Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Belated Oscar Thoughts

Earlier this week, I was playfully chastised for not writing anything about this year's Academy Awards. I'll rectify that now, although the truth is I'm not so sure I have that much to say -- for all the talk of how "tight" this year's awards might be, how "anybody could win" in many of the categories, everything ended up going to exactly who was predicted.

I'll start with the one possible exception to this: Alan Arkin's win in the Best Supporting Actor category, beating the presumed favorite, Eddie Murphy. But even this wasn't a surprise to some. As a friend of mine said, you can't underestimate the power of the "he's old; give him one" vote. I'd cite another factor, one contributing more to Eddie Murphy's loss than Alan Arkin's win: Norbit. This crap-tastic looking piece of fluff was being advertised heavily as "coming soon" during the voting period for the Oscars. I have to believe that many voters contemplating their ballots thought of those awful commercials for that awful movie (it ended up netting 10% over at Rotten Tomatoes) and decided "anyone but him" would get their vote.

Alright, possible "surprise" #2, as I've heard some voice it: the Best Foreign Film win by The Lives of Others (over Pan's Labyrinth). Now, I did not see The Lives of Others. And this is precisely the point. My understanding is that, unlike many of the major categories at the Oscars, voters in the Foreign Film category are required to have seen all the nominees. (Why this isn't required across the board, I don't know.) Every year, it seems like there's one foreign film that breaks out around Oscar time, getting a wide American theatrical release, and garnering a lot of attention. Some years, that also happens to be the most deserving film. Perhaps this year, it was not. The only way to know for sure would be to see this other, winning film.

So, those two longer trains of thought out of the way, here are a few more "thoughtlets" about the rest of the awards:

Ellen DeGeneres was a fine host. I didn't enjoy her as much as Jon Stewart last year, but she performed in her signature style, and would be a fine choice to host again in the future.

The Coppola/Lucas/Speilberg bit would have been a lot more funny, had it not been plainly obvious to all of us why George Lucas has not won a directing Oscar.

The Will Ferrell/Jack Black/John C. Reilly song was hysterical.

The Departed won Best Picture, as everyone knew it would. I think it was a decent enough choice. Some people I know will particularly applaud the choice. I'd still have preferred Little Miss Sunshine.

What was with all the flesh-colored dresses, and hair that looked like all the women had to walk through a wind tunnel before getting on stage?

Those shadow guys are freaky.

Monday, February 26, 2007

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

"Deeignotics?" Gredenko, you eediot!

Palmer wants to know if Lennox will be joining him. Nope, he's tied up right now.

Jack wants a five-block perimeter around the building his father's fleeing. (Everybody drink!) Maybe -- just maybe -- if Jack had called 7 or 8 minutes ago when his father first left, they might have caught him in time!

Jack comes ever-so-close to a "Josh.... I am your father" moment.

Reed tells his hitman they're not cold-blooded murderers. Just what kind of murderers are they?

Morris is getting tired of Chloe giving him the third degree. I think a good portion of the audience might be getting there too.

Logan says he knows how to locate Gredenko: through this Anatoly Markov, who is the very model of a Russian consul-general.

Is "back channels" code for torture?

I was under the impression that "locator devices" on prisoners were generally worn on the ankle instead of the wrist. But Logan pulls off this odd fashion choice, mainly so we viewers can have an in-your-face reminder that he's under house arrest.

Gredenko's henchmen have brought him the special effects model of the Enterprise-D.

Nadia confronts Buchanan about Morris. Milo is Sir Not Appearing In This Picture.

Lennox struggles mightily. If he can't get the tape off his mouth, not only will he fail to save the president's life, he have no lines in the entire episode!

Logan shares a moment with his reflection: "I'm evil enough, I'm devious enough, and doggonit, people hate me!"

Jack suits up!

The AA sponsor's agent couldn't get her a recurring role on 24.

I have no idea why the mens' room at CTU is also labeled on the inside of the door.

Reed's hitman appears to be drawing his bomb-making liquids from ketchup and mustard flavored highlighters.

Dial 6-2-4 for bombs. Get it? 2-4? 24?

Amazingly, Lennox isn't too short to reach that valve on the wall.

Al-Assad appears to have become ex-Assad.


Another great episode of Prison Break tonight, one that managed to touch on every single running plot the show has right now.

C-Note was brought to where Mahone would inevitably take him, and far sooner than I know I'd expected. I suppose it's possible that his suicide attempt failed for some reason, and he might still be around, but that seems an unlikely stretch.

Paul Kellerman appears to be on a path to assassinating the president who spurned him. If he's successful, then the show's creators won't really need to worry anymore about sharing Patricia Wettig with Brothers & Sisters. On the other hand, in the world of the show, Linc and Michael will once again be completely screwed.

Speaking of Linc and Michael, a fun cloak and dagger plot for them tonight, which even had a reappearance of LJ. And finally LJ showed some of the smarts he rarely did in most his time on the show -- he's smart enough to know not to get caught up in his father's troubles again.

Mahone's incredible powers of deduction have now not only got him almost literally banging on the brothers' door, but he has now realized that Lincoln truly is innocent. Of course, he seems to be able to set aside any ethical conflict in the service of his job, but his interactions with C-Note tonight clearly showed the conflict is there. Is he going to behave differently if he catches up with the brothers again?

Bellick is back in action as the "junkyard" dog hunting down another convict, and as always, great fun in the role. Sucre's newfound domestic bliss isn't going to last for long.

And finally, there was T-Bag, murdering another man for his identity to slip off to Thailand. I'm not sure how I'd feel about checking my luggage on a flight like that, never mind a glorified duffel bag with that kind of cash in it. But how perfect was it that he and Bellick were on the same flight? Almost Lost-like, in the serendipity of the characters almost interacting.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dirty Hands

A well-intentioned episode of Battlestar Galactica tonight, I thought, but not a well-executed one.

The notion that these people, in this apocalyptic tragedy, would be forced into near-slave labor, and also forced to pass their trades on to their descendants, is a perfectly logical outgrowth of the show's premise. Frankly, I think the biggest flaws in this idea are:

1) That it didn't come sooner. This is as obvious a story thread for this premise as, say, "running out of food and water." But it doesn't play quite so realistically because it's well into season three before it was introduced.

2) That it appeared to all be wrapped up in a single episode. This was a serious issue, one that seemed far too thorny to have everything end "happily ever after." Especially on a show where nothing ever ends "happily ever after" for the characters. Roslin and Tyrol negotiating, and her basically giving him everything he wanted (and when earlier in the hour, she was slapping down everything anyone said in the most draconian manner)? Seelix getting her shot at pilot? All too trite. Too perfect. Not Galactica.

There were good things about the episode. Mainly, it was nice to have a Tyrol-centric story. The secondary characters on Galactica are great, and I enjoy seeing episodes that feature them more. The scene of Adama threatening to execute Cally was particularly chilling. And the idea that Baltar has written his own version of "Mein Kampf" was an interesting one. (Although the scene would have played stronger, I think, had his "Arilon accent" not been so obvious re-recorded after principal photography. Apparently the creators had a change of heart and later decided to make Arilons sound Cockney?)

We seem to be at that same lull as we were in season two in the "middle of the last half" of the season. Of course, last year, just when it seemed things wouldn't get interesting again until the season finale, the fantastic episode Downloaded popped up in there. So maybe there's still some good installments ahead, and we're not just marking time until the season three finale.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Those of you not up on the world of children's literature may not have heard of the Newbery Medal -- but then again, some of you might have, as it's basically the Pulitzer of the genre. This year, the award was given to the book "The Higher Power of Lucky," by Susan Patron. I haven't read it. I don't have any plans to. So why did this get my attention?

Ah, the power of words. (For those without online NY Times access, a less detailed version of the story is here.) On page one, the author has included the word "scrotum," much to the apparent outrage of people from sea to shining sea. And my mind is practically paralyzed by the various responses I have to this.

The book won a Newbery Medal. I read a few winners of this award back in the day, and they were all very good. So can anyone allow for the possibility (probability) that there's some good content in this book if you can just get past page one and into the real meat of it?

Who does the author think she's kidding? She says in this article that this was based on a true incident involving a friend’s dog. But she's clearly just trying to be controversial and push some paper to put a passage like this in the book: "Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important." Come on, but that's just primed to make a kid wonder "what's a scrotum?"

Assuming they don't already know. I'm pretty sure I knew by that age. Granted, that could be a matter of gender. I'm just saying, there are some parents out there totally deluding themselves about what some of their kids do or don't do, know or don't know, say or don't say.

And even if you are offended by the use of such a word in a children's book (which you personally are entitled to be, if it's your kid you don't want reading it), a response like this one from a teacher in Durango, Colorado is preposterous: "This book included what I call a Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they could push the envelope, but they didn’t have the children in mind." Howard Stern? Puh-lease.

And by the way, I love, love, love that the picture of the author in that article shows her dog sitting next to her. Perfect.

Friday, February 23, 2007


I have basically two requirements of a hair-styling product:

1) That it keeps my hair in place.

2) That it not look like a jar of snot.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Artemis Redux

I recently finished up a bit of light reading, the fifth book of the Artemis Fowl series, The Lost Colony.

For those who haven't read any of the Artemis Fowl books, you might have heard someone try to describe them to you in comparison to Harry Potter. This is because people don't seem to have any other frame of reference for children's/young adult fiction -- a book is either lavishly illustrated and 32 pages long, a "grown-up" book, or Harry Potter.

The truth is, there's very little comparison between the two. Artemis Fowl is not so grandiose in scale. Each book is a brisk, short read; depending on how voracious a reader you are, you could finish one easily in part of a single day. The characters are vividly drawn, but not very dimensioned. The plots are straight-forward, often with surprises, but never with any sub-plots or diversions. They're rather candy-like, in that they don't offer much in the way of long-lasting substance, but can be quite fun while you're consuming them.

But with this fifth book, I'm starting to lose my taste for this particular bit of candy. The Lost Colony unfortunately just feels like more of the same. Many characters had had some upheavals in their lives at the conclusion of book four, but instead of exploring the ramifications of this in book five, author Eoin Colfer pretty much just fits everybody back into the same old roles within a few chapters, and sends them off on another adventure that feels fairly familiar. Some might like it to a comfortable old shoe, and there is some value in getting what you'd expect. But in this case, I'd be more inclined to point out that the shoe has become worn and has holes in the soles, and is probably worth throwing out.

In short, I wasn't left with that same feeling of enjoyment after finishing this book as I did with earlier Artemis Fowls. I didn't hate the book, but I wasn't sure it had been worth my time either.

Though at least it only took a few hours.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stranger in a Strange Land

Tonight, Lost once again abandoned the tale of the Flight 815-ers to focus on the Others. And again, it was a much worse episode for it. We're about nine episodes into season three, and I know where I stand as far as caring about the Others:

I still like Ben very much. This has mostly to do with how wonderful he was in season two, and how perfect the actor who plays him is in the role. But since Ben is recovering from surgery these days, we hardly see him in any given episode. I'm marginally, barely, maybe starting to invest a little in Juliet. It's a combination of seeing her flashback a few episodes ago, and having Jack (a familiar character) start to care about her -- but I still have a long way to go. The rest of the Others? Nothing happening there yet. They remain essentially as mysterious and bizarre as they've been since day one.

Now, contrast this with where we stood in season two in relation to the "Tailies" after nine episodes. Most fans, myself included, were already really responding to Mr. Eko -- a man who barely had spoken. Ana Lucia's compelling flashback had made her far more complex than just "the villain who killed Shannon." And I, for one, was really glad to have seen Bernard and Rose reunite. Okay, so Libby wasn't quite popping yet at that point in time. But the point is, the audience was already invested in the Tailies.

But the Others? I'm coming dangerously close to seeing them in the same way I saw the "conspiracy" episodes of The X-Files after about season three. You know, the non-sensical, boring, self-important episodes you had to sit through during sweeps months to wait for the far more clever and interesting stand-alone episodes? The Lost writers seem to remain stubborn in their refusal to reveal even details of minor importance about this plot line, so instead they're little more to me than distractions from the far more compelling stuff happening back home with old, familiar faces. (And hell, even a relatively new one like Desmond.)

The only aspect of tonight's episode that I really enjoyed were the flashbacks giving insight into Jack's tattoos... though frankly, even that story was relatively light in substance. I mean, do we really have that much more of an insight into Jack's character now than we did before?

In fact, there's another similarity to The X-Files "mythology" episodes. Eventually, as the show wore on, Mulder and Scully themselves became inextricably tied up in that story, what with his own abduction/vanishing and her miraculous pregnancy. And at that point, I welcomed the addition of Doggett and Reyes to the show, because I hated the conspiracy episodes so much that I had by extension almost come to hate the classic old characters of Mulder and Scully. Having less of them around meant having less incomprehensible mythology episodes.

On Lost, if the writers don't make me start caring about the Others real soon, they're only going to succeed in making me hate the character of Jack instead -- because we won't be able to see anything having to do with Jack without having to put up with that Other nonsense.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Unto the...

This past weekend, I headed out to the movie theater to catch Breach, the real-life story of a famous FBI mole, starring Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe. I knew going in that while this was a "spy movie," it was not at all an "action movie," so I suppose I was just a little fearful that this would turn out to be another Good Shepherd. Fortunately, that was not at all the case.

The Good Shepherd fell down in two major ways -- in its failure to establish any empathy for its main character, and in the utter lack of tension despite an ostensibly suspenseful setting. Breach fell into neither pitfall.

As for the characters, you're not only drawn into the journey of the hero (Ryan Phillippe's character), but Chris Cooper gives a brilliant performance that draws you in to the villain as well. He's not a monster. And he clearly has his reasons for what he does, but there's ample room for you to speculate at what those might be -- they're not spelled out easily.

As for the tension, the movie does a splendid job of delivering. This is a particularly amazing accomplishment, since most people know the outcome of this true story before entering the theater, and those who don't are told point blank in the opening thirty seconds of the film. And yet, there are a number of very tense "race against the clock" sequences, "will someone get caught in the act or not?" sequences, and meaningful conflicts between characters.

It all comes together well, not as the greatest film you'll have seen in ages, but as a solid and enjoyable one. I give it a B.

And as a short footnote, I should mention an odd coincidence about the day I went to the movie. We went Sunday, February 18th. In real life, Chris Cooper's character was arrested on Sunday, February 18th (in 2001). There was a quiet titter in the audience when the date popped up on screen. Unfortunately, for those who want to experience this sort of numeric synchronicity themselves, I believe you won't be able to until the year 2012.

But hey, it will be out on DVD by then.

Monday, February 19, 2007

3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Tonight begins with possibly the longest recap ever on 24. It goes on forever!

Jack Bauer comes across the burning wreckage of the CTU van. And the background music that's playing makes it sound like it really was an ice cream truck that caught fire.

The lack of Powers Boothe's name in the credits makes me seriously doubt anything is going to happen to Wayne Palmer this episode.

Marilyn is running along, then starts clutching her legs and gasping "I can't." She knows she's supposed to be in a wheelchair. (See, there it is again!)

Phillip's thug says Jack is dead. He doesn't know Jack is as unkillable as Michael Myers. Then he says Milo doesn't look like a trained field agent. I guess he does know that field agents look like Jack or Chase or Curtis or something.

Milo says: "They know we're here." Maybe if he'd quit rattling the damn fence, the thugs wouldn't have figured it out!

Marilyn, once again showing how not good she is at the running.

How long is Jack going to keep pretending that Josh is "her son"?

Morris thanks Nadia for rubbing salt in the wound. In case anyone has forgotten, that would be the big drill-bit-shaped wound on his shoulder.

Badass Jack Line of the Week: "He wants to live."

Somehow it seems important that this hotel room where Phillip has Josh is near the airport, since they make a point of showing the planes. (And yet, by the end of the episode, it doesn't appear to have mattered after all.)

Phillip's logic in all this appears to be: "Josh, if I have to kill you to protect the future of the company I intend for you to inherit, I will." Huh?

Good money was spent on the "closet inside the presidential bunker" set, so we're going to see Reed and Lennox have another shadowy conversation there.

Lennox shows his "child seeking approval" streak, because the minute Wayne asks for his opinion again, he starts rethinking the whole assassination thing.

Morris has taken note of the serious dearth of "dammits" and "perimeters" this week, so he's started a little drinking game of his own.

Jack may have turned his back so Marilyn could slip into her slinky flak jacket, but Phillip's captured thug definitely got an eyeful.

So now Morris and Milo have both had their moments outside CTU, only to get messed up and return for a shirtless scene in the medical facility. I'm guessing Chloe and Nadia aren't quite going to follow the pattern.

Tom Lennox has a Sean-Astin-in-season-five moment, when someone beats him up to steal his security card.

Next time you smell someone with Altoids on their breath, know that they're secretly trying to cover the whiskey smell.

Defying all odds and past history of the show, a Tac Team that doesn't have a main character in it bursts onto a scene... and all of them survive!

Fifteen minutes after they start up the stairwell, Jack, Marilyn, and the thug finally arrive on the right floor of the hotel. Just what floor were Phillip and Josh on again?

How long before you'll be able to buy a spiffy CTU t-shirt just like the one Milo's wearing?

Chloe gives us a great new line when you're caught drinking: "He didn't metabolize."

Phillip's turn to give the "I'm a patriot" speech that all the bad guys for the last season-and-a-half have given. He doesn't really do any better a job explaining how killing David Palmer was patriotic, either.

Wha-who-huh?! President Logan?! And not much looking like he's inside a jail cell, either!

But that's a matter for next week...

Bad Blood

Solid episode of Prison Break tonight. It was great to see (ex-)warden Pope back on the show, even if only for one episode. It does tax the believabity meters a bit (even for this show) to think that Michael would somehow feel he could trust Pope, but hey... I'll roll with it because it made for a good plot line.

And speaking of returns, Maricruz, who has only been spoken of and never seen all season long, finally made it back on screen. (What with The Nine having been canceled. Too bad we're already rid of Terrence Steadman, or perhaps we could have had John Billingsley back in that role.) I'm still not terribly interested in what happens to Sucre at the moment, but I'll at least give points for there being quite a lot of tension in his story this week.

What will T-Bag be up to now that he's let his would-be family go?

But of course, the biggest development was in C-Note's storyline. It will help his character immensely to pull him back into the main storyline, helping the hunt for Michael and Linc. But then again, we all know Mahone's mandate to kill all the Fox River inmates, so the fact that C-Note has now been caught can't seem to bode well for his life span on the show.

Naturally, the episode ended just before we could find out what was on that memory stick. Damn.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Day in the Life

An unfortunately rather poor episode of Battlestar Galactica tonight, I thought. Aside from a number of good scenes in the final act, I found the episode ranged from ordinary and predictable at best to downright laughable at worst.

The Tyrol-and-Cally-in-jeopardy plot was disappointing, standard television fare. From the moment they stepped into that airlock, arguing with one another, you knew every single beat that was going to take place in that story, all the way to the end of the episode.

And then there was the plot involving Bill Adama's memories of his ex-wife. I thought it a failure on absolutely every level. The concept of a parallel, imagined conversation taking place in a character's head, in an entirely different location, is an interesting one. And probably great on some other show. But on this show, this is a character device for Baltar, and Baltar alone. Sure, it's been a long, long time since we saw Baltar imagining himself back in his house on Caprica, but it's still a vivid and fresh image in the minds of every Galactica fan (and not just because we see the house destroyed every week in the opening credits). Unless this was deliberately intended to tweak that tiny portion of the fan base that's still entertaining the crazy notion that Adama is actually a Cylon, there was no reason to do it.

Then there was the woman they cast to play the ex-wife. Her performance was so outrageous, it was practically comedic. I think she can't be held solely responsible for it -- she'd been handed some incredibly over-the-top dialogue, and no doubt was coached in this wild behavior by the director of the episode. But no matter who is to blame, I couldn't take the finished product seriously.

I can't be sure but I think even the props department dropped the ball on this aspect of the episode. It sure seemed to me like half the time we saw that old wedding photo, it had the corners clipped off, while the other half, it didn't. Not that these things typically get to me, but since I certainly was not being pulled into the scene as a viewer, I couldn't help but let my mind wander to these sorts of other details.

As I said, at least there were some good moments in the final 10 minutes or so that saved the episode from being a total loss. Among those last few strong and touching character moments: Tyrol and Cally's reunion with their son, Lee receiving the box of his grandfather's law books from his father (and the note inside), and Laura and Bill's final scene together looking back ("hypothetically") at the good times on New Caprica.

All told, a definite low point of the season for me. But I suppose some episode would have that unfortunate distinction, even if all 20 for the year were great.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Detour Ahead

Like my youngest brother and folks within my blog's gravitational influence, I not long ago reached that point where thrashing out to Guitar Hero (though still fun) was not enough. I decided to buy the real thing.

I bought a Godin Detour, exactly the color you see on the left. And since I picked it up about two months ago, I've been working fairly hard to learn to play it. It's coming along. Slowly. I've at least moved beyond the point where hearing me feels like this:

But I have to confess I'm still a ways from playing anything like a complete song that sounds good all the way through.

We'll see where things stand by the time Guitar Hero III gets released...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wii Will Clock You

So, tonight I got to try out a Nintendo Wii for the first time. Lots of fun, I must say. But there is one particular thing the Wii does that I don't like at all.

There's a section of the operating system that keeps a calendar, cataloguing every minute you've spent playing your Wii, and on which games. Now, I already didn't really like those video games (usually console RPGs) that keep track of the time you've been playing.

"Yes, I know I've already blown 50 hours on this." It's so bad on multiple levels. You know exactly how much time you could have spent on other things. And you also know how much u r teh sux0r cuz ne n00b can finish it in half that that time.

And now you've got it not just for one or two games, but for your entire system. Yikes.

I must say, though, I liked just about everything else about the Wii. I'm definitely feeling the pull to not be the last kid on my block to have one.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

We All Scream

Sweet liberty. No, it doesn't taste like licking the Liberty Bell. (That's a How I Met Your Mother reference, for those of you not in the know...) It tastes like vanilla ice cream, fudge-covered waffle cone bits, and caramel.

That's what's in the new Stephen Colbert-themed ice cream flavor from Ben & Jerry's, Americone Dream. I haven't yet picked up any myself, but I'm looking forward to it.

This pretty much cements what was already well-known: despite the fact that Jon Stewart still pulls down bigger ratings on The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert has a much higher public profile.

See where mocking those who deserve to be mocked will get you?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Flashes Before Your Eyes

Now we're getting back on track.

Jack, Sawyer, Kate, and The Others all took a week off in this episode of Lost, and I didn't really miss them all that much. Instead, we got a very compelling episode dealing with Desmond.

And it was a very different type of storytelling for Lost as well. It's a very interesting technique in the writing that this tale of "time travel" and deja vu was actually just about the most linear episode of Lost ever. All the material on The Island was presented at the beginning and the end, and all the "flashback" was presented in an uninterrupted progression in the middle. The "soft whoosh" sound effect of transitioning to the past got to take a bit of a rest this week.

Charlie's on the chopping block, according to Desmond's visions. And Desmond is already coming to believe that the inevitable cannot be avoided, only postponed. Is he right? Well, they're obviously willing to kill off main characters on Lost -- they've done it many times before. And Charlie's not quite in the "untouchable" stable of characters that is Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Locke. So it is possible. But it's also a very different thing for Lost to give warning of a character death like this -- all the other dead major characters have been offed in sudden ways designed to surprise and shock.

I suppose maybe these differences in storytelling are exactly the reason I responded so favorably to this episode, because differences were exactly what I was craving after the first batch of six this season.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lone Hero

I don't have to round up 39 other people to go save Zelda. I can do it all by myself.

Zelda doesn't care if I leave her alone for a week and do other things with my evenings.

I don't have to apply to a guild master to save Zelda.

If I screw up when I'm trying to save Zelda, I just get a "Game Over" screen. I don't get insulted by a half-dozen people I don't even really know.

I'm coming for you, Princess!

Monday, February 12, 2007

1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

As the next hour begins, Jack learns that his brother Graem is dead. No more fights over the Radio Flyer.

Chloe's losing it, so Milo takes over. He should be good at this, since he was the big techno wiz in season one. But technology has evolved a lot in five seasons (which is something like 11 years of "real time" with all the time skips between seasons).

A Mazerati -- not the most inconspicuous car you can use to kidnap someone. But handy when you start being chased by a helicopter.

"Dammit! We lost him." Drink!

All those cars where you could break a back window and not have to wind up sitting in broken glass, but McCarthy chooses the pickup truck.

Stephen King is driving by on the highway and says, "What the hell? It's Jack Bauer!"

Princess Vespa is not going anywhere without her matched luggage.

"Dammit, Milo, they could be anywhere!" Drink!

Bang! Double-cross! Now McCarthy's girlfriend is stepping up to be first killed by Fayed by the end of the hour!

Lennox is very unhappy. ("I left Numb3rs to hang out with this wuss?!")

Palmer is "rolling back" on Lennox's plans. He's like a presidential WalMart.

We're about one-third through the season, so it's time to start introducing a new crop of bad guys. Right on schedule, Reed calls this guy who's higher up the conspiracy-food-chain than he is.

Buchanan meets the Bauers. "You must be Jack's son... er, Josh!"

Chloe is now ready to step back up and reconfigure the main deflector dish or whatever to help find Morris.

"Meet us over there and set up a perimeter." Drink! (Bonus drink later if said perimeter actually turns out to be effective in containing the bad guys for once!)

Al-Assad re-enters the plot! Apparently he's on some sort of coastal exchange program with Karen Hayes.

"Agent Turner, what's the status of your perimeter?" Drink! (Answer: "Full of holes, as specified in the CTU field manual.")

What's the right drill bit to use for torture?

Fayed: "I was going to pay you 7 million dollars, but now I'm just going to kill you instead." For 7 million dollars and my life, I think I could control my gag reflex.

Reed is not intimate with Lennox. He's just amusing. At least I think that's what he said. Maybe I should turn on the closed captioning.

Jack's entire Tac Team is wearing helmets and wielding automatic weapons, but Jack's too damn cool for that. He'll go in just a flak jacket, armed with a shotgun. You know, Doom style.

How the hell did Fayed escape from that apartment? Floo powder?

Is Jack really the most qualified person on hand to disarm a nuclear bomb? I mean, he can't even pronounce nuclear bomb!

Based on Jack's rough "they're about three inches apart" and Chloe's even rougher "that gives us about three minutes," CTU sets up this fancy digital timer just to build tension. (But damned if it doesn't work.)

Halftime! Set up a perimeter around the kitchen! Reposition a microwave so we can deploy nachos, now!

Unnecessary recap... Graem is still dead. Morris gets his own freeze frame. Sandra Palmer and Walid weren't around last hour, and you didn't even notice. Almost the exact same profile shot of Fayed that ends the recap opens the episode.

We're about one-third through the season, so it's time to start introducing a new crop of bad guys. Right on schedule, Fayed calls this Russian who's still living in the 1980s.

Jack Bauer has his heroic "back at CTU for the first time" moment, as dozens of extras stare awkwardly and he and Chloe share an even more awkward not-hug.

The photo of Graem and Phillip Bauer "together" looks, really, really fake.

The wide shot of Jack and Phillip over Graem's body is framed in a really cool way in widescreen. Thanks, HDTV! (And thanks, Shocho and LWC!)

Jack's willing to accept punishment for what happened with Graem. Cause yeah, what could they possibly do to him that would be half as bad as a Chinese prison?

Lennox is "inconspicuously" wandering the halls. Looking for the unisex bathroom?

Marilyn is aware that her late husband was cheating on her with Russian terrorists in West L.A.

And here comes Phillip, maybe to put her in a wheelchair. (Ha, see what I did there?!)

Buchanan wants Jack to take Milo with him. Because it's Milo's turn in the rotation to get out of the offices at CTU and have something really, really awful happen to him.

Marilyn can't imagine what Jack went through in China. All that MSG.

Man, that "Susan" friend of Marilyn's is a real bitch!

Phillip says it's too difficult to travel right now. If only someone would invent some improved propulsion system. Maybe something that could propel you faster than light. (Ha, see what... yeah, yeah...)

Chloe might just have a silver tongue after all, since her pep talk is enough to get Morris back into action.

Phillip will always be there for Josh. With a helping syringe.

Boom, goes the house! And we don't see anybody else from the Tac Team escape, so Jack, it's pretty much down to CT-You.

Milo tries his best, but it's hard to outrun the bad guys in an ice cream truck.

For some reason, this printout that Lennox is watching come out is important enough to merit its own box at the end of the episode.

And that's it! 9 hours into the season and we're still following essentially the same, single, cohesive plotline. That's a good sign, folks!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Woman King

Tonight's Helo-centric episode of Battlestar Galactica was my favorite since "Collaborators."

Helo and Sharon had an entire subplot to themselves running for the entirety of season one, and it was one of the most compelling elements of that year. So I think it's hard to go wrong focusing an episode around them. What's more, it was another episode that brought up some seriously dark areas -- just the kind of area Galactica explores so well.

And I have to admit, I got totally geek-giddy when "Head Baltar" strolled into the scene between Caprica Six and Sharon. All those episodes with all that Cylon stuff in the first half of the season, but nothing really picking up on this very compelling character aspect introduced near the end of season two. But here it was again tonight. And though it's a superficial detail, I think part of what gave it such a strong, visceral impact was seeing Baltar again without the "mountain man" beard he's acquired over season three.

As you may have seen promoted during the broadcast, they have a deleted scene from the episode being featured over at the official web site. It adds another interesting interaction of characters to the mix. It also will scratch the itch a bit if you thought there wasn't enough Adama in the episode.

Character-driven. Dark subject matter. Strong emotion. All the elements of my favorite Galactica episodes.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Exposed Clubbage

Here's a new term that my game group is contributing to the lexicon:

Cardstrophobia: the fear of having your cards too close to you, thereby instead showing them to the players sitting immediately on either side of you.

One of the players in my group is particularly prone to cardstrophobia. But then again, he just clobbered us at the game we were playing, so it doesn't seem to be impacting his daily life.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Dewey? We Do!

A few years back, there were all sorts of internet search engines all used in roughly equal measure. It was even a topic of debate among the uber-geeky as to which one was the best. Then Google took over. Today, it may be the fastest, and the best in terms of results.

...but it's not the most entertaining. That honor goes to Ms. Dewey.

If you're not feeling inspired to try searches of your own, I suggest clicking the "Best of Dewey" link and sharing some of your discoveries.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hot Air

Okay, car people... answer me this: how often should you change the air filter in your car? This guy says about once a year, but hey, I don't know him any better than anyone else on the intarwebs.

See, here's the thing. Every single time I go to a place to get an oil change, I always, always, always get the moment where they tell me, "oh, and that air filter is filthy... you really ought to think about changing that." Once, I even had them actually bring it to me there in the waiting area, like some roadkill that had gotten lodged up in my undercarriage. And I'm thinking, if changing this all the time was really necessary, wouldn't that just be part of the regular "quick maintenance" routine these places do?

The last time I got an oil change a while back, I went for it, and said, "sure, change that air filter." What the hell do I know? (I didn't say that last part.) Now here I am, most certainly less than one year later, and I'm getting the "you ought to change that air filter" crap again.

Do they get some kind of sweet margin on air filters in particular at car places? Do I live in a climate where it's reasonable to go through them like tissues?

Someone, please enlighten me!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Not in Portland

Tonight's return of Lost was a definite improvement over where the last few episodes from the fall had left things, but I still think the show isn't quite back to "firing on all cylinders."

Seeing a bit of Juliet's back story was very interesting. (And not just because it put yet another cast member from Deadwood on the show in a minor role.) As with Desmond's flashbacks which ended season two, it was a nice change of pace to see another way of getting to The Island other than the plane crash. It was a little easy to see ahead of time the direction the flashbacks were taking, but it is nevertheless a powerful piece of this character that she carries the guilt of having wished someone dead and had it come to pass. And yet, Juliet clearly hardened up a lot to get to her present demeanor, which I think leaves plenty of blank spots in that intervening three years to fill in. Which is good. Juliet does not seem to be a character like Claire, with no interesting backstory left to tell after just one episode focusing on her.

Still, I was missing the bulk of the castaways this episode, and I'm very hopeful that Kate and Sawyer's escape means we'll now be seeing more of Locke, Sayid, Sun and Jin, Charlie, Hurley, etc... the frankly more interesting group (to me).

And speaking of interesting, there was one particular revelation this evening that sparked my curiosity. I'm often content not to dwell upon possible solutions to the Big Mysteries of the Island. But when it comes to big mysteries of the characters there, I take notice. The news that Ben is Alex's father is particularly strange when you look back on season two. We know Rousseau (aka "The French Woman") is Alex's mother. Presumably, she knew who the father of her child was. But remember, she is the one who originally caught Ben in one of her traps, and turned him over to Sayid in the first place. Does this mean she knows more than she let on before? What exactly was her thinking in handing Ben over to be tortured?

I suppose another possibility is that Alex was lied to about Ben being her father, but that seems a far less dramatic storyline. But again, this is all mystery about character and not hatches and magnetism and so forth, so I found it far more compelling.

Now we'll see if this is the start of a new momentum for the show, and if things keep improving in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


This past weekend, my evenings were loaded with live stand-up comedy -- I went to comedy clubs on both Friday and Saturday night.

Friday night was a trip to Comedy Works for my brother-in-law's birthday. He's a big fan of the comedian John Pinette. Perhaps you've seen this comedian on Comedy Central, either in a new special that's been airing in recent weeks, or a few years back in a heavily-played bit: "Nyquil -- may make you drowsy. Oh, yeah."

In any case, this was a fun guy to see live. He had a lot of good material. My one complaint (and I knew this would be the case going in), is that as a well-in-excess-of-300-pounds man, most of his act centers around fat jokes. Take any particular run of, say, 15 minutes of them, and it's truly very funny. But take his whole 45- to 60-minute act? I have to be honest and say that the fat jokes (funny though they were) wore just a little thin for me. It's a minor complaint, though, because he was really a load of laughs.

Though I actually preferred the comedian who opened for him. I had never before seen or heard of Tommy Johnagin, but I now find myself really wishing he was more well-known than he is. I'd like to see more of his stuff, but he's not big enough to have much out there. He delivers his material very straight-forwardly. It's not a high energy performance, but it's funny as hell. And it's nearly impossible to recount any of it here. For one, the huge laughs came so constantly that it almost became a blur afterward -- I could only remember pieces of what I'd heard. And second, most of what I remember really has to be taken in the full context of his act. For example, you wouldn't think jokes about Amber Alerts or eating babies could be funny, but in the tapestry of his entire act, they're hysterical.

Saturday night, I ended up going to a smaller comedy club in the Denver suburbs, Wit's End, thanks to free tickets from a friend. This is the sort of place where you'll probably never see a comedian you've heard of, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be any less funny.

The first of the two performers was Dan Swartout. I came dangerously close to "fat joke overload" with this guy, coming off of John Pinette the night before. But fortunately, this comedian had a very different style. He had almost impossibly high energy, and plenty of (pun not intended) non-fat content. He closed his act with his "One Non-Blonde" rendition of "What's Up," which I can tell you is going to stay with me for a long time.

The second of the two comedians was Mike Merryfield. Overall, I enjoyed this act more than the opener, but it wasn't a case of laughing throughout the routine. He definitely was the edgiest of all four comedians I saw on the weekend, with material that danced perhaps a little too close to the borderlines of racism and sexism by playing on stereotypes. But he also had the entire audience doing a ridiculous parody of a British accent at one point, so he definitely had some peaks and valleys.

All told, I had a lot of fun on both nights. If I had to make a competition of it, I'd proclaim Tommy Johnagin my favorite comedian of the four. But it's not, it was just a fun couple of nights out.

(I've decided the most applicable tag for this post is "theater," since I'm talking about live performances. This begs the question, now that Blogger supports tags, does it seem to you that every single post should have a tag? That's probably a debate for another time.)

Monday, February 05, 2007

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

We begin this episode with the traditional "brick of exposition." And, as has also become traditional this season, it's delivered in the form of a news broadcast.

Lennox wants President Palmer to look at this folder from his Trapper Keeper.

Graem tells his thugs it's his job to worry. All that worrying must be why all his hair fell out.

Apparently, "The Company" always keeps cement mixers parked near large open holes just in case they need to bury someone.

"Dammit!" says Jack. TWICE! That's two drinks! "In the thigh, Dad, the THIGH! How am I supposed to question him now?"

Set up a perimeter around Graem's house. That's another drink!

Rita wants something from the vending maching. This is the most significant development in this particular sub-plot in several episodes.

Darren McCarthy says they'll have the new engineer "within the hour." That's code for "as the exciting cliffhanger that ends the episode." It's also cause for another drink. Can anyone see straight anymore?

Morris needs to run a program to convert this Magic Eye image into a picture of the mysterious "engineer."

Marilyn and Graem are fighting, and Boy-Kim is not at all happy about it.

Jack is ready for Dry Cleaning Bag Round 2 with Graem.

Holy crap! Jack just said "nuclear" correctly. I think maybe that's a drink too.

More family members are popping up -- this time Morris' brother. Looks like season six is definitely exploring similar themes of "family" like season three did.

... and I have nothing snarky to say about the following scene. Jack's interrogation of Graem was totally kick-ass. Best scene so far this season, I think. Especially that Jack's father doesn't have to say one word to pull him back from the brink.

Oh, yeah... Walid. I didn't even recognize the "bandage-faced guy in the box" when we came back from commercial.

Sandra says that Walid is the bravest, most principled man she's ever known. I guess she didn't think much of her dead brother David.

And now, the purpose of the whole Walid plot is revealed. It's a catalyst to keep Wayne on the straight and narrow.

Morris is leaving. I think we all know where he's really going.

Please welcome the Vice President. Seems he's none too happy with the way the President does business. Maybe he'll open a rival saloon... er, uh, country... a little bit down the road... er, coast or something.

Looks like Darren McCarthy is going to be meeting Fayed in person next episode. Place your bets. Is McCarthy going to get paid, or get shot? Anyone want to speculate on the over/under for this?

And Dad is an evil megalomaniac. Who apparently likes Austin Powers, because he ends up turning on his own son because he's "not quite evil enough" or something.


A solid episode of Prison Break tonight.

We learned why the President sounded all robot-y on the phone, just saying the same things over and over again -- because it wasn't actually her! And frankly, this plot development helped Kim become more of a character too. All season long, he's just been this mustache-twirling "shadowy figure" on one end of a phone spewing cliche dialogue. This episode, he actually showed some intelligence in knowing exactly how to bait Paul Kellerman. (It just happened Paul was smarter still.)

All the 'shippers for Michael and Sara got a healthy dose of reunion.

The T-Bag plot continues to interest me, even though it's growing ever more bizarre. (The creepy family home becomes the creepy family road trip.)

Bellick has instantly become compelling and relevant to the plot again. Fantastic that his trip to prison was just a short side trip, and that he's now back on the hunt for the escapees. The "bulldog" analogy Mahone used was absolutely perfect. Bellick really is a bulldog, and in any other role, he simply wasn't fun to watch. Though frankly, Mahone could probably confide his real mission regarding the fugitives. "Bellick with the Bureau" doesn't strike me as the sort of person who would shy away from killing the Fox River Gang rather than bringing them in.

The Haywire story closed tonight, as it inevitably had to. I liked that this death was not the execution that Abruzzi and Tweener faced earlier this season. Mahone used more finesse this time, pushing the crazy man just that last bit over the edge.

And then... well, there was C-Note. Again, the weakest plot of the night. But this time was a little better. I guess where I found a soft spot for this plot thread was in how the other people at the restaurant reacted at the end, covering for C-Note and helping him escape even after learning he was a convict. Sure, perhaps they would not all have done so had they known he was one of the famous "Fox River Eight," but in that moment, with the information they had and the experience they'd just had with C-Note saving their lives, it made sense.

Next week brings two hours of 24 in lieu of any Prison Break. A bit of a Prison Break break. (Ugh. I can't believe I just typed that.) We'll see how the remaining "Fox River Five" fare after that.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Wonder Falls

Just this weekend, Joss Whedon announced that after spending over a year hammering away on a script for a potential Wonder Woman movie, he is off the project. I'm sure this comes as a disappointment to some comic fans, and is probably a disappointment to the man himself. But to me, it's nothing but good.

I don't give half a crap about Wonder Woman, and I'm just as relieved now to not have to go see the movie just cause Joss Whedon made it. Better still, he's free to go work on his own original material, a movie that's been in the works for a few months called Goners.

I'm still hoping he gets back into a weekly television series at some point. But I'm glad the side trip for the star-spangled panties is over.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Continuing Voyages

A few months back, the 22 episodes that make up the animated Star Trek series were released on DVD. I had seen a handful of them many, many years ago. It had been long enough that I scarcely remembered any of it aside from Spock having a saber-toothed tigery thingie for a pet as a child. In any case, recently (because of said DVDs) I had the chance to watch the series again.

If you've never seen the animated Star Trek, it's essentially everything the original Star Trek was, only taken to greater extremes.

William Shatner, fully aware that he has only his voice through which to convey his performance, overacts even more than he did in the live action version.

You know how the original series had maybe forty minutes' worth of music (granted, memorable music, but not much of it) reused again and again from one episode to the next? Well, the animated series has about ten minutes, and it's arguably even more bombastic and over the top.

Not that it's all about the high extremes. There are the low extremes too. The "minor characters" generally have even less to do here than they did in the live action version. Poor Chekov didn't even make it into the animated series.

Klingons are even more ridiculously shallow villains.

And some plots careen along at breakneck pace to fit into the 22 minute running time of the animated series.

But despite all my ribbing, I don't mean to say that the series is all bad. In fact, it's almost exactly like the live action series in this respect: the good episodes are truly very good. And other episodes are unbelievably bad. Ultimately, if you're a fan, it's like having a fourth season of the original Star Trek.

And now, having watched it all, I truly have no idea why the Powers-That-Be that run the franchise have decided to basically disavow it and not consider its stories as "canon." They have the same tone as the original. Many of them are written by the same writers. They have (with that notable exception of Chekov) all the same cast.

What gives?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Everybody PANIC!

Congratulations, fearmongers. Your years of manipulating the American public, trying to get us to actually believe that any one of us could at any moment be the victim of a terrorist attack on our way to the grocery store, has yielded its most startling dividends yet.

You have succeeded in making the citizens of the generally quite jaded city of Boston terrified of Lite-Brites.

I'd laugh at the absurdity of this recent news story, but it's just too alarming to be funny. Two guys have been arrested and charged with serious crimes for doing something that is, but for a trivial bit of technology we encourage children to play with, essentially the same thing any Joe Citizen does when he tapes signs for his garage sale on the lamp post at the nearby intersection.

How wound up and cowed do we as a nation have to be to have this kind of overreaction?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Babble On

Four down, one to go. This past Sunday, I went to see another one of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Picture, Babel. But while I loved Little Miss Sunshine, and generally liked The Departed and The Queen (and can understand why they're in contention), I did not care for this film. And Babel was the Golden Globe winner for Best Picture (Drama) to boot!

Babel is cast somewhat in the mold of last year's Best Picture winner, Crash. It doesn't feature as many characters or as many separate storylines, but the core principle is similar -- a number of short stories with only fleeting (if any) narrative connections, interspersed in a film under one thematic roof. But therein lies the major problem for me. The overall theme of Crash was right there, plain to see -- racism. I'm honestly not quite sure what the theme of Babel is supposed to be.

There are four stories in Babel: a married couple touring the Middle East, a pair of young brothers living in a Middle Eastern country, two children taken to Mexico on a day trip by their nanny, and a deaf Japanese teenager struggling with the death of her mother. Any topic you could conjecture as the theme to Babel seems to me to apply to only three of the stories, but not all four.

Is it a movie challenging the way Americans interact with the people of foreign countries? The story of the Japanese girl doesn't seem to fit that notion, because no one in her story ever interacts with anyone from another country.

Is it a story about parents and children not understanding one another? The story of the married couple doesn't fit that notion, as they are separated from their children for the entire movie.

Ultimately, you have to get to a topic as broad as "miscommunication" or "cultural differences" to find a theme that applies to all four stories. And I think at that point, the topic is too broad for this film to be making any particular statement about the theme.

Instead, it drifts lazily along at nearly two-and-a-half hours, often like four completely different short stories spliced together when someone mixed up a stack of film canisters. There are some powerful performances in the film, at least. The two women who received Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress are both compelling, and Brad Pitt is also commendable. But though the acting is good, and each one of the four stories taken on its own is well-told, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

I give the film a C+.