Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Like Removing Santa Fe, New Mexico ... or Saginaw, Michigan ... or Iowa City, Iowa

Each of those cities has a population of around 60000 people (according to the 2000 Census data).

That's the only way I can get my head around just how large of a tragedy it is in the countries around the Indian Ocean, where they expect death tolls from the earthquake/tsunami to reach 60000 people.

Granted, this isn't even close to being one of the largest disasters of the past 50 years or so, but it's probably the first natural disaster since I've become old enough to comprehend the shear scale of the situation. Santa Fe, New Mexico -- wiped off the face of the earth.

Sadly, my above analogy is a very minor element of the ethno-centric view that the United States seems to be taking towards this calamity. Any time something befalls another area of the world, another people, especially people who are darker skinned and less westernized, the American media and people seem to be very slow on the uptake of the scale of the situation.

I can understand that point of view -- like I said, I couldn't really grasp just how large that is until I could couch it in terms of somewhere I've been. And, without getting off on too much of a tangent, that's the downfall of the American media. 99% of American citizens first reaction is to see the number of American dead, see that the number is low, and move on. The news organizations, having to deal with the ever fickle Mr. and Mrs. Nielsen, mix in coverage of tens of thousands of dead non-Americans with stories of the Michael Jackson trial and those cheerful Christmas travelers stuck in the airport.

I really do think this is one of the areas that the federal government needs to take advantage of its size and scale and bring this to the attention of the bulk of the populace. Not that smaller groups of citizens can't make a difference. The internet makes it much easier to feel like you know people from all over the world and get motivated to make a difference.

But the federal government could make a much bigger difference. And not in monetary terms -- even my warm fuzzy liberal tree hugging blue stated heart thinks the US government does a pretty good job of getting money out in aid. The government could raise the stature of the issue with the bulk of the American populace, those of whom haven't made the cognitive connection between the disaster and Santa Fe or Saginaw or Iowa City. Alas, our President remains mum on the issue, enjoying a vacation with his family in Crawford, TX.

That's Crawford, TX, approximate population: 700. Erase Crawford, TX 85 times over and you'd have the same number of dead as in the countries affected by the earthquake/tsunami. I'm just trying to help make the connection.

That's enough rambling for now.

For the five folks who read this, if you're unsure of how to contribute, The Command Post has many ways to help. (Link found via Scoble.)

Monday, December 27, 2004

Me vs. Snow

2 hours * 1 me = 1 assload of snow moved

Friday, December 24, 2004

A year of Netflix.

I've had Netflix for just about a year now, and it's simply a fantastic service. For the most part, I get 1 day turnaround on movies (or 2 day ... I don't know exactly how you'd describe it). For instance, I'm on vacation, so I'm trying to get through a bunch of movies. I watched one on Monday, get it in the mail that day, and I'll have a new movie on Wednesday.

Over the course of a just about a year, I've never had a single problem. Occasionally I've had a delay in getting a movie, but that's rare.

Today, I had my first problem. I received Swimming Pool and I sat down to watch it. My DVD player starts making that tell-tale noise where it's having trouble reading the disc. Sure enough, no matter what option I pick, my DVD player chokes and I can't watch the movie.

Booo.

However, Netflix handles the whole situation pretty well. I just go to my account, tell them there's a problem and that I want a replacement DVD sent to me ASAP. Hopefully, that means I'll get it on Monday. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm down to just having Kurosawa's Ran at home. While I do really want to watch it, I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch a 2.5 hour Japanese movie. So, I'm probably going to watch a few episodes of Angel Season 4 instead.

Netflix is a perfect example of a modern, Web 2.0 type company. They give me the ability to decide what I want to watch and (for the most part) when I want to watch it. No forcing down my throat the new releases. If I want to watch a random crappy horror movie, I can do it by just throwing it in my queue and waiting for it to show up. When they screw up, they make it very easy to get restitution. Pretty great.

I've just requested that they send me my rental history. I'm curious to see how many movies I've been able to see over the past year or so using Netflix. If I had to guess, it's probably in the range of 100 movies or so.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Dead Like Dead Like Me

Argh.

That's the sound I make when another one of the shows I like a good deal gets killed by the network it's on.

In this case, it's Dead Like Me, Showtime's quirky, supernatural comedy.

My TiVo Season Pass list keeps getting smaller because the networks keep cancelling good shows and replacing them with crappy reality shows. Oh, and procedural crime dramas. I guess I have to start watching CSI: Des Moines.

Ridiculous. The only upshot is that if HBO kills The Wire, I'll probably just cancel both HBO and Showtime and save myself a bunch of money (on car insurance.) The only shows really left worth watching on the two cable networks would be Deadwood (HBO) and the Penn & Teller show (Showtime). And that's what BitTorrent is for.

Blah. TV depresses me sometimes. Everytime a good show comes along, they kill off two good ones. It's like some backwards ass evolution, only the shitty survive. This season we get Lost and Veronica Mars, but lose out on Angel, Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, and potentially The Wire.

Phew. Good thing they can make space for "Who's Your Daddy?" -- what would life be without a show about some poor human trying to figure out who their biological father is on national TV?

Yeah, and somehow the Red States thought Buffy was the most dangerous show on TV.

Goodbye Pedro

I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon of folks who are saying good riddance to Pedro Martinez, who most people know has left the Red Sox for a 4 year, $53m deal with the New York Mets.

Pedro's had a lot to say about the Red Sox, the front office, and the negotiations that took place -- none of it good. Many people are accusing him of simply leveraging the Sox to get a better offer. I've seen no proof to say that's the case.

Much of what Pedro has said echoes what Derek Lowe, Todd Walker, Jason Varitek,Nomar Garciaparra, and a number of other free agents have said about the Sox brass and their negotiations. Some of it is sour grapes, but there's probably an inkling of truth to it. The Red Sox front office has a philosophy and they stick to it. Part that philosophy seems to involve leaking stories to the press to spin the PR in favor of the front office and against the player. I'm not sure if it is systemic, or if it's one random guy in the front office, but it is obviously happening (c.f. the Manny Ramirez stories from 2003). It is easily the least attractive aspect of an organization that has had very few missteps since they purchased the team a couple of years back.

Hell, maybe if we had a real sports media in Boston stuff like this wouldn't happen. Instead we're stuck with Dan Shaugnessy, Tony Massarotti, and Steve Buckley doing most of the heavy lifting in Sox coverage. Between the three of them, I don't think there's a popular baseball player they couldn't defame.

The point being -- I hold no ill will towards Pedro. He put together arguably the best stretch of pitching ever in his 7 years in Boston and was instrumental in the Red Sox winning the World Series. I find his willingness to speak his mind refreshing in the days when 99% of players soundbites are interchangeable. I also feel he's more likely to earn his money over the next 4 seasons than will Jason Varitek, Matt Clement, or even Edgar Renteria.

But he'll be doing it for the Mets, and that makes me sad. I can't root for the Mets, but I'll be rooting for Pedro each time he pitches (as long as it's not against the Sox).

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Smartest *and* Best Show on TV

I've just finished watching the season finale of the The Wire on HBO. If that episode turns out to be the season finale, I really do think that it will be the finale to the greatest three season run in television history.

Better than Buffy Seasons 1.5-4.5 (it's hard to pick a 3 season stretch of Buffy that was completely solid).
Better than Angel Seasons 2-4.
Better than Farscape Seasons 2-4.
Better than The West Wing Seasons 1-3.

I can't explain the show's greatness. If you watch it and give it a couple of episodes, you generally get it.

So, just in case HBO is checking the blogosphere for reactions on the show and whether they should renew it, let me add my piece:

Dear HBO,

If you cancel The Wire, I will burn your house down.

Love,
Ryan

Saturday Night Live

I'm pretty much an SNL apologist. Most people gave up on them pre-Will Ferrell. Even more gave up on them when he left.

Not me. I TiVo it every week. I sit through every minute. And, up until this year, I generally would find 2 or 3 sketches that would make me laugh, and then there was the ever reliable Weekend Update to round out the night.

But not this season. Damn, it's been awful. Last night's episode had to be rock bottom. Outside of the Roomba parody, a few moments of the "Pranksters" sketch, and one single moment in the Robert Smigel bit (when he referred to the Red states as "Dumbfuckistan"), it was excruciatingly bad.

Part of that can be attributed to Robert DeNiro, who was god awful the last time he was asked to host. But most of it is the writing, since it has been pretty uniformly awful this season. Last night they had a sketch that was Rober DeNiro dressed as an old lady with cats.

That's it. No punchline. Someone thought it would be funny enough to dress DeNiro up as an old woman and make him a cat lady and broadcast it on TV for 2 minutes.

I think that's been my major issue with SNL this year. I love the over the top comedy, the sketches that are these surreal situations that are inherently bizarre and funny. But they have to lead to a punchline. There has to be a joke. Otherwise it stops being funny after a minute or so.

Think back to the Celebrity Jeopardy stuff. Just weird and funny, but they always had punchlines.

Then watch last night's show. There's a funny premise with Horatio Sanz going undercover as a super over the top Italian criminal. It was somewhat funny. Then the punch line was that he was going to infiltrate an Asian crime ring as Hong Kong Phooey.

Hong Kong Phooey? That's the best punchline you could come up with?

Compare that with the stuff on Chappelle's Show like the racial draft. The whole premise is insanely funny, and you get a billion and one jokes including the whole Wu Tang appearance.

Now, I'm not a comedy writer, and I don't think I could be because I'm not that funny. And I know how much harder it is to do SNL than Chappelle's Show. But that's not an excuse for not being funny.

Anyway, my guess is there's a shelf life on being the head writer at SNL. Tina Fey had a really good run, but it might be time for some new blood at the top. I think they've got lots of talented performers (including the criminally underused Maya Rudolph and Darrell Hammond). There's no reason the show can't be funny again.

The final skit last night was at least redeemable - it had Horatio Sanz come out to do the Christmas song he used to do with Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Kattan, who've all since left the show. It's a silly skit they did around every holiday, but it worked for me. Last night, the Muppets (well, Fozzie, Kermit, Gonzo, and Animal) joined Horatio, doing the mannerisms and everything.

It made me think - right now, I think I'd rather see new episodes of the Muppet Show than more episodes of SNL. Same hosts, same musical guests, but using the Muppets rather than the normal SNL folks. I bet it would work.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Smartest Show on TV

If you're not watching The Wire, then you have no right to own a television.

Damn. I don't think that, in my lifetime, there has been a show as amazingly good as this one has been for the past 3 seasons.

Buffy will always be number one in my heart, but The Wire simply does stuff that no other show would dare do, and it does everything better than everybody else.

It's not even hyperbole. I dare you to rent the 1st season on DVD (Netflix it!). Watch the whole thing - it's only 12 episodes, so it'll take you like a weekend. Just watch it, pay attention to the characters and stories. If you're not completely blown away by say, episode 8 or 9, I will give you a cookie and apologize for wasting your time.

Then I'll punch you in the face for being stupid. If you don't get this show, you can't be my friend.

Monday, December 06, 2004

It's as Ann on the nose of Plain's face

I'm a big fan of Scrubs. I've considered it the top sitcom on TV pretty much since it came on the air. Consistently inventive and funny and makes me laugh hard every week.

Arrested Development may have passed Scrubs last night. Any show willing to make a bunch of homages to the Peanuts animated shows scores major points with me.

This is what cracked me up last night:

<cue the Charlie Brown Christmas Special sad music>



That may be the funniest sight gag since Bender shit a brick on Futurama.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

I Just Tipped Over My Couch

I had a mini-riot at Casa De Ryan this afternoon.

VT 16 - Miami 10


Hokies vs Hurricanes

My Virginia Tech Hokies take on the Miami Hurricanes for the ACC Championship in just about 2 hours. This was a year when no one expected the Hokies to be successful. They lost "phenom" Marcus Vick before the season, they were entering a new conference that was supposed to be tougher than the Big East that they'd run roughshod over for the better part of 7 years, and they do not have a single recognizable player on the team.

What have they done?

-Played #1 USC tough until a couple of bad calls drastically changed the tenor of the game,
-Missed a last second field goal against NC State that would have won the game,
-Won every other game.

Last week they picked apart a pretty good Virginia squad to reclaim the Commonwealth Cup, bringing it back to Blacksburg where it belongs. This week, they're down in Miami to take on a team that has become a rival of ours over the past decade.

It should be a fun game. This Miami team is a team prone to make mistakes, but they're super talented. This Hokie squad is a team that plays generally mistake free football, behind a solid, if unspectacular offense, and an extremely tough defense. The Hokies feed off of mistakes.

Basically, it's old-school Miami football vs. old-school Virginia Tech football. Beamerball, at its best.

A Hokie victory means a top 10 ranking, full claim to the ACC Championship in our first year in the league, and a spot in a BCS bowl game, likely the Orange Bowl against Auburn or Utah.

It should be a fun afternoon. I fully expect to hold a little riot in my living room when we win. Maybe I'll set a couch on fire.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I Heart Serialized Television

I'm sad. I'm a sucker for a good serialized drama. My favorite show of all time is Buffy, followed closely by Angel and the short run of Firefly. I love The Wire and Deadwood and The Shield and Alias.

There's just something about the character development, the season long arcs, the continuity that allows you to come back to a serial and feel like you're picking up a book -- you know all the characters, you understand their motivations, you feel for them in a way that you don't with a sitcom (well, with most sitcoms).

Now we're about halfway into the new season, and there are two absolute standout new shows this year, and a third show that I wouldn't have expected to be as good as it has been. It's only fair that I share these shows with you, my adoring audience.

Lost
Was it that obvious? Everyone loves this show, even people who normally watch shite like Who Wants to Fornicate with Goat? and My New Mommy Likes Satan (both real Fox shows). I think it's the cavalcade of familiar faces (hey, it's the guy from Party of Five ... and he's on the island with Augustus from Oz. And oh my god, it's Kendall from Alias .... he's got to be up to no good). It makes the show more accessible and palatable to those who's attention spans usually limit them to watching the multitude of crappy sitcoms on TV (ooh, honey, look it's that bald guy from the show with that Seinfeld guy .. and he's grumpy!).

Then, you add a nice dose of Evangeline Lilly, and boom, you've got yourself a hit.

For me, it's the writing. I love shows that walk that line between drama and humor, never afraid to poke fun at themselves, while never doing a disservice to the characters. It's what helps to uphold my suspension of disbelief when there's giant monsters or vampires -- as long as it serves the show. Lost has done that well. The normal story construct (based around telling the backstory of a particular survivor) helps to balance the limited action on the island by revealing bits and pieces of each character. It's just a fun, interesting, and engaging show.

Veronica Mars
What, you were expecting Desperate Housewives? Housewives is good, but it's not nearly as good as VM. Starring Kristen Bell as the titular charcter (heh .. titular), it's like crossing Buffy with Nancy Drew. It's funny, it's got pop culture references out the wazoo, and it's got the weekly "daaaammmmnnn" plot twist to make you look at everything else you've learned about the characters in a new light.

Really, it's good. Watch it. There's the occasional groaner line or moment when you wonder what kind of high school gives it's students the freedom the students at Neptune High get. (It must be California high schools -- the only other schools I can think of that gives its students this kind of latitude are West Bevery and Bayside.) But for 42 minutes a week, you get something that feels like an episode of Buffy. And in today's television landscape, that's well worth the investment.

American Dreams
Yep. That cloying, trite show about the 60s done grown up and become a damn good show. It's possible that it's just the current story arc about the eldest son in Vietnam that's been so engaging, but I don't think so. I tried to watch this show during the initial season because I love period shows and shows that mix in music and it looked good. It was just so saccharine and preachy that it felt like a slightly less annoying 7th Heaven without anyone nearly as hot as Jessica Biel.

Plus, it was on opposite The Simpsons. So there wasn't a chance in hell I'd see it unless Homer and Bart's escapades were previously aired.

But, I started watching it when The Simpsons was a rerun (during AD's second season) ... and it grew on me. I could tell it wanted to be more than just a fluff show. And then they had some brutally honest shows towards the end of the second season and I was hooked. The timeline had hit Vietnam and riots and situations that couldn't get wrapped up with a knowing glance and laugh between two characters.

This season has been consistently good, and the last couple of episodes have given me any number of goosebump moments. The show's a button pusher; there's no doubt about that. But it pushes the right buttons, and it pushes them at the right time.



Now, obviously, there's other great dramas this year. The Wire has been phenomenal for the third straight season, at a level of greatness Tony Soprano only wishes he could touch. My two favorite Lorelai's in Stars Hollow have regained their footing after an uneven freshman year at Yale. The denizens of the Bartlett White House have also rebounded strong in their second post-Sorkin year to move back to the list of shows that legitimately should be considered for an Emmy (unlike last year's travesty). The aforementioned Desperate Hosebea ... Housewives has been guilty fun.

But the above three shows have been surprises, and aside from Lost, have quite possibly been overlooked in your rush to make sure you see this week's very special One Tree Hill.

CTRL-ALT-DEL

Alright, so I'm sort of giving myself a little bit of a reboot here. I got angry at Blogger for losing a couple of big posts, then real life and all that intervened, and I let this place grow stale.

So I'm rebooting. I'm going to be making some layout changes -- I've added some recent pics I've taken with my camera phone on the right. I'm going to try and figure out how to work in something with my Netflix queue.

And I've finally put up a feed, though it's Atom and there's no little badge. RSS and badges will come when I get a little bit of time.

I've found myself sort of reinvigorated lately, posting a ton of thoughts online with regards to the Celtics and Sox. I'm going to try and channel some of that over here. Content is king and all that.

I'm back, bitches.