December 26, 2007

Super Knockoff Brothers

I'm a huge fan of very poorly made counterfeits, and the video here features something that would surely get my vote for Poorly Made Counterfeit of the Year - 2007. If you've spent any time playing Super Mario Brothers, you'll recognize most everything here, but something's... just not quite right. Actually, make that several somethings. In fact the sheer number of ways this thing goes wrong had me laughing out loud for minutes.

Originally spotted at, where you can also see levels 2, 3, and 4.

December 10, 2007

A Lot Of Wiis

I have a lot of Wiis on my nightstand.

December 9, 2007

I'm The Wiener!

I'm pleased to report that I won Derek's inaugural Pop Culture Showdown Two-Thousand Diggity Seven. It was a hard fought battle. I'm happy to have won, but I'm disappointed to have not dominated the challenge like I wanted to. I'm also very publicly embarrassed at some of the gaps in my knowledge.

It was very surprising to me how tense I was during the showdown. I believe at one point I was sweating.

December 6, 2007

Endangered Candy List

I've noticed as I've grown older that some of the candies and candy related items that I remembered from my childhood are difficult or impossible to find now. This makes sense; If new candy is created and sells more, there's only so much shelf space to go around, and some old candy has to drop out to take its place.

What alarms me, though, are when I can't find what I used to consider the staples of the candy section back in the day. It's one thing if one manufacturer stops making one item of theirs (RIP my beloved Mars Bar). But, when you have an item that was not tied to a specific company and used to be found everywhere dwindle and disappear, that's kind of sad.

Example 1: Candy cigarettes. It's kind of obvious why you can't really find these anymore. However, I'm still kind of sad that there won't be any there for my kids to buy so I can yell at them the way I got yelled at for buying them the one time I did.

Example 2: Cinnamon bears. There's only one grocery store local to me that sells these, but it's in their generic house brand version, and they're gritty and just plain gross tasting. The Wal-Mart used to sell some made by Sweet's Candy Company, and I would buy 10 bags at a time in case they stopped carrying them. Sure enough, I ran out months ago, and they've stopped stocking them.

Example 3: Red Hots. Becki asked me to pick up "a bag of Red Hots" at the grocery store yesterday for a church thing. The candy section of the store had no such item. Apparently you can't buy Red Hots to eat as candy anymore. I finally found them with the cake decorating supplies labeled as a decorating aid, and packaged in a little plastic jar. Price: $1.99 for the small 2 oz. jar. That's $16 per pound of red hots. Pound for pound that makes it one of the most expensive food items in the whole store.

Items that are less expensive per pound than Red Hots:
  • King crab legs ($11.99/lb regularly, on sale this week for $7.88/lb)

  • Jumbo shrimp ($8.99/lb)

  • Ribeye steak ($8.99/lb regularly)

  • Prime rib ($10.99/lb)

  • A very expensive bottle of wine (It would have to get over $25 for a 750ml bottle to be more expensive than red hots)

  • Heavy cream ($5.00/lb)

  • Milk ($.50/lb)

  • Gasoline ($.40/lb. Not a food item, but still way cheap in comparison)

With the exception of some top shelf liquor and some exotic spices (like saffron), I challenge someone to find me a more expensive food item (pound for pound) than Red Hots.

If current trends continue, I'll have to get all my childhood candies from wherever pioneer village type place I have to go to get my horehound drops.

December 5, 2007

Song of the Year

I have a tradition of declaring at the end of each year what is the absolute best song I've heard all year. This is a long-standing tradition, dating all the way back to a few days ago when I first thought of it.

My rules are simple. The song doesn't necessarily have to be released this year. Rather, the year in which it's competing will be the year it first came to prominence, which will be loosely defined as whenever I first heard it. I'm deciding on my song of the year now, because after Thanksgiving, my listening is pretty much booked solid with Christmas music. So, it's better to get this out of the way now before my judgement gets clouded by all the holiday songs I'm hearing.

This year, the finalists for song of the year come down to "1234" by Feist and "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova. I think these are both songs that might have technically been released in 2006, but didn't really get noticed until this year.

"1234" is a song everybody probably knows from the iPod commercials. In the commercial, the video for the song is playing on a bunch of iPod nanos while a disembodied hand stacks and unstacks the iPods. I first heard this song when I saw part of the video for it while flipping through channels earlier this year, but it didn't really register with me until I saw the commercial a few times.

I'm not at all ashamed to admit that commercials have been the venue to introduce me to some of the best music I've heard. The only place I ever heard Badly Drawn Boy before buying his CDs was "The Shining" on that great Gap commercial. And, that same Christmas had another Gap commercial with the Red House Painters' cover of "All Mixed Up" that turned me on to them. Furthermore, I probably would never have got into Nick Drake if not for that Volkswagen commercial. I read something somewhere that said that the Pink Moon album sold something like 10 times as many copies in the months following that Volkswagen commercial than in the thirty or so years that preceded it, and I think that's fine. It's fine because it's such great music that everybody needs to hear it, and whatever it takes to expose it is justified.

"1234"'s beauty lies in it's apparent simplicity, contrasted with the complex layering underneath. It's a light, snappy pop song, and it start outs so plainly, with just a voice and strummed acoustic guitar. But, by the second half of the first verse, the drums and bass have kicked in, and strings start to build. By the time the song reaches the first bridge, the choir's singing and the song's really going strong. That first bridge also introduces the real secret weapon of the song, the banjo. Once the song reaches the chorus, the other secret weapon (a brass instrument that I'm pretty sure is a flugelhorn) kicks in.

The song is able to restrain itself through the chorus, adding only a honky tonk piano break after the chorus. But, at about 2:16, it can contain itself no longer and just explodes in a glorious cacaphony. The choir sings "Ba-da Ba-da-da" over doubled flugelhorns, three banjos, swelled strings, a glockenspiel, and the 1985 Chicago Bears. And then, just before it all becomes too much, the song suddenly cuts back to four bars of strummed guitar and picked banjo and ends.

Even if this weren't the best song of the year, it's easily one of the best arrangements of a pop song in at least the past 15 years.

There's only one problem I have with this song. At the very beginning of the song, when the acoustic guitar is strumming and the vocals come in for the very first time, there's a little bit of ambience around the voice that's not the same as whatever's on the guitar. It makes it sound like the vocals were recorded in another studio, through another set of mikes and console and effects and pre-amp and stuff. It's not uncommon for a song to be recorded this way, but it never actually sounds that way to me like it does on this song. It's not that noticeable, but it's just enough to take me out of the song for a couple of seconds until my ears can adjust.

"Falling Slowly" was written by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova for the soundtrack of the movie Once, which they both also ended up starring in. It's one of those arty independent films about busking in Ireland. I haven't seen the film, because the only time it was playing here that I knew of was at 12:30 PM and 5:30 PM, which were both times during which I would be working.

Glen Hansard is the lead singer/songwriter for the Irish band The Frames, which is apparently the second biggest band in Ireland (second only to that other Irish band, U something or other). They're not yet big in the US, and I don't know if they ever will be, but they're something good, all right.

Marketa Irglova is a Czech pianist and composer that Glen apparently hooked up with to write songs for the movie before actually recommending her to be in the movie (and then getting cast himself).

This song falls squarely in the category of "plaintive love song". At least I think it's a love song. I don't really listen to the lyrics much when I listen to music; I usually just try to let the music itself do the talking. It's the music of this song, and the quality of Glen's voice that tell me everything: That there exists a pain that's so great it will tear you in half, that there are longings that span the centuries, that through this all there is hope that these things for which we long and dream can still be realized.

I have a few versions of this song. The version that comes from the movie soundtrack is just Glen and Marketa, him playing acoustic guitar and her playing piano. They split the vocals, harmonizing through most of the song. This version is simply beautiful. There's another version off of the most recent Frames album, which is different in that it's given the full band treatment. It's mostly just Glen's voice in that one, although there's a hint of background vocals. The Frames version I like because the tension that builds through the song can be released when the chorus bursts and the band just get's loud and raucous, where in the acoustic version, that tension has to remain contained, which is a bit of the beauty of it. The Frames version also has a loud playout at the end which is really cool. I also have a few live recordings of just Glen and Marketa from various radio or TV things.

The best part of this song, what really makes this song for me, is the extra measure right before the chorus. There's a bit of a build into the chorus, and it would seem natural to just follow the pattern established by the verse and just change chords and start playing the chorus. But, right after the last measure of the verse, they keep on that same chord for just four more beats which is so effective in managing that tension that's bubbling through the song and building it just that much more for the chorus. The thing I like the most is that if I were playing in a band, and somebody brought me that song and said "Hey, let's play this song I just wrote", I would have said "Great, but let's just hold on that chord for one more measure before that chorus". This song is just already in tune with my musical interpretation of what I think this song wants and what this song should be.

So, the winner of Song of the Year 2007? It's close, but I've got to go with "Falling Slowly". It's just a great, great song that still moves me every time I hear it, even though I've already heard it 100 times.

December 4, 2007

Tucson Half-Marathon

My sister got the idea a few weeks back that she wanted to walk the half-marathon portion of the Tucson Marathon. She called me two days before it and asked if I'd like to walk it with her. I said sure, but only with the understanding that I would try to get her to run a portion of it with me. She said I was free to run on ahead to get a better time, but I figured I wasn't going to get a good time no matter what I did, so I would rather stay with her and try to push her harder so that she could feel like she accomplished more. It's not that walking 13.1 miles is not something to be proud of. It certainly is. However, running a portion of it entitles you to tell people, "I ran in the half-marathon", dropping your voice a little on the word "in" so that they might hear "I ran the half-marathon".

My goal was just to run 1/4 of the distance. We did that mainly by running the first 1/4 mile out of every mile, then running from the 13 mile mark all the way to the finish line so that we could look like real runners. We never had to run longer than about 2 minutes, 45 seconds at a stretch, which was good for Elizabeth since she doesn't yet have any sort of endurance when she gets into that high heart rate/heavy breathing state. Yet, she was able to finish each segment of running without falling over, so that's good.

We finished in 3:20:45 which is nowhere near a good time, but is better than what I expected. I get a big kick out of the fact that I was dead last in my age division.

Even though I did so poorly timewise, I was pleased to find out that I actually won an award for placing third in my Clydesdale division. What I didn't know until a few days ago was that some races have a "Clydesdale" division for men over 190 pounds (and a corresponding women's designation). Apparently fat men get special recognition for hauling their bulk around the course. In the category of men weighing 211-224 pounds, I placed third, and the top three finishers in each category get awards. I'm quite certain that many other men of my weight finished faster than me. However, none of them must have checked the box identifying themselves as Clydesdales. So, I don't know if I get a plaque or a separate medal or certificate or what. I didn't hang around at the finish line to claim my award, since I had no idea I would have won one. Now I have to figure out how I can get them to send it to me. It may not be worth the effort, but it's likely I'll never win an award in an organized race again, so I want all the recognition I can get.

It's now two days after the race, and I'm feeling pretty okay physically. My muscles are a little sore, but not as much as I might have thought. My biggest problem is a sort of shooting/burning pain in the middle of my left foot when I step on it. It comes and goes; sometimes it's so bad I can't take more than a couple of steps without hobbling. I walked a mile and a half on it last night, then iced it a while, and it seems a little better today. So overall, I'm happy at the physical accomplishment, but I'm a little bugged that the recovery is eating into my normal running schedule.

A couple of other notes:

My Forerunner watch calculated that I burned 1726 calories during the race. That's a lot. I had about 500 calories of breakfast and 500 calories of bars and Clif Shot and stuff during the race, but I was still way hungry when it was over.

In perusing the results for the other divisions, I noticed the winner of the men's 80+ division and the women's 75-79 division were a couple that are both patients of ours, and that the husband beat me by about 12 minutes. I called him to congratulate him on having over 50 years of seniority on me and still kicking my tail. He was really excited to talk to me, and I got the feeling from him that he really appreciated the call.

November 27, 2007

An Open Letter to Bob Geldof, KBE

Dear Mr. Geldof,

I wish to address you as "Sir Bob Geldof", but I understand that as an Irishman, your knighthood from HRH The Queen is only an honorary one, and does not entitle you to the "Sir" title. I would like to still use the most respectful form of address I can when addressing you, as you are a man of very high honors, and I am about to ask you a rather large favor. Would "The Most High Lord of All Things Charitable, Bob Geldof" work for you? Let's assume it does.


Dear TMHLoATC, Bob Geldof,

I watched the Live 8 concerts two years ago and really enjoyed everything I saw. However, the most exciting moment for me was seeing the reunited Pink Floyd on stage again after almost 25 years. I read with great interest the news reports about how you were able to convince Roger Waters and the rest of the band that the cause was much more important than whatever personal differences they might have. Those differences run deep, and I would never have imagined that anything or anyone could ever mend that rift. Truly you accomplished a major feat.

I was listening to Oingo Boingo in my car the other day and I was awash in a moment of regret that I never got to see them perform live. I had the opportunity once, in 1995, but I was sick that day and didn't go. It turned out to be their last tour, and I've been kicking myself ever since. Interviews with Danny Elfman show him to be pretty dead-set against the idea of a reunion. I started thinking to myself, "Wow, with Danny Elfman being so against the idea, what would it take to get him to come around?" It was then that I remembered you, Bob, and your powers of persuasion.

So, do you think it might be possible to do a favor for me? Can you give Danny Elfman a call and do whatever it is you did with Pink Floyd to get them to reunite? I know you said it's the cause that convinced Pink Floyd to come together, and not you specifically, but let's be honest: You're a silver-tongued devil who must really have some terrific ability to cajole. Just work your magic. If you really think that it's a cause that's going to get everyone back together, I'm sure you can find one, or just make one up. I mean, whoever heard of African debt relief before Live 8? I have a sneaking suspicion you just made that one up so you could see Pink Floyd play.

I would think that this task would be easy for you since you've already demonstrated such prowess at it. Also, you only have to call Danny Elfman. You don't need to call the rest of the band to convince them. They're not working. I'm sure they'll jump at the chance to play again. Thanks in advance for your help with this.

When you've done that, if you're still willing to help, I have a couple of other little things you can do for me. One night, I had the choice of going to see either Matthew Sweet or That Dog. I was more into Matthew Sweet at the time, as was the person I was going with, so we went and saw Matthew Sweet. Turns out, that was That Dog's last tour before a pretty rancorous breakup. Their last album, Retreat From The Sun, has held up better than any of Mr. Sweet's work for me, and I'd really appreciate seeing them live sometime. You know what to do.

There was another band that I was really into at the same time, Suddenly, Tammy! They broke up before they ever even got over to my side of the country. I'm more than willing to travel to wherever for a show this time, I just need you to put the wheels in motion.

I had the chance to see the Sugarcubes in some sort of festival bill with New Order and PIL, but that would have required travelling to Phoenix, so I passed it up. I could have see them again opening for U2, but that would have been another trip to Phoenix, so, meh. Now, I wish I had taken whatever opportunity I had. I just recently found out they played a one-off reunion show in Iceland last year for Icelandic charity. I didn't know about it beforehand, or I would have gone. I'm more than willing to travel to Iceland, I just need you to tell them to do it again, then maybe shoot me an email with the date so I can plan travel arrangements in advance.

Oh, and I see the Commodores play the casino here every once in a while. Can you please arrange for Lionel to come with them, just once?

There's a couple of other things I have to ask you, but I'm not sure you have the ability. Look, it's not like I'm doubting you or anything. I know you have wonderful powers. It's just I've not seen any evidence of them being used in this way.

But, if you can at all make it happen, I'd really like for you to bring Freddie Mercury back from the dead so that I can see a proper Queen reunion show instead of this Paul Rodgers crap. Of course, you'll have to get John Deacon back on board, which may be harder than getting Freddie back, but I have faith in you. If for whatever reason, this isn't going to work out, I'd settle for a trip to Japan to see Kween.

As long as we're bringing people back, can you do something about Kurt Cobain? I'm not asking to see Nirvana live again; I'm just hoping that Kurt may be able to do something to rein in Courtney Love. I just really feel like those two ought to be reunited, and if you can't bring Kurt back to this side of that great divide, can you at least send Courtney over there?

Oh, and I've already seen Elliott Smith play, but I was wondering if you could bring him back and maybe dry him out so that he can make a better last album than that ramshackle mess that became From a Basement on the Hill.

Just a couple of more things, thanks...

Can you call Stevie Wonder and convince him to make good music again? Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life both move me in ways no other records can. But, his more recent stuff, starting with "I Just Called to Say I Love You", moves me to tears at the talent wasted. Please just see what you can do so that I can see what he can do.

Oh, and can you restore Michael Jackson to the physical and mental state he was at in about 1980 or so? I think if we all chip in, we can get him to do it right this time.

That's about all I need. If I think of anything else I need, I'll call. Again, huge thanks for all you can do for me. And, don't forget, if there's anything I can ever do for you, please drop me a line sometime. I'd be happy to pay you back in whatever small way I can.


November 24, 2007

Semi-Annual Plumbing Catastrophe

Having a blog means that whenever I have something interesting to write, or can write in an interesting way about something that's otherwise uninteresting, I have a bit of responsibility to myself to actually write it. Today, I'm coming off of a 2 day plumbing calamity (that's actually an extension of the previous plumbing calamity this summer) that I'm sure would make a great story. Yet, I want so much to forget any of it ever happened, so it's hard to even want to write it down. I know there's some great humor in here somewhere, but I'm just not feeling it.

For the sake of posterity and purging, I tell my story here, but in a severely condensed format more suitable to getting past it quickly. I understand there are some who will say to themselves, "Condensed? Egads! I'd hate to see the uncondensed version!" To those wags I would suggest they reread the title of this blog and either strap themselves in or bail out now, because it doesn't get any better.

There's two things you need to know to make sense of this story. First, the very act of fixing or improving something in this old house of ours will always cause other things to break, and all such projects therefore take longer than you'd hope. And second, you should be disabused of the notion that I should have called a professional for any of these jobs. Virtually every complication that comes up in these things would have been just as likely to happen to a professional. If the handle of a valve was going to break off in my hand, it would be just as likely to break off in a plumber's hand, and they wouldn't take responsibility for breaking it either, I'm sure. Sure, there are occasional things that are mistakes that a professional wouldn't do, such as on the water filter installation when I left the hot water valve open after replacing it, then turned the house's water back on, coming back in the house to find water running down the stairs. But, virtually everything else is just going to happen, no matter what.

The story starts at the beginning of July when I try to install a nice reverse osmosis water filter under the kitchen sink. It's a really nice filter, a birthday gift from my mom. It recirculates the unfiltered water instead of dumping it down the drain like most will. I wanted it for a long time, and I'm so glad I have it, and I so looked forward to installing it.

In the process of installation, the handle for the hot water valve under the sink broke off when trying to shut it off which meant that the whole house's water needed to be shut off to replace it. There were several trips to the hardware store due to getting parts then finding the parts to be mislabeled, then getting adapters to make sure every piece could connect to the one valve. There was the aforementioned kitchen flood. But, the project was eventually finished (the same day even).

Shutting the water off to the house means that all the sediment in our 50 year old pipes gets stirred up, and after this filter project was done, we discovered that some sediment had gotten lodged in the body of the faucet in our upstairs bathroom, completely blocking the hot water flow. Some sediment had also gotten lodged in the fill valve for the toilet in our renter Rhonda's bathroom, causing it to not shut off. Then, in trying to shut off the water to that upstairs faucet to see if it could be fixed, the handle for one of the valves under the sink breaks off. So, fix one thing, then have three other things break.

Rhonda had another problem with her kitchen faucet that would require replacing it, and the valves underneath her sink wouldn't shut off, so they'd need replacing too, so the whole house's water would need to be shut off again. So, I waited to find the right time to do all this crap when I could set aside a day or two to do it all.

Rhonda's out of town for Thanksgiving, and I've got a long holiday weekend, so I decided to give it a go. I shut the water off, get her valves and faucet replaced without incident, go upstairs to replace our valve to find that when I take the valve off the pipe, a piece of the pipe breaks off inside the valve. So now, I've got this jagged stub of iron pipe sticking out of the wall.

At that point, I have to either find a way to get the new valve onto that jagged piece of pipe, or I will have to go downstairs and cut off the whole section of pipes that go upstairs since I wouldn't be able to cut off just that one because they split off inside the brick walls somewhere. Then, I'd have to run new pipes to every upstairs fixture, and do it outside up the walls, since there would be no possibility of running them up through the bricks. Once I realized what was in store for me, I decided that I was either going to fix the end of the pipe somehow or I was going to burn the house down for the insurance money.

The jagged end of pipe was still within the threaded portion, so I though if I could just square it off, I'd be able to thread the new valve on. I couldn't really get a hacksaw in there because space was too tight. I thought I could cut it and smooth it out with my Dremel™, but my little battery powered Dremel™ was petering out too fast. Finally, after three hours of screwing around with it, I went to the store and bought an actual plug-in Dremel™ knowing that if that didn't work, I'd be out that cost as well.

After coming back from the store, I offered up my most sincere prayer for the squaring off of the broken pipe, and after 15 minutes of Dremel™ futzing, finally got the new valve to screw onto the pipe (and not even leak!). Moving on to the faucet...

I had got a warranty replacement for the old faucet, but didn't notice until yesterday that the replacement they sent me wasn't quite the same as the original. The original had some metal braided supply lines integral to the faucet, and those just connected right to my valves. The new one just had two bare copper tubes sticking out the bottom with no connectors or anything. It came with compression rings and adapters and things, but I couldn't put those things on before sticking the faucet through the sink or the faucet wouldn't fit through the hole. Putting them on after sticking the faucet through was almost impossible because the space is so tight I couldn't get the leverage necessary to get a tight fit on those compression rings (which have to be really tight so they won't leak). After two hours, I finally got them tight enough and connected to the water supply and turned everything on to find the faucet was actually leaking out of the body of the faucet, and all my previous work was for naught.

I could pursue another warranty replacement, but that's like a 4 week process, and we already went a few weeks without a faucet in that bathroom when we first tried to fix the faucet that came with the bathroom at the end of 2003. So today, I had to just go out and buy a new bathroom faucet, which, when combined with the cost of the Dremel™ and the toilet parts, adds over $200 to the cost of installing our water filter.

So, I spent like 12 hours on this project yesterday, causing me to get frustrated, get exhausted, and miss my running for the day. And, I still haven't fixed Rhonda's toilet, because the Home Depot I went to today didn't have the right fill valve in stock. And, I just found out that our downstairs toilet is leaking out of the tank somewhere. And, this is all coming on the heels of last week when Joey stuffed a bottle of bath salts into our upstairs toilet, plugging it up and causing us to spend $55 on a plumber to unsuccessfully get it out, then me spending several hours pulling the toilet up so I could dig the bottle out and replace the toilet (After Miranda did the same thing a couple of months ago).

I don't regret buying this house. I still think it was a smart move to pay so little for such a big house, and the work we have to do is the price we pay for this. I don't mind doing the work. However, I just feel like the plumbing thing isn't quite fair. If something's broken, I want to fix that one thing. Don't trick me by throwing other things at me in the middle of a job. Don't mess with me like that, House.

November 19, 2007

Naming Wrights

My brother Steven has for a while referred to my brother Carson as simply "Brother", both in direct address ("Hey, Brother") and in reference ("I heard from Brother that you..."). Today, he clarified to me that he also refers to Tyler as "Big Brother", Andrew as "Bigger Brother, and me as "Biggest Brother". Note that this directly corresponds with birth order, not relative size.

I got a huge kick out of this, because this directly parallels my own form of referring to things using descriptive nominatives rather than their actual names. When Becki and I got married, she had two cats. Because I wasn't 100% clear which one was named what and didn't want to stop and think about it all the time, I took to addressing them as simply "Black Cat" and "Grey Cat". A few years later, Grey Cat died and Black Cat just became "Cat". A little while later, Becki took the first cat she had back from her mom. That cat stays in our basement and is "Downstairs Cat". The cat upstairs doesn't have to be "Upstairs Cat", though. She is still able to retain the title of just "Cat".

This is the case for inanimate objects as well. While I do talk to inanimate objects, I would never name them. That's just silly. Instead, I will address them only as "Car", "Computer", "TiVo", etc.

Now that Joey talks so much, I address him as "Joey", but it wasn't always that way. He was "Baby" nearly up until the time Miranda was born. Miranda got to be "New Baby" for a while, then eventually settled in to the now available again "Baby". She's almost a year and a half old, and I still probably call her "Baby" about ten times as often as using her actual name.

I'm trying to think how this got started. How did my brain fall into this pattern of description rather than naming? I've come up with three possible influences that have shaped my way of thinking about names and forms of address. First: there's my horrible memory for names. If everyone in the world would allow themselves to be called by descriptive listings of their attributes, everything would be a lot easier. Instead of seeing a guy in the grocery store and trying to remember "Is that Mr. Palowechez?", you could just confidently stride up to him and say "Hey, Thick Across The Middle Bald Guy! How's your wife, Shaves Her Moustache?"

Two: On the late lamented Viva Variety, there was a segment called "Monkey Sports", where the sidekick, Johnny Blue Jeans, would demonstrate sports with a monkey. The genius of this bit didn't entirely lie in the aptness of its title, however. Near the end of one segment, Johnny Blue Jeans was giving praise to the monkey, who had just done a great vault or something, by saying, "That's a ten for you, monkey".

That line has stuck with me for years, because it just made so much sense that if you had a monkey, you would address it as "Monkey". There's no point in giving it silly names except to impress your friends who otherwise wouldn't be impressed enough that you had a monkey. When you actually wanted to communicate with the monkey, you call it "Monkey". That was one of those points where something just all of a sudden clicks and universal truth shines through the heavens and becomes clear.

Third (and here's where I bring it all back to Steven in my very own warped chiasmus): Many years ago when Steven was little, I was charged with taking the cat now known as "Downstairs Cat" on a plane from Tucson to Salt Lake. Steven was petting the cat in its carrier and said "I think this cat's name should be 'Soft'". Minutes later, the cat scratched him completely without cause (as she was wont to do). Steven said "I think today's the day we change this cat's name to 'Mean'".

November 16, 2007


I've been growing my current beard since about the end of August/beginning of September. My normal beard progression goes like this:

I stop shaving. Some over aggressive hair follicles start to immediately dispatch long tendrils of wiry beard hair. Some normal follicles grow their hair at a relatively normal rate. And some deficient follicles slowly push hair out at the rate of 1 mm per year. The result is that for the first little while I end up with a really thin looking, patchy sort of nerd beard. I usually take great care to keep the long hairs trimmed short so as to eliminate the scraggly look while the short hairs play catch up. After about six months or so, the slow follicles have grown enough to fill in the rest, and I end up with a full, even, man beard. Then, for reasons passing understanding, I immediately shave it off, wait another six months or so and start again.

This beard, for various reasons, hasn't been trimmed since I started it. I've cleaned up the neckline some, but haven't trimmed the long hairs like I normally do. This means it's more scraggly than normal. This also means I haven't trimmed the moustache either, which makes it more bushy than it otherwise would be.

Today, I was absentmindedly playing with my moustache hairs when I noticed it could do this:

It's a little sick how excited that made me. I realized that a whole new world of facial hair possibilities are opening up to me now, much to Becki's certain chagrin.

With a little more work, I'll be ready for the champeenship.

November 15, 2007

Super Mario Galaxy

I have a Wii. I'm not a very avid video game player, but I have been looking forward to the new Super Mario Galaxy. Toys R Us has a sale this week only where you buy the game for $50 and they give you a $25 gift card good on your next purchase. Great deal, but they have trouble keeping the game in stock.

Today, I got lucky and got the last two at the East Tucson Toys R Us. I then went to the North Tucson one, and used the two gift cards to buy a third copy of the game. Now, for total investment of ~$112 (including tax), I am the proud owner of three copies of Super Mario Galaxy, plus one more $25 gift card. Now, if I can sell two copies for a net $43 a piece, and use the last gift card for something I would have been buying anyway (like Christmas gifts), I will have finagled myself a free game.

I am so proud.

November 14, 2007

José González

I have friends and family who are into music like Kings of Convenience, Iron & Wine, and Nick Drake. It is to you people that I direct this post. I invite you to check out the work of one José González, a Swedish singer-songwriter (of Argentine descent). Most of his stuff is just him and a nylon stringed acoustic guitar with perhaps a bit of percussion. It's very sparse and subtle, not just in the instrumental arrangement, but also his singing. His recent album includes a cover of Massive Attack's "Teardrop" (one of my favorite songs). It manages to in some ways be even more haunting than the original.

November 1, 2007

Fall 2007 TV wrapup

Now that I've watched all of the fall 2007 pilots, I can sum up the new shows and identify for you who the winners and losers are. And the big winner for the fall 2007 TV season is...

Peter, Bjorn and John. Their song "Young Folks" was prominently played on three of the new pilots. I heard it on Gossip Girl, Big Shots, and Dirty Sexy Money. I also heard it on Journeyman's second week. Oh, and the iPhone, which I also saw on three different shows.

As far as which shows are destined to be hits, I have no idea. When I was young, I used to think that whether a show stayed on the air depended on whether or not it was any good. I long ago disabused myself of that notion. Until fairly recently, I thought it was based on what other people thought was good. I've since learned that that's not really the case either.

Even if you judge success based on simple ratings, those ratings don't come from people making their viewing choices of their own free will. It comes down to a complex calculus of what's scheduled when, what the other networks have on against it, what it's lead-in is, et cetera. It seems really odd to me, because if I want to watch a show, I just point at the TiVo and watch it. It doesn't make a difference to me when it airs or what's on the other channels. And I certainly don't watch a show because I left the TV on that channel after the previous one ended. But, apparently, the majority of people still do.

Of course, success isn't even based on simple ratings. Lower-rated shows can stay if they cost less to produce, or bring a more desirable demographic, or draw viewers away from another network, or any of a number of reasons. So, I've stopped even trying to guess what will work and what won't. There are shows that are so bad that it's obvious to everyone they won't last long (Viva Laughlin), but beyond that, I don't even pretend to know anymore.

Viva Laughlin is actually the only show to get cancelled so far, which is very strange. In a normal TV season, several shows would have got the ax already. However, this season with the writers' strike and all, the networks need to hang on to every scripted show they've got. That makes Viva Laughlin's cancellation even more notable, because they're essentially saying, "If it comes down to us running out of TV completely, we'd rather broadcast dead air than this pile." So, basically, every show that isn't Viva Laughlin won.

Here's how my choices panned out:
I gave season passes to Dirty Sexy Money, Journeyman, and Carpoolers. The first two because they're good shows, and I'm intrigued enough in their continuing story lines to want to watch and see them resolved. Carpoolers because it's silly enough to keep me laughing, and because Becki really likes it.

I was really treating this season like a normal TV season, and completely forgot any potential impact the writers' strike would have. That was a big shortsighted mistake on my part. There were three shows that were on the fence for three episodes before finally getting dropped. They were: Pushing Daisies, Samantha Who, and Chuck. Once the writers' strike started, it finally hit me that I was going to run out of TV to watch, and saving episodes of marginal TV is better than getting stuck with the crapful reality fest that's coming our way in January. So I went back and gave all three shows season passes. But now, I've missed two episodes each of Chuck and Pushing Daisies, and therefore I can't watch any of those that I've recorded until I catch up, either from the network's web sites or from iTunes. My hope is that if I wait a while, the networks will start reruns, and I'll be able to get the missing shows within a month or two.

October 27, 2007

Viva Laughlin

Viva Laughlin is an American version of a British show (Viva Blackpool) about the young upstart casino owner going up against the established casino mogul with a murder mystery thrown in. Being a British show gives it about 50/50 odds of success, since British imports have split evenly between being long running hits (The Office, Sanford & Son (née Steptoe & Son), American Idol (née Pop Idol)) and the really gigantic stinkers (Coupling, First Years (née This Life), Life is Wild).

It's got Hugh Jackman in it, which increases its odds, but it's also got Melanie Griffith, which decreases its odds by a slightly greater amount. So its odds are still about even until you learn it's a musical. To my knowledge, there has never been a successful TV musical, so you can just about count it out right there.

Don't get me wrong. I'm about the world's biggest proponent of the singing and the dancing and the musical theatre. But, I don't have a lot of hopes for someone to do a musical on the small screen successfully.

All of my worst fears were confirmed when I watched the pilot. It's not a musical like singing and dancing production numbers. It's only a musical in the sense that occasionally a song will play, and a character will sing along to it. Let me clarify. A song will play in its actual recorded version (Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", for example), and a character will sing the same words along with the recorded track (so you hear both him and Mick). It's almost as if CBS bought a musical, but then was too embarassed to actually show a musical, so came up with ways to shield the American public from all that pesky singing.

If CBS took out all of the music, though, what's left would be still unwatchable. It's easily in contention for the worst new show for this fall season. About the only thing the show gets right is the feeling one gets from the actual city of Laughlin. Laughlin, Nevada is Las Vegas's ugly stepsister, where you get all of the desperation and seediness of Vegas without any of the fun or character. It's decidedly second-rate, and you always get the feeling, no matter what you're doing, that it would have been better in Vegas. This show recreates this feeling by being a decidedly second-rate show. The acting, the dialogue, the sets, the costumes and everything seem like low-budget rejects from other, better shows which provides a good parallel to the city of Laughlin. However, that's not a reason to watch this show. There is no reason to watch this show.

October 26, 2007

Samantha Who

Samantha Who (formerly known as Samantha Be Good, formerly known before that as Sam I Am) is the new comedy with Christina Applegate as someone who got bonked on the head, develops amnesia, and then slowly discovers that the person she used to be is not really the person she'd like to be.

I never really watched Married With Children, so I don't have any previous experience with Ms. Applegate, good or bad. I find her to be kind of the right balance between cute and annoying in this show, and the show itself is almost funny. I really like Jean Smart, also, no matter what she's in. I'm not sure how long they can drag out the amnesia thing though, because eventually she either recovers, learns everything about herself, or forges a new life and grows to accept it. There eventually has to be an end to the finding her in embarrassing comedic situations caused by her not remembering some crucial element from her past.

Also, I don't understand why developing amnesia after a bonk on the head is such a problem. I learned from Gilligan's Island that it's easily cured by applying another bonk to the head.

October 25, 2007

Women's Murder Club

I kept seeing this one come up on the To-Do List on the TiVo and thought, "Oh man, I gotta watch this?" But, rules are rules, so I dutifully recorded it just to see if it was any good.

It's not.

It seems like with a title like Women's Murder Club you'd have a club of women that commit murders. Or maybe a club that murders women. Either would be more exciting than what it actually is, which is a club of women who solve murders. The club is comprised of a medical examiner, a DA, a cop, and a reporter. They solve murders and talk about boys. A lot. It's apparently based on a book.

The pilot had one of the weirder cold opens of any pilot this season. The woman cop is checking her voice mail, trying to figure out where the reporter is that she was supposed to meet when the reporter falls from the sky and crushes the car next to her. That was pretty cool, actually.

The rest of the pilot was just unbearable, though, because the hens in the club really did spend more time talking about boys then they did actually solving murders. Also, the DA lady's short white boy hair was just really repulsive.

October 24, 2007

Life is Wild

Life is Wild is about a woman and her kids marrying a man and his kids and then the whole family moving to South Africa so the man can be a vet at a game preserve run by his dead previous wife's estranged father. It's the most common premise around.

The show felt more like an ABC Family type show than an actual network show. It had the same sort of wooden acting and stock footage.

One of my pet peeves is poorly written little kid dialogue. Anybody who's spent any time at all around kids could easily tell the difference between what a kid would actually say and what some writer who's never been around kids would think they would say. Oddly, it usually manifests itself as dumbing down of the kids. I very rarely see kid dialogue where I think "No way would a kid of that age string together that kind of complex sentence structure and raise that sort of insight into the issue at hand." However, I constantly see kids on TV or movies that make me think, "why is that kid retarded?"

Anyway, this show has that problem.

October 23, 2007

Pushing Daisies

For most people, it seems like it would be kind of hard to know what to make of Pushing Daisies. It's brightly colored (almost to the point of garish), there's some sort of supernatural or magical element, the sets are almost cartoony. I watched Bryan Fuller's other series Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me, so I don't think this is too much of a stretch although it certainly is farther out there than either one of these.

It's got a lot going for it. There's Jim Dale. Kristin Chenoweth is in it (although the crocheted dress she wore in the pilot is hideous). Ellen Greene is in it. There are supposed to be some semi-frequent musical numbers. And, the pie shop is named The Pie Hole. That's brilliant.

However, there's one big problem with this show that keeps me from watching it. Ned brings Chuck back to life, which means that the slightest touch from him kills her. Dead. Forever. But Chuck and Ned seem to spend way too much time in way too close of proximity, taking unnecessary risks. They'll sit next to each other, sit in a booth across from each other, work in the same kitchen together. It makes me physically uncomfortable to watch.

If I'm holding my phone in my hand and walk into a bathroom where the toilet lid is up, I start to freak out because I'm sure that the phone will somehow slip out of my hand and fly across the room straight into the toilet. I have to move my other hand over and hold my phone in both hands to start to feel secure again. This is the same feeling I get watching this show.

October 22, 2007


I absolutely loved the short-lived Sons & Daughters, so I'm really glad to see Fred Goss working again in Carpoolers. He's playing pretty much the exact same character, so that helps me like the show as well.

Another plus is that the show's created by Bruce McCulloch, so other Kids in the Hall will be present hopefully. Also, I think Fred Goss lived in three different houses in the first three episodes, so that helps keep it fun.

All in all, this show is silly more than it is funny, so if it were solely up to me I might not commit to it. However, Becki really likes it, so we keep watching.

October 21, 2007


Much has been already been written about Cavemen, from better writers than me. In case you don't know, this is the show based on the successful series of GEICO ads with the cavemen living among our time. It seemed like such a no-brainer, given the success of Mr. Whipple's World in the 70s, and the more recent successes of Noid Patrol and Where's the Beef Now?.

This was a very early candidate for worst show of fall 2007, but I'm pleased to report that the powers that be have managed to make a show that's actually not the worst of the year. (Big Shots, I'm looking in your direction...). It's not good, but it's not nearly as bad as you might think. It pretty successfully sets a tone not at all unlike other comedies where a particular class of people, normally looked down upon, have to live among those who normally do the down-looking. Its closest analog is The Munsters, but I think it has just the slightest hint of Jeffersons.

It has a couple of things going for it. Nick Swardson was hilarious in the first episode, and the character of Nick is pretty funny. However, I don't understand why, with the bigger budgets that a series allows, the makeup's worse than the commercials.

October 20, 2007

Aliens in America

Aliens in America gets points from me for being a half hour sitcom, yet foregoing a laugh track. That's become more common recently, but is yet still too rare. It also has Amy Pietz, who I've liked in other things. But, the rest of the show just didn't click for me, so I'm not watching it.

October 19, 2007


Moonlight is about a vampire detective. Genius. Somebody somewhere realized people like detective shows, and they like vampire shows. It was an idea whose time had come.

Too bad it's not any good. I liked the reference to Hearst College, and I love it when a show uses really old stock footage, like the night shot of downtown Los Angeles showing the First Interstate Bank Building with its big sign on top (which hasn't been there since 1998).

The female lead is terrible. Just stunningly unwatchable. Even if the rest of this show was good, I would not watch it for that reason alone.

October 18, 2007

Big Shots

Big Shots has been often referred to as Sex in the City for men. Well, I didn't like that show, and thought there was probably a pretty good chance I wouldn't like this one either. Sure enough, less than two minutes in, I said out loud to everyone and no one in particular, "I hate this show."

I don't even want to write any more about it except to say that I loved Joshua Malina on Sports Night, but if this show stays on much longer he will be dead to me. Also, one of my pet peeves is people being pronounced dead too quickly on TV shows, without proper resuscitation efforts. This show had someone getting knocked over by a golf cart, someone else saying "Call 911!", and then another person just kind of leaning over the victim and saying, "You can forget 911". And that's it, the guy's dead. No CPR, paramedics, AED, nothing. Yes, I know it was important to move the story along quickly at that point, but come on, writers. What's wrong with knocking the guy over, then cutting to the country club the next day: "He died?" "Yes, can you believe it?" "Hit by a golf cart causing a sudden heart attack, wow!", etc. Doing it the way you did takes even slightly intelligent people out of the story.

Oh, and the one slightly redeeming thing about the pilot is the frequent use of the phrase "tranny hooker", which is always funny, even on a crap show like this.

October 17, 2007

Dirty Sexy Money

The premise of Dirty Sexy Money is not one that would normally interest me. Spoiled rich people doing spoiled rich things. But, as with Gossip Girl, there's something else to this show.

For starters, it's got Peter Krause and Donald Sutherland. I loved Sports Night and Six Feet Under, so I'll give Peter Krause a chance in anything. And Donald Sutherland's just one of my favorite actors ever, so I'll probably watch him no matter what. If there was a series in development for next fall called White Pages in which Donald Sutherland read from the phone directories of major metropolitan areas, I would watch that too.

The characters are not all that likable, which is to be expected since they're spoiled and rich. But they strike the right balance of being unlikable enough that it's fun to hate them without being so unlikeable as to be repulsive. There's a little bit of a mystery thrown in, and at this point it's not entirely clear if Donald Sutherland's a good or bad guy. I'm really rooting for him to be good, because at this point, he's definitely the most likable person in the whole family, and it would be a shame for the show to lose that.

The pilot suffered a little from making already over the top characters even more over the top so that the audience could pick up quickly on the tone of the show. I'm sure that will smooth out over time, though. One of the best parts of the pilot is that it includes my new favorite phrase of fall TV 2008, "tranny hooker".

October 16, 2007


The premise of Life is that a cop gets framed for a murder he didn't commit and then spends 5 years in prison until new evidence exonerates him. Then, a large settlement with the city also gets him his job back, and he solves crimes with some sort of new compassion for the criminals and some intuition he picked up in the joint.

This show seems to be targeting House, in that they both feature a main character who's fairly unlikeable and says completely inappropriate things. The things House says are actually funny, though. This guy's just dull. I can't tell if it's the writing, or bad acting, but the lead didn't seem watchable at all. I think it's something about his fairly high pitched voice.

The pilot was really annoying because they wanted to beat you over the head with the idea that everything's changed so much since this dude went to prison. So, we were treated with bits of dialog like:

phone rings
"Aren't you going to get that"
"Oh, the phone in my pocket? It's so small I forget it's there"

"He sent an IM to the kid saying..."
"What's an IM?"

"Can I take your picture?"
"How? That's a phone."
"It's got a camera on it. Where've you been?"

speakerphone rings in car; car picks up
"How am I talking to you?"

Alright, we understand. He went to prison; the world went on without him. At this point it's like Unfrozen Caveman Detective. "Your modern devices frighten and confuse me." Tune in next week when we see the main character work on his Rubik's Cube and get completely flummoxed by a Starbucks.

The one good thing about this show is it has Adam Arkin in it, so I'll probably watch it once more, but it's long term prospects don't look good for me.

October 15, 2007

Private Practice

I didn't watch Private Practice. It's a spinoff of Grey's Anatomy, which I'm already not watching since I previously determined that the only point of the show was to demonstrate how many of the characters could have sex with how many of the other characters and in which combinations. Since Private Practice spins off of Grey's, it carries Grey's taint with it, which means it's exempt from my "must watch every new show" rule.

October 14, 2007

Bionic Woman

When I'm recording these fall pilots, I've gotten in the habit of starting all the recordings one minute early and ending one minute late, just to accommodate any network scheduling shenanigans. When I went to watch Bionic Woman, though, I noticed my recording started right at the end of a really pivotal scene where Starbuck, the original Bionic Woman, is getting shot.

I checked online recaps later and determined that I had started probably about a minute into the show, which means that NBC had started it a full two minutes before the scheduled start time. I could write pages on how much this bothers me, but for the sake of brevity I will limit myself to the following:

Networks: I don't care what time you start your show. If you want to start it at 8:57, that's fine. If you want to start at 9:14, that's fine too. I don't care that you don't stick right to the hour or half hour in an attempt to jump on other networks' programming. I have enough TiVos that I can keep up and still catch everything. All I want is for you to tell me what time the show starts and then stick to it. I see all sorts of things in my guide like shows starting at 9:58 and 10:02, and that looks like you're doing the right thing. However, if my guide says 10:02 and you start the show at 10:00, I can't watch it. If the guide says 10:00 and you start the show at 9:57, I can't watch it. I refuse to watch only part of a creative work that's meant to be enjoyed as a whole, especially when there's no good reason why I shouldn't be able to watch the whole thing. Remember, you're the ones who want me to watch your shows. Don't make it harder for me.

So anyway, I was confused through the whole pilot, because I had missed crucial exposition. I'll probably watch the next episode, but if I feel even slightly confused by what I missed, I won't be able to really get into it, and will drop the whole series. So, it all comes down to that first minute.

As far as the review goes, Starbuck wasn't that good in the pilot, and the girl playing Jaime Sommers was pretty wooden. It had Miguel Ferrer in it, though, and he's cool.

October 13, 2007


Cane is an hour drama about Jimmy Smits and has family's sugarcane/rum business in Florida. Overall it was one of those things where it may be good, but it just isn't what I'm interested in. So, I dropped it. For future reference, here's the good and bad about Cane:


  • It has Hector Elizondo in it.
  • It has Nestor Carbonell (aka Batmanuel) in it.

  • Hector Elizondo's character's dying, so unless the sugarcane has magical healing properties, he's probably not long for the series.
  • It has Nestor Carbonell in it, which means we'll have to make do with less of him on Lost.
  • The daughter of the rival sugarcane family is played by an otherwise respectable British actress who puts on the worst Southern accent I've heard on TV all year.

October 12, 2007


I didn't get to watch the pilot for Reaper. For whatever reason, my local affiliate started the show 15 minutes late. There was no sporting event that day or major news interruption. From what I can tell they just lost their watch or something. Starting 15 minutes late meant that the last 15 minutes wasn't on the TiVo when I went to watch it. If I can't watch the whole thing, there's no point in watching it at all, and if I can't watch the first episode, there's no point in watching the second or third.

If they were rerunning the pilot later that week, or if it had been offered on iTunes or something, I would have had a chance to catch it. But, since I didn't, it doesn't matter if it's the greatest show in the history of TV. I'll never be able to watch it. At this point, I'm really hoping it's a bad show and actively wishing for its demise so that I won't feel like I'm missing anything.

So, congratulations KWBA. Your incompetence lost your network one potential viewer of this show.

October 11, 2007


Journeyman chronicles the adventures of a man who leaps back in time in order to make right something that's gone wrong in the past. Along the way he's assisted by a dude named Al his former fiancee who was previously thought dead.

I liked Quantum Leap as much as the next guy, so I figured I'd probably like this. The pilot was good, with the right amount of suspense and mystery to keep someone wanting to come back the next week.

The pilot included a really sappy bit where the lead buries his wife's wedding ring under the porch while in the past so that he can dig it up in the present and prove to his wife that he's really travelling in time and not going off the wagon or something. In the scene where he retrieves the ring, music is swelling while he starts to bust up his porch. His wife gasps, "What are you doing?" He responds, "Saving my marriage". This is a fairly typical TV or movie climax up to that point, but then the writers have the wife respond with "Uh, not really", which took me by surprise and made me laugh out loud. Little things like that really go a long way with me, so thanks, Journeyman. I will watch you again.

October 10, 2007

Big Bang Theory

Big Bang Theory is a very typical laugh track sitcom. It's the other nerd comedy this season. After watching the pilot, I've got to stand up for nerds everywhere and say how insulted I am. The setup for the show is two nerds living together in an apartment discover there's a real live girl living next door to them, and it goes downhill from there. Most of the dialogue is taken verbatim out of some sort of "So You Want To Write A Nerd Comedy?" guidebook with all sorts of random science references thrown in every thirty seconds to remind the audience "See, these guys are nerds! Did you notice yet that they're nerds?"

The commercials for this series kept saying "A new comedy from the creator of Two and a Half Men". I didn't pay close attention to the commercials, but I assume they were saying that as some sort of warning.

Verdict: I hate this show.

October 9, 2007


Chuck is the spy comedy about a guy who somehow gets the government's deepest darkest secrets downloaded straight to his brain, leaving the government to alternately attempt to destroy and protect him.

It's one of two shows this season that feature prominent nerd scenarios (the other being Big Bang Theory), and Chuck is definitely the less insulting of the two.

It's funny enough that I'll definitely watch it again. But what was most notable to me about the pilot was that the female lead (the cute blond CIA agent) had not one, but two extended scenes in her underwear. This indicates to me that the producers are very acutely aware of their target demographic, which does bode well for the long term hopes for the show.

October 8, 2007

Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl has got a couple of things going against it. One, it's on "The CW", which is bad enough. Two, I can't get a signal from the CW tower where I live, which means I don't get to watch anything on that channel in HD. Three, it's about, and kind of targeted towards, teenagers. I've watched high school shows before (most recently Veronica Mars), but I always have a tough time explaining to my wife why I'm spending so much of my time watching TV shows about underage girls.

That said, I thought the show was really well done. The characters that were supposed to be bad were almost mustache-twirlingly bad, but the characters that were supposed to be likable really genuinely were. The lead girl, Serena Van Der Something was very sympathetic, and I really felt for her and how difficult her (crazy rich) life was.

I was completely caught off guard by this show. I really didn't expect it to be any good at all. I don't know if I'll keep it for good, but I'll definitely move on to a second episode.

October 7, 2007

Back To You

Back To You is the new Kelsey Grammer sitcom set in a news room. It's a pretty standard laugh track sitcom that displays none of the intelligence that Frasier had.

The supporting characters are pretty well defined, which is to say each of their one notes are pretty clear. You've got the slutty one who'll use her body in any way that will get her ahead, the young nerdy guy clearly over his head running the news department, the old news veteran who's seen it all, the good guy that knows he could do it if he could just get his shot. I don't remember any of their names. I don't know if they have names. I think they're just referred to as their archetypes in the scripts.

The pilot's got a twist involving a bastard child that I figured out about 30 seconds in.

The important thing about a sitcom is not plot twists or character development, but whether or not you actually laugh watching it. Did I laugh at this show? Yeah, a couple of times, but not as much as I would have thought considering how funny it could have been. So, yeah, I'll watch this again, but I'm not holding out much hope.

October 6, 2007


K-Ville's claim to fame is that it's shot in New Orleans, and set in New Orleans post-Katrina. It's a gritty crime drama about a cop (Anthony Anderson) who practically wears a "I'm a good cop" t-shirt. He stuck with the force while everyone else was abandoning the city. He's a dedicated family man. He's sticking with the city during the rebuilding even though his family wants to split for higher ground. And then, there's his partner, officer Martin Guerre Somersby, who was in prison, but got flooded in Katrina, and then somehow got out and decided to dedicate himself to taking on the persona of a cop so he could make good or something.

I could tell from the pilot that the show had it's heart in the right place, but it suffered from Overreaching Pilot Syndrome, wherein the writers/producers feel compelled to throw way too much into the pilot to try to get people hooked in the first episode. There were something like nine deaths, some sort of shadowy corporate conspiracy to reflood New Orleans, lots of family strife and the Martin Guerre subplot all conveniently solved and handled in about 42 minutes single handedly by the main character. I thought it's entirely possible that future episodes could be better, but although it might be a great show, it just didn't seem like something I'd watch, so I dropped it.

October 5, 2007

Annual Fall TV Review

I love watching TV. I am not ashamed to say this. I think it's a worthwile pastime. Now, I'm not talking about the indiscriminate time wasting that people usually rail against. I'm talking about the TiVo-assisted selection of quality viewing entertainment, and the enjoyment of said selections.

rant ahead...

The idea of telling a story through a display of moving pictures synchronized with sound is something that's on the whole done better on television than by the movies nowadays. I'm highly disenchanted with the Hollywood studio system of movie making and distribution. Too much effort and money is put in to movies that have to appeal to the lowest common denominator just so they can justify the enormous effort and money that went into them in the first place.

There are good movies being made, but they're hard to find amongst the intelligence-insulting crap. If you're lucky enough to find out about a good movie, there's a whole world of pain in store for you as you try to go see it. If you're going to a theater, you've got to discharge your responsibilities at home (i.e. find a babysitter, feed your cats, etc.), actually drive to the theater (since we're talking about seeing a good movie, you're probably having to drive to the one place in town where it's playing), pay a ridiculous amount of money for you and your spouse/date/party, pay ridiculous prices for refreshments or be forced to smuggle in your own, then watch the movie in a dirty, sticky auditorium with uncomfortable seats from a scratched print with subpar sound (again, because we're watching a good movie, it's probably not at the newest fanciest theater in town).

If you opt to not see the movie at the theater, you've got other things to contend with. DVD's nice and all, but it means either purchasing (which gets expensive), or renting (which means driving somewhere, or using Netflix, which is definitely not on demand). Downloading movies illegally over the internet works well for those without a conscience. New technologies like Amazon Unbox, or Vudu, or Apple TV or things like that all hold promise, but still suffer from fatal flaws.

Contrast that to television: TV's full of crap; don't get me wrong. However, the sheer volume of stuff delivered through the TV means you can still find a lot of quality entertainment once you've filtered through the crap. The overall delivery process couldn't be easier since TV just falls into your house (at very reasonable prices considering the volume of stuff), and the filtering process of separating out the crap is so much easier now that we have TiVo and the extended word of mouth that is the internet.

rant over

Now that I've established that television is a good value proposition for your entertainment choice, I'll explain a little more about my TV watching. I've got a number of things I watch on a regular basis, and a number of other things I might watch more infrequently. However, I'm always on the lookout for something good to watch. I've had shows recommended to me in the past that I just couldn't watch because I wasn't able to see it from the beginning. I've got a compulsive personality that finds it hard to watch something without a continuing story line, and I can't watch something at all if I've missed any part of the story. That means I can't just pick up a TV series two or three seasons in. The few times that I've tried watching a series after it started I was forced to track down the previous episodes first, either in reruns or on DVD.

A few years back, I made a commitment to watch every new series that came on TV, precisely so that if a show was good, I could be there to watch it from the very beginning. Over the years I've refined my technique and made up some rules for this endeavor which I will share with you now.
  • I limit myself only to new series on the broadcast networks. There's really great stuff on the other cable channels, but most of the action's still at the broadcast networks. Also, there's just too many of those other channels, and no way to keep up with them all. If something good crops up on one of these other channels, I just assume that I'll either hear about in time, or be able to jump in on the hundreds of reruns.
  • I don't include reality series. Again, there's too many of them. I'm not opposed to reality TV; it's just that all the series are (generally) the same in my experience, and I don't have time to add new ones when I don't watch the older ones. (I also reserve the right to skip a spinoff series if I already don't like the series from which it's spinning off.)
  • Every show gets up to three chances before I have to make a commitment. I'll record the pilot episode for a show, and if it's just completely retarded, I'll give up on it right away. If I have any interest in it at all, I'll give it a second chance the following week. If after the second airing, I'm still on the fence, I can record it one more week. After three weeks, though, I've either got to give up on the series or commit to watching it until the end.
As you may tell, there's a lot of pressure on the TV series to really come on strong out of the gate. You may also guess that the end of September/beginning of October is a real workout for the TiVo. Summer is spent watching movies to try to clear space on the TiVo for all the new HD pilots coming up in the fall.

So far the system has worked well for me. Every fall I add a couple of series to my watching, and every spring, a couple of series end, keeping my overall TV watching load pretty constant. I've also been pretty confident in the decisions that I've made. I've only once gone back and tried to start over from the beginning watching a series I previously passed up on (24, which I ended up re-dropping halfway through the 3rd season). And, I've only twice given up on series that I had previously committed to (Prison Break and Desperate Housewives, both for reasons of getting stupid and boring).

One of the reasons for starting a blog that I didn't put in my manifesto was to have a place to keep track of this fall's TV series. I intended to write my reviews of each fall series and what I liked or disliked about it, and it made sense to stick it up somewhere.

So, dear imaginary reader, what follows will be my review of each of this fall's new TV series.

October 4, 2007


Here's a picture of an orangutan, inserted solely for the purpose of giving my profile somewhere to link to:

October 3, 2007


I want to save some time and space by taking one post to provide all of the possible disclaimers that I might attach to the posts in this blog. The hope is that if anyone takes objection to anything I write, I can just point them here and say "well, you were warned".

So, here are all the things a reader needs to keep in mind when reading any post on this blog:

  • I will not provide any guarantee that everything I write is true. I will not even guarantee that most of what I write is true. If you really pin me down, I might be willing to commit to standing behind 51% of what I write here, but no more. Even if something I write is true factually, I won't guarantee that my writing represents my true feelings on the matter, either now or in the future.
  • This writing does not always represent my best efforts. It may not even represent something as good as a lazy, slip-shod effort.
  • I am a bad person who has done bad things. My finding of fault in others in no way implies that I am a better person than they or that I would do whatever they are doing better than they would.
  • I am self-centered and often don't think something through beyond how it might affect me personally. Therefore, there's a good chance that what I've written will not be carefully reasoned, nor give a fair shake to other views on the subject.

I'm certain that I will think of more things to disclaim in the future, and will be sure to update this master disclaimer in such an event.

October 2, 2007


Occasionally when starting a large project, I've found it to be helpful to write a manifesto first as a way to organize my thoughts and state my goals for whatever it is I'm doing. If I put what I want down in words, I'm more likely to acheive it. If I list my goals first, I'm more apt to remember what exactly it is I'm trying to acheive. And, if I don't get exactly where I want to be with the project, looking back at the original manifesto is an entertaining way to see where exactly the whole thing went off the rails.

So, that's why I'm writing a blog manifesto. It's potentially a large enough project that I should take some time to define its scope. And, I've held such resistance to this idea of blogging for so long that it's helpful for me to define exactly what my objections are and how to overcome each one.

Several people have asked me "Do you have a blog?", "You're one of those internet people. I bet you have a blog." and "Surely you have a blog." I've always said "No", and then proceeded to lay out whatever objections I could think of to the very idea of me blogging. Over the years, they became more and more ridiculous. Here, in its entirety, is the list of every objection I've ever had to me having a blog:
  • It's feels pretentious to assume that anyone would want to read what I wrote. The very act of me putting words to paper (or web page, as it were) assumes that there's someone out there who actually wants to read what I wrote. It feel that it's the height of hubris for me to just put articles out there assuming that there's a large contingent of people who have been spending their whole lives up to now just waiting for me to grace them with my witty word.

  • I wouldn't be able to come up with anything interesting enough to hold the audience that I was so pretentious to assume existed. My writing would be boring, and since it's somehow a reflection of me, I would be boring. Anybody who was interested in reading would no longer be, and I would be talking to myself.

  • If I said, "This blog's for me, I don't care if I'm talking to myself", I would still be hurt to find out that no one was actually reading it. I would then have to resort to sensationalism to get readers. I would be so dependent on seeing positive comments to ensure that people were actually reading articles that I would start writing just to get a reaction. I think this is the problem with many blogs that I've read, and quite frankly, with much of people's writing, period. Quite often, something is written in such a way to elicit a reaction in the reader, which is quite fine if you're trying to bring the writer around to your point of view, or if you're trying to evoke a specific feeling in them. However, a lot of the things I read on the internet are written just to get someone riled up or inflamed, and not even in a particular direction. It's just written to get someone to keep reading or make a comment (usually, so that the writer or their site can get more page views or more ad impressions). It's not honest writing, and I'm afraid I would find myself so desperate for attention that I would quickly head down that path. Either that, or I would have to stoop to things like announcing I would cut off my own toe and "liveblog" it so as to assure a large mass of readers.

  • It's nerdy. Let's face it, maintaining a blog is still a pretty nerdy thing to do. Yes, it's true that nobody would ever mistake me for anything but a huge nerd. However, there's still this little part of me that tries to deny it, and assumes that people like me because I'm cool and not because I can fix their computer or do their taxes. I'm also still holding out hope that somebody, somewhere, will only like me for my body.

  • I was... "involved" with a writer once. It didn't really end up as a positive experience for either of us. It took me a while to realize that she was living her life as if she were writing it in real-time. Thus, all of her actions and the choices she made were geared towards whatever would look best in words. This usually resulted in doing whatever would garner as much sympathy as possible from her imagined audience.
    I don't think the same problem would befall me, but I have noticed strange changes in my thinking and consciousness when I write. If I'm writing something big, or preparing to write something and thinking it through, I've noticed that my thinking will change. I will no longer think thoughts and feelings; I think sentences and paragraphs. I noticed even in the last couple of days of thinking through this manifesto my thought process changed as if I was narrating my thoughts instead of just experiencing them.
    This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It could definitely help me become a better writer, because when in that mode my ability to experience feelings is constrained by my ability to articulate what I'm feeling. It provides a built-in incentive to improve the process of constructing thoughts in the form of sentences. So, it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is weird, and feels funny. If it just affected the way I thought things, no big deal, but if it started to color the way I experienced things, or made me think of something in a different way than I would have otherwise, that has the potential to be bad.

  • I don't know if I want to spend the time. Frankly, I have a lot better things that I should be doing. My house is perpetually falling apart, I'm constantly behind in my work responsibilities, and my kids require constant attention. If I do have free time, I don't necessarily want to spend it writing.

  • I can't think of a catchy title or theme. Sure, a name doesn't seem that important. So I do need to pick something as an address, and the title will be the first thing that readers see on every page. So, I'm trying to think of something good. I've never had a nickname that stuck or anything particularly identifiable about me. So, I can't use anything like that as a name for a blog. I don't have a particular theme in mind, so I can't really pick a name based on a theme.
    Any halfway clever names that I could think of are already taken, although without fail, every name I have checked links to blogs that haven't been updated in years. The most recently updated one was from 2004, and everything else hadn't been updated since 2002 at the latest. Fully half of the names I looked for linked to blogs that only had a single post, usually of the form "This is my new blog. I'm totally going to update it all the time and keep everyone up to date on me and my life." I just really wish there was some sort of blog eminent domain that would allow me to just take over one of those completely useless sites for the greater benefit to mankind.

  • Everybody's doing it. Notwithstanding the scores of abandoned blogs I encountered, I still know of lots of people, companies, animals, and inanimate objects that have their own blogs. I still try to fancy myself as some sort of trendsetter or rebel or iconoclast, and I'd be hurting that by jumping on the blog bandwagon. In fact, what I'm trying to do is position myself at the forefront of the Great Blog Backlash, should that ever take place. Then I can say, "Oh, the rest of you all just started not blogging when not blogging became trendy. I've been not blogging for years"

  • I don't particularly like the word "blog". I actively dislike some of the related words, like "liveblog", "vlog", and expecially "blogosphere". I'll use the word "blog" or "blogging", but that's about it. I also don't particularly like that there are a lot of misconceptions about what a blog is, or arguments about what a blog should be.
    There is a huge collection of people that think a blog is a political commentary site on the internet that espouses some far-right or far-left view, since that's the only context in which they've ever heard the term. There are people who define blogs as meta-commentary on the web or the user-driven foundations of Web 2.0 "leveraging the mutificiencies of social networks", or "using the meta-synergies of the blogosphere's anthropotopography to inspire an new generational parashift" or something that's only really apporiate for Wired magazine or some such. I'm not even sure what stuff like that means other than they imagine their "blogosphere" as one gigantic circle of one person writing something, another person linking to that and commenting, a third linking to the second and so on. Yeah, that happens, but that's a small subset of what I see out there. Still others would assume that if someone has a blog it's nothing more than that person's online journal. Yeah, that's true in some cases, but not nearly all. Some people have discipline and only post interesting things. Some people are much less discriminating than they would be with a real journal. I'm not going to attempt to define what a blog is, other than to say it's a collection of crap thrown up on the internet that someone may or not read. In other words, pretentious wankery.

  • People will assume they somehow know me just from reading the stuff on my blog. I still have this impression of myself as a terribly complex person. I fear that someone who reads my blog as a way to get to know me better will either make incorrecty judgements because they weren't getting the full story, or assume they have the full story when they really don't. That would be unfortunate. What would be more unfortunate would be for me to find out that no, I'm really not that complex, and yes, you can derive every bit of my personality from a few postings I made on an internet site somewhere.
    I read an Onion article a while back called "Mom Finds Out About Blog". One of my favorite quotes in the article was the blogger, Kevin Widmar, saying, "With the raw materials in my blog, she could actually construct an accurate picture of who I am." Yes, that's terrifying. Believe it or not, it's actually a great concern of mine that someone reading my blog will try to assemble an accurate picture of who I am and then fail, or worse, succeed. (When I was setting up the blog, I was overjoyed to find a help file in the Blogger help called "What to do if your mom discovers your blog..." that addressed this exact situation and even quoted the same Onion article! The weird part is that between the day I started this manifesto and the day I finished it, the Blogger link went dead, and no amount of searching brings it up, although it's still in the Google cache. Hmmm.)

  • Someone will hold it against me later. As a corollary to the above, it's possible that I may miss out on some future job offer or something because someone somewhere Google's my name, reads what I wrote, and thinks I'm a dork. I much prefer to keep that little bit of information secret until later.

So then, if I have so many objections, why am I doing this now? Well, it turns out that a lot of those objections are not good ones. Who knew? It also turns out that anything else that's left can be fairly easily overcome. Some of my objections require just a little bit of rationalization on my part to overcome. Some require viewing things from a bit of a different perspective. Some require just a bit of stubbornness in the other direction. So, I can get past all of these objections, but still, why blog? Why take the time?

I can think of a few good reasons:
  • I need practice writing. I'm not as good of a writer as I ever was before. I can't articulate my thoughts clearly and succinctly, and I have a hard time getting the exact meaning of what I'm saying to come across in text. I need a reason to write occasionally so as to keep what little skill I have.

  • I don't remember things very well anymore. I still remember my name and things like that, but I don't remember the fine details of things that happened years ago. My hope is that if I write more about them, the act of writing will cement them better in my memory, as well as providing a published narrative to remind me what I was doing or thinking at the time.

  • I quite frequently come across some thought or problem and hit Google to see what other people on the Interweb might have done about said thought or problem. Sometimes I'm alarmed when I can't find anyone else reporting on the same experience, and in those cases, I begin to feel all alone in the world. I decided that if I have a blog, everytime I search for something on Google and can't find it I can post what I know about the topic to my blog to assist anyone who might be looking for said topic in the future.

  • I don't keep in touch with people well. I don't write letters, and I don't call often. However, I want to keep in touch with my friends and loved ones; I'm just not good at following through for some reason. In recent years, I've really come to depend on other people's blogs so much to keep me up to date on whatever they're doing or thinking. This is a line of communication that's pretty much one way, though, and it's time that I do my part to give back to those who give of themselves.
I'm sure I can think of more good reasons as time goes on, but those are enough reason to get started.