Friday, September 30, 2005

Hip Hip! Cliche!

There are certain conventions of television and film that really annoy me:

Whenever you see an aquarium in a person's home larger than any you've actually seen in real life, odds are it's going to be smashed in the near future.

When a guy about to go into a dangerous situation looks at a photo in his wallet of his wife and/or children, he will be dead within the next fifteen minutes.

When people are playing poker, they always string raise. ("I see your fifty... (melodramatic pause)... and I raise you eleven hundred thousand!")

When people pay for a cab ride, alcoholic drink, or restaurant bill, they always say "keep the change." Everyone has exactly the right amount of money for the exact amount of tip they want to give.

When someone brings home a bag of groceries, they're always in paper (never plastic), and there's usually a loaf of french bread sticking out the top.

Stop. Please stop.

Spoilery Serenity Discussion

The Serenity thread below has stayed spoiler-free, so I'm offering this post as a place to launch into full, SPOILER-laden discussion of the movie. Don't click on the comments if you haven't seen it yet.

Serenity Now!!!

At long last, September 30th has arrived... and with it, Serenity. I've been singing this movie's praises for a while now. Many of you reading this caught an advance screening of the film several months ago, I know. Still, I for one am looking forward to seeing it again, in finished form.

It's not just me and the other Joss Whedon disciples singing the praises of the film, either. It's doing quite favorably right now over at Rotten Tomatoes.

So get to your local theater this weekend and catch the best movie I've seen so far this year.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Alias: Year Five

Since I've watched every episode of Alias from the day it first aired, four years (and for me, about two or three houses) ago, I suppose I would be remiss not to say anything about tonight's fifth season premiere.

If you follow the show and haven't seen it yet, go away now. Or, as they more commonly say...


Truth is, it may not be that much of a spoiler anyway to those who check or any other TV news web sites. Tonight's big revelation was fairly well trumpeted far and wide, and was sadly ruined for me several weeks ago. Entertainment journalists who write spoilery headlines should be shot.

So... Michael Vaughn is dead. Of course, as Irena Derevko has proven to us quite recently, dead on Alias doesn't necessarily count for much. Still, this seemed pretty definitive, as far as deaths go. (And the fact that the entertainment news circles made so much of it pretty well confirms it.)

I'm really not sure what to make of this development. I was quite enjoying the episode until the fatal encounter, more so than I've enjoyed an episode of Alias in quite some time. But despite all the time I've spent watching the character, the death itself didn't really move me. Maybe it's because it was spoiled for me. I doubt it, though... I can't think of a few other TV shows I've jumped onto late, knowing already of the death of a major character, and I was still moved once I got to view the actual episode in question.

I think it had to do with how cheap and easy his death seemed. We've seen Vaughn get out of far worse scrapes than this. The guy that offed him wasn't even a long-standing villain, it was a new threat appearing for the first time in this episode. And it seems inconceivable that a guy who, from what we were told, had been declared dead two years ago could somehow infiltrate A.P.O. so effortlessly and track down Vaughn. What background check did they wait to run until it was too late that they could have and should have run right from the outset?

In short, our heroes all had to behave phenomenally, colossally stupid in order to bring about the events leading to Vaughn's death. And so really, frankly, I think it might have been better if he'd just died in the car crash. He would have had a more compelling "last mission" in the fourth season finale, and the mystery about his true identity would have been more... well, mysterious to kick off season five.

I suppose we'll see where it all goes this year. I don't expect as much from Alias anymore as I once did. I expect only that this will be the last season.

Still, it was only last month with Six Feet Under that I got to see a show that had withered in years three and four bounce back to have a stellar final batch of episodes. Perhaps Alias can somehow manage to do the same.

Curses, Foiled Again

There's a chain of "burrito bars" here in Denver called Chipotle. They're moderately nation-wide, I believe, so maybe you have one near you. if not, I'm sure you have a place like it near you -- they wrap you up a fat, honkin' wad of Mexicany stuff, and off you go.

At Chipotle, the burritos come wrapped in foil. And in case this is problematic for people, they've put instructions on how to eat your foil-wrapped burrito on all their napkins:

Alright, cute. But if my years of working on CCGs have taught me anything, it's that people will go to any lengths to misunderstand even the clearest instructions (sometimes because they're stupid, oftentimes because they're willfully causing trouble). Imagine these sorts of people tackling these instructions...

1) It's apparently very important to grasp the burrito with both hands before you open it, and hold it out as if in supplication to something or someone. Who? These horrible instructions don't tell me!

2) Okay, what exactly am I tearing off here? Just the foil? Or am I tearing off a layer or two of tortilla as well? I wish I could be clear on this point, but the illustration isn't in color.

3) Whoa, wait a minute! What the hell happened here? Are we sure we aren't missing steps here? There's a piece missing from my burrito! How did we get from step two to step three? And what's that stuff inside the burrito? It looks a little more to me like an apple turnover from McDonalds or something.

Actually, I'm probably not doing nearly a good enough job imagining ways to misinterpret these directions. That's the second big thing I've learned working on CCGs: no matter how many ways you can think of for someone to misunderstand something, they'll find another.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

CSI's New "Competition"

Well, my long stretch of blogging about nothing but TV will be tapering off here soon, I think, as tonight I bring you the last of my (p)reviews of new TV shows.

I've seen the first two episodes of the new Night Stalker, which debuts tomorrow. Don't get your hopes up on this one, for two reasons:

1) It's been exiled to a Time Slot of Certain Death -- it airs opposite CSI. I do watch CSI, but I don't think it's the greatest thing in the world. I could give it up for something good. But Night Stalker isn't really it. Anyway, the tens of millions of people who make CSI the #1 rated show on television certainly aren't going to give it up.

2) Night Stalker comes across as a poor knockoff of The X-Files.

Yes, I realize the quasi-idiocy of that second statement. The X-Files itself was inspired very much by the original Night Stalker series. But it definitely took the material that inspired it and transcended it, bringing something new to the table. By contrast, the new Night Stalker is pretty standard "monster of the week" fare. Other shows have done it (and are doing it) better. Hell, Smallville did a decent job of "monster of the week" in the early days, and I gave up that show about 5 episodes in for exactly that reason -- after nine years of The X-Files (not all of them good), I need something a little more than "MotW."

In short, you can safely avoid this one. It's not likely to come stalking after you.

Week 1: Veronica Mars 1; Lost 0.

It's the first week of the most obnoxious head-to-head competition on network TV this season: Lost on ABC vs. Veronica Mars on UPN. Both excellent shows, both "can't miss" television I'd heartily recommend to anyone -- annoyingly scheduled to air at the same time. (This fact was succinctly tackled by Shocho on his blog.)

Since a competition has been made of it, I've decided to keep score. Every week that new episodes of both shows air, I'm going to judge who I think brought the better hour of television. This week was simply no contest -- Veronica Mars wins in a landslide.

Lost was unfortunately just listlessly, aimlessly marking time this week. Don't get me wrong, I'm a very patient viewer of Lost. I truly don't need answers to big mysteries every week. I often enjoy the flashbacks more than the mysteries on the island. But I still need an episode to go somewhere, to tell some meaningful story. This week just didn't.

Michael's flashback was truly a waste of time, a series of four cut scenes engineered to tell us all what we already knew: that he'll do anything to get Walt back. We already knew from last season's Michael/Walt episode that Michael's wife had moved out of the country and taken Walt away. No additional information was given here. No alternate insight or perspective to the one we saw before was offered. It was a pure retread of old news.

Michael and Sawyer have a minor adventure or two getting back to shore. No real surprise in the fact they'd end up back on the island, so what a shame it took the whole episode for it to happen. Jin appeared to have a far more compelling journey back to the island, but that potentially interesting material was not included this week. No doubt it will appear soon, probably presented in a manner similar to the way Kate and Locke's exploration of the hatch was covered in backtrack mode this week.

And as for Kate and Locke... well, they had a minor adventure or two of their own as well, but Locke really didn't get any meaningful information out of Desmond that couldn't have quickly and easily been explained to us next week.

So, barring some major revelation in the future that makes some minor detail of tonight's installment become suddenly important, it seems to me that we could have skipped this episode completely and gone straight to the next one.

Meanwhile, Veronica Mars kicked things off in high gear. All the top quality dialogue was still there. The show is still smart and fun. A new mystery got kicked off -- is someone trying to kill Veronica? Who? Why? The Veronica/Logan/Duncan love triangle was shored up. Another Buffy alum appeared on the show (Charisma Carpenter, filling a Mrs. Robinson sort of role, not that she really looks old enough for it). Good stuff all around.

Come on, Lost... you're not just going to let a show with less than a tenth the audience you have totally bitch slap you like this and get away with it, are you?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How Sweet the Sound...

The Amazing Race is back, and I thought it just as entertaining in its "family of four" incarnation. A few miscellaneous thoughts about the first episode:

I really wish the "hot dog cart guys" could be on a team. They were more entertaining to me than a lot of the teams actually racing.

That shot of the gas station sign selling Regular for $2.19... in New York City, no less! Boy, that takes me back...

I was totally fooled by the "Build It" vs. "Buggy It" detour. Ordinarily, the physical option is way easier than anything that involves "finding something" or "following specific instructions." But ohdearGod was that not the case here.

Speaking of God, I was really annoyed by the way the Weaver family constantly invoked His help throughout the episode. Apparently He wasn't a fan either, since He's trying to kill off the family one by one via vehicular homicide.

And if that comment didn't earn me my special place in Hell, then let me try this instead: how unfortunately named was the Black family? The one black family in the game, and every ten minutes or so we get to see them identified as such through the on-screen text. The awful joke seemed to descend to a whole new level when we were shown them rallying together with their cheer: "Black family!" They actually seemed like a nice family that got along well together, and there are certainly other teams I'm hating already and would rather have seen eliminated. Still, I'm not sure how many more weeks I could have taken of simultaneously laughing and hating myself every time I hear/see their name.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Swearing In Your New President

Time for another sneak (p)review of an upcoming TV series. Tomorrow night, ABC rolls out "Commander in Chief," starring Geena Davis. This is the network's attempt to carve out a piece of The West Wing's action, with the twist that the president is the U.S.' first female in the position. They might have been better advised to launch their "political drama" last year, when (before the sixth season had begun) The West Wing was largely perceived as being pretty weak compared to its glory days.

In truth, though, the comparisons to The West Wing are largely superficial. The West Wing concerns itself largely with the staffers that work within the White House, and it prides itself on dense, intelligent dialogue. The pilot of Commander in Chief clearly sends the message that this show is going to put the president herself front and center, with the "First Gentleman" and the family getting as much treatment as the political issues.

I found it a little hard to judge just from the one episode whether I'm going to like the show or not. Far more implausible than the notion of a female president is the fact that she's an independent. The justification given for this is pretty much total crap. Then again, The West Wing has made its name on portraying government "the way it ought to be, not the way it is," and I suppose the same will be true here. Any show you care to watch requires some suspension of disbelief, and this will be no different.

I can at least say for certain that she joins Josiah Bartlet and David Palmer in the pantheon of TV presidents I desperately wish were our real-life president.

I'll be tuning in for additional episodes of the series, but I'm not yet willing to throw a strong recommendation behind it. Those without "multi-channel viewing options" may well be watching The Amazing Race during that time slot anyway.

However I will trumpet the new season of Boston Legal, airing right after Commander in Chief. I've seen the first two episodes already, which play out a storyline with guest star Heather Locklear. They're strong episodes, and showcase why James Spader, though perhaps not the best choice for winning an Emmy last week, is not undeserving. (But sorry, Shatner -- your schtick is great, but not even in the same league as Naveen Andrews or Terry O'Quinn from Lost.)

As is the norm for a David Kelley show, Boston Legal is going through a host of cast changes this season. Monica Potter is out (but you won't miss her). These first two episodes set the stage for Rhona Mitra's character of Tara to also exit the show. Meanwhile, three new characters are introduced -- two females and one male. In the first two episodes, the man is set up pretty strongly as a young Alan Shore in training. The women... well, Boston Legal has had trouble finding strong female characters other than Candice Bergen's, so we'll wait and see what develops.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

In-Flight Movie

I caught Jodie Foster's new movie Flightplan yesterday. Pretty mundane stuff. Actually, quite similar to Panic Room, but set on an airplane, and without the cool direction and cinematography brought by David Fincher.

There were some interesting action beats, and good acting from Jodie Foster (as you would expect), but nothing that ever really raised the material beyond any other mindless action film. There were a couple of plot holes in it big enough that you could fly the giant plane itself through.

Overall, I give it a C-.

The trailers that ran before the film were rather bizarre. They were the sort of trailers one would attach to a "Jodie Foster movie." We're talking a movie like Nell or something. Lots of chick flicks... tales of people arranging matches... Who exactly did they think was going to come see Flightplan?

Anyway, I wish I'd caught Corpse Bride instead. I'll probably try to make up for that later this week.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Will This Be On the Quiz?

Time to test your knowledge of 80s music. I got a score of 112 myself, which I guess is pretty good, except that when it showed me the answers, I felt like I should have done even better.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Mark of Cain

Battlestar Galactica is now away until January, but it went out tonight with a major bang, lifting the Pegasus-and-Cain plotline from the original series and re-inventing the story in a way all its own. I was truly astounded by the writing and acting in this episode.

The horror expressed by Baltar's Six upon encountering her battered, tortured counterpart was truly palpable. Fun as it is to watch "Six Kitten" tease Baltar every week, I long to see Tricia Helfer get other material to work with. Here, she was given really intense work, and she delivered in spades. I'm hopeful that the conclusion of this story arc will involved "Tortured Six" being rescued and brought aboard Galactica, as that would enable her to interact with someone-not-Baltar on a regular basis, and really open some doors for the character.

Baltar's monologue near the end of the episode was no less powerful than the earlier scene in the prison cell. James Callis has ably shown his comedic skills, week in and week out. This week he demonstrated the other side of the spectrum.

But the strongest and most truly disturbing scene of all was the near-rape of Boomer. After an entire year of watching "due to graphic content..." warnings preceding 24 -- warnings for no worthwhile reason -- I gave my requisite cheer when I saw the announcement preceding the third act of tonight's Galactica. Had I remotely suspected what was coming, though... well, let's just say I was completely floored. Incredibly chilling.

There's definitely going to be a gaping hole on Friday nights now, waiting for Galactica to return and fill it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Offhand Remark

I realize this blog has been nothing but TV talk all week. (What do you expect, though, with the new fall season starting up?) For those who feel a little left behind, here's a short anecdote to tide you over until the "balance" returns to Heimlich Maneuvers.

My uncle is an athletic coach at a high school. He once told me a short story about a time his starting quarterback injured his right hand -- his throwing hand. One of the kid's teammates tried to stick up for his bud, though, arguing:

"No, it's okay, coach! He can still play -- he's anorexic."

Proctologist's Retirement Plan

There was a whole lot of ass on Survivor tonight.

It starts with the opening credits. Check it out next week (or cue it up if you TiVo'd it). Right before they show Cindy's name, there's this totally gratuitous close-up of her ass. It's like Baywatch, but with a lot more mud.

Then there was the tug-of-war challenge, which had to have the highest quotient of "blurred-out ass crack" of any challenge in Survivor history. People were falling out of their clothes trying to win immunity.

Then there's Gary. His decision not to reveal his past status as an NFL quarterback is interesting. I'm not totally convinced it was necessary, but it's a fair enough strategy for the outset. But then sports radio host Danni actually recognizes him (go Danni, by the way!) and exposes him, and when someone in his tribe confronts him, he flat out lies to them. Sure, lying is a part of the game. But you generally pick your tight-knit alliance, and you lie to everyone else. He has now lied to his entire tribe, and when they find out later, that's going to come back and bite him in the -- yes, you guessed it -- ass.

So, boat loads of ass on Survivor tonight.

Oh... and why do they call someone a "fishmonger" when they don't actually "mong" fish?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

All Hatch-ural

So now, at last, we know what's in "the hatch."

Sort of.

I know there are a few people out there who feel at the end of their rope with Lost, but for me, this is exactly how I want it. We now know that basically, someone's got their apartment/research lab inside the hatch.

But now there are new questions. What exactly is the guy doing there? Is he studying something? (The island's inhabitants, for example?) How did he come to be there on the island? Is he voluntarily in quarantine, or was he placed there by someone else? Is it because Jack met this guy before that he ended up on the island, or had Jack been picked even before the encounter in the stadium? And is this guy, with his canny talk of "miracles," at all responsible for restoring Sarah's ability to walk? Is he responsible for any of the strange goings-on on the island?

One question answered... well, sort of. Countless more posed. That's the only way Lost is going to endure, if you ask me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Beyond Lost

Encouraged (or maybe "egged on" is a better choice of words?) by some of the comments I've seen on my recent "new TV" posts, I've decided to continue reviewing the new shows I've watched. Maybe it'll help you decide what you want to check out. Maybe you want to gossip, or disagree. Take your pick. It's all good. I figure, though, that my reviews would be a lot more helpful if I could somehow post them before the show in question actually airs.

Fortunately, I have a way to do that.

Without going too much into details that may or may not get a friend of mine in trouble (probably not, but can't be too sure), I was able to see a couple of "advance preview DVDs" released by some of the networks. The discs are mainly intended for critics to view the new shows early and write their reviews.

Which is exactly how I'm going to use them.

Tomorrow night on ABC, after the season premiere of Lost, the new show Invasion makes its debut. It's part of the procession of "spooky, vaguely sci-fi shows" that the networks are trodding out this fall, arguably in an attempt to score another "Lost." (For other examples, see Surface [NBC], Supernatural [WB], and Threshold [CBS].)

Well, leave it to the network that found the first Lost to present the most likely, most worthy successor.

The pilot of Invasion is the best of all the new shows I've watched this year. The production quality is the equal of any feature film. In fact, the plot unfolds rather like the first 40 minutes of a feature film, which I guess worries me a little about how they'll keep the show rolling for more than another two episodes. But I'm eager to find out.

The characters are drawn very realistically out of the gate. The acting is solid, even including the kids. The writing is solid, with the exposition handled very deftly. The only obnoxious moment for me was the use of the Hollywood cliche of the "child must find the missing pet in the middle of the horrible disaster." But I can forgive the one misstep.

Since I know most of you are going to be watching Lost anyway, I highly recommend you stay tuned the extra hour and sample Invasion.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Tale of Two Buffy (Alumni)

It's War of the Ex-Buffy Cast Members! The battleground, Monday nights at 8:30 Eastern/7:30 Central.

In the CBS corner, Alyson Hannigan, formerly known as Willow -- but arguably more widely known as "the flute band geek" from the American Pie movies. She's in the cast of "How I Met Your Mother." (Along with Neil Patrick Harris, last seen snorting cocaine off a hooker's ass in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. And Jason Segel, from the brilliant-but-canceled Freaks and Geeks.)

In the FOX corner, Nicholas Brendon, formerly known as Xander -- inarguably even less well known from the movie Psycho Beach Party. He's in the cast of "Kitchen Confidential." (Along with Bradley Cooper, who left Alias just before it started to slide slowly downhill. And John Francis Daley, also from the brilliant-but-canceled Freaks and Geeks. Hollywood can be so incestuous sometimes.)

Thanks to the wonder that is dueling TiVos, I was able to view both these competitors in their battle royale. And it's a knockout in the first round, in favor of Alyson Hannigan.

Kitchen Confidential was thoroughly lackluster, made all the more so for appearing after Arrested Development. I didn't get so much as a smile out of the entire 22 minutes.

How I Met Your Mother, despite being an "archaic" multi-camera, filmed-before-a-live-studio-audience sitcom, was far superior. It took about 10 minutes to get rolling, but then the laughs started flowing. I laughed out loud several times, most of them thanks to "Willow" herself. They even had a couple of quality pirate jokes in there! (Not that the creators of the show could ever have known it would debut on Talk Like a Pirate Day.)

Now just to be clear, I'm not pronouncing this "appointment TV." Still, it's not a bad way to kill 22 minutes. And where else would you get to hear Bob Saget's disembodied voice say "Smurf penis?" Okay, so it's not quite as good as his rendition of the Aristocrats joke, but it's definitely good for a laugh.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Obligatory Meandering Emmy Post

Here are my meandering thoughts about tonight's Emmy Awards (in order of appearance on the show):

I'd totally watch Ellen DeGeneres host the North Korean People's Choice Awards.

The Desperate Housewives made a great introduction for the award they presented, especially Felicity Huffman, who acknowledged the God-awfulness of the material they'd been given.

Alan Alda was seen tearing up his acceptance speech after his category went to William Shatner. I wasn't completely sure whether he was being comical or serious.

Speaking of William Shatner, much as I love him on Boston Legal, and think he did give a great performance on the show last year, I really feel like it should have gone to Terry O'Quinn for Lost. Probably he and Naveen Andrews split the "Lost vote."

How can Hugh Jackman get up on stage and perform like one song and tell like three jokes and win an award in the same category as Jon Stewart, who brings the funny four nights a week, 47-or-so weeks a year?

Go Blue Man Group!

Who the hell are all these people on stage for The Amazing Race?

Damn, Zach Braff is funny. I really ought to watch Scrubs.

I'm sure Ellen's ventriloquist bit would have been funnier had it actually been properly on mic.

Major points to the voice-over guy, who can actually say the words "Ghost Whisperer" with a straight... er, face?

I think that guy almost dropped Kristen Bell. He must be killed!

If Kristen Bell weren't on the U Pretend Network, she'd be nominated for an Emmy this year herself.

Want a Guest Acting Emmy nomination? Will and Grace is your ticket, apparently.

You're damn right The Daily Show wins the writing category!

Nostalgia is an unstoppable force. Sucks to be in any category up against Everybody Loves Raymond this year.

Quality tribute to Johnny Carson.

Is it just me, or is it odd that they keep doing these Family Guy interstitials when a new episode of the actual show is on at the exact same time on another channel?

Damn straight The Daily Show wins again!

Please don't let there be a "special musical episode" of CSI.

I'm very pleased to see J.J. Abrams win the award for directing the pilot of Lost. I just got to watch it again on DVD recently, and it was truly amazing. It instantly addicted me to the show, and felt every moment of it like a feature film.

...but it's a shame Lost couldn't win the writing award too. I think the episode "Walkabout" (which I also recently got to watch again, thanks to the DVD) was the finest hour of television last season. Simply brilliant. And the writer of that episode, David Fury, is working on 24 this year. Should be good.

Halle Berry's speech. What the hell? Why is she talking about naked people spinning around slowly? What does this have to do with... anything?

Jon Stewart's "pre-recorded intro." Pure gold. "Shockingly ept" is going into my lexicon. And yes, George Bush does hate Black Sabbath.

Holy upset, Batman! I thought Arrested Development didn't have a chance in the writing category. Up against Desperate Housewives and Everybody Loves Raymond, the expected shows to beat? Not to mention, thrice nominated in the category, and thus certain to split the vote? And yet, it did the impossible. And deservedly so. If you don't watch Arrested Development, you're missing out. And what an awesome acceptance speech too: "We've been twice awarded for something you people won't watch." Although the Fox execs pushing Kitchen Confidential had to have a heart attack when he said you could switch back to CBS after Arrested Development was over.

Phil and Jeff are introducing William Shatner and the Star Trek theme, and already the audience is laughing.

The tribute to Peter Jennings (and Dan Rather and Tom Brakaw) was interesting -- in a way, it's almost a memoriam on "the evening news." With 24-hour cable news, the internet, and so forth, I really don't know anyone who watches the evening news anymore. I think the form dies with them. But if so, they're going out on top. What a huge standing ovation they got.

Conan O'Brien's intro was great stuff. From his rendition of "Charles in Charge," to his musings about the state of NBC programming, to "disappointing four women at once," he brought the funny.

Wow, Felicity Huffman wins! All the buzz leading up to tonight seemed to make Teri Hatcher the shoe-in, even as most of the critics were acknowledging Marcia Cross' performance as most deserving. Perhaps this is a result of submitting Desperate Housewives in the comedy category rather than in the drama category, as all of Marcia Cross' best moments on the show were strong, dramatic, and poignant. In any case, Felicity Huffman is certainly deserving. I've loved her since Sports Night. (And she even acknowledged Sports Night and Aaron Sorkin in her acceptance speech!)

Holy crap! Another upset. I've never watched one episode of The Shield, but everything I've read said that Glenn Close was a lock to win the award for Best Actress in a Drama. Instead, it goes to Patricia Arquette. Hmmm.... maybe Conan O'Brien's reports on the demise of NBC were exaggerated. You know who on Medium really deserves an award, though? Jake Weber, who plays Patricia Arquette's husband. He has thankless work, week in and week, always playing the doubting Scully to her whacked-out Mulder, walking the tightrope of playing loving husband despite that doubt, and never having a decent story written for his character.

The "In Memoriam" montages they always do on these award shows are very interesting to me. They're well-intentioned, and indeed sometimes moving. But they also come across as popularity contests, as we see which dead celebrities get more applause than the others. This year's winners: Ossie Davis, James Doohan, Bob Denver, Christopher Reeve, and Jerry Orbach.

Tony Shalhoub, eh? I guess not everybody loves Raymond after all. I would have picked Jason Bateman, myself. Still, Tony Shalhoub paid his dues working all those years on the crap-tastic, only-on-the-air-because-of-its-comfy-after-hit-show-time-slot Wings.

James Spader wins two years in a row, for playing the same character on two different TV shows. I do think him a worthy choice, but I found it very interesting that, in the reading of the nominees, Kiefer Sutherland got more applause than anyone else. I guess the awards aren't handed out like praise to dead celebrities. Major props to Spader, by the way, for acknowledging that his career has been a non-stop stream of "sex and weirdness."

I normally don't condone using children in emotional blackmail, but if you're doing it for the cause of hurricane relief, I suppose it's okay.

Donald Trump and Megan Mullally win the "meaningless singing award," huh? Good thing I didn't muster myself to care on this one, because that's total crap. (Brilliant choice in the editing room to cut to William Shatner. He had this look of "what the hell do I care? I won another Emmy tonight!")

Lost wins the Best Drama Series award! Finally, a "genre show" makes good. Un-freaking-believable. Cue the complaining about how season two is all downhill from here...

Aha... see, sentiment conquers all. Everybody Loves Raymond takes the comedy award. Ah well... I suppose Arrested Development has already "won" by staying on the air for three years despite such low ratings. And Desperate Housewives was rather disingenously entered in the comedy category, when I for one think it's definitely more of a drama. (I think the word "dramedy" is utter crap, by the way.)

That's it, everybody. Thank you, and good night.

Is It Made From Real Boy Scouts?

I guess over 85 years of watching the Girl Scouts hawk their cookies has finally made the Boy Scouts jealous. Coming out of the grocery this afternoon, I'm accosted by a small troop of Boy Scouts looking to sell me...

Boy Scout Popcorn.

Boy Scout Popcorn? Seriously?

I really don't like popcorn much. We're not talking Professor Hathaway in Real Genius hate, but I just don't like the stuff. I think it stems from the years I had braces, and it was banned from me. I never had it while I had the braces in, I never got back in the habit. Even now, when I have popcorn, I'll quit after a hand or two, because I'll get a piece stuck in my teeth and spend the next small eternity (that's what it feels like) trying to pick it out.

Anyway... back to the grocery store. Popcorn? Seriously? Because I was a Boy Scout for a rather short period of time (Cub Scout, actually), and all we got to sell were these lameass "Scout Show tickets." If you've never been to a Scout Show, think of a Star Trek convention, only about 1/10th of the people show up and everybody is wearing neckerchiefs. Lame, lame, lame.

No wonder the Boy Scouts finally decided to creep in on the snack action.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Gathering Storm

Some might view this as so wrong. But it is also so funny. I still haven't read them all myself, but what I have has made me laugh out loud more than once.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Threshold Threshold

Speaking of Voyager (which I was, if you read this in the order I posted it rather than the order it displays), one of the minds behind it made his return to TV tonight. I'm talking about Brannon Braga, who within the span of a single decade went from being the semi-revered writer who brought such great Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes as "Reunion," "Frame of Mind," "Timescape," and "All Good Things..." the totally reviled writer who shaped the direction of Voyager and Enterprise, essentially steering the good ship Star Trek (as captained by Rick Berman) straight into an iceberg.

His new series is Threshold. It's sort of CSI meets The X-Files, in that a team of characters (whose personal lives I suspect will become increasingly unimportant and unreferenced as the show continues) bring their scientific specialties to bear on spooky alien problems.

The Star Trek connection extends to the cast, which includes Brent Spiner. Actually, I can't find much at fault with the acting in the pilot. Carla Gugino of the canceled Karen Sisco series leads an able troop, anchored by Charles S. Dutton in the "thankless leadership role" occupied on other shows by the likes of Assistant Director Skinner or General Hammond. They do fine.

It was the story that bugged me. I didn't find it very intriguing. I found it rather monotonous, really. By about the third appearance of the weird "sort of biohazard, sort of hurricane" symbol, I was sick of it. Unfortunately, I had to see it about 100 more times, each "shocking appearance" actually more predictable than the last.

They pulled the lame "reveal the scary monster/killer/threat by closing-a-door-it's-standing-behind/suddenly-panning-the-camera" gag no less than three times. This is the scare tactic of talentless Hollywood hacks. Anybody can make an audience jump with sudden loud sound effects and a cliche sting from the string section of the orchestra. Genuine creeps... that's where the real skill lies, and they were nowhere to be found in this 2-hour pilot.

I think I've already reached my threshold of Threshold. I should have known... it carries the name of the single worst episode of Star Trek (any of the five series) ever produced.

Star Trek: Galactica

It occurred to me tonight that perhaps on some level, the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica is giving us a taste of what Star Trek: Voyager would have been, had it been run and written by the minds behind Deep Space Nine.

When Voyager was first announced, a lot of people noted the superficial similarities to the old Battlestar Galactica -- a ship far, far away from its destination, the crew trying to make do with what they had available to them. Neither show really stayed true to that premise.

The new Galactica was created and is run by Ronald D. Moore, one of the writers of Deep Space Nine. He brought to the writing staff a pair of his old co-workers from DS9 that created several of that shows more memorable episodes. Their dark, gritty sensibilities show up every week. And they deal with the realistic issues head on. On Battlestar Galactica, the resources are limited. The toll of the hopeless grind, day in, day out, does indeed wear on the characters. The whole thing is more credible, and more dramatic for it.

Still, I'm much happier to have them all working on this. I think any incarnation of Voyager could only have been so good, even with better creative minds working on it.

But anyway... on to tonight's episode in particular. Like also last week, it had more typical-of-television plotting. But also last week, it had a number of great moments that really elevated the material.

The strong portrayal of the despair and depression I mentioned. The line mocking that they live "to play cards" seemed like a commentary on the inappropriate playfulness of the original series to me, and I loved it.

Gaeta finally lashing out at Colonel Tigh.

Roslin's reaction to the dcotor's news that her days are even shorter than she expected.

Tigh taking a jar of Chief Tyrol's "moonshine" as payment for the help with the engines. And the one look from Tyrol that told you clearly he didn't want to give Tigh any alcohol, but there were so many levels on which he couldn't say no.

Seeing Dualla get close to Apollo, immediately thinking to myself "what about Billy?" And the writers clearly asking themselves the same question by having him show up a split second later.

The signing of the completed fighter at the end. I have to say I felt naming it "Laura" was a little cheesy to me, but watching everyone sign their work -- to me that was powerful stuff.

And more... perhaps I haven't mentioned your personal favorite.

Admittedly, not Galactica's greatest. But another fine episode. Next week is our last one until January. Also next week, on Tuesday, the release of the full-fledged US version of season one on DVD. Big week for Galactica fans ahead.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


At trivia tonight, we were first place going into the final question. But the subject was sports, our major weakness. Specifically, World Series. Ugh. As a result, we failed to even place in the top three.

So, if you know a "sports guy" who lives in the Denver metro area that you could recommend, our team would be very grateful.

In the meantime, see if you could have helped us answer this: "Name four of the five teams besides the New York Yankees that won the World Series in the 1990s."

Click into the comments for the answers.

Is There An "N," Vanna?

I've watched Survivor for a long time, and have always said, "there's no way I would ever do this." That sentiment was affirmed as never before by tonight's premiere of the Guatemala edition.

These people are just three days in, and are falling apart like I've never seen. The jungle literally attacked one of them. Bobby Jon, inexhaustable workhorse of Palau (outdone only because Tom was in Palau as well), looked near death. Eyes rolling back and everything, and I am going to have nightmares about what his feet looked like when they pulled off his socks.

I frankly can't believe that the immunity challenge was as close as it was, after the beating taken by the tribe that won the reward. This can only have been due to the ministrations of Margaret the nurse. That would be Margaret, who Jim decided was the person who should be voted off. All the more reason Jim was the right one to get rid of. The one person in that tribe who should never go home is Margaret the nurse.

Oh, and by the way... "Maya Empire?" Really? Not "Mayan Empire?" Have I (and basically everyone else I know) been getting it wrong my entire life?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Skeletons x2

I checked out two new shows last night in 2005's new crop.

First up was Bones, on Fox. This was worth trying for me basically just because I'm a Buffy-verse fan, and I'm stalking David Boreanaz to see if his new show is any good. The answer is... sorta. There was nothing bad about the show in particular. The banter was good. The mystery was somewhat interesting. The problem for me is, this is episodic forensic crime drama #47 on TV. Thus, for me to even consider making "appointment TV" out of it, it would have to be something exceptional. It would have to be to that genre as Battlestar Galactica is to sci-fi. Otherwise: thanks, but no thanks. Too many shows on for me as it is. That was Bones in a nutshell -- decent, but not noteworthy enough to rise to the top of the heap.

Then came Supernatural on The WB. This is one of about four new "spooky" shows the networks are debuting this fall. So here again, the same situation -- if this one isn't exceptional in some way, it gets kicked to the curb. Well... the jury's still out on this one. The plot was nothing revolutionary. The exposition was rather ham-fistedly handled. But again (as with Bones), the banter between the leads played well enough.

The thing that made Supernatural possibly worth a look is that it was genuinely creepy. Think of some of the more "horrific" episodes of The X-Files (as opposed to the more bizarre, sci-fi alien stories). That was the vibe tapped by Supernatural, and it did so multiple times throughout the premiere. If the show continues to refine this edge, it could be the one legitimately scary show on television. And, as I'm reminding you now for the umpteenth time, I love a good scary movie. So, I'm probably in for sampling this once or twice more to see what happens.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tam, That's Cool

We're now only about two weeks out from the release of the movie Serenity, and the marketing engine is now at full steam. Commercials have started to air during a variety of programs, and many magazines are running stories trumpeting the unconventional use of promo screenings to stoke fanboy interest and create a large viral marketing campaign.

But there's been another odd form of viral marketing for the movie, in the form of the "Session 416" tapes, a series of videos shot by Joss Whedon to dramatize psychoanalytical sessions involving one of the characters, River Tam. They're great fun for folks already hip to the Firefly 'verse, and include Joss himself as an off-camera voice.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Single Entendre

Alan Cumming would like you to buy his cologne.

The "Out of Context Quote of the Day" #2

"I don't know how much more I'm going to get out of playing with myself and trying these little massages."

-- spoken by yours truly

(For the context, click into the comments thread)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Getting Your Exorcise

As I am a lover of scary, thriller-type movies (both good and bad), it should come as little surprise to you that I caught The Exorcism of Emily Rose today. An interesting, but not great movie.

Inevitably, people will compare it to The Exorcist, a movie which I personally don't hold in the high esteem so many others do. The principle difference between that movie and this one is that Emily Rose largely tries to sit on the fence about the supernatural.

It's a courtroom drama, first and foremost. It could easily have been a two-part episode of The Practice, with higher production values (particularly given how weird some of the cases on David Kelley TV shows get). We're presented, both in testimony and in "alternate flashbacks," both medical and supernatural explanations for the events that take place. By contrast, The Exorcist makes no bones about it -- demons are real in that movie.

The courtroom drama is compelling at moments, but drags at others. The entire movie would be much worse, save for the actors that do much to elevate it -- Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson most of all.

Where the film most falters, in my opinion, is in placing the titular event a good half hour before the end of the movie. After much buildup, and a few decently supenseful sequences, the priest takes the stand to tell his story, and the exorcism is protrayed in a suitably graphic and impactful manner.

Unfortunately, after that, there are a number of far less interesting moments, including him later taking the stand a second time to read a letter written by Emily herself about her thoughts on the matter. While this motivation is not necessarily unimportant, they don't really feel like the meat of the story. The writing and/or editing of the film would have been improved, in my opinion, to place as much of this material as possible before the testimony of the exorcism. There should have been no more than 10 minutes of movie after that.

So, overall, I'd have to rate the movie about a C+. If you're into this sort of tale of demonic possession, or are intrigued by the "is it real or isn't it?"-ness of it all, then it might push as high as a B for you. (I'm thinking of one reader of my blog in particular when I say that.) Otherwise, I'd recommend The Mothman Prophecies instead, a much superior and thematically similar Laura Linney movie.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Less Than Shiny

Over the last three months, a 3-issue special comic series of Serenity has been gradually unspooling. It has an official story supplied by Joss Whedon (though the dialogue is not), bridging the gap between the conclusion of the Firefly series and the opening of the film Serenity.

I picked up the other two issues when they came out, but held onto them until this week, when issue #3 arrived. Today, I read all three.

The artwork is terrible. I'm not a comic book lover, and in those few comic books I have read in my life, I've been doing so for story and totally ignoring the artwork. So it should be telling you quite a lot that I noticed this artwork, and how bad it is. The characters bear very little resemblance to the actors.

The story is alright, but nothing special. Pretty pedestrian "run afoul of the bad guys" stuff that moves on at too quick a pace so that it can fit in the limited 3-issue format. It ends up providing little important information you can't just assume from watching the movie. (It gives a little more detail on how Shepherd Book comes to leave the ship between the series and the movie, but it's arguable how important knowing any of that really is.)

The bottom line... I can only recommend the comics to fans of the series. Now, that's not exactly a negative review, given that I think anyone and everyone should be a fan of the series. The point I'm trying to make is, if I were trying to hook someone into the Firefly/Serenity 'verse, I'd be making apologies and explanations for it if they started with the comic: "no, really, it's much better than this if you give it a chance."

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Sound of Cylons

Well, it was admittedly not the best episode of Battlestar Galactica tonight. But I think that's more a matter of the high quality of what we've seen so far this season than anything else.

Even in an episode rather more traditional in its plot (Babylon 5 did an episode with a similar "news report" premise in its second season, too), they still managed to have some really phenomenal moments.

Dualla once again proved herself a voice of profound truth on the show. She's not a part of the "main cast," but I enjoy her character and the actor's performance tremendously.

Baltar's pathetic need for public appreciation was played perfectly.

The sequence of the dogfight against the Cylon Raiders was brilliantly executed, never showing an exterior view of the fight itself, and putting us in the helpless state of those "left behind" to await the outcome.

The use of the original series' theme as the military fanfare. (For the second time; this was also done in the mini-series.)

And then the fun revelation at the end of the episode, which I probably should have seen coming, but didn't. It should ensure we'll be seeing more of Lucy Lawless down the road.

Oh, and for those who recall the speculations I posted a few weeks ago about how Roslin's "survivor count markerboard" might conceivably not agree with the "omniscient opening credits count" (the former would mistakenly count undercover Cylon operatives, while the latter would not, I reasoned)... well, scratch that theory. We saw the markerboard on Colonial One in the background during the teaser. Roslin's count perfectly matched the opening credits.

It appears you only stop counting as a survivor once "our heroes" learn you're a Cylon. Or that now-dead-Boomer was not being truthful when she told Baltar there were eight Cylons among the fleet.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

This Week's Trivia

We missed first place by 2 points in tonight's trivia. Any one of the three questions we missed along the way would have netted us enough to come out on top. See if you could have helped, had you been there. (Remember, no research -- you have to answer these right there in your "virtual bar," in the time it takes to play one "virtual song.")

1) Which "infantile" singer or band performed the 1999 song "Bills, Bills, Bills?"

2) According to Genesis, on which day did God create the sun, moon, and stars?

And then there was the final, 4-part question, in which we only answered three of the four correctly:

3) Name four of the five countries to be most visited by tourists in 2003.

Click into the comments for the answers.


I try not to get political on this blog.

But I'm not above letting the incredibly eloquent Keith Olbermann do it for me.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Not-So-Grand Finale

Yesterday, Straken -- the newest book by Terry Brooks -- was released. I finished reading it tonight. I've been a fan of his books for many, many years now, hungrily devouring each new one he releases -- like clockwork, once a year, which is more than I can say for just about any author I enjoy. This new book was the third and final volume in a trilogy that kicked off in 2003. I re-read volumes one and two over the last week, enjoying them all over again, and eagerly looking forward to this one.

And so, with all that background, you may understand how much it pains me to say that I didn't think this new book was very good.

After a clever and interesting struggle was set up in book one, and escalated in book two, it was ended all too easily in book three. Compared to the sacrifices made by characters just to survive and eke out even the smallest successes in the first two books, everything just fell into their laps in book three.

A major adversary, hinted at in the first book and brought frighteningly to the forefront in book two, does not even appear in the final book. Though this adversary imprisoned and tortured one of the heroes all throughout book two, said hero manages to escape with help early on in book three. And in her flight, she never comes to face the adversary again. It's as though a major, epic showdown all-but-promised in book two just plain never happens.

Just as bad, a few contrivances find their way into the plot of book three. This is totally unlike Terry Brooks. A meticulous outliner, most of his other series have contained neat foreshadowing and interconnectivity between the volumes. But in the climax of this series, characters discover they have capabilities that weren't adaquately hinted at in the preceding books. Perhaps this is indeed what the author planned all along, but it was handled with such a shocking lack of his usual skill, it all comes across like a deus ex machina.

So now I'm really disappointed. It's worse than just reading any book and not liking it. It's basically reading a book by your favorite author (whoever that might be in your case) and not liking it.

Well, at least it will only be one year until Terry Brooks releases his next book, and has a chance to redeem himself in my eyes.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Shuffle Up and Do Your Housework

A friend of mine sent me a link to this story about online poker bots, rightly thinking that I'd be interested. The short explanation, for those who don't want to read the article, is that a "poker bot" is a program that connects to your online poker room software and plays automatically for you, according to a preset strategy. As most of the online poker community is made up of stupid newbs, and the bot is playing perfect mathematical strategy, your computer will make money for you literally while you're asleep, on vacation, at work, whatever.

Most of the online poker rooms frown on this sort of thing, and pledge themselves as "no bot" zones. As you can imagine, the bot programmers see this only as a gauntlet thrown down at them, and lump such warnings in with RIAA-style threats against music downloaders.

And while I have to admit that I would not want to be sitting at a table online against nine infinitely patient poker bots, I don't mind if they pop up here and there. Actually, if there were a poker bot playing at my table, I'd be thrilled, given that I'd actually spotted it for what it was.


Because about nine times out of ten, when I lose I hand, it's because some crazy player calls me down with garbage and catches some miracle card to break me. I am glad people like this are playing -- that's how you make your money at poker, from other people's mistakes. But when a table fills up with a bunch of these players? Well, it can get a little rough.

If a bot were at my table, and I knew it for a bot, things would be much easier. I'd know it was working strictly and unerringly from "Hold 'Em Poker for Advanced Players," by Sklansky and Malmuth, or a similar source. I'd know when it raised me to take it seriously, as opposed to the average online player, who could be raising me with any two suited cards -- or worse! -- for all I know. The bot is a known, completely predictable factor.

And that's quite a rarity at a poker table.

Monday, September 05, 2005


My mother recently sold the bicycle I used from when I was about 13 years old to when I was about 17. Don't misunderstand, this was not one of those classic "I can't believe you sold my old [beloved memorabilia here]" moments. I wasn't using it, no one else was, so no big deal.

But I do have some memories of that bike. It's how I did the paper route I had for about two years. And if you'll forgive the "old fogey" cliche this is going to sound like, that paper route was hard work. Every morning, before sunrise. Uphill for two or three miles. Up a steep hill. In the snow, many times. I'll never forget how difficult this paper route was. But that was basically my first job.

I'm pretty much the last generation of children that will ever know what it's like to have a paper route. Right about the time I got my driver's license, my district manager said that my route was being combined with two others and turned into a car route. I took the expanded route and stayed with it for a short while longer before giving it up. It passed on to some adult to continue driving it.

Today, all paper routes in the Denver area (and I'm going to assume pretty much in every other major metropolitan area in the U.S.) are car routes. If you can't drive, you can't have a paper route. To layer on still more cliches, no more "exercise" or "character building" for the kids of this and future generations.

I'm kinda sad to see it go. Much more so than the out-of-date, beat up, old, blue bike.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Beam Me Up

I caught Transporter 2 after the wedding reception yesterday. My opinion of the first movie was pretty neutral. I thought it was a decent movie, but nothing memorable. Jason Staitham did a good job, but the material was pretty average.

The sequel probably rates a little better. Overall, I'd probably give it about a C+. Taken exclusively for what it's meant to be, though (that being a fairly mindless, exciting action movie), I'd probably have to give it an A-. I never really got too caught up in what was going on, but again Jason Staitham proved himself an able action hero. The plot wasn't terribly engaging, but didn't drag the action down either.

Ultimately, all you're looking from this kind of movie is one or two good fight sequences that show you something you haven't seen before. (Or at least, if it has been done before, they show it to you in a new way.) Transporter 2 succeeds on that front.

If you're planning to see the movie and don't want to know any more about these sequences, stop reading here. Consider this your SPOILER ALERT.

The climatic fight of the movie takes place inside a small private jet that has lost its pilot and is completely out of control. You see fun wide shots down the length of the cabin, with the combatants rolling all around the walls and ceiling -- Bruce Lee meets Lionel Ritchie. (Yes, I'm aware Fred Astaire danced on the ceiling first, but I grew up in the 80s. Where did you think I'd go first?)

But the best fight of the movie involves our hero ripping a fire hose out of the wall and constantly uncoiling new lengths of it to kick the asses of a dozen-or-so baddies. And when he's done, having dispatched them all and tangled them all up, he turns the fire hose on, pinning them in place like a giant boa constrictor. Clever concept.

So in all, not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Thrilling Wedding

Barring any surprises, I just attended my last wedding of 2005 today. It was a Catholic wedding, but without the full-fledged mass. Consequently, it took only about 25 minutes, which I think has got to be some kind of record for a Catholic wedding.

The reception is going to live in infamy, though.

To understand why, you have to rewind about 6 or 7 years. My college circle of friends was sitting around gaming or gabbing or some such one night, and for reasons I don't recall, someone broke out into a little pantomime of the dance from Michael Jackson's Thriller. Specifically, the part with the "wolfman hands" raised up and reaching right, left, right, left. (At this point, you either know what I'm talking about, or the rest of this post is probably going to be lost on you.) This for some reason brought uproarious laughter, and performing the "wolfman hands" became part of the group's recurring behavior.

Fast forward to 2004, when the movie 13 Going On 30 came out. By this point, I was living in Virginia, and I was separated from the college group by a couple thousand miles. But as I sat in the theater watching the movie, it was as if they were all right there next to me... when it got to the party scene where Jennifer Garner's character breaks the ice by doing the Thriller dance. In the movie, by the end of the song, she has a whole line of people with her, all going through the zombie moves, complete with "wolfman hands." I laughed so hard, tears were literally rolling down my face. Not that the scene was that great in the movie, of course, but for the memories of my Colorado buds. I actually got home from the theater that day to find a "Have you seen 13 Going on 30 yet?" e-mail waiting for me.

This set an idea in our heads. We decided that the next time someone got married, we would all learn the Thriller dance and perform it at the reception. It was one of those things you sort of say just to be funny, not really thinking it'll come to pass.

But then, within the span of a few months, two members of the group had proposed to their girlfriends, and we were all set to have two weddings in 2005. (That would be the Michigan wedding from last month, and today's, for those keeping score.)

As the first of the weddings was approaching, we all started to talk. Were we serious about that Thriller thing? Were we actually going to learn the dance? Yes, we decided, and got our hands on a copy of the video and distributed it to everyone in the group.

Except then it sort of fell apart. The weekend of the Michigan wedding had arrived. Everybody had been too busy to learn the dance. And, as it turned out, the DJ didn't play it anyway. (Although granted, since we were all pretty sketchy on the steps, we didn't press the issue.) Opportunity wasted.

But there was now one month to go until the second wedding in the group. This time we meant it, we said... we were going to learn the Thriller dance. And we did. Some of us better than others. To be perfectly honest, hopefully without being too egomaniacal here, I better than anyone else.

Wedding day came. On the drive up to the church, many of us riding in the car together, the subject came up... did anyone learn the dance? Nope... nope... not really. "I did," I said. "Oh," someone replied, "then you can just get up front and be Michael and we'll all be your zombies." I laughed, but basically played it off. "Well, if it comes up, we'll make it work." And I thought that was the end of it.

...until about 45 minutes into the dancing portion of the reception, when the DJ comes on the microphone and says, "I've had a number of requests for this, so here we go..." And on comes Thriller.

So I get dragged to the dance floor and pushed to the front. And, as promised, my friends were all there to back me up as "zombies." Burying any sense of pride or shame I might have had, I start doing the first steps -- the whole "epileptic seizures in your neck" thing.

There's instant recognition. You can hear chuckles from people watching this.

But then it starts to get to the more complicated moves. And then the sense from the spectators definitely takes on a whole "wait a minute... they're actually doing more of the dance?" vibe.

And from there, it just starts snowballing. People are really starting to crowd in and watch us. A few other members of our group who were only watching at first join in behind us. The bride and groom fall into step. Every time we get to a new sequence of moves we haven't done yet, the spectators start roaring all over again.

We get to the "wolfman hands." People are just dying now. Applause.

Of course, if you're an 80s music geek, you know that the version of the song in the video isn't the same as the version on the album. In the video, there's this big, long instrumental part cut together where this dance happens. We're getting near the end of the steps, but we're barely halfway through the song.

"That's all there is!" I'm calling back, as I'm getting near the end.

"Just start over again!" one of them calls back.

So, it's back to neck spasms. Kicks. Spins. Wolfman hands.

The song ends. General applause, I think. I didn't much notice, because all of us who have been dancing are now too busy hugging each other and falling over laughing. Our vision come to life. Our completely bizarre, geeky, strange vision... but nevertheless, the conclusion of a year-long quest whose seeds were first planted all those years ago around the gaming table.

Yes. There is a video of me doing this.

No. You can't have a copy.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Charmed by Wiki

As someone who Googles for information on a regular basis (and does it furiously one weekend every year for KVSC trivia), I can't help but notice the recent rise of Wikipedia.

I mean, just seven months ago during trivia weekend, I don't remember getting a single Wikipedia entry once in the entire 50-hour contest. But nowadays, it seems you can't search for anything on the internet without getting a Wikipedia entry among your first page of hits.

Now maybe this has more to do with the obscure things we have to Google for trivia weekend as compared to the things I search for on a more day-to-day basis. But I somehow don't think it's that. Has anyone else noticed and/or agree that 2005 is the "Year of Wikipedia?"

As fun little addendum on this post, I invite you to peruse Wikipedia's entry on itself.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Why'd It Have To Be Snakes?

You'll be pleased to know that unlike last week, there was no major altercation at trivia night this week. Apparently, there was someone playing on team PT-21 last week that isn't a normal part of their group and he was the instigator of all the ruckus, the one I got snarky with. Whatever.

We had a pretty good lead going into the final question, but our Quentin Tarantino knowledge failed us, and we ended up in second place. See if you being there could have helped us out.

Match these "snake names" to the actors who played them in Kill Bill, Volumes I and II:

Black Mamba

Lucy Liu
Uma Thurman
Michael Madsen
Vivica A. Fox

Once you've made your decisions, click here for the answers.

We mixed up the two "C"s.

Be Prepared

My cable box plagues me every once in a while with messages from Comcast that are utter wastes of time. Today's was a real gem, though. It informed me that September is National Preparedness Month. "Too little, too late" doesn't even begin to cover it.