Friday, March 30, 2007

EJ Type-A?

In my recent work review, I was described as being a 'Type A personality'. Some of you know me, the rest of you can probably glean a basic idea from my other entries. According to Wikipedia, this means I am impatient, excessively time-conscious, insecure about my status, highly competetive, hostile and agressive, and incapable of relaxation. Pretty shitty review, eh?

Let's take those in order.
Impatient, time-conscious -- I certainly don't think of myself that way. A lot of my job is very time-sensitive, so that does require me to be conscious of the time. Unless they'd prefer that I missed my deadlines. Outside of work, I will wait for over an hour to be served at a bar, just because I don't want to inconvenience the waitress.

Insecure about my status -- Well, duh. I think I'm defined by my insecurity, but not just about my status. I'm going to let that one slide.

Highly competetive -- Seriously? I rarely compete in anything. And when I do, I rarely win. The annual Oscar Pool is really the only time I think I'm competetive, and that's only because it's the only thing I win all year. And that's got nothing to do with work.

Hostile and aggressive -- Huh. I mean, I spray some pretty good bile on this site, but if you can't vent, why have a blog? Nobody has ever described me as hostile or aggressive in my entire life. I can better be described as 'inert'.

Incapable of relaxation -- Given that I spent the hour prior to my review watching the Polar Bear Cam, I have to disagree. You know what the odds are of me actually putting on pants and doing anything that doesn't involve TV or the Internet this weekend? Zero.

That sounds more like Jack Bauer's review, doesn't it? Either I give the impression of being a ticking time bomb, or else my manager doesn't know what 'Type A' is. Perhaps she thought the 'A' stood for 'Awesome'. Let's go with that.

Late LOST Thought

Remember in the first season, when Jack found the Caves? He found the bodies of a man and a woman, apparently prepared for ceremonial burial and a bag of polished stones. Last night's episode ended with a man and a woman being buried, with a bag of precious stones tossed into the grave. Could that mean something? Are the events on Lost Island cyclical? Does that makes Baby Aaron the new Benry? (They were both born on the island, unlike most of The Others and all of the Lostaways...)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Transformers: The Movie -- This is Me Not Giving a Crap

I feel like I should be excited about “Transformers: The Movie”, if only because I can’t imagine who else would be. I mean, this has to be aimed at people my age who will presumably be overwhelmed with 80’s nostalgia and show up in droves, right? Are there new Transformers fans? Do they still even make them? Don’t answer that. I’m content with my ignorance. Regardless, I can’t imagine the circumstances under which I would see this movie. And it’s not just because Michael Bay is involved. We can all agree he sucks, but I can still be easily manipulated. I’m way excited about “Grindhouse” even though A) Quentin Tarantino’s batting about .500 with me these days, and the stuff of his that I like least is the stuff that’s an homage to genres in which I have no interest (As “Grindhouse” appears to be.), and B) Robert Rodriquez hasn’t made a good movie since “From Dusk Till Dawn”. (Yes, I have my qualms with “Sin City”. I mostly liked it, but basically Rodriquez just copied the comics, shot for shot. You’d think that would free him up to do things like coax better performances out of the actors, or find a way to eliminate some of the repetition, or even explain to Frank Miller that some things that work on paper don’t work on screen. I freely admit that I may be biased against all things Frank Miller, ever since he actually had my hero use the line “What are you, retarded? I’m the goddamn Batman!” But now we’re completely off topic.)

Now, I was really into the Transformers as a kid. And I was a weird kid, so I developed these really lengthy story arcs, one of which involved a Decepticon trying to go straight by opening up a salvage company. Also, in my world, constantly having to monitor Earth’s communication grid caused Soundwave to slowly go insane. (Man, I should have written this movie!) And I loved the cartoons. Of course, the continuity of the cartoon didn’t match up with the comic books, or even the character profiles that came with the toys, so in my mind, the abiding Transfomers continuity is the one that I made up. I don’t need Michael Bay contradicting it.

And here’s the real problem. Everything about the Transformers was part of a toy commercial. I’m not inherently offended by marketing or commercialism. Do you know what I bought yesterday? I bought the Spider-Man edition Mr. Potato Head. A more glaring example of product placement and indoctrination you won’t find, but it made me laugh. That’s how the world works. I get it. But there’s no way I could watch an episode of the cartoon today and derive any enjoyment whatsoever. And it’s not like I’m an animation snob or anything, but I am not going to enjoy something that doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it’s a 30-minute commercial. Working with a licensed property involves getting to the essence of the idea. Compare the 90’s Batman animated series to the one currently running. One of them is driven by a passion for the character; one is driven by a focus group. (Or else maybe the Riddler works better as a teenage Goth. Wait, no. He definitely doesn’t.) But the whole essence of the Transformers is to sell those toys. Any nostalgia I have for the Transformers is for the enjoyment I had making up my own stories and battles. Take that away, and it’s a movie about robots turning into product-placed vehicles, some of whom may or may not share names with the characters I remember. And for me to get excited about that is roughly the same thing as me getting excited about a movie because there’s a character who shares a first name with a friend of mine.

“That was the best movie I’ve ever seen! There was a character named Lana and another one named Sam! I mean, the ‘Sam’ was short for ‘Samantha’, but it was still really cool!”

LOST 3-14 "Expose"

You know, that was a fun episode there. I think I’ve made my feelings about Nikki and Paolo clear, but at least they were part of a clever episode. I actually don’t have a lot to say, given that this wasn’t one of those episodes that lends itself to in-depth commentary.

I suspect people will be irritated about inserting the Wonder Twins into the old scenes, but it doesn’t really bother me. It’s not like they were shown to be influencing past events, like Paolo and Locke had a long talk about not pressing the button, or anything like that. We’ve got 20 people on the island we don’t know, and they must have been doing something for the last eighty days. Bonus points for the running joke where Sawyer has no idea who they are.

In the first few minutes, I was very excited to see Billy Dee Williams, but even more excited that one of the guys at the strip club/soundstage was Ando from Heroes! If there’s one thing Ando loves, it’s naked girls named Nikki.

It was nice to see some of our old dead friends – Boone, Shannon, Arzt, and even Creepy Ethan. In the airport scene, Shannon implies Boone is gay, which you might recall was sort of a running theme back in Season One. (Of course, now we know they slept together just days before, so it’s super-weird.) Also, Boone asks Nikki for a pen – in the beginning of the pilot, Jack sent Boone off on a wild goose chase to find a pen for a tracheotomy. Nice job, Continuity Elves!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Hurley/Jim team is comedy gold. I love how Hurley always acts like he understands Jin, even though we all know better. I also loved the reference to a ‘Forensics Hatch’. Of course, if they had one, Locke would have blown it up by now. And when Hurley’s talking about the show ‘Expose’, (I can’t make those little accents. Just pretend it’s there.) he says that the Cobra’s identity was shrouded in mystery for four years. First off, 4 is one of the magic numbers. Second, does that make anybody else think that we’re going to uncover the leader of The Others in the Season Four finale? Speaking of numbers, the diamonds are worth 8 million – there’s another one of those numbers.

So Nikki and Paolo found the Pearl first. And now we know that Benry not only knew about that particular hatch, but he was actively using it. Interesting that when he’s with Juliet, they’re watching Jack and she makes a reference to ‘grabbing all three of them’. I assume the other two would be Kate and Sawyer, but was there ever a reason The Others wanted them? Were they always meant to be leverage against Jack, or were there other plans? Or Other plans, for that matter.

Wow. Just don’t have much to say. It was really a stand-alone. Sort of a CSI: Mystery Island. I started to write about how the diamonds hidden in the nesting dolls were reminiscent of the heroin in the Virgin Mary statues, but even I’m not buying that one. Honestly, it was not an essential episode to the overall storyline, but it was funny and I enjoyed it. Please note that only on Lost would an episode beginning with a murder by poison and ending with two people being buried alive be considered ‘light’.

What I’d love to find out is if this was always the plan for Nikki and Paolo. Or were they simply so unpopular that the writers pulled a Poochie on them? (I think I’ve been comparing those two to that same Simpsons episode since they first appeared, and then they went and got the Poochie death. I was just waiting for someone one from the network to produce a signed affidavit saying that they can never come back again, ever.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Final Flight of the Nite Jammer

It’s time for me to take the plunge and buy a new alarm clock. After two months of 50% accuracy, the old clock’s headed straight down to zero percent. It hasn’t gone off all week. If it weren’t for the fuzzy backup alarm, I’d be screwed. (The fuzzy backup alarm has decided that if 6 AM comes and nobody’s petting her, she will sit on my face to rectify the situation. The first time, I thought she was actually plotting to murder me.) This is not, in the strictest sense, something that is worthy of mention. However, I’ve had this same alarm clock since the 8th grade, and replacing it will mark the end of an era.

It’s a ‘Nite Jammer’, made by some company that probably no longer exists. It includes a pair of headphones that tuck into a side compartment. I can’t say why an alarm clock would have headphones, but there they are. Perhaps it was aimed at consumers who were likely to lie on their bed, keeping their head perfectly stationary at a distance of 18 inches from the clock radio, rocking out. To be completely honest, it’s not such a stretch to picture 8th Grade EJ doing just that.

Seriously, 8th Grade. I’ve been using the same alarm clock since before The Simpsons premiered. This clock has been in my life longer than my oldest friend. And I’ve used it every day in that time. I’ve woken up to that cube of black plastic thousands and thousands of times. Eighteen years I’ve been using that clock. I have a sister I haven’t seen since she was seventeen – the Nite Jammer is longer established in my life than Julie.

It’s not like you can save an old clock radio. I’m not going to keep it after I’ve replaced it. That’s sort of deranged, even for a packrat like myself. I almost feel like it’s earned some sort of burial ceremony. Eighteen years of service. A bagpipe player, at the very least.

And as a practical consideration, I don’t even know what a clock radio costs. Are they twelve dollars? Eighty? I’m going in totally blind here. Basically, I will believe whatever number the first person throws at me. For that matter, where do you buy a clock radio? I assume Target will have them, but where? I can’t imagine they’re in the same ‘Electronics’ aisle as the iPods. This could be a very long day.

Farewell, Nite Jammer. You will be missed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dancing With the Stars Week Two

Here we are at Week Two! Unlike other seasons, there’s nobody who stands out as being just, well, awful. This is the first time that they’ve gone into the opening elimination without a clear loser. We also haven’t had any hysterically bizarre musical selections yet – although they’ll never top Lisa Rinna dancing the Rumba to ‘Final Countdown’, so they shouldn’t even try.

APOLO OHNO – That was quite good. I am warming to him a little, as he’s starting to show some personality. I think he’s the judges’ favorite, as they’re giving him constructive criticism that verges on the nitpicky already. Usually, you can tell that’s when somebody’s got potential. I’ve already got him as a finalist. I don’t know that I’ll be voting for him anytime soon, but I’m certainly not rooting for his ouster.

SHANDI FINNESSEY – I have to think the show is successful enough that they don’t need a ‘star’ that nobody has ever heard of. “She was Miss USA before that one who got drunk and made out with Miss Teen USA.” Maybe they wanted at least one hot young girl, and it’s a demographics thing. She’s just kind of stiff and she moves very slowly. She moves like she’s in a pageant, and it’s not translating well. Shandi’s an unknown, and she’s not a very good dancer. I just don’t see anybody voting for her.

CLYDE DREXLER – Much better than they gave him credit for. It’s actually really interesting to see a giant dancing. His partner has to seriously hustle to keep up with his gliding steps. I find him very likeable, and I hope he gets enough votes to stay around for a while. It seems like he wouldn’t be really disappointed if he got voted off, either. He just seems generally pretty happy with things.

LEEZA GIBBONS – She’s really not that good. There. I said it. Happy birthday and all, but I just don’t care. Plus, your party was ‘goddess themed’? Man, there’s a load of shit for you right there. If anybody in your social circle ever invites you to a ‘goddess themed’ party, drop them from your social circle immediately. Personally, I’m thinking of a ‘God-themed’ party, where I smite unto mine enemies.

IAN ZIERING – I was watching with a friend who absolutely freaked out when she saw Brian Austin Green in the audience, so you know Ian’s got a fan base. I’m sort of biased, because I love Cheryl, but I think they did pretty well. Again, the judges were kind of nitpicky, but that’s actually a good sign this early on. Plus, an adorable old man and an adorable big fuzzy dog came to watch him practice. How can you not support that?

PAULINA PORIZKOVA – I really like her, but that has more to do with the fact that she’s funny and a little bit odd. I think she’d be really good if she could get her arms under control – they tend to flail about. Still, I can overlook a multitude of sins if you’re funny.

BILLY RAY CYRUS – Hee. Not as funny-bad as last week, unfortunately. Still, when the judges compliment him with ‘perfectly ordinary’ as if it were high praise, you know they’re just happy to avoid a train wreck. I don’t think he has it in him to get better than ‘acceptable’, but he should have fans, so he’ll hang around longer than he should. I still don’t know what ‘Hannah Montana’ is, but I’m willing to bet that if I Google it, the local authorities will be alerted.

HEATHER MILLS – OK, she did a really nice job this week. I still can’t stand her, and they’re really playing the ‘inspiration’ angle. Personally, I think it would be more inspiring to see a week where nobody mentions her wooden leg. As it is, they’re sort of conveying a ‘grading on a curve’ kind of a thing, as if all their compliments end with an implied ‘…for a girl with a wooden leg.’ How about if nobody mentions it? She’s earning her scores, there’s no reason to even imply a sympathy vote. And when you get to mambo to an actual mambo, it sort of seems like they’re stacking the deck.

JOHN RATZENBERGER – He is surprisingly light on his feet. And he gets extra points for being the first ‘old guy’ contestant not to rely on props. I like him a lot, and I like his approach where he’s not really constantly bringing up the reasons why ballroom is especially hard for him. He had less practice time than the rest and he’s not even whining about that. He’s a solid middle-of-the-road contestant, but I have a lot of affection for him. Team Ratzenberger!

LAILA ALI – I can’t think of a good way to say this without seeming like I’m locked into gender roles, so I’ll just come out and say it. She’s sort of a dude. I’m not saying that women who are physically strong are actually men. I’m just saying that from the waist down, this particular physically strong woman is built exactly like a dude. And I’m only saying this because the choreography really emphasized her, well, area. It’s disconcerting, is all. And what’s with the active attempt to castrate Maksim? Poor guy. There’s no reason to demean him just because his partner is manly.

JOEY FATONE – Oy. I want to like him, but he’s not going to make it easy. OK, the spaz dance was kind of funny, but why is he always doing a bit? And this whole thing where he always has his name on his back…. He just makes me sad and tired. He danced well enough, but if he could lay off on being a tool, it would help a lot. Also, I seem to remember that Kym dressed much differently when she was Jerry Springer’s partner. A lot of pastels, (comparatively) high necklines – now, she could be our first professional wardrobe malfunction if this keeps up.

I’m going to predict that Leeza Gibbons is going out tonight. She’s in the bottom three and I can’t imagine that she has motivated fans out there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shandi go, either. She’s fourth from the bottom, so her lack of name recognition could wipe her out.

Monday, March 26, 2007

To Live and Die in L.A. -- Apprentice Edition

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to cut Donald Trump more slack than others do. To me, he seems sort of like your friend’s weird dad, only with billions of dollars. Like he’ll make you his special Fiesta Flapjacks for breakfast when you spend the night, but he won’t talk to you or even acknowledge you until after he’s read the paper from cover to cover. There’s just some serious uncharted territory in his head.

But last night on The Apprentice, he once again proclaimed that he has ‘The number one show on television’. And that’s not even sort of true. He’s not even number one in the Sunday-at-10 PM timeslot. I think maybe the first season finale was number one for the week, so he could reasonably claim that ‘For one week, I had the number one show on television’. Still, that’s not the problem.

Trump says crazy things. You have to accept that. But this wasn’t live TV. There was editing after the fact, by editing professionals. These people who work on the show heard that line and decided ‘Let’s leave that in’. How does something like that happen?

Past contestants have said, after the fact, that Trump jokes around about things like that. (Yes, I actually know what past Apprentice cast members have said about their experience. Sometimes I think that I will die alone.) Nobody’s claiming they’re good jokes, but he apparently doesn’t always mean it. Fine, but if that’s the case, the editors need to give us some context. It sort of looked like Grandpa was on the hooch again, making crazy claims about how he discovered the moon. I just feel like a lot of people had to be asleep at the wheel for that to make it into the final cut.

Other than that, I’ve found Trump quite likeable this season. As boring and stupid as I find Tim and Nicole’s Love That Will Not Die (and for that matter, Tim and Nicole themselves), Trump’s reactions to it have been quite funny and human. Maybe even a little… adorable? (I know! Don’t look at me! I’m hideous!) And I actually like that he’s openly rooting for one team over the other. I’m thinking it must have come up a number of times that we didn’t see, because Tim really seemed upset about it. The candidates seem much more open with him this year, too. It’s almost like they all go out for a beer on occasion. I mean, Heidi has openly mouthed off to him, which would get people fired in the past. Of course, Trump loves Heidi almost as much as I do, and I think he picked her as the winner back in week one. She’d have to blow it on a monumental scale.

My money, by the way, is on a Heidi/Steffani finale. Not only because I’m sort of hoping that they kiss, but they both seem to perform consistently well, and they’re excellent at deflecting blame. Plus, Steffani’s on the team with the Three Stooges. “Hmmm. Who screwed up? The woman who knows absolutely everything and has never been blamed for a loss? Or maybe Frank, who is right now choking on a dry cleaning bag….”

Hey, New Orleans!

I just found out I have some readers over in New Orleans, so consider this your official shout-out! It gives me pleasure to know that there are people who are involved in the Katrina clean-up, and actually trying to make things better, and I am causing arguments about the Silver Surfer within their ranks. Didn’t you guys learn anything from “Crimson Tide”? A friendly argument about the Silver Surfer inevitably leads to armed mutiny.

Anyway, mad props to Colleen and everybody in her immediate circle. I also support the good people giving of themselves like that who don’t read my blog, but I like the ones who do much better.

Friday, March 23, 2007

That's So Him or Her!

I’m sure you’ve seen those Direct TV ads where they insert, like, new footage of Bill Paxton in a scene from “Twister”, so that Bill Paxton is extolling the virtues of Direct TV, while Helen Hunt is still worried about the titular twister. I saw a new ad in the series, this one featuring the cast of Entourage. For some reason, it really irritated me. (I can’t really say why. I really like Entourage, but it’s full of product placement anyway. It’s not like they’ve sold out by doing a commercial.)

My immediate reaction was to blame Turtle. He probably got them into it somehow. And then I remembered that Turtle isn’t a real person. But really, be honest. You know that Jerry Ferrara is pretty much the exact same guy in real life. You just know he spends all day smoking weed and playing video games and trying to impress skanks.

There are certain actors who you can just tell are exactly like their characters. If you’re honest with yourself, deep in your heart, you can tell Kiefer’s not really acting, you know? Here’s a list of actors who you can tell are really just playing themselves.

Tracy Morgan / 30 Rock’s Tracy Jordan – This one’s a no-brainer. I mean, his character’s name is only two letters off! Do yourself a favor and search YouTube for Tracy Morgan interviews. The New Mexico morning show where he took off his shirt and talked at length about ‘spreading (his) seed all over San Jose’? Is it really that far off from the stabbing robot who menaced Conan O’Brien? I think not.

Terry O’Quinn / Lost’s John Locke – Evangeline Lilly’s house burned down recently. Do you have any doubt that she went to Terry O’Quinn for some consolation and grandfatherly wisdom? And you know he put his hand on her shoulder, looked down and smiled, and told her something that made her feel better. Once that was accomplished, he then probably told her that she was better off losing everything she owned, and now she could live a pure existence. After last week, his co-stars are probably afraid he’s going to blow up the craft service table.

Lauren Graham / Gilmore Girls’ Lorelai Gilmore – Again, have you ever seen her interviewed? Talks a mile a minute, and her conversation is practically hyperlinked. She lives on the same street as her TV daughter and TV best friend. Plus, I choose to believe that Paul Anka is her real-life dog and they wrote him into the show for her.

John Krasinski / The Office’s Jim Halpert – He just has to have a crush on some woman who works on the camera crew, and when he sits at his desk pretending to work, he’s sending IM’s to her BlackBerry, and then after filming, everybody goes out for a drink, and she tells him what a good job he did, how he really sold that wistful longing, and then she goes home with her abusive fiancĂ©e. Poor John.

Tony Sirico / The Sopranos’ Paulie Walnuts – It’s common knowledge that Tony Sirico’s spent some time in the slammer. And can you picture him ever smiling? Go on, try to put a smile on that face. It’s not going to work. I picture the crew drawing straws to see who has to tell him that he needs to come in at 5 AM for an early shoot. That’s not a message you want to have to convey. Also, I think he probably steals props from the set.
Kiefer Sutherland / 24’s Jack Bauer – Every time I’ve seen Kiefer interviewed, he seems like he’s in character. And let’s not forget last winter when he tackled a Christmas tree in a hotel lobby. I think he approaches daily activities with the same urgency and implied violence that Jack Bauer uses to save the world every year. “I’m sorry, Mr. Sutherland, your shirt’s not ready. You can pick it up tomorrow.” “Dammit, Talbot! I don’t have time for this! If that shirt’s not ready….” (savagely beats his dry-cleaner)

John C. McGinley / Scrubs’ Dr. Cox – You ever watch the Scrubs DVD’s? Everybody talks about how Cox-like he really is. And most of the other actors are a little terrified of him. Not like he’d hurt them (see above), but more like if you messed up, he’d tell you about it at length and with no regard for delicacy. Don’t mess with McGinley, man.

Jamie Pressly / My Name is Earl’s Joy Turner – She understands that culture just a little too well. And if you saw her on last season’s Apprentice finale, where she had a disagreement with one of the candidates, she absolutely shredded that poor kid. There was nothing left of his manhood by the time she was done. It was one of those rare occasions where it was just as much fun to watch somebody unscripted as it is in character.

Anybody have any others? And I’m sure my sister will mention it, but we both agree that you can totally tell that Philip Seymour Hoffman smells bad in real life.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

LOST 3-13 "The Man from Tallahassee" aka "The Secret Origin of John Locke"

Wow. Is anybody else’s head exploding right about now?

First off, most of my co-workers are grumbling about Locke blowing up the submarine. I think we can agree that was not a smart move, but I stand firm that the decision was in character for Locke. Locke loves the island. Remember in Season One when he bopped Sayid over the head and ruined the whole ‘triangulation’ plan they were working? And there’s always the chance that Locke knows a vital reason for Jack to stay on the island – maybe something he saw in the smoke, maybe Desmond said something. (We haven’t seen that Locke knows about the Freaky FutureVision™ , but it’s not impossible.) Whether we find out more on that score or not, Locke seems to know more about the island than anybody, and he’s also easily manipulated. Pretend to be his friend once, and he’ll have a blind spot for life. And he’s had some dark times when he lost faith in the island – when he lost the use of his legs, for example. Or in the time between finding the Pearl and blowing up the Swan – Locke was miserable and directionless. And having a history of clinical depression, that’s a bad place for him to be. Basically, considering that Locke has a history of zealotry, knowing things, and being manipulated, any combination of those three accounts for his actions. I’m not saying Jack won’t be justified in punching him, you understand.

So, the title is ‘The Man from Tallahassee’. Both Sawyer and Jack’s dad have made negative references to Tallahassee in the past. (Sawyer picked up an STD there.) Also, James Ford (Sawyer’s real name) was a three-term mayor of the city back in the 70’s and 80’s.

‘Peter Talbot’, the young man who came to see Locke, is also the name of a 17th Century Archbishop of Dublin. He has a lengthy article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, none of which seemed especially pertinent.
‘Adam Seward’, the name Locke’s father was using this time out, is the name of a linebacker who plays for the Carolina Panthers. The mysterious Don cites Lostpedia – if you put ‘Anthony Cooper’ and ‘Adam Seward’ together, you get ‘Sawyer, the con man, a poor dad’. I’m actually amazed by that one. And now it’s clicked into place --What if Locke’s dad is the original Sawyer? I’ve long thought that he might have crossed paths with Sawyer, but what if he’s the one who started it all? I don’t know if anybody else has been saying this, but I’m actually really excited about this hypothesis!

Ah, one last Locke fake-out at the beginning there, when they were talking about his disability and it turned out to be depression.

Could anybody identify what Locke was watching when Peter arrived? Based on a mention of Bolivian gold deposits, I feel like it must have been “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, but I wouldn’t swear to it. Or else it was the news. I initially assumed it was the news and then changed my tune.

Wow. Locke’s dad is way more evil than I would have imagined. He was really willing to kill his son. By the way, Bad Dad poured out a bottle of McCutcheon’s whiskey, which you probably remember from Desmond’s episode. And speaking of minutiae, note that Locke was in a wheelchair for 4 years after falling 8 stories. The numbers, people! Good thing he didn’t fall for 23 stories, eh?

That last flashback was absolutely heartbreaking, wasn’t it? Maybe if the other Lostaways could see Locke’s flashbacks, they wouldn’t want to strangle him for blowing stuff up all the time.

I wrote in my notes this week “Benry is funny. Also evil.”

Have we seen Jack play the piano before? I seem to think we saw him and Sarah play together in the pre-wedding flashback. Or else Dr. House has convinced me that all TV doctors play the piano.

So Benry was born on the island, and most of the other Others weren’t. That’s interesting. A lot of what we see this week really points to Benry being the actual leader of the Others, doesn’t it? I wonder if any of them have ever met this ‘magnificent man’ Mikhail spoke of, or if they’re lying in wait for him to arrive. Much like the CHRISTIAN faith waits for the return of the Good SHEPHERD. I’m just saying…

Also, if Benry was born on the island, then he isn’t Alex’s father after all. Rousseau’s husband was part of her expedition – I’ll have to check that episode. Was she pregnant when they landed on the island? If not, I guess it’s possible that there was a crazy breeding experiment, but I’ll research that one.

I decided over the course of this episode, that if somebody were actually to refer to him as ‘Benry’, it would be the single greatest moment of my life.

I think Locke is right about the island – it’s not helping Benry because he’s cheating. Certainly the island has been kindest to Locke when his faith has been strongest. Start getting obsessed with a hatch and your life falls apart. Plus, he sounded so much like Sean that I expected him to start extolling the virtues of mass transit and using the phrase “It’s just like in ‘Slacker’…”. Clearly, it’s been a long time since Island Magic worked for Benry if he developed the tumor in the first place.

And then there’s Benry’s talk of a wishing box. First off, I don’t think it’s a literal box. He was just trying to get under Locke’s skin with that. Remember how Walt seemed able to make his wishes come true? (Stopping the rain in Season One, Vincent appearing out of nowhere, etc.) And Walt could apparently do it before coming to the Island – remember the flashback where he’s looking at a picture of an extinct bird and suddenly it flies into the window? Apparently it happened more than once, since Brian was afraid of him. I can’t figure out how it ties together, but I’m certain that it does. Maybe that’s what Miss Klugh was willing to die to keep secret? This has something to do with their interest in Walt. I’m open to suggestions here.

Hey, Richard Alpert lives on the island! We last saw him recruiting Juliet for Mittelos. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever see him without yelling ‘Batmanuel!’
And then there’s the kicker. Bad Dad is in the storage closet! How long has he been there? He looks like he’s been roughed up, so he’s probably not a real Other. When did he get to the island? How? Why? That was actually so shocking that I don’t even have conjecture at this point.

Next week, somebody dies. They might just whack an unnamed character, as they’ve done in the past, but I’m going to make a completely uninformed guess and say it’s Alex’s boyfriend, Karl.

Ever yours,

The Real Sawyer

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

EJ Sprays Bile! Duck!

My sister sent me an e-mail describing her frustration with a peer who labeled television as 'passive entertainment'. That riled up the both of us, and here was what I wrote. Keep in mind, I didn't edit from the original e-mail, so it may be a little sloppy and parentheses-intensive.

People who call television ‘passive’ are one of two things. 1) Assholes. 2) Watching bad television. I actually saw According to Jim a week or two back. (I was waiting for Lost to start.) And I realized about 15 minutes in that I hadn’t watched TV like that in a long time. I was not having any kind of reaction to anything being presented to me, I wasn’t thinking about it, I didn’t feel anything about it – it was simply there. (Even the gender-stereotyping subtext was such well-trodden ground (every episode of Home Improvement) that it didn’t provoke any kind of reaction.) There are shows that promote passive viewing (And even then you can still approach them as an active viewer, but the rewards won’t really be there.), but that’s like tarring all movies as being exploitative because pornography exists. There’s this elitism that’s always going to exist, simply because TV comes into your house for free (more or less). These are people who will always mistake inaccessibility for quality. (And I don’t mean ‘inaccessible’ as in ‘I had a hard time getting into that movie’. I mean it literally. ‘You have to order the DVD straight from the director to get a copy, but he only checks his e-mail every couple of weeks. Plus, you need a Region 2 DVD player, since he feels like the American home entertainment industry is inherently corrupt.’) Further, they’re judging an entire medium by its worst examples. (Or worse, what they perceive to be its worst examples, based on something they heard another asshole say.) That’s like me saying that film is inherently pandering because of “Wild Hogs” or “Norbit”, or that the novel is a worthless medium because of Danielle Steel or Newt Gingrich.

Even people who should know better make this mistake. NPR recently called The Wire the ‘best film’ of 2006. Their logic being that the show was so good, why, it was as good as a movie! Which is really fucking stupid. (Per the e-mail I wrote them. It was not read on the air.) It was so good, it deserves to be elevated to the same medium that brought us “Are We There Yet?”, apparently. First off, I firmly believe that at any given time you can find more quality on television than at the movie theater. Secondly, the specific strengths of The Wire that they applauded were things that would be nearly impossible in a movie. (Full disclosure: I love The Wire more than I would love my children, if I had any. Just to be fair, I’m sticking with specific things NPR mentioned.) They praised the intricate story. True, and it unfolded over 13 hours. Not really something that film can do. And the emotional impact of the finale? Well, that may have been helped by the fact that in the past 4 years, we’ve spent 50 hours with these characters. Again, you can’t really do that in a movie. It’s really something that these ‘patrons of the arts’ should have considered. Can you imagine somebody ignorant enough to try that in another media? “That painting is so good, it’s as good as a book!”

"Your Last Name is Gharelli?" -- A Heartwarming Tale

I went to Best Buy yesterday to buy some DVD’s. I picked up Newsradio Season 5. (I know, it’s the season without Phil Hartman, but it had the Patrick Warburton episodes. Plus, you know, Newsradio!)

As a side note, I think I need to address my obsession with TV Box Sets. Not only with actually having them, as if to create a shrine to the shows that I enjoy, but also with timeliness of purchase. There’s a certain ‘magical thinking’ quality to it, where I am voting with my entertainment dollars for the things that I like. If I don’t but the set the day that it comes out, they might not release future sets! I convinced myself that was crazy, so I waited and ended up buying King of the Hill Season 6 set at the used DVD store. They have yet to announce Season 7. Clearly, this is my fault.

Anyway, the woman at the register was Black, in her mid-fifties. She scans my purchase and says “This is my favorite show!” And she was actually kind of excited about it. I thought this was some sort of Best Buy training, where the employees are supposed to build a relationship with the customers. (Personality mirroring, name repetition, never break a handshake.) And it’s not like I was buying Lost or Grey’s Anatomy, or some big hit show. Experience has taught me that the fan base of Newsradio consists almost entirely of pale, bespectacled, white guys between the ages of 30 and 35. Still, I thought it was very sweet of her to say.

And then, for reasons I can’t explain, I asked her “Your last name is Gharelli?” (A semi-obscure running joke.) She responded with “Are you Doobie Keebler?” I very nearly hugged her. It was just a wonderful moment. I’ll bet we were both happy for the rest of the day after that.

I daresay, if there were a way to instantly know the favorite shows of any given stranger that you meet, we’d all have more friends.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dancing with the Stars -- Week One

It’s the new season of Dancing with the Stars, and what began as ironic enjoyment in the first season has long since turned into actual enjoyment. I should be ashamed of myself, I know.

Anyway, I’m sure everybody’s dying to know what an uncoordinated and largely uninformed fellow like myself thinks of this year’s crop. Why, I’m glad you asked, theoretical ‘everybody’.

IAN ZIERING – Boasting the second-most irritating facial hair of the season, Ian was actually pretty good. I think he was better in relation to some of the others than his score indicated, but that’s the peril of going first on the first week. He’s guaranteed a free ride for the first few weeks, simply due to his partner; Cheryl has a bigger fan base than most of this year’s stars. And he seems likeable, so I think he’ll be in it for a while.

PAULINA PORIZKOVA – I sort of remember her from back in the old junior high days, when sneaking Dad’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue from the mailbox was the key to the garden of forbidden delights. (I never really had that metaphor under control.) Still, even after seeing her last night, I probably couldn’t pick her out of a lineup. Her dancing was not bad at all, and I really like her because she’s funny. Her line about the communist regime was actually funny, and so she’s got my vote. I’m told that her partner induces Girl Boners in the ladies, also.

BILLY RAY CYRUS – BWAH-HA-HA! That was awesome! Just…a mess. It’s like he keeps resetting to his default value of line dancing. Look, I would completely suck at any type of coordinated movement, but that was just not good. And he danced to his own song! That’s almost masturbatory, isn’t it? And then the wig wouldn’t come off.... Wow. On a side note, I actually asked ‘Did Karina have those breasts last year?’ I was then assured that she did. Further, what is this ‘Hannah Montana’ that they kept referencing? Is that a real thing? When did I turn 50?

LEEZA GIBBONS – On a lot of competition-based shows, I tend to forget the early drop-outs after a while, even if I like them. “Dave and Lori? Were they really on the show?” I had that exact same feeling about Leeza Gibbons by the end of the episode. She seemed pleasant enough, but I can’t remember anything about her performance. Plus, she’s dancing with Tony, who always seems like he wants to lure his partners into the back of his van.

JOEY FATONE – First off, I couldn’t stop thinking of the time Sam’s friend Mike Rich played ‘the other Joey Fatone’ during Improv. That was funny. The real Joey Fatone, man, that guy’s trying too hard. There’s a fine line between ‘funny’ and ‘desperate’. Lord knows, I’m tripping over that line every day. I don’t agree that he was the best dancer of the night, but he wasn’t bad. Maybe once he’s put some time into it, he won’t be trying so hard to be ‘wacky’. He’s partnered with Kym, who was very nice to Jerry Springer last year. She’s adorable, and I understand dancers are supposed to be thin and lithe, but somebody needs to give that girl some damn cake.

LAILA ALI – Everybody’s loving her today. She did really well, but her voice scares me. She sounds like a drag queen. No, wait. She sounds like Xerxes from “300”. And I’m sure Maksim agrees that the jokes about her being dominant and keeping him in line are going to get old fast. And what does ‘Maksim’s finally met his match’ even mean? Does he have a history of physically abusing his partners? I know she’s good, but she’s sort of not showing up on my radar.

JOHN RATZENBERGER – First off, I’m do disappointed that Big Pussy backed out. Not only because I love The Sopranos to an unhealthy degree, but just imagine the potential for disaster. Anyway, being a fan of Cliff Clavin as well as being Pixar’s bitch, I’m predisposed to like him. I actually thought he did really well considering his last-minute addition, and the fact that he’s pushing 60. Much more light on his feet than I would have guessed. I loved how they kept referring to him as ‘Actor and author’. Like there are people who are primarily fans of his literary body of work? “Wait a minute, John Ratzenberger is an actor, too?”

SHANDI FINNESSEY – The hell? Who is this person? Has she done something besides a beauty pageant? And then she’s got a partner who’s never been on the show, and suddenly I don’t know what I’m looking at. They’re both sort of young and simple, really.

CLYDE DREXLER – I usually end up liking athletes on this show, which is weird, since I don’t follow sports. But I totally backed Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith. Clyde’s not quite up there, though. His footwork wasn’t bad, but he had the Harry Hamlin thing where you can tell that he’s constantly counting the steps in his head. He seems like a very friendly giant, but I don’t think he’s going to improve much. Plus, choreography’s going to be an absolute bitch with that height disparity. 5’4” and 6’7” don’t even look like the same species.

HEATHER MILLS – Oy. First off, note how they have to avoid telling us what she’s actually famous for. She’s divorcing a Beatle. No, she’s actually accusing Paul McCartney of abuse and she did a book of German porn. But they’re telling us that she’s famous as ‘an animal-rights activist’. Well, sure. Look how there’s that sign in her yard and everything. And if you watch Entertainment Tonight, you’re completely bored with her by now. Sadly, her prosthetic leg is the most interesting thing about her. And I'm not saying this as a die-hard Beatles loyalist, either. The part of my heart that should care about the Beatles is all black and full of cough syrup, and Paul in particular is responsible for a number of songs that irritate me deeply. Amputee jokes aside, she was not very impressive in any way, and she seems to have a bit of the Trista “I have to touch a boy?” syndrome.

APOLO OHNO – And it’s the most irritating facial hair of the season! The Soul Stripe does not have a place on my television. I’m pretty ambivalent, otherwise. His dance was solid, but it didn’t have me dialing the phone or anything. He seems likeable enough that I can probably be more supportive if and when he starts to get interesting. I feel like I should have more to say about him, but I’m just not motivated either way.

And that’s my first DWTS report. Stay tuned for future weeks when I begin to develop irrational, though fiercely defended, attachments and grudges.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Spent 20 Minutes on a Cylon Joke and Came up with Nothing

Despite my long-time antipathy for science-fiction, I’ve started watching Season One of Battlestar Galactica on DVD. I find that if I give in to peer pressure occasionally, my friends will accept the win and thus, get off my case about Family Guy, “Lord of the Rings”, and the work of Joss Whedon. (I gave them all a chance, people. I don’t like them! Further hectoring on your part will not make me like them more. I know that you think I would like Firefly if I gave it a chance, but I did give it a chance. “His female characters are so real.” Especially the space prostitute. Strikin’ a blow there…)

There’s been a lot of critical adulation, and it seemed interesting enough that I could overcome my biases. Disc One did not get off to a good start. I may have already mentioned the sheer ridiculousness of all the hexagons and octagons. Seriously, books are octagonal? Did they lose the right angle when they misplaced Earth? And hexagonal playing cards seem like they’d be a bitch to shuffle and fan. Still, I’m not going to judge based on that, even if the silliness does sometimes take me out of a scene. Anyway, Disc One consists of the miniseries that launched the ongoing, and that was a rough ride. It’s hard to put my finger on what I didn’t like, but it just didn’t interest me in the slightest. The dialogue was cheesy, the effects were cheap, and other than Baltar and the President, the characters weren’t that interesting. It seemed to me to be more of a four hour exercise in toppling the Battlestar Galactica mythology. And since the last time I saw the original was in 3rd grade, I don’t remember the mythology in the slightest. Boomer and Starbuck used to be dudes, and there was a robot dog. That’s what I remember. The miniseries seemed to exist for the sole purpose of inducing Nerd Boners in a different type of Nerd than I am.

But so many of my TV confidants really seemed to dig the series, so I soldiered on. Within the first five minutes of the series pilot I realized, “Hey, this got good!”. It was a whole different show. Starting with the whole crew having been awake for five days straight, attacked by the Cylons every 33 minutes, that got me hooked. (And if this were Lost, I’d have to wonder about the significance of 33, but I’m not going to do that here.) I’m only a few episodes in, but I’m really enjoying it. Sure, there are the genre tropes that are going to irritate me in any piece of science-fiction not involving superheroes (My boundaries are arbitrary but impermeable), but I can live with them for now. So now Dwight Schrute and I are watching all the same shows.

One thing, though: I can not stand Starbuck. It’s not like 24’s Kim Bauer where she just sucks the energy out of every scene, either. I actually think she’s a pretty good actress. And I appreciate their attempts to write a female character as a cocky dude, much like the original Starbuck. Only, she’s actually kind of an asshole. Like, if she came into the room, I would leave and find something else to do. I can’t tell if that’s what they’re aiming for or not. Am I supposed to like her? If so, there’s been a serious miscalculation. Maybe if all the other characters (other than Tigh) weren’t so thoroughly charmed by her, I’d have less of a problem. She makes me feel out-of-step with the show. “Why do they all like her? Am I wrong? Are they wrong? What am I watching? Is this The Apprentice?”

I have to say, that’s a long time to be looking at Edward James Olmos. That is a hard face to take in.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More LOST Musings

So, I forgot to mention Football Jack yesterday. Didn’t he seem happy? We don’t usually see Jack that happy. Did they put him in the brainwashing room, and now he’s happy because he knows that God will bless him as He blessed Jacob? Is he genuinely sympathetic toward The Others? Is it part of his plan? Personally, I think it’s because he doesn’t know that Mr. Eko is dead, and everybody was happier when he was around. Or else, he’s happy about having a house instead of a tent or a cage. I really like that he was tossing the old pigskin with Zeke – Zeke doesn’t really seem like a guy who takes time out from his daily schedule of intimidation for fun and games.

And maybe this is where I went through the rabbit hole, but what if Jack’s dad really is the ‘great man’ that various Others have referred to? I mean, he’s dead and all, but that’s not such an obstacle on LOST as it would be on, say, “According to Jim”. I mean, Jin’s sperm is supposed to be dead, and look what happened there. And what better name for the Messiah of a quasi-religious cult than ‘Christian Shephard’? I mean, it’s not like LOST has a history of giving characters significant names or anything…

Thursday, March 15, 2007

LOST 3-12 "Par Avion"

Maybe I focus on the wrong things, but was anybody else inordinately concerned with the identity of the truck driver involved in the accident? They never got around to telling us, which means it’s probably just some guy, but I completely fixated on that point for several minutes.

If I may quote Becky “If these are the same people who did Alias, shouldn’t Claire have a better wig?” Hee.

I still find it interesting that Rousseau hasn’t mentioned that Claire told her Alex was alive a while back. Clearly, she’s got some very confused emotions to work through. Still, I wonder if that’s meant to indicate how crazy she actually is. Because if Benry is really Alex’s father, then Rousseau’s memory is spotty at best. And this may just be an example of me obsessing on a minor point. (Go ahead, just try asking me about Dr. Cox’s hair on Scrubs. I will flip out right in front of you.)

Interestingly, the episode’s title is in French, when the only French speaker in the episode is Rousseau. Also, the title refers to a plane or flight, neither of which has anything to do with the aforementioned Crazy Lady.

I believe that Mikhail was always an Other, and I know Don thinks he was Dharma, and then became an Other. Either way, he claims to have been ‘recruited at 24’. I’m putting Mikhail in his mid 50’s, which would mean he was recruited prior to the date on the Dharma Orientation films. (1980) Of course, he might be 32 and just had a rough life.

I’m assuming Mikhail knew Kate and Sayid’s names because Ethan took good notes, but now we know that neither of them are on the list. Benry told Locke that he was on the list – is that why he cut off Mikhail, or is there something else there? What he actually said was ‘The John Locke I know was…’ Something tells me, the next words weren’t ‘on the list’. And his use of the past tense was interesting. There’s something Locke doesn’t want people to know. Aside from all of the things we’ve already seen that he doesn’t want people to know. Whatever it was, it certainly made Mikhail expendable. It was a dark side of Locke that we saw this week. Locke does not usually hurt people, aside from Charlie. And the universe wants him dead, so it’s hard to blame him.

Kate, specifically, is said to be ‘flawed, angry, weak, and frightened’. Also, she’s not happy unless boys are fighting over her, but Mikhail probably didn’t have time for that.

Dear Charlie,
When a man with freaky FutureVision ™ who has expressed interest in preventing your death suggests a good way to spend your day, you should totally listen to him.

So, the leader of The Others is a ‘magnificent man’, eh? Given the adulation most of them have for Benry, I really thought it was him. Any chance this magnificent man has four toes? Is he even an actual real person? (Let’s start a rumor that it’s Jack’s dad, and watch the Internet explode.) Or is he some vaguely-defined religious figure? If he’s an actual person, I’m willing to bet it’s somebody we’ve seen before. Or else it’s the person who controls the black smoke. Or perhaps that’s how The Others see the black smoke.

Well, Jack’s dad was really spreading it around, wasn’t he? Nice touch that Claire doesn’t know his name – there’s not any chance that she and Jack are going to put that together. Apparently he was desperate to connect with his daughter – he makes reference to seeing her as a child, he went to Australia to see her after the accident, and last season we saw that he went to Australia to get wasted and then seek out his daughter. (With Ana-Lucia as protection.) Maybe he knew his daughter would father the Apocalypse Baby which he needed for his plans as leader of The Others! (Seriously, start telling people. It’ll be fun.)

Sorry I’m running short and late this week, by the way. Interesting note: Sawyer is reading ‘The Fountainhead’, Ayn Rand’s classic melodrama about lusty architects and why helping people is futile. Sawyer would make a good Randian, I think. There’s no way I’m re-reading Rand to search for references or thematic ties. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve got my limits.

Ever yours,

Sonic Weapon Fence

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Royale with....too easy.

Casino Royale came out on DVD yesterday, and that's been the source of a lot of Nerd Boners. My pants, however, remain untented.

Part of my problem comes from the 'hard reboot' presentation. Bond's continuity has always been malleable, given that he's been played by six actors since the Cold War raged. We all tacitly accept that those early movies are no longer in continuity. But in order for it to work, it has to be a gradual process. Casino Royale opens by throwing everything out the window. In fact, you can't even treat it as a prequel, because it makes it impossible for any other Bond movie to ever have happened. To me, that seems a little drastic. It's not even necessary or even beneficial to the story to throw out the continuity -- with a couple lines of dialogue between M and Bond changed, they could have made this simply the latest in his adventures. (The black-and-white opening could simply be established as a flashback to the beginning of his career.) The franchise has accomodated tonal shifts before -- to throw out everything came off as flipping Albert Broccoli the bird.

Turns out, there never was a Q. Sorry, Desmond Llewellyn. You appeared in what, 20 Bond films? And yet, you didn't exist. Bernard Lee, the long-running original M? Sorry, there was never another M. You must be confused. The only story point that hinges on Bond being a newcomer is the first meeting with Felix Leiter. And even then, they could have just changed his name. (Am I crazy, or did Felix Leiter die in one of the Dalton movies?)

(People will argue that the reboot is no different from what Christopher Nolan did with Batman Begins. I disagree with those people and think that they are dumb. Aside from the fact that the previous Batman movies sucked, Batman has accomodated multiple simultaneous and contradictory incarnations ever since the Adam West days. At the time Begins was released, not only were there the multiple comic book incarnations, but there were actually two different animated versions on different channels. James Bond is pretty much limited to the movie franchise. I realize there are the Ian Fleming novels, but considering Fleming died 43 years ago, that's not really an active line of continuity. I'm not even sure they're still in print, to be quite honest with you.)

Their attempts at jettisoning the silliness make certain logical leaps stand out even more. Bond can execute a foreign citizen at an Embassy, on camera? Am I to understand that M held a press conference? Can't really get too upset when Bond tracks down you home address if you're actually talking to the press. As soon as you try to present a Bond movie as realistic, you've lost the battle. It ends up in a netherworld between the established Bond millieu and something like MI-5 or "Queen and Country", where there's actual research involved. If Tara Chace pulled that crap, Crocker would have had her suspended and busted out of Special Section so fast it would make your head spin.

The bottom line is, it didn't need to be a James Bond movie. Since they threw out everything recognizable about the character, Bond himself didn't really contribute anything. If the main character had been named 'Nigel Trapp', it would have been a moderate hit, with a lot of justifiable complaints about the messy third act and the unlikeable protagonist. Actually, I thought I was wrapping up, but that's another point right there. We get that Bond is brutal and barely conceals his misogyny. The point is to make us like him anyway. It's a cheat, but if he's played with enough charm, you can overlook the awful things about who he is. Daniel Craig plays him as a straight-up asshole. (Nothing against Craig, who was excellent in Munich and would have made a fine Nigel Trapp.) A character like Bond needs to exist in an unrealistic universe to be likeable. If you want an unlikeable protagonist, you really need to get inside his head to make it work. (Tony Soprano springs to mind.) Since that didn't happen, we're rooting for a dick. And (I promise I'm wrapping up) the lengthy scene with the genital torture was just bad fan-fic. Take a film icon and mutilate his genitalia. Good stuff right there. Maybe next we can sodomize Batman.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Indestructible Wakandan Vibranium

I haven't absorbed much pop-culture the last few days, so I don't have anything major to say. So here's some short thoughts to keep my blog muscles engorged.

-If you get a chance to catch the rerun tonight, be sure you watch The Colbert Report. Sure, you should be watching it religiously anyway, but the bit where Colbert received Captain America's shield was just genius. Like all good American nerds, I'm sad about the whole death of Cap thing, but at least his shield is in good hands.

-Arnold Drake, the writer who created the Doom Patrol, died over the weekend. He was a huge influence on me as a young lad, and I am indebted to his work.

-About a month ago, my comedy group (Notable Sawyer! Represent!) did a show, where I performed about 40 minutes of stand-up comedy. (There's a link in my very first blog entry.) Now I have to write some new material so I can perform again, and let me tell you, I have never been less funny in my entire life. Last night, I actually said "There must be something funny about trees. There has to be a joke there."

-People who think Britney Spears is hot make me sort of sad. And this is not a recent development either -- it's not because now she's bald and drunk and attacks cars with umbrellas. I think it might have its origins in her Chaotic series about her romance with K-Fed. Even with my love of Trainwreck TV, I couldn't watch much; but even a single episode made it clear that she's incredibly boring and borderline retarded. It's not like I was into her before that, but that show actually turned me against people who are.

-I believe the world is a happier place now that Surya is off The Apprentice. I'm not sure where he learned his management style, but that 'Five minutes of silence' made me want to punch him. Hard. When you're bad enough to make me take sides with an adult male who unironically calls himself 'Frankie Suits' and waves a cigar around at every opportunity, you have serious personality problems. And his eyes just kept getting crazier and crazier.

-As long as I'm on the topic, it always seems to happen on reality shows that there are people who seem really attractive at the beginning, and by the end of the season, they're just gross. Part of it is the exhaustion and the conditions, but part of it is that as you get to know them (To the extent that you can know anybody through the TV. You know what I mean.) their personality defects and unpleasantess just gets overwhelming. Janelle on Big Brother is a good example. At first she was hot, but once you saw how vain and petty and elitist she was, she just became a caricature. Anyway, this season on The Apprentice, the reverse happend and Heidi has gotten approximately one thousand times hotter than she was at the beginning of the season. I can't account for it. On The Apprentice, I tend to get 'attractive' and 'competent' all mixed in together, but Heidi did really well at the beginnning of the season. She was one of the standouts early on -- it's not like she just got good at her job and, therefore, pretty. It's a most unusual phenomenon.

-I am so excited about the premiere of Andy Barker P.I., that I don't even know what to do with myself.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Time I Met James Earl Jones

This was in summer of 2001, I believe. Back then, I worked Saturdays at a comic-book store. The owner would get a day off, I’d make some extra money for spending a day reading Justice League.

On this particular Saturday, business had been kind of slow. There were a couple of browsers in the store, and then in came a group of three people: a young boy, maybe six; an attractive woman with a clipboard; and an older Black man who looked incredibly familiar. And this man gave me the friendliest smile when he walked in. My first thought was “Wow, he looks a lot like James Earl Jones.” But, and I blame Seinfeld for this, I never like to say aloud that a Black person resembles another Black person. I’m afraid of getting a lecture. (This is why in seven years I have never told my neighbor that he looks like Charles Barkley. And he looks EXACTLY like Charles Barkley. Well, a less fat Charles Barkley.)

And then, he said something to the little boy (apparently his grandson), and I heard the voice. There’s no mistaking that voice, my friend. In fact, everybody in the store stopped and looked. Finally, I asked “Excuse me, are you James Earl Jones?” He confirmed it, and then was very gracious while people freaked out. Seriously, when the voice of Darth Vader walks into a comic-book store, it’s sort of like a sports guy walking into a sports-paraphernalia store. (That analogy fell apart when I couldn’t think of any professional athletes.) And then he kept shopping. He was interested in something in the display case – a copy of Showcase 22, the first appearance of Green Lantern. I let him take a look at the issue, and he commented on how strange the cover is. (I don’t know how to post images, but the cover has Green Lantern flying away from the reader. His first appearance, and it’s all backside.) I think the price was $900, and he decided to buy it. (Yes, I sold James Earl Jones the first appearance of Green Lantern. If there’s a Nerd Hall of Fame, I’m eligible for inclusion.) Then he spent about an hour looking through the used books, where he bought quite an eclectic stack. It was actually very cool to see how people just let him shop without too much harassment. As he paid, I asked him about his arc on Homicide, and much like Bruce Campbell, he was all excited to talk about that. He autographed one of our store flyers with “To EJ – May the Force be with you, James Earl Jones”, and when he handed it to me he said “Sorry, but I didn’t have a catchphrase on Homicide that I could use."

Apparently, he has family in Grand Rapids, and he took his grandson out to buy some comics. (The woman was his assistant – she was making sure he didn’t buy books that he already had.) It was pretty much one of the best days ever. He just couldn’t have been nicer. And really, does he seem like a guy with a collection of key Silver Age back issues? He does not. I’m still a little angry with myself that I hadn’t thought to reference his role as Serak the Preparer on the first Simpsons Halloween episode, but we all have our regrets.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

EJ Defends American Idol? What the hell?

It's not like I watch American Idol. I usually only see the one show every season that's guaranteed to be a vocal train wreck. (Last year's Queen-themed episode, for example.) And there are certainly a lot of legitimate complaints one can make about it, but I'm going to defend it on one particular charge.

One of this year's contestants, Antonella Barba (I hope that's right, but I'm not going to check) has some raunchy pictures out there on the "World Wide Web", as the kids are calling it. She has not been kicked off the show. Five years ago, Frenchie Davis was kicked off when her Interweb naughtiness came to light. The fact that Antonella is thin, white, and pretty (theoretically --to me she looks like the least attractive clerk at every Banana Republic) and Frenchie is stout, Black, and cartoonish has led to people accusing Idol of every kind of bias in the book.

First off, of course they're biased in favor of pretty people. That's sort of how society works, like it or not. Still, if you line up all the winners and runners-up from the last six years, there's not a lot of hot to be found there. Would a Clay Aiken / Ruben Studdard faceoff ever happen if they were rigging the show in favor of the attractive?

That aside, there are some major differences between the two cases. First off, Frenchie was five years ago. Back then, they'd kick somebody off for the whiff of scandal. Corey Clark smacks his sister around, he's gone. In the last couple of years, though, that Scott Savol guy who beat the living shit out of his girlfriend wasn't kicked off. Bo Bice had a drug arrest, no problem. Taylor Hicks kidnapped the Lindbergh baby, and look how that turned out.

Also, there's a difference between hardcore and softcore. There was video of Frenchie masturbating. Antonella showed her boobs. Big difference. (There's the oral sex video, but everybody agrees that's not even Antonella. I'm taking their word for it.)

And here's the big difference. Antonella's shots were taken by her friends and boyfriend, and they leaked onto the Web. Not impossible in the MySpace Age. Frenchie was on an adult pay site, which purported to show the hottest underage teens. Even though she was over 18 at the time, she was being represented as a minor, which leads you into some really bad stuff.

That's my defense of American Idol. Now if they would just stop pre-empting House, I think we could co-exist just fine.

LOST 3-11 "Enter 77"

Wow. That was a lot of stuff to deal with right there. Locke just can’t not press a button.

Among the revelations, we do have a reasonable explanation for where Kate’s black horse came from last season. The Dharma Ranch! The first thing I wrote in my notes this week: “A cow? With a bell?”

I had to take a lot of notes and start conjecturing before we found out Mikhail was a stinking liar, so I’m a little bitter towards him. For what it’s worth, he claims to have the same birthday as Nadia Comaneci, which would be November 12. Just in case you want to send him a card.

I have never wanted to understand Russian as badly as I do right now, between his typed notes and his conversation with Miss Klugh. I know last season I mistook Portuguese for Russian, but given that his notes were in the Cyrillic alphabet and his name is Mikhail, it’s safe to say it was really Russian this time.

So now we know (As well as we can, given the LOST tradition of the unreliable narrator) that The Others wiped out the Dharma Initiative, and that The Others were there first. I know I’d been thinking that The Others were a Dharma offshoot, so this is throwing me into a tailspin. Mikhail claimed that The Others were there for ‘a very long time before we were’. If that’s true, I do believe we know where those bodies in the caves came from back in Season One.

Given Dr. Marvin Candle’s appearance in the video and his reference to ‘the Hostiles’, it seems like Mikhail was basically truthful about the basic information. So Dharma went to an island populated by people that they referred to as ‘hostile.’ What outcome exactly were they expecting? There’s also a mention of ‘The Hub’, which I could swear has come up before, but I can’t remember the context.

Now, before I get into speculation, here’s a list of the options available after beating the chess game, as well as how you can make them with Hurley’s numbers:

24 –pallet drop (8+16)
32 –station uplink (4X8)
38 –mainland communication (15+23)
56 –sonar access (42+23-(8+(16-15)))
77 –incursion of hostiles (4+15+16+42)

So, we know where the food comes from. Mikhail orders it up! Since none of the other stations had ‘food drop protocol’, it’s safe to assume the guy in the Flame is responsible for distributing supplies to the other stations. Maybe my crazy-guy theory about the blast doors sealing off the Swan so that food can be replenished was correct.

Does mainland Dharma know the condition of island Dharma? They keep dropping food, so they must think everything is up and running. But they’re also not replenishing their volunteers for the Pearl and the Swan. I’m thinking these were always meant to be long-term appointments. Let’s say there’s a pool of Swan operatives who press the button and a pool of Pearl operatives who watch people pressing the button. Despite what the Pearl video said, Dharma knows full well the importance of pressing the button. (After all, they put the Pearl Orientation on video and the Swan on film. Videotape wouldn’t work in the Swan, what with the giant magnet.) One pool lives in the Others suburb (presumably the Dharma Barracks referred to this week), and the other lives on the second island. They never cross paths that way, and they could possibly house a large group of operatives working in shifts. Since the world isn’t ending and the Flame orders up regular food drops, Dharma has to assume everything in moving along correctly.

Those pneumatic tubes to nowhere we saw at the end of last season? Maybe there was a building there at one point, and The Others burned it down. If so, that was probably the first thing they hit, since the stack of canisters would indicate that the Pearl kept sending notebooks into the void for a while. Even though I believe that the Pearl Orientation video was a big stack of lies, there must be a reason for the notebooks.

Most of what we know makes a lot of sense with what we learned this week. If Dharma considers this a long-term appointment, they’re probably only too happy to provide modern appliances and books for the book club, and tapes of the World Series. All along I’ve been assuming that Benry had mainland access, but Mikhail might have just placed orders from the Flame. Since the world hasn’t ended, and nobody’s pressed 77, Dharma assumes everything’s moving along and they send 12 copies of ‘Carrie’.

And if you’ll recall, the Tailies found a glass eye in that bunker where they found the radio and the hollowed-out Bible. Obviously, Mikhail was there. He might even be the one who edited the film, possibly on one of his trips to stock the pantry. (This is all coming together in my head, and I can’t tell if I’m getting the point across.) I can’t figure out why The Others would want that particular section of film missing, unless they didn’t want anybody getting curious about past ‘incidents’. Two questions, when did the Purge happen, and where did Kelvin come from?

Let’s take the second question first. I think Kelvin was actually the last survivor of the Dharma Initiative. We know Kelvin was down there longer than he was supposed to be, and he was waiting for a replacement. The Others seem regimented enough that they would have honored the ‘shift system’ if it had been their own people down there.

As for the Purge? It must have been more than three years ago – that was when Desmond arrived on the island, and Kelvin’s replacement was already late by then. That was also when Juliet arrived on the island, and it seems unlikely that she was part of a Purge. I have to think the Others were already running the island when they started recruiting fertility doctors. (This, by the way, indicates to me that Mittelos is not part of the Dharma Initiative at all.) Kelvin met Sayid back at the end of Gulf War One, so that would be 1991 at the earliest. It’s 2004 in LOST time, so Desmond landed on the island in 2001. That narrows it down at least. And since the dates on the Orientation films indicate 1980, clearly the Others and Dharma co-existed for quite some time. And we know Rousseau ended up on the island around 1987, so is it possible that she’s actually part of the Dharma Initiative? How many organizations are sending expeditions to this island? I mean, sure, there’s that four-toed statue to consider, but it’s probably better not to even start thinking about that right now.

And what did Miss Klugh say to Mikhail anyway? Why did she prefer death? She seems to have all the answers, and she knows Sayid could probably get them out of her. The Others must have some dark secrets if she’d rather die than run the risk of spilling them.

I think there might have been some references to point out, but my brain is tired now. Let me know what you think.

Ever Yours,

Mikhail Hardnametospell

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I Heart Supporting Characters: Janitor

Ah, Janitor. Right off the bat, you know he’s something special. He doesn’t even have a name! Six seasons of Scrubs, and he’s still known only as Janitor. In fact, for the first season, he wasn’t even a real person. At the beginning, creator Bill Lawrence decided the Janitor was one of JD’s fantasies. They weren’t going to come out and say it until the end of the series. (This is back in the days when they were unlikely to last a full season.) And throughout the first season, Janitor only interacts with JD. Nobody else acknowledges him or refers to him for the first season. (There’s a scene where he’s blocking Laverne with his vacuum, but it’s arguably a JD fantasy.) And then, in the second season, the writers decided to share the wonder that is the Janitor.

Further, Neil Flynn wasn’t even supposed to be a regular cast member. The network wouldn’t spring for another regular, so they just went and wrote Janitor into every episode anyway. It was Season Two before he made his way into the opening credits. (And even then, in name only. There’s no shot of Janitor in the actual credit sequence.)

We know very little about this mysterious Janitor, as he appears to be an inveterate liar. Sometimes he’s married (to a woman who might or might not have three fingers), he occasionally has children, but he’s mostly single these days. He might be a genius, a drunk, or a martial arts master. We can verify only that he’s active in taxidermy, with a special passion for squirrels, and that he appeared in the movie “The Fugitive”. (This leads me to believe that Janitor is actually an actor named Neil Flynn. Which means that the real Flynn is simply playing himself, and I desperately want to hang out with him.)

As much fun as it is when Janitor torments JD, my favorite moments are when he’s butting heads with Cox. Nothing like two alpha males with complete contempt for others to really bring the comedy home.

We should all be thankful that Janitor ascended from the ranks of imaginary guest-stardom to his current lofty position as the King of Sacred Heart. He’s a comedic force of nature, wrapped in a jumpsuit. Yes, I heart Janitor.

And I'll say, "Thank you, footsteps".

In her comments on a 24 post, my sister mentioned her favorite Dennis Hopper performances, and now I’m all whooped up. I really think they deserve further analysis.

First off, there’s the series of commercials he did for the NFL where he played a referee. (What is the point of advertising the NFL during football games? “You’re watching football. And now a word from our sponsor where we try to convince you to watch football.”) To this day, when I see Dennis Hopper, I always think “And I’ll say, ‘Thank you, footsteps’.” -- the last line of the last ad in the series. I was absolutely fascinated by his crazy-guy monologues, which eventually led me to Hunter S. Thompson, and that’s the secret origin of EJ.

The other role she mentioned was King Koopa in “Super Mario Bros.” That was such an intensely weird movie; I don’t even know where to begin. First off, it came out a good five years after the Super Mario heyday. And then you have Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo not only playing brothers, but Italian brothers. And this was a decade before Paul Haggis taught us that ‘Latino’ and ‘Italian’ are virtually identical. Then you have Mojo Nixon playing Toad, who, in the video game, is a mushroom. I think Mojo might even sing a protest song during the course of the movie. This is the strangest damn movie, and it’s based on one of the most mainstream properties imaginable. Unless you’re going to license the right to milk or ballpoint pens, Super Mario Bros. was as firmly mainstream as you could get. And Hopper’s performance in this movie is absolutely crazy. I mean, he’s playing King Koopa, who was a turtle-dragon or something, only he’s playing him as a human, so there’s already a weird disconnect. But then he sort of channels his “Blue Velvet” performance, and it’s seriously bizarre and disturbing. I still have the King Koopa action figure from the movie. It’s such a good Dennis Hopper likeness that it will actually make you uncomfortable.

I can’t imagine that “Super Mario Bros.” ever made it onto DVD, but I desperately want a copy of the movie to watch again. I wonder if the weirdness holds up, or if, fingers crossed, it’s only gotten weirder with time. If anybody can point me in the right direction, I will sing their praises to all who are willing to listen.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I have, like, a virus.

Anybody who didn't watch The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll just now should kick themselves. I mean, it's a reality show where deluded young women compete to join the Pussycat Dolls! You can tell it's going to be awesome from the first few minutes, where one girl claims that "The Dolls are all about feminine empowerment". Yeah, that's what they're about. Another girl claims that "The Pussycat Dolls are really important to my generation". Sort of makes it sound like they've been around for about twenty years, doesn't it?

They start with 18 contestants who will be winnowed down to nine by episode's end. More than one girl admits "I'm not much of a dancer". As if, perhaps, they thought they were trying out for Amazing Race. And then there's Sandy, who tells us that 14 years ago, her parents and brother died in a plane crash. And then goes on to say that's why she has a hard time singing. There's this girl, Anjelia (I think. Her name is sort of spelled randomly.) who not only has the craziest eyes I've ever seen, but she breaks down in tears in the first ten minutes.

Anjelia actually has West Nile, or some equally serious virus, and it makes the rounds. There is actual onscreen vomiting! Multiple rounds, too. So don't think you're out of the woods after the first one. By audition time, they actually have doctors with IV stands on the stage, just in case.

The CW is rerunning the premiere over the weekend. Trust me on this one, you'll be a better person for having seen it.

Why would you say that? How can you be so stupid?

On Sunday's episode of The Apprentice, during the Boardroom, one of the contestants referred to himelf as 'white trash'. It was an offhand reference, more of a joke to explain why he thought having Go-Karts at a Lexus event would be lots of fun. His teammates laughed, and then Trump absolutely freaked the hell out. "Why would you say that? That's stupid. How can you be so stupid?" And then Trump fired him. But after that, the Boardroom continued, so that was clearly an anger firing, and not an official 'The loss was your fault' kind of thing.

Trump's head is a scary place to be. I cut him more slack than most people, because I think his instincts are good but he's not very good at expressing himself. Usually I think he fired the right person for the wrong reasons, but I don't know how much of his stated reasoning involves playing to the cameras. He's an enigma. Still, sometimes you can just see where he's thrown for a loop. Things like race and sexuality don't register properly with him. I don't think he's racist or homophobic at all, but I just don't think he's in any way equipped to discuss those things. I'm still scarred by his 'So, you're gay. Doesn't matter. That's why restaurants have menus.' line of thinking. And poor Adam, who a couple of seasons back, admitted in the Boardroom that he was a virgin. Man, you don't want Trump advising you on your sex life.

I guess it's because Trump started out in a business world populated almost exclusively by straight white males. He's rolling with the changes, but it seems like it takes his brain a while to reset. I think it's a simple binary equation where things are either 'Trump' or 'Not Trump'. And he can handle the 'Not Trump' stuff, but he has to give the knob an extra twist.

Still, to freak out over 'white trash'? If somebody had used the phrase to describe somebody else in a derogatory way, I can understand his reaction. But somebody who says it jokingly about himself? I don't get it. And keep in mind, Derek (the firee) is also both very funny and gay. He knew exactly what he was saying with his choice of words, and he was obviously going for humorous effect.

Beyond Trump's freak-out, which could be debated for decades to no avail, is it really that offensive of a phrase? When I sent out my TV schedule e-mail, I referenced the incident, and it was rejected by certain office e-mail servers. I mean, it's not a nice thing to say, but it's also used mainly by people who are describing themselves. And it's not like the 'N word'. I understand why Black people can use the word and I can't. Anybody who claims to be puzzled by that is an asshole.

But 'white trash'? To me, that's more of a cultural thing. I don't think it's necessarily tied to economic status. True, it gets applied to poor people most often, but I would certainly call Britney Spears 'white trash'.

I don't know. It seems like it's a self-applied label 99% of the time. I guess I can understand getting offended if it's directed at somebody in a derogatory manner, but when it's a self-effacing joke? All I know is it's another phrase I have to keep out of my group e-mails. At least it's not a phrase that I use. It's not like when 'boner' and 'dicksmack' got flagged. I can barely make a point without those!

Monday, March 5, 2007

The 24 Virgin - Part 3

So, and I will not be judged, I watched twelve episodes of 24 this weekend. Having finished the first season, I am no longer a 24 virgin. My Jack Bauer hymen is torn to shreds. (My sister recently received some blog traffic from somebody Googling 'Michael Jordan shower curtain'. I hope to disappoint somebody who Googles 'Jack Bauer hymen'.)

It's interesting to see how they built an early ending into the series. They only had a commitment for 13 episodes at first, and you can see how episode 13 could end the series. Jack and his family board the helicopter to safety. Tender-hearted thug sneaks away without punishment. Palmer has a press conference and comes clean. With a few changes to the dialogue, they could have wrapped it up right there if necessary.

It turns out, not only did Kim not get any less irritating, she also appears to have gotten younger. I swear, the actress lost three or four years during the course of the season. She's probably 11 now.

The 'Terri has amnesia' subplot was pretty weak, but they bailed on it so quickly that I didn't really have time to get irritated. I also never really got into the Palmer family drama. I liked the characters, but so much of that storyline seemed to exist to set up future plotlines. Maybe there's a payoff later, so I'm keeping my mind open. I'm still not convinced that the Palmer kids added anything to the season, though. Dennis Haysbert, however, is a force to be reckoned with. That guy is not only good, but he has this unbelievable presence. He just runs whatever scene he's in. When you show up on set to do your scenes with Haysbert, don't even bother with hair and makeup. He's just going to pull focus anyway, so you might as well wear your pajamas and get comfortable.

And I can't even imagine how surprising it must have been to watch it on a weekly basis and suddenly have Dennis Hopper show up. That guy is a flavor of crazy they haven't even named yet. Sure, his accent tends to wander (occasionally into those uncharted regions of old maps that simply read 'Here There Be Dragons'), but that's all part of the ride. Nobody conveys 'I am old and unarmed, but there is a good chance that I will kill and eat you' like Hopper.

Even knowing that Terri died in the last episode, it was still very upsetting. And I like the way the whole 'Nina as the mole' thing was handled. I knew it was coming, so I watched for any indication that she was sabotaging CTU. It clears up a couple of plot holes, but I like that she wasn't actually working for the Drazens. Any help she gave them was professional courtesy.

I was disappointed at the lack of extras on the set. I would have liked to see how they craft a season to take place over a day. Or maybe a look at how 9/11 changed the story? Would the villains have been Serbs and Germans? But alas, with a FOX set you either get hours and hours of extras, or you get bupkus. Ah well. It isn't the first time FOX hurt me, and it won't be the last.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Nerd Boners

I don't think I really have to explain the term "Nerd Boners". I don't even remember if I made it up or if I read it somewhere, but it's pretty self-explanatory. And it's a big summer for Nerd Boners, with "Spider-Man 3" and "The Simpsons Movie". (The trailers for that one look amazing on the big screen, by the way.) But now I'm concerned, since I saw a preview for "Fantastic Four 2" and I actually said "I can't wait!"

The first "Fantastic Four" movie kind of sucked. (Aside from Michael Chiklis as The Thing. Ben Grimm saved the movie.) There's no reason I should be excited about the sequel, especially as the 'Ben wants to be human again' plotline got all used up in the first movie. I know going in, it's probably going to suck. Upon reflection, I decided my enthusiasm was due to the Silver Surfer's presence. Only, and this is hard for me to admit, I don't give a crap about the Silver Surfer. There's a lot of room in my heart and brain for superheroes. And not just the big famous ones, either. Anybody feel like talking about the Doom Patrol? Because I could talk about the Doom Patrol for hours! I love those goofy bastards! From Spider-Man to Booster Gold, they're all rattling around in there.

And yet, I've got no love for the Surfer. I don't wish him ill or anything, but at no point in my life have I been into the Silver Surfer. He's one of those characters who's both too powerful and too mopey. And I'm not going to get into that all right now, but my point is, I got all enthused about the Silver Surfer appearing in "Fantastic Four 2", and I have no idea why. I'm a little worried that I've shifted into a broad-spectrum nerd, and I'm going to start caring about Star Trek or Harry Potter next. Have I lost the ability to discriminate? Am I becoming a fan of everything? If I lose control and the Deluxe Collector's Edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy shows up at my door, I hope you'll do the right thing and stage an intervention.

Mystery Knobs

This is actually about a lock, thus the title 'Mystery Knobs' is inaccurate and misleading. Still, it sounded kind of funny.

At work, we have a building where we store documents. It's got both a regular lock and a deadbolt. But both locks take the same key. What, then, is the purpose of the deadbolt? Is it there to keep out particularly lazy intruders? "Hey, I never signed up for springing no second lock."
As it turns out, the main lock latches automatically when you shut the door, so it's a completely useless deadbolt. That deadbolt always makes me kind of sad.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

LOST 3-10 "Tricia Tanaka is Dead"

I’m going to say right out that I really liked this episode. I don’t, however, have a lot to say. It was kind of throwback to Season One, where the Island mysteries take a back seat to some fun character stuff. This was one of the funnier episodes, too. I particularly like Mother Hurley covering Jesus’ ears, and the fact that when Hurley got rich, he hired the chefs away from a Bennigan’s.

It’s unusual that an episode actually opens on a flashback, and it’s even more unusual that a flashback goes so far back that they have to cast a different actor. (That scene of Little Sawyer hiding under the bed back in Season One is the only one I can think of.) And hey, that’s Cheech! I wrote in my notes ‘Most hilarious wig of all time’, and I stand by that assessment. Jumping ahead a little, I like that they pretty much resolved the Cheech stuff by the end of the flashback. The last thing LOST needs is another character with father issues. Note that Hurley’s dad was gone for seventeen years. Man, they’re actively avoiding the Numbers this season. Are you sure it wasn’t 16 years? Maybe 23? Check the calendar again.

Tricia Tanaka is played by Sung Hi Lee, who, I am embarrassed to admit, I immediately recognized as Lady Shiva on “Birds of Prey”. (I’d be even more embarrassed to admit that “Birds of Prey” was a short-lived series about Batman’s daughter. And also that I would totally buy it on DVD.) Her IMDB page notes that “In ‘Mortal Kombat’ she played a shape-changing reptile who spat acidic venom.” That is not in any way pertinent, but it made me laugh.

Mr. Cluck’s wiped out by a meteor, eh? I love how Hurley’s flashbacks are sort of set in a whole different show. And that’s how Randy went from being Hurley’s boss to Locke’s co-worker. (Hurley owns the box company, remember?)

Back on the island… Hey, who’s that bald guy? He seems kind of cool. I think they said his name was Locke. Does that sound right? I sure hope we see more of him.

Still trying to sell us on Nikki and Paolo, I see. It’s not like I’m opposed to introducing new Lostaways. After all, there are thirty or so people on the island we haven’t met. But there’s just something about these two. It felt more organic when Arzt suddenly showed up at the end of Season One. He felt somehow established. These two are just a little too Roy for my tastes.

And Vincent is back! Hooray! Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?

I love whenever Jin and Hurley pair up. Those scenes are always so much fun. I like that Hurley is conscious of the language barrier, but clearly he can’t find any way around it, so he just keeps talking.

If you noticed the blueprint for the dirt road Dharma was building, it was really wavy and inefficient. I don’t know if there’s a reason for that, or they just want people like me to start speculating about ley lines. Also, I wonder if Roger crashed the van about the same time as the ‘incident’ that Dr. Marvin Candle mentioned in the Orientation film. It seems like maybe somebody would have come looking for their beer, otherwise. The fact that Roger’s shirt read ‘Roger Work Man’ and some of the beer was labeled ‘Beer Light’ gave it sort of a ‘Translated directly from the Japanese’ quality. Which, if the Hanso Foundation handled things at that point, is certainly a possibility.

Did anybody else think of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ when they were pushing the van?

Locke and Sayid figured out the compass bearings from the sunlight hitting the Jesus Stick? That seems ridiculous, but they’re both way better at that kind of thing than I am, so that may well be plausible. I would have lasted about four hours on Lost Island, so don’t go by me.

Now, I might be goofy, but doesn’t Rousseau already know that her daughter is with The Others? Claire told her about Alex last season. Although, her look of surprise might have more to do with the fact that somebody can actually lead her to Alex. They had all of five seconds left in the episode, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt until next week.

So, does the Dream Team of Kate, Rousseau, Sayid, and Locke sound like the best assault force ever? When spinoff time comes around, that’s right behind “Eko and the Orangutan”. Looks like next week we’ve got last season’s Mysterious Eye Patch Man, the phrase ‘Mainland Communication’, and computer chess. A couple of weeks ago, I dismissed the ‘McCutcheon’ reference in Desmond’s episode because there wasn’t any sort of chess motif. And now we’ve got chess. They’re trying to kill me. That’s the only explanation.

Anyway, like I said, really good episode. Lighter than we’re used to, got reacquainted with some of the regulars. Bravo!