July 2004 Archives

The Power of Editing

7 to 1? Tonight's Big Brother 5 vote surprised the heck out of me. I hoped that the growing bond between Jase and Holly would spell her doom, but it looked like Jase had convinced the other guys that Holly was a sure thing for them. Apparently not. I'm looking forward to seeing the Saturday confessionals where the guys explain their votes. Like Holly, I thought Adria played the "Christian faith" card a little too heavily for someone who's making a whopping lie of omission, secretly swapping places with her twin. That's may well come back to bite her when Natalie enters the house.

And I'm afraid I must now impose a strict worldwide moratorium on the phrase "cuddle buddy." Thank you in advance for your compliance.

Comments (3) | last by Jan, Aug 2, 10:26 AM

Reality Update

The players on Big Brother 5 continue to disappoint me. Jase and Scott are meatheads with no apparent redeeming qualities whatsoever, and yet they're dominating the game. I take solace in the knowledge that as soon as one of the women (other than Holly) wins HoH, both of them are going up on the block. But in the meantime, they're insufferable. And to top it all off, Drew-- who I could root for if he'd only show a little backbone-- put Adria up tonight. The more I've seen of Adria and her twin, the more I've liked them. For that reason, and because it would completely freak everyone else out and scare the bejeezes out of the Horsemen, I've been pulling for them to both get into the house. But unless the women can convince Marvin to vote with them, it looks like Adria's out. Marvin admits he's riding in the back of the bus, but I don't understand how he expects to ever move to the front playing 5th wheel to the four cronies.

Meanwhile, over on The Amazing Race, I can't imagine having to down a pound of caviar. Had I been in the game, I'd have known immediately upon reading the "taste for the high life" clue that it was a caviar challenge. I'm not sure if my theoretical race partner Dave likes caviar. I've never had it but I suspect I wouldn't. Of the two of us, I have the bigger appetite-- so this task would likely have fallen to me. Blech. If it weren't on a different network, tonight would have been a great opportunity for a cameo by the Fear Factor chuck bucket.

I'm also conflicted on Mirna and Charla. Charla's great, but Mirna (the tall one) is one of the most annoying people ever to appear on the show. She doesn't talk, she whines. I keep hoping Charla will just lose it and pop her one. So while I'm pulling for Charla, I'll not shed a tear when Mirna gets eliminated. Of the remaining teams, I'm futilely crossing my fingers for the soccer moms simply because they always seem like they're having the most fun.

Comments (4) | last by Marjh, Aug 8, 12:09 AM

Ebert's Shame

This weekend I watched Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and I don't understand how Roger Ebert retained any shred of credibility after his involvement in this fiasco. In his comments about the film on its tenth anniversary, Ebert talks about how the film was a satire and succeeded on many levels. And I can only wonder if, before viewing the film, he swaps out the lenses in his glasses for ones colored a delightfully rosy shade. Perhaps it's too much a product of the time and place-- the quick-cut editing style, for example, is quintessential sixties. Having no experience with Hollywood in the sixties, absolutely nothing else about this film rings true. It plays more as parody than satire, with outrageous dialogue no human could possibly utter with a straight face and absurd characters with no discernable motivations. The Z-Man character, for all he was modeled after a real person Ebert had never met, is a cartoon who rattles off florid dialogue Aaron Sorkin wouldn't inflict on his worst day. The nth-hour plot twist about his sexuality-- written on the spur of the moment-- makes earlier scenes retrospectively incomprehensible. A complete, irredeemable mess.

Prior to that film we saw The Dark Side of the Rainbow-- the first 45-minutes or so of The Wizard of Oz playing in sync with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. Some synchronicities really were astounding-- the "ca-ching" as Dorothy opens the door to reveal Munchkinland; "Black" on the appearance of the Wicked Witch; "The lunatic is on the grass" as Scarecrow starts to dance; the heartbeat at the end of the album as Dorothy listens to Tin Man's chest. Freaky keen.

Comments (3) | last by Nathan Beeler, Aug 2, 1:17 PM

15 Years Too Late

Unless your name is Chris, chances are good you haven't heard about Studio 7, the new game show that premiered tonight on the WB. Seven contestants live together for four days, then on the fifth play a 6-round quiz. The first three rounds are current events questions about the 21st century, the past year, and the past month. Once during these rounds, a player can ask another player for help. Why help an opponent? The first two players to get an answer wrong go onto the chopping block, and the rest vote on who leaves the game. Round four is on a specific subject, and the first to blow a question is gone. Round five is an insane memorization challenge, and the worst performer goes home. The final round is a race to answer seven questions about events of the past seven days in the shortest time. The winner takes $77,000, and returns later in the summer for a shot at $777,000.

So aside from the seven fetish, how is it? The "reality" aspect is downplayed-- the entire hour is the quiz show-- but brief confessionals from the players help illustrate where, how, and why alliances have been formed. All the players are college age, and the difficulty level is spot-on for that demographic. The elimination structure is reminiscent of The Weakest Link, but the game structure is better here since the most knowledgable player isn't at an obvious disadvantage. I quite enjoyed it. I wish it had been around when I was in college, because I'd have been all over it.

The first episode will be rerun this Sunday, with a new show on Thursday. Peter-Bob says check it out.

Comments (3) | last by Matt Jones, Jul 25, 2:32 PM

Heart Attack in a Cup

Been hankering for the sugary ambrosia of a warm glazed doughnut, but the hot summer weather's got you down? Krispy Kreme to the rescue! And look-- the 12oz "small" has only twice the calories and triple the carbs of an actual doughnut! Now you can take a refreshing break from the summer heat and sip your way to a coronary bypass without the horrible inconvenience of sticky fingers. Bless you, Krispy Kreme!

Comment (1) | last by DugSteen, Jul 21, 6:57 PM

A Little Less Elvis

After digging the Las Vegas theme all season, I finally got around to downloading the full version of the song-- a remix of Elvis Presley's A Little Less Conversation. Now the damn thing's stuck in my head. And not just the groovy Elvis lyrics, but the rhythmic instrumental intro. I swear, someone could make a bundle by coming up with a pill that clears your head of persistent song memes.

Oh, and a posthumous tip of the hat to the King for blazing his own trail through the English language to give us the five-syllable "satisfactioning"-- without which the entire song would crumble.

Comments (5) | last by Chester, Jul 25, 7:32 PM


Before anyone asks... no, the unnamed $250,000 buy-it-now purchaser of this auction isn't me. But... wow. Makes the paltry few boxes from my childhood that are gathering dust in my attic look mighty feeble.

Comments (3) | last by Stephen Glenn, Jul 17, 8:00 AM

Super Stockpile

So you're the U.S. government, and you've got a heavy hitter like Superman more or less on your team. He won't fight your foreign wars for you, but you can count on him for antiterrorist actions and emergency rescue operations. But the guy's a loose cannon. What if he goes on a bender, or comes down with Alzheimer's? You love having him on your side, but his power presents an enormous possible threat to national security. You'd have to guard against that possibility, wouldn't you?

I don't keep up with the Superman mythos outside of TV's Smallville, so I don't know how open the secret of kryptonite is. Is it like KFC's seven herbs and spices (everyone knows there's something, but nobody's sure exactly what) or more like JFK's extramarital affairs (everyone knows about it, but it's not considered polite to discuss openly)? Either way, the U.S. government certainly knows that kryptonite can take out the big S. It seems to me that the response would be twofold. First, the government would make kryptonite a controlled-- if not downright illegal-- substance akin to plutonium. It is radioactive after all-- according to Cartoon Network's Justice League, Luthor ultimately contracted cancer after years of carrying a chunk of the space rock on his person. The feds would want to keep kryptonite bullets off the market, and making possession illegal would authorize them to confiscate all samples they discovered.

The second step is a natural consequence of the first-- maintain a heavily guarded, lead-encased government stockpile. Just in case. If Lois Lane is killed by ecoli poisoning at the Metropolis Jack in the Box, we'd want some insurance in case Supes goes postal. Or, you know, decides to rule the planet.

This is what comes of eating lunch alone and seeing a USA Today article about superhero films.

Comments (6) | last by Don, Aug 9, 11:25 AM

If there's ever been an uglier person on reality television than Alison, I certainly haven't seen them. The Apprentice's Omarosa was a deceitful prima donna in denial, but The Amazing Race's Alison has been mean, abusive, domineering, and completely unlikeable in any way. She displayed all those qualities on Big Brother, and nothing's changed. Seeing the dysfunctional dynamic she has with her boyfriend only served to make her more dispicable.

My only regret at her departure is that we won't have her to root against anymore.

Easy Money the Hard Way

Today Ken Jennings won his 29th consecutive game on Jeopardy!, bringing his total winnings to $972,960. His 1,000th correct response came during today's show (don't worry, I wasn't keeping track either), and tomorrow he's well within range of reaching the one million dollar mark-- what must surely be the most hard-won easy money on television. The man is a force of nature, scything through all comers with effortless elan. Only nine episodes remain in the Jeopardy! season. Will Ken triumph through them all?

If you haven't watched Jeopardy! lately, tune in to see a trivia master in action. Game show history is being made.

Comments (3) | last by Larry, Jul 14, 6:08 AM

Gaming for Justice

At the end of the month I'll be in San Francisco for Justice Unlimited, the latest Game from the Bay area Game community. Will any SZ readers be participating?

Comment (1) | last by CKL, Jul 19, 1:23 PM

TiVo Alert: Stargate

Tonight is the season premiere of Stargate: SG-1 on Sci-Fi. This episode sets up next week's series premiere of Stargate Atlantis (no colon-- go figure), the new spin-off which-- I believe for the first time in the history of televised dramas-- will run back-to-back with the original series that spawned it all season long. Boo-ya! If you've never watched Stargate, now's probably a great time to jump in to the most entertaining science fiction series on television. And before long, you'll be renting the DVDs of the past seasons of SG-1 and lamenting that you didn't hop on the bandwagon sooner.

Comments (9) | last by Clay, Jul 25, 2:04 PM

Back-to-Back Fives

Last night saw the season premieres of Big Brother 5 and The Amazing Race, both in their fifth seasons. Big Brother is one of the most successful reality shows in the world, and yet admitting you watch it in the United States is akin to showing off your John Tesh collection. But if a rising tide raises all ships, surely the influx of such dreck as The Swan, The Littlest Groom, and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancee makes Big Brother sparkle like freshly fallen snow. OK, so it's no Survivor. But the contestants all know what they're signing up for, and the Machievellian shenanigans deliver vicarious tension that's often lacking in the summer months.

This season, the show has trotted out an unlikely hook under the absurd moniker of Project Do Not Assume, or Project DNA. Two of the houseguests, unbeknownst to each other, are actually half-siblings. By the end of the first episode, Michael-- who never knew his real father-- has already figured out that Jennifer is his younger half-sister. He hasn't told her yet for fear of the connection hurting him in the game. I doubt that'll last long, especially since Jennifer will undoubtedly be one of the first on the chopping block. When the cast was first introduced, Jennifer-- a plain, perhaps even homely girl with six tattoos and hair dyed blue who asked everyone to call her Nicomus-- seemed completely out of place, more suited to Mad Mad House than Big Brother. Her connection to Michael makes her presence make more sense. Still, that one blood connection would be an awfully thin tendril on which to hang an entire season's hype.

And so there's a second twist. One houseguest will have an identical twin switching off with him/her throughout the game, with none of the other houseguests knowing. We've seen this in sitcoms, and I'm sure real twins are constantly fooling people, but it'll be interesting to see how long they can keep up the charade in such an insular environment where any conversation can come back to bite you.

Meanwhile, do NONE of these people take Basic Strategy 101? After the first food challenge, Lori was offered $10,000 to betray the group and force everyone to live on peanut butter and jelly for the week. If they declined, each other houseguest in turn would receive the same offer until someone accepted or everyone declined. Lori took the money, thereby tattooing "Evict me!" on her forehead. I suppose $10,000 for a week's effort is a pretty good outcome, especially since the vast majority of players will leave with nothing. But in taking the money, Lori shot a big hole in her chance of winning the $500,000 grand prize. First rule of eviction games: get in with the biggest crowd early, and keep your head low. Do NOT start out by a) getting $10K ahead of your competition, and b) taking food out of their bellies.

The Amazing Race 5 follows and, in a crossover casting first, features the second-place contestant from last season's Big Brother (Alison), who is apparently unlikeable in any reality format. No "virgins" or gay couple this time around, but this year's stunt casting is a partnership that includes a "little person" who, stubby legs aside, appears far more up to the challenge than her full-size cousin. Sadly, there's also no standout team to root for yet. Bring back the clowns!

Weekly updates to come.

Comment (1) | last by Chris Lemon, Jul 7, 5:30 PM

Geek Grill

Conversation at a weekend barbeque:

Me: How much char do you want on your hot dog?

Bruce: Not a lot. I'd like min char.

Me: 8-bit char, coming up.

Comment (1) | last by DugSteen, Jul 12, 10:41 AM

It Hurts So Good

"Those Europeans have a crappy particle accelerator," said Tom discerningly.
"Ms. Blanchett is once again totally immune to anthrax!" Tom reciprocated.

Yes, it's Tom Swifties. A whole heck of a lot of them. And amazingly, many of them are really good. In a please-pump-molten-plutonium-up-my-rectum kind of way.

Comments (3) | last by Bruce, Jul 10, 4:15 PM

I'm molting.

It started on my left shoulder, when the skin was still supple enough to be peeled off in large sheets-- an exercise which offered an odd kind of macabre satisfaction, not unlike peeling an onion and trying to get the entire outer layer off in a single piece. What? Stop looking at me like that.

From there it worked its way down the left side of my chest, then popped across to my right forearm. Now it's spread all over my body like some kind of flesh-eating bacteria-- thighs, ankles, pretty much everywhere but my head (which was, you'll recall, protected by a +5 Vorpal Beach Hat of Tourism). Which makes it rather ironic that my scalp is just about the only part of my body that doesn't need a good rub-down with Head & Shoulders.

It doesn't really bother me-- a small price to pay for a couple weeks of spectacular Greek salads, says I. But it does set me to wondering-- do the locals bathe in moisturizing lotion, or does your body simply adjust to prolonged exposure to the sun?

Comment (1) | last by Larry, Jul 2, 5:56 AM

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