Thursday, December 21, 2006

Much Belated Movie Reviews

My Super Ex-Girlfriend: Mediocre romantic comedy about an average guy (Luke Wilson) who starts dating a neurotic girl who just happens to be a superhero with the unwieldy name of G-Girl (Uma Thurman) -- an unstable superhero who makes his life a living hell when he breaks up with her. Not as bad as I had feared after I saw the underwhelming trailers, but not as good as the potential of the premise either. Rainn Wilson (Dwight on The Office) is funny as Luke's shallow friend, although the shallowness goes a bit overboard during the final act. An okay movie with enough amusing parts to make it not a total waste of my time. Heck, if nothing else, it was worth it for those moments when Luke Wilson's facial expressions made me finally understand why some folks keep asking Shack-Fu "Did anyone ever tell you that you look like that Luke Wilson guy?"

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: Will Ferrell vehicle (pun not intended) about the meteoric rise, fall, and re-rise of NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby. Ferrell’s films can be hit or miss with me; this one was definitely a hit. Kudos to Leslie Bibb for being completely unrecognizable to me as Ricky's golddigging wife until the end credits ran; quite a departure from her Popular and ER days. If you're a fan of Ferrell, you'll probably like it; if not, then much less likely.

A Scanner Darkly: Semi-animated adaptation of Philip K. Dick's anti-drug novel about an undercover narcotics agent in the near future who has gotten hooked on the very substance he's trying to stamp out. I read the novel back in junior high, so I can't really speak to how closely this hews to the source material, although most reviews seem to point this out as one of the most faithful of all PKD adaptations*. This is an odd film, both in terms of format (rotoscoped animation of live action, much like the director's earlier film Waking Life) and content (lots and lots and lots of drug-addled musings), but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as the paranoid and manipulative Barris, and the scene where Freck (Rory Cochrane) attempts suicide while a disembodied voice narrates was one of the highlights of the film. I give it high marks, but it's most definitely not for everyone.

Ice Age 2: Entertaining sequel which follows the ragtag cast as they try to escape an impending flood caused by melting of the ice. Not quite as good as the first, perhaps, but still loads better than most of the animated films floating around out there.

The Barnyard: Animated film from the creator of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius about a goof-off young cow who has to grow up fast when he is thrust into a leadership role after the death of his father. This one was much, much, much, much better than I had expected; think in my head I kept confusing it with Home on the Range, but even so, the trailers for The Barnyard definitely didn't do it justice. The film is worth it for sequence where the animals try to convince the farmer that he was hallucinating alone.

Mozart and the Whale: Interesting romantic dramedy about a relationship between two people with Aspberger's Syndrome (Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell). I can't speak to the validity of the portrayal of people with AS (there's been some controversy there), but I can speak to the quality of the writing and acting, which were both high. It made me laugh, it made me tear up, it made me want to recommend it to others. Can't ask for much more than that.

*For the uninitiated, Philip K. Dick is responsible for the stories that inspired Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, Imposter and the classic Blade Runner.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It Would Have Been a Much Shorter Post if I had Asked "Where Did They Go Right?"

I was going to do a bunch of mini-reviews, but have found that I have just too much to say about The Wicker Man, so we'll just have a lengthy rant about that instead.

Warning: spoilers about both this and the original version abound below, so if you want to go into either one with even a modicum of surprise waiting for you, best to skip this for now.

So, the biggest question that has to be asked about this laughable remake of the cult classic about a police officer who hunts for a missing girl among a secluded island community of pagans is this: where did they go wrong?

Man, where to start?


(1) The Protagonist: Early on it became obvious that Officer Edward Malus (Nicholas Cage) was going to be a totally different sort of character than the original film's Sgt. Neil Howie (Edward Woodward), with Howie being a devout, humorless Christian, and Malus being a worldly, wisecracking smartass. On the one hand, I can appreciate the desire to change the characterization to set the two films apart, and in the end it turns out that the different characterization has more of an impact on the over all plot than you might think. Plus, they at least had the good decency to change the character name to solidify the break. But on the other hand, it was Howie's religious and moral outrage over the prevalence of paganism in this community that propelled the original, and removing that motivation definitely affected the film, mostly in a negative way. This was most evident during those sequences when they obviously cribbed Cage's dialogue directly from the original; anytime Malus would go from mocking the locals to stridently attacking their moral fiber, the cognitive dissonance would throw me right out of the film. When Sgt. Howie venomously called the room full of school girls a bunch of liars in the original, there was some weight behind it because it was obvious that this man held the Ten Commandments in high esteem and couldn’t even begin to fathom what would motivate these school girls to act in such a way; when Malus does the same thing, it does little other than elicit laughter over how idiotic the words sound coming out of his mouth.

(2) The Motivation: Both versions revolve around a cop obsessively searching for a little girl while an entire community stonewalls him, and in both films it’s all part of an elaborate ritual that culminates in the specially selected police officer's death. However, the reasons for the obsession, as well as the reasons for the cop's selection, are different in each. In the original, Howie searches for the girl for no other reason than that's the kind of man he is – a dogged, faithful upholder of law and order and morality, and it's that very nature that lends to him being selected, since it also resulted in him being a virgin. In the remake, Malus searches because (a) he let another girl die (more on that in a second) and (b) he's asked by an old girlfriend, who later reveals that (c) the missing girl is his daughter. So much for that whole "virgin" thing this time around, eh? In fact, it turns out that it's his fathering of the child that has marked him for death, since their sacrifice had to be "linked by blood." So, Howie: killed for his virginity; Malus: killed for his lack of it. In this case, it's probably more a matter of preference than anything else, but I hated the intrusion of the "jilted lover and lovechild" motif into the plot. Yes, it may have made the connection between Malus and the island more tangible than in the original, but it also made all the scenes where Willow is begging him for help but not giving him any information more ludicrous.

(3) The Car Crash: As pretty much anyone who saw the trailer for the remake knows, early on in the film Malus fails to save a mother and daughter from getting killed in a car wreck, and yet their bodies are never found. The film intimates that the whole car wreck was orchestrated to prepare Malus for the ritual, but never logically establishes how this was possible; you just get the reveal of them at the island during the end and are supposed to think "A-ha! It was all a plot!" with the hope being that you never stop to question "Wait, how did they rig it so that the semi would come and smash into them at just the right moment? And how did they escape from the burning, exploding car? And was any of this really necessary, since we already had the former lover/missing lovechild motivator to play on?" Senseless contrivance with little payoff.

(4) The Tavern Keeper: Don’t get me wrong: Diane Delano is a great comedic actress, and many times she was even able to add some pathos and dramatic weight to these roles, such as Bobbie Glass on Popular. But, great as she is, her acting style was totally incompatible with this film. Totally. There was not a single scene in which I bought her as a member of the island community, and that just made me sad. Horrible miscasting, and Delano deserves better. I'm sure this only bothered me and nobody else, but it bothered me quite a bit.

(5) The Religion: Whether it sprang from an attempt not to alienate pagan groups or an effort to do something different, I don't know, but the remake took the original idea of a modern day pagan culture and turned it into some odd bee-worshiping cult which cuts out the tongues of its men and uses them only for labor and stud purposes. And yet, they kept a lot of the trappings of the pagan motifs from the original, a incongruous mixture of ideas which struck me as incompatible with each other. I think my biggest problem is that the bee-centered culture was a bit too on the nose in terms of trying to show how different the islanders were; the original was much more unsettling by being much more subtle. As a matter of fact, I probably could have boiled this whole review down to the following: "Original -- subtle. Remake -- not so much." Oh, well, too late now; we’re in the home stretch.

(6) The "Danger": There's the subtle/unsubtle disconnect again. The original film didn't feel the need to cram a sense of danger down the audience's throat by manufacturing life-or-death situations; the whole film was a slow building of tension, culminating in Howie's infiltration of the May Day festivities and their brutal end. The remake, however, couldn't leave well enough alone, so it added little bits of "danger" to spice things up: Malus almost falling through a trap door; Malus getting locked in an underwater crypt; Malus stumbling into a bee hive and then, despite being highly allergic, running forward into more bee hives instead of back towards the road, tripping and falling four or five times along the way. Two out of the three were just Malus being a moron, and the other made no sense. Pointless filler, just pointless. I'm of two minds about the death of the airplane pilot; on the one hand, it helped show just how little regard the community had for life outside of themselves, especially when it was a male life; on the other hand, I was put off by the inherent cruelty of the island women. For me, the first film worked so well because it was obvious that the islanders were only going through these motions as a last resort, and felt no ill will towards Howie; in fact, they implied that he should feel honored to be offered up as a sacrifice. Their cheery countenances were a lot creepier than the capital-e Evil women of the remake who took perverse pleasure in using and abusing the males they encountered. Oh, and the three islanders popping up in animal masks in the distance and then popping down again during the pilot sequence? In the original, when Howie just finds his plane wrecked, it was creepy; here, following the discovery of a mutilated body, it was instead laughable due to how out of place it felt.

(7) The Final Act of the Film: Despite all of my previous complaints, I really didn't think this was a really bad film until we reached the final act and Malus's infiltration of the festival. Cage pulling a gun on Alma Garret from Deadwood to steal her bicycle made me roll my eyes; Cage punching out Diane Delano made me chuckle a little bit in a "wow, he didn't even stop to think about hitting a woman" sort of way; but it wasn't until Cage karate-kicked Leelee Sobieski into the wall that I realized that we were venturing into a whole new plane of unintentional comedy. I swear to you that I will vigilantly scour YouTube and MySpace for a video clip of this moment, because mere words cannot describe the shear over-the-top nature of the scene. It was pretty much all down-hill from there; honestly, do you think the director had any clue just how hilarious watching Nic Cage sucker-punch a succession women was going to be? And I'm sure some of you are thinking "That doesn't sound funny, that sounds horrible!" but you gotta trust me on this one: comedy gold. As funny as that was, though, it was nothing -- nothing, I say -- compared to Cage’s line readings during the inexplicable torture sequence at the end. The torture itself was bad enough, not in an "ooo, it's so graphic" sort of way, but in a "why the heck are they doing this?" sort of way. Hobbling him, I can almost understand, but slapping a mask on him and then funneling bees into it? What the frak? They’re getting ready to burn the man alive, do they really need to send him into anaphylactic shock and then stick him with an eppi-pen first? But I couldn't even get too outraged over the senselessness of it all, due to Cage's impassioned cries of "Oh, my legs! You broke my legs!" or "Ah, my eyes! The bees are in my eyes!" It's like the director was suddenly possessed by the spirit of Ed Wood. Pitiful, just pitiful.

In the end, I have to say that I'm glad I watched the movie, since it made me laugh more than some comedies I’ve seen recently (I’m looking at you, Robin Hood; Men in Tights); oh, how I would love to see the MST3K folks get a hold of this one. But, if you're looking for a well-written, intelligent, suspenseful horror flick, then you'd best look elsewhere, because there's nothing for you here.


It's Also Why I'm an Only Child

I plan on getting some movie reviews up before the end of the day* but in the meantime, please head over to my mom's blog and find out all about how her bending over to pick up a pencil 36 years ago is sort of responsible for me being here today.

*Here's a teaser: the new Wicker Man? Unintentional comedy gold


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cast List in Beta Testing

If you head over here you can see the rough beginnings of my new cast list page. And when I say rough, I mean rough; only have a few brief character sketches up, and the overall layout is a work in progress. But, since I've been promising an updated cast list for ages, I figured I might as well put the work in progress out there to show that I am actually making a bit of headway after all.


Sadly, No Shots of Me with a Facemask Covered in Paint

During the lull in between our two scenarios on Sunday, The Sniper took a few pictures.

Front row: Fearless Leader Juliet, The Sarge, PigPen, The Ghost
Back row: The Sniper, Shack-Fu, the previously unmentioned Tango, Cookies, Cap'n Neurotic

I honestly didn't think I was in this shot when he took it.


Sorry: Just Had To Get This Out of My System

So, after a particularly rambunctious Sunday School class this past week*, wherein PigPen and Shack-Fu seemed to feed off each other's hyperactive natures**, I began to think about returning to the conceit of my Earth K posts*** if for no other reason than so I could chronicle the adventures of those kings of kinetics; those dukes of dynamism; those earls of energy; those barons of boisterousness; those princes of perpetual motion; those archdukes of activity; those sultans of spiritedness ; those viscounts of vim, vigor, and vitality; those czars of zippiness****; the Distracted Duo themselves, The Hyper Twins*****!

*Seriously, anyone know where I can get a good deal on a tranq gun?
**Honestly, if we could only harness their power, there would never be another energy crisis
***Actually, it was just post, singular, not posts, plural, due to that particular muse taking a powder back to Earth-K
****Regretfully, the "czars" waz a bit of a ztretch, but I juzt had to work "zippy" in there zomehow.
*****Admittedly, I've probably run to this well once too often, but once the idea took root, it had to be executed -- of course, "executed" might be an all-too apropos word after Shack-Fu and PigPen see this.


Monday, December 18, 2006

A Very Paintball Xmas Pt.2: Nothing Says Xmas Like Getting Shot by Your Sunday School Teacher

After a pretty disastrous first game (from my P.O.V. at least; I'm sure the SEALs team was fine with it), Shack-Fu rearranged teams a bit and set us up on an Elimination game. This time around I was with The Sniper and our team leader, another veteran player who, for lack of a better nickname I shall be calling Fearless Leader Juliet.* The Sniper set up in a nice ambush spot, with the idea being that Fearless Leader Juliet and I would draw the opposing team past him, but that unfortunately never came to fruition. Instead, our fearless leader tried his best to coach me through the action, which I again attacked in a typical "bull in a china shop" fashion -- grace, thy name is not Todd, but klutziness, thy name may very well be.

Still, I was feeling a lot better about this scenario and its much more straightforward setup - - kill 'em all and let Shack-Fu sort 'em out - - despite the fact that my not-so-stellar vision was being worsened by the one-two combo of fogged up glasses and safety visor. Surprisingly enough, not being able to see worth a damn is a bit of a detriment to effective paintballing - - who knew?

My first exchange of fire with the opposing team ended with my getting hit in the left wrist. I called for a paint-check, which should have stopped the action, but some over-zealous soul on the other team kept firing and pelted my fearless leader. Fortunately, the hit on him was ruled null; unfortunately, The Sarge confirmed that I was muerte, so I retired to our base flag to get out of the way of the action. Soon after, our fearless leader was nailed in the back by PigPen, who was perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about his first kill of the day ("I got him, I got him in the back! I saw that puppy break!"). After a brief period of inactivity, Shack-Fu decided to start respawning players. I, being the first out on my team, was first back. Shack-Fu counseled me to move forward, and I advanced on what turned out to be Cookies (a.k.a. Squiggly). Our encounter went like this:

Me: Surrender!
Cookies: Don't shoot!
Shack-Fu: [shouting] Shoot at him, Cookies!
Me: [startled, pulls trigger]
Cookies: Ow! You shot me!

In my defense . . . okay, I have no defense; I'm a bad, bad Sunday School teacher.

After shooting a harmless player who was trying to surrender, I fell back to my respawned leader's side. After Fearless Leader Juliet instructed me to take up position behind some cover on the hillside, Shack-Fu announced that there would be no more respawning. I suppose I should mention at this point that my teammates had apparently been able to bump off members of the other team as well, since they were having to spawn back in along with us, but who got hit when by whom is totally out of my knowledge base; all I knew was that none of the hits were from me. Anyway, somehow through the haze of my fogged lenses, I was able to make out some enemy shapes across the trail and opened fire. At first, their return fire was exploding in the branches around me, but not hitting me, but I soon heard a thud, followed by PigPen shouting that he had hit my gun's hopper; fortunately, a hit on the hopper is not considered a fatality in Shack-Fu's rules. Or, maybe that should be unfortunately, as PigPen, upon being informed that I was still a viable target, yelled out "Okay," opened fire again, and then hit me right on the right knuckles**. I shouted "I'm out!" and stalked back to my home base past Shack-Fu, who asked if I was okay; I managed to get out a quavering "I'm fine" before continuing my dejected walk back.

At that point I was frustrated; not as frustrated as I would have been if I had known at that moment that PigPen had managed to hit me with his very last round of ammo, but frustrated nonetheless. You see, somehow, towards the end of that game, some switch had gotten thrown in my head, and I actually started to get into it; I stopped thinking in terms of "What did I let Shack-Fu talk me into," and started thinking in terms of "I'm going to go kill me one of them there [expletives deleted]." So of course, no sooner do I get into the spirit of things, then I get knocked out for good. As far as emotional rollercoasters go, that one was a pretty steep rise and drop. I did receive a quick pick-me-up as, from a distance, I witnessed PigPen once again living up to his name, this time by failing to safely traverse the deceptively deep muddy puddle in his path; I know he was trying to clear it, but from my P.O.V. it looked like he dove straight into it.

I'm still a little unclear on what exactly happened at the end of that game; all I know for sure is that The Ghost came charging down the hill where I had previously been stationed, firing on Fearless Leader Juliet and rushing past The Sniper, who yelled out "Surrender!" as The Ghost zipped by. The Ghost didn't respond, so The Sniper opened fire, striking The Ghost multiple times; but, since The Ghost never called out that he was hit, The Sniper kept firing, thinking to himself "Why won't you die?!?!?!" The Ghost fired off one last shot, hitting the Sniper in the face mask, and then decided that it was time to give up.*** I'm assuming that The Ghost was the last member of the other team still standing, since gameplay stopped right after that, but how the others got eliminated, I haven't the foggiest. Thus, the perils of narration by a combatant are evidenced.

By that point it was starting to get late so we packed it in and headed back to the vehicles, where I apologized to Cookies for shooting her earlier. Her response? "That was you?!?!?! That's it, you're not getting any cookies!"

When oh when will I learn to keep my mouth shut?

A few of us headed to Jack in the Box afterwards. Since Cookies had left her purse back at Shack-Fu's house, I offered to cover her; she's determined to pay me back, but I, horribly repentant for my shameful actions during the game, shall not allow it, thus managing to assuage my guilt for under $5; not a bad price for penance, huh?

So, in the end, what was my impression of my first official day of paintballing? To be honest, I'm still processing. I wouldn't say it was a fun day, per se; the combo of my competitive nature (which most of the Singles have yet to really witness, methinks) mixed with frustration and embarrassment over my general cluelessness and lack of skill pretty much took their toll on me. And yet, there at the end that switch got thrown, and for a brief moment my outlook shifted - - until PigPen sent me crashing back down to earth, but, hey, what else are roommates for?

Of course, I realize that whether I enjoyed myself or not is a moot point; much like an unsuspecting fool who unwittingly invites a vampire into his home, my partaking in paintball a single time has left me vulnerable to Count Shackula's mind-jitsu. Why, just last night I was thinking to myself how it was too bad my parents have already done my Christmas shopping before I could ask for any paintball supplies . . .

Curse you, Shack-Fu! Get out of my head!

*After Squiggly was dubbed Cookies, talk had turned to their usual tactic of nicknaming people according to the first letter of their name and the corresponding call-sign from the International Code of Signals. J=Juliet. Sorry, dude.
**Note to self: Ouchie; buy gloves before you let yourself get dragged out again.
***Yes, there was a "give up the ghost" pun floating around in there somewhere; no I didn't feel like making it; yes, I know referring to it now is kind of a waste of your time; no, I don't feel sorry for that.


A Very Paintball Xmas Pt.1: "I Should Be Making Cookies. With Sprinkles"

After our venture into the world of paintball a couple of weeks ago, PigPen, The Anti-Cap'n, and I were invited to a Christmas party at Shack-Fu's house yesterday for the paintball crew, a party which was to be followed by an afternoon of war games. The Anti-Cap'n had to work, but PigPen and I were able to make it. Now, I'm pretty sure my commitment to actually participating in a paintball game after the last time was of a "possibly maybe at some point in the future I might, conceivably, briefly entertain the notion of considering perhaps doing so" nature; however, in Shack-Fu Land, that apparently translates into "Oh, yeah, I'm totally in, man, totally! Wooooo! Wolverines!" and he therefore spent all day telling people that I had promised to engage in battle. And, once Shack-Fu is able to block out the shiny objects and focus enough to get his mind set on something, it's difficult to dissuade him, as evidenced by his hard sell to Squiggly at church, first brow-beating her into skipping her plans for the day - baking cookies and playing the violin - and instead attending the party. After she agreed to that, he was just a hop, skip and a nag from getting her to participate as well.

Shack-Fu had gotten some random paintball supplies to give away in a drawing, and I was lucky enough to win something called a “butt plate,” which really isn’t nearly as dirty as it sounds. And, as talk turned to the upcoming carnage, Shack-Fu kept making not-so-veiled threats about gunning for me in the games, prompting me to oh-so-innocently ask loudly “Gee, Shack-Fu, just because I told the whole world how you got your butt kicked by a girl is no reason to hold a grudge.” Not surprisingly, this lead to loud catcalls from all of the paintball crew who had up until that point missed out on the story of Fluffy repealing Shack-Fu’s man-card.

I wonder if that had anything to do with how he set up the first mission . . .

Once the party was over (and after a far too lengthy quest for some camo pants which would fit me and my cursed, ever-expanding waist) we headed out to the paintball field. Squiggly rode out with me, and spent most of the drive trying to fight off Shack-Fu's Jedi mind tricks by reciting what was to be her mantra for the rest of the day: "I should be making cookies. I should be making cookies. I should be making cookies. With sprinkles." But, alas, the brainwashing was too powerful, and Squiggly and I were thrust into Shack-Fu's world.

I had expected for us to ease into things with a game of Capture the Flag or Elimination like before, but Shack-Fu decided to jump right into a full-fledged role playing scenario from the get-go. This time it was a rescue mission, with The Sarge playing a wounded ship's captain in possession of vital intelligence but stranded in enemy territory. One team would be the Navy SEALs, sent in to extract her; the other team would be the enemy troops, tasked with trying to either capture her first or eliminate all of the SEALs. Much to my surprise, when it came to splitting up the teams, Shack-Fu divvied us up 5-3, with the SEALs being five seasoned players, and the enemy troops being an experienced player (PigPen) and two novices (Squiggly and me).

Now, I’m sure in Shack-Fu's head, this arrangement made perfect sense. As he envisioned it, the SEALs objective was to rescue The Sarge, and they would therefore focus on getting her back and not on eliminating us, so that any direct conflict should have been dictated by us. Or at least that's how he explained it to us. However, what he apparently didn't take into consideration was just how ill-equipped we (and by we, I mean I) were to start off on a mission which required racing up and down steep hills in unfamiliar terrain; trying to harry targets at a long distance across a pond with little to no experience firing a gun of any sort; and moving silently through insidious brambles without being picked off by The Sniper in his gilly suit. It also didn't help matters that our team's game started off like this: Shack-Fu, once again in the role of facilitator, comes running up, motions for us to speed after him up the steep hill, points out The Sarge across the pond, asks to borrow PigPen's gun, and then, without warning, opens fire on the other team. This results in my first piece of paintball action as oneof the SEALs returns fire and pelts me right in the temple. Despite the solid hit, the ball didn't break, and neither did the next two or three which also made contact while I was still trying to process what was going on ("Wait, is someone throwing tiny rocks at me?"), so I wasn't out - - just out of it.

Maybe bringing up the Fluffy story earlier hadn’t been the best idea . . .

From my end of things, that whole first campaign was a total mess, due to miscommunication and misunderstandings between Shack-Fu and PigPen* regarding the scenario rules and objectives. This disconnect between the two of them lead to almost every decision team leader PigPen made being second-guessed by Shack-Fu in a “Don’t you think it would be better if you did this instead?” sort of way, which lead to me feeling vaguely uncomfortable in a “Why are mommy and daddy fighting?” sort of way.** Honestly, the only moment in the first game where I felt even marginally useful was when I managed to spot The Sniper cresting a hill and was able to call out a warning and fire a few shots in his general direction. After we finally got our rules of engagement cleared up, PigPen led us up into the brush to set up an ambush, at which time I fulfilled my "trounce through the underbrush like a rampaging elephant" prophecy, much to my roomie's chagrin. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that our ambush was not even remotely successful; PigPen made his way down the hill to get a better shot, but was nailed. My attempts to avenge him were rewarded with a paintball to the facemask. Squiggly, visions of making cookies dancing in her head, was eliminated soon after.

All in all, not an encouraging start to my paintball career.

We took a brief break to refill weapons and for those of us (i.e., me) with the endurance of an asthmatic newborn to regain our (that is, my) wind. While waiting, conversation turned to various topics, including how cool it would be to have a “paintball knife,” (which put me in mind of playing T.A.G. with the Parkerites and Book Monkeys. It was during this lull that The Ghost, after a matter of hours, was able to do what it had taken me well over a year to do: give Squiggly a nickname.

Wave to Cookies, everyone.

Shack-Fu had planned to run through the rescue scenario again, switching The Ghost to the enemy troops and me to the SEALs, but the encroachment of outsiders into the staging area necessitated a restructuring into a Capture the Flag game. The only problem was that the flag had been used as The Sarge's "flare" during the previous game, and had been dropped somewhere along The SEALs' path. So while The Ghost went to retrieve it, Shack-Fu split the rest of us into two teams for a quick game of Elimination, which was a much better experience for me.



A bit.

*Squiggly and I were just along for the ride
**I’ll leave it up to you to decide which was which


Friday, December 15, 2006

This and That

As usual, randomness abounds.

  • People keep wanting me to clarify information in my posts. Silly blog monkeys, thinking I'll let little things like "the truth" and "facts" get in the way of a good story. But, in the interest of fairness, I suppose I should share that Squiggly says that she has indeed heard of Love Boat before, but just didn't recognize it at first. Of course, she says she only knew about it because her mom used to watch Love Boat: The Next Wave, which I think is almost worse than not knowing about the original at all

  • On a similar note, Mr. "Kicked Metal Siding Into the Sarge" wanted to make sure everyone knows that he wasn't trying to kick the siding into her, just kick it out of his way so he could get a shot at her before she got into mercy killing range. So, my estimation of him as a gentleman has gone up a few notches; my estimation of him as a badass paintballer on the other hand . . .

  • Speaking of paintball, Shack-Fu has suggested that I become their official chronicler, sort of an embedded reporter of sorts. Of course, he also suggested that when we do so he remove the orange vest of neutrality from my attire, making me wonder if he's just not looking for excuses to shoot me.

  • In an attempt to stave off my ever increasing waist size, I've opted to start working out with Shack-Fu and another new Single, Li'l Dill Wonderboy*. Shack-Fu, the orchestrator of their work-out program, has promised to demonstrate just how much he appreciated my recounting of his Fetal Position style of kung-fu, said promise being followed by a maniacal laugh and ominous clap of thunder. How maniacal was the laugh? You be the judge.

    But threats of physical torture aside, Shack-Fu is lobbying for a special "The Legend of Shack-Fu" category; while an interesting idea, I'm afraid that not only is that a slippery slope, it might also incur the wrath of self-proclaimed Center of the Universe Cap'n Disaster if someone else got a special category before she did.

  • Today at work we had our office holiday party, complete with Secret Santa gift exchange. I had posted a wish list which included "CAPN'S approved foodstuffs" and "MASTER approved items." You should all be familiar with the Coalition Against Puttin' Nuts in Stuff by now, but the Movement Against Scented Things Entering Residences is a more recent addition to my repertoire. Of course, when I get to work, what do I find waiting for me as a gift but a scented candle. I thanked the gift giver for the thought, but explained that I was averse to such things; she responded "Well, give it your mom." I explained that such a gift might not be appreciated; somehow, robbing my dad of his ability to breathe doesn't really scream "Christmas" to me.

  • Last (and probably least) is this: contrary to popular belief (I'm looking at you, Li'l Dill), the life of a librarian bears little to no resemblance to the Noah Wylie movies, more's the pity.
*Li'l Dill learned very quickly the danger of revealing moderately embarrassing personal details around the Singles and how they can easily lead to moderately embarrassing nicknames . . . just not quickly enough.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Nothing Says Thanksgiving Like a Boot to the Head

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, the Singles decided to have our own Thanksgiving dinner; Shack-Fu offered to host, Peanut offered to smoke a turkey, the girls offered to make all the sides, and I offered to buy some Cokes -- hey, I know my strengths, okay? Even though both of my roomies were going to attend, we wound up driving separately, since PigPen had to come after he got off of work, and The Anti-Cap'n couldn't tear himself away from the Dallas game, so I wound up being one of the first people to arrive. I'm not sure what I was expecting to find at Shack-Fu's place, but whatever it was, it wasn't even close to what I got.

As I walked up the sidewalk towards the house, I heard quite a bit of commotion going on inside; when the door opened I was greeted with the sight of Fluffy* and Shack-Fu, both standing and looking a bit red in the face, and, on the couch, Shack-Fu's sister and brother-in-law, who I was surprised to see; I had met them at church that morning, and they had said they wouldn't be able to stay for our dinner since they had to head back to Oklahoma. I had barely set down my first load of foodstuffs and was getting ready to head out to the car for more when Shack-Fu's brother-in-law cried out "Todd, Todd!" as he scooted over and patted the couch cushion, signaling for me to squeeze in next to him. "You gotta see the show, it's great, we should pop popcorn!" Needless to say, I was intrigued, and hurriedly grabbed the rest of the food from the car so I could find out what all the fuss was about.

I was not to be disappointed.

After I got my front-row seat, my fellow audience members got me caught up on what had I had missed. You see, before I had gotten there, discussion had somehow turned to the fact that Fluffy is a black belt, which led into Shack-Fu asking to see some of her kicks; she obliged by kicking off her heels and then snapping off a kick that stopped inches from his face. And thus the show began, with Fluffy demonstrating various holds and moves on her newfound living practice dummy. Apparently, the allure of watching Shack-Fu get thrown around by Fluffy was too strong for his family, who were enthusiastically cheering Fluffy on, so their departure was delayed. After showing how she would protect herself from frontal attacks, Fluffy coached Shack-Fu to come up behind her and catch her in a bear hug, which he happily did. She then started her escape maneuver, which began with her grabbing him by the love handles, the idea being that in a real fight she would dig her fingernails in and yank down hard. However, while the intended effect was to just demonstrate how she would incapacitate him with sharp pain, the actual effect was to totally incapacitate him by making the incredibly ticklish Shack-Fu collapse into gales of giggling like an air-headed school girl with both lungs full of nitrous.

It was immediately after this that I arrived, and then the action resumed.

Or, at least, Fluffy tried to resume the action, but every time she reached back, Shack-Fu would flinch away, giggling insanely the whole time. It finally reached the point where he couldn't even get near her, as the mere thought of being tickled would induce the crippling laughter - - I'm sure the cackling audience members weren't helping matters either. After a few minutes of this exercise in futility, we were all suddenly blinded by the light bulb clicking on in Shack-Fu's head.

"Holdonholdonholdon" he cried out before racing into the back of the house**. After a minute or two he poked his head around the corner and yelled "Okay, Fluffy, face the couch and don't turn around. Don'tpeekdon'tpeekdon'tpeek!" Perplexed, Fluffy obliged, and therefore missed out on seeing Shack Fu stalk forth warily, clad in a camo flak jacket and combat helmet. Believing himself properly armored, Shack-Fu was able to successfully complete the bear hug. Fluffy reached behind her to grab ahold of the love handles yet again, and ended up with only a handful of flak jacket, prompting her to throw down her hands, stomp her feet, and cry out in consternation, "I can't work like this!" But, apparently she underestimated her ability to work under unusual conditions, as she then proceeded to throw him around like a rag doll.

"No, seriously, I can't work like this"

At one point she started to demonstrate a move which would have basically resulted in her hurling Shack-Fu onto the ground flat on his back, but she was worried if she did he would hit his head on the fireplace, so she didn't complete it. Shack-Fu's brother-in-law very helpfully offered suggestions on how they could maneuver themselves so that Shack-Fu's injuries would be minimized, but Fluffy still declined, to the disappointment of all.

It was soon after this that more guests started to arrive; poor Cap'n Cluck, Peanut, and Squiggly were very confused by Shack-Fu's gear, but after a brief recap, they were ready to watch the show as well. But, as entertaining as slapping Shack-Fu around was for her, after a few minutes of performing for the newcomers Fluffy decided to have mercy on him for a while. As soon as it was obvious Shack-Fu wasn't going to be experiencing any more humiliation, his family decided it was time to go. After that, the rest of the evening, while fun, felt like it was lacking something, i.e. physical violence. Still, there were some interesting moments.
  • Cluckity trying to teach Peanut a new dance move which required him to throw her onto his shoulder while she stretched herself out like she was flying. After a few tries where he couldn't quite get the placement right, she told him "You can throw me up harder than that, I won't break." So, the very next try, he threw her over the shoulder quite a bit harder, causing her legs to go flying down, effectively kicking him in the butt. And me without a video camera.

  • The infamous "What's Love Boat?" game of Cranium Pop 5 which, I suspect, didn't demand Shack-Fu's full attention. Why do I say that? Well, call it a hunch, call it my keen observational abilities, call it the fact that he spent most of his time using the game's supply of clay to build himself a submarine firing torpedoes at an octopus . . .

  • A rousing game of Chicken Foot, memorable primarily because I actually won for once

  • PigPen, who had been forced to stay at work later than he had wanted, got there just as the bulk of the party was leaving. PigPen was adamant that we play at least one game; Cluckity was adamant that he hurry up and finish eating so that she could take her card tables home.

    "I said we're playing a game!"

    After about the 27th exclamation of "We're playing a game!" somebody started a thrilling game of I Spy to placate him . . .wait, did I say placate? I meant antagonize. My bad. About the third clue was "I spy with my little eye something that's black"; before I even knew it, the following words came flying out of my mouth: "Shack-Fu's soul." Fluffy gasped in shock, and accused me of being horribly, horribly mean, which I felt was a bit much; after all, it wasn't like I was beating up on him or anything . . .

  • When I asked Fluffy about her recent trip to Philadelphia, she explained that she really enjoyed one particular aspect of the trip, a response that had me confused. I asked her to repeat it, and once again heard the strange phrase. I asked her to repeat once more, and this time it was clear, as evidenced by the fact that Cap'n Cluck, Peanut and I all exclaimed "Oh, sight-seeing!" at the same time; I'm glad I wasn't the only one who misheard her. What was it we all thought she said? Well, I could tell you, but then I would be her new karate dummy, so I think I'll pass, thank you.

Towards the end of the evening, with only five of us left, Fluffy and Shack-Fu were egged on into a repeat performance for the benefit of those who missed out. After running through the basic kicks, punches, throws, etc., it was time once again for the dreaded bear hug/love handle combo. Now, I don't know if it was a culmination of an entire evening of frivolity, too much caffeine, or something funky in the dressing, but Shack-Fu was even gigglier than before, actually collapsing to the ground and curling into the fetal position to protect himself. While highly entertaining for the rest of us, it did make me hope and pray that if military man Shack-Fu ever goes into battle that he's never forced to engage a foe well versed in the ways of Tickle Fighting, or else the free world as we know it may be doomed.

"Where's my dignity? I think it went that-a-way"

*Better known to you blog monkeys as H.Q., but trust me, the story works a lot better if you use the Fluffy nickname.
**Did I mention that Shack-Fu could give PigPen a run for his money in an "Ooo, shiny object!" contest? And did I also mention that the odds are good that PigPen is going to kick my butt if I make one more "shiny object joke" about him?


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Possible Comic Book Goodness for the Cap'n

One of my co-workers, upon finding out that I'm now an indexer for the Grand Comic Database, mentioned that she herself has recently gotten a gig doing comic book reviews for a Fantasy/SF website, complete with free advance copies. And, apparently, there might be another vacancy or two in the reviewer ranks, so she has offered to pass my name along as a candidate.

The possibility of free comic swag which I could actually use as part of my professional development points at my job, means I have now officially lost what little work ethic I had for the rest of the day. If that's not irony, it's pretty darn close.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Something's Different, But I Can't Quite Put My Finger On It . . .

You may have noticed a slight change in the overall look of CoIM. That's because today I switched over to Blogger Beta. The biggest change is that I can now input category labels directly in Blogger, rather than going through another site like, which means (a) clicking on the Categorical Listings will take you directly to the posts and (b) I'm going to be much more likely to keep up with labeling. As a matter of fact, I spent a good deal of time ssigning categories to all 487 posts in the system.

Wow. 487 posts. That's getting close to being a nice, round number isn't it? Huh.

Another change I've decided to implement is hosting a few things on separate sites. For example, my Secret Origin series of posts is now located here; I plan on doing something similar with the Cast List eventually. Yes, I'm still promising to update the Cast List; who knows, it might even happen this time.


The Following is a Broadcast of the "Cap'n Neurotic is Losing His Mind" Warning System

Over the past few weeks I've found myself slipping into a more neurotic frame of mind. I'm not at the "nobody loves me, everybody hates me, why don't I just eat worms" phase yet, but I am feeling more paranoid than usual, interpreting all sorts of random responses as indications that I've ticked off or alienated friends and co-workers. I've also found myself projecting my neurotic thoughts onto others, expecting them to react just as neurotically as I do; never a good sign.

Why the sudden increase in negativity? No clue; maybe it's the shifting in my living situation over the past several moths catching up with me; maybe it's the shifting in my work situation with its added pressures and responsibilities; maybe it's a lack of sleep and the toll that invariably takes on my mindset; maybe it's some biochemical cycle which is just rearing its ugly head again. This frame of mind is not helped by the fact that last week I got back a 360 Degree Review form at work which suggested that I need to take some sort of Emotional Intelligence Seminar; that'll do wonders for the old self-esteem, eh*? Especially since, as my neurotic upsurge shows, there's probably more than a little merit in the suggestion.

Luckily, by this point in my life I'm aware enough of my paranoiac/neurotic tendencies to be able to recognize the signs and cut them off before they totally run away with me, so the old-school spiral into depression probably isn't on the horizon.


At the same time, when you're caught in the throes of neurosis, you don't always catch yourself before you do something you regret. So, in an attempt to put the brakes to this before it really gets out of hand, I'm making a pre-emptive, "exorcism through blogging" strike: please, if you're interacting with me and notice me being overly defensive, withdrawn, sulky, whiney, etc., consider this a permission slip to slap me upside the head -- metaphorically speaking.

Although, if it gets bad enough, literal slapping might be required.

*Yes, the positive comments far outweighed the negative, but what fun would it be to focus on those?


Thursday, December 07, 2006

They Also Had No Clue Who RuPaul Was, and For That, I Envy Them

I understand that not everyone is as pop cultures savvy as yours truly; I don't expect the average person on the street to know who Joss Whedon is, and if someone confesses ignorance of Firefly or Wonderfalls or Sons and Daughters, I don't express surprise, just sadness that they haven't experienced those wonderful (if short-lived) shows. But there are some things which strike me as so entrenched in pop culture that they should have seeped into the public consciousness, and yet, time and time again I find that my estimation of what is and isn't common knowledge is vastly out of touch with reality.

For example, a few months back I discovered that several people I knew had absolutely no clue who Lon Chaney Jr. was, which boggled my mind. To me, Chaney's name is as recognizable as Boris Karloff or Vincent Price*, but apparently that's just because I spent a great deal of my youth thumbing through horror movie encyclopedias. A more recent example which I mentioned briefly here was PigPen's ignorance of Happy Fun Ball; what I didn't discuss was that several other people expressed the same ignorance when I mentioned it to them later.

Still, both of those examples make much more sense to me than my recent experience with some of The Singles at our class Thanksgiving dinner. After we had finished eating, we sat down for a game of Cranium Pop 5 which, as its name might suggest, is a pop culture heavy game. Due to where we had been sitting before the game started, the suggested team divisions were Cap'n Cluck, The Anti-Cap'n, and myself on one team, and Squiggly, Shack-Fu, and Scuba Girl on the other. My team tried to warn them that this division of forces was unfair; it's kind of like putting a pee-wee football team up against a college team - - we might not be pros, but we definitely had a big advantage. Still, they decided that they didn't care about the imbalance, and so we set about royally stomping them; my favorite moment was when The A.C. drew an owl and I correctly guessed the answer "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute," followed by the other team's cries of "Oh, come on!" But that's not what this is about; no, this is about one turn in particular where my team drew a card for the other team (category: TV show), handed it over to Squiggly, and felt our collective jaw drop when she proclaimed "I have no idea what this is." There was a brief exchange wherein my team expressed incredulity, and she steadfastly maintained that she had never heard of the show before in her life. But, even though she didn't have any clue about the show, she did a really good job of giving her team clues to what it might be. Unfortunately, her teammates couldn't figure it out. We discovered why after their time ran out and the answer was revealed; turns out, neither one of them had heard of it either. So, what was the name of this obviously obscure and little-known TV series?

The Love Boat

Now, is it really that much of a stretch to expect people to have, if not watched, at least heard of The Love Boat? I mean, it's not like I was expecting them to be able to name off Captain Stubing, Julie the Cruise Director, Doc, Gopher, or Isaac. To have never heard of the show at all . . . the mind wobbles.

Of course, you know what the real tragedy of the Love Boat situation is**? It's that the odds of the three of them having the faintest clue who Charo*** is are slim to none.

Kids today, huh?

*I can hear the resounding chorus of "Who?" even as I type this
**Other than making me feel old, of course.
***Or "The Cuchi-Cuchi Girl" as she was known in my household


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Random Grab Bag Reviews!

I know that being deprived of my deep and insightful reviews of movies and TV shows must have been hard for all of you die-hard blog monkeys, and for that I apologize, but the fact of the matter is that my blogger batteries were drained, and I needed some recharging. Am I at full strength yet? Not really, but at least I'm getting something posted, which is better than nothing. Now, since a lot of stuff was watched during my multi-week media review hiatus, I'm not going to try to cover everything; instead, just a few brief thoughts on the things that stick out.

Heroes: first of all, I'm sorry I didn't post about this last week if for no other reason than to point out that the "why don't you go break the Internet in half" comment was a shout out to every single comic geek watching the show which made me die laughing and made PigPen give me odd looks. As for the "Fall Finale," I'm embarrassed to say that I did not see the big reveal as to the origin of the explosion coming. I theorized that it was the Radioactive Guy, or Sylar having taken on the abilities of Radioactive Guy, but somehow the possibility that it was Peter never even crossed my mind. If nothing else, this show is keeping the viewers on their toes, and you've got to respect that.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Last night, as he's done many times before, PigPen turned to me and said "I can't believe more people aren't watching this." And, as I've done many times before, I nodded my head in sad agreement. Oh, and the addition of Mark "Kids in the Hall" McKinney to the writing staff (both on and off screen)? Brilliant. I mean, last night marked a milestone for the show: one of the show-within-the-show's skits actually made me laugh out loud. Can't help but feel that McKinney had a hand in that.

Gilmore Girls: Last week I wound up watching GG and Veronica Mars live instead of taping them because I had wanted to get to sleep at a decent hour. But, as I watched GG I remembered one of the biggest benefits of taping the show is the ability to fast-forward through the horrendous Aerie Tuesday segments. Last week's was especially annoying in its hamfistedness:

Aerie Girl #1: I like that Lorelei called Christopher's man-dates "man-dates," because, like, they're sort of, like, dates between men? But also? It's like she's, like, mandating them?
Aeries Girl #2: Wow, that's so deep
[cue animated insert with caption "My Gilmore Girls Thesis" by Aerie Girl #1]

Oh, yes, how deep and insightful that stunning piece of critical analysis was; let's just ignore the fact that the whole man-date/mandate joke was made by Lorelei in the freaking episode!!!!! Honestly, how are we ever going to convince people that this is an intelligent, well-written show if the likes of the Aerie Girls are our advocates? *sigh* As for last night's episode . . . Look, I know nobody watched Gilmore Girls for excellent fight choreography, but if you're going to trumpet the fight between Luke and Christopher for weeks before the ep actually airs, then the fight needs to be either (a) funny or (b) entertaining. I mean, yeah, the stark, wordless, scoreless fight was indicative of just how rotten things have gotten for both of them, but it's really not indicative of what I've come to expect from GG.

The Ant Bully: Leans closer to the Cars and The Wild end of the quality continuum than the Over the Hedge and Monster House end; if it weren't for the performance of Bruce "If Chins Could Kill" Campbell, the movie would have been a total wash.

Akeelah and the Bee: Feel-good film that manages not to drown in its own sentimentality. Smart and funny, highly recommended, although the fact that even I could spell her final "master-level" word did stretch the suspension of disbelief a bit. I mean, pulchritude? Seriously?

Brothers of the Head: Off-beat faux documentary about a punk band fronted by conjoined twins. The music is surprisingly catchy (especially "Doola and Dawla") and the acting, directing, and writing top-notch. A bit dark, not for everyone, but I liked it.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I Love the Smell of Paint in the Late Afternoon/Early Evening

By this point in my life, I should really know better I suppose, but this past Sunday I spent the greater part of the day traipsing about the woods; consequently, I spent the greater part of Monday battling the allergies which resulted from said traipsing. And why was I out in the woods, you may ask? Why, for paintball, why else?

You see, on Sunday morning all of the guys in my class were invited to join Shack-Fu (a recent addition to the Singles) and some of his friends who regularly meet up to pelt each other with high speed pellets filled with paint. PigPen, a veteran paintballer, jumped at the chance, and The Anti-Cap'n, after deciding that it would be okay to just tape the Cowboys game and watch it when he got home, decided to go as well. Peanut was game, but had other plans, so he begged off this time. Which left only yours truly.

Now, I'm sure this will come as a shock to one and all, but I've never played paintball before; hard to believe, I know, what with how rugged and outdoorsy I am. Nevertheless, while I have had a couple of opportunities to play over the years, I never have taken advantage of them. I was vacillating over this offer as well, trying to weigh my desire to hang out with the gang against the fact that I really don't posses the gear, skills, or mentality that make for primo paintballing, when Shack-Fu offered me the option of sporting a bright orange vest and merely being an observer. How could I refuse?

There wound up being enough people show up to have two four-person teams, with Shack-Fu and myself as observers. Or, more accurately, I was an observer, while Shack-Fu was judge, coordinator, critic, and pot-stirrer; he set up the scenarios, ruled on whether a player was in or not, shouted out advice, and occasionally changed up the rules to get more action going. I, for the most part, just followed him around and tried not to get hit by the crossfire.

The first scenario the teams ran through was a basic capture-the-flag run, where each team started from a home base, raced to get the flag from the middle of what they call Sherwood Forest, and then tried to tag the opposing team’s base without getting shot. If you were shot, you could respawn (or return, for those of my audience not familiar with video game terminology*) after 15 minutes. Team Bravo (PigPen's team) got the flag pretty quickly, but had difficulty making it to Team Alpha (The A.C.'s team)'s base since one of the Alphans was hidden well enough to pick them off when they charged the flag without getting shot himself. PigPen was this close to tagging it when he got nailed in the head. It was around this time that Shack-Fu decided to speed up the respawn process, since both teams were reduced to one player each. My favorite moment of this game was when a respawned PigPen made a diving roll to the fence-line to stop the Alphans from advancing, once again demonstrating the origin of his nickname. In the end, it was Team Bravo who emerged victorious.

A brief aside to say how surprised I was at how well the normally hyperactive PigPen was able to remain still while lying in wait; 99% of the time the boy is bouncing off the walls and being distracted by shiny objects, but put him behind a video game controller or the sights of a gun, and he goes from ADD to OCD.

The second scenario was more of a last-man-standing run, with the same two teams stalking each other with no purpose other than to pick each other off one by one, with no respawns. This scenario lasted a lot longer than I expected because Team Bravo basically just sat in wait for Team Alpha, who took their sweet time moving through the woods hunting for their targets. Again, Shack-Fu decided to mix things up a bit, giving each team leader a walkie-talkie through which Shack-Fu would funnel intelligence on the opposing team's movements. The Alphans used this to zero in on the Bravos, and Shack-Fu and I positioned ourselves to be able to watch the slaughter. And slaughter it was, as the Alphans found themselves being picked off pretty quickly by well-hidden snipers. After Ghost, the Alphan point man, got hit, PigPen scrambled for cover, his patented roll causing more problems than it solved this time as the cover of his gun's hopper came open, spilling ammo on the ground. Another Alphan called for a paint check, and Shack-Fu paused play while he ran over to see if it was a valid hit or not; he determined it was just splatter, and let game play resume. Two seconds later, the same Alphan called for a paint check again, and this time was not so lucky. Soon, the Bravos were victorious, without having lost any of their team.

The final scenario was a covert ops run, with a five person team of D.E.A. agents trying to rescue a hapless hostage from the clutches of three Columbian drug cartel members.

Three guesses who the hapless hostage was.

The setup was that one of the cartel members would stay with me as a guard, while the other two would set up an ambush for the agents. My instructions as the hostage were simple: scream loudly for help. Not surprisingly, that fell well within my range of abilities. My only concern was just how much yelling to do, and when; didn't want to wear out my voice before my would-be rescuers got close. But, after what seemed like an eternity (and was probably about three minutes), I started to get bored, and began to imagine how the others would react if my hostage succumbed to Stockholm syndrome and started firing away at the agents myself; but, that way lies madness, not to mention ticked off players, and so I instead began to yell for help. I had originally planned on waiting until I saw or heard one of the agents and then letting out a blood-curdling shriek that would make my mom proud, but with no sign of the Good Guys, and no clue if they were in range or not, I settled for a few normal yells before getting bored again and going for a more high pitched scream; apparently I should have held off on the screeching after all, since PigPen told me afterwards that it caught him off-guard and got him to laughing, which may have aided the agents in rescuing me.

Yes, that's right, PigPen was chosen to be one of the cartel members, a role he took to with fiendish glee: his cartel name was Alejandro, and he very strongly was advocating shooting the hostage. I, in turn, was strongly advocating a million peso award for the head of Alejandro.

Anyway, after what seemed like yet another eternity, I finally heard the sounds of gunfire and so redoubled my cries for help. From the high ground, I could see PigPen running back for cover, yelling out in a heavy accent; I in turn changed my cries from "Help!" to "¡Ayúdeme! ¡Ayúdeme! ¡Mis padres tenemos** mucho dinero!" and the like. At one point, PigPen looked up at me and yelled "¡Silencio!" which, thanks to our TV's odd propensity for switching its display from English to Spanish, is a very common phrase at our place. We exchanged a few more epithets before he got distracted with trying to kill the encroaching agents. One of the rescuers had worked himself into a thicket of briars, which probably seemed like an okay idea until after he got shot and had difficulty extricating himself. The cartel members wound up bumping off all of the agents without losing a single one of their own.

Shack-Fu was pleased with the way that scenario played out, but wanted us to run through it again in a shortened form, with the cartel members all bunched up near me and the agents just basically rushing the hill. This time instead of yelling in Spanish, I belted out the first verse of "Rescue Me"; hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Things didn't turn out quite so well for the cartel this time around; I happened to glance over to where Ghost was stationed, and noticed that he was flat on his back. I would have been concerned for his health if I hadn't noticed that he still had the presence of mind to hold his gun up in a "don't shoot me no more" sign. Meanwhile, PigPen was caught in a firefight with The Sarge, the sole female participant, who he had eliminated in the first game with a shot to the face; he wasn't quite as lucky this time around, and The Sarge took him out, before turning to rush the sole surviving cartel member, who was crouched down between a big sign and a piece of metal siding. He was firing in the opposite direction and was just able to notice that The Sarge was almost on top of him. Now, the group has a "mercy killing" rule that if you come up on someone within a certain radius you can demand their surrender; The Sarge did so, but for one reason or another neither I nor my captor heard her. The cartel guy, knowing he wouldn't be able to swing up his gun before she fired, made the "I still can't believe he did that" move of kicking the siding at The Sarge; I swear, I barely heard his cries of pain from her retributory close-range fire over my own laughter.

So, after all, that, would I be willing to actually take part the next time? The answer is a resound "possibly maybe." I'm sure my aim is horrible, I'd probably trounce through the underbrush like a rampaging elephant, and I seriously doubt I have the patience to play the "wait in ambush" game; I'd probably play a whole game or two before the others started telling me "You know, Todd, you make the best hostage . . .” Still, I'd probably be willing to play, as long as I knew I wouldn't have to worry about Shack-Fu gunning for me. I mean, honestly, would you want to be pursued through the woods by this man?

I think not.

*Hi, mom
**Yes, I know it should have been "tienen," but give me a break, I was fearful for my life and not thinking clearly.


Friday, December 01, 2006

The Ups and Downs of the Go-To Guy

A few weeks back, I got a call from Cap'n Cluck, who was at a friend's party.

Cap'n N: What's up?
Cap'n C: Got a Pop Culture question for you
Cap'n N: Fire away
Cap'n C: Okay, back around the time of Daria there was a show with a red-haired girl, Joss Whedon did it --
Cap'n N: First of all, Joss Whedon has done a total of three TV shows: Angel, Buffy, and Firefly --
Cap'n C: [repeats what I just said to people on other end, followed by the statement "and he would know"]
Cap'n N: And second of all, it sounds like you're probably talking about My So-Called Life
Cap'n C: [to someone on her end] Was it My So-Called Life?
Someone on Her End: [in distance] That's it!
Cap'n C: Okay, that was it, thanks, bye.

There are times (such as the above) when I enjoy being the Pop Culture "go-to" guy for my friends and family, if for no other reason than it gives me a role to fill, even if that role little more than "The Sits In Front of the TV Too Much One." Plus, I like being able to answer people's questions; it's one of the things that initially drew me to library work (even if that's not even close to being an aspect of my job anymore). But there's a downside to it as well.

You see, I've discovered over the years that as the designated "go-to" guy, you're expected to have an instantaneous, infallible, encyclopedic knowledge of every aspect of your specialty, which results in much mockery when you, say, can't quite place the line someone just quoted, or are drawing a blank on a performer's name and/or filmography. Along those lines, a few phrases which have a high likelihood of making my head explode at some point in the near future:

  • You don't know what that's from?
  • You haven't seen that? I thought you'd seen everything!
  • Don't you know him/her, he/she was X in Y!
  • Ha, I stumped you!

While I can appreciate these reactions as a form of schadenfreude, once the same person has exclaimed "I can't believe I've seen something you haven't" for the 42nd time, it starts to wear thin.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

Don't you hate it when the weather is bad enough to make travelling to and from work miserable, but not bad enough to actually get work to close down?

I know I do.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm Not Dead Yet . . .


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Let's Go to the Mall!

Due to travel and general family-fun time, my posting this week will be spotty, although I definitely have some entertaining Singles stuff I want to get posted soon. But until I get a chance to type some stuff up, please enjoy this musical gem from Canadian pop sensation Robin Sparkles


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rhymes of the Brain Dead Blogger

I've hosts and hosts
Of half formed posts
Which all have died aborning

And I can't keep
Caught up on sleep
A fact I curse each morning

As for my head
My brains are dead
So now you get this warning

That at this time
You will find rhyme
My blog-site all adorning


Now since by the bug of blogging
You, poor soul, have been found bitten
All your time it has been hogging
For with blogging you've been smitten.

You have friends who waste time slogging
Through the mass of crap you've written
You have some who just start dogging --
These big mouths you feel like hittin'

But with words your brain is clogging
And you're typin' and a-sittin'
(When you should be out, say, jogging)
So you're weak (just like a kitten)

All their insults you keep logging
As your teeth you keep on grittin'
So you try some dialoging,
And suggest that what is fittin'
Is your grits they should be snogging
(That means "kissing" to a Briton)

Of course now your mind is fogging
And your audience is splittin'
But a dead horse you keep flogging
Are these rhymes you should be quittin'

Would you please just stop hot-dogging?
It's a life you should be gettin'!


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

TV Tues - Award Winning Actresses Getting Punched in the Face? Always Funny. Always.

**Tues Nov 7**

Gilmore Girls (CW 7:00): The show is definitely on an upswing, which is a relief. Always hate to see a stellar show lose its footing. Not back up to the height of the Team Palladino years, but still better than the bulk of stuff on the air.

Veronica Mars (CW 8:00): The execs are still keeping mum about whether VM will be getting a full season order or not, which is bothersome; I'm going to try and focus on the fact that we're getting some quality TV in the meantime and not worry about whether the show will go on past the resolution of the rapist mystery.

**Wed Nov 8**

Jericho (CBS 7:00): I don't care if Grey was right about Hawkins being suspicious, the entire time he was questioning the family I just wanted one of them to haul off and punch his lights out. Man, does that guy rub me the wrong way.

Bones (Fox 7:00): I kept having Angel flashbacks throughout this episode

Lost (ABC 8:00): Well, that wasn't nearly as bad of a cliffhanger as what I'd feared; still stinks that we have to wait until February to see a new ep. On the bright side, the producers have promised that before the end of the season we will definitely (a) learn the full story of The Others, (b) learn how Jack got his tattoos, and, most importantly, (c) learn why Locke was in a wheelchair. So, yeah, looking forward to that.

**Thur Nov 9**

Survivor (CBS 7:00): Wow, actually starting the jury before the merger? That's an interesting twist, and one that could very well come back to bite somebody on the butt. Unless, that is, the final two actually turn out to be the two I want it to be (Ozzie and Yule), in which case, it's a moot point.

My Name is Earl (NBC 7:00): While a part of me applauds them for not making the Darnell's-in-the-witness-protection-program idea a throwaway gag, I'm still curious about how that ties in with all of his family showing up at his and Joy's wedding - - or am i just expecting too much logic from a sitcom? Oh, by the way, if you look closely during the upcoming Christian Slater episode, you'll be able to see my former supervisor's mother in the background as a member of Slater's hippie commune; sure, you'll have absolutely no idea which one she is, but you'll still see her, and that's what's important.

The Office (NBC 7:30): Another strong episode, but I think my favorite part was in the extended online version where Michael yells at Toby for walking so slowly; Michael's irrational dislike of Toby always makes me chuckle.

Supernatural (CW 8:00): I liked the fact that the spirit didn't turn out to be a force of evil this time around; nice that they still play around with their plot structure from time to time. Plus, there were lots of opportunities for Dean to be a smartass, which is always a good thing for the show. The "pea soup" comment at the end just made me groan, though.

The O.C. (Fox 8:00): Amazing how the show has ramped up the gloom and doom, and yet still has managed to recapture the humorous spirit of its first season in so many ways. I think the big difference is that the drama feels much more organic with everyone grieving over the loss of Marissa, as opposed to the numerous plot devices thrown at the characters the last couple of seasons.

Ugly Betty (ABC 7:00): A pretty hum-drum episode over-all, although watching Wilhelmina operating out of her element was fun.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC 8:00): Was very happy to see the return of Kali "Halfrek" Rocha as the perpetually chipper Sydney; was not quite as happy to see Sloan hitting on Meredith. I mean, I know the guy's supposed to be a player and all, but for someone who keeps saying he misses his friendship with Derek, you'd think he'd realize that sleeping with Derek's woman would be the final nail in the coffin.

**Sat Nov 11**

Legion of Super-Heroes (Kids WB): Once again, in terms that only Bubblegum Tate will understand: Tenzil Kem! Tenzil sprocking Kem! Chomping through the Atomic Axe! I now forgive the creators for every other misstep they've made in the creative process for that one crazy cameo.

**Mon Nov 13**

How I Met Your Mother (CBS 7:00): Man, was that a goofy ep. Some funny stuff, but lots of oddness to overcome.

The Class (CBS 7:30): *sigh* I had been so hoping that it would turn out that Richie wasn't married to Darlene, I mean, Fern, but no such luck. But at least the secret's out in the open now.

Heroes (NBC 8:00): Every time Mohinder appears on screen, I feel the show grind to a screeching halt. But, trying to divine the true intentions of Mr. Horn Rimmed Glasses helps make up for it.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC 9:00): I don't think I mentioned last week how happy I was to see Lucy Davis added to the cast last week; loved her on the BBC's The Office, loved her in Shaun of the Dead, loved her in her Ugly Betty cameo; here's hoping she sticks around Studio 60 for a while. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, yes, Studio 60 will actually be around for a while, as NBC has given them a full season order, so all of you Studio 60 fanatics out there can rest easy.

**TV on DVD**

Sopranos Season 6 pt.1: Seasons 1 & 2: some of the best TV around. Seasons 3 & 4: horribly disappointing. Season 5: Vast improvement. Season 6 so far? Still going strong. Heck, the entire season was worth it for one thing alone: seeing Lauren Bacall, playing herself, get mugged and punched in the face. Trust me: it was hilarious.

Masters of Horror: Imprint: The infamous Takashi Miike episode of Masters of Horror which was too graphic to air on Showtime finally arrived for me. The final verdict? Yes, it was gross and disturbing; the torture sequence was one of the most brutal I've seen. And the reveal of the true nature of the prostitute was pretty danged creepy, up until we got a close up of her twin, at which point it became incredibly silly. But not as silly as the overwrought and stilted performance of Billy Drago, who apparently felt bad that he was the only cast member for whom English was not a second language and so went out of his way to make it seem like it was. Seriously, every time he opened his mouth, I hoped that some creature would swoop down and rip out his tongue so that we wouldn't have to deal with his horrendous performance anymore. After all the build-up and controversy, I'm afraid the episode just didn't live up to the press.


Monday, November 13, 2006


Wordplay: Documentary about the annual National Crosswords Championships and its founder Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. While the crossword puzzle contestants are nowhere near as quirky as the Scrabble contestants from Word Wars, this was still an enjoyable look inside the culture of crossword fanatics. I particularly enjoyed the sections which showed the crosswords being constructed, as well as the interviews with celebrity crossword enthusiasts such as Bill Clinton, The Indigo Girls, and Jon Stewart.

Freak Out: Very low budget British horror comedy about a horror movie fanatic and his no-good best friend who decide to turn an escaped mental patient into the next Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. First the negatives: the acting is sub-par, the editing and plot are choppy, and the humor often descends into the sophomoric. Then again, most of those complaints could be applied to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and I've watched that one way too many times. I don't think Freak Out is quite as willfully stupid as Tomatoes, but it often comes close. But despite of the lack of quality in many aspects (and perhaps, at times, because of it), I got a lot of enjoyment out of this one. It sent up a lot of different horror flicks, and has its share of laugh-out-loud moments. In the end, The Anti-Cap'n and I agreed that it was worth our time; of course, I have no clue who else I know who would appreciate it.

Mr. Jealousy: Romantic comedy from '97 starring Eric Stoltz as a compulsively jealous man who lies his way into a therapy group in order to spy on his girlfriend (Annabella Sciorra)'s famous ex-boyfriend (Chris Eigeman). This one was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, who, between this, The Squid and the Whale and Kicking AND Screaming is now officially on my "must see anything he does" list. Quirky and off-beat characters with lots of dialogue; right up my alley. Once again stealing scenes is Baumbach's good friend Carlos Jacott as Stoltz's neurotic friend who receives therapy by proxy.

Totally Awesome: This spoof of 80s movies comes courtesy of VH1, and pays mocking homage to such classics as Footloose, Karate Kid, Dirty Dancing, Soul Man and Teen Wolf. As with most spoofs, this one was hit or miss. The leads (including Callie from Battlestar Galactica as the resident "pretty/ugly girl") were pretty likeable, especially Dominique Swain, whose mini-temper tantrums were some of the film's highlights; sadly, there's no clip of the tantrums by themselves out there (yet), but one does pop up in this trailer.
"Dancing is my life; DANCING IS MY LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!" Cracked me up every time. I could have done without pretty much any of Tracy Morgan's scenes, and Joey Kern was just a little too sleazy as the uber-popular jock, but on the whole, an amusing piece of fluff for children of the 80s.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

If I Do Reply, You Know the Email's Starting With "Howdy, Y'all!"

One of the things I get to do in my new job is investigate free online resources that librarians want to add to our database to make sure that they're really free with no strings attached. Our legal department requires us to get an official statement from the people behind the resource stating that there's no license agreement involved, so I get to use a very formal form letter (complete with "Dear Sir or Madam") to request these statements, since we have to document everything we do in the process. This morning, I got a response from one such provider which at first blush seemed very polite . . . until I scrolled down and realized that I had originally sent the form letter to a different person, and he had forwarded it to the person who responded to me. And, when she responded to me, she neglected to delete the comments he had made about my request:

Give me a break! And 'Dear Sir' to boot!
I want to email him back soooooooooooooooooooo much.

"Dear Sir: I apologize profusely if my attempts to maintain a civil and professional manner caused you distress; it is obvious from your response that such behavior is against your belief system."

Zinger feels that this approach is too confrontational, and yet somehow I doubt that his suggestion of asking the individual in question to perform improbable physical acts upon himself would go over much better.

At the least I wanted to email the polite lady and caution her to be more careful with forwards in the future, but my boss has suggested I drop the whole thing, so drop it I shall. And I shall look on the bright side; if I hadn't gotten this marginally insulting email this morning, I would have had nothing to blog about.

So, Give Me a Break Guy, I thank you, and my blog monkeys thank you.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Most Awesome Name in the Universe

For those of you who enjoy the adventures of Swarley, be sure to check out his blog and his new web page


TV Tues. - Swarley and the Crazy Eyes

**Tues Oct. 31**

Help Me Help You (ABC 8:30): A nice comeback from last week's less than stellar outing; the whole episode was worth it to see Ted Danson skipping down the street with Inger's life coach. Plus, I got to add several new words to my vocabulary, like "conversate," "hostilizing," and "intuitine."

Boston Legal (ABC 9:00): Wow, really, David E. Kelley? Two possible incest stories in as many weeks? For shame. And what exactly is up with his penchant for writing characters with uncontrollable physical and vocal tics? I kept having Biscuit flashbacks during the Jerry scenes and, while entertaining, Jerry is no Biscuit, I assure you. Still, the show has started to grow on me, and I am now feeling compelled to rent the previous seasons so I can figure out just what all of the character relationships are.

**Wed Nov. 1**

30 Rock (NBC 7:00): Another week with neither hide nor hair seen of Krakowski or Dratch; I might be more put out by that if I actually cared about their characters. But right now, as long as I get a lot of Alec Baldwin and Kenneth the Page, the rest of the cast can go jump in the lake for all I care.

Jericho (CBS 7:00): At the beginning of the episode, The Anti-Cap'n wondered out loud how long before Dale figured out Gracie wasn't all that nice; guess he's a little bit psychic, huh?

Lost (ABC 8:00): There are apparently two types of people in this world: those who liked the smoke monster sequences in this episode, and those who didn't. You can count me among the former. I do hate that tomorrow night's episode will be the last new one until February, partly because I want more Lost now, but mostly because I just know it's going to end on one mother of a cliffhanger.

The Nine (ABC 9:00): VAST improvement over the previous week's installment, even if it didn't move the flashback sequence forward a huge amount. At least it didn't suck my will to live. The show has earned itself yet another reprieve.

**Thur Nov. 2**

My Name is Earl (NBC 7:00): While it's a close toss up between Randy and Joy for my favorite character on the show, there are certain episodes where Crabman steals the show; his concern for Mr. Turtle this time was one of those occasions.

The Office (NBC 7:30): Poor Michael; poor stupid, stupid Michael.

Ugly Betty (ABC 7:00): Not much to say about this episode in particular, other than America Ferrera deserves an Emmy nomination next year; she makes the show.

The O.C. (Fox 8:00): Hate the fact they felt the need to darken Ryan's character again; it's like they took three years of character development and flushed it down the drain. But while the Ryan storyline is groan worthy, the antics of Taylor, Summer, Seth, and the twins, plus the addition of Chris "Bright from Everwood" Pratt as a dirty tree-hugging hippie, help the show rise above its soapy roots yet again. To be honest, the removal of Marissa from the show's equation can't help but make it more watchable.

Supernatural (CW 8:00): While not quite as creepy as the promos made it out to be, the H.H. Holmes story was still plenty creepy.

ER (NBC 9:00): It's so odd seeing Busy Phillips play a character who's not a rebellious and/or promiscuous troublemaker, let alone a devout Christian who prays before even the most minor procedure; almost didn't recognize her without a bottle of booze in her hand. Morris continues to grow on me, while Pratt continues to bore me.

**Fri Nov 3**

Battlestar Galactica (SciFi 8:00): I'm intrigued by the Cylon projecting business, and just what Baltar's connection to it is; I hope they don't drag out that mystery for too much longer.

**Sat Nov 4**

Legion of Super Heroes (CW 10:00 AM): The Phantom Zone ep had its moments, but doesn't quite live up to the promise of the first couple of eps. I find myself constantly shaking my head at the need to jazz up the characters' powers (Imra's a teke, Tinya's stealing moves from Kitty Pryde, and Brainy's a transformer), but I can forgive all of that for one reason if nothing else: an upcoming ep will feature not only Legion tryouts, but The Legion of Substitute Heroes. The freaking Subs, I tell you! Somewhere out there, Bubblegum Tate (and possibly Steve) is nodding in understanding, while all the rest of you blog monkeys are scratching your heads.

**Sun Nov 5**

The Simpsons (Fox 7:00): As usual, the Treehouse of Horror ep is about a zillion times better than the rest of the season, although the first segment felt really rushed.

**Mon Nov. 6**

How I Met Your Mother (CBS 7:00): Few things have made me laugh as hard recently as the Swarely running gag; the "Norm!" punch at the end just sealed this as one of my favorite episodes of the series.

The Class (CBS 7:30): A so-so ep, but the ending gives me hope that at least one of the adultery storylines will come to a head soon.

Heroes (NBC 8:00): One of the things that I'm enjoying about the show is the shades of grey they've introduced to several of the characters; after all, just because someone's wound up with powers, doesn't automatically make them a hero. Trying to figure out whether Nathan and Nikki are on their own versions of heroes' journeys or merely heading down the road to super-villaindom has me hooked, as does the mystery of just what Claire's dad's agenda is and just how much does he really know.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC 9:00): Mark McKinney’s name kind of jumped out at me in the credits; does the hiring of a veteran of Kids in the Hall and SNL mean that the show-within-the-show will actually become funny? Let's hope so. At the same time, Sorkin's hand is pretty evident in the ep, if for no other reason than the following line: "Why the viola, not the violin? I'm asking your daughter why the viola and not the violin." I swear, for a second I thought Ed Asner had been possessed by the spirit of Jed Bartlett; the cadence of that line just screams West Wing to me. All that aside, how did I rate the episode? By far the best ep since the first two. Yeah, there were a few things that bothered me (Simon's dogged insistence that it was his joint was incredibly artificial and forced), but I felt this episode made better use of the ensemble as a whole than the last several had.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Peanut, Smash! or If I Learned One Thing at the Texas State Fair, It Was This . . .

Don't make Peanut hungry . . . you wouldn't like him when he's hungry.


Movie Mon. - Slow Week

Mission Impossible III: The latest installment in the franchise finds Ethan Hunt returning to field agent status in order to save a former protégé, only to get sucked into a conspiracy within the IMF. Well done action flick that requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, but then again, what else is new? A top notch cast helps keep the film engaging, as do all of the over-the-top stunts and gadgets. Sure, you can't help but see most of the big twists coming, they're so well telegraphed, but in the end it's all about the stunts and FX; in that respect, it's a success.

Reds: Sprawling film about the relationship between leftist radicals John Reed (Warren Beatty, who also won an Oscar for Best Director) and Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) during the rise of socialism following the Bolshevik Revolution. Interesting film with an excellent cast which I probably would have enjoyed more if I had sat through it in one sitting; however, since the film was split into two discs, I wound up watching them almost a week apart, which definitely killed the movie's momentum.