Saturday, February 28, 2009

Richter Manuever

When Conan O'Brien takes over The Tonight Show, sidekick Andy Richter will be back as the announcer. Moving an hour earlier is definitely a step up for Conan, but isn't this a comedown for Richter, who starred in two prime time sitcoms after leaving Conan? Or is he just happy to have a regular job?

My Regards

I must be misreading this, but Mayor Bloomberg seems to be saying he's going to ease traffic in New York by turning two of its busiest intersections into pedestrian plazas. This is another reason why I try to avoid driving in NYC.

Wishing Everything Could Be The Same

We can't let today pass without noting it's Cindy Wilson's birthday. She's my favorite member of The B-52's, and I think her strongest performance is on the great new wave torch song "Give Me Back My Man." It's amazing how much emotion she's able to invest in what are almost nonsense lyrics.

This is an early promotional video, and you'll note the band, as well as Cindy's wig, is fairly restrained.



If there's trouble with the audio, you might try this:

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dumbing Down

Big fan of 30 Rock (minor spoilage alert here) and thoroughly enjoyed last night's episode about Tracy Jordan creating financial havoc (Larry King just doesn't care any more) and Liz Lemon's foray into the nastier parts of Queens ( I think thats what they said- Queens Guy?) to retrieve her cell phone.

My one quibble was the need they felt to explain what I thought was a pretty funny bit. Liz is trying to entice Kenneth to come with her into a bad neighborhood with a made-up story about a recording of her dead grandmother's German lullaby on the missing cell phone. When Kenneth asks her to sing it, she mutters a few bits in German which sounded vaguely familiar. Took me a few seconds to realize it was the early MTV "nuclear war can give you such a headache" classic, Nena's "99 Luftballons". This was a nice joke and I laughed heartily and the scene moved on.

Then a couple scenes later, they came back to the bit and proceeded to explain the reference in detail which sort of took away from it for me. (Although kudos to Kenneth's line about "...that song by the anti-balloon activists"). I know 30 Rock is in trouble because while it appeals to core group of critics, it hasn't attracted a big enough audience (LA GUY- is that true?) so they can't count on little insider jokes to save the day but the explanation took away from it. Obviously, I don't know the 1st thing about writing for TV but if they felt the need to let everyone in on it, there were other ways it could been handled more deftly.

I Can Haz Lust

Tom Maguire points us to George Will's latest column, "Prudes at Dinner, Gluttons in Bed":

Put down that cheeseburger and listen up: If food has become what sex was a generation ago -- the intimidatingly intelligent Mary Eberstadt says it has -- then a cheeseburger is akin to adultery, or worse. As eating has become highly charged with moral judgments, sex has become notably less so, and Eberstadt, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, thinks these trends involving two primal appetites are related.

In a Policy Review essay, "Is Food the New Sex?" -- it has a section titled "Broccoli, pornography, and Kant" -- she notes that for the first time ever, most people in advanced nations "are more or less free to have all the sex and food they want." One might think, she says, either that food and sex would both be pursued with an ardor heedless of consequences, or that both would be subjected to analogous codes constraining consumption. The opposite has happened -- mindful eating and mindless sex.

These days, I find my eating habits a lot spicier than my sex life so put me down as an immoral debauchee of young, tender, innocent, juicy cheeseburgers. Especially with bacon.

If that offends the Food Nazis, so be it.

No Way

I was thinking of noting Philip Jose Farmer's passing, but I see Jesse Walker beat me to the punch. I read Farmer's Riverworld series, and can say it was pretty mindbending stuff for a teenager.

I see Jesse also had a three-hour tribute to the Kinks. He's surprised he left out "Days." Of course, he knows he left out many of their big numbers. Let me try to make up for it.



Love how the drummer checks his watch a minute in.

Watch Out

The first mainstream reviews of Watchmen are out and the news isn't good. Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter give it a thumbs down, the latter really slamming it.

What I feared seems to be happening. The film is too devoted to the graphic novel, trying to recreate (while necessarily compressing) the experience. A movie has to be a movie, not a recreation of a comic. The reviews suggest the film will be of greatest interest to fans, which suggests to me it'll be the greatest disappointment to them.

Being Frank

This is from Mickey Kaus.

First he quotes Bill O'Reilly:

Frank Langella should win best actor. His performance as President Nixon in "Frost-Nixon" is simply off-the-chart brilliant. But Mr. Langella was [sic] humanized Nixon, so he will lose political points from some members of the very liberal academy. That means it's between Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn. With gay marriage being a big Hollywood issue, you do the math.

Kaus notes O'Reilly's prediction was correct, but then asks, quite simply (too simply):

Frank Langella?

I have no idea what this means. Is it strange to him that O'Reilly singles out Langella? Does he question Langella's nomination? Does he think it odd Langella be taken so seriously? Langella, repeating his Tony-winning role for the screen, does a magnificent job. He'd be nominated almost any year, and would likely win in quite a few.

Kaus?

Lost Thoughts

Lost SPOILERS galore.

I thought the latest Lost episode, "The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham," was one of the best of the season. Locke has always been my favorite character, and this was all Locke all the time. (Still, that doesn't mean every Locke-centric episode works--he's often best driving the story without being at the center). I did fear that since we would have almost no "present" time story, this episode would be frustrating, not moving the main story along. But it had plenty of drama and a fair amount of action as it filled in the backstory. (Some complain we already know what happened, but even though we know Locke contacted the Oceanic 6, we don't know how he did it.)

Lately, I've watched a few reruns of Lost from the first season and I was reminded of why I liked Locke in the first place--he was a seeker, sure, but also a badass who knew how to get things done. Since season 2 I've often wondered if the show isn't losing track of that Locke, since he's always being played, and sometimes comes across as pathetic. It's his character--even his father conned him, and it looks like Ben and Widmore want to use him, too. But every now and then, you want to see the guy in charge, rather than a lost soul, sad and confused. We got to see a bit of that guy in this episode--mostly on the Hyrda island with Lost newbies--and otherwise, at least he was the old seeker. Terry O'Quinn did a great job with both the power and the pain. Perhaps it's time for another Emmy.

The show didn't waste any time showing Locke reborn--it was pre-credits. But is this the same Locke? He arrived on the Island like Christian Shephard, who seems ghostlike (couldn't even help Locke up), so is Locke the same? But we did see Locke eat a mango. Is this a new Locke? (Same with Starbuck on BSG.) Guess we'll find out. I think he might be in trouble soon, since Walt seemed to foresee the people on the island going against him. (Does Ben have anything to do with that?)

Anyway, even as questions were being answered, motivations were very unclear. Both Widmore and Ben worked with Locke, but were they both manipulating him for their own purposes or for the good of the island? (This question is true for all the Losties--Desmond thinks they're just pawns in a game, and he may be right, though I'd have to think even then they'll rise above that station, or what's the point of the show? By the way, I was disappointed last week when Desmond gave Eloise Daniel's message. It should have been important, since Daniel made a big deal about it, and it sent Desmond on a quest, but Eloise acted like she already knew what she had to do.)

Widmore. What is he doing? For most of the show, he's been the bad guy. Now he saves Locke and gives him useful information. Is it possible he's on the side of good? Is he doing what's best for Locke? It's hard to believe he's not just another manipulator. We know too much about his past to think much of him. He was the ruthless soldier for the Others back in the 1950s who'd as soon cut off Juliet's hand as look at her. Did the appearance (and disappearance) of Locke change him? We know Alpert was following Locke from birth, but now it looks like Widmore has been following him a fairly long time as well. Did Alpert and Widmore discuss Locke, or are they working independently. And we know he's at odds with Ben, but what did happen to get him off the island?

What makes it hardest to accept Widmore as a good guy is his freighter mercenaries. He said they were there to capture Linus, but they had no compunction about killing anyone who got in their way, even Ben's adopted daughter, whom he apparently promised to leave alone. Would they have killed Locke, intentionally or by accident, or were they protecting him?

Widmore says a war is coming. (Jack planned a war in season 2 but nothing came of it.) I don't doubt him, though what sort of war, and what the sides are we don't know. He needs Locke one way or another (dead, perhaps), but we're not sure how. I get the feeling this war is what the show is ultimately about--it's presumably over the Island, but what would that mean? We know the Others will fight fanatically for the Island (is it because they're infected with Rousseau's "disease"), but is just the Island at stake, or a lot more.

(A couple notes: 1. When Widmore showed Locke the dossiers he'd compiled on the Oceanic 6, a photo of Sayid showed him working on a house. A bit later, when Locke showsd up, Sayid is working on the same house at the same level of completion. I'm happy Sayid is doing good work, but he should speed up a bit. 2. Widmore says he gave Locke the Jeremy Bentham alias as a joke, the same way Locke's parents had named him. This is a nod to the audience, but I think it's a bit too self-conscious, considering half the characters on this show are named after philosophers, authors and scientists--best to leave it alone.)

Then there's Benjamin Linus. He's a liar, a master manipulator, and a cold-blooded killer, but his motivations are even less clear than Widmore's. In the show's shocker, Ben chokes Locke to death. This sure seems to make him a bad guy, after a season or so of suggesting he might be in the right. Can his reputation be salvaged? Probably not, but there is a possibility Ben was doing (or believed he was doing) what the Island wanted, and what Locke needed. I doubt it--it now seems that he's a psycho who does what he has to do to stay in charge (the whole Locke bringing back the Oceanic 6 could have been part of Ben's master plan to get back to the Island while defeating Widmore)--but it's still possible. Now that Ben's killed Locke twice I wonder how he's going to talk his way out of this one. (From the way he said goodbye to Locke, I don't think he figured he'd see him alive again.)

The main question is why Ben killed Locke, after talking him out of suicide. I see four likely possibilities. 1) Ben knows Locke can't get back to the Island if he kills himself, but knows Locke has to die. 2) When he found out Jin was still alive, he knew he could get the Oceanic 6 back to the Island without Locke (or with Locke's corpse, which he needs). 3) When he hears the name Eloise Hawking, he doesn't want Locke to find her, since she's associated with Widmore (through Faraday) and once he makes contact, Locke will shut Ben out of the process. 4) (This is the one I think most likely) Ben lied to Locke when he said he knew Eloise--in fact, this was the information he was looking for, the connection that would get him back to the Island, and once he had that, he didn't need Locke any more, except as a corpse.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beta Indeed

Gmail was down for two and a half hours a few days ago. It didn't matter much here in the States, as it was the middle of the night. But in Europe, it hit during the workday. Companies who use Gmail accounts for their primary work addresses were incommunicado. Those who use Google's online apps for word processing and spreadsheets were equally SOL. Now Google has explained what happened. Basically a conflict between maintenance at one data center and testing new code at another. My first reaction was "what the hell are they doing testing code in a production environment?!?" Then I remembered that little "Beta" under the Gmail logo. (And that they probably needed to take a whole center offline for the testing.) Sure made this guy look pretty prescient, though.

The Eventual Argument

Sean Penn's Oscar speech got some attention. The part that struck me most was this:

...I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support.

Is anyone ever convinced by this sort of argument? That you believe in something now, but you won't in the future, so beat the rush and join our side? Or that your position will become embarrassing, so change it?

Beliefs don't have built-in expiration dates. People may change their minds, but if they believe something is right today, it usually because they believe it's always right.

The Thrill Is Gone

I don't particularly care about what Chris Matthews muttered before Bobby Jindal spoke on Tuesday. What I don't get is why he thinks his explanation makes it better.

Is This A Joke?

Another costume drama--but with aliens to spice things up. At least that's the plan for Pride And Predator.

I like Jane Austen and I like Predator, but can this work for a whole movie?

Ghost Of A Chance

I noticed Ghost was on, so I watched it. Don't think I'd seen it since it opened, and I wasn't that impressed then, so I figured I'd give it another shot.

The 1990 film was a surprise blockbuster. None of the leads--Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore or Whoopi Goldberg--were huge stars (a bunch of major names turned down their parts) and director Jerry Zucker was better known for Airplane!-type movies. But with a budget of only $22 million, it grossed over half a billion worldwide. So I figured there must be something that attracted so many.

What I saw was interesting. Not great, but interesting. The movie deftly combines four genres--thriller, supernatural tale, romance and comedy. The story, if you've forgotten, is about Sam and Molly. They're in love, but Sam is killed. He can now see what's happening but can't make his presence known. He finds Oda Mae Brown, a fraudulent medium, who can actually hear him. He uses her to contact Molly. Sam discoverrs a friend and business partner is behind his death. Molly gets involved and Sam has to save her.

As a thriller, it's passable, nothing special. But the supernatural element sets the plot apart. It helps that screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar, worked out a decent scheme to explain what ghosts can and can't do. As Sam learns more, he's able to do more to help Molly. (By the end, in fact, he's so powerful the story has to artificially weaken him to make it a fair fight.)

Ultimately, I think it's the romance that made this movie huge. It doesn't do much for me, but it brought in an awful lot of women. Before Sam's death, we have the iconic pottery scene, which retroactively made "Unchained Melody" one of the top oldies of all time.



Another big romantic moment is near the end, when Sam takes over Oda Mae's body so he can embrace Molly again.

Then there's the comedy, which is surprisingly good. Whoopi Goldberg deserved her Oscar. Oda Mae Brown is the most imaginative creation of the film, and I don't think it would work without her--the film would just be maudlin and morose.

Instead, Rubin and Zucker are able to take a good comic premise and run with it. Oda Mae has always pretended she can speak to the dead, and it turns out to be an unpleasant revelation when she finds out it's true. For much of the movie, Sam and Oda Mae are a comedy team--he speaks to her and she speaks to the world, which looks pretty odd to the world. If I had to recommend the film for anything, it would be for this aspect. In fact, when you get down to it, the central couple in the film are Sam and Oda Mae. Molly is a thankless roll--once Sam dies, all she does is look worried and cry a lot.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Inbetweenies

For all you Lost fans out there, let me recommend the Mobisodes, specially created 2 to 3 minute pieces that fill in the Lost mythology. They're not necessary to the basic plot, but they're fun and have useful background information. They're also helpful if you want to see more Michael or Arzt.

The Sound Of Money

Don't ask me why, but I was thinking about Veronica Lodge, the snooty girl in Archie Comics. Or more particularly, her voice. She's of the Riverdale Lodges, the richest family in town. So I was wondering, why did the Archie cartoons years ago feature Veronica with a ridiculous southern accent? (The video I've linked to features all five main characters--Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead. Betty and Reggie sort of make sense. Archie and Jughead are ridiculous. But Veronica is the most absurd of all.)

The newer Archie cartoons have a Veronica that's at least in the ballpark, but if they wanted to do it right, they'd try to make her sound like a modern Katharine Hepburn.

Not Out Of The Woods

The latest Heroes was considerably better than the last few. (Oddly, this review from TV Squad says "The good momentum established in the first three chapters of this volume were completely squashed as the action ground to a screeching halt in this episode.") "Cold Wars" had concentrated, relatively coherent, storytelling. It also set up an interesting future, where the three players at the top fighting the heroes are going in different directions.

We also got a lot of background information, which is what happens when Parkman goes into your mind. (However, when the squad closed in to pick him up, Parkman decided not to bend their minds so he could escape, which he successfully did last time he was in a jam.)

To no one's surprise, Daphne is alive. They would have played up her death scene otherwise. When Parkman points his gun at Noah and Noah responds the one you love is still alive, I (and millions of others) thought "didn't they do this scene last week on Lost?

Peter had a shot at Danko (whom the show is suggesting has secret reasons to hate people with powers--could it be he's one, too, or has he or someone he knows been hurt by them) but he either wimped out or Nathan convinced him not to. They don't want Peter to kill when not threatened, I guess--Peter's still the good guy, and it takes someone like Sylar to finish what Peter starts, as we've seen. Which reminds me, Peter landed hard on the car to stop Noah from getting away--hey Peter, that's not your car, maybe you can land on the ground.

They're trying to return to the excitement and momentum the show had at the start, and I wish them luck, but that doesn't mean everything from the first season should be copied. The episode ended with Parkman doing some clairvoyant-painting (how come he gets two special powers?). Knowing what the future looks like doesn't interest me--if anything, I find it oppressive that the show will be forced to make these moments happen. And apparently there'll be a big finale in D.C. instead of New York, where they had the showdown in season 1.

Ultimately, however, even "Cold Wars" was a step in the right direction, it's still not good enough. I'm no longer buying the characters or the situation, and if the show is to right itself, they'll have to do good work for a few episodes in a row.

Its Day Has Come

This is the week Ruby And The Romantics hit #1 with "Our Day Will Come." So why pass up a chance?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Let Winslet Win

I found Kate Winslet's Oscar, even her nomination, disappointing. Best Actress is often a weak category, but it felt like she won because it was her turn.

Apparently her strategy worked:

Pedro Isn't President

Andrew Breitbart says:

The movie stars and the powerful creative minds congratulating each other Sunday night wield a greater role in shaping the political landscape than Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid combined.

Hollywood is self-important enough without this sort of prattle. I admit the public is probably more fascinated with celebrities than politicians, but let's not pretend they have real power. Maybe they can bring an occasional issue in front of the public, and even persuade a few people here and there, but it's tangential to their main purpose, and it's nothing compared to the power of passing a law.

Culture Marker

I was watching some college basketball on TV and heard the band play an arrangement of "Pinball Wizard." Did Pete Townshend think this music would be performed at sporting events 40 years down the road? Did bandleaders 40 years ago figure they were the last stand against this kind of music, or did they want to adapt to stay "relevant"? And when will we hear punk and rap--has it already happened?

Critical Thinking

David Denby, a critic who rarely misses a chance to insert his politics into reviews, has this on the forgettable thriller The International:

The real-world bank story is about the banality of greed, not about murder ordered at the highest levels. For years, thousands of ordinary financial workers created, sliced up, and repackaged ridiculous investments, not in bursts of viciousness but as a careless exercise of avarice. No one, I imagine, will make a movie about that kind of banking, though I’d like to see Mel Brooks give it a try, complete with a male chorus, the Derivative Boys, dancing with a BlackBerry in one hand and shooting quarterly-statement airplanes into the audience with the other.

So that's the problem, greed and derivatives. Since Denby understands our economic failure so well (and it's all about what banks do, stop looking at the government), I wish he'd tip us off to the next financial innovation that will cause trouble, because if we regulate too heavily the wrong way, everyone will be poorer. Heck, even derivatives might still be useful in the long run--I'm waiting for Denby to let me know.

As for the greed that got us here, I assume Denby is referring to the multimillionaire bankers who dealt in the derivatives Denby doesn't like, not the multimillionaire bankers who worked elsewhere.

Right now magazines and newspapers are in trouble. Denby, as a writer for The New Yorker, is doing better than 99.99% of the people in his profession. I'm not saying that's due to avarice, but I'm sure he won't dare ask for a raise any time soon, and should probably return his last one, since that's the sort of thing that isn't helping.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sparky

I just finished Schulz And Peanuts, David Michaelis's biography of Charles Schulz.

Like most American growing up since World War II, I spent my childhood reading Peanuts--it was far and away my favorite comic. (I also played the title role in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown.) However, I knew next to nothing about the creator of the strip.

I had no idea he led such a sad life. He seemed to have put everything into the strip, which left little for his real life. He had trouble relating to others--one reason why his first marriage failed. What's most interesting about the book is it reprints strips that reflect what was going on in his life at the time. I wouldn't have guessed Lucy, Snoopy, Linus, Charlie Brown and the rest were so autobiographical.

Sometimes I wonder if we should learn about the lives of artists. Does it give us useful insight, or just burden us with unneeded information. What counts is what they leave behind. Perhaps they had to make some sacrifice to create, but as unpleasant as it might have been for them, should it matter to us any more than how much pain and sweat went into building a house or starting a business?

Slumming

As expected, Slumdog Millionaire dominated the Oscars. While a worthy film, I can't help but feel a number of the awards it got last night were part of a bandwagon effect, particular the Oscar it picked up for its undistinguished score.

Then there's Best Song. There wasn't much competition, but how can Hollywood give SM's "Jai Ho" the Oscar when it ignored this gem from 1965?

Of Tongue And Penn

I was less involved by this year's Oscars than ever before. Part of that might have been I wasn't in an Oscar pool, but even if I had been, there wasn't much to get excited about. Mostly predictable nominations and almost no unexpected winners.

Best Foreign Film--Japan's Departures--was a bit surprising, until you remember that Academy members can't vote on this category unless they've seen all the films.

The only true suspense was over Best Actor. Would it be Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke? Unfortunately, it was Penn. Otherwise, we might have gotten the most memorable acceptance speech in Oscar history, if Saturday's Spirit Awards were any indication.



PS Also disappointing was Jerry Lewis's lackluster acceptance speech. He must have been pretty tired.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pretty Savvy Readership

The NYTimes' reader polling correctly called 20 out of 24 Oscar races, and 20 out of 21 if you exclude the "short" categories. There were some clear favorites in a lot of races this year, but that's still mighty impressive, and better than the Times' guy did.

Coraline

I went and saw Coraline in 3D today and came away pretty impressed. First, I was surprised to discover that I had to pay $2 more to see it in 3D. There's only one theater in Vermont that offers it and I wasn't aware that it carried a premium price tag.

That said, the experience was very favorable. The glasses were more heavy-duty than the old ones (or the cardboard ones they gave out to watch the 3D commercials during the Super Bowl). There aren't very many "gotcha" moments in Coraline, where things seem to jump off the screen into your face or lap, but the overall effect was to add depth to the film, to make it seem fuller, more complete.

It didn't hurt that the production design and animation were drop-dead gorgeous. They must have made improvements in the stop-motion technique because the movements were much smoother and crisper than Henry Selick's earlier efforts (James and the Giant Peach & The Nightmare Before Christmas).

Add to that a wonderful story from Neil Gaiman and impressive vocal work, especially from Dakota Fanning, Keith David and Ian McShane and all in all, you have a movie well worth a couple of extra bucks. If you like animated stories with a dark sensibility, it's well worth a look. I wouldn't recommend it for younger kids (under 7 or 8, maybe), but older kids will enjoy it.

If the movie looks anywhere near this good on an HD television, it may very well qualify as my first Blu-Ray DVD purchase.

The First Month

In catching up on my Sunday morning reading, I came across this at VelociWorld:

One wonders if Barack Obama has a master plan to address his myriad concerns as he assays to transform America, or even if he has any plans at all. His approach thus far has been rather scattershot, what one generally calls not thought through. I find this lack of preparation shocking, especially in light of the fact his many supporters were rending their raiments during the transition period, and were lamenting the failure of George Bush to resign his office immediately so that the new Age of Reason could commence forthwith.

In other words, what we've seen so far from the Obama administration is what we should have expected: the flailings of a thoughtful, highly-educated man with lots of ideas about how government (and the world) should run but with no actual experience on how to implement any of them.

Yes, I know I'm being unfair. One month is nowhere near enough time to discover if any of his ideas will actually pan out. But when you consider the shoddy vetting of his appointees, his ham-fisted attempts at bi-partisanship and his trumpeting of an enormously expensive "stimulus" bill that no one has read or fully understands, you don't have to be a George Lucas character to say "I've got a bad feeling about this". So far, he's come across as the Man With The Big Plan who leaves the sorting out of the details to his minions.

And when your minions happen to be - to paraphrase Reggie Jackson - "born, but not yet convicted, liars", there is no confidence that anything good can come from this.

As a candidate, Obama was the political equivalent of the Chevy Volt: a bright, shining vision of government as a green, sustainable vehicle to usher us into the future.

As President, he's discovering (or will soon discover) that the Volt is an overly-hyped, overly-inflated, overly-priced piece of automotive vaporware developed by a bankrupt company with an obsolete business plan. It does not and will never exist as an affordable, mass-production product until someone figures out how to sell all the existing vehicles that continue to pile up in loading docks, parking lots and dealerships around the world.

Obama, who sees every problem as a Nail with government just the Hammer to address it, no doubt has a Big Plan for this. Let's hope that this one is a little more "thought through" than what we've seen so far.

By The Letter

Now when you start typing something into Google (yes, I'm linking Google--they could use the traffic) a pull-down menu appears of popular choices starting with that letter to help you out. So it's fun just to type in a letter, or two or three, and see what choices they give you.

For instance, just at random, I'm going to type in "p." I'm getting photobucket, paypal, pizza hut, pandora, pirate bay, people, party city, pottery barn, papa johns and people search. Now I'll try "pl." There's plenty of fish, playlist, playstation 3, planned parenthood, playhouse disney, play, planets, plane tickets, plaxico burress, and plies. I could do this all day.

Something To Root For

Here's an interesting article. Benjamin Button has the most Oscar nominations of any film this year. This usually makes a film a favorite for Best Picture, but most experts figure that's going to Slumdog Millionaire. In fact, though the film is technically quite accomplished, there's even a chance it won't win any awards, making it the biggest shutout in Oscar history.

Wrong Turn

After three great episodes, I thought Battlestar Galactica was back in the groove, and would hurtle toward the finale. That's why I was so confused that the latest episode, "Deadlock," didn't go in the direction I thought it would.

First, the Baltar subplot. I wasn't sure if it was necessary. There aren't that many hours left--you'd think everything would contribute to the overall arc. But in the end, with Baltar arguing his case to high command, and relating it to the human-Cylon conflict, perhaps it does tie in. Still, I don't get it. Why would anyone, much less Roslin and Adama (and soon after an attempted mutiny) give Baltar, whom they have little reason to trust, and his nutty cult huge weapons? If you need to keep the peace in Dogville so bad, use your own people, or others you know you can work with.

Speaking of which, where did this food problem come from? It must be new since it's causing trouble. If so, shouldn't the Admiral or someone have been on it?

And then there was the reappearance of In-Head Six. So does that mean she's just a manifestation of Baltar's psyche?

But let's get to the main story--the return of Ellen Tigh. What I figured would happen is a sense of wonder and amazement, followed by warm feelings of reunification, followed by further revelation. Anders was only getting started. Ellen now has her memory back, and her faculties. The previous episode was wonderful, as she confronted Cavil, her first "child," and they discussed higher Cylon issues. So when she returns to Galactica, after the shock (which should be considerable) wears off, they should be spellbound by her knowledge and insight.

Instead, in almost no time flat she returns to the petty alcoholic slattern we never liked in the first place. Hey, that was her life when she had false memories. I know she's still the same person inside, but having died, come back, and now knowing more about the past than anyone else alive, you think she'd be a bit different.

Furthermore, and this is a problem I've noted before, the security and management of Galactica is amazingly lax. Roslin and the Adamas have a lot on their minds, but the return of the fifth human/Cylon is pretty significant. While they might allow Ellen to meet with whomever she pleases (then again, they might not--they do immediately arrest Boomer who flew Ellen in), at the very least you figure they'd monitor everything she says and does. In fact, since they've known about the Final Five, they should have kept close tabs on all of them.

Instead, Ellen's given run of the ship, and she meets the rest of the Five, along with 6 and 8 (they're completely free, too), and what do they do? They start plotting, exactly what should have been feared. They try to figure if they should leave the fleet. Since Adama and Roslin now seem to accept (or are at least resigned to the fact) that they're working with the Cylons, this is a pretty big deal--especially since they still have Cylon violence to fear from Cavil et al. I should also add that the Five, whom you'd think might still identify a bit with humans (Tyrol is working heavily to save the ship with Cylon goo), and have heard Anders, the only one who knows anything, say they must remain with the fleet, are amazingly ready to fly the coop. And you figure Ellen, who knows better, would put a quick stop to it, but that's not how it goes.

What did I expect to happen? I don't know the particulars, but it should have been something like this: In a meeting closely monitored--perhaps attended--by Roslin and Adama, Tyrol, Tory and Saul (Anders can't make it--he was conveniently out this episode, till a miraculous recovery at the end so he's ready for next week) should have sat at the knee of Ellen, to hear her wondrous stories. And 6 and 8 should have been more amazed, treating her with awe--not unlike D'anna after her vision.

But instead of dealing with the grand sweep of things, Ellen inserts herself into a tawdry triangle, and even potentially screws up their mission just to mess with Saul and 6. She's even successful in killing 6's baby. (This seems odd, but I don't know enough about the delicate Cylon physiology to say it's wrong.)

PS What follows is for those interested in BG background, and it's all fan speculation.

Here's another version of BG's past, from Hercules at AICN:

Last week’s installment explained a lot.
As I understand it:
The planet Kobol birthed 12 human colonies and a 13th (Cylon) colony called Earth.
At first the Kobol Cylons couldn’t reproduce, so they invented the resurrection machine. Then they discovered how to reproduce and forgot about the resurrection machine.
Saul & Ellen, Galen & Tory and Sam all lived on Cylon Earth re-inventing resurrection technology -- until Cylon Earth was annihilated in a nuclear holocaust.
The five Cylons, resurrected post-catastrophe, traveled for 2,000 years at subluminal speed until they stumbled upon Cylon War I, being fought by the human descendants of Kobol and new Cylons “invented” only a few decades before by a billionaire scientist who looked just like Eric Stoltz.
The five 2,000-year-old humanoid Cylons somehow sat the Stoltz Cylons (which looked like 1978 Cylons) down and told them they’d give the Stoltz Cylons resurrection technology if they called off their war with the humans.
The five also created John Cavil, who was modeled after Ellen’s Cylon dad.
Cavil killed the five, then resurrected them with false memories. He kept the five’s identities secrets from the Leoben, D'Anna, Simon, Doral, Six and Sharon models.
Cavil made Saul Tigh believe he was a veteran of Cylon War I, and that Tigh’s father was a viper pilot and that Tigh’s grandfather was a presidential military advisor.
Cavil made Ellen Tigh believe she was a Picon refugee. He also boned her on New Caprica.
Cavil made Galen Tyrol believe his parents were a priest and an oracle. The first time we met Cavil, he was tormenting Tyrol with the idea of a godless universe, and the idea that Tyrol secretly suspects himself to be a sleeper Cylon.
Cavil made Sam Anders believe he was a Caprican pyramid player. He made Tory Foster believe she was a Caprican expert on political polling.
But wait a minute -- wasn’t the Temple of Five on the Algae Planet constructed 4,000 years ago? 400 years before the members of the 13 colonies fled Kobol?
And who or what has been keeping spare copies of Kara Thrace lying around?


And here's a sinister theory:

The Final Five are Cavil's puppets by BurnHollywood
Feb 20th, 200904:08:10 PM
A few weeks back I reached the mistaken conclusion that the Final Four had regained their memories on Earth and were quietly misleading and sabotaging the humans...wrong. They're more of Cavil's sleepers, same as the Significant Seven, but at a more subtle level. After all, why kill off the Final Five only to bring them back with fake memories?
I'm certain Tyrol has (unaware to himself...maybe he sleepwalks) damaged the Galactica in order to shoehorn Cylon technology onto the command ship itself. Note that Ellen Tigh is also dancing to his tune...anyone else think it was a bit of a "coincidence" that the Number Eight who assisted her escape was introduced by Cavil himself?

Finally, an extremely lengthy discussion attempting to answer a whole bunch of questions:

All your questions answered (except for a few). by Tai_Pan
Feb 20th, 200903:47:28 PM
Boy, you guys can't masturbate fast enough to the "FTL jumped the shark!!!111!!!oneone!!!1!!" comments, can you?
Here's what's going on in BSG. If anyone sees an inaccuracy or illogical assumption, please point it out.
The timeline of BSG is best explained in terms of creation of Cylons. There are 10 types (not referring to model) of Cylons revealed in BSG so far.
#1. Kobol Skinjob Cylons: created over 4,000 years ago by Kobol Humans (who were expelled from Kobol for creating them). The 13th tribe of Kobol. Later settled on Earth to create the second and third types of Cylons. All the Cylons who were expelled are dead.
#2. Earth Centurion Cylons: created by Skinjob Cylons living on Earth (probably NOT created by Ellen, Tigh, Tory, Anders, and Tyrol). It is unknown as to exactly WHEN they were created. All the Earth Centurion Cylons are Dead.
#3. The Final Five: Born *as* Skinjobs on Earth about 2000 years ago; Tigh, Tyrol, Tory, Anders, and Ellen. Resurrected after Earth's destruction. Traveled to Earth and helped Colonial Centurions (#5 type) create Colonial Skinjobs (#8 type Cylons- Cavil, Leoben, D'anna, Doral, Simon, Caprica Six, Daniel, Boomer/Athena). Killed by Cavil, who re-resurrected them, erased their memories and introduced them into the fleet. Of these Five, Ellen died, was re-re-resurected.
#4. Caprica Skinjob Cylons: Created by Daniel Greystone and his daughter Zoe about 50 years ago (Zoe's friend insists that the One True God gave Zoe the knowledge to create life). Created after Earth was destroyed, but before the Final Five arrived on Earth, and before the Colonial Centurions (#5). As far as we know, the only Caprican Cylon is Zoe-R, a replication of Zoe Graystone. As the series hasn't even aired yet, much less finished, there is much left to learn, and it may well be that other Caprican Cylons exist.
#5. Colonial Centurions: Created by Daniel Graystone (and possibly others)about 50 years ago. Not much is known about their origin. These Centurions roughly resembled Earth Centurions (#2), and presumably were the first *Cylons* to worship the One True God (though there were Capricans who worshipped a One True God. Also, Ellen says that belief in the One True God came from Centurions, but she may have been referring to Earth Centurions, or both Earth and Colonial Centurions). These models evolved into the current Centurions, Raiders, and Heavy Raiders most commonly seen in fights with Galactica, Pegasus, and their crews.
#6. THE Hybrid/The Old Hybrid: Origin and date of origin unknown. Likely created by Colonial Centurions, but may be another Daniel Graystone creation. Might be the One True God. Might be Daniel Graystone.
#7. Ship Hybrids: Created by Colonial Centurions after the creation of the Old Hybrid, but before Colonial Skinjobs (#8). Function as the brain of the ships. These cylons speak in jibberish that often proves prophetic.
#8. Colonial Skinjobs: Created about forty years ago by the Final Five for the Colonial Centurions. Cavil, Leoben, D'anna, Doral, Simon, Caprica Six, Daniel, and Boomer/Athena. Colonial Centurions as well as Cavil helped create Colonial Skinjobs, though what degree of influence they had in helping the Final Five in creating this type is uncertain. Of the Colonial Skinjobs, the "Daniel" model is presumably dead and destroyed (though this model might actually be a cylon version of Daniel Graystone, or possibly Starbuck, or Starbuck's father, or Zak Adama).
#9. Human/Colonial Skinjob Hybrid- Hera. Born of Helo (human) and Athena (Colonial Skinjob).
#10. Final Five/Colonial Skinjob Hybrid- Tigh and Caprica Six's unborn child.
Now for answers to questions:
Q: Is Admiral Adama/Lee/Starbuck the dying leader? A: No. None of these candidates 1) are suffering from a wasting disease or 2) saw a vision of serpents. Only Roslin qualifies as the dying leader.
Q: Why did Tigh age? Explanation: There's nothing to indicate that manipulating Tigh's age is impossible or even difficult. This is not a continuity error. At no point has it been said that any of the Cylons DON'T age. Cavil may simply have introduced a re-resurrected Tigh in his 20s-40s. Since the science behind creating Skinjobs has yet tobe explained, we must simply assume that manipulating age is possible.
Q: If they were so advanced, why didn't Earth have FTL technology? A: Why does Japan make better electronics and Finland makes better phones? Again, this is not a continuity error. Some cultures simply do better jobs at creating certain things. It may be that space travel was less important to Earth, who had no neighbors (unlike the 12 colonies, who had to travel through space to see each other). You don't expect superiority in EVERY field of acheivement to be held by a single culture in real life, so why are applying such a standard to the show?
Q: Why are the Colonial Centurions following Colonial Skinjobs? Remember last season? A six named Natalie, along with the Leobens and Sharons wanted to STOP Cavil from lobotomizing Raiders and inhibiting the thoughts of Centurions. Cavil mysteriously opposed this... NOW we realize that Cavil knew what happened to Earth Cylons and Earth Centurions. Cavil wanted to inhibit Centurions and Raiders because he did not want a repeat of Earth (or the 12 Colonies, for that matter).
Q: Aren't the Final Five actually humans who cloned themselves? A: No. The Final Five were BORN Cylon. Everyone on Earth was a Cylon. Earthlings are the descendants of the Cylons who were expelled from Kobol, also called the 13th tribe. Tigh, Ellen, Tory, Anders, and Tyrol were all BORN on Earth and were thus Cylons BEFORE they died, and were resurrected to look for the other 12 tribes.
Q: Were there any humans on Earth before it was destroyed? A: No. The first humans to set foot on Earth came from Galactica.
Q: Why did Ellen create the Earth Centurion Cylons? A: There is NO evidence to suggest that any of the Final FIve had anything to do with the creation of any Centurions.
Q: What's the deal with the timeline? Did the exodus from Kobol and the destruction of Earth happen at the same time? A: Yes. According to Tyrol's statement on the Algae Planet, the 13th tribe left 1,600-2,000 years BEFORE the other 12 colonies left. Why this happened is unclear. As such, around the time Earth was destroyed, the 12 colonies left Kobol. It may be that the gods, or perhaps the One True God, expelled the humans from Kobol BECAUSE Earth was destroyed. Zeus warned the humans not to return. The goddess Athena also committed suicide at this point in time. Alternately, it may be that the humans left Kobol and then returned, only to be booted out again. Alternately, it may be that returning to Kobol was PART of the Cycle that happens again and again (most recently when the 12 colonies led by Adama and Roslin left to find their new home).
Q: Was Adama's memory changed? Why did he see Tigh 20 years ago if Tigh was a Cylon? A: Adama DID NOT have his memory changed. Cavil introduced the Final FIve gradually. Tigh was reintroduced in a younger before shortly after the end of Cylon War 1 almost 40 years ago.
Q: How did the Final Five survive Earth's holocaust? A: They didn't. They died, and were resurrected on a spaceship were copies of them were waiting. When they awoke in the ship, they left Earth's system for the 12 colonies to warn them of disaster.
Q: Wait a sec. How is it that the Temple of Five/Hopes was created 4,000 years ago when the 13th tribe left 3600 years ago. A: There are 2 answers. First, the 3600 figure is for when the Pythian Prophecy was written, NOT necessarily when the 13th tribe left. It may be the 13th tribe left 4000 years ago, but was not recorded until Pythia 3600 years ago. Second answer: There is no definitive proof that the 13th tribe built the Temple of Five/Hopes.
Q: How did Cavil sneak the FF into society? A: Unknown. Here's some speculation: Cavil may have chosen to give Tigh a background involved with the Brenik BECAUSE there were so few survivors in that battle. Q: How did the 13th Tribe see the other tribes in Constellations. A: Take your pick: 1. It's metaphorical, like telling someone far away that you are both looking at the same sky. 2. The 13th tribe knew where the other tribes would go if they were ever to leave Kobol. Q: Who is Daniel? A: This is unknown, but some things can be said about Daniel. First, the exclusions: Daniel CANNOT be Baltar. Baltar has been told by Head 6 that he is not a Cylon. She may have lied, but even if she did, Baltar is known to Ellen and Anders, neither of whom mentioned Baltar being Daniel when they were questioned. Also, Cavil killed the #7 line out of jealousy, yet he could have killed Baltar immediately following the Caprica invasion when Baltar was a puppet figure (though he did suggest doing so at one point, there was no jealousy evident there, simply a desire to send a message to New Capricans about authority).
So who is Daniel? Ron Moore's Podcast said that Daniel would feature in Caprica. We already know that the Caprican Skinjobs creator (no, not Ellen or the FF. They came later.) is named Daniel Graystone, who took his daughter's technology of creating life (actually creating a perfect copy of a human personality/mind/soul) and applied it to organic bodies (Pre-FF Skinjob Cylons). This guy is most likely Daniel. We know that Ellen, Tigh, Anders, Tory, and Tyrol created Cylon copies of themselves. We know that Daniel Graystone created a copy of his daughter. Thus, it seems entirely plausible that a Cylon version of Daniel Greystone was created as #7, and was killed by Cavil.
Other legitimate possibilities: -Daniel is Starbuck's father. Evidence? Not much. Starbuck's father is an artist, as was Daniel.,p> -Daniel is Starbuck. Possible as Daniel's genetic soup was corrupted by Cavil Evidence? Starbuck is an artist. Starbuck has returned from the dead. Evidence to the contrary: No one knows how the hell Starbuck returned. If Starbuck IS Daniel, then she is probably a pawn of Cavil.
-Daniel is Starbuck AND is Daniel Graystone. If Graystone was #7, it is posible Kara is just a realignment of genes and chromosomes.
-Daniel is Starbuck's father AND Daniel Grasytone. Now it's just getting silly.
-Daniel is Zak Adama. Extremely unlikely. If this is so, then the only explanation is that someone swapped Zak Adama with Daniel at a VERY young age, fooling Admiral Adama and his wife.
-Daniel is simply Daniel. He is not a copy of anyone already mentioned or seen on this show or in the upcoming Caprica series, and is simply a throwaway character created to fill in a plothole/continuity error. Evidence: Ron Moore admits that there was a plot hole in the Cylon numbering. He states that he DID NOT want the show to turn into "who is the 13th Cylon?" Oops. Guess you gave your audience too much credit.
Now the REALLY TOUGH QUESTIONS (that are unanswered.
-Who is the One True God? Is it Daniel Graystone? The Old Hybrid? The jealous lord of kobol? Moreover, were there ever any Lords of Kobol, or are they lies as suggested by the Cylons? Which of the two theologies are correct, or rather which gods/God were malevolent and which were beneficent?
-Who or what is Starbuck? Was she always an oddity, or did it happen after her death? Is her father a Cylon, or perhaps the One True God?
-Who and what are the visions seen by Baltar, Caprica Six, Starbuck, and the Final Five? Are they angels, as suggested by Anders? Are they malevolent devils or Angels?
-Why did the Final Five awaken, and what does the music mean?
-What happened to Daniel Graystone, Zoe-R, and any other Caprica Skinjobs?
-What is the mystery of the Operahouse?
-Why is Hera so Special? Is it simply because she is a half-breed, or is there more to it than that? Why does she feature so heavily in th eoperahouse visions? Is the Tigh/Six baby similarly revered?
-Why did Doral want Lee to board the Galactica?
-Does Zak Adama return from the dead, and if so, how?
-Was "The Plan" to teach the Final Five a lesson in parenting?
-Why is Kara called the harbinger of death and the herald of the Apocalypse who will "lead them all to their end"? Was that a warning that Kara would lead them to the destroyed Earth, or does it mean that Kara's return will literally destroy everyone? Does this prophecy mean that Kara will end the Cycle (for good or for bad)?
-What is "the Promised Land" as foretold by the Old Hybrid, and why is it that he prophecies destruction AND reaching the promised land? Moreover, who or what is the Angel referred to when the Old Hybrid said that they would reach the Promised Land "gathered on the Wings of an Angel"?
My guess is that Starbuck was a diversion sent by some force to stop the fleet from reaching the promised land (not Earth). But who knows?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Warm Body

Roland Burris looks like he's in trouble. I can't get too excited about whether he lied or not since anyone chosen by Blago would be tainted.

The only real issue of interest is if he left would there be a special election or not. Otherwise, whoever is chosen will just be another seat filler, voting predictably until the next election.

Asimov Strikes Again

According to this article making the rounds, a recent military report suggests robot weapons may start making their own decisions and could even turn on their creators. Actually sounds kind of exciting. As long as they take it one step at a time and don't name it Skynet, I'm not too worried.

Good Sign

This is some of the best news I've heard in a while. Jackie Chan's latest is considered too violent for China. That's okay, Jackie, we can take it.

Another Reason To Watch

Jerry Lewis will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. It'll be interesting to see his speech. Some people are unhappy about this. My complaint is he deserves an Oscar for his artistry.



PS I was recently reading Jerry's Dean & Me, his reminiscence of his days with Dean Martin. It turns out Jerry hosted a Screen Actors Guild dinner for Hersholt a couple weeks before he died.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Call Me Whatever You Like, Just Don't Call Me Late...

Every time I turn on the TV, I see an ad for Burger King Burger Shots. So BK is getting into the world of sliders. That's understandable. In fact, the one thing I can't understand is why White Castle, home of the slider, has never moved out to California.

PS Let me just note some people object to any mini-burger being called a slider.

John McGlinn

Let's say goodbye to John McGlinn, the conductor/restorer who put together several recordings that gave us the full, original scores of some classic American musicals.

One of his projects was Annie Get Your Gun. He had nothing to do with the video below, but I thought I'd put it up anyway.

Living In The Past

I was in a convenience store and the clerk was reading Watchmen. We discussed it a bit. It made me wonder how big the opening weekend will be. I mean it's popular, but it's nowhere near as well known as superheroes like Batman or Superman or even Iron Man.

For a while it looked uncertain, but the movie version will be opening in two weeks. I read it about 20 years ago. The clear got me thinking maybe I should look at it again. I hear the film follows the comic closely. Will reading it ruin the story?

Rhapsody In Black And White

Manhattan (1979) is a good film, but not a great one (as Woody Allen might say). Coming after Annie Hall--let's ignore Interiors--it's a letdown.

One of the notable things about Manhattan is the photography. Woody wanted to show his town with a romantic glow, so he shot in black and white. He's done it a number of times since.

I've always felt this is an arty affectation. Not shooting a feature in color these days ("these days" being the last 40 years or so) draws attention to itself, and generally adds nothing. At least not to Allen's movies. (Maybe the only b&w film of his I feel may be justified is Stardust Memories, but that's full of other trickery). Manhattan has lovely camera work from Gordon Willis, but I bet it would have been just as magnificent in color.

PS Allen also loves to have characters walk out of frame so we get a view of nothing but the set for a while. I like long takes, but because they keep us involved, not because they distract.

PPS At the time, Mariel Hemingway was new and striking--plus she has a good crying scene--so she got the cast's one Oscar nomination. I think Diane Keaton does a better job with a funny but believable neurotic character, and very different from her Oscar-winning turn in Annie Hall.

PPPS The orchestral arrangements of Gershwin throughout the film are pretty muzak-y--surprising since Allen usually has better taste in musical selection.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Right On

Here's National Review Online's list of the 25 Best Conservative Movies of the last 25 years.

1. The Lives Of Others
2. The Incredibles
3. Metropolitan (featuring my friend Taylor Nichols)
4. Forrest Gump
5. 300
6. Groundhog Day
7. The Pursuit Of Happyness
8. Juno
9. Blast From The Past
10. Ghostbuster
11. The Lord Of The Rings (trilogy)
12. The Dark Knight
13. Braveheart
14. A Simple Plan
15. Red Dawn
16. Master And Commander
17. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe
18. The Edge
19. We Were Soldiers
20. Gattaca
21. Heartbreak Ridge
22. Brazil
23. United 93
24. Team America: World Police
25. Gran Torino

I gotta say, the whole idea of the list is pretty silly. The best part is reading the explanations to find out why they think these picks are conservative to begin with. There are some decent films on the list, but I think the overall message is to be a good conservative film, it doesn't have to be a good film.

New Line

While I'm looking forward to the movie adaptation of Watchmen, I don't like how they use the same font in their publicity as the comic book. It makes it feel old before it's out.

Prosecuting Jar Jar

Here's another thing I don't know what to make of--The People vs. George Lucas.



I feel about Lucas much the way I feel about Woody Allen. I don't like a lot of his recent work, but his early stuff was so wonderful he gets a lifetime pass.

Can We Talk?

Attorney General Eric Holder made some waves yesterday.

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder said at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. "Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial.

1) There's a pretty good argument we've got too much discussion of race in America--that it's been going on at high volumes for decades. Even Holder admits we talk about it a lot, but apparently it's never enough.

2) Perhaps the real problem is the quality of discussion. Maybe the trouble is a lot of people who say they want this discussion actually want to give a lecture.

3) One of the things that might be muting a serious discussion is, for want of a better term, political correctness, that stymies an open give and take.

4) My main point (feel free to ignore the others) is what's it his business? The long arm of the law may reach far, but, unless Holder has some plans I don't know about, this is a personal issue that the AG would be best to keep his nose out of.

PS He also said this:

We have made a lot of progress. The fact that we have an African-American attorney general, an African-American president, I think, is extremely significant.

Even if you agree with this point, it's a lot better if made by someone who isn't one of these two guys.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Knowing Things is Overrated

Darn!

Note: If, like Denver Guy, you haven't watched the series Firefly, you might want to skip this, since it contains a pretty funny spoiler of sorts.

One Out Of Three

The Last Starfighter (1984) was one of the many sci-fi films made in the wake of the successful Star Wars series. It's a passable film with a genial cast made up of young leads--Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart--and veteran support--Robert Preston and Dan O'Herlihy. I wouldn't regularly rewatch it, but it was on and I caught the last thirty minutes.

What got me (and this is similar to my posting on I, Robot a couple weeks ago) was a little moment. An alien is showing the lead, Guest, a photo of life back home. Except that what he holds can show thousands of photos. So the movie imagines a robot that can convince you it's a human and interstellar travel--both far beyond our capacities--but hey, I think we can manage that photo trick.

Doldrums

A few notes on the latest episode of Heroes, "Building 26."

1) The show is spinning its wheels. I hope with a new producer it starts moving again. Capturing HRG was a good start.

2) Ando and Hiro went to India for no good reason and had a mild adventure. At least they're coming right back to the action, and aren't stuck in feudal Japan.

3) I find Luke (the heating pad kid) pretty annoying. I was thrilled when Sylar left him behind. Less thrilled when Sylar picked him up again. (Speaking of Sylar, I'm still bothered he has the Cheerleader's healing ability. Didn't they spend a whole season trying to prevent that?)

4) Luke says Sylar is a serial killer, and to prove it, the first thing he notes is Sylar has a pattern. Believe it or not, I once had a big argument over this. I don't believe a serial killer is required to have a pattern--he just has to kill a series of people. (That a person might have a pattern wouldn't be surprising.) So I'm saddened to see Heroes come down on the wrong side of this debate.

5) Claire, on the outs with her dad again, has been tiresome for a while. She's a spoiled girl who thinks she can help people, though she never goes in with a plan. She's met a new young guy. The last one (a character no one liked) could fly. Not an original ability, but kind of interesting. This new one can breathe underwater. Pretty lame.

6) Claire's Aqualad is on the run so he has to hide. Claire has him living in her closet. I have a better place for him: the bottom of the lake.

7) As I've noted before, this show is not realistic. So whenever they have the urge to mention something from the real world to "deepen" the story, they should resist it. It made me cringe when Zeljko Ivanek (playing the guy in charge of rounding up people with powers) brought up the Patriot Act.

8) Nathan gets some pushback from Moira Kelly, who's playing head of Homeland Security (another real thing that shouldn't be mentioned). On behalf of the President, she's ready to shut down the operation because she doesn't believe these people exist. Pardon me? Shouldn't the Prez have looked into this before he okayed the project in the first place? We've had Zeljko and his men spend quite a while working on this, and they successfully rounded up a whole planeload of such people already. How can they not have evidence?

9) Tracy, their only prisoner, is chained up in a heated room. Seems unnecessarily rough, but fine, I'll accept it. Moira sees her, recognizes her from her former life as a political operative, and is outraged. The next time they meet, Tracy has escaped and is in a hallway, surrounded by guys with guns. What does she do? You figure she'd call to Moira for help, the one person who may have the power to get her out. (In fact, that's what Moira was there for--to shut the place down.) Instead, Tracy kills her hostage--the one thing that guarantees she'll be taken down immediately--and in doing so, convinces Moira the operation is necessary. Good to see the Heroes are thinking ahead as always.

Escapist Entertainment

Watching the last half hour of Shawshank Redemption (I rarely watch the stuff before), flaws in Andy Dufresne's escape plan become more apparent. (I've already written on Red's weakness at estimating distances.)

I realize it's a movie, and you simplify these things. For instance, it's probably very hard to knock out a guard and put on his uniform, but we accept this. For that matter, you can't have a guy spend half an hour looking for a parking spot before he robs a bank. Still, Andy's plan was not a cliche, it was the point of the movie.

First, I'll give them years and years of Andy digging just a bit every night. Never getting caught, even though in the final years he's got to go way in there and return without being detected once. And he's got to have a poster up for just as long without anyone ever discovering the massive hole behind it.

Finally, we come to the day Andy plans to escape. He's got to leave that night--he's left evidence behind and if he fails he might not get a second chance. So he crawls and crawls and gets to the end of the hole--only to find a large plumbing system. I have to assume the only way out is through the pipe, because there's no reason Andy would crawl through that nearly half mile of crap unless he had to. So his plan is to hit the pipe with a rock till he breaks through. He can't have practiced this, he has to guess it works. What if it doesn't? In my experiences pipes are usually harder than rocks.

Then he's got a convenient thunderstorm to cover up the rock clanking against the pipe. Seriously, even if he chose a day to escape when he heard there'd be a storm, he simply can't count on this happening. So what if there's no storm? Mightn't the loud sounds of his breaking the pipe be heard, and have guards searching for a guy they quickly discover is missing? (The storm does double duty--it cleans him off once he's out of the pipe. He might smell pretty bad otherwise.)

And finally, in the morning, he goes to a bunch of banks to withdraw money. This is maybe the most dangerous part of the plan. I'm assuming the banks aren't too far from the prison (he probably walks to them). And they probably don't open till 9. Remember now, he's not going to just one bank, he's going to a bunch. And each transaction requires he talk to a top employee, identify himself, and have them prepare the money for him. I'd guess it's gonna take a half hour per bank, but even if he does it in ten minutes, considering travel time, I can't imagine he's on the road out of town until at least noon. Now I don't know when Warden Norton discovers he's gone and finds the hole, but Andy has to know they'll find he's missing as early as they wake up the prisoners and count them--before 9?--and it won't take too long after that for them to realize how he escaped. Even if they don't find his hole, you'd have to figure they'd put out an APB fairly quickly. So now you've got Andy spending hours, openly and notoriously going from bank to bank, while all cops for miles around have been alerted. I don't deny a well-dressed man taking out tons of money in a bunch of banks may not be what they're looking for (though if the Warden were smart, he might have figured this out), but there's a lot of security around these places, and you'd figure they might be on the lookout at nearby areas once there's a spectacular jailbreak. A face the banks have never seen before (and the man who, like the escapee, is very tall) might draw attention.

So good work, Andy, you beat the odds.

PS Shawshank is now ranked the top film of all time at IMDB. This is absurd. It used to be second, and that was bad enough. In truth, it would be absurd for it to show up in a top 100 of all time list.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Say What?

On my weekly drive up I-95, I spent awhile behind a big truck with a sign containing the following message,"Just SAY NO to Cheap Freight" in colorful lettering and differing typescripts. IT was from OOIDA the independent trucker organization. I don't know the why's and wherefore's of their dispute- I assume truckers want to be paid more and those whose freight is getting hauled want to pay less and each side accuses the other of being unreasonable, unfair and worse- the website does not elaborate on this slogan, but that's not why I'm writing

Whatever the argument, it seems to me the message is really really wrong- who can be against cheap freight? This truck is blocking my progress on the highway and also advocating I pay more for the privilege? It would be like NEA saying "Say No to better teachers" or the hospital workers union saying "Say No to healthy babies." Talk about cutting your own throat with your own message.

This may have to do with the connotation of the word "Cheap" I think earlier it was pretty always a negative word meaning "crappy, therefore less expensive" (thinking of my mother's comments on my father's K-Mart purchases) while now its just a neutral word meaning less expensive and can even be a positive word implying efficiency ("Faster. Better. Cheaper.")

Note to OOIDA- maybe try "SAY NO to unsafe freight." Probably not any defensible but at least nobody's in favor of unsafety & you won't make the guy following your trucks on the road any angrier.

LAGuy tangentially adds: Here's some nostalgia for NEGuy--a minute of driving in Pittsburgh while listening to Devo.

Digital Wednesday

In Vermont, at least, all TV stations are going digital as of midnight tonight. Since I'm on cable, I don't think this is going to affect me at all. I know I'll get the signals but I'm reading something about having to "rescan your channels" and I'm not sure what that means. Will Comcast do that for me? Will I have to reset all the shows that I currently have set to DVR?

I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Linklater

Walking down my street the other day, I noticed a light was shining in what is usually a dark alley. As I got closer, I saw the whole place lit up, and mist all around. There was a crew setting up a shot, and even a couple of hot babes in short skirts waiting to go before a camera. TV, movie or commercial I can't say, but it is fun to live out here.

Get An Angle

Over the past few weeks, SNL has had a cold open featuring Obama and Biden, another with Pelosi and Reid, and another with a bunch of Republican representatives. So they've run the political gamut. But what they all had in common was they were lame. Bad premises and weak gags.

I don't kow if it's just bad luck, or they've been thrown for a loop by a new President. Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43 as popular SNL characters didn't happen overnight. As I've noted, they've already got Biden down. Here's hoping they figure out how to properly caricature Obama, and the rest then falls into place.

Tragedy Tomorrow

How cool is this? An actual video of Nathan Lane in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Of course, being a bootleg, it looks horrible. It's also illegal. Wonder if it will be taken down soon?



This is the famous opening song, "Comedy Tonight." It's also the number that saved the show. The original 1962 production wasn't previewing well. Director George Abbott hadn't liked Stephen Sondheim's original opening number, feeling it wasn't hummable, so it was replaced with "Love Is In The Air" (which Robin Williams and Christine Baranski sing in Birdcage--also starring Nathan Lane). Hummable, certainly, but wrong for the show.

Jerome Robbins, who saw Abbott as his mentor, was brought in to doctor the show. He declared it needed a new opening to introduce the evening properly. Sondheim wrote "Comedy Tonight," Robbins staged it with a lot of gags, and, with the audience prepared to see a raucous comedy, the rest of the musical played well from then on.

The version above is fun. I like the Medea bit, which could only be done with Broadway money. But it makes me wish, somehow, there was film of the original cast.

Oscar Picks

The Oscars are this Sunday. My choices--not my predictions--are in bold. I might add there wasn't much choice in a lot of categories. What's usually the strongest--Best Supporting Actor--is pretty weak this year.

BEST PICTURE
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

BEST ACTOR
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - The Reader

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

DIRECTOR
David Fincher
Ron Howard
Gus Van Sant
Stephen Daldry
Danny Boyle

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Courtney Hunt - Frozen River
Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky (though I'm not sure how you judge a Mike Leigh script)
Martin McDonagh - In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black - Milk
Andrew Stanton - WALL-E

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Eric Roth and Robin Swicord - Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Peter Morgan - Frost/Nixon
David Hare - The Reader
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire

ANIMATED
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
WALL-E

Monday, February 16, 2009

D Day

Tomorrow is the day that GM and Chrysler are to present to Congress their "plans" for how they are going to restructure their companies and become profitable. It should make for interesting theater, if nothing else. But does anyone really believe, short of a forced bankruptcy - which would facilitate their ability to close dealerships, kill some brands and make the UAW see reason - any of these restructuring plans will work?

With the car industry currently in a free-fall, you would think this might prompt some quick, decisive action from Congress.

Who am I kidding? My guess is they get a six-month extension.

Continental Divide

Years ago I recall reading essays from law professors who didn't approve of First Amendment "absolutism." They thought in general people should be allowed to say what they want, but if you make others feel bad, well--that's why we need speech codes. Some words are an assault that don't further debate and shouldn't be tolerated. And they could tell what those words were. One place they'd point to was Europe, which had no First Amendment, and so demonstrated it wasn't so bad to balance the value of the speech against its offensiveness.

I often wonder how these people feel today when they read things like Dutch politician Geert Wilders being denied entry into Britain because, due to his "hate speech" against a religion, he represents a security threat. They may say this isn't about free speech, but that's what it comes down to--and there are plenty examples of people in their own countries in Europe running afoul of hate speech laws for insulting religion. Is this the balance they were hoping for?

PS Here's an interesting piece from a British political official defending the ban. Note how artfully the authorities can divide the acceptable from the unnaceptable, as no doubt they would in America if allowed to.

Freedom of speech is our most precious freedom of all, because all the other freedoms depend on it. The decision to stop people from exercising this fundamental right must never be taken lightly. Neither should a decision to ban people from visiting this country. As a result, I have in the past defended people with some particularly odious views, such as the recent case of the Australian Holocaust denier Dr Frederick Toben.

In a civilised society, however, there has to be a dividing line between the right to freedom of speech and when it topples over into incitement to hatred and violence. In my opinion, Geert Wilders' revolting film Fitna crosses this line, as its shocking images of violence and emotional appeals to anti-Islamic feeling risk causing serious harm to others.

The key liberal principle was enunciated by John Stuart Mill in his essay "On Liberty", in which he stated that the only legitimate reason for coercing someone against their will was to prevent harm to others. It is precisely the prevention of harm to minorities that justifies the restrictions to Mr Wilders' freedom of speech.

I generally quote things to comment on them, but I think I'll let this stand alone.

And It Wasn't The Post Office

I was in a retail establishment--which one doesn't matter--and saw a sign stating "In order to serve you better, we ask for your undivided attention."

I've never seen anything like it. I suppose it's annoying when they're trying to sell you something and you're talking on your cell, but isn't the customer is always right? This place must offer awesome service that they can threaten their patrons so.

Brought To You By

Some people had trouble with recent "product placement" on 30 Rock. Last week's episode had Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek talking about how the McFlurry is the perfect dessert, and reuniting as lovers in a McDonalds.

I feel strongly about product placement. There's not enough. The world I live in has brand names everywhere, but on a TV show or movie we're suddenly in generic-land. Seems fake. It was great that Baldwin and Hayek were talking about a real product, not something made up for the show.

PS Product placement usually implies more than just putting a brand name in the shot. It means receiving consideration. I didn't think 30 Rock or NBC were paid for the McFlurry mentions (especially since there's an undercurrent of mockery), and Tina Fey agrees.

Skinjob Retcon

Massive spoilage ahead.

Following two episodes of action, Battlestar Galactica's latest, "No Exit," was a talkfest of baldfaced exposition. And I loved it. While fan reviews are mixed, I thought it was compelling. After being in the dark for so long, to get a flood of answers was wonderful. For that matter, the two characters who did so much spilling (because they just received the info, too), Ellen and Anders, were among my least favorites, but, since I think we can call them new-Ellen and new-Anders, they're now a lot more interesting.

Show creator Ronald D. Moore has admitted they made up a lot of things as they went along, and this show was their attempt to tie a lot of things together. I'm sure not everything fits perfectly, but at least they gave it a shot, and, as far as I can tell, it mostly makes sense. They even threw in some Einstein to explain time gaps. (On Robot Chicken's fourth season premiere, they had Moore on explaining how the show works--he throws darts at photos of the characters and whoever they land on is a Cylon.) One part I have trouble making sense of was this: did Cavil (who's become sort of a Lucifer character) intend all the final five to survive the nuclear holocaust, to teach them a lesson? If he did, how could he ensure they'd all make it this far? If he didn't, all of them surviving the human wipeout is highly unlikely.

And one thing I don't like too much is the idea it's happened before and will happen again. I don't mind things repeating a bit, historically speaking, but I want to see progress. Or to put it another way, after having invested years in watching a show, I like to believe I'm watching something special going on. Of the many things wrong with the Matrix sequels, one of the worst was finding out what's happened has already happened before--the reason you tell a story is because it's an important moment.

There are still plenty of things to find out--certainly enough to fill out the final episodes. (Ander conveniently wasn't allowed to finish his explication.) The biggest new development is there's yet another Cylon to reveal--#7, Daniel. Here are three likely candidates:

Starbuck -- She's had visions, and found her own dead body, so it figures she's a Cylon.

Baltar -- This would explain in-head Six, since the final five had visions as well.

Lee -- They've tried everything else with him, why not this? Combining the head human and the head Cylon would marry the two races together.

Right now I'm looking for an easy-to-read, reliable chronology of what has happened in BG's past. A lot of fans have attempted this, and here's one from an AICN talkback that I guess is as good as any. It's called "Why Are People So Dumb" by Crow3711--I did't change a word.

Seriously, I don't mean to be a troll/jerk intentionally, but really people. pay attention. This episode made a TON of things make sense. Including the entire timeline, which was something I was CONVINCED they could not possibly do, and they did. Whats with you people asking for clarity and help to figure it out? Do you not listen or are you just too stupid? I'm leaning towards stupid. Not beause I'm mean, but beause I'm realistic. If can't follow two charcters having an in-depth conversation and manage to keep up, you need to quit...life basically. Because you failed. I'm so sick of shit. You people spend YEARS asking for these episodes, where chracters sit down and have logical conversations, ask the RIGHT questions, and get the answers before commercial break, and now you complain you can't understand/keep up? You all FAIL. The 13th tribe broke from the other 12, and went to Earth to start their civilization. They reached a technological peak much before the Capricans/other colonies, and created Cylons (centaurion model) who they treated like shit, and revolted, but not before making the first 5 skin jobs. When they revolted, and destroyed Earth, the five, especially Ellen, were displeased with how things went down. They tried to race back to the other colonies to warm them about treating their Centaurions with respect, but they were too late. The war had started by the time they got there. They convinced the Centaurions to leave/stop (hence the 40 year break), and during that time Ellen guided them to try and become more compassionate. She created Cavill, then the rest. Cavill hated it, boxed Ellen and the rest, and then implanted them in human race, like Boomer (with fake memories etc) to teach them a lesson about being pathetically humanoid. Cavill then holocausted Caprica etc to show them how awful being human really is. He and Ellen literally explained this entire thing and it honestly was not that hard to follow, and not only that, but it really does make perfect sense. The 13th tribe were massively more advanced, and tried to warm their brothers in the other tribes about what would happen to them. I don't care how many of you retards say you still don't understand or find retarded plot holes that ou made up. THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED ON THIS SHOW THE LAST 4 YEARS. Get over it. Learn to pay attention. Fucking children, man.

Here's one that gives years:

Is This About Right? by Cartman86

I'm making up my own years by the way. But I hope you get the idea. Year 0 - The Tribes of Kobol create Hybrids (I assume they also made toaster Cylon style models as well) Year ~0 - The Hybrids (13th Tribe) seperate from the humans (The 12 colonies) and head for Earth Year 400 - Hybrids begin to reproduce and stop using resurrection. Year 900 - The Hybrids (13th Tribe) create their own Toaster style Cylons which rebel. Year 1000 - War between Earth Hybrids and Cylons. Year 1000 - The final five (Earth Hybirds) rediscover resurrection Year 1000 - Cylons destroy Hybrids along with the planet (Earth) Year 1000 - The final 5 leave Earth (by resurrection) for the 12 colonies to warn them about creating AI. Year 2000 - Located on the 12 Colonies Daniel Graystone creates toaster style Cylons. Year 2010 - 1st Cylon War. Toasters created by Graystone rebel Year 2010 - The final 5 arrive at the 12 colonies. They are too late as war has begun. Year 2011 - The final 5 give the Cylons the ability to become hybirds and resurrection tech in exchange for the war to stop. Year 2012 - Caval is among the first of the 8 humonoid models created by the Final 5. He becomes angry and boxes the 7 line (Daniel) among other things. Year 2012 - Caval boxes the final 5 in preperation for them to witness the evils of humanity many years later. Year 2012 - Colonal Tigh is unboxed with fake memories and put within the 12 colonies along with Ellen a little while later. Year 2013 - 1st Cylon War ends. Years 2020-2035 - Tyrol, Anders and Tory (maybe other Cylons like Boomer as well) are unboxed and placed within 12 colonies. Year 2050 - 2nd Cylon War begins. Battlestar Galactica the show as we know it takes place. The toaster Cylons (along with the now 7 models) return and whipe out the 12 colonies Years 2050-2055 - The rest of the show


I guess there's also the pre-history which is our history? In other words, humanity as we know it spreads out to the stars, only to have the 13th Tribe return to Earth. Or am I getting this wrong? In any case, they must have been way more advanced, since they spotted the other tribes one or two thousand years, and were still way ahead of them.

Fans are theorizing about every aspect of the show. Here's an example.

My thought: Skinjob cylons are humans (not just humanoid) by ElPaw

the 13 tribes were all human
Earth was a human colony (not a cylon colony like is thought after the first episode this season) Kobol never created skinjobs
Resurrection was re-invented by the human FF on Earth. (More on the "re"-invented in a bit...)
The first skinjobs were the final five downloaded into skinjob bodies after the holocaust on earth. Skinjob bodies are just human clones+resurrection tech
Meanwhile, Kobol invents toasters (skinjobs were not created by kobol before toasters). These toasters rebel and cause the holocaust
FF skinjobs go out accross the galaxy to warn the other colonies for 2000 years....
Over the course of 2000 years, the genetics of the human race changes, so now there is a slight difference (hexagonal/pentagonal blood something-or-other that baltar showed) between humans now and 2000 years ago
Colonials create toasters, these toasters rebel. Also they start wanting to create humanoid cylons
FF skinjobs come across the toasters, and in exchange for toaster-human truce, they will help them create skinjobs.
The new skinjobs #1-8 are created in the image of the FF skinjobs, so have the genetic differences. But essentially they are human (not humanoid) clones. Hence baltar sees the genetic blood differences.
Now when the fleet comes across earth and tests the bodies, they think Earth was a cylon colony, but in reality it was a human colony, just a snapshot of humanity 2000 years ago, with slight genetic differences.


What will happen? What has happened? We'll find out soon enough. But at least I think they're going in the right direction.

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