Sunday, July 27, 2008

Timeless

Because I took a five-hour nap today, I'm not really in the mood to sleep. In case you were wondering why the time stamp of this entry reads 2-something AM, there's your reason.

As I burn what's left of the midnight oil, I've been re-visiting the WB-era of Batman: The Animated Series (aka The New Batman Adventures). It's been almost eight years since I've seen any of these episodes but I remembered liking them when I caught the initial airings. So how do these episodes hold up as march to the end of the first decade of Century 21?

Incredibly well.

The series had a stylized retro design to begin with (the art deco architecture, the 1940s fashions, etc.), but so far, the stories have no dated elements whatsoever. This is crime drama of the highest order. Yeah, there are superheroes (Batman, Robin, Batgirl, and one appearance by Nightwing) but we really get into the heads of all the characters. And that is what makes this stuff so compelling to watch a decade after their debut.

Okay, Disc 1 just finished so I'll jot down some thoughts on each episode:

"Holiday Knights" -- A neat holiday episode where we get three complete stories in the span of 22 minutes. We learn that Harvey Bullock has a bit of a soft side when he and Renee Montoya team up with Batgirl to take down a now-thuggish Clayface. The second story involves more fun with Harley and Ivy. Lastly, Batman and Robin foil the Joker's dastardly New Year's Eve plot with an epilogue providing a look at the relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon.

"Sins of the Father" -- This is the origin story for the new Robin, Tim Drake. There's more to this kid than meets the eye and he's not annoying. In fact, I thought he was kind of cool. Speaking of cool...

"Cold Comfort" -- My favorite villain, Mr. Freeze, returns to his core: vengeance. We learn that tragedy had befallen him once again to the point where he's been driven mad as a result. His hiding from emotion has now been turned into ensuring everyone feels his pain. Initially acting out of love for his wife, he now hates everyone. That, to me, is the biggest tragedy.

"Double Talk" -- This was probably the best episode on the disc. Here we find the Ventriloquist working toward recovery of his multiple personality disorder. As he attempts to make progress on returning and contributing to society, he's constantly dogged by those who desperately want their crime boss to return. What I liked best about this episode is that it ended with the Ventriloquist back on the road to recovery, letting us know that not every criminal is a hopeless cause.

"You Scratch My Back" -- With Batman immune to Catwoman's charms, she turns her attention to Nightwing, the former Robin. Catwoman is shown as the ultimate manipulator here. Nightwing is the typical hot-headed archetype who "knows it all" but we learn that this may be a result of his former relationships now strained since his departure from the Batcave.

"Never Fear" -- Easily the weakest episode on the disc, but we get a look at the working relationship between Batman and the new Robin. A relatively simple story that more than makes up for it in atmosphere. The new design of the Scarecrow (not to mention the casting of Jeffrey Combs) is positively frightening.

Unlike other shows I remember enjoying only to realize they were pretty lousy, these episodes are terrific. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they're not just terrific Batman stories but terrific television period. If you haven't given this series a go in a while, you could certainly do worse for yourself. Like watch Wife Swap.

Okay, it's actually 3-something AM now. I really should try to get some sleep.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wife Swap

The weather turned pretty nasty here in the DC area tonight. With the rain and wind and weather, came a tornado warning. The twister was sighted maybe a mile and half away from the house. In order to get up-to-date weather information, we had to turn to the local channels -- during primetime.

The ABC and CBS affiliates were doing their civic duty and had weather information constantly on. The NBC and Fox affiliates were running their regular programming. Hopefully no one in Centreville was killed tonight because they were watching NBC.

I stayed with ABC because they had live radar running with the programming. The program on at the time? Wife Swap (as if the title of the post didn't give it away). I actually feel somewhat stupider for having watched it and yet, this is what people watch on a Wednesday night? Yeesh.

The premise, for those smarter than I, is to have two wives of totally different backgrounds change places and hope the respective families learn something from the experience. Tonight's episode involved a somewhat emotionless executive who likes to hunt for ghosts and a Southern housewife. Oh let the hijinks and hilarity ensue. They're both fish out of water! What are they gonna do? Oh look, Jiffy Lube's hiring!

Now I know that it's going to be difficult boiling down two weeks worth of footage into a 40-minute show. However, you're going to tell me that some of this isn't scripted, prompted by the producers, or hammed up for the camera? My first clue that something was awry was seeing the brand names of products blocked out with tape or paper. Unless the production crew did that to every single thing these people owned, I have serious doubts about things not being staged. Tonight's episode had a fairy tale ending where they all learned from each other and lived happily ever after. Pass the insulin, please.

And people buy this crap. It's "reality" TV! They even have a phone number you can call if you want to be on the show! I have no doubts that the people aren't actors and some of the situations may very well be true. But there was way too much convenience for this to be anybody's reality.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Criterion Goodness

For my fellow film nerds, Deep Discount is having a Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale on Criterion Collection DVDs. A sale like that on Criterion discs is pretty rare so I'd jump on this one.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Crappy Week

Well, after the terrific weekend, I managed to have an incredibly crappy week. Work hasn't been too kind. I'll just leave it at that. I'm only too glad that Friday has arrived and that I can forget about this week's doldrums for a little while.

Em and I had dinner at the Red Robin with my friend Rachel (5 Alarm Burger is okay but the steak fries ruled). Now I'm settling down with To Kill A Mockingbird, only one of the greatest movies ever made (one of the greatest books ever written too).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ssssssssssssss!

I forgot to mention the "little surprise" Em found last night. I'll let her explain.

Le Sigh, C'est Lundi

*sigh*

It's Monday.

Attended the Shore Leave convention this past weekend and it was friggin' amazing. I still need to get the photos and video off of the camcorder so I'll wait until I do that before posting about what could possibly have been the Best Weekend Ever.

The short form: I met David Hewlett, his sister Kate Hewlett (both from Stargate: Atlantis), Malcolm McDowell (you might remember him from A Clockwork Orange). Saw Jewel Staite (currently on Stargate: Atlantis), Morgan Sheppard (Transformers), his son Mark Sheppard (Battlestar Galactica), and the soon-to-be-married George Takei. Had a great performance with Luna-C on Friday night and a memorable performance on Saturday that will forever live in infamy.

I so promise there will be more about this later. Need pics to go with the text.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Brilliance!

I don't read Chris Sims' site as much as I probably should but he came through with this piece of brilliance last week:

Have Snake-Eyes fight a shark. Have Destro fight a shark. Have Snake-Eyes fight a shark that is dressed as Destro.

If San Diego Comic Con reveals that that's in the live-action movie scheduled for next year, I'll be buying my ticket immediately!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

G.I. Think This is Cheesy

Just updated the Unofficial Index to G.I. Joe with a look at three of 1983's commercials for the Marvel comic book. Maybe they'll stir a memory or maybe they'll make you laugh uproariously. Either way, it's fun stuff so check it out.

Unsorted Wednesday

Emily called the insurance company yesterday and was told that everything should be fine and would be straightened out. I'll believe it when there's no phone call in three months.

* * * *
In an effort to save a bit of money, I'm getting rid of the high definition package with DirecTV. The HD box doesn't work most of the time without being reset and we would only watch it if we happened to be channel surfing, which is rare. We don't have the HD DVR (but do have a DVR for the regular service), so we can't time-shift any HD programming. Also, Starz and Showtime are getting the boot. If we want to watch movies, we'll just get them through Netflix. Yeah, Showtime is awesome, and we love Penn & Teller's Bullshit and This American Life very much, but it has to go. Downsizing the DirecTV package should save us almost $35 per month.
* * * *
Speaking of DirecTV, I've been trying to get stuff off of the DVR and recorded onto DVD. So far this week, it's been the 1972 series The Sixth Sense, which has absolutely nothing to do with the M. Night Shyamalan film. The series starred Gary Collins as a psychic parapsychology professor who dealt with the paranormal. For years, it was edited down to a half-hour and tacked onto the syndication package for Night Gallery. Now, Chiller is showing the series uncut (back when TV shows were 50 minutes without commercials) in place of Night Gallery when that series runs out of episodes. The stories run the gamut from laughable to decent, but the best aspect are the guest stars, including William Shatner wearing one of the most horrific toupees ever created.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Where Are They Now?

Mike Sterling has been on a Peanuts kick for the past couple of days and wondered aloud (in writing of course) about Charlie Brown eventually marrying Lucy. This brought out a bunch of comments from folks either pondering about the fates of the Peanuts Gang or pointing to folks who had written about it. A guy named Peter Gillis wrote a terrific piece on the subject shortly after Charles Schulz passed away. The part about Snoopy is a bit of a tear-jerker and there's nothing like having your co-workers ask, "What's wrong?" as you vainly wipe your eyes while denying they had welled up in the first place.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hello Hypocrisy

Tonight, Emily received a call from the hospital where Miriya was born back in March. It was to collect for our daughter's delivery and the care of both the baby and Emily. Did you know the retail price of having a baby is over $14,000? Medical insurance is supposed to cover nearly all of it (per our policy), but a bureaucratic screw-up (dealing with Miriya's due date and her actual date of birth) has ensured that we keep playing telephone tag with our provider and the hospital. While I'll reluctantly shell out the $200 co-payment, this situation annoys me to no end.

Here's where the hypocrisy comes in. Republicans make such a show of being pro-life, protecting children, family values, blabbity-blabbity-blah. However, they are essentially shills for the insurance industry that makes it their business not to pay claims if at all possible, including childbirth. So, I guess they only care about children if you can pay the price to have them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of having boatloads of kids (and I can't stand how the Discovery Channel romanticizes it), but why should a married couple have to pay for the privilege? I'm fortunate that I can eat a $200 co-pay but I shudder to think about the couple that has to shell out a few thousand. Sure, my conservative friends will say that you get it back in tax credits. However, there's a giant difference between $14K due on delivery (pardon the pun) and getting $1,000 back once a year for 14 years.

Emily will be calling the insurance folks again tomorrow. Hopefully she'll get to talk to a human being and straighten this out.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Week? Really?

Sorry for the unscheduled hiatus, folks. It's been a pretty rough week as I continue my search for professional happiness and fight my Klondike bar addiction.

I'll be getting things back up to speed tomorrow. See you then.

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