Friday, February 10, 2006

Dear Death...

Look, I was willing to cut you some slack re: the events of Final Destination. Everyone is entitled to slip up once a millenium or so, after all. Perhaps you were distracted while playing chess with someone. (Although if you were, you were probably playing it on an XBox or something.)

When Final Destination 2 came about, though, I frankly thought your work was getting a bit shoddy. However, you're, you know, Death. So I held my tongue. Heaven knows you were working overtime during the 20th century, what with Stalin and Hilter and Mao and Pol Pot and all those guys.

Now, however...Final Destination 3? WTF? I don't know if you've developed some sort of drinking or cocaine problem or something over the last several years, but really, you need to get your act together. Pretty soon people are going to start not dying on a regular basis, and then where will we be? Is that what's happening with Castro? Because I've been waiting for that bastard to kick the can for years now. Get on that, will you?

By the way, I don't see Tony Todd's name in the credits. How is that even possible?! You morons.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Survivor: Exile Island, Week 2

I guess I like watching people being stupid, because ever since last week I’ve really been impatient to see the second chapter of Survivor .

That first episode ended with the Older Women team deciding to cut their own throats by voting out their only competent member. What made this move especially moronic is that for the first time teams had been split down to four members. Cutting loose the strongest teammate among eight people is one thing. Getting rid of the strongest competitor amongst four people seemed tantamount to suicide. The only possible hope of salvation for the remaining three lay in the fact that, having started with atypically small groups of four, a merge into larger teams would no doubt be occurring soon.

Jeff Probst’s opening recap didn’t make light of their decision either. (Is Probst being influenced by Simon from American Idol, or is he just getting tired of dumbasses? In any case, his commentary in this one seems pretty acerbic.) “Tina [the woman ultimately voted out] emerged as a natural leader,” he notes. Tina is a lumberjack (!), and thus quite used to working out of doors, and obviously possesses some tool skills.

One of the four teams, only one looks promising. The young guys are beefy but unorganized and frankly somewhat lazy. They are strong, but in a Working Out in the Gym sort of way, while historically the older men on these things are harder workers, more organized, better skilled and more decisive.

The older women (by ‘older,’ I mean in their late ‘30s and ‘40s), as noted, are idiots; two of them, Cirie and Melinda, are woefully out of shape. As an added bonus, Cirie, the less fit of the two, is afraid of leaves [see last week’s notes].

The younger women can’t make decisions because no one wants to appear bossy, and one of them, Courtney, is a grade A new age fruitcake. However, my Cute One award goes to Misty, a Texas beauty queen who’s also literally a rocket scientist (!). Misty, not wanting to stand out, is keeping that under her cowboy hat.

The older men, as I expected, look the sharpest. Two, Dan and Terry, quickly formed an alliance, and traded secrets: Dan is an ex-astronaut (!) and Terry an ex-fighter pilot. In other words, don’t expect these guys to fold under pressure, and if they are not as young as the Young Guys team—by definition—they have kept themselves fit. Another dude, Bruce, is also himself a manic worker.

The only loose cannon is Shane, who aside from being lazy and unmotivated, reveals that he quit a long term three pack a day cigarette habit just the day before. (!!!) Yeah, that’s a good idea. Maybe because of this—perhaps—Shane often acts irrationally and tends to bitch a lot whilst sitting on his ass and watching the others work.

Back to Older Women, who (obviously) lost the immunity contest. Before Tribal Council, Tina even found a big ass fish just lying on some rocks. So she’s a hard worker, competent, and lucky. Still, Cirie, the Scared of Leaves Woman (and the most obviously out of shape, i.e., fat, person I can remember being on the show), is more willing to campaign, and talks the others into voting the sometimes abrasive Tina out. Which they do.

So that catches us up.

We open on Night #3 (of the traditional 39 days), which finds the island blanketed in a torrential downpour. The Older Men, despite having (surprise) constructed what is easily the best shelter, find it is little protection because of the angle the rain is falling at. The Younger Men, with a far lamer shelter, fare even worse. The women teams, for their part, barely have shelter at all.

Karma strikes when the Older Women pathetically fail to restart their extinguished fire. Too bad Tina isn’t there, huh? (On the other hand, none of them were voted out, so they are ahead of the game in that sense.)

The Younger Women, at least, are showing a little more gumption, and find and use a bamboo pole to harvest a tree-top pod of fruit. The melon they procure is apparently pretty delicious, and they all moan in pleasure as they eat it, although frankly I’m not sure I needed to know that it was “orgasmically wonderful.”

Shane has a pretty unconvincing Heart Tug Moment™ where he talks about his kid, then goes crazy and bitches to God about not sending any more storms. He already seems close to just tossing in the towel, which is retarded. A million people try to get on this show, and the jackass is already talking about giving up. Since the others can’t help but notice his antics and laziness, chances are he won’t have to wait too long to take off.

The next day Probst calls everyone together for the Reward Challenge, and to my vast annoyance the small teams immediately merge into two larger ones. (I had really been hoping to see at least one more of the dumbass Older Women voted off before the merge happened.) Terry and Younger Woman Danielle are randomly chosen to start things off, and each person picked in turn then in turn selects another person of the opposite sex.

Danielle starts things off for the newly dubbed Casaya Tribe and unwisely picks “The Cool Guy,” by which she means Shane. Apparently she was won over by the fact that he has tattoos. Terry’s first choice for the La Mina Tribe is Younger Woman Sally. As I appreciate anarchy on these things, I love the fact that all the loons and oddballs end up on Casaya, including Shane, Courtney, chubby Melinda and much chubbier Cirie (who to my amazement is picked mid-draft, rather than last, and ahead of the obviously far fitter Ruth Marie).

The odd man out, weirdly enough, is maniac worker Bruce. (The last one except for him is ex-astronaut Dan. Individuals are doing the picking here, but I think they’re dumb to so overwhelming go for the younger guys over the older ones.) Probst acts like a dick and implies that Bruce is being sent home right now. I guess he’s just getting meaner as the season pass. In reality, however, Bruce will be sent to Exile Island for three days, and then return and join whichever tribe first votes someone off. This is sure to be Casaya, and this ironically will therefore almost certainly strengthen their team.

As things now stand, the teams are La Mina: Older Guys Terry and Dan, younger guys Nick and Austin, ‘older’ (but fit) gal Ruth Marie and younger ladies Misty and Sally. Casaya, meanwhile, is young gals Danielle and Courtney, buffs dudes Aras and Bobby, older women Cirie and Melinda, and resident psycho guy Shane.

The reward challenge is a pretty elaborate and demanding obstacle course, which unlike most of these things the entire teams will have to complete as units. To my vast lack of surprise La Mina wins*, although Casaya—and Shane especially—do better than I had anticipated. La Mina wins a batch of fishing gear, including a mask, flippers, a snorkel, hooks, line, a rubber band-fired fishing spear, a raft and paddles.

[*Although the entire teams run the obstacle course, one person from each Tribe must also ultimately carry six large, bulky and heavy-looking wooden snakes on their persons as they go. La Mina naturally picks Nick, their biggest and beefiest male, for this task. Casaya, however, chooses the fit but far smaller Courtney. I know she’s a “fire dancer” (whatever the hell that is), but I can’t figure stuff like that out.]

The Teams return to their respective camps. Shane introduces himself to his new Team Cuckoo, er, Casaya mates by talking about what a drag being on the team of Older, Competent Guys Who Actually Wanted to Work was. He’s especially offended to have been lumped in with the Older Guys. “I’m thirty-four going on twelve!” he announces. Good thing Danielle picked him first, huh?

Meanwhile, Melinda and Cirie don’t join everyone else, but stand off by themselves and cast elaborately gloomy looks about (yeah, that’s a good strategy), as they are obviously the team Misfits. Not so much because they are so out of shape, but because everyone else on the team is so young and callow, including perpetual pre-adolescent Shane.

Plus, you know, they are really out of shape.

“I’m in a much better mood than I was this morning,” Shane explains to the camera early on, because he’s now with the Kids and free of adult supervision. He also ends up in a very quickly-formed alliance with Danielle, Courtney and Aras. That’s four of seven teammates, and obviously immediately puts them into the driver’s seat, with Cirie, Melinda and Bobby left in the lurch.

On to the La Mina camp. They seem to be getting less camera time, probably because there are no nuts on their team. Terry and Dan, having previously formed a two-man alliance, go the gender route and ask Nick and Austen to join them. They agree, and the men are now covertly ruling the roost over there. Or so it seems, since Sally then approaches Austen about him and Nick joining her and teammate Lucille in an alliance. Austen makes non-committal “that sounds good” noises in response. We’ll see if he and Nick stick with their commitment to Dan and Terry or instead choose to stab them in the back.

On Exile Island, Bruce keeps busy doing martial arts katras and strategizing. There a super-cool personal immunity idol hidden around there somewhere, and Bruce is given a clue list on parchment, with the word “why” in quotation marks. So I guess he should be looking for something shaped like a “Y”, like the big “W” in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The clue also marks off some land where the idol isn’t, and notes that it is above the waterline. I guess each new arrival to Exile Island will be given one more clue than the last person, until somebody finds it.

Day 6 at the La Mina Camp. Sally, despite being a novice, decides to try her hand at spear fishing. She and Nick take the raft out to a reef where they are teeming fish literally jumping out of the water. She prepares to go into the water, and notes of the spear, “I just don’t want to lose it. That would be the worst.” Uh, oh. Sure enough, she attempts a “practice shot” from the raft, and is consternated when the spear 1) flies into the water, and b) sinks. Who’d thought? Of course, they are over water that’s like thirty or forty feet deep, and so the spear is gone. Sally is a social worker, by the way. I hope I find my fate in her hands some day.

“Don’t stress out,” a blasé Nick reassures her. Is everybody under the age of twenty-five in our society just an idiot, or what? You can tell we live in a country in which many, many people have never known hardship of any sort.

They return to camp and report in. Being adults (and having once hoped to, you know, eat some fish over the next thirty days), Dan and Terry are rather more visibly annoyed and judgmental. Sally, for her part, attempts to weasel out of trouble by going into “Whoopsie, but hey, I’m a cute little girl” mode. For her part, Lucille is also forgiving. “Don’t worry,” she says. “We’ll make a new [spear].” Yeah, a three pronged aluminum one with a rubber band projection sling. I’d start working on that coconut-shell forge right now.

I guess I’m a jerk, but seriously, something like that should automatically put you on the Next Person Voted Off the Island list.

The teams meet for the Immunity Challenge. Probst asks Misty how things are at La Mina, and she of course gives a sunny response. He then puckishly asks Shane the same thing regarding Casaya, and is rewarded with a crazy Shane response. “I’m not going to lie,” he announces. “We are in like a dire situation. And, you know, the whole, like, ‘Ooh, Let’s act like we’re doing all right’, so the other tribe thinks we’re…you know what I mean, like, screw that! Physically, we’re wrecked!” Needless to say, Shane’s teammates look pissed off about his spiel.

The Challenge is again quite demanding and elaborate. Each team has a giant “zombie” head that must be moved from the outlying water to the beach, a heavy box that must be hefted the same distance ten feet underwater, and which is also connected to and dragging a sinking dinghy on the surface that must be kept bailed enough to stay afloat while it is pulled to shore. They really are making these people work, I’ll give them that.

Not to blow it for you, but La Mina wins by a healthy margin. “Casaya is absolutely inept!” Probst crows from the beach. Damn, the gloves are off, huh, Jeff?

Back at Casaya, the now quite obviously insane Shane is freaking out again. The team is thrown into confusion by his announcement—yep—that he plans to just out and out quit the game. His would-be alliance teammates, obviously, are somewhat stricken when he tells them. (Especially since physically fit people are a premium on this team.)

Melinda and Cirie, meanwhile, are elated, for obvious reasons. In reaction to the news, Cirie—who doesn’t exactly come across as a student of Machiavelli—immediately and forcefully blurts out that they should just let him go. Smooth.

To their consternation, however, Shane almost immediately again changes his mind after alliance member Aires works on him a bit. Then, proving that everyone on this team is a wingnut, Aras and Shane not only announce (to Melinda and Cirie’s evident gloom—pokerfaced, they ain’t) that Shane wants to stay now, but publicly reveal their alliance with Danielle and Courtney. Aras then actually outright tells Cirie and Melinda that they plan to vote them off one after the other. (!!) “I don’t care which of you goes first,” Shane agrees. “Whoever doesn’t go now, goes next.”

Of course, alliances are best kept close to the vest, and they didn’t consult their distaff partners before telling everyone this. So now Courtney and Danielle are completely and understandably pissed off. Plus, you know, they probably noticed that one of their alliance partners is a complete moron, and the other one’s a raving nutjob.

On the other hand, Melinda doesn’t get any points from me when she starts crying and bleats, “It’s not fair!” (Chunky and whiny, there’s a good combo.) Cripes, every season there are people on the show who apparently don’t quite grasp that this is a game, a contest for a million dollars! And yes, actually, it is fair, tubby. They’re planning to vote you off, Melinda, because you’re clearly incapable of competing physically with the other team. Maybe you should have weaned yourself off the Krispy Kremes for a few months before the show started.

Note that I say this as a grossly, morbidly obese fellow myself. If I were somehow to end up on Survivor, I’d expect to be voted off in a New York minute, and wouldn’t complain a bit.

Then it's on to Tribal Council. I’ve never dug this part of the show, being the Probst interviews and which are easily the most weasling intensive segments. Therefore I usually fast forward to the actual vote. To finish this report, however, I’ll listen to the whole thing.

Bruce appears on the sidelines to listen in and join Casaya after someone is voted off. (Did he find the Personal Immunity Idol? We don’t know.) The the interrogation begins. Under Probst’s not so subtle probing, Shane announces that being on Survivor is “the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.” (Cut to a close-up of Melinda, who knows she has a good chance of being imminently kicked off the island, and understandably looks more than a little annoyed at Shane’s posturing.)

Melinda, when she's questioned, whines some more. Cirie, meanwhile, tries to play the Disappointed Family Card. In other words, she feels bad that her family will be disappointed in her if she's voted off. She'd not feel bad for herself, understand, but for them. For letting them down. Gee, what a martyr.

However, Cirie so laughibly inept at this gambit that when Probst calls her on it (“Why would they be 'disappointed' in you? You’re giving your all.”), she’s caught completely off guard, and can't even answer right away. “I’d be disappointed for them,” she rather lamely responds after a bit, hoping that a few crocodile tears will help.

Anyhoo, after Shane receives the first two votes—presumably from Melinda and Cirie—Melinda gets the next four and is the second person voted off the Island. (Cirie is who I would have voted for, but maybe Melinda’s sheer obnoxiousness won the day.) She leaves, and Bruce dons his Casaya buff and joins his new teammates.

A commercial for the new, upcoming The Amazing Race! Wheee! “Your favorite show is back!” the announcer says. And you know what? He’s right. It is my favorite show.

Clips from next week show the La Mina woman attempting to break up the Male Alliance by whoring things up; and, shock, it appears Shane will be going nuts about something.

And, oops, I clipped off the final interview from Melinda. Hopefully she was really bitter, because I wouldn’t want to have to feel the least bit sorry for her.

A giant passes on...

Monster Zero reports that one of the greatest of film composers, Akira Ifukube, has passed away at the age of 91.

Fan of Japanese fantasy films will need no introduction to his work, which was most prominently featured in a slew of Tojo Dai Kaiju movies, including the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters (aka Gojira)in 1954. It was in this film that the classic Godzilla Theme was first heard.

Obviously personal preferences will reign here, but I also particularly love his music for The Mysterians and the Ghirdah theme from Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster. In all, Mr. Ifukue scored nearly three hundred movies, and returned to the Godzilla series in the '90s with updates of his old themes in such films as Godzilla vs. Mechagodilla II (1993).

Aside from the indeliable contributions to the Godzilla series referenced above, Mr. Ifukube himself actually created the classic sound effect used for Godzilla's roar. "For the roar of Godzilla, I took out the lowest string of a contrabass and then ran a glove that had resin on it across the string. The different kinds of roars were created by playing the recording of the sound that I'd made at different speeds."

I always wonder whether people really appreciate who vital a good score is to a movie. So many great films have great scores--Jaws, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, etc.--and you have to wonder if they'd be as well remembered if they lacked them. And the opposite is true, too: How many good films failed to become classics because they didn't have the exact perfect score?

We'll never know, but it's hard for me to believe that Mr. Ifukube's music didn't have a lot to do with creating a film series that has lasted over 50 years.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Goodbye and good riddance...

Everything the Cubs do seems to go wrong, but even if we don't go to the playoffs this year, I at least expect to see better baseball than last season (which isn't saying much). I am particularly relieved to see the back of Corey "He's a five tool player!" Patterson, since he's caused me much angina over the last several years.

Basically, my two major problems with Patterson is a) that he sucks, and b) that he's a lazy bum. That's a bad combination.

Last year when the Cubs dumped Sammy Sosa, the Worry Wart Brigade warned that we'd rue the day after he went on to hit 40-50 home runs and knock in 100 rbis in 2005. I wasn't that concerned, and it turned out I was right not to do so.

Now we keep hearing the same stuff about Patterson, which amazes me, because he's been so awful the last couple of years. Last season he hit .215, which for someone with over 425 at bats was the worst batting average in team history. And we're talking about the Cubs, not the Marlins. The team's been around for over a hundred and twenty-five years. And after he got sent down to the minors for a month, which is about as humiliating a thing as can happen to a major leaguer, he came back and hit under .190 for the rest of the season.

Then this morning I saw this on a Cubs blog:

"I perused the Baseball Prospectus stats archive to see if I could dig up anything interesting from last year. You can sort by RBI per Runner which is basically the number of runners a batter has driven in not including himself. I suppose as good as measure of “clutch” as there is in the game, at least as far as a single season goes. I set the cutoff at 400 PA’s [plate appearances] and it yielded 223 major leaguers.

Take a guess who was the worst hitter in baseball in this regards for 2005. Go ahead, come on, he really sucked last year…..Yep, Corey Patterson (0.0753). We’ll miss you so."

Sosa was the 16th worst, by the way.

Believe me, if Corey can get his head out of his ass, good for him. I honestly wish him well and hope he does wake up and plays up to his potential.* But I'm not exactly haunted by the possibility. And I'd rather see him playing well for somebody else than stinking up Wrigley for another year, in any case.

[*I will note that despite his amazingly stubbern local supporters, no team was willing to give the Cubs *anything* at all of value for him, even a little, so obviously other organizations no longer see him as a very viable reclaimation project.]

Holy moley!

General Ashkick: "Doctor, I agree that a large rabbit, but I really don't see the source of your concer..."
Dr. Van Thinkalot: "General, you don't understand. The partially attenuated incisors of this Lepus Sylvilagus indicate that this is a baby rabbit!"

Pod People...

Anyone who's read my stuff will no doubt be shocked to learn that I am even more incoherent verbally than I am textually, but the proof can be found here, as I join Chris Holland and Scott "I'm the miserable bastard who sponsored Graffiti Bridge at B-Fest" Hamilton (he's a good skater, though) on their latest Podcast.

Hear me blather on about B-Fest, and interrupt their attempts to speak about other subjects.

Oh, and for the easily thrilled, the link includes a "promised photo" of my telephone. Wheee!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Star of TV's number one show expresses fear...

well, let's just let her speak:

Evangaline Lilly, star of TV's Lost, on the possibility of playing Wonder Woman in the upcoming Joss Whedon big screen adaptation: "I've never even spoken to anyone on the project. People have asked if I had one role I wanted to play, and I threw out Wonder Woman because she was my favorite superhero growing up. I'd love to play Wonder Woman be­cause it's a kick-ass role. But the dilemma is whether I want to be part of something that big and commercial."

Yes, I can see how that would be a concern.

Congratulations to Joe and Tina...

Joe Bannerman of the Opposable Thumbs site got hitched last Wednesday to his sweetie Tina. Cigars for everyone!


As I was on vacation for two weeks (due to B-Fest), I didn't see the Feb 3rd issue of Entertainment Weekly. I grabbed it today, and saw a couple of interesting little tidbits.

One story is on the CW network, the merging of UPN and the WB. EW comes up with a mock line-up, which amazingly has three sitcoms "to be filled in later." Yep, out of two networks they only picked one extant sitcom, Everyone Hates Chris. They filled in another slot with Arrested Development, which is a nice pipedream, but every day somebody doesn't pick that show up the more chance that vital cast and crew members will be grabbed by other shows. I'd love to see it come back, but I'm not holding my breath.

One notable absence is the wrestling show that UPN has week, WWE Slam or whatever the hell it is. I think that's just pure snobbery (justified snobbery, but still), and I'm sure the CW will opt to keep that one, as the rating are, as far as I'm aware, comparatively decent.

One area I do agree with EW is that they don't chose any of UPN's black oriented sitcoms. I don't know what any of them are, but I know they have a night or two of them. This might create a small amount of controversy, but I don't think the shows draw enough to justify keeping them. I could be wrong, though.

Meanwhile, director Steven Soderbergh comments on one of my long cherished dreams, that multiplexes will start devoting a screening room or two to showing old movies. My friend Joe Bannerman, who works in a theater, doesn't think the rental charges would justify this, but Soderbergh believes that digital uploading of films (rather than having to procure actual film reels) will make this more viable. I'd love to see it.

There's a hilarious puff piece on Commander in Chief, a dumbed-down West Wing which like many shows got an initial look-at from a sizable audience, who then got bored and moved on. This paragraph, following the obligatory description of star Geena Davis as, you know, a jus' plain folks anti-diva, made me laugh:

"But as soon as [shooting begins], Davis seamlessly morphs into kick-butt mode. She slips into some serious heels, spits out the gum, and heads for Chief's war room set, where she fixes her eyes with fierce intenstity on a monitor showing footage of the suicide bomber threatening to blow up Air Force One. The terrorist steps off the plane. "Wait!" [her character] Allen orders. "Don't shoot!" The entire room hangs on her every syllable. Even the grips on the set look tense, as if they really believe the 50-year-old actress holds the country's future in her hands."

Man, it's a good day at the Jabootu site when I write a paragraph that funny. And no offense, but I myself wouldn't describe a President who orders that a terrorist *not* be shot as "morphing into kick-butt mode." Luckily for the show, I imagine, the would-be bomber is one of those merely ill-served people who only seek to kill and maim innocents because they want Somebody to Listen to Them, and who are relieved when they can set aside violence for serious discussion about, you know, those damn Jews and all. Funny how many more terrorists there are like that in TV shows and movies than in real life.