Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Was Just Kidding

Last October, I reacted to the announcement of a new celebrity talk show moderated by professional angry liberal Lewis Black with this:

They'd have a hard time finding a show I'd be less interested in watching then yet another revival of Politically Incorrect with an angrier, trollier version of Bill Maher. Maybe if Rosie O'Donnell was a regular panel member, but that's about it.

Now comes word of an even worse upcoming crime against humanity:

Funny ladies Rosie O'Donnell (Nip/Tuck) and Fran Drescher (The Nanny) are working together on creating a new "fun, happy, family comedy" for TV. On Rosie's website, Fran and Rosie teamed up on camera to talk -- primarily about Fran's "cancer schmancer" campaign for public awareness -- but at the end, Rosie and Fran revealed a sitcom they are planning in which they'll star together.

Good lord. I just purchased a new subwoofer for my stereo system, and my HDTV purchase is still awaiting just the right deal to come down the road. I'd hate to think what even my modest setup would endure dealing with a Rosie/Fran team-up....

I'm sorry - I can't even continue this post. I'm going to be sick just thinking about it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Shiny Apple

Tax time is about the only time I take more than a cursory look at my investments. My advisor calls me more often than I call him, just to see if there is anything I need, which there usually isn't. But when I get the 1099's and have to start plugging stuff into TurboTax, that's when I get to see a few highlights.

Such as AAPL.

My managed accounts sold Apple, Inc. stock six times in 2007. The sales were for $84, $93, $112, $120, $145 and $185, respectively. Not a bad run for Apple.

Those shares were bought back in 2004. The purchase price? $13.52 and $22.41. So the value of those shares only went up sixfold.

Last year wasn't a great year overall for stocks. But AAPL did just fine, thanks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What Rhymes With Katrina?

Via Libertas, word of yet another anti-war documentary hitting the screens of Austin. The two people who end up seeing this one can extend their pleasure by picking up the 30-song soundtrack with such gems as "No War" by Eddie Vetter, "Yo George" by Tori Amos, and a rap song called "Bushonomics" by .... Cornell West?

Ye gods.

That last one might just be worse than the current gold standard for horrible anti-Bush songs, "Leaving Beruit" by Roger Waters, which features the immortal lyric:

Oh George! Oh George!
That Texas education must have fucked you up when you were very small.

Pretty bad, but I'm willing to bet West can beat it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I'm not in marketing, but I am in a market. When I'm looking to buy a product, I consider things like functionality, price, appearance, "cool factor", and so on.

I don't usually consider whether there's a woman on the board of directors.

I think diversifying their board will help Apple better reach its vast female audience.

I think I've seen this sentiment expressed elsewhere, and it's just silly. Is increased diversity on the Apple Board of Directors a good thing? Yeah - all other things being equal, it's probably a benefit. A woman just for the sake of having a woman on board isn't a good thing, but clearly Ms. Jung is well-qualified for this kind of position.

But the thought that only a woman can sell to women? About as stupid as voting for Hillary just because she's a woman, or Obama just because he's black, or McCain just because he's a crusty old white guy.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

DVD Spending Tab X

Last year's spending tab was $104.98 for 21 movies, which is right at $5.00 per movie. And now to start on the 2008 total:

Got Hellboy 3-DVD Director's Cut Edition for $5.40. Not a bad deal.

Friday, February 15, 2008

So Much For That Idea

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote:

The thought that one of my favorite shows is now in the hands of a guy that thinks the War on Carbon Emissions is somehow more real than the War on Terror doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. There's still a lot of time until next January; maybe Joel Surnow can reassert himself and get this show back on track - the right way.

Now I find that not only is Joel not coming to save the day, he's heading in the other direction. That takes my 24-o-meter from worried down to oh-well-it-was-nice-while-it-lasted. Wonder what I'll watch on Mondays after football next year?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Not My Slice

Had some Mellow Mushroom pizza in our meeting today - didn't really care for it much. Large soggy slices, lots of fairly flavorless cheese, and I didn't really like the sauce.

Still waiting to try in Austin - Hungry Howie's pizza, which I had once at O'Hare Airport and vaguely remember liking.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Movie Review: Rambo

Not a lot to say about this one - a tight little film, two parts setup and one part explosions. There weren't any twists or surprises, not even of the basic Rambo II type ("I'm coming to get you!"). Just a resigned Rambo, seeing exactly what's coming ahead, and then dealing with it in the patented Rambo way - with a large caliber weapon. If there's a way to break a body into two or more pieces, this movie had it - holes punched through bodies by bullets, heads blown off, arms chopped off, landmine fu - you name it, it showed it. I'm just amazed the film got an R rating. It didn't quite get up into Saving Private Ryan territory, just because Stallone had a fraction of Spielberg's budget - some of the CGI blood-and-guts had the zippers showing, so to speak.

I will say one thing - this film definitely made me cross Burma off my vacation list. Don't know how realistic the film was, but the thought of people living like that is truly depressing - and I'm talking about the Burmese soldiers here.

As for the film, three stars - it delivered what you expected, but no more.

Oh, and Lionsgate? I know you're probably just going off of the title Clive Barker gave you, but I'm sure your ad wizards could have come up with a better title than The Midnight Meat Train for the film whose trailer I saw before Rambo.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Standing Up Against Insanity

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

John Cornyn continues to impress me. Kay Bailey, get out of his way.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

24 Ways To Disappoint Me

I think Lost is off to a pretty good start, and I still have The Shield to look forward to. Due to a combination of production problems and the writer's strike, though, I have one big 24-hour hole in my TV schedule this year.

And now, via Libertas, I find out that may have been good news:

Against the real-life backdrop of global terrorist attacks, "24" at its peak fulfilled the fantasies of an insecure nation. It became one of the most important franchises for News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting Co., with 17 million viewers tuning in some weeks and millions returning to watch on DVD. (News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.)

But those who ride the tide of the times can also get upended by them. As public opinion about the Iraq War turned south, the show's depiction of torture came to be seen as glorifying the practice in the wake of real-world reports of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques used on detainees.

Ratings dropped by a third over the course of last year's sixth season. Producers would later experience trouble casting roles, once some of the most desirable in television, because the actors disapproved of the show's depiction of torture. "The fear and wish-fulfillment the show represented after 9/11 ended up boomeranging against us," says the show's head writer, Howard Gordon. "We were suddenly facing a blowback from current events."

Ratings dropped because the show writers had run up against a block - they were just redoing plots from earlier in the show's history, but not as well. It wasn't because of Iraq angst or because of a sudden repulsion against torture. In fact, here's a post showing that public opinion about the use of torture basically hasn't changed much over the last five years - including both the highly-praised (5th) and less-watched (6th) seasons of 24.

So, OK - I don't mind some retooling - as I mentioned above, the show clearly needed some. We heard rumors about Jack in Africa - how was that going to work in a 24-hour period? And then we had a trailer showing a new "evil" Tony - who was pronounced dead a while back? And then the announcement that shrill lefty Janieane Garofalo was going to be playing an agent in the 7th season.

None of these were good signs. But I had no idea just how bad it had become. Money quotes from the article:

Fox gave the writers carte blanche to "reimagine" the show. One of the team's chief considerations was how to address the controversy surrounding Jack's use of torture. Should Jack be feeling the guilt the media would have him feel?

"One of the themes we discussed was penance, that Africa was a place Jack had gone to seek some kind of
penance. Some sanctuary too, but also penance for things he's done in his life," Mr. Gordon says.

Here, the technical crew keeps a billboard with hand-drawn pictures of Vice President Cheney with fangs and one Photoshopped image of President Bush eating a kitten. Mr. Gordon keeps on his desk a copy of his wife's book, co-written with prominent Hollywood environmental activist Laurie David, about the dangers of global warming.

But by Sunday afternoon, they had a new idea: Jack is Bad.

Here's the big one:

"For five years, this was a wish fulfillment show," Mr. Gordon said. "At the beginning, when everybody's fear was more acute, people's tolerance for violence, their own rage, seemed to make Jack's tactics more acceptable. But in the wake of our own abuses in prosecuting this so-called War on Terror, we feel Jack is getting a bum rap. So instead of selling out the entire show and its history and its legacy and apologizing for it and ultimately invalidating it, we decided to defend it."

OK - I don't mind some handwringing over torture. That's not for me the big draw for 24 anyway - yeah, we want to see Jack do whatever it takes ("I'm gonna need a hacksaw"), but we're more interested in the roller-coaster ride - Jack and good guys get one-up on bad guys, then they reveal a new twist, good guys recover and react, and so on. We don't need to see Jack pull out the electric cord for the show to work, and to think that we do shows lazy thinking on the writers' part.

But. This is NOT a "so-called" War on Terror. This is real.

The thought that one of my favorite shows is now in the hands of a guy that thinks the War on Carbon Emissions is somehow more real than the War on Terror doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. There's still a lot of time until next January; maybe Joel Surnow can reassert himself and get this show back on track - the right way.

Friday, February 1, 2008

I Exist A Little More

Wow - things are really heating up around here. Just a few short weeks after noticing that somebody had actually linked into this blog, I see that somebody finally pinged that honeypot poll I set up over to the right.

Of course, of the two choices they chose the paradoxical option. Good choice - I like that.

The next thing you know, I'll actually get a non-spam comment from someone.

TV Review: Lost - "The Beginning of the End"

Well, "The End" is going to take a long time if this is just the beginning - I'm told we still have 40-something episodes left to go. On the whole, the (abbreviated) fourth season kick-off was a pretty good follow-up to last season's finale. Not so much in terms of plot; there was really only one significant plot point here, that being the return of Locke and his division of the Losties into two new "tribes". Most of the rest of the action had no real effect - Naomi escaped and then died, but we thought she was dead already (although the rather hamhanded lies Jack and Kate gave the rescuers could come back to bite them). The various groups split up and left, but then they came back together again. Ben made more ominous pronouncements, but nothing we hadn't already heard. We had another glimpse of Jacob, but not really enough to say we know more than we did before. Oh, and Jack gets to have yet more beatdown action, getting in his shots on Locke just a few hours after turning Ben into hamburger.

Maybe more significant was the flash-forward segments. The switch from flashbacks to flash-forwards is very important here, because it means the Lost writers are now having to put some stakes in the ground - at least these people will survive, there is some significant group of six survivors, someone significant will die and no one will show up for the funeral, and so on. I am assuming that the writers are not screwing with us by showing things that could happen, but won't.

The best thing is just having that old Lost feel back. There was a period at the start of last season where I felt things went adrift, but this time around, I'm definitely getting that season one and two vibe - we've got dissension in the ranks among the survivors, we've got a smaller number of strangers in the mix (I'm kind of hoping we don't hear from the rest of Ben's troupe for a while), and a new big mystery to watch unravel (the agenda of the rescuers). So yeah, while I can't really say that we accomplished a whole lot this week in terms of answers, I'm still pumped to see how this little mini-season plays out - we're definitely off to a good start.

(It also doesn't hurt that I haven't really been too plugged into TV this season - most of my favorite shows {Terminator, Law and Order, Lost, The Shield} have late starts this year, and 24 was postponed until next year. So I'm definitely ready to get back into some of my old favorites after a fall that consisted mostly of football.)