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Friday, March 12, 2004
My review of NASCAR 3-D is up. Race over to read it!
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Movies this week
Thanks, Viacom and Dish Network, for sorting your crap out. Now I can go back to watching Chappelle's Show like a good customer.
This week's movies come at the heels of South by Southwest, the gaping maw of film festivals. I've gotten like 150 e-mails about various movies that I'm not even going to get to see. It's depressing. Too many films. Everything's blending together. Wait, is Kevin Smith doing that Jesus film? What about the one with the Spartans? Which movie is that?
Hey, filmmakers: You can make films. We get it. Now take a break. Maybe you should, you know, go on a cruise, maybe? And not take your Mini-DV with you? Would that be so heartbreaking, bubbula?
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London: -- Destination: The DVD bargain bin at your local Blockbuster Video in three months.
NASCAR 3-D -- I was very conflicted about seeing this IMAX film, despite its wee-to-sprightly length of only 40 minutes. I love IMAX 3-D films, but I kind of hate NASCAR. What would the cool-to-suckage ratio be for the film? But Keifer Sutherland, who could narrate ethnic cleansing and still make it palatable to me, soothes you through the crunching wall-'o-sound and the film is just really well done. My full review is running tomorrow and I'll link to it forthwith, and with much vigor and vinegar (more vigor than vinegar for taste purporses). But, really, this film made me not hate NASCAR, the whitest sport in American history (yes, including hockey).
Secret Window -- This is based on a Stephen King novella from Different Seasons which I read at least once, but don't remember at all. I know there was a writer and the window/garden (it was originally called, "Secret Window / Secret Garden"), was a metaphor for writing or having a hidey-hole in your imagination or butt bumping dolphins or something. I really don't remember. Which really doesn't even seem to matter because most Stephen King-based films sort of strip away all manner of characterization and nuance in favor of blood and creepy strings. That's fine, and it looks like that's what they've done here with a freaked-out Johnny Depp taking the lead role. Johnny Depp seems to have two distinct modes in a lot of his acting -- crazy, cool dude and freaked-out innocent. He's in freaked-out innocent mode here. So no swishy walking and Angora sweaters this time. Sadly.
Spartan -- They totally beat Brad Pitt to the theaters with this Troy-inspired look at Centurions and catapults! Down with the Romans! Avast ye, Ottoman Empire! Stand back, La-Z-Boy Recliner's minions! What? It's not... it's not, what? Ohhhh. For real? It's not about that? Oh. It's got Val Kilmer and David Mamet directed it and it's a thriller about politics and is all cynical and Mamet-speaky? Oh. Well, that's a different movie, then, isn't it? I kind of wanted to se the one with the catapults.
The Statement -- There's something a little creepy and weird about Michael Caine that I can't quite put my finger on, a kind of drunken-uncle-in-recovery vibe that makes me very skeptical when I see him on screen. The most recent movie I've liked him in was The Cider House Rules, but even after his little "Goodnight, all you princes of New England," speech, I half-expected him to come back into the room in the middle of the night and bite the heads off all the orphans. In this film, he plays a Nazi who's been in hiding and is now being pursued by police and others. When I heard about this movie, something clicked into place -- "Of course!" I thought, "Michael Caine is a Nazi!" It all made sense. Now, I have absolutely no proof that Michael Caine is a Nazi, but what if the greatest acting of his career wasn't in Alfie or in A Bride Too Far, but in convincing the world that he's a slightly sauced, but very talented U.K. actor and not a 90-year-old ex-Third Reicher? Just think about it a little, would you?
DVDs: Still hoping to see Capturing the Friedmans, as well as some older movies that are collecting dust. (Frida, I haven't forgotten you.) 21 Grams arrived too, but I've already seen it and I've got a copy of The Rundown that I'm actually looking forward to seeing. No, seriously.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Advice for CBS
Is it just me, or have I been updating a buttload this week? Plus I've been doing a lot of writing at work. It's just a writerly kind of week. That can't be a bad thing.
Anyway, with apologies to my comedic betters at Fametracker, this week L'il Floaty Omie Head figures out CBS' programming dilemmas for them. It's time to go back to being the crappy, senior-friendly network that nobody used to watch. (Plus, I'm bitter that I don't currently have CBS. Thanks, Dish Network and Viacom!)
P.S. on the computer upgrade story -- one disc exchange at CompUSA, a digital audio cable add-on and one WinDVD installation and everything is working fine. All is well in computerland
The bargain gene
It's my mom's birthday today. I'm not going to get to see her until the weekend, but she has had and continues to have a huge influence. Sometimes you see parts of your mom and your dad in you, but with my parents, I can sometimes see an exact line of demarcation. My mom is witty and subtle, my dad is broad and goofy (in the best way possible). I don't think I could be in LCP if it wasn't for my dad and I don't think I could write recaps if it wasn't for my mom.
The other thing my mom instilled in me was the bargain gene. The one that sifts through newspaper circulars and coupons every Sunday or that sends in all those annoying mail-in rebates. My dad was always the one who would say, "Let's buy (x)" and my mom would say, "Wait until it goes on sale."
I'd been looking at DVD burners recently. My desktop CD burner is one of those ancient ones from five years ago when 2X was considered blazin' burnin'. It burns a CD in like 45 minutes. You could get a band together and perform the contents of the CD you're trying to copy in that long. So, aside from being able to burn my own DVDs (visions of video greeting cards bouncing in my head), it would be a nice replacement for my decrepit old drive and the prices have been pushing down below $99.
CompUSA had a deal on a nice 8X DVD+/- for $99 in last week's circular. And best of all, Free Installation!
Great, right? I have money coming back on my taxes (knock on faux desk wood) and it's been a while since I treated myself to anything more than a Jamba Juice. So here we go. Money's on the table.
Now, here's the conundrum: I can install this thing myself. It wouldn't be hard. I've installed every component on my desktop computer, from the memory, to the two current hard drives to the video card, case, processor and motherboard and air-flow IDE cables. I know the inside of that thing like the back of my cat-scratched hand. Why would I let somebody else get their grubby CompUSAsshole hands into my precious, sweet data ride?
Because it's free. Why should I get my ass horizontal on the carpet, scrape my hands on aluminum, unscrew screws and unplug wires, tediously install drivers and troubleshoot Windows XP conflicts when I just paid to have somebody else do the dirty digital duty? Let his ass disable hardware jumpers and look for updated WinXP drivers. Fuckdatshit.
I set up the appointment for the early a.m. today. (You must remember: 8 a.m. is UNGODLY early for me. I only take it on faith that an 8 a.m. actually happens every day.)
This morning, 10 minutes early even, Mr. CompUSA shows up. He's an older, portly gent with a Dick Van Patten ring of graying blonde bald-hair. I check behind him as he comes in to make sure l'il Adam Rich isn't following behind him.
I show him to the home office, where he busts out his little portable leather toolkit (screws in a neat pouch, little screwdrivers of all sizes and screwabilities, an electric customer prod for all I know) and gets to work. I show him how to slide the side off the computer and he gets down on the floor, lying sideways awkwardly as I have so many times before, and I get my ass out of there.
I go outside and water the rose bushes I just planted the other night. I watch a little bit of Lovely and Amazing on cable. Put the dishes away. Put a new load in the dishwasher. Put in a load of laundry. Shave. Call my mom and wish her happy birthday.
Hey, what the fuck is taking this guy so long? It's been like an hour and he's still lying on the floor plugging shit in like he's Reddy Kilowatt's bitch. "Oh well," I tell myself, "he's probably just making sure everything is plugged in good and tight, putting in wire ties or in some other way doing an A+ professional install with special mind to electric Ps and digital Qs. Let him be."
Next thing I know he gives me a lecture about not having my video card seated properly. He tells me that it's not screwed in and that the card is half laying in, half laying out of its slot. Listen, Van Patten, maybe you knocked it loose. I was playing the Far Cry demo the other night. I think the shit was working before you got here, holmes.
Anyway, he's friendly otherwise. He boots up the computer (yes, there's video, whiny CompUSA video card Polyanna) and things seems to be clicking along just fine. Windows recognizes the drives and starts installing that shit forthwith, in due haste, with all cannons firing. Russell Crowe, in full naval regalia, pops his head into my office just to bellow, "Aye!" Things are going well.
He puts in the Nero install disc to get the program installed so I can get to burnin' with no regard to copyright. Then it starts to install. Really, really, really slowly. It's moving like cold molasses up a witch's tit at high altitudes in a cryogenics lab.
"Wow, that's moving a little slow," he tells me.
My baby is not slow. Don't call my baby, "Slow."
We start theorizing, as geeks are wont to do when the progress bar is slow-to-moving, about what could be the cause. Is it on the same IDE cable as a hard drive? Maybe I should shut down some small, but resource-hogging items in the taskbar? Maybe the video card told the DVD burner about my rampant loose-screw negligence?
I think, again, "Hey, fuck this shit," and let Mr. Expert take things from here. I go change into half of my work clothes (pants, socks). I fix some coffee. I set some stuff to record for tonight on the PVR of Goodness (recently renamed to The PVR of Goodness if Goodness Can Include a World Without Viacom Channels).
When I come back, the progress bar is at the same place. Dick Van Patten is trying to cancel out. He gets an error message. He has to CTRL-ALT-DELETE out of some applications. Shit's going haywire.
For the next half hour, we try a few different things. DVDs will play in Windows Media Player and in a free DVD playing program he downloaded for me. We put in Comedian and Pulp Fiction But no audio is coming from the DVDs. I suggest that maybe he forgot to connect the audio cable from the drive to the sound card. "Does it need that?" he asked me. He mentions that there was a cable like that in the box, but he didn't use it.
Motherfuck. So he turns off the computer and opens it back up to install this wayward wire. It's past 9:30. It's getting to be late for me.
About 20 minutes and many more floor slitherings later, I come back in and the computer's rebooting. Still no sound on DVDs. However, putting in an audio CD, Phantom Planet ("Cali-forrrrrrnia! Cali-forrrrrrnia! Here we coooooooome!") works perfectly, with full-on sound. He suggests that maybe getting that included software to install will fix the problem. Just one problem: There's a huge gash on the install disc, a circular line that seems to indicate the disc was moving around inside the box and scraped up against something. We try using the disc in the other drive, an old, but trusty SCSI CD-ROM. No dice. It won't even start up the installation properly.
We hunt on the Web for device drivers and a downloadable version of the Nero Burning bundle. Nothing on the manufacturer's Web site. We call tech support, which doesn't open until 10 a.m, but, hey, it's 10 a.m. already! I'm late for work! Tech support puts Dick on hold. He's not happy.
He's two hours and 10 minutes into what is contracted to be a one-hour installation and training session. I can see the sadness in his eyes.
Tech support doesn't answer. Trying to install the disc again doesn't work. The DVD audio still isn't happening. Dick is getting antsy.
Finally, he gives up. He tells me he'll sign the work invoice to indicate the disc was damaged when he opened the drive's box. He suggests I take the disc back and see if I can exchange it without taking apart the computer again. He says maybe once the software installs, the DVD audio will kick in with the proper drivers.
Thing is, just sitting her at work, 20 miles from my computer, I figured out what went wrong. He never put in a digital connection from the drive to the sound card, just an analog one. That's why the CD would play (which works as analog, too), but not the digital audio off a DVD. And the drive itself wasn't slow -- it played DVD video just fine without any skipping. The reason it was running so slow was that it was trying to read off a scratched-up Nero disc. The installation problem is obvious: A bad CD-ROM that needs exchanging.
I got to work at almost 11. I wasted three hours and got up extra early to watch someone screw up a job I could have done in about 20 minutes with minimal squatting and carpet-rolling. I still have to exchange a disc and get in my computer again to install that digital ATAPI cable.
It's another lesson my Mom taught me along the way, but one that I happened to forget this time.
Bargains are great, but nothing is ever really free.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Stamos called, Stamos called! He was very apologetic for not calling Friday and very chatty and funny. He even invited me to come watch his short film with him at South by Southwest.
Don't tell anyone, but I think i have a new man-crush.
The worst part, the very least likeable point in my workout is .37 on my quest to hit .60 of a mile in one stretch on the treadmill. I walk until .10 to get a little steam in my legs and then jog at 6.2 speed for half a mile. The thought process:
.10: Okay, time to run, speed up, run, run run, ooh they're showing the new Britney video. Is it wrong that I like the song?
.17: Okay. This sucks. .17? That's it? Man. My legs are tired already. I'm not gonna make it.
.20: One-tenth of a mile. Shit. Four-tenths left. This is crazy. I'm not gonna make it.
.25: All right. I'm sorta kinda 1/3rd of the way there. Yeah. Puff puff. Yeow. That lady's breasts are bouncing! Doesn't that hurt? That sports bra is hanging on for dear life. Oh shit. She saw me looking.
.28: This sucks. This sucks. This fucking sucks. I'm not even halfway to a half-mile yet. God. Puff puff puff.
.30: Okay. All right. 40 percent. I think I can do this. Maybe.
.35: Halfway, baby! Halfway! Shit! God! Gah. Breath, goddammit.
.37: No, no, no, no, no, no. Legs. Stiff. Breath short. Stone Temple Pilots video... cutting off... will to live.
.40: Woo! Only .20 left. I can do this. Just count down, baby. 20. 19. 18. Over the hill. I'm gonna do this.
And it counts down like that until .60, where my legs feel wobbly and I walk until the 15-minute timer gets down to three-and-a-half minutes, and I sprint at 6.7 until the timer gets to zero. Then I walk for five minutes. Yeah, I know. It's not exactly precise, but it gets me good and sweaty and I think any more would throw my heart out of my chest in Tex Avery fashion. The second half of the jogging is actually a lot easier. I get more out of breath in that very last minute (gasp, GASP!), but by the time the timer gets down to 3.5 minutes, my legs have loosened up, adrenaline has kicked in, and my body gets into a comfortable running gear; breath goes in through nose, out through mouth, arms pump, feet bang at the tread.
But that initial jog is the worst part. Everything else is stretching and lifting weights, but nothing hurts as bad (it doesn't really hurt, it just is the hardest part to get motivated about) as that treadmill hump.
I'm starting to see a body-composition change and my energy is crazy-high again today. I feel like throwing books or eating a turkey leg or giving some weakling a noogie. Can you get 'roid rage without taking steroids?
Monday, March 08, 2004
Man, these last few Smallville episodes have really taken their toll. Are the recaps even funny anymore? I don't even know. I just know I'm pooped from writing eight recaps in a row. Maybe I'm only funny for seven recaps straight or something, but this one was like passing a stone. Seriously. Ow.
The good news? It's hiatus time! Has there ever been a sweeter word on television?
Crap to the Future -- Clark works at a teen crisis hotline and gets a call from Lana, who's in trouble and about to get a cop capped in her ass. But peep dis: the phone call came from twenty-four hours in the future! Can they cheat fate? Or just the viewers?
Along with my pseudo-experiment with giving up sweets (it's been only half successful; I'm eating a lot less sugar, but in that time I've eaten pie, cake, M&Ms and other sweets) I've added a new wrinkle to this get-in-shape thing. I mean, crap. Spring is when I have a bunch of family birthdays. You can't not eat the birthday cake. It's like an insult.
So anyway, the other thing I've started doing to combat what I saw as alarming physical state of affairs (plus there's a tux fitting forthcoming) is to drag my ass out of bed early in the a.m. to go to the gym.
You must understand: this is physical heresy for me. I don't do mornings. That's why I have a job that takes place mid-morning to early evenings. That's why I don't schedule appointments, interviews or the Apocalypse for before 10 a.m. The last time I tried to do this to myself, the results were not pretty. I was exhausted at the gym and got physically nauseous afterward, making me useless for the rest of the day.
So I've always worked out in the evenings, sometime after work and before dinner, or a few hours after dinner but before I go to bed, around 10 or 11 p.m. The thing is, my evenings get really busy, too, and with dinner it's gotten to where it's just an excuse not to go the gym. The timing never seems right and more often than not, I just forget it.
The only way I'd start going to the gym regularly would be to do it before work. And, as you know, I hate mornings.
This time, I tried to be a little smarter than that. One of the reasons I felt awful at the gym was because I was working out really hungry. First thing in the morning, I don't eat, but I do make myself a big mug of coffee that I take to work. Sometimes I'll snack on a biscuit or one of those granola snack bars on my drive in. So instead of starving myself before working out, I'm now eating a small something something snack bar or cereal and going about a half hour later. I don't get hungry during the workout and I drink a recovery beverage (yay, protein!) right after.
When I go to the gym, I don't just dick around on the yoga mat. I lift weights, run a mile and a half on the treadmill, do floor stretches, stomach crunches, sit-ups and back exercises. So I'm just completely sweaty and exhausted when I finish.
This is still true. But the weird side effect is that even after a shower, dressing and my regular coffee on the way to work, my heart is still pumping fresh blood when I'm sitting here at work. I sweat a little, even just sitting, which a friend tells me means my metabolism has been jumpstarted.
And I have crazy, absolute energy the whole day. It's insane. I'm getting a little less sleep than usual because of the getting up early (I have a hard time falling asleep before 1 a.m.), but my body is compensating with this burst of constant clean-burning energy post-workout that doesn't abate until late in the evening.
I'm doing this two to three times a week (this week is Tuesday/Thursday), but I'm just fascinated with how my body works (or doesn't). Just that making a decision to do something as simple as going to the gym in the morning instead of the evening can lay out my whole day for me. It's gotten to where my gym days are the ones I know will be the most productive. I know I'll have the clarity and energy to get the most writing done, to clear the most editing and to have ideas that would normally seem too taxing to my non-working-out, low-energy self.
I'm not ready to release a workout video or anything, but I do feel good about it. I feel like I'm doing something good for myself, that I'm forcing myself to feel better more often.
Sunday, March 07, 2004
Forgot to post a link Friday, but I did a short review of the new James Bond videogame that ran Friday.
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