Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Greatest Thing ESPN Has Ever Done

ESPN can be guilty of overhype and shameless commercialism, but when they put their minds to it, they can produce some absolutely top quality television for the sports fan. This video, which coincided with the airing of their superlative "Sports Century" series, took my breath away the first time I saw it during a NY Day 2000 SportsCenter. After the 3rd or 4th time, I stuck a tape in the VCR and recorded it to save for posterity. (Sadly, my VCRs have all gone the way of the dodo and I luckily happened to stumble across this on the YouTubes this morning).

Quite simply, this is the best sports video you will ever see.

Everything is there. A classic song, enthralling in its build and blood pumping in its crescendo. Beautiful, horrifying, mesmerizing, nostalgic, inspiring visions of virtually every single iconic sports image of the last 100 years. Fantastic editing, with the music, lyrics and footage in perfect, synchronous harmony. I can't think of a sports moment that shaped my youth, or that I heard about from my dad, or that I've experienced or read about, that isn't here and doesn't immediately bring a torrent of emotion to the surface. If anyone ever wanted to know why sports are important and why they inspire the passions they do, this video would be exhibit A. If you're a true sports fan, you can't watch this without getting chill bumps and getting misty eyed. Enjoy.

The woosification of America continues unabated

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.

That line from a very creative work of fiction signals that the Apocalypse is nigh. While that would be helpful for those of us looking for something dramatic to mark on our calendar to signal the end of days, I personally think the portents of doom will be more subtle, yet even more insidious. Like this:

The Knothole Club of Greater Cincinnati has decided to eliminate "chatter." Unless the chatter is "positive" and directed at your own team.

You have got to be fucking kidding me. Slowly but surely, our culture is turning coddling cesspool of ham handed pop psychology, wrapping kids in the swaddling clothes of "self-esteem" and thoroughly failing to prepare them for adulthood and life in general. This started several years ago, when youth sports leagues started preaching the nonsense about the games being all about "participation" rather than "competition." All kinds of ridiculous rules started popping up, like putting every player, regardless of skill level, into the game. Putting limits on runs scored. Not tracking outs. This nonsense found its way to the play ground, where teachers got rid of time honored games like dodgeball, because if one of the students was too slow to get out of the way of a soft rubber ball, they might learn something along the lines of....they were too slow to get out of the way of a soft rubber ball.

Generations of kids grew up playing dodgeball. Playing wiffle ball. Riding the pine in Little League if they weren't skilled enough to crack the starting line up. When they got to college, did they expect their professors to tell them "hey, you tried. That essay was incomprehensible and not cogent at all. But I don't want to hurt your feelings or make you feel like you're not as smart or talented as every other student in class, so I'll give you an A." When they got into the real world, did they expect their supervisor to tell them "sorry Bob, but Kevin does twice the work you do and is actually smarter and more skilled than you. But I don't want to pass you over for that promotion because it might make you feel bad, so I'm just going to keep everyone where they are and let our profitability slide into the red. Here's a cookie." When they started to navigate the choppy seas of interpersonal relationships, did they expect their girlfriend to tell them "Hey, Ted, I'm sure you realize that Bill makes more money that you, and that I've basically used you up and left you a dried, empty husk. But you know what? I love you and I'm going to stick with you out of love, friendship and respect, and not go bed hopping like a Pussycat Doll looking for the next champagne room because I don't want to make you feel bad." NO. Life is full of soul-crushing disappointment and competition, and the sooner you learn this, the better off you'll be.

Not that "hey, batter, batter, batter, suh-wing!" or "we need a pitcher, not a belly itcher!" is exactly Dorothy Parker sitting around the Algonquin Roundtable trading delicious bon mots with Robert Benchley. But the fact that league organizers feel compelled to step in and save youth baseball players from these "vicious ripostes" is utterly ridiculous.

Look, part of the argument I can understand. Every time we turn on the TV to watch sports, we're subjected to some preening, self-absorbed egomaniac spiking the ball and having a convulsion at midfield after getting a first down (while his team is down by 28), or watching some uneducated prima-donna thumping his chest to draw the camera's attention to promote his rap album, while failing to get back on D and prevent the other team from scoring. But there's a huge difference between acting like TO and having a little "chatter" on the tee ball field.

"Hey, batter! Try your best to put the bat on the ball! And if you miss, that's okay, darn it, because you'll still have your worth and value as a person and be welcomed back into the loving bosom of your mother!"

Not quite the same, is it?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Watch this show!

If you're not watching Andy Barker PI, you're missing the funniest show on TV right now, and the most laugh out loud sitcom I've seen since Arrested Development. It's an absurdist mix of deadpan humor, brilliant comic acting, bizarre characters, sleuthly film noir and the TV detective conventions of the 70s (you expect "A Quinn Martin production" to appear during the retro credits).

Here's some good pimping for the show from Slate.

The pilot, like most pilots, is not exactly perfect and not quite as chuckle-worthy as the subsequent episodes. But the rest of the episodes are instant classics, like the one I watched from last night, "Three Days of the Chicken." How can you not love a story centered around a "murderous chicken cartel?" Where someone says "Everybody eats chicken. Some, like me, for revenge." Or where the gruff old detective says goodbye to a long gone lover with this sentiment: "So long sweetheart. Somewhere in hell, somebody's putting the wood to a quality broad."

If you've been missing out, catch full episodes on NBC. (like I said, the pilot is hit and miss, but the rest are fantastic). You owe it to yourself to check 'em out. And if you're a Nielsen family, watch it live you fuckers.

Whodat? And Ben is Glory?

Thusday's rather somber CSI featured two familiar faces.

Ruby Dee, who played Mother Abigail in The Stand, was the mother of one of the dead strippers. The widow of Ossie Davis, Dee has been a TV stalwart for ages.

Charlie Weber also appeared as the baby daddy of one of the slain trollops. Charlie has been guesting a good bit around the tube lately (he was a stoner on Veronica Mars last fall), but will always be known to me as Ben from season 5 of Buffy. And every time I see him on TV, I feel obligated to post this classic bit:

SPIKE: Uh, Will? Now, uh, don't turn me into a horned toad for asking, but - what if we come across Ben?

WILLOW: I don't think a doctor's what Buffy needs right now.

SPIKE: Well, yeah. Specially not one who also happens to be Glory.

GILES: What do you mean?

SPIKE: You know... Ben is Glory.

WILLOW: You mean Ben's with Glory?

XANDER: "With" in what sense?

ANYA: They're working together?

SPIKE: No no. Ben is Glory. Glory's Ben. They're one and the same.

ANYA: When did all this happen?

SPIKE: Not one hour ago! Right here, before your very eyes! Ben came, turned into Glory, snatched the kid, and - phht! - vanished. Remember? You *do* remember? Is everyone here very stoned? Ben. Glory. He's a doctor. She's the Beast. Two entirely separate entities, sharing one body. It's like a bloody sitcom! Surely, you remember!

XANDER: So you're saying... Ben, and Glory ...

ANYA: Have a... connection.

GILES: Yes, obviously. But what kind?

SPIKE: Oh! I get it. Very crafty. Glory's worked the kind of mojo where anyone who sees her little presto- chango instantly forgets. And yours truly, being somewhat other than human, stands immune.

WILLOW: So, Ben and Glory are... the same person?

XANDER: Glory can turn into Ben, and Ben turns back into Glory.

ANYA: And anyone who sees it instantly forgets.

SPIKE: And a kewpie doll for the lady.

GILES: Excellent. Now. Do we suspect that there may be some kind of connection between Ben and Glory?

SPIKE: (sigh)

Chris Reitsma is not here to fuck us in the ass anymore

2007 Major League Baseball Predictions Part 1: Division Winners and Wild Cards

National League

West: Dodgers. Very solid rotation (until Grady Little leaves someone in until they resemble J. Walter Weatherman) and speed at the top of the order. Lineup needs to stay healthy for them to stay ahead of the Padres and possibly surprising D-Backs.

Central: Brewers. In a division where hanging around .500 will put you in striking distance in September, Ben Sheets will anchor a good staff and allow some young talent to blossom. Plus, I lived in Wisconsin as a kid and any team tied that closely to beer deserves to win every once in a while.

East: Braves. Yes, I'm a homer. I still think this team will rebound from a "disastrous" 2006 season, where they finished 4 games under .500. Andruw is in a walk year, and Chipper, Francouer, McCann and Renteria should put up good numbers. Offense will be cobbled together from platoons and/or the hot hands at 1st, 2nd and LF. The pitching will be surprisingly solid on the front end, and with a rebuilt pen, saves won't be "blown" with the frequency of a Columbus stripper.

Wild Card: Phillies. Much better pitching than the Mets, with almost as much "thump" in the day to day lineup.

American League

West: Angels. Even though they can't figure out which fucking city they want to be from, they're still the class of the West. The A's will hang around like usual, but unless Vlad's back gives out or Gary Matthews starts using dirty needles, the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles/Orange County Angels will take the division.

Central: Tigers. Toughest division to pick, as Cleveland, Chicago and Minnesota should all be competitive and improved over last year. And with Kenny Rogers injured (not from pine tar), the Tigers will have to rally their rotation or put up some serious numbers (having newly acquired cancer Gary Sheffield should help with that). Basically, I'm picking Detroit because Jim Leyland is the only person I know who smokes more than I do, and he (along with Keith Richards) gives me hope that I'll live to see another birthday.

East: Red Sox. Moving Papelbon to the bullpen is a great move for them, and I'm fully buying into the gyroball hype. Better pitching than the Yankees and even though Toronto will be improved as well, I think Boston takes the division.

Wild Card: Yankees. Outstanding top to bottom daily lineup, and A-Rod will put up monster numbers in what could well be a "walk year." Not enough starting pitching to keep up with the Sawx, though the Clemens sweepstakes could change all that.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Don't make fun of my invisible friend

Last night' Bones was engaging, philosophical, sweet and funny. Another outstanding effort from the best procedural on TV.

The plot revolved around a body found in a parish graveyard. Whodats: The older priest was played George Coe, whom I recognized as the Huntzburger grandfather from Gilmores, but who has also been a frequent TV guest star. The younger priest, who enjoyed wresting with young boys but uncharacteristically wasn't giving them any groiny blessings, was played by David Burke, another regular guest star who also played Aurthur on the criminally underrated (and cancelled by Fox, obviously) The Tick. (The Tick himself, Patrick Warburton, was Puddy and is now on some lame sitcom with David Spade. Captain Liberty, the sexy Liz Vassey, pops up on CSI: Original Recipe from time to time, and BatManuel, Nestor Carbonell, is now creepy "Other"/doctor recruiter/magical bus accident orchestrator Richard Alpert on Lost).

Anyway, while the plot was a decent mystery, the real fun and appeal of the show lies in the character interactions. And last night was a doozy. Some of my favorite moments and highlights:

  • "I'm Dr. Addy. Are you one of those priests who smacks schoolchildren with rulers?"
  • "I'm supposed to walk on eggshells because someone believes a plot of earth has supernatural properties because they waved a wand over it?" "They don't use wands." "Fine. Magic water." "Holy water!" "The terminology makes it real?"
  • "Funny, a man who believes in an invisible superbeing wants to run my personal life?'
  • "90% of the world believes in god." "And at one time most people were certain the sun revolved around the earth."
  • "So you don't believe in all the supernatural mythology he does?" "Yes, I do." "But you seem like such an intelligent man."
  • "I love it when you talk smelting."
  • Dr. Wyatt was great, as he has been in every episode in which he's appeared.
  • "Lunch at the Egyptian place" is indeed a good euphemism for doing the dirty.
  • "Actually, organized belief systems which fail to adapt to changing mores are demoted from religions to acknowledged metaphoric myth systems. I mean, no one worships Odin anymore. Or Zeus."
  • "Can we take this with us, or do we need to serve a warrant on god?"
  • "Can't you just be satisfied that if I'm wrong about god I'll burn in hell?"
  • "The hell you say... " "Is he allowed to say that?"
  • "Dr. Wyatt, we need you to do it with her." "Uh, er, would that I could. Unfortunately, my heart belongs to another."
  • "Listen Monty Python, you got it right with Hodges and I. That's fine, but we both know you're full of it on the other thing."

And a beautiful way to wrap up the show:

"Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, such shaping fantasies, that apprehend more than cool reason ever comprehends."

"Journeys end in lovers meeting, every wise man's son doth know."

Preach on Bones and Bard, preach on.

So Lando Calrissian is "The Cobra?"

I'm sure last night's episode of Lost divided a lot of viewers. Many hated the "addition" of Nikki and Paulo to the cast, only to have them do nothing except occasionally visit the loo and look good in a bikini.

Personally, I thought "Expose" was another in a string of excellent episodes (except the Jack's tattoos nonsense) since returning from the hiatus. There were so many excellent "meta" lines and scenarios, all chuckle worthy. A sampling:

  • Nikki: "I'm a guest star. Of course I have to die." Director: "You don't have to be dead. We can always bring you back next season."
  • Sawyer's continued refrains of "who are you?" and "who the hell are you?"
  • Paulo's chef being referred to as the "Brazilian Wolfgang Puck." (When Rodrigo Santoro was cast, many press releases called him "the Brazilian Tom Cruise.")
  • Paulo's comment on the other plane: "If I go up there, that thing's gonna fall."
  • Shannon's comment to Kate about her "two boyfriends."
  • Nikki's comment to Paulo after watching Shannon get her bitch on with Boone: "promise me we'll never end up like them."
Other Losty Goodness:

Billy Dee Williams -- Lando Calrissian! -- turning up in the campy "Expose!" TV show as kind of a "Charlie" to a bunch of skanky stripper "Angels." And his "Mr. LaShade" turns out to be the villainous "Cobra" of the show? Funny.

Nice to see Boone and Shannon turning up (albeit with bad wigs of a Shatnerian level), along with the always entertaining Dr. Artz.

Was Locke watching "Expose" last week when the kid showed up at his place?

"Is there a forensics hatch I don't know about?"

"As far as superpowers go, yours is kinda lame."

So Paulo knew about Ben and Juliet's little plot? And the plane and the hatch? Don't these people ever fucking talk?

Was there the "monster" sound, just before the spiders bit Nikki?

Artz proclaiming that "the pigs can walk!" (From Orwell's Animal Farm).

I didn't read any spoilers for this one, and the twist at the end was ultra creepy. A nice ironic touch, in the "everything you want, in the worst possible way," with how Nikki and Paulo ended up. He got to be with her, and she got the diamonds. Will we see more of them? Because as Locke said earlier in the episode, "things on this island don't stay buried for long."

An unexpected A

Yeah, death woulda been MUCH easier

Interesting article about the psychology of handling major life traumas, like job loss, divorce or being taken in an emotional "long con" that would make Sawyer jealous.

I always knew "equilibrium" was a myth, dude.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Making it rain

Whereby we throw up a bunch of $1 entertainment nuggets onto the stage and see which STDs take them home.

Great article on John Locke, the "heart" of Lost, here. Last week's episode was a classic and among the best of the series. Of course, tonight, we have to deal with Nicki and Paulo. (In case you're wondering, like many other faithful viewers, that would be "and who are you?" and "I like to poop.") On the bright side, I think Artz ("uh, dude, you've got some Artz on you") shows up again, along with Boone and Shannon.

Not entertainment exactly, but a very funny parody of the Pac-Man Jones situation over on Deadspin.

Please make this happen. I'd be willing to forget all about the confusing and wouldn't make sense after a peyote and blotter acid bender alien conspiracy plotline.

Teen movie or biblical epic? Doesn't matter, because this is funny.

Thora Birch's dad is fucked up. If that acting thing doesn't work out, she'll probably become a stripper.

MNF fans rejoice. College football fans shudder in terror.

So wait a minute -- they've done it?

An outstanding return to form (and from the Idol bloat hiatus) for House last night. Snarky commentary? Plenty. Wildly inappropriate relationships? Check. Mystery ailment? Yep. Solid guest star? Yes (more on that in a moment). Medical babble and disgusting symptoms? Uh Huh. (so hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia can cause some nasty foaming vaginitis in your mouth? ugh. Sounds like something you might catch in Columbus if you don't check the backstory).

There were too many great lines to write down last night, but a few that I managed to remember:

"...has a rich uncle Cuddy is trying to avoid fellating..."

"Selfish bastard." "Selfish bitch."

"Easy. Nice ass, no boobs and you're got hands like a longshoreman."

"Have you appeared in a porno?"

Plus, the whole House and Wilson conversation at the urinal was priceless. I don't quite know what to make of the fact that Wilson is an expert on the Village People and their various costumes (though sadly, I realized the cogent points of the argument). And having been through kidney stones myself, I definitely could have gone the rest of my life without seeing a self-catheritization. Ouch.

That brings us to the POTW (patient of the week). Marc Blucas played the soldier with the wacky symptoms, who had made out with Cuddy at some point. I thought he did a fine job with the material, but then again, I'm one of the 0.01% of Buffy fans that actually liked his performance and character as Slayer doormat and Captain America, Riley Finn. After the darkness of her relationship with Angel, a farm raised white bread hero was a perfect counterpoint, and aptly demonstrated the difficulty of maintaining a relationship when you've got the weight and fate of the world resting on your size 2 shoulders. Also, his later descent into dark territory (vamp brothels, anyone?) only further showed the toll taken on anyone coming into Buffy's orbit, and how nice guys really do finish last.

Finally, in a well played but almost throwaway bit of dialogue we learn that House and Cuddy once made the beast with two backs? Woah. Didn't see that coming. They've been hinting at the characters' mutual "obsession" with each other for 2+ seasons, and it will be fascinating to see this explored as we move on.

Great Stuff. Solid A.

At least they didn't yodel

Tuesday's American Idol featured Gwen Stefani as the special guest coach, and a focus on the "pop music she's performed and that inspired her." Gwen looked demure and gorgeous (as usual) and gave solid advice to the contestants, that some followed and some didn't. We didn't see any coaching on how to marry a 10 minutes ago rock poseur with a secret baby, annoyingly insert rap into a pop song that would be just fine without it, have four Japanese indentured servants follow you around to help kick start your clothing line or maintain perfect washboard abs. Perhaps that was edited out.

Lakisha started the night off with Donna Summer's "Last Dance." I'm a huge Donna Summer fan and remember the first time Sam brought her "Love to Love You Baby" record (remember those?) home and played it. Bettye asked why anyone would think that a 20 minute orgasm was a song. Nevertheless, we all became huge fans of the disco diva, and while the songs themselves are simple enough, you've gotta have serious pipes to pull them off and do the original justice. (This is one of the few times Gwen said something nonsensical in her intro package: that the music that inspired her didn't require "big voices" to perform. Sure, Robert Smith and Chrissy Hynde - and maybe even Sting - have unique and personality driven sounds, but Donna Summer? Was there a bigger voice in the 70s and 80s? I think not). Anyway, Lakisa performed it competently, but I wasn't that crazy about it. It was a safe choice for her (does she only perform songs by black females?) and did infuse her choice with a tad of (comparative) youth.

Chris S was up next, performing the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." I love this song, but I can understand the difficulty in performing it. The Police were known for their punk/ska/reggae/pop infused sound, characterized by challenging, unconventional rhythms. Gwen warned Chris about keeping with the tempo, and he did not pull it off. His tempo was all over the place and this was a total mess. Kudos to him for realizing it and taking the criticism well.

Gina was the biggest surprise of the night. I've enjoyed her performances thus far in the final 12, and think the judges have been much harder on her than I would have been. But to get back in their good graces, she needed to raise her game and indeed she did with a stellar performance of the Pretender's "I'll Stand By You." Not one of my favorite songs, but Gina was technically proficient and emotionally connected to the song.

Sanjaya. By picking a song by the judge and going with the mohawk, has he simply realized he's the biggest crime perpetrated against the viewing public since the Pussycat Whores drew better ratings than Veronica Mars? Is he on the joke? He's simply awful. He. Must. Go.

It didn't get much better with Haley. The only positive things I can say about that performance: short skirt and high heels.

Phil did a poker-faced version of "Every Breath You Take," and was quite good. Best I've seen from him. Nothing over the top, but perhaps not transcendent enough to move him from the bottom to mid level of the pack where he seems to be stuck. But a sold version.

Melinda took on another tune from Donna Summer, "Heaven Knows." Melinda, as she has done all season, delivered an impeccable vocal. She simply has a great voice. I did question her choice of wearing a dress made out of The Ropers' living room drapes.

I think we're going to see a trend with Blake. Each week, after the first performance with the judge, Blake is going to hear "er, dude. What the fuck with the beat boxing? You need to tone that shit down." And then Blake will get onstage and do a less beatboxy, interesting twist on the original version of the song, and do it very well. I'm a huge fan of the Cure's "Love Song," and I wasn't enamored with Blake's down tempo version, but it was unique, well performed and should keep him, as Simon pointed out, at the front of the male pack.

Jordin, despite wearing a top cut from a Shakey's Pizza tablecloth, took a not too challenging No Doubt song ("Hey Baby") and delivered it with energy, confidence, powerful vocals and smiling enthusiasm. Great job.

Chris R performed my favorite No Doubt tune, "Don't Speak." I'm just not feeling the Chris R vibe. It sounded like a bitter, angry song performed by the Mickey Mouse Club, shallow in the connection to the material and a complete dishonor to the judge (who wisely warned him to stick to the song straight up).

Overall, helpful hints (not followed, at the peril of the contestants) from Gwen, decent song selection and some powerful performances from unexpected sources.

TNRLM's Top 3: Jordin, Gina, Melinda
TNRLM's Bottom 3: Sanjaya, Haley, Chris S

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Whodat? (Commercial - Guest Star Edition)

Twice in one day, I saw the same character actress popping up in TV shows I watch. (Not that they aired the same day, thanks to the miracle that is Tivo). Once in a repeat of Without A Trace (that featured Miranda's old SITC boyfriend as a wacko who believed he was being tracked by aliens) and again on the increasingly funny Andy Barker PI. While usually I'm great at picking up on these things and even knowing the actor, I couldn't place her yet had the feeling I've seen her a great deal - almost like she was burned into my consciousness. Who was she? After a little digging, I found out it was Margaret Easley. Not a name I recognized, until it dawned on me, and saw the confirmation in her IMDB bio: she's the perky redhead in the ubiquitous DirectWay internet satellite commercials.

Side note about Andy Barker. If you're not watching it, or you gave up after the pilot, keep watching. The second episode, Fairway My Lovely, was hysterical. (It was penned by noted Buffy, Gilmores and BSG scribe Jane Espenson). It's been along time since I laughed out loud at a sitcom (probably watching reruns of Arrested Development on G4 last week), but this had several absurd and chuckle worthy moments. You can probably find it on the YouTubes or NBC's site.

Bob Dylan is a Cylon

Guess that would explain the whole "Dylan goes electric" controversy, eh?

I've been busy, stunned and contemplative the past couple of days, so I won't post my thoughts on the Season 3 mind frakking finale of Battlestar Galactica until later this week. However, I have come across some great interviews and links that you should definitely see.

WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE. If you haven't seen the finale and don't want to know what happened, then don't visit these.

The last few minutes of the episode, featuring most of the huge reveals AND the awesome reinterpretation of "All Along The Watchtower."

Great insight into the composition of the music and song here.

A fan video about the occupation and resistance on New Caprica, posted in November of last year, featuring....yep, "All Along The Watchtower."

Ronald D Moore interview.

Another RDM Interview.

And one more.

Also, it appears the 2 hour movie (airing on Sci-Fi in the fall, tiding us over until the return of the series in 2008) will be about the Battlestar Pegasus, but also involve the who cast of Galactica. Interesting.

Another completely game-changing episode from the best show on TV. Enjoy.


On last week's Lost, there was yet another former denizen of Deadwood popping up. Cleo King, who played Aunt Lou, was the cubicle dweller denying Locke's psychiatric benefits. She's in addition to Joannie, Trixie and Calamity Jane, who also appeared in previous episodes of Lost.

On Sunday's Dresden Files, the always wonderful Claudia Black was sporting an American accent as Liz Fontaine, the "other dick" who helped Harry solve the case. Claudia is best known as Aeryn Sun from Farscape, and Vala Mal Doran on Stargate SG-1. Also, the incubus was played by Chris Owens, The X-Files Agent Jeffrey Spender.

Speaking of Stargate SG-1, one of Samantha Cartner's now dead beaus (Black Widow!), Martouf, played by JR Bourne, showed up briefly on 24 last night as the agent who ratted out hardcore Ricky Schroeder (remember Martouf, Peyton Manning kills snitches).

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell!

Oddly, this isn't a post about last spring. Nope, I was flipping channels yesterday and came across the movie adaptation of John Grisham's A Time to Kill. I think I saw this in the theater a decade or so ago, and perhaps even caught it during its first go rounds on the movie channels. But except for Sam L. Jackson's oft-repeated line (the title of the post, in case you weren't aware), I had forgotten just about everything about it. So I got sucked in and watched it and was simply amazed at the level of talent involved with this thing. Of course, I use "talent" loosely, since it was directed by Joel Schmumacher, who made this in between installments of grudge fucking the Batman franchise into oblivion, before it was rescued by Chris Nolan and Christian Bale. But Schumacher actually did a respectable job here, even with the heavy handed race relations material.

As I mentioned, it seems even the smallest roles had recognizable faces. In a single movie version of Whodat, here are some of the cast members:

Thursday, March 22, 2007


On last night's well crafted Bones, two familiar Asian-American faces popped up:

James Hong, always memorable to me as villain David Lo Pan in the classic Big Trouble in Little China, was James Han the mortuary owner.

Professor Shi, a friend of Bones, was played by Michael Paul Chan, currently appearing in another top notch procedural, The Closer, as Detective Tao.

So say we all!

Great news, Battlestar Galactica fans! Despite the increasing stupidity of the American viewing public, Sci-Fi has confirmed that BSG will return for a 4th season, and increased the episode order from 13 to 22. Also, there will be a two hour movie that will air in the 4th quarter of this year. Story from the channel here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

With Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln!

Over on the Onion AV Club, by way of Pop Candy, here's an awesome link to a summary of great TV show opening credits.

It's really hard to argue with their choices. More and more shows today are truncating opening credit sequences or getting rid of them together. Remember the classics from our youth, that actually "told a story" and that we can still remember (and probably sing, after twelve margaritas too many) to this day? Beverly Hillbillies? Brady Bunch? Green Acres? Gilligan's Island?

Personally, I like opening credit sequences. They set the mood and tone for the series and either directly or indirectly invite you into the world of the show. Highlights from their list:

  • Love that Sopranos song.
  • Of new shows, Dexter really does a fantastic job juxtaposing the unsettling with the mundane, perfect for the show and the character.
  • I'm glad they mentioned Wild, Wild West and Mission Impossible along with Mannix. Those, particularly WWW, have a Saul Bass feel to them.
  • Police Squad has to the funniest sequence ever.

Other not on the list that I love:

What else?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Good thing Diana Ross wasn't around in 1776*

Because if last week's American Idol Diana Ross Night was engaging in "revolutionary battle" with yesterday's British Invasion Night, we'd all be drinking tea, suffering taxation without representation** and going to the dentist a lot more.

*She may have been, judging by the work done and how much her face moves (or doesn't).
**Hell, we pretty much have that.

Strained metaphors aside, Idol was immensely enjoyable and just about every performer stepped it up from last week's meandering and lethargic mess. Both "coaches" gave solid advice and brought energy and passion to the proceedings. A quick summary:

Haley looked good. She sounded okay. An unspectacular start for the "naughty little thing," as Simon called her, but not horrific like last week. She remembered the words! I hope she sticks around for a while because there's a dearth of eye candy this year.

Peter Noone hit on the head with his advice for Chris R, telling him to watch the whispery, nasally whining. Unfortunately, he had that annoying, nasally, whiny boy-band thing going on, though he did show some decent smoothness and vocal control.

Stephanie made a great song choice, Dusty Springfield's "You don't have to say you love me," but sang all over the chorus and dragged the notes out too long. Not good.

When I heard Blake "beat boxing" with Noone I cringed in terror. But you know what? He quieted that shit and rocked the house with a Zombies tune. THAT was an example of "making it your own." He hit the high notes, played it well and I really, unexpectedly enjoying the hell out of that.

Lakisha did a spectacular version of "Diamonds are forever." Great vocal, big and sassy without overdoing it. Really, really nice.

Phil performed a great, rocking song, "Tobacco Road" and barely did it justice. At times, he shouted the lyrics and at other times, he didn't give them enough bite. A big missed opportunity. On the other hand, "Tobacco Road" is a good choice since he looks like a chemo patient.

Jordin did "I who have nothing" and hit all the huge notes and had depths of emotion. Exceptional, considering her age (17). Definitely one of the best performances of the night.

Sanyjaya. What is there to say? He tried. He made a girl cry. (Not in the same way as people listening through surround sound, I'm sure).

The judges were much tougher on Gina's "Paint it black" than I thought she deserved. I thought it was solid and appealing, and had some personality. Staying or going could depend on what the audience thought of her teary and humbled response to the criticism.

Chris S made a 1000% improvement from last week by not defecating in my ears with some Coldplay mash up. He was actually quite good, and I find the "fro patrol" thing kinda funny, as long as he doesn't turn it into a Taylor Hicks Tourettes weekly spasm.

Melinda didn't know what to choose, and it showed. It wound up being a showtune from "Oliver," and while she was technical proficient and demonstrated incredible pipes, it seemed a little lackluster for me.

TNRLMs Top 3: Jordin, Lakisha, Blake
TNRLMs Bottom 3: Sanjaya, Stephanie, Phil

Today's Guilt

Just what it sounds like. Things I feel guilty about today.

  1. I really like UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl. Of course it's in my DNA to hate all things UT, and generally they make it easy with their pompous, backwoods and borderline illiterate football coach, mind-numbing "Rocky Top" song, checkerboard end zone, toothless inbred fans and school colors that look like the result of feeding a digestively challenged toddler too many strained carrots. But for some reason, I like Pearl. He led a small school to the dance previously, is about as charismatic as they come (today's appearance on PTI was another example of his wit and enthusiasm), produces results on the court, and of course there's his compelling train wreck of displaying school spirit by showing up shirtless and body painted for a Lady Vols game. Dammit. I hate this.
  2. After starting off with an exhilarating 4 hours, this season of 24 has degenerated into a boring mess. Yes, there's always a lull in the middle hours. Yes, they still have one of the all time great TV characters and total badasses in Jack Bauer. Yes, Chloe is still endearingly annoying (kissing Morris for a "breath test" last night; telling former President Logan last week "Sorry, I'm feeling ambivalent. I'm going to go.") But the plots (after nuke detonation to begin the season) feel stale. I loved DB Woodside on Buffy, and even as the junior Palmer in previous seasons when we was just that -- a junior Palmer. But as president, he just doesn't have the gravitas to carry it off. Even the scenery chewing of Powers Boothe leaves the Oval Office feeling empty. I hate Milo (Eric Balfour), and the detour into the fucked up Bauer family was nothing but a semi-entertaining distraction (dry cleaning bags on the head are fun. James Cromwell's a hell of an actor, and Rena Sofer is hot. But still). Like I typically do, I'll continue to Tivo it and see if it picks up,(and I'm surprised it hasn't with all the talent available both behind and in front of the screen) but must-watch-TV had become I'll-get-around-to-it-later-especially-if-Heroes-is-on-TV.
  3. I have a hankering for a huge plate of chili cheese fries. Not only are they a messy pain in the ass to make, and I'm a creature of limited willpower, but I've heard they're really not good for you.

C'mon, squirt a few

The Today Show recently published a list of movies that make men cry. Entertainment Weekly then entertained suggestions from their readers, and converted them in a slide show. Some of the choices are pretty obvious, and I wholeheartedly agree them (meaning, I've shed a tear to these):
  • Field of Dreams
  • Old Yeller
  • Brian's Song
  • Big Fish
But some are downright baffling: Armageddon? Perhaps the only crying in that was from Ben Affleck, when he realized his credibility was going down the drain. Titanic? Only because we'd have to hear that Celine Dion song (note: Jack Bauer should use that occasionally to extract information).

What else could be included? Maybe Miracle? Philadelphia? It's a Wonderful Life (especially the really sad part, when Mr. Potter gets foiled)? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? Edward Scissorhands?

What are we forgetting?

Of course, it seems that I always cry when I watch the Georgia/Florida game every year, but that's not a movie.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Fortunately for Gaius Baltar, Jack McCoy isn't in space

It's tough for me to post my "full" thoughts on last night's wonderful Battlestar Galactica, "Crossroads part 1," since I'm totally spoiled like month old milk. The subject of my complete addiction to spoilers is probably a topic for another, lengthy post, but needless to say, knowing some of the key points of the story before it unfolded didn't severely lessen the drama of what made it to my TV screen last night. (If you're not a total spoiler whore, I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you saw and what you think is going on. And if you're not totally spoiled, then don't worry about reading on, as I will not reveal anything that we didn't see last night).

While last night did have a little bit of sci-fi actiony goodness (the missile lock on the trailing raptor, that jumped out at the last possible second, and the ominous sight of the cylon basestars, were both SFX highlights) the real story was the trial of Gaius Baltar and the human (?) drama unfolding around it. As usual, the performances were top notch:
  • Mary McDonnell once again showed why she's criminally unrecognized by the Emmys. Her reaction on the stand when Lee reluctantly goes after her was heartbreaking (mouthing "Please don't do this."). And she followed this up with a press conference we on earth could only hope for (unless it's Dennis Green or Jim Mora); "How long do you have to live, Madame President?" "How long do you have to live?" And finally telling her increasingly frazzled aide Tory (who may or may not be a cylon -- what's the music? And who may or may not be shagging Anders -- what's with the steamy looks?) to get her shit together. And of course, comb her hair.
  • Michael Hogan continued his exceptional work as Saul Motherfucking Tigh, manifesting his bitterness and hatred for all things cylon (doth he protest too much? He's hearing some music, too!) in the interrogation of Caprica Six and drunken, bile spewing testimony on the stand. Then finally admitting he killed his whorish wife Ellen for collaborating with the enemy (wish I'd had some of that "tea" a year ago) before completely losing it listening for "sounds" in the walls of the ship.
  • Mark Sheppard continues to shine as the oily attorney Romo Lampkin. His opening was great, as was his questioning of the witnesses (I half expected a "you're out of order!" or "did you order the code red!"). And while he is outstanding at the theatrics, he also turned in great work in the quiet moments manipulating Lee and his daddy issues.
  • While Lee is often written as a cipher and more as a character searching for a "hook" to play off of with other characters (Starbuck's lover? Kid with daddy issues? President's confidante and knight in shining armor? Dee's cheating hubby? Insurrectionist and conscience of the fleet? "Black Market" badass?) and Bamber doesn't get the acting praise his more accomplished co-stars do, he did nice work last night demonstrating internal struggles and his hesitancy to fully embrace his role defending Baltar.
  • Gaeta was delightful snarky, Caprica Six oozed malevolence, and EJO/Adama turned in his usual stellar work. All that acting prowess on the screen, aided by the fact that we didn't see Cally.

As for the trial itself, there were some interesting touches:
  • "And what do we do with criminals?" And a loud voice yelling from the crowd, "Throw them out the airlock!" AWESOME!
  • The prosecutor's opening tried to hit the right notes (and I always welcome the appearance of a whiteboard of justice), but she couldn't have been more wooden if she was Serena Southerlyn genetically spliced to a sequoia. (In next week's denouement, if Baltar is found innocent, will she say "Is this because I'm a cylon lesbian?")
  • When Roslin issued "blanket amnesty" for all that occurred on New Caprica, couldn't the defense make a case that this also extended to Baltar?
  • Baltar's looks from the defense table during Lampkin's show. Kind of "what the frak have I gotten myself into with this guy?"
  • While the "prez is on hallucinogenic drugs" story is great for a Johnny Cochrane sideshow and distraction, it really only discredits Laura's remembrances of Gaius cavorting with Six on original Caprica, which isn't being tried here. She was off the drugs and clear headed on New Caprica, which relates to her testimony about the death list. Perhaps this is making a statement about the ridiculously and perversely effective tactics defense lawyers do use, but I find it hard to believe this wasn't at least addressed, or that the ship captains/judges allowed this to cloud their judgment.

Aside from the trial, other great things:
  • The return of "Chip Baltar" to converse with Six (odd question: Callis' Jesus looking beard appears real -- how do they do this clean shaven Gaius?)
  • What's the game they're playing in the SpaceCheers? Looks like a combination of darts and skeeball?
  • If Tigh was the only person who could hear the music, I would have suggested that maybe he was given a cylon EyePod on Caprica (ba-dum-dum. Try the veal. I'll be here all week).
  • Sam as a nugget now, with Seelix? And is Sam "working through his grief" with both Tory and Seelix?
  • Baltar as crazy prophet that can bless the children? I mean sure, I'd sign up for that cult, especially if it involves "worshipping" with a Three and a Six, but wow.
  • Dee leaves because Lee quit the military and worked out his daddy issues in court, but NOT because he was fucking Kara 17 different ways? Huh? I guess she married the "idea" of an "Adama" and there might be some credence to the "marrying a Caprican" thread mentioned a few eps ago.
  • For once, a "bonus scene" was relevant and interesting.

Setups of two parters are often confusing and "less than," but this was just outstanding. Solid A.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

At least I don't have to listen to Billy Packer talk about Cylons

Here's one of the many "alternative brackets" floating around the interwebs right now, to coincide with March Madness. Fun stuff for TV junkies, and all the characters left in the "Elite Eight" are top notch creations. All my personal favorites in leading in the late round matchups, though Sawyer vs. Jack Bauer is a truly difficult choice. (Sawyer's never tortured a man with a table lamp nor bitten someone to death -- that we know of. On the other hand, Jack Bauer has never called anyone "Gimpy McCrutch," "Dr. Giggles" or "Captain Falafel.")

6.2 and 2.6. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Those are John Ameachi's career stats (points and rebounds). Actually, there is something wrong with that. If you're 6'10", 270, and you only average less than 3 boards a game, I do think that would be a problem.

However, Ameachi's recent notoriety has nothing to do with his lack of rebounding prowess, but more to do with his book "Man in the Middle," in which he comes out as gay. If you were a sports fan, it was hard to miss the news and stories surrounding this revelation, with ESPN "platforming" the story (the book was published by them, of course) and Tim Hardaway giving moronic, small-minded bigots a fresh face ("I hate gay people.")

The sports blog With Leather put up an interesting piece the other day about a night out with John Ameachi. In it, the former NBAer sounds like he has in every other interview I've read since this story broke: highly intelligent, amusingly self-aware and a refreshing change from more recent headline grabbers in sports. My favorite quote:

"He was also confounded by people who pick and choose what leftovers from the Old Testament are and aren't sins: 'It also forbids eating shellfish. If being gay is as bad as going to Red Lobster, I'm not really worried about it.'"

I suppose some of these nutjobs could just go there for the tasty cheese biscuits and retain their integrity, but then they wouldn't be hypocritical nutjobs, now would they?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Raines over me

I watched last night's premier of the new cop show Raines, and was pleasantly surprised.

The setup is decidedly high concept: Monk meets Ghost Whisperer meets House. The lead detective, played by Jeff Goldblum (full of his usual quirks and tics, but modulated perfectly for the character) has some serious mental issues and "sees" the crime victims in his head -- having conversations with them and interacting with them until the point where he can solve their crime and put them at "peace." Despite my love the the supernatural, this show works much better without having the victims be "real life" ghosts. Instead, they are merely hallucinations that only our hero (and we, as viewers) can see. And they don't "know" anything that our detective doesn't already know, consciously or subconsciously, so they basically act as a dramatic sounding board for his theories and ideas. Their behavior and appearance are also shaped by his perceptions and the evidence he has accumulated up until that point. For example, last night's victim (the unbelievably sexy Alexa Davalos, best known as lightning lass Gwen Raiden from Angel) suddenly started speaking with a Texas twang once Raines finds out that she was from Texas. Also, for a brief period when Raines discovered her "career" as a hooker, she was excessively made up, smoking, drinking and generally behaving like the stereotype of a slut. When getting to a noirish moment of discovery about the femme fatale, she also had her hair done like Veronica Lake and spoke in breathy, hard boiled dialogue prompting Raines to ask her if she was Kathleen Turner in Body Heat.

There was a last act "twist" that I saw coming a mile away (I hope that wasn't supposed to be a big reveal), but the format and quirks of the character were more than enough to keep me coming back to sample more. It helps that he's not just playing a tortured soul, he's also a bit of an egomaniacal ass (after surmising that the victim got into stripping and prostitution because she was abused by her dad, a logical conclusion, he called the victim's dad "Chester," because it rhymes with....well, you know. And this was during their first meeting, when the parents were just grieving over the loss of their daughter and not suspects at all).

Some serious talent showed up here. The premier was directed by Frank Darabont (of Shawshank and Green Mile fame), is produced by Graham Yost (Boomtown, writer on Band of Brothers) and has Linda Park (Hoshi from Enterprise) and the unfortunately named Nicole Sullivan (MadTV) who proves you can be sexy and funny.

There were a handful of really great lines, that sadly, I didn't write down. But based on the pilot, this one's a keeper. Solid B.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

12 to 11 and Good thing no ones votes on Diana

On the Idol results show last night, Sanjaya miraculously escpaped and Brandon went home. On Tuesday, Brandon went first, always difficult, and forgot the words, never good. For the whole time he stood on the stage of shame waiting for his blindfold and ciggie, he smiled and knew his fate. At least he took his exit with a modicum of dignity.

For the life of me, I can't understand why Sanjaya didn't get the axe. (I can't understand how he made it to the final 12, the final 24, or didn't get booed off the stage singing karaoke in a beer and wings place. Ugh).

Diana Ross sang "I love you more today than yesterday." Based on her performance, two things are clear:

  1. Her fans would definitely disagree with the sentiment of that song.
  2. If judged fairly, she would have wound up behind any of the six Idol women, except maybe Haley.

Wow. That was spectacularly bad.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When tiny squares of cardboard ruled the world

The other day, I was "chasing the rabbit" in wikipedia, and stumbled across something that made a slice of my youth come flooding back to me. For whatever reason, I seem to be having these melancholy trips down memory lane lately. Typically, they're imbued with a sentimentality that I tend to resist, cynical hard candy shell and all, and they are easily repressed with a bottle of whiskey and the warm comfort of a Law and Order repeat I've seen six times (wait -- here's Lenny's quip! Clang, Clang. Fuck. It's a Serena episode. Drink more). Rarely do I get all misty on this blog (though I occasionally did on my other myspace entries), but this catalog entry from days gone by is harmless enough, though probably pretty geeky.

Before sharing, I feel obligated to put forth a few disclaimers.

I drove a hot rod muscle car.
I played sports.
I got laid. A Lot.
I had a vivid and active social life.
I dressed like a total stylish prep, and there were no pocket protectors in my wardrobe.
I had friends.
Despite deep rooted psychosis and mental instability that would only manifest itself much later, I was considered fairly normal. Friends' parents and girlfriends' parents adored me.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's totally geek out, shall we?

I forgot how I got there, but I suddenly found myself on the Dungeons and Dragons wikipedia page. There was a time in junior high that I first became introduced to the game, probably at a "modeling" shop. Sam and Bettye and I were model freaks. Most kids of that generation built model cars, but my family was hard core. We built cars. We built spaceships. We built every manner of tank, plane, ship, jeep and craft of war. Typically from WWII, but from other eras as well. We obsessed over every detail. Depending on the theatre of war, we added the proper paint schemes in minute detail. We used hot wires to reproduce "bullet holes" on the bodies. We painted dust and mud and exhaust stains. We used magnifying glasses and one "hair" brushes to put the right shoelaces on the tiny soldiers. We did all this without even sniffing the glue, believe it or not. Anyway, there were certain "game and toy" shops (not like the big box "ToysRUs" monstrosities of today), but more mom and pop stores that focused on Japanese imports known for their historical accuracy, like Tamiya. These stores also carried the relatively new and "underground" accessories for RPGs. In those days, those were "role playing games," and not "rocket propelled grenades." While model shopping, I picked up a copy of the original D and D (I hate that blogger won't accept ampersands. Makes this, and talking about Law and Order, difficult, dammit).

How cool was this? As an only child, I had long had a vivid imagination, and "invented" ways to play board games with only one player, or to create elaborate scenarios with GI Joes, Major Matt, Big Jim and other action figures. I bought the game, took it home and read it, and was soon eager to create an elaborate world, and play games that didn't involve building the damned mouse trap, acquiring multi-colored pieces of property or sinking a damned battleship. How difficult would it be to create a "character" and play out scenarios? After all, when we played wiffleball in the backyard, we'd develop elaborate rules, keep statistics in spiral notebooks and bat right or left handed depending on what "character" was at the plate. I soon found a group of friends that was similarly inclined, and we'd have long weekend sessions sacking castles, slaying dragons, plundering villages and rescuing innocents. Oddly enough, my character was a "paladin," a bad ass warrior with a noble, moral and spiritual calling (rather ironic now, but hey, it was a fantasy world). We would occasionally make use of miniatures, where my artistic bent and obsession with detail came in handy. From a Tolkien like fantasy world, we also expanded into other genres of RPGs: The old west with Boot Hill. Outer space and other galaxies, with Universe and Traveller. We even roped Sam into playing occasionally, when the game was set in a Bond like world of secret agents.

While I brought the world of RPGs to my fellow geeks, they in turn introduced me to something else: the elaborate wargame simulation. These were complex, multifaceted games that allowed you to "recreate" famous battles in military history from any era. The boards and maps featured the standard hexagonal pattern and the rule books were often as thick as one "letter" of the encyclopedia (Wow, remember those? They'd be really hard to link to in a blog). One of the central components of every game was the tiny cardboard "counter," which showed a multiplicity of information on each one about your ship, your troops, your artillery, etc. In each game there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these little things. (of course, I used a combination of tackle boxes and my junkie grandmother's old pill bottles to keep them all organized and neatly assembled). Games weren't so much "roll the dice and move" (though dice were involved occasionally) as they were strategic exercises taking into account a variety of "real life" factors. Like RPGs, one "game" could last for days, and keeping the cats from eating your counters was always a challenge. (Once, my cat Vader wiped out Patton and the US Third Army at Normandy. Old "Blood and Guts" my ass if he couldn't handle a single housecat). The great thing was, you could win battles that had been historically "unwinnable." You got to see how much luck actually went into each scenario, and the significant impact of your decisions (and your opponent's) as a commander was far, far greater than in something like "Risk."

There were a host of great games that my friends and I owned, from a variety of military eras. Gettysburg. The Eastern Front of WWII. 18th century seafaring battles. WWII infantry battles. Waterloo. The Western Front of WWI. Hell, you could even dispatch some Klingons or go on a "bug hunt."

Given that it was a game, someone always had to be the "bad guy." Generally, I was happy to take the German side of the games. For the most part, they had better equipment, cooler looking weapons and snazzier uniforms. To me, it was more like being the Yankees in wiffleball, or the Raiders in nerf or electric football. Even though I had blonde hair and blue eyes, I had no designs on a master race nor a desire to throw the Jews down a well. Hell, I didn't even learn the "meaning" of True Evil until last year. When it came to the Civil War games, I almost always wound up being the North. I was born in the South, mind you, a good Georgia boy. But at that time, I had live in Wisconsin for a majority of my life (and I hated sweet tea) so I took the Union forces. Again, superior firepower didn't suck. To balance it out, I usually got to be the US in the Pacific theatre battles and the Federation in the 23rd century.

Eventually, we got drivers licenses and cars and the wars happened more infrequently. (Which caused a little consternation with some of my more dedicated comrades in arms. I prioritized, and they weren't getting laid).

Being a spoiled only child, I had whole freakin' library of these games. Several years ago, when the last vestiges of family passed on, I had to clear out the house and settle all the affairs in a few days. I made some emotional and practical decisions at the time to just get rid of all this stuff. Being in one of my whiny sentimental moods now, I wish that I hadn't. Though I have no idea what I'd do with them, my little sojourn through the wiki made me want to take them out for some reason.

I'm sure kids today have no idea what any of this stuff is. Looking through several websites, it seems like wargames and RPGs are a tiny niche industry today, and people are more interested in "killing" your buddy's forces on screen while getting carpal tunnel. Can't say that I blame them, with the advances in technology and the multi-sense stimulation today's gaming systems provide. Perhaps I'm just being nostalgic, but it seems like these games of yore challenged your imagination and thinking more. But I'm sure Sam thought that about my cardboard counters and tiny metal elves, too, when he was reminiscing about his plastic green army men and tape balls batted around with a broomstick handle.

Maybe there are no more worlds to conquer. Or old "soldiers" don't die, but just fade away.

Idol Musings: The 12

Okay, this is typically the first week I begin watching American Idol. I simply loathe the humiliation of and listening to the "bad" singers, all the backstage "reality" tropes and basically anything except for the performance itself and "judging" of the performance. There's only so much Paula loopiness and retarded seal clapping and Randy "yo dawg" I can take, so I limit myself to following it from the 12 finalists through the bitter end. So all these performers were new to me, and my comments on them this week (and from here on out) will be based on what I've seen since last night.

First and foremost: What The Fuck is a "Sanjaya?" How did this off key, coma inducing joke make it to the final 12? Is this a result of that "vote for the worst" campaign? Holy shit he was bad. If he doesn't get dragged off the stage and shot outside the auditorium, there's something seriously wrong with America.

Diana Ross (and The Supremes) have a great songbook to choose from. Yet many of the choices were uninspired and poorly performed. Or even worse, mystifyingly arranged. Why so many sappy ballads? What about "Upside down?" "Why do fools fall in love?" "I'm coming out?" "Where did our love go?" "Baby love?" "Stop in the name of love?" "Back in my arms again?" "Reflections?" "Someday we'll be together?" Even the choice of "Love hangover" never got its climax! How can they ignore these classics? What do people have against anything uptempo? Ugh.

As for the attempts to "rearrange" a tune, and "make it their own," I wholeheartedly agree with the strategy, if not always the results. Yet twice last night, the songs were a complete botch. Worst was Chris Sligh's unholy merging of "Endless love" with the overrated, grating, self-important poseur sound of Coldplay (one of my most hated bands ever, right there with Rush and Yes). And I'm not sure what Blake wanted to do with "You keep me hanging on." Not uptempo enough to be a fun romp like the Kim Wilde cover, yet not true to the original either. Big missed chance.

How can three -- THREE! -- of these folks forget the fucking words? This is the first time out of the box in the finals, they've had a week to learn the songs, and they forget the words? Yikes. At least Haley had a short skirt.

I'd heard that the gals were prohibitive favorites over the guys, and nothing I saw last night dispelled that. Technically, I'd say the best I saw last night were: Lakisha, Stephanie, Melinda and Jordin. The performance I most enjoyed was Gina's -- though it will be interesting to see how far this "rock chick" thing goes.

Overall, I was really disappointed. Bad song choices, lackluster performances, stupefying rearrangements and not a lot of personality. Hopefully things will improve, but this looks like a dreary season thus far.

However, Simon was delightfully snarky, Randy toned down the "yo-speak" and Paula, though weeping occasionally, appeared somewhat lucid. C- for the whole show, and thank the gods for Tivo and the FF button.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

We'll always have the DVDs

Lots of web-related celebration going on for the Buffyverse these days, what with it being the 10th anniversary of the show (or, if you're a pessimistic cynical glass is half empty type, like moi, you can say it's the 3rd fucking year since it's been gone). A great clearing house for these articles is whedonesque.

Here's a particularly good one, looking at the legacy and impact Joss and Buffy had.

Not much on TV right now that compares with the perfect mix of fantasy, characters, ongoing arcs and development, wit and laughs, clever dialogue, great performances, tragic heartbreak and action. Veronica Mars comes close, but I'm afraid a bunch of skanks trolling the reality sewer looking for a new whore might put an end to that, if the ratings are any indication. Lost needs to get some closure and answers going, but is still pretty damn good. BSG knocks it out of the park in just about every area, but except for "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" can be a bit soul crushing (not that I mind, since I don't really have one. Oh, and neither do you, scientifically speaking) and lacking in the funny. Heroes has done a remarkable job in the first season, so we'll see where that one goes.

Happy 10th (or 3rd) Buffster. We'll miss you.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding

New University of Miami coach Randy Shannon is laying down the law. It seems that the coach and I have more in common that just a girly appellation. We both share a love of law and order, justice and discipline. To his credit, Coach Shannon has realized that sometimes, guns and Miami just don't mix. To that end, he has taken the extraordinary step of putting in a "zero tolerance" policy for his players: No Guns.

While most college students shudder at the thought of not being strapped with a glock during Comparative Literature, Shannon realizes that The U has to overcome some image problems and restore dignity and respect to a tarnished football institution. In addition to his "no guns" edict, the coach has also imposed some other draconian measures sure to separate the thuggish wheat from the chafe at the home of the Ibis:

  1. Bazookas and RPGs are only allowed for hunting. During season. With a license.
  2. You may only use, possess and distribute marijuana and mushrooms. Absolutely no "hard stuff."
  3. You can only date strippers/hookers, but not marry them.
  4. Grade fixing is only permissible in classes that count toward your major.
  5. You cannot take fingernail clippers on a plane.
  6. Boosters are only allowed to provide cars (nothing more extravagant than a Porsche), lodging, wardrobe, food, jewelry and gold plated dental work. No PS2s, X-Boxes or free cable (you should be studying).
  7. Any crack pipes or bongs found in the locker room featuring the "U" logo will result in 2 wind sprints and a 1 quarter suspension against conference powerhouse Duke for the owner.
  8. No rapings, beatings or bukkakes with co-eds or strippers.
  9. Staging cockfights, pit bull fights or bumfights will be limited to one such occurrence per month. Per player.
  10. Famous alumni are only allowed to provide legal representation for current Hurricane players for their initial trial. Lawyers for any appeals must be provided independently by the player.
  11. Professional sports agents are only allowed to have a sleepover once a month. No building forts with a card table and a blanket during the visit. Unless it's Drew Rosenhaus.
  12. Only 2 "baby's mammas" per player per semester.
  13. Michael Irvin to be seized by local police upon crossing the city limits of Coral Gables.

We applaud Coach Shannon for taking this "tough love" stance, and look forward to the resurgence of this bastion of integrity. While wins and losses are important, it's critical to keep in mind the role a university plays in shaping young men for their future.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Making it rain, entertainment style

Whereby we throw a bunch of $1 entertainment nuggets up onto the stage and see which STDs take them home.

This sounds like a great show concept. The delicious Lauren Ambrose and the quirkily hot Parker Posey? Written by pop-culture dialogue savant Amy Sherman Palladino? Except for one thing. Why does there need to be a kid or a pregnancy "hook" in the show? Isn't it enough to have too smart and funny to be real people saying smart and funny things? Why add this baggage of spawn? If I think about the best shows on TV (BSG, Veronica, 24, Dexter, Rescue Me, Heroes, etc.) there's hardly a baby in the bunch. (I realize there's "miracle baby" Hera on BSG, which at least serves as a plot point. But every time I see Chief and Cally's reproductive discharge, my eyes roll back in my head and I reach for the FF button. Same with Claire's offspring on Lost. And don't get me started on the beginning of the season on Scrubs). And it's not like ASP didn't already wreck one show with shenanigans involving a kid. (I'm looking at you, April. At least that show's finally starting to rebound after digging out of last season's plot grave). I'll probably tune in, but hopefully Tivo will invent some type of child filter before then.

A very good House last night. I love it when touching sentimentality (House has cancer!) gets turned around to self-absorbed, cynical narcissism, complete with a Cuddy ass-grab. And Dave Mattews, stoner icon to millions, did a fine job playing a piano savant with the IQ of most of his fans. And bonus for Red Foreman/Clarence Boddiker as the concerned dad.

Cruel and unusual punishment: no Heroes until April 23rd? WTF?

Spoiler whore that I am, I've read some things about the final episodes of BSG. If they're true, then we're in store for a mind-frak rivaling that of last season's finale. Of the "four things" purported to be true, all make "sense" except for one -- which would be staggering. Not a spoiler: Firefly's "Badger" shows up as Baltar's attorney.

Given some "local" gossip I've heard lately, this headline made me laugh. Despite the author's take on Liz, I do find her attractive and she was amusing enough in Austin Powers. Though she was booted from school for poor grades, I doubt she's ever reached the "pinnacle" of her "career" in the champagne room, conceived in a car, bought dope from her kids' grandmother or shagged roughly the population of Kuala Lumpur.

Happy 10th Anniversary Buffy! Too bad I don't live in Texas.

Speaking of the Whedonverse, Summer Glau will be a teriminatrix.

The official Drive site is up and running.

It's well known that I'm a geek, and I've professed my love for Trek many times. However, I don't think I'll be doing any remodeling any time soon. (And to pick a "Voyager" theme? Not unless there's a 7 of 9 component in the boudoir).

Monday, March 5, 2007


Last week's Criminal Minds featured Josh Stewart as the mumbly Nawlins detective. You may recognize him as the mumbly, morose "actor" on Dirt banging editor Lucy and his skanky, drug addled wife. Also, Reid's college buddy was Rhys Coiro, who played hardcore indy director Billy Walsh on Entourage.

Friday's Monk had Dan Butler as the murderous surgeon (he was Bulldog on Frasier) and Charles Durning, most recently Pa Gavin on Rescue Me, as a patient.

Psych's outstanding season finale (man, has this show hit its stride) had Alex Breckinridge as one of the sorority girls. Currently, Alex is playing Willa on Dirt and discussing the butt plugs she puts in her publisher's ass, which fall out during potentially dangerous hostage situations. This ep was also directed by John Landis, of Animal House/Blues Brothers/American Werewolf in London/Thriller fame.

Speaking of Dirt, the child star-hostage taker-assistant killing-nutjob was none other than Vincent Gallo, most famous for getting Chloe Sevigny to use her face as a cock depository for him on film in The Brown Bunny.

Dorothy Lyman played Socrata Thrace, Starbuck's abusive mom, on last night's mind blowing BSG. She looked familiar and I couldn't place her. She's a vet of many soaps, and was on Mama's Family for 114 episodes, 114 of which I'm proud to have never seen.

41,400 Survivors. Minus 1

I don't even know what to say. I suppose I could blurt out "Oh my gods! You killed Starbuck! You Bastards!" Before trying to figure out where we're going to go from here, I'll just offer a few thoughts on what jumped out last night.

The opening sex scenes with Kara and Leoben were hot. It's a fine line I walk with enjoying that, because on one hand, it was well shot and very sexy. I can't help but wondering what that would be like. Then, on the other hand, my OCD takes over and I start obsessing about how long it would take to clean up all the paint off the floor and furniture. And get the paint out of your hair. And off your skin. And out of your clothes.

The SFX were incredible. The viper shots conveyed speed and the atmospheres were outstanding. BSG always does incredible things with clouds, and last night was no exception. The physical "maelstrom" itself was spooky and yet realistic. Also, some great new angles of the Galactica. And the final explosion of the viper was sad, but awesome to watch in a perverse roman candle way. Well done.

The acting, all around, was just top shelf. Obviously, it was Kara's episode and Katee Sackhoff just rocked the house. EJO's bewilderment and resignation in the CIC was also superb, as usual, and his breakdown at the end with the model ship was astonishing. And though I've long complained about the "Quandrangle of Doom," in those moments on the steps between Starbuck and Apollo, I bought the whole Kara/Lee relationship much more than I have through several angsty episodes of "Dawson's Planet."

The lights going out in that scene with Kara, Adama and Madame Prez was interesting foreshadowing. But of what, exactly? More on "lights" in a moment.

And what kind of a world do we live in where Starbuck is dead, and Cally is alive?

Okay, now to what it means and where "we" go from here.

Was there a "real" cylon heavy raider in the clouds or not? It was definitely left ambiguous, and mostly we were lead to believe that Starbuck was hallucinating it. But if so, what exactly cracked her windshield? The pressure? Something else? Hitting a pigeon? And towards the end, we see a shot from Lee's POV, and you can make out BOTH Kara's viper and the raider. Does this mean that it existed outside of Kara's mind? And if it was there all along, why didn't it signal the rest of the cylon fleet and bring basestars and raiders jumping in? Could it have been a cylon -- perhaps Leoben -- on a non-sanctioned mission? If it was Leoben, was he really there for Kara? After all, we heard several times that "Leoben is coming for you."

Did Kara somehow make it out of the explosion? We clearly saw she was reaching for the ejection seat lever. But we did not see her pull it. And if she did eject, could the raider have gotten to her before the pressure crushed her like a walnut? Or was the shot of the ejection seat more to establish that Kara had finally accepted her fate and became at peace with her decision to let go of her "earthly" torment? Also, thank the gods for TiVo, because I believe that if you pause the viper just before the explosion, you can see that the canopy is still intact, indicating that there was no ejection. Of course, it's also possible that Kara made it out through the shattering canopy windshields, or that this was a detail simply not handled by the SFX crew (and didn't assume people would freeze the scene and press their noses to their big screens) if indeed they are going to later go with the ejection theory.

Is there more to the "special destiny" than meets the eye? Could the "special destiny" mean Starbuck simply cracking up, accepting her "fate" and putting an end to her human suffering? Would the destiny have been teased that much, would they have brought up the points about "this has happened before" if it all just leads to going out in a flaming explosion on a random planet with a cloud that eerily resembled the symbol Kara has been doodling her whole life (but that was also in the temple that supposedly connects the way to Earth and give D'Anna a view of the final five cylons?). From a psychological standpoint, I completely understand the role it plays in Kara accepting (and even taking a hand in) her demise and being at peace with it. And I also understand the need to have "pointless" deaths to show the horror of war and inherent danger of the show's premise. But I think too much groundwork has been laid for this to be the end of the character, without some type of payoff down the road.

And was that really Leoben? Kara asks him this, and he replies "I never said I was." Was this just a form that was manifested by Kara's subconscious or whatever entity was in contact with her? ChipSix has often spoken to Gaius of being an "angel." Could this be the same type of entity or manifestation, taking the form of someone who could reach her or provoke an emotional response (much like Six does in Baltar's head?)

Could Starbuck be a cylon, or even a "final fiver?" If she was a cylon, then the premise of the events of "The Farm" would have to be further explored. Why would they treat one of their own in such a way, harvesting her ovaries, unless they didn't know amongst themselves she was a cylon. Or, perhaps she was a cylon-human hybrid that had developed reproductive capabilities (much like Sharon) that didn't realize her programming and had come to believe she was truly human. Or, if she was/is a final fiver, then maybe their "purpose" has yet to be explained and their intentions were less malevolent than those of the other 7 and the centurions -- an emissary or catalyst of peace between the cylons and the humans? Also pointing to the cylon theory are the "flashbacks" with Leoben and her mother. It's well established that one of the capabilities of the cylons is the power of "projection," making your environment be what you want, or need, it to be within the mind's eye. Were the events that Kara has experienced part of a "projection" or part of a real (and possibly repeating) history?

Lastly, could there be another plot element from the original Battlestar series? Moore and Eick have long said that there were only a small number of elements from the original story that would eventually find their way into this reimagining. One that was a fan favorite in both shows, and exceptionally well done in this incarnation, was the Pegasus and Admiral Cain. Could another possibly be the "ship of lights?" (If you recall from the original, there was a mysterious "ship of lights" that took Apollo from his apparent death to a place outside of normal time and space, and also featured a character named "Count Iblis"). The "lights out" scene mentioned previously could factor into this, as could the use of bright light at various times in the viper cockpit. (And this may be a stretch, but is Glen Larson, creator the original show, always listed as a consulting producer in every episode? I noticed it tonight, but honestly can't recall it being there every week. Hmmm). D'Anna also tried to bridge the gap between life and death (which was swathed in bright lights at various points) and seemed to apologize to "what" she found there and with the final five. What if it was someone they had fought, tortured and tried to kill?

I simply cannot believe that the character of Starbuck/Kara is gone for good. Shows often kill off a character, but ostensibly one of the leads? And for good? So what are we left with as options?

  1. Kara is truly dead. And won't return except in some type of flashback.
  2. Kara was saved, in her "human" form, by Leoben, or whomever was in the heavy raider. Assuming of course, it existed.
  3. Kara is a cylon, and at some point, we'll see her wake up in a tub of goo.
  4. Kara is a cylon final fiver, and will wake up in whatever form they do, and return to fulfill some type of "destiny."
  5. Kara will return as a clone of Starbuck, created from the genetic material taken during the events of "The Farm."
  6. The "ship of lights" from the original series will factor in somehow, and Kara will play a role.
  7. Kara will exist, and return in some form, that plays into her talk of "see you on the other side" and in the bridge between "life and death."

Whatever way the producers take it, I'm along for the ride. A truly gripping, involving, moving and exhilarating hour of television. A+

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Canon: Star Trek Doctors

An ongoing series of lists that provides the definitive order of things in the universe.

When you have 726 episodes and 10 films in your history, there's certainly a lot of room for debate about what worked and what didn't. It's not easy to compare things across the various generations and incarnations of Trek, either, given the changes to the very nature of television storytelling from the first time "Space...the final frontier" graced our screens. For example, back in the days of TOS the nature of "serialized" plots that continue for years was almost unheard of. Almost everything was wrapped up with a joke at the end of the hour, and little attention was paid to character development that occurred in the previous seasons. Compare that to arcs that lasted for years on DS9, the ambitious (but not quite always successful) season long story in S3 of Enterprise. Backstory and character development often occurred in one or two spotlight episodes for characters that weren't "Captain," or through sheer force of the portrayer's talent and charisma in delivering the lines and requisite technobabble for the week.

Speaking of "the big chair," you could probably devote hours of debate to the captains (Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, Archer), given the importance they had driving each of the shows and the attention paid to the roles. And it's difficult to compare apples to apples in many of the other roles from show to show (e.g. did every show have a clear cut science officer? who was the true "number 1" on each show? etc.). But one thing each incarnation had is a doctor, and I've found (yes, after watching each of the 726 episodes and 10 movies. Multiple times. Yep. I'm a geek. But don't worry, I don't own any prosthetic ears nor live in my parents basement, Shatner never told me to "get a life" and I do get laid) that the doctors were actually a consistent strength of each show.

While having a doctor was a necessity of the plot mechanics, each of the doctors brought something unique to the party.

TOS: Leonard McCoy
"Bones," the "old country doctor," whose cranky, humanistic approach was a perfect counterbalance to Spock's alien logic. Responsible for two of TV's best catchphrases: "He's dead, Jim," and of course, "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a......" (Note: it sounds better with the "dammit, Jim," but just like Rick Blaine never said "Play it again, Sam," McCoy never actually started one of those on the show with the "dammit, Jim.") One of the rare flattering portrayals of a southerner, that didn't involve redneck and unenlightened stereotypes. Most involved in the central plots of the show (though latter seasons of DS9 and Voyager did give some good time to Bashir and The Doctor also).

TNG: Beverly Crusher
Passionate embodiment of TNG's more advanced take on medicine, widow of Jack Crusher and mother of Wesley (I was one of the many who held that against her, but if you ever get a moment, check out Wil Wheaton's hysterical TNG recaps. He fully realizes what an ass young Wesley was and how hated he was by the fans. Makes you see the writers and actors in a new light.). Excellent romantic tension with Picard (handled well in many episodes, particularly "Attached" and in a potential future way, in "All good things..."). Occasionally funny and almost always sympathetic. Note: we won't even address the horrific Dr. Pulaski who subbed in in S2, trying to be a distaff version of McCoy. Awful.

DS9: Julian Bashir
Initially introduced as a preening, green and playboy know-it-all, Bashir had one of the more gripping character evolutions on Trek. From this initial characterization, Bashir developed a realistic and wonderful friendship with O'Brien and dealt with the repercussions of discovering he was genetically engineered as a child. Served as an entry point into many of DS9's fascinating moral debates about the grey areas between "right" and "wrong" with not only medical issues, but also issues of state and government (such as Section 31).

Voyager: The Doctor
While the "holodeck" got quite a workout as Trek progressed, moving into annoying plot device after a while, the holographic doctor was a novel and revolutionary take on the technology. His snarky attitude and less than pleasant beside manner, all the while grappling with the questions of "what makes a sentient being," was clearly one of the high points and strongest aspects of Voyager. Easily the funniest character on Voyager, and surprisingly, one of the most insightful and empathetic.

Enterpise: Phlox
On a show known for uneven (or non-existent) characterizations, Phlox did a wonderful job with what he was given. Warm, friendly, curious and possessing a deadpan wit, Phlox represented one of the first alien members of a Starfleet crew. He would also fit in well with the Henricksons on Big Love.

It's hard to "rank" these characters as "best" or "most effective," since they were all uniformly well acted and a consistent bright spot across all the Trek incarnations. In this case, I'll use "best" simply to represent which ones I enjoyed more.

Best Star Trek Doctors:

  1. Leonard McCoy
  2. The Doctor
  3. Julian Bashir
  4. Phlox
  5. Beverly Crusher