World Poker Tour

The World Poker Tour is getting better and better this year. If you missed this week’s Commerce Casino’s L.A. Poker Classic Tournament, be sure to check it out when it repeats Saturday afternoon on The Travel Channel. They had six players this week that weren’t afraid to bet, leading to some amazing swings in chip stacks. Best tournament I’ve seen so far in two seasons.

If you missed the first season, it’s now available on DVD.

And, yes, there is a third season in the works.

Posted in TV

Survivor All Stars is a joke

How can a group of people who’ve all played the game before not have a clue as to how to play the game? How can they all be willing sheep and let Rob roll over them the way he’s doing? They’ve had plenty of outs now, and they’ve all turned over and played dead rather than take an active stand to win the game.

They all deserve to lose.

Don’t get me wrong — Shii Ann came off a bit too whiney at the Tribal Council, but she was right about the power couples. Those are always the first that have to go. When you’re aligning yourself on a reality show like this (or Big Brother), you’re safest bet is to have a secret power couple. If nobody knows the two of you are sharing information and working together, you can roll right over them all. In this game, there are two power couples out in the open, and nobody is challenging them. Big Tom is clueless. Rupert is rolling over. Jenna thinks she knows what she’s doing, but she hasn’t a clue. And Amber is, indeed, under the radar, hiding in the shadow of the lightning rod. When people think of RobAndAmber, they only ever think of Rob.

I have no doubt right now that Rob and Amber will be the final two. The only question is if the jury will let their emotions do the voting for them and thus give Amber the million bucks, or if logic will prevail and they’ll see that Rob played the best game in using and abusing all of them to their faces without so much as a slap on the wrist.

And, then, will Rob pop The Question to Amber at the reunion special and the two can effectively split the million bucks? Or are they contractually bound to never get married, since Survivor rules say you can’t split the money or make any deals for it?

Posted in TV

Watch Jack Valenti’s head burst

An MIT student recently had the chance to interview Jack Valenti, the man who successfully lobbies in Washington DC on behalf of the movie industry.

One of the problems with his brand of digital copyright protection is that it leaves certain people in the dust. If you want to watch a DVD on your Linux computer, you can’t. Not in the United States. Not “legally.” Sure, there are programs you can download to do it, and you can even write one yourself. But if you don’t pay the MPAA a fee, you can’t legally watch DVDs on your Linux box.

Is it wrong to expect to be able to watch a DVD that you’ve just paid for, whether purchased or rental?

This is a short interview, but it’s worth it all to read Valenti’s off-color response when the engineering student interviewer shows him his small bit of code that turns his Linux computer into a DVD player.

Annotated Kill Bill

Annotated Kill Bill

The Annotated “Kill Bill” is an attempt to catalogue as best possible, the multitude of references to different “grindhouse” films placed into “Kill Bill”. When possible, any and all film references will also be accompanied by a link to said film on IMBD.

Friends (no spoilers)

Monica is more pregnant than the woman whose carrying the baby she’s going to adopt. What an upside down world we live in. (Yes, I know Courtney Cox is pregnant in real life. She’s showing pretty badly down the stretch here.)

Tonight’s episode also featured the single worst edit that I’ve ever seen in a sit-com. At one point, all of the characters are in the living room talking. The pregnant character walks through the door. The Friends say hello, and then the camera cuts back to the pregnant woman who made it all the way to the kitchen table in a half second, and is now surrounded there by the Friends, who made their way there during that edit point.

And I betcha I’m the only one who noticed.

Posted in TV

Google doesn’t buy a mansion yet

Google co-founder lives modestly, emigrant dad says | CNET

I think it’s a big mistake to take Google public. Aside from a quick infusion of big bucks, what good does it do? Will that money create a better search engine? Odds are, it will just allow them to create more stuff, and eventually the search engine will get lost in the shuffle. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve seen it happen to too many other websites. Yahoo used to be a modest web site. Alta Vista was the leader before it portaled itself to death. I just don’t want Google to be next.

And by going public, there’s an increased pressure to include more stuff to create more profit for the investors. That way madness lies.

WIRED News also has a story about how an IPO could mean the death of the corporate culture. Many Dot Commers took that culture to excess in the days of The Boom, but Google’s been surviving with it. Will shutting it down completely lose them any talent? People are funny that way. . .

Group of 6 Results

John StevensTonight, we bid a fond farewell to John Stevens, the bravest contestant ever to take the AI stage.

Never before this has a contestant been subjected to the kind of insane blather than this one has. That includes death threats, charges of racism, and the impugning of one’s parents and grandparents. All this just because he wasn’t voted out of the show in the “correct” order. In the end, it all works out. It all evens out. Have you watched the last two seasons?

But John Stevens became the subject of such vitriole and hatred that he might as well be running for the White House. It’s been that bad.

Yet he took it all without responding. He smiled back. He sang his heart out. He did what he could. And he never quit. He could have given up at any point, had he wanted. He didn’t need to take all that crap. He could have walked.

But he took his unique-to-American-Idol style and came back week after week to try his best. No, it wasn’t enough. He was clearly outclassed, and the nerves got the better of him on many occasions. But after two solid weeks, his performances were overshadowed by a jittery populace looking to rip someone’s throat out for committing the sin of having fans who actually voted for him, instead of taking him for granted.

So farewell to John Stevens, clearly the only unique voice ever to make it to the Top 12 of a contest created to generate formulaic pop pap with overproduced synthetic sound. Let’s all be happy that he’s in a better place now where he doesn’t have to put up with all this crap anymore.

At least, until the season finale and the road tour. On the bright side, the road tour can be custom-fit for him. They can hide him in the back row of all the dance numbers like they did tonight. (Did you watch him trying to dance? He gave up. He had no clue. I like the boy all the more for that.) They can let him sing just HIS style of songs. I can imagine a sweet duet between he and his sweetie, Diana DeGarmo, whose tears were the wettest of the bunch tonight.

Just one question for those still shouting about racism prevailing in this contest: Does Diana have to go next week? Is that the politically correct vote now? Or would it be OK if, say, Jasmine went? She’s Filipino, I believe. Not quite black. What if George were voted out next week? He’s had three bad weeks in a row, but is it racism if his number comes up next? Remember: There can be only one winner. Best case scenario is that only one black contestant is left standing.

I can picture a final three right now of Fantasia, LaToya, and Diana. It’ll still be the battle of the Divas, just slightly reconfigured.

Now, where do John’s votes go? I’m guessing Jasmine or Diana. They’re the youngest and “sweetest” of the remaining contestants, and closest to his style. Those old folks who voted for Clay last year and John this year fall for that kind of thing. Or is that racism, too?

::sigh:: It’s amazing what this show has become…

Who created the iPod?

Credit where credit is due? Or glory hog?

So, Fadell designed the iPod as an independent contractor and shopped it to Apple, which hired him to bring it to market. How he did it was spelled out in Electronics Design Chain Magazine, though the article makes no reference to Fadell. [….] One source who talked but asked not to be named, cautioned that Fadell’s story should be treated with skepticism. The source noted that the hard part of the iPod – the device’s interface and integration with iTunes– was done by Apple’s engineers.

More recapping

Yes, Gloria Estefan night was something of a bore. But it does bring out the best in the AI recappers.

Check out TelevisionWithoutPity (“Jennifer Hudson Is Not Dead”), USA Today (“a strange sequence of goat-like bleats and off-key notes galore”), and RealityNewsOnline (in which everyone but John is destined to go home) for three funny recaps. I like the fatalism in RNO’s recap, as unwarranted as it is…

Group of 6 Performances

Ditto to everything Simon said. But I’d give Diana much higher than a 7.

It’s that simple. You had a couple of people near the top tonight, a big mushy middle of blah, and John Stevens bringing up the rear. In fact, I’m ticked off at Simon for what he said to John, because that was going to be my eulogy for him when he gets voted off. And, once again, I hope that it’s this week for his sake.

Let me start by quoting myself:

Will Diana DeGarmo sing the signature Miami Sound Machine hit, “Turn The Beat Around?”

Diana DeGarmo did, indeed, sing that song. And she stole the show. I thought this would be her week to shine, and she did. That was clearly the best performance of the night. She fired on all cylinders. I think it took her a couple of lines into the song at the beginning to find her pitch and volume to match the band, but after that it was all good. She gets a bit of a bum rap for being so damned talented at such a young age, but I hope this performance is enough to carry her through another week. She deserves it.

Jasmine Trias is obviously a Miami Sound Machine fan, because she affected Gloria Estefan’s singing style quite noticeably on more than a few notes. She was very pitchy throughout the song, to the point where even I could notice it. However, it was overall a good performance. Nothing spectacular. One week, she’s going to give up on those black capri pants, though…

John Stevens gets the American Idol Purple Heart Award. He knew this wasn’t going to be his week. We all knew it. I wish he had gone out on top last week after two good performances in a row. It was uncomfortable watching him on the show. He even tried to do the power notes, but nothing worked. But he certainly deserves better than a lot of the mud that gets slung his way. And he knew he wasn’t good enough this week. I half expected him to say something lke, “Please, America. Don’t vote for me. Don’t listen to the phone numbers Ryan’s about to give you.” The really sad thing is that if he’s voted out this week, he’ll be singing this song again. Maybe they’ll be nice enough to let him sing the song from CASABLANCA again on his way out.

LaToya London was second this week only to Diana. Like Simon said and like a few of us said last week, she needed that performance. She needed the energetic song with less of the power notes to warble through. She needed to get up and move like she hasn’t done since Country Week. She did that tonight. She stood out from the band. She didn’t get drowned out. She performed all throughout the song, although I’m sure many people will have a problem with her dancing too much. It did sound like she missed a breath or two in the middle of the twirls, but hey – – that’s what Estefan’s music is all about. You have to move when you sing. That can be tricky. Ask Paula Abdul. This week solidifies LaToya’s position in the Final Three as far as I’m concerned.

Speaking of Paula, what was she high on tonight? That’s two weeks in a row that she’s been useless, incoherent, and giggly. At least Gloria Estefan was honest about not juding anyone up front. The only question that leaves is, “Why bother putting her on the dais, then?”

Fantasia Barrino wants to make a martyr out of Jennifer Hudson. UGH Her usual pep talk to the crowd to cheer and sing with her fell on deaf ears again. She turned her back to the audience multiple times. It was an adequate performance in a style I’m sure she’s not comfortable in, but the singing was a’right. Oh, yes, and we got to see her baby in the audience again. At least this time they waited until AFTER the song to do it.

George Huff is in serious danger. He needed a good performance, and that wasn’t it. I think it’s another case of a contestant doing the best with what he has to work with in a style he’s not comfortable with. But this is the third week in a row of shakey performances for him. He’s screwed. Why wouldn’t I be surprised to see next week be something like Gospel Week to prop him and Fantasia back up?

Ryan ends the show by telling us to vote our favorite through. I’m confused. I thought he scolded us last week for not voting the most talented contestant through. Which is it, Ryan?

Bottom three this week were John, George, and either Jasmine or Fantasia. I’m split between those two. Two completely different kinds of performances. Tough to judge one against the other. I might have to give Fantasia higher marks for being less pitchy, though. So put Jasmine in the bottom three. Besides which, I said that after last week’s show, there’d be no way in hell either Fantasia or LaToya would make the bottom three. I’ll be consistent with that.

I think John Stevens goes this week. I think America is a nice enough country not to put the kid through the wringer for another week. I think his parents want him to come home now, too.

My Dark Horse candidate to get voted out, though, would be George Huff. The Big Mo’ ain’t with him these days. Plus, it’ll just fuel Elton John’s clueless righteous anger some more…

De Blieck Out!

New releases, 27 Apr 2004

If you’re curious what’s coming out on DVD this week, check out Here’s what caught my eye:

Big Fish (2003)

It’s a solid movie that I enjoyed. Any Tim Burton fan will want this for their collection. But it’s not the kind of movie I ever see myself wanting to watch again.

The Cooler (2003)

I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one. Would make an excellent rental, I think. It’s got William H Macy and Alec Baldwin in a movie NOT directed or written by David Mamet.

Ghosts of the Abyss: IMAX (2003)

i.e. James Cameron’s other Titanic film.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

“Release THE HOUNDS!” I just wanted to say that. Nevermind me. I love the Sherlock Holmes short stories, though.

Love Actually (widescreen) (2003)

The ultimate British romantic comedy. Or so they say. And it comes complete with Keira Knightley. The movie, not the DVD.

That’s it for this week. Coming up next: THE MARX BROTHERS COLLECTION! And some other stuff, like SAMURAI JACK: SEASON ONE and THE LAST SAMURAI.

Posted in DVD

Tonight’s theme

It’s Gloria Estefan night on American Idol tonight. I don’t know if that means she’s the judge and it’ll be her music they’re singing, or if it’s some sort of generic “Latin music” night. I just know that I’m not looking forward to it. Will Fantasia croon to “Bad Boys?” Will Diana DeGarmo sing the signature Miami Sound Machine hit, “Turn The Beat Around?” And why can’t I think of any other songs Estefan did? Ugh

I had planned on doing a big writeup before the episode aired to set the stage for the final six weeks. Just general positioning statements on the remaining contestants and mild guesses on how things might go. However, after all the discussion last week about the show, I think it would just be redundant at this point. So let’s just sit back and see what happens this week.

In the meantime, Jennifer Hudson is not being humble:

“It’s never what you think it is and that’s what makes ‘American Idol’ ‘American Idol,'” Hudson said, but added, “I think it would have been the biggest treat, the baddest showdown ‘American Idol’ has ever had, if they would have let me, Fantasia and La Toya battle it out.”

Problem is, it was never going to happen. One of them was bound to be eliminated before then. The split vote ruled against them.

Update: It is, indeed, the Music of Gloria Estefan. Poor John Stevens. Poor, poor John Stevens.

Mona Lisa Deteriorating – News – Louvre: Mona Lisa Deteriorating

The real question is, “Yeah, but where’s the REAL Mona Lisa?” The painting was stolen in 1911 and there are stories that the one that was recovered and placed on display is NOT the real one. Unfortunately, all the books written about that are out of print. Wait till Hollywood makes the movie, and we’ll get to read them all over again.

Wait, Look what I just found. There is a movie on the drawing boards, based on a fiction book. We’re getting closer.

Stay tuned…

Too many buddies

My instant messenger popped up this afternoon when I booted up my computer. Nothing new there.

Here’s my dilemma: The first name on the list. I don’t remember who it is. I know I should know. Wouldn’t it be rude, though, to pop up a window to say, “Hi, who the heck is his?” I’ve added this person to my buddy list, so I know him or her from somewhere, right? But the person’s handle is just a cryptic set of three letters and three numbers. I’m too embarrassed to admit to him or her that I can’t remember who they are.

Ah, cyber life in the year 2004…