Thursday, October 30, 2008

When 221 Just Isn't Enough

I'm trying to continue the Halloween theme of the week, this time loosely, I admit. But it is a tale of a grisly murder, so there you go!

I was familiar with the Huffington Post before hearing about this story, but I had never heard of its political blogger Carol Anne Burger. Apparently, she commited suicide a few days after (police believe) committing a murder. She stabbed someone 222 times!

Holy crap!

Can a human body have 222 stab wounds in it and still in any way resemble a human body? Michael Myers couldn't put 222 stab wounds in a victim!

Can you imagine being the coroner having to perform that autopsy? "Wound #132 transects the collar bone 3.5 centimeters left of the spine, at a 35 degree angle. Wound #133..." (Okay, maybe I've watched too much CSI.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Great Pumpkins

I saw my first Christmas-related commercial on television tonight. And I refuse to let Christmas encroach yet another week or two earlier into the year. So, to be festive for the proper October holiday, I bring you this gallery of specially-carved pumpkins, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. (And of FKL, who sent me the link.)

I'm partial to 1, 4, 14, 17, and 20 myself.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trick or Tipitaka

Don't come by my house on Halloween night trick or treating. I probably won't be home. So I definitely won't be giving out candy. Not even this:

Aabh can come around and correct me on this, but I believe the bag says "Daibutsu-sama no hanakuso" -- that is "Snot from the Nose of the Great Buddha."


Monday, October 27, 2008

Get Your Kicks In 66.6

Halloween is nearly here. So this would be a good week to head over to and check out their 66.6 Second Film Festival. It's a series of famous horror movies cut down to just over one minute of running time. They're not as amusing and snarky as the What the Frak Happened on BSG? series, but they'll save you a lot of time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

/V\ |_| Я [) 3 Я !!!!

Chances are pretty good that if you're reading my blog, you are now or have been pretty deeply into some video game. But I'm guessing you've never been arrested over it.

The above link tells the tale of a woman from Japan who's involved in a "Second Life"-type game. She became so enraged when her cyber-husband divorced her that she hacked his account and deleted his character. Or, as the article dramatically puts it, she retaliated by "murdering" her ex-husband.

Regardless of whether you could actually dub the virtual crime as murder, she was jailed for a real one: "illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data." Basically, she was Richard Pryor in Superman III or something, but without actually making any money.

But she sure showed that bastard "ex-husband."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bathroom Reading

According to this random study by some British internet provider, 1 in 10 people admit to having surfed the internet while on the toilet. (Well, they said "on the loo." Isn't that just so British?)

My blog is pretty tiny, but I know I have more than 10 regular readers. So odds are at least one of you has read me while sitting on the toilet. Maybe you're doing it right now, even.


Oh, and as a footnote, notice that the product director at this internet service provider is named Neil Armstrong. You think the odds are he's more than 39 years old? In other words, how cruel do you think his parents are? What could that kid possibly grow up to do with his life that could measure up with walking on the freaking moon?

They're just setting him up for a lifetime of disappointment.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Screwy Decimal System

Here's a short, weird article about how libraries are becoming "happening places." Two things about this struck me as funny.

1) The mention that people at the library can play Guitar Hero. This just seems so wrong to me. I mean, I know music education is ever on the decline in our school system, and I do think that sucks. But I don't think Guitar Hero offers that much in the way of music education, and call me old fashioned, but I do think of the library as a place primarily for learning.

2) This totally reminds me of Eddie Izzard's comedy routine (so many things do), in this case about how the banning of smoking from bars would soon lead to no drinking and no talking in bars. Next thing you know, the libraries would become the hot spots. (Puff on joint.) "I don't know where that book could be, man." Scary that that's so close to becoming true.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stop Sending Me Election Mail!

Every single day for the last several weeks, my mailbox has been stuffed with flyers, pamphlets, brochures... miscellaneous crap from this candidate or that activist group trying to get me to vote for this person, or against that issue, or what not. Par for the course at this time of year, naturally. I'm sure if you live in the U.S. right now, you could tell the same story.

The thing that annoys me, though: I've already voted. I mailed in my ballot last weekend. It's done. And I wish I could tell these jerks mailing me all this crap. I mean, not that I actually wanted any of it before I voted, but now it's even more pointless. I wish there was someone I could scream at to say:

Stop sending me this junk! Save some trees! Donate the money you're spending in postage to me to some charity or something. Stop trying to act like you're doing good for society and actual do some good for society!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi...

...I need a wheel man.

I was mildly entertained by this brief news story about a woman who robbed a bank in a Star Wars costume. But I was more annoyed by the lazy reporting that failed to tell us what Star Wars costume.

Judging by the photo, I'm thinking (hoping) it wasn't as Slave Leia.

But seriously, was she dressed as a stormtrooper? Chewbacca? Chief Chirpa?

We may never know.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Price

Football coverage postponed this week's broadcast of Prison Break here in Denver, but tonight I was able to catch up with the new episode. It was rather worth the wait, fortunately.

First and foremost, we had the demise of the most annoying character on the show, that annoying Tech Guy (whose name I won't even bother to try remembering). I think the writers were trying to have him be sort of like Marshall from Alias, but it so didn't work. Whether it was part of the writers' original plan to kill him off, or they just arrived at the decision to do so after watching the character fail, the right decision was made either way. The only bad thing about the death was how they tried to kind of make a "moment" out of the death of this character we actively despised.

But the episode also included another death with a far more effective impact, as we saw flashbacks of Sara being held captive by Gretchen. The execution of the guard who helped Sara escape was a great plot thread all around. It was an effective emotional beat for the character, and storywise it explained how it was that Sara even managed to escape (with head attached) in the first place. This might well have been the best story of the season so far not given to the character of Mahone.

In truest Prison Break fashion, the show ended with things seeming to come unraveled. Just when the sixth keycard was in reach, "the General" got wise to the plan, and is now preparing to move Scylla's hiding place. Sometimes it hasn't always seemed realistic or fair when the "finish line" has moved on Our Heroes in seasons past, but this time it felt pretty natural. It's nice when the bad guys can be as clever as the protagonists. In any case, something needed to happen to keep this season's story from apparently wrapping up in less than 10 episodes. (Not that any of us actually thought that would happen.)

Now the biggest question: will the World Series mean no new episode next week?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Strong Lead

This restaurant critic writes a much better headline than an article. I mean, that headline will stop your web browsing dead in its tracks, but I couldn't make it through even a third of the lengthy crap that followed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Zombie-field Project

This afternoon, I went to see Quarantine, the new zombie-themed horror movie fashioned in the style of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project. It was a bit of a mixed bag, as you might well expect, with both good and bad elements to it.

The story didn't really offer all that much. The plot was really just frame for holding a dozen or so suspense sequences. And nearly all of those sequences, you've seen in some other movie before. The film relied more on sudden scares than prolonged suspense, but it did indeed have moments of both, and you don't always get the latter in these kinds of movies.

The thing that really shined in the movie, though, was the acting. In particular, Jennifer Carpenter (whom you may have seen as the title character in The Exorcism of Emily Rose) is rather extraordinary in the last 15 minutes of the movie. Her character goes into full-on, uncontrollable panic, and is very convincingly scared out of her mind. Knowing how movie sequences are filmed, with the same scene being filmed for take after take, it's truly impressive that she could have found the energy to portray such hysteria.

To the movie's detriment, however, is the trailer. I've often complained about trailers that feel like they ruin movies. This movie's trailer literally showed the final seconds of the movie. Granted, this was a predictable enough movie that I'm sure most of the audience would see the inevitable end coming. Nevertheless, to actually center your promotions around the final five seconds of the film? Ludicrous!

All told, I give it a C+. If you enjoy horror movies, you might well find a few things to like in this movie -- later on, on DVD. But I'm not really going to recommend it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thank You Kindly, Mamet

Though I've read and seen a lot of plays, I'd somehow never got around to the very well-known Glengarry Glen Ross, by David Mamet (neither the original play nor the film adaptation). I rectified this situation last night, going back to the Denver Center Theater Company (the group also performing the wonderful Noises Off right now) to see their new production.

This is a very enjoyable play. It's stuffed to bursting with the signature David Mamet style of dialogue -- lots of quick patter, characters interrupting one another and shutting down attempts to be interrupted, copious (but precise) use of cursing, and loads more lurking in the subtext.

I've heard the film version is different in several ways, significantly in that it tries harder to paint some of the characters as sympathetic. In the play, I didn't find any of them particularly so. I felt the audience was kept at arm's length, as if to sit there and say, "man, these people...." But this approach was a very good one for the play, and provoked a lot of discussion afterward between me and the person I went with. I was less drawn in emotionally, but more deeply drawn in intellectually.

The story seems a particularly appropriate one to be telling right now, given the financial/housing crisis in the U.S. It's a mid-1980s tale of greed, about sleazy salesmen pushing worthless property on easy marks. They work over clients and each other in this furiously paced story.

This production was even faster than the norm, as the traditionally two-act play was presented in 90 minutes without intermission. Having seen it this way, I can scarcely imagine it with the break. It just worked so well for the story to plunge ahead without leaving the audience time to think, just as the salesman plunge ahead and don't leave their marks time to think as they're coerced into a deal.

The cast was quite good, but of course much of the discussion I had with my friend after the show was about which famous actors played which roles in the film adaptation. I must say, that movie now goes on "The List"; I most definitely want to catch it on DVD at some point.

In any case, I've had two consecutive great Friday nights at the theater.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Adjustments

The place where I work just moved offices this week, a relocation into a larger space elsewhere in the building. Along with the new digs came new desks, chairs, and other furnishings.

Attached to all the new chairs was this manual explaining how to adjust all the controls:

Can you imagine what the world would be like if all user manuals were shaped like the products for which they're providing instructions?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Denial Tone

Last night at trivia, while I was walking one of our team's answers up to turn into the host, I bumped my leg into the corner of a table. I didn't hit so hard that it hurt, but I do remember vaguely thinking at the time, "damn, I hit that pretty hard there." Yet I thought nothing more of it after another second or two.

That is, until I got home and took my cell phone out of my pocket:

I've known a lot of people who have had cracked screens on their phones, or even accidentally washed them in the laundry, but nothing like that had ever happened to me before. The phone actually still works just fine, but nevertheless... well...


So now begins the little unintentional experiment on myself. How much is this going to bother me? I've got about six months left on my current cell phone contract. If I can hang on until then, I can just get another phone, undoubtedly more featured and generally better than this phone, for free. But if I decide before then that this completely cosmetic thing demands I "upgrade the apparatus," that's going to cost me... well, probably a couple hundred dollars at least, right?

Must deny stupid impulse.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nice Doggie

Sangediver just posted about a fun, time-wasting web game with physics (knowing how much I love bragging about physics in video games). So I have to up the ante.

Behold, the ultimate internet waste-of-time game: Don't Shoot the Puppy.

I can't make it past level 7 myself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Public Service Announcement

Alright, U.S. residents of legal voting age. I'be just received my mail-in ballot for our election that's now just three weeks away, and I figure some of you might be doing the same right about now. So it's time for us to talk. I'm going to tell you how to vote.


Some people go on about how important it is that everyone vote, and how they don't care how you vote so long as you vote. I say that's all crap. Know what the hell you're voting for. If you don't know, make an effort to learn.

For the presidential race, is a wonderful, impartial resource that calls out all the half-truths, exaggerations, and outright lies of the candidates, as presented in their ads and in the various debates. If you don't (or do) want to cast your ballot for a particular candidate because of "Reason X," make sure that "Reason X" is actually true.

For ballot initiatives up in your state, read up on them. If you live in Colorado, here's where you do that -- it's a complete presentation of the language of each amendment and referendum, an analysis of how it will affect government spending, and an articulate list of arguments for and against each item as written by supporters of either side. If you're not a Colorado resident, your state almost certainly has something similar. Go find it. Google is your friend.

And back to my original point. If you're uninformed, or just unsure, don't vote. It's okay to vote on some things and leave other things blank.

Don't do anything stupid, okay?

Thank you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love licorice. Not the vile, black actual licorice, but strawberry, cherry, what-have-you. I'm not too picky beyond that, yet I do have a particular favorite. And I can only get it in the month running up to Halloween.

I love Twizzlers. But not just any Twizzlers. See, you can get "individually wrapped" Twizzlers all year round, but the fact is they really are just identical to the long "vines" you can get in a full-sized bag. Tasty, sure... but not the stuff.

But for Halloween candy, Twizzlers makes these:

And I am telling you, these are not the same. The recipe is different, or there's something different that happens with the chewiness and juiciness of these things when they're cut "fatter." In any case, in the Licorice Kingdom, these things are so far beyond regular Twizzlers that they make regular Twizzlers seem like a box of Good N' Plenty. (AKA "Foul N' Nasty.")

But the bastards at the Twizzler factory only make these for Halloween, so I have to buy a pallet's worth and squirrel them away for as long as I can.

They don't usually last until Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bring Da Noise

Last night, I went to see the Denver Center Theater Company's production of Noises Off. This play by Michael Frayn is one of my very favorites.

It's a three act comedy about a theater company putting on a British sex farce. The play follows the company through dress rehearsal and on to a disastrous tour around the UK. In each act, we see the same opening act of the fictitious play-within-the-play being performed, becoming progressively more of a train wreck. In addition to the great humor that comes from the repetition and subtle variation, the second act actually shows all the action from backstage; the set itself is rotated to allow we the audience to see the chaos going on literally behind the scenes at a performance.

I first became aware of the play through a film version that was made in the early 90s, with a pretty great cast including Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, John Ritter, Christopher Reeve, and more. You find opinions on that film mixed if you look for reviews, but I thought it was great (even if it did lose a lot of the "meta" level of the humor in the transition from stage to film, and get a stupid Hollywood ending tacked on).

I loved it so much that I pushed for my high school to perform it, and we did so shortly before I graduated. We quite honestly bit off a little more than we could chew on that one, though I think we did a decent enough job. (I think. Actually, I have a VHS tape of one of our performances hiding in a box somewhere. I'd probably better not dare to dig that out and shatter the happy illusion of my memory.)

Anyway, point being, I'm in love with this play, and when I heard someone was doing it here in Denver, I had to go... even suspecting that no production could likely live up to my grand opinions of the play.

And yet, it did!

Noises Off is just a funny, funny play. And if you've ever had anything to do with the theater, it becomes almost supernaturally funny. I found that my familiarity with the piece didn't detract from that one bit.

There were maybe one or two performers in this cast I didn't quite love, but that was easily eclipsed by the other performers who were outstanding. Particularly great was the woman playing the part of Brooke, an airhead blonde actress who stalwartly sticks to the script even as the chaos rages around her. Put simply, I never realized how tremendously funny her part in the show could be until I saw this woman performing it.

Similarly, I think I never realized quite how funny the third and final act of the play could be. Act Two is really the showiest of the play, with a staggering to behold choreography of "backstage" chaos meshing with a "performance" of the fake play. Act Three, which returns to a normal view of another performance as it falls apart, always seemed a bit of a letdown to me after that. But not when I saw it last night. The cast managed to find a whole lot of humor, mining the material more deeply than I'd imagined possible.

In short, this play does not disappoint. If you're in or around Denver and can catch this production before it closes at the end of the month, I highly recommend it. Hell, let me know you're going and I'll go with you and see it again. If Denver's out of your radius, then keep an eye out for a theater company performing Noises Off somewhere near you.

Don't miss this play if you have the chance.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Thought I Had It Bad

If you've followed my blog for a while, then you know that I've had far more than than my fair share of TV service rep problems. But at least I've never had a cable installer's error cause raw sewage to spill into my kitchen.

Though some people say that television is nothing but crap.

Goodnight, everybody! Don't forget to tip your servers!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

More Than a Mouthful

When I was much younger, somewhere less than 10 years old (if I remember correctly), my uncle had a pet snake. I hate snakes, then and today, and didn't want to have anything to do with it. But I do have a vague recollection of once or twice watching him drop a live mouse into the tank to feed the snake.

I never saw anything like this: the lunch becomes the... uh, luncher.

I think if I ever had seen something like that at that age, I'd be more terrified of mice today than I am of snakes.

Mix Tape

This past weekend, I went to see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. I wasn't entirely sure I was going to do it; what I had seen from commercials and trailers gave me a "this seems pretty specifically made for teenagers" vibe. But I kept telling myself that it also had Michael Cera in it, and other signs that made me think it might have that sort of Juno and Superbad "but good at times for adults too" vibe. And that second voice won out.

But the first voice was right.

This wasn't an unfunny movie. It generally kept a smile on my face most of the time, and delivered a few big laughs here and there. It was peppered with some entertaining, small cameos from various comedians. It had some good characters and sharp dialogue.

And yet, the whole plot was a pretty simple "two people meant to be? will they? won't they?" sort of affair that never really crackled, and hardly ever even sparked. There was just something pretty boring to me about the story itself, doing little but to hold the jokes.

I couldn't help but feel like if I were 10 to 15 years younger, I might have found a lot more to like in it. But I didn't, and that made me feel even a little older. Which possibly even made me like it less?

Anyway, I rate it a C+.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Assault on the Undead

Recently, I tossed out a casual criticism of the board game Zombies, unintentionally sparking a little discussion. So I figured I'd explain myself a little better, and give a pseudo-review of Zombies.

It's been several years since I've played Zombies, and I have no intention of ever voluntarily playing it again. And involuntarily would have to be at actual gunpoint, or some similar duress. I'm not exaggerating here for humorous effect. I mean it. If we're at a party, and you say "let's play Zombies," I'm leaving your party. Point being, what I'm about to say is based on old recollections.

I've played Zombies twice. Once, it was with my co-workers (including this guy), people I played games with on a weekly basis for (at that point) something like four years. The other time, it was with my college friends (including this guy), people I'd known for (at that time) nearly ten years. In other words, these were both close groups of people that really enjoyed spending time together.

In both cases, the game of Zombies concluded with the players actually angry with each other. Not playful gamesmanship-type anger -- actual, full-voiced yelling with real venom.

Basically, it is the nature of Zombies that some players end up being the flies, and other players end up being the ones pulling the wings off the flies for fun. The game is mercilessly random, and that randomness inevitably sees at least one player bent over a barrel and miserable, and at least one player having the time of his life.

The problem is, just because one player is doing well doesn't mean he can actually win. Ample mechanisms are in place to gang up on a leader and shut him out of victory. The game then drags on. But the game also is devoid of any real "catch up" mechanism to get the player(s) bringing up the rear back into the game.

Eventually, whether it takes 30 minutes, 60, or more, you'll have one or more players who desperately, desperately want the game to end. They haven't had any fun, and they want it to be over. And you have other players who, instead of taking the game to its conclusion, do anything and everything they can to prolong the experience. "Experience" should be read as "torture" for the players in the first group.

And in both my experiences, these two groups ended up yelling at each other by the conclusion of the game.

No one should ever play this game for any reason. If I hadn't known the people I played it with as well as I do, I could actually see it having had a lasting, damaging effect on friendships -- that's how venomous the arguing became.

I prefer my random-ass dice games to have all the players winning or losing together, thank you very much.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Five the Hard Way

Tonight's episode of Prison Break was fairly entertaining, even though not the best the show can offer. Fracturing the group seemed to be a pretty good technique in this episode, again breaking up what would otherwise be a monotonous gathering of "Scylla card" data.

Mahone gets to repay the rescue from last week right away, bailing Michael out when he's captured by T-Bag. That chunk of the story offered a few interesting character moments, like T-Bag's test of how far Scofield has fallen, but for the most part it was only moving plot forward.

The Vegas plot seemed like the more interesting one this week, not for its complexity or suspense, but because it used the characters well. It was a nice change of pace to see that the latest attempt to use Sarah as eye candy wouldn't work this time out, and better still to see Sucre in a job that (despite the initial impressions) turned out not to be pure comic relief. Plus, Linc let Sarah (and the audience) in on the details of Michael's nose bleeds.

Gretchen and T-Bag did make an interesting team, but I did find it a stretch (even for this show) that she would be so determined to look out for him so quickly. I had a hard time accepting that she'd be trying to bargain with Our Heroes for T-Bag at the end of the episode; it seemed more plausible that Gretchen would simply cut her losses and keep going. (Of course, that would see T-Bag off the show, and we can't have that.) Perhaps the writers will offer more justification for this in the next week or two.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tons of Fun

This weekend, at my weekly game night, I played a game I hadn't played in a long, long time. It's called Oasis, and my copy hasn't been played in well over three years -- when I was living in Virginia several moves ago.

I suppose I could do a review of the game, but that wasn't really what I set out to say here. Instead, I wanted to share this chart on the game box that caught my attention:

The manufacturers rated the game on a scale of 1 to 10 for luck, strategy, and fun.


Unsurprisingly, they gave the game a 10 for fun. Because who's gonna say about their own game, "you know, this is really only about a 9... it's just missing that last special something." Or better still, "are you kidding me, this game's a 1!" (Though that's what the creators of Zombies should say.)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Religulous Experience

Today, I went to see Religulous, the new documentary film starring comedian Bill Maher. It's an examination (and a scathing one) of organized religion, and of the elements of various major faiths of the world.

As a piece of entertainment, I liked it. I laughed a lot; big laughs, small laughs, everything in between.

As a documentary, it's not very good. The movie does actually have a very reasonable point worthy of examination and discussion, but it doesn't really get around to making it until the last five minutes of the movie. It's laughs every minute to that point, and then the scary, operatic music kicks in for five minutes of deathly serious commentary. As I said, it's reasonable. But the tone of the movie doesn't really earn it.

And speaking of tones, Bill Maher's can be off-putting at times. I find him funny, personally. And I happen to agree with a lot of his views (which surely helps with the finding him funny). But his demeanor at times is pretty closed, even harsh. He doesn't seem to make much of an effort to win any hearts and minds among the subjects he interviews in the film, and it seems unlikely to me the assembled product will do so in a potential audience either.

Which is not wholly his fault as a "host," either. The actual assembly of the documentary film strikes me as wrong too, in terms of narrative. The first half of it is devoted to Christianity, pointing out the fairy tale-like nature of the material in the Bible, if one does take it literally (as many do). Later, it segues into a look at other faiths.

It seems to me that, knowing the bulk of the mostly American audience is going to be Christian, the film-as-an-argument would be better served by starting with the other religions. By starting with picking holes in the story of Jesus Christ, it seems to me the vast majority is going to switch off their minds or walk out of the movie altogether. But if you first poke a little fun at Scientology, Mormonism, and Islam, you can sort of "ease" the crowd into things before turning the magnifying glass on Christianity.

But let me come full circle here. Despite my quibbles with the ordering of the film, despite my concerns that Bill Maher will dillute his message because of his demeanor, the film is funny. And given that he's a comedian, I choose to take that as the main element of the movie. I rate it a B.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Pumpkin Partying Hard

Halloween is coming four weeks from tonight. I for one am sad that I didn't think of this:

If you are also lacking in pumpkin carving creativity, you might get some ideas here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Baby's First Drum Beat

The kid in this video is two years old:

And even when he drops the sticks at one point, after they're handed back to him, he just starts rocking again.

Kind of unnerving.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Debate Bingo, The Expansion

So, did you have fun last week playing Presidential Debate Bingo? For myself, I did alright last week. I played five cards, and one of them turned out a winner, 37 minutes into the debate. (Thanks, John McCain, for mentioning "Senator Clinton.")

Well, the fun's just getting started, because here's a vice presidential version, this time with separate cards for the different "competitors," Biden and Palin.

Intriguing new gameplay! It's like an expansion set!