Turning the Corner on Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles

I have been watching Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles from day one, which considering the shortened first season, hasn't been that long. And it has kept me coming back consistently because the show is well-written and creates a dramatic sense of danger every week. It's not in a must-see category (the only one I can put in that place is Battlestar Galactica), but building with each episode this season, surprisingly, it has started a campaign to join the elite.And how do good shows become elite? I don't have the playbook with me, but this is how Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (henceforth, T:SCC) is doing it.

It should be no secret that you have to start with solid writing. Heroes, for example, has flashes of brilliance, but is far too inconsistent. Worse, it has a near-boundless template to work from. T:SCC has a pretty simple (yet fantastical) premise that has been the template for the series and the past couple movies: A Terminator from the future comes back to protect John Connor. In the series, you have his mother in a starring role, and throw in John's uncle Reese, and you have a solid dynamic. And it has been working, but the shtick has been done with the robot/human interaction for a long time now, and let's just say it is tough to find new ways to make jokes about robot understanding while saving John.Luckily for us, the terminators we have seen (by my count, at least four) are far more interesting, even shocking in their behavior. I mean, let's face it, the show is called "Terminator" for a reason, not just "The Sarah Connor Chronicles". The protector robot figure, "Cameron", got caught in an explosion at the end of season one, which reset her programming to kill John in the opener. After trapping her, and against his mother's judgement, he "fixes" her and restarts her. Needless to say, this new Cameron acts a little different, more contemplative, less robotic, and now has resurfacing memories from before she was captured and reprogrammed. And in the very least, she reacts badly to anyone now who suggests that she needs to be "fixed".

Shirley Manson's T1001 terminator is another story. Apparently head of large corporation, she is interested in finding a stray terminator. And she has a daughter. Not something we've seen before.Nor have I seen some of the intensity that the episodes have brought recently. The third episode, "Mousetrap", was dramatic as it was final for one of the recurring characters.

No disrespect to Linda Hamilton, who was great in her two movie roles, but Lena Headey, brings a wonderful intensity, humanity, and tenderness to the title role. She totally owns it now. To my own shock and awe, Brian Austin Green has completely shed any resemblance to his 90210 days; he's completely believable in his role as a future soldier. Thomas Dekker as John Connor ably conveys the frustration of a future hero who at once is all-to-aware of his importance and desperate for some semblance of a normal life. And Summer Glau as the protectant terminator "Cameron" is as spot on as you could hope for.

The most recent episode, from last night, "Alison from Palmdale", was everything you want in a Terminator series and yet not typical. It told the story of Alison Young, who was a captured youth from the future who was apparently the model for the infiltrator model "Cameron". Cameron herself, likely due to John's on-the-fly reprogramming of her damaged chip, suddenly can't remember who she is beyond the information she got interrogating the imprisoned Young back in the dark future. Amnesiatic Cameron ends up in a half-way home, where through a series of sessions to a counselor, begins to remember everything, finally declaring that her mission is to put John Connor's head "on a pike for all to see". By the end, she is reunited with John, who has no idea she remembers everything, and how dangerous her personal discovery is becoming. Worse, thanks to her memory and temporary friendship with a suspect girl, she now begins to lie to him. Flashbacks, flashforwards, self-reflection, revelation, and death. My interest is only rising.

Six Bad Things

Charlie Huston's hero, or anti-hero, a victim of bad circumstance combined with solid revenge instincts, I think is meant to mirror any regular person. How quickly his life goes down the toilet and the decisions he makes are all quite reasonable, under the circumstances, even though they involve killing. Only six times by the time the beginning of Six Bad Things opens up, but you know that Hank Thompson's luck isn't going to last.I haven't read a book of Huston's that doesn't deliver the gritty, no-nonsense, hectic paced first person, adventure, and this is no exception. If you aren't reading the series (begun with Caught Stealing), you are clearly using the government employee excuse of "I don't have time". Sad.

Bonus: Here is Charlie Huston talking about his unique first line of Six Bad Things:
    Charlie Huston's Backstory
    Two Bad Ears: The "Six Bad Things" Backstory

    "I’m sitting on the porch of a bungalow on the Yucatan Peninsula with lit cigarettes sticking out of both my ears." That’s the first line of "Six Bad Things."
    Unfortunately, I had to live through a similar experience before I could write that line.
    My wife (then my girlfriend) and I were on vacation in Mexico. We were hanging out for a week in a little beach town with a simple plan to eat less, drink more, sleep late, loll in the sun, and have sex. Lots of sex. I abused this mandate to the extent of a little floating and splashing in the Caribbean. It was on one of my solo aquatic excursions that my problems began. Serves me right for going off the agenda.
    All it was, was a little water in the ears. No biggie. We’ve all had water in our ears. But this particular quantity of water refused to be dislodged. Under normal circumstances this would have been distracting at worst. But I was already suffering from a mild head cold that had plugged my sinuses. Now, four of the five open holes in my head were blocked. So there I am in sultry Mexico, walking around, a slack jawed mouth breather saying, huh, what was that?, to any inquiry sent my way. It sucked. Worse, I was rapidly becoming miserable company and infringing on my girl’s drinking, sleeping, lolling, and screwing time. Something had to be done.
    I experimented with Mexican eardrops and decongestants. No dice. Also, no interesting side effects. An utter waste of time. Sick of the whining noises I was making, my girl called a doctor.
    Over the phone, the Doctor asked when he should come by. I told him he should come whenever was convenient. He insisted I name a time.
    I looked at the clock. It was three.
    -Is four OK?
    A pause as he considered.
    -Hmmmm. I’ll be there at six.
    At seven he knocked on our door. The exam was brief. I described my symptoms; he smiled, nodded, whipped out one of those ear-scopes, and stuck it deep in one of the many places on the human body where the sun does not shine.
    Narrow ear canals.
    The water was trapped deep in these narrow canals, held at bay by a Hoover Dam of earwax I had created with Q-tips carelessly wielded. He had my girl take a look through the scope. Just in case she should come across a similar case and be called upon to diagnose it herself. She gave me a look, making sure I knew this was my fault for venturing away from our carefully conceived booze-slumber-sun-booty plan. I avoided eye contact, knowing she was right. Curse me for a selfish fool. The Doctor removed the scope.
    Flush those ears.
    Until you’ve had a beer can’s worth of warm water injected into each of your ears, you have not lived a full life. Nor have you been fully exposed to the true grotesqueness of the human body, until you have seen what is washed out of your ears under these circumstances.
    My girl turned her back, now questioning our entire relationship. How could she have had physical relations with a man from whom such vileness could issue? I hung my head in shame and my own filth.
    However, this was not the end. We had yet to discuss what was to be done should the problem reoccur.
    The answer?
    Stick cigarettes in my ears.
    The Doctor, jolly to the last, reaching in his little black bag (no shit, he had one), and came out with a fresh pack of Benson & Hedges.
    And thus, as the Caribbean evening reached its full glory, I could be found on the terrace, a man desperately trying to quit smoking, with smoldering cigarettes gently twisted into either ear drawing forth the residual moisture trapped within.
    For his services the Doctor charged us 1000 pesos. For those of you keeping count, that was about 100 bucks. That’s a c-note for a house call, treatment, and a full pack of smokes. Thanks, Doc.
    Shortly thereafter, following a visit to our favorite mai tai bar, a good night’s sleep, and some sun bathing, my girl agreed I wasn’t all that gross and we got our vacation back on track.
    So, how’s that experience end up opening a novel? Come on, how can a writer not use something like that?
    At the time, I’d already written my first Hank Thompson book, "Caught Stealing", but that was a labor of love and was sitting in a desk drawer. Hank was retired after a very brief and un-witnessed career. He was somewhere in Mexico, right where I’d left him to unwind. Then one sleepless night, after a number of years had passed since I’d last seen Hank, I suddenly asked myself what he might be up to. In that same moment, I knew exactly what he was doing.
    Hank was sitting on the porch of a bungalow on the Yucatan Peninsula with lit cigarettes sticking out of both his ears.
    So I got up, careful not to wake my girl (my wife by then), went in the next room, and reintroduced myself to Hank Thompson.

Heroes: One of Us, One of Them

Let's call a spade a spade: the two best things about the latest Heroes epsiode, "One of Us, One of Them", are the teaming of Sylar and Noah Bennett and the teaming of the Mexican chick with no air time. Right out of the box, you have now the clearly unstable Mrs. Petrelli telling her "son" (who knows if it is true, but it would coincide with how he and Peter kind of have shades of the same ability) that she's going to let him go and partner him with HRG (Horned Rimmed Glasses, for the ungeeky), the guy who just put a dozen bullets in him last episode.Jack Coleman's HRG character naturally doesn't like that one bit; aside from Sylar being an admitted and uncontrollable killer, he finally got to his daughter Clair last episode. Although they quickly develop a respect for each other, that is immediately betrayed in the end by Sylar's instincts. And followed by HRG declaring that he's going to get close enough to Sylar to learn how he ticks and then kill him. I know it's hard to swallow this pairing after all they've been through, but it translates well to the screen, and will keep me coming back just to see their interaction. And to watch Claire heal her jaw after it bounces off the floor when Sylar inevitably makes a home appearance.

But to segue for just a moment, IF Sylar (nee Gabriel) is really a Petrelli spawn, that actually makes him Claire's UNCLE. So that makes (discounting papa Petrelli only because we have no data) a perfect five-for-five with powers in the Petrelli extended clan. Sure, Mohinder, you were wrong about it being genetics, it's really adrenaline. What no reply? No air time for you? Too bad!HRG runs into his old partner, The Haitian, who appearantly really has no name because even mama Petrelli refers to him as that. The Haitian is there to report that Hiro and Ando YET AGAIN have enabled theft of the "formula", which might as well henceforth be known as "the maguffin". Aside from Sylar, I can't think of ANYONE who more truly deserves to be locked away for their own good than them. At least there isn't a third part of the formula they can't deliver personally Hiro's speedster "nemesis", who is clearly much smarter than them. I'm not saying that because it's good that they already royally screwed the pooch, but that it's good they can't screw up any worse. I may regret saying that.

Aside, Brea Grant, who plays the speedy Daphne Millbrook, really needs to stay in super-speed mode, because depowered she runs like a mobile jello figure.

Matt Parkman, spirit quester, gets no pictures and no kudos, except for filling an extra 5 minutes of television time. It could be that the writers didn't have anything for him to do for a while, or it could be that his quest is somehow important. Or it could be a built-in extra bathroom break.But they do give Ali Larter some interesting things to do, finally. She may not be faking it at all as she finds Nikki Sanders body down south, has a chat with Nikki's son Micah, and find out from a delivery doctor that she was created. Okay, still not sure where this is leading, but at least it's not Parkman.

Last, but not least (compared to Parkman and Ali Larter threads), is Claire's struggle with the Sylar attack. Not helping out at home is Claire's biological mother (as Mrs. Bennett clarifies), who is something of a rebel herself.Not only does fire woman undermine Mrs. Bennett's house rule, but endorses hookey to teach Claire "how to fight". Now, I'm no genius, but to paraphrase Claire's brother, you're going to protect us... with fire? How does this translate into fighting skills that you can teach the human punching bag? Don't worry, she was only using it to teach Claire a lesson about recognizing anger, and who to be angry at (uh, Sylar). Boy it sure worked out, because Claire straightened right up and headed off to cheerleader sleepover... with a Primatech box in tow. Championship!!!

Cool things:
  • Jack Coleman and ZQ. Jack always brings his A-game to the role, which makes his teaming with Zachary Quinto outshine anything else in the episode by far. They have dynamic chemistry.
  • Future Peter as badass. He might come in a close second to Hiro for the ability to screw things up, but at least he is direct and uncaring. His brief appearance where he stopped the bank melee just to grab present Peter from Jesse's body and then vanished was great. It was too early for a Sylar-Peter reunion.
  • The Haitian. He may be a little incompentent, but he looks cool.
  • Jesse's sonic screams. Too short lived, for the ability and for the character. Maybe Sylar will use them. Or maybe not... he still has super-hearing, doesn't he? Wouldn't that just hurt too much?

  • Sylar's "cop imitation". Not sure where that came from, but I inadvertently cringed.
  • Give Claire something to do. I realize it is tough with her ability to, well, recover from a good thrashing, but unless the character starts moving forward, she's going to get a lot more boring. If it wasn't Hayden Panettiere, I'd suspect we'd have moved on by now.


The Force Unleashed: Graphic Novel

You know I'm an unabashed fan of Star Wars, so you can either take this review of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed graphic novel as being from an expert or hopelessly biased. Either way I won't bury the lead: this story rocked and I would love to see it as a movie.Let's clarify what that means for me. I qualify this to be an actual viable Star Wars film because:
  • The story is solid.
  • It creates its own mythos while adding to the existing canon.
  • It does not contain any reference characters that can't be compensated for in a film (e.g., Han Solo in a prominent role).
  • I was moved by the story.
Dwelling on the 'reference characters' point, you would need to borrow Ewan McGregor for a key cameo and Jimmy Smits for a week's work or more. Maybe Ian McDiarmid and James Earl for voice work. That's not hard to pull off. (I am dismissing the young Princess Leia cameo -- get some look-alike for that.) So the film is workable AND falls within and contributes to the story of Anakin and the formation of the Rebel Alliance (indeed, it describes how it was born!) in one nice package. Thus, I am impressed with the tightness (by necessity, of course) the story.

That is not to say that you cannot nit-pick the graphic novel to death. For one, as a more fully fleshed out story from a video game, you can see the queues where the player would take over. Plot, action, plot, action. Levels getting harder, predictably, but is that much different than any typical adventure story? The dialogue is pretty good and, surprisingly, at its best even great -- using series standbys like "I've got a bad feeling about this" and making it its own. I even got a chill during some of the final scenes.But let's not mince; though Lucas' team has created new characters that work well with each other, a compelling story, one of its biggest strengths is it also features Darth Vader in ACTION, something fans have been dying to see. And Vader pays off, both in presence, menace, and evil.With a little tighting up here and there, I think we can call it Episode 3.5. It's got my vote. At the very least, it's worth your sixteen bucks.

Heroes: Third Season Premiere

Well, it's fall again, and aside from football, there is network television. Arguably, the show with the most to prove is Heroes, since its dismal, tired, misdirectional season two nearly collapsed consumer confidence in the material. You can blame the writer's strike all you want for the show's problems, but they had eight episodes in the can before the strike even started, and let me tell you they were very slow. I mean tedious. And I won't say that everything was the fault of the Mexican heroes, but that is a good encapsulation. They whine, they run, they whine, they run, they whine... you get the picture. I was screaming at the TV for them to be killed, and quick. I don't care how "hot" Maya is, she is useless and galactically stupid, although admittedly she certainly does not have exclusivity to that trait on the show. Let's just say she is the peak of dumb. There.

So, what do they do at the beginning of Season Three? Why she's back, and teamed up with Mohinder! It doesn't take very long for her to infect him -- not with her 'terrible power', but mind-numbing daftness. In the space of a few sentences, he 'realizes' that he's been wrong all along about the gene pool -- it's really about adrenaline and now anyone can be super! I'm immediately struck by the Incredibles line -- if everyone is super, then no one is. Clearly he has not seen that movie, or thought of the ramifications of suddenly being off his rocker so bad that even Maya sees he's wrong -- for about two seconds until he gets stronger and then suddenly she's in heat -- did I mention she's my FAVORITE?Aside, does Mohinder's sudden realization that it is about adrenaline kind of invalidate all his father's genetic-based research, including the 'list' that he had which accurately found a lot of empowered folks? Does this contradict the first two seasons entirely? I will warn you now, it is best not to think hard during Heroes, for we will see more. Like Mohinder deciding to juice himself up with the super-serum and then pulling a Jeff Goldblum. I mean, is it homage or embarrassingly obvious stealing when they play out a scene almost exactly from The Fly? Or when Mohinder develops scales on his back, again, like the Fly? Rewatch Cronenberg's masterpiece for a refresher on where this is going. Thank goodness the writers are back, eh?

Okay, let's go to something good that came from something bad: the Sylar scene where he plays with Claire's brain. Creepy, informative, and funny; probably best satisfying both the audience's curiosity the characters with this great exchange:
    Claire: Are you going to eat my brain?
    Sylar: Claire, that's disgusting.
Of course, the downside to all this is the inconsistency of those with powers. I'm talking about how Claire beans him over the head, then he telekinetically flings her around the home, shuts the doors, and allows her then to tie herself into a food closet. Impenetrable! Of course, he turns his back and she stabs him. Doesn't he still have super hearing? Again, probably for the best not to think about these things. You can distract yourself with Zachary Quinto's continued nuanced performance. I am really looking forward to seeing him as Spock.But let's back up to the beginning. The future Claire threatening Peter Petrelli with a gun. I'm sorry, did she really think that was going to work? No shit he stopped time. Was there any tension at all in that scene? Well, it did serve to finally motivate Peter to travel back in time (as if being chased down the street by faceless thugs who could not possibly have missed him turning into the building -- nevermind -- was not motivating enough), at least as far as the writing was concerned.

So, at least we get a kind-of cool moment where we find out Peter shot his own brother. Again, don't think about the time-travel problems that come into it -- that he could have, say, traveled two minutes BEFORE that and said, 'hey, guess what, this is a bad idea!' Without that, we wouldn't have an all-new direction for the show.

Of course, Matt uses his detective skills and mind-reading to figure out that future Peter is behind it all, which gets him a one-way ticket to Africa. The writers' way of saying we don't have anything for you to do yet, so we're going to stick you in the desert and have you wander around for a while until a local comes up who knows you and helps you out.The more interesting twist of a recurring character is Peter's mother, who appears to be a lot more powerful, and insightful, than we thought.With Sylar's eradication of Elle's dad, she's now the number 1 in the corporation, and going to make a few changes, which in future episodes apparently have a lot to do with Jack Coleman's Mr. Noah Bennett, by far the most realistic character on the show.

Update: Maya is still not dead. Sigh.

See, when he gets released by Elle, and confronted with Sylar, he does not hesitate for a second to put 17 bullets in him. And when Sylar is knocked unconscious by a feedback-frenzy from Elle (kudos for that), he drags him right back in the cell. Jack don't play.

But something is playing in Nathan's mind after his near-death experience. Or should I say death experience, resurrected by Linderman? Or was he, since Nathan is the only one who can see him? I'm pretty sure that Nathan's 'noble' intentions aren't going to remain pure for long. He's pretty gullible, or, what is the word, hmm... STUPID for thinking that Nikki (or whomever she is) showing up and offering him a Senate job with Linderman backing him is going anywhere but down.Speaking of stupid, at least Hiro's father knows his son is stupid. Even Ando knows. Granted, this leads to a good chuckle as the second DVD of Hiro's father says "I told you not to," but couldn't Hiro can it with the destiny crap? His own destiny/adventure in this series is caused by his own ridiculousness. At least he is paired against a chick whose super-speed is a good counter to his power. I am rooting for Ando to smack Hiro around, like the future Ando does (with cool lightning).So, at the end of the two-parter, what crises do we have:
  • Present-Peter is trapped in the body of a criminal empowered -- how the heck did that happen? Yeah, I know Future-Peter stuck him in the body, but what happened to his other body?
  • Mohinder grew scales, reassessing validity of plan to inject himself with strange drug
  • Maya still alive and whining
  • Matt on spirit quest
  • Nikki/Tracy banging Senators
  • Mr. Bennett about to team up with... please it will be Sylar, which I have to say is interesting to say the least
  • Claire getting a visit from mom.
  • Hiro and Ando go hunting for the formula from super-speed chick.
Did I leave anything out? It sure seemed like a lot to crush in to two hours. I get that you have to win back an audience, but trying to cram a lot of cool thing in isn't the way to do it. Wait, don't think about it, just watch.

I miss Battlestar.


Diablo Cody

I've dabbled in writing long enough to know how hard it is to write a story that is both coherent and interesting. I've been writing plays, screenplays, and prose since fourth grade, and the truth is I don't do it enough. I probably only have a few existing completed works to show for it all, and I still have the not-great American first novel in typical mode: incomplete and in development hell. (I hate fitting in to a cliche, but there it is. Work and other interests get in the way. Note to self: Always have someone or something to blame. Anyway...)But enough about me. A few months ago, I reviewed Juno, where I said:
    Was there a dearth of great movies last year? Of Oscar-nominated caliber movies? I liked Juno. I liked Ellen Page. I even liked the writing. But in a million years I would never have nominated it for Best Picture. One. Million. Years.
My reaction to the film was basically against the huge swell campaign. I thought the writing was good, but I don't know if it was Oscar-worthy. Which is not to say that Oscar is the end-all-be-all judge of what is the best.

Needless to say, a lot of pundits (such as they are) have apparently been hounding Diablo Cody since then, some of them not so nice. (All you need to find such fans is read some comments sections of film sites. They are there, waiting to stupidly rant.) To my immense pleasure, she posted a blog response to all the insults she has received in recent months:
    I have a response to those who are still boring enough to lob insults in my direction. (Those of you who are friends, fans, enablers, or dislike my writing for legitimate, rational, nonpersonal reasons can tune out now if you like. This isn't for you.)

    Anyone else? Bend thine ear:

    I am not Charlie Kaufman or Sofia Coppola (much as I supplicate at their Cannes-weary feet.) I'm not Paul Thomas Anderson. I'm not even Paul W.S. Anderson. I am middle-class trash from the Midwest. I'm a competent nonfiction writer, an admittedly green screenwriter, and a product of Hollywood, USA. I am "Diablo Cody" and if you're not a fan, go rent Prospero's Books again and leave me the fuck alone.

    I may have won 19 awards that you don't feel I earned, but it's neither original nor relevant to slag on Juno. Really. And you're not some bold, singular voice of dissent, You are exactly like everyone else in your zeitgeisty-demo-lifestyle pod. You are even like me. (I, too, loved Arrested Development! Aren't we a pretty pair of cultural mavericks? Hey, let's go bitch about how Black Kids are overrated!)

    I'm sorry that while you were shooting your failed opus at Tisch, I was jamming toxic silicon toys up my ass for money. I get why you're bitter. I took exactly one film class in college and-- with the curious exception of the Douglas Sirk unit—it bored the shit out of me. I also once got busted for loudly crinkling a bag of Jujubes during a classroom screening of Vivre Sa Vie. I don't deserve to be here. We've established that. But I'm here. Five million 12-year-olds think I'm Buck Henry. Accept it.

    (Incidentally, if you were me for one day you'd crumble like fucking Stilton. I am better at this than you. You're not strong enough, Film_Fan78. Trust me.)

    I'm sorry to all those violent, semi-literate fanboys who hate me for befriending their heroes. I can't help it if your favorite writer, actor, director, or talk show host likes me. Maybe you would too, if we actually met.

    I know my name is fake and that it annoys you. What, do you hate Queen Latifah and Rip Torn, too? Writers and entertainers have been using pseudonyms for years. Chances are, you're spewing bile under an assumed screen name yourself. I'm sorry if you think I'm like some inked-up quasi-Suicide Girl derby cunt from 2002, but I like my fake name. It's engraved on an Oscar. Yours isn't.

    Listen: I've been telling stories my whole life. Even when I was a phone sex operator, I was the Mark Twain of extemporaneous jerk-off fiction. I took every perspiring creep on a fucking journey. I don't know how to do anything else.

    I'm going to make more movies and shows. I doubt they'll all be good, but that's the nature of this life. Even though the public only knows me from one book, one movie, and several aborted blogs, I've spent the last few years hustling like Iceberg Slim out here to prove myself professionally. The people I currently work for, and with, are more than pleased with my post-Juno output. My pilot was so good (thanks, Toni Colette!) that it got picked up for series. That is rare, children. That is blue-rare.

    In summation: you try it.

    This is the last I have to say on the subject, unless I'm provoked by a journalist in which case I'll gladly reload. With relish, as Betty Rizzo might say. That said, I'm a 30-year-old woman with a dwindling interest in blog culture, and I don't have time to address this bullshit every time one of my projects comes out. I'm in love, I just bought a house, and my boss made E.T. I kind of have to focus on reality.

    And drinking. I have to focus on drinking.
What saves the piece from being a rant is what infuses a lot of her writing, namely logic and wit. And the fact that she calls the millions of know-it-all fan-boys out there who think they could do it so easily. I agree with her sentiment: you try it, and fuck you. (Although that doesn't appear directly in the text, I don't think I'm inferring too much in adding it.) It's nice to see someone in Hollywood be as real as this, and I think I just became a fan of Ms. Cody, for what it's worth.

And she can't go wrong with this hilarious Artist-on-Artist interview with John Cusack. Some fun exchanges:

    JC: We met at the cast party for 'How I Met Your Mother'...
    DC: Yeah!
    JC: We were pretty drunk.
    DC: Yeah, I was actually extremely drunk. I don't have a lot of recollection...
    JC: Yeah, it was kind of a blackout haze...
    DC: Yeah, but it was really cool though...


    JC: What was your first concert?
    DC: Oh, I'm so embarrassed...
    JC: Was it REO Speedwagon?
    DC: No REO Speedwagon would at least have retro cache...
    JC: Would it?


The Greatest Game Ever Played

I'm prone to hyperbole, it's true, but not by much. Last night's Monday Night Football game, Eagles versus Cowboys, was the most thrilling, crazy, exciting, fun time I've had watching a game ever. For me, there is nothing as good (no, not even being at the game, sorry) as being in a bar with fans (and not all for one side, but a good jovial mix) watching on HD with the sound up and just rollicking and yelling and laughing at every play. There is nothing better for me, and last night was the peak of such activity.This 7-minute recap covers the best of it, but it really doesn't capture the feeling of the frenetic non-stop pace. When it was over, I was consoled by Dallas fans (!), but I was too exhausted to feel anything. Final assessment: that bungled handoff Q4 cost us the game. Whew!


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

I'm not a gamer, that is to say, I haven't owned a game system since Texas Instruments. (Equivalent to a Commodore 64, if you are trying to pin a year on that.) I won't kid you that I haven't spent thousands of quarters in the old video arcades, or spent my time on Atari, but that is SO 1980's for me.

While I find the concept to be fun, since high school, I always have had the overhanging feeling that I am completely wasting my time while I am playing. I could be exercising, drawing, writing, playing music, i.e., doing something constructive instead of enhancing my carpal tunnel syndrome. And since I neglect those things which I am gifted at (specifically writing and drawing) enough, I can't in good conscience instead pick up a time-consuming and time-killing habit.

And until Star Wars: The Force Unleashed game, I really didn't have an issue. Games today have evolved to the point of being coherent stories with plots, characters, real actors, and some damn fun-looking abilities. The Force Unleashed purports to not only be the latest technology, but also the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, between III and IV.

Here is the YouTube six minute encapsulation with character summary:

A secret dark apprentice of Vader? Imperial pilot love interest? Secret conflicted other Jedi Master? Vader himself? I would KILL to see this movie. Instead, I am sitting here pissed that the only way I'm going to see this thing unfold is to find someone with a Wii and watch them play it. Or destroy them and take it for myself.


The Rise of Endymion

In Dan Simmons' concluding book to his saga, the Catholic Church has become complicit with a devilishly deceiving machinisation (granting immortality) in ruling billions across the galaxy, and the young savior's ultimate solution is one that is truly horrifying and brilliant at the same time. Though I finished reading the book back in July, the last hundred pages still resonate, and the wistful pleasure and knowledge of finality that the story's teller feels at the satisfying end encapsulates the author's vision of the galaxy, or rather what it should be, quite nicely.

I'm only sad that it is over, but to want it to go on and on would ironically be against one of the central messages of the book.

Edge of Victory I

[This is book 7 in the Star Wars: New Jedi Order Series.]As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I like to switch genres from book-to-book, or at least basic themes. You can't get further away from Charlie Huston than a good "old fashioned" Star Wars book. One of the biggest upsides to the New Jedi Order books is that they function well as stand-alone (or two-parters, as in this case) parts of the whole. Another is each story being peppered with conversational recaps of the most important points of previous series. Not everything that has happened (thankfully), but that which directly affects the current tale. The result is you can come back to them after years of absence and pick right up without missing a beat.

The publishers summary:
    No longer content with the destruction the Yuuzhan Vong have already sown, Warmaster Tsavong Lah has demanded the heads of all the Jedi. Now the Jedi Knights are in terrible danger—and none more so than the young students at the Jedi academy on Yavin 4. Already the sympathizers known as the Peace Brigade are in the Yavin system—and a Yuuzhan Vong fleet is not far behind.

    At Luke Skywalker's request, Talon Karrde mounts an expedition to rescue the young students. Anakin Solo has his own ideas. Impatient, and figuring that forgiveness is easier to come by than permission, he takes off for Yavin 4 in his X-wing.

    When it comes to confidence, courage, and raw Force talent, Anakin has few peers. But when his friend Tahiri is separated from the other academy kids and captured by the Yuuzhan Vong, even Anakin may be in over his head. For the aliens have a different future in mind for Tahiri, and they will stop at nothing to achieve their horrific ends.
This is Anakin's tale, and any story featuring the young offspring of Han and Leia usually works well. His confused feelings for his young female friend Tahiri shows what any teenager struggles with, backdropped against his life-and-death struggle to save her from being changed forever by the Vong.