Monday, December 27, 2004
Oh, and in perhaps one of the buggiest licensing deals I've seen in a while, we now have Dilbert slot machines gracing the floors of our local casinos. Considering that Dilbert is a character hallmarked by the fact that he won't do anything to break out of the rut of his own life, the idea of basing a gambling machine on him seems... Well, I don't want to accuse Scott Adams of being a money-grubbing whore, but they don't even have Garfield slot machines (I think), so, come on.
The previous weekend, I went away to Disneyland for a few days. It was fun, but with a few disappointments, the biggest being the closure of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Play It show. Plus it was more crowded on the Monday than I had expected it to be, which drove me temporarily out of the park and into the Downtown Disney movie theater where I finally saw The Incredibles. And it was, or they were, or whatever. I'm not sure if it's the best superhero movie I've seen in years or the best James Bond film I've seen in years. Either way, I'm glad I managed to catch it in the theater.
Book-wise, I finally finished Clive Barker's second Abarat book. It took me forever (well, a month and a half), not because it was dull, but because of my short attention span. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the Oz books I read as a kid, all full of these incredibly mad characters and places with no effort made to explain the wildness. I mean, stuff like Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket are fine and everything, but pale in comparison to Barker's imagination explosion.
As for TV, during the winter rerun doldrums, my favorite new series is probably Mine All Mine on BBC America. It's this mad comedy drama, and with only one week to go, I still have no idea how everything is going to end up. It's written by the new Doctor Who producer, Russell T Davies, but it's not the Doctor Who connection that makes it great. (If anything, I'm more excited about Doctor Who because he's producing it, not excited about him because he's producing Doctor Who. If that makes sense.)
Another new favorite is Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! on Disney's Jetix block. Very much in the vein of Cartoon Network's Teen Titans, it's Disney's fairly successful attempt to create an American Anime series for younger kids. I mean, you look at it, there's no chance of wondering if it's inspired by anime or not, you know?
And then there's House on Fox. Who would have thought another doctor show could be so good? It helps that it's produced by talented folks, and it helps even more that it stars British comic actor Hugh Laurie as a complete bastard (and an American, with a flawless accent). Missed the first episode, but they're rerunning that on Tuesday. And apparently new episodes will continue in January.
Coming up, I'm going to give 24 another shot this season, I think, depending on when it's on. Definitely looking forward to Alias, in it's new, pay-attention-to-me time slot right after Lost. I continue to not see the appeal of Veronica Mars, despite rave reviews from everybody. Sorry. And I'm giving up on Jack & Bobby, in favor of sampling Point Pleasant on Fox, the new show from Marti "Buffy executive producer who isn't Joss Whedon" Noxon. Jack & Bobby failed to ever catch fire for me, and Point Pleasant looks weird and different, so there you go.
Oh, and Sci Fi has picked up Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis for next season. That'll make SG-1 tied with X-Files for the longest-running American science fiction show, I believe. (Longest running worldwide would be Doctor Who, of course.) It's possible that Richard Dean Anderson may not be back next year, but they're adding Farscape star Ben Browder to the cast. Given Farscape's weak ratings, I can't imagine they're doing it to increase the audience, but he's a good actor, so I look forward to seeing what he brings to the show. If they do lose Anderson altogether, though, that'll be a pretty tough blow.
Oh, and according to folks I respect in the UK, the new Battlestar: Galactica (already airing there) is great. So that's something else to look forward to.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Thursday, December 02, 2004
As if the Doctor Who teaser wasn't enough...
Ooh! First new teaser (for the press) for the new Doctor Who series, with the first chance to hear Christopher Eccleston as the new Doctor! (And, in about a week or so, the blog entry I sent by email will probably turn up saying more or less the same thing...)
And this is why I find it so hard to get up in the morning...
Apparently, NBC and CBS are refusing to air this ad. According to the Progress Report:
"In a letter to the UCC, CBS is refusing to air the advertisement because the commercial 'touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations.' Also, CBS found the ad 'unacceptable' because 'the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.' NBC similarly declared the ad 'too controversial.'"
God bless Amerika.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Monday, November 15, 2004
“Courts are not equipped to execute the law. They are not accountable to the people,” Ashcroft said.
I swear, it's like we're living on some other, more surreal world...
And if this were happening in any other country, there'd be this outrage at what an affront to democracy this is...
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Thursday, November 11, 2004
See, this is what happens when you have a facist regime enforcing overly-restrictive rules in an inconsistent manner: pretty soon, you don't have to worry about actually enforcing the law, because everyone will be so afraid of breaking it, they'll restrict themselves even more than the law would.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Okay, and this is going to help the deficit how, exactly? (Ironically, I was just talking to my money manager earlier today about diversifying this year, while the capital gains tax was still low, because there was no way it could stay that way, not with the deficit being the way that it is...)
My one hope to come out of a bush victory (I'm not spelling his name with capitals any more, either) was that at least he'd be forced to deal with the problems his first term caused. And now it's looking like they're heading straight into things with the blinders still on... (Okay, it's been a week, and his second term hasn't even started yet, but still...)
Monday, November 08, 2004
I was eating lunch last Friday, and at the table next to me sat four complete and utter louts. (Perhaps I'm being unfair; they might have been members of Mensa. But they were all spellbound, listening to a cell phone ring-tone that sounded like a chimpanzee screeching, and all agreed that this was the funniest thing they had ever heard, so I'm going with "lout.")
Anyway, they were being pretty loud--and were quite well-fed, not that that necessarily means anything--and I couldn't help but hear what they were saying. And eventually, their conversation turned to the subject of the election, and how Kerry supporters were so upset with the result that they were threatening to leave the country. And that was just fine with these folks, because obviously, the country wanted George Bush to be president (which I will spell with a lower-case "p" for the next four years), and the fact that a clear majority had voted for him proved that. And there were the usual lines about the "liberal" media, and they brought up the obvious lies about the missing 380 tons of explosives stolen from Iraq, and how that's obviously a bunch of crap, and so forth. Can't remember all the details, but you get the idea.
And, of course, the facts are that Bush won by the narrowest margin since 1916 (a fact the "liberal media" haven't been touting), and that even though he received more votes than any presidential candidate ever, number two on that list is John Kerry, so that's not such an impressive achievement after all. (Also not prominently featured in the "liberal media.") And then there's the issue of the missing explosives, the facts of which also come from the "liberal media..." By which I mean, of course, the Pentagon. (According to the Pentagon, the bunker with the explosives was inspected and sealed by the UN inspectors, and the seals were intact when the US took control after the invasion. Spin that, conservative monkeys.)
And that's what makes me so frustrated. Not that people are willing to be so stupid as to support this president, but that they can't even be right about their reasons. That they'd rather believe the propaganda machine than the facts.
(Oh, yeah. I remember now; they talked about the increased employment under Bush... Increased employment? The first president since the Depression to lose jobs?)
And if the stumbling block is that people are just too lazy or stupid to believe the truth, then how do you combat that? You can't make people just be smarter. Apparently, you can't even get them to notice what isn't happening to them. I mean, how can you believe in the bogus tax cuts and fail to realize that you're not actually paying less in taxes?
If only there were a way to just keep stupid people from voting...
Saturday, November 06, 2004
And here's a decent response to the idea of just fleeing the country to get away from the Bush Occupation...
Thursday, November 04, 2004
PORTAGE, Wis. (AP) -- A woman has been arrested for digging up her dead boyfriend's ashes from a cemetery more than 10 years ago and drinking the beer that was buried with him, possibly out of spite for his family, authorities say."
Now that's what I call holding a grudge...
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Ooh! Photos of the new, slightly redesigned Daleks from the new Doctor Who series. (Again, I point out at how excited and anxious folks seemed to be to see how Golum and other Lord of the Rings characters would appear on the big screen; now it's your turn to indulge my passions.)
I know whenever something like this happens, I'm supposed to throw up my arms and cry, "Why won't the networks support any kind of programming that deviates from the standard and mundane fare we usually get?" But it's hard to muster any outrage when the show is, well, crap.
In the meantime, check this out:
Wallow In Chaos, And Laugh / A pro-Bush outcome and one enormous bitter pill and you without your vodka
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Oh, look. The post I wrote last Saturday (I think) and posted via email finally turned up.
Anyway, I spent the day knocking on doors, to generally no avail. Had one or two rude people to deal with, but mostly it was just a lot of work for no reward. The last hour or so was fun, though: I was joined by another volunteer who had driven out from California, and we went racing through the neighborhood like barnstormers. We'd stop, jump out, hit a couple of houses apiece from my list, jump back in the truck, and off to the next street. And no matter what I did, I feel like I could have done more. I didn't need to walk from one house to another when I could have run. I didn't need to talk slower; people needed to listen faster. Maybe we didn't need to stop at all; perhaps we should have just shouted at people's houses as we drove past.
And I can't watch the election coverage, because I've had enough of all that. I don't want to watch the slow, inexorable progress, particularly since so far, things are tilted in Bush's favor, and I'll just get upset watching that. I just want to know who wins when all is said and done.
Finished writing for now. Too unfocused to do much else besides try to watch tonight's episode of Gilmore Girls. (And even that keeps getting put on pause so I can reinstall my upgraded antivirus software...)
Monday, November 01, 2004
From author Caitlin Kiernan's journal:
"This presidential thing is looking grim. Bush is leading in the polls again. What, exactly, does it take for the people of America to notice that they're being vigourously ass-fucked by a bunch of hateful old men with a hard-on for nothing but money and military expansionism? Let's see...it takes more than getting us all stuck in an unjust, unwinnable war. It takes more than learning that the hateful old men lied to get us to let them go to war. It takes more than a disregard for education, fair taxes, and the poor. It takes more than seeing that an administration is willing to wipe its ass with the Bill of Rights. It takes more than an impending draft, deemed necessary to keep the aforementioned unjust, unwinnable war stocked with cannon fodder. Maybe it takes just a little bit more apocalypse and ass-fuckery than we've seen so far.
"Maybe I'm just impatient.
"And I'm growing cynical, again.
"This is it, folks. Like it or not, we're the most powerful nation on earth. Right or wrong, our will shall most likely determine the fate of this particular civilization and, perhaps, the fate of the planet, as well. You take a thing just so goddamn far, and maybe you don't get more than fourteen or fifteen second chances."
And Mark Morford's column was also pretty inspiring, but I'm not going to quote it here.
For me, this is the biggest concern that I have, beyond specific issues and problems with the Bush administration (of which there are many): If America reelects George W. Bush tomorrow, in the face of everything that he's done, all the lies, all the corruption, all the bad decisions and deaths, it's like America is coming out and admitting that we, as a people, embrace willful ignorance. We approve of bullying, of thuggery, of lies and corruption, and that above all, might makes right. We don't care about things like reason, or compassion, or truth or honesty, or personal rights or any of the things that we pretend to stand for, and now we're finally coming out and admitting that. And that's the message that reelecting George Bush sends, and I'm not at all comfortable with the knowledge that a large number of Americans may be okay with that. It's a continuum, ranging from declaring an unjustified war on another country in the face of international disapproval just because we can, all the way down to some jerk in an SUV making a left turn from the right-hand lane just because he's got the bigger car, but it's all of a piece. And that's not the America I believe in.
Fortunately, I think most other people don't believe in that America either. The trick is getting them out and voting. So I'm still volunteering to get the vote out. I'm spending all day tomorrow (polls are open for 12 hours here) knocking on doors and trying to get people in my neighborhood to the polls. And I'm so intimidated by the enormity of that task, I get panicky just thinking about it. (Panicky? I am freaked right the fuck out, make no mistake.) But it's either do this, or make the choice not to. And quite honestly, while I'm running around trying to drag people to the polls, I'm know I'm going to be feeling like I'm not reaching enough people. And if--God forbid--things don't work out tomorrow, I'm still going to feel awful, no matter how much of my all I give.
So, if I'm going to do this, than at least everyone reading this can get out and vote. Vote for Kerry, vote for Bush, whatever (but mostly, vote for Kerry, obviously), but let's make sure that America makes this decision, not just some of it.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
A few quotes from the king of the one-liners:
· I was so poor growing up...If I wasn't born a boy....I'd have nothing to play with.
· A girl phoned me the other day and said .... "Come on over, there's nobody home." I went over. Nobody was home.
· During sex, my girlfriend always wants to talk to me. Just the other night she called me from a hotel.
· One day as I came home early from work ..... I saw a guy jogging naked. I said to the guy .... "Hey buddy, why are you doing that?" He said, "Because you came home early."
· Its been a rough day. I got up this morning .... put on a shirt and a button fell off. I picked up my briefcase, and the handle came off. I'm afraid to go to the bathroom.
· I was such an ugly kid........When I played in the sandbox the cat kept covering me up.
· I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.
· I was such an ugly baby...My mother never breast fed me. She told me that she only liked me as a friend.
· I'm so ugly...My father carries around the picture of the kid who came with his wallet.
· When I was born .... the doctor came out to the waiting room and said to my father........ I'm very sorry....... We did everything we could......But he pulled through.
· I'm so ugly...My mother had morning sickness....... AFTER I was born.
· I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof.
· Once when I was lost..... I saw a policeman, and asked him to help me find my parents. I said to him . "Do you think we'll ever find them?" He said. "I don't know, kid . there are so many places they can hide."
· My wife made me join a bridge club. I jump off next Tuesday.
· I'm so ugly...I worked in a pet shop, and people kept asking how big I'd get.
· I went to see my doctor. "Doctor, every morning when I get up and look in the mirror... I feel like throwing up; What's wrong with me?" He said..."I don't know but your eyesight is perfect."
· I went to the doctor because I'd swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. My doctor told me to have a few drinks and get some rest.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
The jist of it was this: I haven't been posting regularly lately, because I allowed myself to be talked into volunteering to go door to door in my neighborhood, trying to get the vote out for John Kerry. This isn't something I'm comfortable with at all. In the past, I've mentioned how I hate to leave the house and how I hate to meet people. No exaggeration, no hyperbole. And now, I'm forcing myself to do just that. And it's not terribly easy for me to do. I mean, I seem to be managing it, but every day when I finish, I've got a bad case of the shakes, because this is so far out of my comfort zone.
But I can't not do it, either, because then I feel like I'm not doing enough to try to defeat the Criminal Bush. And if I deliberately don't do everything I can, and he wins, then I'll feel somewhat responsible. So the thought of not going out, not drumming up support for Kerry, or for anti-Bush, or whatever, is also pretty stressful.
So I've got these two stressors pulling at me, and it's really getting me edgy, depressed, and upset. And this has been pretty much my state for the past week, and will continue to be until after Tuesday. Plus, I have to choose between two landscapers: one with a much higher bid, who has trouble making it out for appointments, but who I feel more comfortable with, or one who has a lower bid but just got fined $1000 this past summer by the Nevada Contractors Licensing Board for, among other things, failure to comply in an investigation. Plus I just put down a big deposit on a Honda Civic Hybrid without even test-driving one (although I get to drive one this week, so we'll see). So, yeah. Stressed. And when I feel this way, I don't feel so much like writing.
So I'm going to stop now, and go read comic books.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
And it now appears that Fox won't even be showing the truncated second "season" of Tru Calling, a show I had really enjoyed. Screw 'em; I'm buying the DVDs of the first season, and of the also-canceled-too-soon Wonderfalls just to spite them. And I'm still not watching anything they're currently showing...
Monday, October 25, 2004
Sunday, October 24, 2004
And I seem to be suffering from a bit of writers block today, so that's all I'm going to write right now.
Friday, October 22, 2004
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Monday, October 11, 2004
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Friday, October 08, 2004
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
So, TV since last we spoke:
The premiere of Desperate Housewives was apparently a hit for ABC, which is nice, because I liked it. (Lost is also doing land-office business, which is cool, because it seemed like a dark horse.) I'll admit, at first, I wasn't sure if I'd be back for the second week of Housewives. It's a tongue-in-cheek soap opera about, well, housewives, and I like that it plays with the conventions of the genre. It's sharply written, well-acted, and has just the right edge. (As opposed to, say, The Mountain, which I sampled and turned off inside of twenty minutes because when it literally had two brothers coming to physical blows over something or other, it didn't have any sort of twinkle in its eye.) But I'm a 35-year old single guy, and about half an hour into it, I was questioning what my entry point into these characters' lives would be. By the end of the show, I had found it: there's a mystery storyline that I want to see unfold. (And the difference here between this and Veronica Mars is that it's better produced, and I like the characters. Although now that I know Veronica Mars is rerun on MTV, I'm going to give that a second look. I hate myself.)
I also watched the first episode of Boston Legal, the David E. Kelley lawyer show that replaces his The Practice on the schedule, spinning off several characters from that series including William Shatner, who I guess made guest-appearances towards the end. It was well-done enough, closer in tone to the more whimsical Ally McBeal than The Practice, but I won't be coming back. It's just so much like you'd expect a David E. Kelley lawyer show to be, it holds no real surprises. And I feel like I've seen that, and I don't feel like seeing it again right now. So, moving on.
Oh, this week's Jack & Bobby almost started to win me over a little bit. It was actually about religion, and caught me off guard with the revelation that before Bobby is elected President, he becomes a Reverend. The contemporary part of the episode was about his confronting his mother with the lack of religion in his life. Of course, the mother--one of the most complex characters ever seen on television, according to Science Fiction Weekly--as a liberal college professor, has the groundbreaking attitude that all organized religion is bad, and anyone who follows it is a brainwashed simpleton. However, before the end of the episode--and this is what makes this a truly groundbreaking series--she is confronted with the reality that individuals turn to religion for a variety of reasons, and take a variety of personal responses away from it. So she relents, and allows Bobby to start exploring religion for himself.
Now, I do give credit to the show for tackling an issue that is often ignored or treated with a one-note dismissal by most TV shows. But I still say that being only slightly better than the competition may win races, but it still makes you only slightly better than average.
Got a couple of magazines yesterday, including the new TV Guide, where they review Life as We Know It, the ABC high school drama whose title I couldn't remember the other day. In their review, they say ABC seems to be modeling itself on the WB. "Not the smart, sophisticated WB of Gilmore Girls and Felicity," they write, "but the smarmy, superficially slick WB of One Tree Hill."
Now, as I'm unashamed of admitting, I watch One Tree Hill and enjoy it. I also enjoy Gilmore Girls and Felicity. And lots of other shows the critics love (Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, The Wire, to name a few) and bunches the critics don't. And comments like these have got me thinking more seriously about why I watch what I watch. The superficial comment would be to say that people who watch shows considered good by whatever nominating body are smart people, and people who watch shows that smart people thing are stupid are stupid people, but I don't believe it's that simple. And I don't feel like going into it all right now (because I have to leave for work in, like, less than half an hour and have stuff do to before I go), but I still maintain that anyone who clings to the belief in simple objective categories like good and bad has a lot of growing up to do.
Monday, October 04, 2004
Sunday, October 03, 2004
I don't know; like I say, it's been a week, and it's really too soon to tell anything.
What I can tell you is this: I saw Shaun of the Dead today, and it was great. It's a romantic comedy with zombies from the folks who brought us the brilliant comedy, Spaced, now apparently airing on Trio in the US. I don't get Trio, but I had the UK DVDs of Spaced, so I was already a huge fan. (And now there's a new DVD set, same as the old one, only with a third disk full of special features. Bastards.)
Anyway, Shaun... Take note, defenders of Sky Captain: this is what you get when you make a movie with a story and characters. The comedy is great, because it's actually funny, but the story works because the characters are actual people with personalities and lives that you believe extend beyond the confines of this story. They have thoughts, emotions, and speak the way people not quoting lines from scripts they appear to have just read that morning speak. The situation they are in, as fantastic as it is, is played perfectly straight, and although the thing is a comedy, there's a genuine sense of threat. It's a movie about which people can say, "Yes, it's quite good," not, "Yes, well, all those things are true, but it's got really cool cast-iron giant robots and you can actually see the rivets on them!"
And, because I'm such a loser, here's the list of TV programs I seem to be settling into this season:
The Worst Week of My Life
And I'm having trouble with my browser, so I'm going to plug the links in later, when I can find them.
Jack & Bobby (for now)
And tonight, I'm going to sample Desperate Housewives
Tuesday (the big night):
NCIS (I'd stopped watching it last year, but now I seem to be back)
One Tree Hill
Clubhouse (I like the style and characters better than Veronica Mars, but the stories are dumber than Veronica Mars... I may end up watching neither)
Nip/Tuck (Season finale this week)
(Although there's an ABC teen dramedy starting this Thursday... )
Joan of Arcadia
Enterprise (Fuck you all; I like it better than Next Generation, and Alan Brennert joins the writing staff this year)
(And when they come back in January, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis)
Plus I recorded the pilot of a new BBC show about mountain rescues called Rockface that I may end up watching.
Plus, in the morning, Endurance, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, and The Batman
Saturday, October 02, 2004
My favorite part of the after-coverage, though (the morning after, actually), was this winning combo: seeing the Criminal Bush accusing John Kerry of sending "mexed missa... I mean mixed messages," and a White House press flack saying that the Criminal Bush clearly articulated... Well, actually, I stopped listening at that point, because the minute anyone talks about Bush clearly articulating anything, you know they're pretty much full of shit. I mean, this is a man who can't pronounce words and can't complete sentences. National policy aside, the teenager at the Burger King drive-thru near my house articulates more clearly than Bush.
It's saying this sort of stuff that gets the post office to "lose" packages, I'm convinced.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Tomorrow night, on Cartoon Network, be sure to catch the Scary Godmother Halloween Special, or whatever it's called. No real idea if it's good or not (although Neil Gaiman says it is in his journal), but the comics that it's based on are fantastic.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Monday, September 27, 2004
I hadn't seen any of the comments about the pictures of the cast of the Fantastic Four movie anywhere, so this article was an eye-opener. First, let me go on record saying that I'm okay with Jessica Alba playing whoever, with whatever hair color she wants. But when I read about comics creators whose work I enjoy, like John Byrne, saying, "Personal prejudice: Hispanic and Latino women with blond hair look like hookers to me, no matter how clean or 'cute' they are. Somehow those skin tones that look so good with dark, dark hair just don't work for me with lighter shades," I get steamed.
(According to the article, Big Fat Hairy Knowles, the big fat hairy guy who runs the way-too-popular movie-geek gossip site Ain't-It-Cool-News, also thinks Jessica Alba looks too "slutty," but I suspect this has more to do with the boy's personal sexual issues than anything. I should point out that I stopped reading his web site years ago, when he wrote a far-too-enthusiastic multi-page essay enthusing about Godzilla tie-in chocolate bars.)
Okay, I realize that we're dealing with (in Byrne's case) a fat middle-aged guy who has spend his entire career telling superhero stories and who lives in Connecticut, but that's still no excuse for this sort of unthinking racist crap. (And while I'm sure his defense would be that he's just judging the aesthetics of skin tone vs hair color, he's the one who brings terms like "hooker" and "clean" into the discussion.) From here, it appears his issue isn't with her hair color, it's with her race, and what's more irritating, it's presented with the same sort of unthinking, casual dismissiveness that produces comments like, "I've got nothing against gay people at all, but they have no right to get married."
People wonder how racisim can continue to flourish in today's ostensibly broder-minded, multicultural society. It's because people keep making excuses for it and pretend its not there, and when someone does call someone else on it, they get accused of being "overly PC." Please.
Anyway, John Byrne currently writes and draws a comic I enjoy from DC Comics, Doom Patrol. And in it, he has co-opted an ostensibly Hispanic member of the Justice League of America to be on the team. So I'm going to write a letter to DC Comics, telling them that I read this quote on his web site, and that it bothers me that a person with this attitude is writing a comic with a Hispanic character. I'm not going to drop the book, but I'm going to urge them to keep an eye on how he treats her and her culture--if at all--because now I'm not sure I trust him to do right by the character as an artist.
The season premiere of American Dreams was great, too. Why this show doesn't get more attention... I mean, is there even any point to hyping yet another CSI or Law & Order spin-off? Why not shine some light on something that isn't getting noticed? (Something besides Arrested Development, I mean? Although, to their credit, TV Guide did feature American Dreams on their family page this week.)
And Jack & Bobby remains solidly unremarkable. Next week, Desperate Housewives, a weird soap opera-sounding thing premieres on ABC, and it's in the same time slot as Jack & Bobby and The Wire on HBO. And, I swear, if I didn't know I could catch The Wire later in the week, Jack & Bobby would be the one to go.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Certainly, it was visually stunning. I'm glad I saw it on the big screen, and I'll almost certainly buy it on DVD, for the spectacle alone. It lovingly recreates the feel of the old serials it pays homage to, but with a grandeur that would have been impossible without modern technology. Jude Law makes a great classic hero, and Angelina Jolie is fantastic in her small role as a plucky one-eyed British pilot. And there are times Gwyneth Paltrow almost manages to make me believe that she read her script before they started shooting. Unfortunately, where the story let me down were in the areas of character and plot.
Ah, if someone had written this movie! Then it might have made more of an impression than it did, which was a bunch of spectacular set-pieces with very little holding them together. What I do remember from the film are great images, not things that Sky Captain actually did. I do remember that throughout most of the movie, he keeps repeating his two main goals, and those two goals end up pretty weakly resolved (one much more so than the other), only to be replaced by yet another one ten minutes before the end of the picture. There really isn't anything for me, as an audience member, to get emotionally invested in, so all that's left for me to do is go, "Giant cast-iron robots riveted together; cool. Flying aircraft carriers with giant propellors; cool." And that's what separates a decent movie from a great one.
A friend of mine excuses these twin flaws by saying that it's just an old movie serial, but I say that's crap. It's not an old movie serial; it's an adventure movie made and shown in 2004. It's not an old chapter play where you can skip from one episode to the next because there's a week in between to forget what happened, it's a single 100-minute story. An homage should celebrate what's best about its source material, not use it to excuse its flaws.
Having said that, rumor has it that "writer"/director Kerry Conran's next project may be the film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars. That, I'd love to see. Clearly the man has a keen visual sense; hook that up with a real story and you could have something that truly is great. Shame that Sky Captain isn't quite there yet.
Oh, and here's another thing that irritates me. Most of the reviews I've see of Sky Captain agree that it's visually beautiful, that the filmmaking technology is fascinating, shame about the story and characters, but that's almost forgivable. And that's exactly the same complaint people have about the recent Star Wars movies, but those get branded things like "Worst movie of the Millennium," (Film Threat magazine's comment about The Phantom Menace). So why is Kerry Conran granted forgiveness, but not George Lucas? Please.
Friday, September 24, 2004
As far as the job, it's okay. The commute is about an hour long, which is a pain. However, that's taking the 215, which goes around the city. I could take the more direct route along the freeways, but those are always clogged up with traffic, and would probably take just as long. More importantly, for my well-being, while the drive may be longer, I'm moving constantly at a faster speed, and that just feels less frustrating. The drive doesn't feel like an hour at all. A new car is a definite must, however. I've shifted my interest from a hybrid Accord to a hybrid Civic, just for the size. Need to get out to a Honda dealer and actually check them out. Since that would involved getting out of the house, I'm a bit wary, but it'll have to be done.
The new-to-me branch is nice. It's a more upscale neighborhood than West Las Vegas, and kids seem more likely to come in with their families and less likely to spend the entire day. I think I'll like it, but I'm still in that weird place where I'm out of my usual routine, so I don't have that comfort zone to fall into. And I don't feel like a part of this team yet. It's this weird mix of feeling like the new guy who has to prove himself mixed with the knowledge that I've spent the last few years proving I can do this job, just somewhere else. Hopefully, that'll fade with time.
As for TV, Wednesday saw the premieres of two new series: Lost on ABC, and Veronica Mars on UPN. (Veronica Mars reruns tonight, for the curious.) Lost is the new series cocreated and produced by Alias creator JJ Abrams, so I was particularly looking forward to it. If nothing else, it isn't a new cop show, a new lawyer show, or a new family drama. I read an interview with the other creator (whose name escapes me, even though he's apparently the main showrunner while Abrams goes off to produce Alias, another new pilot, and direct the next Mission: Impossible movie) where he said the starting point was to create Survivor: The Drama, and that's as good a description as any: about 50 people stranded on an island after a plane crash. Only what helps make the show work, at least for me, is it gets right down to business, without any of the usual TV moments you'd expect, like scenes of everyone sitting around the campfire telling who they are and where they came from.
And there's some weird giant creature roaming around the jungles of the island they're trapped on. So it's sort of Land of the Lost for grownups.
Veronica Mars, on the other hand, isn't quite for grownups, at least not in the same way. It's about a high school girl who helps her private eye dad solve crimes. Sort of like Nancy Drew, only called Veronica Mars instead. It's stylishly shot, but I completely failed to connect with it on so many levels. First, I was pretty put off by the voice-over narration. That can be a tricky thing, and here, it just felt overdone. I mean, she was saying something else, but what I heard was, "I may be a high school girl, but don't dismiss my show as a kiddie show, because I'm really much more mature because I'm jaded and cynical and world-weary and use lots and lots of big words, almost as if my narration were being written by Dean Koontz." The high school scenes felt completely different in tone from the rest of the show, in a very 90210 kind of way. And, ultimately, there was nothing particularly special about the show for me to connect to. I didn't feel particularly drawn to the character, because the narration irritated me. There is a continuing mystery story that had my attention, but the trouble with that sort of thing is it'll end eventually, and my interest will go with it. Or the series will be cancelled first, and I'll be unsatisfied.
Oh, and Paris Hilton guest-stars on the second episode, which is another turn-off.
Clubhouse, a family drama, premieres Sunday night before moving into its regular Tuesday night time slot, same time as One Tree Hill and Veronica Mars. So the determining factor as to whether I follow Veronica Mars or not will be whether I like Clubhouse better or not.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
First new episode of the new radio series is online for the next seven days. Go listen to it now. That is all.
Monday, September 20, 2004
Not to knock Jack & Bobby; it's certainly worth my time watching it. But with all the hype, it's very Emperor's New Clothes. Just another example of something being hailed as brilliant just because it's not crap.
As for shows that don't get enough attention that do stand out... Last night also saw the season premiere of HBO's The Wire. Now, I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not a big fan of The Sopranos or Six Feet Under, that I think they're overrated soap operas that also win acclaim by simply not being stupid. I'm also not a big fan of the characterless, soulless network TV crime procedural as represented by the CSI and Law & Order families. The Wire, however, is a show I can sink my teeth into. I don't care how arty the photography is, overblown melodrama is overblown melodrama, and that's what keeps me at arms' length from The Sopranos. The Wire keeps the drama at a human level, often telling more by not showing or telling things than by showing them. The crime investigations last a whole season, so it's not rushed or packed in like a network cop show. Why this one doesn't get more attention escapes me.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Notes from a Stargate SG-1 producer wherein he agrees that the trapped-in-a-virtual-reality-game episode from a few weeks back was a overused, hackneyed idea, and somehow fails to convince me that they managed to find a fresh take on it.
I suspect this is going to look as weird and unappealing to the average moviegoer as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But as someone who has been reading the Sin City comics from day one, I'm excited about a movie trying to hard to faithfully adapt their visual style. Not quite sure how it'll look when all is said and done, but I'll be there to watch.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew eew.
On last night's episode, the parents found drugs (catnip, because they're lions, get it?) in the house, and blamed their teenage daughter for being a nip-head, not believing her denials. Then, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, the parents accidentally ended up taking catnip themselves, acting high and immature just when their daughter--sober as a judge--was being interviewed for the gifted and talented program at her school. And it turns out that the catnip wasn't hers after all, but really belonged to the grandfather. Oh, my sides hurt from laughing so hard. Because, you see, while it may seem like a tired and hackneyed sitcom premise, the fact that the characters are cartoon lions, and the drug was catnip, not a real human drug, just makes it HI-larious.
So, I'm out.
(Having said that, the bits with Siegfried and Roy continue to be the best parts of the show, even more so knowing that they're done with the real characters' approval.)
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
You know, I really liked the first season of Tru Calling, and was looking forward to its return. Now it's pushed back to mid-season, with only 13 episodes ordered.
Screw 'em. I'm still only going to watch the shows I like, not the ones I'm "supposed" to watch. Shows live, shows die, and it's not my job to keep things I don't enjoy on the air, not when the ones I enjoy aren't getting the same attention. Take that, Arrested Development!
This is a movie trailer for something I know absolutely nothing about. Looks kind of neat, though. (It'll probably be crap once it's actually released, but... you know.)
The same company has done an adaptation of War of the Worlds that is apparently pretty faithful to the original novel. And I like Victorian science fiction, so I'd be curious about that, too...
Every now and then, I feel like I have no life. And then I find someone who has created a web page detailing--complete with screen captures--all the changes between the various versions of Star Wars. And suddenly, I feel like I lead a rich and fulfilling life.
I'm going to go read a comic book now.
So I watched it, and it wasn't all that bad. Not groundbreaking or anything, but pretty watchable. And it's not like by watching it, I'm supporting it over something better, because there's nothing else in that time slot I want to see. So I'll tune in next week.
I think part of the appeal for me is that as far as I'm concerned, airports are Hell on earth. So there is scope for all sorts of mishaps and conflict in that setting, because it's such a site of human misery. I think TV Guide claims it's an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Las Vegas, the show, but I can't watch Las Vegas, because even though it's supposed to be a glamorized fantasy, it's still the place I write on my return address, and the two just don't match up in my head. LAX is a fantasy, too, where an airport only hires the prettiest people, but at least it's a fantasy I'm not supposed to be living down the street from. And it's beautifully produced, and on the Bitchville* Scale, the writing wasn't too horrible.
And, of course, there's the appeal of Heather Locklear.
So, today, because I didn't really feel like working, I checked online for some LAX reviews, just to see what people were saying now that I'd had a chance to judge for myself. And it looks like the critics think the acting is okay, and the show is beautifully shot, but that it isn't a believably realistic depiction of an airport. And all I can say is, "Are you completely friggin' retarded?" No, it's not a realistic view of an airport, any more than The West Wing is a realistic portrait of the White House, or CSI is an accurate crime drama. (Because, you know, evidence techs interrogate suspects all the time...) Anyone who has spent any time at all in a hospital won't have failed to notice that it's a great deal slower paced than seen on ER, and yet nobody seems overly critical of that. So to base the complaints about LAX on this point... I swear, it's like the reviewers of America just don't give a shit about whether people like me have any respect for them. A fiction TV series taking liberties with reality? Imagine that! Next thing you know, you'll be telling me that Fahrenheit 9/11 is actually colored by Michael Moore's political beliefs, and may not present a completely objective picture of reality. Geez...
*The Bitchville Scale of bad dialogue comes from the Nick Nolte/Julia Roberts movie I Love Trouble. The film seems pretty clearly intended to be an homage to the sorts of snappy repartee found in movies like The Thin Man, The Front Page, and pretty much anything with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. However, the first serious misstep comes when you notice that the romantic, charming male lead is actually played by Nick Nolte, who more closely resembles a sack of drunken potatoes shoved into a suit. The second misstep comes when the writers fail to realize that having Nolte's character react to Julia Roberts' frosty attitude towards him with witty bon mots like, "Where are you from? Bitchville?" is neither witty nor charming, and is, in fact heavy-handed and irritating. On the Bitchville scale, LAX doesn't necessarily come across like Shakespeare, but it holds its own just fine.
Monday, September 13, 2004
The second episode of Medical Investigation--airing in the series' regular Friday timeslot--felt much more like a pilot than the "preview" episode on Thursday night. Part of my thinking is this: Anna Belknap's hair was shorter (which won't really mean anything until I see how she looks next Friday, but in the preview episode, it was the length seen in her promo photo). The slightly less gay reason is that Friday's episode was writen completely by the series creator, while Thursday's was co-written by him and someone else. Thursday's episode also seemed to have more complete production credits at the beginning, whereas the average pilot doesn't have that big a staff. And, aesthetically, the Thursday show seemed a little more polished, a little zippier. It seems clear that after the pilot was produced, someone probably had a note along the lines of, "Could it look more like CSI?" Friday's show was paced and shot more like a medical drama. However, I'm still more inclined to watch this show than CSI for the reasons I said earlier: there seems to be more at stake on this show than on CSI. These characters are working to save people's lives; the CSI characters come in after the lives have already been lost.
And I'm just going to say this about Friday's Stargate Atlantis: At this point, I think I'd vote for any candidate who supported a constitutional ammendment to ban bullshit virtual-reality storylines from all Stargate TV series.
Saturday brought with it the premiere of The Batman, the new animated series about... (figure it out). Now, ten years ago, Warner Bros Television created a groundbreaking animated Batman series that pretty much redefined superhero cartoons. This, by its very nature, was likely to come up short, and most of the reviews I've read seem to take it to task for not being that series from ten years ago. I'll admit, I thought it had its weak moments. The conceit here is that this is a Batman just three years into his career, still learning. In this week's episode, he meets the Joker for the first time. But it's not really the Joker I'm familiar with from the comics. What makes the Batman/Joker matchups sparkle is the mental combat, because the Joker is crazy. Here, it's altogether too physical, and it just doesn't feel quite right. I mean, Batman can get in a punch-up with any villain, he can beat the crap out of any villain. Fighting the Joker is all about figuring out his lunatic mindset, and there just isn't any of that here.
Having said that, I did find a lot to like about the show. I like most of the designs and the animation. And I liked the multicultural cast (Hispanic police chief, African American and Asian detectives). And, to be honest, it's Batman. It takes a lot for me to be critical here. (Remember my raves about Birds of Prey back when it was on? I stand by them, but even then, I admitted that I wasn't necessarily seeing things clearly.)
Last night, I watched the series premiere of Jack & Bobby, which has been touted as one of the must-see new dramas. For something that was supposed to be all that and a bag of chips, I thought it was just okay. It's kind of The West Wing meets Smallville; we meet a young kid as a teenager, we know he's going to grow up to be President of the United States, so the fun part is watching him get from here to there. The characters felt real, the show looked just fine, and I'll definitely be back next week. I think I was expecting something unbelievable, based on the hype, and whatever I got couldn't live up to those expectations.
This week, I also got a ton of TV shows on DVD. Specifically Alias Season 3, American Dreams Season 1, Everwood Season 1, Angel Season 4, and the complete Keen Eddie. Now, longtime readers of this journal (both of you) have probably heard me wax enthusiastic about Alias, Keen Eddie, and Angel, so those should come as no surprise. Everwood was sort of an impulse purchase. I've just started watching the show on The WB, and I'm enjoying the heck out of it. Amazon.com discounts DVD sets pretty heavily before they come out, so I thought I'd get it while it was on sale. I watched the first four episodes so far, and I'm glad I got it.
And then there's American Dreams, which continues to be a personal favorite. So far, I've only watched the first episode three times (each time with a different commentary track; haven't even watched it with the regular soundtrack yet), but I completely remember how it won me over right from the start. It's a family show, but not like any other family show currently on the air. The creator/producer Jonathan Prince talks about the fast-paced editing style, and says they deliberately decided to shoot a family show like a cop show. The show allows characters to be mean and unlikeable at times, and still human. I was surprised to learn that Executive Producer Dick Clark had urged the producers to make the show harder-edged, but that hard edge is what gives the show its reality. The show returns for its third season in a couple of weeks, and I've got plenty of DVDs in the meantime, so expect to hear more.
Oh, and American Dreams is the show responsible for my not renewing my subscription to Entertainment Weakly. They criticized the show because the father, Jack Pryor, wouldn't let his daughter walk home with an African American kid, but would go into business in an African American neighborhood and let his African American employee run the store. Because, of course, racism is just this monolithic behavior, and there are no shades of gray or complexity. People are either one way or another, at least according to EW. This, from the same magazine that had problems with October Sky, the movie about an Appalachian boy who grows up to be a NASA rocket scientist, based on Homer Hickam's autobiography, because they thought the character in the movie felt too cosmopolitan to be from an Appalachian coal town.
As for Alias, I've only gotten through the first episode of the season, plus the bonus animated cartoon (titled, imaginatively, "Animated Alias"). The animation looked familiar, and it turns out it was done by Noodlesoup, the same guys who do The Venture Brothers on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. It's slight, and just sort of expands on stuff seen in an episode of the show rather than adding anything new, but it's cute, and it's new Alias than I haven't seen before, not in any form.
Apparently, the DVD release of the third season of 24 includes ten minutes of direct-to-DVD footage introducing characters from the upcoming fourth season. So hopefully, this will only be the beginning of DVD producers coming up with unique added-value features for their sets of TV shows on DVD. (As opposed, say, to the upcoming set of Buck Rogers DVDs, which have no special features, just the episodes, and are way expensive. Not planning on getting them...)
Speaking of DVDs, it has apparently been announced that George Lucas is making still more changes to the upcoming DVD release of the original Star Wars trilogy of movies. And, predictably, fans are outraged, in a manner that suggests that this is somehow important. Me, I can see both sides. On the one hand, I understand the desire of an artist to keep refining a work until it most closely matches his original vision. And the original movies were produced under financial and technological constraints that no longer apply, so if George Lucas wants to use his money and contemporary technology to make them look the way he wants them to look, that's his right. They're his movies (even if he didn't direct two of them, by all accounts, they're still pretty much his vision). On the other hand, I can understand the fan point of view that says, "I fell in love with the movie I saw in 1977; I want to see exactly the same movie on DVD." But at the end of the day, I say this:
If you're over 18 and concerned about this, you'd better be registered to vote, and you'd better do so in November's election. Because if your passion, your drive, your firmly-held beliefs are all directed to whichever blinking version of Star Wars you get on DVD, then grow up.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Tired, and a little depressed. More tomorrow.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Not actually familiar with this author, but if you go to his web site, you can sign up for a free serialized horror e-novel, starting September 14. I've always thought the best way for authors to publicize themselves is to let people sample their work, so I'm a sucker for these sorts of free e-serials. (Douglas Clegg does the same thing every year.)
You're Love in the Time of Cholera!
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Like Odysseus in a work of Homer, you demonstrate undying loyalty by
sleeping with as many people as you possibly can. But in your heart you never give
consent! This creates a strange quandary of what love really means to you. On the
one hand, you've loved the same person your whole life, but on the other, your actions
barely speak to this fact. Whatever you do, stick to bottled water. The other stuff
could get you killed.
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Saturday, KidsWB premieres the new Batman cartoon, called The Batman. I don't think I need to say any more about that.
And Sunday, we get the first episode of Jack & Bobby, the first new fall series to premiere with some actual positive buzz surrounding it. Produced by West Wing director/producer Thomas Schlamme (the man who made the show look better than everything else on TV, until he quit two seasons ago), the producer of Everwood (which I've recently started watching), and co-created by novelist Brad Meltzer, this one sounds like it could be interesting. On the surface, it may be a typical WB kids/teens drama, but with the additional hook that one of the two brothers will grow up to be president. This sense of destiny is what may separate this show from the pack. We'll see.
So I'm not the only one who isn't hooked by the current style of sitcoms. I feel somewhat vindicated. (Thanks, Steve, for the link.)
Saturday, September 04, 2004
Funnily enough, this was a tragicomic subplot in recent episodes of Rescue Me, with Tommy Gavin dating a woman for over a month without knowing her name, only to have the truth come out when he has to introduce her to his ex-wife. But here, it's just bad storytelling. It makes the assumption that the viewer already knows who the Question is, so they don't need to waste time with little things like names or anything. The problem I have is, by making that assumption, by believing that their viewers are familiar with each and every DC Comics hero and villain, the producers don't come across like they're taking the opportunity to introduce all these heroes to a new audience. Instead, they're making a show for trainspotting nerds. And that's just careless TV.
Friday, September 03, 2004
So we should get the test results back next week, and I'll send them off to the pet insurance company, and hopefully she'll qualify. If not, well, at least we tried.
Watched this week's episode of Amish in the City last night. After a promising start, it's slid pretty much into a predictable city kids vs Amish kids show, with the city kids coming off pretty shallow and vapid. (Hard to say how much of this is editing and how much is real, but when you see Ariel, the "sophisticated" vegan city kid espousing her theories about the extraterrestrial origins of cows... Well, editing cuts stuff out or changes the emphasis, but it doesn't insert nonsense like that.) Wisely, this week, the producers turned some of the focus back onto the Amish kids' decision whether to become Amish or not. A little more interesting than the petty squabbles among the city kids, who all seem like they're playing at being grown-ups.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Last night's episode of The Amazing Race ended up living up to its name. For once, teams were changing position constantly. More and more mistakes were being made, by teams that ordinarily knew better. The twins, last place in last week's non-elimination round, starting this week peniless, managed to keep things together to come in fourth. Lucky pretty couple Colin and Christie came in first, but Chip & Kim (the married parents) talked about their strategy to feed Colin's ego to the point of self-destruction. Sounds like a workable plan. And this week, Christian models Brandon and Nikki came in last, but it was another non-elimination round. They're still in the game, but they're starting the next leg penniless in Calcutta, India. We'll see how they make out begging for money.
And now that I've given everything away, I still recommend checking out this week's episode when it reruns on Saturday, if you can.
I also watched the premiere of Father of the Pride, the CGI sitcom about the lions in Siegfried & Roy's magic show. Advance reviews had painted this as a real loser, but I thought it was okay. The animation was nice, better than usual for TV CGI. The writing is just okay, but entertaining enough that I kept watching.
I don't know; I'm funny about TV comedies these days. I'm not so interested in the cutting edge ones everyone is buzzing about. I tried watching Arrested Development, honestly, I did. I get that it's well-made, I get that it's funny, but it did nothing for me. Curb Your Enthusiasm wore thin, too. Again, I appreciate its quality, I just don't feel like watching it. And what do I end up watching? Crap like What I Like About You or 8 Simple Rules. Or British stuff like Coupling or The Office. There's just something about those shows that I find more compelling. Maybe it's just that the characters are more likeable, and that's what I'm more into right now or something. I don't know. But I guess Father of the Pride falls into that sort of category for me, whatever the hell that category might be.
The best comic I can remember reading in a long while is the first issue of WE3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. There's a detailed interview with Grant Morrison about it on Newsarama which gives a better idea of what the series is about than I could here. (It's easy to say it's the science fiction version of the Incredible Journey, with robot power suits, but that's a good enough starting point...) Even if you're not interested in the comic, he talks a lot about animal rights activism, animal communication, and other stuff. And really, it's a fantastic comic, and it's only going to be three issues, so check it out, too.
Meanwhile, Penelope's veterinary experiences continue. She appears to be healthy, but because her most recent T4 levels were in the "gray area," whatever that means, the pet insurance company wants another T4 test run before they'll sell me insurance for her. (Did I mention in an earlier entry that I've decided to buy health insurance for her?) Which is fine, if you're looking at it from my point of view, which is this: I take Penelope to the vet on an empty stomach, they draw some blood, and I bring her back home. But I can't explain that to her. So for her, the experience is probably something like this:
Thursday night, food gone. Friday morning, hear doors closing upstairs. Man in garage, comes with bad purple box. Run, hide, doors shut, no hide-place. Man bad-hold, push hard into bad purple box. Box shake. Bad-smell metal place, bad noise. Moving without moving. Bouncing, shaking. New bad-smell place. Other cats, other dogs smell. Dogs barking. Hide in box. Man bad-hold, pull hard out of box. Stranger, woman, bad-smell, new room, sharp, pointy thing touching me fuck Fuck FUCK!
And all I can do is take her back home again and hide the carrier box so she doesn't think we're going out again. Breaks my heart that I can't explain it to her.