October 2003 Archives

Go Away

To Peter's little friends,

Peter's been a bad boy and won't be able to come out and play for a while. I'll let him go out in a few days when he's learned his lesson, but until then he won't be able to see you.

- Peter's mom

Comments (4) | last by Russell, Nov 8, 11:24 AM

Sheer, unadulterated genius.

The Outcasts represent the best twist of any Survivor yet. Despite what they said about the ration regimen, you have to wonder if they had a physical edge over the other tribes. But ultimately, it was their careful assembly of their pole that took them to victory after Drake's fell apart.

I found it interesting that although this was billed as a reward challenge, no mention was made of what Drake or Morgan would have won had they not been beaten by the Outcasts. Either it was edited out because it wound up being irrelevant, or this should have been called an immunity challenge.

As for Osten, good riddance and shame on him. I agree with Jeff-- too many people work their butts off to stay in the game. For him to just give up his spot is a slap in the face to whoever would have played instead had he decided not to enter the game at all.

In the Outcast council, I'd expect players to vote for whichever other Outcast they think is likely to garner the least votes (which would suggest a win for Nicole, unless everyone double-thinks and votes elsewhere). I'd also expect 2 separate votes, otherwise it would be too easy for them to just pair up and vote for each other, creating a 6-way tie.

The fact that the Outcasts are being guaranteed immunity in the next council suggests we may not see a merge for a while.

Mr. Burnett, I tip my hat to you, sir.

Comments (6) | last by Jonathan, Nov 8, 6:29 PM

Triple Blecchs

Top Ten Things I Learned From XXX

  1. Knowing how to act, enunciate, or emote is not a prerequisite for starring in a blockbuster film as long as you fit the suit.
  2. You can steal a senator's sportscar right out from under him, lead half a dozen police cars on a road chase, crash the car off a cliff, and capture it all on video-- and not only not get caught, but throw a kickin' party and reap tons of profit off the video sales.
  3. All it takes to jump a motorbike twenty feet in the air is to believe.
  4. If you ever go undercover and discover a sexy babe with the bad guy, the smart money's that she's an agent too.
  5. Snowboards can outrun an avalanche; snowmobiles can't.
  6. Heat-seeking missiles will hone in on a single lit cigarette in an underground cavern full of exhaust pipes, heating ducts, and operating machinery.
  7. A GTO can be completely tricked out with dozens of weapons, ejectable roof, parachutes, and so forth in a matter of hours-- and the guy in charge will still have time to handwrite, hand illustrate, and bind an instruction manual.
  8. If you're part of a top-secret team creating a deadly biological agent and delivery system for an anarchist who values his anonymity, don't hand over the detonator until you've got the antidote coursing through your veins.
  9. High tech binoculars are capable of not merely seeing through walls with x-rays, but actually generating normal images of what's on the other side as if there were no intervening matter.
  10. You can rip offmake a James Bond film without the stuffy British accents.

Comment (1) | last by Dave S, Oct 30, 6:18 AM

It's All About Joe

As expected, Matt got the $100,000 tonight on the conclusion of The Joe Schmo Show, along with every other prize that was mentioned during the show-- including the ones he gave away or didn't win. His reaction to the big moment when the hoax was revealed was priceless, but you had to feel bad for the guy when even "best friend" Brian turned out to be not just an actor, but a writer too. Reports that he was bitter about the whole affair appear to have been exaggerated-- he seemed overwhelmingly positive about the experience.

The producers of the show got extremely lucky when they found Matt. Without him, there was no show. The writing was poor. The acting was poor. The editing was poor. The pacing was poor. Hell, the cheapo producers even reused signature music from The Mole. What made it all hang together was Matt. His plasticene features and earnest good nature provided the heart the show desperately needed. Without Matt, The Joe Schmo Show was just bad community theater.

Comments (4) | last by Peter Sarrett, Nov 14, 8:50 PM


You may remember Wil Wheaton fondly as Gordie in the sublime Stand By Me, or somewhat less fondly as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. But it's been over ten years since he left the Enterprise, and today Wheaton is a minor celebrity in the blogosphere thanks to his pioneering web log. That's "pioneering" as in "one of the first." He's got a lot of readers-- not just because of his fame (although I'm sure that doesn't hurt), but because he writes with a strong personal voice and has interesting stuff to say. Nevertheless, don't underestimate the fanboy/girl factor. I submit this for your consideration-- an entry, quoted in its entirety, titled "garrgh":

I don't know what the fuck is wrong with me, but I can't write. I've started and stopped so many times this morning, I lost count.

I want to write. I need to write, but I can't get my words to work. I've grown so frustrated, I want to scream.

I mean, it took me several minutes just to write that, for fuck's sake.

That little entry generated 105 comments.


Now I want to scream.

Comments (11) | last by ranger, Oct 29, 7:07 AM

The first fifteen seconds of The Scorpion King gave me one of the heartiest laughs in recent memory.

I should have quit while I was ahead.

Comments (2) | last by Peter Sarrett, Oct 27, 6:04 PM

Ready For Their Close-Ups

I recently watched Traffic, about which I don't understand the ballyhoo. I found none of the three stories particularly compelling, and the sliced and diced narrative distracting.


By the end of the film, I was irrevocably convinced of one salient fact. Catherine Zeta-Jones is the most stunningly beautiful actress working in movies today.

Don't believe me? Have you seen the ads for Intolerable Cruelty? I rest my case.

I bring this up because last night, I crowned her counterpart on television. 21 year old Amber Tamblyn, the titular Joan of Arcadia, gets the nod on the small screen. I think much of the credit goes to the hair stylists and make-up artists on the show, because Mary Steenburgen also looks terrific, but Tamblyn lights up every scene she's in. Her beauty, plus the delightfully written, playful dialogue between her and God, have me hoping the show survives for a while.

Comments (3) | last by Tony V., Oct 29, 7:54 AM

Shuffle Up and Deal

Damn, but poker is a fun game.

Today I participated in a 300 person charity no-limit Hold 'Em tournament. Players got $1,000 in chips for a $25 buy-in, with a free $1,000 re-buy during the first 5 rounds (if you didn't use it by then, you just got an extra $1,000 in chips). I lasted a little under 3 hours, and the event is still going on now. I had a blast. Two hands stand out.

In one, a pre-flop raise knocks all but 2 opponents out. With KJ, I call. Flop comes 4-4-5. Mike bets $200 (the minimum at that point). I call, other player folds. The turn is a 4. Mike checks. At this point I feel like Mike's got K-trash or an even smaller pair, and I have him beat. I bet $500, he calls. River is an 8. I go all in. He calls, but is $200 short so I take $200 back. He turns over K-8 and wins, having rivered a higher pair. When I bet the $500, I thought it was strong enough that he'd fold. My mistake was not going all-in then, rather than waiting to do so on the river. Had I gone all-in, he'd have folded.

So that put me at $200 and immediately the small blind takes me to $100. The tournament organizers announce a bounty of a tin of mints for anyone who knocks a player out. If that poker table was a Tex Avery cartoon, I'd have suddenly turned into a giant tin of mints with a single poker chip. I looked around the table and declared that I would not become a mint for their amusement. I proceeded to fold every hand (all garbage), as 1, 2, 3, 4 other players got knocked out. The mints ran out, and the moral victory was mine. Only now mugs and t-shirts were offered as bounties.

Finally the blind catches up with me (and my cheering section of friends who've already been knocked out) and I have to go all in. I decide not to look at my cards. The flop is 4-x-x, with 2 clubs. A raise, a fold, and I'm heads up against Jeff. He turns over 2 fours. My friends groan. I sigh heavily and roll my cards: A-6 of clubs. My section cheers-- I have hope! The turn is no help. The river... an ace, no help. My tournament ends, but with suitable drama to have me leaving the table satisfied.

The format was terrific, the people at my table were good players and extremely pleasant to play with, there was no smoke, and it was a heck of a lot of fun. If there were another tournament tomorrow, I'd be there in a heartbeat. Which has me wondering if there are any real tournaments with similar structures in the area...

Comments (3) | last by Aaron, Oct 28, 12:08 PM

This week on The Rupert Show, our hero said goodbye to a snake. And a couple of days earlier, he buried Balboa.

Buh-dum bum.

Cannons: Very cool challenge. Amazing how much those cannonballs sliced/hooked through the air.

We've seen the "bear a heavy load" challenge before. I think both tribes blew it on the strategy. If it were me, I'd have distributed the weights absolutely evenly across all three opponents instead of loading up on one. While Osten was taking on more weight, the other two Morgans had none. Better to tire them all out gradually, so that the time spent between loads is felt by all three instead of just one. Still, Andrew's stamina was a big surprise, and I give big kudos to Morgan for winning on relatively light stomachs.

But Trish... what were you thinking? Of course Rupert's a threat. Everyone knows that. On both tribes. Which is why he's target #1 after the merge. There was no need to stick your next out pre-merge, especially when the tribes are even and you need your strongest players to hold the advantage. Plus, the number one rule in Survivor is never stick your neck out-- that's how it gets chopped off. When the group is reaching a consensus to vote out someone who isn't you, you smile and vote with them. You don't turn on the most popular tribe member and make yourself a bigger target.

Now that Rupert knows Jon betrayed him, here's hoping the cocky snot's the next Drake to go.

Comments (6) | last by Jonathan, Oct 24, 8:20 PM

...sometimes you don't. This week, I haven't-- hence the lack of entries.

I will say that tonight's Angel was a dandy little ghost story-- a shame it wasn't held back another week.

Comments (4) | last by David S, Oct 24, 8:19 AM


You are so money!

Suck it Down

Michelle chugged her own grave. No doubt about that. But Jon's managed to scratch my mental chalkboard with only a few minutes of screen time-- surely he's an ever bigger annoyance when you're living on the same beach with him. He was a complete goon with the tiller in the reward challenge... vote his sorry poseur ass off.

It's hard to say what will come of Rupert's time with Morgan. He obviously made friends in the other tribe, and that could wind up biting him. The diplomatic "looting" with Andrew was very interesting. If I was a Drake, the influence he demonstrated would make me even more nervous about a post-merge Rupert.

The next immunity challenge will be crucial. If Drake loses, Morgan suddenly has a fighting chance as they enter the merge 5-5. It's easy to think that the other players would be idiots for not ousting Rupert the first chance they get, but he's obviously the center of the Drake tribe and he's a potential ally for the Morgans. If you were on Rupert's good side, wouldn't you want him around to help carry you to the endgame? It will be very interesting to see how everyone deals with him after the merge.

As much as I'd love to see Rupert pull an Ethan Zahn and win, the smart money's against him. At this point, I'm just hoping that Osten and Jon leave first.

Comments (3) | last by Scott Hardie, Oct 18, 3:28 AM

I don't know when or how the idea that it's illegal for non-government agencies to require your Social Security number got planted in my head, but the ring count suggests it's been rooted there for a long time. And so, when a Home Depot drone offered me a free Mag-Lite-- the very item I'd come into the store to purchase-- if I signed up for a store credit card, I happily signed on the dotted line. But I left my SSN number blank.

With identity theft rampant I've stopped giving out my SSN. Scanning for icebergs after the ship's already taking on water? Maybe. But unless your job description includes the word "audit," you'll have to make do with nine zeroes. The drone returned to me apologetically-- the computer wouldn't let him process my application without a legitimate SSN. Company policy. I righteously informed him that his company was breaking the law-- that they had to provide an alternate application process which required no SSN. He called his manager. His manager called his manager, who called an hourly worker at the credit bureau who pulled the weekend shift. With nothing more than "I just work here," the mighty bureaucracy withstood my puny attack.

A little Googling later, I find that I'm wrong. I can't be compelled to disclose my SSN to a private business, but neither can that business be compelled to provide me with their service. Stalemate.

As for the Mag-Lite, I went across the street and bought a 2-pack from Costco for twice the price. In your face, Home Depot!

Scrabble Coming to ESPN

According to this article from The Gainesville Sun, Scrabble is coming to ESPN. Inspired by the success of the World Series of Poker broadcasts, ESPN will bring the 2003 Scrabble All-Stars to TV later this year. Taped Aug. 15-18, the top 24 players in North America competed for over $100,000 in prizes. If ratings are good, future Scrabble events may follow.

I, of course, predicted it all.

Comment (1) | last by Matt Jones, Oct 12, 10:02 PM

I'll say one thing for David Fincher-- when he finds a device that works, he's not afraid to run it into the ground in film after film. And since I happen to like that device-- the camera moving into normally concealed spaces like a keyhole or ventilation shaft, now commonly seen on CSI-- I'm ok with that.

I thought the script did a credible job of creating tension from the otherwise static situation of the heroes being holed up inside an impenetrable fortress with the bad guys trying to get in. Unfortunately, some of it was created by the ham-fisted plot device named Raoul. We never learn why Junior brought him in on the job-- a decision which makes no sense. They expected the house to be empty, so why bring along a third man with whom to split the money-- especially when you're lying to them about how much money's involved?

Fun as it is to pick apart flaws in the foundation of a film, I can overlook them. What I can't forgive is when the filmmaker breaks his own rules, which happened at least twice here. Forest Whitaker's character, builder of the panic room, claims the panic room is equipped with a one-way PA system, not a two-way intercom. But later Jodie Foster talks to the panic room via an intercom in the master bedroom. Sloppy. And in the set up, they make a point of showing how the steel door has motion sensors to prevent it from closing if there's something in the way, yet later it shuts on Raoul's fingers for no apparent reason.

I was also greatly disappointed in the lack of payoff to the daughter's needles. Fincher makes a point of showing her hiding the medical kit and then palming some needles, but in the end she uses them as an ineffectual stabbing weapon against Raoul's raging attack on her mom. Why bother?

The opening title sequence, with credits rendered in 3-D perspectives against a cityscape, is not only jarringly pretentious but ill-fitting for a claustrophobic thriller. And the sequence took a year to create! Un-freaking-believable.

Comment (1) | last by Larry, Oct 12, 6:41 AM

Idiots on Parade

I don't care how many challenges you've won in a row. You do not intentionally throw an immunity challenge. If the entire tribe is fed up with someone and will be happier if that person's gone, that's the silver lining in the event of a loss-- it's not an excuse to make the loss happen. And Drake wasn't even in that kind of unanimous situation. Burton was an enormous fool, one whose final words reveal he was awfully full of himself. Before you worry about what'll happen after the merge, you've got to get there first, moron. Burton got what he deserved, and Drake just lost a hell of a lot of karma points.

Was it just me, or was Jeff Probst looking daggers at Jon? The guy was making a complete ass of himself, and I'd have been equally happy to see his pale butt taking the walk of shame.

The most foolish thing about Drake's decision to take a dive is that they appear to not have considered the repercussions to morale, tribe unity, and trust. Combined with Rupert's conscription onto Morgan, we may have seen a key turning point in the game. Morgan got a much-needed morale boost, and it looks like Rupert is going to be making friends fast as he provides them with food and shows them how to fend for themselves. Next week I don't think Morgan will be the despondent losers they've been up to now. Hopefully there won't be a Drake backlash against Rupert. He appears to have a solid support base, though, and they'd be insane to follow up the eviction of Burton by voting off Rupert.

Then again, they've already taken a calamitous nosedive into idiocy. All bets are off.

Comments (6) | last by Matt Jones, Oct 11, 6:17 PM

Crossword Alert

My third published crossword puzzle-- and my favorite so far-- appears in today's issue of The New York Times. Run to your newsstand now!

Comments (4) | last by antkam, Oct 10, 1:22 PM


As I mentioned earlier, Monday's movie night. But I didn't expect to almost star in my own version of The Towering Inferno.

Important safety tip: If you're following a recipe that says to heat a pan for 10 minutes over medium heat, make sure a) you use medium heat, not high heat, and b) the pan is a dense metal like cast iron, not thinner aluminum. Otherwise, when you follow the next instruction and add a tablespoon of oil to the pan, you're likely to create a dense mushroom cloud of greasy black smoke and a gout of flame which, by some miracle, might fail to ignite your wooden cabinetry or burn your ceiling but which will have you scrubbing the kitchen for the next two hours.

Accordingly, the appropriate film for the evening was Reign of Fire, a film in which the few bits of London left unscathed by the dragons were mercilessly chewed by Matthew McConaughey. This film butchered a great idea (dragons awakening in modern times to go on a rampage), glossing over the enormous potential of this backstory to jump forward 20 years for banal set pieces and action sequences. There are any number of great stories that could have been told from this core premise, and the passed them all by. The dragons were quite well done, however, and the mammoth male dragon engulfing the castle with its wings was a great image. Everything else about the film just hurt.

Comments (5) | last by dana, Oct 7, 10:29 PM

The Practice

David E. Kelley isn't exactly a student of the realist school of television. His series are like unreliable used cars. They start off reliably enough, but they never get the service they need and problems just pile one atop another until finally it's a deathtrap hurtling over the cliff at 100 miles per hour.

Witness The Practice.

Once upon a time, this was a compelling drama about a scrappy Boston law firm. Then Bobby and Lindsay got married and the wheels fell off the cart. The Practice became a circus of the absurd, with a never-ending menagerie of contrived cases and over-the-top plot twists cuminating in Linday's conviction for murder.

This season, Kelley's cleaned house. The show's headlining characters-- Bobby, Lindsay, Helen-- are gone, along with supporters Rebecca and Lucy. Maybe now they'll actually develop Eugene's character after all these years of being a stoic cipher. But the reason to return to the show isn't the surviving cast members-- it's the new one.

James Spader's Alan Shore is an ethically-challenged attorney who appears to be on the side of the angels, but doesn't see the need to walk the high road to reach them. Spader's performance in the season opener was sheer brilliance. This guy is smarmy, oily, and reprehensible-- and we like him anyway. He energized every scene he was in. The car may still be a rocketing deathtrap, but at least there's someone worth watching in the driver's seat.

Comment (1) | last by m_h, Jan 2, 8:27 PM

Since you're curious... here's what I've got in my Season Pass list. Items marked with a * are wishlists. I cleaned a few dead series off the list, so it's down to 53.

Comments (6) | last by Peter Sarrett, Oct 7, 10:38 AM

I knew I shouldn't have watched Joan of Arcadia. Season Passes: 57, self control: 0.

Comments (2) | last by Peter Sarrett, Oct 4, 9:18 PM

Merl Reagle Profile

If you're at all intrigued by crossword puzzles or the creative process behind constructing them, I commend to you this profile of ace constructor Merl Reagle. Most gratifying was the following tidbit:

He makes the bulk of his money, a handsome six-figure income, by leveraging his name and, nearly alone in the industry, retaining the rights to his puzzles, which he resells in book form under his own imprint, PuzzleWorks.

It's wonderful to see someone making a very healthy living from puzzlemaking, something I hope to achieve myself someday.

Comment (1) | last by Chris M. Dickson, Oct 4, 5:40 AM

I only know two people who maintain non-news blogs (yes, I'm talking about you, Matt and Chris). I enjoy reading them because a) they're good reads, and b) the personal connection gives me a stronger vested interest.

As far as I know, the rest of you are just leeches on my creative jugular. <flops arms around and rolls eyes> "Oh, we're soooo disappointed when you don't post a new entry, Peter. Entertain us! Dance, monkey, dance!" </flopping>

Turnabout is fair play. Some of you must be blogging. Fess up and bare your neck, for I must feed.

Comments (6) | last by Ryan, Oct 9, 3:53 PM


Fox Signs Marlee Matlin

New York - Today Fox Sports announced that they've signed deaf actress Marlee Matlin as the latest addition to their team of football commentators. Matlin will provide color commentary off-camera during all Fox Sports football broadcasts. "We saw what happened with Rush Limbaugh and Dennis Miller on the other networks," explained Fox Sports vice president Lou D'Ermilio. "They annoyed fans with their controversial remarks. With Marlee, we figure we're safe."

The Survivor immunity challenge I've always hated most is the one in which each player has 3 lives, and one by one players take away a life from the player of their choice. A player who desperately needs to win this challenge has absolutely no chance of doing so-- it's just another version of the tribal council vote, and a poorly conceived challenge.

But that's an individual challenge. Tonight we saw a poorly conceived team challenge. Nobody on the team mattered except for the anchorman. The fate of the entire tribe was in their hands, and each other tribe member had essentially no impact on the final outcome. Team challenges shouldn't be about one champion facing off against another, unless it's a tournament format where each team member competes and score is kept. Here it was just an endurance test between the strongest individual from each tribe, with everyone else watching from the sidelines. If I were Lillian, I'd be doubly frustrated at being voted off as a result of Osten losing that challenge.

Much as I'd have liked to have seen Darrah get booted, I'm hardly surprised. A tribe as demoralized and ravaged as Morgan shouldn't care about who does the most work in camp. It's all about who can help them win the challenges. I didn't notice Darrah making a stronger contribution than Lillian in that area, but then I wasn't on the beach. It's their call. A shame Lil's strong work ethic didn't save her.

Osten may be strong, but he singlehandedly lost both challenges for his tribe this week and the previews make it seem like he blows another one next time. Incompetence trumps strength-- it's time to vote him out.

Comments (5) | last by Brian L, Oct 5, 9:18 PM

Master or Slave?

I did a little math last night. I've got over 80 hours of programming recorded on my TiVo, with another 23 or so still available. With the exception of my 2 Millionaire episodes, a few Good Eats shows with recipes that looked promising, and a handful of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law cartoons (you mean you haven't Tivo'd that yet? Great Scott old chum, do it now! I'll wait...) (and which Scott is it exactly who's so great, anyway?) [a few minutes and a Google search later...] (apparently it's General Winfield Scott), I haven't watched any of it yet. That's over 75 hours of unwatched material. 75 hours!

The plan, y'see, was to clear off a bunch of movies during the summer while everything was in reruns. But all the networks decided to air new programming in the summer, and all bets were off. Last weekend was a free movie preview on Starz, adding another 8 films to the backlog. And now the new season's begun and already Las Vegas and The Lyon's Den are Season Passed, and I consciously avoided watching Joan of Arcadia, Karen Sisco, and The Handler because I was afraid I'd have to Tivo them, too. And Jake 2.0 conflicts with 2 other higher-priority shows in the same time slot (Angel, The West Wing), so sayonara.

There's just too much to watch. We need more crap on TV, to thin the herd and make sure the really good shows get the audience they deserve. Fortunately, when there's a shortage of wretched programming, Whoopi's there to pick up the slack.

So Monday is now Movie Night at chez Pierre. Little by little, week by week, I'm going to tame this beast. And then... then the world will be mine! Muahahahahahaha...

Comments (4) | last by Peter Sarrett, Oct 2, 11:13 AM

Something very odd happened on last night's Joe Schmo Show. I'm not talking about Hutch being ejected for breaking the rules, or Molly's boyfriend coming to visit. I'm talking about an inexplicable case of censorship.

During the honey challenge, the cast stripped to their bathing suits, doused each other in honey, and groped all over each others' bodies. Later in the show, players had to lick chocolate off the bodies of topless models who were doused with it. The network (Spike, the Network for Men) had no problem showing the models' ample chocolate-dipped breasts. But for some bizarre reason, they refused to show Brian's bare nipples! There was no issue with the same features of Matt or Hutch's bodies-- just Brian's. Whenever he was shown during the honey challenge, his nipples were pixelated. What the heck is up with that? Are they pierced? And if so, so what? "Blur out Brian's nipples-- we don't want to offend anyone. Camera 2, zoom in tight on that model's breasts. I want to see that chocolate glisten."

Comments (5) | last by Peter Sarrett, Oct 1, 9:05 PM

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