Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Infinite Jest update

I'm on page 221 of Infinite Jest. And if David Foster Wallace had not already committed suicide, I would now be fearful that David Foster Wallace was going to commit suicide.

Infinite Jest is not entirely a cry for help, but with so many characters intent on suicide, and with such deeply knowledgeable explorations of chronic depression, and with such detailed coverage of drugs, anti-depressive and otherwise, it most certainly is partly that.

It has recently come to light that Wallace was clinically depressed and on anti-depression meds for a good two decades. Reading this book, I am not at all surprised to hear that. It is still deeply sad and disappointing, but seriously, to anyone who has read this book, it can not be at all surprising.

That aside: awesome book so far!

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More on Paul Newman

My Five Favorite Paul Newman Performances

1. Cool Hand Luke
One of the greatest movies of all time, anchored by Newman's powerhouse tragicomic role as Luke, the hardcase with nothing to lose. But, as we all learned, sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.

2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The film that made Newman and Redford such an iconic duo, it's hard to believe they only ever made one other movie together.

3. Nobody's Fool
Cynical and romantic, bitter and sweet, funny and wise, this is Newman's last great film.

4. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
John Milius wrote and John Huston directed this often overlooked masterpiece, a savagely satirical take on frontier justice.

5. Harper
Newman gets hipped up as a cool cat P.I. investigating a very California mystery.

Top Three Paul Newman Films I Can't Believe I Haven't Seen Yet

1. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

2. The Hustler

3. Hud

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Monday, September 29, 2008

I can eat fifty hard-boiled eggs.

I have been completely without TV, internet, or even newspapers since Friday. And I just now discovered that Paul Newman died.

Son of a BITCH. That's what I get for leaving town!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Miss Me

Gone till Tuesday. Let's see if anyone notices.

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Fragment: Minute-by-minute at the 2008 Emmys Ceremony

For the sake of posterity, or something, here is the fragment of my Emmys recap that survived Blogger's massive fuck-up last night.

Hello and welcome to the most irrelevant and untimely "liveblogging" of any event ever! Or, as Richard Marcej suggests I call this recap of an event three days past, "TiVoblogging." Enjoy.

7:00 -- The show begins with a taped bit in which contemporary TV stars recite classic TV catchphrases. It's dreadful (except possibly for the bit with the two Baldwins -- Alec: "Mom always did like you best." William: "She also liked Daniel and Stephen better than you"). I open my first beer, despite the fact that I'm actually on lunch break from work right now. Hey, some traditions you don't fuck with.

Also, I realize my DVR, which is not technically a TiVo, doesn't have a timestamp on recordings like TiVo does, so I can't go strictly minute-by-minute as I prefer to do. Aside from noting the show's 7:00 start time, all my other gems will simply be bullet points. Sad.

--Oprah Winfrey opens the live ceremony. Her forehead is nearly as huge as her cleavage. She is tremendously aristocratic in her delivery, as well as self-congratulatory, both specifically of her own program (and its ability to influence book sales) and of TV in general. Why do people like her?

--She introduces the five (!) hosts for the evening, the five nominees for Outstanding Host for Reality or Reality Competition Programming: Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, and Ryan Seacrest. Ugh.

--Seacrest is instant death. Mandel, ad-libbing on the significance of the Emmys' nod to reality programming, is even worse, and Probst is visibly, amusingly, genuinely upset with him for interrupting. All the hosts wear matching suits and ties, even Klum (who is stunning), who towers above all four men. Only Probst is tieless, oddly.

--While Probst, Mandel, and Seacrest all try to hog the spotlight, talking over one another in obnoxious fashion, Bergeron and Klum appear to be equally mortified. They even appear to share a moment: just as the camera cuts away from the five-shot, I see Bergeron leaning in toward Klum, possibly to say, "Can you believe these pricks?" I imagine Klum might respond: "I am maybe the most attractive woman on the planet -- top five, easy. My beauty elevates me above this. There is no reason I should have to tolerate these hammy turds."

--They riff for an infinity on how they have nothing written. Bergeron now appears openly hostile, which is possibly an act, possibly not. The three hams finally exit, leaving Bergeron and Klum on damage control.

--William Shatner gets called up from the audience in one of the weirdest, most awkward staged bits ever: Bergeron and Shatner yank off Klum's suit, revealing a sparkly hot pants number underneath. I mean, I'm all for more skin from Heidi Klum, but this is creeping me out. Every single second of this ceremony thus far has been agonizingly awful.

--Tina Fey and Amy Poehler! Thank fucking god.

--Fey to a very pregnant Poehler: "When are you due?" Poehler: "How dare you! I've gained weight for a role."

--Supporting Actor in a Comedy goes to Jeremy Piven, again. Three in a row, Emmys? I mean, I like him, but come on. At least Rainn Wilson and Neil Patrick Harris were nominated; perhaps next year, when people begin realizing how done Entourage is, one of them will get the win they deserve.

--Piven rips on the hosts: "What if I just kept talking, for 12 minutes? That was the opening."

--Beer #2. Hey, at least I'm off work now.

--Bergeron and Seacrest are sitting in a replica of Seinfeld's cafe set. Perhaps they think if they pretend to be part of a great show, we will stop noticing how bad this show is. They are wrong.

--I still stand by my assertion that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is getting more lovely as she ages. Too bad the patter written for her here is so terrible. She presents Supporting Actress in a Comedy to Jean Smart, for Designing Women. Well, at least I imagine that's why she won, because it can't be for her weak-ass role on Samantha Who.

--Smart, on Samantha Who: "The most amazing, brilliant, hilarious cast in the world." Hyperbole at the Emmys? Never!

--People Smart thanks before her family: Christina Applegate, the cast, the producers, the writers, the executives at ABC, her show's cushy timeslot, her agency, her agent, her publicity firm, her publicist.

--After a brief moment of silence, Probst interrupts Klum just as she begins to speak to tell her it's her turn to speak. Klum, cuttingly: "Yeah, thanks."

--They introduce the cast of Desperate Housewives who appear on a Housewives set. Dana Delany -- man, she is still smokin' hot. Jeez, something happened to Marcia Clark, though. Yikes.

--Supporting Actor in a Drama goes to Ted Danson. I wrote that before they announced the winner. Looks like I was wrong. Zeljko Ivanek, Danson's castmate on Damages, actually wins, and gets the dubious honor of hearing his name massacred by Delany. I'm amazed he's never even been nominated before; he's very good. Too bad he won't be in the next season.

--Ricky Gervais! Man, he is so effortlessly charming and funny, it makes the reality show hosts look even more humor-free and inept, if that's possible.

--Speaking of his Emmy win in 2007: "The press called it a major upset. Which means they thought I shouldn't have won." This precedes a very funny routine in which he tries to get Steve Carell, who had accepted the award for him, to give it back. Carell eventually pulls an Emmy out from under his seat and reluctantly surrenders it. Awesome.

--Directing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program goes to the guy who directed the Oscars, which it seems like always happens. Yawn. I didn't do my picks this year, so there's really no reason to go through every single award, keeping track of my record, is there?

--Conan O'Brien appears, weirdly, on a set for The Simpsons, rather than his own program. I mean, he appeared in an episode, and of course started out as a writer for the show, but it still seems kind of like a slight to Late Night, which he's been doing for 15 damn years already.

--Supporting Actress in a Drama goes to Dianne Wiest, for a show nobody I know has ever watched. At least she's not present, so we're spared one speech.

--The clips for the nominees for Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program are always among the funniest bits at the Emmys, since they are created by the writers of the nominated programs. The Colbert Report writers are depicted enjoying a Christmas party, with Colbert as the shotgun-wielding, boxers-clad hillbilly who chases them out of his cabin. The Daily Show group uses clips of bozos in the audiences of the two big political conventions to represent themselves. The Late Night writers are children adopted by Angelina Jolie and Conan O'Brien. Dr. Phil diagnoses the Late Show staff: "Jeremy Weiner: enabler. Joe Grossman: delusional. Bill Sheft: messed up." And of course, David Letterman: "miserable old psychopathic wack-job." And the SNL writers use Wii Miis, which is pretty lame. The Colbert Report wins, which is sweet.

--Mandel is back. Ugh. He and Probst introduce the accountants, which is death. Steve Martin follows, which is quite a jarring contrast.

--Speaking of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin calls it "perspicacious, multifarious, and only sometimes placatory. And believe me, I only use those words to see how closed captioning will spell them." My closed captioning doesn't even attempt perspicacious, but the other two come out as "multifair yus" and "placetory."

And that's it! Approximately two-and-a-half, three hours of Emmys watching and recapping after that: gone, baby, gone. Oh well, at least 30 Rock won a ton of Emmys. Although even that didn't stop Tina Fey from desperately imploring the audience to tune in. And the sad thing is, they mostly still won't watch the funniest comedy on TV. Stupid audience!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008


A Blogger glitch just deleted my Emmy recap post, which I had spent literally four hours on. And yes, I had recently saved it. Still didn't help. Poof, gone!

As you might imagine, I am so fucking mad I wish every employee of Blogger had one neck and my hands were tightly wrapped around it.

It was a good fucking post, too. You would've enjoyed it. God fuckity fuck fuck damn it.

I'm going to bed.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

2008 Emmys

Well, I had a big post on my Emmy predictions that I was trying to finish up before last night, but I guess I can discard it now.

I actually didn't even watch the Emmys. I TiVoed them, but I was watching the Cowboys game at a friend's house during the ceremony. I have no idea who won anything (and I'm trying not to find out, which will be difficult, so no spoilers!). Oh, except for Don Rickles. Al Michaels annonunced during the game that Don Rickles had won an Emmy, which must mean Stephen Colbert lost. RICKLES!!!

I'm considering doing an after-the-fact liveblogging of the ceremony. I haven't liveblogged anything for a while -- which is probably a good thing, indicating that I've been too busy doing fun stuff in Austin rather than watching awards ceremonies by myself. But I always enjoyed doing those big-ass posts, so... who says liveblogging has to be live? Heck, I always got a couple hours behind real time on those posts anyway, due to all the pausing I did to type out my pearls of witticism. Now I'll be a couple days behind. What's the diff?

EDIT: Geez, how the hell do I kill time at work on the internet while trying not to find out what happened at the Emmys? That rules out just about every major site except Google.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Where's my royalty check?

Hey, you know how I'm always ripping off The AV Club?

Well, today they ripped me off!

Turnabout's fair play, I guess. I don't see my name in that byline, though!

I don't want to reprint my entire post, so if you don't want to click that last link (you should! It has pictures!), which listed ten films I consider among my most rewatchable, I'll summarize it here. In no special order:

That Thing You Do!
The Princess Bride
Rio Bravo
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
Spider-Man 2
¡Three Amigos!
O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Way, way back in the olden times of August 2007, when I ran that post, I said, "I really like The Big Lebowski, too, but I'm not a part of the ever-growing cult who worships it. (Yet.)" I'm definitely in that cult now, and would add it to that list.

And you folks? Again I ask you: what films, great or cheesy, do you find yourself rewatching most often? Don't be shy!

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Warning: Sports Content

Only about two of you will get this, but it helps me vent my frustrations over an ex-Cal player. (Though not over Cal itself, and their boneheaded loss this weekend. Stupid, stupid Cal!)

Stupid, stupid DeSean!

From ESPN's Page 2.

Note for most of my readers: DeSean Jackson is a football player who did a very stupid thing.

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TV: Privileged

Stop the presses: I've found another show on the CW that I like. Which brings the current grand total up to... uh... two, I think, once Reaper returns.

And it's about the unlikeliest of shows that I would enjoy: Privileged, the tale of a spunky young journalist wannabe who winds up as a live-in tutor for two ultra-rich, ultra-spoiled teenage girls.

This show has most of the ingredients of other programs targeted at a similar demographic that I despise: uptight fish-out-of-water (usually with dark secret) contrasts with wealthy, responsibility-free hedonists, complete with plenty of beach and pool scenes, a fetishistic worship of fashion and cars, and one (1) snarky gay guy (often of color, to take care of two tokens with one stone). But somehow, I found this iteration to be charming and entertaining.

Most of that has to do with lead actress Joanna Garcia, playing Megan, the tutor. She's a bubbly, amusing presence, enthusiastic but grounded, with a slight bit of sharpness. What's really surprising, though, is that her character is nice, a pleasant person you wouldn't mind being around. She's allowed to be smart without being an outcast, she can be girly but still convincingly display a backbone, and rarest of all, she has a self-awareness characters in shows like this tend to lack: she considers and questions her goals and motivations, not in a navel-gazing, self-obsessed way, but just enough to make her a rounded, believable character, rather than a caricature plugged into plot points.

Even the rich girls have hidden depths. Rose (played by Lucy Hale, whom I hated hated hated on Bionic Woman, but who is actually sweet and enjoyable here) aspires to higher education and achievement beyond celebutante-hood, and the bitchy exterior of Sage (Ashely Newbrough) conceals deep fears of being outed as intellectually curious by (and therefore different from) her peers, and even deeper fears of being abandoned by her sister.

It's not a perfect show, but it has a kinder, funnier, smarter core than most of its ilk, and I was fully entertained. Whether I tune in every week is questionable, especially when I seem to be cutting back on all TV in general, not just the new season premieres. But I was pleasantly surprised, and that's a fine accomplishment right there.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sidebar Update!

Time for the coveted Sidebar Update! And barely a month after the last one! Who says I'm not on the ball around here? You? Well, you're a dirty, dirty liar.

The current Object of My Affection is Elizabeth Banks, whom I can't believe I've never mentioned before on this blog. I've been infatuated with her since her appearance as Betty Brant in the first Spider-Man, but where I really fell head over heels for her was when I discovered what a fantastic comedic actress she was in films like Wet Hot American Summer and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and her guest appearances on Scrubs. (She still wasn't enough to get me to see Fred Claus, though.) She, and Kevin Smith, are currently getting some of the best reviews of their careers for the upcoming Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which is a must-see for me. Smith will actually be here in Austin showing a sneak preview of the film on Thursday, though sadly I'll be at a concert and have to miss it. Dang it! Too much fun stuff at once in this crazy town! By the way, have you seen the movie poster which has been banned in the U.S.? I warn you, it will make your eyes bleed and destroy your moral values:

Catch me, I may faint!

Shocking! Scandalous! By which I mean: whoop-de-fucking-doo. Canada has no problem with this poster. Canada! Jeez, get some balls, America.

Reading: like I said yesterday, I'm tackling David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I plan on keeping record of my current page count over on the sidebar, to help humiliate myself into getting through it in a timely fashion. And really, it's not an especially difficult book, or unpleasant to read; it's just the sheer immensity of it which is intimidating.

Watching: nothing is holding my attention quite like the final season of The Shield. Absolutely riveting, brilliant TV. Not to malign Mad Men, which is very fine, but how the hell does that show get a million Emmy nominations while The Shield doesn't get shit? For Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, Forest Whitaker and CCH Pounder to be overlooked in the acting categories is criminal. Seriously, what the hell does Pounder have to do to get the recognition she deserves? As I always seem to say this time of year: if you're nominating Mariska Hargitay for an acting award, you ain't looking hard enough.

Listening: Neil Young's On the Beach, which was recently released for the first time on CD. What a lovely, fantastic album, one I had never before been able to listen to. I was missing out. And the Lyric of the Moment comes from this album as well, from the song "Vampire Blues," which is about the oil industry and rampant gasoline consumerism raping the world. That song is 34 years old. Man, the more things change....

Hating: same jackass, different photo.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

David Foster Wallace, R.I.P.

David Foster Wallace was found dead of an apparent suicide on Friday. He was 46.

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy

As I recently mentioned, I've never read Infinite Jest, his most famous and well-respected work (though I have read The Broom of the System and Girl with Curious Hair). I think I'll be moving it to the top of my reading list. I've tried reading it a couple of times before. What a shame that this is what will probably finally get me to finish it.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Separated at birth?

Endorsed by Bully! Not pictured: Kyle Baker.

MO WILLEMS, children's book author and creator of my niece's favorite book, Knuffle Bunny, and...

Also endorsed by Bully!

DORIAN WRIGHT, author of my niece's second-favorite blog, Postmodernbarney.com.

At the very least, I think they shop for facial hair at the same store.

Both pictures found at Bully's blog, by the way, as though you couldn't guess.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

My First Album(s)

Once again, I steal an idea from the AV Club. In this article, the AV Club staff discuss the first albums they ever purchased with their own money. (Oh, and while I'm thinking of it: Noel Murray! Donna Bowman! Nathan Rabin! Where are your entries?) So I thought I would share mine. You're welcome.

I have a very clear memory of that day. It was at Blue Sky Music in Ojai. It was early '84, which means I was 13. And I bought two tape cassettes at the same time. That's right, tape cassettes: not as cheesy as 8-tracks, but equally as dead, the all-but-forgotten stepping stone between the retro-cool record album and the high tech CD (which itself is being driven to obsolescence by the mp3 -- damn you, change!!!).

The first:

Top coat, top hat/And I don't worry 'cause my wallet's fat

And the second:

Try the rye or the kaiser, they're our special tonight/If you want you can have an appetizer

I regret nothing.

I got Eliminator because ZZ Top was everywhere that year. I don't know if you can recall back that far, you young folks, but when Eliminator came out, MTV was blanketed with ZZ Top videos, all of them featuring that car, those spinning guitars, and scads of hot, hot ladies. (Well, almost all of them, the exception being "TV Dinners," which was just weird as hell.) I don't think I'm exaggerating by saying these videos helped establish the identity of the still fledgling music channel and set the template for a generation of music videos to follow. I mean, just check 'em out:

Gimme All Your Lovin'

Sharp Dressed Man


Great videos, great album, great band.

I got the "Weird Al" tape because I was then, am now, and always shall be a huge nerd. I used to stay up late listening to Dr. Demento on the radio, hoping to catch a new "Weird Al" tune, and I was thrilled every time MTV would play the video for "Eat It," or "I Lost on Jeopardy" (which, back in the day, was a lot). I'm still a "Weird Al" fan, and 3-D is still entertaining as hell. So there.

So what about you folks? What was the first album you ever bought with your very own cash? Tell me in the comments!

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Thursday, September 11, 2008



I watched the 95-minute premiere of Fringe, the new sci-fi/crime procedural show from J.J. Abrams, and my opinion on it is landing somewhere in the middle ground. There were some interesting ideas and visuals, but there were a number of things that irritated me as well.

The set-up is basically X-Files meets... well, nothing, I guess. It's government agents investigating weird crap and conspiracies. Anna Torv is an FBI agent dropped into the middle of a case involving a chemical/biological weapon, John Noble is the crazy-but-brilliant scientist who can help her, Joshua Jackson is the estranged son who is needed to liberate his scientist father from the asylum, and Lance Reddick is the mysteriously menacing government agent who may be helping Torv, or may be placing her in harm's way.

Mark Valley also appears as Torv's love interest. I always like seeing Valley; I've been a fan since Keen Eddie. And I like that the show listed him among the regular cast, rather than as a guest star. Nice bit of misdirection there, but I still could tell, the minute he appeared, that he was doomed. Just too damn happy and cuddly for a gloomy show like this. I have to say, I didn't expect him to be a bad guy until about halfway through the show, when it was obvious someone on the government's side would have to be a bad guy, but it was still very clear that he wouldn't be making it out of the episode alive.

Not that that prevented his being useful. Nice bit at the end, with Blair Brown, as the representative of the evil corporation, Massive Dynamic, receiving Valley's body into a high tech lab. "How long has he been dead?" "Five hours," says a minion. "Question him," she replies. Spooky! We now know the evil corporation has appropriated crazy scientist's experiments, used earlier to connect Torv to the comatose Valley, that allow a person to retrieve information from another person's brain up to six hours after death. And who knows what other shenanigans they're up to?

That was one of the things I liked about the show: that a giant corporation is being set up as the main villain, that a stonewalling bureaucrat like Brown (wielding a bionic arm, no less!) has more power and a higher clearance level than an FBI agent investigating a terrorist attack. Kind of like what you'd imagine happens behind the scenes at Halliburton.

I also liked the look of the show, which is stylish and slick without devolving too often into Michael Bay-style quick-cut indecipherability (the main exception being the car chase at the end). I even liked the bizarre way that floating words identifying locations would appear within scenes, integrated into the action rather than mere subtitles. I got a kick out of the SOUTH BOSTON legend seeming to be frozen and covered in snow, as though it were actually physically present in the wintery setting. And I really enjoyed the playfulness used with the BAGHDAD IRAQ caption. From the helicopter's eye view, it is visible below in a legible size; when a reverse angle is taken from the ground, the B in BAGHDAD is backward and gigantic, as though the word were a permanent fixture of the city's skyline, right above roof level. Completely pointless and show-offy? Yes -- but I don't think I've ever seen anything like it before, so points for originality and cleverness.

A lot of what I didn't like about the show has to do with the cast. Torv seems like she could be a solid lead, if she wouldn't so frequently wear an intimidated look on her face. Often it looks as though she is cowed by whomever she is speaking to -- Reddick, Brown, Noble, nearly everyone she interacts with she greets with a wide-eyed, timid countenance. Perhaps that can partially be ascribed to the fact that she's in fear for Valley's life throughout the episode, but that seems generous. And it doesn't explain why she's so flirtatious with Jackson.

As for Jackson -- holy crap, that dude will not shut up. I'm okay with his wiseacre performance when it plays naturally off the other actors, but there are a number of scenes throughout the episode where it becomes absolutely overbearing. At one point, Torv and Noble are having a discussion of vital importance to the case at hand, and Jackson interrupts them in between every single fucking line to toss off some smart aleck comment. Dag! Rein it in just a little, would you, Pacey?

I have a big problem with Noble's character as well. At the top of the episode, he's introduced as a babbling, incoherent, possible psychotic blamed for the death of a human test subject in one of his experiments; by the end of the show, he's lovably eccentric. Miracle recovery, there.

Something similar happens with Valley's character. He's caught smack-dab in the middle of a series of huge explosions at the beginning of the show, and absorbs some mysterious chemicals which turn his skin transparent, for some reason. Torv and her team find a cure for the chemicals, and his skin changes back, waking him from his coma and leaving nothing but a few crackly marks in his skin as a side effect. In no time at all, he's up on his feet, murdering terrorist suspects and engaging in high-speed car chases. At no point does he show the slightest sign whatsoever of his having been BLOWN THE FUCK UP. Another miracle recovery!

Fringe is an ambitious show. It clearly is attempting to establish a vast mythology, complete with weird symbols and a dark cabal (in the form of Massive Dynamic), much like Abrams' previous shows Alias and Lost. I just don't know if I want to stick around to watch it all unfold. There's some promise, enough to keep me watching next week -- but if it doesn't cohere a little better, not much beyond that.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Shield

SPOILERS AHEAD, up to but not including last night's episode, which I haven't watched yet (don't spoil it for me!).

Last year, I somehow managed to miss out on the entire sixth season of The Shield, which long-time readers (if I still have any) well know I consider to be one of the very best shows on TV. A marathon DVD-viewing session this weekend has rectified that oversight, just in time for me to catch up on last week's seventh and final season premiere (which I've been saving on TiVo).

And holy cow, have I been missing out. As great as I always say this show is, it's only gotten better. The sixth season was brilliant. Possibly not quite up to the impossibly high standards of season five, in which Forest Whitaker's Lt. Kavanaugh debuted, and which was one of the ten (or so) best seasons of any TV show I've ever seen. But season six nonetheless was a whirlwind of violence, emotional trauma, and sheer intensity that had me riveted.

At the center of it all was the fallout from Shane's murder of Lem at the end of the fifth season. Shane is perhaps my favorite character (along with Dutch), but while he was going through his suicidal guilt I was hoping for him to pull the trigger, and when he confessed to Vic, I was hoping Vic would waste him right there. Shouldn't have messed with Lem! Of course Vic let Shane live, which will probably be the cause of Vic's downfall. Walton Goggins' Shane is a terrific character, cold and calculating one second, vulnerable and easily manipulated the next. Watching him react as he found out that he killed Lem because of Kavanaugh's trickery was devastating. I have the feeling that his inability to avoid getting suckered by the people he thinks he's controlling (like Antwon Mitchell, or the Armenians, or even his wife) will be the cause of his downfall.

Speaking of Kavanaugh, I was a little surprised to see Whitaker wrap up his guest role after only two episodes of the sixth season. It was a satisfying end, making complete his transformation into that which he pursued, but he was such an incredible character, and Whitaker so amazing in the role, that I was sorry to see him go. Maybe he'll be back.

According to the DVD extras, Franka Potente will be back in season seven as Diro Kesakhian, the daughter of the Armenian mob boss with whom Shane fell in at the end of the season. And that's fine with me. She was a lot less flashy or intense than Whitaker, but there was still a great deal of power in her character, and I'd like to see where she goes from here.

Jay Karnes as Dutch continues to entertain me to no end (minor trivia note: did you realize that he, Shane, and Vic are the only characters to appear in every episode so far?). He spent most of last season chasing Officer Tina and butting heads with his lazy, conniving new partner Billings, which was good stuff. When Billings tricked Dutch into showing up at Tina's house while she was having a tryst with Hiatt (not sorry to see that character leave, by the way), it somehow managed to be heartbreaking and cruelly hilarious at the same time. I was glad to see Billings return in the final season premiere, partly because David Marciano plays such a great weasel, but mainly because it gave Dutch a chance to nail him to the wall. And what will come of the kiss Dutch shared with Danny last season? I can't wait to see the excruciatingly awkward paths that will take.

With Lem gone, I love that David Rees Snell's Ronnie has had to step up and fill that void (both the actor and the character). Ronnie has been going to some dark places; his killing of the Armenian hitman was especially chilling, one of the coldest moments I've seen on the show. "Do you want me to answer that?" the hitman asks as Ronnie gets the information he needs from the hitman's cell phone. "That won't be necessary," Ronnie calmly replies, and BLAM! BLAM! puts two in the hitman's chest. Damn! I jumped out of my seat at that. Wow, Ronnie is a stone killer. Will he be the next Vic? Or Shane? Or worse?

I'm very glad I watched the sixth season immediately before the seventh season debut. The terrifying momentum has me watching the show like a freight train barrelling out of control. It's going off the tracks; the only questions are when, and who gets out alive? This is the best show on TV right now. I hope you're watching.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Nerd Heaven, R.I.P.

Sad news this week: Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton shut down on Sept. 1 after an 11-year run. This is sad not only because it indicates how weak the whole Trek franchise has become, unable to sustain a once wildly-popular attraction despite that J.J. Abrams reboot waiting around the corner, but also because ST:TE was one of the highlights of my first trip as a grown-up to Vegas, and one of my earliest entries at this here blog.

In honor of its passing, I here rerun that entry on Star Trek: The Experience (although I kept calling it The Star Trek Experience, which I guess is non-canon). I updated the broken link to Quark's Bar; it now leads to a PDF of the menu. From November 29, 2004, this is my tribute to Nerd Heaven.

Just back from my four-day weekend in Las Vegas*, my first visit there in my adult life, and let me tell you what: it is tremendous.

But let me skip for now the gambling, the drinking, the dinner at Wolfgang Puck's, the sighting of Wayne Newton (seriously!), the drinking, the George Carlin show, the half-naked ladies (one showgirl was wandering around the casino in a bikini bottom so small, you could see her birth control patch), and the drinking, and get straight to the highlight of the weekend, Nerd Heaven: The Star Trek Experience.

Conveniently located in the Hilton, where I was staying, TSTE is composed of two attractions, the Klingon Encounter and the Borg Invasion 4D. (And no, I don't know what the fourth D is. I only counted the usual three.) Both of them have live action performances in which actors lead the visitors to various areas for various scenes, finishing in a spacecraft-shaped auditorium with some incredible filmed sequences taking you into the action (much like Star Tours, if you've ever been to one of the Disney parks). The Borg one was better, I thought, mainly because it's more recent, and more technologically advanced; it's based around the Voyager series. The Klingon Encounter was still pretty damned entertaining; it's based around The Next Generation.

But neither show would've been as much fun if we hadn't visited Quark's Bar and Restaurant first. Did I say I was going to skip the drinking? Guess not. Oh my good lord was it fantastic. It's modeled after the bar from Deep Space Nine, of course, and the drinks, oh the drinks! Little ol' nerdy me had a James Tea Kirk (which was basically an Electric Tea, if you know what that is**); my two nerdy friends had Mind Melds, which were some kind of peach-flavored rum concoction. Then we had a round of Harry Mudds (a shot of kahlua, Buttershots Schnapps, cinnamon liqueur, and Bailey's, I think, which my friends claimed tasted like an Oatmeal Cookie, and I had no reason to doubt them), then two more Mind Melds and for me -- I can't recall the name (something nerdy), but it was Vanilla Vodka, Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, Buttershots, and cream; tasted like chocolate milk, with a hell of a kick. And then we got crazy. Two women from our group joined us, so we ordered the Warp Core Breach. This goddam thing is served in a fishbowl. A chunk of dry ice at the bottom of the bowl created a cloud of smoke pouring out of it. Kind of like this:

Bartender, I would like a BUCKET of alcohol, and don't skimp on the dry ice.

In fact, exactly like that, only purple. And don't let the scale of that photo fool you; that glass is big as a bowling ball. Then all five of us got straws about two feet long, and we got to business. What's in it? It was delicious, and had a blackberry taste to it; I couldn't really tell you more about it than that. It's in a goddam fishbowl. What more do you need to know?

We also got a visit from some of the in-character employees; two Ferengi had an argument next to us at the bar, and then a Borg came by, saying that he was on the station "for observation purposes only". We took some pictures with him, and he stayed totally in character; when one of the women commented on his lack of a smile, he said, "I am familiar with 'smile'." When we thanked him for the pictures, he said, "Acknowledged." Neeeerrrrrrrrd Heaven.

Then we three nerdy guys went back upstairs to go on the rides. Shows. Whatever you'd call them. The entryway was lined with an insanely detailed Trek timeline on one side, and a Trek museum (biggest in the world, they claim) on the other, filled with costumes, props, photos, etc. Normally the line would be so long, you'd have plenty of time to absorb it all; that day, there was hardly any line at all, and we were staggeringly drunk, not quite in the frame of mind to appreciate it all, so we zipped right through it (except for some reason my friend Scoot kept pointing out Guinan's costume).

The Borg Encounter was first. It started with a costumed crew member leading us into a room and showing us a video on the wall screen; it was the Doctor, from Voyager, telling us some malarkey about how we had all been summoned because something unique in our DNA was highly resistant to Borg probes. His spiel was mercifully interrupted by a Borg attack. Our crewmember escort summoned security, and we were ushered through various other areas, in which Borg appeared, and engaged in battle. We three drunken nerds were highly wrapped up in it all, laughing, screaming, telling them to shoot the Borg! Annoying? Possibly. But our thinking was, if they're going to go to the trouble of pretending there's a Borg attack, why not be courteous*** enough to pretend we believe it?

Then into the seating area. It was an impressively large set, with a giant front viewscreen, two smaller screens to either side, and a "hatch" on the ceiling. With our 3D glasses on, we were treated to a spectacular movie sequence, involving the section we were seated in being carved out of the space station by the Borg, and being brought aboard the Borg ship. The Borg then injected us with their nanoprobes, simulated by blasts of air on our faces and pokey-crawlies in our seat backs and seat bottoms (which made me giggle like the Pillsbury Doughboy). We were confronted by the Borg Queen (whom I suspected was played by Alice Krige, the actress who originated the role in First Contact; when I looked up her name on IMDb, I found that not only was it indeed her, but also that the Borg Invasion actually has its own entry, as does the Klingon Encounter).

Captain Janeway and the Starship Voyager eventually came to our rescue, after five or six minutes of the most realistic 3D effects I've ever seen. A final debriefing by the Doctor, and we were released back into the real world. Which we immediately abandoned for the Klingon Encounter.

This was more of the same; the story hinged on the Klingons abducting our group of tourists because one of us was supposedly Jean-Luc Picard's ancestor. We were rescued by the Enterprise, and taken aboard the ship's main bridge, which was so beautifully reproduced it made me as happy as a little girl. On the viewscreen, a filmed bit with Riker and Geordi appeared, to fill us in on the blah-blah-blah, and then we were taken into the turbolift and sent to a shuttle pod. When the door closed on the shuttle pod, Scoot began poking all the fake buttons on the wall next to him, prompting one of the employees spying on us to announce over the intercom that we shouldn't bother touching the console controls, because they were DNA-encoded to respond only to Enterprise crewmembers. We loved that. Neeerrrrrrd Heaven.

Then began the filmed sequence (non-3D this time), in which our pod alternately tried to escape from, and engaged in battle, various Klingon vessels, with the Enterprise by our side. We then got zapped back to Las Vegas, and the battle continued over the Strip, zooming over and around various Vegas landmarks. So cool. At the end, as we exited the shuttle pod, an employee directed us onto an elevator that would take us to the exit. All three of us drunken nerds cheerily engaged him in conversation, right up to the second the elevator doors closed, at which point one of the other tourists asked us, "Do they pay you to be here?" which cracked up the rest of the group. It seems our unbridled enthusiasm actually helped the other people to have a good time; everyone was laughing and smiling at the end. Which was nice. Ah, sweet, sweet alcohol: makes everything better.

*I started writing this post on the 22nd. So now I'm just back, plus a week.
**Even if you don't know what that is; frankly, your mixological knowledge has no effect on the drink, one way or the other.
***I.e., "drunk".

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

New TV

The new TV season has begun, and I just don't much give a crap. Not yet, at least. Not when all the new stuff is on the CW.

I watched some of that new 90210 over at a friend's house while we were having a barbecue, and while it wasn't immediately, overwhelmingly stupid, it certainly didn't achieve the level of scintillating entertainment I require from my television viewing (says the guy who hasn't yet missed an episode of The Big Bang Theory).

As I would expect from a show run by Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, there were a few moments of humor, and there were actually a few surprisingly enjoyable references back to the old (I almost said "classic," which is a misnomer if ever there were one) series, such as a teacher's reference to Andrea Zuckerman's daughter: "What is she, 30?" (For those who never watched the old show, Gabrielle Carteris, who played Andrea, was the oldest of the original "kids," hitting 30 midway through the 1st season.) But during my admittedly fractured watching of the 2-hour pilot, I didn't find any new characters worth caring about, and seeing a reunion between the old show's Kelly, Brenda, and Nat isn't near enough to keep me tuning in.

Three other CW shows have returned with new episodes this week, but they are all beneath contempt, so: moving on.

Most other networks are holding off on new programming for three or four more weeks, but like the CW, Fox has also jumped the gun with new episodes this week: Prison Break is back, as is Bones. I quit on Prison Break a long while ago, though I get a kick out of the news that a character who was decapitated last year will be coming back to the show. Guess she got better. (Or rather, the actress has given up on her contract negotiations.) And Bones returned with a 2-hour special set in London, of which I saw about five minutes. Bones is occasionally fun but definitely non-essential viewing for me.

FX also premiered two shows this week, the final season of The Shield and the first episode of the new biker club drama, Sons of Anarchy, which is supposed to be brilliant. I TiVoed both, but haven't watched either yet. I still haven't seen the previous season of The Shield, but I've got all four discs from Netflix, and I'll be catching up this week. Hopefully I'll be able to start watching new episodes by next week. And Sons of Anarchy I plan on watching tonight and reviewing tomorrow. It's got Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal. That's gold, Jerry! Gold!!!

I have the feeling my TV watching (and blogging) will be much curtailed this new season. I'm definitely not going to watch every new show, as I've done in previous years. Too much of it looks like utter garbage. But I am a TV addict, after all, so I'll be checking in here and there with some of the new and some of the old. Let me know if there's anything I'm missing out on!

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I want Daddy to go away on a trip

For today, a link to another site you will enjoy: Tiny Art Director. It's a blog recording the pictures an artist has made for his daughter, and her scathing rejections of them.

Por ejemplo, the tiny art director requests a drawing of a monkey:

His tummy and his belly button and his eyebrows and his hands and his feet. And his head too.

Her critique: "Stupid ugly angry monkey. I hate him."

This site is a bundle of cuteness in an adorable wrapper. (Though it might make you happy you don't have such a harsh critic living with you!) It gets to where you want to cheer when the daughter actually accepts a drawing. Check it out.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Misty May's Ass, Au Revoir

Back That Smack That

Ever since that picture above started making the rounds, in which it looks like Dubya is about to smack Misty May right in her Olympically-toned posterior, my Google hits for the phrase "Misty May's ass" have dropped off the cliff. For four years, I was permanently in the top ten, at times even the #1 Google search for those three words. Seriously, four years. Take a look at the date on the post in which I first began making jokes about how many hits I was getting for that phrase. Most blogs don't even last four years. I've been running one joke into the ground for that long.

Anyhoo, because of that picture, and everyone posting it and commenting on it, I've been bumped from #1 on Google all the way to page 12. (And still falling.) Sheesh!

It was amusing when I first noticed all the Google hits I got from that phrase, and it's amused me to revisit Misty May and her rump every once in a while over the ensuing four years. But now... man, I just don't have the energy or will to keep up. If I'm going to have to refer to Misty May's hindquarters every other day in order to reattain my first page position on Google, I just can't be bothered. And compound this with the fact that May is going to appear on the next season of Dancing with the Stars (as Augie has recently alerted me), and you can see I'll never be able to talk about her sit-upon enough to keep pace with all those wonderfully perverted Google searchers out there.

So today, with sadness in my heart, I announce that I am officially retiring the "Misty May's ass" joke from this blog. No more shall I blog about Misty May's ass, or show pictures of Misty May's ass, or make meta references to hit counts generated by Misty May's ass, or in any way exploit Misty May's ass.

For old time's sake.

Okay, one last time.

Farewell, Misty May's ass. And good luck to you in all your future endeavors. A new era has dawned here at Tom the Dog's blog! Misty May's ass... is dead.

Long live the new flesh!

Long live Kerri Walsh's ass!

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