He Knocked Me Up and Left Me With a Subscription to Hockey Trends Magazine

Other subscriptions Sydney had to cancel: The American Journal of Stubble, and Bland Quarterly.

There’s some videogame website whose motto is “A moment enjoyed is never wasted,” and that’s been a useful rationalization for a while, but there’s no way I can justify my total lack of activity yesterday. I didn’t even manage to accomplish anything for my Sims. So I officially completely and totally wasted the day of October 16, 2005. Closest I came to an achievement was finally finishing that Terry Pratchett book (which was good but not particularly memorable).

All my time-wasting culminated in four straight hours of “Alias” reruns. Season 4 is like “Alias” on Paxil: the highs and lows are evened out, and it’s going forward as competent, dependable television. There are still solid episodes that are actually really good — the one with the ex-Soviet terrorist group training its agents in a simulated American suburban neighborhood was a well-done standalone episode. And last night I finally saw the episode where Sydney gets buried alive and Marshall has to gouge out the eyes of a bad guy with a spork; that was a good one. There’s just not much of the “oh hell no they didn’t just do that” anymore, although they seem to be taking steps in that direction by having Joel Grey as a Sloane look-alike.

Season 5 I’m still not sure about. I was really happy to see Fred show up, especially as a bad guy, and especially in what looks like it’s going to be a recurring part (at least until the next episode). They’re trying hard to get us interested in the two new characters who’re supposed to carry the series now, but it’s just not working yet. Granted, it’s better than the previous week’s, which had the action-packed climax on a plane with the super fighting team of a pregnant woman, a chubby guy, and a man in his early 50s taking on a terrorist cell. (But having the device turn out to be a body, not a bomb, was a nice touch).

I’m sure I’ll keep up with it at least until TNT starts showing the zombie episodes. After that, though, the new ones are going to have to pull off something pretty remarkable to keep me interested.

Switch (jimmy smits)

Apparently I’m turning into a woman.

The only question is whether I’m becoming a middle-aged housewife, or a disaffected angry young soulful woman tryin’ to make it in a man’s world.

Evidence for the housewife: I’ve been listening to “Con te Partiro” by Andrea Bocelli non-stop for the past couple of days. Often — and here’s the embarrassing part — with my eyes closed, like some tweed-wearing New Yorker-reading cultural elitist sitting in an armchair enraptured, letting the music wash over him; and sometimes tearing up like Robert de Niro at the opera in The Untouchables. This is not how grown men are supposed to behave, dammit. It’s not real opera, it’s pop-era. It’s the Bellagio music! That ain’t art, it’s Vegas. And not cool swingin’ Vegas, but taking a break from the kids to fly out from Ohio and play the nickel slots and try the buffets because they’re so reasonable Vegas.

Evidence for the chick-lit reader: I’ve also been listening to Fiona Apple. And liking it. A lot. Maybe it’s just karma for making fun of her before, and hopefully buying two of her records and “Criminal” will pay it off. I guess I’d always dismissed her as just Alanis Morisette gone R&B, or Tori Amos shifted down a few octaves, but now I don’t know what to compare her music to. It’s not just that she can sing and that her songs are well-constructed, it’s that all the arrangements are really, really well done — Extraordinary Machine has a lot of the Abbey Road thing going on.

She’s still got a little of the Wednesday Addams vibe, but after Wednesday moved to France and worked in a cabaret for a few years and had a bad relationship with a bisexual German existentialist filmmaker who would tie her to a wooden chair with flaking paint under a single bare lightbulb and make her watch as he over-tightened the strings of her piano — the only thing she had tying her to her past life in the States — until they snapped and she’d flinch with each one and swear that she’d make her way back home and use this rage and pour it into her music. Or maybe just stayed in the US and dated the moron who made Boogie Nights.

And I don’t know what to think about all this Norah Jones and Neko Case music I’ve got. And the four different versions of “Possession” by Sarah McLachlan. Not to mention the fact that I own every Indigo Girls album. Jeez, am I going to have to get tickets for Lilith Fair now?

One thing I will say: the Bellagio fountain show for Con Te Partiro is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life, ever. Yeah, I said it.

I remain indifferent to the boogie

Another SFist post is up today, about the robotics convention I went to last weekend. I have to say it was kind of a disappointment (the convention, and the column), probably because I’ve been jaded by all the money that gets poured into E3 shows. I’d expected to see more ASIMO and AIBO and less Lego Mindstorms and circuit boards.

In other news, the Wallace and Gromit movie is just awesome, probably my favorite movie of the year. I was thinking there’d be no way they could keep up the level of the shorts in a feature film, but they did. I also saw Serenity a second time, and it was still good, but I don’t have much desire to see it again. Now the wait’s on until DOOM.

And apart from that excitement, I’ve been playing a lot of DOOM 3 (because I’d been feeling guilty I hadn’t given it enough chance, when it turns out I had), waiting to get into a Battleground in World of Warcraft (I’m not yet convinced they actually exist), and playing the Sims 2 expansion pack, “Nightlife.”

They did a good job with it; in fact, I think that this is the expansion pack they should’ve released first. I still believe that the “University” expansion is too separate from the main game; when most of us were still just looking for more content for the main game. One of the things that always impressed me about the Sims franchise and kept me from getting totally burned out on it was that they were really committed to making the expansion packs have real content instead of just being shovelware. But with “University,” they went too far in that direction; just an updated “Livin’ Large” pack would’ve been welcomed.

“Nightlife” is the right balance — it’s the same theme as the old “Hot Date” pack but adds a lot more, and it’s all well-integrated into the main game. All the new interactions and locations are welcome, and there’s just a lot more to do. I’m one of the sad little people who plays it like a soap opera, setting up families to watch them intermingle and fall in and out of love and make each other’s lives miserable, so I appreciate all the new features making it easier to get your computer people to get other computer people into bed with them. It’s still frustrating in places, and the pack introduces a whole bunch of new bugs, but on the whole it’s engaging. Probably not enough to draw in somebody who’s not already interested in the Sims, but good for those of us who are.

Currently I’ve got the Gordon family moved in with the Wayne and Prince families; I’m hoping that Bruce Wayne will make the moves on Diana Prince and kick his current wife Selina out to the curb. I think the only thing geekier than having comic book families in the Sims would be Lord of the Rings families, but I never claimed to be highbrow. As an example: because the Sims 2 doesn’t have a “young ward” option, I had to make Dick Grayson Bruce Wayne’s son. None of the game’s built-in aspirations are really suited to the Batman, so I just figured he was obsessed with family and should have the family aspiration. So now all his wants are “Tickle Dick” and “Play with Dick.” Which is high comedy.

Imaginary Prom Dates

I wrote another thing for SFist that’s up now; they’re getting lighter and lighter, I’ve noticed. This week I’m going to some big robot convention in San Jose, hopefully I’ll be able to get something more substantial from that instead of just letting Eve do the research while I add TV references.

And it turns out I need help with the TV references as well. I found out this week that for years I’d been mis-remembering the most important thing to any Generation X aspiring trendy hipster: Brady Bunch trivia. See, I always thought that when Jan made up the name of her imaginary boyfriend, she chose “Ron Glass“. And I always thought that was awesome. What better way to get attention away from Marcia and stick it to your uptight mom and homo dad, than show up at the big dance with a black man 20 years your senior?

And then when she showed up with the big black afro wig, that just knocked it over the top. Jan had gone past living out some predictable mid-70’s white girl Mandingo fantasy, and had blossomed into a true nubian princess.

But I was looking around the web, and it turns out the name she picked was George Glass. Who’s way more boring. Still, it turns out he was an associate producer for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? which I guess is kind of funny.

Can you smell what The Rock is cutting up with a chainsaw?

What was almost as good as Serenity was seeing the trailer for the new DOOM movie which is going to be out at the end of the month. Hot damn, I can’t wait.

As much as I love the Resident Evil movies (no, really), they still cling to this idea that they’re somehow real movies. They think that deep down, they’re still horror movies using a videogame franchise as the basis for their stories. This is a mistake. And if the trailer is any indication, the braintrust behind DOOM has escaped that trap and made the first true videogame movie that is going to kick so much ass. They’ve got The Rock, who’s awesome; they’ve got the chainsaw, which is awesome; and they sure as hell better have the first-person sequences in the movie, and not make that just a gimmick for the trailer. Because that’s what’ll make this not just another cheesy sci-fi action flick, but a truly transcendently cheesy sci-fi videogame movie.

I didn’t even like Doom 3 that much and lost interest after about a half hour. Looking back on it, they had the reverse problem — it’s a mindless videogame that thought that deep down, it was a sci-fi horror movie. Some games — Half-Life 2 for one — can pull that off, but the Doom guys couldn’t. So the whole thing came across as bland and uninspired. And really, really dark.

In other Martian news, The Pixies Sell Out is coming out on DVD tomorrow. It’s a DVD of last year’s tour with, I’m assuming and hoping, brief interviews and such. There’s a clip from the DVD on ifilm.com which rates a big “meh.” But it was still a good show.

My Entertainment Dollar

At the beginning of the show, Doughty promised we’d all get big value from our entertainment dollar, and I got that this weekend.

First was Serenity on Friday night at the Northgate. It was awesome. Sure, I’d been looking forward to it, but once I actually got there, I was going into it as critical as I get. I wanted to find stuff to complain about, if only to talk about on the internets. And I had nothing to criticize.

The closest I can get to a criticism of the movie is that it’s pretty much all science fiction — the western element of the setting gets a little bit of attention at the beginning, but is quickly lost in everything but the clothes. When you lose the “Western in Space” angle, the characters lose a little bit of their depth, because you can’t see that they’re all twists on archetypes — the embittered war vet who becomes an outlaw, the hooker with the heart of gold, the preacher, the citified doctor, the optimistic prairie girl, the untrustworthy hired gun (Jayne is supposed to be “the Bad,” I think), and the genius psychic girl with superhuman fighting abilities. (All right, that’s not Western, but it’s still a Joss Whedon production.) And the Reavers, who are central to the plot of the movie, stop being “The Injuns.”

All the characters still work, and I think they work well — except for Wash and Inara, who are left a little underdeveloped — but they’re just not as strong as they were in the series. Which is perfectly understandable, because there’s stuff you can do in even 15 hours of a prematurely cancelled TV series that you just can’t do in a 2-hour movie.

And the movie is just great. Not only did it stand up as a movie, but it tied up elements of the series. And the most impressive part about that is that it ties them up without feeling either too pat, too forced, or too final, and it leaves plenty of room to grow. I read a review that said that it felt like an expanded episode of a TV show, which is just bullshit — not only does the movie have a complete arc, but really big, significant stuff happens in it. Not significant in the sense of a series, like the “Star Trek” movies, where they blow up the ship or kill off a character just because they can’t do that on the show but can in a big-budget movie. Significant in the sense of the overall story. I loved that. We got answers to some major elements of the series, but not everything was answered, and there’s no sense of its being over. Just this part of the story is over.

Also, I never would’ve expected a large-scale space battle, and it delivers on that. Until now, the most impressive space battle I’d ever seen in a movie was in Return of the Jedi, and the one in Serenity tops that, not only in the scale and quality of the effects, but in that you actually give a damn what’s going on. It fits in with the plot and it doesn’t feel like a big battle for its own sake because they’ve finally got the budget for it. And it doesn’t suffer from car chase syndrome — usually, when a movie has an action sequence like a car chase, the story just pauses for a while to let you watch a bunch of crashes or explosions or stunts, then picks up again when they’re done.

Now I just have to figure out when to see it again. And maybe a third time.

Saturday was the aforementioned Mike Doughty concert at the Independent in San Francisco. Great show, in particular the stuff he did from Skittish and Rockity Roll was better than on the albums. He did my two favorite songs from Haughty Melodic (“Unsingable Name” and “I Hear the Bells,” in case anyone’s curious), plus his cover of “The Gambler.” Other covers were “Hungry Like the Wolf” and a little bit of “It’s Raining Men” (dude knows how to play a San Francisco crowd, I guess). The only Soul Coughing song he did was “St. Louise is Listening,” which I like better than the original but is still one of my least favorite Soul Coughing songs.

We were noticing that the whole crowd was made up of the people who are usually standing at the back of other concerts. “Lots of people dancing with their hands in their pockets,” said Mac, “and the reflection off all the horn-rimmed glasses must’ve been blinding.”

Meet Jack Torrance

I first heard about it from Rain’s blog, but some people on the Straight Dope did some digging to find out more about it. Apparently it’s been going around the internets and has made an impression.

What it is is a new trailer for The Shining, using clips from the movie (except for one cheat piece of dialog). And it’s genius, one of the best things I’ve ever seen on the internet. Bonus points for including the kiss and the choice of music. I can’t stop watching it.

The New York Times did an article about it with more info and an interview with the guy who made it.

On the same site, there’s a trailer for West Side Story as a horror film, but it’s not as good.

Who are you and what have you done with my television show?

Rain pointed out that TNT has started showing season 4 of “Alias” in preparation for the premiere of season 5. I watched a couple from the TiVo, and thought this is no good. The people are still there, and they’re still saying things that sound familiar, but everything’s all different. And they’re spoiling stuff. This isn’t the show I fell in love with! I must’ve come in halfway through the season and ruined everything!

But then I checked an episode guide, and I found I’d started with episode 3. All the big changes that were confusing me so, had happened in the first two episodes. Damn! When they reboot a show, they don’t fool around.

Then I decided as long as I was confused, there’s no harm in watching both seasons simultaneously. So I went ahead and watched tonight’s premiere of season 5. Damn! When they reboot a show, they don’t fool around.

So as near as I can make out:

Continue reading “Who are you and what have you done with my television show?”

Do you like magic? No. I LOVE it.

Haw haw haw! Fooled you! The Terry Pratchett book signing was last week! So here I sit with a still-unsigned copy of Good Omens and apparently the onset of some degenerative brain disease. Hopefully nobody tried to go on the basis of that blog entry. And if you did, hopefully you didn’t drag somebody out of work and halfway across the city for a no-show. I’m feeling like such a moron I’m going to do the rest of this one like Jackie Harvey from The Outside Scoop.

Item! People have been saying that “Arrested Development” is great for a long time now but I never believed it. Even after watching their little mini-marathon a while back with Martin Short on it (which was damn funny, I don’t care what anybody says). But after watching last night’s episode (“For British Eyes Only”), I’ve finally come around to realizing this is the best comedy on TV.

I mean, I could watch 30 minutes just of Portia di Rossi doing the chicken dance and still be plenty entertained, but they actually add jokes and stuff. “Has anyone in this family even seen a chicken?” The Rumsfeld/Hussein photo. Dave Thomas giving an international phone number via flash cards. Wee Britian and the Itsy Bitsy IRA. “At that moment he was struck by something from his childhood.” “I think they came for the free chicken,” and then the people all bend over for the chicken feed! And all that was before “We’re not here to talk nonsense to Bob Loblaw.” I don’t care if I am coming late to the party asking if I can play too; this is awesome.

Item! I was watching “The Daily Show” tonight and was reminded of why I don’t shave. I end up looking like a cross between John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, and Ed Helms. Eh, whatever. Considering the alternative, I guess I’ll put up with the Daily Show comments for a while. Better than being called “distinguished,” which I actually was called and which everybody know just means “old.”

Item! Serenity opens this weekend! I’m totally going to see it! If it’s not sold out and there’s not a long line! I just don’t know what to dress up as, since there’s no equivalent of Boba Fett, and Blue Sun T-shirts are just played out.

Item! Mike Doughty formerly of Soul Coughing is still playing at The Independent this weekend, this time I swear to God I got the date right. I’m going to see that too!

Item! My second post for SFist is up today. The usual day for these things is Friday, but it turned out there were enough news links from the past couple of days to fill up a column. Plus, they’re kind of fun to write.

Discworld and Apple

Two more things I forgot:

Tomorrow night (Tuesday, September 27th), Terry Pratchett will be in San Francisco reading from and signing copies of his new book, Thud!. I’m going to go check it out with Mac and figured other Pratchett fans might be interested.

And this week’s cover of Entertainment Weekly keeps cracking me up. Fiona Apple is as creepy as ever, and Sheryl Crow just looks kind of haunted and annoyed. Like she’s asking, “Uh… is she still there?”

I don’t have much of an opinion one way or the other about Fiona Apple or her music, but I wish she’d just cheer the hell up and eat something. I get the impression that she just sneaks around behind generally happy people, like say Sheryl Crow, and just does a total Wednesday Addams on them, making them headachey and kind of sad but unable to say anything out of politeness.