Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Jumping on a bandwagon here, but it's a fun bandwagon, so I make no apologies.

If you want to burn off those extra holiday calories, try a round of Kirbycise.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Bad Thing About Complex Serials

TV dramas with a complex continuing storyline are great when they work. But when they fail to connect with a big enough audience, they get moved around or just plain cancelled without warning, leaving those viewers who enjoyed the show with a lot of hanging threads. Shows I watched this season that have been cancelled in just such a fashion: Vanished, The Nine, and now Daybreak.

Which confounds me, because Daybreak was an awesome show. Taye Diggs made a compelling lead, the mystery was deep (and for once, than goodness, not a comment on our current political landscape), and the show found some new twists to the Groundhog Day formula. The article I read about the cancellation says that thirteen episodes were produced (and since the premiere stated that the mystery would be solved in thirteen episodes, it looks like the story may be complete). ABC is planning to make subsequent episodes avaiable on-line, but it didn't specifywhether it would offer the entire rest of the series or just the next couple of episodes.

This is one show that deserves the Firefly DVD treatment.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sky High

Finally saw Sky High over the weekend. It was a fun little movie, although I think it's interesting to contrast this movie's approach with The Incredibles. Both are superhero movies, and both are ostensibly for juvenile audiences, but both try in their own ways to appeal to adults as well.

The Incredibles did this by having a storyline that would appeal to the emotions of parents: the drudgery of work, the temptation of the affair, the terror of kids in danger, the primal bond when the family works together. This was a story that appealed to adults, on different levels, just as much as kids.

Sky High, on the other hand, takes a different tack. The story is a by-the-numbers coming of age story with a little good girl/bad girl romance thrown in. But the movie is designed to appeal to parents on a nostalgic level. The entire soundtrack consists of covers of Eighties New Wave. Off the top of my head, I remember songs that were originally performed by English Beat (2 of 'em), Modern English, The Cars, The Go-Gos, Devo, Thompson Twins. And the supporting cast contains a bunch of familiar faces: Bruce Campbell, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald from Kids in the Hall, Cloris Leachman, Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman herself).

So it's a shallower film, but still a fun one. I ended up watching it a couple of times through.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

This Is Sad

Joe Barbera has died. Like a lot of kids, I grew up on Hanna-Barbera cartoons. They were often cheap and crude, but we loved them, and I'm sorry to see Joe go.

Future Combat

This looks like one of those pie-in-the-sky "what the future might look like, but won't" articles that Popular Science thrives on. The basic idea is cool: using suborbital space transports to deliver Marines quickly anywhere on the globe. It's freakin' step one to a Starship Troopers dropship.

But if you read the article, you start to see two big flaws. One is dealt with at some length: the transport gets the troops in, but then how do you get them back out? The other is barely mentioned at all: the transport as envisioned will only hold 13 troops.

Keep in mind that the event that inspired the whole idea, according to the article, was a planned insertion of 500 Marines. In order to carry out that mission, they would need 39 of these things dropping out of space, which is doable, but would be insanely expensive. Then you'd have 39 small groups trying to link up across hostile terrain. Then, unless the landers had some sort of conventional propulsion to fly out with, they would have to either destroy them in place or guard them until the U.S. government could come to retrieve them.

I think that until you have a design that can somehow carry enough fuel to get up to its desired altitude twice without refueling, or use some sort of mass-driver launch device to get it up to suborbital altitude without using any fuel at all, allowing it to carry only the fuel it needs for its return trip (plus attitude adjustments for the initial landing), this won't be a practical alternative.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Archie Comics are (at least temporarily) abandoning their distinctive house style for a more contemporary, realistic style. I hate to be that guy, the old fart who opposes all change, but really, the Archie style was what gave them their own distinctive identity.

Perhaps even worse, the change in art style is accompanied by a change in the stories as well. A few years ago, I was reminiscing about the economical storytelling in Archie comics. I was telling my wife how they would tell these awesome, complete stories in only eight pages. Then one day I ran across an old Archie digest and discovered something amazing. Those eight page stories I was reminiscing about, those marvels of compact, economic storytelling, weren't eight pages long.

They were usually only three or four!

Amazingly, in a time when it seems virtually everybody is bemoaning the short attention spans of our fast-twitch, MTV-ized, You-Tube culture, Archie Comics are ditching a storytelling style that seems perfectly suited to such short attention spans in favor of longer, more complex stories.

I give it a few years at most, then I predict a return to the old-style stories, only this time thy'll be pitched as retro-cool.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Survivor Finale Tonight

It's been a weird season of Survivor this year. I thought the race angle would make the show jump the shark, but it actually wasn't that bad. But it's weird to see someone who is one of, if not the best, player ever in the history of the show, get blindsided by Jeff Probst at Tribal Council. I'm speaking of Yul, who has been strong in challenges, both physical and mental, and is also one of the strongest players on the social side.

In Thursday's episode, Yul brought Jonatham's hat to Tribal Council. He set it on the bench before the jury came in, so this was clearly not the same sort of jury bribery that Richard tried to pull back in season one, when he waited until the jury was seated to offer Jenna some shells. But after the jury was seated, the first words out of Probst's mouth were something to the effect of "Yul brought your hat back, Jonathan. This is one of the boldest attempts to influence the jury vote that I've ever seen." He then proceeds to grill everybody on the jury about the intention behind Yul's gesture and its possible effect.

I want to see Yul win. I wouldn't mind if Ozzy won, but he got on my bad side early on when he purposely (and obnoxiously) threw an immunity challenge so his tribe could dump Billy. Yul hasn't done anything quite that scuzzy, so I'm rooting for him, but I'm not sure he'll be able to win the vote when he gets to the final three (which I'm pretty sure he'll do).

We'll see tonight.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oh God No

Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of SD is in critical condition following brain surgery. He suffered "stroke-like" symptoms, but the senator's spokepeople deny that it is in fact a stroke.

What makes this significant is that the Democrats won a one-seat majority in the Senate, and the governor of South Dakota is a Republican. If Johnson dies or has to step down, the governor appoints his replacement, and there is no rule that says he cannot appoint a Republican to that seat. If he appoints a Republican, the balance is 50-50, with Dick Cheney holding the tiebreaking vote. Republicans get the barest sliver of control back.

So let's see: Democratic senator. Mysterious unknown medical condition. Governor from other party. Balance of power at stake. Let the moonbat conspiracy theories begin.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Preserving The Holiday Spirit

I'm not a big fan of the Christmas holidays, but some people love them. Some people think they're a wonderful reminder of what's really important in life, and that everyone would probably be much happier if they would just get into the holiday spirit.

Of course, you make it a little tougher for the rest of us when you lawyer up and threaten to sue. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On Hiatus

Not me, although from the frequency of my posts lately, you'd think so (and don't even ask how I'm progressing on my rewrite - haven't touched it in a couple of weeks). No, Heroes and Studio 60 finally hit their fall finales, so now virtually every show I watch is on pause, except for Survivor and Daybreak.

Heroes continues to come together frustratingly slowly, although they have finally introduced us to Sylar, as well as hinting that Sylar is not the one who blows up New York City in the future. Apparently, it's Peter, mimicking the powers of Radioactive Guy (last seen in the custody of the FBI, before he blew up the car he was being transported in). This is such a frustrating show, because they tantalize us with hints of surpassing coolness (the prescient painting of SuperHiro, sword drawn, facing down a dinosaur was awesome), but the action sequences are little blips between ponderous chunks of dialogue. I would love to see this as an animated show, so that occasionally they could let loose and do something huge without busting the budget.

Studio 60, meanwhile, is still same-same: alternately charming and preachy (this week: Christmas is a myth! New Orleans needs help! The FCC sucks!), with an astoundingly unfunny comedy show-within-a-show. Although curiously, they're turning the unfunny into a feature: Matt hires a comedian who bombed on stage to write for the show; Harriet can't tell a joke; Matt brings in a guy without a sense of humor to help the struggling newbie writers (seriously).

Meanwhile, the PPP experiment is goin poorly. Most of the "opportunities" don't appeal to me, and when I occasionally see one I like (like the one asking for people to write about marial arts movies - I am so there), they put conditions on it that block me out. One said they specifically would not accept blogspot posts. Another specifically said the post cannot acknowledge that it is a paid post. I finally saw one today that was perfect, but by the time I tried to take it, it was gone. There are only a finite number of slots, apparently, and they filled up fast on this one.