Friday, May 30, 2008

Fragmented Friday - Singles on the Move

  • While I'm enjoying judo class, I'm still having trouble with the stand-up portion. After a year and a half of getting my butt kicked by The Lovable PigPen on a semi-regular basis, I am reasonably comfortable when it comes to the ground game, but when it comes to actually executing a throw or trip during randori (the name for sparring in judo), I just haven't been able to break through this mental block that hampers my, for want of a better term, "killer instinct." I know part of it is just that I don't feel comfortable with any of the throws yet, and am self-conscious about looking like a fool, and am so busy over-thinking what I need to do that I can't do anything, but I have a feeling that if just once I could make myself fully commit to a throw and execute it successfully during randori, I could start to move past all of that.

  • A large portion of The Singles are re-shuffling their living arrangements this summer. Last weekend I helped Squiggly move; tomorrow, I will be helping Mei-mei and Doc Jetson. And, over the next few months, moves will also be undertaken by Fluffy, Blondie Blaarrrgghhh, Cap'n Peanut, PigPen, Gemini, and myself. After that, if I never see another moving truck again, it will be too soon.

  • Last Sunday my parents took Cap'n Shack-Fu out to dinner; my folks were happy to finally meet my adopted brother and Shack was happy to gain insight into the early days of young Cap'n Neurotic. Mom later informed me that they had, in effect, had my birthday dinner without me, and she lamented the fact that she didn't come up with the idea to tell the waitress that it was surrogate son Shack-Fu's birthday so they could surprise/embarrass him until after she got home. I'm glad they were able to meet up on Sunday, since by Wednesday Shack was called away from Miamuh and reassigned back to the OKC area for the duration of his deployment.

  • Outside of heavy rains that knocked out power at my place for about an hour, my birthday was pretty uneventful. I did go to Tuesday night judo for the first time, which was nice since it was a much smaller group of people and I got more a chance to randori than on Thursday nights. I didn't tell anyone it was my birthday since I was pretty sure doing so would have given Sensei Smart-Alec even more excuses to throw me on my head than he already had. I can hear him now: "This is a special Korean* maneuver reserved as a rite of passage for men entering their 33rd year. Now, just stand still, bend your knees, and whatever you do, don't resist . . ."

  • While I didn't do much celebrating on my actual birthday, Blondie was kind enough to organize a birthday dinner for me the following evening. Had a big group show up, which was nice, even if the total number of people at the table was unlucky number 23. When the waitress was taking Cap'n Peanut's order, he told her that he would get half of my bill, and that someone else would have to pick up the other half for my birthday. "Oh, it's your birthday, huh?" the waitress said with great enthusiasm. "Very smooth," I remarked to Peanut as he sat there with an evil grin on his face. Of course, those who know me well should know that getting up and making a fool of myself when the staff came out to sing to me wasn't exactly a big deal for me; I was much more put out with the fact that my free birthday dessert chocolate cake had nuts in it.

  • Whatever allergens are in the air right now are giving my Ayr nasal rinse a run for its money; think I'm going to have to bump my routine back up to twice a day to keep from sliding back into allergy-ridden misery. Today I'm battling a sore throat, and I really want to nip this in the bud before it gets any worse. I blame the cottonwood, or as Squiggly calls it, "poison snow."

  • A group of Singles went out to the lake on Memorial Day, but I begged off since I was feeling kind of blah and am not a big lake guy anyway. However, I was later very sorry I didn't go if for no other reason than I missed this:

    Trouble chasing Squiggly with a fish-head-on-a-stick.

    Good times, good times.

  • When I went to deposit a check Tuesday afternoon, I found that my bank's drive-through was incredibly backed up, with each lane having four or five vehicles. But, since my bank account was nearing the negative zone, I decided to brave the rush -- which, I now realize, is a bit of an ironic choice of words, since the lines were moving at a glacial pace. When it was finally my turn and I pushed the call button to request a deposit slip, I discovered the reason for the slow-turnaround when the teller's voice came back over the speaker informing me that due to a lightning strike earlier I could hear him, but he couldn't hear me, so if I needed something I should try to mime it out for him. Not exactly the most efficient form of communication, especially when you're three lanes over from the teller window.

*Everything with him is either Korean or Irish/Gaelic; before class one night he informed me that we were going to have a substitute Sensei who was going to think in Gaelic, translate into Korean, and then have someone else translate that into English. Surprisingly, this was a bunch of hooey.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"What I Watched" Wednesday - Too. Much. SCREAMING.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Latest installment in the Indiana Jones series finds Indy older and focused on adventures featuring not Nazis and religion but Commies and aliens. Welcome to the 50s, Indy! Overall, was a bit disappointed; there were some great action sequences (particularly the big chase scene with Indy and Mud on the bike), and Ford, Shia LeBeouf, and Cate Blanchett all did great jobs in their rolls, but there were just a few too many scenes that stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point*, not to mention numerous "why the heck would anyone on earth do something like that?" moments. I would say this is worth a rental, but not full price at the theater.

Drive Thru: Low budget horror flick about a group of teenagers being hunted down by the demonic mascot of a fast food chain. An interesting concept with some flashes of wit which is nevertheless dragged down by poor execution. But, hey, it has Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame as a dorky hamburger joint employee, so it can't be all bad, right?

The Rage: Another low-budget horror flick, this time about a genetically engineered bio-weapon that turns its victims into blood-thirsty monsters. Had a hard time getting through this one just because of the non-stop screeching and screaming from the protagonists as they ran from the infected creatures; almost wanted to claw off my ears to make it stop. Actually went in the other room to chat with Flunky online for a few minutes while it was still playing, so I missed the introduction of the mutant killer midget transvestite; kind of mixed feelings about that. Give this one a miss.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets:
Sequel to the Nic Cage vehicle about a patriotic treasure hunter centers around Cage's quest to clear the name of his ancestor who has been implicated in the assassination of Lincoln, a quest that, of course, leads to a massive treasure. The caper stuff is fun (especially the scene at Buckingham Palace) and Riley is still a great character, and if you just switch your mind off and enjoy the big action set pieces you might not realize how little sense most of the meandering, hole-ridden plot makes.

Timber Falls:
Horror film about Dr. Mike Burton from Ed and his girlfriend getting kidnapped by a psycho hillbilly Aunt Zelda from Sabrina the Teenage Witch so that she and her equally psycho husband can force the couple into getting married and having sex so that they can create a child in wedlock that Zelda can then steal for her own. Oh, and there's a horribly disfigured inbred hillbilly brother who does Zelda's dirty work, too. Strange film, but I liked the fact that the "hero" refused to bow down to the psycho couple's requests.

Santa's Slay:
Now, I ask you, how can you go wrong with a film about a demonic killer Santa Clause played by WWE wrestler Goldbert, and featuring cameos by Fran Drescher, Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan and, of all people, James Caan? Answer: very easily, apparently. The film is a little too self-aware, tried too hard to be funny, and so manages to miss out on the "so bad it's good" phenomenon.

Murder Party:
Incredibly entertaining little film about a loner who decides to crash a Halloween "Murder Party" after finding the invite on the street, only to discover that the party name is horrifyingly accurate. Honestly, this was by far my favorite movie I saw this week; the director described it as sort of Breakfast Club meets Psycho, as the film is more about the interactions between the strange group of art students who have banded together to commit murder as part of a performance piece than anything else. Not that it's all talky and no slashy; plenty of the old ultra-violence to satisfy gorehounds, but it was the characterization, dialogue, and very dark humor that made this one of my "Dang, now who the heck can I recommend this to?" films. Would have been a perfect Odd Squodd flick if Li'l Random had actually been in town last week.

For those of you who've seen the film, I will just say that the two worst offenders were the scenes that prominently featured a refrigerator and vines; for those who haven't seen the film yet, when you finally do I think you'll be able to figure out what I'm talking about pretty quickly


Written Word Wednesday - Distinctly Demonic Dexter

If a fan of the hit Showtime series Dexter were to open up either of Jeff Lindsay's first two books which served as inspiration for the series (Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter), they would find a world which, while maybe not an exact match for the series (Doakes is even less sympathetic in the books, Masuka is more socially awkward than borderline perverted, there's no sign of annoying British addiction sponsors at all), is close enough not to send anyone away scratching their head wondering where in the world that came from. But with the third book, Dexter in the Dark, Lindsey throws any hope of maintaining a link between the books and the series out the window, because with the third book, Dexter ventures into the realm of the supernatural as we discover that the Dark Passenger -- the voice inside Dexter that pushes him to do what he does, and which protects and guides him with preternatural instincts and cunning -- isn't just a result of Dexter's traumatic youth, but is instead an actual preternatural presence; a presence that suddenly disappears from Dexter's mind after he investigates a strange crime scene involving decapitated bodies and ceramic bull heads, a disappearance that leaves Dexter at a loss as he suddenly finds himself afflicted with the normal weaknesses and flaws as everyone around him

Needless to say, this departure from the more mundane world of the earlier books -- if you can call a series about a sociopathic serial killer who only kills other serial killers mundane -- was not a big hit with most fans, and to be honest, I wasn't too sure how to react to it myself. I mean, sure, I'm a big fan of horror and SF and fantasy and the like, but shoehorning those elements into a series that wasn't originally designed as such can be off-putting. Granted, in the previous books there has always been a hint of the extraordinary about the Dark Passenger, and I admit to feeling like Lindsay had ascribed near-supernatural acuity to it in the past, but at the same time, there's a big difference between hints of supernatural possibilities and straight-up saying "The Dark Passenger is a possessing spirit, and it is not alone."

Another stumbling block for fans of the earlier books is the fact that the usually supremely confident Dexter is plagued by uncertainty and doubt throughout the novel. As a tool for causing tension and exploring the true nature of Dexter, I can appreciate what Lindsay was trying for; however, as the novels are told as first person narrative's from Dexter's P.O.V., shaking his confidence and having him question himself can't help but change the narrative style, which could account for why I had a hard time getting into the book at first.

Still, while there were some bumps along the road as I had to reconcile the cognitive dissonance engendered by the change in genre and tone, in the end I wound up getting sucked into the story and enjoying it overall. Not my favorite book in the series to be sure (that distinction belongs to Darkly Dreaming Dexter which is actually very close to the first season of the TV show), and I'm very curious to see what direction the next installment, Dexter by Design, goes in, but in the end, I'm glad I read it. How can you beat a ringing endorsement like that, huh?


Friday, May 23, 2008

Fragmented Friday - Yes, the Bug Was Eventually Vanquished

When we made our trip to the OKC Zoo, one of Li'l Random's friends from Arkansas met up with us. It was my first time to meet her face to face, although we've had plenty of online conversations since her comment on my comment on Li'l Random's MySpace page revealed that she shares a similar dark and twisty, MST3K mindset when it comes to movies. After I blogged about the zoo trip, she expressed her disappointment that I neglected to mention a comment she made comparing the Tawny Frogmouth to Tawny Kitaen and wondering if the bird had ever danced on the hood of a Whitesnake car. I explained that I somehow missed that comment, and promised that I would relate another one she made that I had actually meant to include the first time around. When we passed by a pen which proclaimed to hold both Chilean and American flamingos, she quipped that it was easy to tell which ones were which, as the Americans were obviously the pale, fat ones.

When I was first signing up for my judo class, one of the instructors (who's in his 60s) walked into the office, took one look at me, and started shaking his head and telling the lady at the desk that I couldn't join because they already had too many Caucasians. He then told me I could stay, but that I wasn't allowed to speak English. And, as I was walking past him on my way to the bathroom to change into my newly purchased judo gi*, he started elbowing the instructor next to him, pointing at me, and making various bone snapping and throat slitting gestures. Naturally, he's my favorite instructor so far; last night he cracked that he has to send out memos saying "I'm about to be serious," since he's goofing around so much.

Found out a few weeks ago that The Lovable PigPen is planning on moving out in the next couple of months. He and Cap'n Peanut had been talking about finding a place together after our lease runs out since Peanut's been wanting to move closer to Denton, but the timetable has gotten bumped up due to the fact that Peanut's landlords have asked him to move out so that their newly married son can live there, and PigPen's job is about to move its offices to Plano, a commute that is pretty painful financially in these "nearly $4.00 a gallon of gas" times. So now they're apartment hunting in Lewisville. I really need to get off my butt and start doing the same, but the procrastination is strong within me.

Judo basically consists of two components; the stand-up game of trying to throw your opponent to the ground, and the ground game of trying to pin your opponent or get them to submit through chokes or arm-bars and the like. I'm much more comfortable with the ground game, thanks to PigPen, and don't feel totally lost when we work on that stuff. But when it comes to throws, there's still a disconnect between my brain and my body when it comes to correctly positioning my feet, hips, arms, center of gravity, etc., as well as a difficulty of fully committing to the move. I'm hoping that stepping up my classes from once a week to twice a week will give me the extra practice to move past that barrier. But while throwing isn't easy for me, I'm getting lots of practice at being thrown . . .

You may have heard of the fringe hategroup known as Westboro Baptist Church** who spend their time thanking God for killing soldiers and sending earthquakes and tornadoes to kill off sinners, even going so far as to picket funerals for these victims, holding up signs that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" or "God Hates [insert victim category here]." Well, this group of stomach-turning hate-mongers recently set their sites on Picher, OK, declaring that the tornado damage and resultant deaths were a sure sign of God's wrath. Cap'n Shack-Fu was accosted by one while doing damage assessments; the WBC member went up to Shack and started exclaiming "You're with FEMA? FEMA's evil! FEMA is part of the Devil Government! Begone, FEMA, begone!" all the time waggling his fingers in Shack-Fu's face. How Shack managed to get away from the kook without either busting up laughing or punching the guy in the face, I don't know; a testament to his professionalism, I suppose. Still, the thought that these people are out there, tormenting the families who've lost so much, spreading a message of hate and intolerance that flies in the face of everything that a Christian should stand for . . . well, let's just say that I've been having to pray extra hard for a spirit of forgiveness towards their miserable, misguided cult recently.

Yesterday work at our office came to a standstill briefly after a rather large cockroach was sighted. Following its appearance, people were unable to work because they were either (a) so freaked out by the thought of the bug that they couldn't return to their cubicle until it was dead (b) dutifully hunting down the offending creature to put their coworkers' minds at ease, or (c) laughing too hard at the whole situation to do anything other than hold their aching sides. Three guesses which of the categories I fell into . . .

I had briefly toyed with the idea of driving up to Miamuh for the three-day weekend, but the fact that it's probably going to be storming all the way from here to there from Saturday through Wednesday put the kibosh on that idea; as much as I'd like to see mis padres (not to mention drop in on Miamuh-deployed Shack-Fu), an 11 hour round trip in the rain is not how I'd like to spend my birthday weekend. Okay, so technically my birthday isn't until Tuesday, but still! And no, I have no idea how I'll be celebrating my birthday, outside of my first Tuesday night judo class which is supposed to be much more intensive than Thursday night. So, yeah, my biggest gift on my birthday will probably be a lot more bumps and bruises. Happy birthday to me!

*Which is much heavier than my karate gi. Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch heavier. As in "literally sweated off two pounds in class" heavy.
**Which, may I quickly point out has absolutely no connection to the Baptist faith.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Impaired Vision Quest

A few weeks back I was chatting with Flunky online and he asked me if I had gotten back into martial arts yet. I told him I hadn't, but had been considering checking out the judo program that's just around the corner from our place. By the end of our conversation, I had decided two things:

  1. I was going to start taking judo classes as soon as possible
  2. I was going to do my darndest to keep it a secret from The Lovable PigPen for as long as possible in hopes of maybe catching him off guard during one of our semi-regular wrestling matches.
I of course had to fill in a handful of people on the plan, lest my head explode from the burden of trying to keep it inside; seriously, if someone tells me something in confidence and asks me to keep it to myself, I will take it to my grave, but if it's a secret about myself, I can't help spilling the beans -- take my experience trying to keep a lid on my writing of In a Cabin as proof of that. Keeping the secret from PigPen became harder and harder as I started actually taking classes, if for no other reason than out of all of my friends, the one I most wanted to talk to about everything I was learning was the one person I was trying to keep it all from. By my third class I had lost count of how many times I had almost related some judo anecdote to him; you'd be amazed how many things in my day-to-day life seemed to inspire me to wax poetic on judo class.

But I somehow still managed to keep my mouth shut around him, although the pressure made me itchy to pick a fight with him so I could try to use one of the moves I'd learned to take him down. I planned and visualized exactly how I was going to set up and execute the move, and began to actually let myself believe that I could pull this off. There were a couple of stumbling blocks, though. The first was that due to allergy problems, tons of overtime at work, and the like, I found it impossible to goad PigPen into any sort of sparring at all for over a week; quite frustrating. But not nearly as frustrating as the second stumbling block; when I finally did manage to pick a fight with PigPen, he was just too damned good for my meager skills to accomplish much of anything. After 13 years of wrestling, even when he isn't going all out trying to kick my butt, his natural defensive stance and instincts served to keep me from getting him off balance enough to complete any of my moves.

This, of course, frustrated me greatly.

That frustration eventually gave way to amusement as PigPen noticed the frustration and started trying to talk me out of it, complementing me on how well I was doing; when a leg sweep from the guard position I attempted almost worked and PigPen began telling me very enthusiastically that that was exactly what I needed to do, good job, I was finally starting to get it, etc., well, it was all too much for me, and I finally confessed my failed plan.

Thankfully, he did not rub my face in my inability to carry out my plan to finally be able to use the phrase on him that he uses on my daily -- "I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness" -- but rather told me that he could tell a definite improvement in my ground skills, and was very encouraging about me continuing on with the classes.

Gee, maybe he's not the personification of ultimate evil after all . . .

Seriously, though, when I first told Li'l Random about my super-sneaky plan, his immediate question was "So are you doing this to learn judo, or so you can beat PigPen?" I have to admit, being able to feel like I can give PigPen more of a run for his money was a big motivator, and if I could have succeeded in my initial super-sneaky plan and taken PigPen down, let alone submitted him, I could have died a happy man right then and there. But honestly, trying to get into judo or jiu-jitsu or the like has been something I've thought about off and on for years and years -- I was *this* close to taking a place up on its offer of two free lessons back in Stillwater -- but just never was able to work up the nerve to do anything about it. But now, thanks to PigPen semi-regularly kicking my butt all over the living room, I finally possessed enough self-confidence to go and sign up for the class even without him or Squiggly there to act as a safety-net of familiar faces like in our karate class.

Now, you might be asking "how does getting your butt kicked regularly build confidence?" That does seem a bit counterintuitive and contradictory, doesn't it? But the biggest thing that kept me from pursuing a martial arts class over the years is the deep-seated fear of making a fool of myself, of not being able to keep up, not being able to learn, etc. And while my wrestling matches with PigPen do occasionally veer into the "making a fool of myself" realm, the fact of the matter is that thanks to his coaching I've noticed a distinct improvement in my skills; sure, I'm nowhere near being proficient, but knowing that just getting the haphazard instruction from PigPen during our random sessions has reaped benefits has made me hungry to see just how much more I can learn with a regular, structured class. And if I can one day use what I learn in the class to turn the tables on the person responsible for giving me the self-confidence to take the class, well, I think that's a symmetry that PigPen would appreciate.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TV Tues - Schrodinger's Cat


Big Bang Theory
(CBS 7:00) : The best new sitcom of the year ends on a pretty strong note; curious to see if the Leonard/Penny pairing will be the focus for all of next season, or if their relationship will quickly crash and burn. I'm not invested enough in them as a couple for it to bother me either way, as long as Sheldon keeps making tactless, socially inept, and hilarious commentary about their situations. Although, I was proud of them for setting up the whole Schrodinger's Cat thing as an easy out for Leonard, and then having him chuck that thought out the window to go for it with Penny.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS 7:30): So, they ended the episode with a very strong feeling of Stella being the Mother, and yet no narration saying "And that's when I proposed to you mom" makes wonder if we're following yet another red herring. And I can't help but wonder how much of Stella's viability is tied into the fact that Sarah Chalke is committed to one more season of Scrubs.

Two and a Half Men (CBS 8:00): For most of the episode I had the feeling that the opening bit featuring Charlie's shrink was going to be far and away the best part of the show, but then we had Allen channeling the very essence of creepiness ("Defile her!") and that made the episode. Which is good, because overall, not that strong an ep.

Rules of Engagement (CBS 8:30): Don't usually watch this one, but got sucked in while waiting for PigPen last night. As with every other time I've seen bits of the show, almost all the good bits go to Patrick Warburton, which is as it should be, as he is a deadpan comedy genius.

American Gladiators (NBC 7:00): Was kind of fun watching the two new, smaller Gladiators zip up the wall after the contenders.


Deadliest Catch
(Discovery 8:00): The port-o-potty prank was nice, as was watching Edgar undermine Sig as Sig made questionable decisions.


Ultimate Fighter
(Spike 9:00): Continuing to be one of the best seasons of the show due to the humor of the coaches; looking forward to tomorrow night's ep which will feature Forest and Rampage's prank war.


My Name is Earl (NBC 7:00): Nice to see Earl finally patch things up with the one-legged lady. Pretty solid season finale.

The Office
(NBC 8:00): Toby's obsession with Pam had started to become a bit too cartoony for me, so as much as I love the Michael/Toby battles, I'm almost relieved to see him go just so I don't have to watch him be awkward anymore. I like that Phyllis now has something to hold over Angela's head; curious to see how that plays out. But everything else in the episode pales to the running gag of new-comer Holly thinking Kevin was mentally challenged; every scene between them had me rolling.

Grey's Anatomy
(ABC 8:00): Love the interplay between Meredith and her shrink; good stuff.

(ABC 9:00): Favorite part of the episode was Hurley's reaction to seeing The Numbers on his car's odometer; been a while since we've seen The Numbers pop up in such an obvious way. This ep felt less like marking time than the previous week's episode, but it still smacked of tons of set-up; let's hope the payoff in next week's finale is worth it.


Battlestar Galactica
(SciFi 9:00): First of all, may I say this: Bad promo department! Bad! Making all the ads for this week's episode consist of scenes from the last 10 minutes of the show? Bad! And throughout that sequence, I just kept saying over and over again "Don't do it, Athena, don't do it!" But, she did. Yeah, like that's not going to hurt human/Cylon relations.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Nature's Wonders Unfurled in All Their Splendor

This last weekend was The Singles' annual day-trip to OKC to eat at Ted's Cafe Escondido and then take in some local sights; if you'll recall, last year's trip was when I wound up injuring myself in an embarrassing way. One thing I neglected to mention about last year's trip -- distracted as I was by my bruised tailbone -- was that our ride home was made more interesting by the fact that one of the back inside tires on the church bus blew out 30-40 minutes north of Denton and we had to limp on home. So when I, who was riding up with Li'l Random* instead of riding the bus, got a call from Cap'n Cluck saying that they had had a blowout about 20-30 minutes from Ted's my first instinct was that the folks on the bus were trying to pull a fast one on those of us in the Night Roller. But no, Cluckity was telling the truth; once again the Ted's trip was punctuated by an inside rear tire blowout . . . the same tire, even. Since they weren't too far from the restaurant, Trouble dropped everybody off to get a table and then headed over to a tire place where she asked that they examine all of the tires. The tech recommended replacing all four back tires immediately, saying that the front tires would get us home, but should be replaced ASAP as well. Needless to say, on the eventual ride home every strange road noise and stretch of unusually bumpy highway triggered my bus wreck paranoia.

Li'l Random and I picked Trouble up from the tire place and headed back over to Ted's. Our lunch was fairly uneventful, outside of our waitress tormenting Li'l Random for his refusal to even attempt to say "pollo" correctly, and the fact that when someone at another table got crowned with a sombrero and serenaded by the staff for his birthday, it sparked the realization at our table that "hey, Todd's birthday is just a little over a week away, isn't it . . ."

By the time we got done eating the bus was ready, so Li'l Random ferried Trouble over to pick it up, and we all headed off to our selected tourist attraction this year: the OKC zoo.

I don't think I'd been to the OKC zoo since my Freshman year of college when Flunky, Poohbear, Coronela and I were witness to what we dubbed "Mating Day at the Zoo," wherein the first several animals we saw that day were busy perpetuating the circle of life. Some highlights of this trip include:

  • There were signs up periodically with instructions for viewing the animals; Li'l Random insisted we stop to read one. It referenced the fact that thanks to natural camouflage, sometimes the animals wouldn't be visible, but that even if you couldn't see them they were "watching you." After that, every time we got to an enclosure with no visible inhabitant, I would have to proclaim in my most charmingly creepy voice "They're watching you!" On a related note, I had Hall & Oates "Private Eyes" stuck in my head most of the day.

  • When we first entered the in-door portion of the pachyderm exhibit, there was a sign for Asian elephants but no animals in sight, causing Li'l Random to declare "Wow, Asian elephants are invisible." We then moved on to the next pen, which was also marked Asian elephant, but whose inhabitant looked suspiciously like a rhinoceros, causing me to declare "Wow, Asian elephants are also shape-shifters!"

  • We came to a cage which was supposed to house a "tawny frogmouth," which I maintain is an awesome name for a band. The frogmouth was pretty well camouflaged and totally motionless, leading Li'l Random onto a rant about how the bird was obviously stuffed, and how he couldn't believe that they'd have a stuffed bird at the zoo, what kind of trickery was that, etc. etc. The rant lasted until the frogmouth had gotten enough of his lip and decided to move, opening up its beak in a manner that reminded me of those old flip-top head commercials

  • When we got to the Big Cats section we saw a tiger roaming around some trees, sniffing at them. Someone asked "is he going to chew on it or claw at it?" I posited the theory that it was probably going to mark its territory. . .

  • It was a relatively hot and humid day, so lots of the animals were lounging around being worthless. This snow leopard, for example

    was holed up in a little shady nook, batting its front paws at the air as it dreamed of clawing at all of the noisy folks with cameras disturbing its sleep. Meanwhile, this jaguar

    was up just long enough for this picture to get snapped before it settled down for a nap behind that little rock formation, leaving only its ears visible.

  • After the cats we headed to The Great EscApe where we got to watch a couple of young gorillas showing off their best MMA moves on each other

    a demonstration presumably put one for the amusement of their patriarch who was lounging nearby taking it all in

    Next up was the orangutans, who seemed very interested in the crowd gathered next to the glass to view him, as he moved slowly closer and closer, staring them all down . . . and then urinating right onto the glass.

  • As we were preparing to leave, the very last thing to catch my eye was a couple of African deer getting very "friendly" with each other. I was tempted to call Poohbear and let her know that I had once again experienced Mating Day at the Zoo, but then I remembered it was her and Zinger's wedding anniversary . . . then I was really tempted to call.
So, after seeing all of nature's wonder unfurled in their utmost splendor (I mean, spraying, peeing, and humping, who could ask for anything more?) we headed on back to Denton, with nary a blowout all the way home.

*Li'l Random headed straight from OKC to Atkins for a family reunion, as well as the annual Pickle Fest; yes, he was returning to his Li'l Dill roots.


Movie Mon. - The French are a Riot

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: Second installment of the big-screen adapation of C.S. Lewis's fantasy series finds the Pevensie children called back to Narnia over a thousand years after they left to help the human Prince Caspian save the remaining Narnians from the advances of the savage Telmarines. It's been a looooooooooong time since I read the book, so I spent most of the film going "I'm not sure, but I thought Caspian was much younger in the book, and what's with all this Susan/Caspian romance going on? That wasn't in the original, was it?" But adaptation issues aside, I really enjoyed it. They did an awesome job with the character of Reepicheep, the mouse knight, both in terms of animation and voice-work (thank you, Eddie Izzard), and Peter Dinklage was night unto unrecognizable as Trumpkin.

French horror film about a group of young crooks taking advantage of riots to pull a job, and then hiding out at a hostel, only to find that their hosts are sadistic, blood-thirsty neo-Nazi's with an insane breeding program. Not a bad little film; interesting concept, a couple of fairly gruesome sequences, and not too much in the way of "Oh, come one, nobody in their right mind would do that!" scenes. Was a bit slow to get going, though, and few of the protagonists were all that likable, so I had a bit of trouble getting into it early on; really picks up once you meet the bizarre Nazi clan.

Another French horror film set during a time of riots -- what are the odds?-- except this one centers on a pregnant widow who is attacked at her home the night before her planned delivery date by a crazed woman who wants to claim the baby as her own. Dang, was this movie intense! Found myself squirming in my seat more during this movie than pretty much anything else I've seen in I don't know how long. Sure, the last third of the movie suffered greatly from stretching my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point (why didn't she keep the gun? Why oh why oh WHY didn't she keep the gun?), but on the whole the tension and suspense of the cat and mouse game played by the uber-creepy stalker lady kept me enthralled. Not for the squeamish at all.

Vision Quest:
Mid-80s film about a high school wrestler (Matthew Modine) who decides he wants to drop several weight classes in order to wrestle the best guy in the state, a quest that gets derailed when he and his dad take in a independent (and sexy) border (Linda Fiorentino in her big screen debut). Li'l Random has been referencing this a lot recently, so I picked it up at the Media Library for our Odd Squodd Mostly-Regular Dark and Twisty, Strange and Unusual, Off-Beat, Quirky, Movie Fest, although in this case I think we might want to add the word "cheesy" in there somewhere. Honestly, though, this was a pretty good movie; a bit dated, to be sure, but it had plenty of quotable lines that will be sure to entertain Li'l Brother and myself for weeks to come, as well as some nice fashion ides -- the Random One is adamant that we find matching work-out suits like the main character wore to lose weight, due to their space-man like design. . Would kind of like to watch it with PigPen just to hear him critique the wrestling sequences.


Friday, May 16, 2008

It Was Only a Matter of Time . . .

The last 4 1/2 months have been nice, but as soon as my folks told me about the horrible tornado damage in Picher, OK, I knew that it wouldn't be long before Cap'n Shack-Fu's deployment-free streak came to an end. Sure enough, a couple of days ago he got the word, and is now up in my old stomping grounds for an indefinite amount of time. I would try to broker a home-cooked meal for him from my parents while he's up there, but there area few stumbling blocks:

  • Shack would have to find the time in his 12-to-14 hour days, 7 days a week to meet up with them
  • My folks would have to get their house presentable for guests
  • Shack would have to wear a gas mask and oxygen tank the whole time so that his intense allergy to cats didn't kill him on the spot.
I'm thinking number 3 would be the biggest hurdle . . .


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Belated Book Bits

No, I haven't totally slacked off on my reading . . . just on my reporting of my reading. And, I had this all typed up and ready to go for Written Word Wednesday yesterday when Blogger decided to go kablooey and not even save my text to draft, let alone publish. So, here's my tardy book reviews.

The Born Queen: Book 4 of Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone by Greg Keyes: Have to admit, while I loved the first few books in this series, the last volume was a bit of a letdown. I think the biggest factor in my disappointment was that two of the main characters are pretty much either possessed or driven mad with mystic power through the bulk of the book, rendering their personalities virtually unrecognizable. One of them I didn't care for all that much to begin with, so it wasn't a horrible deal (although she did become even more annoying once the power-madness set in), but the other was one of my two favorite characters, and to see his personality subsumed by that of the Black Jester took a lot of my enjoyment away; of course, your mileage may vary. I also felt like Keyes tried to wrap up way too much in way too short a span of pages; the whole volume felt rushed, which seems unnecessary since the 3rd volume struck many as overly padded.

Blaze by Richard Bachman (foreword by Stephen King): Entertaining thriller that was originally written by King during his Bachman phase, but which was never published at the time, only to be pulled out and polished up last year after King had so much fun writing the semi-noir The Colorado Kid. The plot follows Blaze --a two-bit crook whose brains have been addled even since his drunk father shoved him down the stairs as a kid -- as he tries to pull off a kidnapping originally planned by his recently deceased partner . . . a deceased partner who still appears from time to time to put in his two cents as to Blaze's chances of success. Not going to go down as one of my favorite King novels, but probably is one of the strongest of the Bachman books, and is an entertaining read.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TV Tues - Knew I Was Forgetting Something

Was in such a hurry to get stuff written so I could actually have a post up that I left out a few shows.


Grey's Anatomy
(ABC 8:00): Christina bursting into "Like a Virgin" was great, as was her rant to the chief at the end, but all else pales before the awesomeness that was Bailey's speech to the nurses about Sloane and his man-slut nature. Freaking hilarious.

(ABC 9:00): While I found the implications of Locke's flashback intriguing, the episode as a whole left me flat; it was more marking time than anything else. Do have to say that Claire was creeping me the heck out in her brief appearance; that was more like something that would have cropped up on Twin Peaks than on Lost. Only three more hours before the season's over (one hour this week, one week off for Grey's finale, two hour finale the week after) and I'm hoping they cram some killer reveals into that time. Supposedly, for once the game-changing moment will happen early on in the finale and not in the final minutes, but we'll see.

(CBS 8:00): I only watched last week's ep because it was the result of CSI switching writing staff with Two and a Half Men -- yeah, still not sure who the heck came up with that idea. In the grand scheme of things, I didn't feel that either of the gimmick episodes was all that strong; oh, sure, 2 1/2 Men had the great "black light in Charlie's room" sequence, but who didn't see that coming? As far as the CSI ep goes, the characters were just way too over the top to fit in with the show's usual dynamic; I'm thinking specifically of Deidrach Bader as the Tom Arnold analogue. But, while neither installment was quite up to the standards of the regular episodes, I did enjoy the snappy patter employed by all of the writers on the CSI ep, and couldn't help wondering throughout the show how Tom Arnold, Cybil Shepard, and Roseanne felt about the very thinly veiled caricatures of themselves being bumped off; at least Christine Baranski's analogue got to be cool, talented, and wicked smart.


TV Tues - Non-Optional Social Convention


Big Bang Theory
(CBS 7:00): Not one of the season's strongest episodes -- in fact, I felt all of the CBS sitcoms were experiencing a weak week -- but it still had its share of great moments. I love the near-adversarial relationship that has developed between Penny and Sheldon, as evidenced by her threats of blackmail, and his refusal to budge on buying Leonard a birthday gift until it was labelled a "non-optional social convention."

How I Met Your Mother (CBS 7:30): Brittney Spears' first appearance on the show: awesome. Second appearance: not so much. There had been so much hype about the Barney/Brittney team-up against Ted that the actually execution was a huge letdown.

Two and a Half Men (CBS 8:00): Quoth Zinger: "We get it. She's being a mother to them all. Can they please realize it and get on with the funny?" Couldn't have said it better myself.

American Gladiator (NBC 7:00): As expected, the only event we got to see last year's male winner Evan (now dubbed Rocket) compete in was The Wall, but the female winner Monica (now codenamed Jet) was popping up in event after event, and kicking quite a lot of butt as she did so. Way to go, soccer mom!


Deadliest Catch
(Discovery 8:00): Quite a season for temper tantrums and violent outbursts; can't wait to see who snaps next!


Ultimate Fighter
(Spike 9:00): Was soooooooooo glad that self-proclaimed "sandbagging son-of-a-[you know what]" Jeremy May got his head handed to him; maybe that will knock the smug look off his face for a few minutes at least. Highlight of the episode, though, was Forrest's voice cracking as he was yelling at Matt Brown to "show [May] the animal!" over and over again; good stuff. My favorite quote from any of the reviews I read of the episode was this one from Jared Barnes' Brawl Sports blog:

During the show May described his style as Jeremy Jitsu. From what I could tell Jeremy Jitsu consisted of acting like a tool whenever possible and using minor injuries as an excuse not to train hard. I have a feeling no one is going to see Jeremy Jitsu gyms popping up around town anytime soon.

(CBS 7:00): Wow. Just . . . wow. Was that the first time we've ever seen somebody give up hard-won immunity? If it is, then the stupidity of the move highlights why it hasn't been done more often. In terms of straight-up blindside maneuvers, this has been the Survivor season to end all Survivor seasons. And while Eric getting booted made for some truly classic TV, there was a small part of me that was saddened because it meant I was going to have to endure that grating, malevolent, [expletive deleted] Natalie for at least the first hour of the finale.

My Name is Earl (NBC 7:00): Unsure how I feel about the whole Earl/Billie storyline; kind of glad it looks like it's coming to an end.

Scrubs (NBC 7:30): While airing a strange, fairy tale themed episode out of order so that significant plot developments are reversed and not addressed may not be the worst way I've ever seen a network end the run of a series, it's definitely not among the best, either. Still, the mild disappointment over a lackluster finale has been mollified by the official announcement of the news that TV insiders have known about for months: Scrubs will be moving to ABC for its final season, which promises to wrap up all the loose threads.

The Office (NBC 8:00): This show has been pretty hit or miss since the return from the strike; the latest installment was more miss than hit.

30 Rock (NBC 8:30): While I understand that the character of Liz really needs to be dysfunctional in order to function, I hate that this dooms any chance of a working Liz/Floyd relationship, because I really like their back-and-forth.


Battlestar Galactica
(Sci-Fi 9:00): Glad they've come back to the Cylon rift storyline; I find the exploration of the Cylon culture far more interesting than the rise of Baltar as prophet.


Survivor (CBS 7:00): By now, I'm pretty sure anyone reading this has seen the Survivor finale, but just in case you've been living under a rock, I figured I'd give a small spoiler warning before declaring


how ticked I am that Amanda lost. Two times on the show, two second place finishes; the girl just can't get a break. A lot of it was her own fault; she just can't seem to pull it together during the jury portion, and was digging her own grave with every word out of her mouth. It didn't help that Alexis, Natalie, and Parv seemed to have a bit of a bitca alliance going on, resulting in Alexis and Nat totally tearing into poor Amanda with the cattiest of comments. While I suppose the fact that Natalie didn't win should make me feel slightly better, and I have to admit that Parvati actually made some bold moves that changed the direction of the game, I was really hoping that the money wouldn't go to the role model for sexual manipulation and backstabbing. I guess I should have known better, huh?


Monday, May 12, 2008

Movie Mon. - Still in a Horror Mood

Unearthed: One of this year's "AfterDark Horror Fest 8 Films to Die For," this initially promising horror movie that eventually falls flat centered around a creature accidentally released from imprisonment by an archaeological dig which then goes on a murderous rampage in a small desert town. The early parts of the film had entertaining moments, and the creature itself had a pretty original design, but once the crazy archaeologist character got introduced, the film went downhill fast.

The Car:
1970s horror flick starring James Brolin about a demonic, driverless car terrorizing a small town. I found the portions of the film dealing with character development and dialogue to be very well done; the scenes of suspense and terror, much less son, although how much of that was a product of the film not aging well is up for interpretation. Still, despite some cheesiness here and there, a pretty enjoyable film. Fun fact: the hippie kid with the French horn later went on to be Wolfram and Hart's President of Special Projects, Linwood Murrow . . . you know, the one Lilah decapitates.

Shadow Puppets:
Horror film about a group of people who wake up stripped of their memories (not to mention most of their clothes) inside a locked-down mental facility and soon find themselves being hunted down by a creature made of shadows. First of all, I originally rented this one for its cast of SF/Horror veterans: James Marsters, Tony Todd, and Jolene Blalock. Plus, I have a weakness for films of this sort; give me a group of strangers thrown together for a mysterious reason couple with amnesia and/or the revelation that one of them is not who/what he/she claims to be, and I'm a happy camper. Although I felt there were some plot holes towards the end, all in all, I liked this one.

Mulberry Street:
Probably my favorite of the "8 Films to Die For" so far, this horror flick about a mutant plague being transmitted by rat bites and how it affects the tenants of an apartment building on Mulberry Street showed a lot of promise, directorially speaking. A couple of "Now why would anyone on earth do a stupid thing like that?" moments, but all in all, not a bad little film.

Stargate: Ark of Truth:
Direct-to-DVD "movie" that wraps up loose threads from the series following its cancellation felt like little more than an extended episode. Not necessarily a bad thing, and as far as Stargate episodes go, this was a pretty good one, and I'm never going to complain about getting another chance to see Vala in wisecracking action again.

Battlestar Galactica: Razor:
TV-movie companion piece to Galactica which explores the history of the Battlestar Pegasus prior to its reunion with the Galactica. Grim and gritty, which is to be expected of all things Galactica at this point. This one felt a bit more "special" than Ark of Truth, possibly because it was a side-story focusing on an original character, and not just a wrap-up of existing storylines. Wish I had seen it earlier, since the confrontation with the Cylon hybrid gave a lot of foreshadowing, pretty much all of which has either now come to pass or been referenced in another way since then.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Camera-hogs On Parade

Too fuzzy-headed to write anything even remotely coherent today, so instead, enjoy this photographic evidence of the perils of letting Cap'n Shack-Fu and The Lovable PigPen get ahold of your camera, right Cap'n Cluck?

Think this shot really captures the Inner PigPen, don't you?

I see this picture, and all I can think is "Beaky Buzzard."

"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful . . ."

Scary Shack

For some reason I picture him making "zoom zoom" noises while doing this

"Your kung-fu is no match for my pin-fu!"

Brace for impact!

Words fail me.

Air PigPen.

Shack-Fu's not the only one who can fight fire

No, I'm not Killroy, why do you ask?

"Look deep into my eyes . . ."

"Play? PLAY!!!!!"

Can't quite tell if that's joy or fear on his face . . .



Monday, May 05, 2008

Movie Mon. - Yes, I'm in a Horror Mood

Iron Man: Excellent comic book adaptation about everyone's favorite alcoholic super-genius super-hero. Robert Downey Jr. was pitch-perfect as Tony Stark, as I knew he would be, and most of the alterations to the mythos were minor tweaks that didn't bother me much.

Hogfather: Entertaining adaptation of one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels (which, in case you have forgotten, I love with a bloody passion) about what happens when a group of ethereal being plot to assassinate the Discworld's holiday figure The Hogfather, who just so happens to bear a striking resemblance to Santa Clause, only with flying boars and big tusks. Some aspects of the book translated better to the screen than others (the depicitions of assassin Teatime, Death, and Death's granddaughter Susan were great; Nobby Nobbs, however, was far too recognizable as a human being, thus ruing one of the series running gags for anyone who hasn't read the books when it was clumsily included).

Borderland: One of the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest 8 Films to Die For, which is a tad strange, since it really wasn't a horror film, more like a thriller with a tinge of horror elements. A trio of Americans run afoul of a gang whose leader happens to practice Santeria, and who has selected one of the three (Boy Meets World Rider Strong) to be his latest sacrifice. Okay film, but not what I was expecting. Was fun to see Sean Astin play one of the crazy bad guys, though.

Evil Aliens: Tongue-in-cheek British SF/Horror comedy about a TV crew sent out to film a story about a presumably fake alien abduction in Wales, only to find themselves the targets of a large number of bloodthirsty aliens. Film tries a bit too hard, and a lot of its over-the-top humor fell flat, but it had some entertaining bits; I particularly liked the mass slaughter of aliens by a piece of farm equipment as the song "I've Got a Brand New Combine Harverster" (sung to the tune of "I've Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates") played.

Altered: SF/Horror film about a group of rednecks who were abducted by aliens as kids, and who have now captured one of the abductors 15 years later for revenge. Not quite what I expected; there wasn't a single flashback to the characters' earlier abduction, nor was the information about their ordeal delivered in a single info-dump, both of which were actually bonuses for me; nice to have a film that respects its audience's ability to read between the lines and put the pieces of the puzzle together. There were a couple of "Oh, come on!" moments, but overall, a pretty solid little film.

Isolation: Yet another film about genetically engineered livestock going crazy and infecting humans with their mutant DNA? But while Black Sheep was designed more for laughs than scares, this Irish film about mutated cattle was a surprisingly dark, creepy, atmospheric film. I think it helped that the killer cattle were so incredibly mutated that they didn't really resemble cows at all; helped keep it from veering into tongue-in-cheek or Z-grade movie territory.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Fragmented Friday - Cinna-Man and Lavender Limp

The strangest thing happened the other day; several of my co-workers were bemoaning how horrible their allergies had been recently, how they were in constant discomfort, how it was worse than usual . . . and I was unable to join in on their complaining because I have had no problems whatsoever. Thank you, magical saline nasal rinse! Even if I do still have spurts of water come flying out of my nose at random time, it's still better than non-stop sinus headaches.

The other night a few of the guys went to Texas Roadhouse because Li'l Random hadn't been around the week before to celebrate Cap'n Shack-Fu's b-day, and wanted to take him out to dinner. When our waitress came by for the first round of refills, she looked at me and said "Dr. Pepper, right?" Groaning inside at the barrage I knew was about to come from the rest of my table, I very forcefully decried, "No, Coke!" mere instants before the others began cajoling her into giving me the dreaded drink. When she came back, she said "Okay, here's you Dr. Pepper," with a great big grin. Li'l Random tried to talk her into putting just a little dollop of DP in the next time she refilled it. Instead she came back with two glasses, put them behind her back, and said "Pick a hand." Li'l Random started chanting "Pick the right, it's always the right, pick the right!" Of course, knowing that the left hand is the sinister hand and could therefore hold nothing other than that vile concoction known as Dr. Pepper, I had already decided to pick the right hand; when I did so, the waitress cried out "Dang it!" and then handed over the Coke, leaving the Dr. Pepper for Shack-Fu

I'm trying really hard not to get my hopes up for Iron Man, but with all the rave reviews its getting from critics of both the geek and non-geek variety, it's getting hard to keep my expectations realistic.

During the meal at Texas Roadhouse, Shack-Fu commented that their cinnabutter wasn't as good as usual. "Too much butter, not enough cinna?" I asked, and he agreed, and as we continued the conversation about his desire for more cinna, Li'l Random lived up to his name and proclaimed "From now on, we'll call you Cinna, and I'll be Lavender." No, I don't know where he came up with that and, yes, at times I do worry about the long-term effects of sharing a brain with someone as unique as The Randomator. Anyway, while we were leaving, Li'l Random accidentally stepped in a hole and, rather, than twist his ankle, just let himself fall to the ground in a heap. "I just went limp!" he said, to which I replied "Lavender limp?"

It dawned on me a few days ago that this month marks the 15th anniversary of my high school graduation. That's just an odd thought; high school somehow feels like it was even longer ago than that in some ways, but then I stop to think about how that means I've known most of the Parkerites for almost that long, and then I can't believe how quickly time has flown.

The May picture on my Futurama wall calender is a parody of the poster for Pulp Fiction labeled Plump Friction, replacing Uma Thurman with Zapp Brannigan, which wouldn't be too bad, except Zapp is au naturel except for his boots, which has forced me to cover up the drawing of his naked behind with one of the many monkey pictures adorning my cubicle walls lest the disturbing sight be burned into my retinas. Not that a monkey-covered butt is much less disturbing, mind you, but it gets me through the day.