April 2003 Archives

More of the same on this week's Buffy, as characters once again act inexplicably to service the plot. There is no way Dawn would tell Buffy to leave. Xander might be bitter, but taking it out on Buffy-- in front of everyone-- is way out of character. Principal Wood hasn't been much involved, but all of a sudden he waltzes in and sides AGAINST Buffy? Anya actually calls Buffy LUCKIER than they are? Let's see, she's died twice, her mother died, she killed her true love after she lost her virginity to him and he immediately turned evil, she's had her body switched, she was yanked forcibly out of heaven, and is saddled with the responsibility of stopping an apocalypse for which she'll receive no credit but probably a whopping stack of repair bills. Yeah, real lucky. And Buffy, after years of dealing with this kind of thing, is completely out of touch with the feelings of those around her and oblivious to the effect her actions are having on them. Buffy's been through much, much worse than anything Caleb or The First have put her through, yet she's handling it like a novice. With writing like this, I'm not sorry at all to see Buffy go.

Comments (4) | last by Lloyd Ferrigon, Jan 2, 6:11 AM

That's GOTTA Hurt

I have seen the future, and it is Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (9 PM Saturdays, TNN). Someday all of the world's conflicts will be solved with painful physical elimination stunts. The Iraqi and American armies will be issued helmets and kneepads and sent charging at a series of doorways, some covered with paper and others with hardwood. Those who choose correctly will advance to the next stunt, swinging from a rope and dropping onto a small floating platform. Then storming a hill while dodging enormous rolling boulders. And so forth, until only one side remains to impose a strict totalitarian regime or capitalist nirvana on the populace. The proceedings will be closely monitored by flamboyantly dressed Japanese men, and overdubbed in irreverant English non-sequitirs for laughs. The most painful eliminations will be recapped at the end, and at 2AM it will be the most hysterical thing you'll have ever seen and the neighbors will call the police to quiet the howls of laughter. The revolution WILL be televised, and it will be dubbed.

Comments (2) | last by Jan, Nov 26, 11:12 AM

John D'oh!

I've grudgingly enjoyed John Doe. I say grudgingly, because it's incredible to me that it survived the season while its superior leadin, Firefly, got the axe. But I watched Doe all season, despite the cardboard characters of Frank and Avery, because they had fun with the show's fundamental premise. When they killed Karen a few weeks ago, the show rose a notch in my esteem. That was a bold move-- even bolder if it was planned from the outset and not the result of a contract dispute. But last night... last night it jumped the shark.

They'd set up a really nice juxtaposition between John Doe and Digger. Doe's a man desperately searching for his past, while Digger steadfastly keeps his past behind him. There was a nice buddy vibe building. It worked. And last night they trashed it by revealing Digger to be the leader of the Phoenix Group, the organization that killed Karen and believes Doe is their messiah.

This makes no sense.

Doe wound up at Digger's place by happenstance. They met by chance. The odds against that happening-- of Doe linking up with his arch-nemesis-- are astronomical. Credulity is strewn all about the room in tiny particles floating on beams of afternoon sunlight. Explaining it, as they might, by saying that whatever gives Doe his knowledge also programmed him to seek out Digger so that the Phoenix Group could watch him is blatant ret-con. I'm sure if I were to review past episodes, Digger's actions would make no sense in light of this development.

This is the X-Files at its worst. For a series like this to work, viewers must invest their trust in the creators. We take it on faith that there's a grand plan, and that the writers aren't just making it up as they go along. Nowhere Man, a one-season-wonder from UPN a few years back, exhibited similar symptoms. 24 does it right. With its season finale, John Doe pulled back the curtain to reveal the wizard as a man without a plan, just struggling to keep one step ahead.

I was pleasantly surprised at the upheaval in last night's Survivor. "Pleasantly" because I feel neither Jenna nor Alex "deserves" to win (I'm undecided about Heidi). "Surprised" because Rob gave up a sure minimum finish of 4th place in exchange for an outside chance at the win. Rob's comments about Jenna and Heidi paint him as an infantile, pathetic geek. But he knows the game. And he was smart to recognize that he was first on the chopping block for his little alliance. But he may not have been smart enough.

If his new allies have any brains, Rob's just slit his own throat. By betraying his old alliance, Rob has proven himself to be untrustworthy. That makes him a liability. And he just rendered himself obsolete. If Butch, Matt, and Kristy turned against him, the three of them would still have a majority against Jenna and Heidi and could coast to the endgame. If they leave Rob around the battle lines become murky. If they're smart, they'll get rid of him now before he can switch sides again. Matt seems to feel beholden to Rob, but his vote wouldn't even be required-- Jenna and Heidi are sure to vote for him. And if Rob, by some miracle, makes it to the end, there's no way Alex, Jenna, or Heidi would vote to give him the million.

At this point I'm pulling for Kristy, even though that's a lost cause-- as I've said before, you'd have to be an idiot to take her into the finals with you. But you've gotta root for somebody, and I'd rather see one of the hard workers beat the cocky people.

Comments (2) | last by Scott Hardie, Apr 26, 8:38 AM

No Two Flakes Are Alike

One of the things I like about The Gathering of Friends is that the attendees generally don't conform to the typical gamer stereotypes. Well, except for the whole "geek" thing, but I don't expect hairdressers to swill Coors and follow NASCAR, either. Some things just go with the territory. I was therefore disturbed to encounter one individual with an egregious gaffe in personal hygene.

Riddle me this: How does a person-- especially one wearing a dark shirt-- NOT know they have dandruff? Do they never look at themselves in the mirror? Do they undress in the dark? Do they never look over their shoulder (or even, in this particular case, down at their chest-- the dandruff seemed to flutter from his beard as well)? With the level of dermal snow involved here, maintaining a state of personal ignorance is a remarkable feat of unperception or willful denial.

So did I, as a friend and a mensch, pull the person aside and suggest a bit of personal grooming might be in order? To my shame, no-- I was too busy choking back the bile that was threatening to add to the hygenic nightmare. I did pop a Listerine breath strip on my tongue-- is it my fault if the hint went unnoticed?

I like the guy, but I wound up playing nothing with him for the entire week. Coincidence, or subconscious cootie alert? I dunno. Next year I'll put a bottle of Head & Shoulders on the freebie table.

Comments (2) | last by john, Feb 3, 6:53 PM

Just caught up with last week's Buffy, in which our heroine succumbs to one of Roger Ebert's pet peeves-- the heroine doing something stupid because the plot requires it. Everyone around her says Caleb is baiting a trap, but Buffy not only bullheadedly plows into it, she takes a bunch of untested girls with her. I didn't buy it. With writers good enough to give us the delightful scene with Faith and Spike in the basement, you'd think they could remember Buffy's IQ isn't as low as her name implies. And what was that rubbish Caleb spouted about Xander being "the one who always sees everything"? Makes for some nice irony, but not any sense. It's good to have Faith back for the final few episodes, but I hope they're better written than this one.

Comments (2) | last by Peter Sarrett, Apr 24, 3:00 PM

The 606th Take

This is probably going to make it's way around the Net in one of those infuriating email-forwarding chains, but it's too good to resist. Here is the best car commerical ever. And it's 100% real, filmed without trick photography in one long, extended shot. On the 606th take.

Comments (4) | last by Larry, Apr 23, 5:48 AM

Overall, I love living in Seattle, but there are a few things I miss about the East Coast. There are no good amusement parks out here. Nobody makes a decent bagel. Chinese restaurants charge for white rice and don't offer barbeque spare ribs. And there are no White Castles.

One of the fringe benefits of The Gathering of Friends is the hotel's proximity to a White Castle. It's always fun to watch people experience their first ratburger. You either get it or you don't. A friend wrinkled his nose after trying one for the first time last week. "The bun is so... moist!" he cried. "Yes," I replied in a dreamy, Homeresque drone, "moist with oniony goodness." I grew up with White Castle. For me, it's comfort food. Which makes me realize that by the same logic, there are probably millions of people for whom Domino's pizza is also comfort food. <shudder> I can get them frozen at the supermarket, but that's not the same as buying them by the sack. If you didn't grow up with them, you just can't understand.

Comment (1) | last by dana, Apr 22, 9:43 AM

I'm back from The Gathering of Friends, a gaming event in Columbus for about 230 people. Last year I noticed a dramatic change in my Gathering experience, as I spent more time just schmoozing with people than I did playing games. A friend who hadn't been to the past few Gatherings remarked that this one felt "less intense" to him-- so perhaps this is a more sweeping trend and not localized to just me. I played a lot of Tichu and poker, and fairly little else outside of the tournaments and a handful of new games (although I never even played the big attraction, Reiner Knizia's latest Amun-Re). This is consistent with the general ambivalence about games I've been feeling for the past year. At our weekly game sessions, I'm rarely the one to push us into a particular game anymore. I'm content to just hang with everyone and schmooze. So it was this week, as I drifted from table to table to chat and shrugged off many attempts to get me to join games.

That relaxed attitude carried over into tournaments. I played in all the team events but only a few individual ones (Medici, Puerto Rico, Lost Cities, Ra), and paradoxically had my best tournament showing yet with four wins (Haste Worte, Password, Treasure Hunt, Lost Cities). I also picked up a free lifetime pass to the Gathering during the prize ceremony by correctly identifying the first game Alan Moon had the idea for.

Six people from my game group were also in attendance this year, five for the first time, and it was fun to have them there and see the experience through their eyes.

Many thanks to Alan Moon for running the event.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Zombie, already in progress.

Comments (3) | last by Chris M. Dickson, Apr 26, 3:41 AM

According to a Yahoo news story, in September Pepsi will give someone a chance to win 1 billion dollars. The billion-dollar winner will be chosen by a monkey that will draw a number out of a hat.

"An unusually dexterous monkey will do the picking," executive producer Matti Leshem explains to CNN. "It's the ultimate slap in the face to evolution: The fate of a billion dollars will be in the hands of a monkey."

Lesham then flung feces across the room and returned to his banana.

Seen on the Guild 45th theater marquee:

BEND IT
LIKE
BECKHAM

NAAN STOP FOOTBALL

And she was doing so well.

If you try to stab a teammate in the back-- particularly one who has established closer ties with the others than you have-- your knife is liable to find its way back to you. There was no way Jenna or Heidi was going to vote for Alex, and I'm amazed Deena didn't see that. I was very surprised that Rob turned on her, though. With his influence over Matt and Butch, if he ousted Alex he suddenly became the power player behind the scenes. Now he's just 1 of 4, and probably the weakest of the bunch. Not smart. But then, what can we expect from a guy who brings a Magic 8 Ball along as his luxury item?

Matt, meanwhile, is a very lucky man-- and completely oblivious. Perhaps he can win himself a clue in the next reward challenge.

Comment (1) | last by Sean, Apr 18, 2:21 PM

Final Answer: Guilty

Three people in Britain were found guilty today of conspiring to cheat on the UK edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. They managed to escape jail time, however, receiving suspended sentences. The footage from the controversial million-pound win will be broadcast for the first time tonight in the UK. Transcripts of the episode made the cheating sound obvious, and it will be interesting to hear how blatant it actually appears to UK viewers. What's amazing to me isn't that these guys tried to cheat, but that they were so astoundingly clumsy at it.

Comment (1) | last by Chris M. Dickson, Apr 8, 5:33 PM

Augusta, GA - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay criticized Tiger Woods today, calling him unpatriotic after his performance at The Masters golf tournament where Woods shot an eagle, or 2 under par. "In this time of war, it is completely inappropriate to shoot an eagle. We must all stand behind our President and our troops, and this kind of flagrant disrespect towards our national symbol is unconscionable."

Red Hot Poker

Part of the appeal of Iron Chef was the way it brought the conventions of sports broadcasting to a cooking show. Those same conventions are now being applied to poker. World Poker Tour airs every Wednesday on The Travel Channel, and it's great, great television.

The World Poker Tour is a series of high stakes Hold 'Em tournaments created specifically for this television series, culminating in a final million dollar showdown at the Bellagio later this year. You may have watched other poker events on television, but not like this. The players sit amid a monstrous set with strobing lights and roving cameras. The table is not only lit from underneath, but built-in "hole card cams" sneak peeks at every player's cards. Viewers get to see not just the hands that get played, but those that get tossed as well-- and that makes a tremendous difference. It allows us to see into the minds of the world's greatest players, watching as they bluff, back down, or walk right into a trap. Popup Video-style factoids free the commentators to focus on insightful commentary.

This is good stuff. Peter-Bob says, "Check it out!"

Comments (3) | last by Nathan Beeler, Apr 7, 2:09 PM

I could not possibly make this up.

The WB has given the go-ahead to Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, a new reality series from Stan Lee. Contestants pitch their superhero ideas to a panel of celebs who have portrayed superheroes on TV and film, then dress up as their proposed character to perform feats of derring-do as part of the "superhero makeover".

No word yet on whether that makeover includes actual emasculation, or merely a complete loss of dignity and self respect.

Comments (8) | last by Tall Dave, Apr 22, 2:52 PM

Crossword Goodness

Many newspapers syndicate the NYT crossword, printing it six weeks after its appearance in the NYT. My second New York Times crossword puzzle will appear in syndication tomorrow (Thursday). Check your local paper!

Comments (2) | last by Peter Sarrett, Apr 2, 4:34 PM

Well whaddya know, Wizards of the Coast has a sense of humor. Check out the new Dungeons & Dragons supplement released just in time for April first. I'm sure you parents out there could come up with many appropriate additions. Personally, I think the 2nd level Silence spell is all you really need...

Touched By a Lawyer

The Sci-Fi Channel announced 16 new shows for the 04-05 year today, including a Stargate: SG-1 spinoff called Stargate: Atlantis. But just when you think the channel is realizing it's potential, you see this:

Dead Lawyers - DreamWorks Television (Taken) produces this one-hour series with a deliciously judicious concept. Sleazy unscrupulous lawyers, in order to redeem themselves, come back from the dead to defend everyone they screwed when they were alive - and it's all pro bono! When hotshot defense attorney Jimmy Quinn is run over by a bus, he finds himself in his own version of hell: a law firm on earth composed of other dead lawyers, all trying to right miscarriages of justice in order to redeem themselves.

Change this concept to "Dead TV Executives" and you've got something.

Comments (2) | last by David, Apr 1, 10:53 PM

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