Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Teebore's 5 Favorite Christmas Episodes

Not to be confused with Christmas specials, "very special" Christmas episodes have long been a tradition for TV shows, teaching viewers young and old all kinds of important lessons, like when DJ and Stephanie were stranded at an airport and learned that Christmas isn't just about getting presents, or when Blair learned that convicts are people too, or when Zack and the gang learned that not all homeless people are scraggly bums; sometimes they're attractive blond girls.

Here are five of my favorite Christmas episodes from five of my favorite shows, in no particular order:

Amends (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): From Buffy's third season, this loose adaptation of the Dickens Christmas classic finds a recently-returned from hell Angel haunted by visions of his past victims, created, unknownst to him, by the First Evil in an attempt to remove Angel from the scene by leading him to suicide. Angel, ultimately deciding he deserves to die, resolves to watch the sunrise and not even Buffy can talk him out of it. He is spared by a mysterious and unseasonable snowfall that blocks out the sun and he realizes that, perhaps, he can atone for his past evils, a revelation that puts him on the path he walks in his own series.

Lesson Learned: Try not to caught in the middle of a battle between two opposing and powerful forces, especially around the holidays.

Afternoon Delight (Arrested Development): Michael, feeling ignored by George Michael, and Maeby, feeling abandoned by her mother, decide to attended the Bluth Company Christmas party together, where they proceed to stick an assortment of candy to G.O.B's suit (he's paranoid that kids will put their sticky fingers all over the expensive suit he's been boasting about) before hoping on stage to perform a karaoke version of "Afternoon Delight". Lindsey and George Michael, seeing Michael and Maeby having such a good time together, leave before Michael realizes that Afternoon Delight isn't the best song to be singing with his niece. So at a second Bluth Company Christmas party later that day (long story), Lindsey and George Michael decide to get back at Maeby and Michael by doing their own rendition of Afternoon Delight...before they, too, realize the adult nature hiding behind the song's innocent melody.

Lesson Learned: Be careful about with whom you sing Afternoon Delight.

Woodland Critter Christmas (South Park): South Park has a long tradition of Christmas episodes, most famously the introduction of Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo. But my favorite is their most recent one, the Woodland Critter Christmas. Done in the tone and narrative style (complete with rhyming narration) common to storybooks and the stop-motion Rankin-Bass classics, Stan, "the boy in a red poof-ball hat", helps a group of cuddly, wide-eyed woodland critters bring about the birth of their messiah, even going so far as to slay a moutain lion that devours the Critters' savior every Christmas.

Of course, it turns out that beneath their cuddly cuteness, the critters are vicious, orgiastic psychopaths, their messiah is actually the anti-Christ destined to bring about the Apocalypse, the moutain lion Stan slew was the only creature capable of killing the anti-Christ, and that the lion's death left behind three orphaned cubs, which Stan proceeds to reluctantly take to an abortion clinic so they can learn how to perform an abortion to kill the anti-Christ in-utero.

Hilarity ensues, and by the end, Santa decimates the Critters with a shotgun, Kyle gets possesed by the anti-Christ and freed by a lion-cub abortion performed on his anus, and all is revealed as a Christmas story written for class by Cartman.

Lesson Learned: Beware woodland critters. Especially cute ones.

A Tale of Two Santas (Futurama): This second tale of the future's evil Robot Santa features Bender taking his place and getting put on death row for Santa's crimes, culminating in Dr. Zoidberg dressing up as Santa's friend Jesus in an attempt to clear Bender's name. It also features Santa's hilarious, inebriated, short-shorts wearing Neptunian "elves" and Coolio as the voice of Kwaanzabot.

Lesson Learned: A family huddled together in fear at Christmas is still a family together at Christmas.

The Grift of the Magi (The Simpsons): I went back and forth on this one, reluctant to proclaim "Grift" my favorite Simpson's Christmas episode when it's really only a Christmas episode for the last third, but, well...that last third is funnier than the entireity of most other Christmas eps, what with Gary Coleman and Homer stealing the town's Funzos and the ending narration in which Mr. Burns gets visited by three ghosts and Moe replaces his head in the oven with a plump Christmas goose after seeing the world had he never been born.

Lesson Learned: Gary Coleman knows EXACTLY what you're talking about...

Other Simpsons Christmas episode contenders:

Marge Be Not Proud: In which Bart gets caught stealing the videogame Bonestorm, was originally going to be crowned my favorite, but upon re-watching it recently, I found it...kinda boring.
Miracle on Evergreen Terrace: After accidentally destroying the tree and all their presents, Bart pretends a burglar stole the family's Christmas and the townspeople respond by giving them $15,000 which is spent on a new car that gets destroyed shortly thereafter, so that when the townspeople find out the truth, they retake their donations by pillaging the Simpson's house. Not without its fair share of laughs, but ultimately a little too depressing to be my favorite.
Skinner's Sense of Snow: This episode finds the children trapped inside the school with Principal Skinner during a blizzard and is considered a Christmas episode, but aside from taking place around Christmas time, it really isn't.
'Tis the Fifteenth Season: A fairly solid Christmas episode in which Homer, after watching Mr. Magrew's Christmas Carol, is motivated to change his selfish ways and starts competing with Flanders for the title of "nicest guy in town," culminating in Homer stealing all the townspeople's gifts, intent on destroying them, Grinch-style, in order to free them from their desires. Funny and well done, I was pleasantly surprised upon re-watching this one. However, I remain reluctant to call any episode this recent the best Simpsons anything. Perhaps in a few years...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Heroes 3x13: Duel

Villain: Where'd Meredith come from?
I'm not one to begrudge a Meredith appearance, but just like her disappearance a few episodes ago, her reappearance here had me paying more attention to questions like "where'd she come from?/where has she been?/how does she know what's going on?" instead of the episode itself.

Hero: Knox and Flint changing sides
It made sense that not all of Arthur's goons were on board with the whole "save the world by giving everyone a power" plan (especially Flint), and that with Arthur (and his power) removed from the scene, they would finally be able to act upon their opposition.

(Of course, it would have been nice if Knox and Flint's objections to Arthur's plan was foreshadowed in some way beyond their hallway-glowering last episode, and it also begs the question of why, when the eclipse had robbed everyone of their powers, Knox and Flint, two strong and healthy men, didn't use the opportunity to move against Arthur, a frail and elderly man).

Hero: Knox snapping the marine's neck
Don't ask me why, but I chortled with glee when Knox nonchalantly snapped Nathan's gung-ho, super-strong GI Joe's neck.

Hero: HRG thinking his way out of Sylar's trap
Mrs. Teebore thinks he should have come up with it sooner, but it was cool to see Bennet think his way out Sylar's "no-win" situation by using the resources available to him.

Back in the first season, Dr. Bitz and I thought it would be cool if Mohinder became a sort of powerless Professor X to the characters, showing them how to best use their powers. Obviously, that didn't happen, and probably never will (what with Mohinder being a moron and the writers determined to NOT have the characters work together for any length of time) but this scene had me thinking that Bennet would make a pretty cool mentor along those lines to some of the characters as well.

Hero: Hiro (slightly) redeems himself
After starting this whole mess by stupidly opening the safe he was specifically instructed not to open and allowing his half of the formula to get stolen, and continuing to bumble his way through the rest of the story, culminating in his losing the catalyst without putting up much of a fight, a powerless Hiro resolves to make amends. Kudos to the writers for at least realizing the character SHOULD feel like he's screwed up. And it was pretty funny when he layed out Tracy with one punch to the nose and absconded with the formula.

(One has to wonder if no one at Pinehearst thought to ever make a copy of the formula, making Hiro's tearing it up kinda pointless, but considering the catalyst died with Arthur, thus making the paper formula kinda messy to use, and the the fact that the writers seem to already be treating Volume 3 like they do Season 2 (that is, completely denying its existence and attempting to wipe any vestiges of it off the map), I'm going to guess we're just supposed to think that, yes, everyone at Pinehearst was a moron or too busy Xeroxing their asses to make a copy of the formula, and we'll never see or hear from it again).

Hero: Claire taking out Sylar
Sylar stalking Claire and her extended family in an attempt to make Claire like him was a nifty parallel to the first episode of the volume, in which Sylar stalked Claire in her house in an attempt to make himself more like her. Which made the reversal of that episode's outcome in this episode, when Claire uses her own vulnerable spot against Sylar, all the more enjoyable.

I'm sure the writers view that event as a culmination of Claire's character development over the course of the volume (going from scared victim to capable defender) but it's really not; like many characters this volume, Claire rode the character development merry-go-round far too often to experience any definitive development in the course of the story. But I hold out hope that the character work suggested by this event will be on display in the next volume, even if it was never properly shored up in this one.

Villain: Meredith's death
I have nothing against Meredith dying, in principle, but it was lacking in execution. Mainly because the moment when Claire declares her love for her birth mom wasn't nearly as heartfelt or meaninful as I'm sure it was intended to be.

We know so little about Meredith and her relationship with Claire, we're left wondering whether or not Meredith even cared about Claire's declaration. Was that something Meredith had been longing to hear? Did she die pleased that she had an opportunity to reconnect with the daughter she thought she'd lost? Or was protecting Claire this volume just another job for her (remember, back in season one she used Claire's reappearance in her life to get more hush money out of Nathan)?

The answers to those questions provide the context necessary to make Meredith's last moments in any way meaningful; instead, we're just left thinking another character was killed because this is the end of a story arc and its expected. And, with Meredith's death, we're also left wondering whether those questions will ever get answered, or if, while running from the government next volume, Claire will ever be given the opportunity to deal with this loss and decide what her birth mom meant to her.

Villain: The companies burning
Burning the headquarters of both Primatech and Pinehearst in the final episode of the volume was a blatant symbol that, as far as the creators are concerned, next volume is a whole new ballgame. Which, in theory, is fine, except that I'm worried that many of the answers to questions pertaining to Primatech and the Elder Heroes, questions gone unanswered too long that are vital to the show's mythology, may have gone up in smoke along with Primatech itself. Hopefully the critical backstory of the show won't get thrown out in volume four as the writers desperately try to deliver on their promises of improvement.

Villain: No big battle
Once again, Heroes fails to deliver on its inherent promise of showing us super-powered good guys wailing on super-powered bad guys for the fate of the world. Implicitly suggested by this volume's premise of two super-powered companies facing off and explicitly promised in the episode "It's Coming," the showdown between Primatech and Pinehearst never really happened. What little powers-on-powers action we got in the finale was limited to minor skirmishes between two characters (for example, Knox throwing Nathan around before getting frozen from behind by Tracy wasn't the battle royale for which I was hoping).

Villain: Some really dodgy effects work
Usually I don't pay much attention to the effects. When they work, I enjoy them and when they don't, I tend to subconsciously overlook all but the most obvious strings in today's effects. It usually takes both really obvious and really bad effects work to make me notice the man behind the curtain. Every episode of Heroes features a TON of effects and for the most part, they are seamless and well done.

However, for whatever reason, something was off this episode. First, when Claire dove through the window of the cell where Bennet and Meredith were, it almost looked like the image skipped a bit at the point where the prop glass was removed and the CGI glass was inserted. Later, when Bennet and Claire were fleeing Primatech as it exploded, the shot of the hallway exploding behind them was B-movie laughable.

Villain: Nathan's motivation
I know the ending with Nathan ousting his family and friends to President Worf was merely a teaser to setup the next volume, but hopefully some time will be spent exploring the motivation behind Nathan's shift from "I want to make the world a better place by creating a super-powered army" to "I want to make the world a better place by locking up anyone with a super power in a concentration camp." I get that the formula is gone, and with it the means to enact his former plan, but I don't follow how that automatically leads him to the second one.

In the end, this was an enjoyable yet unspectacular and disappointing end to a volume characterized by a series of cool moments strung together by a plot suffering from a lack of focus and explanation along with wildly inconsistent characters. I am excited for the next volume, simply because it does look different.

This volume it became apparent that the show the writers want to write (how people deal with having powers) is vastly different from the show the audience wants to see (people with powers, you know, using their powers to fight other people). If the writers don't want to write that kind of show, fine, but thus far they've been incapable of coming up with a plot that doesn't demand some kind of overt conflict to resolve itself, a conflict they've always failed to deliver, even back in the rose-colored first season (remember how crappy the final fight in Kirby Plaza actually was?).

Fugitives, at least from what I've heard, is at least different from the "good guys try to stop the bad guys from destroying the world" plots the writers seem unwilling or incapable of executing properly. It may very well fall short too, but at least it won't fall short for failing to deliver something inherently promised by its premise.

Of course, everything is in the execution; no matter how good the idea, if executed poorly, it won't be very good. If the writers simply move on to the next volume and bring along the plot holes, characters inexplicably behaving differently from one episode to the next, and general lack of focus on display in this volume, it won't matter how fresh and different the plot of Fugitives is: it will simply be more of the same.

Heroes has a ton of potential to be a truly awesome show, and much of my frustration with it stems from the fact that it seems so easy to realize that potential that I can't fathom why it isn't awesome already. However, I remain hopeful that Fugitives will be a step in the right direction, and address some of this volume's wrongs. Perhaps my hope is foolish; after all, the Heroes creative team's plaintive assurances that they'll get it right in the next volume are starting to sound a bit like the boy who cried wolf.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Working the Poll

Well, according to the majority, Marty McFly is the most likely candidate to have to go back in time and a kill a person to prevent a future apocalypse. I think you're all missing the boat Barack Obama, but that's just one man's opinion.
I bet Barack would do his killing with a silent stoicism that portrays the gravity and necessity of the situation instead of a scene playing out like this:

Marty: "Geeze, Doc, I can't believe I just killed a guy!"
Doc: "Great Scott, Marty! What you've done is unforgivable. But I suppose you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Unless it's with my new invention! The auto-omlettifyer! But to make it work, you need high grade nitro-glycerin.
Marty: "Geeze, Doc, we better find that nitro-glycerin. I'm craving some omelettes. But first, let's pour some manure on this dead guy!"
Doc: "F*$% YEAH!!!!"

Anyway, it's time for a new poll, and I think this picture speaks for itself:

In case your wondering, Mrs. Dr. Bitz FORCES me to watch Top Chef. It ain't voluntary. But that picture is all I can think of when I watch it...

Voting to your left!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Teebore's 5 Favorite Gifts from Childhood Christmases Past

The Eborsisk: When the movie Willow came out, I was mildly obsessed with it for awhile. And for me, as a kid, "obsessed" more or less meant "wanted any and all merchandise associated with the film, especially the toys."

Unfortunately, the Willow toys were pretty lame: they weren't poseable, at all, and they all came fastened to these metal bases from which I inevitably removed them forcibly in an attempt to make them more "action figure-y" and less "hunks of plastic."

But the crown jewel of the Willow figures, as far as I was concerned, was the Eborsisk, the two-headed dragon Madmartigan fights in Tir Asleen (reportedly named for Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel). I received it Christmas morning of 1988 (or maybe '89). It was in-scale to the other "toys" in the line and was actually poseable. Plus, it was just the right size to crossover and double as a twisted experiment of Cobra amongst my GI Joe figures.

Voltron: Good ol' Voltron, Defender of the Universe. The highlight of Christmas '86 this version was made by Panosh Place as part of their Voltron action figure line. It was actually a set of all five lions (Yellow, Blue, Red, Green, and Black..."and I'll form the head!") that snapped together to form Voltron AND were sized such that the Voltron Force pilots could fit inside their respective lions.

Of course, the set also came with a not-quite Blazing Sword and other Robobeast-smashing accessories.

She-Ra: Yeah, yeah, make all the gay cracks about lil'Teebore playing with dolls you want*, the fact remains that She-Ra was He-Man's sister which meant, despite the rooted-hair and comb accessory, 6-year old Teebore HAD to have this figure.

But what cements She-Ra's place on this list is the fact that I received She-Ra and (*sigh*) from Santa Claus himself, who chose to make a personal appearance at my house in Sharon, Pennsylvania that Christmas for reasons unknown (but presumably because I had been such a good boy that year). Of course, it was too bad that my Grandpa chose that moment to step out and missed meeting Saint Nick himself...

*in my defense, though I didn't really think about it at the time, She-Ra is pretty hot.

Trypticon: It is a well-documentated fact that transforming robots are awesome. But a transforming robot that's also a dinosaur? That's even awesomer, especially for a kid who LOVED dinosaurs almost as much as transforming robots.

Trypticon is the Decepticon's evil base, and as his name suggests, could transform from a dinosaur to a city to a battle-station-ready city. He could even walk on his own, thanks to a couple of batteries in his tail.

Of course, being a transforming city, he should really be much, much larger, but the Transformer toys have always had issues with scale (something that bothered even lil'Teebore).

However, the fact remains, opening a present to reveal a transforming robot dinosaur makes for one hell of a good Christmas, no matter how old you are.

Cobra Terror Drome: For a GI Joe fan in the Christmas of 1988 (especially one, like me, who found Cobra much cooler than GI Joe itself), the Terror Drome was the holy grail of toys.

Check out Dial-Tone in Cobra jail like a chump.

It came with a sweet little jet (the Firebat) that launched from the center of the base, and had all kinds of fun things, like a jail for pesky GI Joes, a refueling station and really big guns.

I love that the box points out the "reclining chairs" as one of the toy's features.

Needless to say, this is one Christmas present that became the centerpiece of many a GI Joe adventure, and was played with until long after it fell apart.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Heroes 3x12: Our Father

Hero: Elle's funeral
I like that the writers took the time to confirm that Sylar killed Elle, even showing us the body. Whether you loved that she was killed or hated it, at least we can all agree she is, indeed dead, and that the only way she'll be back is in flashbacks or alternate timelines (or a full-on, deliberate resurrection).

Hero: No time lost on Peter and the Haitian's journey
Having Peter and the Haitian just show up in Ma Petrelli's office, saving the audience a belabored sequence in which they go to the embassy, get put on a plane, etc., was much appreciated. Sometimes its okay to just let us connect the dots ourselves.

Villain: Ma Petrelli's causal discussion of attempting to murder Arthur
This is a minor nitpick, as the line was clearly written to remind the, in the writers' minds, apparently, numerous idiot-viewers that Ma Petrelli tried to kill Arthur, but the casual way she shared that info with Peter bothered me. It should have been new info to Peter since, as far as I can recall, she's never told him that before so a bit of reaction from him would have been nice. Also, considering that Arthur believed that info was so dangerous he had to wipe it from Hiro's memory, perhaps Ma Petrelli shouldn't be flinging it around so casually.

Hero: Sylar's new power
While it was ridiculously convenient that Sylar had the name and location of a person with the specific power he needed on his cell phone, I'll give the show a pass on that since, with all the lying that goes on, this was definitely a power Sylar needed to acquire.

I still haven't decided how I feel about Sylar's return to his serial killer ways. On the one hand, I enjoyed seeing him back in season one form, as I've always believed he works best as a villain. On the other hand, I'm still pissed that, however misconceived it was, the entire "redemption" arc was a great big waste of time, especially since Sylar NOT being a Petrelli makes a lot of dialogue earlier in the volume almost nonsensical.

I guess I'm witholding my final verdict until Sylar hooks Ma Petrelli up to his new lie detector; after all, he knows Arthur isn't his father, but that doesn't mean Angela couldn't still be his mother. She was something of a randy minx back in the day, as at the very least we know she had an affair with Kaito.

Villain: Yet another quest
Much like Peter and the Haitian's journey, I'm glad Matt and CO's quest to find Isaac's last sketchbook was relatively abbreivated. Yet once again, they accomplish one goal just to set off on another RPG-like quest. Find Hiro-Find Daphne-Get our powers back-Find Isaac's Last Sketchbook-Find the Formula. Enough already!

Hero: Hiro's mom
The scene in which ten-year old Hiro is healed by his mother and confirms for her that her faith in him is manifested in the man he's become that she never go to know was brilliant. It was easily the best scene Hiro has been in all season. It is another deeply affecting moment for the character (like the deaths of Charlie and his father and his defeat of Adam) that makes the buffoonish attempts at comic relief the writers usually put him through all the more sad and pathetic.

Villain: Arthur's visit to the past
Unlike Peter and the Haitian, here's a place where I would have preferred the show connect the dots for me. I can easily surmise that Arthur drew a sketch that showed him Claire and Hiro in the past mucking around with the catalyst (after all, Isaac drew it with his powers) but a brief scene showing the audience that would have been better than my surmising. Also, if Arthur's had time traveling abilities this whole time...yeesh. That just opens up a whole can of worms. I don't even want to think about it.

Villain: Hiro biffs it again
It would have been nice if Hiro could have put up more of a fight against Arthur. I'm getting really sick of Hiro getting pwned every time his story seems to be on the right track. After getting his memory back, sharing a powerful moment with his mom in which he proved her faith in him and receiving the catalyst, he's back to being a chump moments later. In the span of one scene he goes from quiet gravitas as he emerges onto the roof to comically crying for help as he dangles from a pole.

Hero: Peter took the shot
He took his sweet-ass time doing it, but I'm glad Peter finally did shoot Arthur, especially since I would have bet cash money he'd wuss out at the last minute. The jury is still out regarding how I feel about Arthur's death, however (see below).

Villain: Still no clarification regarding the formula or how it destroys the world
On the one hand, Arthur was WAY too powerful a villain for this show where the Heroes so rarely work together (especially if he could time travel on top of everything else) so I'm not shedding any tears over his loss.

On the other hand, the main villain of the volume is dead, presumably, and we don't know a DAMN THING ABOUT HIM, HIS PLANS OR HIS MOTIVATIONS. We know he's evil (he wanted his son killed) but we also know he tells people he's making the world better by using the formula.

But is that his ultimate plan? Or does he want to cause the apocalypse? Is he an evil man doing good? Or an evil man PRETENDING to do good? He believes a super-powered army will save the world? Okay, how exactly? The Heroes believe his super-powered army will destroy the world. Again, how exactly?

And how does the formula work? Do they have any control over the type of power the subject gets? Is this the same formula that gave Nathan, Tracy and other synthetics their powers, or is this a better one?

We're now one episode removed from the end of the volume, and we still don't know the specifics of the villain's plan, both in terms of intention and execution, the volume's Macguffin, or the very threat the heroes are trying to prevent. It's possible all that will be revealed in the last episode, but I doubt it, especially with the orchestrator of that plan dead.

Villain: Lame cliffhanger
Again, a minor nitpick, but when my DVR recording stopped and I had to switch to my recording of My Own Worst Enemy to catch the last few moments of Heroes because it ran long, I was excited, because I figured there had to be one more good cliffhanger-y moment after the scene with the earnest GI Joe getting his power. After all, the penultimate episode of the volume wouldn't end with as lame a cliffhanger as "look, the still-vague formula works in a still-unexplained way! It gave some dude we just met super-strength!" Needless to say, I figured wrong.

Hero: Thematic focus
This episode was a marked improvement over the last couple. Why? As Dr. Bitz said, focus. For all the disparate plot elements and time periods, the focus of this episode was the relationship between children and their parents. Sylar's determination to learn the truth of his parentage, Nathan joining his father, Peter trying to kill him, Claire saving herself by inspiring her father's first act of rebellion against the company, Hiro getting healed by his mother and sharing a moment they never had. Everything else that happened in the episode happened in service of those plots, which were all connected by the common theme. A little focus goes a long way towards making the episode seem whole, and not just a jumble of random events.

All in all, this was better. Really. Not great...but...good. An improvement on last episode's catastrophe, at least. As an episode, it was strong, and the major flaws within it were endemic to the entire volume (Sylar's on again/off again redemption, a lack of clarity regarding the formula, Arthur's motivations and how exactly his scheme leads to apocalypse, the constant humbling of Hiro and the need to push various characters off on constant RPG-like quests). The strength of this episode offers hope that while the volume as a whole is weak sauce, it will at least go out with a bang and a strong finish next week.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quick Hits by Dr. Bitz

Visanthe's Shiancoe - First of all, this story is hilarious to me. From the fact the network producer completely missed this before putting it on the air to the fact that Childress appears to be sneaking a peak to the fact that Visanthe Shiancoe asked "How'd it look?" to a female reporter (My personal favorite part of the story).
The interesting thing is that I was at a football party that Sunday and after the Vikings won we stayed on Fox for a while until I decided to switch to another channel. Just as I was switching the channel I saw that Fox was showing the Vikings locker room, but the channel changed and I didn't bother to change it back. I'm still trying to decide if this was a good thing or a bad thing. Seeing the event unfold, so to speak, would have lead to some interesting conversation. And probably some insecurities among the guys. Except me...of course...because I got nothing to be ashamed

God bless America...and you best be acknowledging it! - I think we all know how I personally feel about that story. But it really does seem stupid to me. This isn't some motto for the Department of Homeland Security, like "In God We Trust", this a law that says the 'duty' of the Department of Homeland Security is to acknowledge God.
So basically, it's saying that in Kentucky, if you work for the Department of Homeland Security, a government job, you MUST acknowledge God's role in protecting the US. The first question is, of course, "Which God?" But secondly, isn't this a clear violation of the separation of church of state?

Politics as Usual? - Alright, call me naive, but I never thought I'd see in my lifetime a politician THIS corrupt holding any sort of high office. It's not just one bad thing he did, it's a myriad of absolutely appalling behavior. But what's really bothering me is trying to decide who Rod Blagojevich looks like. I'm thinking a cross between Christopher Reeves and an older Christian Bale...
By the way, this is the list of the last 3 governors of Illinois: Rod Blagojevich (Accused of auctioning off a Senate seat, amongst other things, and will soon to be serving time in prison), George Ryan (currently serving time in prison for illegally selling government licenses, contracts, and leases), Jim Edgar (tried to declare an "L. Ron Hubbard Day" and thus SHOULD be serving time for that in prison). Way to go, Illinois.

Dr. Bitz is no Peter Pan - Well, two things I never wanted to happen are happening. First, I'm growing old. Second, I'm becoming a shameless profiteer. Thus, if you click on that link you'll see me selling some of precious, precious toys. Only 3 things are up there right now, and feel free to bid, but more is to come so check back often...if you like Soon I will be selling such awesome things as Star Wars miniature figurines with exclusive Boba Fett or skateboarding Dragon Ball Z characters. Of course, I haven't grown up too much since I'm still keeping some of my toys...mostly of a giant robot persuasion.
My favorite toy in the current things for auction has to be the 'Trasformer Ambulance Auto Robot'. It's a cheap Mexican knock off I got duped into buying when an Ebay seller pawned it off as an actual Ratchet. Bastard. But the packaging is pretty hilarious...trasformer...hehehehe.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Retro Review: Grift of the Magi

AKA: Springfield Elementary is bought out by a toy company that uses it for market research, culminating in the creation of Funzo...or the episode where Gary Coleman is a few prawns short of a galaxy.

The Setup: Bart breaks his "butt bone", putting him into a wheel chair which leads to the school bankrupting itself by attempting to become wheelchair-accessible.

Favorite Lines:

Lisa: Principal Skinner, I though public schools were required to have access ramps for the disabled.
Skinner: Technically, ues, but the building costs would be astronomical.
Fat Tony: Did I hear the word "astronomical"? If so, my construction outfit "Valdezzo Brothers Olive Oil" is poised to help.
Skinner: No, no, no, no. We're not building anything.
Fat Tony: How can you say that when construction has already begun?
Skinner: How did those trucks get here so fast?!
Fat Tony: In order to avoid certain legal complications, the trucks are always rolling.

Skinner: This is a proud day. Now when people ask if we're in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1975, I can say we are closer than ever before!

Krusty: Well, folks, that's the end of Krusty's nondenominational holiday funfest. I want to thank my guests: Tea Leoni, Beck, the Dixie Chicks, ... and Patrick Ewing as the genie. So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-yop Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. Now a word from *my* god: our sponsor.

Homer: So, who am I beating up?
Lisa: Nobody. You're just gonna break into everyone's house and steal their favorite toy.
Bart: Thus saving Christmas.
Homer: Now, let's see...this'll make three Christmases I saved versus eight I ruined...two were kind of a draw...

Bart: Just dump 'em in the fire, Dad.
Lisa: Yes, the madness ends here.
Homer: Ha! If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that.

Teebore's Take: Ostensibly a Christmas episode (though that doesn't really become clear until the third act; it did at least originally air in December) this is my favorite episode of the season so far. It's solid and consistent with funny bits throughout, a good use of guest stars (Tim Robbins as Jim, the toy company exec and Gary Coleman as himself-sorta), and a solid Bart/Lisa story with a dash of non-Jerk-ass Homer thrown in. Plus, it still finds time, amongst the gags, to satirize the frenzied Christmas shopping season in general and the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze and its ilk specifically.


The mob's breadstick wheelchair ramps and the subsequent closing of the school are pretty unrealistic, as is Funzo himself, who is far too advanced for a children's toy, as well as Homer's burglary of his neighbors, but coming in an otherwise funny and satirical episode, that zaniness doesn't seem as egregious.

Jerk-ass Homer:

After inadvertently causing Bart's accident, Homer is pretty quiet until the third act, when he shows up to help Bart and Lisa save Christmas.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Heroes Need a Hero

I've watched Heroes since the first episode. I have yet to miss an episode. I enjoyed the first season, even though it had a slow start and a lack-luster ending. The second season was OK, murderous, comic book stealing thugs asside. And Season 3...well...the outlook isn't good.

Teebore and I have been discussing Heroes quite a lot lately, and we rarely say good things about it. And if we do say something good about it it's generally followed by a "but." Which is sad because the show has a good premise, good special effects, and great acting. Basically, it's just the writing that is hurting the show.

I could go on and knitpick this and that. I could talk about the plot holes, lack of continuity, stupidity of the character decisions, ambiguous powers, ambiguous motives, dramatic mood swings of characters, inconsistency in character development, and times when characters simply act completely out of character. I could go on and on about it, but I only have so much time. But really, the issues that Heroes has can be boiled down into one singular problem, a lack of focus.

A lack of focus infects everything about this show. You're never quite clear about what the motives of each character are. You're never quite clear where the characters are headed or why. As soon as a character decides to do something, they are usually immediately side tracked so many times you forget what the heck they were trying to.

Example: Matt Parkman and Daphne are tasked with finding Hiro Nakamura and bring them back to the Company. Matt and Daphne are looking up phone numbers when Hiro and Ando show up at their front door. Seems convenient enough. Daphne freaks out (again) and disappears to Kansas. Matt has to get Hiro, who's a mental 10-year-old, to transport them to Kansas. Hiro does. Matt tries to talk to Daphne, but an eclipse occur taking away their power. Matt, with the help of Hiro, ends up talking to Daphne while Ando and Hiro go to the comic book shop to explore how to get their powers back. Hiro sees the life he forgot in a 9th Wonder Comic and freaks out. Seth Green helps Hiro through it. Hiro discovers he needs to take Claire into the past. The eclipse ends. Hiro takes Claire into the past. What the heck were we supposed to do in the first place?

I'm not trying to say side tracks are necessarily a bad thing, sometimes, but it seems a hero can't do anything without going off on 10 different tangents. It comes off as bad writing. It looks as if the writers don't know what they want their characters doing so they just have them do something different every episode.

Season One was much acclaimed and I think it's no coincidence that Season One also had the most focus. The plot began relatively simple. Ordinary people find out they have extraordinary powers, learn to use them, see an impending doom and decide to stop them. Meanwhile, a Company tries to round up and track these super powered beings.

Sounds simple enough, but I should stress that people look at Season One with rose-colored glasses. Everyone likes the first season because they remember the episodes that built up to the climax. Everyone remembers all the episodes that were focused with the characters learning to accept their powers and coming together to fight for a common cause.

What people forget is that even at the end of Season One, focus was lost. The Heroes almost came together, but not really. DL, Nikki, and Parkmen ended up fighting Linderman while the others fought Sylar. Sylar and Linderman were connected, but Sylar didn't know that, and the Heroes didn't even realize they were working together. And let's also mention the ambiguous connection between Linderman and the Company despite them seemingly having opposing goals that was never resolved.

My point is that the build up to Season One had focus, but the climax did not. And that would prove to be harbinger of things to come.

Despite the mess that Season 3 started with, I gained hope at the end of the episode, "It's Coming." The heroes came together, the villains came together, and it looked like they had their goal, to fight eachother. I thought that finally things would become focused. But what happened almost immediately the next episode? The Heroe's split up on different missions and, shockingly, got side tracked. And a depowering eclipse was thrown in for no good reason.

So, even before the finale, I'm calling Season 3 a wash. Here's my advice to the writers of Season 4, or should I say Volume 4? Anyway, my advice is to focus. For the plot of Season 4, pick a starting point and an ending point, and have every episode logically get you closer to that ending point. Every episode should make the plot of Season 4 clearer, not muddle it up.

For each character for Season 4, pick a starting point for that character, and choose an ending point. Every episode that character is in should continue to develop that character along the path from the starting point to the ending point.

Any deviation or side tracking from the main plot should be if not literally connected to the main plot and its main conflict, then at least symbolically connected to the main plot. Any deviation that is only symbolically connected to the main conflict should only be used if it helps a character develop and that character development will help that character in the main conflict.

The whole Daphne running away to Kansas thing seemed a bit pointless, except to let us know she's crippled without her powers. But with some simple changes would make the side tracking worth while.

Example: Daphne runs away to Kansas because she's afraid of Arthur. Arthur takes powers away and we find that if Daphne does not have powers she can't walk without crutches. Matt follows her to Kansas and talks with her. Daphne comes to the realization that she's still worthwhile even without her powers. Thus, she overcomes her fear of Arthur and is able to combat him. That's character development that also helps with the main conflict.

That's keeping things focused. I would say this is all Writing 101 but I'm a Computer Science Major, not an English Major. So I really have no idea what Writing 101 teaches. I'd instead just call this plain old common sense.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Retro Review: Take My Wife, Sleaze

AKA: A motorcycle gang kidnaps Marge.

The Setup: After winning a motocycle in a dance contest at a 1950s theme diner, Homer forms a motorcycle gang named the Hell's Satans that attracts the attention of the real, tougher Hell's Satans.

Favorite Lines:

Homer: The first meeting of Hell's Satans is called to order.
Ned: I move we reconsider our club name. Make it something a little less blasphemous. After all, we don't want to go to Hell.
Lenny: How about the Devil's Pals?
Ned: No
Moe: The Christ Punchers.
Ned: The Christ...I, I don't think you understand my objection.

Marge: You took a picture of me when I was asleep?
Homer: If you'd been awake you would have said, "no." You can see the bind I was in.

Homer: No! My wife is not a doobie, to be passed around! I took a sacred vow on my wedding day to bogart her forever.

Teebore's Take: This one never really did much for me, and after watching it again, it still doesn't. The best bits are probably the stuff at the 50s diner at the beginning (though Family Guy recently did the same bit, but funnier) or the shot of Homer's pathetic motorcycle gang, including Moe on an antiquated motorcycle, Carl on a rented Hertz Scooter, Flanders (complete with helmet and safety pads) on a kids bike, and Lenny on a riding lawn mower. After that, there's a complete disconnect in the gang's portrayal between when they terrorize the family and when they're being tutored in manners and career advancement by Marge. And the "motorcycle duel" at the end isn't just zany, it's ridiculous and not very funny.


This one is zany from end to end, from the beginning, when Homer wins the dance contest by dancing Marge back in time and has to be taught how to ride his bike by Bart, through Homer's eating of his gang jacket and the complete destruction of the Simpsons' home by the motorcycle gang, to the ending, in which Homer and the Hell's Satans leader duel for Marge using motorcycles as swords.

Jerk-ass Homer:

Aside from some jerkiness as the leader of his gang and his treatment of Marge at the beginning, Homer is actually more a legitmate victim in this one, and ends the episode desperately trying to find Marge and defend her honor.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Teebore's 5 Favorite Christmas characters

5. The Bumble from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The mentally-challenged, Christmas-hating abominable snowman barely edges out Yukon Cornelius as my favorite character from the Rankin/Bass stop motion classic. After all, we both share an intense dislike of Rudolph.

4. Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey (from the classic Christmas carol of the same name): Star of my favorite non-traditional Christmas song, Dominick the Donkey helps deliver toys to all the children of Italy. Sure, reindeer can fly while Dominick must climb the treacherous mountains surrounding Italy, but that just shows making children happy means more to him than it does to those lazy, flash-in-the-pan reindeer.

3. The Old Man (from A Christmas Story): Ralphie's dad makes this list for the way he "worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay," his appreciation of fine art, and for coming through for Ralphie and getting him is Red Ryder BB gun.

2. Ebenezer Scrooge (from A Christmas Carol): My favorite performances of this venerable character are from Michael Caine and Scrooge McDuck.

1. Santa Claus: Duh, right? I mean, if all the various holiday characters got together in some kind of Hall of Justice, Santa Claus would be their Superman. My favorite Santa Claus story is his "origin"in the the claymation "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," in which he fights the evil Burgermeister Meisterburger.