September 2003 Archives

All In

Nate and I went up to Tulalip last night for my first outing at a casino card room. It took me about 3.5 hours to lose $100 (Nate came out $250 ahead). I was fairly disciplined at the beginning, mucking hand after hand of unrelenting crap. When I finally got dealt pocket aces, I got absolutely no action-- and I didn't even raise! I hovered around $60-70 for much of the night, before fatigue and frustration over lousy cards got the better of me and I started playing hands I shouldn't have.

Initially I was a bit intimidated by being at a poker room, and consequently played far more timidly than I usually do. I checked too often, engraving an invitation for someone else to bet and scoop the pot. It wasn't until late in the night that I finally wised up, but by then the writing was on the wall for the evening. I got a few good hands and made a couple of successful bluffs before finally going all in with pocket queens and getting taken out by an A-2 who flopped a deuce, turned an Ace, and got another deuce on the river. Sigh...

It was a great learning experience and I had a good time. I'm definitely interested in going again, but the smoke... State senate, get on the stick and pass a version of California's anti-smoking laws! How do non-smoking barflies put up with the stench on their clothes and in their hair? It's disgusting. I will never understand how anyone can look at a cigarette and think that sucking stygian carcinogens into their lungs is a good idea.

Comments (4) | last by George, Sep 30, 6:33 AM

Thank you for your attention.

Comments (5) | last by Sean, Sep 29, 5:10 PM

Quit, Ya Weenie

Some good drama on tonight's Survivor, as the Morgan tribe continued to disintegrate. Kudos to Mark Burnett for the two additional thematica twists revealed tonight: the winning team in each reward challenge gets to plunder the opposing camp of any one item (a reward from a previous season, but nonetheless appropos), and the burial of a treasure somewhere on each island, with each reward earning the team a third of a treasure map and a clue to help find it. Brilliant! If I were in the game, I'd be completely obsessing over that map and what goodies might be concealed in the chest. Some of the tribe's luggage, perhaps?

Meanwhile, Andrew is distinguishing himself as the kind of person I despise: self-righteous, egotistical, certain the problem is anywhere but with himself, and secure in the knowledge that his poop is lemony fresh. And whaddya know... he's a lawyer.

Comment (1) | last by David S, Sep 26, 6:30 AM

This... is... Jeopardy!

This... is... tempting!

Comments (7) | last by dana, Sep 28, 4:11 PM

Big Brother 4

My jaw is still on the floor after tonight's finale to Big Brother 4. All through the season I kept shouting at the players to vote Alison out of the house. But they never managed to do it-- partly because they were fools, and partly because Alison's success at HoH and Veto challenges made it extremely difficult for them to do so. When she made it to the final 2, I thought she had the game in the bag. Sure, her machinations pissed off a lot of jury members. But she played the game incredibly well. She worked to get to the end while Jun kind of snuck in on her coattails. Which is a strategy in its own right, of course, but you've got to give Alison her props. She needed to win competitions and she won them.

So when the jury turned in a 6-1 verdict for Jun, I was flabbergasted. I expected the players to be able to put their feelings aside and recognize how well Alison played the game. Moreover, all of Alison's misdeeds were in-game, and not personal; Jun made a lot of snarky personal comments about the jury members in earshot of other jurors. Alison ripped them apart in the diary room, but the jurors didn't know that when they voted. I expected the jurors to respect Alison's gameplay while looking askance at Jun's pettiness.

Then there are the individual votes. Erika's comments prior to voting made it clear that she didn't think Jun should win, and Jun's answer to her question was a disaster. Yet Erika voted for her! Jack, of all people, should have respected the strength Alison displayed as a competitor-- but he went with Jun. And Nathan, the man most cruelly manipulated by Alison and who insisted-- AFTER voting!-- that he'd never speak with Alison again, nevertheless voted for her! It was like the show was being broadcast from some kind of Bizarro universe.

Alison was robbed. She played the superior game. Jun flew under the radar and drifted between alliances adroitly, but Alison was piloting the plane. She deserved to land safely instead of getting shot down.

A player on Millionaire got a great stack yesterday. The questions were really easy up to the $32K mark, then got harder but intersected my knowledge base, and then finally became impossible for me at $250K. The ones I remember:

32K: "Remember the Maine" is a slogan from what conflict?
A. Spanish-American war
B. US Civil War
C. War of 1812
D. World War I

$64K: The eyelike markings on a peacock's tail are called what? (sorry, don't remember choices-- correct answer was OCELLI, which I reasoned was the correct answer due to its common root with OCULAR).

$125K: In mathematics, what letter is commonly used to designate the slope of a line?
A. j
B. c
C. k
D. m

(Contestant asked the audience, who got it right by a large margin; I managed to pull it out of my memory).

$250K: Beethoven's Fifth symphony is in what key?
A. A minor
B. D major
C. C minor
D. F major

This one would have stopped me cold, but I would have had lifelines left.

Yes, this is how I think when I watch the show. In my defense(?), I did the same thing before I was a contestant, too.

Black Hawk Down

I prefer more plot in my films. This was pretty much just a snapshot of a single raid in Somalia. The characters were almost completely interchangeable, and in fact I had no idea who some of them were-- which rather blunted the impact when they got injured or killed. When all your supporting characters sport identical haircuts and uniforms, it behooves you to make sure your audience can still tell them apart.

But more importantly, who's brilliant idea was this "nobody gets left behind" policy? Two soldiers died rescuing the pilot of the second downed chopper, and more casualties were taken recovering dead bodies, for crying out loud. The general's job is to make a cost-benefit analysis of a rescue operation, not rigidly adhere to noble but questionable dogma. As depicted in the film, the general was an idiot. If they'd simply abandoned the first downed chopper as a casualty of war, they'd have lost fewer men overall. Granted hindsight's 20/20, but this general had tunnelvision. That he took full responsibility for the raid's outcome is cold comfort to the families of the soldiers whose lives he sacrificed.

Comments (12) | last by Alex, Jun 11, 11:26 AM

Survivor: Pearl Islands

Tonight's premiere of Survivor: Pearl Islands featured the most interesting opening to date. The big twist-- that the players would get only the clothes on their backs, with no food, luxuries, or changes of clothes-- was publicized early. But then each tribe got a sack of money and was turned loose in a Panamanian village to acquire supplies, and that was inspired. The two tribes displayed strikingly different personalities, one rushing around like headless chickens and the other collaborating and using their heads. Keeping with the show's pirate theme, one even swiped booty from the other's stash when they weren't looking!

Tribally, I'm rooting for Drake-- the organized blue-clad team that really cleaned up on their shopping spree. Individually, you've gotta love scoutmaster Lillian and Hagrid Rupert. Survivor is tons of fun, and I'm looking forward to another entertaining season.

Comments (4) | last by Brian L, Sep 19, 12:31 PM

Microsoft Sued For Wasted Time

Redmond, WA - Microsoft Corporation's legal woes continued today as it was hit with a new class action lawsuit. The suit, filed by Richard Feder of Fort Lee, NJ on behalf of American office workers, seeks restitution for thousands of hours he alleges were wasted due to the company's Powerpoint product. "Managers put slides up on the screen, then spend the next hour reading them aloud," Lee said. "I could read them myself in five minutes. Instead, an hour of my life gets sucked away. That's an hour I'll never get back, and I deserve compensation for it." Co-plaintiff Gregory Mallin expressed anger at the software giant. "I've got a whole set of bullet points for those Redmond bigwigs, and they're all .44 caliber."

Although Microsoft does not schedule or run the meetings of its software's users, attorney Barbara Miller argued that they should be held accountable. "The precedent has been established by the RIAA case against Napster," she explained. "Microsoft is fully aware of how its Powerpoint software is used, yet it continues to knowingly supply that software to poorly-trained public speakers who waste the time of tens of thousands of people every day. That makes Microsoft just as culpable as the time-wasters themselves."

In a separate statement, Microsoft announced that the forthcoming Powerpoint 2003 will no longer support data projectors. "If the slides aren't projected in front of the group, listeners can focus on what speakers are saying instead of reading ahead and losing interest. We're very excited about this feature and believe it will revolutionize the modern meeting."

Comments (4) | last by Mark Lambert, Sep 18, 11:11 AM

Fashion Plates

I don't think I've waxed rhapsodic about Good Eats on SZ yet. But as host Alton Brown might say, that's another blog entry. My point here is that Alton uses some pretty cool stuff on his show. He sells some of it himself-- I've already got his salt cellar and plunger measuring cups.

But what I don't have are his dice plates-- a set of six square but slightly curved white plates with pip patterns matching the six faces of a die. They're groovy and very me. I want a set. They used to be sold by Restoration Hardware ($15 a set) over a year ago, but not anymore. The two stores in Seattle don't have 'em and couldn't get 'em, and the catalog salesperson said they're no longer available.

I've done the usual web searching-- Google, Ebay, Good Eats message boards-- to no avail. That's where you come in, loyal Zombies. Your mission: find me a set of those plates. I'll cheerfully reimburse you and proclaim you the cat's pajamas for all the world-- or the portion of it that reads Static Zombie-- to see.

Comments (14) | last by Steve Mack, Dec 1, 1:39 PM

'Tis a Silly Play

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is coming to Broadway as Spamelot, a musical written by Eric Idle adapted from the original screenplay. Hopefully the audiences won't be full of annoying gits who insist on reciting the dialogue throughout the play. Yes, delightful, you can squeal "Ni!" and insult people in French accents. You're very clever. Now shut up and let me watch in peace.

Comments (9) | last by dana, Sep 17, 2:29 PM

I'm Definitely From Mars

My older niece's 8th birthday is coming up. If I had nephews, I'd be the coolest uncle ever-- I'd know just what to get them. But what do I know from 8 year old girls? Much less one whose favorite movie and album are Grease? Or at least, they were, last year. Now she probably listens to songs whose titles have numbers where letters should be.

This uncle knows when to cry uncle. I called my sister for help.

Apparently, this is 8-year-old Rachel's favorite store in the whole wide world. Last year I suggested taking my nieces on a Toys 'R Us shopping spree, and my sister said they were too young to grasp the concept of money. Now Rachel shops at a store that sells bras. Swell the music, cue Tevye.

Okay, so my niece is a girlygirl. That species isn't indigenous to my planet, but researchers have studied their habits and field manuals on their care are available. I can adapt. One Limited Too gift card, coming up.

Besides, younger niece Paige is still impressionable and adores me, so there's hope. Her birthday's in November. Does Dell have gift cards?

Comments (5) | last by Abby, Sep 15, 9:18 AM

... or what passes for it around my house: the start of the fall TV season. The season premiere of Enterprise is this Wednesday ("How can we improve ratings? Better writing? No... Develop our own innovative style instead of retreading the past 20 years of the franchise? No... Let's make T'Pol sexier and more emotional! THAT's what fans want!"), followed by the soon-to-be-very-short-lived-I'm-sure new series Jake 2.0 (Hollywood premise #19c: guy gets injected by nanites, gains superpowers, becomes secret agent. Not to be confused with "guy gets mind transferred into genetically engineered body, gains superpowers, becomes secret agent" (Now and Again) or "guy gets implanted with Quicksilver gland, gains superpowers, becomes secret agent" (The Invisible Man) or, of course, "guy drives really cool car with superpowers, becomes secret agent" (Knight Rider)).

But the discovery of the summer for me has been MI-5. This British series, known overseas as Spooks, is just nifty. Spies are just so much cooler when they all have accents. And the spies in this show are real people with real foibles. One of them's embezzling from the agency. Another uses his clearance to boost his credit rating. And if you overlook the monumentally clumsy season 1 finale, the writing's solid. Unlike Alias (which I nevertheless adore), the hijinks here are firmly grounded in reality. These guys aren't superhuman and don't have future tech. There's not even enough budget to show normal explosions-- a car bomb explodes off-screen, merely implied by the noise and the ripple it causes in someone's lit match. And that's part of what makes this series work. Since they can't dazzle us with special effects, they have to make up for it in other areas-- the ones that really count. Plot. Character. Dialogue. Storytelling.

The show's first season was a scant 6 episodes, the second season only 10. With the rate at which they're being re-run on A&E, it's easy to get caught up. Or just jump in-- Tuesdays at 9PM.

Oh, and in case you're wondering: MI-5 handles domestic matters within the UK. MI-6, Bond's outfit, is international.

Comments (3) | last by Peter Sarrett, Sep 8, 5:34 PM

Just Shoot Me

First the tooth fairy. Then Santa Claus. Now the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Any illusion that getting a star there has anything to do with talent has been irrevocably shattered.

Comments (2) | last by Bruce, Sep 24, 12:31 PM

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? will be holding free auditions in Seattle at the KOMO building in Fisher Plaza on Friday, September 19th from 9AM-1PM. Only the first 800 people to arrive will be allowed to audition (I arrived around 7:20 AM last year, and was #201 in line).

Obviously, I recommend this to everyone-- my one audition was well worth the time invested. Even if I hadn't gotten on the show, it was a fun experience. And if you do get on, it's free money.

More details are available at KOMO's web site. Good luck!

Comments (14) | last by Jyllyan, Jan 27, 6:22 PM

You're Dead to Us

I have seen the face of evil, and it is The Joe Schmo Show (Spike TV, Tuesday nights). Its concept-- a fake, rigged reality show populated by actors playing the roles of archetypal contestants except for one lone guy who thinks it's real-- is the most mean-spirited thing on television. It's one thing to be the brunt of a practical joke. It's another to be played for a fool on national television. Matt Gould, a pizza delivery guy from Pittsburg and the titular Schmo, has declined interviews and none of the producers will talk about how he feels now that he knows the truth. One assumes he's a mite miffed, and understandably so. The entire show is a parody of reality TV-- complete with an absurd eviction ceremony in which a collectors' plate of the evictee is shattered in the fireplace with the host solemnly announcing, "You're dead to us"-- and the joke's on him.

The thing of it is, the producers did their casting too well. They were looking for an all-American guy, and they got one. In the first two hours, Gould comes off as a genuinely nice guy. After archetypal "asshole" Hutch makes offensive comments and picks his nose at dinner, Gould pulls him aside and urges him to tone it down if he doesn't want to get voted out. When Hutch threatens "gay" contestant Kip during a competition, Gould immediately supports Kip and pledges his protection. You can't help but root for the guy.

Especially when he zigs instead of the zag producers expected. In a ridiculous immunity challenge called "Hands on the High-Priced Hooker," contestants are asked to keep a part of their body in constant contact with part of a naked adult film star's body. Gould is "randomly" assigned to keep his hand on her breast. The whole competition was rigged so that it would eventually come down to Gould vs. Hutch, but mere seconds after "Go!" Gould spoiled the plan by being the first to let go. The cast and crew were incredulous, and I was cheering. Gould is the ultimate underdog, and it's delightful to see him unwittingly throw a wrench in the producers' schemes.

It's easy to think Gould should have caught on to the gag. The first evicted contestant babbled an incoherent tirade lifted wholesale from Survivor; the "Lord of the Manor" robe is laughable; actors made a number of potentially fatal gaffes. But we're on the outside looking in. Gould was living with these actors, who were in character 24/7. He was in the game, playing for $100,000 grand. And there was definitely a television show being made. Why would he possibly suspect it was all a sham? Amidst all the scripted stories that are playing out around him, Gould stands as the only honest man in a sea of liars. As in The Truman Show, his sincerity makes him all the more appealing and the producers more dastardly.

If they'd put, say, Corey Feldman as the Schmo, I'd be laughing at every twisted lie he bought into. Instead their sap is turning out to be an unlikely hero. Audience sympathies are with him, not the producers. Miscalculation or intent? We're not sure. But one of the show's strengths is that it's not just a fake reality show, it's also "The Making Of" that show. We see behind-the-scenes footage of the cast getting their instructions for the day; interviews with the actors when they flub their roles; concerns of the producers when things don't go as planned. In other words, the audience is let in on the joke. And as we're rooting for Matt Gould, we're also marveling at what went into making this happen and the sheer audacity of it.

No doubt about it, The Joe Schmo Show is evil. And I'm hooked.

Comments (16) | last by erin, Nov 5, 8:53 AM

Thai Tom

How well do you really know your neighborhood? I've lived in mine for close to a decade now, and I don't know it nearly as well as I should. I know where things are, of course, but not necessarily how they are-- especially with restaurants. There are so many in the area, and there are opportunity costs to trying out new ones. But those same costs exist when not trying them out, as I discovered when my parents were in town and I finally tried Thai Tom on the Ave.

I've passed by the place hundreds of times over the years. It's a tiny hole in the wall that's not only always packed, but hosts a constant stream of hopeful supplicants on the sidewalk waiting for a table. That's what's known as a Big Clue. I never wanted to deal with the crowd, so I just kept walking. Since it's the U district, that kind of following meant Thai Tom was either very cheap, or very good.

Turns out it's both. Their menu is extremely limited but borders on divine. Everything I've had has been spectacular, the kind of food you remember long afterward with a fondness reserved for cherished pets and technicolor sunsets. They want to turn tables quickly, so slow-cooking panang remains the province of Sea-Thai with their salaciously silky sauce. But oh, the Swimming Rama of Thai Tom is surely a delight sent from heaven. Yellow is not my favored curry hue, but theirs transcends color and crosses into a spectrum of delectability. It's a good thing I have to hop into a car to get to Thai Tom-- if they were in closer proximity, I'd be eating there every night instead of merely once or twice a week.

The next time you see a local joint that's always packed, make the time to check it out. As for me, I've got a decade of neglect to make up for, one dish at a time.

Comment (1) | last by Larry, Sep 2, 8:20 PM

Minimus

Finally got around to watching Gladiator tonight. Message to the Academy:

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah?

Comments (5) | last by David Waldman, Sep 1, 7:31 PM