Thursday, December 20, 2007

Where Have All The Good Eats Gone?

What's the deal with Good Eats on the Food Network?

Time it was the show was on several times a day. And they'd air different episodes. Now, it seems they're showing the same three episodes over and over and over, and only like two nights out of the week. Is this some kind of weird holiday rotation, or are they just anti-Alton?

I think this is the 87th night this month they've aired Puff, the Magic Mallow.

I'm sure I'm overestimating it, but it seems like they've cut down on the spikey haired wonder-boy, and put a handful of episodes into heavy rotation.

Not that I'm helping my wife with the 60 million things she's baking up to put on plates for people. There's blogging to be done!

PS Oh, and Froggie, is Sam The Cooking Guy even on any more? I thought I'd set it up to record all shows, but he's not showing up on my DVR any more . . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Many Spaces After A Period?

When did they stop telling people to put two spaces after a period?

I had no idea, absolutely zero idea that this wasn't being practiced any more.

I thought the increased tendency towards a single space after a period was a combination of two things:

1. People learning to type themselves, and never taking a formal typing class where they were told to insert two spaces after a period.

2. HTML formatting not recognizing a difference between a single space and two spaces, and showing them both as a single space.

But, no. Come to find out that the Chicago Manual of Style people want the second space obliterated. The much more generous people at the Modern Language Association say there's nothing wrong with it, but still say they use the single-space form.

Apparently books haven't used the second space since before the middle of the last century.

This is amazing to me. This is like being told that i stopped being before e fifty years ago, didn't your grandparents get the memo?

This is one innovation I don't know if I can handle. I figured out how to install my wireless router. I'm not a complete fogey. But my poor thumbs are so trained to put two spaces after a period, they sometimes want to do it when I'm typing the period as a decimal point.

Could we maybe get a recount on this one? I think I may have filled out my ballot wrong.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Peace During The Holidays

Dave Barry has a solution to relieve holiday stress.

Clarence Thomas At Chapman

My brother scored me a seat at the Clarance Thomas event at Chapman University yesterday.

Sandefur has a good summary of some of the highlights, including the rather random moment when, moments after he was introduced, a woman in the audience burst into song.

Thomas took one question from the small group I was with--a question about whether the Declaration of Independence should be considered when reading the Constitution (He said, "Wow, that's like asking, 'Explain the universe and give three examples'"). He did not, however, get my question, which was about the one point in his book he never clearly explained. I guess I will go to my grave without ever knowing how to play "Send Back."

Sandefur picked a lot of my favorite moments, but there's one that made a large impression on me, especially when my brother expanded on a further answer he'd heard Thomas give before.

Thomas is known for not asking a lot of questions from the bench. While some of his associates tend to try to trip up the lawyers presenting before the Court, Thomas is content to let them present their cases. He was asked about it here, and said, more or less, "This isn't Perry Mason. Everything is in the briefs. These cases have been through dozens of courts, and there's not really going to be a 'gotcha' moment." In other words, the grandstanding didn't really serve a purpose.

But what my brother shared with me was that on another occasion, Thomas had said something along these lines: "When I go home to Savannah, and I talk to people whose cases came to my court, I want them to be able to say, 'My case was heard. I had my chance, and they heard me out.'"

In other words, it's more important to him, as judge of the highest court in the land, to make sure that everyone gets to feel they had their day in court than to feel that everybody knows at any given moment how much smarter than them Clarance Thomas is.

That's exactly the attitude I would hope every judge in this nation has.

Enough respect for those before them to allow them to be heard, and enough integrity to do the right thing when it comes time to render a verdict.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Am I Awake? Fan Video

Don't normally post links to YouTube videos, but I thought this guy managed to make a video that was fun, and a spot-on match for the tone of this great They Might Be Giants Song.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What's Up With The Magic Cafe?

Yes, the Magic Cafe is down. (I can hear the screams.)

No, it will not be forever. (I can hear the sighs of relief.)

The full story is here.

The buying and selling forums are responsible for many happy Christmases, methinks, both with money raised and deals made. Glad to know they'll be up soon.

Kid Nation

You know, usually I have the good sense to actually form an opinion before I try to express it, and heaven knows half the time I have nothing better to do than form opinions. I got more opinions than a bunch of inebriated socialite women at a costume party.

But I don't quite know how I felt about Kid Nation.

I know how I feel about Reality Shows. I hate them.

I hate the whole premise of them. They're everything I hate about game shows, magnified to a huge degree.

What I hate about them is this:

On a regular fiction show, the idea is generally that you take a noble character, give them a terrible problem, and despite repeated failures, they overcome and triumph.

This pattern teaches nobility, teaches overcoming your problems, and makes the world a little bit better place. It's why this form of fiction, as an art form, has endured for thousands of years.

Now, enter reality TV. And the premise of reality TV is this:

People will allow themselves to be put in situations where they could potentially be publicly humiliated, in exchange for even the slimmest chance at money.

And other people will tune in to watch people who have the potential of being humiliated at any moment.

That's generally not the starting premise, of course. It starts out with some noble premise like starting a business or overcoming fear or finding love. But the minute the cameras start rolling, these reality show producers, desperate for something exciting, start looking for any stupidity, idiocy, contention, or humiliation.

And thus reality TV degenerates into a cesspool.

Enter Kid Nation.

Now, we're not just humiliating adults by giving them a shot at money, we're getting parents to offer up their kids for humiliation in exchange for a shot at money.

It makes me sick to my stomach when I see people put their kids in front of Simon Cowell. I don't care if my daughter grows up to be the most talented singer this fine nation has ever produced--I will never put her in front of Simon Cowell. If she's that good a singer, we don't need Simon Cowell to tell her that, and if she happens to blow it, I've set her up for public humiliation on the most popular show in all America. It's practically a no-win situation.

The premise of Kid Nation is well known: they took a bunch of kids, stuck them in a "ghost town" in the southwest without any adult supervision, to see what kind of society they would set up.

At least, that was the premise. In reality, it was, take a bunch of kids and stick them in a "Ghost town" in the southwest and stick cameras in their faces all the time, so they know Mom and Dad will see every minute of it and then give them things to argue about so we can film it.

The stuff they were supposed to argue about ranged from death (should we kill chickens to eat them?) to religion (What, if anything, should we do to accommodate religion in Bonanza city?) to politics. You know--all that stuff you don't discuss in polite company. Let's haul your kids away and see what we can get them to say about it when the cameras roll.

And then, at the end of every episode, one of the kids gets a "Gold Star," a prop that means they've won $20,000. This is voted on by a town council, a group of kids that makes most of the decisions and who can give the rest of the kids someone to argue with.

I have to say, I'm not inherently opposed to the idea of competitive shows featuring kids. Like every kid of my generation, I didn't look at the kids on Double Dare crawling through the slime and think, "Stop degrading yourself! You're wading through muck for the man! And for what? A prop from the set of You Can't Do That On Television?"

I looked at the kids on Double Dare and thought, "I would totally take the physical challenge."

Kids thrive on competition. A chance to win something here and there is good for them. A chance to win or lose in front of people is good for them.

A chance to cook their own meals is good for them. A chance to be away from home is good for them. A chance to make decisions for themselves is good for them.

So it's not that I'm opposed to the idea of a show like this.

And I certainly don't have anything against any of the kids. They tried really hard, all of them, and a lot of maturity crept through.

So what was it that left me feeling so empty when the show was over? What was I waiting for that never showed up?

I don't think I realized it, right now, writing this, but now it seems obvious in retrospect. I think I was waiting for the biggest twist of all: Some sign that the producers cared. The show was done, the kids had jumped through all the producer's hoops, and I think I was just waiting for that one big final twist that said, hey, kids, we know you gave up your summer so we could make some money, and we know we sort of put you up to fighting with each other and we know things were sort of rough out here--here's a little something for everybody who didn't get a gold star.

But there was nothing like that. Couple kids got a couple bigger gold stars, and then it was over. No twist, no big finale.

Not saying the producers didn't play fair or that anybody got gypped. Judging by the way the show was edited (and who knows how accurate that is?) when the kids signed up, they didn't even know there were going to be gold stars.

I guess I just liked some of these kids enough that I ended up hoping this would be the show that would abandon the principles that make me hate reality shows.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Thoughts On The Writer's Strike

Okay, this isn't really about who should win or what's best. All of that stuff would involve research and thought and maybe a degree in marketing or economics, and I'm not really ready to do any of those.

Instead, these are my thoughts on the most important part of the writer's strike: How it's affecting me.

Here be spoilers!

I really only watch a few shows, and here is how I feel about what the writer's strike has done to those:

24:This is the one show that the strike seems to have killed. Every other show is airing at least some fragment of a season.

(I'm still waiting for some show to just cut out, mid-episode, Sopranos-style. Who will be the producer with the guts to film half a script?)

24 was actually in a sort of disaster recovery mode after a really bad season, and a lot of the moves were pretty bone-headed.

A lot of what made the previous seasons hard to follow, was that they'd killed off so many of the characters anybody cared about that all that was left were new characters and old characters nobody cared about.

This was particularly true in the White House plots, where everyone was new except two people, one of whom nobody liked anyway. And he was the President.

So their solution to fix that this season? Wiping the slate clean, disbanding CTU, introducing an entirely new cast and having the whole show set in Washington DC.

Say what?

Dave Barry once summed up my feelings on 24 when he called it, "My favorite show on television, except when I am actually watching it."

At any rate, we won't see a frame of this one until the strike ends. They won't start showing them until they can show all 24.

Lost: I know it was probably hard to watch this all divided up and aired sporadically the way ABC used to air this show. I wouldn't know--I don't watch it live. This one I tend to wait until the season is over and then watch them on DVD.

And I think that's the way to watch this show. This show is great. I'd heard bad things about this season, but I thought this season was nothing but home runs. To have Locke back as the guy who you think must be crazy but who you really, really want to believe knows something you don't--that's great.

And as for the big twist at the end of the last episode, the writers have now said that they're going to do more stuff like that, making the show one big pastiche that you have to watch all the way through to get the whole story.

I like that idea. And I like the idea, once you know the whole story, of putting all 50 or however many DVDs will be in the complete series in the DVD player and hitting "shuffle" and watching them in an even more random order and see what kinds of combinations that brings up.

(Of course, if I ever have enough free time to do that, I hope I have something better to do.)

As for this season, I've heard we're only getting 8 episodes, which for a season of a story-arc show like Lost, is like getting a book with the last two-thirds torn out. Do I really want to even pick the thing up and read it in that condition?

Heroes: Heroes started out slow, but got really, really good towards the end of last season. In fact, I actually even liked no-powers Nikki better than super-powers Nikki. I think her beating up the thug without her powers may have been my favorite Nikki moment ever.

The best moment, of course, they didn't emphasize enough. They had a moment that was the kind of thing that used to make me like 24. The best moments on the first few seasons of 24 were when people would be put in situations where there was no good answer. Does Jack stop the bad guys he's undercover with from releasing gas into the mall, even though it would blow his cover and keep him from finding the other 12 gas canisters, or does he let them do it, in the hopes that finding the other 12 canisters will save more lives later?

Mohinder had one of those moments this season, when he was on his way to save Nikki, and then he gets the phone call from Sylar that he's got Molly hostage. What does he do?

They didn't play it out as well as they could have, though--Mohinder seemed to dash off to Molly and the madman without a second thought. Just as well--I think we'd all rather save Molly than Nikki, but there was potential there that they missed.

My favorite character is still Noah, although Kristin Bell's character got interesting there towards the end.

This show got incredibly lucky. The ending actually managed to be a fine place to stop, although that's partly because the basis of next season--Sylar getting his powers back--isn't that interesting to me.

I was also discouraged by an interview I read with the creater of this show. In it, he said he felt the problem with Hiro in the past was that it went on too long. Quite the contrary--there were two problems with Hiro in the past, and one of them was that we weren't seeing enough of the trials. Too many of them happened off-screen. We want to see Hiro and Adam use their powers and be clever and do stuff, but instead, all the scenes were them standing around talking about how tough the trials were.

The other problem was that it wasn't the Hiro from the first season. Hiro from the first season was just so cheery and excited about things, you couldn't help but get excited about whatever he was a part of. This season was "Sad Hiro" season, and that's just not the emotion we love Hiro for.

Smallville: The good news about Smallville being off the air, quite frankly, is that I stop having to force myself to watch each week on the off chance this is the week something thrilling will happen.

I'm trying to think if there are any other "story" shows I watch on TV, and I can't think of any.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Real Life Is Not Like CSI

Got robbed today.

Okay, my company got robbed. One of the stores I'm in charge of.

How much did they get? Not enough to make it worth their while, but enough that it's going to seriously affect the bonuses of the employees who work there. And this was probably one of the few months their little store would have earned a bonus this year.

(Yes, of course, I'm going to try to get them whatever bonus level they would have earned if the thieves hadn't taken what they took. That doesn't change the fact that the bad guys didn't just steal from a big, soulless corporation, but stole from hardworking people who are trying hard to make that store grow, so they can grow with it, earn better salaries, and do better for themselves.)

Anyway, real life is not like CSI.

Real life does not have intensely focused brilliant people who seem to only have one case to solve and computers that would have made the 1950's Batman jealous of their computational ability. Real life has fairly bright people who want to care, but are overwhelmed with the number of terrible things people do to other people every day and are doing their best just to write it all down.

It would absolutely be possible to figure out who did this one. There's only a handful of options.

Chances are, it will never happen. We won't even make it to a detective's desk.

But if we do, I'll let everybody know.

The good news is, real life is not like CSI.

People actually do have problems and not kill each other over them. Some people go about doing enough good that the world manages to be a pretty decent place.

Sure, there are idiots idiots who let their own self-interest blind them to the rights and humanity of others.

But despite what CSI or Jerry Springer or whatever other hyped-up show might portray, most people manage to get along perfectly fine, and even do some nice things for somebody besides themselves once in a while.

Thank goodness for that.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hey, I Won Sumptin'

A big thank you to the folks over at All American Blogger, home of the podcast, "A Field Guide To American Politics."

I won their November contest, and will soon be receiving a copy of The Richest Man In Babylon by George Clason. According to their last podcast, this means I will soon have six quintillion dollars.

It is very much appreciated.

The last time I won sumptin was from the fine folks at Serenity Stuff.

And speaking of the fine folks at Serenity Stuff, they are (actually he is) currently selling a bunch of stuff on Ebay to raise money to go march with Joss and the other Mutant Enemy writers in LA later on this month. If you dig Firefly (and who doesn't?) head on over and see what he's got up for auction.

While you're listening to the Field Guide podcast.

And I'm enjoying my free stuff.