Saturday, May 31, 2008

Childhood tastes die painful death

No, I'm not talking about a crush on Haley Mills or Kim Richards. I'm talking about chewing gum. When I was a kid, my favorite gum by far (except for a brief Little League flirtation with Big League Chew) was Juicy Fruit. I just loved Juicy Fruit. Every time we went to the store, I had to pick up a pack. And at first, I was a typical kid, chewing it for about 3 minutes until the flavor rush was over, and then I would spit it out. Or stick it on the bottom of a desk. (Oh come one. Everyone did that. Even OCDs in training). But eventually, I picked up Bettye's habit of having a "relationship" with a piece of gum, chewing my Juicy Fruit for hours on end before giving it up for another stick of flavorful goodness.

But for some reason, I got out of the gum chewing business for a while. I went through an infatuation with Brachs peppermints and butterscotches. Tic Tacs. (For xmas one year, I got one of those wall mounted c-store racks that held like 50 Tic Tac packages, already loaded with assorted flavors). In college, I would feed my fixation with Dum Dums. I always keep Jolly Ranchers in a bowl on my desk at work (but no one likes the blue raspberry). And I still keep Altoids in the car.

But when I started flying for business pretty regularly, and realized I couldn't have a cigarette as the cylindrical tube of death was flopping around the sky, I need something to nervously chew as I contemplated crashing in a fiery ball of twisted metal and jet fuel. So I started picking up a pack of gum to keep in my briefcase. I experimented with a lot of different brands and flavors, but finally settled on IceBreakers. LOVE this gum. Flavor lasts a long time, isn't overpowering, and doesn't make your teeth hurt. For many years, it was easy to find at any c-store, airport or supermarket. Then suddenly about two years ago, it didn't show up in the candy racks. If they had it all, I had to search for it. At my regular Publix back in the motherland, I asked them to special order it, and I would wind up buying ten 15-packs in a box at a time, just so I wouldn't run out. When I moved up here to crabland, I would occasionally find it at a c-store, but no where else. Now, the only place I can find IceBreakers gum (the sticks, not the square things masquerading as my favorite gum) is in Walmart. I hate this. I've ranted before about how the parking lots here are zany rat mazes, with inexplicable traffic patterns and exits. And the parking spaces are fucking tiny, especially for those of us want to doom the planet by driving a dinosaur sucking SUV. And all the stores have smaller aisles, which makes the claustrophobia you feel in the parking lot only intensify as you go in to shop. Take all those things, and compound it with the general feeling of social compression and traffic you generally encounter in a WallyWorld, and it makes going in to pick up a pack of fucking gum an anxiety-ridden experience you don't want to repeat too often. So last week, I visited the local WallyWorld to score my IceBreakers fix, and picked up every single 10 pack bundle (of 5-stick packages) that was hanging on the hook. I think I got 12 of them. My hope is that they realize these things are really flying off the shelves, and keep ordering them. Or I may have to wander the streets trying hook up some black market IceBreakers (and I've heard they cut them with NutraSweet in the 'hood). To make me feel less silly pushing a cart around for just gum, I also picked up two more folding camp chairs for my balcony. Because I only have about 14 of those scattered across the hills of Georgia, but that doesn't do me any good here.

Anyway, in between finding my pusher at WallyWorld, I ran out of IceBreakers and needed some gum for a flight and picked up a pack of Juicy Fruit out of sentimentality. Would it still be as good as I remembered from my youth? The short answer is "no." It was sickly sweet, hard to chew and the flavor died in a millisecond. I barely made it though a 15 pack. It's weird. I still like the occasional Tic Tac, Dum Dum or peppermint, or other candy I fancied from my younger days. (Of course, I don't snort Pixie Sticks or that do that bizarre thing with the waxy stick and flavored sugar dust in two different pockets). Do tastes in candy really change that much over time? TNRLM readers, what's your experience in this area? Are there candies or gums that you were obsessed with as a kid that just don't cut the mustard these days? Or am I just crazy?

Jeremy Bentham had a small wake

Well, there it was. The season 4 finale of Lost, "There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3." I was excited as hell to see it, yet I watched it with some caution, knowing that there's no way in hell it could produce another What The Fuck?! moment like last year's flash-forward ending. And even if it tried to do another game changing twist like that, it probably would have been a twist for pure shock and oneupsmanship, rather than as an organic surprise designed to open up the storytelling. So I wasn't expecting to have my mind completely blown like last year, but I was expecting Team Darlton to deliver the goods, and deliver the goods they did. That was emotionally and dramatically satisfying, and as Lost often does, it answered some questions and asked some others.

Plot wise, the big things the finale had to do:
  1. Explain the "move the island" concept (or at the very least, have it "happen").
  2. Get all the players in the proper positions on and off the island to lead us to the rescue of the Oceanic 6.
  3. Get Ben off the island, so he can be the veterinarian "handler" of the world's most dangerous Iraqi assassin.
  4. Handle the "fate" of the island and the freighter, so the future "cover story" of the O6 would withstand some scrutiny for a while
  5. Deal with Keamy and his commandos.
In my book, we were 5 for 5 there:
  1. The big debate was "move the island physically" or "move the island in time?" Or both? I'm not sure we got a definitive answer here, which was okay and gives us much more to ponder. But the island is indeed "gone" from the "helicopter crash survivors on the raft" timeline. It was there, then there was a flash of light, and then POOF! it was gone. Along with the secondary island, the Hydra station. The producers like to use a "code phrase" to represent the plot development of the finale. Last year, the flash forward was referred to as the "snake in the mailbox." That was metaphorical, but this year's code, "frozen donkey wheel," was actually literal. How did the island "move?" We're not sure of all the specifics, but it was instigated by Ben, in an icy basement of the Orchid station, actually spinning a "frozen donkey wheel."
  2. After lots of running around the jungle and helicopter flights, the O6 were all together and ready to be "rescued." For a while Thursday, I was actually suspecting that one of the big reveals would be that the show was playing with us with regard to the timeline on the rescue. We were all anticipating that the resolution to the "Keamy on a killing spree/bomb on the freighter" situations would end with the O6 getting together for rescue. I thought that the show might tease this, but that more would actually happen on the show for another year or so before the O6 wound up together and rescued. Alas, that theory was wrong and they did find their way off the island and ready to get back to civilization, press conferences, drunken binges, ghost chess, hauntings, assassinations, trials, corporate takeovers and other fun stuff.
  3. Somehow, spinning the frozen donkey wheel not only "moved" the island, it got Ben off the island, too. He appeared exactly as he did just prior to waking up in The Sahara in "The Shape of Things to Come," complete with Dharma parka and cut arm. (Though we're never exactly sure of the "whens" on this show, it appears Ben popped up in the desert and made his way to Tunisia about 10 months after he turned the frozen donkey wheel). But Ben warned of a price to be paid for moving the island. Supposedly, the person who moves the island has to "leave" and "never return."
  4. The island disappeared. The freighter blew up and sank. The O6 agreed to a lie and cover story.
  5. The Others appear out of the jungle, at the copter, and engage Keamy and the commandos in a fight. Between the Others and Keamy's amusing game of hacky-sack with a live grenade, the mercs are all put down. Keamy and Sayid engage in one the best TV fistfights I've ever seen, and he's finally shot by Alpert. (Of course, he wasn't quite dead yet, and managed to get to the Orchid, where he's *finally* killed by a momentarily bloodthirsty Ben).
So the plot mechanics all worked out and connected most of the dots, and did so in an engaging and propelling fashion. Then, of course, there was the end. Crazy, fucked up Grizzly Jack going back to the Hoffs/Drawlar funeral home to see the man in the coffin. The man in the coffin was Jeremy Bentham. And someone named "Jeremy Bentham" had talked members of the O6 in an attempt to get them back to the island. This Mr. Bentham had also died under mysterious circumstances, which was ruled a suicide, in his apartment. While Jack is there, Ben appears. Jack tells Ben he got a visit from Bentham, who told him some "very bad things" happened once Jack left the island, and that it was Jack's fault for leaving. Ben knows Jack has been riding planes, hoping they crash and that he can get back to the island. But Ben tells Jack he can't go back to the island alone: "all of you have to go back." Including the dead man in the coffin, Jeremy Bentham, who is revealed as John Locke. Dun-Dun-DUN!

Thoughts, Quotes and Observations:

So will this be the theme of Season 5?

With a little Weekend at Bernie's thrown in for good measure, as Ben and Jack drag around the corpse of John Locke/Jeremy Bentham attempting to "get the band back together?"
  • After the finale of S4, lots of Lostophiles attempted to piece together the scrap of newspaper Jack had, featuring the death announcement. It did indeed contain some pieces to the puzzle, and there was serious speculation that the name was indeed "Jeremy Bentham," given the producers affinity for using the names of philosophers. For more on this dude in history, check here. Interesting, no?
  • We know that the scene at the car between Grizzly Jack and Bitter Kate was about three years from the time the O6 left the island.
  • “What’s the plan Sundance?”
  • Hurley was peeing in the jungle when he was found. I'm shocked that in four seasons, we haven't seen more scenes of jungle pissing.
  • Holy shit is Walt older.
  • “Do you know who did come see me? Jeremy Bentham. I don’t understand why you’re all lying.” Question: does it seem like a bit of a cheat that everyone in the flash-forward is calling Locke "Jeremy Bentham" and not "Locke?" I understand this in order to keep the reveal at the end, but does it make sense in the context of the Losties for them to keep referring to him by his pseudonym and not the name they all called him originally?
  • Ben’s chipper attitude since the jungle fight and Keamy "first" died was hilarious.
  • I know there was originally supposed to be more of the Freighties (Charlotte, Lapidus, Miles and Faraday) that got cut short by the strike, so I hope we get much more of them next season. They're all engaging and interesting in their own right, and nobody (with the possible exception of Ben) gives such twisted and amusing line readings as Miles. And what's up with his comment to Charlotte: "...after all that time you spent trying to get back here." "What do I mean?" Was Charlotte born on the island? There previously for an extended stay? “Would it make any sense if I told you I was still looking for where I was born?” So to take inventory of the Freighties, Lapidus was rescued and going to remain hidden. Charlotte and Miles stayed on the island. And Daniel was in the motorboat with a bunch of redshirts. Did he get moved along with the island? Caught somewhere in between? And will the original plan of Abaddon, who assembled this team (along with Naomi) make any sense eventually?
  • In two hours chock to the brim with quoty goodness, this might have been the best: “If you mean time traveling bunnies, then yes.”
  • "Hey, Kenny Rogers."
  • “You just killed everybody on that boat!” “……So?”
  • “I think visiting hours are over, dude.”
  • Sayid and Hurley did address the "name game," but I don't know that I'm completely satisfied: “And why are you calling him Bentham? His name is…” “Don’t say it.”
  • “Dude. I’ve been having regular conversations with dead people. The last thing I need now is paranoia.”
  • And another creepy and perfect moment: “Checkmate Mr. Eko.”
  • On the boat, we heard the mysterious whispering, got a cameo appearance from Christain Sheppard, and then BOOM! (And it doesn't appear that Harold Perrineau was too happy with being back on the show, only to get beat up and blown up. And for fuck's sake, he has to bring race into it. Asshat. Good riddance, Michael). And was there a video camera in the corner of the freighter engine room?
  • Sun on the copter losing her shit as Jin got left behind was heartbreaking. Sunjin Kim acted the hell out of that scene. As she also did when she, in full CEO badass mode, met up with Charles Widmore. “As you know, we’re not the only ones who left the island.” And remember the "two people" Sun blames for Jin's death? (and put me in the camp who doesn't think Jin is dead) Who are they? Widmore? Her dad? Jack and Lapidus?
  • How cool was it that Aaron didn't cry at all during the helicopter crash? Can't all kids be that quiet?
  • Juliet looked extra spicy on the beach knocking back a bottle of Dharma rum. Meow. I loves me some Juliet. Think we're getting set up for "Sawliet" action next year? And speaking of Sawyer, some enterprising souls have figured out what he whispered to Kate before that smooch with Kate and copter-dive. (Though I think it should be "Albuquerque" instead of "Alabama"). And this sets up one of the recent scenes in the "future" where Jack is pissed that Kate is actually checking in with Clementine at Sawyer's request.
  • How could Keamy's "deadman's switch" keep transmitting from the island, through all the time distortion, and way underground? I can't get a fucking XM radio signal in a parking deck.
  • “Sometimes, good command decisions get compromised by bad emotional responses. I’m sure you’re gonna do a much better job of separating the two than I ever did.” How awesome was the scene with Locke watching the Dharma video (carefully instructing the viewer to never put "inorganic material" in the chamber, as Ben loads it up with everything metal he can find, like he was trying to freak out some type of microwave -- albeit a microwave the folds space and time)? And any theories on why the video Locke was watching suddenly started rewinding? And what was the point of disabling that chamber before turning the frozen donkey wheel? And why was that subterranean chamber frozen? We've been lead to believe that Ben has gotten off the island prior to his Dharma-parka-desert-hopping (Widmore had pictures of him off the island), so was the "chamber" this means? Or is there another way?
  • Remember in the season premiere, when Hurley told Jack at the basketball court that he wished he had chosen to go with Jack instead of Locke? Does this make any sense now? Was Hugo subjected to anything really so awful while he was in New Otherton with Locke? Or could this be referring to yet another "choice" between Jack and Locke that we haven't yet seen? Or just one of those lines designed to heighten the emotions of the scene when they didn't have the whole season mapped out yet?
  • “….so, unless we, like, overlooked it dude? That’s exactly what he did.”
  • How great was it that Penny is the one who rescued the O6? That scene with Des and Penny reuniting was touching, romantic and well done. Of course, just like "true love" in real life, they are probably doomed now. After all, Ben has vowed to take revenge on Charles Widmore by killing his daughter, who happens to be Penny. So who among the O6 (and related) knows about the feud between Ben and Widmore, and the evil machinations of one Charles Widmore? Lapidus does, as does Sayid. Sun will at some point. So does anyone put two and two together and realize that Penny is Widmore's daughter, while they are on her boat?
  • There's been a lot of hubbub about the "lie," and why exactly they have to tell it to "protect everyone." Is it Widmore that's supposed to believe the lie, after he (we think) went to great trouble and expense to fake the crash of 815 and send a team to the island? Won't he know that something is up when he gets no reports from his dead and missing team sent there? And his freighter is gone? And doesn't Sun tip her hand when she tells Widmore that there are others who left the island? I think a fascinating episode next season would be a full hour set in a cabin on The Searcher where those rescued by Penny do nothing but debate the "lie" and the ins and outs of the cover story they had a week to concoct before being put ashore on the other "regular" island.
  • “Then I’ll see ya in another life, brotha.”
  • When flash forward Kate gets that phone call in the middle of the night, a male voice says (in backward masking): "The island needs you. You have to go back before it's too late." She grabs a gun to go check on Aaron, only to find (creepy!) Claire, who warns Kate "Don't you dare bring him back!" Obviously, we're meant to think she's talking about Aaron. But could she be talking about Locke/Bentham? Or someone else? Of course, this too is supposedly a dream Kate wakes up from. And damn, if dead/ghost/childless Claire isn't hot as hell. (Then again, most people are hotter childless, if not necessarily dead and ghostly).

Whew.

Finally, two amusing Lost tidbits to leave you with:
  1. Evidently, they say "fuck" on the island quite a bit.
  2. The original script from the Lost pilot.
Namaste, y'all.

I'm frakkin' confused

You'll find no bigger fan of Battlestar Galactica than me. I'm looking at three seasons worth of DVDs on my coffee table right now. I've regularly declared it "The. Best. Show. On. Television." I have a "So Say We All" T-shirt. And I'm thinking about ordering a "Roslin/Airlock 2008" campaign tee. So it pains me to ponder what the frak is going on lately?

Don't get me wrong. The show is still beautifully acted, brilliantly written (but note the below), fantastically shot and supremely engaging. But there are some leaps in logic that have me scratching my head.

So let me get this straight:

Kara blows up real good, vanishes from the fleet and mysteriously reappears in a pristine Viper thinking just a few minutes have passed. People wonder if she's a cylon. She seems to be losing her fucking mind and claims to know the path to Earth. She freaks out and pulls a gun on the president, who then tries to shoot Kara in the head (cancer drugs impair the aim, ya know). She spends time in the brig, then Adama gives her a ship with a crew to go listen to her crazy psychic GPS. She doesn't find the path to Earth, but she suffers a full blown mutiny from her crew, during which her "ex" husband shoots Gaeta in the leg. Which he has to have chopped off, causing him to sing. Then she brings back some cylons in a beat up basestar who claim to want to make a deal for peace. After some moving around of personnel on the ships, the basestar jumps out, looking for the resurrection hub to unbox D'Anna and find the Final Five. The fleet is down some pilots and ships, and then Kara is promoted to CAG. So, mysteriously vanish for months, come back under suspicious circumstances, be suspected of being a cylon, attempt to assassinate the president, suffer a mutinty, get an officer's leg shot off, and then get promoted? Did everyone have an offscreen conference where they discuss the qualifications for being CAG, and this is the best they can come up with?

Athena has a dream, sees a few Damien-esque sketches, freaks the fuck out and guns down the enemy negotiator in cold blood because the Six was talking to Athena's kid? (and lest we forget that Athena is a cylon. A cylon who "switched sides," of course, but a cylon who actually performed this type of on-ship gunplay before? On the Admiral?) She gets screamed at, put in irons, and then as the Admiral is leaving the fleet, he says to reunite her with her kid and forgive and forget?

Adama learns that noted cylon hater (and secret cylon) Saul Motherfucking Tigh has been "interrogating" a captured Six without the cell cameras on. And by "interrogating," I mean "fucking her because he's strangely drawn to her and she occasionally resembles his dead wife and knocking her up." Now, we all know that cylons can't conceive on their own (they had to have human/cylon bootknocking for this), but since Saul Motherfucking Tigh really IS a cylon, evidently, they can now? And Adama and Saul Motherfucking Tigh have a wonderfully acted and intense throwdown about Tigh's forthcoming bundle of toaster, which results in a geriatric fistfight and Adama's model ship getting broken (again). And at the end of this, Adama goes to look for Roslin, and puts Saul Motherfucking Tigh in charge of the fleet?

The president is dying of cancer, everyone knows it, and then she suddenly vanishes on the basestar. Adama goes to look for her, which is odd but sweet. While everyone is wondering why the dying president is missing, there's political turmoil because Adama (who, as we noted, will be giving up command and looking for Laura) doesn't want the veep, Tom Zarek, to ascend to the presidency. So Lee consults with cagey, crazy lawyer (and dead cat collector) Romo Lampkin to help find a new president out of thin air who can work with Zarek and his dad. They wring their hands and scribble on a whiteboard, only to come to the conclusion that the Lee -- just appointed to the Quorum yesterday, it seems -- should be the new president. Because he can work with his dad, who is abandoning his post to Saul Motherfucking Tigh.

This has been happening, right? I have no problem suspending my disbelief about killer robots indistinguishable from humans, spaceships and faster than light travel. But some of these recent plot developments have me scratching my head.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Time moves slowly off the island...

Remember how slow time moved when you were a kid waiting on x-mas to come? (Actually, even then I realized that time always moved at the same speed* and it was just your perception of the speed of passing time that varied. Which is probably why I was an asshole kid that told the others it was scientifically impossible for Santa to exist). Well, I feel like that now, waiting on the season finale of Lost. I figure I've got to wait until about 9:35 or so in order to zip through the narrative, commercial free.

I used to be a big spoiler whore, compulsively and actively seeking out as many as I could. A year or two ago, I made a decision to remain as spoiler-free as possible, and I have to say that it has greatly enhanced my viewing of serialized shows known for shocking twists and turns. I have no idea what's going to happen in a few hours, but I couldn't be more excited. Still, I'm worried that I'm exhausted and I won't be awake and attentive as the shows closes at 11. I'd love a cup of java, but I don't feel like making a whole pot. Hmmmm. Oh wait.

Anyone else giddy like a schoolgirl about this?



*Unless you are actually on or around Craphole island.

Our last trip to Craphole Island for 2008

Tonight brings the two hour season finale of Lost. Given the late hour at which it concludes, I probably won't have my thoughts up until Friday night or Saturday morning (hey, I wish I did this for a living), but here are a few things to whet your appetite for the "frozen donkey wheel:" *

EW's preview from Doc Jensen.

Also from EW, the season's best 15 moments.

A dueling list of Lost's 15 best episodes (h/t to Alan Sepinwall's TV blog). Like I did with BSG and Buffy, after the show is over, I'll probably compile a massive spreadsheet with rankings, but like these two authors, I'm totally in the bag for "The Constant" and the Penny and Des love story. They also appreciate the power, beauty and nuance of Elizabeth Mitchell's acting, and one of them actually digs "Expose" as I do.

Part two of a TV Guide interview with Michael Emerson (who also gives a brief preview of another show I'm highly anticipating, Alan Ball's True Blood).


*Lost geeks know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Of course this ship is unsinkable! It's named "Titanic" for cryin' out loud!

For the last few years, Memorial Day has been an odd holiday. Of course there is the justified honoring of soldiers who have given all in their service to the red, white and blue. There's the relaxing three day weekend. There's the auto racing. There's the sunshine and sudsy beverages. There's the musing about fluffy linens (oh wait. maybe that's just at my place). There are the numerous TV marathons. And then there are the little shivs of memory that pop up because you're too OCD to ever remove anything from Outlook. Last year, I celebrated this automated "reminder" with a movie marathon.

This year, I give you a random sampling of the Worst Decisions in History:

"Let's completely change the taste and formula of our signature product. I think this New Coke thing is really gonna catch on."

Mike Dukakis: "I'm gonna ride in this tank. It will make me look presidential."

"We need to make a sequel to Speed. On a slow moving boat."

Invading Russia in winter.

David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue. McLean Stevenson leaving M*A*S*H for Hello Larry.

Western Union: "Sorry Mr. Bell, we don't need your novelty toy."

The New Deal.

Kurt Cobain marrying Courtney Love. Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 year old cousin.

"Hey, someone left us a big wooden horse outside. Let's bring it inside the walls."

Decca Records turning down the Beatles.

Getting involved in a land war in Asia.

"This Betamax thing is cool. Let's buy one and start a movie collection."

Gallipoli.

Han shooting first.

Pickett's Charge.

"Don't worry. Nobody will ever look all that closely at our books." (Enron)

"Viewers want to watch Heidi. Let's cut to that."

Best new artist of 1990: Milli Vanilli.

"Oh, don't worry Monica. It's just a little spunk on the dress. Just get it dry cleaned."

FOX cancels Firefly. And then Arrested Development.

"Let's break into the DNC. What's that hotel complex called? 'Watergate,' I think."

"You always take a big man. Let's draft Sam Bowie first."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sweet serial killer goodness

When I moved up here, we were right at the start of Dexter's second season, and I didn't get Showtime as part of the motherfucking cable package. When I finally got into another apartment and reconnected with my beloved DirecTV and TiVo, the season was already over and they weren't repeating it. But thanks to the miracle of TiVo, I just noticed that Showtime 2 was repeating all of the season over the next couple of weeks. That sweet, beautiful set top box was looking out for me, and recording it, starting with the "season premiere" last night. Believe it or not, I stayed relatively spoiler free, and all I know through general pop culture osmosis is that Keith Carradine (so good in Deadwood as Wild Bill) shows up as an FBI agent and that somehow, Dexter winds up in fake rehab. With Lost coming to an end for almost a year, this is indeed a treat.

Let's go chop up some denizens of Miami!

A little something new in the sack

When I moved up here, I stayed in a temp apartment for a few months. It was kind of like a hotel, since all the furniture, linens and accessories were provided. I just brought the clothes, the cats and a few accessories. When I finally moved out of that shoebox into an only slightly larger shoebox after my home in Georgia sold, I brought more of my own goodies. But obviously everything from a six bedroom monstrosity wasn't going to fit into this Lilliputian manor, so I called up a few players from the minor leagues to fit in.

I honestly like the B-team furniture, even though it had been relegated to guest bedrooms and sitting rooms. After all, I bought it in the first place. The desk, and the squared dining table and chairs are truly works of art, and the plantation style sofa and demi-love seat are fun, comfy and interesting. The bedroom, however, was a bit more problematic. In the master boudoir back home, I had an iron California King with a half canopy and the nighstands had marble tops and were really horizontal, making for a huge footprint that would never fit here. Nor would the gigantic armoire (which to rehash a long running argument with a former lover, is for holding clothes, not a TV, since that should always be out, visible and on). So I had to figure out which of the Richmond Braves would make The Show.

I finally settled on the queen sized sleigh bed, which is also a nice piece. So nice in fact, that the buyers of my old house kept trying to get it in the negotiations (along with the big screen television, the ping pong table, the patio furniture, the china cabinet, the signature armchairs, four quarts of blood and the rights to my eternal soul). I countered by telling them that the latter demand didn't exist (prove it, bitches!) and offering them my stainless outdoor grill instead of the bed. So I set that up here, and used the bedding that was on it in one of the former guest rooms. I treated my guests well, so I didn't have a problem with it really. But after a few months, I began to miss the pampering set up of my former nocturnal retreat. On the old king, I had an eclectic mix of Ralph Lauren linens covering a fluffy featherbed, topped by a goosedown comforter and duvet cover. Here and now, it was just a "set." A nice, decent set, but still not the luxury and enveloping comfort to which I had grown accustomed.

Over the last few months, I've been slowly but surely digging myself out of the financial aftermath of the Stage 5 Hurricane Trollop, and rewarding myself with little "treats" along the way. Regular readers have been bored to tears with my fawning over most of them (the iPod, the Keurig, the Dyson, the GPS, the XM, etc.). But last night, after one too many margaritas, I decided I needed try to recreate that feeling of cloud floating bliss and amenity, if only to feel relaxed as I went to sleep watching a west coast Braves games or Horatio taking off his sunglasses to yet another groan-inducing pun. So this morning I armed myself with a fistful of BB&B coupons and ventured out. I actually started at Macy's and Nordstrom, because they were closer, but even at those prices - which I was ready to pay - I couldn't find anything I really liked in the quality level I wanted. Plus, there it was very "Garanimals," and everything coordinated a bit too closely. I like to mix and match somewhat and give things an eclectic yet harmonious feel. A couple hours later, I returned home with an SUV full of goodies. Goosedown comforter. Goosedown featherbed and pillows. Astronomically high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and pillow cases. Duvet cover and bed skirt. (Aside: ever tried to change a bed skirt on a bed with side panels all by yourself? Kids, don't try it when drinking heavily). All in a color combination of dusky merlot and faint mocha. Really nice. And it gives the bed that slightly rumpled, fluffy and inviting look even when the bed is made (which of course it should be just after you wake up and are waiting for the shower to get warm). It should be extraordinarily relaxing and yet it's still a tad bittersweet as I put more and more distance between what was and what is. But if I get melancholy, I can just sleep on it, right?

Okay, I'll stop rambling, as this has been flaming enough for one post (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Good night, all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Morning Musings

Do you agree with research that this is the world's funniest joke?
Two hunters are out hunting. One of them falls over and seems not to be breathing. His friend calls 911 and cries, “What do I do?” “Well, first, let’s make sure he’s dead,” says the operator. There is silence, and then a shot rings out. The hunter returns to the phone and says, “Okay, now what?”
Is McCain in good shape? Or bad shape? Politically, that is. Physically, after seven decades and torture, I think he's probably in better shape than I am after four.

A webchat with Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson about the two upcoming Hobbit movies. I'm not as much a fan of that book as I am the trilogy, because it's more of a children's story, but it's nice to hear people excited and passionate about the material.

This sounds like a great book that I should add to my Amazon wish list.

All three trailers for the classic Indiana Jones movies. And I have mixed feelings watching the one for Last Crusade. I went to see that movie in the theatre with a friend's girlfriend (at his suggestion) and what started out like a platonic lark, soon turned into something far more complicated and painful for everyone involved. Still, I don't blame Dr. Jones.

While I'm doing my morning java, smokes, blogging and surfing, I frequently listen to iTunes or XM radio online. On the 80s channel, I just heard Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract." I wondered just who the hell "MC Scat Cat" was in real life, so I turned to wikipedia. Guess what? It was a duo called "The Wild Pair." Another interesting bit of trivia: this video was directed by one of my favorite film auteurs, David Fincher. Who knew that? At that link, there's a long list of other music videos he directed. I guess Paula's work with a repetitive cartoon was early career training for her future sitting next to Randy Jackson.

I was flipping channels last night and came across the movie bastardization of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In an otherwise dreary film, I did like two changes the flick made: Tom Sawyer as an American secret service agent, and Peta Wilson's Mina Harker as an actual vampire. And why doesn't Peta Wilson get more roles? I just love her.

A funny collection of Charley Steiner cracking up on classic SportsCenters.

Anyone ever played TypeRacer? I goofed around with that some this morning, and the best I could get was in the 80-90 range. I thought I was much faster than that. I guess it just seems faster when you're typing something original. I can think and create quickly with the best of 'em, but accurately "copying" what you see on the screen in front of you is more challenging than you would think. And for some reason, I never got the hang of typing the numbers on the top row of the keyboard. If I'm working with more than one or two (or 1 or 2), I always use the number pad on the right side.

Speaking of games, here's an awesome 80s lyrics quiz. I'm flabbergasted that I only got 70. Some I could hear in my head, but it sounded more like early Michael Stipe ("sljfuyyl mlknsiqkd mumble") than actual words. Also, while capitalization doesn't matter, spelling apparently does. (How the fuck do you spell "Jessie" in that song?). Enjoy!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I'll take potpourri for $1,300, Alex

EW's list of Best season finales. (give them some DAP for including geeky fare like Farscape, Buffy and BSG). I'm not still totally caught up on this year's finales -- and the Big One, Lost, is still to come next week -- but thus far the two best of the season have been The Office and House.

Starbuck will show up for an arc at McNamara/Troy.

An awesome alphabetical list of science fiction inventions.

A list of the Top 10 movie "macguffins.
" Related: another list of "elusive objects."

The "anatomy" of a cylon
, past and present, with great images. Be sure to check out part two.

Discussion of Indiana Jones' women. And a defense of the almost universally loathed Willie Scott. For the record, I agree with the writer. I think Willie gets a bad rap. The rest of the movie is so heavy and dark, I think Willie's complete fish out of water routine is a nice counter balance. And she was never intended to be a "replacement" for Marion (keep in mind that Temple of Doom was actually a prequel). Yeah, the shrieking "Innnnnddddyyyy!" can get to be a bit much, but I think she accurately portrays how a pampered nightclub singer would behave when thrust into that situation. Plus, that opening number of "Anything Goes" is hot.

The final "Idolatry" of the season. Nice homage to David Cook, good shots of my gal Carly, and the best line of the night about Archuletta: "He's a veal." (that is just priceless). BTW, I was very happy that my "coronation" post turned out to be completely wrong. 12 million votes? A landslide for Cookie? How awesome is that? I'm anxious to see what this guy does, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't approach the Carrie and Kelly levels of success.

A list of worthless additions to TV shows. A list I disagree with, partially. Of course, no one can argue with Scrappy Doo or the all time champ in this category, Cousin Oliver. And the brother and sister on Heroes were just awful. But I actually thought Nikki and Paulo had a funny and sly exit episode in "Expose." The addition of the characters may have been a miscalculation, but the way in which they were handled was great. But with other Lost fans, YMMV. I also liked Piz. And though Dawn could be annoying at time (okay, many times), I still think her mysterious and for a while, unexplained addition to Buffy S5 was an intriguing plot point. Many Alias fans - especially Sydney and Vaughn shippers -- were apoplectic about the addition of Lauren as Vaughn's wife, but I've always enjoyed Melissa George and her lips. And to borrow one of Randy Jackson's five tired cliches, Rachel Nichols is "smoking, molten lava hot, dawg!"

Good Ron Moore interview.

Could this be the start of a rebound for HBO? The series sounds interesting, and adding Judy Greer (to a cast with the criminally underused and underrated Rachel Harris) only makes it better.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Randomness from the week or so that was

Happy holiday weekend, peeps. It's early on the Memorial Day Weekend, and I've already cleaned the homestead, walked a couple of miles and finally caught up on on all the electronic and snail mail from my few days Out Of Town. Expect some frequent bloggy goodness over the holiday. As I quaff the first of many light beers, here are some random nuggets to chew on:

Controversial comic book costume changes. I liked the "Venom" black Spidey uniform (except for how it was presented, story-wise, in the disappointing 3rd movie) and Iron Man's is understandable, with so many "Mark" versions. (For a great graphic look at the various Iron Man unis, click here). And I just saw Iron Man, and it rocked my world. GREAT comic book movie. The final throw down was a bit pedestrian, but fantastic performances from all involved (RD Jr., The Dude, Gwyneth, Terrance Howard) made this a solid A. But Sue Storm's alternate costume is kinda trampy, no?

Good news for fans of Logan, Goran and their partners: USA has ordered more Law & Order: CI.

No wonder the country is going to hell on a sled. 12.5% of those teaching our (your) youth are morons.

Speaking of which, more evidence (like you needed more?) that Einstein was a smart dude.

It's baseball season. Time to enjoy some classic Ricky Henderson quotes!

A bizarre list of "How To" books. I think I would start with #9, and #10 would be helpful with #5 (though #2 would have probably preceded that one), but you would then be acquainted with #7, and eventually wish for #4.

Ever heard of "Batting Stance Guy?" If not, check out this interview. And you fellow Braves fans will get a big kick out his take on the hometeam.

You gotta have priorities, ya know.

Bobby Cox is an icon and steady hand on the wheel of the Braves, but good god, I love Jim Leyland.

What kind of bet do you have to lose to have this happen? And Flipper looks stoked, man.

Lord knows I lived through the title of this post. But DListed's adorable nickname for the featured Mensa member always makes me giggle, for a few reasons. Speaking of which, I'm surprised I didn't pay to have these moved. But some other poor (or soon to be) dumb bastard did.

How 'bout we cleanse the pallet with a nice story about everyone's favorite lesbian witch and shopping-addicted wife?

And since it's the last day of the workweek, here's a Trek look at the 7 types of bad bosses and how to survive them.

Enjoy your holiday, and have a beer or 15 with a loved one!

One of the evil Trio is behind "Recount"

Despite my fears that the story will be completely one-sided, I'm looking forward to watching Recount on HBO Sunday.

All good geeks should know that one of "the Trio" from Buffy (also known as Paris Gellar's boyfriend) is the writer of the story, which is getting excellent reviews. Here's a good interview with Danny Strong over at TWOP, in which he addresses the research he did for Recount, going to dinner with the other members of the Trio, and the WB yanking two pivotal Buffy episodes for sensitivity. (As he points out, I can understand "Earshot." But "Graduation Day?" Because all the real life students and parents of students who were tragically injured during a vampire and mayor-turned-Giant-snake attack on a high school might be offended? Too soon? Sheesh).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Coronation for a stuffed animal (plus a bit more)

Hey there blogosphere. I'm back from recent travels and ready to catch up on a few things. What did I miss? Oh, let's see (SPOILERS AHOY)...

Jim didn't propose to Pam, but Andy did to Angela, who is shagging Dwight. Micheal found true love with the crazy chick from Ben Affleck's movie, but found out Jan is having a baby that isn't his. Jack learned Clarie is his sister, the freighter is gonna blow, Sun is now (or will be) Alexis Carrington, Hurley's odometer hates him, Ben always has a plan, Batmanuel has a band of merry men, Faraday knows something about The Orchid, Kate's baby timeline isn't very convincing and Oceanic Air thinks the only bad PR is no PR. 13 has Huntington's, House loves Wilson, Wilson loves Amber (and those two deserve Emmys), Amber is dead and Chase and Cameron collected easy paychecks this year. Stella may be the mother, Robin thinks Springsteen is the American Bryan Adams and Barney may love Robin. Penny and Leonard went on a date, and Schroedinger's Cat really describes relationships. Earl found karma again, got another divorce and you can still live in a sideways trailer. I was wrong about the Gormogon killer, because it turned out to be Zack (?!), Bones thought Booth was dead but he wasn't, Booth likes to drink beer out of a helmet in the bathtub reading comic books (who doesn't? I mean really) and the whole episode was crammed full and pretty disappointing. Athena's kid draws some creepy pictures and got Natalie Six pumped full of lead for it, Roslin gave Tory a verbal airlocking, Felix sings better without a leg, Tigh's eventually gonna have some 'splainin' to to do, the hybrid has a plan of her own and Micheal Angeli wrote a fantastic episode that didn't bludgeon you over the head with the dramatic beats and deeper meaning (for once).

And that was just since I've been home.

I caught up on Idol, too. While David Cook has been my favorite (except for Carly, of course) this year, I think tonight was the victory for the squinty, stuffed Koala bear. Personally, I liked Cook's performances better, but there's no doubt the tweens will text away for Archie. His Elton John tune in Round 1 was really, really good and many voters will probably cast sympathy votes because they think his dad will beat him like a rented mule if he doesn't win (which oddly made me think of this classic magazine cover). Cook had an impossible task to live up to with Bono, though I like the underrated Collective Soul and for the first time I can remember, actually enjoyed a "winning" song I'd never heard before (I rewound Cook's Round 2 performance and might pick that up on iTunes). I could go on and on, but here's a summary from Alan Sepinwall that sums up my feelings quite well (including Randy's cliche-ridden uselessness).

Whew. That's a lot to handle for one night.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Top Three Meh

No long winded Idol recap for me last night. I'm tired, cranky and on the verge of traveling, so I sat on my couch, numbed by apathy, and fast forwarded through the bulk of the Top 3 performances. My suspicions about last night -- David C would be okay, Syesha would oversing something, and stuffed Koala bear would sing a sappy ballad -- all played out. Of course, that doesn't make me Nostradamus now does it?

Some random observations:
  • Syesha seems to have had some type of personality transplant, hasn't she? I think it's possible that her unctuous enthusiasm is even more annoying than her stoic divaness. Still, I enjoyed her take on "Fever" much more than the judges.
  • No offense to fans of the recently departed Dan Fogelberg, but is there any more boring and treacly ballad than "Longer?" And of course that's what the kewpie doll would sing.
  • Oddly, even with my loathing of ballads, my favorite performance was David C's version of "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." That should tell you about my feelings on the night.
  • Did Simon really call the Aerosmith cringe-fest "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" one of the "great songs of all time?" Yeesh.
I would be hugely surprised if this season turns out to be anything other than the seemingly preordained David vs. David finale.

I'll be out of pocket for the next little while, so posting will be sparse. (And holy shit, I'm going to "miss" -- at least for a few days -- Lost and BSG and have to catch up on them later next week). I will try to "Tweet" occasionally, so check that out.

Back soon, peeps.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In praise of procedurals

In my television musings, I don't often write about "procedurals," typically overlooking those in deference to the ongoing plot complications of the more arc-defined shows like Lost or Battlestar Galactica. After all, by their nature, procedurals almost always wrap up the plot in a nice tidy package at the end of the hour, and don't send you scurrying to the interwebs to research the process by which new Dalai Lamas are chosen. But this past week, four of my favorite procedurals had amazing episodes that warrant some comment.

As many of you TV savants know, the producers of two CBS shows, Two and a Half Men and CSI: Original Recipe, decided to "swap shows" for an episode, and each write the other's program. I watched 2.5 (which I usually don't), and it was okay. The CSI gang did a fine job at sending up their directorial and storytelling tricks (especially the cop in the low cut tank top) on the sitcom, but it was the CSI story (written with cathartic relish by Chuck Lorre and Lee Aronsohn) that really brought the laughs. It was a clear send up of Lorre's time working under monstrous divas on Roseanne, Grace Under Fire and Cybill, and was consistently amusing for the entire hour without sacrificing the CSI characters. Even if you're a casual fan of CSI, it was definitely worth checking out.

I'm truly digging the new cast of Law and Order, which ranks with the all time line ups of the show. Last week's episode, where Connie (the ADA) had to act as defense attorney due to a legal aid strike, was fantastic. It featured a wonderfully nuanced performance by Alana de la Garza and is one of those that will be worth multiple rewatches when it goes to TNT.

Last night also provided two outstanding procedural episodes of FOX's best non-Idol programming: Bones and House. Bones was a lighthearted (for the most part) episode about an American Idol wannabee who was found dead and decapitated in the weeds. It had the usual crackling chemistry between the leads and the rest of the cast (and I love that Sweets is now integrated into the plots), and had the bonus of Brennan letting loose on a karaoke stage to sing Cyndi Lauper (quite admirably!). Of course, that was immediately followed up by a nutty stalker ruining the fun, only to be quickly dispatched. Two quick points: I go along with the flow with most of the suspension of disbelief on this show, and actually enjoy Bones' pop-culture obliviousness. But how the hell does she actually write novels with well rounded characters without any awareness of things outside her scholarly pursuits? And how can her murder mysteries be best-sellers if she is so disconnected with the world of pop-culture? That still bugs. And finally, my prediction for the Gormogon serial killer (to be revealed next week, I think) is the lab tech who has subbed for Zack occasionally (like when he was in Iraq) and popped up in the courtroom ep last week.

That brings us to House, which offered a tantalizing glimpse inside House's subconscious last night. We don't know how the story is going to wind up yet (it's the first part of a two parter), but I would put that first hour up there with some of House's best eps (such as the brilliant "Three Stories" and this year's ep with Mira Sorvino in a remote research station). I didn't catch on until the very end, but wandering through House's memories and perceptions was great fun. Plus? Cuddy in a schoolgirl outfit. Bonus geek points for featuring Ivana Milicevic (Riley's "perfect" wife Sam on Buffy) as "the clue." A good "preview" of the show, along with clips, can be found here at Mo Ryan's blog.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Yeah, it's a "fickle bitch."

Thursday's mind-bender of a Lost episode, "Cabin Fever," was ostensibly a trip through John Locke's past (and future?), starting when the island savior was knocking on his momma's womb a few months early, thanks to a bumper on pedestrian accident. (Is there something to all the car accidents on this show? Has to be).

In "real narrative," the story was pretty simple. Locke, Ben and Hurley go looking for Jacob's cabin and find it. John goes in and communicates with Christian Shepherd and Claire (!), and comes back out to announce that they have to "move the island." Keamy gets hardcore on the freighter, slits the doctor's throat (who will wash up on the shore a couple of episodes back), shoots the captain and straps himself up with some type of device (a "deadman's switch?"). Michael is saved from Keamy by another malfunctioning gun, Des stays on the boat to find Penny, Sayid takes a boat back to the island and Lapidus choppers Keamy and crew back to the island, dropping a sat phone on the beach for Jack and the gang.

The journey through John's past was extremely interesting, to say the least. More than just a man who found his calling once he was healed by the island (or when he embarked on his "walkabout") it appears destiny and/or the island have been working him over since the very beginning. How fucking creepy was it to see the ageless face of Richard Alpert appear in a window at the maternity ward? And then years later, for Alpert to show up testing John, supposedly for enrollment in a school for "special" children? (Notice young John's drawing of "Smoky" killing someone on the wall? Cool).

The test? "Which of these things belong to you already?" A baseball mitt, a knife, a container of "sand," the "Book of Laws," a "Mystery Tales" comic book and a compass. I'm sure more brilliant Lost scholars than I can have a field day theorizing about this assortment. Needless to say, when John grabs the knife, Alpert is disappointed and leaves.

There's another opportunity for John's life to intersect with the island when he is recruited in high school for a science camp sponsored by Mittelos Laboratories. But John rejects it, uttering his famous words, "Don't tell me what I can't do!"

Finally, John gets the "push" he needs to pursue his destiny when Abaddon shows up at the rehab center as an orderly and tells Locke he should go on a "walkabout," setting in motion the chain of events that would put him on Oceanic 815. (Did anyone else think Abaddon was going to dump Locke out of his wheelchair and down the steps?)

When Locke, Hurley and Ben finally find Jacob's cabin (with help from the dead Horace Goodspeed, whose nose was mysteriously bleeding -- time travel perhaps? or just a dream as it was presented?) Locke goes in to find Christian Shepherd inside. Locke doesn't know him personally and his connection to Jack (and Claire), of course, but starts a conversation when Christian introduces himself and says he speaks for Jacob. Oh, and by the way, Claire is casually lounging in the corner, looking smoking hot. (Of course, without the mewling infant, anyone is 100% hotter, but Claire looks great. Death becomes her?). John asks some questions, but they are the "wrong" questions. The "right" question is "how can I save the island?"

Thoughts, observations and yeah, questions:
  • Is Claire dead? She's with Christian, who is almost assuredly dead (but spry and mobile for a corpse). If so, when exactly did she die? When she improbably survived the house collapse and Sawyer rescued her? But she was up and around and corporeal and carrying Aaron as she, Miles and Sawyer traipsed around the jungle. Shortly before or after she left Aaron in the jungle for Sawyer to find? And there's this tidbit from last week, which looks more enlightening in hindsight: CLAIRE: "I'm a bit wobbly, but, uh, I'll live." MILES: "Well, I wouldn't be too sure about that."
  • Was John always destined to be the island's protector? What about Ben? Was Ben a "placeholder" or "pinch hitter" until John could get there to assume his role? Ben seems resigned to this possibility. The ep's best quote: "Destiny, John, is a fickle bitch."
  • Does the directive to "move the island" mean physically? Or in time? Or both?
  • Ben denies being completely behind the Dharma genocide. Is this another Ben con, or is there something to this? And who would be calling the shots?
  • Could Jacob actually BE Locke, out of time and space?
  • What is the "second protocol" that Keamy is now following? And who developed it? Widmore?
  • What is Abaddon's role? He's instrumental in getting Locke to the island, but he's also responsible for Naomi and crew (Miles, Charlotte, Frank and Daniel) there, too.
  • Who is Alpert working for? How does he fit into the Widmore / Ben / Abaddon puzzle? And is he really "ageless," or just an adept time traveler?
  • Hurley theorizes that only he, Ben and Locke can find the cabin because they're the craziest. And that candy bar scene with Hurley and Ben is awesome and brilliant acting without words.
  • Alpert's test of young Locke is similar to a test given to reincarnated Dalia Lamas (big hitter, the Lama) to see if they can identify items belonging to their previous lives.
  • Is it a coincidence that John was born 3 months early, and all the island pregnant island women seem to die 3 months before their due dates?
  • John's mother's name? Emily. Ben's mom's name? Emily.

Overall, I think the producers know what they're doing. Check out this interview from E!

Yet another spectacular outing for Lost, and we're gearing up for the home stretch. Sadly, I'll be out of town much of next week and next weekend, so I'll have to play some serious catch up when I return, all the while holding my hands over my eyes and ears going "lalalalalalalalala" if anyone wants to discuss things on the island.

I'll take potpourri for $1,200, Alex

In praise of BSG, and not just from the usual geek quarters.

Happy Mother's Day, from the island!

Why isn't there a good collection of TV theme songs, by the original "artists," on iTunes? Or if there is, why haven't I found it yet? I've been known to break my "no karaoke, no singing" rule when it comes to TV show theme songs. I mean, do you really need to be on key to belt out the theme to Green Acres? I recall back in the salad days of college, a "TV's Greatest Hits" album was always fun to whip out after the surroundings got a little beer drenched and smoky. I remember that there was some surfing down a flight of stairs on a cardboard box listening to "Hawaii 5-0."

How frakking cool is Brad Paisley?

Fuck you Sanford Stadium. Making do in a long meeting or on a flight is one thing. (I usually don't knock back a huge flask of whiskey discussing the intricacies of channel marketing or waiting for my plane to crash). But no "pass outs" or even a designated area? Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. On the upside, my season ticket mates get to hear about 30 minutes more of my insightful commentary. On the downside, if things start to go south in a game, we could be dealing with CSI: Athens.

Kimmel talks to "Darlton" about Lost.

Barney Stinson chats about his new Joss Whedon web musical.

This should be required viewing in Columbus.

15 years later, reflections on an underrated classic. "You're so cool," indeed.

Goodbye, Disco Kroger. (Atlantans will know what I'm talking about).

Of course it should. But it won't. (And as usual, I recommend Hitch).

How John Mayer writes a song.

Jimmie James and Rogue in a southern gothic vampire show from the Six Feet Under creator? Oh yeah, I'm there.

This might make me go to Subway more often
.

More toy nostalgia from my youth. Yep, I had every single thing you see in that commercial. (But I didn't bust a rhyme on my moon playset).

Speaking of nostalgia, here are 10 memorable ads from the 70s. Who doesn't remember these?

Who is the best character on TV? (Starbuck won last year's tourney). Now we're in the Sweet Sixteen. I'd vote for Dexter Morgan, Number Six, Barney Stinson or probably Benjamin Linus.

Please don't leave your Millenium Falcon on the floor

I realized I never got around to capturing my thoughts on last week's Lost episode, and I'm chomping at the bit to figure out what the hell is going on with this week's episode, "Cabin Fever." So, though it's a week late, here is an abbreviated look at "Something Nice Back Home." Just chalk it up to a Dharma induced time warp.

I noticed that in the flash forward, in his life with Kate, Jack has one of the same coffee makers that I do (the grind and brew!). And yes, I now have my tiny counter decorated with two coffee makers. (How else are you supposed to make sense of life when you wake up at 5:30 every day?)

Quote of the week: "Back off, Donger." Sawyer is familiar with the John Hughes oeuvre.

Also noteworthy:
  • "Watch your tone, Red."
  • "You're supposed to raise him." On the surface, this seems like it's obviously referring to Aaron. However, could it be "raise" like "raise from the dead?" Could this be talking about Christian? Not that he needs any helping walking around after he's dead, mind you.
  • "You aren't even related to him!" Was this just a pure, "surface" shot at Kate? Or is Jack implying that HE is related to Aaron, meaning that in the future he knows he and Claire are siblings and the he (Jack) is Aaron's uncle?

Other questions and observations:
  • I like Charlotte's bitchiness. Bitchiness is always better served through an English accent.
  • How does the mysterious island affect manscaping?
  • How many people can fit in the helicopter?
  • And what happened to Keamy's men? Didn't Smoky kill them all?
  • What does it mean that Jack can have appendicitis on a "healing" island?
  • What has Kate been doing for Sawyer? Checking in on Clementine?
  • Why were Danielle and Carl buried? Who buried them? Why not just throw them in the shrubs?
  • What's going on with Keamy and Miles?
  • Is it significant that Juliet (and Bernard) kicked Kate out during the surgery? Is there more there than meets the eye? And Bernard sure has an interesting set of skills, doesn't he?

While this episode was entertaining, it was nothing compared to "Cabin Fever," which I'll be back to blog about later this morning.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How to make American Idol better

Despite proclaiming this year's Idol crop as "the best ever" and making a few tweaks to the format (instruments! Call-ins! Not a mentor every single week!), Idol ratings and viewer satisfaction have dropped significantly. Is it strike-induced viewer apathy (after all, even Grey's, Lost and CSI are down, too, though Lost is in a period of creative excellence). Is it the normal ratings curve for an aging show? Perhaps, though it still tops the charts and moves the iTunes needle. Has the contestant pool simply dried up? Maybe, though David Cook and Carly would have exceled in any season. Personally, I think they need to do make some more adjustments to the formula in the offseason, and here's a handy checklist for the producers.

Starting with the Top 12, give them more time to perform the song. No, no one wants an already bloated show to expand with even more fluff. And suggesting "more" of something that clearly isn't firing on all cylinders is kind of counter-intuitive. But cut down on the bullshit "schtick" and sappy backstories, and devote more airtime to the actual singing. Think about Michael Johns' "Day In The Life" and David C's "Baba O'Reily" being expanded and given room to breathe and build. This would give the talent a chance to shine and show what they've got across more of a song. There are several other positives inherent in this:

  • It would give more opportunities to separate the wheat from the chaff. How many lyrics could Psychlo Terl have forgotten if he had to remember more than 2 verses? How much exposure would we have had to his thin, wispy voice, and would the judges (and fans) have picked up on this?
  • It would cut down on the melisma, or make it unbearable or unperformable. Surely Syesha couldn't shriek and yell her way through 2 and a half minutes without her head exploding or turning blue from lack of oxygen? And even my dear, beloved Carly threw down her fair share of overwrought belting. What if you had another minute or to so showcase the vocal, and still hit the trademark Idol power note? Wouldn't that reduce the "yelling content" of any given performance by 30 – 40%?
  • The show could run two hours when we get to the 12, then whittle its way down to 90 minutes. That would also give FOX a chance to attempt yet another sitcom launch in the cushy pimp spot afterwards.

Pick more expansive themes. Having one or two "tight" themes works well to see what the contestants do outside their comfort zone (such as country night or Andrew Lloyd Weber night, which was really one of the highlights of the season, and not just for his impeccable guidance and helpful, cheeky commentary). But it's hard to criticize someone for their song choice when there are really only 10 – 15 songs (or fewer) anyone has heard to work with. You could make it as broad as "ballads" (though that might kill me personally), rock songs, blues songs, 60s/70s/80s/90s/00s, standards, English songs, number one hits, famous B-Sides, etc. Song selection would come more into play, and the contestants would have more room to choose something they can perform admirably. Don't pick a mentor / theme if all their songs sound alike. Can anyone really distinguish one Mariah Carey ballad from another?

Change up the judges. Of course, Simon must stay. He's funny, nasty and often the most constructive, and the only one on the panel viewers listen to (mostly) and that the contestants fear and try to please. Randy often makes little sense, and the first time I hear him say something other than faux hip blatherings will be the first time. This, of course, brings us to our seal clapping time traveler. Paula has got to go. I'm sure she's sweet and makes the Idolettes feel good with her praise of their colors, aura, soul and "youness." But does anyone listen? The viewers? The voters? The contestants? Does she ever make any cogent points at all? Wouldn't she be better serving as a behind the scenes and off camera den mother? I'll have to give some thought to replacements, but shouldn't it be someone with actual talent for singing and hitting notes? Who could be personable and a nice contrast to Simon's barbed wit, but who would also add some weight with his or her comments? What about Harry Connick Jr? He's smart, charming, successful, telegenic and most of all, talented. Boy can sing his ass off. His down south personality could be a great yin and yang with Simon's acerbic English demeanor. He could stipulate that a portion of his salary, or of the "Idol Gives Back" proceeds, go to rebuild his homeland of N'awlins. Win Win.

Cut down on the "schtick." No more Ryan/Simon prickteasing. No more phone calls. No more questions from the audience, unless they're submitted ahead of time via email and screened to make sure they're funny and interesting. Truncate the sappy backstories. Make it more about, you know, the actual singing.

Have the judges study, or at least be given a cheat sheet prior to the show. Know that Daughtrey's version is a cover of Live. Know that David C is doing Chris Cornell's version. Know when a performer has created his own arrangement. Know when the lyrics are flubbed (and not just when some goofy stoner substitutes "muh ma la la la umm" for Dylan's poetry). Know when the song came out, who did it, how it performed on the charts. Challenge the contestants on the lyrical content and how they connected to it.

Have the judges give constructive criticism without overusing the usual clich├ęs "Pitchy. Aaaiiiight. Cabaret. Karaoke." Give them a goddamned thesaurus if need be. The contestants, and the audience, need to hear more actual "judging." That stuff can be fine in the early, pre-top 12 going (when I don't watch), but once they get to the finals, they need to hear (specifically) what they did wrong and how they can improve.

Which is better: A. "That was an outstanding performance. You showed great breath control, you gave the lyrics personality without slurring over them, you hit virtually all the notes. The song was about a jilted lover, and you looked into the camera and made us feel that emotion. You need to be careful not to choose too many songs that sound alike and that show only one side of your voice, but congratulations on finding one that fit your range. Great job." Or, B. "Dude, that was molten hot lava in da house!"

Which is better: A. "That was a complete and total mess, and I'll tell you why. If you shout and oversing every single note, none of them stand out on their own. I appreciate the fact that you can hit that power note almost on key, but when you shriek for 90 seconds it numbs the audience. It doesn't give the rest of the song any room to breathe. It looks and sounds like you rushed through the tender opening of the song and just rushed straight to the overblown chorus. You need to clearly show more voice and volume control over the course of whole performance, otherwise it's just a collection of loud moments. Next time, try to pick a song more recognized for its melody and nuance than its powerhouse vocal, and then add your sound to it." Or B. "You are unique and special and look great tonight and even though that wasn't your best, I love your rainbow."

Results shows, except for the last one, should never, ever, ever be over 30 minutes. There's never been anything more suited to the "fast forward" button on the TiVo than Idol results shows. Launch another sitcom behind this, too, FOX. Then, after Idol, air the two sitcoms you've built in a one hour comedy block.

More eyeliner.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Please let this one be the one where Terl dies

Final Four time! I’m having a hard time mustering any enthusiasm for Idol tonight. The Braves are on, election returns are coming in, and I have some good stuff on the TiVo I haven’t gotten to yet. And I have an acute case of PCSCPVS. (that’s Post Carly & Seal Clapper Psychic Visions Syndrome). Plus, I’m exhausted.

Oh well. Here we go. What the fuck is with Ryan’s hair? He’s continuing with that bizarre “ridge” across the top. It’s like he’s Ultra Man or a Klingon or something. Tonight we’ll be hearing some of the 500 most influential songs in rock and roll. At least that will be more entertaining than a barrage of sound-alike Mariah melisma.

David Cook is batting leadoff, singing Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” He does an uptempo, straightforward “rock” version of it, leaving out some of the signature Durany and 80s elements, but it’s nonetheless enjoyable. Randy thought it was okay, Simon thought it was “copycat” (I disagree, but I get his point – it wasn’t a drastic reworking) and Paula commented on only one song, so she’s got that going for her. First song: 7.5

Syesha is next, doing “Proud Mary.” Finally, something that is well suited to her robo-bombast. She looks the best she’s ever looked and moves like she means it. I not only liked the performance, which was very solid, but I actually liked her, which I haven’t all season. I still feel wistful, because Carly would have torn that shit up vocally, but even grading on a Syesha curve, that was good. First song: 8

Here comes Psychlo Terl. Let me guess: James Taylor. Or is there one of the 500 songs that is dreary, lazy and whispered? What could this be? Okay, he’ll be doing Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.” Holy dreadlocked airhead, could I hate this guy any more? Not for the song choice, because both Bob’s and Slowhand’s versions of the tune are classics. But he’s such a no talent slacker doofus, as evidenced in his intro package. And it’s just more of the same, except that he probably realizes this one wasn’t sung by a cat. Weakly voiced, rhythm-free, and I’ve seen more authentic Rasta on the first tee at a suburban country club. He gets excoriated by the judges, and Terl’s response? A spleef-induced proclamation of “Bob Marley!” and a shit eating grin. Can we please make him go home? First song: 1

Stuffed Koala Bear is next, and I’m sure he’ll choose some sappy, inspirational song. He’ll be going with “Stand By Me,” which is a great song, but not that far from where I thought he would wind up vocally. (I should look up this list of 500 songs, as there are probably not that many bad ones on it. But could he ever choose something unexpected or surprising or edgy? Or would daddy beat him if he did?) Looks like he’s remembering some of ALW’s “stop squinting” directives. His voice is okay, the arrangement is okay, and the net result is just okay. Certainly not the soulful showstopper the tweens (and Randy) are making it out to be. Simon thinks it was the best of the first round? Did he get a contact high from Terl? Was it just that big of an improvement compared to the dreck we just witnessed? First Song: 6

David is back with song number 2, and he’ll be doing “Baba O’Reilly.” Will the James Dobson morons dock him points (like they did with Carly) because it references “teenage wasteland?” Very tuneful and moody beginning to the song, building to the power chorus. Hard to compress an epic song into a minute or two, but he’s in great voice. Like Paula, I wanted “more.” Unlike Paula, I didn’t wasn’t “humbled to sit here and watch his soul.” So first, she’s Desmond from Lost, traveling through time, and now she’s Miles, the fucking ghostbuster from Lost? Shouldn’t she be pimping shows on her own network? Or perhaps she doesn’t realize what network she’s on? (“Oh, David, I’m looking at your aura and diagnosing your soulful tuneyness like Dr. House.”) Anyhoo, great performance from David. Second song: 9

Syesha will do her second song, “A Change is Gonna Come.” It’s nice to hear her more friendly, but I was a little put off by her comparison of the era of the original song, a “pivotal time in history,” (the civil rights movement) and her appearance in Idol’s final four. Now, no one told me where to sit on the bus or what water fountain to drink from, but that strikes me as a little tone deaf and insulting. But I’ll leave that for others to judge. But I can judge the performance, which was “classic” Syesha: shrieky and screaming and overblown and completely unmelodic. The seal clapper makes her cry with ridiculous praise that makes her cry, and inexplicably Simon agrees with her. And she goes to the “civil rights” and “American Idol” well again! Good lord. 4 for the second song, and 0.1 intellectually insulting analogies.

Psychlo Terl is back again to assault our eyes, ears and sensibilities. Of course he’s going to choose “Mister Tambourine Man. Even when performing a Bob Dylan song, he can’t make the mumbly, wafer thing vocal thing work for him. And he fucks up the lyrics and misses an entire verse! Can we just put him down like that horse at the Derby this weekend? Except in terms of “ending suffering,” we wouldn’t be ending his, we’d be ending ours at having to endure this tool week after week. Surely this will be the final nail in his coffin. Second song: 1

Little Koala Bear will be doing “Love Me Tender.” This will make his text message voting audience cream their Strawberry Shortcake panties. Once again, he’s just okay for me. I just don’t get the vibe he puts down, and he’s certainly pales in comparison to The King. Second song: 6.

Numerically, this is easy to sort out. David 16.5. Syesha 12. Terl 2. Koala 12. While Koala was consistent, but overpraised, Syesha was erratic and displayed a maddening return to the melisma that nauseates and makes me appreciate her first song less. How bout this:

TNRLM Top 1: David

TNRLM Bottom 1: Terl

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'll take potpourri for $1,100, Alex

To a recent commenter lamenting the frequency of posting the past week, all I can say is that sometimes life intrudes. Hell, I didn't even get around to watching Lost and BSG until later this weekend.

Are the brass at CSI: Original Recipe (not Jim Brass, though) out of their frakking minds? You have a chance to bring Katee Sackhoff to the show and pass on it? Wha? Huh? I suffer through almost a decade of the dour and unappealing Jorja Fox, but suddenly Starbuck isn't good enough for your show? It boggles the mind.

A great tale of sportsmanship from college softball. Of course, I'd personally rather see teams feel sorry for the Braves, and duct tape their pitchers together in the name of fair play.

Oddly, I can identify with the Bat Boy.

A good roundup of Ben Linus moments.

From last week, the classic Lee Elia rant. (warning -- NSFW for "colorful language."). Wrigley Field, a playground for cocksuckers. Imagine Al Swearingen as the manager of the Cubs.

I could watch an hour of House and Cutthroat Bitch battling for "custody" of Wilson.

A "what the frak" summary of BSG's "The Ties That Bind." "Chief ponders. Cally floats." Hee. You know, if people don't tune in this season, it's hard to find any blame. The cast has been everywhere doing promotion (such as EW, the Top 10 on Letterman, etc.) and Skiffy's promo department has been working overtime. Virtually ever meaningful critic has praised the show to the heavens, and at this point, you're either going to watch quality TV or not.

I think I read this recently on Neal Boortz site:

A DIFFERENT VIEW OF THE ELECTION

Now I don't really know where this came from, but several friends have shared it with me. This purports to be a view of the American election as reported in Dutch newspaper.

'We in Denmark cannot figure out why you are even bothering to hold an election.
On one side, you have a lawyer who is married to a lawyer, and a lawyer who is married to a lawyer.
On the other side, you have a true war hero married to a blonde with a huge chest who owns a beer distributorship.
Is there a contest here?'

Actually ... they have a point
.

Speaking of politics, yeah, the "gas tax holiday" is short term pandering, and the oil companies are likely to manipulate the prices to make it virtually meaningless. But in theory, anything that takes the government hand out of our pockets on any goods and services is a good thing.

Moonlight can be kind of cheesy, derviative and burdened with some paper thin plots. Yet I can't stop watching.

In cast you didn't see it yesterday, here's the new trailer for The Dark Knight. If you look closely, it seems the Joker has a case of butterfingers, too. Ooopsie. This looks even better than Batman Begins.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

This week's Ledger

Busy couple of weeks lately. On to the tally:

PLUS
  • Dyson vacuum cleaners. In the past 6 years, I've been through 3 vacuum cleaners. In the old house, I was typically notified of the current unit's malfunction when I returned home to find the maids had left a note on the broken down shell of the thing indicating "this no work." I took them apart and put them back together a few times, trying to extend their lives for a few more runs across the carpet. But eventually, I would run to Target or WallyWorld and drop a $150 - $200 on a new Eureka or Hoover. And it would last a couple of years. And rinse, repeat. My latest one made the move with me, but was (literally) held together by duct tape, and the attachments barely brought the suck. So, armed with my 20% coupon, I ventured to the local BB&B to pick up a new one. As I was perusing the selection, the friendly sales person came over and started to show me the Dyson. I nipped that shit in the bud, saying there was no way in hell I was going to fork over $400 for a fucking vacuum. I kept looking at the other brands, but couldn't decide. Well, a few demonstrations and a little crackberry research later, I dropped my knickers like a Columbus schoolgirl and was walking out with the entry level Dyson. Got home, unpacked it and took 'er for a spin. Holy shit. This thing was unbelievable. Even after just using the old Hoover, I half filled (in a tiny shitbox apartment, no less) the cannister on this baby. After being initially squicked out (I was walking around on this shit for the past 4 months?), I was sold. So sold, in fact, that I started wondering if I settled by getting a model devoid of all the bells and whistles. I hopped back on the interwebs (and took a little advice from a friend, too) and soon began to realize that Dyson users are like a cult, except without Xenu. Or some carpenter. After assessing my needs (damned hairy cats), the next morning I returned to BB&B and "upgraded" to this model, the "Animal." The attachments were much easier to use, the suction was even better and I think at one point the lighting fixtures on the apartment below me were in danger of coming up through the floor. I'm fully sold on the efficacy and the payback.
  • Well, while I was at BB&B perusing vacuum cleaners, I was looking at the aisle display for the Keurigs. I've used these before in selected office settings, but never thought about adding one to the home. After all, I love and worship my Cuisinart grind n brew (Jack had one just like it, in the future, on Lost Thursday). But there are sometimes after a pot or two in the morning when I just want one more cup, and don't want to go through the hassle of brewing an entirely new pot. Or I want a cup of joe after dinner. And what better way to accomplish this than with one of these babies? So, another 20% off coupon, another trip to BB&B, and here I am enjoying a single cup of Sumatra. (And the shiny blue lights make the fucker look like the bridge of the Enterprise). Thank god I didn't see another device during this excursion.
  • Chatty time.
  • The glorious return of warm weather.
  • Nanny Brooke returns to the land of G-rated movies and decaffeinated drinks. (makes scrunchy face)
  • The parking at the mall.
  • Beer. Just because.


MINUS
  • $70 tank fills.
  • Some people are douchebags, not matter which way you slice it.
  • Not having time to get to everything you need and want to.
  • Going to the same grocery store for almost 3 months now, and still not being able to remember where the hell everything is. I swear, if BB&B had an "in-store GPS" that showed the location of various products, I'd whip out another coupon and be there in the morning.
  • The Braves DL, a crowded place these days.