Friday, September 30, 2011

SciFi Friday: Mind Reading, Faster than Light Travel, and Other Modern Breakthroughs

The 1950s promised us a future full of robot butlers, rocket packs, and beautiful alien princesses.  So far scientists have delivered on absolutely none of those promises.  But they have given us some other pretty cool stuff, so for the (other) geeks home on a Friday night, here's some pretty cool real scientific breakthroughs:

  • While they're still working on verifying their findings, scientists at CERN recorded particles traveling faster than the speed of light, which would pretty much destroy everything we thought we knew about physics.  But don't hurry to book a trip on the Starship Enterprise, because even if verified the particles were smaller than an atom.
  • Video Gamers were able to help AIDS Researchers unlock a protein sequence that had been puzzling them for years in a matter of weeks through an online game, using thousands of players brains to work as a cloud computer to solve spacial reasoning problems that computers aren't very good at.
  • And advertisers have developed a machine that lets them project messages directly into people's skulls, so there may actually be a little voice inside your head telling you to buy those cookies.  Ignoring for the moment how terrifying that is, I can't be the only one who wants to play with one can I?
Your thoughts on these or any other geeky topics in the comments.

First Round Roundup of the 2011 TV Tournament

The First Round of the 2011 Entertained Organizer New Network TV Show Tournament wrapped up last night.  Before Round 2 kicks off tomorrow, lets review some of the highlights:

GAME 1: FREE AGENTS VS. UP ALL NIGHT
Up All Night took an early and commanding lead with it's great cast and mixup of traditional sitcom dynamics giving it a decided edge against the will they/won't they retread dynamic of the otherwise serviceable Free Agents.  Up All Night looks to be a serious contender not just in the next round, but in the tournament as a whole.

GAME 2: 2 BROKE GIRLS VS. CHARLIE'S ANGELS
CBS's best new comedy 2 Broke Girls dominated over the remake of Charlie's Angels which failed to justify it's existence over a slew of other action adventure shows competing for your attention.  It's not bad per say, but it's the kind of show if you think you'll like it you probably will, but if you think you won't, you definitely won't.  That said 2 Broke Girls faces some stiff competition in the Second Round Up against our next game winner.

GAME 3: NEW GIRL VS. WHITNEY
Fox's new comedy New Girl blew the competition out of the water with Zooey Deschanel's adorkable humor.  In fact NBC's Whitney was in fierce competition to be the worst new show of the season until a late entrant stole the title out from under her.  The whole jaded bitter woman thing is done much better on 2 Broke Girls and it'll be interesting to watch it and New Girl go up against each other in the Second Round, especially as New Girl deals with the replacement of cast member Damon Wayans Jr. by Lamorne Morris.

GAME 4: PERSON OF INTEREST VS. PRIME SUSPECT
These two well-pedigreed police procedurals were in a classic standoff against each other in Game 4.  Ultimately NBC's Prime Suspect carried the day do to it's future potential (though it's future may be brief if it doesn't increase it's ratings soon).  It was also helped out by ratings success Person of Interest backing the wooden Jim Caviezel as it's crazy homeless Batman lead.  Prime Suspect will go on to face another gimmicky procedural in Round 2.

GAME 5: UNFORGETTABLE VS. A GIFTED MAN
While neither show truly grabbed me, A Gifted Man's gimmick of a doctor literally haunted by the ghost of his dead ex-wife who wants him to complete her unfinished work by becoming a better man felt more likely to have longevity and story potential than Unforgettable's a detective who can remember everything she's ever seen (EXCEPT WHO KILLED HER SISTER).  Also Unforgettable was originally titled The Rememberer, and that's a name so bad that I will never get tired of mocking it.  Seriously, The Rememberer.

GAME 6: THE PLAYBOY CLUB VS. PAN AM
The battle of the Mad Men knockoffs, two 60's themed shows enter the ring, only one leaves.  In this case the one left bleeding in the dirt would be The Playboy Club which both fails in it's attempt to present objectifying women for money as a high water mark for feminism or make me interested in the mob murder subplot.  Pan Am juggles a lot of different plots but if it can find an even keel it has potential.

GAME 7: REVENGE VS. TERRA NOVA
Easily the two oddest new dramas of the season, Revenge is a procedural based on the novel Count of Monte Cristo, in which our protagonist gets revenge on a different Hamptonite she holds responsible for ruining her father's life.  While Terra Nova is about dinosaurs, time travel, and conspiracies involving dinosaurs and time travel.  While I enjoyed both shows, the sci-fi nerd in me ultimately won out with the gorgeously shot and CGI-heavy Terra Nova advancing to the next round.


GAME 8: SUBURGATORY VS. HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN
How to Be a Gentleman was the single worst new pilot this season.  It wasn't even bad by modern standards, but as a terrible 'wacky situation' sitcom of the 90s.  Which is not to say that Suburgatory merely won this match be default.  It has some serious potential and sandwiched in the middle of ABCs Wednesday night comedy block just before Modern Family (whose audience should like this too) Suburgatory could be a big hit even if I do think it's a bit over the top in the pilot.

What's Up Next in Round 2:
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GAME 1: 2 Broke Girls vs. New Girl, will settle once and for all whether I'm more drawn to sarcastic or dorky brunettes.

GAME 2: A Gifted Man vs. Prime Suspect, will decide whether I prefer police or medical procedurals.

GAME 3: Pan Am vs. Terra Nova, will answer the question of whether it's better to go back 50 or 50 million years when doing a period piece.

GAME 4: Suburgatory vs. Up All Night, will answer that age old question, which is funnier raising a teenager or dealing with a baby.

Be sure to tune in!

Friday Freakshow Roundup: Missiles, Gold Coins, and Rhinoceroses

In the political news system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the Republicans who do insane things, and this blogger who mocks them. These are their stories:
  • Michele Bachmann starts us off with a Back to the Future-style conspiracy that no one's worried about in 50 years, missiles in Cuba.  This time though instead of the very real threat of the Soviet Union, she's convinced herself that Hezbollah will soon be launching missiles at Miami.  Then again this is a woman who thinks the Tea Party is the modern day equivalent of the Civil Rights movement, so maybe she just doesn't remember the 60s very well for some reason.
  • Taking 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' just a little bit too far, House Republicans want to eliminate dollar bills and bring back gold dollar coins.  Because that sounds way more convenient to carry around.
  • In news that isn't really news AND won't change anything, Jon Huntsman announces that his campaign is going to focus "singularly on New Hampshire."  Good luck with that.
  • Newt Gingrich explained that evolution can't be real because we're not all rhinoceroses.  I'll let you all come up with the best Newt Gingrich is already horny joke on your own.
  • And finally the return of everyone's favorite Taiwanese Animated News Program:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

TV Tourney Round 1, Game 8: Suburgatory vs. How to Be a Gentleman

For Tournament rules and previous matches go here.

Welcome to the final game of the First Round of the Entertained Organizer New Network Show TV Show Tournament, which features ABC's father/daughter comedy Suburgatory facing off against CBS's comedy about manliness How to Be a Gentleman.  Who will win, the show about teenagers or the show about adults who act like teenagers?  Read on to find out!

I didn't actually know anything about Suburgatory going in (beyond what I could guess from the name).  It tells the story of a single father and his teenage daughter who move from Manhattan to the suburbs after he finds a box of condoms in her bedroom (because apparently no teenagers have sex in the suburbs).  Really it's an excuse to set up the premise for the show, an acerbic, jaded teenager deconstructing the suburbs while her slightly clueless dad tries to do right by her while also struggling with culture shock.  The show does have the advantage of a great supporting cast with Alan Tudyk (Firefly) as the dad's best friend, and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as the sexually predatory housewife neighbor.  The show has potential and certainly fits in ABC's Wednesday night family comedy block.

How to Be a Gentleman on the other hand is just bad.  How bad is it, you ask?  Bad enough that I want to apologize to Whitney for saying it was the worst new show of the season.  How to Be a Gentleman tells the story of a uptight, metrosexual advice columnist for an Esquire-style magazine whose life is thrown into upheaval when the magazine is bought out by a Maxim-style style competitor and he is forced to write articles about things that 'real men' are interested.  Completely out of his depths, he turns to the only man who can help him, his high school bully turned personal trainer.  Despite the efforts of Kevin Dillon (Entourage) and the inclusion of my personal favorite Dave Foley (Newsradio) are unable to save this show from the kind of mid-90s Veronica's Closet or Ned and Stacy's failed sitcom mediocrity that I thought had died out at the beginning of the new millennium.

DESPITE MY DESIRE TO SEE DAVE FOLEY ABLE TO PAY HIS ALIMONY
THE WINNER OF GAME 8 IS:
SUBURGATORY

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Tales from the Campaign Trail: The Shower

I'm a political organizer, I hope my stories entertain you (so that's where the name comes from):

A while ago I was working on a close primary campaign, and we had a hotly contested endorsement vote coming up.  So our campaign manager divided up the list of eligible voters amongst the organizers and told us to lock down their votes and arrange carpools so that we would be in control of making sure they got to the endorsement meeting on time.  Things went really well and I got the support of everyone on my list.  But one guy refused to go in a carpool, saying that he only lived 10 minutes away from the meeting location.  I tried to persuade him, but he wouldn't budge.

So I did what I could and made sure that the date, time, and location of the endorsement meeting were practically tattooed tot he inside of his eyelids.  The day before the vote, I made all my reminder calls about car pool pick up times and called him to confirm he was still all set to go.  No answer.  I called again that night and left another message, but I still didn't get a response.  The next day I drove around to pick up the people I was giving a ride to, and I tried to give him another call but now his phone is off.  So I called my campaign manager to let him know that this guy has dropped off the face of the earth, and he texted me the guys address so I could swing by his house before the meeting to see if I could find him.

I got to his house about a half hour before we were supposed to be at the meeting.  Leaving my other voters in the car, I started to walk up to the house, but all the lights appeared to be off and I couldn't hear any sounds coming from inside.  Still I don't have a lot of options at this point, so I went up and knocked on the door.  Nothing.  Not a sound.  I knocked again.  Still Nothing.  I had started to consider what would happen to me if we lost by one vote because this guy had been abducted by aliens when suddenly the door opened.  And there he was, wrapped in a towel with shaving lotion still on half of his face with the most confused expression I had ever seen.  He asked me what I was doing there, and I told him I was just checking that he was still coming and didn't need need a ride.  Still confused, he told me that he was still getting ready to go and would be there soon.  A little later he arrived at the meeting (very well groomed and in a nice suit) and immediately approached me and said "don't ever do that again."  I asked him if he was still voting for us, and after he said he was I promised never to do it again.

We won the vote in a landslide, and it was time to move on to the next endorsement...

Closeted Countdown: Planes, Hockey, and Bullying

I've long believed that the only thing that could motivate someone to dedicate their lives to homophobia is deep self-loathing. So start the countdown timer until these folks get caught with a gay prostitute:
  • Southwest Airlines kicked L-Word actress Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend off a flight because a single kiss upset the other passengers.
  • The sponsor of North Carolina's anti-gay marriage amendment, State Senator James Forrester, can't actually think of a single way that gay marriage would undermine traditional marriage.  But we better ban it anyway, you know, just to be safe.
  • I've written a lot about Republican attempts to alter voting laws to suppress voters they don't like, but truthfully it never occurred to me that voter id laws would also likely have the effect of disenfranchising transgender individuals.  Sorry for my lack of vision, and score one more for the bad guys.
  • A town clerk in New York is refusing to give out marriage licenses to gay couples because she claims it violates her freedom of religion.  This would be the same argument that pharmacists use to refuse to give out contraceptives, and it's equally flawed here.  There'd be no question she's wrong if she was refusing to give out licenses because her religion had a problem with inter-racial marriage (as the Mormons did until the 1970s) or with inter-faith marriages (as many evangelicals do today).  Being a homophobe doesn't make her special, it just makes her a bigot.
  • Even as Chris Christie refuses to get into the Republican Presidential field, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, says he better not get in, because his anti-gay bullying initiatives would be a serious problem for him.  Which kind of just goes to show that the GOP will get furious at the tiniest spark of humanity in any of their Presidential candidates.
Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TV Tourney Round 1, Game 7: Revenge vs. Terra Nova

For Tournament rules and previous games go here.

Game 7 of the First Round of the Entertained Organizer New Network TV Show Tournament has ABC's modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo in the Hamptons, Revenge, squaring off against Fox's sci-fi dinosaur epic Terra Nova.

Revenge tells the story of Emily Thorne as she gets vengeance on those responsible for framing her father for treason.  I went into this show expecting not to like it, after all it is accurately described as "The Count of Monte Cristo in the Hamptons."  But it was actually fun.  Oh don't get me wrong, the show is ridiculous and over the top, Thorne's revenge in the first episode is exacted by stealing a waitresses uniform so she can poison a man's soup so that his wife will become suspicious that he's having an affair and socially ostracize her true target, the woman he's having an affair with (why she couldn't have just poisoned the woman directly when she had the chance I don't know).  As long as the show keeps that level of Rube Goldberg-esque insane planning and melodramatic voiceover, I could certainly see Revenge being a guilty pleasure show.

Terra Nova has dinosaurs and time travel, and that's going to be a deal breaker for some viewers.  Fortunately I'm not one of those viewers, and will confess that pretty much any so called 'genre' show will usually get more than it's fair chance from me (shocking I know from a guy who writes a weekly column about obscure comic book villains).  That said, Fox clearly wants this show to be a hit, spending a fortune on both the show itself (shot on location in Australia) and an advertising blitz.  And they may just have gotten their moneys worth.  Having completely devastated our world with pollution, future humanity sees it's only hope for survival by traveling back in time 65 million years to a pristine Earth populated by dinosaurs as really looking as you'd expect for a show with Steven Spielberg as a producer.  Beyond the draw of dinosaurs and absolutely gorgeous scenery, Terra Nova provides a lot of avenues for potential storyline's from a group of rebelious teenagers, a conspiracy going on about the colonies true purpose, cop drama, rival splinter colonies, and a family struggling to hold it together.  I'm more interested in some of those than others, but none prove to be a drag on show.  The show could of course spiral horribly out of control with all that going on or simply be too expensive to justify it's continued existence, but if it manages to keep that careful balance it could be something special.

BECAUSE THERE SHOULD BE MORE TIME TRAVEL AND DINOSAURS ON TV,
THE WINNER OF GAME 7 IS:
TERRA NOVA

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Published as a Public Service Announcement: Superboy, Job Counselor

I cover politics and pop culture, sometimes the two collide:


Republican Racism Review: Limbaugh, Bake Sales, and Birthers

Real button handed out at the 2008
Texas Republican State Convention
If you start keeping your eyes open for them, there are a terrifying number of news stories about Republicans being racist:
  • Republican Rep. Joe Wilson thinks that the media will give Obama a free pass in his reelection campaign because he's black.  This would be the same media that's cool with Pat Buchanan citing known hate groups to try to prove his point on immigration reform.  This would be a media that includes Fox News who let a white supremacist group ask immigration questions at their last Presidential debate.  But I'm sure they'll change their tune once they realize that Obama is black.
  • The Justice Department released it's preliminary finds in their investigation into Rick Perry's Texas Redistricting Plan.  If you're surprised that they found it was intentionally designed "for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to Congress," you just haven't been paying enough attention.
  • I hesitate to give them attention for what is obviously a media stunt, but it should be remembered that the Berkeley College Republicans prove that racism starts early in the Republican Party with a racially priced bake-sale in protest of SB185, which allows the UC system to consider race in considering applicants.  Just in case you think they have a point and admissions should be color blind, as that article notes, putting every other good reason aside, SAT scores have statistically proven to favor white takers over minorities, so once again white privilege would be allowed to carry the day.  And just like when they changed the scoring a couple years ago, my SAT score feels a little cheaper.
  • It's actually kind of refreshing to have an anti-immigrant group admit that they're not just opposed to 'illegal immigration' but want to stop all immigrants, legal or otherwise, from entering the country.

West Wing Wednesday

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Terrific Tuesday Tidings: Insurance, Table Turning, and Magic Making

It's Tuesday and that means it's time for my ongoing quest to become a more positive person. Here are the news stories that made me happy this week:
  • A quick reminder that there are more than a million young adults who have health insurance now because of Obamacare (including yours truly).
  • In the least surprising news ever, 5 of the top 10 suggestions on the White House's "Popular Petitions" website are about legalizing marijuana.
  • Park 51, the so called "Ground Zero Mosque", opened last week with nary a peep from the bigots who were attacking it last year.  Guess they're too busy booing gay soldiers.
  • I mentioned last week that the landlord of an abortion provider was being targeted by anti-abortion extremists who protested outside his daughter's elementary school calling him a murderer and giving out his home address and telephone number.  Well, he's turned the tables and started an organization that publishes the numbers of those who call to harass him, so that anyone who wants to can call them back and let them know that personal choice is a right in this country, and we won't be intimidated.
  • If you've ever wondered how the sausage gets made, Jon Stewart opened up to Rolling Stone about what goes into making The Daily Show.
  • Finally, even if you've already seen it, this video of a gay soldier coming out to his father after the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell went into effect last week is worth another watch:

Monday, September 26, 2011

TV Tourney Round 1, Game 6: The Playboy Club vs. Pan Am

For Tournament rules and previous games go here.

The 6th Game of the First Round of Entertained Organizer New Network TV Show Tournament features a showdown between the two network Mad Men knockoffs.  In one corner, fighting for NBC we have The Playboy Club, an appropriately titled show about the Chicago Playboy Club in the 1960s.  And in the other, fighting for ABC is Pan Am about the life and times of airline stewardesses in the 1960s.  Both are trying desperately to sell themselves as stories about women's empowerment and latch onto some of that critical acclaim Mad Men has garnered for AMC.  Who fails and who succeeds?  Read on to find out.

I'm just going to admit flat out that details on The Playboy Club section of this game are going to be a little looser.  I knew that these two shows should obviously go up against each other in the first round (lets face it, there's no way that network audiences are going to support two Mad Men knockoffs), but The Playboy Club aired a week ago and despite my love for all of you readers, I just couldn't make myself watch it again.  If that doesn't give you a hint, the show was pretty bad.  In the first place it's difficult to paint a club focused on objectifying women sexually as a symbol of female empowerment.  For another the show is far too focused on the political rise (and mob ties) of Eddie Cibrian's character, who is trying so hard to be Jon Hamm's Don Draper I almost feel sorry for him.  Of course the beauty of Hamm's performance on Mad Men is that he appears effortlessly suave, while Cibrian's DA needs everyone to know he's the coolest guy in the room.  There's a subplot about the first bunny becoming some kind of co-manager/house mom that I think is supposed to show women getting ahead through working at the club, but if a step forward in life is designing the bunny suits instead of wearing them, that's sad.  Finally, the show is going to be hurt in both the short and longterm by the use of the Playboy name.    Some segment of the tv audience tuned in because Playboy means naked women, and being on a major network means that'll never pay off (Showtime or Starz might have been a bigger fit).  More importantly, Playboy is never going to let the show do anything to tarnish their corporate brand.  Longterm that means a lot of the more interesting storyline potential is cut off, and we're destined to being told that women dressing in skimpy costumes and putting up with men sexually harassing them for tips counts as feminism because it's the 1960s.

ABC's Pan Am does a better job as both a Mad Men knockoff and as a setting that can plausibly be about women taking charge of their own lives.  That doesn't mean that's its anywhere close to being in the same league as Mad Men, but it at least avoids the pitfall of trying to match the acting power of Jon Hamm.  Instead the show decides to ape the convoluted personal history of Don Draper by giving every character some secret filmed backstory, whether it's joining Pan Am to avoid a marriage, being a secret agent of the CIA, or a missing fiance.  I won't pretend that I actually care about any of these plotlines or characters yet, but they are beautifully shot, and with the exception of the CIA one, I don't think I will actively hate any of them the way I do the mob murder of The Playboy Club.  And ultimately, Pan Am sold me on the idea that while not necessarily the modern feminist ideal, in 1963 becoming a stewardess was a way for a woman to take charge of her life and have an opportunity to see the world.  And because Pan Am is no longer a functioning airline, the show is actually allowed to explore the more sexist aspects of that dream as well.  Whether the show will take advantage of that remains to be seen, but it's still gives Pan Am a leg up on The Playboy Club.

AND SO WITH HOPE FOR THE FUTURE,
THE WINNER OF GAME 6 IS:
PAN AM

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Frontline of the Class War: Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous

The Republicans are right, there is a class war going on in this country. And they're the ones waging it against the middle and working class:
  • To start things off right, let me introduce you to Republican Rep. John Fleming.  He opposes raising taxes on the wealthy because after he's paid all his employees, all his bills, and fed his family he only takes home $400,000 a year.  How is he supposed to live on that?
  • Mitt Romney has a net worth of approximately a quarter of a billion dollars.  Mitt Romney believes he is a member of the middle class.  And like any other middle class parent, his top education concern is increasing class sizes, because lets face it kids benefiting from individual attention is a liberal myth created by the teachers unions.  After all, the children are our future.
  • Following up on Ron Paul's former campaign manager who died $400,000 in debt of pneumonia because pre-existing conditions kept him from being able to get medical insurance, Ron Paul wants you to know he didn't need the governments help.  Glad he cleared that up for us.
  • The Chamber of Commerce is suing the National Labor Relations Board to prevent their ruling that workers' union rights need to be posted somewhere on the job site.  Because let's face it, letting workers know what their legal rights are is the first step down a dangerous slippery slope to them actually wanting to utilize them.  And we wouldn't want that now would we.
  • Republicans continue to claim that Obama's proposed tax increase on the wealthy will cripple small businesses.  When Warren Buffett refuted their claims, they demanded that he publicly release his tax returns.  Which would have been really clever if he hadn't done it a month ago.  Countdown until they start demanding his long form tax return?
  • Rick Santorum comes dangerously close to making sense when he asks, if medical insurance is a necessity, why don't we have food insurance too?  The millions of children who are going to go to bed hungry in this country tonight were really hoping that that wasn't a rhetorical question.
  • Bill O'Reilly threatens to quit television and take his ball home if his taxes are raised....to the point they were at when he started the show.
Welcome to the Working Week!

Monday Makeover: The Rocketeer Racketeers

There are no bad characters, just characters that no one has spent far too much time thinking about how to make work. I intend to fix that.




The Rocketeer Racketeers first and only appearance was in 1966's Batman #178.  While they do clearly have a leader, maybe it's for the best that neither he nor the rest of them are ever given another name.  Once you've become a Rocketeer Racketeer, why would you even want another name?  What could be better?  It's got alliteration, it's practically a homophone, and actually describes what the group does.  Born out of Cold War era fears of nuclear annihilation, the Rocketeer Racketeers came up with the ultimate racket.  Stealing test rockets while in flight (from a college friend of Batman's who in a bizarre subplot is worried about living up to his forefather's legacy), the Rocketeer Racketeers then equip the stolen rockets with nuclear devices and threaten to blow up Gotham City unless unless they receive their ransom of one billion dollars.  Batman and Robin track them down to their lair, get captured, and then tied to the nuclear warhead.  Unsurprisingly they manage to escape and disarm the rocket mid-air, followed by knocking out the pursing Rocketeer Racketeers with well timed batarangs.


Most obviously the Rocketeer Racketeers deserve credit for their name.  It's amazing and in a City known for it's themed gangs, the Rocketeer Racketeers came up with one that's both creative and practical.  That said, they're not very practical.  Even adjusted for inflation a billion dollars in 1966 wouldn't have been enough to hide with once you were declared a nuclear terrorist (though I suppose a Russian block state might have worked).  And that doesn't even matter because they tried to escort the nuclear missile into Gotham City themselves to make sure it wouldn't get shot down.  And while an amusing concept, I don't think that Rocketeer Martyrs has quite the same ring to it, to say nothing of having long term longevity.  That said, they certainly deserve another shot at the limelight.


Nature abhors a vacuum, it's a basic fact of the world.  It seemed like a veritable armada of modern day pirates controlled the Gotham waterways, and while a dozen different gangs and a hundred different freaks battled it out for territory on the streets, the reality was that the Batman controlled Gotham.  But a few men had the courage and the vision to look up, and those men saw wide open skies.  Sure there was the Man-Bat, but that was either a freak of nature or an urban legend, and there was that nut with his blimps a few months ago, but Gotham City wasn't Metropolis and here the superheroes couldn't leap over tall buildings, let alone higher.  Nature abhors a vacuum and for the crime capitol of the country, Gotham's skies were surprisingly safe to fly.  With a little ingenuity and a lot of guts, there was a lot of money to be made.  Want to make sure your shipment of guns or drugs land safely, better pay protection.  How about kidnapping? Most millionaires assume they're safe once they're on their private jets.  For that matter, if you'd prefer to get out of Gotham without appearing on any flight manifest, that could be arranged assuming you had the money and a strong enough stomach.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and the Rocketeer Racketeers fully intend to prove that in Gotham City, the skies the limit.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

TV Tourney Round 1, Game 5: Unforgettable vs. A Gifted Man

For Tournament rules and previous games go here.

Game 5 of the First Round of the Entertained Organizer New Network TV Show Tournament pits CBS's new police procedural with a twist
Unforgettable against CBS's new medical procedural with a twist A Gifted Man (it should be noticed that CBS's other procedural with a twist Person of Interest lost in Game 4, so there's something of a pattern going on).  So which is twistier, a detective who can remember everything EXCEPT who killed her sister or a world class neurosurgeon who is led by the ghost of his dead wife to become a better man and help the less fortunate (and does anyone really care either way)???

The first thing you need to know about Unforgettable is that the original title for the show was The Rememberer.  That's not a typo, it was The Rememberer.  Now yes, somewhere along the way someone realized that The Rememberer may be the single stupidest thing for any TV show ever and had it changed to the bland but serviceable Unforgettable, the people responsible for the show originally thought that The Rememberer was just fine.  That's not a promising start and the series doesn't do a lot to change my opinion from there.  Poppy Montgomery does a decent job as our memory-nonchallenged lead, and the writing even gives a few somewhat clever nods to what remembering everything must actually be like (having interpersonal problems because she can't forget a single mean or thoughtless thing anyone has ever said to her for example).  I like male lead Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) in just about everything and this is no exception as he plays her fellow detective and former lover.  But the rest is just paint by numbers.  The show needs an overarching plot (because today all shows need an overarching plot) so she can't remember and has never stopped investigating the murder of her sister.  Her mother has Alzheimer's so while she can never forget, her mother can never remember.  I don't care now, and over time I think I'd grow to actively hate both of these plots.  And that's pretty much Unforgettable in a nutshell, I question just how useful a perfect memory will be for crimes she wasn't actually present for (as she was in the pilot) but even giving the writers the benefit of the doubt, I don't really care.

The amount of trash talking for The Rememberer, I mean Unforgettable, shouldn't make you believe I particularly liked A Gifted Man though.  Here our leading man whose name I don't care enough about to look up is the world's best (and best paid) neurosurgeon who doesn't care about anything or anyone except himself.  That is until the ghost of his ex-wife starts appearing to him and imploring that he help out at her free medical clinic downtown.  There are sideplots about his sister and her going-down-a-bad-road son, a fellow doctor who's noticed him talking to himself, and a somewhat amusing spiritualist/ghost buster played by Pablo Schreiber (The Wire and Weeds), but none of them are particularly engaging.  And while saying "a ghost did it" is strangely a little easier to sell than "her perfect memory did it", they're both deus ex machinas that the I can't imagine either show being able to avoid falling back on.

Neither show is necessarily bad, and I guess there has to be something on while people are cooking dinner, but I can't really imagine watching either of these shows again. Then again it's not like CBS isn't really good at selling people on procedural television (see Bluebloods, the 2 NCIS's and 12 billion CSIs) and someone has to advance to the next round.

I'D RATHER HAVE A NEW MEDICAL PROCEDURAL THAN ANOTHER POLICE PROCEDURAL, SO THE WINNER OF GAME 5 IS:
A GIFTED MAN

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TV Tourney Round 1, Game 4: Person of Interest vs. Prime Suspect

For Tournament rules and previous games go here.

Game 4 of the First Round of the Entertained Organizer New Network TV Show Tournament pits CBS's detective procedural with a gimmick Person of Interest against NBC's adaptation of the BBC cop drama Prime Suspect.  Both shows come to us with excellent television pedigrees, with Person of Interest being produced by J.J. Abrams (of Lost, Alias, and Star Trek fame) and having Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher Nolan and writer of The Dark Knight and Momento) as it's showrunner, while the British version of Prime Suspect is famous for Helen Mirren's award winning performance as the show's lead earning her Best Actress Emmy's for 6 of the shows 7 seasons.  Which one of these two shows will live up to the hype and move on to Round 2?

Person of Interest stars Jim Caviezel (Jesus from The Passion of the Christ) as a somewhat mentally unbalance homeless Batman (they explain some CIA backstory, but homeless Batman works as shorthand) who teams up with Michael Emerson (Ben Linus of Lost), an enigmatic billionaire with a machine capable of giving them the social security number, but nothing more, of a person who's about to be involved in a violent murder.  Together they must use the powers of infinite resources, CIA training, and wooden delivery to figure out if this weeks' "person of interest" is the victim or the murderer and stop the crime before it happens.  Cheap shots at Jim Caviezel aside, as long as you don't think too hard about the plausibility of the premise, it's a storytelling engine designed to give viewers action sequences and surprise twists on a regular bases.  And being on the network that CSI built has never hurt a procedural before.  If Caviezel learns how to be a human being the show could be good, and even if he doesn't I imagine it'll be a pretty big success.

Prime Suspect stars Maria Bello in the Helen Mirren role of Detective Jane Timoney.  And she fills those very large shoes admirably.  The show follows Detective Timoney as she struggles with sexism in the workplace while still excelling at her job.  And here the show gets into some (easily correctable) trouble.  I have absolutely no doubt that sexism is pervasive and oppressive in the workforce today, especially in traditionally male dominated professions like law enforcement.  But the show focuses far too much on the overt sexism.  I know for a fact that women today are often accused of getting their current job by sleeping their way to the top, but equally if not more often sexism in the workplace takes the form of Timoney's boss overlooking her male coworkers stealing her high profile case.  And frankly if you're going to make a show focused on sexism in the workplace, it's those latter issues that both make for better drama and need to be highlighted as wrong.  When one of the male detectives says towards the end of the pilot that he's going to be her favorite since he's at least honest about his sexist hatred of her, I honestly didn't know what he was talking about since all of the male characters were throwing around the same kind of slurs he was throughout the episode.  Coupled with that, it did occur to me that we only ever see three other women in the entire episode: a receptionist with no lines, a babysitter with one line, and a spiteful ex-wife.  Now both the emphasis on overt sexism and the isolation of Timoney as the only woman very well have been conscious choices to set the stage quickly in the pilot, but I hope they're addressed in future episodes, especially the lack of other female characters.  Otherwise it could become dangerously easy to miss the point of the show and simply assume that everyone hates Timoney, rather than the obstacles she faces being the result of systemic sexism.  That said, the show is on NBC, so I probably shouldn't be getting attached anyway.

BECAUSE I LIVE AND HOPE, THE WINNER OF GAME 4:
PRIME SUSPECT

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He-Man Woman Haters Club Report: HPV, Abortion, and Comic Books

Because it would be wrong if I didn't cover when conservatives discriminate against women too:
  • Michele Bachmann wants everyone to know that she wasn't "attesting" to anything when she repeated the story a woman told her about the HPV vaccine causing mental retardation.  Besides the obvious problem of stoking medical fears when you have no idea what you're talking about, it's especially troubling when the country is already opposed to the safest course of action.  And just in case someone reading this doesn't understand why it's so important to vaccinate as early as possible, here's one woman's story.
  • Mike Huckabee headed down to Missippi to praise their attempt to pass a personhood amendment and condemn choice activists saying that, "this isn't about elevating women, this is about elevating wealth on behalf of those who profit from the sale of death." In Texas, the Religious Right took it a bit further than calling us merchants of death, instead saying that supporting abortion is the same as supporting terrorism.
  • New Virginia regulations may force all abortion providers in the state to close down because they don't have the right number of toilets and parking spaces.  And if that's not gimmicky enough for you, on Capitol Hill the Religious Right is performing their "voices of the womb" demonstration where they give live ultrasounds in front of a congressional audience.
  • And just in case you ever think that the anti-choice movement is about life rather than punishing woman for having sex, Republican Rep. Wayne Christian of Texas admits that "of course this is a war on birth control", and after abortion rights they'll be coming for the pill and condoms next.  Because these religious zealots won't be satisfied until the consequence of sex for every woman is ending up barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.
  • Finally, just so we don't end on as depressing a note this week, here's a comic book explaining the underhanded methods currently being used to deny women their rights.
That's all for this week folks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

TV Tourney Round 1, Game 3: New Girl vs. Whitney

For Tournament rules and previous games go here.

Game 3 of the First Round of the Entertained Organizer New Network TV Show Tournament has Fox single-camera comedy New Girl facing off against NBC's multi-camera comedy Whitney.  Both are vehicles for their socially awkward title stars Zooey Deschanel and Whitney Cummings (respectively).  Which one of these women are going to win the day?

New Girl is the story of Deschanel's 'adorkable' social misfit Jess (see: every movie she's ever been in) forced to move in with three guys after finding out her boyfriend is cheating on her by showing up naked unexpectedly at his apartment.  The good natured but clueless guys try to help her get over her broken heart and teach her to be less awkward.  Honestly, it's pretty good assuming you like Zooey Deschanel.  So far she's managed to stay on the right side of the quirky vs. aggravating line and I have a fair amount of faith they'll be able to keep her there.  The three guys are largely unmemorable and I can't decide yet whether the reoccurring joke of them making the traditional jock character put a dollar in the 'D-Jar' every time he acts like a douchebag is going to be a fun running gag or annoying.  I'm also really hoping that I'm misreading them hinting at a relationship between her and one of the guys.  Finally, the loss of Damon Wayans Jr. (whose show Happy Endings was saved from cancellation at the last moment, prompting last minute recasting) may hurt the show in future episodes depending on the strength of his replacement's (Lamorne Morris) performance.

Whitney was painful to watch and easily the worst new show so far this season.  While clearly meant to be a lovable misanthrope, the title character is just unlikeable and the jokes are terribly telegraphed and tend to fall flat.  Which reminds me, while I have nothing fundamentally against multi-camera comedies, if you feel the need to make a joke about the laugh track during your title sequence you need to seriously rethink what you're doing.  While I doubt it, the show might be better if it ditched the laugh track which only reminds the audience that the jokes aren't funny and instead focused on the sympathetic embarrassment the audience feels for her boyfriend like some kind of poor man's British The Office.  Instead I'm left with a show where I can't stand the lead, don't care about the rest of the cast, and wonder why her boyfriend hasn't left her yet.  And the awkwardness of the 10 minute long joke of her wearing a nurses outfit to spice of their sex life can't even be saved by the brief bright spot of Jane Kaczmarek appearing as Whitney's mother.

NO SURPRISE HERE, THE WINNER OF GAME 3 IS:
NEW GIRL

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And come back tomorrow for Games 4 and 5 where we finally cross over onto the new drama division!

TV Tourney Round 1, Game 2: 2 Broke Girls vs. Charlie's Angels

For Tournament rules and previous games go here.

Game 2 of the first round of the Entertained Organizer New Network TV Show Tourney pits CBS's 2 Broke Girls against ABC's remake of Charlie's Angels.

2 Broke Girls stars Kat Dennings (who I only just now recognized as the daughter from The 40 Year Old Virgin) as working class waitress with a gift for cooking cupcakes and Beth Behrs (who I'm happy to say I didn't recognize from American Pie Presents: The Book of Love) as a rich girl whose lost everything after her Bernie Madoff-like father gets arrested and now must work at the diner to support herself.  These '2 broke girls' initially don't get along until circumstances throw them together and they realize that Dennings street smarts and cup cake baking skills combined with Behrs business skills and upbeat personality make them the perfect team and they decide to start saving up to open a cupcakery.  The first half of the episode relies a lot on lowbrow humor and stereotype jokes (the Asian guy talks funny, get it), but when it focuses on the two ladies it starts to shine.  It's not great, but if it focuses on it's strengths, it has potential.

Charlie's Angels stars a bunch of people I have never seen before in my life and don't care enough about to look up.  I'm not saying the show is bad, in fact it was better than I was expecting.  If you're looking for an action adventure show starring pretty people (even Bosley gets reimagined as a hunky hearthrob), you could do worse.  But you can also almost certainly do better, and worst of all Charlie's Angels encourages one of Hollywood's worst impulses, relaunching previously successful properties rather than taking a chance on something new.  If you liked the original or think you'd like this one, you almost certainly will.  But if I want to watch a 70s retro-style play-by-your-own-rules action show, I'd rather watch the original Burn Notice or rewatch the amazing The Good Guys on Netflix Streaming.

AND SO THE WINNER OF GAME 2:
2 BROKE GIRLS

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And be sure to come back later today for Game 3!

Friday Freakshow Roundup: Jobs, Google, and Superman

In the political news system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the Republicans who do insane things, and this blogger who mocks them. These are their stories:
  • Just for fun, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is offering a $1 million bounty for anyone who can give him evidence that Perry has had a gay affair, so start digging.
  • Which reminds me, Andrew Breitbart is now calling for a Civil War where conservatives slaughter liberals since they have all the guns because someone called him gay on the internet.  He also admits to psychotic breaks from reality, so I'm glad that Fox News still treats him as a sound journalistic source.
  • And lets face it, a paragon of journalistic integrity like Fox News needs to be saved.  Who else would ask the hard hitting questions like: Is Rick Perry Superman, and can he save America?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Closeted Countdown: Things, the Devil, and Praying Away the Gay

I've long believed that the only thing that could motivate someone to dedicate their lives to homophobia is deep self-loathing. So start the countdown timer until these folks get caught with a gay prostitute:
  • North Carolina House Majority Leader Paul Stam explained that they should be able to outlaw gay marriage because gay people are "things" whose relationships should be "treated differently."
  • Even though Senator Scott Brown is opposed to marriage equality, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, gay adoption, and a campaign to prevent LGBT youth suicide, he received an award from the Log Cabin Republicans because he didn't oppose the repeal of Don't, Ask Don't Tell.  If that sounds odd to you, try to name a more pro-gay Republican.
  • Speaker John Boehner's lawyer continues to push the lie that being gay is a choice while defending the Defense of Marriage Act at taxpayer expense.
  • If you didn't know that the ACLU was attempting to "corrupt innocent children" and seduce them to homosexuality like "the devil," you clearly didn't read Robert Knight's column in the Washington Times.  Which means you probably also missed their Op-Ed demanding that Congress "take our military back" from gay activists.
  • And everyone should watch the awkwardness that is Michele Bachmann trying to make a joke about her Pray Away the Gay clinic:

Until next time, the clock's still ticking...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Published as a Public Service Announcement: Wonder Woman says "It's Fun to be Healthy!"

I cover politics and pop culture, sometimes the two collide:


I feel like Child Protective Services should be contacted for any kid who is completely unable to identify cereal.