Wednesday, January 31, 2007

TV Review: 24: 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Didn't post anything about the latest hour of Day 6, because once again, it was an hour of minor plot increments and not much action. The usual 24 office politics came back into play, with another character folding to political blackmail - does nobody fight this sort of thing? Didn't Karen Hayes think the President might actually want her advice badly enough to stick up for her?

As advertised, James Cromwell made his first appearance as Jack Sr. - wow, did he get old. He didn't look that old in I, Robot, did he? He only showed up in the last few minutes, long enough to get Jack captured twice. I'm kind of glad Graem did get the drop on everyone - after all of the machinations he's apparently been involved in over the past few years, I'd hate to think he would just give everything up after being attacked by a plastic bag.

Meanwhile, we also see that the whole detention facility subplot may in fact come to nothing with respect to the bombings. Oh, well - at least we'll likely get some P.C. "balance" out of it.

I don't typically watch the previews, so I don't know if things pick up next week or not - but I think we've seen enough plot. Let's get back to Fayed, O.K.?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Movie Review: True Lies

I haven't been seeing too many movies recently, partly due to the fact that I blitzed my DVD player with a static electric shock a few days back. That's the first time I've had a piece of electronics taken out by a shock or surge.

But True Lies showed up on the Fox Movie Channel (and thus, my Tivo). It's been a while since I've seen it. It's still amazing that James Cameron managed to get as good a movie as he did, given that Arnold Schwarzenegger is only the third-worst actor with a primary part in the film (one upping himself from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where he was the second-worst actor - but not near to Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin, where Arnold was the fifth-worst actor). Normally, the words "Tom Arnold" at the start of a movie means "run for the hills", but Cameron manages to keep him just on this side of annoying.

Of course, the main problem with the film is that it is two films, one of which is very good and one of which is only OK. The action parts at the start and the end are as good as you get for this type of action film. You get Arnold with guns, Arnold with his bare hands, Arnold with vehicles, and Arnold...with a tuxedo? He's not asked to play the suave, sophisticated type very often (and for good reason), and he doesn't even have to do it for very long in this film, but here he does pull it off. The Harrier attack on the bridge would be a completely computer-generated scene these days, but the combination of computer effects, mechanical effects and actually blowing up a bridge with Harriers made that sequence absolutely spectacular, especially in back in 1994. (Unfortunately, they got more than a little goofy with the Harrier towards the end, with Arnold catching his daughter on the jet's nosecone, and then catching the lead terrorist on the jet's tailfin and then its missile.)

In the middle of the film, Cameron decided to have a spy farce, with wife Helen thinking about cheating on her always-absent husband - with a guy who claims to be a spy, but who is in fact a slimy used-car salesman (but I repeat myself). This part actually starts out OK, with Arnold building up a good slow burn as he learns more about Helen's affair, and Tom Arnold laughing it up as they go. But again, things go a little too far, and the plot shifts into a more creepy mode. Arnold kidnaps and secretly interrogates Helen at his headquarters (what, no waterboarding?), and then sends her out on a fake mission to seduce and bug someone (a barely disguised Arnold - was Helen truly not going to find out who it was?). Yeah, we get an extended bump-and-grind from Jamie Lee here, but I kind of feel like Tom Arnold's character during this whole sequence ("I am going to hell for this"). So once the terrorists barge in and everybody heads off to blow up islands with nuclear weapons, it ends up being more of a relief.

In the end, the downside in the film's middle is more than offset by the actiony goodness at the start and end, so I'll give the whole thing four stars.

Check Your Calendar, Genius

Saw one of these on a car today:

. I know the 2008 race is starting way too early (it's starting to look like the NBA finals for now), but I'm pretty sure we won't be seeing this rocket scientist in the White House in 2007.

And not in 2008. Or 2009. Or 2010. Not even in John Conyers' wildest dreams.

Why? Aside from the fact that Bush and Cheney are not going to be impeached (sorry, Austin), there's no way the Democrats get a woman in the White House - unless that woman is named Hillary Rodham Clinton. If someone else even got a sniff of being the first woman president, Hillary's Elite Ninja Squad would immediately be dispatched to, err, fix the problem.

(And of course, the car with this sticker satified the Law Of The Bumper Sticker Party - more than two political stickers on a car = a liberal. Double points for one of those pretentious white-text-on-black-background stickers. Nobody cares, moron - just drive your car and get out of my way.)

Morning Constitutional II

We had a strong competitor for today's Morning Constitutional on C-SPAN this morning. Some guy called up to explain how he had to drop out of college because Reagan cut student loans in order to pay off his military-industrial complex friends - even though the Cold War was already over. (Hmmmm...I'm beginning to think there may be another reason he didn't finish college.) His call then transitioned into further conspiracy theories involving Cheney, Prescott Bush, the Project For A New Millennium [sic], etc., etc. (Sounds like he might have a future as a college professor, though.)

This rant just got too long to be a true Morning Constitutional entry. Fortunately, KLBJ's own Senior Sergeant Sam Cox came through, dropping this gem in as part of a larger rant about some Round Rock ISD program:
That's a stretch in every sense of the word.

When I heard that, my jaw hit the floor. Literally.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Will they also throw in a set of steak knives?

Saw this entry today on dealmac:
The Apple Xserve RAID 10.5TB costs $12,639 at ExperCom.

But wait - there's more!
With 1 cent for shipping, it's the lowest total price we've seen.

So you're spending twelve-thousand dollars on ten terabytes of storage - and they're still going to charge a penny for shipping? Can I use a double coupon, too?

Either charge regular shipping or make it free - a penny for shipping on a $12000 purchase is just stupid.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Morning Constitutional 1

I'm addicted. I'm addicted to the train wreck that is C-SPAN Washington Journal. In addition to getting to listen to the inanities of the various government officials that show up, the fact that they take unscreened calls means the wackjobs from all sides of the political spectrum are free to call in and spout whatever crap the aliens that control their thoughts were able to get through the tinfoil that morning.

See guys, the key is: you have to rotate the tinfoil cap 90 degrees every three days; otherwise, the ions get lined up and the mindrays will start to penetrate. I'd explain this to you in more detail, but Dennis Kucinich could explain it in far more detail than I ever could.

At any rate, watching Washington Journal usually leaves me in one of two states: despair, due to the overwhelming stupidity of the callers, who will spend the rest of the day driving around in front of me; or confidence, knowing that if there are people this moronic out there, I must be pretty far ahead of the curve.

So - today's entry was a call for Clay Sell, the deputy Secretary of Energy, who was there to discuss the energy policy proposals in President Bush's State of the Union speech. I didn't get to hear his entire segment, but no doubt most of the calls were exploring conspiracy theories involving Cheney, Halliburton and ExxonMobil to control the world's oil. However, there were some calls that tried to provide some useful advice for the Secretary:

Why don't we do something like what they already have, where, with their cars, you can just open your door and that's enough power to power your car to wherever you need to go. I mean, you can use magnetism, you can use solar, you can use wind. Even just driving in your car is enough wind to make enough power to keep it going.

Yeah! That's the obvious answer to our energy problems - why don't we all just drive around in perpetual motion machines? If only Bush had proposed that, why - he'd be a genius!

Ah - now I'm ready to take on the day.

Monday, January 22, 2007

TV Review: 24: 10:00 am - 11:00 am

This show keeps finding new ways to shock. The reveal of Mr. Bluetooth's identity after a couple of years of acting behind the scenes came out of nowhere - I can't believe this was the writers' plan all along. When they introduced his wife, I was halfway expecting it to be the still-missing and presumably still-clothed Mandy. But what in the world inspired Jack to open up a can of Bauer on him - Jack couldn't possibly know that he's got Mr. Bluetooth, can he?

Of course, he is Jack Bauer.

Not a big fan of the four-minute-long second segment of the show, where absolutely nothing happened. And while Jack's helicopter rescue at the start gave the show a chance to show off some interesting physical effects (not often you see a helicopter wedged in the side of a house), that scene didn't really add much to the show either.

So aside from the big reveal - well, not much actually happened. James Cromwell is scheduled to appear as Jack's dad later; we'll see if things pick up once he shows up.

"It's beautiful."

Remember that scene in The Matrix Revolutions, where Trinity and Neo climb above the cloud layer in the "Real World" and briefly glimpse the sun?

That's what Sunday was - a brief return to sunny, warm weather, before we head back into another week of cold, cloudy and wet January. Blah.

Of course, right after that, Trinity gets impaled on a piece of rebar and dies in one of the cheesier death scenes in history, so at least I've got that to look forward to.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Movie Review: Over The Hedge

Got this movie by accident (mixup at the rental place) but went ahead and gave it a shot. This was a pretty generic CGI kids movie - probably lying somewhere below the top-shelf films (The Incredibles, Toy Story) down in the second-tier (Shrek, Ice Age). But it was at least watchable and entertaining, unlike some others I've seen (Madagascar comes to mind here). The animation and design was serviceable but nothing special. The story was full of typical kids movie mini-lessons - don't lie, be part of a community, etc. - with a touch of higher-level satire for the adults - the usual attacks on suburbia. I'm still not sure why suburbia gets such a bad rap (which is definitely true here in Austin - Dallas and Houston are apparently pits of evil beyond repair). Having just spent the holidays up in about the most extreme example of upper-scale suburbia around - Frisco - I'm still struggling to see why it is so bad. Like every other type of neighborhood, it's got good points and bad.

Whoops, didn't mean to get off on that tangent.

Even though it's apparently based on a comic strip, I don't really see a need for further adventures. So, it's an OK but not great movie - three stars.

Fairly Idiotic

Ars Technica has a post about the possible revival of the Fairness Doctrine, which includes the following quote:

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) complained about exactly this issue in a 2004 interview with Bill Moyers, telling him that "at least half the people in the United States have no voice because they're not allowed in on talk radio."

This statement asserts that (a) fifty percent of the people living in the country are forbidden from calling a talk radio show, (b) that fifty percent of the people living in the country care about being able to call a talk radio show, and (c) that not being able to call a talk radio show means a person "has no voice". Sheesh, even talk radio show hosts (not exactly known for their modesty) don't think they have that much power in the world.

I listen to (probably too much) talk radio, and equivalents like C-SPAN's Washington Journal. Believe me, based on the morons that call up C-SPAN each morning, I'd prefer to not be included in that group. But if Representative Slaughter is truly "representative" of the Congressional population, I may have to bump talk radio callers up slightly in the intelligence ranking to leave room for politicians.

Oh...and Kucinich has still yet to say anything that make sense. Why in the world does he keep getting re-elected? Just for entertainment value?

TV Review: 24: 6:00 AM - 10:00 AM

We'll see how much I can keep up doing non-movie reviews, but to start off...

It's a close tie for me as to which returning show I've been looking forward to more: 24 or The Shield. Lost definitely slipped down the list after the first half of season three left me somewhat cold compared to the first two seasons.

While Vic Mackey and crew have to wait for Dirt to finish its run on F/X, 24 is now underway and definitely off to a good start. Drudge had tipped off the nuclear aspect of the plot the week before, and somehow this has become a conversation point among the pundit class. I'm not sure why - we've dealt with nuclear attacks in pop culture before, from the 60's Cold War (Fail Safe, Dr. Strangelove) to the present (Jericho). Hell, 24 has exploded nukes before, albeit without the (presumably) widespread deaths.

If it is thought of as a more sensitive subject now because of the War on Terror, well, so be it. I think we are more at risk for this type of attack now than since the fall of the Soviet Union. And the relatively small-scale bomb attacks that serve as the lead-up to the big bomb on Day 6 seem to me to be a somewhat likely scenario at some point in our future, especially if we decide to retreat and hope for the best rather than press the attack against terrorist groups.

Having said all that, this is a fictional show, and it seems to me, fairly balanced. It has Islamic characters that are good, bad and neutral. It talks about and shows the bad side of large-scale round-ups of suspects based on ethnicity, but also shows that the round-ups do in fact identify and capture true bad guys. It has Jack Bauer willing to do horrific acts against terrorists to stop their plans, but who is also willing (or at least more willing than Curtis was) to work with them for the greater good when it is required. And so on. The complaints that this is strictly a "conservative show" seem to me to be a bit simplistic.

And speaking of Curtis, I had unfortunately heard about his demise before the show aired (although I should have suspected given that actor Roger Cross was listed as "Guest Starring" - but I don't always know which actor goes with which character). And while I can see what they were trying to do with the way he went out (he refused to work with a terrorist that had previously killed his fellow soldiers), I don't think it was executed very well on screen. I just think it was a bit of a quick turnaround for a character that I didn't see doing this kind of thing at all.

But that's a relatively minor point - I like this show too much to let that bog me down (along with the other usual 24 quirks - the bizarre Chloe - Morris - Milo love triangle thing, the fact that Jack goes from a broken-down man to unstoppable killing machine in about 15 minutes, etc.). We'll have to see if Manny Coto can keep things organized and going in Day 6 as well as they did in Day 5, and if they can avoid the mistakes made back in Day 4.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Huddled down in the bunker, waiting out Winter Storm 2007. "A man has to know his limitations" is good advice, but knowing the limitations of those around you is even better - I could probably get around O.K. (at least as of Tuesday morning) if I needed to, but this is Austin. The drivers here don't know good driving from a hole in the ground under normal conditions - I'm pretty much imagining every car out there during an ice storm as a speeding projectile aimed straight at me.

So when the boss says "Stay home unless you need to come in", I know enough to stay at home. I suspect my Michigan- and Indiana-raised co-workers probably laugh at these conditions, but I'll wait and see them on Wednesday (I hope).

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Bailey (the Fierce Corgi pictured at right) is a smart dog. She's been to obedience training for several years. She's gotten her AKC Novice and Open degrees. She's gotten AKC Rally Novice, Advanced and Excellent degrees. She knows how to do the exercises that make up the AKC Utility class.

But she sure can't demonstrate that knowledge in the show ring.

This past weekend, she busted three times in a row in the Lone Star Classic show in Dallas. She didn't come close to passing anything except for the Moving Stand exercise. She gets in the ring, and she focuses on everything but me - the smells on the mats, the old guy driving around the exhibit hall on a golf cart, the janitors wheeling around garbage cans, the birds up in the ceiling....everything but me. She's had nine utility trials and only really passed any of the exercises twice.

Since I know she is capable of doing the exercises, it follows that we are doing something wrong in the ring. There is such a thing as ring anxiety, where the dog recognizes the ring as a new, different environment and acts differently. And it probably means we haven't been going around to work in different places than our normal training areas. So we need to find new places to train, and then try entering shows after she's gotten over her issues.

But unfortunately, Bailey has another problem - she's been diagnosed with kidney problems. She's on a few medications to try to adjust her blood protein levels and keep fluids from accumulating, but I'm beginning to see some respiratory problems. When she was originally diagnosed, her prognosis was for about a year, so I'm starting to think she isn't ever going to pass Utility.

Obviously, this is a completely selfish thing. Bailey doesn't care if she passes Utility - she has fun at training, and seems happy otherwise (except during thunderstorms). I'm the one that wants to see the training we've done show up in the show ring. But I still find myself apologizing to Bailey for not getting her through Utility. I hope she doesn't have to retire - I hope this isn't the start of the end for her. She's only seven years old - it's just a shame.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Movie Review: The Illusionist

Another movie that looks good, but doesn't quite grab me. As the title character unveiled more and more supernatural tricks, I found myself wishing things were a little more mechanical - it seemed like Eisenheim was indeed capable of anything. But then the twist ending seemed to be using lots of mechanical tricks; why would he need them if he is capable of creating speaking, moving three-dimensional images that withstand close examination by a police inspector from a few feet away?

And the brief explanation of the twist ending - was Uhl supposed to be putting together flashbacks of events he wasn't present at? And did he have a flash-forward to an event that may not have occurred? That's not a twist ending - that's just twisty.

I'm not happy about how it all ended up, but the trip itself was OK until then. Can't call it a bad film, so sadly I'd have to give it another three-star rating. Maybe sometime this year, I'll see a better film or a worse film and get out of the three-star rut.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Movie Review: Snakes On A Plane

That microwave didn't really have a setting for "Snake", did it? What a movie - it even had the "just one day from retirement" bit (or at least a close facsimile). Three stars.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Movie Review: Miami Vice

I don't know, maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. I was pretty tired driving up to Frisco (Texas, that is, not California) and getting ready for the dog show tomorrow. Maybe it was the thumping subwoofer wearing me down during every club scene (and there were plenty in this movie). For whatever reason, Miami Vice just didn't do much for me. Ferrell looked good (although somehow I kept visually wanting to turn him into Riggs from Lethal Weapon). And man, if you liked to look at fast boats and fast cars, this certainly was your film. But for me, not so much. Two stars.

(My list of 2007 movie rankings is here.)

Well, I would hope it would be...

Rush Limbaugh mentioned this story today on his show:
NEW DELHI: It's a well-known paradox that had little evidence to support it, until now. Doctors from UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine have, for the first time, successfully demonstrated that obese patients actually fare better and have better chances of survival when hospitalised for acute heart failure than their leaner counterparts.

In the first-ever large scale study to assess the relationship between Body Mass Index and survival in patients hospitalised with acute heart failure, doctors have found the obesity paradox — BMI being inversely associated with long-term mortality in chronic heart failure — to be real.

Now wait a minute - this is the first study about obesity to be....large scale?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Those Were(n't) The Days

My sister's family got a GameCube for Christmas this year, and they picked up a bunch of new and used games for it. Among those games was an old copy of Madden 2003. Being a Cowboys fan, I decided to fire it up and play a game as Dallas - only to remember why, for a Cowboys fan, the 2003 season was better left forgotten.

When playing as Dallas on Madden 2003, your starting offense includes:

  • QB Chad Hutchinson (last seen in 2005 as the fifth-string quarterback for the Bears, behind Kurt Kittner)
  • QB Quincy Carter (cut by the Jets for drug violations, then cut by the CFL Montreal Alouettes for the same)
  • RB Troy Hambrick (started out with Dallas complaining about being behind Emmitt Smith on the depth chart, then ended his career in Arizona as, ummm, the backup for Emmitt Smith)

Unfortunately, EA Sports accurately modeled these players in the game, and I got my ass severely kicked.

So, as we contemplate the post-Romo-snap off-season, let us all could be much, much worse.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

DVD Spending Tab I

I'm a sucker for cheap DVDs, and so I'm keeping track of my purchases here. First up...

Beverly Hills Cop, new from Wal-Mart: $4.44

Yearly Total: 1 movie, $4.44

Movie Review: Coffy and Foxy Brown

I'm keeping track of the movies I watch in 2007 over on the DVDTalk Forums; my 2006 list is located here.

TCM Underground ran a Pam Grier double-feature the other night - surprisingly uncut (remember when Bill Cosby use to do ads for TCM boasting on how there was "no cursing"? Not when Rob Zombie is hosting!). I'd seen Foxy Brown before, but not Coffy. They're very similar movies (and apparently Foxy Brown was originally supposed to be a sequel to Coffy) - Pam Grier's character suffers a personal loss at the hands of a drug syndicate, infiltrates the syndicate's prostitute ring and starts killing. While both films have the requisite quota of violence and nudity, Coffy has a little more interesting plot. Coffy is betrayed by a supposed friend towards the end of that movie, and that betrayal is kept more in the dark. Foxy Brown's betrayal comes right at the start and is broadly telegraphed (how did Foxy not see what was coming?).

Grier is impressive in both films, but is a little more vicious in the fights in Coffy (notable exception - her final scene with the female drug lord in Foxy Brown). And did she do her own stuntwork in a scene where a policeman tries to run her down in a construction yard? Those actually looked like relatively dangerous stunts, especially if this movie (as an exploitation flick) was being made on the ultra-cheap.

Coffy also has the benefit of a creepier head mobster, made all the more creepy by the fact he was played by Allan Arbus, better known as the sympathetic psychiatrist on M*A*S*H. And the death of flamboyant pimp King George by being dragged behind a speeding car of course has more impact now in the wake of the Vidor, Texas killing. But Foxy Brown contains the single best kill, when Foxy chops up a hitman with the prop of a small airplane (!!) on screen.

In the end, I gave both movies three stars on my tracking list - they're both good solid movies, but not ones I feel the need to seek out more often than when they show up on TV somewhere. But Coffy does get the slight nod over Foxy Brown.

Monday, January 8, 2007

A Bird Falls In Austin

I like living in Austin, but man, the local idiocy quotient sure does get high at times. Right now, the main street of the central business district here is completely shut down because of some dead birds. The first rumors were "hundreds" of birds, then down to "a dozen", then back up to "about sixty". Eleven blocks of Congress Avenue, through the center of downtown, have been shut down for nine hours, including all of the morning commute. How could it possibly take this long to clear the area for cars, at least?

Of course, if somebody did manage to take out a few dozen grackles, which are currently in the midst of winter swarming season around here - frankly, they've already improved the local health situation more than most city officials. More, please - but next time, let us drive in to the office, anyway.