Sunday, December 31, 2006

Nothing Profound

For a while, I'd hoped that my last post of 2006 might be something special -- some grand look back at the year, as it pertains to me, or my readers, or what-not. But I discovered a profound lack of anything profound to say. Not to mention, for this blog, it would be just as appropriate to go out this year the same way I came in -- talking about random crap. And so...

Why the hell do people call good food "rib sticking?" That makes no sense to me at all. If your ribs are sticking into your stomach such that they can actually come into contact with your food, you have far more important issues demanding your attention than the quality of your meal.

Is it supposed to refer to the actual eating of barbeque ribs, the way the sauce is sticky and gets all over your fingers? Is there no other food considered "good" anywhere on the face of the Earth?

Is it supposed to be some kind of very subtle dig on the anorexic? Something like, "looking at you is like looking at an x-ray, but perhaps if you would stick some of this food to your ribs and cover them up... by which I mean from the inside, you know -- ingestion?!"

Happy New Year, everyone.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Daa-Dum.... Daa-Dum... Daa-Dum....

I recently mentioned that Maximillian from The Black Hole was one of the top three things to scare the crap out of me as a kid. I also mentioned that number one was Jaws. Far and away.

I have absolutely no idea why this was the case. I lived in Indiana until I was six, Ohio for eighteen months or so, and then Colorado -- so it's not like there was really any shark-infested waters around for me to be scared of.

I suppose I credit John Williams for a large part of it. Because even though I had never seen any part of the movie until well into my teens, I knew the music. And just those two repeated notes on the low strings were enough to send me running from the room.

In fact, the music was so effective, that I didn't even make it through the movie Airplane! until some time in my teens as well. In case you don't remember, the very opening of the movie is Jaws parody, with the tail of the plane sticking up through a cloud bank as the Jaws theme plays. I remember one of my uncles watching television when I was maybe about six or seven, and running in terror from the room when that opening came on. I'm pretty sure he was even calling after me, telling me it was a joke, it was just an airplane and not Jaws, or some such.

Probably I was screaming or something and couldn't hear him.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Some time last week, I made myself a sort of "New Year's Resolution in reverse." Well, I don't really know what you'd call it, but it was a commitment to get something done before the arrival of 2007.

It was that damn Runelords book. I was lost somewhere in the middle of volume two (of four -- sigh), and vowed that I would not still be stuck on it come January 1st.

Well, one good thing that comes out of back-to-back blizzards and being snowbound is that you find yourself with a lot of time for reading. So I dug in (to the book; tunneling out my car was a separate matter). And sure enough, this week, I finished the book.

I'm not sure I can say it got better, but it did seem like the things I found bad about the writing were not so hard to take when I was just barreling through it. And the things I liked became a little more pronounced.

I'm still not recommending this series to anyone. I know I'm not picking up book three until I've read a few other things first. Maybe not even then. (Though it helps that, according to Amazon, volume three is less than 3/4s the size of two.) I guess I'm still holding out for that synopsis to miraculously appear online somewhere.

Anyway, the slate is clean, so I can start the new year with a new book. I've heard wonderful things about Max Brooks' World War Z, for example...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Let's Go!"

Some say they just don't make video games like they used to. Agree or disagree, I'm at least happy there are folks out there keeping the classics alive, through things such as this online version of the original Lemmings.

I remember my friends and I getting a demo of Lemmings in advance of the product's release many, many years ago. It was just four levels, one for each of the game's four difficulties. But those were the only four levels we had until the full game hit, so we played the hell out of them, over and over and over again. And when it seemed as though we'd played them out, we invented new ways to attack them, such as trying to complete all four levels without killing any Lemmings (which, for at least a few levels, was not the expected way to complete the level -- but not impossible).

I spent huge amounts of time on Lemmings. And now I can do it again.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Re-run from New York

Every now and then, something happens to remind me of the time long, long ago, when Saturday Night Live was actually funny more often than twice a season. Today, it was the death of former president Gerald Ford. I heard about it on the television news first, not from, but still, the instant thought that sprang to my mind was an image of Dana Carvey, Brokaw-ing: "dead today at the senseless age of 83." (Well, 93, as it turned out.)

Part of me wonders if Saturday Night Live, like The Black Hole, is something that I just enjoyed when I was younger, and doesn't stand up to scrutiny now. But then I watched that clip of Dana Carvey again, and I was rolling.

And then there's the wave of critics' reviews for the recent DVD release of the complete first season of SNL, with the original cast. We're talking nothing but A+, 5-star, must-buy reviews.

Sure, every once in a long while, SNL shows a hint of brilliance. (Everyone and their brother is posting YouTube links to Justin Timberlake's special "holiday gift," so it would be redundant for me to do so.) But I've long since given up watching the show on a regular basis. It's still in the TiVo Season Pass list. I figure I'll hear by Monday or Tuesday if there was anything worth seeing in the most recent episode, and then backtrack and catch it before it gets automatically deleted.

If you thought this was going to actually be a post about former president Gerald Ford, I'm sorry to disappoint. But what do I know about him? I wasn't really speaking intelligible words when he was president. I know Chevy Chase did a memorable impression of him, much-praised for the prat falls, despite no attempt whatsoever to actually sound like Ford.

You know, from back in the days when SNL was relevant and funny.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Escaping The Black Hole

I didn't realize that my casual mention of The Black Hole a couple days ago would touch a chord among some of you, but then you never know.

I know I loved The Black Hole as a kid. I saw the movie a few times. I had the 45 record/storybook combo (you know, one of those "turn the page when you hear the chimes ring like this..." jobs) and must have listened to/read that a few thousand times. And Maximillian totally terrified me. Up until about age 7, the top three things that scared me were (in order) Jaws, Darth Vader, and Maximillian.

As with most things that evoke a strong reaction in you as a child, I look at it now and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Mind you, I haven't actually seen The Black Hole since about that time, but I don't think I need to to start picking it apart. For starters, just what was so terrifying about Maximillian? Surely it couldn't be the fact that he'd probably helped Reinhardt lobotomize the entire crew of the Cygnus -- I wasn't really old enough to understand what a lobotomy was. It must have been that he had food processors attached to his motionless arms... oooo. Maybe if you didn't walk away from him fast enough, he might float into you... oh no!

But being scared shitless of Maximillian isn't the most puzzling thing about The Black Hole when I look back on it now. I wonder more what it was I ever saw in the movie. It's boring as hell! I think more happens in 2001: A Space Odyssey -- you know, the movie they stylistically ripped off for their ending. I was way too young to understand any of what that ending was all about. Maybe like 2001, you need to be stoned out of your mind to be entertained by that.

I was definitely too young to appreciate that.

Anyway, fond memories of childhood, which I don't think I'll risk ruining by actually going back to watch The Black Hole again today.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Christmas Time Is Here...

I hope all of you (who celebrate it) had a good Christmas this year. Mine was great. A nice, long day at my parents' house with all my brothers and sisters, and my grandmother in town visiting as well.

We observed a number of holiday traditions in our family, including a big group effort on a jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately, this year's puzzle was obnoxiously difficult, but it didn't take much away from the festivities.

Now that there are no "kids" in the family, Christmas is a very different affair. It used to be things got started around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning. This year, I was specifically told, "don't come before 10:00." Ah, sleeping in. I can totally get behind that as a new family tradition.

Of course, one other big change this year was the massive amount of snow on the ground. True to form for Colorado, it did not actually snow on December 25th. But with more snow still left from last week than normally falls during the average snowstorm, I think it can reasonably be declared a "white Christmas."

Now begins that last dash for 2007!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

What a Concept(is)

Many of you have some days off here at this time of year, and possibly quite a lot of time on your hands you're not used to having to fill. Well, if you've got spare time, here's a way to completely wipe it out: Conceptis Puzzles. It's a web site loaded with all sorts of logic puzzles. You can play puzzles you've heard of (Sudoku) and puzzles you probably haven't (Pic-a-Pix, Slitherlink?), you can play online and off, you can pay to play or play the free weekly puzzles (check the link on the main page).

Yeah, this thing is a black hole to free time. I don't mean in a lame Vincent/Maximillian sort of way.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Constant Comment

My thanks to one of the old Virginia folks, who recently pointed me to this source of mirth. Some of the hysterically funny people behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 have not stopped mocking movies just because their show isn't on the air. They've taken their act to the net, where you can download their special form of DVD commentary for your MP3 player and synch it up to a movie for loads of laughs.

In some ways, it's actually better than the TV show, because they no longer have to wrestle with clearing the rights to show a movie. They just post the commentary for the movie they want.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Tales from the Internets

Part of the fun of having a Precision Counter is reviewing the bizarre Google searches that have brought web surfers into my tiny sphere of influence.

It's also creepy at times.

Here are some of the highlights of late:

who did baltar choke? - I honestly have no idea. No, really. What episode is this talking about?

mormon subtext in Napoleon Dynamite - Wow. Suddenly, it makes so much more sense to me!

oreos past expiration date - Sorry, but my regulars have helped me conclude there's no such thing.

buca di beppo sick - Hey! Them's fightin' words!

the runelords synopsis by book - I'm not the only person who wants one.

how to pronounce heimlich - When you're choking, it doesn't matter.

mind tricks-jockey and horses - This blog isn't that eclectic, buddy.

It's not only the "weird" searches that catch my eye. In a way, I find the "normal" searches more strange. For example, how many pages of Google search results do you have to scroll through to find your way to my blog when you're looking for:

"prison break"
relationship "bill buchanan" "karen hayes"
"weird al" "taylor hicks"
amas de casas desperadas de colombia

I wonder if any of these people have become regular readers...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Blizzard Entertainment

An array of pictures I took this morning...

Sucks being him:

(Not that you could tell, but those are cars buried behind him.)

My apartment complex:

The nearby four-lane street:

Some guy:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


As many of you have probably heard, Denver is presently being pummeled by the biggest blizzard to hit it since March 2003. And since I was still living in Virginia in 2003, this is the biggest blizzard I've seen in over a decade.

I went into work for half a day, then skidded home in second gear maybe just a little past the time where it was a good idea to be out and about. Fortunately, it was a drive home without real incident... at least until I got to the parking lot of my apartment complex.

The "driveway" in slants downhill, and had not been plowed all day. (Understandable, I suppose, since at that point in time, we were projected for at least another 24 hours of non-stop snow.) Coming to a stop on this slope was a bit of a challenge, but not unmanageable.

The problem was, turning the car into a parking space was. I'd try to steer my way in, then lose traction and slide uncomfortably close to another car. I'd try to back up for another run, but there was no traction to pull back. So I'd straighten out as best I could, then try another space a little farther down the hill... only to repeat the same process all over again.

Finally, I just settled for a fortunately empty space more or less directly in front of me, at the bottom of the hill. Well, empty except for the half foot of snow already in it. And there my car will rest until the snow stops, the drive is plowed, and the sun comes out. Because I guarantee you, there is no way my car is going to successfully back out of this spot and get back up the hill until then.

On the bright side, once safely home, I was able to enjoy the beauty of the snowfall, in a way that only someone not obligated to travel in it can. Some very funky drifts had formed over the wall facing one of the sidewalks in my apartment complex.

I'll take being snowbound for a couple days over a being in a hurricane, hands down.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Something's Fishy

It's that time of year, so just like last year, and many years before that, I watched my favorite Christmas movie, Scrooged.

Afterward, I began playing the new Legend of Zelda game, Twilight Princess. I've not been Wii'd upon yet (I bought it for the GameCube), so I don't have to worry about things like this happening:

I only have to worry about an epidemic that has been spreading through fantasy video games -- fishing. A short while into the game, your character acquires a fishing pole and uses it to catch a fish to catch a cat to return to a shopkeeper ("that wriggled and wiggled and jiggled inside her..."). I was a little nervous to see that my first fish caught opened up a "fish journal" in which all the different fish I'll catch throughout the game will be tracked. Apparently, you have to fish a lot in this Zelda.

Animal Crossing, World of Warcraft, Zelda... what's with all the catching fish? This is not a particularly exciting activity in real life. Why would I want to spend time simulating the experience in a video game?

Fishing aside, though, I'm liking the game so far.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Blood in the Water

Tomorrow, with little fanfare, M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water comes out on DVD. Every time a movie hits DVD, it's time for most entertainment web sites and magazines to run an all-new batch of reviews for the film, even though the last batch of reviews (when the film was in theaters) is barely four or five months old. I won't bore you with my own re-review (but if you want to read what I thought, here you go), but I have to say I've been struck all over again by the venom of the reviewers who didn't like this movie.

I'm not looking down my nose at anyone who didn't think this was a cinematic masterpiece. You're entitled to your opinion. But I feel like the critics were particularly bitter about this movie the first time around, and they're being even harsher now.

The criticisms seem to stem around "what an ego-maniac this guy is." You know, as if he didn't write, direct, act in, and produce four movies that were generally well-liked before this one. (Okay, The Village was a rough spot for some people.)

I just don't get it. But maybe that's because I really, really liked Lady in the Water, and have been waiting for it to hit DVD pretty much since I walked out of the theater.

Anyone else have an experience where your opinion of a movie and that of the collective mass of critics seemed so mismatched?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Lost Ending

This weekend, I caught up with the new SciFi Channel mini-series that aired last week, The Lost Room. I'd originally taken interest in watching it because it stars Peter Krause of Six Feet Under and Sports Night (two excellent shows). But my interest built as I heard a few people give generally favorable reviews of the mini-series.

Five hours and forty minutes of this six hour event were really good. It was an intriguing concept, well-executed, fairly well-written, very well-acted, well-paced, and fun to watch. I found it had a good "can't put it down" quality to it, that made me want to cram it all in as quickly as possible to see how it ended.

And then, in the last 20 minutes, the wheels just came completely off the wagon. I don't know what the hell happened. Suddenly, new concepts were introduced into the story that had no prior set-up. They seemed to almost violate the "rules" of the show's premise. An apparent conclusion was suddenly thrust onto the story, but without any real explanation of how it all worked out the way it did.

Maybe the writers pitched a four part mini-series, got chopped down, and didn't know how to fit their story into less time. Maybe someone thought there was a chance a full television series would follow this up, and the writers couldn't quite bring themselves to end the story in a satisfying way. (Not that they left it in any open-ended way that a series could easily pick up.) Maybe they just plain didn't know how to end their story. Whatever it was, the ending sucked out loud.

In a way, it was like Deja Vu all over again.

Still, if you missed The Lost Room and later have the chance to catch it (likely, since SciFi Channel is running it every other hour), it's probably worth your time, even with the crap ending. It's that interesting along the way, with interesting ideas, twists and turns, and straight-up fun. Maybe just invent your own ending.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Proper Balance

Every now and then, I guess I need to be reminded that that most classic of German board games, The Settlers of Catan, despite its many strengths, is not actually to be played by four players -- regardless of what the box might tell you. Play with three players on the standard board, or five players on the "5 or 6 player" board, and everything should work out fine. But four players on the basic board is simply too cramped for its own good.

I've never played a four-player Settlers game that didn't have one of the "players" serving as more of a witness than anything else. You can't always tell for sure when the game begins, but one player will quickly be cut off from expansion by the road-building of others. He'll happen to be the one to have his numbers starve in the early game. And that's it. There's simply no recovering.

Shocho brought over a special deck of cards for Settlers to tonight's gaming. They're meant to replace the dice, with every number represented on the cards in its proper mathematical proportion. This had some pros and cons to it, but of course, one player's numbers can still somehow refuse to come up (in this case, because they're shuffled to the bottom of the deck).

Bottom line -- Settlers with four? Just don't do it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Eye of Jupiter

I thought Battlestar Galactica's last episode for the next month or so was good, but not really their best. They packed a lot of plot into 60 minutes (minus commericials), which had its good and bad points. Many ongoing plots got pushed a little further along in this episode -- the Starbuck/Apollo relationship, Sharon and Helo's baby, the quest for Earth, Baltar's "reunion" with the fleet, D'Anna's spiritual quest.

But it all came tumbling out so fast, I didn't feel that the character moments Galactica is most strong at always got "room to breathe." For example, things in the Baltar/D'Anna plot were so focused on their need to get down to the planet that I didn't really feel the weight of Caprica Six's isolation from the two of them. She spoke of it, but it felt a like a bit too much "telling" and not enough "showing."

Still, there were other moments that landed solidly. I thought the best scene in the episode was the one between Helo, Sharon, and Adama. Helo's accusation, "I thought you of all people would appreciate what it's like to lose a child" -- chilling and heart-breaking at the same time. Yet still maybe topped by Adama's response.

Since it was such a plot-driven episode, though, I feel like my ultimate judgment of how I like it will depend on how the cliffhangers are wrapped up in the next episode(s). It was certainly not a "bad" episode, but I can't help but compared it to last season's mid-year cliffhanger, Pegasus. And that's probably unfair, since Pegasus was quite possibly my favorite episode of the show.

Battlestar Galactica has managed to set a very high bar for itself, I suppose.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dumber Than Advertized

Because of a recent drop in available parking passes at the lot at my office, Shocho and I have recently had to polish up our parallel parking skills on nearby streets in downtown Denver. Shocho won't dispute this: we both basically suck at parallel parking. It's either a driving skill you have, or you don't. And it's not easily acquired if you don't.

Which, for a while, made us both jealous of that new Lexus in the commercials... you know, the one that can park itself:

But that was until a friend of mine showed me the truth about this wonderful self-parking Lexus:

I guess it is still a Lexus, which is nice. But whatever you're paying for this feature? Wrong.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Passage

I'm going to backtrack a few days and talk about the Battlestar Galactica episode that aired last Friday while I was out of town.

The writer of this particular installment, Jane Espenson, was a former writer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Buffy fan circles have been talking about her "upcoming script" (and the fact she's already been hired for another, later in the season) for a few weeks now. It maybe had me wondering just a little bit if this was going to be a more light-hearted installment, an attempt to do something vaguely comedic, like the first season's arguably weakest episode, "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down." It was a much better episode, as it turned out. But it brought very little humor (as per Galactica usual) and nothing but the heavy stuff.

I'd cite only a few flaws with the episode, but they're all incredibly minor. At the beginning, I was a little nervous that the set-up of the episode, about the fleet needing to traverse the nebula, was a little to "Star Trek-ish problem of the week." But just like the good episodes of Buffy would do (and as good Galactica episodes have done), the problem turned out just to be grease to get a very character-driven story under way. I need not have worried.

It maybe seemed a bit emotionally manipulative to find out so much about Cat in this episode, only to have her die at the end. But really, only a bit. Cat was a well-established character that has been around for several seasons. And what can I say, but there was something very impactful in her swan song. I think a lot of that had to do with her excellent final scene with Edward James Olmos, again delivering the goods in a brilliant scene as Adama. This was a much more successful exit of a recurring character than, say, Billy in season two.

Finally, and once again a minor complaint -- this episode didn't pick up on the Starbuck/Apollo thread left in the previous episode. I suppose their relationship has been a very long-running, continuous story that has historically not necessarily been addressed every week. And this episode was clearly more self-contained in nature. So it's not really surprising that thread wasn't picked up on. But I couldn't help missing it -- last week's episode left some real unfinished business (pun definitely intended) that left me wanting to see more.

Still, a very solid episode that in my mind made it easy to see why Jane Espenson was already hired for another. I look forward to that.

In the shorter term, though, we have this week's final episode for the rest of the year. Odds are the ongoing Baltar/Cylon plot will come to some delicious cliffhangery crossroads.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Reading Sinkhole

I enjoy a good book, but over the last few months I've been experiencing a frustrating slowdown when it comes to reading. It's because I started reading the fantasy series The Runelords, by David Farland. This is a four book series (well, now five -- I heard another book was recently published) I picked up because of rumors that a film was in the works.

The concept is really pretty intriguing. In this fantasy world, a person is able to use magic to give one of his physical attributes to another person. He can donate his strength, or intelligence, or sight, hearing, smell, stamina, speed, you name it. The recipient then has the attributes of two men. The "runelords" of the title are powerful people combining the attributes of dozens or hundreds of people, who must mantain vast "harems" of mostly invalid people who have donated their various attributes. These attributes must be given voluntarily, but some runelords bribe and blackmail people into donating.

This backdrop all makes for some pretty fascinating questions about the nature of morality. It raises interesting situations of evil vs. good that must engage in necessary evil. In short, the concept and the story of the first book-and-a-half that I've read thus far have been great.

But the writing is dreadful. The characters aren't very well-drawn, the dialogue creaks, and the pacing is pretty rotten. You have to slog through 50 pages or more sometimes to get to an interesting event.

And therein sits my frustration. When I get to one of those one-in-50-pages events, it's fascinating. I get stoked, and want to keep reading. And then I have to trudge through the bog that is the next several chapters. I lose interest. I'll go days without reading a single page.

So it is that, while I haven't quite been able to make myself quit reading these books, I've finished nothing else for several months now. I tried looking for a synopsis of the books online, thinking maybe I could get the story (which I like) without having to put up with the rest of the writing (which I don't), but I came up empty.

Has anybody else read these books? Want to fill me in, or compare your experience to mine? Or can anybody find the synopsis that eluded me?

Or, failing all that, can anyone think of the "magic thing" to say to snap me out of reading this so I can move on to something else?

Monday, December 11, 2006

May I Take Your Order?

Haul yourself down to the Heart Attack Grill in Arizona, and "treat" yourself to a Quadruple Bypass Burger. Stand up and salute (or rather, lay down and gasp) at what makes America great (or rather, fat).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Amazing Pool

If you've watched The Amazing Race this season, then you've had to hear about how Tyler and James kicked a drug addiction at least every other week for 13 solid weeks. Still, they've been one of the more likeable teams this season. And tonight, I found them particularly likeable, because they won me some money.

I took part in a pool for The Amazing Race this season. Everyone participating bought in before the first episode aired, drawing a random number from a hat. Each of us was then assigned a team by that number, based on the order the Race teams were introduced in the first episode. (Incidentally, this was the same order they were all shown in the opening credits all season long.)

Well, I drew lucky #10, which meant my fortunes were tied to those of the ex-druggie models all season. I didn't win as much money as they did, of course. But hey, a win's a win.

Other people in our pool were not so fortunate, in more ways than one. I'm not just talking about the people who didn't win the pool -- there were people along the way really torn about the teams they'd drawn. I mean sure, you want to win the pool... but if the cost is cheering for Lyn and Karlyn or Rob and Kimberly to win? Yikes. It added an interesting aspect to watching this installment of the Race, that's for sure.

Most everyone involved in our pool seemed to enjoy it, win or lose, so I expect we'll be running it again when the "All Stars" version of The Amazing Race starts up in February.

We'll see how it works out for me next time.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Street Signs

Hello, all! I have returned for my latest work trip, and am once again ready to inflict my "Maneuvers" upon you. I'll start with a short snippet from the Denver Airport I caught on my trip. There's a poster near the baggage claims that caught my eye:

For those of you who aren't Denver locals, E-470 is a toll road. So, this is an advertisement for a toll road. I find that, in and of itself, to be a fairly strange thing. I can't imagine seeing commercials for the New Jersey Turnpike, for example.

Secondly, this is a really weird ad for a toll road. Sure, I know the message is "drive the toll road, get where you're going faster," but I still say showing a woman in a bubble bath is just not the right way to promote a toll road.

Though, as I implied, I haven't really seen many toll road promotions before.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Deja Vu

No, not the Denzel Washington movie again. Rather, another work trip. Again, to California.

Try to contain yourself.

Anyway, once again, you can expect that Heimlich Maneuvers probably won't update until the weekend. Until then... teehee... "good night and good luck," "and that's the way it is," "here it is, your moment of Zen."

Monday, December 04, 2006

"Baby, you're the greatest."

Having learned the lesson of just how addictive VH-1's many "top 100" shows can be, TV Land has decided to throw its hat in the ring with the "100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catch Phrases." The shows don't start airing until next week (when I presume you'll get to actually see them all ranked in order), but they've published an alphabetized list of their selections now.

Shocho has opined that whenever someone compiles a list like this, they wouldn't get it perfect even if they could, because introducing imperfections gets people to talk about it. I know I certainly have some issues with this list.

First of all, I don't think that famous historical quotes that just happened to be broadcast on television belong on this sort of list. I think these shouldn't have made the cut:

"Ask not what your country can do for you..."
"Have you no sense of decency?"
"I'm not a crook..."
"One small step for man..."
"Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

And I'm not entirely sure that a line from a single episode of a TV series should get lumped in with the catch phrases, unless they really broke out into mainstream culture. I might make allowances for "No soup for you!" from Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, but I'm not sure Marcia Brady's "Oh, my nose!" was one of the 100 greatest things ever spoken on television. And I don't just think that's a generational thing, either -- I know the list wouldn't be right without real classic lines like "And that's the way it is", "How sweet it is!" and "You've got spunk..."

I got a big kick out of seeing the exact same line, with different emphasis, making it onto the list twice: "Hey HEY hey!" courtesy of What's Happening!!, and "Hey hey HEEY!", courtesy of Fat Albert.

I also found it interesting to see what the modern "instant classics" were in TV Land's view. "Denny Crane", "Here it is, your moment of Zen", "I'm Rick James, bitch!", and "Tell me what you don't like about yourself" all made the list, among others.

Maybe Shocho's theory is spot on: try to provoke discussion.

Did it work?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Grab Your Number Two Pencils

I think that posting links to personality tests is pretty much the nadir of blogging. It's lazy and uncreative.

But some days, you just don't have anything else to talk about.

And sometimes, the test is really just too "up your alley" to say no to, like "What Buffy character are you?"

Though I'm a little weirded out that I got Adam (the season four Big Bad), of all people:
Like Adam, you're calm, and dispassionately work to achieve your ends.

Also, you may just have a nuclear core.

I'm not sure that's very accurate, but hey -- when are these things ever accurate?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Unfinished Business

Last night brought a pretty good installment of Battlestar Galactica. All of the flashback material, filling in parts of the "missing year" in season two's finale, was excellent. The boxing material in the present I found more hit and miss -- pun not intended. Let's take the pieces one at a time.

The real meat of the episode was exploring the falling out between Apollo and Starbuck. This was absolutely top notch material, about as good as Galactica gets. And it felt particularly welcome to me right now: Lee has gone without a really good episode for a while (the horrible "Black Market," the basically-abandoned "fat Lee" storyline), and some of Starbuck's recent material hasn't played as strongly as it could have (her story with Leoben down on New Caprica). We found out here what happened to cause their estrangement, and it fits perfectly. We now know exactly why Kara was so reluctant to call Lee for help to save Anders' life.

The plot between Laura and Admiral Adama was just as compelling in its own way, even if it was not as important to the episode. It was great to see them let their guard down in the flashbacks, almost to the point of letting themselves actually begin a romantic relationship with one another. I think it really would make you look on the eight episodes so far this season in a different way, if you watched them again.

The flashbacks delivered lots of other fun, minor moments for the fans. A sweet little story for Tyrol and Callie. A scene showing Baltar back when he was still riding a wave of popularity as president. Colonel Tigh and his wife Ellen, long before everything went sour. Even a brief appearance by Duck, the man who became the suicide bomber in this season's opener. Really, the only thing missing was an explanation of how Starbuck and Tigh -- formerly so at odds with one another -- had come to be friends on New Caprica.

But as I said, I found the boxing material in the present a bit of a weak link at time. Sure, the episode had to have some kind of framing device to get at the flashbacks. And at times, the idea really worked. Adama's fight with Tyrol culminated in another fantastic, put-a-lump-in-your-throat speech from Edward James Olmos. And Starbuck embracing her rage by challenging Lee was fitting as well.

But the material before that? Helo boxing Lee? Huh? Why? Two people I don't even know fighting each other? Why should I care? What the hell does Hotdog have against Starbuck? (And not that Starbuck isn't butch, cause she can hang with the best of them -- but is Hotdog really such a wuss that he loses to Starbuck in about 90 seconds?) And how falsely shoehorned into this storyline was Roslin? She's got some relative that used to box or something, which doesn't really tell us anything meaningful about her character, but is a convenient excuse for why the president of the colonies attends an amateur boxing match without any sort of guard.

So I guess I'm saying this was 75% of a really great episode. The flashbacks were all great. The second half of the boxing material (from Adama's speech until the end) were great. I just was a bit unsure of the set-up at first.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Horror, The Horror!

Your regularly scheduled Battlestar Galactica commentary will appear tomorrow. I got home just way too tired to watch it and still find energy to say anything meaningful about it afterward.

Until then, with thanks to Brad, I offer you a fan trailer for "Office Space," re-imagined as a suspense thriller. These sorts of "tonal shift fan trailers" have been making the rounds a lot lately. I still find them funny, because they underscore things about movie trailers we've all known forever:

1) You can put a trailer together to make a movie look like damn near anything. (Usually, this power is used to make a bad movie look good, but here the power is put to another use.)

2) The selection of music is key to setting the mood. Film composers have incredible power over how an audience responds to a movie (which is why the good ones have such a great reputation).

Anyway, enough flapping my keys. Here's the stuff:

Thursday, November 30, 2006

From the Window of the Nike Store

Seriously? Does anyone actually need shoes to match their iPod? Or an iPod to match their shoes? I say we've taken accessorizing too far.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Groundhog Taye

I'm actually making this post on Thursday the 30th, not Wednesday the 29th. Technical issues kept me from posting this last night like I wanted to. But given the subject matter, I figured I'd go ahead and date it yesterday anyway.

I've got a little to say about the new TV series Day Break, starring Taye Diggs. You've probably seen the ads, even if you haven't watched it -- this is the show about a police officer framed for a murder, who is re-living the same day over and over again.

It's not one of the great new shows of the season, nor one of the worst. Actually, given the ratings it's been pulling in, it's probably very soon going to be one of the most cancelled series of the season. It's likely just one serial drama too many (and launched two months after most of the others, on top of it), and thus people aren't giving it a chance. Which is a shame, because I find myself quite enjoying it.

It's a strange thing, but it's actually the technique of the writing I'm most enjoying. They have their premise of re-living the same, single day over and over again. And they're doing a truly remarkable job of identifying trouble spots with that premise and addressing them.

For example, in the movie Groundhog Day (played for comedy, of course), Bill Murray's character goes through a suicidal phase where he just kills himself over and over again. In this TV series, one potential dramatic pitfall would be that there are no lasting "stakes" for the hero. If he's out to solve this mystery, he could just rush into any danger in his search for clues -- even danger that might get him killed -- knowing that he'll just wake up the next day, safe and sound, and hopefully wiser for what he's learned.

The writers tackled this issue very early on, by establishing that whatever physically happens to the main character actually carries over as he begins the day again. In one episode, he's shot and loses a lot of blood. In the next iteration of the day, he doesn't even wake up -- his girlfriend awakens to find him unconscious and bleeding from the bullet wound, and has to rush him to the hospital. Must have consequences, and can't have an invincible hero. Check.

Another issue that worked fine in Groundhog Day (again, because it's a comedy, and a movie that only need sustain itself for under two hours) was that the main character slowly built up a "laundry list" of the perfect day he had to go through. He had to be in place X by a certain time to do a certain thing, then place Y by a certain time to do a certain other thing, and so on.

That would be very impractical for a TV series for several reasons. First, episodes would just gather more and more fluff -- uninteresting motions the character has to go through just because he learned in previous incarnations that they were the right things to do. Furthermore, each such encounter that involved a new guest actor would just continue to bloat the list of actors needed to tell the story of each successive episode.

This problem was addressed in last night's installment. After multiple failed attempts by the main character to safely separate his partner from her drug-addicted boyfriend, he finally succeeded in one iteration of the day, saving both their lives. And then, when the next day began, his partner actually behaved differently. She called him, out of the blue, to say she woke up with the feeling that she needed to get her boyfriend into rehab. In short, we learned that not only can each new iteration of the day affect the main character, but each new iteration he does "correctly" can have a lasting effect on others in future iterations. Gone is the need for a laundry list, or the need for the monotony of the "re-living the day" concept.

As I said, the show has been getting dismal ratings. At this rate, it's not likely to still be around by Christmas. But for however long it lasts, I'll remain very interested to see how the writers diagnose and repair other pitfalls in their "feels more like a movie than a TV series" concept.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Say Hi to Stranger

More "movie catch-up" for the weekend took me to see Stranger Than Fiction, or as Shocho calls it, "The Harold Crick Movie."

I've always had a very polarized opinion about Will Ferrell. This is because there are basically two different Will Ferrells. One of them is very funny, whether putting on a character or just playing it "straight." The other is "naked Will Ferrell." Too often, he seems to resort to taking his clothes off to try to generate laughs. Others may find that funny for some strange reason, but not me. Actually, Will Ferrell's percentage of funny and likeable is inversely proportional to the percentage of his body covered in clothing.

Fortunately, this movie did not star the naked Will Ferrell. It starred the funny one. Not that he's really delivering the lion's share of the humor in this one. Actually, that honor would go to Dustin Hoffman. A very funny and quirky character was written on the page, and he lifted even more out of it. It's a truly outstanding comedic performance.

Some critics have referred to the movie itself as "Charlie Kaufman lite," saying it aspires to that writer's bizarre and brilliant movies like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But I don't really think this movie aspires to be surreal throughout like those other movies -- it just happens to have a surreal premise. I don't mind that it's not completely wacky, and I think anyone who was expecting that had incorrectly set their expectations.

Also, some critics have been down about the ending. But I think they're really off the mark. It's difficult to say much without giving things away, but put simply, the ending has an interesting statement to make about the technique of storytelling. And while it does resolve the story conclusively, it poses a very interesting question to the audience at the same time: which ending to this story would be the best one? In a way, you're asked if you want to "choose" an alternative ending to the story, and I think people who do are reacting to the material in a very interesting way of their own.

This is by no means a laugh-riot you should drop everything to see. But it did keep me smiling, and it actually provoked some conversation among my friends after leaving the theater. That's something a comedy rarely does (beyond simply repeating favorite jokes to one another).

I suppose in that respect, maybe it is a little like a "Charlie Kaufman lite" after all.

I give it a B-.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Break Out

Prison Break's "fall finale" aired tonight, and the show didn't quite go out on the best possible note. It wasn't a "bad" episode, but it didn't deliver a cliffhanger to wait on pins and needles over, like the mid-first-season and end-of-first-season cliffhangers did.

I'm curious as to why the episode didn't just end about 20 seconds sooner. The gun standoff between Mahone, Kellerman, and the brothers could have been a really tense place to leave things. You'd spend the break wondering how the brothers would escape -- would Mahone turn on Kellerman, would Kellerman turn on Mahone, would the brothers outsmart the both of them? Instead, we get to see the "resolution," and are left with too much comfort in knowing the direction of the show when it returns in January.

The T-Bag plot was a... heh-heh, mixed bag. It's always fun to watch just how charming and creepy he can be, as he was with the post office worker. But now that he has found the woman who sent him to prison, what are we in for next episode -- scene after scene of torture? Anything too quick would seem a cop-out for a confrontation some twenty episodes in the making, yet anything too drawn out probably wouldn't be anything close to entertaining to watch.

Then there was the Bellick plot. I know Prison Break is probably the most escapist, fanciful show on television (even more so than 24), and so I'll forgive a lot. It's fun to see Bellick get a come-uppance, but the terms in which it was delivered are simply ridiculous. We're supposed to accept that a former prison guard would be sentenced to serve time in the same prison he once guarded? We're supposed to accept that a new warden trying to establish a good reputation would throw a former guard as an inmate into the general population? You can guarantee that guard would get shanked inside of a week, and then how great is the warden going to look? It makes no sense whatsoever, and I'm not even sure I can accept it in service of the narrative opportunities it presents. (Namely, getting the show back into the prison that started it all, and providing the opportunity to see some of the old characters from season one again.) It just seems like too great a stretch to me.

That said, there were things to like in this episode. Sarah seemed to smartening up a bit more, Linc and Michael had some good moments of brotherly rapport, and Mahone continued to unravel (and in doing so, continued to become even more menacing and dangerous). I'll be glad when this show returns in January -- I just don't feel I've been left waiting for that moment holding my breath.

Interesting, I'm finding my love for Studio 60 has tapered off a bit too. Now that the show has its full season order and I don't have to worry from week to week whether the episode I just saw is the last one I'll ever see, I don't feel as much pressure to lap it up greedily as "the Aaron Sorkin show" on the air.

Don't get me wrong. I still love it. I still think Aaron Sorkin should always have some TV show on the air, as long as he wants to be making one. But now I find myself looking at the show more objectively. It's still great. It's still "can't miss" for me. I'll still want it on DVD when they put out a season (series?) box set down the road. But realistically, it's not as good as either Sports Night or The West Wing were in year one.

Though granted, that's a high bar to clear.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

When Good Movies Go Bad

I've been using the extra-long weekend afforded by Thanksgiving to catch up on a few movies. Last week, I saw Deja Vu, the new Denzel Washington movie.

It may or may not be apparent to some of you who have seen the trailer or commercials for this movie, but this story is science fiction disguised as a mainstream movie. This isn't like Groundhog Day or something, where explanations for the warping of time aren't even mentioned -- no, they lay a lot of expositional pipe to justify the time-tripping MacGuffin at the heart of this movie. I don't know that it's really necessary, and it certainly felt out of place in a Denzel Washington movie, but at least they cram it all in in about three minutes, and then continue on with the movie.

As for that movie... what a letdown. I say that, because the first half is absolutely great. A+ material. Everyone I went to see it with was completely in agreement with this. There's a sequence near the middle of the movie involving a helmet (that'll be enough for people who've seen it to know exactly what I'm talking about, while tipping nothing for those who haven't) -- everything up to and including this sequence was on course to be perhaps the best movie of the year.

Everything after that was complete, non-sensical crap. They veer off the spirit of the concept, start violating the "rules" set-up in this narrative, and abandon everything for obnoxious, paper-thin allegories to recent real-life acts of terrorism as they plow their way to a stupid Hollywood ending.

It came as no surprise to me to look on IMDB after the fact and learn that there are two writers credited on this movie. This is one of the clearest cases of one writer re-writing another's draft that I can ever recall seeing. I'd wager the "splice" comes right at the halfway mark, where a new writer was brought in to give the studio the changes it wanted to the ending.

If only the movie had stayed the course, it would have been an easy A. As it stands... I think it rates around a C+. I almost want to recommend that people see it anyway (on video, at least) so they can know just what I'm talking about, and appreciate the movie that might have been here.

I'm going to get SPOILERY now, so those of you who haven't seen it and don't want to know more, it's time to go. For the rest of you, here's the exact nature of my complaint.

The movie starts out with the premise that it's only possible to observe the past, not travel into it. That's just a neat way to tell a mystery story. Then they start to violate that premise just a bit by allowing small objects (a hand-written note) to be sent back in time. I was starting to get nervous at this point, but then it turned out that the note they sent back trying to change the past only resulted in the main charcater's partner getting killed, as we'd already learned he had been. That suggested a neat "pre-destined paradox" that would have also been interesting to see -- how did these investigators actually end up causing the tragedy they're trying to prevent?

But then the wheels came off the wagon -- they sent Denzel Washington's character back into the past. And sure, it made for a few neat explanations after the fact (like how certain clues earlier in the movie came to be there), but it totally messed up the nature of the story. The investigation was no longer limited in how it could pursue the solution to the mystery. The constraints that had made this tale different from other time travel-ish stories were completely lifted, and so it became just like all the other time travel-ish stories.

Worse than those stories, actually, because this story's internal logic fell apart after the main character journied to the past. The evidence he'd been at the apartment "the first time around" was explained by his arrival "the second time around," except that the second time around, he goes on to save the girl and save the day! If indeed he did that, and the evidence shows he was there "the first time around," then how did the explosion even happen the first place?

All just to get to a lame Hollywood ending where DW gets the girl and lives happily after. Damn. Whichever writer wrote the first half, my hat's off to you. To the other -- shame on you.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sunday Mass

After putting up with the no-good pancakes and other breakfast offerings of the hotel last weekend, I decided to quest in search of the "real thing," and found an IHOP nearby. It was the last morning of my trip, and a Sunday, so the place was pretty busy. Still, it didn't take long to just get a table for one.

When they start to show me the way to the table, I get asked a question I would never have expected to be asked at an IHOP: "Is it alright if you're on the second floor?"

Second floor? A two story IHOP? Sure enough, they take me up a flight of stairs (after asking me first if I'd prefer to use the elevator instead!) and up to a second floor.

Now, you're all probably aware of how much IHOPs are shaped like little churches -- especially the older, blue-roofed ones. I think some stand-up comedian (Brian Regan?) did a whole bit about worshipping at the cathedral of pancakes. Well, I was basically sitting in the steeple. You could easily see the slope of the roof in this strange loft of a second floor. All that was missing was the stained-glass window.

Particularly strange, it being a Sunday morning.

Despite the strangeness, though, the food was exactly the sort of breakfast I was craving by that point in my trip. So I guess I'm saying: if you're ever hungry for breakfast near Disneyland, check out the two-story IHOP.

Unless anyone out there happens to know of any other two-story IHOPs.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Royale Treatment

As I mentioned earlier, I did get the chance to see the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale, while I was on my work trip to GenCon SoCal. I've now had nearly a week to think about my response to the film, and I have to say that my opinion of it has diminished a bit the more I think about it.

As I felt at the time, I have to say the film was "good, but not great." They did a number of things that I really liked. This movie is more physical, realistic, and visceral than any Bond movie has been for a long time... maybe ever. It honestly feels more like the two Bourne movies (Identity and Supremacy) than a James Bond movie. You could decide to see that as a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm going to call it a good thing. It made it possible to enjoy the movie emotionally, and not just on a whiz-bang level.

There are a number of sequences in the movie that are excellent. The first fifteen minutes or so are superb. The prologue is very artfully done, letting you know clearly that this isn't going to be the run-of-the-mill approach to Bond. The opening credits sequence (always a point to mention when discussing a Bond movie) is one of the best the franchise has ever had. And the following action sequence involving "free running" is really neat -- it wonderfully straddles a line of being over-the-top-James-Bond fantasy without actually seeming implausible, because you know that much of it is not camera or special effects tricks.

The acting is great. Daniel Craig makes a solid James Bond, and I'll look forward to more movies with him. I think Pierce Brosnan got a bit of a bum deal, since of the four Bond movies he made, only the first one (GoldenEye) was any good -- and because of the scripts, not for any fault of his own. In any case, Craig (and the other actors in the cast) elevate the material.

And therein is my big problem. It is material in need of elevating. After a rock solid opening salvo, the film starts to lose steam. By about an hour into it, I found myself impatiently checking my watch. The middle crawls. The poker scenes are fairly bad -- but I admit to coming at as someone way too into poker. In dumbing down the set-up of the hands enough for them to play to a broad audience, they became laughable to anyone who knows anything about poker. I found it no challenge to read the hole cards of every player in every significant hand, and it made the actual characters silly and stupid that they could not. No tension, either.

The movie picked up again in the last twenty minutes or so, but noticeably, many people had already left the theater. There came a point after about two hours where literally a dozen or two dozen people got up and left the theater. Did they really think the movie was over at that point? Were they just bored regardless? I suppose I'll never know, but it's pretty telling that you've got that many people walking out of a James Bond movie.

So, great cast, great stylistic take. Outstanding opening, decent ending. But it was like an Oreo where the cream in the middle had somehow gone bad. (I don't know if that can even actually happen to an Oreo. Probably not.)

I'm left with a good feeling for future Bond films in the franchise, even though I'm not left with an altogether favorable opinion of this one. I give it a B-.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Feliz Thanksgiving, everyone! I'd share some tale in honor of the day, but I don't really have one. So instead, the other big aspect of my trip to Anaheim -- being sick, sick, sick.

Many of you reading this have attended these big game conventions. You know they're places where the hale and hearty become sick, not where the sickly go to get well. When I woke up last Monday, I knew I was sick, and it was too late to stop it. I figured I'd take last Tuesday off (which I did) and use the day to get well in anticipation of the trip. Not so much with the working.

But I did learn another annoying way in which the Patriot Act is making the life of the average American just a bit more hassled, for little measureable effect.

The last time I was this sick with this kind of head cold was some time maybe in early 2005. At the time, a friend told me about the wonderous powers of Advil Cold & Sinus. One pill, 12 hours of ass-kicking relief and clear-headedness. I went out and bought a box of 10 pills, and it only took about two to see me through to total health. This stuff is amazing.

I was still working off the leftovers of that box of 10 last Tuesday, on my sick day off, but they just weren't doing the job. Then I noticed the expiration date on the package -- sometime in the middle of 2005. I was a little nervous that I'd downed two or three pills of a year-expired medication, but I figured if anything was going to happen to me, it already would have. But at least now I had a pretty good idea of why it wasn't working. Of course, by this point, it was too late on Tuesday to go out and get fresh medicine, so I resolved to pick some up on the way into work the next morning.

I hit the grocery store on the drive in, sometime around 8:40 AM in the morning. I know exactly what I'm looking for, heading straight to the medicine aisle. I stand there, double and triple checking the shelves for two minutes. No sign of the good stuff. What the hell? Did they stop making it?

Then I see the little papers sticking on the rack: "Bring this to the pharmacy counter to purchase this product." Advil Cold & Sinus is one of about six products not actually out on the shelf. And the pharmacy isn't open yet, that early in the morning. I was too addled and mucus-brained to understand why the medicine I bought off the shelf about 18 months earlier was now locked behind a stupid gate, but there was nothing I could do about it. So I bought some Sudafed instead.

Worthless crap. Did nothing for me. So why was the Advil the good stuff?


I don't know exactly what is so wonderful about it, but that is the good stuff. And apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so, because as I learned last week, it's apparently useful in making bathtub meth, or something like that. I guess people were buying it by the crates, and chemistrying up themselves a great old time.

Hence why the federal government, in their amendments of the Patriot Act in mid-2005, decided they needed to make it more of a pain in the ass for law-abiding citizens like me who actually need the stuff to actually get it when we want it.

Which is why I still wasn't healthy by the time I left on my trip Thursday.

Which is why I remained sick for the entire duration of the trip.

And you know who else could have used some psuedophedrine? The guy in the hotel room next to mine on Saturday night. Let me tell you, the walls at the Anaheim Hilton are paper thin. And how shall I put this...?

Have you ever seen Poltergeist II? You know when Craig T. Nelson swallows the demonic tequila worm that possesses him, and then later he gags and vomits up this foot-long evil sandworm-baby looking thing? Well, it sounded like four or five of those things were trying to escape from this guy. It was vile. It woke me up every hour for the entire night.

So, in summation, I think I'm saying this: I don't believe my having the flu makes this country safer from terrorism, nor is it helping us win the "war on drugs." Same goes for the guy in room 5-250.

All this fuss over psuedophedrine. Imagine how good the phedrine must be!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Waving to Mickey

It's the first of several accounts of my adventures in Anaheim for GenCon SoCal last weekend. I'll start by answering the question some of you may be asking: did I go to Disneyland? The real answer is no, not really. But I did get a bit of the Disney experience -- a minor contact high or something, if you will.

It started Friday night, when I met up with my old roommate from back in my Virginia days. He and his mother drove down (fighting monster traffic) to spend the evening with me. We had dinner and caught a movie (Casino Royale -- my review of which will be coming at some point here). The theater was in Downtown Disney, the big outdoor mall-ish area near the theme park. I got to see a lot of the tourist shops, and the fun "rare signatures and memorabilia" store there.

Then on Saturday night, I ended up having another throwback to days with "Da Company," meeting up with former co-workers and some old volunteers to have the traditional dinner at Buca di Beppo. ("Buca di Beppo!") Afterward, we went to the executive lounge on the top floor of the hotel, with a perfect view overlooking Disneyland as they ran their fireworks show for the evening. I got to see the whole thing -- though granted, without the narration.

So, no rides. No visit inside the actual theme park. But reasonably close to it. I got to spend good time with some friends -- sort of the extended family, really. I think I enjoyed that more than I would have the amusement park, certainly given that I was sick for the entire duration of my trip.

But that's a story for next time...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Barenaked in Denver

Alright! Cable's back, and everything's back up and running again. I have a fair number of trip stories to share, but I'm gonna backtrack and catch up on them in the days ahead, because I'm more excited about what I did tonight.

I don't often attend concerts. There's a variety of tiny reasons why, but they all add up to the fact that I don't usually enjoy myself. But years back, one concert I remember having a very good time at was Barenaked Ladies, when they were touring for Stunt. Tonight, they were in Denver on their tour for Barenaked Ladies Are Me, and I was eager to check it out.

I'm happy to say it was a great show. I think I enjoyed them even more than the last time. I would hope that anybody who considers themselves a BNL fan has seen them in concert at least once, because they really put on a great show. They have a lot of fun on stage. It shows, and it's infectious.

Times and technology have moved on a lot since Stunt, and now BNL tours with a nifty technological twist: you can buy a USB stick at the show with that night's concert, right there at the event. So the concert doesn't have to be a one-shot, flash-in-the-pan sort of thing you might struggle to remember years later. Now you can listen to the very concert you attended, any time you want.

Immortalized in 1s and 0s is the one-night-only performance of the improvised rap about 14th & Arapahoe (cross streets in downtown Denver). There for you to enjoy every November is their uh... heart-warming(?)... tribute to the season, "Feliz Thanksgiving." And rockin' versions of nearly all their most well-known songs along the way.

It may well be that I don't go to another concert again until the next time Barenaked Ladies are coming through town. But I'll be sure not to miss it when they do.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Less-Than-Triumphant Return

Hello, one and all!

I have returned from my trip, to discover that some time Friday night, the cable (and cable modem) in my apartment went out. So, I'm back, but Heimlich Maneuvers, for another day or two, is not.

Let me just take this moment to say how dumb cable phone operators can be. I call to schedule an appointment last night.

"Have you turned the box off and back on?" Sure, I'll do that to humor you, but that's not it -- my cable AND my internet are out, and I have a splitter going into two TiVos, and they're getting no picture either.

"We're not currently showing any outages in your area." Um, I beg to differ, dumbass!

"We showed an outage early today that was repaired." Well, my cable has been out since Friday, champ. I know this from the nothing I got when I was supposed to be recording Battlestar Galactica while I was away.

"We can schedule you for 3:00 - 5:00 on Tuesday." I work. What person living alone is home at that time on a weekday? "Well, otherwise my next window is next Monday, the 27th?" Is that supposed to make me laugh, suggesting you're going to do nothing about my lack of service for a week?

Anyway, Shocho's LWC has graciously volunteered to be at my place tomorrow for the appointment I can't make. So, with any luck, I'll be back to my regular blather tomorrow night. Thanks to her for the assist, and all of you for your patience.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What Are You Going To Do Next?

Heimlich Maneuvers is taking a few days off. I know what you're thinking:

Okay... maybe not. But nevertheless, I'm heading to Anaheim, to attend GenCon SoCal in a work capacity, demoing the upcoming Stargate TCG my company is working on.

I'm actually going to be walking distance from Disneyland, to which I have never been. Somebody suggested to me that maybe I should take advantage of the after-hours time and actually go. I wondered what I could do that would possibly be worth doing in the few evening hours I'd have, particularly for the price I'm sure it costs to get in. But who knows... this is one of those rare work trips where I'm traveling alone, so maybe I'll be looking for something to do to pass the time.

In any case, you'll have to get by until Sunday without your daily dose of the inane courtesy of yours truly.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Impersonal Touch

Nearly all the grocery chains now have their own special "membership cards" you sign up for to get the prices they ought to be charging anyway. I suppose it's supposed to inspire customer loyalty -- but I personally believe the vast majority would either pick the nearest grocery store, or the one with the best produce. I don't think a membership card is going to put one over the hump.

In fact, my grocery card is a regular source of annoyance. I had to fill out a form when I signed up for one, providing my name and such. It's in their computer, so that every time I swipe it at the checkout, my name shows up on the receipt. And it's part of the spiel that every time the clerk finishes ringing up a customer, he says "thank you, Mr./Ms. So-and-so."

They never pronounce my last name right. It's part of the ritual; they hand me the receipt and then mangle my name horribly. The last clerk to check me out somehow managed to insert an extra syllable or two.

Why do they do this? I have to figure they get it wrong somewhere in the neighborhood of one-third of the time. For every "Smith" out there, there's a "Nahasapeemapetilon." You can test this yourself -- just imagine some circle of people you know. It could be a group of friends, the people you work with, whoever. Roll through their last names in your mind and imagine how many you honestly think someone would pronounce correctly if seeing it for the first time.

In short, are the number of people out there stupidly thinking, "wow, he knew my name!" larger than the number of people thinking, "here he goes, about to totally mess up my name again"?

You know, I don't think I'm going to let it slide anymore. Next time one of these grocery clerks messes up my name, I'm gonna make a buzzer noise, or say "not even close," or something like that.

It's my name. I'm taking it back.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Case of the Mondays

My Monday one-hours both stumbled a bit tonight. Or maybe that it's that I have a major head cold and I feel foggy and cranky.

Prison Break put the brakes on major plot developments this week in favor of trying to show some "vignettes" of character insight. Ordinarily, I like it when a television series delves more deeply into its characters. But tonight didn't feel all that deep at all.

From Michael wrestling with the wrongs he has done for the "greater good," to Lincoln having to leave his son again, to Kellerman having trouble torturing Sarah, to Mahone's connection with his ex-wife and child... the material was there, but it all felt fairly superficial. It didn't seem like we were really getting too deeply into any of these situations. And without that emotional connection, we're left with an episode with lots of sitting around -- Michael sitting in a shack in the desert, Sarah sitting over a bathtub of water, Mahone sitting in his car talking on his phone, and so on.

It seems like things should be better next week. Threads were dangled tonight that implied lots more momentum for the next installment, and Michael's reunion with his father could provide more character drama than tonight offered.

Meanwhile, on Studio 60, the resolution to the Nevada Day two-parter had several good moments, but overall didn't live up to the promise of part one. The dialogue between Harriet and Jordan at the beginning was great, Jack's confrontation with the potential investor at the end was a defining moment for that character, and Nate Corddry showed some real acting chops in the revelation about his brother. But in between, the dialogue was a little less snappy than usual, the debates a little less articulate than usual, the humor a little less funny than usual. I probably wouldn't have been so down on it, had the set-up last week not been so great.

Or, as I said, I may just be cranky sick person right now. So I'm gonna go get some rest.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Welcome Reprieve

Things were looking dark for Studio 60, but a few days ago the word came down that NBC has ordered a full season of the series after all. Now, I'd be the first to admit this show is not as good as The West Wing or Sports Night, but I still think it's pretty damn good, and I'm glad it's going to be sticking around. Perhaps it will improve and be even better now that the axe is not threatening to fall any minute.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rock On!

It's been a few days now since Guitar Hero II was released, and I figured it was about time for me to comment or review it or something. Except that I really don't know that I have much to say other than... it's awesome.

They could have done absolutely nothing different and just released a new song set, and I would have been enthused. That's sort of the DDR model, after all. But of course, they did not rest on their laurels.

There's the much awaited two-player cooperative mode, where one player takes lead guitar and the other takes rhythm or bass. Lots of fun. The first Guitar Hero was really only a single-player proposition. Sure, it had head-to-head for two players, but since you had to play at the same difficulty level, you had to find someone who was the same skill level for it to be any fun. No more... now you work together to rock out.

But really, some of the biggest improvements come in the graphics, and in the fun little additions to career mode. The stages all have wild, over-the-top effects that kick in for certain songs. Crowds demand that you play encores. Giant "fiberglass set pieces" roll in. Your drummer spontaneously combusts when you finish the Spinal Tap song. A UFO rolls into Stonehenge and transports you away when you complete a level of career mode.

It's cliche to say they took Guitar Hero and turned it up to 11. But hey... it's the perfect cliche. If you liked the first, you'll like the new one even more (unless your taste for the songs skews toward the original). If you didn't pick it up the first time around, you should check out what you've been missing.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Measure of Salvation

I got a little nervous during the first 10 minutes of tonight's new Battlestar Galactica episode -- it felt like the set-up to a thoroughly average episode of Star Trek. The "away team" boarded the derlict Cylon base star, and stumbled on an entire crew wiped out by an "unknown virus" that had quite likely infected one of the main characters. I was sure we were in for an agonizing hour of watching Doc Cottle struggle to find a cure before time ran out.

I should have kept the faith, because what we actually got was a strong episode. The whole "will Sharon get sick?" thread turned out to be nothing more than a red herring. She was pronounced immune barely halfway into the episode, and so on we went with the real meat of the plot: the topic of genocide.

It's starting to be more than a little chilling that Roslin, in one situation after another, seems to be more and more at ease with making some truly ghastly decisions -- in this case, the decision to attempt to wipe out the entire Cylon race. I suppose, given her recent experiences in the occupation, her attitude is not surprising. I think I'm just saying that it used to be that Adama was more the "hawk" while Roslin was the "dove," but those roles seem to be reversed a lot more often now. Interesting stuff.

The Baltar material aboard the base star was unusual to say the least. As a television viewer now conditioned by 24 to expect a "discretion" warning to be related to violence (usually torture), it was pretty jarring to see this take on torture completely entwined with a rather racy (for television) sexual encounter. Things really are very different aboard the Cylon base star. And more twisted than ever inside Baltar's head.

Ronald Moore's podcast commentaries are always entertaining to listen to, but I'm particularly looking forward to hearing what he has to say about this episode.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dance Dance Immolation

At this year's "Burning Man," they found a way to really put the "extreme" in DDR Extreme. Because you know what was really missing from DDR? Flame-retardant suits.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Losing Lost

Tonight was the last new episode of Lost until February, and they went out with a definite... shrug. I suppose I was expecting a more elaborate cliffhanger than it delivered -- not that it was an uninteresting episode, though.

For one, we had Nathan Fillion playing Kate's husband in the flashbacks. I'd rather he was playing Malcolm Reynolds in the fourth season of Firefly right now, but I suppose this will have to do.

I don't think I have much of a stake in Kate/Jack vs. Kate/Sawyer, but it was nice to see that storyline finally arrive somewhere as it did tonight. And Ben's line about how he would have been on Kate/Jack instead was great.

Not the greatest line in the episode, though. That would go to Locke: "I'd like to think you died for a reason, Mr. Eko. I just hope it's not too long before we find out what the heck it might be." Amen to that!

So, it ends in a standoff where the lives of Ben (who was just made a series regular six episodes ago, so we know he's not going to die) and Jack, Kate, and Sawyer (who, because of their ongoing love triangle and the general sex appeal they're intended to bring to the series, we also know are not going to die) hang in the balance. Not dramatically inappropriate, but not even remotely suspenseful.

Season one's cliffhanger had me itching all summer to start season two. Season two's cliffhanger had me contemplating the possible implications of what season three would bring all summer long. This mid-season finale? Whatever. I'll be there when it comes back, but I'm not going to be spending much time worrying about it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Speaking for the Dead

When I saw the ballot this election, I was surprised to see that one of the positions being voted on was County Coroner. I suppose many of you were asked to cast a vote for your local coroner. For whatever reason, it didn't strike me until now:

Why is this an elected position?

What the hell do I (or the average voter) know about what makes a good coroner? Is this some sort of check and balance on whether or not we like the way that he or she pronounces people dead? I mean, I actually saw signs up around town for one of these candidates -- the whole ball of wax.

I was a little too young to remember watching Quincy. Were there ever any episodes about him trying to get re-elected?

And here's perhaps the best part: on the ballot, it actually showed the political affiliation of the coroner candidates. Can this possibly matter?

"I think this man died of a homosexual disease."

"I think he died of a lack of government-sponsored health care."


Monday, November 06, 2006

Trekking Around the West

Tonight's Prison Break was not nearly as exciting as last week's episode, but still managed to deliver lots of good moments.

At last, the reunion of Sarah and Michael in New Mexico. And, as was right, she did not immediately forgive him for all he'd done. Getting Michael into another war of words with Mahone at the end of the episode was once again a treat.

The Bellick/T-Bag plot was every bit as horrible as promised. Big bonus points for the mention of "sliders" -- nothing is quite as diarrhea-invoking as White Castle. (Gee, what a surprise they came in a generic brown paper bag, though. You think they even tried to get permission for the real thing?) It seems pretty clear that T-Bag will escape in the next episode by once again losing his hand. That doesn't make it any less horrible to contemplate. But I suppose, fun as it is to watch this character, he does deserve some pain and suffering. The mallet-to-head dealt to Bellick was a fun bit of justice, too.

Watching how Linc got away from the law wasn't terribly exciting, but at least his escape was with help from his father, and not through some total random stupidity on the part of the police. I guess they drew the red X through his picture too hastily.

I wonder how much longer they're going to keep advancing the Sucre/Maricruz storyline without actually showing Maricruz on screen? I don't know how much longer they can keep playing the "can I talk to her?" "No, she's on The Nine now, Fernando!" business.

Still, a fun episode.

In other come-uppance news, tonight was an interesting Studio 60. It seemed almost tailor-made in response to the criticisms that the show is too snobbish toward Americans in "the heartland," too contemptful of religion, too self-important. The plot involved watching the characters get skewered for all those things by a Nevada judge played by Sorkin veteran John Goodman.

I wonder, was it too on the nose? Will the complaints continue, arguing that this one act of contrition played hollow in the face of the attitudes that preceded it? Will it help that John Goodman was enjoyably playing a sympathetic, apparently right-wing character? Most importantly, will it help the ratings? (Because last we heard, Studio 60 seemed to have one foot in the television grave.)

I am determined to enjoy it for however long it lasts, though -- as I have for every episode thus far, including tonight's.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Very Niiice

After a number of glowing reviews (including from friends), I decided to go see the movie Borat this afternoon. I don't think I'm going to heap quite the lavish praise on it as most people seem to be giving it -- but I do have to say it's quite good.

Foremost, it's funny. Laugh out loud funny, most of the time. I don't usually go for the sort of "Candid Camera" style humor (normal folks being taped), or for Andy Kaufman style humor (comedian who never ever breaks character and finds much humor at the audience's expense), but strangely, when the two get swirled together in this bizarre blender, it works.

But really, it's the satire of this movie that is strongest of all. Sacha Baron Cohen has created an absolutely proposterous character, and yet when he interacts with real people, he's often not the most outlandish persona on the screen. There are times when I'm not sure whether to laugh at or be horrified by some of the attitudes of the people he's found.

Speaking of horrifying, this movie contains possibly the most awful scene ever committed to film. Oh, it's funny -- can't catch your breath, tears streaming down your face funny. And it leaves "cringe worthy" so far in its dust that I can't even find words to do it justice. There was a couple behind us in the theater, a man and woman perhaps in their early 20s, and she was actually shrieking and stomping on the floor in discomfort. I think a basket of live tarantulas dropped on her head would not have garnered a stronger response.

Oddly, in the row in front of us were three old ladies in their 60s -- there at the movie with no one else. I wonder if they knew what they were getting into, and what they thought afterward?

In any case, I give it a B+ -- in part not marking it higher because I'm not sure it would hold up well to repeat viewings. If you do think you want to see it, though, I strongly recommend you go in the theater and not wait for home video. This is the sort of movie where at least half the experience is the reaction of the crowd around you.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Block the Vote

Colorado has a freakin' huge list of amendments and initiatives on the ballot this election, so I decided that the lines to vote on Tuesday will be unbearable. Besides, I don't want to be standing in line during what could be valuable Guitar Hero II time on its release date, right?

So I went to vote early a couple mornings ago. It was a snap. I arrived at the license plate branch as it opened on Thursday morning. There were only two other people waiting with me. All of us went right in, got our ballots and off we went.

I had a very strange sensation come over me as I was doing it, though. One of the people waiting with me for the place to open was a nice enough woman in her 40s. We only exchanged a couple of words -- it's not like we had a meaningful conversation, or that she gave me any indication of her personality or opinions. And yet, for a reason I can't explain, I had the overwhelming sensation that I was there "canceling out" her vote by voting exactly the opposite from her on each issue. I have nothing to back this up at all, but I felt a sense of certainty that I have rarely known.

Maybe it's just that I'm trying to shore up my psyche against the blow of watching the general population vote for things I believe to be patently stupid, if not morally reprehensible. That's the way I've felt pretty much every other time I've voted. Oh well, this Tuesday, I can bury myself in my new Guitar Hero II and try to ignore any potentially depressing results.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Even though tonight's Battlestar Galactica ended with "to be continued," it was less like getting half an episode and more like getting two episodes in one.

On the one hand, there was the Galactica-based half of the episode. I had commented a few week ago, after the death of Ellen, that I didn't see how they were ever going to redeem Colonel Tigh. This week, the answer seemed to come that they have no immediate plans to do so. We've seen "messed up Tigh" before, but as he said himself so perfectly in the episode, he's not "that man" anymore -- he's sunk even lower. And Starbuck seemed to "hit bottom" as well, but appears to have turned around and begun the journey back. Pivotal character moments for both of them.

Sharon continues to be a polarizing figure on the ship. The people who don't accept her seem to reject her even more, while those who accept her grow ever more accepting. (They've now renamed her Athena, even.)

Plus, no more "fat Lee."

On the other half of the episode, we had the adventures of Baltar aboard the base star. And this was weird stuff. It almost felt like it was coming from another series. Galactica has always been a series grounded in gritty, docu-drama-esque reality. Everything about the Cylon plot in this episode was science fiction. And not exactly "television science fiction" either; it flirted with heady, psychological -- some might even say trippy -- stuff. It wasn't paced like a normal Galactica episode, it didn't look like a normal Galactica episode. It was out of order, mixed, and jumbled at times. And all of this perfectly sold the fact that Baltar now finds himself in a totally alien environment.

It's all very interesting, because to hear the podcast, a great deal of what I liked in this episode was manufactured after the fact, to redeem an episode that was otherwise considered to be "not working." Unlike last season's "Black Market," which they saw as trouble, and it finished that way (probably the worst episode of the season), this one I thought crawled back out of their perceived hole quite a lot. I wouldn't have pegged it for a "bad episode."

What was your take?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Trick or Swe-eet!

If your Halloween costume this year was a bit of a disappointment, maybe you can steal this guy's idea for next year and impress everyone. I know I for one would actually have to get started on it about now to have any prayer of getting it ready in time for Halloween 2007.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Eko Dislocation

Mostly, I really enjoyed tonight's episode of Lost. It had all the right pieces. Eko's flashback (which picked up immediately where his previous one ended) fleshed out more of his back story, and had thematic connections with the "present" on the island. We came to understand that Eko's apparent transformation and redemption following his brother's death did not happen immediately -- if indeed it fully happened at all. We learned the full reason behind why Eko was building a new church on the island (he "owed" one to his brother).

Meanwhile, intriguing new threads were exposed in the plot. Who is this crazy eye patch guy in this Yet Another Hatch? What's he doing on the island? How did he know he was being watched?

The head games with Jack finally got interesting, where they'd been somewhat aimless until this point. Ben seemed to come clean and say "no more games," dropping his plans to manipulate Jack. Juliet approached Jack covertly with a plan to instead off Ben. And yet, it seemed virtually impossible that either of them could actually be laying all the cards on the table. Are they working together? Separately? Are their agendas really what they say they are? It's far more interesting psychological brinksmanship than we'd seen before.

There was even some love for the island explanation junkies, as we saw more of "The Monster," and seemed to be shown that it can appear as a flesh and blood human (or works in tandem with someone/something that can). Perhaps this is how Jack's dead father appeared to lead him to the caves in season one? And how Kate (and Sawyer) saw the horse from her past there on the island in season two?

But then came the ending. Yes, they've killed off main characters on Lost before. I shouldn't be surprised they've done it again. You can guarantee they'll do it still more before the show is done. But after Libby left last season with so many unanswered questions, I'm pretty annoyed that they've offed another character whose role seemed far from complete on the show.

We'll never know what happened in London to Eko to change him into the man we saw for the first 60 days on the island. (Or did he even go to London?)

We'll never know how he ended up in Australia, and on flight 815.

We'll no longer have his "true faith" counterbalance to the wavering beliefs of Locke. (And we're losing it at a key juncture -- Locke appears to have had his faith restored after the destruction of the hatch, while Eko had just been revealed to not really have been the changed true believer we thought him to be... not completely, anyway.)

And essentially, we have no more "tailies." All the tail section characters introduced in season two are now gone. (Alright, Bernard is still around and reunited with Rose, but we don't see either of them regularly. In fact, we haven't seen them at all this season.) It almost begs the question of whether any of the time spent on any of the tailie storylines ultimately amounted to anything more than a temporary diversion in the whole tale. They weren't around at the beginning, they won't be around at the end.

I guess I'm reacting to this character's death more strongly than that of Boone, Ana-Lucia, or Libby... and you could argue that is evidence of it being a powerful creative decision that makes for good storytelling. But the reaction I'm having doesn't feel like a recognition of good storytelling. I feel like I've been played. I'm feeling unsatisfied, and uncertain of what they'll be able to do in just a single one-hour episode next week to make me "miss the show" while it's on a three month break.

What was your reaction?