Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Google vs. Your Spare Time

So, was I like the last person to have heard of GoogleFight? If so, then I guess I just don't understand those crazy kids with their wacky internets anymore.

If not, well... then now I'm sharing with you the utter inanity of God vs. Satan, Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader, headache vs. aspirin, Superman vs. Batman, and more.

Monday, February 27, 2006

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

This week/hour, in the world of 24...

Logan starts off the hour doing his best impersonation of Mel Brooks in Spaceballs: "I can't make decisions! I'm the President!!"

This business with the motorcade (and then the subterfuge inside CTU) is maybe the longest stretch of time without Jack Bauer on screen that we've ever seen. (Of course I thought that early on, only to have an even longer stretch later in the episode.)

I would ask how someone with Lynn's capacity for paranoid delusion ever got to a position inside CTU where he was in charge of anybody... but this is the same organization that hires moles about once a year.

Ha! "Jane Espenson in accounting!" Major Buffy shoutout. And you know former Whedon-verse writer David Fury put it there.

Wow, another person got the drop on Jack Bauer. That's two in one day! I guess Jack has been off the grid and out of practice for over a year. And it was RoboCop that blindsided him.

Edgar's getting strange numbers filtering through the chatter.... 4... 8... 15... 16... 23... 42...

Lynn doesn't want to chase after unsubstantiated theories? How far he's come since so enthusiastically chasing One-Eyed Willie's hidden treasure. (Ha! Expecting a Lord of the Rings reference this week? You see what I did there?)

"This office has made enough mistakes for one day!" Okay, first of all, he doesn't know how these things work. They still have 13 more hours to make more mistakes. And second, people in glass offices shouldn't... well, you can guess the rest.

Hack into Lynn's account? Apparently, in the year-plus since "day four," Audrey has started her degree at Jack Bauer's "do whatever it takes" masters program. Next class, Torture 101.

"My father always told me that life was about problem solving... that every problem had a solution." Sounds like daddy should have been president.

And now, CTU Theater presents a scene study from Crimson Tide, starring Lynn McGill and Curtis Manning.

Oh yeah, thank you upper-right window, I forgot that Jack was heading over to this bunker place. You'd think if this office complex was that big, they'd have golf carts or something to get across it.

Agent Pierce is seriously trying to give Jack Bauer competition in the "who's a bigger stud" contest. Seriously, even Jack hasn't survived being rocket launchered, flamethrowered, and machine gunned all at once.

The moment Henderson mentioned Nina Meyers, I stopped trusting him. That was just a too-perfect piece of emotional ammunition to fling in Jack's direction.

Words we never thought we'd hear from Jack Bauer: "How could I be so stupid?" Not that they were undeserved, though. The man really is out of practice. Well, that, or he realized that Agent Pierce was seriously nipping at his heels in the "who's a bigger stud" contest, and decided the only thing to do was to survive an explosion.

And what's better than an episode of 24? Two episodes of 24. Next week is gonna be fun!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

"Book" Reviews

If you're having a humor shortage one day, try surfing Amazon.com for book reviews on politically themed non-fiction. An Ann Coulter book, an Al Franken book, a Bill O'Reilly book, a Michael Moore book. The customer reviews for these kinds of books are basically always either "five stars" from the people who agree with the author's line of political thought, or "one star" from those who don't. Usually, those in the latter category will include a line in their review like "I'm giving it one star only because I'm not able to give it no stars." Oh, and "I haven't read this book, but..." is a popular line as well.

No, they may not be objective, useful reviews of the skills of the writer. But they are usually good for a laugh. Case in point, one of the "spotlight reviews" for a Bill Frist book:

This is a fascinating study of the extraordinary mix of in-breeding, animal sacrifice, and corruption required to produce the world's worst human being. Coming from a family of mildly despicable cheats, the Frists had a leg up on normal human beings...but it still took an enormous amount of laboratory work and careful training to produce not just a self-involved twit but an unspeakable monster.

This book is Frankenstein of our century, a marvellous account of the line between science and morality, and the "Dr. Frist" character is a chilling reminder of the true evil inherent in all humanity...even if readers will find Dr. Frist himself an impossibly overdrawn character. Surely, no actual human could be so evil. Neverthless, he stands like Shelley's monster as an emblem of the path we as a species must never take.

By damning this "Dr. Frist" character and the bizarre process that created him, this sterling work serves as a moral guide, a hope for the future.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

It Does a Body Good

I think possibly the only things weirder than the names of some bands are the dance clubs where the music gets played.

Just recently, two new clubs opened up in Denver. One of them has a name than pretty much makes sense: Shelter. But the other one is named Milk.

"Man, we went to Milk last night. It was awesome."

"The DJ at Milk is incredible."

"All the cool people are at Milk."

"Yeah, it's our six month anniversary. We met at Milk."

"You'll have so much fun at Denver's hottest new night club, the beat will come shooting out your nose!"

Not that this sort of thing affects me directly, really. As most of you readers surely know, I'm not remotely the type to go clubbin'. But these places are opening near my office, so I'm seeing their fliers in the front window, on lampposts around the area, and so forth. I couldn't help but notice.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Frakking Brilliant

How great was tonight's episode of Battlestar Galactica? By far the best of this "second half" of season two.

First of all, there was the incredibly compelling and (forgive the irony) humanizing tale of "Caprica Six" and "Galactica Sharon." A vast new dimension of the saga has been opened up. Will they escape being "boxed?" Will they succeed in persuading any of the other Cylons to accept their perspective? I don't know that I expect this story thread will be continued any time soon, and I don't know that it really should be. (The show is called "Battlestar Galactica," after all.) But what a wonderful texture to add.

Anders and the human resistance on Caprica was something I truthfully did not expect to see on the show ever again. We'd seen how the aftermath of meeting them had affected Starbuck, but it had become pretty clear that she was moving past it and accepting that she wasn't going to be reunited any time soon. And after his experience with these two very different Cylons, what's going to happen to Anders' view of things? Again, not a thread I expect to see picked up any time soon, but a fascinating addition to the show.

How perfect was it for "Caprica Six" to have hallucinations of Baltar in her head? Outstanding, and yet I don't think I'd have ever have seen it coming.

The only thing I'm not sure of is seeing the birth of Helo and Sharon's Cylon hybrid baby in this episode. I loved the events of that plot, the coverup that was orchestrated. But the birth of this child has been so important and so long coming, that to see it relegated to the "B plot" of an episode was just a little odd. Only a little though, as the story was clearly thematically linked with the main story -- it was all about showing the "humanity" of the Cylons.

There will be no looking at the bad guys in the same way after this.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Follow the Evidence

Watching CSI recently, I suddenly found myself wondering if the vast number of murders we see on the show is overstating the actual murder rate in Las Vegas. So I decided to research it.

There are 22 episodes of CSI every season. The vast majority of episodes cover two murders, though a few episodes do only have one murder (more this season than in the past). Very occasionally, they investigate a crime other than murder -- a theft, or something that turns out to be a suicide or accidental death. Just as occasionally, though, they have episodes that cover three or more murders. And also occasionally, they'll cover a murder that's not in the city proper. So, doing a rough guestimate of how that all balances out, let's say that CSI depicts 1.5 Las Vegas murders per episode, or 33 per season.

Now comes the Googling. It turns out that finding the actual number of murders in one year in any U.S. city was not as easy to do as I would have guessed. No one wants to talk about actual numbers. Instead, the stat is always provided "per capita." I suppose you'd expect this, lest populous cities like New York and Chicago look worse than they probably are. Anyway, I was able to get the "murder rate per 100,000 citizens" for Las Vegas in 2003, and then found the actual population of Las Vegas. Some quick multiplication, and I determined there were 57 murders in Las Vegas that year.

So, 57 actual murders in one year, 33 murders in a year of CSI.

Now there are a few ways you can choose to interpret this -- and they are all rather humorous if you ask me. At the simplest level, you can just look at the raw numbers and see that over half the murders in Las Vegas are depicted on the show. That's pretty extreme.

But you can also take into account that the good folks at CSI work just one shift. (Notwithstanding the season where the team was split up.) Even if you assume their shift is the "busy one" (and it tends to be the night shift, where one would figure that indeed most murders happen), they're finding more than half the bodies. From that, you can pretty much conclude that we're being shown every murder that takes place when these people are on duty.

However, there's also a third way you can look at this. CSI often makes references to the date, and they do a pretty good job of it being the actual date (or very close to the date) when the episode first airs. In other words, time in the real world is passing at the same rate as time in the CSI world; this isn't like 24 or Lost where the passage of time on the show is slower than the rate at which episodes air. Once you look at it from that perspective, you have to go back and realize that in real life, 57 murders occur in 52 weeks -- just barely more than 1 a week. But CSI is showing us just 22 particular weeks in the year, and in each we're getting about 1.5 bodies. So, in the world of CSI, about 78 murders are happening each year in Las Vegas -- about 20 more than in real life.

Not that I think this distortion of reality is hurting their tourism industry.

I've geeked out enough now. Someone else can run the math on New York and Miami.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Official State Business

I'm betting you didn't know this, but the official state dinosaur of Colorado is the stegosaurus. Now I don't know what your reaction to this bit of useless trivia is, but I can tell you my reaction: state dinosaur? Seriously?

Oh, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Colorado's state mineral is the rhodochrosite. The state grass is the blue grama grass. The state soil is seitz. And the state dance? Why, the square dance!

Who makes these decisions? Who lobbies for these decisions? How much money and how many man-hours were wasted making these decisions?

Some of these things seem so ridiculous to me already, I have to wonder why they stopped there. Our state cloud could be cumulus. Our state bottled water could be Aquafina. Our state forks could have three tines. The state card game could be canasta.

What is the point of any of this?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Night at the Oscars

The Oscars are less than two weeks away. A friend of mine astutely pointed out that this year, it's more likely the average moviegoer has seen the leading Best Documentary nominee (March of the Penguins) than any of the actual Best Picture nominees.

It's strange, but true. I have yet to have a year where I've seen all five of the Oscar nominated films, but I can usually count on having caught two or three. But this year -- zilch. Zero. None. Until yesterday. A couple friends joined me in a quest to mildly "culture ourselves" by going to see Capote.

As we bought our tickets, we were informed that the admission was good for a double feature. (Wow! Who does those anymore? How nifty!) We could stay on and see Good Night and Good Luck -- not coincidentally one of the other Oscar nominated films. So we did, and now I'm back up to my usual two-out-of-five.

The bottom line is, I don't think that either film is truly deserving of the honor.

Capote has a brilliant performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman, and capable work from Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper. The direction of it is solid. Unfortunately, it's all in service of a pretty boring story. I expect to get some sort of emotion out of an "Oscar nominated" film. What the emotion is, I don't particularly care. The film can provoke rage, tears, excitement, laughter, whatever. But I figure if it's such a great movie, it ought to make me feel something.

But the only scene in the entire film that elicited anything but a yawn from me was a scene in which Capote reads an excerpt from the book In Cold Blood. I presume the excerpt is an accurate transcription of the actual book, and so little real credit can go to the writer of the film beyond his selection of it. It made me want to go read the book, actually.

Still, I don't know what I'm supposed to make of this movie, or what I'm supposed to be debating in my mind. Is it the tragedy of an author whose greatest work burned him out forever? If so, I think I need to see more of him before his decline. Is it supposed to be the story of how he was affected by the killers he wrote about it? If so, then there needed to be more scenes in the film that revealed his true thoughts and feelings about them; all we get are moments where he's concealing things from other characters.

If Philip Seymour Hoffman were to win Best Actor for the film, it might not be undeserved. But the film itself gets a D+ from me.

So, on to Good Night and Good Luck. The film was certainly "important." An accounting of the McCarthy hearings and the way Murrows challenged the senator's inquisition is a worthy endeavor. I think these events should basically be American Civics 101, and I'm sorry to admit I did not know as much about this piece of history as I think I should have. (Though I was not completely ignorant going in.)

Again, many strong performances from strong actors. David Strathairn is perfect. Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr., and Frank Langella are all welcome to see. Even George Clooney didn't annoy me as much as he often does. The writing does a very excellent job of capturing the feeling of the early 1950s; it's a quality "period piece."

But once again, I'm missing the emotion. I was at least not bored watching this film, but I also felt like the stakes were not being conveyed strongly enough. Especially considering the stakes of the real life events. The movie shows us some of the consequences of Murrows trying to take down McCarthy, but for whatever reasons, I just didn't feel their impact. Ultimately, the movie feels like that "Civics Lesson" I mentioned, performed by actors, but not dramatized. The movie educates, but it does not entertain.

Because I think the subject of the education is an important one (certainly it's important to me), I'll see my way through to give the film a B-. But while that's an "above average" grade, it's still a long way from "Oscar nomination" material in my book. I think it snuck in the back door for being topical and apropos, not by being ultimately good.

Of course, we all know it's a foregone conclusion Brokeback Mountain is gonna win the award anyway.

Monday, February 20, 2006

3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

So, it appears that the 24 writers are following the plot structure of season four, as we saw the "main bad guy to this point" killed at exactly the 1/3 mark through the day, exactly like last year. Enter new main bad guy. Season four was my least favorite overall to this point, so I must say I'm a little unsure of this development.

Logan is really putting the "pot" in POTUS -- as in pot calling the kettle black: "Take responsibility and do your job."

And Lynn is turning into a Logan himself, ordering Jack out of the field during a crisis, and yelling at the people working under him.

Only 24 could make a tense sequence out of deleting files from a computer. (Kudos to composer Sean Callery, who always ups the ante with his music on stuff like this.)

This Nathanson guy is totally playing Doom. He starts with a pistol, picks up a semi-automatic, and is forced back to the pistol before the fight is done. I swear, if he hadn't been killed first, we'd have seen him pull out a chainsaw or some sticks of dynamite.

Jack proves his badassness this week by taking out a helicopter with his pistol. Oh, don't get me wrong -- I totally believe Jack could do it.

In your pocket? What, is that 19 canisters of nerve gas in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Oh... okay, a chip.

That Steve... always dialing the wrong extension.

"Data mining" is totally this season's "opening a socket." (That is, it's the vogue bit of CTU tech-speak.)

If Martha Logan thinks her husband will grow a spine if she puts herself in harm's way... well... I think she's probably right.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Revenge on the Hunter

I'm really not sure what's worse:

1) That Disney actually has just released a Bambi 2 movie direct to video.

2) That Patrick Stewart was convinced to provide a voice for it. (Has he no shame?)

3) That in its first week on the market, it outsold the brilliant and amazing Wallace & Gromit movie.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Google Whacked

I'm a meme or two behind at this point, but some of the results I got playing with "Google insults/compliments" were too entertaining not to share:

Evan looks like Wankus on steroids.

Evan looks like Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Evan looks like he's about to puke, but I think the greenish sweater he's wearing isn't doing his complexion any favors.

Evan looks like Batman in this picture.

Evan looks like Burl Ives.

Evan looks like a tool in that Buckley's commercial.

Evan looks like the Knave of diamonds.

Evan looks like hell -- scared, unwashed, unshaven, and about to drop.

Evan looks like a child molester when he slicks back his hair and it's 25 feet long and he grows a thick beard and stops showering for three days.

Evan looks like he's about to throw in the towel, but he manages to inch himself to the ropes once more.

Evan looks like a solid prospect under a defensive minded coach such as Nick Holt.

Evan looks like he's about to tie someone to the train tracks.

Evan looks like he's going to the YMCA for a swim after the show.

Evan looks like a monk.

Evan looks like he's just got out of bed; he probably didn't even go to bed, but, girls and guys, he looks good.

Friday, February 17, 2006

High-Risk Job

Aaaaaaahhh. There's the Galactica I love so well. I've been wondering where you've been these past few weeks.

I really have only one complaint about tonight's installment of Battlestar Galactica, and I'll get it off my chest right now. I wish they hadn't resorted to the tired cliche of the "inept captain who makes our heroes look more heroic by comparison" as a means to... well... make our heroes look more heroic by comparison. Not nearly as worn a cliche as "XX hours earlier," not by a long shot, but still almost certainly "standard sci-fi premise #62."

But I'll forgive that one flaw amidst the rest of an episode that really clicked. We now have a "Commander Adama" once again, and how very neat is that? (Although if I were Lee, I'd be seriously wondering if I should turn that particular promotion down. The life expectancy of a Pegasus commander seems to be about that of a chocolate cake at a fat camp.) And his final scene with Starbuck had the strong emotion I've been missing on the show for a few weeks.

Damn. Taking a hot button issue straight on by throwing the issue of abortion into the politics of the show. And they really played with a lot of expectations, as far as how the battle lines were drawn. A woman is the one who enacts a ban against abortion. The argument citing moral convictions for support is the one in favor of allowing abortion, not outlawing it.

I can imagine some out there won't like the show being so direct in its take on these issues. Lots of people (for the sake of argument, let's call them "Trekkers") tend to like their sci-fi social commentary to be cloaked in metaphor. But BSG is a show about stark, often harsh reality. And that is the perspective they're bringing to this issue.

I do wonder just how much the show will put the election and poltitical storylines front and center in the episodes ahead. After all, Galactica is fundamentally an action-adventure show. It's not really The West Wing in space, and so they probably can't go too far down that road, even just temporarily, without alienating a portion of their fan base.

This fan would go happily right along with them if they did, though.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bathroom Humor

So, when this thing breaks, who do you call? The TV repairman, or the plumber?

The specs on this thing, as listed here (scroll down a lot) are scary. I'd be happy to have a 42" plasma screen tv in my living room. Who has to have one in their bathtub? For $29,000?!!!

Must be nice to have so much money, you can't think of anything better than this to spend it on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lost Veronica Mars (no slash belongs in there)

So apparently if you don't input "the numbers" correctly into the Dharma Initiative computer on Lost, it starts dialing Stargate addresses. What would have happened if Locke hadn't pushed the button before that last chevron locked?

I was planning to compare tonight's Lost and Veronica Mars episodes, but at the last minute (well, sometime yesterday), UPN announced that the new episodes of Veronica Mars they'd scheduled for the next three weeks were going to be pushed back into mid-March instead. They decided to get out of the way of the Olympics, I guess. Bummer.

A mostly decent Lost, though. The return of Rousseau, the arrival of that guy that played the freaky, whack-job serial killer on those episodes of The Practice, something twisted in the hatch, and a somewhat interesting (though also somewhat redundant) backstory about Sayid that featured Clancy Brown (of Shawshank Redemption and Carnivale). I was entertained.

So what if Hurley's hording ranch dressing? Michael's been using it for target practice, the big jerk. At least Michael had the decency to remain off camera another week.

So, if my tracking's correct, we've now had an episode for every castaway this season except Claire and Libby. In the case of the former, it seems like the writers sort of shot their wad with the one and only Claire episode thus far, from last season. It told us pretty much everything we need to know about Claire, and they may be hard-pressed to find something else worth telling. And as for Libby... well, I can't help but feel we're in store for something very twisted and dark in her past, once we're finally shown it.

Sadly, though, we'll see neither one of these characters featured in an episode any time soon. They're rerunning the pilot episode next week instead. Grumble.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Local Hero

I know that local morning newscasters are paid to be professionally over-the-top and perky (and thus, rather creepy). Still, this bunch from Sacremento took it a bit too far in this video clip in which their game reporter covers Guitar Hero.

Game reporter. There's a job I should maybe look into.

Monday, February 13, 2006

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Is it just me, or does the "top of the hour exposition" on 24 seem a little more ham-fisted this year than it has before? They already have a recap, do they really need to have conversations like:

"What's the situation?"

"Rossler's dead; shot by his female companion."

"What does that do to our plan?"

"We intended to.... [bla bla bla]. Obviously, that plan has to change."

I don't have people coming up to me at work at three minutes past every hour to ask me what's going on. And if I did, I wouldn't explain things in excruciating detail. Not that we watch 24 for realism, of course.

Okay, "lunch hour" at the garage is definitely over now. How are the terrorists still hanging out there uninterrupted?

Evelyn, how are you not fired?

Man, I know they said "blue van," but that is a seriously blue van!

Lynn seems willing to sacrifice the "Shire" to save "Middle-earth." (Okay, that's a big stretch, but I didn't have any other LotR pun this week!)

Jack: "Excuse me, could you keep that noisy metal cutter down? I can't hear my covert earpiece clearly."

Oh hey, look at that -- Jack actually gets a little sleep today!

Audrey finally gets to have a decent scene that's not pining for or whining to Jack. Good for her.

Oh, here's a refreshing change of pace. Jack actually saves someone's life this week! (Only after he kills someone, of course. In Jack Bauer's life, an hour without killing is like a day without sunshine.)

Man, what a convenient car to hotwire! Just pop open the panel, and the wires inside come pre-frayed! Stupid Chevys.

Logan to Lynn: "Do your job! And if you can't do it, I'll find somebody else who can." Audience to Logan: "Do you think there's anyone who can make Jack Bauer do what you want him to do?"

Jack Bauer totally owns the line "DAMMIT!" It's his freakin' catch phrase.

I know, I sometimes come off harsh in these glib 24 talkbacks. But I kid because I love.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Avast! There Be Trivia Here!

Shirley Pifko of Stuckey Bowl has been having trouble concentrating since who died?

Where did Jonathan Harker conduct research before departing for Transylvania?

What 1984 film shares the title of one of Atari's earliest games?

What geographical connection do the following numbers have: 10 20 21 25 27 31 42 49 57 60 91 101 109?

These are just a small sample of the over 450 questions served up in 2006's annual KVSC trivia contest. (This year, pirate themed.) Thanks to a particular friend, I was drawn years ago into this small college radio station's yearly salute to Google.com.

Once again, I assisted the team Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women with 50 hours of manic net surfing, trying to answer demonically obscure questions. Once again, we managed to take first place and win it all.

In the past, I took part in this trivia extravaganza in the same house as a number of other close friends. Since the last contest, we've been scattered literally to opposite coasts and several places in between. Truthfully, I didn't expect this year to be very much fun without them. And in fact, it wasn't quite as magical. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did still enjoy myself quite a bit. Certainly enough to take part once again this time next year.

But after the exhausting times we've just gone through in the last two days, I can't say I'm quite "looking forward to it" just yet. Once a year is probably just about right.

And, to save you the crazy searching we ourselves went through, the answers to the above are: Buddy Ebsen. The British Museum. Bachelor Party. They are a complete list of all elements on the periodic table with abbreviations that match the postal code of a US state.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Billy/Dee/William's Son

Today, I did manage to catch back up with last night's Battlestar Galactica. I'm gonna pronounce it a mixed bag. I wanted to like it, quite a lot. It started off with revelations in the Billy-Dualla-Lee triangle that made me feel bad for Billy.

Of course, then it ended at a place that should really have made me feel bad for Billy. And I guess there's the problem. This was a pretty significant development in the story of the show, but it just didn't pack the emotional punch for me that the show has managed to pack before. They have made the deaths of many characters feel very "weighty" in past shows. I'm sorry to say I didn't feel it here. Which is a shame, because I'll definitely miss Billy.

Not that this had a direct impact on my feeling about the episode (at least, I don't think it did), but I noticed this was two weeks in a row without Baltar or Six. Their absence seemed rather conspicuous to me.

Other than that, I'm afraid I just don't have any observations to share. I feel like the show is marking time until the season finale, when I presume the "Gina and the nuclear warhead" plot and/or the "Sharon has her baby" plots will come to a head. Calm before the storm.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Safety Thirtieth

Apparently, when I turned 30 not long ago, I immediately became a much safer driver without even realizing it. At least, so says my latest car insurance bill, which arrived this week with a surprise rate reduction to around 65% of what I used to pay.

I'm not complaining. But I still think it's stupid.

(P.S. -- Your regularly scheduled Battlestar Galactica post will be delayed. I was playing poker with friends tonight and haven't been able to watch it yet.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Can I Get an Amen, Tenors and Sopranos?

I think I once read somewhere that a majority of people never live more than 50 miles away from the place they were born. Maybe that was true, maybe not. Seems to me that the times are changing. Most of the people I know have hopped around several times in their lives. I myself have more experience than I care to in picking up and saying goodbye to people.

This week, I find myself with the shoe on the other foot, as a good friend of mine -- one I've known for around 15 years -- has packed up not just to leave the state, but to leave the country. He's off to Japan to teach English, and not planning a return for several years.

It's a good move for him, and I'm very happy he's doing it for himself. But I'm sad to be losing him. Especially when it seems like it hasn't really been all that long since I've been back in town to enjoy his company on a regular basis.

Of course, given most of the people who read my blog, I'm totally preaching to the choir here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Week 10: Veronica Mars 6; Lost 4.

I thought both Veronica Mars and Lost brought their A-game tonight, and the contest was very close to call.

As my friend pointed out, Lost is perhaps on the verge of being frustrating, as the major plot threads hanging out there feel like they have been in a sort of state of suspension for a while now. But fortunately, they've been using their time well in juggling the character relationships around in very interesting ways. We'd become very used to the parirings we'd seen through season one. But now Locke and Claire? Hurley and Sayid?

Charlie and Sawyer?

Sawyer had definitely been "teddy beared up" too much in the course of the season, and it was time to put him squarely back in villain territory. And now we find things in a much more interesting place. And I'm already on my way to forgiving the weirdness of the Charlie episode, because it has led to this interesting state of things.

As for Michael... two episodes and most of a third without him around, and I'm pretty much already hopeful that he just never comes back.

Meanwhile, Veronica Mars served up a fun, self-contained mystery loaded with fabulously snarky dialogue, a neat twist ending, and an "uber-plot" advancing runner involving Keith Mars. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I give the edge to Lost, because ultimately this episode of Veronica Mars was really just putting characters through their paces. It was fun to see "what Logan was up to," fun to see Dick get what he deserved, fun to watch Veronica break people... but that's pretty normal fare for Veronica Mars. Well done tonight, as always, but ultimately not quite as satisfying as the more character-changing action on the castaway's island tonight.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


My friends with the occasional "free movie sneak preview" passes came through again tonight, and so I found myself at Final Destination 3. This is another one of those movies where any review I give probably doesn't matter -- this is either your kind of movie, or not; you're going to see it, or not. It's even easier than usual for you to make that decision here, since this particular gimmick has had two predecessors already.

But, if it does matter, I'm giving it a B-. Mind you, this is based solely on a scale of what you expect from a movie of this nature. You want to be grossed out, maybe have a few laughs, and have some decent suspense. You're not looking for an Academy Award winning performances or insightful themes to debate over dinner with your friends afterward. So... B-.

In my opinion, this one is by far the most digusting of the three movies. I guess that stands to reason. You have to raise the bar each time with the ridiculousness and gore involved in each death. And the visual effects and makeup effects in realizing the gore in this movie are top notch. Most of the people I was with had to look away at one point or another.

But, in the negative category:

First of all, the most laughable thing in this movie wasn't actually the Rube Goldberg-ian manner of any one particular death, but was rather the one scene of gratuitous nudity. I understand you expect nudity in a horror/gore movie. I also understand there are some who would say that no nudity is gratuitous. But let me tell you, this is not flattering stuff. The lighting in the scene is pretty ghastly. It's almost like staring at corpse boobs. But hey, if that floats your boat... please don't tell me. In any case, it was just transparently, laughably unnecessary, even by any reasonable "standards" one might expect in this genre.

Secondly... okay, look, I understand that you generally have to check your brain with your coat at the door when you see this kind of movie. You can't go expecting all the logic to completely hold up. But unfortunately, there was a big issue for me, very early in the film, and it took me a while to get past it. I guess it was because it's the nature of this series that "everything means something," so I maybe was expecting for this error I spotted to be somehow explained away later.

Fortunately, I can describe my problem without spoiling anything about the movie. After all, you already know it's about a roller coaster. And you know how the other movies go: you see your death, avoid it, then Death comes after you with a vengeance to settle the score.

We're shown exactly how the roller coaster is going to crash, in the "vision" of one of the characters. We're shown a specific detail, related to one of the other characters on the ride, that starts the whole nasty death ball rolling. And then, once the "vision character" pitches a fit and gets a bunch of people to exit the ride, the "character with the detail that causes the accident" is one of the people who gets off. Without this detail, there shouldn't even be an accident. And yet, the roller coaster goes on, and the people who did not get off die in the freak accident that somehow still ensues. We're not told how that came to be.

In a movie that's basically all about the details, this seems like a big deal to me.

Of course, ultimately, I got over it, remembered why I was really there, and relaxed to enjoy the spectacle. And got basically what I was looking for out of the movie.

So, if you were planning to stay away from this movie, you're very right to do so. And if you were planning to see it, then keep that plan on the calendar, because I think you'll enjoy it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

My, what a long way President Logan has come from "I hate that Jack Bauer, you pull him out of that night club where he's trying to capture The Mummy right now!" to "Please, Jack, you're my hero. Stay and save the day. I'll do anything!"

Deja vu. As with Driscoll last season, the "pain in the ass" character in charge at CTU has a flaky family member that absolutely must be dealt with in the middle of the crisis.

"Audrey, I want you to do me a favor. Call Kim and have her brought into CTU. Then sweep the building and make sure there aren't any cougars or babies around."

I like how the guy at the shop made a point of saying everyone was out on their lunch hour (every last one of them, between 1:00 and 2:00??), to cover why not a single person disturbed the terrorists for 40 minutes.

That guard at the front desk should have told the guards upstairs that everything was fine, but he was moving into a "flank two position."

Sending Spenser home, huh? You'd better hope that there isn't another high-security building that needs infiltrating in the next 17 hours.

Nice wicked smile from Edgar.

Hmmm.... guess you'll be needing a new draft of that speech, Mr. President.

Man, it took Lynn 40 minutes to get out across the street to meet his sister when he said it would take 20 minutes. What, did Faramir force him to go to Osgiliath somewhere along the way?

As if Erwich wasn't a bad enough guy, planning to release nerve gas in Los Angeles and all, now he broke his promise to that poor guy and shot him. Now we know he's evil.

Man, that poor character actor ends up dead on every TV show he gets on. Carnivale, Alias...

Tune in next week, when we see if Jack Bauer can fake a French accent on the phone with Erwich.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl XL (aka "John Madden is a Friggin' Idiot")

So, I figure I'm probably under some sort of mild obligation to blog something about the Super Bowl. Except that I really don't care about football in general, much less this game in particular.

So then I figured I might blog a bit about the commercials, except that they mostly sucked this year. There were a few that started great and went south (the car commercial with Kermit the Frog doing extreme outdoor sports), or that started really weak but picked up at the end (the caveman commercial for FedEx that ended with the kicking of the little rat-like dino and the caveman getting squashed "Bambi vs. Godzilla" style). There was only one commercial that was good throughout, I thought -- the MasterCard ad with MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson).

Given the shallowness of those topics, I'll instead pass along this observation. Someone needs to take John Madden's telestrater pen away. And stab him through the skull with it, preferably, because the only thing that was maybe more obnoxious than his telestrating was his actual commentary. I mean, he was starting to sound like the Rain Man in those last few plays, going on about how the Seahawks really needed to "kick the field goal here." Or before that, when he shared (redundantly) that "when you're two touchdowns behind, you have to hurry up with four minutes left; or with one touchdown behind, you hurry up with two minutes left; or with four minutes left, if you're two touchdowns behind."

But that was only the capper on a mind-numbing afternoon of crap spewing from his mouth and pen. At one point, we're told that the father of one of the players, who himself played in a previous Super Bowl, is in the stands today. They cut to a nice, fairly tight shot of the stands, with one guy very clearly centered in the frame. But Madden assumes we must be as dumb as he is, and circles the guy with the telestrater.

At one point, he starts drawing some bit of unnecessary crap, but the camera is already cutting away to some player on the sidelines spitting out a mouth of water. So it appears that Madden has illustrated the path of the spew.

But nothing beat the moment that was like a Saturday Night Live sketch being played out right there on screen, as a replay comes on, Madden circles two players in the backfield, then starts to draw these long, perpendicular lines coming from them, one with a nice curve on the end. The thing is getting waaaaaaaaay too phallic when, just in time, the replay starts and the dirty doodle is erased.

Man, am I glad I watch like one football game a year. I simply couldn't take any more.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Whipped Into a Drunken Stupor

It's been a while since I've brought you a "tale of trivia night," or even a good question that came up. This week, I have the former.

Every time they ask a question, you have "one song" of time to turn in your answer. At some point about halfway through the night, the "one song" for a particular question was Devo's "Whip It." The bar seemed a little more crowded than usual, and many of the patrons seemed far more drunk than usual. The evidence? The team a few tables over turned the thing into a total Cab Calloway-style "call and answer" song. And half the bar took up the cry.

"When a problem comes along..."


"Before the cream sits out too long..."


It was both disturbing and can't-breathe-hysterical at the same moment. Even funnier than the next couple of songs that came on, Aha's "Take On Me" and Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down." (The latter was just not silly enough to compete with Devo, despite the Tom Petty impersonations; the former just hurt your ears at the end of each chorus.)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Previously Within This Episode of Battlestar Galactica...

Well, I wouldn't say Battlestar Galactica is quite back to "firing on all cylinders." But the show did redeem itself from the last couple of weaker episodes tonight.

On the down side, the "XX hours earlier" gimmick needs to be officially retired from television for at least a year. It was used a little differently here than it had been used in two of the last four BSG episodes, but it still wasn't entirely effective to me. Three times, three times, we got to hear about how "it's a machine, it's not gonna turn." I'm over it.

But, on the upside, the Starbuck/Apollo and Starbuck/Helo scenes were great. Edward James Olmos once again delivered a hell of a punch with the "so say we all" line. More good than not this week, I feel.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Player Intelligence -- The True Survivor Exile

Survivor kicked back up again tonight. It is without question the "junkiest" bit of "junk food TV" I watch, but hey... most people have a show like that. And if you're still reading this post by this point, you probably watch it too, so let's all "eat junk food" together, shall we? My random observations about tonight's episode:

Man, a lot of stupid players in this installment of Survivor. Where to begin? As always, I'm baffled how people can go on Survivor and not prep a few basic outdoor skills in advance of going. But this time was even worse than usual.

We saw Cirie, so afraid of the outdoors that she won't even turn over leaves. Even I'm not bothered by insects that much.

We have the Younger Men, who were trying to start a fire in their cooking pot. And they had flint to start a fire with, but still couldn't get it done! (As an aside, I find it odd that all the tribes did have names -- as seen on their flags and in the opening credits -- and yet the on-screen subtitles always just referred to them as "Younger Women," "Older Men," etc. Oh well. Easy reference, I guess.)

For the Prince of "Unprepared," witness Shane. Not only did he not bother to learn any survival skills before coming onto the show -- he didn't even bother to quit smoking in advance. He apparently just decided to come on and give up cigarettes when they pushed him off the boat. Wow. New heights (depths?) of dumb.

Misty gets exiled first and separated from her tribe. They're all bonding without her, and yet somehow she comes to the conclusion that the thing to do when she rejoins the group is to lie to her team and imply she found the immunity idol. She's lucky they didn't lose, cause they would have had every reason to call that bluff.

Then there's Tina. She thinks she got voted out because she came on as too big a threat and that she ended up with "the wrong people." Nope. She is simply the latest in a long line of dumb Survivor players who suck at the "public speaking" game. She totally shot herself in the foot at Tribal Council. Jeff asked her, "is everyone at camp pulling their weight?" Now, I for one think that lying is a-okay in Survivor -- it's a game, people. But even if you're not wanting/able to lie, she had an out. She could have twisted away from the whole fire and water thing and focused on the unbelievably kick-ass shelter those women built. I guarantee she didn't do that alone -- the other women had to have helped. She could have simply said, "oh, we definitely all rallied together to build the shelter." That would have easily ducked the question, and been the truth. But nope, she took the rope Jeff threw her an hanged herself with it.

Finally, there's "Astronaut" Dan. Okay, actually, I'm not disliking this guy. It's just an observation: at the end of the challenge when they showed him standing with his tribe, it was a straight-out-of-Sesame-Street "One of These Things is Not Like the Others" moment. He was the pastiest looking guy I've ever seen. I guess you don't get to see much sun when you're doing astronaut training all the time. Actually, he and Terry might be the closest to "players I'm pulling for" as I might get this early in the game.

Tune in next week, and we'll watch the idiocy continue.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

May Flowers... They Don't Just Bring Pilgrims

I know of three people whose birthday is tomorrow, February 2nd. I know quite a few more who have birthdays throughout the month. What the hell? February is, statistically speaking, the hardest "target" to hit all year long. But it seems to me to be loaded with births. And apparently, Groundhog Day is a particular magnet for it.

So I suppose the real question is, what's so special about the first week-or-so of May that is ultimately leading to this phenomenon?