November 2003 Archives

Pants on Fire

Bravo.

I'm a charter member of the Jon's a Dick club, but even I have to give him props. What he did was brilliant, and you have to wonder that nobody ever thought of it-- or carried through with it-- before. There's always a Loved Ones challenge. Having the forethought to capitalize on that by generating sympathy is not only clever, but a sound tactical move. It bought him the reward challenge (valuable more in its deprivation from other players than in itself) and quite possibly a few days more on the island, at no risk. The players will never discover the big lie until it's too late. Sure, they'll never talk to you again-- but you didn't go there to make friends. You went to make money.

I'll do a little happy dance if he finally gets voted out (at this point it's clear that he's everyone's favorite to go up against in the final two), but he's right-- this'll go down as one of the most memorable events in Survivor history.

But enough about Jon-- let's talk about those he bamboozled. My bile tonight is directed at the players who just threw their game away by ignoring their gut and a) throwing away a golden opportunity to oust the strongest player, and b) tossing a potential ally they worked hard to recruit instead. What the hell were Christa and Sandra thinking? Alliances have shifted so much already that any promises beyond the immediate tribal council aren't worth a damn. And yet these two geniuses happily agree to payment on Tuesday for a hamburger today.

I think this was the first time we've seen Jeff screw up during a challenge. It was an understandable mistake-- I'll bet a lot of people would misspell LIAISON. I wonder exactly how and when it was discovered. I'm sure there was a lot edited out, but it does suggest the kind of stuff that's happening behind the scenes-- producers looking things over and so forth. I wonder if the back-up challenge was in place already or was conceived on the fly. I was crushed to see Burton lose immunity-- with him holding the sword, I thought it extremely likely that Jon was toast.

At this point, the runway has been cleared for Darrah and all she has to do is bring her seat back and tray table upright for landing. Jon and Burton want Sandra and Christa out. Sandra and Christa... I don't know what the hell they want anymore. But nobody feels strongly about axing Darrah, and that can't help but work in her favor.

Note to future Survivor contestants: the biggest threats aren't the strongest players. Aim your radar low, shoot first, and ask questions later.

Comments (6) | last by Jonathan, Dec 2, 6:29 PM

Moviegoers plunking down their hard-earned shekels for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World expect billowing sails, creaking lumber, and blazing cannons. Director Peter Weir delivers on all counts right out of the gate. No gratuitous prologue or tedious establishment of the characters here-- we come aboard just in time for a splintering volley of cannonfire. The naval life grittily depicted here is crowded, filthy, dramatically striated by rank and privilege, and filled with vast stretches of boredom punctuated by brief eruptions from all the gates of Hell. That anyone could have considered such a life desirable is perhaps the surest damnation of the state of Britain in the early 1800s. Then again, much of the crew was typically made up of convicts and the poor, who signed on for the promised daily vittles (served on square trays, hence the term "square meal").

Crowe's Captain "Lucky Jack" Aubrey is not only a loyal British officer and leader of men, but a father figure to the many boys aboard-- kind of a Mr. French of the high seas. And ladies, it gets better-- did I mention he plays the violin?

The film is refreshingly devoid of philosophy, barely-concealed messages, and heart-warming self-realization. Even the obligatory Jiminy Cricket manages to be a compelling character in his own right. Master and Commander is just a ripping naval yarn, with grand visuals and the ring of truth.

Airplay

The Gameboy Advance is the best thing to happen to airline travel since the abolition of in-flight smoking. I spent virtually all of a recent 5-hour flight twiddling my thumbs, but in a good way. Despite being stuck in an insanely difficult boss battle in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrows for much of the trip, the hours raced by. <singsong>Fabulous!<singsong>. I also dosed myself with a couple packets of Emergen-C before and during the flight, and for the first time in a long while I did not develop a cold the day after landing. Now if someone would just invent the Cone of Silence for screaming children, air travel might even become tolerable again.

Comments (7) | last by Damon Brown, Nov 28, 2:55 PM

The Real All-Star Game

It looks like Rupert may get another chance. From the CBS Early Show page:

(CBS) America's favorite pirate was given the heave-ho on Thursday night's "Survivor: Pearl Islands." but for undisclosed reasons, Rupert Boneham is not available to appear in The Early Show studio this Friday morning.

While CBS will not confirm his whereabouts, various online sources suggest Rupert may be on location for next season's "Survivor: All-Stars."

Internet reports put the cast of the all-star edition, to debut in the plum post-Superbowl time slot, as follows:

Richard Hatch (Pulau Tiga)
Susan Hawk (Pulau Tiga)
Rudy Boesch (Pulau Tiga)
Jenna Lewis (Pulau Tiga)
Colby Donaldson (Australia)
Alicia Calaway (Australia)
Amber Brkich (Australia)
Jerri Manthey (Australia)
Tina Wesson (Australia)
Tom Buchanan (Africa)
Lex Van Den Berghe (Africa)
Ethan Zohn (Africa)
Rob Mariano (Marquesas)
Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien (Marquesas)
Shii-Ann Huang (Thailand)
Rob Cesternino (Amazon)
Jenna Morasca (Amazon)
Rupert Boneham (Pearl Islands)

Ken Stafford (Thailand) and Sandra Diaz-Twine (Pearl Islands) are reported alternates.

Here are pictures to go with the names.

Unexpected inclusions: Alicia, Amber (?!), Tom, Rob Mariano
Interesting omissions:
Survivor 4 & 5 winners Vecepia and Brian
Gretchen Cordy (Pulau Tiga)
Jeff Varner (Australia)
Michael Skupin (Australia)
Gina Crews (Marquesas)
Helen Glover (Thailand)
Dave Johnson (Amazon)
Deena Bennett (Amazon)

Half of the contestants are from seasons 1 and 2-- it will be interesting to see if that works in their favor or against them. If I were in the game, I'd try to break up the players from matching seasons ASAP. On the other hand, rumor is the game will involve three tribes of six players each, which will certainly reduce the number of paired players before the merge.

And I say again... AMBER?!

Comments (3) | last by Nelea Ethsborne, Apr 5, 6:00 AM

It was obvious from the bizarre Rupert vignette at the opening of tonight's show that the jolly pirate was a goner. Rupert must be the most popular Survivor ever. I can only hope he's able to turn that popularity into some kind of windfall outside of the game.

If I could wave a magic wand and make one change to Survivor for all eternity, it would be to eliminate the gang-up-on-a-victim immunity challenges. I've got no problem with them as rewards, but they're horribly ill-conceived for immunities. Immunity should be the last hope of a player stuck in the crosshairs, and these gang challenges offer no hope at all. Blech.

It now looks like Darrah, Tijuana, Jon, Burton, and Lil will be the last five. Then either the girls will team up to boot off the guys, or Burton will somehow hold onto Lil's allegiance and they and Jon will vote off Darrah and Tijuana.

Either way, it's hard for me to root for anyone at this point. Rupert was doomed from the get-go, but he was fun to watch and cheer on. Now I just hope Jon doesn't slime to a victory and Darrah doesn't fly under the radar to one.

Comments (5) | last by Stephen Glenn, Nov 21, 5:47 PM

Dogs and Cats Living Together

Seattle's experienced bizarre weather in the past 24 hours-- heavy rains, high winds, record high temperatures and sunny skies, hail... it's like someone's set SimSeattle's weather setting on Random. This morning I woke to discover that while the data side of my DSL line is working fine, the voice side is kaput (which, if things are going to fail, is certainly the split I'd choose) thanks to a cable problem somewhere in the neighborhood. Then a couple of hours ago my TiVo went kablooie, losing most channels and all guide data. Luckily I noticed in time to power cycle the box and get running again before Angel and The West Wing, and I caught the last 15 minutes of Ed over the [gasp!] antenna, but I missed Smallville and they're not rerunning it on the weekend anymore. Can anyone who caught it provide a summary, or a link to somewhere I can download the episode?

Comments (3) | last by Peter Sarrett, Nov 20, 10:32 AM

Chortle

Laugh-out-loud moment from last week's The Simpsons:

Homer: "I'm going to hide you where there's nobody around for miles: Disney's California Adventure!"

Comments (4) | last by Russell, Nov 19, 6:24 PM

It's amazing to me that the World Poker Tour got it right on their very first outing, but ESPN-- with all their experience covering events-- got it very, very wrong in their coverage of the Scrabble All Stars Tournament they sponsored. Let's count the problems:

  • At least 15 minutes went by before we saw any Scrabble getting played.
  • Overall, more screen time was spent interviewing and talking about players than actually playing the game.
  • We only saw a grand total of 3 games get played.
  • We very, very rarely had a chance to play along at home, trying to find a move with the players' racks. I was very pleased with myself for spotting DIPLOIDS in the final game, for example, and would have liked more opportunities.
  • Very little analysis of the games in progress. What analysis existed seemed good (TOQUE[T]), but there wasn't nearly enough of it.
  • Far too much time spent on the basics of Scrabble.
  • The woman co-anchoring with Fatsis had no clue about Scrabble, asked some inane questions, and had no business being there.
  • Inclusion of "top female player" on the commentary team because she's a woman was insulting.

The World Poker Tour focuses on the game. We gain insight by seeing it played by top players. A similar format could have been used here. Alternatively, it would have been equally fascinating to hear more commentary from the stadium room where the eliminated players watched the final. ESPN had a number of ways to go here, and they chose one that condescended to the viewer, illuminated nothing about the game, and was a complete snooze. Shuffle up and play already!

Comments (4) | last by Stephen Glenn, Nov 22, 10:28 AM

I've been home for a week, and that freakin' song is still stuck in my head!
<shakes fist in general direction of Orlando>

Comment (1) | last by Joeann, Mar 12, 2:11 PM

Metafilter turned me on to this nifty 80's lyrics quiz, and now I'll pay it forward to you. Tip: to get your score unmodified by lame bonuses/penalties for your age, choose "Just Say No" to the generation drop-down at the bottom of the page. Oh, and spelling counts, so be careful.

My score: 113

Comments (7) | last by MattWorden, Nov 20, 12:31 PM

Easiest. Trivia. Ever.

I mean, come ON! How can you not know what a cutlass, cat-o-nine-tails, and keelhauling are-- especially with the immunity totem being a cutlass, and one of the challenges inspired by keelhauling! Speaking of slack-faced idiotry, what's up with Christa? Probst told her that pieces of eight were Spanish doubloons a couple of questions earlier-- how can she then say they wouldn't be found in a pirate's treasure chest? Un-freaking-believable.

The writing's in the sand for Rupert, who appears to need the greatest string of immunities in Survivor history to make it to the finals. It looks like as soon as he loses one, our poor, trusting pirate is out. At this point, his only hope is for Lil to realize that Burton and Jon are snakes, Darah and Tijuana will vote her out in a hearbeat, and Rupert will never betray her. Any bets?

Comments (2) | last by Dave, Nov 14, 2:51 PM

Play It!

One of the must-do's on my Disney itinerary was the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Play it! attraction at Disney-MGM. The set is very similar to the one used for the real show, but the theater is much larger and accommodates many more people. The lighting is also different-- the spotlights that raise and lower at the start of each question are missing-- and the hotseat chair and monitors are less streamlined. But the differences are minor, and being in the audience feels very much like being at a taping of the show-- except that every audience member plays along with each question and can be the next person in the hotseat.

Basically, you score points for answering questions correctly and bonus points for fast answers. When the hotseat frees up, the player with the highest score becomes the next contestant and all scores reset. At the $1,000 and $32,000 plateaus everyone sees the top 10 scores. I blew a question about porcupines being rodents (I went with marsupial) during the first player's tenure, so was out of the running, but I rocked during the 2nd player's run. Unfortunately, time ran out before he tanked. Before sending the audience away they showed the top 10 scores, and I was at #1! Argh! I just missed getting into the hotseat.

When my nieces wanted to see the Playhouse Disney attraction, I begged off to do Millionaire again. I was #2 after the 1,000 point question, and at 32,000 the contestant asked the audience for the Broadway show featuring There's No Business Like Show Business. Almost 50% thought it was Showboat, but I knew it was Annie Get Your Gun. The contestant tanked, they showed the top 10, and BAM-- I was #1 and got into the hotseat. I was excited, but bummed that my family wasn't there to cheer me on because they'd really have enjoyed it.

Since the stakes are so much lower-- getting to 1,000,000 points wins a Disney cruise-- I was much more relaxed than I was sitting across from Meredith, and I played fairly loose. I got to 32,000 with all my lifelines intact, then asked the audience for help with the kind of business Hugh Grant ran in Notting Hill (a book store). Then I tanked on the 125,000 question, asking for the originator of the line "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may." I 50/50'd down to Shakespeare and Robert Herrick. Having never heard of the latter, I went with Shakespeare. In retrospect, the Play It! attraction's 50/50 is probably using the old model where the answers are pre-selected. Had I known that, I'd have gone with Herrick. Oh well. It was a lot of fun, and something I'll definitely do again if I return to Disney-- despite the field of 650 players, getting into the hotseat seemed pretty easy (players are limited to one trip to the hotseat every 30 days). I came away with a baseball cap, polo shirt, a Millionaire lanyard and ten Millionaire pins (most of which I gave to my nieces as trading fodder). Total retail value: $170. Wheeeee!

Comments (2) | last by Peter Sarrett, Nov 14, 8:44 PM

Catching up on a week's worth of Tivo'd programs, starting with Survivor. What goes around comes around, and Andrew had it coming. Lil's responses to him were priceless. There was no reason in the world for Lil to stay with the Morgans who voted her out in the first place. Props to Rupert, however, for confronting the issue head-on with Burton and telling him exactly why he was voted out (although we never heard Rupert include "throwing the challenge" as part of the reason).

The downside, of course, is that Jon's going to be with us through the end now, as a player or juror. I'm hoping Drake won't be stupid and vote Jon off next week. They need to knock off another Morgan first (Ryan O. being the obvious choice), just in case the other Morgans get smart and bring Lil, Jon, or Burton over to their side.

Vacationing from Vacation

I'm back from a week at Walt Disney World with my sister, brother-in-law, and nieces. And first, let me say that I made the right choice. I didn't mind using the Disney bus system to get from place to place; a pair of Motorola Talkabouts made it easy for me to meet up with my family; and it only created an inconvenience once, on the final day. Otherwise, I was always out and about in the parks and only used my hotel as a place to sleep and shower. The air wasn't filled with pixie dust at the Polynesian, either. Sure, the surroundings convey an island feel, but what you're really paying for at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary Resort is convenience-- easy access to the parks through monorail and ferry. That convenience was worth it for my family. Without any kids to usher or other encumberances, it wasn't a big selling point for me.

The Magic Kingdom and Epcot were much as I remembered them, although with various new attractions. Animal Kingdom, Disney-MGM, Typhoon Lagoon, Downtown Disney, DisneyQuest, and Pleasure Island were new to me. I don't know what I expected exactly, but I can only say that I didn't come away as enchanted as I thought I would. Peter Pan complexes aside, I suppose we all grow up. There was much about Disney World I appreciated, but I wasn't swept away by the magic.

Part of that may be because of how the vacation was structured. My sister did a great job scheduling us for character breakfasts and events like the luau and Hoop-Dee-Do Revue, most of which were fun and worthwhile. But keeping to that schedule meant a lack of flexibility and spontaneity. I'm a big fan of structure, but I discovered that what I want in a vacation is a lot less of it. I want the freedom to find hidden delights and unexpected opportunities. I want to spend one day exploring a new environment, the next relaxing in a chaise lounge with a good book, and the third visiting a spot recommended to me by the guy one chaise down. I didn't know this about myself before-- or at least, not in so many words. I'll keep it in mind when I plan future vacations.

I never got out to Universal Studios for Spiderman-- there was too much to do at Disney, and it got jettisoned from the agenda. We never left the Disney property. Another trip. I think the coolest thing at Disney was the Adventurer's Club on Pleasure Island. I only spent about an hour there, but it was a blast. The space itself is terrific and the performers seemed to be having so much fun it was infectuous. Any return trip to Disney will definitely have an entire evening at this place pencilled in.

DisneyQuest, on the other hand, was an enormous disappointment. Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride was a bore (and I thought players would be prone, as if on a carpet, instead of sitting normally). The Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam was terrible-- I don't know what model of physics it tries to simulate, but it's not from our universe and just doesn't work. A number of the stations at Treasure of the Maya weren't operating properly. The Pirates of the Caribbean game was fun, and the Jungle Cruise looked good too. Astroblasters is small and slow, Invasion is lame, yada yada yada. I spent most of my time playing free arcade games, including about 45 minutes of shooting hoops. Kids might find more to enjoy here, but I was disappointed at how often the activities failed to live up to their promise.

At the major parks, we loved the Fastpass system which lets you get a reservation for a ride, then return at your assigned time and just hop in front of everyone and get right on. Without this, we likely would have simply passed on a number of major attractions, like Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (a lot of fun). But it did bring up the question of whether the system solves or aggravates the congestion problem. I'm sure Disney's analyzed the issue to death, but on the surface it seems like the system actually creates longer "standby" lines because it allows Fastpass users to just cut in front, thereby forcing those without a Fastpass to wait longer. It's great when you're the guy with the Fastpass, but you can only have one Fastpass at a time. While you wait for your appointment to roll around, you're back to waiting with all the little people on standby.

Other random thoughts:

  • It's A Small World is the most pernicious song on the planet. There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow runs a close second.
  • You can tell how old an attraction is by whether or not it exits through a gift shop.
  • Pocahantas and Tarzan's presence are limited to shows at Animal Kingdom, but Hercules, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet seem to have been erased from existence. Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo haven't made their way into attractions yet, either.
  • The characters sign autographs throughout the parks, and each character signs its name identically no matter who's inside the costume.
  • Gazillions of pins are sold everywhere, with lanyards on which to wear them. Many Disney cast members wear lanyards, and will trade any pin they have for whatever Disney pin your child wants to give them. But of course, you need to have pins in order to play the trading game, and they'll set you back $6.50 a pop. Genius!
  • Don't like pins? How about charms and charm bracelets? Disney's got 'em.
  • Epcot needs to decide if it's a theme park or a science museum. Attention, Living Seas designers: nobody wants to read panel after panel of facts about robotic diving equipment on their Disney vacation.
  • Do no vegetables grow in Florida? Because if it's not a processed potato or a leafy green, it's impossible to get at Disney.
  • The Haunted Mansion was a whole lot cooler twenty years ago. Whether that's because I was younger or the state of the art in special effects has advanced so far is left as an exercise to the reader.
  • The monorail was a whole lot cooler before I moved to Seattle.
  • George W. Bush has more speaking time in the Hall of Presidents than George Washington. It's a great big beautiful tomorrow...

  • Comments (2) | last by Peter Sarrett, Nov 14, 8:51 PM

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