October 2005 Archives

Apprentice Bloodbath

Are there ANY rules at all on The Apprentice? As gossip-worthy as it may be when Trump makes things up as he goes along, he threatens to undercut viewer loyalty in doing so. Firing four people at once was exciting and unexpected, sure... but it didn't feel fair to the players. The responsibility for such a devastating defeat fell on project manager Josh-- who, up until now, had my money riding on him to go all the way. He should have realized the problem with their plan when the batting cage started to dominate, and adjusted accordingly to correct it. Jennifer could be justly critized for not meeting her own hype, but Josh called the play. You can say the other two guys should have focused on sales, but they were just doing what their project manager asked them to do. They worked together well, they were just working from a poor playbook. The responsibility for that shouldn't fall on the rank-and-file, and by firing them en masse Trump has once again demonstrated how to be a crappy boss.

And on an entirely different level, was that sound I heard in the background Mark Burnett having a heart attack? In a single stroke, Trump just deleted three episodes from the series. Are we going to get three extra clip shows now? Will they bring in alternates? Will they perhaps expand the final four interviews-- which I thought was the most fascinating part of past seasons-- into a full episode? They've got a contract to fill, and now they're three people short. Brilliant.

Comments (3) | last by Stephen Glenn, Nov 4, 10:49 PM

The Puzzle Boat

My latest obsession is The Island, aka The Puzzle Boat, an online solve-at-your-own-pace puzzle extravaganza. It's free, was created by a National Puzzlers' League member, and supports team play by allowing multiple players to use the same login and leave notes for each other about the puzzles. Solving a puzzle unlocks more, so while there are hundreds of puzzles on The Island you're only ever faced with a handful of them at one time. They're formatted as PDFs, so often you need to print them to solve them. While on the one hand it's a drag to not be able to solve them interactively online, you can take them with you and solve them at lunch or on the road. Many of the puzzles are GAMES Magazine-style word puzzles, which puts them right up my alley. I'm working on this with some people from my MS Puzzle Hunt team (Cracking Good Toast), and any nose-dive in work productivity is purely coincidental.

Comments (7) | last by Peter, Nov 7, 1:06 PM

I already own all the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, in the form of the sixteen collections published over the years. But if I didn't, you can bet I'd have already snagged the new Complete Calvin and Hobbes hardcover boxed set. For those of you yearning to rediscover the rules of Calvinball, Amazon's got it for $94.50, but you should really rush out to Costco where you can pick it up for just $88-- a substantial savings off the $150 cover price.

And Mr. Watterson, I would still gladly pay for a high-quality stuffed plush Hobbes to keep my plush Gromit company. I think they'd get on famously.

Comments (6) | last by antkam, Oct 20, 1:11 PM

Fringe Benefits

Maintaining a blog-- especially one that includes personal thoughts and biographical anecdotes-- can have unexpected side-effects. I've been running Static Zombie for a few years now, so the archives go back a ways. I don't post every day, which means reading the archives isn't a monumental undertaking. I'd estimate that under a thousand people read Static Zombie. Some of you are personal friends, some I only know through your comments, and still others are anonymous lurkers. The ready availability of so much of my writing means that most Static Zombie readers know far more about me than I do about them. That's par for the course for newspaper columnists, but not really something I considered when I started writing. It doesn't bother me per se-- I wouldn't post something if I was worried about who would read it-- but it can be a little weird when I meet someone and they display more knowledge about me than I expect them to have, because they've read Static Zombie.

In at least one case, however, it's worked to my advantage.

There are many areas in which I have great self-confidence. Dating isn't one of them. Most men learn the ropes when they're young, dating lots of people and through trial and error discovering how to put their best foot forward. I didn't. I had some of the error, but not a lot of the trial. I'm not interested in brief flings. I don't want to have a lot of first dates that don't lead to anything. So by the time I realize I'm interested in someone, we've already become friends and now there's a whole second minefield to cross on the way to dating without blowing up the friendship. So when you read the statement, "I don't ask many women out," you should realize it's a gross understatement of the truth.

So when, after emailing back and forth with someone I "met" on an online dating service, I asked her to meet for lunch, I was pretty nervous. For me, it was a Big Deal. In addition to everything else, I'm picky. I want someone who's smart, funny, witty, attractive-- ok, who doesn't?-- and I'm not willing to settle. Many of you are married, and others of you have probably never used online dating sites-- so let me tell you, it's not exactly easy to find Women of Interest. Sometimes you're drawn to a photo immediately, only to discover she's put no thought into her profile at all. EVERYONE likes walks on the beach and cozy nights by the fire. Tell me something that's unique about you. Tell me something that makes me think, "I've got to find out more about this woman!" Sometimes a profile reveals fundamental incompatibilities, like devout religious beliefs, that are instant deal-breakers. Spirituality I can handle; putting faith in Jesus to guide me I cannot. Sometimes you find a Woman of Interest, but you're not a Man of Interest in return. Electronic winks get rejected, emailed introductions get ignored. That's the nature of the process, and part of the attraction of online dating sites is that rejections hurt less when they're made of pixels.

Finding someone who rings all the bells and seems even more interesting through email conversations than she does in her online profile, therefore, is like standing at Stonehenge and seeing all the major celestial bodies framed between stone plinths. You know it's possible, you've heard that it happens, but you never really expected to be there yourself. A part of you certainly thinks it's too good to be true. And the rest of you obsesses over a single thought: don't screw it up.

Amazingly, the lunch went well. Not oh-my-god-where-have-you-been-all-my-life well, but definitely not this-is-the-longest-hour-in-the-history-of-the-universe-just-shoot-me-now, either. She was even prettier in person than in her profile, and as we talked with each other it occurred to me that I was out of my league. First, her eyes sparkled. I considered writing that they sparked with intelligence, wit, and imagination-- all of which is true-- but the simple truth is that her eyes just... sparkled. Looking into them, I just felt incredibly fortunate that they were looking back at me. And as incredible as her eyes were, what surprised me even more was that when she smiled they went to eleven. When she spoke, she spoke with passion. She listened to what I had to say, and when she asked questions she sounded genuinely interested in the answers. And she had a mature poise, an aura of womanhood rather than girliness. Put all of that together, and I was a little intimidated. I felt like a one-armed man treading water. I was clumsy, ugly, inarticulate, self-aggrandizing, desperate-- way out of my league. I emailed a good game, but the reality proved the lie.

Except it didn't. All of that was in my head. Either she was being very polite, or against all reason she was having a good time and enjoying my company. Inevitably the lunch ended, and (real mistake #1) we split the check. Was this a date, or were we just meeting to see if we would move on to a date? It felt like the latter, and-- believing the myth of the modern, independent woman-- thought that not only would it be insulting for me to offer to pay, but that it would suggest I perhaps thought the lunch was something she might not also think it was. Please refer to my earlier remarks about having missed out on all the trial and error earlier in life before you harangue me in the comments.

Mistake #2 came in the parking lot as we parted ways. I wanted to see her again, but wasn't sure how she was feeling about me. And so, hampered by uncertainty, I mumbled something inept about how great it was to meet her and that we should keep in touch. Really, it was awful-- so awful that I've apparently blocked the actual words from my memory. It was one of those moments when I could visualize my life as a multi-camera sitcom. Because, to my credit, I knew how bad that goodbye was, how terribly I'd botched the moment. And as we turned from each other on camera one and walked away, camera two focused on me from directly ahead as I rolled my eyes in disbelief. Cut to camera three, inside my car, and a tight angle of me banging my forehead on the steering wheel. Really, it was that bad. And really, I was banging my head on the steering wheel.

I was saved by two things. First, the moment I got back to the office I sent her an email apologizing for the extreme lameitude of my departure, complimenting her, and assuring her that I was very interested in seeing her again. The second thing that saved me was that, despite missteps that might normally have had her writing me off, she came prepared to cut me some slack. She already knew I was clueless about dating. Unbeknownst to me, she'd read my blog.

Emails through the dating sites are anonymous-- your real email address is stripped out. But when you reply to such an email through Outlook, it makes your real email address known unless you strip it out yourself. Which I never did. So very early in our email conversations, having seen my email address, she visited gamereport.com and from there found Static Zombie. Where she proceeded to read through much of the archives, including an entry in which I mentioned that I didn't date much in high school, and still don't. But she liked what she saw-- both the quality of my writing and the content. It's a big part of what made her want to meet me. And so, when I seemed so confident in my writing and so clueless in person, she decided to give me the benefit of the doubt.

It wasn't until a couple dates later that she fessed up that she'd read my blog, and even later before she told me she'd read it right after my first email to her, when she saw my address. She was afraid I'd think she was a psycho stalker, but I think it's hilarious. If I knew her domain name and she kept a blog, I'd have done the same thing. Who wouldn't?

That first lunch was almost two months ago. We've continued to date since then, and recently realized that we'd moved beyond "dating" into "boyfriend/girlfriend" territory. To be clear, I'm not in love with her yet, but I'm definitely in serious like. None of my friends have met her yet, but it feels like that's due to change. We've been spending a lot of time together, and she doesn't watch a lot of television-- so the bloops and bleeps of my Tivo have taken a forelorn, reproachful tone of late. It needs to learn that just because there's somebody new in the picture doesn't mean I care about it any less. If my blogging also suffers, I trust you'll all likewise understand.

And before you comment, remember-- she reads the blog. And she has approved this message. =)

Comments (17) | last by Peter, Dec 8, 12:48 AM

How the heck did I miss this little tidbit last week? Actor Nicolas Cage and his wife had a son last week and named him Kal-El-- Superman's name on his native planet of Krypton.

I'm going to repeat that.

Nicolas Cage has named his son Kal-El.

Nope, no less ridiculous the second time. Wouldn't it just be easier to name him Beatmeup? Sure, if he's a sports star in school, that name will rock. Cheerleaders will have a field day. But if he's not an athlete, the kid's entire childhood is going to be an unending nightmare. It's like Cage wants his son to grow up bitter and resentful. And those personalized kiddie bicycle license plates? Forget it.

Still, it could be worse. He could be Rob Morrow's daughter, Tu.

Comments (5) | last by Jacqui, Oct 20, 7:06 AM

Down the Hatch

In pre-season interviews, producers of Lost said fans should watch for episode 3. That episode aired last night, and it certainly gave us some answers. In particular, we now know exactly what the island is-- or perhaps, what it was. We have an explanation for the polar bears that don't involve them being materialized by the power of Walt's mind. We have the groundwork for more research facilities being discovered in the future. We have hints that something may have gone wrong a long time ago, which opens up some interesting theories about the various disciplines on the island becoming isolated. Or nothing may have gone wrong at all, and the orientation film-- which never mentions the exact nature of the threat, why it's so vital for the code to be transmitted every 108 minutes, or what would happen were a transmission to be missed-- may just be part of an (abandoned?) psychology experiment. We found out why it's so important for Locke to believe in something-- that he did not come by his faith easily, and that faith is all that holds him together.

We're also starting to meet the survivors from the back end of the plane, and are learning that their response to the crash appears to have been much different from that of the front passengers. Looks like it's Lord of the Flies time, and things are about to get much less civilized. Jack's a peace-time leader, not a general-- that job better suits Sayid or Sawyer. If the two groups of survivors clash, I expect we'll see some power struggles on the familiar side of the island.

Episode 2 didn't do much more than tread water, literally and figuratively, but things just got much more interesting.

Comments (3) | last by Stephen, Oct 10, 2:15 AM

Awwwwww... Geek Out!

The Boston Globe released its list of the top 50 science fiction television series of all time. The only reason such lists exist is to pick them apart and cluck at how off-base the idiots who compile them are, so far be it from me to shirk my civic duty.

Here's the Globe list:

50. Earth: Final Conflict
49. The Wild Wild West
48. 3rd Rock From the Sun
47. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
46. That Was Then
45. The Greatest American Hero
44. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
43. Nowhere Man
42. Science Fiction Theater
41. Futurama
40. The Thunderbirds
39. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
38. Batman
37. Space: 1999
36. The Bionic Woman
35. Battlestar Galactica (original)
34. The Avengers
33. Lost in Space
32. My Favorite Martian
31. Alien Nation
30. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
29. The Six Million Dollar Man
28. Adventures of Superman
27. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
26. Stargate Atlantis

25. The Jetsons
24. Wonder Woman
23. Tales from the Crypt
22. Andromeda
21. Quantum Leap
20. The Hitchhiker
19. Dark Angel
18. V
17. Firefly
16. Flash Gordon
15. Logan's Run
14. Star Trek: Voyager
13. The Outer Limits
12. Xena: Warrior Princess
11. Lost
10. Sliders
9. Mystery Science Theater 3000
8. Doctor Who
7. The Twilight Zone
6. Stargate SG-1
5. Babylon 5
4. The X-Files
3. Star Trek: The Next Generation
2. Battlestar Galactica (new)
1. Star Trek

Obviously, the Globe's concept of science fiction extends to anything with a hint of the impossible or the imaginary. One could argue about whether The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man were science fiction or spy action shows (I say the latter), but Xena was mythological fantasy with no hint of science fiction. In fact, I'd say 13 shows on the list (Nowhere Man, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Batman, The Avengers, The Greatest American Hero, Lois & Clark, The Adventures of Superman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wonder Woman, Tales From the Crypt, The Hitchhiker, Xena, and Lost) clearly don't fit the category, and 5 others (3rd Rock From the Sun, The Bionic Woman, My Favorite Martian, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The X-Files) are questionable. And if you're going to put Lost on the list at all, for God's sake rank it higher than a train wreck of a show like Sliders!

Next, let's question whether some of the genuine science fiction shows belong on any list with the word "best" in it. Earth: Final Conflict was at least three different shows over the course of its run, each less interesting than the last. By its final season, the show was something not even Gene Roddenberry would have foisted on the public. Buck Rogers also suffered an extreme makeover when the action shifted from New Chicago to the spaceship Searcher. Nobody called it a masterpiece during its initial run, and it hasn't aged well. The original Battlestar Galactica may be fondly remembered by some, but it's practically unwatchable. They recycled the same Viper shots over and over, and feathered hair is apparently alive and well in the far reaches of the galaxy. And let's not even get started about Dagget, the robotic pet. And Flash Gordon? Really?!

Now let's quibble about placement. Nostalgia notwithstanding, there is no way to justify ranking Futurama below The Jetsons. Alien Nation, a series that had some real intelligence behind it, should be much higher-- certainly above Andromeda. The aforementioned Sliders should slide way, way down the list. It's a crime to rank both Logan's Run and Voyager higher than the vastly superior Firefly, and I'd prefer to see Quantum Leap in the top 15. I think they're spot on with the high ranking of the new Battlestar Galactica, but I'd put Babylon 5 in the number 3 spot. While I can understand the emotional allure of putting the original Star Trek at the top of the list, I can't think of any sane metric by which it outshines the rightful chart-topper, The Next Generation.

Finally, a brief list off the top of my head of series missing from the list that should have been considered: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (a vastly underrated series that put Voyager to shame), Star Trek: Enterprise, Farscape, Red Dwarf, The Tomorrow People, Max Headroom, The Prisoner, Mork and Mindy.

Comments (14) | last by Chris M. Dickson, Oct 14, 12:53 PM

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