Sunday, May 30, 2010

Did you realize?

io9 is trying to figure out which year in history was the most sci-fi, because that's the kind of thing io9 does.

1982 has the following reasons to win the contest:

Blade Runnner
Star Trek II
The Thing
Dark Crystal
Secret of NIMH
Swamp Thing
Knight Rider
The Snowman
The Darktower
Battlefield Earth

And, of course, me.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summertime, and the living's easy

Recently Lost ended, I became a professional television watcher and it became hot outside. Because of these 3 things, it seems like a good time to provide some summer time television recommendations.

1. If you can handle blood, summer is the time for Dexter and True Blood. I’m a season behind True Blood, but the first season was entertaining. Dexter is always excellent, if you enjoy watching a sociopath at work. I do.

2. If you can’t handle blood, Burn Notice is a fun romp. Well, there may be some blood, but significantly less. Every episode makes me want to move to Miami, but the feeling dissipates when the episode ends.

3. If you want to feel the heat, watch Breaking Bad. It’s so good. Every episode makes you feel like you’re living in New Mexico, and run a meth lab.

4. Futurama is starting again! I’m keeping my expectations low, but even with low expectations I’m still looking forward to it. This show is way cleverer than you’d think it is.

5. Random comedy to pick up on DVD: Big Bang Theory. This one is interesting because it’s a stupid show about smart people, done very well. That is to say, it’s about geniuses, but the format is VERY sitcomy. You’ll be able to predict half the punchlines and all the plot “twists.” But you can predict these outcomes because they’re very faithful in their portrayal of characters. You know what Sheldon would say in the situation, and then he does in fact say it. But it’s still great because Sheldon is great. The rest of the cast is enjoyable as well, but they’re no Sheldon.

6. Random drama to pick up on DVD: Supernatural. This ain’t Lost. But, it’s got a fun soundtrack, surprisingly good special effects, and likable characters. Except Sam, who I keep hoping will fall off a cliff. If you’ve already watched the X-Files, Buffy and Fringe(which are all better and cover similar ground) you can take a break from good television and watch some fun television with Supernatural.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost Spoilers, duh

I don’t know where I’d rank Lost on my all time tv rankings, but pretty darn high. For the most part, television is just entertainment. Entertainment is great; I wholeheartedly support entertainment. But not many shows stick with you after the 60/30/22 minutes are over. Lost did, for four reasons: the plot, the mysteries and the characters and the themes.

I know lots of people hated the Lost finale. But for starters, a lot of people hate any television finale. Look at any popular/acclaimed show in recent memory (Seinfeld, Sopranos and Battlestar Galactica come to mind) and a sizable portion of the audience hated the finale. Part of it is people don’t want their show to end, so will hate any ending. But a bigger part is that endings are hard to do. Satisfying endings for a 2 hour movie are hard to come by. Coming up with a satisfying ending for a 100+ hour mystery? That’s a job and a half.

Lost could have tried to answer all the mysteries in the finale. But if they hired the Micromachines guy to spout direct answers nonstop for the 2.5 hours of the finale, they wouldn’t have answered everything. Why did the shark have a freaking Dharma symbol on its tail???? There’s just no way that this ending to the show was going to happen.

So the lovely people of Lost sidestepped this problem. They didn’t address the mysteries of the Lost universe at all. Instead, they stuck with the other three strong suits of Lost, the characters, story and themes.

The story of Lost changes fairly dramatically from season to season. So again, people might have wanted the finale to go back to plot elements from earlier seasons. But the fact is that these storylines are no longer part of the story. They’ve been erased with time travel, science, magic etc. It wouldn’t even make sense to go back to these storylines in the finale. All they had to do was finish the storylines from this season, which they did. How? They moved a rock, and they put it back. One of the truly amazing things about Lost is it made you care about the tiniest of things. They find a hatch. How many hours of rapt attention did we spend over a door. In the finale they moved a rock, then put it back. And those 2.5 hours flew by. But by the end of the night, they finished the story. Success.

Some people take issue with the tone of this last episode. Yes, it was a bit overly religious. A bit. BUT, it's not like it hasn't been religious from the start. Man of science, man of faith people. A great thing about Lost has been the thematic elements. I'm not going to discuss this in depth, but the beauty of it is that you could discuss it in depth. Lost is about knowledge v belief. It's about family. It's about progression. It's science fiction, it's fantasy, it's drama. You could argue any of these and be right. Am I thrilled with the flash-sideways-as-purgatory? No. Was it surprising? Yes. Did it fit the themes of the show? Yes. Was it a good finale, I'd say yes.

Which leaves us with the characters. A mark of a great show is how invested we become in the characters. Lost made us care about nearly every character introduced. The characters we didn’t care about tended to get blown up or buried alive relatively quickly. The finale was dedicated to those characters, frequently reminding us exactly why we cared about them. We either got to see them demonstrate their quintessential selves, or show how’ve they’ve grown over the last 6 years. Yes, you could argue that they were pandering to the audience, especially during the LA scenes, but the pandering works because the relationship between the audience and the characters is the strength of the show. To me, spending the last episode showing those relationships was a legitimate conclusion of the series.

So, it wasn’t what lots of people wanted, but I think it was a good ending. Using dogs and babies and kisses and martyrdom is the quick and dirty road to emotive response, but this last season, and the series in general was about dogs and babies and kisses and martyrdom. And polar bears.

Other reasons the finale rocked:
1. Lapidus rocks.
2. Jack does a flying punch.
3. Kate got to do something other than be gorgeous.
4. Fingers crossed for a Ben and Hurley spinoff.
5. Enough religious content to bring it up in Sunday School.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The time of the week when I rank . . . Total Eclipse?

It's sometimes hard to tell whether a song is awesome legitimately or ironically. Total Eclipse of the Heart certainly straddles that line. Here are my top

5. Bruce Willis version from Bandits. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a clip. You'll have to rent Bandits. It's not a bad use of your time.

4. Bonnie Tyler - in case you haven't seen the ridiculous original:

3. Glee's Cover - it's hard to find the Glee music videos, but here's the audio:

2. Literal Version - I'm not sure what kind of parody this is classified as, but it's great:

1. Hurra Torpedo - Thanks Norway!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The same everywhere you go

People often remark on how the church is the same anywhere you go. Unfortunately, it’s true.

I’m currently in Arizona, scoping out housing, and it’s kind of a surreal experience. I’m having quadruple déjà vu. As I drive around looking for places, it’s just like when I did this 4 years ago in Ohio. Being lost constantly, meeting tons of people who I may never meet again, sleeping in my car (I wasn’t going to pay 50 bucks for a motel room, that’s ridiculous) Being surrounded by Mormons, having to figure out ward boundaries is just like being back at BYU. The 100 degree temperatures and brown landscape is just like being back in Idaho. Getting things started for work at the hospital is just like med school. Having everything be new, but also very similar to a different past experience is a little disconcerting. It probably didn’t help that the first day I was working on 2 hours of sleep and the second I was working on car sleep.

But speaking of the church being the same everywhere you go, single ward awkwardness pervades every singles ward. On Saturday I went to a talent show, because hey, there was a talent show. Now the fact that there were 400 or so people watching the talent show was new. And admittedly, most of the participants were much better than average. Turns out they had had auditions, which is kind of mind boggling, but also great.

The first awkwardness was from the audience: I saw some of the oddest PDA ever. This girl had her arm around her fiancé’s neck. The gigantic ring tipped me off on their relationship, but maybe she wanted to make sure everyone knew with her PDA. Arm around neck isn’t so weird, except it was around the front of his neck, with her hand wrapping around to rest on his occiput (the base of the back of his head.) There is no possible way her contorted position was comfortable for her or her future hubby. But she kept it there for over an hour. The next day at church I saw another new one. This guy had his face pressed against his girl’s face for nearly the entirety of sacrament meeting. Which wouldn’t be as odd if they were both facing the same direction, but he was perpendicular, with his nose pressed into her cheek. Weirder still, he was wearing sunglasses the entire time.

Anyway, the awkwardness continued on stage. The first questionable act involved modified blackface. Modified, because it was hand puppets, so it was black hand. But still, having your black hand puppet speaking to your white hand puppet in a “black dialect” (good thing I’m not a politician) seemed questionable. More objectionable in my mind was when the Elders Quorum presidency donned fat suits (both male and female) and did yoga, while eating junk food in between positions. That was the act, with some dancing to and from the stage. The most surprising thing was that the judges (there were judges, which also made things interesting) liked it, 2 of them giving it a 9/10. I think it would have been more funny if there had been jokes in the comedy act, but evidently I don’t have my Arizona humor yet.

Anyway, I sound negative but overall the show as great, and the trip has been productive and entertaining so far. Except for yesterday when I went to 5 wards, which was painful. But otherwise, it’s been pretty pain free.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fast Food Fast Broken

I decided on May 1st that I wouldn’t eat any fast food this month. I’m learning about acupuncture and herbal medicine and whatnot at school and figured I’d go all natural for a month to go full on hippie. On May 2nd I had a Frosty. It’s really not my fault. I have to pass a Wendy’s on the way home from the gym, and I’m hot and sweaty and just lost a bunch of calories. Anyway, my fast food fast didn’t work. But realistically, how was I going to live in my car for 4 days without eating fast food? Impossible I say. Here were my top Food Tourism experiences while in Arizona.

1. Jamba Juice – Hurray for the one and only true smoothie shop. It’s been 4 years, but now you’re back in my life.

2. Café Rio – another 4 year absence. Who knew that there was a Café Rio in Mesa? But there is, and Provo has officially become more useless.

3. Mini-churros – insanely addictive 100% artificial confections from Jack in the Box. 5 for a dollar! You can also get 10, but I think you’d die.

4. Jack in the Box in general – I shouldn’t have a favorite fast food place. But I think Jack in the Box is now my favorite fast food place.

5. Strawberry Dr. Pepper – Since Diet Dr. Pepper is much more common in Arizona, I got the opportunity to play with it at soda fountains. Strawberry DDP is so much better than cherry DDP.

6. 10 cent apple pie – Government, get off your lazy butt and do something about the greatest social injustice in our society: expensive food at airports. McDonalds apple pies cost 90 cents instead of 50. But you can get 2 for a dollar, so the second one costs 10 cents. The second one was much more delicious.

7. Wendy’s breakfast – honestly I don’t even remember what I had, but it’s just a rarity for me to have breakfast at Wendys. And I think I had yogurt as my side, which was refreshing.

I heard this on my satellite radio: A man goes to the doctor. The doctor tells him that he can add 2 years to his life if he just cuts out donuts. "So let me get this straight doc. With my plan I eat donuts until I die. With your plan I have to live 2 years longer without donuts. And you're a doctor?"
Not exactly hilarious, but it makes me feel better after those mini-churros.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Raising the bar

After my ten years in singles wards, I’ve narrowed down my dating requirements to three things: smart, fun, attractive. Everything else is a plus or minus, but ultimately inconsequential. After this weekend I feel like I need to have four dating requirements. Smart, fun, attractive, British accent.

I hate renting cars. It’s one of those many situations in adult life where I feel like I have no control. And these are maddening. You have all kinds of options when renting a car, but cheap is never an option. But as I rented a car this week I had one pleasant surprise: Sirius radio.

As always, I’d crafted a number of great playlists for my trip. After all, I knew I’d be in the car a lot over the 4 days driving all over Mesa, Scottsdale, Gilbert etc. But I only listened to those playlists on the airplane, as the satellite radio dominated my listening.

The comedy stations were fun. Especially since I’ve watched the entirety of Dr. Katz over the last few months (hey, it’s career research) and can recognize many more underground comedians because of it. I had a fun game on Doctor Radio where I’d try to figure out diagnoses before the physician on the radio (we usually tied.) I had another game where I’d listen to 80s radio and 90s radio and see which one I could listen to longer with a string of recognized hits. Throw in First Wave, Alternative Nation, Bluegrass Junction, a bunch of NPR stations and a pinch of Cosmo Radio (it was pretty bizarre) and I just never got around to my own iPod.

But what I listened to most was BBC Radio 1. Sure, at least half of it was American exports, but the other half was great. And those female British DJs, they had me entranced. The accent is hot on its own, but when combined with talking about indie or Britpop, it was almost too distracting to drive to. And when my GPS kicked in with her British accent over the top, well, I’m glad I didn’t hit any Arizonan pedestrians.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


I saw Ironman 2 tonight, but I don’t want to talk about Ironman.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Nightcrawler is dead.

Now, Spiderman is the greatest superhero of all time. This was revealed to me at a young age, and of this truth I have no doubts. When I was 9 I even saved up several months allowance, as well as using some of my brothers (because, I reasoned, he'd wear the hat sometimes too) to buy a Spiderman hat.

Spiderman is the greatest ever, but I don't necessarily relate to him.

He has/had a smoking hot wife.
His first love was skewered by a goblin glider, mine wasn't.
He's a genius inventor, and my Jamaican Bacon Bananas have never taken off.
He can stick to walls, which isn’t a power I particularly envy.

No, the heroes I relate to most are the brothers in arms, Piotr and Kurt, known to the less nerdy as Colossus and Nightcrawler.

The X-Men were introduced in 1963. But it took twelve years before they got their act together and added characters I liked. Not that I was reading comics in 1975. I’m not quite that old. But in 75 they had a kind of Captain Planet situation and they made up new characters from across the globe. The most famous of these was Wolverine from far-off Canada. But introduced in the same issue were Storm from Africa, Thunderbird from Native America, and of course Nightcrawler and Colossus, from Germany and Mother Russia respectively. Wolverine of course went on to become one of the most famous characters in all of comics, but Nightcrawler and Colossus are where it’s at.

This post is in memory of Nightcrawler, but I liked Colossus first. The Hulk is in my top ten heroes, but he’s not who I wanted to be. He’s the personification of rage, unbridled and powerful. This is fun to watch, but not exactly an admirable characteristic. Colossus on the other hand, though not as strong as the Hulk, is in complete control of his strength. Although he’s the strongest of the X-Men, his power is really more his durability than his strength. And that’s something I always wanted; to be impervious. Mostly figuratively, but being immune to bullets/explosions etc would also be a plus.

Colossus doesn’t want to be a hero. He’s a Russian farm boy, and that’s really where he would’ve stayed, if he had his druthers. He’s an artist, frequently found sketching when not lifting 100 ton objects. His actions over the years, though sometimes questionable, have always been to protect his family and loved ones. He’s a part of the X-Men because they need him, not because he likes it. He’s already sacrificed his life and was resurrected several years later, and says at Nightcrawler’s funeral that if anyone deserves a resurrection, it’s Nightcrawler.

Nightcrawler is arguably the ugliest of the X-Men. If you’re nerdier than me you can probably name uglier characters, but I’m going to gamble that you’re not, and we’ll say he’s the ugliest. X-Men has always been kind of a preachy comic, but all the messages the characters spout about peace, understanding and acceptance really aren’t going to extend all the way to Nightcrawler. He looks like a devil. He’s not ever going to have a casual cup of joe at Starbucks. But he fights for the rest of the mutants so they can be accepted. And despite being an actual preacher, he’s not preachy about it. He’s just the character you can most depend on to do the right thing, for the right reasons.

Despite being pretty universally hated, Kurt is one of the most chipper characters around. Like Spiderman, he jokes as busts heads. His teammates call him Elf, and he’s embraced the carefree title.

He’s one of the founding members of the British X-Men, which was an awesome idea.

Nightcrawler is the most religious of the X-Men, and perhaps the most religious character in all of comics. He’s a Catholic priest, and at various times has had his own congregation. The congregation usually consists of mutants, since they’re the only ones that would accept a devil preaching from the pulpit, but he’s still served as a spiritual guide for his teammates.

Like Colossus, I’ve always wanted Nightcrawler’s powers. I could live without being a three-fingered demon with blue skin and a tail, but I’d love to be able to teleport. This is mostly due to laziness, but also a love for convenience and a desire for efficiency. To this day when I’m walking from point A to point B, I think of teleporting like Nightcrawler. Maybe the blue skin would be worth it. Just think of all the time you’d save.

So rest in peace Nightcrawler. Death is almost always temporary in comics, so we’ll be seeing you again soon.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Definitely, Definitely

I feel like Rainman when I go shopping. I think the problem is that I lack opinions strong enough about the clothing that I can point out exactly what I want, but I have enough of an opinion that I can’t just get anything. Which leads to a long internal dialogue.

“I need some new shorts, especially since I’m moving to the sun. Are these good prices for shorts? It’s been so long since I’ve bought any, and it doesn’t seem very well standardized. What color are the shorts I have? Mostly khaki I guess. What color do I imagine myself wearing? Khaki I guess. But I already have khaki. These are orange; I don’t have orange. Would I wear orange? Do I not own any orange shorts because I’m normal, or because I’m boring? How do I feel about people that wear orange shorts? I don’t feel any particular way about people that wear orange shorts.”

I now own a pair of orange shorts. Because I'm fun and spontaneous. Or if you don't like them, because they were on sale.