you are thinking: "Hey, kettle! This is the pot! You're black!" But there are plenty of times where my TV is off. Right now, as I'm blogging this, for example. And after this, I intend to sit down and read for a while. But this person's TV apparently cannot be turned off. I guess I'm just floored by someone who watches more TV than I do.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Point of the Trip

At last, I've come to the culmination of my road trip. One week ago today, I was living it up at Cedar Point in Ohio.

For those of you who haven't heard of it, Cedar Point is really one of the premiere amusement parks in the country. Actually, if you're a roller coaster enthusiast, it's very possibly the #1 amusement park in the country. They have 3 "kiddie coasters," one 3-D thrill ride coaster, and 12 -- count 'em, 12! -- others. They have old-fashioned wodden coasters, and modern record setters. They've held the title for fastest, highest, you-name-it, many times over the last several decades. And it totally lives up to the hype.

We were very glad to be at the park on a Monday. We'd planned it that way deliberately, and as we'd hoped, the crowds were not too bad. For the most part, we never had to wait more than 30 minutes for a ride, and in many cases less than 15... with two exceptions. The Top-Thrill Dragster and Millenium Force coasters are still fairly new, and signature rides at the park. Short of being at there hours before opening and running through the park straight to the line in question, you weren't going to get out of a 2-hour wait minimum.

The Top-Thrill Dragster was one of the first rides we did. Click the link, and you'll see how insane this thing is. It launches you at 120 MPH, 90 degrees straight up a 420-foot track, and then you freefall down the other side. The whole ride takes about 17 seconds. Given that it takes around two hours to get on it, it's pretty much the worst wait-to-ride ratio in the park. But for thrills? Well, the name "Top-Thrill" is perfect. This thing was absolutely insane, and should be anyone's first stop if they visit Cedar Point.

As we waited in the line, we came across a sign that gave the usual "hands inside the car; don't do this or that" stuff you usually see while waiting for a coaster. But this one had an added extra bonus: "Sometimes, a car will not make it over the hill and will return to the starting lane. Do not be concerned if you see this happen."


And sure enough, about 5 minutes after we'd passed the sign, we see it happen. After having seen dozens of cars being launched during our time in line, we knew exactly what the thing looked like. And you could tell from the instant this car started up the incline that it just wasn't going to make it. It made it to the very top of the hill, working up the curve, working up the curve, workingupthecurrrrrrrrrrrrve.... and OH! It freefalls backwards down the way it came. Now that I've ridden the thing myself, I cannot imagine how insane going backwards must have been. I almost wished it would have happened to me.

A good number of people in the line totally freaked out when they saw that. A few got out of the line. But most were totally stoked. At least until the braking took over, and the car then took about 4 minutes to return all the way to the launching position, rolling backward about one inch a second. The thing just wasn't meant to go in reverse, folks. After they double-checked the safety devices, re-launched it, and it successfully did make it over the hill, everyone cheered.

As for my own experience... well. They have a billboard with a speedometer along the track near where it launches you, but all I have to say to that is: "yeah right." With 120 MPH wind blowing in your face, you'll be lucky to keep your eyes open at first. And even if you do, that board is gone before you know what hit you. And the freefall straight down. Awesome!

I've already dedicated what would normally constitute a whole post to this one ride, but there was still tons of park to hit. So, let's see:

Corkscrew. Unless you're on a mission to say you've ridden every coaster at Cedar Point, avoid this one like the plague. It's a 20-year old winding little monstrosity that lasts about 45 seconds and jerks you around like it's simulating a seizure. We should have taken the hint when we got to the front of the line and saw that the faces of the people getting off the cars were not happy ones.

Gemini. The wait-to-thrill ratio here is probably the best in the park. This classic wodden coaster launches two cars together to go through the track at the same time. A nice, long ride.

Millenium Force. Awesome ride. Rather like the Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens in WIlliamsburg (the best ride in that park, I think). A word of warning though, which thankfully I am not relating from first-hand experience. If you're riding this thing at night, do not ride in the front. The gnats and other bugs that come out at night along Lake Erie put the the real "Force" in Millenium Force, and afterward, you will look frat boys took Sharpees to you in your sleep.

Magnum XL-200. A solid and fun ride that in any other park would be a masterpiece and top event of the day. But in Cedar Point, it's just one among many.

Wicked Twister. Maybe you'll be luckier when you're there and it won't be closed.

Blue Streak. The oldest coaster in the park, perhaps? We just walked up and got on, which was great. I wouldn't wait longer than 10 minutes for it, though.

Cedar Creek Mine Ride. This one is a blast if you make it so. After we'd ridden several of the huge, nasty coasters in the park, we came around to this old thing. The track curls a loop near the waiting line, and as we were drawing near the end of the wait, some punkish teens screamed from the track: "aw, this is a ride for babies!!" We got nearer the front of the line, where we could hear the ride operator "bragging" over the loudspeaker about how we'd be dropped from a thrilling height of 48 feet along the ride. So, we took all this as a gauntlet thrown down. The three of us paired up with another group of three on the ride, and together we all screamed in mortal terror as though the thing were worse than a dozen Top-Thrill Dragsters put together. The whole car got into it with us. And we had as much fun on that ride as any of the others.

For my traveling companions and I, the word Mantis is now synonymous with "crap." (As in, "this Chinese food tastes like Mantis" or, "I understand you're upset, but you don't have to get Mantis with me.") This was, I believe, the first stand-up roller coaster ever built. And there is a damn good reason there haven't been many others. My head was thrashed violently against the shoulder harnesses. B and E both had their legs totally cramp up. And you just have to endure it for two minutes until the thing blissfully comes to an end. Again, unless you're trying to ride all the coasters in the park (or just like pain), avoid this thing.

Mean Streak. A fun, twisting, gnarled wooden coaster that "classicists" will love.

Raptor. A fantastic hang-from-beneath roller coaster. Williamsburg folks can think Alpengeist, only Raptor is quite a bit better.

Of course, there were a few other things in the park as well, besides roller coasters...

MaXair. I didn't ride this thing. And if you scroll to the bottom of the page that link connects to, the picture says 1000 words. They might as well call this thing The Vomitator. I don't handle spinning rides well, and this thing would have me losing my lunch in less time than it takes to ride the Top-Thrill Dragster.

The Power Tower is a pretty fun ride, but they have a similar thing on top of the Stratosphere hotel in Las Vegas. Once you've ridden this kind of ride while already 1,100 feet off the ground, this version seems tame by comparison. Power Tower's twist is you can ride it two ways -- "up," where you begin by suddenly being launched up at great speeds; or "down," where you're cranked to the top and then suddenly dropped at great speeds. Most people will tell you "down" is better, and that was certainly where the longer wait was. But I gotta say, "up" is much more of a thrill.

Snake River Falls. Pretty much every amusement park has this variety of water ride -- a basic go-to-the-top-of-the-hill-and-splash-down ride. You don't usually get very wet on these things. Typically, there's an area near the ride where people can stand and get drenched by the splashdown, but the riders themselves only get spattered a bit. Not so with this one. Some diabolical engineers crafted the shape of this boat, or the ricochet in the splashdown area, or something. Because this is what it looks like when you splash down:

You see the giant wave of water about to fall on your head, and you feel like you're re-enacting a scene from Flashdance. You close your eyes, and WHOOOOOOOOSH!!!!! "What a feeling...." Ah, but don't open your eyes yet, because just when you think it's over, some second giant wave of water comes from nowhere and douses you all over again. From that point, you're wet for the rest of the day. So don't bring anything on the ride that's not in a Ziploc bag.

Wow... what a long post! But what a great day! I say if you live anywhere near Cedar Point, you really have no excuse for not going once every summer. If you're an amusement park lover anywhere else, you really ought to think about planning a trip there some day. You won't regret it.

...even if it means a 20-hour-or-so car ride each way, as I faced with B and E on our wild road trip getaway. Good times. But we've now basically told each other every story we know, and really don't want to hang out again any time soon, at least until we can get some new stories.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Double Feature

One more digression before I share with you the grand finale of my road trip, my day at Cedar Point... this being a much shorter trip to the local movie theater. I caught two movies on Saturday, The Skeleton Key and The Aristocrats.

I saw The Skeleton Key because I have a taste for thiller/horror/suspense movies. While I lived in Virginia, I used to see them all with my roommate. Now, my group of college friends go. We'll see them all, no matter how bad they look, because fans of this genre know that finding a good thriller is like panning for gold. You have to stand there in the freezing rapids forever dumping out silt until you find one nugget of gold.

Well, The Skeleton Key wasn't gold, exactly, but it was much better than I was expecting. The pleasant surprise came in that the overall tone of most of the movie had little to do with the supernatural. From the trailers and commercials, you'd expect wall-to-wall voodoo. And yes, that's in there in spades at certain moments. But the majority of the movie is fairly grounded-in-reality "creepy mystery," and actually plays very well on that level. The acting is good. The writing is great -- the story is woven pretty well, and the dialogue spoken by the characters is very authentic Southern patter. And the people I saw it with -- we thought the ending rocked. Actually, the movie has been growing on me since I walked out of the theater, and I'd have to say I'd give it a B. Of course, this genre of movie is the sort of thing you were probably going to see or avoid already without any sort of recommendation from me.

After that movie, it was a quick drive over to the local "indie" theater to catch The Aristocrats. I've discussed the premise behind this film before. And since then, the film has received a lot more attention, including a full article in Entertainment Weekly. I had let the hype get to me a bit, I think, and my expectations were pretty high. Too high, really.

Now don't get me wrong. The movie had several big laughs. And it was a deeper documentary that simply one version of the joke after another; it actually delved a little into the origins of the joke, "why" this joke, and so forth. But I think I'd prepped myself for constant, mygodicantbreathe laughter, like the kind I had the first time I ever watched Eddie Izzard's Dress to Kill. And with that unrealistic yard stick, it came up short. Certain versions of the jokes in the movie were absolutely hysterical, and worth going to see it for. Personally, I liked George Carlin, Billy the Mime, the card trick magician, and Sarah Silverman. But there's also quite a lot of time where you just don't laugh much. (And not for being offended -- not in my own case, anyway.) I give it a B-. But here again, this is a movie you already knew you either wanted to see or avoid, regardless of my recommendation.

If you've seen either of the movies in my weekend double feature, I'd love to open up the floor for discussion. What did you think?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A Lazy Summer's Day

With the wedding over, Sunday of my vacation was our "day to relax." As I mentioned in previous vacation posts, my traveling companion E has an aunt and uncle about 30 minutes south of Lansing, and they agreed to take us in for the night.

Very nice, friendly people, these two. They've been married upwards of 40 years. They've been living in the same house the entire time, which they've slowing expanded and remodeled bit by bit. A second house was built on their land, which one of their children now lives in. While we were visiting, their grandson -- just out of high school -- stopped in to chat with the grandparents "on the way home up the driveway." In short, it was a neat, but totally alien family situation to me. I get along well with my family, but seeing things like this makes me wish I were even closer to my own.

Of course, E's joke was that seeing her aunt and uncle was really only #3 on the list of reasons to stop in town. #1 was to get "coney dogs" at a specific local restaurant. #2 was to visit The Parlour, an ice cream place. And E was obliged on all counts.

I'm not for hot dogs loaded down with stuff, so I haven't much to say on that stop. But let me tell you about The Parlour. Many of you probably remember or live near a place just like it. It's a sit-down place with old-fashioned counters and stools. It was completely hopping on that Sunday afternoon. The menu is loaded with a variety of ice cream concoctions. Each is so large, you might as well stick a spoon into a half gallon tub of ice cream, run hot water around the sides, then pull the whole thing out like a popsicle. Here's what I got:

This is called "The Peanut Butter Cup." Three huge scoops of ice cream, layered with hot fudge and peanut butter flavored syrup. It was running out of the dish from the moment they sat it down, and I came nowhere close to finishing it.

Of course, The Parlour wouldn't be everything you'd expect it to be without an "eating challenge" menu item. This was the "Dare to be Great." 21, yes 21, scoops of ice cream of all different flavors, layered with five kinds of syrups, four kinds of fruit toppings, and whipped cream. $20. Eat the whole thing by yourself in one hour, and you get it free, plus your name engraved on a plaque on the wall. There was the "attempts" plaque, and the "successes" plaque -- the latter having only four names on it. Yikes!

After being stuffed with food, we relaxed around the house in the evening, watching the sunset from a hammock, porch swing, and "sky chair" in the yard.

Wonderful. I'm not the sort of person that could stand to "slow it down" too much like that regularly, but it was a real treat on this occasion. Thanks to E and her family.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Ready For My Closeup

Tonight I'm interrupting the flow of "vacation stories" to talk about Battlestar Galactica. Not really about tonight's episode (though I did enjoy it, and it had several very powerful moments). Instead, I want to talk about Season 1 on DVD.

Many of you know that Best Buy is running an exclusive right now for about two months. You can buy it now, and get a bare-bones, "episodes only" version of the show -- with the UK version of the title sequence, no less. Or you can wait a few months for the "real thing," fully loaded with documentaries, commentaries, and the original mini-series. So, unless you simply can't wait, why would you pick up this Best Buy exclusive?

Well... it turns out there is one feature in this special BB set of Battlestar Galactica. There's an extra disc with a promotional documentary about Serenity. It runs about 15 minutes and includes interviews with Joss Whedon and all of the cast. It also includes footage shot at the advance screenings held in May. You know, the screenings I attended. Twice.

I got to watch someone's copy tonight, and it turns out: I'm in the documentary. Not just some random pan-over-the-crowd type of shot. They've spliced me in with the caption "Denver, CO," and have me doing the fanboy gushing for the camera thing for about 1.2 seconds. (They also have one of my friends who also attended the screening.)

So now I'm in a dilemma. Are they going to drop this disc in with the full-fledged version of Battlestar Galactica (which I'd already planned on buying)? Is Universal going to put this documentary onto the actual Serenity movie DVD when it comes out next year? Should I shell out $50 to buy this Best Buy exclusive just so I can have this monument to me now having only 14 minutes and 58.8 seconds of fame remaining?

Ah, the price of being a geek.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wedding Bells

So, after 18 hours of driving, we'd made it to Grand Rapids, Michigan. We stopped in at the rehearsal dinner that night -- though the three of us were not in the wedding party, we were invited. We were completely exhausted, however, and left after little more than an hour to go sleep for about 13-14 hours.

Saturday morning, we woke up just a little too late to catch a movie, but with plenty of time before the 5:00 ceremony. After digging through the hotel guide for a bit, we learned there was a mini golf course near by, and decided to kill some time there. It was a pretty straight-forward outdoor course.

Finally, it was off to the wedding. It was nice enough, but for a couple hitches. The minister was on microphone. The couple was not. When the vows came around, not a person in the church could hear a word. Even the bridesmaid at the end of the line told us after the fact that she was standing basically right there and couldn't hear anything. So, about 4 minutes of total silence and leaning way forward in the seats. We're told the couple was actually recorded on mic for video purposes, so I suppose at least they'll be able to have their memories.

The other amusing moment was the "unity candle" ceremony. The couple each lit a taper off of their large candles on the side, then used the tapers to light the unity candle. Then, they blew out the tapers. First, the groom. Then the bride, whose head was turned just so that her breath took out not only her own taper, but the groom's original candle standing beside the unity candle. One would hope this was not an omen for the marriage -- no sooner were they joined than the wife figuratively snuffed out her new husband's life. Fortunately, they laughed themselves at the situation, and after a few seconds of awkward pause, he leaned over and blew out her candle in kind.

On to the reception, which was interesting as it was held after hours in a museum downtown. It was a very strange, eclectic museum, with a small exhibit of boxes, another small exhibit of porcelain dolls, a recreation of a gunmaker's shop, and further random things. We got to wander around part of the museum throughout the party.

There was a carousel in one wing with the most demonic-looking horse I've ever seen. As it came swinging around, yellow eyes staring straight at me, I worried if people should be letting kids see this thing. I'm not sure this photo does it justice.

There was a very bizarre mural on one wall with this "woman" who frankly looks to me like Malcolm McDowell in drag.

After we'd explored all corners of the museum, there was dinner, and then a DJ kicked in. Not the worst wedding DJ I'd ever heard, but not the best either.

On the plus side, he did not play the Macarena or the Electric Slide. He did not make the ridiculous mistake of playing My Heart Will Go On -- why anyone would want a song played at their wedding with lyrics saying "even though you're dead now, I'll still love you" is a mystery to me.

On the bad side, the DJ played all his music in "bricks." Three swing songs all at once, then none for the rest of the night. Two songs from the Grease soundtrack in a row. Three country songs, all together. And so forth, until the night culminated in what I feel to be a wildly inappropriate selection: Total Eclipse of the Heart as the final song of the night. Is that not a breakup song? And what's the message behind the sleigh bells and nuclear bomb sounds during the instrumental solo anyway?

Oh, and one last word of advice to anyone out there who might plan a wedding in the future. I got this tip while talking to a friend and the reception. It's a trend now to put a disposable camera on each table at the reception to have people take their own pictures which you can then develop for your album. This is a complete and total waste of your money. About half the cameras are mostly empty by the end of the night, while the other half are filled mostly with random crap taken by someone completely drunk off their ass in the last 5 minutes before the party ends. I got to see this point proven firsthand, as someone snapped a picture of my nostril at about 10:57, then ran off before my "flash blindness" could clear.

B, E, and I, the intrepid drivers, decided to try and do something different with the disposable wedding camera. We found one at the end of the night that, as predicted, still had about 15 pictures left on it, and we took it with us to use on the rest of the trip, snapping pictures of Cedar Point and the other fun we had.

If this sounds totally wrong, please understand: the newlywed couple is actually planning a lavish tropical honeymoon a few months down the road. For the wedding weekend, however, they were just staying on a couple days at a hotel in the area. And there was briefly talk of them joining us at Cedar Point. But New Husband knew that New Wife wouldn't truly be up for it. And I'm told she issued the very first Marital Test when she offered: "Well, honey, you can go if you want to." Hey, it was a total gimme, but give him points for passing.

So while we understood the reasons why the three of us would not be joined by either half of the happy new couple, we still decided to give them a small photo journal of the fun they could have had if they'd come with us. Slightly inappropriate or unfitting, perhaps, but I maintain it's at least better than NostrilCam. We've returned the finished roll to the couple, and hope they'll have a laugh when it's developed.

Next up in the "trip diary," Sunday with family. (Not mine, but still, someone's family.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Tales From the Road

Well, the contents of my vacation were sufficient to fill several days' worth of blogging, so I'm going to break things up by category. As preamble for all of this, here are the particulars of the trip.

We started from Denver Thursday evening (after all involved parties got off work). There was me and two friends, B and E. Both female, but both very much "one of the boys" in our circle of friends. We drove straight through to Grand Rapids, making occasional stops to gas, stretch, eat, and trade driving responsibilities. It took 18 hours, not counting time changes.

After a couple days in Grand Rapids for the wedding, we drove 2 hours to a small town south of Lansing to visit an aunt and uncle of E's, who showed us a good afternoon, took us in for the night, and gave us a great breakfast to start off Monday morning.

That morning, we drove about 3 hours to Cedar Point, where we spent a great day at the amusement park. As the park was closing, we set off on the road, driving straight back in about 19 hours.

Overall, a pretty great trip.

In this post, I'm going to focus on random tales and observations about the drive itself.

  • Colorado really ought to give everything west of Denver away to Kansas or Nebraska. It's as boring and obnoxious as anything those states have to offer. Although there is a pretty fun Sinclair gas station near the border with a big dinosaur out front.

  • At night, western Nebraska smells like cigarette smoke. We didn't have that on the return trip during daylight. But man, on the way out, it smelled like one of those lounges in an airport that fog pours out of when you open the door.

  • We all really like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and sang along loudly to the soundtrack from the musical episode, "Once More With Feeling," to pick us up when we all got weary of the journey.

  • The World's Largest Truckstop is off I-80 in Iowa. Pretty much the best (only?) tourist attraction in the state.

  • Across the Great Plains, there's a rather humorously named chain of gas stations, with an equally humorous slogan. And strangely, some of them sell their Super Unleaded for as much as a dime less than Regular Unleaded.

  • Driving anywhere near Chicago absolutely sucks. We hit the tri-state highway intersection too close to rush hour and were stuck there for an eternity, surrounded by semis. Apparently, the state is taking 80 cents from every car that passes through, and using it to ensure the highway stays in a state of perpetual disrepair and traffic snarl.

  • Sadly, some young man from a city just inside Indiana was killed in action in Iraq just a week before we passed through. The whole community had its flags lowered to half mast, and were a clear testament to the price of the war on terror global struggle against extremism.

  • Michigan has a total fetish for left exits off the freeway. Finding a right exit off the freeway in Michigan is about as uncommon as finding a left exit anywhere else in the country.

  • There's a chain of banks in Michigan and Ohio called Fifth Third Bank. Huh? Fifth Third? What bizarre mergers or brain farts conjoined to name this place? I don't think I would trust my money to an ordinal fraction.

  • We passed more semis that I could possibly count along the journey, but two in particular merited a photo op.

  • The west side of Toledo, Ohio smells very strongly of peanut butter. Then you pass a Wonder Bread factory, and it smells like bread. We figured the east side would smell like jelly, but no, instead it smelled like burning gasoline. What a nasty sandwich that would make.

  • I actually lived in Toledo for a year when I was about 7-8 years old. I have very few memories of the city, and nearly all of them are bad. (Subjects for a future, slow blog day, perhaps.) This was the first time I'd passed through the city in over 20 years. And I happened to be looking off the highway as we drove by one exit, and saw this old two-screen movie theater. It was totally rundown, and I couldn't believe the thing was still open in any capacity after all this time. But I had an instant, total recognition of the marquis sign out front, and remembered that it was was the place where I was taken to see both E.T. and Return of the Jedi. It was a neat insta-recall of some fun childhood memories.
Join me in the days ahead for details of the wedding, the visit with E's family in Michigan, and crown jewel of the trip, Cedar Point.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

While I Was Out...

Well, I'm back after a week on the road. There will be plenty of stories and pictures about my trip in the days ahead. For the moment, though, I'm running on virtually no sleep, and I'm off to bed. I made time for Battlestar Galactica and Six Feet Under, but everything else from while I was gone is going to wait until I'm rested.

Except that I had to check quickly on Fark and a couple more serious news outlets for what happened in the world while I was "away." Because Monday morning, I was eating a hasty breakfast at the house of my friend's aunt and uncle, I saw that Peter Jennings had died. And I thought, "man, all kinds of things could have happened in the last three days, and I'd never know." So now I'm caught up, and here's a sample (of course, you already knew all this):

As I said, Peter Jennings died.

Our Congress has voted to make our lives just ever so slightly harder by voting to extend Daylight Savings Time. This means any newer electonic appliances you have that automatically adjust time for DST changes will now do so incorrectly for four weeks out of the year and have to be readjusted manually. Thanks a lot.

The shuttle Discovery returned safely to Earth. No help from Jinx required.

Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Rehnquist went in and out of the hospital once more. I wonder if they have one of those "multiple visit" punch cards going there like the kind they're phasing out at Subway?

Some crap happened with Martha Stewart. No one cared.

If there are any other highlights you think I may have missed, feel free to bring me up to date here. I in turn will be bringing you up to date on the details of my last week in the days ahead.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


And speaking of days off (what a great segue!), I'm departing for the wedding tomorrow. That means no Heimlich Maneuvers until next Tuesday or Wednesday. Try not to get too sad about the lack of random drivel you'll face over the next week. Be strong!

A Day Off

It was roughly five years ago at this time of year that -- due to summer convention travel for The Company -- my old roommate and I found ourselves in Chicago with one free day to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. As we discussed the possibilities over breakfast, we decided to try to re-enact as much of Ferris Bueller's Day Off as possible. And though we had to make some substitutions, we had a really great time.

We caught the train into downtown and wandered about following the people in suits until we found the commodities exchange. We made our way to the observation deck and looked out into the chaos.

Next up was lunch. Neither of us could pass for Abe Froman, nor were we in the mood for pancreas, so we instead found a neat Cajun restaurant with a few thousand bottles of hot sauce arrayed on the walls.

The art museum was supposed to be next, but we got lazy before we could find it, and decided to substitute the planetarium and science museum instead. Both of us are more into that sort of thing than paintings and sculptures anyway.

A Cubs game at Wrigley Field would have been next on the agenda, but unfortunately there was no game that day -- no sports of any kind. So we made an absolutely pitiful substitution of going to see a movie. Not a sports-themed movie. Not even a good movie, unfortunately -- we saw Hollow Man. (Yikes... even Kevin Bacon could not redeem it.)

Determined to get our day off back on track we went to the top of the Sears Tower. Neither of us felt like getting busted for stepping up on the railing to lean against the glass, but we did play a game on the ping pong table they had up there. (Why they had a ping pong table up there, I don't know.)

Alright, so we didn't go driving around in a badass vintage car, or use some total stranger's hottub and swimming pool. But in all, I'd say we captured the essence of what we were after. After all, I still remember it clearly to this day, five years later.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Catchy Tune

The third season of The Greatest American Hero has arrived on DVD. I haven't picked up the other two, and I'm not likely to grab this one. I'm simply too afraid.

There's a pretty big crop of TV shows I watched in the 80s that I thought were just freakin' incredible at the time. I've caught them in re-runs lately, and have come to realize how young and stupid I was. One of the local TV affiliates in the Norfolk area helped me make this discovery one Sunday afternoon when I had nothing better to do -- they had a three-hour block every week in which they ran Knight Rider, The A-Team, and Airwolf, all in succession. It was quite jarring to compare the facts confronting me on the screen with the shiny memories I had of each show. But indeed, each one was worse than the one preceeding it. So I've decided not to risk shattering any more of my childhood memories, and I'm not picking up The Greatest American Hero DVDs. (Or the MacGyver DVDs, out of similar fears.)

However, I was standing in the store tonight, and I saw the DVD sitting there on the shelf. It had a sticker in the lower left corner: "Press Here to Hear the Theme Song." And I'm thinking to myself, "No! There's no way they could possib--"

"Believe it or not, Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'm walkin' on air..."

Man, that was almost enough to make me break down and buy it right there. At least, until I realized the novelty would wear off really damn quick if the thing was sitting on my shelf and possibly going off at random intervals.

Still, major points to whoever thought up that idea.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Note to Go Out On

Here's a little fraction of an entertainment newsbite I saw on IMDb today. Apparently, Sean Connery has decided not to make any more movies.

On the one hand, I applaud his analysis of "the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies." But on the other hand, if he never makes another movie again, then that means the last movie he'll have made would be the phenomenally awful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

So here's hoping the "mafia" he speaks of does find a way to make him an offer he can't refuse. Because otherwise, the way I see it, it would be like if Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ended with a wet fart.