Category Archives: TV

The box in the living room you point your furniture at. Shows, commentary, recommendations and reviews.

Why Can’t We Seem to Keep it Together?

An unanticipated side effect of night shift working has been the speed at which time passes. Considering that from about 10:40 on Saturday night until noon on Wednesday my life is a blur of late-night news programming, unix systems administration, complicated charts monitoring various nigh-unintelligible technologies like ‘telephony’ and ‘database replication’, driving and poor sleep patterns it’s maybe not all that remarkable. That doesn’t mean I expected it though.

My weekends, such that they are, therefore involve a lot of chores and sleep catch-up plus a smattering of social activity and other recreational pursuits where they fit in. The end result is that I stand up and by the time I sit down several weeks have passed, usually without me updating the site.

I vowed awhile back not to waste a lot of time writing about not writing or making lengthy posts trying to excuse my absences. If I update, I update; if I can’t or don’t that’s the way it goes. No one cares one way or the other so it’s just alternating self flagellation and excuse-making which is boring and pointless.

If it’s cool with you I’ll pretend that isn’t par for the course around here.

Anyway, I have a smattering of thoughts and commentary now, which is at least something.

  • So the Colts won the Super Bowl. Good for them, and good for Peyton Manning. I know lots of folks are down on him for various reasons but I’ve liked watching the guy play ever since he orchestrated a marvelous comeback on Monday Night Football several years ago. Usually I don’t really admire non-Bay Area teams’ players, even if they’re really good. But unlike Peter Forsberg or Tom Brady or Alex Rodriguez who are good but often also surrounded by other really good players, I can honestly tell that the Colts—despite having good players aside from Manning—would be a shadow of their championship selves without Mr. Laser-Rocket Arm back there draining the play clock and reading defenses and generally quarterbacking as opposed to just being a guy who can read his progression well and throw a tight spiral. I think what impresses me is that he’s certainly an athletic guy but he seems to play the game mostly with his head and I really only admire two things in professional athletes (whom I tend to think ought to have an extraordinary level of athleticism and talent merely as qualifications for being a professional) and that is hard work and a critical mind for the game.
  • Unless said athlete plays for a Bay Area team in which case I only admire one thing and that is the ability to win. By and large, I don’t admire Bay Area professional athletes very often.
  • Speaking of, I thought I should make a quick note of the Sharks, especially in light of their atrocious two game stand against Dallas. Sure, they were coming off a win streak but they looked really sad against a team that they have no reason not to beat. I mean, if they lose to Anaheim I’m certainly not happy but San Jose and the Ducks are supposed to be the teams to beat this year so games between them ought to be completely up for grabs. But Dallas is behind the Sharks in the standings which means, to me, they should be better than the Stars. They certainly didn’t look like it. A few very brief pointers for the boys in teal: 1) Shoot the puck. 2) Anyone on D who can’t hold the line (in any offensive situation but specifically on the Power Play) ought to get punched in the lips. I’m looking at you, Erhoff. 3) Stop trying to clear the zone with that little backhand bank pass. Here’s a clue: When it doesn’t work twenty-six times in a row, it might be time to try a different approach.
  • I finally felt like Heroes got back on track last night. I think the “revelation” of the identity of Claire’s birth father was kind of telegraphed but it wasn’t unwelcome. The actor who plays Sylar did a really good job in the episode, too, successfully playing the charmer and then making a chilling transition back into total lunatic. I can’t say I was too thrilled that HRG made it just in time to save the day since the wife/mom character annoys the heck out of me, but I guess it wouldn’t work to have Claire completely grief-stricken at this point in the game. I’m also really liking Claude, the invisible dude. His rationale for tossing Peter off the roof was somehow hilarious to me. Nice shout out to Star Trek with the license plate on Sulu Hiro’s dad’s limo, too. In fact the relatively serious plot thread with Hiro was a pleasant change of pace for him as well. And while I’m still no fan of Niki, for once I felt like they were actually doing something with her this week so I didn’t have that familiar urge to hit the fast forward button quite as much whenever she came onscreen.
  • On a different subject altogether, if you happen to have a hundred and fifty grand lying around, why not put it to good use?
  • While I’m linking stuff, this dude has some ideas to improve the NHL. He thinks having more USians in the league, widening the net, adding expansion teams and going to permanent 4-on-4 would do the trick, in a nutshell. The problem is that he’s demonstrably wrong. The MLS was designed to get Americans into futbol by having local players they could identify with but that certainly hasn’t seemed to matter. He says that bigger nets would mean more scoring and more “crowd reactions” which makes games more exciting and more attractive as entertainment options. But then he goes on to spit out a bunch of numbers about goals per season and TV viewership which seem to directly contradict this theory. Also, while we’re trying to get more Americans playing the game we should add two more Canadian teams? That does not compute. And as for 4-on-4, I agree that making the shootout more rare would be good so I’m down with the ten minute 4-on-4 overtime, but playing the whole game 4-on-4? Sure, it’s exciting but it also would basically eliminate the pure defenseman since everybody would have to score well. You’d end up with guys like Patrick Marleau being listed as a D-man. No thanks.
  • I was working on this sweet photo essay of the total weirdness of my workplace but my stupid camera ran out of batteries. In this whole building full of technological whizbangs I couldn’t find a single pair of AA batteries that would so much as power on my battery-devouring digital camera, much less allow me to snap off the last few shots I had in mind. Stupid electricity. I’ll have to try again tomorrow.


On one hand, I’m so happy Heroes is back. Mondays are cool again! On the other hand, Monday’s episode was the first one I’ve been even mildly disappointed with overall. The problem is pretty clearly that this was an “aftermath” episode where they had to kind of reset the plotlines following the flurry of significant activity from the last couple of shows before the break, but to me it felt like they spent too much time going over ground we’ve already covered, sometimes literally (Claire and Zach filming her “stunts”).

Here’s some of my cobbled-together thoughts from the episode:

The Good

  • I’m glad that Nathan seems to finally be getting out of his state of denial, since that was getting old. The connection between Hiro, Isaac and him seems to be the first steps toward getting the Heroes together and I think that’s what I’m really hoping gets going sooner than later; the show is really at its best when the Heroes interact with each other.
  • The scene in the museum where Hiro mimicked Isaac’s painting with the stuffed Dinosaur was a bit of a relief: I’m not saying that rampaging Dinosaurs wouldn’t be kind of cool but it seems a bit early in the show’s run for it to start going that far over the edge.
  • Parkman’s confrontation with Horn Rimmed Glasses was excellent, especially in the perfectly executed response by HRG. Jack Coleman’s delivery of the could-have-been-lame line, “Good luck with that” was spot on and satisfactorily sinister. Clearly HRG thinks he’s more or less invincible.
  • HRG’s swagger was effectively counterpointed by the scene between Claire and the Haitian since we know that HRG is not quite as clued in as he thinks.
  • Parkman finally coming clean to his wife gave me hope that we’ll soon get some sort of resolution of that more or less uninteresting thread. I don’t mind that we have some backstory on him and his family situation to give a better idea of his character but they’ve spent a lot of time on it and I think he has better chemistry with Audrey (Clea DuVall, whom I usually can’t stand but does an okay job in this show) than with his wife (played blandly by Elizabeth Lackey).
  • The invisible man’s introduction was pretty well done although I wasn’t quite able to discern how Peter knew that he was supposed to help him stop the explosion. The impression I got from the dream sequences was that this guy (Wikipedia lists the character’s name as Claude) was somewhat sinister.

The Not So Good

  • Not to keep harping on it, but can we do something about the Niki/Micah/DL storyline, please? It feels like those scenes are from a completely different show. Or at best from a spin-off where the continuity remains but these events are completely separate from the main show. It doesn’t help that DL’s character is written in a really bizarre way where he seems to flip-flop on his feelings for Niki and I don’t think Ali Larter’s acting chops are quite up to the split personality thing. The only redeeming part of this storyline in the last six episodes was the brief and never addressed moment where it seemed that Niki was able to use Jessica’s super strength to snap the police baton and that ain’t enough to make up for the ten minutes of otherwise wasted time.
  • Claire’s scenes were almost entirely wasted. Other than the brief conversation with the Haitian, it was all retread territory going back to the pilot. The off-air drama surrounding the actor who plays Zach (I guess he or his management wasn’t happy with the revelation that Zach is gay, which I don’t really care about one way or the other except that I think it was a weak way to try and evade the obvious chemistry that he and Claire have so it didn’t turn into a “will they get together?” kind of story element) maybe didn’t help, but either way I’m more interested in seeing Claire connect with the other Heroes than seeing her try to win Zach over. Again.
  • I was kind of baffled by the scenes with Ted Sprauge (the radioactive guy) in the desert until I figured out that there was supposed to be a little snippet featuring a new character (Hana, introduced in the online comics at and Ted. I’m not sure when it was aired, if at all, but I found it on the website. Without it though, the part with Ted sparking fire from his hands seemed really random. You know, come to think of it, even with the Hana scene, it was still pretty random.
  • I wasn’t all that impressed with the time spent on the sword scenes. Most of the time whenever Hiro is onscreen I’m happy, but all that time spent for a replica? I guess it was semi-necessary to show where Hiro’s powers are at the moment and to introduce the Lieberman connection but the end result was so anticlimactic that I wished they’d either handled it differently or had something more tangible result from that sequence.
  • I’m usually not a Mohinder hater, but his confrontation with HRG was kind of lame. He really needs to get his storyline into motion because he’s practically the only person who is still more or less at the same point they were during the pilot. And no, I don’t count his conviction that this is something he needs to do as progress: We all knew he’d end up back in New York so the sidetrack wasn’t entirely welcome despite it being decently executed.

So, not my favorite episode but at least they got the aftermath show out of the way so hopefully next week we can get back to moving things forward.

As a Matter of Fact, I Do Have a One-Track Mind

It’s Tuesday so you know I’ll be babbling about Heroes. I’m not original, but I am prolific.

“Nothing to Hide”

Mostly I have brief thoughts on last night’s episode, which overall I thought was good and if someone tuned in last night for the first time it seemed like it would have been a decent one to start with since it kind of took a half step back with each character—just enough so you would be more or less on the same page as people who’d watched from the beginning. Niki’s confession to her sister was a pretty succinct way to explain her Jessica alter ego; Peter and Nathan’s conversation revealed quite a bit about each of them; Hiro, DL and Claire all had short demonstrations of what they could do and of course Parkman had plenty of development that made it indisputably clear what his ability was. Interestingly they managed to do all that while still pushing the story ahead enough to make way for some inevitable plot thread resolution (just in time for sweeps, how convenient!).

So if you watched last night based on my urging, there are still a few characters who got little to no screentime including Isaac (reads/paints the future); Horn-Rimmed Glasses man (Claire’s adoptive father who keeps kidnapping the Heroes for unknown reasons) and HRG’s sidekick, a Haitian guy who seems to have some mental powers which allow him to block mind-readers (like Parkman) and also affect memories, wiping them out or something (incidentally, Nathan referred to HRG and the Haitian during his conversation with Peter but they got no actual screentime). And in case you’re wondering, the mobster referred to as being connected with the Petrelli campaign and who purchased the painting Peter wanted has yet to be shown on screen so you didn’t miss anything there.

Now, thoughts:

  • I think they’re spending too much time with the Parkman/Wife story. Parkman and the FBI agent’s pursuit of Sylar is interesting and Parkman as a character is fascinating but it just seemed too predictable for his wife to be cheating on him with his old partner. I’m not saying it can’t be salvaged as a storyline but I think the amount of screentime they’d have to devote to it to do it right would really detract from some of the other, more interesting stuff. And I really want them to get on with connecting Parkman to some of the other heroes, especially since it’s fairly clear that his ability will help get some of those unanswered questions at least asked out loud.
  • My other complaint is still with the Niki/DL/Micah thread. I don’t know where they’re going with Niki’s character but they need to do something other than make her utterly despicable and soon. At this point I’m hoping she turns out to be a villain because I want to see her get smacked around again. If she ends up as a hero I’m going to need something to draw on that helps me suspend that disbelief because right now she seems like she doesn’t have a heroic bone in her body.
  • Micah’s powers sure are interesting, however. It seems his abilities were foreshadowed way early on, perhaps the first episode (at least one of the first, when he fixed a motherboard or circuit board or something). He and DL make for an interesting story by themselves but as long as they’re still dealing with Niki I’m going to be tempted to hit the fast forward button whenever they come onscreen.
  • I was happy that they didn’t overdo it with the Hiro this episode. Hiro is great, don’t get me wrong, but as with any standout character on a show, the temptation to overexpose him must be pretty strong. This episode had just enough Hiro in it, and his line about wishing he had super strength, too, was classic. Especially considering that everyone seems to be in consensus that of all the powers shown on the series so far, his would be the absolute best/most useful.
  • The mystery of Peter continues. Some are now suggesting that he has supernatural empathic powers which may be related to his power leeching abilities (or presumed abilities I guess). I was unclear after the episode what role Peter had actually played in the passing of Simone’s father.
  • Speaking of Simone, I’m not sure if it’s the actress or the way she’s written, but I’m having a hard time pinpointing her approach to Peter. She seemed so ready to dismiss Isaac’s claims to powers he didn’t understand but she’s almost blindly accepting Peter’s nearly identical behavior and what most normal people would regard as delusions of grandeur. Maybe it’s because of Isaac’s drug use that she was so quick to dismiss him, but somehow it doesn’t quite sit well with me.
  • Am I the only one who didn’t understand Nathan’s conversation on the phone with Linderman in light of the discussion he had immediately after with Peter? It sounded from the one-sided conversation that Nathan had secured the painting from Linderman and was having it sent back to the gallery, but when he spoke to Peter about it, he said he wasn’t able to convince Linderman to give it up. What did I miss there?
  • Nathan’s description of HRG and the Haitian to Peter sounded important to me, like that Peter was going to have to remember that later when confronted with one or both of them. Although Nathan’s explanation of the Haitian as “Euro” was kind of weird, since most people don’t assume someone else is from Europe unless they hear them speak, which as far as I recall the Haitian never has.
  • Somebody on the writing staff has mother issues because two of the moms on the show are utterly abhorrent: Claire’s adoptive mom and Nathan and Peter’s mother. Both just absolutely grate on me.
  • Some people are postulating that because Claire is so careless about her abilities that she really wants to be found out, citing the fact that she sort of hung around while her hand healed instead of running upstairs to cover it up or something. I usually attribute this to the fact that the special effects show the healing process a bit slower than it actually occurs for the audience’s sake. I read a lot of people also whining about how Claire has had her behind trounced repeatedly and usually never says boo about it but this week she gets a staple in the hand and yelps like she had no powers at all. My thought is that she doesn’t feel pain the way most people do in that because her body knows it can heal itself, the pain receptors don’t fire the way they normally would (why bother?). However, she does experience the sensations of all her injuries which I assume are just kind of uncomfortable or bizarre feeling and not so much painful. In the case of the stapler, I think her reaction was more of surprise from unexpected sensation than pain.
  • The previews for next week finally start to suggest that HRG may not in fact be a bad guy. This kind of bugs me because up until now the assumption has been that he’s a bad guy not because of what he’s done (which is why some people still thought all along that he wasn’t all bad) but because the “previously on” voice over flat-out called him the “incarnation of evil” or some such. Look, it’s one thing to make his motives ambiguous and leave us guessing as to what he is, but to call him evil and then later come out and say, “oh, but is he or isn’t he?” seems very suspect to me.
  • It seems pretty obvious that Sprague’s comment about becoming an atomic bomb was meant to get the audience thinking along the lines of what his involvement in the imminent destruction of New York would be. But I think it is a red herring. I’m not precisely sure why I think that, but I do.
  • Stupid week until next Monday.

The Fremont A’s?

So I more or less grew up in the Bay Area town of Fremont. Now it looks like the Oakland A’s are moving from their miserable Raiders-hijacked stadium to a shiny new one in my hometown. Sweet. (Thanks, Doc!)

Bullet the Blue ‘Soap

  • According to the latest poll, very few people here are taking my advice and watching Heroes. Get with it people, I’m telling you: It rules. Of course now I said that and someone will tune in tonight and the episode will completely flop.
  • My resistance to continued griping about the officiating in the NHL this season can no longer win. What exactly are these refs smoking prior to the games? Cheechoo booted for boarding a guy he hit in the faceoff circle and lost contact with for at least six feet before either player came anywhere near the boards?! An awkward and dangerous fall, sure. Fortunate that he was okay, certainly. Game misconduct? Uh, no. Also, two goals called back including one from a penalty to Mike Grier in which the goalie went back to play the puck and fell over his own stick? So, just to be clear: Hitting a defenseless San Jose goaltender in the back and throwing his head to the boards is okay; a San Jose player being in the vicinity of a clumsy netminder: two minutes in the box for interference. Got it. Just wanted to be clear.
  • I’m grouchy today because I’ve had a headache since Saturday. Have you ever seen parents of an infant try to placate the mysteriously fussy child? They feed them, change them, play with them, try to get them to sleep, and the baby remains grouchy. I feel like that with my head. I’ve eaten plenty, I’ve tried taking naps, I’ve taken Tylenol and ibuprofen, I’ve taken warm showers to relax my muscles and so on and so forth. Nothing seems to work for longer than about twenty minutes. It’s not so bad that I can’t function normally, but it’s annoying as all get out.
  • I saw a friend of mine this weekend who isn’t around too often since he decided to move overseas. He has been pestering the old XBox Live crew to upgrade to the 360 to we can get our online gaming on again and he point-blanked me with the question, “When are you getting a 360?” The sad thing is that I’ve already been thinking about it quite a bit and even broke down and included it on my wishlist so his question nearly broke my spirit clean in half. On one hand I absolutely don’t need any more goofy toys and on that same hand I have a vacation coming up, Nik and I are getting ready to move for the first time in three years and Christmas is right around the corner so monetarily it isn’t going to fly. But on the other hand: Shiny graphics and online gizmos!
  • In preparation for leaving my current job I’m tasked with cleaning out my work-provided laptop PC. I had forgotten how annoying it is to try and clean yourself off of a computer you’ve used for any significant amount of time (for me that’s about two and a half days).
  • I bought a few CDs last week including the new Muse album and Wolfmother’s disc. Both bands have a kind of 70s throwback feel with Wolfmother channeling Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull while Muse can at times be likened to Queen and Rush. It’s sort of cool although occasionally Wolfmother crosses the line between homage and outright thievery but both were worth the somewhat abbreviated prices ($10 and $11 respectively from Rasputin’s). One strange thing though, I noticed that I very much enjoyed Muse’s work when played from beginning to end in the original album order. When I listened to it again later on random, it wasn’t nearly as good. I’ve never encountered that before, I wonder why that is?
  • Above I noted that Nik and I are gearing up for a move which has been necessitated by my new job acquisition since the distance from our current apartment to the new office is, according to Google, 66 miles compared to the 29 miles I travel now. More significantly, travel to the new office from our current location during normal work and commute times would require sitting it no fewer than five heavy traffic spots. If we end up where we’ve started looking, I’ll reduce that to three traffic spots and the mileage will be about halved to 34 miles.
  • Also regarding traffic and commuting, some relief is in sight since there is a strong chance I’ll end up working at least some graveyard shifts (which would basically eliminate the traffic concerns) although Nik is not exactly thrilled with the idea of having certain evenings entirely to herself. Even if I do end up exclusively working grave shifts, they do run a 4×10 schedule which will give me three nights at home per week (ideally Thursday, Friday and Saturday) so I’ll be home for a pretty large part of the week. We’ll be all backward in our sleeping schedules, but I’m confident some sort of arrangement can be made.
  • Tomorrow’s voting is going to be somewhat unpleasant since I have to get up very early in order to make it happen, being that I have two tickets to the Sharks game tomorrow night. The elections are really stupid this year with practically every ballot measure being some sort of smokescreen to bilk more cash out of Californians and (as usual) 98% of the candidates running for office being either schmucks or despicable wastes of oxygen. But I feel even more inclined to vote in elections like this when the options are all really lame because I honestly shudder to think what your average Californian would come up with on some of this stuff without my expert guidance.
  • So what is standard procedure when leaving a place of employment for handling all the lame company schwag they dump on you? As of this moment I have it all sort of sitting in my cube where it is of no harm to me or anyone else, but I have no need for a goofy (and highly illegible) desk clock branded with this company’s logo, nor do I need a laptop bag, a wine glass or a stress ball, all adorned with corporate branding. My inclination is to just toss it but I’m afraid that might be construed as excessively rude, so am I to take it home and then junk it there? How is that really better? I guess it’s a matter of plausible deniability; where they can go on thinking I cherished this stuff long after I departed when in fact it all ended up, blissfully out of their realm of knowledge, in a dumpster at my apartment complex. Still, a large part of me wonders what kind of doofus would actually care enough to keep track one way or the other.
  • I just learned that Lister got himself a Nintendo DS. Looks like local multiplayer goodness (as opposed to WiFi multiplayer goodness which Dr. Mac and I have had trouble co-ordinating) is about to be on.
  • Turns out I have nothing else to talk about. I guess it’s time to go back to counting the minutes until tonight’s Heroes episode.
  • Actually I do have one last observation: I am a total dork.

Spoil the Broth

Incidentally, I think the word “broth” is a very strange sounding word. But that’s neither here nor there.

Lost Spoilers Below

So Eko kicked the bucket last night. I thought it was a suitable death although I more or less pieced together that he was marked for passing ahead of time. I agree with some of the forum monkeys who point out that having Eko die at this point sort of undermines the whole point of Locke’s vision quest or whatever which indicated he was supposed to save Eko. I guess the act of saving him alone accomplished whatever needed to be accomplished but it still made it seem kind of pointless.

The big revelations of this episode were the eyepatch man viewed in the monitors, presumably located in another station. A glass eye was found by the tailies in the station we know from the blast door map to be The Arrow so maybe the glass eye belongs to him. Also the videotape played for Jack by Juliet while she was rambling on with the company line was creepy and, I thought, one of the most effective old-school “Lost Moments” of the whole year.

Of course a lot of discussion has centered around whether Juliet and Ben are really on the outs or if this is part of a long con to get Jack to comply with their wishes. I think the excuse that Ben had for his actions (“We had a complicated plan to break you and get you to think we were the good guys”) was kind of limp. We’re talking about Jack who has seen the deaths of several people, the attempted murders of some other people and plenty of kidnappings at the hands of the Others, not to mention that while Ben (nee Henry Gale) was a captive of the Losties he actively lied and manipulated in order to be freed or gain information. Jack knows all this. Did they really think they could change his mind, especially since they seem to be so well informed about Jack’s personality: The writers have gone well out of their way to establish Jack as a very stubborn, unyielding person. Are we supposed to believe that these people—The Others—made such a monumental mistake as to try to break the one person who is most likely to take an incredibly long time to wear down when time was a critical factor since the longer they take the more likely Ben is to die from his cancer?

I don’t think so.

I’m more of the mind that the whole thing is an elaborate con (the Others have already proved they can con a conman with Sawyer so they are good at this) and while it’s debatable whether this was the original plan all along or if they are just experts at improvisation, the point is that they are playing a very elaborate game of good cop/bad cop. But what frustrates me is that, if I’m Jack, I tell Ben this: “You want me to save your life? Fine. But I think if I do that, you owe me big. Huge. Massive. So here’s the deal: Right here and now, you tell me what the heck is going on here. Who are you people? How did you get here? What do you want with us? Gimme the whole story. After I hear what you have to say, you send my friends (that would be Sawyer and Kate) back to our camp. As proof, you’ll take all three of us there. When they’re safe, I come back with you and perform the operation. If anything—anything, about your story, the return, the surgery, my subsequent release, anything at all—seems suspect, you won’t know until you don’t wake up. If you’re on the level, you’ll live. If you try to play me, you die. That’s the deal, take it or leave it. Otherwise, kill me now. Of course, if you go that route, you die too.”

Of course that would be very un-Lost like since, apparently, none of the characters are really all that concerned with what the deal is with this place, the Others or anything else. They spend a lot of time doing stuff to figure it out, but they never actually try to think or talk it out.

Your Routine is Changeless

I had this long thing written about how I got a new job. But it was pretty boring and when I start boring myself I assume that the rest of you have long since dozed off. I guess some people check the site while at work and since I don’t want anyone to get in trouble with their bosses for snoozing at work, I try to avoid the interminable anecdotes.

So yeah, I have a new job that I start in about three weeks. Woo!


It has been linked all over, but in case you missed it: Best pie chart ever.


A couple of weeks ago I was getting frustrated with my TiVo constantly being out of available space. I have a fairly low capacity 40-hour Series 2 which, when combined with the horribly poor reception I receive from the non-boxed cable signal that requires me to record pretty much everything on one of the highest quality settings (thus taking up more space), often leads to issues where things don’t get recorded not due to scheduling conflicts but lack of available disk space.

After a particularly frustrating couple of days earlier this month during which I had this happen to me several times, I went through and fiddled with my Season Passes to try and help the problem. One of my solutions was that I trimmed the “Keep at Most” option of several high-profile SPs (shows I watch pretty much right after they air or at least no more than a day later) down to “1.” My thought process was, “I’ll always watch and clear these shows out, so why keep them around?”

Well, here’s why: Nik and I both watch Lost. But Lost comes on at 9:00 PT and I never start watching a one-hour show any earlier than twenty minutes after it has begun airing. The reason is that after twenty minutes you can usually skip through all the commercials because you’ve built a sufficient buffer and by the end of the show you’ve only just caught up to the live broadcast. But 9:20 is pretty close to when Nik heads off to bed. Being a more night-owl type (or just being more content to zombie-walk through my day) I don’t mind staying up until after ten or even after eleven. But Lost night is kind of tricky because I work in an office full of Lost fans. If I don’t watch the show the night it airs the inconsiderate TiVo-less hacks that work there will spoil the whole episode with their water cooler chatter before I even have a chance to watch it.

So this season we’ve been splitting the views up; I watch the show Wednesday night and then sometime during the next week Nik sits down to catch up and I re-watch it with her (because Lost usually is good for at least two viewings).

Well, last week the episode (“Further Instructions”) was pretty weak. When I griped about it, Nik faltered on wanting to watch it and in the end never got around to firing it up (actually, getting her to watch any sort of TV, including rented DVDs, has been something of a chore lately since she’s clearly addicted to playing Ticket to Ride online). But I forgot that I had changed all my Season Passes so I didn’t think to delete the previous episode before this week’s began. When I snapped on the set around 9:30 to start watching, I was confused that Lost wasn’t being picked up. It took me a few minutes to piece together what had happened and by the time I did I ended up with only the last twenty minutes of the show recorded.

I was pretty annoyed but I figured that it wasn’t a huge deal because makes a big to-do out of offering episodes of their shows online. Yeah, that may be theoretically true but the actual execution of those online episodes leaves something to be desired. I tried four different times with three different browsers on two computers to try and watch the whole show on ABC’s website. I only ever got the first fifteen minutes in before it would restart from the beginning or just stop playing and refuse to ever start again. After copious frustration I ended up settling for those first fifteen minutes and then the last twenty I had caught on TiVo and tried my best to piece together what happened in between.

Nik and I decided we would download the episode from iTunes Music Store later this week to watch the whole thing together but I don’t know that I can properly describe the level of frustration I was feeling yesterday.

And that was before I watched the Sharks game.

I Hope He Got a Big Bribe

I’ll give the Nashville Predators one thing: Their forecheck was phenomenal last night and the Sharks didn’t seem to puzzle out what was being done to them all night, even when they were pressing in the Nashville zone. It was clear from the sidelines that the Preds struggled in their own zone and knew it so they were going to do everything they could to keep it out of their zone as much as possible. Checking the boxscore, you might think that plan simply worked.

But you would be overlooking the one other part to the Predators’ plan which was obviously to grease the officials’ pockets with fat wads of cash to ensure that the Sharks lost, no matter how unfair it was.

I’m sure I’ll be accused of seeing the game through teal-colored glasses but I challenge anyone to watch the full game and not feel like the Sharks were the victims of bad call after bad call as well as having blatant, dangerous plays made against them in full view of some ref and there was no whistle to be heard. I think even Nashville fans should worry about the officiating in that game because if the Preds think they can play that way and get away with it every night, eventually they are going to jack someone up badly and have one of their players end up suspended or fined or put on a five minute major penalty.

I’ll go ahead and ignore the first boarding call that was blatantly overlooked late in the first period. Whatever. The guy wasn’t hurt and as much as I griped about it at the time, I would find out soon enough that it could get much, much worse. Third period comes and Toskala is whacked by several late coming after-the-whistle Predators. A minor melee ensues in which offsetting minors give the teams some 4-on-4 time. Questionable maybe but one could shrug it off. Then a few minutes later Toskala moves behind the net to play a puck and is promptly boarded by a forechecking Nashville player.

Was he really boarded? You better believe it. His face was to the wall, he was playing the puck and the Predators player hit him square in the numbers and tossed him in the boards. It wasn’t incidental contact, it wasn’t the result of some defender pushing him awkwardly: He flat-out checked the goalie and did so in a very dangerous way with the referee standing no more than five feet away.

No. Call.

Actually, there was a call on the Sharks defender following up on the play who put his stick down on the Predators player and got called for cross-checking. Cross checking. I’ve seen superstar goalies get goaltender interference calls for accidentally tripping them up behind the net by spraying ice on their pads, but Toskala gets full on checked in the back toward the boards where he could have easily been injured in full view of the ref and there’s a call on the Sharks? Absolutely unbelievable. And what makes it really suspect is that this happened right at the end of the game with the Sharks down by one and pretty much in full press on Nashville and threatening to score.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many online conspiracy theory videos lately, but I’m just saying that seemed like the worst possible call at the worst possible time.

But my suspicions would amount to nothing if the Sharks had been ahead or tied at the time. And the fact is, they were, only the scoreboard didn’t reflect it because the referee straight up stole a goal from the Sharks. It went down like this: The Sharks rush Tomas Vokoun who stacks the pad and goes down. A Sharks forward crashes into him and the puck rebounds clear and is stuffed home by the trailing Sharks player. The goal light goes on, the Sharks start to celebrate… and then the ref skates up with speed flinging his arms wildly in the “no goal” motion. No goal? What play was that guy watching? Even if he lost sight of the puck, he was in a bad location to see it and certainly shouldn’t have whistled it down that quickly.

So they checked the tape. Clearly a goal. Then they decided the call must have been that the whistle blew before the second Sharks player actually buried it in the net. So they play it real-time with on-ice audio. And the puck sails into the net a full three seconds before any whistle is heard, even from the bribed mistaken referee.

At this point the Sharks fall prey to my biggest pet peeve in all of sports: The non-reviewable call.

Okay so let’s assume for a moment that you aren’t one of those technophobes who think that instant replay doesn’t belong in sports. What is the rationale for including instant replay review in a sporting contest? To get the call right. I mean, why else? The assumption there is that the officials are fallible humans who don’t always have the benefit of watching plays from various angles and in anything slower than real-time (which in a game like hockey is pretty fast). So you offer them an “out” by allowing calls to be corrected based on video evidence.

Now I understand that certain plays or calls don’t work from a review standpoint. For example, if a player fumbles a ball in football but the play is called dead by an official which stops the progression of both teams, it’s hard to fix that because the teams should have had the opportunity to try and recover the ball and make a play with it. Overturning a call on a play whose result can’t be re-created simply won’t work.

But in this case we’re talking about a goal. A goal. This is a binary play: Either it was a legitimate goal, or it was not. A referee can’t say “I meant to blow the whistle earlier” any more than a player can say, “I didn’t mean to sock that guy in the head during his breakaway.” Intention doesn’t matter. In this case the on-ice call was no goal but so what? We reviewed the play and the no-goal call was flat incorrect. But it’s not like something happened that couldn’t be re-created. It’s easy, you called it no goal but you were wrong because the video replay shows that it was a goal so you overturn the on-ice call to “goal” and give the Sharks the point they deserve and swallow your pride.

Although I’m sure it’s easier to stand your ground with all the money in your pockets weighing you down.

A Slew of Screeds

Today’s agenda will be dealing with Heroes, T-Shirts, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco and TiVo. Also if you visit GameSpot or subscribe to the RSS feed, my video game-specific blog has a post regarding the New Super Mario Bros. game for DS. You may have noticed that I put an RSS feed thing over in the right column for the GameSpot blog (titled “A Gamer Darkly” for no real particular reason) which may not be all that useful but does at least provide an updated link to the latest posts made over there.

The Hero Lies In You

Someone on the TiVo web forum mentioned in the discussion of last night’s episode of Heroes that so far the Heroes aren’t really acting very… heroic. This is a fair criticism for a show called “Heroes” but I think one of the themes the show is very effectively dealing with is that just because someone is born extraordinary doesn’t mean they’re born with an understanding of how to cope with that. Many of the characters on the show are either in denial about their abilities or not convinced that they aren’t just plain crazy rather than remarkable.

Another complaint I’ve heard a lot was regarding Hiro’s ability to communicate with Nathan in the diner in this week’s “Hiros” episode. I’m not quite sure I understand that gripe since in a previous episode (in which Hiro travelled to the future) he was able to more or less communicate with everyone until the conversation got so specific and law-enforcement related (which is almost a subset of English in itself) that Hiro realized he may not be fully comprehending what was being said and wanted his English-fluent friend to talk to the officials to make sure he didn’t get himself into more hot water than he was already in.

It’s not unreasonable for a Japanese guy to understand basic English (probably at about a third or fourth grade level speaking-wise) and he seems to have a decent grasp for reading it (based on his familiarity with American comic books and television) so his ability to have a fairly simple conversation about a topic he is familiar with in English terms makes total sense to me. As a few people pointed out also, there’s no better way to crash-course language than through immersion and he’s certainly been immersed in English-speaking environments for several days now. I didn’t find it at all unusual for him to speak to Nathan.

Some people have wondered what is so special about Claire that she warrants the “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” mantra. My personal theory is that Peter is the key to stopping the bomb, but he needs the powers of the others in order to do so and specifically, he needs Claire’s ability to regenerate to keep him alive long enough to pull off his world-saving gambit. But that’s just speculation.

One interesting question that I haven’t been able to determine from the information presented so far is whether Isaac’s future-reading powers are triggered or in any way related to his heroin use or if that is simply a mechanism he’s instituted for himself to cope with the ability. I would guess based on the fact that Peter can use the power when in his presence without any drugs (and Isaac wasn’t high at the time either) that the heroin-power connection is all in Isaac’s mind.

Here’s something else that’s interesting: Most supernatural comic book characters (i.e., those that aren’t just heroic humans like Batman) have a hefty amount of combat-readiness to their powers. Consider that Spider-Man has exceptional strength and agility (certainly an asset in a fight); Storm can control the weather such that she can send bolts of lightning at foes; Cyclops is practically all combat with his laser-eyes and so on. But most of the characters in Heroes actually don’t have a lot of combat ability: Isaac’s future-seeing (at least in its current incarnation) wouldn’t help much in a fight; Matt’s mind-reading is certainly useful but not really combat-ready; Peter’s power absorption isn’t intrinsically combat-ready unless he was fighting someone who’s powers were combat-oriented; even Nathan’s flight ability is helpful but aside from the apparent speed he has, he hasn’t shown any hint of being capable of handling more pain or taking more punishment than anyone else which means that while he could speed-fly fist-first into a foe, he would probably hurt himself as much as whomever he was fighting. In fact, only Niki (whose powers are still vague at best but who may be super-strong based on the fact that she probably weighs about 110 lbs. and she cut a guy in half), Hiro and Claire are likely to be of any real use in a fight and even then, Claire would survive the fight for a long time, but her ability to win such a combat (except by attrition) is questionable.

Shirts Shaped Like Tees

So I ordered some shirts off of yesterday because they were having a sweet sale where most of the shirts were only $10. The site is pretty cool in that it allows people to upload T-shirt designs which get voted on by the site users and the most popular designs actually get made and put up for sale.

I have a strong dislike for clothing that turns me into a walking billboard which is why most of the clothes I wear are either plain or feature something I like such as a band. I guess band shirts make you into a walking ad for that particular group, but somehow that works for me since it’s something I actually endorse versus wearing a Nike shirt or something that very obviously came from Wal-Mart or whatever.

In this case many of the designs are clever but avoid being at all ad-like, which means I don’t feel quite as boring as wearing one of my (literally) six plain black shirts but I don’t have to worry about my soul.

Plus, $10 each. How can you go wrong?


I was reading an article on about the Red Wings’ fall to mediocrity and in the article columnist Damien Cox uses the adjective “powerhouse” to describe the Sharks.

That was kind of nice to read.

Of course the Sharks are obviously not invincible. While I’m certainly happy with the start to the season 7-2-0, and it is definitely a plus that three of those seven wins have been shutouts in the Sharks favor, those two losses were kind of ugly. One was the really bizarre game versus the Edmonton Oilers in which there were two natural hat tricks (one by Cheechoo to put the Sharks up 4-1 and then one by Ryan Smyth which ended up putting the Oilers ahead). That game could be written off just because of the strangeness of it all but the 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild was pretty sad considering the Sharks out shot the Wild 32 to 18 and the Wild beat Nabokov four times while Manny Fernandez only missed one of the barrage.

I certainly understand that the Sharks can’t be expected to win every game and I don’t mind giving up the occasional 6-4 insanity game or even a 3-2 nailbiter that goes down to the last five minutes of the third period. But I certainly don’t want to the see the Sharks out there in a futile effort through two periods and only score once just to keep themselves off the shutout. The tough thing about the Sharks being a “powerhouse” is that it’s hard not to watch them play and expect them to win pretty much every game.

The big test comes tonight when the Sharks play in Detroit, a road venue they have practically never emerged from victorious during the regular season. They handled the Red Wings soundly the other night in San Jose but if they can show the same poise and ability in Detroit, that will be quite a statement to Sharks fans.

One other thing I was thinking about which stemmed from my recent visit to the Tank for the Dallas game is that the HP Pavillion needs to do a bit of upgrading. For one thing they need those arena-spanning HD screens between decks. They installed them at AT&T park in San Francisco and I noticed that several of the road games the Sharks have played have been in stadiums with those wraparound screens. They look nice because for one the quality is phenomenal which means you can put player photos and stuff on there and they actually look like someone you might recognize (versus the aging JumboTron technology which still looks like staring at a newspaper print way too closely to my eyes) but also because they wrap around the whole stadium you can get some nice graphical effects going with bright, vibrant colors that really help with the atmosphere. Plus, I thought the Sharks were supposed to be this very technology-friendly team and they have these embarrassingly antique Lite Brite-looking signs. So lame.

Fog City

Nik and I spent some time in San Francisco this weekend, belatedly celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary. We would have celebrated closer to the actual date but I was afflicted with my hades-spawned flu which was not very romantic, to say the least.

Anyway we mostly just hung out and wandered around the touristy areas like Pier 39, which we’ve both done about a thousand times before but the point wasn’t what we were doing but who we were doing it with. Eventually we wandered down the waterfront so we could eat at Joe’s Crab Shack which is a sort of tacky little place that has some really tasty food and, of course, copious options for crab lovers.

I recently was able to turn Nikki on to the joy of crab and she’s been near-insatiable ever since. I think her 1 lb. fresh dungeness crab order may have cured her for the time being but she certainly seemed to enjoy her meal. We stayed there for quite a while, talking and eating and watching the Bushman across the street.

If you’ve never been to San Francisco you probably aren’t familiar with the extraordinary number of street performers that crowd the touristy locations around the city. Street performers are a kind of unique beast in that they are simultaneously fascinating and yet annoying. Some of them are actually remarkably talented: Musicians, performance artists, etc. But at the same time they are only a slight step above your average panhandler which there are far too many of in SF anyway.

Still, all that is forgiven in the case of the Bushman.

The Bushman is a street performer whose schtick is pure genius in its cleverness. Basically he gathers up a bunch of random tree branches; medium-sized ones, obviously never anything that requires a large amount of effort to obtain. He gathers two fistfuls of these branches and squats on a little stool or empty bucket, clutching the branches in front of him so he is basically hidden from one side of the sidewalk. He does this right on a regular sidewalk so to careful observers he basically sticks out like a sore thumb. But most people aren’t that observant so if they’re coming toward the “bush” they will probably dismiss it as nothing spectacular and continue on their way.

When they get close, Bushman drops the branches just a bit a scares the heck out of the passerby.

The good thing is that he doesn’t go out of his way for the huge scare. That would probably be a little mean. And part of the joke is that once you’ve been burned, you realize how silly it was to not notice a random bush in the middle of the sidewalk.

The best part (and where Bushman makes his money) is being in on the joke as an observer. Bushman is pretty good about understanding when to try his scare (too often and people would see it happen up ahead and be prepared, too infrequent and the constantly gathered crowd would get bored and drift away). A few folks with good senses of humor will tip Bushman after falling for his trap, amusingly it is often the boyfriend or husband of the startled woman (girls react far more entertainingly than most guys) who drops some cash for the laugh. But mostly the Bushman hits up the crowds of laughing onlookers for tips.

Sitting up in Joe’s Crab Shack (right across from Bushman’s favorite haunt), you can observe his prowess without being prone to his requests for donations. It’s a good time. And the crab ain’t bad, either.

TiVo is Hurting Itself

Much has been made of the demise of TiVo. Granted, they have and will continue to have a hard time competing with cable-company and satellite TV company offerings, despite the constant complaints about those knock-off interfaces and feature sets being sub-par. Users will put up with a lot of crud for the sake of convenience.

But there are things that TiVo could do to help itself, and it seems to me that they aren’t doing them.

For one thing, they move slow. I would expect the behemoth cable companies to be playing catch-up to TiVo, but I haven’t seen that to be the case. How long did it take TiVo to get a unit out that could record HD? And when it did come out, they priced it at an insane $800 MSRP. Whew.

And don’t even get me started on Mac support for the TiVo2Go software/feature. After “working hard” on the issue for like two years, we get this back in January and then nothing for nine months. Look, it takes less time to fabricate a human being than it’s taken to even see a beta of this product. Come on.

What really frustrates me is the simple things. TiVo’s features should be fairly easily updatable and yet there are so few service upgrades getting pushed out to users it’s kind of criminal. Take a look at this list of requested enhancements. Most of those are very reasonable requests, especially stuff like complete boolean capabilities for Wish Lists. I can’t tell you how badly I want to have my “49ERS” season pass not pick up junk like “49ers Preview Show” and “49ers Total Access” and “49ers Playbook.” I want the game, not the rest of the junk. But 49ers games show up on a title search as the generic “NFL Football” so I can’t just get a Season Pass to that or I’d get the stupid Jets vs. Dolphins games and stuff, probably at the expense of Niners games or at the very least at the expense of something else I’d rather watch. If I could say “Title = ‘NFL Football’ AND Description CONTAINS (‘San Francisco’ OR ’49ERS’)” I would be golden.

This has been a problem since the Series1 TiVos, so what’s the holdup? In the meantime I end up juggling my Season Pass list constantly, trying to find a happy medium. For example, I want Sharks games almost all the time. But sometimes it depends on when the game starts and what else is playing. I can put it below something like Lost or Heroes and know that the Sharks game will always be pre-empted for those shows, but what frustrates me is that if the Sharks game starts at 5:30 and a show I don’t want to miss will start at 8:00, I’d rather have the first two and a half hours of the game and then switch over to the show. I thought that was what the clipping feature was supposed to do but unless I’m doing something wrong it doesn’t work like that.

At the time it hardly matters, I’d rather have my TiVo than not and I don’t really qualify (what with our freakish cable situation) for any other options. But eventually we’ll move out of this apartment and when Comcast comes knocking on my door offering me a $9.99 additional fee for dual-tuner DVR functionality with a higher capacity than I have now my loyalty to TiVo is going to be tested because I just don’t feel like TiVo is working hard enough to keep me loyal.

So what do you say, TiVo? How ’bout you step it up and keep a once-happy customer?

I Can’t Find a New Direction

I need to talk about ‘Lost’ so for those of you who aren’t caught up with the most recent episodes (including last night’s episode, “Further Instructions”) may want to skip this for the time being; I’m not going to bother spoiler-tagging anything.

After watching last night I started thinking about what I mentioned the other day where the viewers seem divided into two camps: One are the ones who watch the show to see the characters develop and the other contains the people who are interested in the story of the Island and how the castaways work to figure out where they are and what happened. To a certain extent the producers of the show have indidcated that they’re approaching the show from the perspective of the first camp: To them, the characters are the key and they will devote their time to telling the stories of these characters.

But I think what people miss is that you can’t do either/or. In many ways, the stories of these characters are the stories about the Island and the plane crash. You have to deal with what the Island is, where they are, how it all happened and how the survivors are going to deal with their situation or else why would you even introduce all those elements? But the context for that is the characters themselves: They react to the situation they’re in because of who they are, who they were and to an extent who they will become because of this ordeal they face. It is important to show the flashbacks so we have a sense of what motivates these people to do what they do here on this Island, as a castaway. But it is equally important to show what the outcome of those previous experiences are now that they relate to their current dire situation. It’s what makes the story a story.

What distresses me is that after last night’s show I started to get the sense that the writers aren’t really doing that. Instead it seems like they’re spinning their wheels, revealing neither anything further about the Island mysteries nor revealing anything useful or pertinent about the characters themselves through flashbacks. Consider Locke’s story this week: We’ve already previously established that he’s an overly trusting sort of guy and that things go badly for him quite a bit because of it. He’s been hurt by people who’ve taken advantage of his nature and his vulnerabilities that he wears on his sleeve and more than once. His obsessive nature and his need to see himself as a real man, as a salt-of-the-Earth type who can take charge of a situation or even of his life contrasts with his misfortune and leads him to places that he doesn’t want to go. He’s proud without really having a reason to be so and each time life hands him lemons he squeezes them into his previous wounds and becomes ever more disenfranchised.

But we’ve learned all this from previous Locke-centric episodes. Everything that happened last night only reiterated these same themes and revelations. The only thing we learned here is that Locke’s gullibility has negatively impacted the people around him, the people he cares about; it hasn’t just been limited in scope to his own life.

But so what? We could have inferred that already. It doesn’t have much impact on the way he conducts himself on the Island because it only tells us what we already knew. We wouldn’t have been surprised to see Locke act exactly the same way he did even without the backstory of him ‘cleaning up his own mess’ because we expect Locke to be the kind of guy to handle his own business already. He’s been established as that kind of guy.

I’m worried that the Lost writers are starting to get to the point where they aren’t just being stingy with their revelations, they’re actively afraid to reveal anything at all. If I had to speculate I’d say it’s because they’re terrified that when the revelations do come, people won’t like them. I think they may fear that they will reveal something irrevokeable that will be ill-received and there won’t be anything they can do about it. Perhaps they are second-guessing their direction and want to try to make the magic last as long as possible: You can’t lose viewers as long as they’re still tuning in hoping to find out what’s going on. Once you start to tell them what they want to know, they can start judging you and being critical for the decisions you’ve made.

And truthfully, they would be absolutely correct. Someone—likely many someones—aren’t going to be happy with whatever explanation the writers come up with for the myriad of mysteries they’ve introduced. Someone out there has probably already theorized something that comes very close to what the writers had in mind all along to explain the bizarre events thrown at us since the very beginning. Most of the theories I’ve read have come across as kind of stupid. Chances are, I won’t be happy when I finally learn what’s really going on.

But that’s the way it goes. And the difference between a dumb explanation and a brilliant one isn’t really going to be the explanation itself, but rather the execution of that revelation. Even the popular purgatory theory, as lame as it is stated flatly like that, could be intriguing if done in a novel way. Consider the X-Files as a prime example: The real truth behind that show’s mysteries was uninspired. Aliens were working to colonize the Earth using an extraterrestrial parasite and the conspirators were working to save a handful of powerful individuals (mostly themselves) from the inevitable fate of the rest of mankind. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff. But the problem was that the execution of the story was ham-fisted and when the truth was finally revealed, most viewers weren’t even sure they had the whole story. “So… what is the conspiracy?” they asked. “We already told you. Didn’t you get the memo?” the producers replied. “Oh,” viewers said. “We just thought it would be… something better.”

A lot of that had to do with the fact that the writers of the X-Files had no plan to reveal the information. The doled out details sparingly, painfully slowly, in unrelated bits and pieces until we were just supposed to know we knew all there was to know. If Lost wants to avoid this fate they need to have a clear plan for getting some of the questions they’ve raised answered. So here’s my list of things that we (as the audience) definitely need to know by the time Season 3 is over, and a few things we shouldn’t know just yet.

Things We Need to Know By the End of Season Three

  • Who are the Others? Where did they come from? Why are they doing what they’re doing? The motivations and origins of the Others aren’t really all that interesting when you get right down to it. Their existence as a source of conflict for our heroes is enough but we don’t need season upon season of this air of mystery that surrounds them. At some point it is reasonable that some protagonist will either find out or get an Other into a comprimising enough situation that they can extract the pertinent information about the Others’ motivations and origins. By the end of this season we should be more concerned with how the Others are going to go about executing their plans than what those plans are in the first place. We should know why they kidnap people; what happens to people who get kidnapped by them; how they got to the Island, how they have contact with the outside world and why they choose to stay on the Island.
  • What was the relationship between the Dharma Initiative and the Others? We don’t need to know everything about the Dharma Initiative just yet (see below), but we should at least have an idea about whether the Others are decended from the Dharma Initiative or if they are completely unrelated to them or if they are the new face of the DI. We should know why the Others seem to be comfortable in Dharma facilities but don’t seem to necessarily need them for their survival. We should learn why the Others disguised themselves as uncivilized jungle people for the sake of the Losties and whether or not that has anything to do with the Dharma project(s) or the Dharma representatives who obviously continue to operate at some capacity.
  • What happened to Rousseau and her team? What is ‘The Sickness’? Rousseau remains something of an enigma but for no good reason. She seems to trust some (if not all) of the Losties and considers the Others either direct or indirect enemies which gives her every reason to come clean with the Losties. They should be able to figure out that Rousseau’s daughter, Alex, is still alive and living with the Others by asking a few people the right questions; they should also be able to figure out that Alex’s heart is not entirely with the Others and that a reunion between Alex and Rousseau could be arranged. We should figure out the particulars of The Sickness and why it affects some people but not others and whether or not the Losties have begun to see some of their members exhibit symptoms of The Sickness.
  • Why is the Island so difficult to find and/or leave? This may be difficult to explain without revealing all the Island’s mysteries (see below) but it would be useful from a suspension-of-disbelief point of view to have some sort of explanation (probably from one of the Others) as to why Desmond wasn’t able to leave the Island, why Sawyer, Jin and Michael couldn’t escape and why no rescue attempt is likely (even accepting the explanation in the Pilot of the plane being 1,000 miles off course, after almost two months I doubt the media or the government would write off a commercial jet carrying a Federal prisoner and a multi-millionaire lottery winner as “just one of those freaky things”).

Things We Shouldn’t Know By the End of Season Three

  • An explanation of the Island’s apparent supernatural powers. Why is Locke able to walk? How did Rose’s cancer go into remission? What’s with the black smoke/Island monster? How are people always having visions? The supernatural elements of the Island are among its most enigmatic but they work on a storytelling level very effectively. However, once you start explaining the supernatural, the explanation is almost always a letdown and the storytelling power of those elements dissapates almost instantly. If we ever have to have a reason for why these thing are or how they work, I hope it comes at the very end of the show when it is no longer of any consequence. I’m just as happy having the Island’s power be one of those things that just can’t be explained.
  • The Dharma Initiative. The truth behind the Dharma Initiative is something that will hopefully be a fascinating series of revelations, and the capacity at which they continue to operate could lead to some very tense and compelling stories. But it’s too early to start revealing all that. Season Three needs to be all about getting the truth behind the Others out in the open and once that is out of the way, they can start worrying about how to deal with the Dharma Initiative. Until we know what role the Others play or played in the Dharma Initiative’s work and what they want from the Losties and the Island, explanations about the DI are going to be hollow and uninteresting. I think it is completely possible to have the Others be related to and/or decended from the DI and still have the Initiative be shrouded in deeper mystery to be revealed later. But until the immediate threat is dealt with, any details or conspiracy plots relating to a mysterious research firm are going to be beside the point.
  • The links between the Losties. Any discussion as to fate or the greater purpose behind each member of the ensemble surviving the crash or being brought to the Island is something that would have the most narrative impact toward the end of the show, once we’ve had a chance to see more of the spiderweb of interconnected links unfold during the flashback sequences. Any sort of “Eko is here for faith; Locke is here for his tracking; Claire is here for her nuturing; Jack is here for his leadership, etc” team-building rah-rah is dumb and clichéd and lacks punch unless it all becomes clear in one startling moment just before they are all resuced or some final confrontation ensues.
  • The truth about Penelope. The end of Season Two showed us that the outside world still exists and people are actively searching for the castaways. That’s intriguing, no doubt. But as soon as the outside world starts to become a factor in the lives of our heroes or the events happening on the Island, we can no longer just blindly accept things like smoke monsters and parapalegics that can miraculously walk. These things have to start having explanations because the outside forces who are converging on the Island are going to demand answers. Right now with no communication and complete isolation, the characters (and by proxy) the audience can simply accept what they see without question. But when real life in the show starts to seep in, real life questions have to be asked by both character and audience alike. That’s something we can stand to do without for a while.

So there you go. I’ll revisit this after the Season 3 finale and see how they did. In the meantime I hope next week’s episode has more to offer than this week’s.

Want to Catch You Awake

A few thoughts:

  • I mentioned yesterday that NBC would be re-airing all the non-Pilot episodes of Heroes in case you missed them. That’s happening Sunday, October 22 or this coming Sunday evening at 8/7c.
  • I’ve had a chance to play with the iPod adapter interface for the new head unit on Nikki’s car stereo. I have to say, this is the way to listen to an iPod in a car. It sure beats the heck out of the clunky cassette adapter interfaces and FM transmitters. Very much the way to go as far as that kind of thing is concerned.
  • This is sweet as those LightScribe devices are something I’ve been interested in for a while now. Nik and I have been burning a lot of CDs lately since I’m much more comfortable having a CD folder crammed full of 100 burned disc copies than I am having 100 of my $15 CDs sitting around in a car and it’s nice to be able to make minor adjustments to certain discs (leaving off songs you don’t care for, etc).
  • Of course with the Sirius radio and iPod connection, CDs seem a bit less useful than they may have been previously. The one instance where they are useful is with specific mixes because both Nikki’s Nano and even my 20GB iPod are too small to hold our entire collection so we have to update via playlist which prohibits having multiple playlists on the iPod itself (which is not a limitation when your iTunes Library is smaller than the capacity of the iPod). I haven’t really paid close attention to the latest iPod models but it looks like I could get an 80GB model for about what I paid for my 20GB 4G. Unfortunately as is fairly common with Apple their options aren’t really ideal for what I’m looking for. 80GB is excessive, but 30GB is a bit too small (my Library is running around 26GB at the moment) and the price differential between the two is kind of baffling. $249 for the 30GB and $349 for the 80GB? Especially when the 8GB Nano is also $249? Huh? In my mind the pricing would be $79/1GB Shuffle; $99/2GB Nano; $149/4GB Nano; $199/8GB Nano; $249/30GB; $299/50GB (what I would consider, if it existed); $349/80GB. That leaves the bottom and top end models at exactly the same price and doesn’t have any crossover from one model or price point to the next. It does make the jump from Nano to regular iPod pretty hefty in terms of price-per-gig but at least it makes more sense than offering 8GB and 30GB for the exact same price. Good grief.
  • While I was sick I watched a lot of ESPN because it is a heck of a lot more interesting in the middle of the day than any other channel. What drives me nuts about ESPN is their obvious sports bias: This is ostensibly a channel devoted to 24/7 coverage of the world of sports and yet they run about seven and a half hours of repeats per day, of which the breakdown by sport is something like 75% NFL, 15% MLB, 5% NBA, 3% NASCAR, 2% Golf and the remaining 1% being split equally among the NHL and any other sport they can come up with which happens to have a “newsworthy” highlight that particular day, including horse racing, ping pong, professional bowling, poker and that Scottish sport where they throw the telephone pole straight up in the air in an attempt to… uh, not get conked on the head by it when it inevitably lands and tips directly back toward the tosser as though he were some sort of cartoon lumberjack. I fully understand that part of the problem is the American sports audience who would rather watch NFL press conferences than see potentially exciting Soccer highlights or definitely exciting hockey recaps but to a certain extent I wonder exactly how much analysis people are really clamoring for at the expense of decent sports news. Especially when they seem to struggle as Sunday fades and it gets to be Wednesday, Thursday, etc to come up with new stuff to talk about. Football teams only play once per week so there’s really only so much to say. At some point the news itself starts to create stories just to have something to talk about (“T.O. brushes his teeth left handed and Parcells tells him he’s jeopardizing the team’s unity!”) which is something that simply wouldn’t stand in any other type of journalism. I just wonder if it would really be so bad for ESPN to go ahead and do nothing but highlights and cover all kinds of sports from all over the world. I certainly wouldn’t mind being kept aprised of the English Soccer leagues (or, heaven forbid, the MLS) and amateur gymnastics or track and field events in non-Olympic years. It sure beats listening to John Clayton babble about how important Shaun Alexander is to the Seahawks for the sixth day in a row.
  • They decided to install a new application to manage all of Support at work. This is both a blessing and a curse: The old application had some very specific quirks that made it something of a pain to work with and it was also based off of old versions of our products so it was kind of embarassing for us to be so far behind our own customers in a lot of cases (especially since we spend so much of our time trying to get people to upgrade). Also the server that was central to our day-to-day work was very much showing its age and had started to become a serious liability for us. So the new application addressed a lot of those problems, which is a good thing. But the old application had been around long enough for several user-created interfaces to pop up that were designed by Support people which meant they did what we wanted/needed them to do. Now those interfaces have to be re-done to accomodate the new systems and most of them haven’t been updated yet. As a result my return to work has alternated from mild to severe pain as I’m forced to work with clunky, IT-designed interfaces that don’t work they way they should and in a lot of ways severely hamper my ability to do my job. Of course being out for almost two weeks means I’m behind as it is and this certainly isn’t helping me get caught up.
  • My dad posted a bunch of old movies for me to check out that I added to my Netflix queue this morning. If anyone else has any suggestions, I’m all ears.

Land of the Living


It’s good to be back. Typically when I’m sick I spend a lot of time doing the kinds of things I like to do even when I’m not sick like playing video games and reading, that sort of thing. Then when I end up feeling well enough to go back to work, I kind of miss the free time to do whatever, you know?

Not this time. I had possibly the worst sick week (plus) ever this time around and it was nothing even close to fun. In fact I felt so bad the whole time that it was actually a pain to watch TV or movies, although that’s pretty much all I did. Even with the TiVo and Nikki constantly making runs to Hollywood Video to pick up movies for me to watch (eventually she just rented a whole season of 24 for me to watch which shut me up for a good four days) I was still scraping the bottom of the entertainment barrel quite a bit. I guess that’s what happens when you’re at home sick for 10 days straight, but it left me with a new appreciation for the time I have to do other, more interesting things.

As a matter of fact I got a new perspective and appreciation for pretty much everything in my life while I was sick. Being too miserable to sleep or eat or do much of anything for that long leaves a lot of time for thought and I kind of started realizing how much of my life I spend being grumpy about really pointless things. I came to a lot of other conclusions about some of the unfortunate choices I’ve been making lately mostly in terms of my attitude toward things that are either not worth the bother or indifferent attitudes toward things that actually do matter and hopefully I’ll try to be better about that. I suppose the only positive thing that came from being sick is that I got (hopefully) an improved perspective on my life. Something about absence making the heart grow fonder would probably be aproppriate here, if not tiresomely clichéd.

Anyway, I don’t have a lot of time or anything since I’m still trying to play catch up from all that time I missed out on, but I did have a few things I wanted to say today before I forget:

  • One of the many movies I watched last week was Double Indemnity, an old 1944 black and white noir picture starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. It’s really quite good (although I liked The Big Sleep better) as many of the old pictures I’ve been watching have been. Unfortunately, I’m starting to run out of ideas for old movies to watch. I fully confess that this is due to ignorance and not a lack of quality material to check out; the next couple I have coming from Netflix are From Here to Eternity, All About Eve, The Guns of Navarone, Suspicion, M, Touch of Evil and The 39 Steps. Anyone know some others I should check out?
  • I watched season four of 24 like I mentioned above and it was much better than the season that stopped me from following it every year (the piteous season three), but the show still drives me insane. Mainly what makes me nuts is two things: One is why everything has to revolve around LA. I mean, I know the show is set there but c’mon: There should be enough time to make the travel realistic (how anyone gets all over LA in less than 20 minutes is beyond even the most forgiving critic) by spreading the love a little bit to different CTU branches and making things more plausibly spread out. Related to this quibble is why everything is handled by CTU. Aren’t there any other governmental agencies that can do some of this stuff like, say, the military? It makes no sense, especially when they spend twenty minutes of each episode griping about how “stretched thin” they all are. Well, delegate, people! Problem solved. My other beef is that they’re constantly sending like three people to go pick up these potentially well-armed suspects and then they act all surprised when only the main character survives the assault and they have to be rescued by someone else. I’m thinking if I need to bring in a suspect for questioning because they are the only person in the world who might be able to reveal the location of the bomb/terrorist leader/plane/kidnap victim/whatever, I’m sending in a freaking army to get them. I think the CTU people kind of cause more of their own problems than they seem to realize.
  • One show that I don’t have a lot of complaints with right now is Heroes. Man, I love that show. Last night’s episode was superb, yet again. The only thing that really bugs me about the show right now are the naysayers. Yes, it is very much like the X-Men. So what? The X-Men are cool, and this gives us a chance to see an X-Men-like story with new characters (so we aren’t bored with the origin stuff if we’ve read the comics already) and a re-imagined take on the whole superheroes concept. I think it’s working very well and the pacing seems to be just about perfect: I’m always left wanting more but they aren’t killing me slowly with the glacial pace of the plot like Lost. One of the great Lost debates is the Characters-vs-Story discussion where some people say they are more interested in the character development and therefore don’t mind the so-slow pace of the Island Mysteries aspect but others (like me) think the characters should really be there to move the story along so the development of the characters becomes almost meaningless since it takes over the whole show leaving the plot to flounder. With Heroes they got it all right by developing the characters at a nice clip but letting those developments also push the plot forward. Very well done and I was quite pleased to hear that the show got picked up for the rest of the season. If you haven’t already started watching this show, I can’t recommend it enough and I’ve heard they plan to run a brief marathon of the last three episodes (not including the Pilot) sometime in the next week so if you haven’t seen it yet, keep an eye out for that to help you catch up.
  • So the final consensus on the new Decemberists album is that it may surpass Picaresque in terms of total quality and has quickly shot to near the top of my all-time favorite albums list. Love it. On the other hand, the new Evanescence album, The Open Door is bland and uninspired and quite a disappointment. Nik also picked up AFI’s Decemberunderground album from iTunes on the strength of a couple of singles she heard on the radio. It’s not too bad, really although I need to give it a few more listens. AFI is kind of a more intense Green Day but they have some catchy riffs and some nice melodies going on, so I think it could get some decent playtime.
  • I had a bit of a chance to listen to some of Sirius satellite radio driving around to doctor’s appointments and stuff in Nik’s car while I was sick. It’s a pretty cool thing and the lack of commercials on the music channels is really, really nice. There’s a lot of selection available as well which means it usually isn’t hard at all to find some station playing something you like. My only complaint so far probably has more to do with the head unit than Sirius itself, but I’m having a really hard time finding the non-music channels. There is supposed to be a way to choose a channel via category but I can’t seem to make it work the way the manual describes which means a lot of the NPR, comedy and sports stations are ostensibly there but not accessible. This is going to become a problem pretty quickly when I want to start listening to Sharks games on the way home from work and can’t even get to the stations.
  • Speaking of the Sharks, I got better just in time since Nikki bought me a three-pack of Sharks tickets for our anniversary and the first game is tonight versus the Dallas Stars. I’m heading out after work to pick HB from work and then heading on to the tank so hopefully my body will cooperate and I’ll be able to enjoy myself. I’m kind of counting on excitement to push me through some of the weariness I still feel, but it should be a really good time.

Download A-Go-Go

Nikki and I went to the Download Festival on Saturday to catch The Shins and Muse play. There were some other bands there like Rogue Wave and TV On the Radio, but those were just filler until the other bands got on stage. Actually the top billed acts were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Beck, who we didn’t stay to see since I don’t really care for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Beck wasn’t scheduled to take the stage until 10:00 pm. Since we’d already been there since about 1:00 pm, Nik was getting tired and I wasn’t all that excited about sitting through a mediocre band to see someone who I more or less appreciate but probably wouldn’t pay to see by himself.

It was totally worth it though because The Shins are a really good live band and they treated us by playing four tracks from their forthcoming CD (due in January, according to the band) all of which were solid but a couple of which I really dug. Despite the fact that I generally prefer The Shins over Muse, I must admit that Muse rocked the house. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a band that was that good in concert.

Muse is kind of a Radiohead-wannabe band (at least they admit it) only they are probably best classified as Radiohead circa The Bends with all the distorted guitars and angsty-scream vocals which occasionally settle into a bitter—but beautiful—falsetto. But the one thing that Muse’s studio albums don’t (and can’t) capture is that Muse has a certain Queen-like operatic sensibility that, in concert at least, gives their songs this very epic feeling. Plus, these guys can play.

They tend to sound so much like Radiohead at times that when simply listening to their albums you can easily forget that what you’re hearing is musically phenomenal because, well, Radiohead is musically phenomenal so it just seems like emulation. But in truth Muse have a certain wonderful Rush or Dream Theater-like mastery over their craft that is pretty awe-inspiring to watch unfold. I came away from the show with the understanding that if Muse or The Shins ever headlined a show in my area, I’d be there.

And if you haven’t checked out The Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow already, you really need to. Go ahead, I can wait.


Almost immediately after returning home from the concert I started to feel a bit out of sorts. Sure enough, I woke up on Sunday feeling like garbage and spent the whole day moping around on the couch. I worked from home on Monday like I usually do, but I felt pretty sick the whole time and Tuesday I just couldn’t do it so I called in sick. I felt a bit better yesterday but I still decided to work from home again to avoid passing whatever this weird flu thing is on to anyone else. Today I’m more or less over it although either as a side effect or something unrelated but unfortunately timed, I managed to end up with this weird itchy rash on my hands and arms. The only good thing about it is that it isn’t terribly visible unless you’re really looking for it but man is it uncomfortable.

Rows and Rows of Teeth

Sharks season starts tonight. We’re heading over to HB‘s place after work to catch the game in glorious High Definition on his snazzy new TV. After spending the last couple of months watching the Giants slide into oblivion and the misery that is being a 49ers fan in the 21st century, I’m so happy that hockey season has started again. The difference I think is that I watch baseball for the Giants. I watch football for the Niners (and fantasy football I guess) but I watch hockey for hockey.

Sure I love it when the Sharks are doing well, but I’ll watch any hockey because I just really enjoy the game. Blue Jackets versus Blackhawks in a 0-1 snoozer? Fine by me, it’s not like the rest of TV has a lot going for it.

On the Telly

I haven’t watched as much of the new season of TV this year as I did last year. That’s probably a good thing. So far I’m really, really liking Heroes (anyone else thinking that Sylar is Niki Sanders’ mirror-ego?) and Shark, although I’ve given up on Smith already. I did catch the beginning of Kidnapped and so far it’s pretty good. I’m not sure that there is a whole show in the premise, but I’ll watch it until it gets ludicrous. I also caught the second episode of Studio 60 and… well, I still can’t decide what I think of it. On one hand, it’s entertaining enough that I watched the whole thing but on the other hand it’s kind of stupid. I guess I’ll give it until the first stinker and then cancel my Season Pass.

Lost last night was pretty fantastic despite a general absence of main cast members (no Hurley? No Sayid?). The opening was one of those things that Lost loves to do just to tweak with viewers’ heads and we all love it and the hints about the shark with the Dahrma logo (“It’s an aquarium. For sharks?” “Dolphins, too.”) and Henry Gale’s continued creepy presence were all good. I did feel like the scenes with Sawyer and his fellow captive were either filler-ish or laying the groundwork for something to come later but either way I just wanted to get back to the good stuff.

Veronica Mars’ premiere was darn good as well, with plenty of the familair snark and cleverness alongside some genuinely intense moments. I do think that the whole Keith-Mars-is-in-jeopardy-again schtick is getting a bit old and the Dick Casablancas subplot was… well, I think it was all a set up so he can be the red herring in the campus rapist case but I thought his character was utterly disposable from the very beginning so anytime he gets screentime over, say, Weevil or Keith/Veronica is something of a drag to me. Still, the new characters (Piz and Parker) are interesting enough (I’m seeing another love triangle with Piz/Veronica/Logan forming) and so far the move to college hasn’t dampened the spirit of the show so I’m pretty hopeful for this season.

I did manage to miss The Nine though so that was kind of a bummer.


A couple of new albums have come out that I was waiting for: The Decemberists finally released their follow-up to the brilliant Picaresque, entitled The Crane Wife. I picked it up today at lunch and listened to it as I ate in my car. I usually don’t trust first listens of albums because I rarely like anything the first time I hear it, but this album is different. I already love at least two of the six or so songs I heard and like the rest of them quite a bit. I’m thinking this may be my favorite album of the year unless something comes along that is really spectacular in the next twleve weeks.

The Killers also released a much-anticipated follow-up album this week called Sam’s Town which Nik and I listened to on the way to work today. She actually bought it last night and listened to it on the way home while I was still sick. Her initial impression was less than favorable and I think she’s still unhappy at what a departure it is from Hot Fuss even after a second listen. My first time through I thought the first few tracks were pretty mediocre but it picked up steam toward the middle and I heard a couple of songs in there I liked quite a bit so I’m interested to give it a few more listens.

I also decided to get Nik some audio gear as a birthday present for her car including a new head unit, Sirius satellite radio (which, as a digression, I’m not-so-secretly pretty excited about myself, primarily because of the NHL network which, as I understand it, broadcasts pretty much any hockey game you could ever want to hear) and an iPod connector so that she can plug in her Nano (or my 4g iPod I suppose) and control it through the head unit instead of having to resort to some clunky mounted solution or something. I got all that from a mail-order place called Crutchfield and I was very impressed all around with that place. Not only did I get a lot of gear for about $70-75 cheaper than it would have cost me to get from a place like Best Buy, but they threw in a free mounting bracket specific to our car model and included free installation instructions also specific to our car model in—get this—plain English.

The installation is happening on Saturday I believe over at HB‘s place to be followed by a trip to the newly opened Texas Roadhouse restaurant here in town and then back to our place for some games. It should be fun birthday for her, even if a little low-key (although we did invite quite a few folks to dinner/game night so we’ll see how many show up). I figure we can go all out next year when she does the 30 year old thing.

Some… uh, Stuff

Briefly I have a few things to touch upon.

Tee to the Vee

I’ve caught a few of the new shows for this season and so far the best is (by far) Heroes. I admit that Ali Larter’s Niki Sanders character is either really lame or she’s just a terrible actress (maybe both); Adrian Pasdar plays the same exact character he always does (good guy/bad guy… who can tell?) and the cliff hanger commercial breaks were rarely ever thrilling. But still, this is a show that has something a lot of shows never have: Promise. Consider another show I caught the premiere for: Smith. A show about the other side of the law. I’m thinking Goodfellas. I’m thinking Heat. I’m thinking high-tech Sopranos. But instead it’s more like Desperate Housethieves than anything cool. Too many personal stories. Why does he have to have a respectable alter-ego? I don’t understand why someone would go through the hassle of trying to maintain a dual identity (complete with respecable sales job) if they were either that good at being a burglar or if doing their theiving would compromise their family. I mean, either you can support yourself without breaking the law or you can’t, right? It doesn’t make sense that someone would even try to do both.

At least on the Sopranos they made that part of the story.

I also caught the Shark series premiere which I enjoyed quite a bit despite it being only a shade more intriguing than would be if Sam Watterson were given the whole show (Law & Order), primarily because James Woods is fun to watch pretty much no matter what he’s doing. Although, I got the impression from the premiere that Woods was going out of his way to be all Emmy worthy. Like he was trying too hard or something. Still interesting but it did break the spell a few times.

I also caught the premiere of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which was basically not very funny and not very dramatic and therefore not very good. It seems very much like a show that the writers really wanted to do, but it turns out that watching the creative process behind the shows we watch each week? Not very interesting after all.

The only thing I’m still waiting for is The Nine and I missed the first episode of Kidnapped (but it looks like they’re re-airing it on Saturday). Other than that the few shows I’m holding onto from last year is all I’m anticipating so I have a feeling that since they usually cancel the shows I like, I’ll probably have nothing to watch in a few months.

Sporting Bads

  • The 49ers are a better team than last year, but they still managed to showcase their patented “Sieve Defense” on Sunday versus the Eagles. Here’s something I was wondering for some of you older-school Niners fans: I recall Joe Montana only as being the dominant, clutch-thriving QB that earned him a bunch of championships in the eighties. But it occurs to me that he must have had some sort of career prior to that time. Was he always good? Did he dominate in college? Was he a solid NFL QB right out of the draft? What I’m (probably obviously) driving at is, can we even hope that Alex Smith was the right guy to draft or is his so-so performance thus far indicative of a long term trend of not living up to his hype?
  • I guess the Giants are officially out of the playoff race this year. Big surprise when your starting rotation starts serving up whiffle balls on the most pivotal road trip of the whole year. So now people are starting to talk about next year. I guess nearly the whole team is up for contract renegotiation. I don’t know if you remember but back a couple years ago when the Giants choked in the World Series an East Coast radio personality and lifelong Giants fan had a screaming rant after they bowed to the Angels about how difficult it was to be a Giants fan.

    I’ve talked about this before because while the Indians and the Cubs have longer streaks without championships, it has to be easier for fans of those clubs because they have had a lot more crummy teams that can’t win the World Series (like, big surprise). The Giants reserve a special brand of torture for their fans by actually fielding good teams… who can’t win the World Series. Anyway, the guy from the East Coast (Chris Russo) got on the horn this morning with one of the local SF sports talk stations and had some pretty spot-on opinions.

    Basically he thinks that the management of the Giants has made a bunch of bonehead moves in the last few years and I agree. I mean, let’s compare the two Bay Area teams. On one hand we have the revolving door of the Oakland A’s where each year is a new crop of random youngsters and league no-names. But they’re built to be a team and somehow they keep having legitimate chances at winning stuff. Oh, and they do it with no money but having a rich farm system and focusing on things like winning games versus breaking pointless records and having recognizeable names. The Giants have a decent payroll which they squander on has-beens. San Francisco has become like the pre-retirement community for the Major Leagues. I don’t want to go to the park and watch a bunch of washed up geriatrics struggle to make basic plays, I’d rather watch a bunch of kids who have something to prove run their butts off and make stupid mistakes. For every A’s game I watch where I see some rookie get caught in a stupid rundown or something because he tried to stretch a long double into a weak triple I see two games where Bonds can’t score from second on a stinking double or Morris forgets his bifocals and walks six batters in a row. Forget these old codgers. Let’s set up a farm system, let’s get a real game plan that is more in depth than “let’s get people on base and then bring Bonds to the plate!”

    Come on. Bonds has been on the team for over ten years (since 1993) and (as Russo points out) they haven’t won with him. This year he’ll play maybe 132 games and he’ll have the lowest HR total in a season since he was a Pittsburgh Pirate which includes 1999 where he barely got in 100 games. I don’t care about the steroids thing. I don’t care about Babe Ruth’s home run record. You know what I care about? The Giants doing something that makes me glad I’m a Giants fan.

  • I was glad the Saints won last night, even if the second half of the game was pretty much snooze-fest. I wanted New Orleans to win for the same reason I’m guessing most non-Atlanteans did, although ESPN’s incessant badgering on the Katrina angle got really old after about oh, the first quarter, But I had ulterior motives as well: My opponent in fantasy football had both Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn going last night and needed them to help him make up about 30 points. Not insurmountable for a running back and a QB, but both of them sucked last night which was just fine with me. Thanks, Saints!

And the Rest of It

  • I know we just came up big time on a new-to-us 36″ TV, but the lure of HD is strong and my will save vs. techno-geekery is like -8. Thus it was with rapt attention that I followed the announcement and ensuing hullabaloo regarding the release of the TiVo Series 3 HD DVR. Of course to take advantage of such a device I would need:
    1. A HD-capable TV.
    2. HD content, probably in the form of cable television we cannot receive or an XBox 360 I can’t afford.
    3. Some place to put it and/or our existing equipment.
    4. $800 for the TiVo3.

    I have been looking at HD TVs for some time now. Remember that the Trinitron acquisition was more of a kind blessing from HB and Gin than something we sought. I keep seeing a very nice one at places like Best Buy for what I consider to be pretty reasonable (roughly $1,700 for a 42″ Sony Plasma) but then I recall that we don’t have any way of really getting HD content and we can’t afford it and we don’t need it. But like I said, I can’t resist. Stuff like this usually helps some and reminds me why, though I may be a covetous geek-tard, my patience for technological foulery is far, far too thin to be a true early adopter.

  • We’ve played a couple of sessions of a pretty fun large-party game called Werewolves of Miner’s Hollow. It’s kind of like the old elementary school rainy-day recess game “Heads Up Seven Up” where players close their eyes and someone is randomly chosen and they have to guess who picked them. This slightly more sophisticated version uses a series of phases that last through the “night” (the time when players have their eyes closed) during which various different people get to open their eyes and perform tasks. Primarily, the werewolves (determined by randomly distributed cards) look around and choose a townsperson to kill or remove from the game. The remaining players try to figure out which of those left in the morning (when all players open their eyes) is the werewolf in their midst through debate and discussion. Eventually they all must choose someone to “lynch” or remove from the game through democratic voting. Sometimes they pick correctly, other times they kill an innocent. There are a lot of other special townspeople like the Mystic who can examine one player’s card during the night and the hunter who can take someone down with him if he’s killed during the night. It’s a good game for parties because it doesn’t require a lot of set up and it encourages people to interact. We played it for Whimsy‘s “surprise” 30th birthday party last weekend and I think everyone really enjoyed it. It’s also fun because the individual rounds don’t last that long (maybe fifteen minutes) so players don’t get stuck doing the same thing and you can play through several dozen rounds in an evening. There is a very comparable game that uses similar mechanics but with a few variations that Nik and I purchased called Lupus in Tabula. The main difference between the games (from reading the Lupus instructions) is that in Lupus you don’t reveal the dead players’ identities until after the game is completely over which would probably work well to increase the general tension and paranoia since you don’t necessarily know (if you’re a regular townsperson) how many allies you have left at any given point in the game.
  • There is a new poll up. In case you were interested.

Callous Case

I very much enjoy the show Cold Case. Not in the way I enjoy something like Lost which I actively look forward to each week, but it’s something that doesn’t sit in the TiVo queue very long.

My interest in the show is a little unexpected, really. It’s basically a standard police procedural with the oh-so-clever “twist” of having the cases be ones that were either previously solved (incorrectly, natch) or were shelved as unsolvable. Not exactly the most creative of show premises, but it works as it allows the producers to work in a lot of flashbacks and incorporate time-specific soundtracks (the show relies a lot on musical montages) which keeps the often standard pick-from-about-four-possible-perps formula interesting enough. While it doesn’t really try hard to be ground-breaking or anything I like it because in a manner similar to Law & Order, it sort of pushes the principal’s character development to the periphery and lets the immediate story of the week take the forefront. Only Cold Case isn’t as smug as Dick Wolf’s ubiquitous NBC franchise(s).

That is, until last night’s season premiere. The primary story revolved around a couple of badgered teenagers who went on a Columbine-style rampage in a mall before taking their own lives. The twist was a hidden video camera that was recovered and contained footage of the massacre that revealed there may have been a third shooter.

Okay, fine. But as soon as they mentioned that the two shooters had played a ludicrously titled online video game, I groaned. “Here we go.” Sure enough, it was only a few lines of dialogue later that the detectives latched onto the concept of the video games as being the ultimate cause for the teens’ cruel, vindictive shooting spree, going so far as to take heavy pains to touch the parents of one of the kids with sympathy.

I don’t really want to get all in-depth in the whole “video games are corrupting the youth of America” faux-debate, but being a reasonably well-adjusted lifetime gamer myself, I’m sure you can guess where my opinion lies.

What I did find outrageous or ironic or whatever was that after forty-five minutes of not-so-subtly laying the blame for the kids’ actions on the doorstep of their (obviously unhealthy) interest in video games, the show proceeded to depict the entire massacre in exquisite, almost loving detail. The teenage characters roared with glee as red-tinted corn syrup flew and horrified-looking extras staggered under the weight of their fictitious wounds and the music swelled with emotion-rending schmaltz. I watched with a curled lip and a bitter disposition.

Perhaps it was my cynical streak leaping forward again but I couldn’t help but think of the insanity of having a television show (you remember television, right? That’s the medium that used to be corrupting America’s youth before video games came along and magically made TV a bastion of wholesome, educational entertainment) blaming a video game for causing a horrible event that it in turn cheerfully re-enacted for the sake of some ratings points. The basic problem is that entertainment is just that: Entertainment. It’s impact on people cannot be measured; people are stupid, weak-willed, unstable and in some cases flat out crazy. But people are also discerning, resilient and generally smarter than they’re given credit for. Blaming one facet of society for all of the perceived ills is ridiculously limiting and narrow minded.

I don’t think Cold Case’s depiction of their story is going to irreparably damage society. I do think it was a bit irresponsible but then again I don’t think Grand Theft Auto is training an army of youthful murderers but that doesn’t mean I refuse to believe it (and other video games) could be irresponsible; I think video games cross that line a lot. But there’s a difference between entertainment products being inappropriately marketed or crossing a line into bad taste or pushing an envelope that maybe didn’t need to be pushed and those that erode our moral fiber. You know what the difference is? If Cold Case’s handling of the story had been less idiotic and if the final shootout scene had been handled more tastefully, it might have been good. Quality and taste often go hand in hand, even if there are elements in there that are of questionable benefit by themselves. It’s like cooking with lard: Sometimes it’s just the right ingredient for the job, but you don’t want to sit down to a nice slab o’ lard sandwich, you know? You have to know how to blend things together in the right way.

And this time Cold Case got it all wrong and left a bad taste in my mouth.

I Have Found It

I wrote a quick blurb a while back mentioning the summer cable show “Psych” which, after watching almost the entire first season, I realized was more clever in premise than execution. After about four or five episodes it was already getting a bit stale. Dr. Mac was reminded upon that mention of another summer cable series, Eureka and pointed out that it too showed promise.

I had actually already been watching Eureka but unlike Psych it didn’t strike me right off the bat as being as good. Now I think this has more to do with the premises of the respective shows and while Psych failed in a lot of ways to live up to its initial potential, Eureka has managed to suck me in with some engaging characters and—I’m not too proud to admit it—a healthy dose of itch-scratching in that X-Files/Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Lost region of soap-opera-y science fiction serials.

But there are things about Eureka that I’m not too sure about. Before I get to that, let me list what I do like about the show.

  1. Colin Ferguson. The casting for the lead role is exactly perfect: Jack Carter pulls off smarmy, smart but in a different way than most of the eggheads in Eureka, charismatic but not hammy and he swings easily between the shows varying thematic twists (see below).
  2. Jo (Erica Cerra). Despite being criminally under-utilized, the Jo character is one of the most appealing on the show and Cerra nails the deadpan by-the-book deputy perfectly and manages to steal most scenes she’s in.
  3. Henry (Joe Morton). Joe Morton has been good for a long time, despite never really achieving a big star status (probably because he always gets cast as the doctor, the scientist or the clever FBI agent instead of getting the lead) but he’s perfectly suited to being the town’s mechanic/coroner/tow truck driver/etc and also Jack’s (smarter) sidekick.
  4. The humor. When the show is in comedy mode, it’s usually pretty spot-on. Some good recurring jokes are Jack’s AI house (S.A.R.A.H.), Henry’s velcro job title coveralls, the quirky romantic tension between Jack and Allison and Jo’s insistence on following official police procedure (the “over” bit in the most recent “Right as Raynes” episode had me actually laughing out loud).

But of course I have complaints. First of all, the show is crazy inconsistent, even within the confines of an individual episode. In fact, if it were at least steadfast within a given episode, I could certainly forgive (and in fact would probably even enjoy) some disparity week to week. Take X-Files as an example, some of the best episodes are the ones that break from the norm (“Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”—best ever) but at least within the episodes themselves the levity was always contextual and never felt like “the slapstick scene” or whatever. Eureka seems to set each episode up with rapid-fire quips and jokes and then Something Serious happens and the jokes evaporate and we enter full-on Drama Mode until the Sinister Stuff gets introduced and then it’s Spooky Time until the resolution (often Action Theater) at which point we go back to the Funny for the episode’s epilogue.

The problem isn’t that the show tries to be entertaining on several levels, it’s that the execution is often clumsy which results in the show feeling uneven and a bit like it’s trying too hard. In essence the tone of the show is never set: Is it supposed to be lighthearted with a sinister undertone? Sinister with a hint of humor? Dramedy? Soap-y? It’s kind of all of them at various times and it’s that lack of focus that really hurts the show the most.

Perhaps as a by-product, character interactions suffer from inconsistency. The competitive tension between Jack and Nathan is forced a lot, the townspeople’s reactions to Jack in general seem to be arbitrary depending on what the current scene demands. Most specifically, the part of the show that doesn’t work is Jack and his daughter Zoe’s strained relationship. Somehow the ever-in-peril Zoe is smart enough to go toe-to-toe with whip-smart Dad in their verbal battles but is stupid enough to constantly be in need of rescue at the last possible second.

Granted, the same complaints could be leveled at other shows (even X-Files relied on Scully getting into situations where she needed to be rescued by Mulder about once per episode in the early seasons) but here the clichés feel even more egregious because you can tell this show wants to escape the traps of standard serial fiction but it seems comelled toward them for some reason… almost like it were one of Eureka’s wayward inventions pulling the plot toward trite convention instead of confidently running with the quirky and the bizarre. It’s a lack of committment to the show’s overall premise that worries me the most.

I’m certainly in it for the rest of this season, but I’m hoping it only takes a year to iron out some of the kinks because the potential is there, it’s just a matter of executing and so far close isn’t cutting it.