Archive for April, 2008

>Yearning for more BSG action

Posted: April 29, 2008 in Entertainment

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Okay, I’m ready for some season one dog fights, gun battles, and good old fashioned “war with the Cylons action” on the Sci-Fi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica. We get it – there’s one Cylon yet to reveal. It could be Starbuck, it could be Baltar, it could be the Admiral for all we know. Let’s get on with it already.

Am I the only one who’s tired of the “Baltar is Jesus storyline?” He’s an interesting character regardless of the weekly dilemma they put him in, though, so this is easily forgiven. But can we go back to having Starbuck kick ass rather than whine about finding Earth? I love this show, but we’re forced to endure episodes every so often like this one which advance the story at a snail’s pace. I really don’t think it’s necessary to agonize with the four “skin-jobs” aboard the Galactica who just realized they have been living a lie their entire lives. Boo-hoo, you’re a Cylon. Get over it.

Okay, I’m just kidding, but much truth is often said in jest.

Our favorite characters seem to be wallowing in their story arcs, playing against what we’ve come to love over the last few years. We like seeing the Chief up on deck, rallying his flight crews to whip Vipers back into battle status with nothing more than duct tape and spit. Now he’s gotten himself purposely thrown off the Battlestar out of the fear that he’ll get someone killed.

Why can’t he just “man up” like Sol said and “be the man he wants to be until the day he dies?” Of course, old Sol has his own problems with the number six Cylon in the Galactica brig. He can’t decide if he wants to kiss her or have her punch him in his empty eye socket. (BSG producers please note: No more shots of Sol’s dead wife in the slinky number six dress. Those of us watching in HD can see every wrinkle and sag on her body, and it’s downright disturbing.)

A few others notes for the producers as well. First of all, can we kill the president off sooner rather than later? She’s kind of a bitch, always messing with poor old Baltar, Starbuck, Apollo, and Admiral Adama. And do we really buy Apollo as a legislator? He belongs in the cockpit of a Viper, playing wingman to his gal-pal and bed buddy Starbuck. One last note which has no actual value to the plot or story: More Grace Park; for no other reason except that she’s reeeal purty.

I don’t mean to complain – this is still some real good TV. I’d just like to see a little of the action, depth of character, and sci-fi yumminess that we all fell in love with when the Battlestar Galactica mini-series aired all those years ago.

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>Lost in LOST and loving it

Posted: April 29, 2008 in Entertainment

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For many, ABC’s LOST is a weekly viewing ritual. Get the kids fed, bathed, and into bed, unplug the cell phone and lock the doors. For an hour or more each week, time stops, or at least runs more slowly – just as it seems to do on the mystical island which, much like the River in Huck Finn, has become a character in its own right.

Questions answered, new questions posed. This sums up each week’s installment of LOST. It’s both frustrating and thrilling at the same time for fans of the show. For creator J.J. Abrams and his writing staff, it’s a delicate balancing act, one which they generally perform with the aplomb of a circus tightrope walker. Other times, either by design or not, we finish an episode with more questions than when we started.

Just a handful of episodes into this half of the season, the show has hit an even pace, giving us just enough to keep watching, speculating, and commiserating with other fans about the direction the show will take next. The unique approach taken to the current storyline, and the design of the narrative – with flashbacks and flash forwards coming at us so quickly it’s hard to determine which is which – would kill most shows, but works for LOST.

We now know which LOSTies get off the island and which ones don’t. We even know, in the case of Jin, some of the castaways who pass on. Each week, more or less knowing the end result, we tune in to see how the whole story unfolds, many of us recording episodes on our Tivo’s or other digital video recording devices so we can quickly rewind to search for clues in the background of a scene or to dissect the dialogue of mysterious characters such as Ben, hoping to gain some insight into what exactly is going on in the show.

The producers played a bit of a prank on us this week, as they often do, when a missile was directed by mercenaries into the home of Claire, the doe-eyed Aussie single mom whom we know doesn’t make it off of the island. Up until this point, we believed that Kate was raising baby Evan back on the mainland because Claire was a casualty of the war between Ben and his nemesis Charles Widmore. Now, it seems as if she may have been left behind rather than killed. I certainly hope so, as too many attractive ladies have been cut down each season on this show.

And what about Widmore? It appears as if he may be the original architect of the Dharma initiative – the man who discovered the island, populated it with scientists and drones like Ben’s father, only to have Ben gas the project’s inhabitants and claim the island for “The Others,” setting himself up as supreme leader.

But who are these Others? Are they the descendents of the sailors aboard the “Black Rock?” an ocean going vessel at least a century old which last popped up in the story line when Widmore bid on the ship’s log in an auction as Desmond sought him out in an attempt to locate his “time constant” and love of his life Penny. Speaking of Penny, will Jack ever discover that she is his half-sister? How will this affect the fact that Kate is raising his niece? And that Ben has pledged to kill her? It’s beginning to sound like a bad soap opera.

One of this week’s best surprises was the revisiting of “the black smoke monster,” when Ben disappeared into his basement, opened a door which looked fresh off of a South American soundstage in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and returned, seemingly after summoning the beast we haven’t heard from in several episodes and have been scratching our heads over since its first appearance in the pilot. Abrams said in an early interview that everything on the show can be explained by scientific or rational means, that the show wasn’t an X-Files clone with the hocus pocus of the occult woven throughout.

How do you explain a smoke monster through ordinary science? Or an entire island which has the magnetic polarity to take down a jet liner? Or the ability to heal, slow down time, and who knows what other properties? Perhaps Abrams is talking about laws of nature which modern scientists have yet to tap, or he’s just trying, in his inimitable fashion, to throw the audience off yet again. We scold him for it, but deep down we love it.

One theory I’ve developed is that due to the properties of the island or the special people who inhabit it have the ability to travel time and space. How else can the Others travel the world and set up what appears to be a network of safe-houses (as seen in the Tunisian hotel Ben shows up at as a “preferred member”). We have already learned that they leave the island periodically to get the materials and information that they need. When the one-eyed Russian finds the two women in the underwater “Looking Glass” station, he says that he thought they were somewhere else on assignment. Ben obviously gets around the most, though.

His magic basement room, filled with money from around the world, passports with numerous aliases, and a nice little wardrobe, looks to be a starting point for his time and space jumping travels, resulting in jaunts much like the one he took to the Sahara Desert, where he proceeded to kick ass and steal a horse. Who knew Ben had it in him? He’s been getting his own ass kicked by Jack, Sawyer, Sayid, and everyone else on the island for the last two seasons. It seems as if he has permanent bruises on his face from all of the beatings he’s taken.

Backing up my time travel theory is a viral video on the LOST website posted before the season began which was labeled an orientation film for one of the Dharma scientific research stations. In it, we see the familiar Asian-American white-coated narrator who voiced the orientation film for the “hatch” station in season two. In this film, which is a rough cut, he’s interrupted in the middle of his spiel when a numbered rabbit suddenly appears out of nowhere behind him, sporting the same number as the rabbit he holds in his hands. Underlings run to retrieve the bunny as the scientist enters into a panic about not letting them come into contact with each other. Could this be a glimpse into the science fictional rule that the same matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time without risking cataclysmic consequences? Were the lab-coats doing research involved with sending the white rabbits through time? Is that how the polar bear ended up in the dessert a thousand years ago for the re-headed blue eyed archeologist to find?

More questions, more questions. Why is Jack sick? Why doesn’t the island heal him? What’s going on with the boat? Why do they need Hurley to find the cabin? Who is the mysterious Jacob who lives in the cabin? Is Ben a good-guy now like he says?

Much like my favorite show as a young lad, the original “Batman,” the answers to these questions will have to wait until next week – “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.”

>An article appeared in today’s Washington Post that caught my eye entitled “Pull the plug on TVs in teen’s room?” The piece was yet another installment in the continuing “debate” over the effect of allowing children to watch to view television excessively – in this case by locating a television in a pre-teen or teen’s bedroom.

“Pediatricians” and “child development experts” warn that putting a TV in a child’s room is associated with a host of undesirable outcomes, among them poor school performance, behavior issues, and obesity. I’m so glad that we have these experts working tirelessly around the clock to tell good parents what we already know: too much of anything, in this case television, is a bad thing.

Why is this not perceived as common sense? Is having the TV in the bedroom the real issue here, or is it that parents no longer exert any control over the actions of their children? My son has a television in his room with a satellite hookup and an Xbox attached. He excels in school, is as thin as a rail, and shows no evidence of any “behavior issues.”

Either he is the exception to the rule or this study has missed the point: parents need to monitor their children. Americans have decided subconciously en masse to no longer take responsibility for their own actions or lack lack of actions when it comes to child-rearing. We’ve also decided to deflect blame for the failure of proper parenting towards any target other than the most natural one – the parent.

If we think music is profane, we protest the music rather than restrict our children from purchasing or listening to it. If we think television is too racy or too violent we blame the networks rather than changing the channel. Now, we’re blaming the physical location of an electronic appliance for children becoming disconnected from their families and lazy.

It’s the adults who are actually being lazy if they no longer care enough about their children to take charge of their well being, instead looking to pointless studies which derive obvious answers to explain away their shortcomings as parents.

TV, like any other form of media, can be a wonderful thing for children. Let’s not forget about that when we read stories detailing the results of studies like this one.

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Most fans of Battlestar Galactica are relatively happy with the progression of the show during the first two episodes this season. Personally, I sometimes miss season one, where the action was seemingly non-stop and new plot developments came at us so quickly that I could scarcely recover from one bombshell before another was quickly thrown in my direction.

This type of inertia is admittedly difficult to maintain for any television program, so it’s only expected that the series would slow down a bit over time. This is true of most hour-long dramas on TV, which initially are designed for a minimum six year run with 22 episodes each season in which to propel the plot, engage audiences, and still keep things fresh and interesting.

BSG is not that type of show. Breaking the traditional television mold, they’ve already told us that this season will be their last. “All will be revealed” is the mantra of show runners David Eick and Ron Moore.

That excites all BSG fans – but could we reveal “all” a little more quickly? The fact that there are a reduced number of episodes partially by design and also partially due to the writer’s strike should add to the urgency to respond to all of the questions which we as fans need answered.

Despite the frustrations that arise from the number of mysteries yet to be solved in such a small amount of time, all in all, the fact that a finish line has been erected and a final end date for the show set will more than likely increase the quality of the writing, acting, and overall enjoyment for fans of BSG.

With LOST following in this concept with their own “six years and out” edict, perhaps all of television will begin to focus on creating a story with a beginning, middle, and end, inhabited by characters with fully realized arcs, instead of traditional television practice, which leans heavily on the “go for as many years as the network, advertisers, and general public will allow” model (see E.R.).

Because of their committment to story and characters over all else, I’m sure that BSG will be remembered as one of the greatest television series (not just sci-fi series) of all time – as well as a landmark in the episodic television landscape and a model of how to produce television shows for the next generation of aspiring producers.

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All is right in the Howard Stern universe this morning, as comedian, side-kick, and “bro” Artie Lange returned to the show today after the entire Stern show crew took a week long hiatus following Lange’s now revoked resignation on Thursday, April 10th.

Fans of Lange, myself among them, are relieved that he hasn’t let his melt-down/fallout with his assistant Teddy push him out of his rightful seat next to Howard on the most popular program ever to grace the terrestrial or digital satellite airways. As a side note, today’s interview with Neil Patrick Harris was spot on, with Harris taking Howard’s questions in stride and showing, much as Ryan Phillipe did, that he is an avid, true-blue Stern fan.

Hats off to Harris on his frankness and genuine answers to the questions we’ve all had since he came out publicly last year. As usual, Stern has proven that he is still the best interviewer on the airways, asking the questions of the “every man,” and truly representing his audience.

>(From Cache Chronicle)

The kids are fighting over the remote control while the baby pulls over a glass on the coffee table, spilling orange juice into your laptop. Simultaneously, the dog deposits the remains of his lunch on the carpet by the front door as the phone rings and your mother chides you for not visiting in over a month. You’re late for work and you’ve hit ignore on your cell phone three times since the alarm went off this morning. Add to this that you’re an hour late for work, there’s no gas in your car, and you have a meeting first thing for which you haven’t begun to prepare.

Our worlds have become increasingly fast paced, and all of this frenetic activity means one thing: STRESS. How can we relieve some of this stress and avoid the inevitable nervous breakdown? Try a few of these tips.

1. Exercise. I know you are thinking, “Where will I find the time?” You don’t have to run a marathon, just add a little more activity to your life. Take a walk on your lunch break, use the stairs instead of the elevator, or motivate the whole family to take a walk after dinner. Shoot some hoops with the kids. Stress is released from the body from physical exertion.

2. Eat better. Switching from a donut to oatmeal for breakfast will trim your waistline and make you feel better about yourself. It will also help to fuel you up for the day. If you’re more energized to tackle the tasks at hand, you won’t feel as stressed.

3. Write it out. Not everyone is a writer, but anyone can journal their feelings onto a piece of paper, into a word document on their laptop, or even on a Blog. Getting out the feelings of frustration in written form has a cathartic affect on the mind.

4. Cut back on the stimulants. Yes, many of us cannot function without that morning cup of coffee. But are two or three cups really necessary? If you’re too wired up, it can affect your stress levels, and it isn’t healthy either. Drink less coffee and soda.

5. Drink in moderation. It may seem like a beer at the end of the day can relax us and relieve a little stress, but drinking every day and drinking more than one or two drinks at a time isn’t healthy, and isn’t really relieving stress as much as it’s masking it.

6. Practice relaxation techniques. If your body is relaxed, it isn’t feeling the effects of stress. Try meditation, yoga, relaxed breathing techniques, or other methods to slow down for a few minutes each day and get in touch with your self.

7. Manage your time better. Use a planner, Microsoft Outlook’s calendar, your smart phone or personal digital assistant to organize your day more efficiently. The more orderly your life is, the less stressed you’ll be, and you’ll also be less apt to schedule multiple commitments at the same time.

8. Make lists. Make a list for yourself on your phone, computer, or paper of what you need to do, and you won’t feel so overwhelmed. Tackle one task at a time and mark them off when they’re completed. It’s a satisfying feeling to eliminate each job from the list.

9. Do something you enjoy, even if only for few minutes each day. Garden, do a Sudoku puzzle, swing the golf club, or walk the dog. Life is short. You have to leave some time for fun. If you have something fun to look forward to each day, all of that hard work will seem more worth it.

10. Learn to say no. Having too many commitments is the reason why we feel stressed. There just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. You don’t have to volunteer for every work assignment, every school committee, and to coach all of the kids’ sports. Pick a few of these and do them well. Relax and let someone else volunteer for the rest of those positions. You don’t have to save the whole world all by yourself.