Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Week 8: Veronica Mars 5; Lost 3.

As with last week, I could have gone either way in the VM v L matchup this week.

Lost's very aptly titled episode "What Kate Did" painted in a key missing piece of the backstory, and did so in a very interesting way. We had strange new animal life on the island, in the form of Kate's horse. (I wonder if it has run into Jack's dead father out there in the jungle somewhere?) Jack-and-Kate "shippers" got cause to scream for joy, while Sawyer-and-Kate "shippers" got cause to scream in anguish. We got to see Eko and Locke really interact, and it was as interesting as we knew it would be. And the "missing bit of film" led to a very cool ending for the episode. Really, the only down side was that we don't get another episode until January 11th.

Veronica Mars managed to bring back Alyson Hannigan, even though she's busy on How I Met Your Mother every week. And not just for a walk-on scene or two. The Trina Ecchols plot was twisty and cool. We saw Veronica finally get played herself -- though she showed the intuition to figure it out in the end. And there was a tantalizing revelation on the "uber-plot" front, that apparently Jake is the father of a baby, with another girl.

In the end, the only way I was able to call this race was to let them play on my Buffy nostalgia. I ate up the Trina and Kendall Bitch-Off (reuniting "Willow" and "Cordelia") and enjoyed every delicious bite.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Sex Was Bad

I've been aware of the existence of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for a couple of years now. For those of you who aren't (and who didn't click the link), it's a "prize" akin to the Golden Raspberry award, given by the Literary Review to highlight the "worst, most redundant, or embarrassing description" of sex in a novel.

This year's nominees are in, and I for one think that of the three criteria I mentioned, "embarrassing" is the one being singled out. Reading these things gave me a pretty icky feeling, almost like a parent was in the room watching me or something.

Naturally, I wanted to share this icky feeling with all of you.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Soft Shoe Routine

A friend of mine did a little text editing to create this humorous illustration of one downside to living on the third floor of an apartment building.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Cucumber Croissandwiches?

Just because you're rich enough to ride around in a limo doesn't mean you have good taste.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Unnoticed Gem

It snuck into theaters a couple weeks ago, and at the rate it's going, it's going to sneak right back out again in less time... but I went to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang this afternoon, and I'm very glad I did. Outside of Serenity, it's the best movie I've seen in quite some time. Like Serenity, it somehow got lost in the shuffle and really deserves to be seen by more people.

After nearly two decades of trying to be in "serious" movies, Val Kilmer finally gets back to doing comedy, which he did so brilliantly in Top Secret and Real Genius. And Robert Downey Jr. has always been great on screen, even if in real life he's a complete mess. The two make a great pairing for a humorous but loving take on the private eye genre. It has action, it has mystery, it has a neat plot, one of the best uses of voice-over in film I've seen in years, and more funny lines than you can possibly remember.

At this point, it may well be too late to catch it "at a theater near you." But this movie gets my enthusiastic recommendation, and you should be watching for it on DVD if nothing else. Definitely an A. Which I suppose means I might have to do some thinking about where it might fall on my top 100 list, since I honestly think some of the films near the bottom of that list would probably only rate an A-.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Alias Compromised

On Wednesday, ABC made official what had been pretty well suspected for some time: this season will be the last one for Alias.

I'm sorry to say this move was probably long overdue.

I've still been watching the show every week, which I suppose goes to show you that I didn't find the show terrible. (Though I had talked about maybe giving it up a few times last year.) Still, it was a pale shadow of what it was in years one and two. And the longer it went on in such a sub-par state, the more it seemed to weaken those first two years. As the whole grew larger, that part of it that was so outstanding was becoming a smaller and smaller part of it. Every new episode was making Alias less a "great" TV show.

They're getting enough notice to be able to work toward a big series conclusion, one that hopefully gets back to the original "Rambaldi" roots and ties up the story in a satisfying way.

It'll be interesting to see, once the next fall season rolls around, what impact this has on Lost (if any). Lost co-creator (and Alias creator) J.J. Abrams has been splitting his focus between the two shows and the upcoming Mission: Impossible 3 he's directing. Actually, he's been giving the movie most of his attention, and leaving most of the day-to-day show running responsibilities on Lost to the other major co-creator, Damon Lindelof. But it seems to be the norm in Hollywood that when a show folds up shop, much of its writing staff is absorbed into other shows under the same production umbrella. (Several Buffy writers moved to Angel, for example.) There had already been a little cross pollination between Alias and Lost, with writers of one turning in a script for the other.

Are there going to be Alias writers on Lost next season? If so, is that going to be a good or a bad thing? I for one would say it hasn't been individual scripts one can blame for Alias' decline -- it's more the sum of those scripts, as the season arcs simply haven't been as compelling as the glory days. Would some of those Alias writers do better on a show more clearly being "steered" in a good direction?

The TV season is not even half over yet, so I guess it will be some time before we find out. For now, just mark it all down as further mysteries surrounding Lost -- these behind the scenes, for a change.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Bird-Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans reading this. (You foreigners can have some too... it's just that I know you have other days of the year for this sort of thing.)

It's a particularly noteworthy Thanksgiving for me this year, because it's my birthday. It happens about every five years, as my birthday skips through the week and eventually lands on Thursday. The last time it would have happened was 2000, so leap year spared it -- the last time I got turkey for birthday dinner was 1995.

And it's a particularly noteworthy birthday for me this year, too -- I'm turning 30. As per usual with birthdays, I don't feel any older as I begin this revolution around the sun than I did finishing the last one, despite the "roundness" of the number involved. 30 really isn't what it used to be. And as most of my friends are older than me and have already turned 30, I suppose I don't really need to tell anyone that.

Let's see what decade number four has in store...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Week 7: Veronica Mars 4; Lost 3.

This week's TV face-off was another photo finish, and a tough one to call.

On the one hand, Lost brought us all the fallout of the shooting. Ana-Lucia's backstory was very interesting. I'm not sure it made her any more sympathetic to me (and I'm not entirely sure it was supposed to), but it certainly did explain her behavior. We now know why she's so jumpy, quick to judge, and why she was so protective of the two kids on the island, and took it so hard when The Others came for them.

On the other hand, Veronica Mars brought a story with strong dramatic and emotional impact. We got to see Veronica herself in some serious jeopardy at the beginning of the hour. We got to see a really tense torture scene involving Logan -- only to find out moments later that the whole thing was staged by him and Weevil. And we got the great line about being on the bottom bunk in "Fisty McRapesalot's" cell.

In the end, what tipped the balance for me were the two reunions at the conclusion of tonight's Lost: Bernard and Rose, and Sun and Jin. That was strong stuff, especially for Bernard and Rose. It was hard not to be moved by it.

Lost is on a streak now. Can it tie up the series? Tune in next week!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pilot Safety

Last week, while we were right in the middle of a cold spell of weather, the pilot light on my water heater went out. Not exactly a big deal. The water heater's in a separate closet in my apartment. The door is probably supposed to be locked so that people living here don't store stuff in that closet -- but the door is unlocked. They don't need to worry about me storing anything in that closet, though. Because the last water heater I had dealings with did this:

Or, for those seeking the cartoon-ized version, it did this:

It was just over two years ago that a flame from a "not protected by a guard plate" water heater lit up a stash of mops, plungers, and the like, and very nearly burned down the house I was living in. Had I not been home, old "Torchy" would no doubt have been successful. It should come as little surprise to you, then, that I discovered last week that my experiences have left me pretty skittish around water heaters.

I opened up the closet and looked. Yup, pilot light out. So I went to grab my long-stemmed lighter... and my fire extinguisher. I know, paranoid and ridiculous. But I simply had to. I relit the heater with the lighter in one hand, and the fire extinguisher in the other, I kid you not. I then, after it was lit, I sat there watching it for several minutes with the fire extinguisher still in hand. I left the extinguisher nearby, sitting out, for the rest of the evening, only finally putting it away just before I went to bed. And yes, I took me just a little bit longer to fall asleep.

But hey. That closet door didn't wind up looking like this:

And I had a hot shower ready the next morning.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fired Up

It took me until Sunday, but I made it out to see the newest Harry Potter film, Goblet of Fire. It was quite enjoyable, but when it was all wrapped up, it had made me realize something about the book itself that I'd never quite articulated in my head:

Goblet of Fire is my least favorite of all the Potter books.

It took seeing it on film for me to figure this out. It suffers from classic "middle of the trilogy" syndrome. Granted, this is a seven-chapter series, not a true trilogy, but Goblet of Fire nevertheless lands right smack in the middle of the saga. And just like a middle chapter, it's all about setting up the conclusion.

The truth is, despite the huge revelation at the end and the boldly dark turn in tone, it seems to me that not much of consequence happens in book four. In distilling down the hefty book into a screenplay, all the bits not key to the narrative (and even a few that some might argue were) had to be stripped away. In the end, you're left with "the Tri-Wizard tournament" as the plot, and when you compare it to Chamber of Secrets or Prisoner of Azkaban, it's pretty flimsy. How J.K. managed to spin 700+ pages out of it seems something of a mystery to me, now that I reflect on it.

Now, I know I must sound quite down on the movie and book after all this, but in truth that's not really the case. The conclusion of Goblet of Fire is really a great one, and well-realized in the movie. There were certainly good emotional notes played in both. And the acting in the film was really quite remarkable, watching many very talented actors really wring a feast out of a few limited scenes. (Hell, Gary Oldman only appears in the movie in CG form.)

Still, I believe Azkaban was the most artistic, well-made of the films to date. And I've always loved Chamber of Secrets for its plot, from the moment I first read the book. Goblet of Fire, hamstrung by its duty to "lay the pipe" needed for the second half of the saga, can't quite compete. I still recommend it. It still probably rates around a B+ for me. But, as with the book it's based on, I'm more left with a sense of waiting for the fifth installment than anything else.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Winning Score

Ever since AFI released its "top 100 films" list a few years ago, they've been doing their best to follow it up semi-regularly with other "top" lists. They've done "thrills," "laughs," "quotes," and several others. Most recently, though, they've done top film scores.

I've always loved movie scores. My CD collection is about 40% soundtracks. This is a list that really speaks to me.

There was an actual top 25 scores list, but that was culled down from a complete list of 250 nominees that they've also made available. And it's a damn good list, I have to say. I agree with more of the entries on this list than on their actual, original "top 100 films" list. In fact, it's been a tempting reminder to me lately: "oh yeah, I don't have that soundtrack, but I really liked the music in that movie. I should go get it."

I don't know if AFI is getting any kind of cutback from soundtrack sales, but hey... good for them.

Friday, November 18, 2005

She Can't Take Any More, Cap'n

You wouldn't expect a space ship with Scotty on board would have engine trouble, but apparently even he cannot work his miracles from beyond the grave.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Deep Freeze

This very nifty pattern of frost was on the roof of my car tonight.

It's an incredibly small thing, one I could never have named off the top of my head, but it's one of the many things I've missed, not living in Colorado for so many years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Week 6: Veronica Mars 4; Lost 2.

After a serious losing streak in this "series," Lost finally bounced back to put one over on Veronica Mars this week. It was a close "game," though.

The "Tailie's Tale" was an interesting hour (and extra) of television. It could almost have been a second pilot for a different series, but for the rapid pace it moved through its 48 days. Interestingly, it was the first episode of Lost ever where every single scene took place on the island.

Nice trick, choosing the name "Nathan," to deliberately sound so close to "Ethan," the known infiltrator of our main heroes. I'm not sure I ever completely fell for the bait-and-switch, but then this show does teach you to be on your guard. Anyway, "Goodwin" works just as well for the name of an Other -- apparently your name has to end in an "n" sound.

Yes, I could be an Other. Deal with it.

Tension, revelation, fun little connections with what's come before... (Boone's transmission from the drug plane, chiefly)... all the elements the best episodes of Lost have had.

Veronica Mars did alright. There was a truly creepy mystery for her to unravel in the child abuse case. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, some of the funniest pop culture references yet (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Big Lebowski, Doogie Howser), and the amazingly snarky like about Logan hurting Kendall's "feeling." But somehow, the parts didn't quite make as compelling a whole as the rest of the season so far has managed. Maybe it has to do with so many of the "A-string" players being on the bench this week -- no Wallace, no Weevil, and hardly any scenes involving Keith.

It's still the most brutal scheduling conflict on TV, though.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Popcorn and Anti-Depressants

In front of the movie I saw this weekend, I was accosted by the usual array of crap commercials, and a truly depressing procession of movie previews.

'Tis the season, people. I know because the displays at the local shopping mall have been telling me so since the day after Halloween. But judging from what I saw on the screen, we're in for anything but a "happy holiday."

I understand that it's around the post-Thanksgiving period that movie studios roll out the things they've been saving for Oscar consideration. And that usually means dramas. But the dramas aren't all always deathly serious. And they aren't always to the apparent exclusion of other, light-hearted fare.

Also granted, I wasn't going to see a particularly happy movie. Nevertheless, if I can get romantic "chick flick" comedy previews in front of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or King Kong previews in front of... well... basically anything, I would have expected some sign of something light coming by year's end.

Instead, we had a litany of previews for films that were so deeply depressing, each more so than the one before -- I really can't keep them straight. Munich, I remember, only because Steven Speilberg's directing. Really though, that was just an auteur's flourish at the end of 10-15 minutes of priming you to slit your wrists.

I know that the movies this year have largely been dreary for an entirely different reason (quality), but does it seem to anyone else like the coming crop is more downbeat than usual?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Revolting Development

It looks like the writing is on the wall for one of my favorite TV shows, Arrested Development. Apparently, FOX has cut their season order from 22 episodes to 13. Unless you're a cable network, that's not a full season, and not much of a sign for any future.

On the one hand, I must once again extend a raised middle finger to FOX, who have canceled so many of my favorite shows over the years.

On the other, I suppose that with ratings like Arrested Development has been getting for the last two years, it's a miracle (and not a minor one) that the show is even still here as it is.

But really, I suppose I have to give a big "what the hell?!" to TV viewers everywhere, who for reasons I cannot comprehend have not been watching this show.

This is the funniest thing on TV today. It's the funniest thing that has been on TV for many years, at least since Seinfeld. And frankly, I think it's probably funnier than Seinfeld. This show makes me laugh out loud, repeatedly, every time I watch it. Even when I watch an episode I've seen before. Even when I'm completely by myself, and not laughing for anyone's benefit but my own. The show is just plain funny.

I guess I should be glad it lasted as long as it did. It got better treatment than Firefly or Wonderfalls, at least.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hry Ptr n t Gblt f Fir (abridged)

This Friday, the newest Harry Potter movie opens, and I know I'm really looking forward to it. But just as much as I'm looking forward to the movie, I'm looking forward to hearing the reaction to it from two of my sisters.

Almost everyone in my family is a Harry Potter fan and has read all the books. That's both parents, and all the siblings (except, I think, for the one brother that doesn't really do much reading). This is an impressive testament to the quality of the books (a quality I doubt very much I have to convince you of), as two of my sisters are among the harshest critics imaginable. (Some of you right now may be thinking of my emerging "pot"-like qualities as I speak of my "kettle"-like sisters and just where they might fall on the color spectrum. All I can say is, they put me to shame.)

The first two Harry Potter film adaptations thrilled the both of them. But then came movie three. Of course, a great many people regarded this as the best of the three Potter films so far, but not my sisters. And not, in my opinion, for any rational reason. They were simply horrified (I think that not too strong a word) at some of the changes that had been made in adapting Prisoner of Azkaban into a movie.

I tried to point out that to cut a 435-page book down to a movie of reasonable length, some cuts were going to have to be made. The spirit of the book, I argued, was present intact.

Oh no! groused one sister. Some of their changes were totally unacceptable.

Such as?

And her example (I kid you not), is that in the movie, Harry receives his gift of a new Firebolt broom at the end of the story, rather than in the middle, as in the original book.

Big fat Harry deal, I thought. But I knew there was no point in continuing the discussion.

Now we're facing down Goblet of Fire, which in print weighed in at almost 300 pages longer than Prisoner of Azkaban. So basically, cut all 300 of those pages out, on top of the type of trimming made to get Azkaban down to a shorter-than-a-Peter-Jackson-film length. I expect a total fit from my sisters. Should be fun to watch.

I love you two!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Marine Psychology

Well, after some indecision last weekend, I finally did get out to see Jarhead late this afternoon. And my conclusion is, it was a very well-made movie that I didn't like even one little bit.

The acting was top notch. It was another great turn from director Sam Mendes as well, with very neat imagery and clearly a lot of thought behind the filming. It was also mind-numbingly dull, and had me looking at my watch almost from beginning to end.

Of course, on some level it was supposed to be mind-numbingly dull, is the funny thing. The whole point of the movie was not political, but rather was the tale of a guy who really wanted to go to war, kick some ass, and kill people, and gets robbed of the opportunity. But in depicting his boredom with his situation, I think the movie bores its audience.

And moreover, you're either on board with the main character, or you're not. If you can get at all into the mindset of a guy who wants to kill people, then you can probably get on board with this movie and enjoy it. But if you can't identify with this bloodthirst, there's nothing here for you. Being upset that you didn't have to take lives during a war? Aw, I suppose your diamond-studded shoes are too tight, as well?

I accept there are those with this sort of mindset. I accept that these people are the backbone of the armed forces. I'm glad they're there to do the work and I'm not. But it's such an alien mindset to me that I regretted giving two hours of my life over to it.

So, in the end, it's almost impossible for me to try to grade this movie. I suppose I give it a C. It's simply too well-made, having too many amazing artistic qualities and tons of great acting, to give it any less. But I didn't like it, so I certainly won't grade it any higher.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dr. Heimlich Went to Washington

Veteran's Day is drawing to a close as I write this. I clearly remember where I was for the occasion last year -- in Washington DC. I was on what turned out to be my last work trip at my old job (though I didn't know it at the time), a road trip up the coast. I had two-and-half days in the DC area, and only in the evenings did I have actual obligations related to the job. So my mornings and afternoons were mine to do with as I pleased.

My pleasure: to go into DC and be a tourist. I didn't realize at the time that one of the days I was going into town was Veteran's Day, but it became readily apparent once I got there. Yes, some things were closed for the holiday, but really not that many. And of course the big landmarks are mostly open spaces anyway.

The instant I saw the crowds at all the war memorials, I remembered what day it was. The Vietnam Memorial was so mobbed, I chose not to even try to get near it. People were piled up 20 deep along every single inch of the wall:

Still, I got to see pretty much every other landmark in DC I would have wanted to see, including one or two I didn't even know existed:

A good trip. Pretty much the last good memory I have of my old job. (Though fortunately, there were lots of other good memories in the earlier years.)

I know these sorts of memories aren't the sort of thing one is supposed to think of on Veteran's Day, but I suspect I'll have this association for many years to come.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Coming From a Console Near You

Okay, I liked the original Castlevania on NES as much as (or more than) the next guy. I bought many of the GameBoy and PS2 follow-ups. But seriously, a movie based on Castlevania? Puh-lease.

I simply don't understand how all these video game movies get made. Is it just because two of them -- the original Tomb Raider and the original Resident Evil -- managed to actually make a little money? Two films among dozens? I mean, look at the crap video game movies that have been inflicted on us. Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros., and of course, most recently, Doom. None of them have made any serious money.

I know that people are spending tons of money on video games, so it would seem logical that it's a market waiting to be tapped, butts for the seats of the local cineplex. But time and time again, the attempt has been made, and people have made it clear: when you can play the game, you don't want to watch a movie movie about it. But studios keep on making them.

You've all heard the saying about the lunacy of making the same mistakes repeatedly, yet somehow expecting different results.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Week 5: Veronica Mars 4; Lost 1.

Veronica Mars keeps piling on the great episodes.

No question, tonight was a solid episode of Lost. But really, the big punches came in the first five minutes and the last five minutes. It was fun to see Boone again, and Locke's scenes were great as usual. Still, all the real drama and tension came at the beginning and end, with Shannon's visions of Walt... and of course what they led to. It still would have been enough for a solid win this week...

...except that Veronica Mars brought its A game once again. This episode was a huge tale reaching back into the first season to weave Abel Koontz, Clarence Weidman, and Aaron Echolls into the current season's uber-plot. Keith lost the sheriff election, another person Veronica had met turned up murdered, and we got outrageously clever lines like "what are you the head of again?" And the big cherry on the sundae: a cameo appearance by Joss Whedon. This episode had tension and excitement throughout -- not just at the beginning and the end.

Don't mistake me. I'm loving Lost so far this season. It's just that the little-UPN-show-that-could is putting it to shame week in and week out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Amazing Rant

After tonight's double installment, The Amazing Race is taking the week off next Tuesday. And I'm almost glad in a way, because I need a break from the Weaver family.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm thrilled the Paolo family got eliminated tonight. Every time they opened the first clue to start a new leg of the race, they couldn't even make it off the mat before they were yelling at each other. They were simply horrible to watch (and went out doing exactly what they do "best," berating each other even as they reached the pit stop).

But the Weavers. As much as I hated Rob and Amber last time around, this family is putting them to shame. What have the Weavers got they they didn't have? Hypocrisy.

"What did we ever do to them?" Hmm... check last week's installment when you called one of the Paolo sons a retard and mocked their family for having their team picture taken in front of a garbage truck.

"They play dirty," they said of the Linz family. Conveniently, they'd already forgotten how just moments earlier, they'd tried to get the park ranger at the entrance to the Grand Canyon to delay the Linz van.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. They behave horribly, deny having done it, criticize far less objectionable behavior in others, and then wrap themselves in a cloak of Christianity.

No, I'm afraid we were only rid of the lesser of two evils tonight.

(On a separate note, I loved that in the montage depicting the first hour's pit stop, they showed us the place where Hawke and Santini park Airwolf.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Watch Your Tongue

Here's a bar trivia question from a few weeks ago to fill in on a night when I don't have much else to talk about.

Place these languages in order according to which is spoken by the highest number of people as their primary lanugage (starting with most prevalent): Hindustani, English, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish.

Answers inside, as usual.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Days of Our Lives

Soon I'll be in the market for a new page-a-day calendar.

They're always cheaper if you wait until the new year begins, of course. But at that point, you're left choosing from whatever crap is still in the store and didn't sell. And you have to see this thing every day for a whole year, so why cheat yourself just to save about $5? Hell, that's not even 2 cents a page!

I never do the same type of calendar two years in a row. This year has been George W. Bush quotes. That's been a load of laughs. The year before that was Dilbert. One year, I actually had three calendars, because I'd bought myself a Shakespeare quote calendar and received two others from friends as Christmas gifts. (Though The Onion "Our Dumb Century" and the space photos calendar were great, if excessive.)

What will it be in 2006?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Sid Vicious

I picked up Sid Meier's Civilization IV this week. And it comes down to this:

Is this really a game worth $1,000 to me?

My poor computer is too old. It's just not burly enough to handle this game. I can boot it up, I can go through starting a scenario. I can hear Leonard Nimoy's voice tell me about how the Earth used to not have any voids ("In the beginning, the Earth was without form and void"), and then I pretty much freeze up.

There haven't been any other games that have come out for PC in quite some time that I want to play. I don't foresee any other games coming out in the near future that I want to play, either. This is because 95% or more of all the games coming out are either First Person Shooters or Massive Multiplayer Online games. I hate FPSs and MMOs.

FPSs are all about who has the best sense of direction and knows the map. And of course, who has the best aim. Which is never me.

MMOs are just obnoxious. I long for the days of Ultima, when I got to be the savior of everything. The avatar. The hero of Brittania. The one and only. Not basket weaver #498. Or rat slayer #34,473. I have a life already that is at times tedious. I don't want a tedious online life to supplement it. I want to do heroic things. And I don't want to be at the whim of the "least common denominator" playing the game. I want my own world, one not messed up by other people playing.

The only other things I use my computer for are browsing the net, reading my e-mail, playing poker, and posting to this blog. I'm not editing movies. I'm not entering Photoshop contests. I'm not doing anything that calls for more processing power than I have now.

So... since they really aren't making PC games that appeal to me anymore, it pretty much comes down to buying a new computer just to play Civilization IV. And that brings me back to the question:

Is this really a game worth $1,000 to me?

I just don't think so.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

War (But No Roses)

The movie Jarhead opens this weekend, and I'm really torn over whether I want to see it.

On the one hand, it's a war movie. War movies don't often do it for me. Steven Spielberg has somehow been a consistent exception to this rule, as I liked Saving Private Ryan (though I have terrible story about going to see it that I'll relate on another occasion). Schindler's List is high in my top 100 (though, of course, it's not the sort of perspective on a "war movie" I'm talking about). And I love the mini-series Band of Brothers, which he and Tom Hanks produced. Outside of those, though, I can't really think of any that pass muster for me.

On the other hand, Jarhead is directed by Sam Mendes. He's the brilliant director behind American Beauty (which rates even higher on my top 100 than Schindler's List -- a great deal higher). I wouldn't say the man can "do no wrong," since he also made Road to Perdition, which I wasn't crazy about. (Hey, there's another genre I'm not wild about -- gangsters.) Still, I loved American Beauty so much that I'm probably willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on anything else he directs for quite some time to come.

So... to see, or not to see? Anyone else planning a trip to the movie theater this weekend?

(Yes, this post was too liberal with the parentheses.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sweet Torture

If you've ever lived in the Denver area, or if you're a regular viewer of South Park, then you've heard of Casa Bonita. It's a unique Mexican restaurant that Cartman dubbed (not entirely inaccurately) the "Mexican Disneyland."

From the outside, it's a garish pink monstrosity with tall spire, poking out from the back corner of an otherwise almost totally defunct strip mall. It's also rather like the Tardis, in that on the inside it seems many times larger than it appears from the outside. After going through an almost cafeteria-style food line, you emerge in a crazy, decorated environment complete with a 30-foot high waterfall. Cliff divers, fire jugglers, and mariachi bands entertain the guests. There are different "rooms" in the restaurant done up to look like caves, mine shafts, dinner theaters, and more. There are two video arcades.

And the food is so far beyond God awful, I can't possibly muster the words to describe it. Imagine the worst Taco Bell you've ever had in your life. Cut that quality by a factor of 10, and we might be in the neighborhood.

Why would I go to such a place? Because it's a child's paradise.

See, my former roommate from Virginia is currently on a cross-country voyage to start a new job in California. He's traveling with his mother and young daughter, and they swung by Denver to visit me for one afternoon along the way. And I was absolutely thrilled to see them.

He grew up in Colorado Springs, and has fond childhood memories of driving up to Denver for a special trip to Casa Bonita. We all agreed it was something his little one should experience. My boss let me off work early for the special occasion, and so it was I caught a late lunch at Casa Bonita.

I knew the food was bad. I'd just forgotten how bad. Here I am typing this, about 7 hours later. I just burped, and I tasted dog meat tacos all over again. Vile.

And yet, it was worth it. Worth it to see my good friend again, and worth it to see moments like this:

I wish them all continued safe travels to the other coast.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Protecting Your Basketball From Freezer Burn

Since I got a TiVo, I think I've seen maybe five commercials total that weren't broadcast during the Super Bowl. But tonight, I happened to watching a show in just-a-little-bit-too-close-to-real-time, and caught up with the live broadcast before it was over.

I caught this ad for these new, giant Ziploc bags. The commercial shows someone zipping up a bunch of sports equipment inside and carrying it off. At this image, a couple of thoughts came to me.

First, was there something wrong with duffel bags? Were people really disappointed that they couldn't share their stanky gym clothes with the rest of the world via a transparent plastic? Is our society so anti-conservation that we had to find some way to turn a perfectly acceptable, reusable product into a disposable one?

Second, how long do you give it before we hear the story of some little kid (about six years old) zipping up his baby sister inside one of these things and accidentally suffocating her to death? Ordinarily, my comment for this sort of thing would be "didn't that come up in playtesting?" In this case, though, I'm guessing somebody probably did think of this, and I fully expect there's some bit of legalize on the product packaging warning against this sort of thing (and, of course, insulating the company from lawsuits in such matters).

Yellow and blue makes green... then blue... then purple...