Tonight on Buffy...
Yes, I'm gearing up for the last few episodes of one of my most beloved TV shows ever, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Last week (well two weeks ago, really -- last week was a repeat) introduced the sinister psycho henchman behind all the rampant evil that's been plaguing the cast, providing one of the single-most stunningly horrorific scenes in the history of a horror-based show. I won't give it away, but when a main character gets maimed on camera in gruesome fashion, you sit up a little straighter and think Joss Whedon (the creator of the show) may be ramping up for one powerful sendoff. The scene was great and shocking, but I believe it had a duel purpose -- it sends a message letting the viewer know that all the usual rules for a series are off -- every character is expendable. With a show like Buffy, that makes its own rules, 'tis a dread warning indeed.

Anyway, on my way to check out what was going on tonight, I stopped by the listings on MSN's Entertainment TV page. Here's the description they gave for tonight's show:

    Caleb [the aforementioned henchman - mj] launches an attack against Buffy; Faith takes the potential slayers out to blow off some steam, and the night ends with a startling development.

Hmm. Well, MSN sure is trying to milk the last five minutes of the show for UPN. Out of curiousity, I checked out UPN's own synopsis, which is:

    Faith decides to take the young women out for the night to blow off some steam, which leads to a startling development.

No mention of the new henchman in this one, which is kinda odd because at the end of last episode he had beaten them up pretty badly (not to mention killing a few). Too much info? Does UPN censor their previews because of their younger audience base?

For the ultimate in reliabilit, I've found that the reviews at Buffy Guide are much more thorough. So much so you they are marked as 'spoilers'. If you've ever read The Force.net you will be familiar with this format -- designed to prevent someone from inadvertently reading material they didn't want to know. I'm one of those people, frankly; I like to know only the minimal amount of information going in to a film. Nevertheless, I trust that the folks at Buffy Guide won't trick me. Here's their preview:

    As Sunnydale's residents evacuate en masse, Faith rallies the demoralized potentials while an emotionally fragile Buffy endures another run-in with Caleb.

A lot darker than the first two. Buffy fans 'keeping it real'? Once I see the show, I'll know which one sounds better, but it's interesting to see how the same show can produce three very different tv-guide listings. I would have thought that the show would publish its own brief preview, but what do I know? All's I know is it is time to order pizza for the show, coming on in 40 minutes.

Update: The winner is the review at Buffy Guide. Overall captured the feel and events of the episode. Caleb didn't really 'launch an attach' on Buffy -- he just taunted her. If he wanted her dead at that time, frankly he could have killed her easily. He's hoping to badger her mental state, steer her into doing what he wants, and based on the 'startling development' that [highlight to read] Buffy was voted out of her own house by everyone else because they don't believe she is leading properly anymore, it may be working. Oddly, the video preview for next week's episode here doesn't seem remotely the same episode as in the descriptions. From the video, you'd expect wall-to-wall sex. Not that I'm complaining. I just don't want to see Wood getting it on with Faith -- she's too cool for that.


Turning the All-Seeing Eye on Myself
I ran across an interesting little article called Top 10 turn-ons for women while clicking around the internet the other day. Its one of those lists that deserves to be in Cosmopolitan or Maxim, but after going down the list myself, I thought it'd be interesting to rank myself in each category. Of course, if my writing about shining the magifying glass on my own personality is not interesting, you need read no further. But you are a poonter if you don't so there.

Anywho, I decided on a basic 10 point, score of 100 maximum for the list, which I've copied below (these are personality traits; otherwise, I'm pretty sure my abs would be on there ;)):

1. Intelligence.
2. Sense of humor.
3. Passion.
4. Consideration.
5. Honesty.
6. Flexibility.
7. Serenity.
8. Balance.
9. Ambition.
10. Attentiveness.

Now let's rock.

1. Intelligence: 9. I'm a pretty sharp tack. This is not to say that I don't have incredible moments of beguiling buffoonery, but I would say that 99% of my friends/exs would not consider me to be lacking in this area.

2. Sense of humor: 9.5. Believe it. I'd insert something clever and intoxicatingly droll here, but you'd be expecting that, wouldn't you? (I don't know who "you" is, but let's be friends).

3. Passion. 9 again. I can't help it. I have very strong feelings about a great many things, and I express them in many ways. These days it's writing or drawing, but I also used to emote on stage (when I was in a singer in a rock-n-roll band!) is just about the most cathartic experience ever. Problem with that is I put so much into every song that I would be absolutely drained after about 3. I'm not good at pacing.

4. Consideration. 5. In general, I'm pretty inconsiderate at times. There are moments when I'll do a lot for others, but I'm well aware of the times when I just can't be bothered.

5. Honesty. 6. I consider myself very trustworthy -- I keep secrets very very well, but I don't believe that telling the truth is always the best course of action. This is not to suggest underhanded dealings, but I've been
known to massage details or leave some out entirely, especially if (1) it pertains to business that the listener has no right to know about (2) it pertains to a friend's integrity or (3) being blunt would injure the listener. I'm sure none of these is appropriate justification, so I'll just say I have a somewhat ethically and morally devilish nature.

6. Flexibility. 6 again. Depends on what is meant. If you mean that I can change plans at a moment's notice, then 9. If you mean that I'll be flexible about what a girl wants to do versus what I want to do, 5. If you mean will I accept an impromptu blow job, 10. In general, I'm going to do what I want regardless, so if you want to be along, it's fine, and if not, that's fine too. It's just hard to decide, so I'll stick with my appraisal.

7. Serenity. 5. I have my moments of calm and positiveness, but generally I'm pragmatic, and somewhat frantic thanks to my hyper-metabolism.

8. Balance. 9. One of the last lessons I got from my dad when I left for school was to have a good balance in life. Work and play. Too much of one will make you unhappy. I NEED to write and go out as much as I need to work; otherwise I get very crabby mentally. It's a mental health necessity for me.

9. Ambition. 3. Throughout my life, I've been very lucky with the talent I've been born with and opportunities that cross my path. I've had four different jobs, all different but mostly IT or engineering based, and I liked them all. I'll do what needs be done -- jack of all trades. As such, I don't want to focus too much on one area and get bored or pigeonholed (see Balance, above). It's more of a philosophy than anything else.

10. Attentiveness. 7. I'm one of those people (my favorite phrase!) that focuses his attention on the person he's talking to as if there isn't anyone else around. I'm a good listener. Of course, if I'm not talking to you, you may not think that, so I've lowered it a bit.

Okay, so that means my final score is 68. A "D+". So, no wonder I don't have a girlfriend or wife, eh?

Update: A female friend of mine did the survey for me and gave me an 87. As usual, we are all our most critical analysts.


Hulk SMASH!!!
My friend had speculated, in response to my below angst about next summer's (2004) movie lineup, that The Hulk would fill the dearth of blockbuster flicks. Alas, it's coming out in July 2003 (well, not alas -- the trailer makes my heart go pitter-pat!), which leaves more speculation as to what may be coming out in the time between the end of The Matrix and Lord of the Rings finales and Star Wars Episode III's debut in May 2005 (after which I will be quite satisfied to have left my mortal coil, but NOT BEFORE!).

Speculate no more: Spider-Man 2 (July 2004) and Harry Potter 3 (Prisoner of Azkaban) (June 2004) have nimbly stepped up to fill the void.

Oh and of course, lest we forget the Charlie's Angels 2 is coming out late June 2003. Woo. Hoo. I'm. Not. Serious. I. Could. Barely. Fast. Forward. Through. The. First. Movie.


There is a plethora of Weezer songs that can be construed as based on love gone wrong, love unrequited, love-that-could-never-be. Each of these songs has their own power and passion. Each has their time and place with me in my heart.Nevertheless, I'm ready to declare (for now) that "Death and Destruction" (from Maladroit) is the penultimate Weezer song about love that was unrequited. Most purists or even the casual listener would grant "Say It Ain't So" (off the Blue Album) as the champion of tunes written by Rivers Cuomo dedicated to romantic notions gone the path of sad conclusions. I will say this is the 2ND best song in their considerable library of emotionally charged punk-pop ditties.

However, upon listening to "Death and Destruction" for the 47th (I'm counting, for sure) time, I was compelled to give it the "best" status based on the rank power, emotion, and simplicity that it contains. When Rivers tells the listener, after being pushed off by his paramour, that he "learned to look the other way", something inside of me breaks, and I can't quite equate it to any feeling I get from anything other than complete heartbreak. He's a master of emoting his angst and struggle and utter anguish.

It's bands like this, writers and lyricists like this, that make be disdain all the alternative posers of today. Yes, it's late and I'm being emotional. That's what the best of rock is all about.

PS: If you want to hear Rivers' voice crack with emotional sincerity (at its most subtle and frank), listen to the little acoustic number "Butterfly" off the underrated Pinkerton album. I'm done now.


What the hell do I do for the next three weeks???
{A suggestion of other movies to see in May}

So, if you are like me, and let us hope that is too much, you've been counting the minutes until The Matrix Reloaded comes out. With the sudden burst of ubiquitous trailers on TV and internet, my normal glee has transformed into the head-nodding eagerness of the typical brainwashed consumer (I have purchased every magazine I've seen that sports a Matrix theme).

Unfortunately, the biggest tragedy in my single-minded rampage toward Zion is X-Men 2, whose thunder seems to have been overshadowed by the fervor generated by Neo and his crew. I haven't heard hardly any fellow cinema patrons crow about how they are dying to see Wolverine, Cyclops, Magneto, or even the addition of Nightcrawler (whose effects in the latest trailer are wicked cool).

When X-Men (the first -- I refuse to say "X-Men 1") debuted, I was on my way up to Philly to see some friends and relatives, and I stopped in a theater on the way at 1pm so I could see it the day it came out. I'm a big fan of the comics, and a collector for as many years as I can remember (my collection rate has trailed off over the years, but I still have 500 or so stowed up in a locker at my parents house). That dedicated zeal has been aligned to another movie this year, and I wish X-Men 2 would be coming out sometime after Matrix Reloaded (but not too close to Matrix Revolutions -- due out in November!!!) so I could have something else to look forward to after I've seen Morpheus and the Twins ten times in the theater. This is not to say I'm not going to go see X-Men 2 less than three times, I'm sure, but in the back of my mind, I'll be pining for Trinity.

The other day I was remarking to my roommate, "I wonder what romantic comedies will be coming out in May to vie for the demographic that won't be in line for Reloaded or X-Men 2?" If I were a marketer, I'd surely salivate when I saw the movies released in May 2003 -- blockbuster, action, geek bonanza of a lifetime. More to the point, what else CAN one see when the Matrix 2 is sold out?

My natural segue processes turned to next summer. What will I be looking forward to THEN? The Matrix series will be done, Lord of the Rings will have spent its load, and Star Wars Episode III ("This time it's personal!!") won't be out until May of 2005. I thought about Ewan McGregor, a favorite actor of mine (not because of his proclivity to bare his pee pee, mind you) who hasn't been seen since Moulin Rouge. Then I remembered: Ewan and Renee Zellweger are starring in a romantic comedy remake of "Pillow Talk", called Down With Love, which judging by the trailer could be that $100 million romantic comedy 'sleeper'. I've been wanting to see Mr. McGregor in a romantic lead for some time, and this movie looks to have just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek sass, wit, and charm to make me want to see it before I've seen Matrix Reloaded twice (and that, believe me, is saying a lot).

Right now it's scheduled for either May 3rd or the 16th for release, depending on where you look (I suspect the 16th, for lack of TV trailers and hype). Obi-wan and romantic comedy; enough for the perfect (if there is one) date movie.

Cover of one of the New Jedi Order Series books, featuring the young Jaina Solo. I just thought it was a cool cover.


Star Wars Books

I first read the back cover synopsis for I, Jedi over a year ago, a story about an elite X-Wing pilot named Corran Horn who must embrace his heritage to become a Jedi Knight in order to save his kidnapped wife. Told from the first-person perspective of Horn, a Corellian, it presents a character potentially bonded with the roguish charisma and recklessness of a Han Solo and the skill and power of a Luke Skywalker -- a Star Wars fan’s dream.

Even though I am a giant Star Wars fan, it took me a while to get into the notion of reading about that universe -- I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy any tales without the stunning visual effects and John Williams accompaniment. As I’ve found, this is not an unusual skepticism amongst the fans I’ve met, and even more pronounced in casual fans (I’ve heard the excuse that watching the movies is ‘cool’, but reading the books crosses the line into dorkdom).

Nevertheless, a few years back, I took the plunge and read Timothy Zahn’s landmark Thrawn trilogy, a riveting, intricately plotted Star Wars galaxy tale, set seven years after the conclusion of Return of the Jedi. What surprised me was how Timothy Zahn was able to capture the spirit of all the original characters, while introducing no less than five vivid, enthralling new characters that have captured the imaginations of readers worldwide. There was such a clamoring for the return of the characters (that and some mishandling of the series by some rather inept authors), years later Zahn produced an excellent follow-up duology (same link as above, scroll down).

My glee was rudely interrupted by the end of Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy. Anderson’s new ‘super weapon’ plot (the Sun Crusher) is a tactic that really should be buried by this point (I think there have been three or four in the Star Wars universe -- even Lucas had to go back to the old formula in ROTJ, admittedly, but ROTJ isn’t my favorite). Worse, his evil Grand Admiral Daala is about as threatening as Scalius Crumb, in that in every single battle or even encounter with the heroes she loses an Imperial Star Destroyer while gaining absolutely nothing. What a tool. Finally, the newest, super-powerful Jedi recruit is named ‘Kip’. Kip. Master Kip. I just want to giggle when I say that. Okay, maybe I’m being a little too harsh --the books aren’t all that bad, but unfortunately, since they follow Zahn’s superb trilogy, they are going to take a beating.

After reading Anderson, I was once again skeptical about the potential characters in another Star Wars (i.e., a non-Zahn one) book, so I decided to hold off on reading it and get some other tomes under my belt.

When I came back to the Star Wars series about a year later, I decided to try and read some of the New Jedi Order series, set about 20 years after ROTJ (in case you are curious, this is how Star Wars universe gauges time) and introducing a really cool new species of villain, the Yuuzhan Vong. R. A. Salvatore painted such a vivid picture in the introduction novel, Vector Prime, I was hooked.

Under the hand of Stackpole, the series continued with the Dark Tide duology, Onslaught and Ruin, which returns to the character of Corran Horn some 15 years later (no he DOESN’T die at the end of his own book! And that's the only "spoiler" I'll mention). Horn is one of many main characters (with a now fully established Jedi Corps -- as Mr. Burns would say, "Ex-cellent") in the excellent tale, but his was the character I was most intrigued by. After finishing the series, I thought it was time to finally going back and seeing what this character had to say in "I, Jedi".

On one hand, I wish that the books were not so interrelated and sequential in the New Jedi Order Series, because I'd like to skip some and get to a few I think sound superior. However, I have to admit that so far, I haven't been disappointed by any.

Now that I've said all that, I'll leave the book review of "I, Jedi" for later -- hopefully tomorrow. Right now I want to eat.

The Axis of Just as Evil

It's been over a year since Bush gave his 2002 State of the Union address, where he declared the Axis of Evil: North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Shortly thereafter, this famously hilarious satire appeared all over the internet. Now that Iraq appears to have lost its membership card, maybe Kim Jong-II will let them in. Still makes me guffaw after all this time:
    Beijing (SatireWire.com) — Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the "Axis of Evil," Libya, China, and Syria today announced they had formed the "Axis of Just as Evil," which they said would be way eviler than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis President Bush warned of his State of the Union address.

    Axis of Evil members, however, immediately dismissed the new axis as having, for starters, a really dumb name. "Right. They are Just as Evil... in their dreams!" declared North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. "Everybody knows we're the best evils... best at being evil... we're the best."

    Diplomats from Syria denied they were jealous over being excluded, although they conceded they did ask if they could join the Axis of Evil.

    "They told us it was full," said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    "An Axis can't have more than three countries," explained Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "This is not my rule, it's tradition. In World War II you had Germany, Italy, and Japan in the evil Axis. So you can only have three. And a secret handshake. Ours is wicked cool."


    International reaction to Bush's Axis of Evil declaration was swift, as within minutes, France surrendered.

    Elsewhere, peer-conscious nations rushed to gain triumvirate status in what became a game of geopolitical chairs. Cuba, Sudan, and Serbia said they had formed the Axis of Somewhat Evil, forcing Somalia to join with Uganda and Myanmar in the Axis of Occasionally Evil, while Bulgaria, Indonesia and Russia established the Axis of Not So Much Evil Really As Just Generally Disagreeable.

    With the criteria suddenly expanded and all the desirable clubs filling up, Sierra Leone, El Salvador, and Rwanda applied to be called the Axis of Countries That Aren't the Worst But Certainly Won't Be Asked to Host the Olympics; Canada, Mexico, and Australia formed the Axis of Nations That Are Actually Quite Nice But Secretly Have Nasty Thoughts About America, while Spain, Scotland, and New Zealand established the Axis of Countries That Sometimes Ask Sheep to Wear Lipstick.

    "That's not a threat, really, just something we like to do," said Scottish Executive First Minister Jack McConnell.

    While wondering if the other nations of the world weren't perhaps making fun of him, a cautious Bush granted approval for most axes, although he rejected the establishment of the Axis of Countries Whose Names End in "Guay," accusing one of its members of filing a false application. Officials from Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chadguay denied the charges.

    Israel, meanwhile, insisted it didn't want to join any Axis, but privately, world leaders said that's only because no one asked them.


Episode III
The first draft of the script is nearly complete. Is it too early to get excited? Clearly not.


Learn Something Every Day
I'm one of those people who uses phrases such as 'one of those people'. I'm also one of those people who like to learn something every day.

One of the best sites I've found to sate that urge is How Stuff Works. The site offers a huge range of topics, from how Patriot missiles work to how one might make time stand still to how to conquer the perils of quicksand.

Of course, I am not as interested in how the special effect of a lightsaber is produced in movies, as a site which provides an exhaustive analysis, history, and fighting techniques of and involving lightsabers. Obviously for true Star Wars fans only. Check out the wicked cool disclaimer:

    LIGHTSABRES are dangerous weapons. Be sure to keep away from children and animals. DO NOT operate lightsabres indoors. Discussions in this page are purely for intellectual interest. This page is NOT intended as a training manual nor as any form of exercise regeime. DO NOT engage in any of the techniques described here with a lightsabre, or any other implement such as a stick or similar. The author takes NO responsibility for injuries or damage resulting from ANY actions based upon the techniques discussed herein. If you are interested in learning the Japanese sword arts of KENDO or IAIDO, you should seek out a fully accredited and qualified instructor, or sensei, and apply to his/her dojo.


Short Counter-Point
My esteemed colleague (who may be receiving his own WMD in the mail shortly, heh heh heh) has written a short piece about credibility and WMD. Here's my observation on it:

Credibility of the piece depends purely on the perception of the reader. The commentary piece doesn't demonstrate one way or another. It is what it is, unless you start trying to find out the hidden meaning -- then it becomes a Rorschach test for whether you are a supporter of the administration or not. Either that or fuel for one's paranoia.

As for the WMD find, I'm not concerned in the slightest. I'm certain that if and when the time comes that is appropriate, elements will be revealed. Until then, I could care less what the objector-pundits demand. And neither should or does the administration. Good for them.


Gifts Falling From the Sky
For some unknown reason, my longtime friend Lisa (a.k.a. "Dave") blessed me with an hysterical, yet strangely useful book titled How to Be a Villain: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans, and More!!!. It's a how-to book to become your own supervillain, complete with a guide to defeating various hero types (e.g., troubled loner, justice leaguer), ways to conquer the world, and when to employ your trademark evil laugh (e.g., after delivering your master plan, or ironically while the heroes are sneaking up behind you). It's a great read. Thanks Dave!!!