Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tweezed to Death

Just when some semblance of sanity was creepy back into airport security screening, and we were being allowed to carry simple things like tweezers in our carry-on bags again, some jerk has to go and prove that tweezers are lethal.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Blow Out

Tonight brought a pretty good episode of Prison Break.

The story had Mahone in the central role, and William Fichtner continued to deliver the high caliber performance he's brought so far this season.

The formula of recent weeks was broken up, with this week's "Scylla card heist" already in progress as the episode opened. This story instead focused on the fallout after the job, giving us some welcome variety.

Gretchen thankfully took a step toward being a more real character. After last season spent doing nothing but mustache twirling, and this season (so far) being tortured, I'm very glad she's on the loose and apparently will be given different material to work with. It also helps to hook her up with T-Bag; he needs another main character in his story.

The annoying Tech Guy was hardly in this episode. Yay.

They are running through these Scylla card holders awfully quick, though. I sure hope the writers have a plan for where the rest of the season will go after this is all wrapped up -- which is looking like it may be in just two more short weeks from now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Heimlich at the Theater

This weekend, I went to see Choke, a movie based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same title. (I've reviewed a couple of his books here before -- and am about to start reading another -- but not this book in particular.)

As with all his stories, this one is a strange concoction of a number of ideas, characters, and settings. This time, it touches on working in an historical recreation camp, choking in public for the rush of love from a total stranger saving your life, sex addiction, and an already crazy mother suffering from increasing dementia in her old age. It actually all holds together pretty well within the short 90 minutes of the film. Nothing major jumped out in my mind as having been cut from the book, and what was on the screen felt like a pretty faithful adaptation of what I remembered.

The two major performances, from Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston, are rock solid. They're funny, compelling, entertaining, and serious, all in turn, when needed. They make the ride enjoyable.

But there is a price for a faithful adaptation of a book, and that is that is suffers from the weak ending the book had. To be honest, I'm not sure what ending I think the book should have had. It's such a strange blend of ideas pouring out one after another, nothing probably could have but a bow on the whole thing. The climax is ultimately about the main character finally "finding himself" (and in quite a memorable way), but it doesn't really pack the cathartic punch of the end of Fight Club; it just sort of ends.

And speaking of Fight Club, I feel the hand of David Fincher missing here. The director of this film does a capable enough job, and does either coax his actors in good performances or gets out of their way so they can provide them themselves. But the director is also pretty invisible here. Sometimes, a film is better for not having a director infuse his style into the proceedings unnecessarily, but I feel like a Chuck Palahniuk story really wants that.

Still, it's a lot of fun, even if not revelatory. But then again, who knows? I actually didn't like Fight Club very much when I saw it in the theater. But for some reason, I watched it again later on DVD, and then somehow it became one of my favorite movies. Perhaps there's a chance I'll think better of Choke later on?

I'm guessing probably not. But it's not bad. I give it a B-.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gotta Go

I'm sure this is going to come off very weird to some of you, but here it goes anyway...

I work in a multi-story office building with a few offices on each floor. The bathrooms are out in the main lobby area of each floor, so you have to leave my actual office area when you need to use it. And I swear to you, every time I go, I find this one particular co-worker already there, or just leaving.

If this was just a handful of times, I'm sure I would never taken any notice of it. I mean, guys, you know how it is with the public restrooms -- cone of silence, severe and stern, and all that, even in a semi-private public restroom. But day in, day out, any hour of the day, for weeks on end, this guy is always there.

So, are we on some kind of creepy synchronized bladder cycle, or is this guy going so often that it's just inevitable I'd run into him all the time?

A better question still would be, why am I devoting any brain time to this?

Fierce Dragon

I realized this morning that I neglected to post anything here last night. Shame on me! I got home late from an evening playing games with friends and, for a few minutes, watching them torment their little dog:

They said something about how dogs that size are made to be dressed up at least from time to time (questionable), and how they spoil the dog rotten most of the time, so it deserves a little torment now and then (absolutely true).

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The first debate between the two major U.S. presidential candidates may or may not happen tomorrow night. (Depending on whether a resolution on the government financial bailout package is reached, or, if not, on whether John McCain decides to go through with the debate as originally scheduled.)

Since this political process has become such a game for both sides, Republican and Democrat, I believe We the People should treat it as such. To that end, I encourage everyone to go print out a few Presidential Debate Bingo cards.

With classic numbers like B-8 and N-34 replaced with likely-to-be-uttered phrases and terms like "earmarks," "my wife," "reach across the aisle," "Wall Street," "offshore drilling," and so forth, you can turn the debate into an interactive experience, perhaps capped by you standing up in your living room and triumphantly shouting BINGO!

And in the process, you may find yourself scrutinizing for content a little more than you otherwise would. So double good there.

Assuming we actually have a debate tomorrow night, of course. Otherwise, you can hang on to those cards for next time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

TV Flashback

It's like TV networks have traveled back in time this season. On the air right now, we've got Knight Rider, 90210... and, of course, The Simpsons (which hasn't really been good for a few seasons.)

Speaking of Knight Rider... I had no intention of ever watching a single minute of this show, but tonight I had the TV on following the brief presidential address. I was doing house stuff like unloading the dishwasher before heading out the door to meet some friends. Just as I'm about to go, my mind actually registers what's on the TV screen:

The car is flying down the highway on fire. Inside, the hero and some heroine have stripped down to their underwear in an effort to make the high temperatures more bearable. This all hardly 10 minutes into the episode.

This is all they've got. Who needs a plot when you can show your stars nearly naked for no reason?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New, But Apparently Not Improved

I recently saw a very interesting, though not unique movie. To explain that opening, first a story...

Nearly four decades ago, Anthony Shaffer (brother of Amadeus playwright Peter, and an accomplished playwright himself) wrote a two-man play called Sleuth. It's the tale of an older man whose wife has left him for a younger man. The two men confront one another in the play, each playing twisted games to try and get inside the other's mind. In very short order, the play was made into a film, starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.

Last year, some 35 years later, the film was made again. Michael Caine returned to star in it, this time as the older man. Jude Law took over Caine's role from the original film. Yet another famous playwright, Harold Pinter, worked the original into a new script, and acclaimed actor/director Kenneth Brannagh took on the directing of this new film.

In short, this thing has an indescribably good pedigree.

It is a very enjoyable movie, for the most part. It's not a bad thing that it very much shows its roots as a simple play. But unfortunately, it comes off as a three-act play with a weak and even illogical final act.

The opening and middle parts of this slim 90-minute movie are really exceptional. I probably don't have to tell you that the acting is superb. The story is twisted, the characters compelling, and the machinations of it all excite the mind and get you on the edge of your seat.

But then there's that final act. The characters seem to veer off into silly and unbelievable territory. The sharp edge of the wit dulls. After a few shocking turns during the bulk of the film, the ending comes as little surprise at all. It doesn't piss away all of its goodwill, but it does leave you sadly wondering what might have been.

Yet perhaps I don't have to wonder. There's an original play and film out there to be seen someday. And that film, as it turns out, is regarded by many to be a veritable classic -- critic raves are just strewn about on that film, and it's in the top 200 films at IMDB (if you put weight in such things). Could it be that the flaws I found in this remake were simply introduced in this modernization?

The thing is, I certainly liked enough of this movie to want to seek out the more generally favored versions and see for myself. When I do, I'll be sure to share the results.

In the meantime, you can take my review of the newer incarnation, which is to call a derailed "A" of a movie a B- overall.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Eagles and Angels / Safe and Sound

Thanks to last week's internet calamity, I didn't get to comment on last week's Prison Break episode. So let me toss a few quick remarks about that before forging ahead into this week's installment.

Last week was a pretty pedestrian episode of the show. I would have thought it merely average, but it strayed into decidedly below average territory with the Sara plotline. Yes, she is a recovering addict, and yes, her trip to a bar while under stress is believable. But to have endured what she did at the hands of the Company, escaped, and lived for a time on the run, she also has to be smart. And we saw in the first couple seasons, she can be smart. Usually is. Which is why it's so painful and such a disservice to her freshly resurrected character to make her so dumb for the Company Hitman to be led to her.

Or, in a nutshell, I'm disappointed in the writers for it being the "girl" responsible for screwing up and leading The Killer to them.

But on to this week...

Things moved a little better this time. Sara found her brain again, and had a nice few moments of working together with Mahone. (That stupid new tech guy was involved too, but we all hate him.) We also got to see Mahone out being a badass like he was back in the days of season two, figuring out how to track someone with his ultra-keen instincts.

This week's Scylla caper was entertaining, though it is getting a little tired already seeing Sucre and Bellick used as bumbling comic relief. (Well, Sucre, anyway. Bellick was made for that stuff.)

Interesting to learn that whatever Michael's nose bleeds are all about, it's a condition Linc was already aware of. But the "warm climate" excuse begs the question why this didn't come up down in Panama. (Other than, you know, the plot device not having been thought of yet.)

And I'm glad Gretchen is now on the loose, so we don't have to watch the weekly torture session with her anymore. Oh... did anyone else think that guy's scream sounded like a TIE Fighter when she jammed that nail into him?

Anyway, an overall improvement, I'd say. But I'd still like things to keep getting better. I think more focus on Mahone will help that. His story has been the best thing about the season so far, and William Fichtner deserves it after the fairly lackluster material given him in season three.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And the Emmy Goes To...

Every year, I kick out a few thoughts on the Emmy award ceremony. Why should this year be any different?

Jeff Probst is apparently too cool for a tie. All the other reality show nominees/hosts wore one in the intro, including Heidi Klum. Probst couldn't be bothered.

And speaking of Heidi Klum -- she, of course, had to change outfits about 47 times throughout the broadcast. All her co-hosts, of course, did not.

William Shatner is still getting women out of their clothes after over forty years on television.

As each category was introduced, they quickly flashed a few names and photos of past winners in the category. A very dreary contest of who's featured and who's left out, if you ask me.

The whole business of rolling out recreations of sets from old television shows, accompanied by lengthy clips from said show, was the height of annoying. Sure, we all love these shows... but that's why we actually watched them when they were on the air. We don't need to watch three minute chunks of them now. Especially when it's sure to cut into the time in which winners get to speak. (And it did.)

Maybe the people who costume the Desperate Housewives on their show should have come up with their dresses for the award show. The consensus among those watching at my place was that only Dana Delaney looked good.

Ricky Gervais was awesome. Funny and awkward. Naturally.

Every year, the guy who directs the Oscars gets nominated for -- and wins -- an Emmy. Then we get to watch him stupidly try to give an acceptance speech and direct the Emmy show at the same time. This needs to stop. Let somebody else win this category, for crying out loud.

Steve Martin was great, as was the tribute to Tommy Smothers, as was the man Tommy Smothers himself.

Sadly, the same could not be said of the all the Laugh-In gang. Lily Tomlin's still got it. Some of the others didn't even look as though they quite knew where they were.

Though they weren't even a fraction as awkward as that Josh Groben TV theme medley. That was like the worst lounge act in Vegas gone horribly, horribly wrong and televised for millions of viewers. Well, it started at millions. I think you could measure people tuning out as the bit rolled on. They should have got Bill Murray to do this bit.

The guy from the Television Academy (that was introduced by Martin Sheen) had comically ridiculous glasses. He looked like he came straight from his jeweler's shop to give his speech.

Christian Slater used to come off like he was doing a Jack Nicholson impression. Now I swear he comes off like he's doing an impression of Christian Slater doing an impression of Jack Nicholson.

Cheers to Stephen Colbert for making an impassioned case for shriveled up old prunes. And to Jon Stewart for managing (though only barely) not to laugh.

Speaking of Colbert, he predicted on his show that he'd lose a performance Emmy for the third year straight to an older, beloved icon of the business. He was right. Rickles!!!

Yeah to Candice Bergen for her loophole in the by-laws to introduce whatever category she wants.

Neat/interesting choice in the "Memoriam montage" to put George Carlin first and last.

The Amazing Race wins reality program again, as it has every year since the category was introduced. Yes, it's that good. It's that much above the baseness of all other reality television. And it starts next Sunday. (Plug over.)

Quite a night for Tina Fey. I'm now convinced that 30 Rock must have started getting good the week after I stopped watching in back in the first season. I've heard great things about it, but I tried it way back then for about a month and never could get on board.

And Mad Men. I've heard good things about that too, but it has slipped through the cracks thus far. Perhaps that needs to change.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back Out to the Movies

It's been about a month since I've been out to see a movie. This has been entirely due to the poor quality of movies being released rather than a lack of time or interest. Partly out of this sort of boredom, when a friend called today and asked about seeing Ghost Town, I sort of figured "what the hell." It looked kind of schmaltzy, but also potentially funny.

Pleasantly, it turned out not to be too schmaltzy, and it was indeed pretty funny. Put simply, if you liked Ricky Gervais in The Office or Extras, you're going to like this movie. He's playing a similar kind of misanthrope, and uses his pitch perfect technique for saying the wrong things in hilarious ways. Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear are both decent, good but not extraordinary. The movie really does all hang on the fact that both of them play off Ricky Gervais well in the movie.

Cause let's face it, you're not there for the plot. Self-centered career-oriented character goes through a change that allows him/her to see ghosts, who are now after him/her to help resolve personal business from their former lives. I think three movies might have been made with this plot last year. But the truth is, this script does have a lot of funny moments, and it's amped even more by some apparent improvisations.

To its credit, the movie keeps the funny tone most of the time, never lingering on the sentimental for too long, and only completely giving into it at the very end, when necessary to resolve the story.

I'd rate it a B-. Walking out of it, I think I was inclined to be even a bit more generous that that, but I think I'll chalk that up to the dearth of good movies of late. Still, it would make for a pretty enjoyable rental for you in the future, I think.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Two Faced

Tonight was another of those rare occasions that put me at a Major League Baseball game. It was the first night of the Rockies' final home stand of the season. As usual, I spent more time looking anywhere but the game itself.

The theme of the evening was "Fun with the Scoreboard." For example, there was this presentation for one of the players:

The thing that gets me here is, the photo in back (at the left) and the photo in front must be of the same guy. And yet, they look nothing alike. The background photo looks more like the Shroud of Turin to me than the player at the right.

Sadly, I wasn't fast enough with my camera to snap a picture of the misspelled caption "Cerimonial Opening Pitch," which must have been wrong all season long.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Time for Super Pursuit Mode

I don't know if you watched the new Knight Rider revival movie last spring. I tuned in for a few minutes, and found it unbearably awful. I've since had it confirmed by a few of my more foolish friends who actually stayed for the whole thing -- it was beyond terrible. And yet, in post-strike desperation, it's going to a regular series soon. They've been shooting episodes and NBC has been out promoting it.

The promotion apparently also included a recent stop in Toronto for the car, where (if you can believe this wasn't a staged viral marketing stunt) KITT was stolen by a quick-witted observer.

Here's the video. You be the judge:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Azeroth Terror Cell

From the Department of Be Afraid of Everyone and Everything, Everywhere, All the Time:

Now your entertainment and recreation time might be a place where the terrorists are out to get you, too! A Pentagon Researcher has crafted a scenario demonstrating how a terrorist cell might meet on World of Warcraft and use coded language to plan attacks on real world targets. You know, because terrorists don't want to take time away from their nightly guild raids to actually get together with each other and plan things.

To me, this quote from the article says it all:

But online spaces like World of Warcraft are making some spooks, generals and Congressmen extremely nervous. They imagine terrorists rehearsing attacks in these worlds...

Yes, "they imagine" being the operate words here. Clearly, these people have very overactive imaginations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Hopeless Qwest

It began last Monday.

I received a phone call out of the blue, in the middle of the day. While I was at work, mind you. Some phone number from Idaho, so surely some solicitor's call. But I decide to answer it anyway, to potentially chew out whoever it is for calling me.

It's some woman with Qwest, the company providing my television and internet service. Mind you, these are the people who've jacked me around several times before, the people whose service I would not even use if I had any choice in the matter at all -- but my condo complex is in some sort of exclusive contract and so there aren't even any actual cable lines running into it.

They're going to be upgrading the lines connecting to my home, she tells me. This is at no charge to me. The upgrade will be taking place that Friday. On that same day, I should expect a CD in the mail. I need to run this CD to reconfigure my modem settings, she tells me, or my service may be interrupted.

Fine, fine.... I'm at work, so I hang up with her as quickly as I can, and forget about the matter.

Friday rolls around, and I get home from work and boot up the computer for some thing or other. No internet. And that's when I remember, oh yes! That disc! So I go to my mailbox.

There's nothing in it.

I call the Qwest tech support line and explain the whole story. The operator starts in on this Dick-and-Jane nonsense about "check that your cord is plugged into the wall," and such. "No," I interrupt, "I'm supposed to be receiving this disc, and it didn't come."

After bouncing around between three departments and operators for over an hour, I finally get a hold of someone who says the disc will be Next Day Aired to me. I point out that the "Next Day" is a Saturday, so if it's not marked Saturday delivery, I won't receive anything. "Oh, it'll come Saturday," she assures me.

Saturday arrives. No disc.

I now recall that the woman who started this stupid affair did not have a blocked Caller ID. If I haven't received too many phone calls since Monday, her number will still be in my phone. And thankfully, there it was. Of course, it being the weekend, there's no answer. But I leave her an appropriately angry message and tell her to get in touch with me.

Monday rolls around. No call. I call her twice more. Nothing but voice mail.

Finally, in the early afternoon, I hear from her. She's positively confounded about what could have happened. I tell her something to the effect of "well, your plan was stupid, that's what happened." First, you've decided to "upgrade" me when I didn't ask for anything of the kind. Then, you decided to perform this upgrade that required some kind of disc installation, without first making sure I actually received said disc. And then, you scheduled it on a Friday, ensuring that if anything did go wrong, no one would be able to fix it for me all weekend.

Well, she tells me, the disc is not strictly necessary. "It's just an automated way that your modem settings will be configured. We can conference in a tech support operator to make the changes manually." Why the tech support operator couldn't have gotten into this on Friday night, I don't know, but yes, let's get this done.

The operator comes on, we go through the reconfiguration. Nothing. A blinking connectivity light on my modem. "Oh," says the techie, "that means there's no signal actually even reaching the modem." And then we start in on how they'll need to send someone out to my house, and it'll be an appointment some time between 1:00 and 5:00 pm, and I or someone over 18 will need to be home for that.

Hold on a second. You didn't need to come into my home when you screwed this up in the first place. There's no way you should need to get in there to put it back. We go back and forth on this point for a bit before they agree that yes, they'll send a tech to check the outside lines and such even without me there.

We hang up with the techie then, and the woman who started this mess tries to apologize some more. "We've done hundreds of upgrades like this and there's never been a problem before. I don't know what could have happened."

I don't care, I tell her. But you're going to be compensating me for all of this nonsense. To her credit, she agrees immediately -- the first good point in this entire affair.

Today, around 4:00 in the afternoon, I get a call from the "on site" techie who has come out to check my lines. He asks if I'm home. I tell him, no, and I was told I wouldn't have to be.

"Oh, you don't," he says. "I was just hoping to come in and double check, but I've already looked outside, and there was..." [insert jargonese here] The thrust of it being that when he looked at the connection, there was something immediately and obviously connected wrong, and so no signal was reaching my place. He's fixed it already, so everything should be working now. To his credit, he also tells me I can call him personally that evening when I get home if I have any problems.

But when I did come home, everything was indeed working. So some complete idiot plugged things in wrong on Friday, and consequently I spent four days without my internet connection. Someone related to the Qwest idiots who kept screwing up my DirecTV service, one might think.

I left another message with the Originator Woman tonight, telling her I was finally back in business, and that I expect to be seeing that credit on my bill.

I still haven't received that mythical CD, by mail or overnight shipping.

What I do have is yet another service nightmare involving Qwest, starring technical staff completely incapable of doing their jobs.

I have no choice but to use Qwest where I live. If you do have a choice, I would implore you not to use them. Any other option would have to be better.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Service Outage

For any of you who might have been concerned about my sudden silence over the last few days, don't worry -- nothing has happened to me.

Something has happened to my internet connectivity, however. A long and irritating story which, sadly, is still in progress. I hope to be back in daily action soon, but it's out of my hands...

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Here's some frakking bizarre news out of Paris: a dog has been allowed to appear as a witness in a murder trial. And I thought the United States justice system was messed up at times.

Is it not the right of the accused in France to be able to cross-examine witnesses against you? How do you cross-examine a dog?

The dog apparently barked when confronted with the accused party. Can't a dog be coached to bark and growl as a response to people it doesn't know? How can you determine if the dog was coached or not?

Couldn't you run this bizarre little experiment outside the courtroom, with a vet or a cop or somebody supervising the dog, then put the person on the stand to testify as to the results? And then that person could be cross-examined, where s/he would then have to testify in cross-examination (under penalty of perjury) that the dog was not coached. And also, to be forced to admit that the fact the dog barked doesn't actually mean anything at all!

Apparently, the French judge praised the animal for his "exemplary behaviour and invaluable assistance." Could that possibly be an actual direct quote, as cited in the story? Wouldn't it really have been something more like "whoza good witness?! You are! Yes you are!"


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fowl Stench

I recently finished reading the newest book in the Artemis Fowl children's series, The Time Paradox. To be blunt, I pretty much hated it.

I was coming here to say that I'd liked it far less than any of the previous books, but then I learned that I didn't like the last one all that much. And somehow, I'd completely forgotten that fact, which I guess shows you how little a lasting impression it made on me. Apparently, I said at the time that the last book probably marked the end of the trail for me and Artemis Fowl books.

Now you can cross out that "probably." The first two or three books of the series were fun. Briskly paced and entertaining despite being fully aimed at a young audience, there was something just escapist and innocuous about them. But now the writer has just become lazy.

The Time Paradox is basically the plot of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Artemis faces a crisis in the present, for which the only resolution is to travel to the past and recover an extinct species of animal. But at least that Star Trek movie used a lot of humor and other good elements to mute the cudgel of its message -- it entertained as it preached.

I consider myself to be at least a moderately pro-environmentalist type person, but I found myself getting annoyed with this book at times. Besides the extinction plot itself, the book frequently drops references to carbon footprints, energy conservation, and more. I'm fine with a book having a message. But if it's going to be a work of fiction, I believe the author has a duty to cloak these things in some semblance of plot or, better still, allegory. No such luck here.

Ham-fisted and manipulative, I think I'd find this book vaguely insulting even if I were of the let's-say-early-teen target age. Whatever I found to like early in the series was long gone here. This is surely a book I would never have finished, had it not been so short. It came perilously close to undermining the fact I enjoyed the early books of the series in the first place.

Don't read this.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shut Down / Fringe

Due to the Denver FOX affiliate opting to simulcast last night's Broncos game, it was only tonight that this week's episode of Prison Break aired.

It was a pretty average episode -- nothing really great in it, but neither anything to really discourage the hope I'd started to have last week about the revitalization of the show.

William Fichtner's performance as Mahone tonight was especially good, but then he always delivers when given good material. I found it less plausible that Linc would suddenly abandon his "you killed my father" vendetta against Mahone just because the man lost his son, but... shrug.

Where Fichtner's acting shone bright, new-to-the-show Michael Rapaport's acting seemed pretty feeble. I hate to say it, because I've like this guy on other shows (such as Boston Public), but he seems way miscast in this part. It seems like his character is destined to spend a lot of time badgering and threatening Scofield. But he comes off far to meek to be credible at this, especially given how strong we know Scofield is from having watched him for three seasons. I think New Guy is just gonna get plowed over.

We'll see if things pick up more next week.

A quick footnote, though, as long as I'm talking about FOX television. Tonight marked the premiere of J.J. Abrams' latest creation, Fringe. After the pilot episode, I find myself a lot less enthusiastic about this series than I was about his past efforts. I remember liking Lost and Alias right out of the gate. Hell, I even thought Felicity started strong. (Yes, snicker if you like -- I watched Felicity. It was a good show.)

After about the first half of the Fringe pilot, I was seriously contemplating turning it off. The pace was slow, the story didn't seem solid, and none of the characters were really popping for me. I am glad I stuck it through, though, because the second half really did improve. Things got tighter and more interesting. It didn't leave me eager for another episode, but it did at least leave me in a place where I think I will watch the next episode.

Again, we'll see if things pick up more next week.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Criminal Masterminds

Last Friday, the property manager of the office building where I work distributed this notice to all the businesses in the building:

This is an important message from [name of person and company deleted].

I want to bring your attention to a recent situation involving downtown buildings. We have had a pattern of thefts from office buildings downtown involving two males and possibly a female. They work by going into an office, distracting the staff and taking personal items from desks, sometimes computers, etc. We are also getting reports of empty or unoccupied office suites having items stolen from them. I will keep you posted as new developments occur.

First of all, there are three let's-call-them criminal masterminds (for reasons I'll get into momentarily) who have assembled for a crime spree and the best thing they can come up with is striking office buildings?

Secondly, how awesome are these thieves that they're managing to steal from "empty" office suites?! What are they stealing, the air?

And finally, how distracted do you have to be for someone to steal the computer right off the desk in front of you?! I mean, what the hell kind of distraction are they using?

Must have more details!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Goooooodnight, Everybody!

You just know the reporter for the Associated Press who wrote this short but sweet little story was loving the assignment. I truly hope he or she gets to keep his or her job. Who else will bring us gems like:

Authorities say they've arrested a man who broke into the home of two California farmworkers, stole money, rubbed one with spices and whacked the other with a sausage before fleeing.


...the suspect woke them Saturday morning by rubbing spices on one of them and smacking the other with an 8-inch sausage.

Of course, some credit must go to "22-year-old Antonio Vasquez" for actually doing this so that it could be reported on.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

You Gotta Give Mad Proops

Last night, I went to see Greg Proops perform stand-up at the Comedy Works in Denver. For those keeping score, I've now seen three different cast members from Whose Line Is It Anyway perform live. And just as with that last time, this was a great night.

Greg Proops' time on stage seemed to be divided about half and half between prepared material he had and improvised stuff he was making up on the spot (like riffing on the comedy club's menu for ten minutes). I didn't find it surprising at all that someone with his background would "freestyle" so much on stage, but it did strike me that unlike many stand-up acts, it seemed like you can easily go to this one on consecutive nights and not really see the same show twice.

He seemed to be a bit drunk as he performed, but it certainly seemed to help him have as good a time as the audience, and definitely added to the show. Nor did it stop him from whipping out words like "lugubrious," or obscure references such as one to the play Amadeus (which only I and about four other people in the club got).

We went to the later show, which turned out to be a good thing, because he clearly ran longer than the expected time, and everyone just let him go. Partly, this was due to some drunken ass in the crowd who started screaming weird crap at one point. We got to see Greg Proops rip this guy a new one. He engaged the heckler quickly but firmly at first, but when the guy still wouldn't shut up, he launched into a twenty minute nuclear attack that left no trace behind -- and was raucously funny throughout.

The intended, prepared material he brought was just as engaging. At times highbrow (including a wide variety of great political humor), and at times not remotely so (long riffs on Lindsay Lohan and one legged girls), there were more great moments than I can remember. Literally. See, this was also one of the most "densely packed" performances I've ever seen. I feel as though even while I remember dozens of great bits from last night, I've already forgotten more funny moments than the average stand-up even delivers in a set.

And the icing on the cake -- though technically I guess I ate the icing off this metaphorical cake first -- was that the opening performers were also really enjoyable. Aside from the emcee (who had around ten minutes of his own material), there were two other stand-ups who filled another half hour or so between them. And we were all already laughing hard before Greg Proops ever took to the stage.

One of Proops' funnier bits was about how dumb blogs are, and how people should stop blogging. But then, if I did, I wouldn't be able to tell all of you how funny he was, nor encourage you all to see him perform if you ever have the chance.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wendy's City

Because of the commercial-free bubble my DVR allows me to live in, I hadn't become aware of some of the new "Frosty technology" that's been unleashed at Wendy's fast food restaurants. Oh, I knew about the vanilla variant (and the swirled), but only as I rode through the drive-thru a couple nights ago in my friend's car did I learn they're now mixing candy bits in them, DQ Blizzard-style.

Without me bringing up this revelation, a co-worker of mine got to talking about these things at lunch today. Apparently, he thinks the "ice cream" used in a Frosty is the best known to man -- better than any soft serve he can think of. And candy in them?! In his words, "when goodness meets goodness? Man, that's greatness."

I wouldn't oversell it like that. But it wasn't not tasty.

My first Wendy's experience in obviously a long time was not dominated by the Frosty, though. It was the Junior Bacon Cheeseburger that got my attention more. See, I'd already eaten dinner by the time my friend pulled the car into the drive-thru, but I found myself just a little peckish. I figured one of these new Frosty concoctions and a JBC would about be right.

Well, honey, they've shrunk the cheeseburgers. This thing was basically a White Castle, without the ensuing gastric distress. It was so small, it was cute. Even in my "I'm not really hungry" state, I think I could have finished three of them, no problem.

It's likely none of this is news to any of you, but it was to me. So, in case this is a service to any would-be Wendy's goers, there's my report.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I'm Sick and Tired of These...

I'm not quite sure which is funnier: the fact that an actual incident of snakes on a plane occured today (well, okay, just the one snake), or the fact that the reporter of that article I just linked to actually mentioned the movie in the last paragraph.

"Echoed the plot"?? Would that be the part where a poisonous snake bites a guy in the crotch? Or the part where the ruthless criminal mastermind decides snakes are the best way to deal with a witness set to testify against him?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Way to Start the Day

Past Me made a tiny little decision about six months ago that caught up to Present (then Future) Me today. I decided to schedule a dentist appointment at 7:00 in the morning.

First of all, I'm fairly certain I haven't woken up for anything that early in years. Maybe an airplane flight. I know the world is full of "morning people." I'm not one of them. 7:00 (earlier, when you consider setting the alarm and the morning routine) is damn early to me. But I think Past Me got conned by the hygienist last dentist appointment, who sweetly pointed out that a morning appointment wouldn't interfere with work, and is just convenient. Right?

Present Me didn't think so when the sun hadn't come up yet this morning, yet I'm heading off to go get my teeth scraped.

Secondly, I've moved since the last time I went to the dentist. I of course remembered too well my "sextupal dentectomy" from last year, so I knew my regular checkup was coming vaguely any time now. But I hadn't noted the day anywhere. And I hadn't received a reminder card in the mail.

But I did get a phone call yesterday afternoon at about 4:00-ish. "We're looking forward to seeing you at 7:00 in the morning tomorrow!" said the perky voice. So this was effectively short notice gum poking and teeth scraping. Extra fun.

The only upside was that the whole rest of my day could scarcely be anything but better after getting started that way.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Packet Up!

Do you know anybody who collects Taco Bell sauce packets, with all their various phrases? Well here (courtesy FKL) is a web site that one-ups all that, The Condiment Packet Gallery. Every time you click "reload," you'll get a random assortment of 100 (100!) different condiment packets.

Just the sort of time waster you've probably come to expect from me on an off day.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Scylla / Breaking and Entering

It's been a long time since the last new episode of Prison Break. If you recall, I said at the time that I wasn't sure if I truly wanted it to continue. It had left off in a decent enough place, and had long since reached the point where it was a near parody of itself. As much as I loved Prison Break in season one, did we really need more Prison Break?

The creators seem to have answered "no" to this question, because instead of giving us Prison Break season four tonight, they kicked off what appears to be Alias season one. It appears the show is now going to be about heists and capers, espionage missions, living a secret life, and trying to bring down SD-6 The Company. Hell, we even introduced a new tech mastermind to serve the group, a shadowy government agent to run and protect the operation, and a "base" -- complete with giant conference table -- from which to plan their missions.

But lest it sound like I'm down on all this, let me state clearly I feel quite the opposite. I don't expect this show is going to live up to the quality of those first two seasons of Alias, but I feel like I really could go for a show of that tone right now. If Prison Break can become that and still be true to the characters we've come to enjoy, I think I'm on board.

But oh... not so fast, Whistler. You're not invited to this grand series re-invention. I can't say I fully understand why the creators decided to off that character. It's not that I felt very attached to him, having only seen him in the truncated 13-episode season three. But I did find it interesting what a truly graphic death it was, for prime time television. You're not seeing brain matter exploding out the back of a head during "family hour" very often.

Of course, the reason for that is so we all understand he really is truly dead and not Dr. Sara Tancredi "dead." I thought of Soapdish a dozen times during tonight's two episodes, and that hilarious scene between Whoopi Goldberg and Robert Downey Jr. ("He doesn't have a head! How am I supposed to write for a guy that doesn't have a head?! He has no lips! No vocal cords!" "Guess what? You're a writer. You'll think of something.") I never really was a Michael-Sara "shipper," so I don't much care that that element of the show has been returned. But it is nice to have a female character in the mix. And not a truly dumb female character, like too many past Prison Break fixtures have been. (Remember Veronica? I wish I didn't.)

I can't say I'm suddenly feeling real excitement about Prison Break again. But I did find myself enjoying tonight more than I thought I would. We'll see if they're able to build on this bit of momentum in the weeks to come.

P.S. -- I bet the writer of the second hour sat at his computer screen for about five minutes going back and forth about the line "What, did you eat bad Mexican?" He must have been sitting there going: "Oh, it's such a horrible joke. I can't write that down. Oh, but it's so great, how can I not write it down?"