Archive for April 2003

 
 

Amazon’s free shipping

As you may well know by now, if you order $25 or more worth of stuff from Amazon, you have the option to have free shipping. This is the slowest method of delivery possible, and Amazon says you won’t get your package for a week or more.

I pre-ordered the BABYLON 5 second season DVD set that was released on Tuesday. I received it today, Thursday.

In other words, I see no need to pay for shipping at Amazon anymore.

60s Night

I didn’t know that Neil Sedaka is Liberace’s younger brother… He sure looked and acted the part last night. He also became the first judge to ever make critiques by reading them off his notes. I’ll be kind and say he wrote them down as the singers performed, but I get the feeling they were pre-fed lines. UGH.

In any case, last night was 60s night/Sedaka night. Two things became clear. (1) Things are getting really really good. (2) Joshua Gracin has outstayed his welcome. He’s just not good enough. He could get by in comparison to some of the other questionable talents the show has had in the round of 12, but when he’s up against the other four — and with Kimberley Locke and Trenyce making moves at the top — he just can’t compete. I also think he wants out. He’s getting more flippant towards Simon now, even though his wisecracks are funny. He doesn’t look like he’s having fun anymore, but just going through the motions. With any luck, he’ll get the much-needed mercy kill tonight the way Carmen got it last week.

I won’t do a full breakdown this week, but I will say that I had goosebumps for the first time this season with Clay Aiken doing “Solitaire.” They staged it perfectly, and he sang it well. I just wish they had let him do the full version of it. He’d also be insane not to take up Sadaka on his offer to write a song for him. Let’s hope that the American Idol people don’t screw up Aiken’s recording career the way they have Kelly Clarkson’s.

Lots of good songs this week. Aiken’s “Build Me Up, Buttercup” was great, and Locke’s “Where the Boys Are” was perfect, save for one pitchy moment (on the word “Valentine”). I remember that song as sung by Kath Soucie doing her Fifi LeFume voice for a TINY TOONS tape a decade ago. It was good stuff then, and it’s still great stuff now. Trenyce (a/k/a Lashundra Cubbins) did a great job with both of her songs, even with the most annoying background singers in AI history. I’m definitely getting bored of Ruben, though. He’s a nice guy and all, but it’s not my thing. He hasn’t stood out in weeks, while Kimberley, Clay, and Trenyce have all had powerhouse performances. That could hurt him. (Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.)

I think the theory that doing poorly gets you more votes than doing well works in the earlier rounds, but I think the affects this far down the line are minimal. There are less people to vote for, making it easier for people to start truly voting for who they think is the best, and not who they think needs to be saved. I think Josh is gone this week. After Josh, it might truly be anyone’s game. I’m still rooting for Clay, although I had Kimberley down as a very early favorite.


Spam report

I’m looking at my POPfile spam report and noticed something interesting:

45% of my e-mail is spam today. That’s disgusting enough. Even worse: There are 23,000 different words in that spam, as opposed to 17,000 different words in normal e-mail. (POPfile filters spam e-mail out by assigning weights to words based on whether they appear in spam or normal e-mails.)

What does this all mean? Very little, probably. More likely, it’s that spam e-mails keep inventing new words to duck the spam filters. Or, that I talk about the same things with the same people far too often in my normal e-mail.

POPfile now successfully filters 98.63% of my e-mail. I still double-check all spam, but it sure makes it a lot easier to sort through.

The Oddball Races

This thing makes the Wacky Racers of Hanna Barbera look tame… The race is done by contestants who build oddball contraptions capable of making a 15 mile trek. The winner is — well, I’ll let the story explain:

“The judges don’t have to perform any complicated calculations to figure out who the winner is — the rules suggest that they can simply give the title to whomever hands out the best bribes.

“Awards are also presented to contestants who finish next-to-last, experience a memorable breakdown or attempt to race sculptures with spectacular design flaws.”

It’s just crazy enough to work. There are more oddball elements to the race, but you’ll have to click on the link to read about them, and see the pictures of some of the contraptions.

Hockey Warnings

I recently purchased tickets to a concert. And on the printout sheet that I am to use as my tickets, there’s the following warning for hockey games:

“Warning! Despite enhanced spectator shielding measures, pucks still may fly into the spectator area. Serious injury can occur. Stay alert at all times including during warmup and after play stops. If struck, immediately ask usher for directions to medical station.”

I don’t know about you, but if I get hit by a flying puck, I’m not waiting for anything before screaming blue bloody murder at anyone in the general vicinity.

On the other hand, if a puck just flew off the ice and into the stands during a game, the odds are fairly good that play just stopped…

New DVD releases, 29 Apr 2003

For those who remember last week’s disappointing list, I should mention here that I did end up picking up the new BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES DVD, after all. I’m weak when it comes to that show.

But onto this week’s list, which is a little better. It’s brought to you from the fine folks at DVDJournal.com.

Babylon 5: Season Two (6-disc set)

Everything else after this pails in comparison. The first season is pure introduction, and this season starts setting up some pins and knocking down others. The third and fourth seasons are the real pay-offs, but this is where they get their sealegs, with the introduction of Bruce Boxleitner.

Disco Pigs

I have no idea what this is, but the name sure is funny. I think I’d prefer DISCO DUCK, though.

Extreme Ops (2002)

The movie came and left theaters so fast last December that I’m surprised it wasn’t put out on DVD already. What took so long?

The Piglet Files

Is this the companion edition to DISCO PIGS?

Son of the Beach: Vol 1 (3-disc set)

The guy who stars in this show is really good, but I’d prefer to see his previous series poking fun of television talk shows on DVD.

Treasure Planet (2002)

Opinions on this latest Disney release have been wildly mixed, with some calling it the worst movie ever, and others defending it as being as solid piece of work, if not spectacular or terribly original. I’m willing to give it a chance.

Sadly, it’s not a two disc edition. Disney hasn’t announced one for this movie yet.

Xena Warrior Princess: Season One (1995)

I know this will make a great many people happy. I never got into the show, though.

In the end, it’s only 1 must-buy this week, but that’s OK with me. It’s a very good must buy.

Looking into the future: CHEERS, Season One comes out on May 20th. It’s not all that busy a DVD release season in the next few weeks, otherwise.

Indy is coming

Let’s hope that this plan pans out…

The Family Guy review

I finally found a copy of THE FAMILY GUY DVD boxed set last weekend, after hitting seven different stores.

The good news: It’s a funnier show than I remembered. I’ve only watched the first half dozen episodes so far, but it’s sharp. There are a couple of commentaries on the first disc that really tick me off; I know commentaries were recorded for all the episodes but not included in the boxed set. What a sad waste. Hearing the voice of Stewie swearing in character is worth the price of admission alone.

The bad news: The video quality has serious issues. There’s edge enhancement evident throughout the disc. If you don’t know what that is, you’ll know for sure after watching one of these shows. All the black lines that make up a character look slightly blurry or wavy. Even worse, occasionally it’ll spread out to the background lines. The term “squigglevision” has been applied to this DVD set, and I can’t disagree with it. It’s more than just the freeze frame shots. That’s too bad. It’s always sad when the show looks better on cable TV than through your DVD player.

However, it’s not a deal breaker. You can get used to it fairly fast, and if you don’t let it ruin your enjoyment for the series, it’s not an issue. Yes, it shouldn’t be an issue at all. FOX really screwed up in mastering this set and that’s a shame. However, it’s such a great show that the material can overcome it.

Last Survivor thoughts of the week

Consider this post filled with spoilers if you haven’t seen this week’s episode yet.

Here’s what I would have loved to see during the tribal council segment at the end of the show. Just before the voting begins, Rob stands up and gives his immunity necklace to Alex. Then he says, “I’m going to vote out Heidi tonight, and I hope you all join me.” Then he walks out and writes Heidi’s name on a slip of paper.

Now THAT would have been great TV.

This way, he can still betray the power quad without losing Alex. The girls are eliminated, and they were the ones who were truly in his way from winning in the end. No doubt that Butch, Matt, and Christy would have gone with him since he was their only hope and he was the guy pulling the strings to begin with.

Then, next week, they vote out Jenna. The only problem here is if Matt, Butch, and Christy decide to overpower Rob and Alex after that.

And there is one uneasy portion to the remainder of the season: They’re now back to being equal in terms of the male/female demographic. I doubt Christy would join up with HeidiJenna, but if they managed to pull her inner feminist out, the guys might be in trouble and get blindsided.

As it stands right now, HeidiJenna have one chance to win, and that’s to promise special favors to Rob or Matt, if you know what I mean. ;-)

One quick correction on Iraq

It was the Iraqi people that looted their museums, and not the Bush administration.

That point seems to be getting lost in the on-going attempts by political opponents to pin anything on the Bush administration for having the gall to execute a successful military campaign…

Identity (no spoilers)

I saw the new Jon Cusack movie, IDENTITY, last night. It’s a bit of a thriller, a bit of a take on slasher flicks, and a bit of a psychological horror movie all at the same time. The good news is that it’s less than an hour and a half. I’m starting to appreciate such movies more. If I want a three hour epic, I think I’d rather do it at home with the home theater (such as it is.) Those movie seats get butt-numbing after a couple of hours.

How was the movie? Well, for the first hour and a ten minutes it’s a really cool thriller that’s shot relatively well. I couldn’t help but think that Conrad Hall would have found a way to brighten up the shots a bit while still retaining the dark and rainy atmosphere, but you can’t get perfect on every movie. All the same, it’s a well-directored movie with nice staging and lots of rack-focus.

Then the big twist of the movie hits. I think it’s the reason I heard people muttering “terrible,” “stupid,” and “horrible” as I left the theater. Your whole enjoyment of the movie will come down to whether or not the twist throws you. If you can buy it and run with it, you’ll see the whole movie in a different light and REALLY enjoy the evil chuckle you’ll get from the last minute of the film. If not, you’re out of it, the movie has thrown you, and you might as well forget it. For that reason, this might best be a renter.

But the movie does have a lot going for it. Cusack is great. Liotta is great. Amanda Peet is, er, not bad eye candy. John C. McGinley (from SCRUBS) I had a hard time buying, but that’s because of my SCRUBS dedication.

I bought the twist and went along with it and enjoyed the movie, but I can’t help but thinking that they wouldn’t have been much better off if the movie were a straight thriller with a bit of a nod and a wink to the slasher genre. It was a really good one for an hour before things went off that track, and I would have loved to see that play out, especially with the all-too-telegraphed minor twist of Liotta’s character. (Sorry, guys, but I saw that one coming from a mile away.)

I’d be really interested in a special edition DVD for this one, though. I got the feeling that some character scenes had been cut out, and I’d love to hear the director or writer discussing it. By the way, DO NOT LOOK AT THE TRAILER if you plan on seeing it soon. It gives away far too much. Thankfully, I hadn’t seen the trailer in a couple of months, so I had forgotten enough to enjoy the movie.

Fun and games at work

There’s a guy at a cubicle not too far from me who plays solitaire all day. He has the mainframe window up in the background, and the smaller solitaire window up in the front. Occasionally, I’ll pass by and he’ll be working on the mainframe, but it seems to me that the vast majority of his time is spent playing solitaire.

I almost don’t begrudge him this. Some people have the kind of job where they just monitor or kick off processes. Then it’s a matter of waiting for a job or report to finish and sending it off to the right person. While that stuff is running, you might as well surf the web or play a quick card game.

But he’s ALWAYS playing solitaire. I think that bugs me the most is that he hasn’t graduated to FreeCell yet. I mean, if I played solitaire 4 hours a day, I’d get bored of it eventually and move onto something else. FreeCell is the next logical step, although MineSweeper is a possibility as well.

Give up the solitaire. Change things up. Expand your horizons. I don’t mean some third person shooter here. Just something other than the same old card game. I’m getting sick and tired of watching him play it. What does that say about me?

Time for a joke

And since a female co-worker of mine passed it along in the first place, I don’t feel too terribly chauvanistic in posting it here. (Thanks, Kate!) Feel free to post your male-bashing jokes in the comments thread below as balance…

A Husband Shopping Center has opened where a woman can go to choose from among many men to be her husband. It is laid out in five floors, with the men increasing in positive attributes as you ascend up the floors.

There is, however, a catch: Once you open the door to any floor, you must choose a man from that floor, and if you go up a floor, you can’t go back down except to exit the building.

So, a woman goes to the shopping center to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door
says, “Floor 1: These men have jobs and love kids.”

The woman reads the sign. “Well that’s better than not having jobs, or not loving kids, but I wonder what’s further up?” So up she goes.

The second floor sign says, “Floor 2: These men have high paying jobs, love kids, and are extremely good looking.”

“Hmmm, better” say the woman “But, I wonder what’s further up?”

The third floor sign reads, “Floor 3: These men have high paying jobs, are extremely good looking, love kids and help with the housework.”

“Wow,” says the woman, “very tempting BUT, there’s more further up!”

And so again, she goes up. On the fourth floor the sign reads, “Floor 4: These men have high paying jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking, help with the housework, and have a strong romantic streak.”

“Oh, mercy me, But just think what must be awaiting me further on?” So up to the fifth floor she goes. The sign on that door says:

“Floor 5: This floor is just to prove that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping and have a nice day.”

More network stupidity

The scheduling hijinks continue.

I was all set to watch back-to-back new episodes of WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? last night, when ABC decided to air ALL AMERICAN GIRL, instead. ACK! Ugh. Ptooie!

And then this morning it gets worse: NBC has canceled JUST SHOOT ME. No big surprise there. The plans were to air 2 episodes a night for the last 6 weeks of the season to blow them all out. No, instead NBC has canceled the show and removed it from the lineup through sweeps. The last 13 episodes won’t be shown until the summer now, probably. That stinks. After 7 seasons, they give it the royal shaft. I know it’s business and money talks and all that, but they could have at least let the show go out with a little dignity.

::sigh:: I’ll miss Nina Van Horn.

Survivor gets interesting (spoilers)

Strategically, this edition of SURVIVOR might just be showing us that people are finally starting to learn from previous shows. Last night had the biggest power shift of the show in a long while, and it came as a result of people counting their chickens before they hatched, getting cocky, and making the dumbest decisions ever.

But letís start with the reward challenge, because thatís what really ticked me off last night. Jenna buys a couple of foodstuffs early on. Christy buys nothing and has all her money still left to her at the end when Jeff pulls out the letters from home. As seen earlier in the show, Jenna has a mother at home sick with cancer, so the letter from home would obviously mean a lot. But Christy has been good with her money and really misses home, too. So she outbids Jenna. And afterwards, there are rumblings in the camp about why Christy would do that to Jenna. People, it would seem, are upset with Christy for this.

Have you ever heard something so ludicrous in your life? 1. Heidi Ė Jennaís best friend in the camp Ė was also bidding against Jenna. People forget that, I guess, because she didnít have enough money to outbid her, having already spent a good portion of it on two slices of cake. 2. If Jenna had, at any point, been kind, nice, or respectful to Christy, she might have seen some of that kindness returned. Instead, she was part of the group that ostracized Christy because of her deafness and flaunted it in her face when she became part of the majority and Christy had become, in her mind, cannon fodder. 3. When a second packet came up for bid, Christy agreed to let it go up on the block, at which point Heidi AGAIN bid against Jenna on it before finally acceding to her. Did you see that? Heidi bid against her best friend TWICE, but the anger lies at Christy?!?!?! 4. Why didnít the other members of the tribe give Jenna their money so that she could get the letter? Thatís happened before in similar challenges in previous SURVIVORs? And yet itís Christy whoís the villain here? Those two girls deserve to lose. 4. And, hey, Christy finally broke out the sign language in explaining her letter. Stupidly, the camera was pushed so far into her face, you couldnít see what she was signing. UGH

Letís get to that power quad now. Alex, Heidi, Jenna, and Rob assumed power and, like other ďmajoritiesĒ on shows before them, got a bit too boastful about it. They started sunbathing instead of working. Theyíd let the other three do all the work for them while they hung around and have fun. I think it was the Australian show where the majority played their hand too early in a reward challenge and dissent came from within fairly quickly.

Then, Alex goes over the top with hubris and stupidity and tells Rob heíd vote him out. Why? When it comes down to the final four, Heidi and Jenna would never vote against each other, so heíd had to vote for Rob, and Rob would have to vote for Alex. WHAT?!? The logical move to make there is to pair up and vote out the women. Yes, it would end in a 2-2 tie, but then you take your chances with the Purple Stone of Death. You donít roll over. If reality TV has taught us anything, itís that power comes in 2ís. Look at last summerís BIG BROTHER 3. Thatís how Danielle and Jason got so far in the game. Power of 2, and a quiet one, at that.

Even worse than the lapse in logic of rolling over for the girls, is telling Rob that youíre going to vote him out. That leaves Rob with two choices: Get voted out 4th or 3rd, or try to form a new alliance where the same could happen but still with a possibility of going all the way to #1. For Rob, the decision was obvious.

And it worked. Rob is now in the majority with Butch, Christy, and Matt. Now he just has to figure out how to lead them to victory without being tossed out by his new buddies. Itís getting late in the game to become Mr. Popular with three people he was busy slamming for the past few weeks. But if anyone could do it, he could.