Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Inexplicable Movie Review: Why Rugrats sucks

Rugrats sucks, so a picture from a good cartoon of the era instead.

One of my past professions, substitute teaching, gave me plenty of time to watch lots of bad movies and to critique them against better movies. This is really far less fascinating than it sounds, and I'm sure it sounds less than fascinating to begin with.

Anyway, children's movies are a fairly common occurrence, since I was subbing for teenagers and tweens. And lately, that has made me evaluate why Rugrats really, really sucks as compared to a classic Disney movie, like Pinocchio. This applies even if said Disney classic is in Spanish. There is a certain quality and wit to a classic Disney movie, a basic level of competence, that is just not present in all this modern cartoon crap.

Let's get specific and talk about Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, which is a lovingly redundant title for a crass and unsophisticated movie. Pretty much all of the humor derives from tired jokes (Making fun of Euro-Disney, ha, gold Jerry!) and the babies throwing up and shitting themselves. Just remember this next time you see a movie like The Hammer get an R.

I never really understood the appeal of Rugrats. It came out when I was just a bit too old for it, so that could be one reason. While it's clearly a step above absolute tripe / little kid programming like Barney and Lamb Chop's Sing Along, I think it is clearly a rung below Doug. I vaguely recall my sister, who is four years younger than I am, being pretty into Rugrats.

Anyway, their Paris movie is pretty god damn awful. I'm not sure why, but I was showing it for middle school French classes, even though there isn't that much French in the movie. I can understand not wanting to show, say, Les Mis to sixth graders, since that movie has a bunch of torture scenes. But there has to be a better compromise movie than Paris Rugrats. Why not an adaptation of Le Petit Prince or Asterix? Both are more faithful to the French language than Rugrats, or the other bizarre, tangential French movie I had to watch, Passport to Paris starring the Olsen twins.

If you sincerely care, the plot of the movie revolves around the babies acting like babies, and Chuckie trying to hook his dad up with a new mom. Somehow, Angelica gets involved, and things get stupid and not funny. I highly recommend the film if you're trying to fall asleep, because I almost did at several points.

The picture from an actual good Nickelodeon show is from this Tumblr site.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Nirvana, rage, Rage and Lost

Appropriately enough, considering my current Jack Shepard beard, I found myself driving home the other day while listening to Nirvana's “Scentless Apprentice,” similar to how Jack is driving in a season finale of Lost. Well, minus the being loaded on booze and Oxycontin part.

You might note that this is not normally a tune you hear on the radio, and if you've been in my car or seen the interior of my lovely white 1998 Corolla, you might note that I only have a tape deck. This is correct – One of the few tapes I have and have kept is Nirvana's From The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah.

This was released about two years after Cobain's death, and it isn't considered one of the band's stronger works. It is an odd mismash of live performances, and included tracks from Bleach to In Utero. While it is not as artistically strong as Nevermind or In Utero, as emotionally raw as Unplugged in New York or as rough and scratchy as Bleach, it is a nice sort of sampler platter of everything Nirvana has to offer. It is also the only "official" live, non-acoustic album they have, excluding the "new" Live at Reading, which was just released in November.

While I was re-listening to the album, I was struck by how aggressive and emotional Nirvana still sounds, while still having an ounce of harmony. In recent years, there has been a bit of a backlash against them for not being refined musicians. This kind of obscures the fact that Nirvana was never really about musicianship – It was all about aggression and emotion.

I think this is why they still hold up more to me than, say, Rage Against The Machine. In a previous post, I talked about how Nirvana wasn't really a band of my generation, and about how most of my friends didn't listen to Nirvana. I know this because I loved Nirvana, and outside of my friend Eric, my friends didn't. By this time, people had moved on to the far past (The Clash, The Pixies), the fringe (Fugazi, obscure local punk and hardcore bands that no longer exist), the classics (Skynard, Zeppelin, The Band) and the more alternative mainstream (Oasis). I was 7 when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Nevermind came out and 10 when Cobain died.

I loved Nirvana, and still do, because it personally resonates with me. I was a bit of a surly kid as I graduated from middle to high school, which my grades reflect – I stopped caring a lot, and stopped doing a lot of classwork. I was lucky in the sense that I'm sharp enough to still do well on or pass tests despite not studying. I straightened up in college, finishing it with a 3.2 GPA, but I'd estimate my high school GPA as about a full-point lower, in the low-2s. I never really dressed the punk part, although I might have made an inadvertent attempt because we were too poor at times for brand new clothes each school year.

I never got that "Nirvana" feeling from a kind-of-similar band, Rage Against The Machine. Both were about alienation, but Rage's political activism turned me off a bit. I honestly did not give an S about most of their causes; I just cared about the music. Nirvana didn't require thinking - It required yelling and screaming along. There is something cathartic about that.

Rage still had some great songs that I liked, primarily almost all of Evil Empire. That's still an album I love. However, I'd rather listen to any of the major Nirvana releases over it. Cobain was howling about pain on an individual level, which always strikes me as more personal than Rage's societal list of grievances.

Oh, and just wait for my future post, teasingly titled: The world's last Limp Bizkit fan.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Inexplicable Movie Review: Family Guy Presents Something Something Something Dark Side and everything else Star Wars

I am seemingly one of the 10 people on the planet who still catch everything Family Guy-related out there. As a result, I looked forward to the release of Something Something Something Dark Side, their remake of The Empire Strikes Back. This follows on the heels of 2007's Family Guy - Blue Harvest, a remake of the original Star Wars, which was pretty nifty. (The long name of the Empire remake comes from the "secret to Star Wars dialogue, from an earlier Family Guy skit, and which is presented above.)

Right now, the reviews on Amazon for the movie are mostly lukewarm, and the film is averaging 3.5 out of 5 stars. This surprises me a bit, as I considered this edition a bit better than the first, which has a 4-star rating. Something Something Something Dark Side follows The Empire Strikes Back almost scene for scene, so if you're not familiar with the source material, you probably won't enjoy this one.

But if you are an Empire fan, and a Family Guy fan, then this is required watching. The character roles from the original - Peter as Han, Lois as Leia, Chris as Luke, creepy perv Herbert as Obi-Wan and Brian as Chewbecca - are retained, even though Cleveland / C3P0 left for his own show. (Also, this time, Meg actually gets a line!) My only warning is that, although the DVD extras like the audio commentary are neat, the actual "movie" is only about 50 minutes - two regular episodes. There is some swearing, but otherwise, you might not think there is enough to justify $15 for two episodes.

Which brings me to the more important issue, one which I debated the other night with Baseball Prospectus author, Blast video games editor and all-around swell guy Marc Normandin - How do you rank the entire saga?

First off, I think it's easy to pick the bottom two - The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. I personally dislike Clones more. At least at the time it was released, Phantom Menace seemed technologically impressive, and there was a "buzz" about it, the first new piece of the saga in 20-something years. Clones felt like nothing more than a bridge movie to Revenge of the Sith, which is something you can't say about the original trilogy. Each of those movies serves a purpose, but stands as a dramatic piece on its own merits.

This might be controversial, but I consider the original, A New Hope, to be somewhat dated. It is absolute stunning the first time you watch it, just how epic the worlds are, and how involved everything with the Force is and what not. However, after that first time, you notice that a lot of the non-Obi Wan and Han Solo scenes can drag. It doesn't have as many signature action and drama aspects of the other movies on this list.

Okay, so we have three movies left to rank. As much as I like Sith, because it was the last movie released, I found it the least compelling of the "action"y three remaining. If Lucas could do it all over again as a six-movie deal, from start to finish, then Sith could be one of the better movies with some small changes. Basically, just end it with Anakin getting hauled out of the lava, and make it seem like he dies. Then, Padme dies, and we still assume that Vader is a separate Sith lord, and not Anakin, until the big reveal at the end of Empire. But, as is, I have to rank Sith as the third best.

Which leaves us with Return of the Jedi vs. The Empire Strikes Back. I realize I'm in the minority with this opinion, but I find Jedi to be most satisfying to watch. Yes, the Ewoks are gimmicky, and they span all of the most awful Jar Jar Binksian parts of the next two movies, but I still think they serve as a nice balance to all the grimness as the end of Empire and throughout the rest of Jedi.

In fact, this sheer darkness at the end of Empire is why I favor Jedi. At the end of Empire, you find out that Luke's real dad is one of the most evil mother effers in the galaxy, Luke loses in direct combat to Vader, Han Solo is encased in carbonite and under the control of an evil gangster and the Rebellion's base on Hoth is destroyed. That's a whole big bucket of depression right there.

The photo original Family Guy inspiration for the title of its Empire spoof (whew, that's a mouthful) is from this blog. The duel photo is from this site, somewhere on it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Karma vs. Statistics

I'm not a big believer in karma, but I do believe in statistics, if that makes any sense at all.

In a literal sense, when it comes to baseball, basketball and football, I'm much more apt to believe a statistical-perspective of, say, Baseball Prospectus, than scouts and idiots like Joe Morgan who once played baseball. Oddly, I think this is related to my own writing "talent". I've never considered myself much of a writer, but I get paid to do it for work, and got good grades for it through high school and college. Therefore, I must be doing something write (ha ha, get it, I made an error on purpose). However, I couldn't really tell someone else how I do it, not with any certainty, and likewise, I think it's silly that we rely on Morgan, John Kruk, Fernando Vina and others to give us the scoop on what Major League Baseball players are doing wrong, at least when there is statistical evidence proving them wrong.

But, in the non-sports world, I don't think karma exists. I don't believe there is a cosmic force balancing right and wrong. However, I do believe that statistics still apply - You simply can't keep doing, for lack of a better term, bad things, forever. At some point, things catch up with you.

I love watching TruTV, and especially their Forensic Files and Masterminds series. Basically, after 11, when most stations switch to crap, both of these shows are on all the time, and are fantastic. And I'm always struck by how, especially on Masterminds, everyone eventually gets caught. As far as I know, there have only been two major cases that were never solved - Who stole the French crown jewels, and who D.B. Cooper was. I'm sure there is some minor stuff that I'm not aware of, but for the most part, if you do bad, you eventually get caught.

... This is a bit of a rambling post. Sorry. I was just thinking about all of this lately because of personal stuff going on in my own life. I've had some bad luck lately, and I'm just waiting for it to equalize out a bit. I try my best to fight through it by making my own luck, but hey, sometimes you need some chance - some karma, or better yet, statistics - on your side too. Random philosophy out.

The image is from this blog.

On growing a beard and more later

So, this isn't tonight's actual entry. But, I did want to put a placeholder in to say that it would be on karma and statistics, as ambiguous as that sounds.

The title of this entry refers to my beard right now, which is getting to ridiculous thickness, at least for my taste. We're talking about "Jack Shepard in Lost levels", which is cooler than it sounds, since I otherwise do not look like Jack Shepard. (Still, I must admit a certain pang of admiration for supporting similar muttonchops. However, I do zealously shave my mustache still; that is the only part that comes in blonde, as opposed to reddish, and I think it looks stupid.)

I'm not sure why I haven't shaved - I'm guessing laziness, since, although I don't like feeling it on my face, it does take a good 10 to 20 minutes to do a good shave with my electric, and I just keep on putting it off. Also, I feel like this particular beard has grown in fast. The last timed I shaved was two, maybe three weeks ago, and I already have it all grown in. I look a bit like a young Santa Claus, except not nearly girth-y enough. (Maybe next year, ladies.)

The photo of Jack comes from this newspaper / blog.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Odd dream

Last night I had a dream that I was having an affair with my old boss' wife. That part isn't so odd; I mean, I'm a boy, and it wasn't anything super explicit. The odd part was that I have met my old boss' wife in real life, and it wasn't the same lady as in the dream. If I'm going to go through the trouble of having a weird dream about my boss from years ago, you would think my dream-addled mind would at least have the common decency to give my boss his correct wife. We were also going to rendez-vous in Delaware for some reason, and I really dislike Delaware. I don't like its audacity of charging a toll right at the border just to drive through the crummy state.

I generally don't put much stock in dream analysis, just because you get weird, random combinations of people, places and things, like I just described. I was just sharing because I didn't have anything better to post tonight, it being the holidays and all. Merry after Christmas Day!

Now, to brave the stores / go out with friends... We'll see how this turns out.

Rollover minutes lady, who looked kind of like my ex-boss' new wife, is from this site.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve and Kristin: Week 16

So, in future weeks, I'm going to handle the picks like a Tag Team blog. Frankly, Bob, Kristin and I were getting exhausted trying to comment on games we honestly don't give a crap about, like, for example, San Fran vs. St. Louis this week, followed by San Fran vs. Detroit next week. He is also headed to Prague for spy stuff a vacation, so he and the Mrs won't have as much opportunity to comment.

For this week, Bob did comments on plenty of the games, but then not so much. I'll just insert my picks where required. Standings should have been at the bottom of the post.

TENNESSEE over San Diego (3)

Steve: San Diego -3
Bob: San Diego +3

An unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Two of the hottest teams in football meet up for an unforgettable game. Ha, actually, considering this game is on the NFL Network, it is surprisingly good. Up until now I've been riding the Vince Young express, but I'm surprised that they are favored over the Chargers. San Diego hasn't lost since October, when they got beat by the then-undefeated Broncos. On the other hand, Tennessee had a hard time putting a stake in the heart of a banged up Miami team last week. Unfortunately, I think this will be the week where the Titans' playoff hopes get dashed.

Among other things that will soon be unfortunately extinguished, FOX will soon show the last few episodes of the surprisingly good Dollhouse, which features a good looking cast that includes Eliza Dushku and Dichen Lachman (who I wrote about during Week 13). The show is a science fiction-y show that is about “dolls,” who are good looking people who have had their minds erased, and can be programmed with numerous different personalities. The show started off weak during its first few episodes, but has slowly gained strength over the last year. It started off as showcasing a different, interesting personality every week, a premise that gets somewhat tired after a while. However, in its most recent episodes it has began broaching the numerous complications that could accompany having the ability to reprogram and pimp out people at will. I would highly recommend that people investigate this show, and try to catch up so they can enjoy the final episodes when they air in a few weeks.

GREEN BAY over Seattle (14)

Steve: Green Bay -14
Bob: Seattle +14

It is inexplicable that Green Bay lost to the Steelers last week. In fact, it is inexplicable that they are 9-5. Considering their stats they should be the toast of the NFC, but they haven't been able to beat “plus” opponents and managed to lose to Tampa Bay. I originally had Green Bay penciled in for this game since Seattle is atrocious on the road, but the spread is just too rich for me.

CLEVELAND over Oakland (3.5)

Steve: Oakland
Bob: Oakland +3.5

This game should be made a four way battle between the Browns, Raiders, Chiefs and St. Louis. They should play in a round-robin tournament to decide once and for all who is the worst team of the 2009 NFL season. Some would argue that Tampa Bay and the Lions belong in the round robin as well, and I don't necessarily disagree, but I would argue that the four teams I listed first are the worst, even though their records are better than Tampa Bay. What is the opposite of the “toast of the NFL?” What would be the diss equivalent of a toast? The spit of the NFL? The bitten thumb of the NFL? Regardless, that's what these teams would be playing to become.

CINCINNATI over Kansas City (13.5)

Steve: Cincy -13.5
Bob: Kansas City +13.5

Cincinnati just hasn't looked good lately. Combined with the letdown game last week where they failed to win for their fallen teammate, if I were a Bengals fan I would worry that this team is in the beginning of a tailspin. Right now they have “first-round defeat” written all over them, and it won't be because of a cheap Steeler hit on Carson Palmer's knee.

Steve says: howdareyou Bob. How DARE you wish ill on my beloved Bengals! Palmer has finally regained his form from that playoff loss, although I really wish they could scrounge up some receivers for him. I mean, it's essentially Ocho Cinco and nothing back there. Henry was a prominent receiver for them before he got injured (and now killed), and he needed as many second chances as other talented screw-ups like Lawrence Phillips and Randy Moss just to get to where he was at.

ATLANTA over Buffalo (9)

Steve: Atlanta -9
Bob: Buffalo +9

I have no idea. Points, please.

MIAMI over Houston (3)

Steve: Miami -3
Bob: Miami -3

At some point, you have to be sick of playing for next season if you play for the Texans. Combined with the fact that Miami has been quite dangerous this season, I'm comfortable taking the Dolphins here.

NY GIANTS over Carolina (7)

Steve: Panthers +7
Bob: NY Giants -7

Speaking of bizarrely dangerous teams, Carolina has had a few games where they've surprised people. They have a disruptive defense and an offense that can occasionally capitalize. They almost handed the Saints their first loss and handled the Vikings last week (although, say it together now, “Brett Favre in December”). I'll take the Giants here just because I have a hard time seeing Carolina sneak up on another team, and the Giants badly need this win.

NEW ORLEANS over Tampa Bay (14)

Steve: Saints -14
Bob: Tampa Bay +14

What is New Orleans playing for at this point? Minnesota has lost three. The Saints can either beat Tampa Bay (not that hard a feat) or beat Carolina (ditto) and clinch home field advantage. Have a hard time seeing them covering in this situation.

How anticlimactic was that loss to Dallas last week, by the way? Dallas was hardly New Orleans' most scary opponent over the last third of its schedule, and it had badly outclassed New England only a few games before. Meanwhile, Dallas was in the midst of its typical December skid. This is like turning on Looney Tunes one day only to watch Wile E. Coyote munching on the Road Runner. Who knew that there was a Saturday game last week, and who knew that it would actually feature a good game?

NEW ENGLAND over Jacksonville (7.5)

Steve: New England -7.5
Bob: New England -7.5

One team is playing to preserve its playoff hopes, the other team has a two-game lead in its division and gets to play the heartless (and not in the Kanye West sense) Texans next week. All of the urgency will be on the Jaguars side this week, but it's still tough to see them win this game. They have been middle-of-the-pack statistically this year and have a decent record only because they have been able to feast on mediocrity this year (wins against Houston twice, the then-listless Titans, St. Louis, Kansas City, the Jets, and Buffalo). As much as I can absolutely foresee the Patriots losing this game because of their inability to play well consistently, my crystal ball tells me that the Jaguars playoff hopes explode this week.

PITTSBURGH over Baltimore (2.5)

Steve: Steelers -2.5
Bob: Baltimore +2.5

Rock beats scissors, scissors cut paper, paper covers rock. Lizard and Spock work in there somewhere.

Steve says: I'm picking the Steelers solely because, I believe, it would muddle the AFC playoff picture even more. For that simple reason, I think they manage to eek this one out.

PHILADELPHIA over Denver (7)

Steve: Denver +7
Bob: Philadelphia -7

Apparently I spoke too soon about Josh McDaniels being a good coach. Losing to the Raiders in Denver? Harsh. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is on some bizarre roll even though one never gets the sense that they're particularly good. They are beatable, but they are definitely a “plus” team. Oh, and Brian Westbrook is back. Could the Eagles bizarrely make a Super Bowl run?

Bizarre runs make me think of (besides the obvious scatological humor) The Venture Brothers. For the hoi polloi, this is a show that started as a satire of Johnny Quest but has since become so much more. It features two boy adventurers, Hank and Dean, whose father was a former boy adventurer and current incompetent scientist, and whose bodyguard is a freaking badass. Their father's archenemy is named The Monarch, after the monarch butterfly, which “has many ways to sting.” Originally, the show largely showed them on various misadventures, but as it has gone along it has started building its own mythology. In addition, they have moved away from only satirizing adventurer shows and are now willing to satirize any significant cartoon, and many of the themes that were previously somewhat subtle have become hilariously blatant (for example, a grownup Johnny Quest has been featured in a few episodes). The show took a simple concept and has run with it, making the show so much more than it deserves to be. If you haven't seen it, go out and watch it now. Don't even bother continuing to read these picks.

Steve says: I concur fully on The Venture Brothers. I was trying to convince everyone to watch it in the spring of 2007, when I was still the entertainment editor of the Cigar, but not enough people know about its excellence yet.

ARIZONA over St. Louis (14)

Steve: Cardinals -14
Bob: St. Louis +14

I am so going to bomb this week because I chose a bunch of underdogs. I don't trust Arizona to cover here, though.

SAN FRANCISCO over Detroit (12)

Steve: San Fran -12
Bob: San Francisco -12

Ugh, this line is way too high but I'm willing to take a flier on the 49ers because they are at home. Aside from some awful midseason performances there, they have managed to do pretty well in San Francisco.

INDIANAPOLIS over NY Jets (5.5)

Steve: Indy -5.5
Bob: Indianapolis -5.5

No incentive to win this game. No incentive to play Peyton Manning. No reason to even show up. Why can't the Colts just lose?

When I was younger, my father had a sailboat that he liked to take around the bay. It was a big sailboat, perhaps a little too big for him. He was used to sailing much smaller boats, and thus was a bit too willing to take chances that could have had real consequences. One of his favorite tricks was to pull the sail in so tight that the boat was almost parallel to the water because the sail was catching so much wind. This boat was about 30 feet, mind you, and was large enough to have a cabin. With the boat nearly capsized, he would assure us it was okay because the boat had a “steel keel.” Occasionally the boat would take on a little water because he enjoyed sailing so recklessly, which he assured us was okay since the boat had a little plug about an inch in diameter that would allow the water to drain. Needless to say, many of my memories associated with this boat are less than happy, and for a long time my father was referred to as “Captain Bligh.” One day, my father decided he would sail under the Newport Bridge at the point the bridge was the lowest. My pleading for him not to, since the boat would not fit, was unheard, and we went under and almost got stuck as the mast scraped along the bottom of the bridge. As we barely squeaked through the other side, he decided to let go tiller and let the boat spin around in circles. I have no idea why, but I'm pretty sure it was to antagonize me. I don't remember it quite this way, but my friend who was with me swears I spent the next few minutes screaming “Why, Daddy, why???” Well, seeing the Colts at the crest of perfection makes me again want to scream “why, Daddy, why???”

Dallas over WASHINGTON (7)

Steve: Dallas -7
Bob: Dallas -7

I can see this one going either way. I'm going to say Dallas gets their badly needed win and the Redskins show why they continue to be the basement of the NFC East. But the Redskins were able to only lose by one in Dallas earlier this season, and have generally been able to cover against good teams, so this could easily go the other way.

Minnesota over CHICAGO (7)

Steve: Minny -7
Bob: Minnesota -7

Minnesota was exposed last week but Chicago is worse. I have a friend in DC who is a Bears fan and who had talked about seeing the Bears when they played the Ravens last week. These discussions started at the beginning of football season, but soon trailed off as the Bears started to look more and more terrible. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to have the delight of listening to him curse out Jay Cutler for three solid hours as Cutler again threw numerous interceptions and showed Chicago why he was not worth two first-round draft picks. Other Bears fans in the bars were yelling out “have fun collecting unemployment next year, Lovie” and other charitable feelings toward the Bears. Needless to say, any plans to watch the Bears in Baltimore were ditched long before we realized there was going to be historic snowfall in the DC-area last weekend. The moral of the story is that although Brett Favre very well could shit the bed playing in cold weather in December this week in Chicago, the Bears probably are not the team to capitalize on his poor play.


Kristin says: Here are my picks. Thanks for letting me play along, but I agree this is exhausting.

Last week, I enjoyed writing haiku about who won
Why should poems be over now week 15 is done?
I will take San Diego over Tennessee
The Titans only won last week just to bug me
Green Bay vs. Seattle I'll take the Cheese
And Oakland over Cleveland if you please
As much as I want to pick Cincinnati
I feel forced to choose stupid K City
I will also take Giants, Miami, and Buffalo
Tampa Bay and New England in the snow
I think that Pittsburgh wants it more
Philadelphia can win at home fooooooooor suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure
Let's go Rams and the San Francisco treat
Jets, Jets, Jets! Indy you should beat!
I'll take the Skins on a Christmas wish
Lastly, I'll take Minny, umm something about fish
So for Christmas I didn't get a puppy bulldog
But in a few hours Bob is taking me to Prague!


I have fallen very, very far behind Bob and Kristin the past couple weeks, as my strategy of going intentionally against Bob has been, well, a bad one. Sigh.

Week 14: Bob and Kristin tied at 12-4, while I lost four games on them, finishing at 8-8.

Week 15: Again, Bob and Kristin tied at 6-9. I lost a game on them, finishing 5-10. Only 15 games because Patriots vs. Bills was a push.

Overall: With just two regular season weeks and the postseason, Bob holds a one-game lead on Kristin, 114-106 to 113-107. I am languishing 11 games back at 103-117. Double sigh!

The exhaustion image is from this web site. The Dollhouse photo is from this site. The original print of Roadrunner and Wile can be bought from this site. The sinking Titanic is from here.

I wish it was Christmas todayyy... Oh wait!

This is probably one of my most favorite Saturday Night Live sketches, just because of its simplicity. Watch carefully, and you'll notice that the only thing Tracy Morgan does is dance back and forth a bit, and Chris Katan only holds the keyboards and rocks his head back and forth. Neither one is really needed for the bit, but their presence adds some surrealism to the proceedings.

... Oh yeah, blogging. Anyway, the football picks are set to post later tonight, but as a warning, I'm changing up the formatting a bit for this week and future weeks, hopefully creating a shorter, tighter post. And, at long last, I have updated the standings.

Now, to take us out, my favorite Saturday Night Live clip ever. Sweet sassy molassy! Hey, try not to shoot that puck up my pooper! Jumanji!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

WTF - A post about Michael Jackson?

I will go out on a very far limb here and say that I think Michael Jackson peaked, musically (and in terms of hairstyle), while he was still in The Jackson 5. I say that this is a limb because, well, I think I might be the only person who thinks that. Whenever I hear people talk about Jackson, the talk centers on several areas - Thriller, his ensuring weirdness and pedophilia, his status as the King of Pop, or his bizarre death.

This is understandable, but it shouldn't be forgot that he and his brothers created some ridiculously great songs that still hold up today. It is pure, unaltered pop music, which just their soaring vocals backed up by a band.

Apparently, according to Wiki, The Jackson 5's first single was "I Want You Back," so if I wanted to get even more extreme, I could say that Michael Jackson peaked with the release of his first single. He provided the lead vocals for the song, and it's amazing to think that it was released in 19-freakin'-69. It still holds up remarkably well.

In contrast, I find Jackson's solo work to be overproduced. I'm not saying his voice is modified, a la conventional pop singers like Britney Spears. I mean that the background parts of "I Want You Back" are complex and rich without overpowering his ridiculous pipes. In contrast, "Thriller" has a ton of crap going on in the background, and unnecessary filler, like Vincent Price rambling. Unless you want something a bit more R&B, like "Billie Jean", then I think Jackson's first song is still his best.

That being said, my high school buddy and college roommate Shaun did note that I'm a sucker for harmonies, and I must shamefully cop to this. I like a lot of music that is just positively shameful for a 25-year-old man to be into, such as several tracks from Ace of Base, Blondie, Christina Aguliera, older Mandy Moore and Dream. And, I kind of like "Love Story" by Taylor Swift, even if she doesn't have the greatest pipes in the world, and even if she desperately needs to eat a few more sandwiches.

... Uh, oh yeah. Merry Christmas! Football picks will be posted tomorrow night.

The Jackson 5 photo is from this blog. And the Taylor Swift photo is from this entertainment news article.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Inexplicable Movie Review: The Wizard (again)

Expanding on my thoughts from yesterday, there are plenty of reasons why you should run out and rent The Wizard immediately.

1) There is a bunch of footage of old video games being played by an autistic kid. I'm not sure why, but this is somehow fascinating to me, even though the clips are only 10 to 20 seconds each. In the course of the movie, he plays Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Double Dragon and Ninja Gaiden prominently, not to mention the Super Mario Brothers 3 orgy at the end of the movie, which is essentially a five-minute sneak preview for the game (at least at the time).

Of course, this brings to light some of the great, silly, illogical parts of the movie. For example, when he is playing Super Mario Brothers 3, Jimmy finds the warp whistle hidden in the first fortress, which should be effing impossible unless you know where to look for it. You have to have the raccoon tail / leaf (whatever it's called) that lays you fly above the screen, on top of a wall, and into an adjacent room with the warp whistle. And for some reason, this makes Jimmy's score counter double or triple, which does not actually happen in the game! Jimmy uses this to eventually beat Lucas, and the pig-tailed girl, who serves as the Meg Griffin of the competition for Jimmy and Lucas to beat up on.

Honestly, if you don't have realism in your shameless promotional movies that have video games, what can you trust?

2) Touching on the video games again, there is also a montage of games being played in an arcade, as Jimmy is trying to learn how to beat a bunch of different games; the games in the tournament are unknown. Ninja Gaiden is the opening round game, which is actually kind of appropriate - It is a tough game, and it does have a score meter.

However, there are also several games that they practice in the arcade that clearly wouldn't be used, unless Nintendo was effing stupid. They also waste a lot of money calling the Nintendo Game Counselor line, which I'm sure made a ton of parents happy as their kids stupidly called whenever they got stuck in a game. I never really understood the point of this - Most old NES games rely on the simple formula of ducking, attacking or running past whatever thing is attacking you. It's a matter of memorizing patters and reacting, which you don't really need a "game counselor" for.

3) In a comical scene, the character played by Beau Bridges - he's related to Jimmy somehow, I think he might be his natural dad - is rambling about some shit in Zelda 2. The thing is, when the camera pans to what he is playing, he's just slashing things in some town, and it makes absolutely no sense with what he's saying. It's as if they gave him a script, then intentionally made an effort to make him look like an asshole who didn't know anything about the game he was playing. Hey, editing truck, you could have at least helped a brother out by splicing in some scenes from Zelda 2 that at least made sense for the scene.

4) Final thing for now - The Wizard was one of the last movies that had kids completely independent and not reliant on adults for things in 1980s fashion, to the point where you question if every authority in the movie is effing insane.

Rilo Kiley, Fred Savage and an autistic kid essentially hitchhike across the country, using money they win by scamming people at video games, with the goal of making it to L.A. to play in a $25,000 video game tournament. The only adult that is remotely helpful is a truck driver named Spanky that the girl knows, which is somewhat odd and creepy when you really ponder it. I don't think they really ever explain how Haley (Rilo Kiley) lives; it is implied or said that her dad is a truck driver and out the picture. Fred Savage runs away from his parents with Jimmy, his half-brother, and they are able to elude all adults in their way.

Meanwhile, there is a menacing "child finder" dude after them, because apparently in 1989, nobody would say shit if they saw three children just wandering around the country. I live in a rural area and remember being asked by cops twice where I was going after school as I was walking home or to a friend's house; I don't think I would have been able to accomplish a journey of several hundred miles with no adult interference.

Anyway, I've got to go cover a meeting, so I might do a third part to this at a future date.

The Fred Savage photo from The Wizard I found at this blog.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Inexplicable Movie Review: The Wizard

The Wizard is a common punching bag for movie reviewers, but really, when the movie dropped in 1989, it was noticeable for two very cool reasons, at least to my five-year-old mind:

1) The Power Glove. The scene with Lukas is rightfully mocked now, but at the time, the Power Glove looked like the coolest effing thing just about ever. According to a pretty trustworthy source, the Angry Video Game Nerd, it is god damn awful to actually play a game with, but hey, it still does look cool.

2) The preview of Super Mario Brothers 3, which was a good and proper sequel to the original game, as opposed to the weird game known as Super Mario Brothers 2 in the states. For some reason, I remember getting SMB3 relatively early in my youth, which was rare because I normally only got bargain-priced games. I somehow managed to avoid getting the ultimate horrible bargain game, Home Alone, at least.

Anyway, looking at the history of video game movies, you'd be hard pressed to say that The Wizard was in the bottom five. Yeah, it was essentially a 90-minute advertisement for Nintendo, but at least it was an enjoyable ad with decent actors like Fred Savage and Christian Slater and Beau Bridges and the girl who would become Rilo Kiley. While none of them are really award winners, they give at least capable performances.

The Wizard is just kind of an average movie to me, especially when compared to other "kids" movies of the time frame - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Honey I Shrunk Every God Damn Thing Ever don't hold up as well either. The Wizard is also not a colossal cluster eff, like most video game movies, excluding Mortal Kombat, which is shocking from its sheer competence. But, that's a discussion for another time, and another review.

(Actually, I might expand on this whole entry at some point... I feel like I'm rushing things a bit, whereas it would be good to REALLY get into all of The Wizard's amazing parts.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Johnny effing Damon!

[Left] Unfrozen caveman lawyer, Boston Red Sox traitor and Hall of Very Good player Johnny Damon.

Tonight, the host of Monday Night Raw is New York Yankees free agent outfielder Johnny Damon. I've only seen about 30 minutes of the show, but his acting is as weak as his arm - Very muted and lowkey, with little chance of gunning someone down at the plate or coming across as a strong presence on the microphone. (See what I did there, mixing the two comparisons? Impressive, I know.)

Anywho, Damon's presence on the show reminded me that he is still a free agent, since he (most-likely) overplayed his hand with the Yankees this offseason. I initially heard that he wanted a contract in the two to four-year range, at more than $10 million per year, which struck me as absolutely insane.

At that dollar value, Damon is only good if he can play center field, which he can't anymore at age 36. I'd rather take a flier on someone like Vlad Guerrero or Nick Johnson, the second of which the Yankees are apparently doing. (By the way, this annoys me as a Red Sox fan - I was hoping the Red Sox would sign Johnson as their first baseman, and to keep Kotchman as a decent backup who might regain some of his value with a full year in Boston.)

That being said, I am surprised how well Damon is performing and holding up physically. The general rule is that speed guys like Damon, Rickey Henderson, Devon White, Marquis Grissom and others preserve better than others. However, Damon's iffy middle seasons - his only year in Oakland and 2003 in Boston - made me question whether he was following this career path or not, especially since he last played center field everyday in 2006.

Regardless, the Red Sox have Ellsbury (and now Cameron and formerly Coco Crisp), so it was justifiable for them to let Damon walk. While Ellsbury doesn't have as much power as Damon, I view him as a league average center fielder at a rock bottom price. He hasn't developed as much as I would like, excluding the stolen bases, but it is still worth employing him in order to save the money to sign some other players, like John Lackey.

Delay tonight

I'm going to Casey's for a customer appreciation night, so I'll be back a little bit late - it ends at 7, so I'm guessing tonight's actual entry will be up between 8 and 10. The management is sorry for the delay.

On the plus side, I found out there is an auto-notification e-mail thing for Blogger. i.e. It will e-mail you every time I update. If anyone is interested in getting on it for my blog, leave me your e-mail in a comment, or leave an e-mail at my e-mail - Lates! (for now)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Kristin: Week 15 Haikus

This week, Bob and Kristin submitted their picks in haiku form, which is really, really nifty. Bob says:

I don't have time to write my usual extended, thoughtful analysis of these games, due to a busy week at work, having company in town this weekend and DC getting blanketed in a foot and a half of snow yesterday. In repentance, I will do all my picks in haiku form.

NEW ORLEANS over Dallas (8)

Bob: Saints -8

I would have picked them
But it is the day after
They blew perfection

Kristin: Saints -8

So to be honest
I would have picked the Saints too
With an 8 point spread

PITTSBURGH over Green Bay (2)

Bob: Green Bay (+2)

Roethlisberger sucks
Watching their title defense
Has been like date rape

Kristin: Pittsburgh

London in the snow
I still like Peter Pan
Much more than Big Ben

TENNESSEE over Miami (5)

Bob: Tennessee -5

Chris Johnson will crush
Miami's playoff wishes
Vince Young cannot lose

Kristin: Miami

We need to leave soon
We need to cheer on the Pats
No more poems for you

New England over BUFFALO (7)

Bob: New England -7

Bills can't stop the run
Belichick has owned the Bills
Need to start winning

Kristin: New England

Arizona over DETROIT (14)

Bob: Detroit +14

Despite being killed
Last week, the dome at home will
Lead to a cover

Kristin: Arizona

NY JETS over Atlanta (7)

Bob: Jets -7

Kind of a wide spread
For a team sans its QB
But the Falcons suck

Kristin: Jets

KANSAS CITY over Cleveland (2)

Bob: Cleveland +2

Both bad on defense
Both bad on offense as well
How 'bout SNL

Kristin: Kansas City

Houston over ST. LOUIS (14)

Bob: Houston -14

Minus fourteen: wow
But St. Louis is awful
Don't put cash on it

Kristin: St. Louis

SAN DIEGO over Cincinnati (7)

Bob: San Diego -7

Chargers ain't Minny
But they aren't KC either
Sorry, Steve, Bengals bad

Kristin: San Diego

DENVER over Oakland (14)

Bob: Denver -14

Can Josh McDaniels
Please come back to New England
So they can be good

Kristin: Oakland

PHILADELPHIA over San Francisco (7.5)

Bob: San Francisco +7.5

Is San Fran decent?
Very up and down this year
Philly keeps things close

Kristin: Philly

BALTIMORE over Chicago (11)

Bob: Baltimore -11

Almost went to this
With friend who is a Bears fan
Canceled due to suck

Kristin: Baltimore

SEATTLE over Tampa Bay (6.5)

Bob: Seattle -6.5

Two former good teams
Square off to see who's less bad
Let's see who's at home

Kristin: Seattle

Minnesota over CAROLINA (9)

Bob: Minnesota -9

When you can get beat
Despite a WR who quit
Don't go out and brag

Kristin: Minny

NY Giants over WASHINGTON (3)

Bob: Giants -3

May go other way
But Shanahan interview
Is writing on wall

Kristin: Washington

Time for just one more
Go Washinton, Let's Go Skins
Now time for my shower

The penguin haiku is from this web site.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I have a party to run off to, and I've had a comically bad day that I might write about for tomorrow. But anyway, for now, here are my NFL picks; I will post Bob's and Kristin's later, when I get them.

Saints over Cowboys
Jets over Falcons
Philly over San Fran
Houston over Rams
Pats over Bills
Ravens over Bears
Tenn over Dolphins
KC over Browns
Cards over Lions
Denver over Raiders
Chargers over Bengals
GB over Pitt
Seattle over TB
Minny over Panthers
Giants over Skins

Friday, December 18, 2009

Breaking down characters on Lost, Part 3

What might be the final installment of Lost talk, at least until the season actually starts in February. As usual, HUGE SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW!!! And, sorry about the last posting; I thought I had this queued up for earlier, but it didn't take, it seems.


- I find Rose and Bernard to be mostly filler. Every once in a while, they'll pop up, usually toward the end of a season. It was a pretty dramatic moment when you found out Bernard was still alive in the tail section of the plane, but I pretty much guessed that he had to be alive if Rose kept mentioning him and if they made such a big deal out of it in an episode. You don't tease that moment if you're never going to fulfill it.

But since that time, I've been mostly meh on them. Like Locke, Rose and Bernard will probably live on the island the rest of the time to avoid the spread of cancer; I'm not sure if they end up back on the plane or not because of the time-shift thing. They seem logical in refusing to help out Jack and the others in season five, but really, aren't they a bit fatalistic?

- Locke, I don't like, and thankfully, he appears to be dead, with some sort of "thing" possessing his body. Maybe that whole storyline gets abandoned because of the time shift, but all of the events with "Evil Locke" and Richard and Ben are in some major need of explanation. If I had to guess, I imagine that the guy on the beach with Jacob somehow possessed Locke's body, and then used it in order to get close enough to Jacob to kill him. The odd part is that he seemingly retains some of Locke's memory.

I wasn't a big fan of Locke anyway, just because he's the embodiment of Faith on the show. I've always been more of a science guy, so I can't really identify with what Locke is going through. In addition, his lust to protect the Island leads him to be just as venomous as Ben, such as when he shot one of Widmore's men in cold blood.

- Ben Linus is a sociopath. He has an obsessive craving for power, and the Island fulfills it. For a time, he dominates every aspect of it, and if he doesn't get what he wants, there is hell to pay. For example, look at him essentially ordering the guy Juliet was cheating with to death, because he wanted Juliet for himself.

If you can trust almost everything Farraday says because he hasn't been wrong yet, then you can count on Ben to almost always be misleading and out for himself, as Sayid points out. While Ben doesn't always lie, he always withholds the complete truth, and distorts information here and there.

- Eko was a cool mofo when he was around, but I imagine he left the show for some other gig because of how abrupt his death seemed to me. I think they really could have done more with him on the show, but, c'est la vie. With how many characters the show has, it's hard to be juggling them all constantly. While I would have preferred to see him live instead of, say, Charlie or Kate, I realize they have to appeal to a broad range of people.

- Alex and her little boyfriend, whatever his name was, were really cute. I was sad when the Disposable Mercenary Character killed her. She was spunky and energetic, even if she was seemingly a bit simple. However, she came across as more genuine than a lot of the cast; all she seemed to care about was bonding with her mother, when she found out it was Rousseau, and hanging out with her boyfriend. The way they disposed of her boyfriend and Rousseau was also a bitch move.

One random note about her: Her eyes are ridiculously expressive. They did a great job casting her as the daughter of Rousseau, who also has expressive eyes. Alex's facial features - especially her eyes and lips - combined to make a physically-interesting character, even if she wasn't drop-dead gorgeous. For example, I think Kate would have been a much more compelling character if they simple swapped Evangeline Lilly with Tania Raymonde (Alex).

- Regarding the roots of Dharma, I have a feeling it was sent to the Island by Charles Widmore. He is one of the few people who isn't on the Island that has an interest in its going-ons, and he and Ben have a cryptic conversation about how once you leave the Island, you're not supposed to go back. Well, if Widmore didn't want to chance going back, then the next best thing would be to establish a company on the Island after he was forced off of it. Once Ben double-crossed Dharma and killed everyone there with the gas, there is a good chance that Widmore lost track of the Island, and had to go through the whole deal of finding it with Farraday's mom.

Speaking of Widmore, it wouldn't surprise me if he actually turns out to be a good guy in the long run. Ben hates him, which is normally a decent sign. Widmore also has a chance to capture or kill Desmond, and he just lets him go to be with his daughter. I have a feeling that like Jack, he feels conflicted between his personal cravings (just being a grandfather and focusing on Penny) with a larger world duty (not letting Ben fuck up the Island).

Anyway, I think this is all for now. Because I'm sure Danielle is sick of all these Lost posts, I'm going to try focusing on other stuff next week. So, if you have anything else you'd want me to address, leave it in a comment, which I'll either reply to or expand upon in a later entry.

All images were kind of generic stuff found on several different web sites, with the exception of Charles Widmore, from this nice Lost blog, and the picture of Linus, which is from this blog.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve and Kristin: Week 15

Doing half now, and the standings half later, when I'm at home and have access to my spreadsheet.

Indianapolis over JACKSONVILLE (2.5)

Bob: Indy -2.5

You won't find a happier person in the world Friday if I turn out to be wrong about this (provided Jacksonville doesn't just cover but wins outright). However, I don't see anything standing between the Colts and 16-0. The differences don't end in the bailout calls the Colts frequently seem to get in close games. Teams just seem to play differently against the Colts. When teams play the Patriots (or the Steelers), they seem to give it their all. They play with hubris and the belief that they can win, and if they do it will be one of the greatest games they play that season. When teams play the Colts, on the other hand, teams seem to be cowering and trying their best not to lose. Nobody comes out against the Colts with an aggressive game plan. They don't try to blitz Manning too much (which may be the right call, since he can murder you without a sufficient number of DBs). They don't really play them the way Belichick used to back when the Patriots actually used to beat them, which was to control the ball and frustrate Manning. Instead, teams try to match Peyton with a similar air show, but it never works out because the Colts pass rush is better than most other teams. Until a team can come into a game against the Colts comfortable that they will win with their game plan, or die trying, I don't know that anything can stop this team (except the apocalyptic meeting between them and the Saints in the Super Bowl).

Speaking of Peyton Manning, there was a funny-ish skit on The Simpsons this week featuring the Manning brothers (including Cooper). Bart had a dream extolling the virtues of having a brother, and it included the Mannings playing football and making fun of Cooper for not winning Super Bowls (kind of bizarre, since Cooper's football career wasn't ended by mediocrity but congenital neurologic malformation spinal stenosis, which Kristin describes as "bad"). The episode was very typical of many of the recent episodes, though. Funnier than some of the early- to mid-2000s episodes, but not nearly as funny as the first eight to 10 seasons. I think what has helped the last few seasons is a greater awareness of how things have changed since 1989--episodes have featured iPods, text messaging, and the most recent one had homages to South Park and the Plow King. The Simpsons no longer exists in a vacuum, but has started growing up with the viewers. I don't think there will ever be episodes as good as "Das Bus" (the Lord of the Flies episode) or "Mr. Plow," but they are at least worth watching again.

Steve : Colts -2.5

I suppose I should also talk about The Simpsons, because the game line is not compelling to me. I agree with you that the peak of the series is in the first 10 seasons, and especially the seasons when Conan O'Brien was either head writer or on the writing staff. That's when you had great stuff like "Marge vs. the Monorail" and one of the better Treehouse of Horror episodes. Matt Groening also wasn't screwing around with stuff like Futurama on the side. I agree with you that the show has been more respectable lately; I think the quality has definitely improved since the movie, which made like $500 million but nobody ever mentions ever.

Oh yeah, the football game. With how streaky the Jaguars are, I'm surprised this line is so line. Then again: 1) They have home field advantage and 2) The Colts might not play Manning the entire game and 3) The Colts haven't been blowing teams out anyway and 4) The Jags normally play the Colts pretty tough and still have a chance to make the playoffs. With those four things in mind, it is tempting for me to take the Jaguars, but I still think the Colts back-ups are enough to beat an inconsistent Jaguars team.

Kristin's pick: Hey, Sorry I didn't send you anything after seeing Bob wrote his. I guess I will take Indy as well (don't worry, I'm at work so if the games already a blow out in either direction I have no idea).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Breaking down characters on Lost, Part 2

Yesterday's entry was well-received, although, as several people pointed out, I omitted or left out some characters. Sorry! There are so freakin' many that one entry would have been about 2,000 words. But hey, if you want it so badly, I have no problem giving you the sequel... TODAY. And as usual, MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW IMMEDIATELY!!!

I'll follow a slightly different format today, just tackling some of the characters that others brought up and I missed. At the end of the entry, I'll address some of the questions and comments brought up by Kate, Amanda and Tom about yesterday's entry. And if there are still questions for me after that, I supposed I could do a Part 3 at some point. As one of my favorite radio show hosts, Dave Dameshek, would say, let it begin!


- Desmond is freakin' awesome, and his romance with Penelope feels like the show's most genuine and sweet. Of course, this makes me nervous that they will be horrifically screwed with during the final season, because anything good on Lost eventually goes bad, but I'm hoping things turn out OK for those two kids.

Desmond and Penelope are responsible for what I consider to be the absolute best moment of the show: When they finally reunite. I didn't cry, but I must say, it did get very dusty suddenly while I was watching that moment. It was an incredibly slow burn on that plot across multiple seasons, and the story - making a promise to get together with the one who got away - resonates with just about everyone, I believe. To top it off, both Desmond and Penelope are incredibly likable; it was like watching two friends who are perfect for each other hit it off. In a show where everyone else has effed up relationships (Sun-Jin, Kate-Jack-Sawyer-Juliet, Nikki-Paulo, the gross Boone-Shannon stuff, Sayid-Anyone, Ana Lucia-Jack), Desmond and Penelope are a breath of fresh air.

That being said, I'm not even sure if we'll see them in the sixth season, outside of a cameo appearance or two. By Desmond refusing to go back to the island, he's sort of cast his lot outside of the show's main story arc. Oh, and also, I kind of like the last image we had of Desmond - Him shrugging off an attack from Ben, then almost beating him to death on the docks with his bare fists. Given all the misery Ben has inflicted on pretty much everyone else, it was sweet revenge to see him get his ass kicked.

- Frank is a cool character, although to a lesser degree than Desmond, Sawyer, Farraday and Miles. He's not as heroic as Desmond, as snarky and charming as Miles and Sawyer, or as smart as Farraday, but he has a sort of "everyman smarts" that appeals to me. I imagine that he might get his own episode that revolves around his substance abuse problems, which might change my mind; in one of the season four or five episodes, it is mentioned in passing that he's a drunk.

Also, unfortunately, Frank is an obvious candidate to get killed soon. He's not a main character, and his skills aren't really needed by most of the people on the island, since there isn't a plane or chopper there anymore, if I recall correctly. So, it wouldn't surprise me if he's the first death of season six, excluding a flashback.

- Richard is so ambiguous that I can't get a really good read on him. He is obviously connected to the diety-like Jacob that Fake Locke, Locke and Ben are all constantly trying to get in touch with. And he obviously has some sort of divine power himself, since he doesn't ever age. He predates the Dharma Initiative too, so he's not deriving his power from them.

However, he seems to be mostly benevolent or neutral for whatever reason. For example, if he really wanted to, I imagine he could have killed all the members of the Dharma Initiative without involving Ben at all. I don't think he's a ghost or anything, but there is some non-destructive agenda behind him, and thus, behind Jacob as well.

- Regarding Amanda's comment on Farraday, yeah, he does mention at one point that whatever happens, happens. However, at the end of season five, you find out he doesn't really believe this, and he was going along with a lot of this just to try to get into a position to save Charlotte and change time.

Miles smartly brings up to Hurley at the very end of the last episode that maybe they're the ones who create the anomaly that crashes the plane, but if that's the case, it seems like the writers have painted themselves into a corner, and Juliet, Jack, Sawyer, Kate and the others are all dead from the nuclear reaction. I suppose they could do a "left field" move and the blast could cause them to time warp into the future, but I think that would be too much of a cop-out, and the Lost writers are generally better than that.

- Regarding Amanda's comment on Kate, I think that's a much more succinct explanation than I offered: Kate really doesn't seem to have much substance to her. To compare her to one of my other television obsessions, she is like how Will from Glee chased after his wife through high school and bent over backwards to keep her because she was the head cheerleader and what not.

But, once he actually got to know her, he was surprised at how vapid and empty she is. This is how I feel about Kate. When you peel the layers away from Kate, she's essentially just some bland brunette from Tennessee, who wasn't really up to anything much, and so she decided to kill her mom's abusive boyfriend. Like, if you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you don't do that.

- Nikki and Paulo's episode would have been better if I hadn't guessed the twist of it. I think it's been used in a Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode too, which is probably why it seemed familiar to me.

... And I'm out of time, got to go see someone about some tickets to the Casey's holiday festival thing. Sigh! Looks like there will definitely be a part three at some point, where I tackle Rose, Bernard, Locke, Ben, Eko and Alex. My own cryptic hint: I like two of those characters, dislike two, and am meh about two.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Breaking down characters on Lost

The other week, I promised to look at some of the characters on Lost. While my opinions on Jack, Locke and Ben are probably pretty clear, that still leaves, oh, about 30 or so others. Let's try to tackle some of them right now, along with pictures when appropriate. I'll try to separate characters into the good, the bad and the meh. As with the last post on Lost, MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW IMMEDIATELY!

The Good

- Juliet. Probably the second most "moral" character on the show, in a way, next to my bromance with Jack. This is odd to say, considering that she was in favor of abducting pregnant women and had no problems sleeping with a married man. However, her other actions, such as forcing Sawyer to break up with her in the fifth season finale and generally being trustworthy to the plane crash people, elevates her above these past transgressions.

It's odd to think of where her character is going in this upcoming season, though. If my earlier theory about the detonation of the hydrogen bomb core is correct, and things do revert, then I suppose she goes back to being an Other on the island, or possibly she somehow manages to meet the plane as it lands in LAX. (As Amanda Meyer pointed out in a comment on that entry, the episode's title is tantalizing just "LAX", although that seems like too much of a giveaway.)

- Daniel Farraday. Some of my admiration for Daniel probably came through in my last post, when I hinted that his method would work, because he is always correct on the show. There isn't any reason to doubt what he says, since he is primarily an embodiment of science. As such I had a sort of respect for his actions, and I think he is generally concerned with the welfare of others.

- Sayid. The toughest SOB on the show, so of course he's in this section. The only downside to Sayid is that everyone he falls in love with seemingly dies a brutal, horrible death, but hey, nobody's perfect.

- Sun. I feel like she might be as ruthless as Sayid or Ben or Locke, but you don't always realize it because of her attractive appearance and because her actions are spread out across multiple seasons. For example, before the plane crash, she pays off Jin's whore mom, has a regular affair and plots to leave Jin before having a last minute change of heart.

- Miles. I feel that he is a much better character than the person listed below him in a second, although he doesn't receive as much screen time, and thus, less time to flex how god damn clever he always is.

- Sawyer. I begrudgingly put him in this column. To make another Star Wars comparison, which Lost is somehow ripe for in my mind, Sawyer is Han Solo. Yeah, with his lines, he's really amusing, but I feel like a lot of actors could fill that role and still be amusing.

Also, I feel like the character of Sawyer has been done before, whether it be Han Solo or any other television bad boy of the past X years. Still, I feel more confident about him than the first character of the bad category...

The Bad

- Kate. First, from a casting standpoint, I don't find Evageline Lilly that attractive. Really, this shouldn't matter, except that she is involved in a competition with Juliet at points for the heart of Jack and Sawyer. Since Juliet is more dependable and interesting AND attractive, parts of the romance square they have on the show fall flat to me. It would be like if Kate Hudson and Mila Kunis were cast in the same movie, and the guys inexplicably went after Kunis instead of Hudson.

Overlooking her physical characteristics, I'm not sure why everyone else is so all-up-onz Kate. She's an ex-con who constantly waffles between two guys, which causes chaos for the leader of the camp. Imagine if Barack had to worry about Michelle steppin' out all the time! Hey Kate, make up your freakin' mind!

- Charlie and Hugo / Hurley. Both of these characters are kind of meant as comic relief at times, but I find them to be more annoying than anything else because of their hysteria. Charlie spends multiple seasons whining about how he can't be trusted and isn't in the Circle of Trust, to quote something from Meet the Parents, and I believe Hurley expresses similar sentiments.

- Michael. See above, except with the added caveat that you need to suspend your disbelief about how he got back on the boat.

The Meh

- Claire. I love how spunky she is, although after Aaron was born, this seems to have been put on the backburner a bit, which hurts her appeal to me. Also, she just abruptly vanishes into the woods at the end of season four, I believe, and she's barely seen except in flashbacks the rest of the time. I suppose she'll get her own episode in the sixth season, but as of now, she's very much meh to me.

- Boone and Shannon. They kind of flip flopped in my mind as time went on. Boone started out as a seemingly decent guy, but as more of his story got revealed, I became less enamored of his behavior. And on the flipside, I thought Shannon really matured as she spent more time on the island, only for her to die once she fell in love with Sayid.

- Nikki and Paulo and Libby and Ana Lucia and Jin and Rousseau. Interesting to me in one way or another, but ultimately spend too little time in scenes for me to really evaluate, or just make a "blah" impression. Of the group, Rousseau is the most interesting, but even my thoughts about her are tempered because her best scenes are in the time travel portion, when she is portrayed by a younger actress.

Did I miss any of your favorite characters, or want me to expand on one of them? Let me know and I'll cover them in a follow-up entry.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Staying sunny with Always Sunny

In addition to recently watching every episode of Lost, I also undertook another project a bit more quietly and successfully - Watching every episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Forget about the people who proclaim that any other comedy is the best on television. Always Sunny is so consistently funny that there really is no competition. If it was on HBO, people would be so busy fellating each other about how great it was, and it would have about 500 Emmy nominations.

But, it's on FX, which is a weird network that has absolutely no focus. They have a couple well-regarded dramas in their lineup - The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me - which may or may not still be on the air, since I don't regularly watch any of them. They also have a new show about fantasy football called The League, which followed Always Sunny this year. (The League is pretty good, but it only had a six-episode trial run, and its humor isn't as broad as Always Sunny.)

Anyway, back to the show itself. It recently released a Christmas-themed DVD, which is absolutely awesome. And, hey, ladies - You get to see Danny DeVito's bare ass in it! How can you resist purchasing now?

The basic outline of the show is fairly simple. I'll try to make it into a math equation: Seinfeld + smut + immorality = It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. On Seinfeld, you had plots about Jerry and George scheming to pull off the best friend switch, and contests about who could go the longest without masturbating.

On Always Sunny, you have Frank (Danny DeVito) kicking people out of their homes and his son threatening to rape the family, and one of the characters trying to sell kitten "mittons", and the gang tries to get an intervention for Frank because he's trying to have sex with his dead ex-wife's sister at her husband's funeral.

The most recent episode focused on the gang trying to get revenge on their former rivals, the team that beat them 10 years ago in Flipadelphia, a city-wide flip cup tournament. Dennis tried to recruit a fourth member of their team from his old fraternity, only to get repeatedly tazed along with Frank.

I'm making the show sound lowbrow, and it most definitely is. However, there is still a sophistication and intelligence behind it all - Think South Park or Family Guy as opposed to something completely without thought, like an Adam Sandler or Rob Schnieder movie. Check it out Thursday nights on FX.

The picture comes from this image site.

Delay while going a meeting

So, because I'm going to attend a PTO meeting to try to get some funding for the high school newspaper I lay out, tonight's entry will be up later. Sorry! I'm guessing it'll be up around 9ish.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gettin' Glee-ful with its season finale

Okay, so I watched the season finale of Glee the other night, and it really was quite splendid. There were several things I liked about it, beyond how attractive Ms. Emma Pillsbury (the previously blogged about Jayma Mays) looked. MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THE ENTIRE SEASON!!! In no particular order:

- I like that the writers actually tied up some of the storylines, such as with Will (Mr. Schuester) dumping his wife and staying dumped, as opposed to reconciling, and with him also kissing Emma at the end of the episode. The "natural" storyline in most dramas or comedies is to drag out something like this for multiple seasons - See Pam and Jim on The Office, every season of Cheers, Firefly, etc.

Commenting on the storyline itself, I'm curious to see where they go from here. Logically, I imagine we'll see some friction between the two dating, as that aspect of Emma's personality got put on the backburner as the season progressed in lieu of her thing with the gym teacher. In case the hyper-matching outfits didn't tip you off, she is massively OCD, so it'll be interesting to see how that manifests itself in the second season. (Or the second half of the season; I forget the weirdo schedule that the show is following.)

- Likewise, I liked that the Finn, Quinn and Puck storyline is advancing, with Rachel (predictably) spilling that Quinn's baby isn't Finn's. (Also, I never noticed before that the names rhymed so easily... Odd.)

I think the immediate gratification of seeing Emma and Will hook-up will be balanced by the slow burn of the eventual Rachel and Finn get-together. I believe I read on the Internet that Rachel will have a love interest on a rival school's glee club for the next season, at least according to rumor, but I imagine she will eventually end up with Finn in a future season.

As far as Puck and Quinn, they seem likely candidates to "graduate" off the show after this current season, with them trying to get jobs and taking care of the baby. At least, that would be my preferred outcome, since I really, really don't want to see a lot of "we're taking care of a baby!" scenes. A baby is almost always a sign that a show's writers are getting lazy, which is why Mad About You got really crappy (as opposed to formerly being watchable) once the baby was introduced. As David Cross has said, babies aren't funny, unless you have a baby, or unless it talks like in those investing commercials. (Although, I think I'm the only person who likes these...)

- Speaking of my "graduate" idea, I am a bit curious about how they'll keep some of the people on the show. I imagine you can keep Finn in the picture by having him be the "assistant coach" of the glee club, or some nonsense like that, but I don't think that'll work for each character.

The show is helped by keeping most of the character years ambiguous. If I recall correctly, Rachel has been revealed to be a sophomore, and Quinn, Finn and Puck are seniors, judging from their thoughts about the future. I don't think the years of the other cast members, such as Kurt, Artie and Mercedes, have been revealed. Or the year of my favorite character...

- ... Brittany, who is so amazingly awesome in what little screen time she gets every episode. Seriously, she only has about one line per show, but it's always great. Although her ditzy funniness might be hard to maintain for an entire episode, I'm really hoping she does get an episode devoted to her at some point. It could be a good "take a break" breather episode from the main plots in the second season, which Heroes used to do before it started to suck and which Lost does regularly.

- Outside of Brittany, I think more on her Cheerios friend Santana would be good as well, since I personally find some of the main cast - Mercedes and Kurt - boring stereotypes. More on Tina, the Asian girl with the lisp, and her potential thing with Artie, the wheelchair kid, would be good, since that would be pretty unconventional.

And, I think the pacing with Sue Sylvester has been perfect so far. She's not a major enemy in every episode, which is good, and they have shown some sweet aspects of her personality - the scenes with her sister in the nursing home - that have balanced how horrible of a person she is otherwise. I think they did a good, similar job with Terri, a.k.a. Will's soon-to-be ex-wife, where she was in just enough scenes to avoid being overexposed. However, I imagine she fades to a supporting character as the series goes on, since her and Will definitely seem to be split up for good.

The picture of the cheerleaders is from Heather Elizabeth Morris' Tumblr feed. The picture of Dianna Agron is from this site. And Heather Lynch's picture comes from this site, which also has a good interview with her.


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