Netflix + Xbox = Big Bucks
Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
According to Michael Pachter, the Xbox/Netflix union has been VERY lucrative for Netflix.
He estimates that over eight million Xbox Live Gold members connect to the Internet in their living rooms and are "a click of the mouse away from becoming Netflix subscribers."

He estimates that 800,000 of these Xbox Live households were already Netflix customers when the streaming service debuted and as many as 200,000 of these customers joined Netflix in the last half of the quarter. This has obviously been a great boon for the video rentals company, and Pachter doesn't expect the trend to slow down any time soon.

That's pretty impressive stuff. Even if those new members only signed up for the cheapest package at $8.99 a month, that's still $1.8 million in new revenue per month. I know that my boyfriend and I are LOVING the Xbox/Netflix integration. My only complaint is that the selection of quality movies and shows is still somewhat limited. I'm hoping that Netflix looks at these numbers and realizes that if they want to retain those new customers, they're going to have to work harder to get a larger on-demand library. I mean, I understand that brand new DVD releases may not be available, but why not go after classic flicks that people love, like Ferris Bueller, or whatever? Also, they need to work on allowing users to browse the full library via the Xbox (currently, users must go online on their computer to add movies to their Watch Instantly queue).

Update (1/30 10:00am): Following up on this, there's a good article in the LA Times with further detail about how the online streaming feature of Netflix has been driving pretty nice growth and profit for the company.

In other news, Amazon is having a pretty good sale (up to 54% off) on Indie and International DVDs, as well as Oscar winning DVDs. There's lot of great stuff there, so go check it out. For those of you too lazy to browse through all those pages, might I recommend you check out the following titles?
  • City of God - an incredible movie, with gorgeous visuals and an affecting cast.
  • The Seven Samurai Criterion Collection - classic flick, and the Criterion label means you're going to get some quality extras in this set.
  • Pan's Labyrinth - beautiful and haunting
  • Y Tu Mama Tambien - SEXY.
  • Fargo - Hell yeah.
  • Gosford Park - definitely a movie you'll want to watch more than once (if only because there's so many characters, it's hard to keep track of all the subplots.
  • Antibodies - here's a little story about this DVD: my boyfriend and I saw this sitting on the shelf in Blockbuster, and we were like, "Hmm... I have never even HEARD of this movie, but that is a fucked up and creepy looking cover". We decided to rent it on impulse. We were surprised to find a shockingly well-made German serial killer flick, sort of in the vein of Silence of the Lambs. The subject matter is a little disturbing, but this is a really tense and interesting movie. Highly recommended, for those of you looking for something new.
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Star Wars: the abridged version
Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist


This one's been around the net for awhile, but for those of you who missed it....

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Check out this hilarious video from Vimeo.com. Here's a description from the owner of the video:
My friend Amanda had never seen a whole Star Wars film. When I asked her if she wanted to watch the original trilogy she said that she would, but that she already knew what happens. So I took out my voice recorder and asked her to start from the top.

I then created some very basic animation in Final Cut to go along with her narration.
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Waffle Houses and Hooters
Monday, January 26, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I'm currently sitting in a hotel in Gulfport, Mississippi typing this entry. For those of you not in the know, my uber secret job working for The Man is why I'm down here right now. The specifics of my job shall remain unstated for now, lest I have to go to your house and kill you.

Anyway, in my previous life in the Air Force, I was briefly stationed next door in Biloxi, MS for three months, so this isn't my first time down on the gulf coast. Let me paint a picture for you of what Gulfport looks like: big 6 lane highway lined by Waffle Houses, Hooters, and then more Waffle Houses. Here is an analogy for those of you who managed to score above 600 on your SAT (those of you old enough to remember the old SAT with a max score of 1600)

Waffle Houses : The South :: Starbucks : East Coast

Seriously, these little yellow and brown huts are on EVERY corner down here. Looking out my window, I can see TWO Waffle Houses. On the same side of the road. Less than half a mile away from each other. WTF? Not that I should complain too much, as I crave and desire their hash browns like they were made of liquid crack.

My co-worker and I went to Hooters our first night here. Let me tell you my problem with Hooters: the wings are too anemic, and the waitresses wear these weird tights that make their legs look like rubber. I think it makes their legs look like Barbie doll legs, but not in a good way, in a creepy "You look like you're made from wax" kind of way. Anyway, any man who swears up and down that he goes to Hooters because the wings are so good is a liar. Trust me, I know good wings, and Hooters are adequate on their best day. People go to Hooters to ogle boobs, and nothing more. Question: why am I paying good cash money for wings that I don't like that much and trying in vain to picture what the fun bags look like on my waitress with the weird rubber legs, when there is an establishment immediately next door to the Hooters here labeled "Michael's Night Club", which I'm fairly sure has actual naked titties and will probably give me food of at least the same quality?

Here is another interesting factoid about the gulf coast of Mississippi you may not know: It is apparently humid here ALL THE TIME. Therefore, not only must I contend with the noise from my air conditioner, which has a manual "fan off/fan low/fan high" dial and is NOT thermostat controlled and therefore runs ALL NIGHT LONG, I must also deal with the near constant whirring of the dehumidifier unit in the room.

Did you know that Biloxi has a booming casino scene? Well, it does. I played at the Beau Rivage tonight, doubled my money at the blackjack table, and had a great time. My table was populated by non-smokers, the table was hot (paying out big for all playing), and the lady sitting next to me was a sweet and hilarious old bird. She is also apparently one of the "League of Their Own" women - she even gave me her baseball card. How awesome is that? This is her, by the way:


One final steam of consciousness rant: have you ever wondered what a golf course would look like if they never bothered to water it? Well, wonder no more, because I have seen it with my own eyes. While the gentlemen at the Keesler AFB golf course were very friendly and wonderful, their groundskeeping left much to be desired. Golfing there was like golfing on the surface of Mars.

In summary: boobies, waffles, there's no crying in baseball, and always remember to split 8s and aces.

.
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Cylon - beta version 1.0
Thursday, January 22, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist


Behold, the beginning of the end of world, the origins of the Cylons, as biotic teenager shows off the metal arm that will undoubtedly crush the windpipe of humanity someday.
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Forbes reporter fails to do basic research, looks like ass in the process
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
There's quite a stir in the gaming world about the recent profile of Activision CEO Bobby Kotick in Forbes magazine. Not only is it sort of annoying in terms of how slobbering of a profile it is, there's one phrase in the article in particular that caught our attention:
[referring to competitor Electronic Arts (EA)]: "EA also teamed with MTV to sell Rock Band, a shameless knockoff of Guitar Hero that added drums, bass and a microphone to the world of make-believe rock stars."
Um.... no. That's pretty much exactly wrong. For the readers out there who are non-gamers, here are the relevant facts you need to know:
  • Game development company Harmonix is founded in 1995 and goes on to produce several well-regarded games in what is known as the "rhythm genre" - basically, the player mashes buttons on a controller in time to some game with a musical component. They develop titles such as PaRappa the Rapper, Dance Dance Revolution, FreQuency, Amplitude, and my personal favorite Karaoke Revolution.
  • These early games are popular in Japan and find a niche market here in the US, but are not completely break out games, in that many mainstream gamers avoid them.
  • Peripheral developer Red Octane then came to Harmonix and said (I'm paraphrasing here) "If you can make a kick ass rhythm game, we'll make a kick ass controller to go with it." Hence, Guitar Hero is born in 2005 for the PS2. Unlike previous rhythm games, this one actually is a hit with hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike, tapping into our secret desire to emulate rock stardom by wielding a plastic guitar and pretending we're the lead guitarist for AC/DC.
  • Harmonix and Red Octane then release Guitar Hero 2, which is another huge success, and expands to support the Xbox360 platform as well, giving the company its first chance to release song packs (a huge innovation that will lead to millions of dollars in sales for Rock Band) via the Xbox Live marketplace.
  • Harmonix then is acquired by MTV Games, and they sell the Guitar Hero franchise to Activision.
  • In October 2007, Activision teams with developer Neversoft to release Guitar Hero 3. GH3 is a huge commercial success, though complaints about the changes to game play do start to surface. Nonetheless, the Guitar Hero franchise still sells like hot cakes (best selling game of the year), and the new wireless controller is a welcome upgrade.
  • Meanwhile, with the pile of money Harmonix got from the sale of GH, they go on to the next logical step in rhythm music simulators and release the innovative and awesome Rock Band, adding a drum and microphone to the mix. Rock Band is released in November of 2007, to widespread commercial and critical success. The game garners several game of the year awards, and rightfully so. The business model of releasing weekly song packs (containing between 3-5 songs) at $5 a pop is a wild success. RB sells over 28 million songs via the online marketplace.
  • A full year later, Activision releases its own version of a band simulator dubbed Guitar Hero: World Tour, which has a microphone and drum kit to go along with a guitar. While the controllers are of higher quality overall, the gameplay still pales in comparison with Rock Band and Rock Band 2 (released the same year as GH:WT).
Now, looking at that timeline, it's a bit perposterous to suggest that HARMONIX is the villian in this situation and that ACTIVISION is the party who had their Intellectual Property somehow ripped off as the reporter suggests. If anyone deserves the "shameless knockoff" slur, it's Activision with their Guitar Hero: World Tour game.

This is the sort of shoddy mainstream journalism that so infuriates gamers. I mean, if you don't know shit about the subject material you're touching on, either do some damn basic research, or just don't bother writing about it at all. The information above was easily found after 5 minutes of searching on Wikipedia. And we're not talking in-depth game knowledge here - just a basic glance at the facts and timeline above tells you all you need to know.

Shame on Forbes for publishing this poor excuse for an article. Fact check next time, motherfuckers!

Edited to add: If you want to know why Bobby Kotick is bad for the gaming industry, read this excellent op-ed over at Ars Technica.
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NFL Conference Championship breakdown
Monday, January 19, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I usually don't recycle graphics between posts, but this one was worth posting a second time.

"Hi, this is the world. Consider us sufficiently shocked." After last week's victory over the Carolina Panthers, Kurt Warner urged his team to "shock the world", and that's just what they did this weekend, stunning the Philadelphia Eagles and winning the NFC Championship. The FOX analysts correctly pointed out that this week's game was shocking because it wasn't like the Eagles were handing the Cards the game. The Cardinals were simply just playing perfect football for the first half of the game. Philly, though not particuarly sharp looking, was decent on offense, driving far enough for 3 FGs (one of which missed) in the first half, and then exploding in the second half of the game to even take the lead at one point.

Larry Fitzgerald has played like a man possessed in the playoffs, and yesterday was perhaps his finest performance yet, as he ran wild and caught 3 TDs. Right now, it's 99% assured that Fitzgerald will win a one-on-one matchup, and a pretty solid 75% that he's going to make the catch even when he's double-covered. In the middle of all this, however, we cannot overlook that fact that Kurt Warner is still the MVP for this team. While Fitzgerald deserves all the praise he gets, it's still Warner who has to stand in the face of all those nasty blitzes (with his ancient 37 year old body) and deliver the strike. More importantly, for a young team like the Cards that has a history of epic failure haunting the franchise, he brings a legitimate winner's attitude to the huddle that inspires the rest of the team. The final drive Warner led the Cardinal offense on, down by 1 point, was the definition of poise under pressure, as he calmly marched them down the field, threw the go-ahead TD to Tim Hightower and then made the 2 point conversion. He did that while eating up 8 critical minutes, leaving the Eagles in a difficult clock situation.

Phreaking Phickle Philly Phans. Consider the following quote from my boyfriend: "It's McNabb's fault the Eagles lost. When other quarterbacks go to the bench, you see them studying pictures and talking to the coach. Donovan doesn't do any of that, he just goofs around. Plus he smiles too much." That, along with quotes like "Can we go ahead and call that the worst 375-yard, three-touchdown performance ever?", is why poor Donovan can't get a break in that insane town. Again, I'm not sure how Donovan gets to be held responsible for the loss, since he wasn't on the field when Larry Fitzgerald was allowed to catch 9 balls for 155 yards and 3 TDs. Nor am I sure how it's his fault that after the Eagles gained the lead in the 4th quarter, the Cardinals were then allowed to drive down the field, eat up 8 minutes of clock time and score a TD and 2 point conversion that then forced the Eagles offense to take chances trying to go for the TD themselves on the next possession. Lastly, I'm not sure why it's Donovan's fault that the Eagles couldn't stop Edgerrin James from running all over them in the first half - despite his allegedly "fresh" legs, he's still not that great of a runner anymore.

Frankly, Donovan deserves a chance somewhere else, to see what he can do in another franchise, with better receivers and a city that won't burn his figure in effigy just because he can't complete 100% of his passes every single game.

Ugly football. Was it me, or did it feel like the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game would never end? I swear, that game just went on and on. Part of the problem was that both teams were so fierce on defense, and both offenses are fairly low octane, grind-it-out affairs, that it was going to be a bit of a letdown from the aerial fireworks of the Arizona/Philly game. I mean, if you like big hits, you loved last night's game. But otherwise, the game just seemed to drag. I suspect that playing 18 straight weeks with no week off simply took its toll on the Ravens in the end (they were forced into an early bye week due to the hurricane early in the season that postponed their game with Houston) - too many key players were out or not playing at 100%.

Super speculation. Right now, it looks like Pittsburgh is just too good to beat. I'm not sure Warner's going to be able to stay upright long enough to get the pass off, and even if he does, you've got Troy Polamalu just lurking out there hoping he DOES throw, so he can pick off the INT and run it back for a TD. I'm also not sure Arizona's defense has the tools needed to stop the run game with a healthy Willie Parker, or to keep Big Ben from rolling out of the pocket to pick them apart with the passing game.

Also, because you know the Steelers are going to be focusing on Larry Fitzgerald, the Cards will need other players to step up. Unfortunately, it seems that Anquan Boldin has picked a pretty bad time to start throwing tantrums all of a sudden....
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Neko Case's new single
Friday, January 16, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Get Neko Case's new mp3 for free.

Download:http://www.anti.com/media/download/708

Apparently, if you blog about Neko Case's new song, she will donate $5 on behalf of the Best Friends Animal Society on your behalf. It's a great cause, not to mention the fact that Neko Case is awesome and you should all hear her music anyway. More details on how to add this to your own blog here.

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Battlestar Galactica returns! (about frakkin' time)
Friday, January 16, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

Joy and rapture - tonight on the Sci-Fi channel, the magnificent Battlestar Galactica returns for the final half of Season 4! Remember to set your DVRs correctly, since tonight's episode actually runs 5 minutes over.

I'm both happy and sad to see the show return, because while I've been dying to get new episodes, I also know that this is the end. The show won't be returning after this run of episodes (only 12 episodes or so left, as this is technically the second half of Season 4). The thought of no more new Battlestar episodes depresses me to no end. On the other hand, I do think that shows like this do need to be disciplined with when they choose to end, since there are huge questions that need answering that can only come when the series ends. I mean, you can' t wander in search of Earth forever, right, plus who the frak is the 5th and final Cylon?!

Regarding those big questions, zap2it has a good article up listing the burning questions we want answered now that the show is ending.

Top 5 episodes:
As I look back over the 3 1/2 seasons we've had so far, here are the standout episodes that really elevated this show for me.

1. Maelstrom. In this episode, Kara Thrace (Starbuck) learns to embrace her own mortality and destiny. And then she kills herself. It was a truly shocking moment in the show, and I was literally walking around in a daze the next day because I was just so upset. Of all the characters, Starbuck was the least likely to die in your mind, because she was the designated swashbuckler of the cast. Starbuck is the one who jumps back to Caprica alone, Starbuck is the one who takes on a fleet of Cylon raiders single-handedly, Starbuck is the one who escapes every time, because that's who she is. She's the one who defies the odds, the one character you weren't supposed to fear for, because she's the one who makes the impossible jump across the chasm, she's the one who pulls off the landing or makes the shot. There was no character more full of life on the show, and yet, in her final moments, it was not the manic, aggressive Starbuck that we saw, but a calm, almost serene Starbuck. This episode's theme was about confronting the inevitability of death and learning to let go of your fears about it. Just a masterful episode. (trivia: since the cast was unaware the Starbuck was returning - via means unknown to this day - they were really upset. Edward James Olmos was so upset, he took it upon himself to smash Adama's model ship in a moment of improv... only to find out that it was an antique on loan that was worth over $100K)

2. Sine Qua Now/The Hub. Two things about this show. One: for all the hype about the hot young pairings on the show (Starbuck/Anders, Starbuck/Apollo, Athena/Helo), the most sizzling, most romantic couple is actually Roslin/Adama. Two: of all the slights against this show at award time, none have been more upsetting to me than the continual snubbing of Mary McDonnell for a best actress award. This two-part episode is great, because it addresses both of those facts, by finally giving us a Roslin/Adama pairing, and because it provides more proof to me that Mary McDonnell is giving the performance of her life in this role.

Watching President Roslin and Admiral Adama dance around each other for several seasons, you couldn't help but root for this couple. In a way, it made perfect sense - Adama and Roslin are truly the loneliest two people in the universe, because they carry the burden of leadership and responsibility in a way that no other member of the fleet has to. It also helps that Mary McDonnell is still pretty foxy for a lady her age, and that Olmos's craterface visage is off-set by the quiet strength and dignity that he embues Adama with. So I pretty much swoooned when these two characters were reunited after a particularly harrowing adventure, declared their love for each other out loud (for the first time ever), and kissed and embraced. Also, the scene at the end of part 1, where Adama tells his son he's staying behind to wait for Roslin, because he has realized that he can't live without her is also very swoon-worthy.

The other significant plots of these episodes involved Roslin suffering a series of visions about her imminent death (the character has terminal cancer), and the Cylon rebels teaming up with the humans to destroy the Cylon resurrection hub. And in a way, both plot points come back to the same philosophical notion: how do you cope with the fac that someday you are going to die? The Cylon rebels take the stance that the experience of death - truly not knowing what happens when your body expires - is the only way for them to finish their transcendence into some sort of spiritual being. For all their talk about The One True God, the Cylons are unable to truly explore that notion, for their resurrection hub ensured that they never passed from this plane of existence. Only by sacrificing their immortality can the Cylons experience and share in humanity's spiritual quest. In many ways, it's like the Cylons are the gods coming down off Mount Olympus. On the flip side, Roslin must confront all that comes with death, and has to make a conscious choice to be brave and accept the love of Adama (and her spiritual children Apollo and Starbuck), even though it means they will suffer a sense of loss when she dies. It's a continuation of the theme from Maelstrom - facing death with dignity.

3. 33. In this harrowing first episode of Season 1, we get our first notion that this isn't your run-of-the-mill sci-fi show. Every 33 minutes, the fleet jumps away, and every 32 minutes later, the Cylons show up again. When we join this story, we find that the fleet has been running at that tempo for days, and are ragged with exhaustion. Instead of the light-hearted "All for one and one for all!" attitude you'd find in Star Trek, you get a realistic glimpse at the nature tensions between the civilian populace, civilian government, and military, as cracks and fissures start to form between groups. Where the crew of the Enterprise were heroes facing an enemy, the remains of humanity are merely prey, reduced to an almost animal-like state of being by the relentless pursuit of the Cylons. To cap it off, as a final "this ain't your daddy's sci-fi" stroke, the show puts Adama in the position where must choose to either destroy a civilian ship carrying 1300 souls or risk putting the whole fleet at risk (they suspect that the civilian ship is the reason the Cylons keep finding them). This episode helped set the tone for the rest of the show.

4. Lay Down Your Burdens (part 1 and 2). This two-parter at the end of Season 2 explored a popular theme for the show: do the ends justify the means? Laura Roslin must make a choice - betray her beliefs about the importance of democracy by rigging the election, or steal the election and ensure that the dangerous Gaius Baltar is not allowed to lead humanity to its doom? Adama must make the same choice when he uncovers the plot by Roslin and several of his trusted officers - does he follow his gut that Baltar will be a disaster and allow them to steal the election? Or does he stay true to the principles that govern him as a military man and as a citizen in a democracy? Should they respect the will of the people, even though they feel that that choice is wrong?

As an added bonus, this episode also features some great work by James Callis, who really shines as the loathsome yet charming Baltar. Baltar is despicable, but you always get where he's coming from as a character. The scenes of him as President are great, as you see that Baltar has come to realize that being the President is actually a lot of hard work, instead of the glamourous job he expected. You also see the fruits of Baltar's weak character come to bear, as Gina (one of the Sixes) uses the nuclear bomb he gave her in a fit of childish pique to murder thousands of humans.

Part 2 ends with one of the great "Holy shit!" moments in TV history, as we jump 1 year (after the fleet has settled on a habitable planet) and find out that the Cylons have just jumped in to enslave the helpless humans.

5. Exodus (part 1 and 2). Humanity rallies and escapes the clutches of the Cylon invaders (though only after several superb episodes that are pretty much one long metaphor for the Iraq War). This episode had it all - excitement, awesome special effects (the shot of Galatica jumping directly into the planet's atmosphere, only to jump away just before crashing into the ground is fabulous), passion, drama, etc. But within the larger plot - humanity tossing off its shackles - the episodes also feature some amazing intimate moments for individual characters. In particular, the scene where Lt Col Tigh, ever the loyal soldier, poisons his traitorous wife is just heart-breaking. It's a stunning scene of a man who has literally sacrificed everything - his eye, his career, his sobriety, his conscience, and now, the love of his life - for the good of humanity.

Things I hope for this season:
Well, you can't have everything you want, and I know that Battlestar isn't the type of show that is going to wrap everything up all nice and neat with a bow on top. I expect that some characters won't live to see the conclusion of this show. But if I could pick, here's what I'd like to have at the end:
  • Laura Roslin lives, somehow, and has at least some time to enjoy just being a couple with Bill Adama.
  • Gaius Baltar has one genuine moment of selflessness and/or gets his comeuppance in the end
  • We get a definite answer about the seemingly cyclical nature of time being hinted at in the show. HAVE the humans and Cylons actually done this dance before? Is Earth a myth, or the true origin of humanity (forgotten and/or reimagined in myth to be a lost 13th colony)?
  • We finally get an answer about what the fuck is up with the imaginary Six in Baltar's head (and the imaginary Baltar in Six's head for that matter).
  • I don't need a totally happy ending, but it'd be nice to see humanity survive somehow and thrive.


Updated to add this link to Wired's new article "Strong Women Steer Battlestar Glacatica's Final Voyage".
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Ilene Chaiken is smoking crack
Thursday, January 15, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
*Warning: Spoilers for The L Word contained in here*



Once upon a time, there was a lovely new show on Showtime that explored the lives and loves of a group of hot lesbians (along with one token hetero chick played by the awesome Pam Grier) in Los Angeles. The first season was a lot of fun. The two main plots were semi-realistic: Jenny was dealing with coming out and how to tell her fiancee about it, Bette and Tina were the established couple dealing with the drudgery of long term coupledom and impending parenthood. Erin Daniels (Dana) turned out to be a comic genius, and Jennifer Beals somehow managed to get hotter as a 40-something than she was as a 20-something back in her Flashdance days. Mia Kirshner generously bared her boobs and made out with Karina Lombard a LOT. All in all, it was good, soapy fun.

Tragically, the show never really captured the magic of that first season. The show needlessly split up fan-favorite couple Bette and Tina at the end of Season 1, spent all of Season 2 trying to get them back together, only to pull the couple apart again in Season 3. Despite Mia Kirshner's best efforts, Jenny's descent into madness (and obnoxiousness) turned most fans off the character. Other characters were introduced with varying degrees of success (I really hate Moira/Max, but some people seem to like her), and poor Erin Daniels was blind-sided when they decided to kill her character Dana in the 3rd season.

Now, moving into the final season of the show, apparently, the show has decided that they're going to kill off Jenny in the first episode, and treat the rest of the season as a flash back to how that came about. Yes, because what fans of the show really wanted to see was a murder mystery. WTF?

Now details are out about the spin-off show planned for one of the L Word characters. Apparently, Alice (Leisha Hailey) will be sent to jail on some crime related to the Jenny murder. Again, what? If Alice had something to do with Jenny's death, shouldn't she be getting a medal of appreciation from the city, not going to jail?
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Andy Richter Controls My Heart
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Thank you, Jesus and Flying Spaghetti Monster, for your divine intervention in finally shaking loose a DVD release of one of the funniest shows ever:


Andy Richter Controls the Universe released on DVD!
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NFL Playoffs breakdown
Monday, January 12, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
This post should really be entitled, "How 'bout them [insert team here]?" because boy, who would have predicted at the beginning of the year that it'd be Eagles/Cardinals and Steelers/Ravens to decide who was going to the Super Bowl?


Hold on to the damn ball! The old chestnut "Teams that turn the ball over too much tend to lose" is pretty much true, and we've seen exactly how turnovers made the difference in the first two rounds of playoff action. While there will be much gnashing of teeth about the non-delay of game call against the Ravens, really, the reason they lost was turnovers (well, and Chris Johnson's injury). The Ravens are turnover forcing machines, and they make you pay for every slightly mishandled or mis-thrown ball. They forced Chad Pennington into throwing 4 INTs the week before, when he had only thrown 6 picks all season. They stopped several Titans scoring drives by forcing turnovers in the red zone. On the flip side, even with a rookie QB at the helm, the offense hasn't coughed up the ball at all.

Similarly, the Cardinals remarkable post-season run continues largely because of the 6 turnovers they "forced" against the Carolina Panthers. I use quotes there, because watching that game, I'm not sure "force" is the correct word to use, since Jake Delhomme seemed to almost intentionally throw to the Arizona defenders. Credit goes to Arizona's defense for successfully catching all those balls, but boy howdy - what a display of poor judgment from Delhomme. Every single throw was the result of a bad decision - there wasn't one errantly tipped ball in the bunch.

Lesson: Be Yourself. While balance is important, teams need to remember what got them to the postseason in the first place. It's nice to see Arizona sporting more of a run game in the post season, but in the end, they still stuck with the Warner-Fitzgerald connection and burned the Panthers all day. Similarly, the Ravens have protected the ball on offense and made opportunistic takeaways on defense, and that has allowed them to win the close games. The Steelers are a running team that counts on tough play from the WR (Hines Ward specifically) and short passes in the red zone to the TE. The Eagles aren't as easy to define, but they will win or lose on their defense managing to put pressure on the opposing QB and Donovan McNabb being able to feel comfortable in the pocket.

Contrast that with the Panthers, who abandoned their running game way too early. The score was still close, but they inexplicably chose to throw even though Jake Delhomme was struggling and they had one of the hottest RBs in the game in DeAngelo Williams. At the same time, they forgot what kind of team the Cardinals were, since they apparently didn't feel they needed to double cover Larry Fitzgerald at all.

Preview: Eagles/Cardinals. Well, good news for you Eagles fans out there: at least two columnists at ESPN thinks the Eagles will destroy the Cards. Bad news for Eagles fans out there: the Cardinals are 7-2 at home and they're the riding a hot streak of their own right now. There's nothing more dangerous than a team that has nothing to lose. The Cards have a legitimate chip on their shoulder, having been picked to lose by, well... pretty much everyone. Look to the team who commits more turnovers to lose. my pick: Eagles

Preview: Steelers/Ravens. Two bitter divisional rivals enter, only one leaves. Both regular season matchups between these two were really close. The Steelers are playing great ball right now and they're healthy. The Ravens are in worse shape, especially after their brutal match against the Titans, so several key starters, including Terrell Suggs may be missing. However, it's really hard to beat the same team 3 times in one season, so don't rule out the Ravens just yet. If the defense can shut down Willie Parker, the Ravens have a shot at winning. Also, don't underestimate the effect weather may have on this game, particularly if it's very snowy. my pick: Steelers

**hilarious picture above stolen from espn.com
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Roland Burris - Wrong AND Right
Tuesday, January 06, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Today, Rod Blagojevich's nominee to fill Barack Obama's empty Senate seat for the state of Illinois, Roland Burris, was denied entry to the Senate. MSNBC has an article up on the scene that occurred this morning when Burris tried to enter the Senate to be sworn in with the rest of the incoming freshmen Senators.

Burris maintains his right to the nomination.
Burris dismissed the Senate Democratic leadership's position that he cannot be seated because he was appointed by a governor accused in a criminal complaint of trying to benefit financially from his authority to fill the seat that Obama vacated after winning the presidential election.

Burris said his belief is that his appointment is constitutional and that "I have no knowledge of where a secretary of state has veto power over a governor carrying out his constitutional duties."

Now, there's been a lot of back and forth about whether Harry Reid and the rest of the Senate Democrats can legally block this appointment. Paul Levinson has a great post up arguing that Reid cannot circumvent the legal process - that Blagojevich has technically only been accused of a crime, not convicted:
This is why we have laws in this country - to regulate how we proceed, rather than proceeding on the basis of what we think we know to be true. Harry Reid may think that Blagojevich is guilty, and Reid may be right. But the law has no provision for the exercise of these unproven thoughts, and until these charges are considered by a grand jury, in a court of law, and/or by the state government of Illinois for possible impeachment and trial, Reid should stop obstructing the law.
This is a true statement in my mind, in that from a non-emotional, strict reading of the law we must assume that Blago is innocent at this time, and therefore still entitled to the privileges and powers of the office he was duly elected to.

However, if we use common sense here, we can also see that there's arguing the letter of the law (the examples above), and there's arguing the spirit of the law. And the fact is, no appointee from Blago was going to be respected, because it's clear from tapes released that Blago had little interest appointing the best possible representative for the state of Illinois. I mean, let's take a look at the tapes' content, shall we?
ROD BLAGOJEVICH later stated, “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I’m saying. And if I don’t get what I want and I’m not satisfied with it, then I’ll just take the Senate seat myself.” Later, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that the Senate seat “is a fucking valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

[....]

Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if he appoints Senate Candidate 4 to the Senate seat and, thereafter, it appears that ROD BLAGOJEVICH might get impeached, he could “count on [Senate Candidate 4], if things got hot, to give [the Senate seat] up and let me parachute over there.” HARRIS said, “you can count on [Senate Candidate 4] to do that.”
Okay, so it's not just a matter of a governor convicted of a crime in a general sense, like perjury or perhaps obstruction of justice. No, Blago is under investigation specifically because he was tainting the selection process. He pretty clearly, in the tapes that were released, states his intention to put his own self-interest before what's best for the state.

I find it hard to argue that Blago can accurately represent the will of the people of Illinois, when he had an approval rating of only 4% in October 2008, before the scandal even broke. Also, as stated above, it's clear that there were several highly qualified candidates that were up for the post that Blago simply wasn't going to give a fair shake to. So to argue that Burris was a fair selection, when others weren't even allowed to be in the mix is horsecrap. The American people clearly don't buy this either, as a large majority said that the Senate should NOT seat Burris or any other selection made by Blago.

What really confuses me is what Burris is going to get out of all this. The man is 71, so surely he can't think he's going to use this post to further some kind of political ambition, can he? What more power can you crave at that age? I'm not sure how long he thinks he can serve in that seat at his age (doesn't he want to retire at some point?), and he was unwilling to make a concilliatory gesture by stating he wouldn't seek re-election in 2 years.

You could suggest that perhaps he wants a legacy to leave behind, but creating a spectacle your first day and derailing important conversation about how to really fix this country doesn't seem like a great way to set a positive legacy narrative.
Burris's antics ensured that he'll be the story of the day. He'd apparently rather hog the spotlight than make room for the greater good. It's completely unacceptable behavior from anyone who claims to care about the party and progressive legislation.
You could suggest that perhaps his own ego leads him to feel that he truly is the best person by far to serve in the position. That level of hubris is a bit extreme - on the other hand, he did name his son Roland Jr. and his daughter Rolanda, plus he made an insane monument to himself so.....

TPM has an article further detailing why Burris seems confused about why people would want to challenge his appointment. Again, looking at the arguments I've made above, I can only come to 1 of 2 conclusions: either he's a liar, or he's a moron. And really, aren't Americans sick of having to make that choice, when deciding how to perceive their leadership? Either he was incredibly naive when accepting the appointment, or he was well aware of how Blago was making the selection sheerly out of spite, and Burris just didn't care as long as he got what he wanted. In either case, is that really the mark of a man who's going to be a great senator?

I think not. You can argue all day about the technicalities of why the Senate has to accept the nomination. In fact Burris will likely get the appointment, it seems, at this point. However, to argue that it's the "right" thing to have happen.... I'm not sold at all.
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Things I Loved in 2008
Friday, January 02, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Well, 2008 has come and gone, which means it's time for the annual publishing of "Top 10 of the year" lists from all the regular sources. Looking at the Onion AV Club's Top 30 albums of the year list, I came to realize that I'm totally, tragically, un-hip. I haven't listened to more than 2-3 albums on that list. I also have a full time job and a social life, and therefore have not managed to consume 100% of the content released for any given pop culture genre. I haven't seen every movie released, or played every game.

So, rather than act like an expert on any given topic, instead I'm going to share with you things I loved this year, regardless of when they came out. It's a strictly personal series of Top 5-10 lists, but perhaps some of you may enjoy it (and even find an overlooked gem or two that you might want to check out for yourself). Here goes:

Top Video Games I Loved This Year
I usually don't buy games brand new. I usually just can't justify spending $60 for a game for the privilege of having it on launch day. I know that if I wait around 6-12 months, I can get the game for 50% off (or greater). So, several titles I have been playing the crap out of this year were actually released last year. Also - fyi, I own an Xbox 360, a gaming PC, and a Wii (that's been gathering dust for 6+ months now).
  1. Team Fortress 2. Not a new game to the video game world in general (it was released as part of Valve's amazing Orange Box last year), but new to me. I, like perhaps many people, had ignored TF2 in lieu of the more highly praised Portal and Half Life 2 series. But once I got around to exploring this little gem, I never left again. I've been playing consistently for over 8 months now, with plans to play well into the new year. I say this as a person who isn't generally interested in multiplayer games online.
  2. Mass Effect. I've spoken at length about why I love this game, so just go read the old posts, if you need a refresher on my opinions. Now I can't wait for ME2. I would totally wait in line to buy Mass Effect 2 the day it releases.
  3. Left 4 Dead. Again, I've raved about this game before. However, I violated my rule about buying full price games, only to see the title drop to $30 (from the $50 I paid) on Amazon a month after I bought my copy.
  4. Rock Band 2. I bought the Guitar Hero World Tour just for the instruments (guitar = A+, drums = A when they work and D- when they don't), and haven't played GH:WT since the first day I brought it home. Harmonix demonstrated yet again that they're such a saavy, fan-focused company by improving on 90% of user complaints from RB1, allowing users to port over all their songs from RB1 into RB2, and by continuing to release new song packs every single week.
  5. Bioshock. A brilliant game that won tons of Game of the Year honors when it was first released. I got it for Xmas last year and got into it in early 2008. Just amazing.
  6. Auditorium. Is this free flash game really a "game" or just an amazing artistic experience? I don't know, but boy, it's addictive not only as a puzzle, but as a music and visual generator.
  7. Texas Hold 'Em - Zune edition. This is awesome, because 1) it's free via the Zune marketplace, 2) well-designed, 3) utterly addictive.
Top Movies I Loved This Year
Unlike some other categories, such as music, books and video games, I do keep up on the movie scene from year to year. Here are the films I've seen this year that I really enjoyed. Also, please note that there are several films "released" in 2008 that I can't comment on, as they are only playing in enough theaters to qualify for Oscar noms.
  1. Iron Man. I'm not a huge Robert Downey Jr. fan, but the man was born to play arrogant playboy Tony Stark. A fantastic superhero movie, with Jon Favreau rewarding comic book fans by taking the radical step (*gasp!*) of actually respecting the source material. The clever dialogue popped effortlessly, and the special effects were amazing - I felt like I was really watching a guy fly around in a suit, not some computer generated bot.
  2. The Dark Knight. Though I felt the movie had its flaws, there's no denying that Heath Ledger's performance took The Joker in directions few could have imagined, thus forever defining the role (and making it near impossible to ever cast another actor in the role).
  3. Wall-E. Is there anything Pixar CAN'T do?
  4. Cloverfield. Okay, so the camera work made me want to barf. And some sections suffered from "BlairWitch-itis" where the characters get a little too shrill for a little too long. However, you can't deny that that was one awesome monster. It was also a better 9/11 movie than any "official" 9/11 tale released since that fateful day, truly capturing the sheer terror citizens must have felt.
  5. Bigger, Stronger, Faster*. A hypnotic look at steroids from all sides of the argument. The filmmaker has two brothers who use steroids, yet resists the temptation to either endorse or condemn their stance.
  6. Zak and Miri Make A Porno. This choice will probably be criticized, and most people rank comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall higher. However, this is the one comedy that really sticks with me, and joins "Chasing Amy" in my list of favorite Kevin Smith films. It's not for everyone (it's unbelievably vulgar), but there's a lot of heart in this one.
  7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army. I love Ron Perlman, who brings humor and heart to everyone's favorite demonic red guy.
  8. Role Models. I don't approve of people putting random apostrophes in their children's names, but Bob'be Thompson is a young star who steals this movie out from underneath his 3 co-stars.
Movies I still need to see that might make this list: Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Gran Torino, Milk, Doubt (I loved the play version, so if it's even 80% as good as that, consider this movie on the list for sure), Revolutionary Road.

Shows I Loved This Year
Yes, yes, I know that Lost has apparently had a good run of it, but I'm just not going to bite, so don't email me about how great it was this year.
  1. 30 Rock. I f'ing love this show. Hands down, this is the show I look forward to the most each week. When it's not airing new episodes, I'm more than happy to rewatch old episodes over and over again. I could write a whole post about all the things I love about this show, but really - why isn't every single person in America watching this fantastic show? If you somehow missed the boat, check out the episode "Rosemary's Baby" for sheer comic perfection.
  2. Battlestar Galactica. While not quite as soulful and shocking as Season 3, Season 4 was still chock full of goodness. If you didn't squee and/or tear up at the reunion of Admiral Adama and President Roslin, you have a heart of stone. When they look back at the annals of TV history, and decide the largest crimes against TV, the total lack of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for this breathtaking drama will rank at the top of that list.
  3. Damages. Now THAT'S how you do a serial-drama right. Even though we were shown the "ending" within the pilot episode, this tense thriller kept you guessing right up to the explosive finale. Glenn Close was spellbinding as cut-throat Patty Hewes, crafting a portrait of a determined, powerful and relentless woman, while still giving her enough soft edges and surprising moments of vulnerability to keep her from being a one-note villian. Plus, we got to see Ted Danson banging a prostitute while snorting coke, which was just insane to watch.
  4. Mad Men. Again, there's not enough adjectives in the world to express how incredible this show is. Some of our favorite secondary characters got some great fleshing out this year, particularly poor closeted Salvatore. It was also the year of the woman, with the 3 female leads all getting great material to work with. The last episode left us screaming for more, particularly the Peggy/Pete scene at the end. Tragically, we have to wait for what feels like an eternity to get to next season.
  5. True Blood. There were some clunky moments (and clunky accents) in this, but boy was this a fun show to watch.
  6. Dexter. The season started slow, but paid off big in the end, with Jimmy Smits really acting the crap out of his guest starring spot.
  7. The Office. Like most people, I hated that they kept Jim and Pam apart this season. However, the on-going Andy/Dwight/Angela triangle has been comic (and dramatic) gold this season. The showrunners may have shot themselves in the foot by bringing on Amy Ryan as Michael's new love interest, since she was so fantastic in the role, fans are now at a frenzy to have her return. Is Amy Ryan's star too bright for her to accept a permanent role in the show? I hope not, because I too will be forced to riot if Holly doesn't come back to Scranton soon.
  8. Venture Brothers. This Hanna Barbara cartoon parody is hilarious. This season we got some nifty backstories for our main characters, plus Brock Samson decapitating a henchman using a shark. A shark wearing an aloha shirt. Yeah. If you can roll with that image, you're gonna love this show too.
  9. Pushing Daisies. Goddamn you, ABC network execs, for killing this wonderful show.
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