Friday, May 30, 2008

Fierce Issues

Bad news on the Fierce Corgi front: Bailey's latest blood test shows bad BUN levels, which means kidney failure may be on the horizon. She had been stable for a while late last year, but we may be entering the endgame now. And I may get to learn the wonders of subcutaneous fluid administration! We'll be back for another check in July, so then we'll find out if this was just a temporary spike or an indication of things to come.

On the positive side, she's doing much better on her Utility training, so if she stays physically up for it, we'll be entering the upcoming trial in Dallas over the July 4th weekend. She's been working on Utility for so long, it'd really be a shame if she had to stop showing before getting a leg, so I'm really hoping for some good results this time around.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Live-blogging the Lost Finale

I'm hoping for great things here, after a pretty great season.
  • Jeremy Benthem? =thumbs through mental Lost encyclopedia= Not ringing any bells here. Although the quick arrival of one of The Answers is refreshing.
  • I know it's iconic at this point, but I keep waiting for them to hide something in the opening title swoop somewhere - like The X-Files used to do.
  • that device wasn't a remote detonator, after all? Maybe it was a Smokey Repellent? And what triggers the bomb?
  • On a news promo: "The cost of solving the recycling problem here in Austin - tonight at 10." Huh? Austin has a recycling problem? What does that even mean?
  • When is Locke going to tell someone about his walking (or lack thereof)? Oh, and Locke sure sounds confident - that usually means he's about to fall on his face.
  • Uhhhh - how is freezing the battery different than removing the battery? =thumbs through mental MacGyver encyclopedia=
  • You know, Miles should be an annoying character - but I like him for some reason.
  • I know I'd want that helicopter door closed if I was sitting on the side, seat belt or no seat belt.
  • Well, well - Lost comes through with a real surprise here. Keamy (is that his name?) comes for round two. That device was a detonator; so why did he only tell Ben about it now? Wouldn't it have been better to do it earlier?
  • Wow - did we just see Ben lose control? That's only the second time I think we've seen that. And Ben's response - "So" - exactly right. Why would Keamy think Ben would care about the boat blowing up?
  • Why exactly was Charlotte on this trip again? Is she the Rousseau replacement?
  • I wonder - could they have dumped the explosives overboard? (Not that I'm expecting them to do that - that bomb's going off one way or another.)
  • "I'm telling you I don't see the boat!" "Well then keep looking!" That Jack - a font of useful advice.
  • Oh no - uh, oh. Bye Sawyer. Whew - he's still alive (for the moment).
  • Benthem's an alias? Sigh - still no straight answers.
  • Somewhere, a geek is now analyzing Hurley's chess board setup.
  • Why don't they strap the heart monitor to someone else? You know, someone who's not dying?
  • Why is Jin staying behind? To stare intelligently at the battery? I didn't know he was in management.
  • So who've we got on the chopper? All of the Oceanic 6, plus Desmond and the pilot? And that's it?
  • I'm getting flashbacks to one of the season finales of Farscape - the one where Cricton is left stranded in space when Moya disappears.
  • Surely they all saw the boat blow from the island, rignt? Yep, I guess so.
  • Looks like ABC has not one (Wipeout) but two (I Survived A Japanese Game Show) knockoffs of MXC in the works for the summer. I was wondering when that would start happening.
  • Well, shit. He did it. By turning a wheel. This show is all kinds of fucked up.
  • Jack should've said "See, I got you off the island. Happy now?"
  • I'm kind of surprised about how they decided to use Claire as some kind of "special" character here, considering how little she seems to have been used in general (except as mother of Aaron). It's kind of like choosing Rose to be important out of the blue.
  • Oh yeah - I forgot about Penny. Too many balls to keep track of here.
  • So wow - season four will be without Jin, Michael, Desmond, Ben, Frank, ...
  • Uh oh...Octogon Global Recruiting? Here goes another "Expanded Experience" full of clues that 99% of the fans won't find out about. Oh well, I'll just read the summary at the end of the game to see what I missed.
  • Just a few minutes left - they still need to tell us who's in the coffin....and well, that was the most likely choice, really, if it wasn't Ben.

So, all in all, a season finale that really didn't have too many shocks in it, at least for people that have paid attention this year. Basically all of the moving parts had been announced - time travel, the Oceanic six identities, the moving island, the bomb on the boat, Jin's death - and so things unfolded mostly as expected. Really the only surprises were Keamy's reappearance (but not his ultimate death), and the identity of Jeremy Benthem, and even those weren't huge surprises.

But man, the show made it all work, all through this season. I just can't believe how much better things went this season compared to last season - remember back when the writers just decided to get weird and obscure (Fish Biscuits, anyone)? Not too much of that this season - we kept the plotline moving along, kept the threats and pressure up, and got plenty of reveals (but not everything) of the future. And several good setups for next season as well. I'd sure like to think 24 will turn things around like this after its lackluster last season, but the signs don't point to yes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The World's Smallest Violin

Via KLBJ-AM, we get word of a walkout by workers to protest some policy about vacation days. Walkouts like this are used to try to garner public sympathy for the plight of the lowly worker.

But these workers have two problems; first, they work in Texas, which is not exactly a hotbed of union activity. (Which probably helps explain how we've been weathering the current economic woes better than most states.)

But the second PR problem is bigger. They work for the Internal Revenue Service.

Oh yeah - I know I feel sorry for them.

In fact, I'd like for more of them to have more days off - maybe all of their days off. Permanently.

A Cracking Bad Idea

Via Instapundit comes word that a British MP has proposed carbon rationing. You see, you only get to buy as much gas or energy as you have credits for that year, and then you are cut off unless you buy some more. And we all know (well, we conservatives know) what rationing does to the supply - that's right, it causes it to dry up.

Even San Francisco hasn't gone this far - yet.

However, the main reason I'm linking is because of one of the commenters on the page.

I have read some tripe in my time but this really takes the biscuit.

Hmm, I wonder if this is a British story?
It sounds even better if you imagine it in Wallace's voice.

No, Really - That's Her Name

Via KLBJ-AM comes word of a survey of Austin library workers. Apparently, less than fifty percent of them feel "safe" at work.

I've been to several different library branches around the city, and I have noticed some differences. There are some, like the Milwood branch closest to me, that are in a standalone building with open parking, and tables and statues outside. Then there are others that are located inside other buildings (and so have two levels of locked doors to get through), and at least one that is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence that is locked at night.

So I can see where workers in some areas might feel unsafe.

My solution would be simple: at those branches where workers report security issues, post a police officer by the door. Leave him there for three months. If problems persist, close the branch down. Well, maybe leave it open from say, 3-6 PM for after-school use by kids, but if the kids are the problem, then just close it down completely. Libraries are a privilege, not a right, and if your neighborhood can not handle having nice things, then no nice things shall you have.

However, I didn't link to this story to rant about Austin neighborhoods. No, I linked to it because of the name of the Austin Director of Libraries.

Brenda Branch.

Hah - who says this city doesn't have a sense of humor?

Monday, May 26, 2008

DVD Spending Tab XI

Wow, I've really slowed down my DVD purchases this year - only my second one.

The Myth with Jackie Chan - $4.00 at Half-Price Books 20% off sale.

Total for the year: 2 movies, $9.40 total.

Movie Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Wow, talk about your useless remakes. Sure, we got a lot of crappy remakes each year, mostly low-budget slasher crap (like the recent Prom Night). But this one was a big money movie with a somewhat big-name director and a big-name top-line star (although no one else other than standard Burton cast member Helena Bonham Carter had a name I recognized). But here, there was almost nothing that was done better than the original movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and a whole lot that was done worse.

Among the changes: a stranger, more childlike Willy Wonka, courtesy of Johnny Depp (with none of the whimsy or menace of Gene Wilder's version); new, more bombastic Oompa-Loompa songs; a new sub-plot showing Wonka's estrangement from and reconciliation with his dentist father (a wasted Christopher Lee); and a few new extended effects sequences not present in the original. None of these changes were for the better. In between, we got pretty much exactly the same plot points as in the original - the same kids doing the same stuff and getting the same just desserts. Oh, except for Charlie's near death at the hands of a rotating fan, which was removed. And the whole sub-plot of Charlie's deciding at the end not to reveal Wonka's secrets was removed, as well.

Which brings up the question - what's the point of all this again?

Not all was a waste. I did like the squirrel attack on Veruca that substituted for the goose scene. And whoever assembled Violet's mother's face did a great job of creating a nightmare version of a cheerleader mom - it hurt just looking at it. But almost everything else here is a misfire. Two stars at best - just stick with the original.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Movie Review: The Prestige

In the battle of dueling Victorian magicians, I'd definitely give the nod to The Prestige over The Illusionist. In particular, I thought The Prestige did a better job of keeping things somewhat in the realm of the possible, if not plausible. Each of the two magicians here went to basically superhuman lengths to create the ultimate trick, and one of them involved a science-fiction leap forward (courtesy of a nearly unrecognizable David Bowie as Nikola Tesla). But it was a gimmick that was at least plausible in the film's universe, while Eisenhiem's nearly holographic phantoms at the end of The Illusionist just seemed beyond what was possible technically in that film's universe.

Which is not to say there were no shortcomings here. The movie seemed to go to great lengths to keep its big reveal at the end unmentioned - it was only shown for a split-second before a smash cut to black and the credits - but it was pretty clear what was going on and just what lengths Angier had decided to go to in order to claim his "victory" over Borden. The opening of the film had the opposite problem - like several of Christopher Nolan's other films, this one jumped back and forth between several timelines before converging at the end. Here, it led to some confusion, simply because I hadn't gotten all of the characters' situations straight at that time. Less confusing than Momento, to be sure, but also not confusing in a good way.

Still, I like these kind of films, with two characters going at it to one-up each other all the way to the end, and this one was very well done. And with Bale, Jackman, Caine and Johansson, this was certainly a good cast. All in all, a very enjoyable film. Four stars.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Extra Big-Mouth Bass

Second strangest news I've heard today: there is a World Fishing Network TV channel.

First strangest news I've heard today: it is now available in High-Def.

(Oh, and third-strangest news: I made it to 300 posts.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Movie Review: Twin Dragons

A relatively generic spot in the list of Jackie Chan movies, but still with its moments if you stick around until the end. It fits in well with his other films from this period (the Police Story and Armour of God films) - stretches of broad comedy where Jackie has to put up with romantic mishaps and troublesome companions, occasionally interrupted with jaw-dropping stunt/fight scenes set in environments with lots of items to throw/dodge/hide behind.

In this one, the gimmick is that there are two Jackie characters - twins separated at birth. One grew up on the streets to become a scammer and a fighter, while the other became a conductor and concert pianist. They inevitably meet up in Hong Kong, where the fighter has just run afoul of some other bad guys, and the conductor has arrived for a concert. The usual set of mistaken identity hijinks ensue, and run far longer than really needed. (I also get a chance here to rant about actors attempting to fake piano playing. It's a hard thing to get to look right, so I don't know why directors think they can just sit an actor in front of a piano and have him massage the keys for a few seconds and have it look good. I give this film a little slack, because it was just a goofy Jackie Chan film, but still - directors, just say no to fake piano playing!)

For whatever reason (maybe because this was a for-charity production), there is really only one big set piece here, occurring at the very end. The two Jackies work together to rescue the useless companion character from the bad guys. However, considering that we had to wait a while to get there, the sequence ends up being well worth the wait. After starting out with cranes at a dock, the action moves into a vehicle test facility, giving Jackie and thugs (and Jackie #2) opportunities to play around with environmental test rooms, vehicle test robots and crash test runners. It's not too dissimilar from the sequence in the airplane test facility in Armour of God 2, and shows off Jackie's (and his stunt team's) talents very well.

I can't really slag this film too hard, just because I did enjoy the last sequence (and because I'm a sucker for Jackie Chan films). But the middle section means this can't get more than a middling three stars.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Narrative Takes Shape

A Detroit caller to C-SPAN's Washington Journal show this morning, on the "Supports Clinton" line, stated that if Michigan delegates were not seated at the Democratic National Convention this fall, he would be voting for Senator McCain as a protest vote.

Two following callers on the "Supports Obama" line then referenced that caller, saying that there was racism involved in that decision. Even though he explicitly stated why he would vote for McCain, a reason that had nothing to do with race.

I'm afraid this is now the argument going forward. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why one might support McCain or (gulp) Clinton over Obama. But that doesn't matter - if you don't support Obama, it's because you are a racist. If you attack Obama in any way, you will be accused of racial swift-boating.

And given the formal announcement of CNN's surrender to Obamamania, it follows that the media will be more than willing to bring that argument to the masses. I don't see how McCain can possibly be subtle enough to get any reasonable arguments through this screen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Signs Of Summer

Well, with the passing of the NFL Draft, the predictable slide of the Mavericks in the playoffs, and the Texas Rangers already being mathematically eliminated from post-season play, it must be getting close to summer.

And based on this list of films coming out, I might actually have to see a few.

Let's see, what's on the list that I'm looking forward to?

The Forbidden Kingdom - Not surprising given my past fandom of Jackie Chan, so it's good to see one of his films getting positive word-of-mouth, and not just from his existing fans.

Iron Man - This one was mildly on the radar, but seems to be getting all good buzz, so I'll probably be talked into seeing it.

WallE - for sure. I don't know that this will be as big as the list's author thinks, but it sure would be great if it did.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Man, I hope this works out. Harrison Ford hasn't been on the national radar in years.

The Dark Knight - The trailers for this absolutely rock, and I hope that all of the focus on the Joker means that Two-Face will hit us all with a surprise left hook.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - The first movie was pleasant enough, but didn't really blow me away. The buzz is stronger around the sequel, though.

That's a few more movies than I'm usually interested in plunking down real money to see.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Austin City Council Endorsements

And now the first quasi-annual A Site To Be Named Later Endorsements for the upcoming Austin city council elections.

We begin with the process of elimination. First, I automatically remove from consideration any incumbents, unless they have specifically done something positive to prove to me they aren't an idiot. I generally just assume any person who makes it to the city council immediately loses 20 IQ points upon taking the oath, and then gets another 10-20 points drummed out of them over the course of their first term. I don't particularly remember any positive Lee Leffingwell stories, and that plucky little Jennifer Kim has proven to be a moron on a number of occasions, so they are both out. Betty Dunkerley is not running in Place 4.

Second, I remove anyone endorsed by the Austin Chronicle. The Comical is a pretty fair distillation of the local moonbattery, so anyone they think would be a good choice has got to be looked at with suspicion. Anyone they discount for pro-business or pro-sanity reasons gets an upgrade. This year, they have endorsed Lee Leffingwell, and have positive things to say about the other two candidates. One of them is the former spokesman for the drooling moonbats at Responsible Growth [sic] for Northcross, the group that tried to levitate Northcross Mall and the Austin City Hall. With their minds.

So basically, no endorsement for Place 1.

For Place 3, they one. Hey, that's my shtick! No help there.

For Place 4, they endorse Laura Morrison, so she's out. Robin Cravey is described by the Comical as an "attorney-poet" and "environmental activist" - oooh, that's what I want looking after my taxes. They have some lukewarm things to say about Cid Galindo, but not enough to automatically mark him off.

So now, I have to actually look at the remaining candidates.

For Place 3, we have left Randi Shade and Ken Weiss. Ken Weiss appears to be the newcomer here, with National Guard and small business experience; while Shade is the more politico of the two. Not a big fan of Shade's moratorium on nuclear power, but she does claim (at least claim) to oppose conversion of existing roads to toll roads. I'm going to give it to Shade here, but just by a Shade.

For Place 4, we have left Cid Galindo, Ken Vasseau, Sam Osemene, and the human enigma that is Jennifer [sic] Gale. Ken Vasseau and Sam Osemene essentially have no web presence, so I can't particularly tell anything about their positions. By contrast, I know more about Jennifer Gale than I want to - please make it go away. Cid Galindo's main proposal seems to be to encourage development in specific "town centers", many of which are located in East Austin. This is, at least on the surface, a great idea - there's so much open space out east that just isn't being used. So wow, I may actually have a candidate I can be a little optimistic about.

So there you are:

Place 1 - no endorsement
Place 3 - Randi Shade
Place 4 - Cid Galindo

Oh, and by the way, I'm opposed to all of the school bond propositions. Although AISD is finally doing something I can get behind - namely, talking about closing down low-performing schools -I'm not quite prepared to reward them with more money. I have no illusions, though - in this tax-happy city, all proposals will easily pass.