Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Halloweeeeeeentime!

Today is Halloween, and Google is definitely taking part in the fun. I like that Google has different logos themed to various holidays and special days, and I think I go there at least once a day to search for something anyway, but I've got to remember to go there every day just to see if they have a cool logo.

Here's the one in honor of today being Halloween.

Oh, and since it's Halloween, lots of people, adults and kids alike, will be dressed in costumes today for trick-or-treating and parties and such. I found this link to the BEST.COSTUME.EVER.

I have lamented not having access to a young child that I could dress in that costume. I would totally flip out if I saw that costume in person, and I bet a lot of other people would too. I do think that I would be incredibly disappointed if I had a child of the right age to fit the costume who would then *refuse* to wear it, because, you know, kids are like that. But then, the husband agreed that if we had a child, that child would have been so thoroughly indoctrinated into the World of Peeps that he/she would be as thrilled to wear the costume as I would be for him/her to wear it.

Can you imagine a kid wearing that at tonight's West Hollywood festivities?

Some people do scary things on Halloween, some people like to go watch other people do scary things on Halloween (the husband and some friends attend Knott's Berry Farm's Halloween Haunt every year on Halloween), and others just like having fun with the non-scary stuff and pumpkins and such. That last category would be me. I will be happily spending the day with a very good friend, and we'll also be spending some time today at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Hope your Halloween is fun!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Max Payne" - spoiler movie review

Comic books have been the basis for many films, but video games have been a source as well, as is the case with "Max Payne". He's a police officer, stuck in a cramped, claustrophobic room with a desk, but he actually asked to be transferred to the Cold Case Department so that he could surreptitiously continue to look for the people who brutally murdered his wife and young child several years prior. Payne's efforts lead him to a club, where he meets a woman who ends up being torn to pieces after leaving Payne's apartment after he rejected her advances. Suspicion for her murder is placed on Payne, and the woman's sister is none too pleased with him either. But the two of them eventually join forces when it seems that the people responsible for killing Payne's family also killed the woman's sister. More investigation leads to a drug that was manufactured by the company Payne's wife worked for, and Payne discovers that the killer was much closer to home than he ever suspected.

I'm not familiar with the video game that this film is based on, and I actually didn't even know of the movie's origins until after I'd seen the trailer and been interested based on what I saw.

Overall, I liked the film, and I liked the different levels of story and the inter-weaving of Payne's change in character from before the murders and after. I liked seeing the mystery unravel until it's revealed that his wife was murdered by someone so close to Payne himself.

As you'd expect from seeing the trailers, the action sequences are spectacular, and there are also some pretty cool CGI segments when the people are hallucinating from the drug. I loved the speech by the tattoo artist about valkyries, and with the few segments they showed, it actually made me wish that the story did involve valkyries instead of them just being visions. I especially loved seeing the snow around Payne turn to shards of fire being rained down and the heavens opening into a fiery hell. However, speaking of snow, I was so over the lightly-blowing snow effect fairly quickly. The first couple times it was used, yeah, it gave the landscape a nice look. But except for one scene in the pouring rain, every other outdoor scene had this light snow flurry thing going on. Yeah, ok already, nice effect, MOVE ON.

I loved this scene from the film, but I was disappointed to discover that the valkyrie wasn't real.

The scene in the drug manufacturing warehouse reminded me a lot of "Star Wars" because the bad guys seemed to be just about as accurate as Stormtroopers. They're spraying machine guns and shooting the hell out of the batch of drugs (I figured they must have really wanted Payne to destroy so much of the precious drug that they were manufacturing) - the exploding blue vials were a nice effect - but they completely miss Payne. I did like the effect of Payne shooting the shotgun behind him as he was falling backwards to get the guy on the catwalk.

And in a rare moment for me, I actually knew immediately after the blue vials were put in Payne's pocket that they'd come into play later when he would need those drugs. I'm usually not great at catching that sort of thing.

I didn't know there was anything at the end of the credits in this film, but since I always sit through credits of a film, our group of four were literally the only ones left in the theatre when the credits ended and the last scene was shown. The last scene sets up an obvious sequel, and I liked this film enough to be interested in seeing another one.

Mark Wahlberg was good in this, but I'm not as enamoured of him as some. Sure, he's been ok in the few things I've seen him in (I think I liked him best in "The Italian Job", and he did well in this film, but I don't think it was a particularly spectacular performance.

However, I will say that I'm liking Mila Kunis more and more every time I see her. When I first saw her in this film, I thought she looked kind of familiar but couldn't place her. It wasn't until later in the movie that I realized who the actress was playing the sister. She looks very different than the last time I saw her, in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", but I really liked this look with the darker makeup. And not that she was a wilting flower in the other film, but she was definitely kick-ass in this film, and she had the big gun to prove it.

Mila Kunis in "Max Payne".

Mila Kunis in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall".

I'm looking forward to seeing her in more films. Hmmm, I wonder if they could find a vehicle where Mila Kunis and Kat Dennings are working together?

I also liked Beau Bridges in this film. It's been a while since I've seen him, and I thought he did a terrific job, and you totally don't see it coming that he's the one who killed Payne's wife, and he doesn't even seem particularly bothered by it.

I am becoming a big fan of the acting of Ludacris aka Chris Bridges. I first saw him in an episode of "Law and Order: SVU", and he was absolutely incredible and rivetting. I think Ice-T does a good job on that show, but Ludacris kept right up with him and then some. Ludacris does a good job in this film as well as a police detective. I might have to go through his filmography and see what older films of his I might want to watch.

Chris O'Donnell is ok in a smallish part, but he did have a great scene when Payne was trying to torture information out of him a la Jack Bauer.

Oh, and there's one scene where Payne first sees the blue vials in the room in the club, and there's a blonde on the bed who I think has just taken a vial and is hallucinating. I don't think she had a line, but I totally recognized her as the actress who plays Daphne on "Heroes".

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stark, Tony Stark

This has been the year of Robert Downey, Jr. for me, since I've seen him in four different films this year (the fifth film I might have seen him in has recently been pushed to next year for release).

It looks like my supply of him is going to be continuing for years to come, as it has been recently announced that he's signed with Marvel to play Tony Stark aka Iron Man in the sequel as well as in the third film of the series, and he will also be playing Stark/Iron Man in "The Avengers", the film that will bring together The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor.

Here's an article about his deal with Marvel.

I've previously mentioned that he's also playing Sherlock Holmes in a new film of the same name.

I also recently purchased "Less Than Zero", a movie where he was supposed to have been terrific, but I think he got too much into the part though. I'm glad to see his stock continuing to rise, and it's hip to be into him now, but I was into Robert Downey, Jr. before and during when it was totally UNcool to be into him! :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Disney collectibles

Those who actually know me are probably wondering why it's taken me so long to post something like this.

The husband and I collect various things in the Disney universe, ranging from plush to action figures to miniatures to larger collectibles.

One line of Disney collectible merchandise is the big figures - called "big figs" for short. They are usually about two feet tall and can depict a single character, two characters, a vehicle or even a land. As the name implies, they take up much more space than a regular collectible, so yes, you do need more room if you're going to have any of these.

Big figs are available either at the Disneyland Resort or the Walt Disney World Resort. I'm not sure if Tokyo or Paris or Hong Kong carry them. Big figs are also available online via Different big figs might be available in different locations, and I've seen some that seem exclusive to online.

It's actually been some time since I've browsed around that website, but the husband and I had occasion to over the weekend, and boy did we find some nifty stuff!

This is the one that got my attention the most.

I *love* Steamboat Willie so this piece definitely calls to me. He can sometimes be sculpted a bit oddly, but they did a wonderful job in depicting him and the wheel. This one is actually bigger than a regular big fig since he's 3 feet tall. Oh, and he's also a lot more expensive. Normal big figs usually cost about $150. This one costs $500, and then you have to add almost $200 in shipping to that price. Yeah, I really like it, but I have neither the space for it nor the inclination to spend that much money on it. But it's fun to imagine.

Here's another one that caught my attention.

I like Sorcerer Mickey as well, and this is a nice set of him and a broom too. The broom is the same height as Steamboat Willie - 3 feet - but Sorcerer Mickey is just about a foot taller than that, probably because of his hat. And this is also $500, but it's a bargain because you get two figures instead of just one! Shipping is also a little cheaper, only $155. I'm surprised at the cost of this piece compared to Steamboat Willie, but then, they only tell you the height of the figures, not the total dimensions. I would expect that because Steamboat Willie is behind a wheel, that piece is probably fairly wide whereas these individual figures might not be. I have a brother and a good friend who are both quite enamoured of Sorcerer Mickey. I know that my sister-in-law would never allow my brother to have this in the house - they don't have room for the extensive Sorcerer Mickey collection that he already has. But I wonder how Robert is going to convince Dan to let him have this! :)

Here's another piece that caught my attention.

I have a good friend who loves Ariel, which is why I noticed this piece. She actually already has a big fig of Ariel, so I'm not sure if she would be interested in this one. Yes, it has Sebastian, which the other one doesn't, but the base of this one is much simpler.

This is the Ariel big fig that she has, which is actually originally from WDW.

Here's a side view of her so you can see more of the details.

This is the Ariel big fig from Disneyland, which seems identical to the other one except that Ariel has a sparkly tail instead.

Now that I look at all the pictures together, I actually do like the more subdued hues of the new big fig. Maybe that goes better with the more simplistic base, and since it's no longer just Ariel, it focusses more attention on her and Sebastian. Hmmm, wonder what my Ariel-loving friend thinks of it.

And for good measure, here's a land big fig.

This would be a nice piece for a "Peter Pan" fan. It's got a nice mixture of scenes and characters, and there are elements that light up, and the waterfall effect seems pretty cool too. This one is a little smaller than a regular big fig since it's only about a foot tall, and the $150 price is more in line with regular big figs.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Basil Thai Cooking - restaurant review

We'd seen the front of the restaurant a few times since it's in the same strip mall complex as one of our favorite sushi places, but it wasn't a very big storefront and we could tell it was a restaurant but weren't sure what kind since the only sign on the restaurant said "BASIL". Luckily, a friend ventured in and had a great experience, which I read about on her blog, so I had decided to try it sometime. Sometime ended up being about a month ago when the husband and I joined said friend and another friend there for dinner.

This past weekend, the husband and I decided to venture back on our own.

The menu is fairly extensive, and since I'm not as familiar with Thai food as I am some other Asian cuisines, I pretty much have to read all the descriptions to figure out what everything is, and there are so many good-sounding things on the menu that it's hard to narrow down what you actually want to order. The husband and I order family-style, so at least that means we can choose a few different things.

I have been a HUGE fan of tom yum gai ever since I tried it for the first time because another friend would mention it a lot. I think I most enjoy the lemon grass flavoring but also the mixture of spicy and other flavors. Like Chinese hot and sour soup, tom yum gai can be made with any number of variations in various restaurants.

I ordered an individual bowl of the tom yum gai, which the husband and I shared. I did enjoy the flavoring of the soup, but it wasn't quite as lemony or spicy as I normally prefer, but I still liked it enough that I would order it again. They actually have a seafood version of the tom yum that I think I'll try next time.

The husband and I also ordered an appetizer of fried wontons. We were surprised, though, that they weren't the kind we're used to seeing in Chinese restaurants. Go figure - they're different because it's a Thai restaurant! Yeah, I know, did I mention I'm still learning Thai food? The menu says that there is ground meat inside (pork, I think, but I can't remember for sure - it was either pork or beef), but there's actually just a tiny bit of meat inside. It mostly looks like a won ton wrapper square folded in half to form a triangle and deep fried. It's served accompanied by a sweet sauce that I've had before with egg rolls. The won tons were really crunchy and quite good, and I'd actually order it again, but next time, I'll know it's basically like having a meatless appetizer, though of course, it wouldn't work for actual vegetarians.

For our entrees, we ordered a rice noodle dish which I don't remember the name of, but it was spicy and had an assortment of meats, including seafood, and we also ordered a meat dish (chicken, but you can have it as a beef dish as well) cooked with broccoli and garlic. I really enjoyed the noodle dish (I *really* like rice noodles, whether stir fried or in noodle soup - they just have a really great texture to them) because it was just so flavorful. The meat dish was also really good, with specks of cooked garlic that you could actually see - a good thing for two garlic fans.

We did have an order of rice with our meal as well, but we ended up eating very little of it, so in the future, we might just skip the rice altogether, especially if we're getting a noodle dish. We actually ate so little of it that we were told we'd only be charged for a partial order.

On our previous visit, we had ordered the pad thai - a staple of Thai cooking of course - and it was really good. We also had a beef dish called something like Crying Tiger which I remember really liking. We also had tastes of the dishes that our friends had ordered, but I have no memory of what they were - I just remember thinking they were really good.

I think what I need to do is to get a paper version of the menu that I can keep and then just check off the items I've tried after each visit until I eventually make my way through the entire menu.

The restaurant is fairly small, with maybe less than a dozen small tables. They also have this really long wavy table, kinda like a new-wave bar area. I'm not sure it would be conducive to having conversation with more than one other person, and my main issue would be that the seating is just round stools, with no backing, which I generally find to be very painful.

The restaurant is family run, with the dad as the chef, mom as a hostess/server and their teenage son as the main server. They are all very nice and very helpful if you have questions about menu items. They were also very attentive about taking away empty plates and refilling our water glasses.

One other thing is that with your check, you get coffee candy that I *really* like. I've decided that once they get to know me a little better, I'm going to actually work up the nerve to ask if it's available in stores, although I have never been in a Thai market, so I'd have to find one. I thought about asking this time, but I was worried that she'd just give me a handful, which I would appreciate but which isn't what I want - I want to be able to buy a bag of the stuff!

At the end of our meal, the hostess/server/mom asked if we'd been to the restaurant before as she said we looked familiar, and we said we'd been once before, with a friend who's been there multiple times. After some explanation, she knew who we were talking about, so Sher, you got credit for a return visit from people who you originally brought to the restaurant.

With so many yummy things on the menu and the relatively small restaurant, the husband and I joked about how much it would cost to just rent out the whole place. If we decide to throw a Thai party, anyone wanna come?

Basil Thai Cooking
411 East Huntington Drive
Arcadia, CA 91006
(626) 447-8845

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"America's Toughest Jobs" - October 25, 2008 episode - season finale

The finale consists of three jobs that the contestants have done before. In each round, one person will be eliminated until there is only one person remaining.

The first elimination round takes them back to San Angelo, Texas and bull fighting.

But first, each of the four finalists (Ben, Steven, Sandy and Michaela) are told that each of them has won a brand new 2009 Dodge RAM 1500 for making it to the finals.

Each contestant will have 90 seconds in which to grab a ribbon that's attached to the head of a bull. Each person will go alone so that the others can't see how they did.

Steven is up first, and he gets hit a lot, but he finally manages to grab the ribbon after 1:11.

Ben is up next, and he does a fabulous job, getting the ribbon off after only 12 seconds.

Next is Sandy, who has difficulty getting the ribbon, but she also gets tripped up by the bull, which then stomps on her, leaving her lying on the ground. They stop the clock and lure the bull away as Sandy is tended to. She's mostly angry that she didn't get the ribbon, and eventually, it's determined that she just got the wind knocked out of her and didn't get hurt by the bull. But it's revealed later that when she was angry about what happened, she slammed her hand on the gate, breaking a finger. She was in the ring for 36 seconds before time was called, so that's her time.

Last up is Michaela. She is concentrating on getting the ribbon and focussed on the front of the bull, so she doesn't notice it bucking its hind legs, and the bull ends up kicking her in the back of the head, kind of around and below the neck area. She pops back up, but then she crumples in pain. She's taken aside, and she's given a neck collar and taken by ambulance to the hospital. When she leaves, she has a neck brace on, and everyone's outside with flowers to meet her. She says that it's nothing permanent and that it will take 6 to 8 weeks for her to recover. She only lasted 7 seconds in the ring, and with her injury, she is eliminated.

The remaining three finalists head back to Odessa, Texas for oil rigging. There are a variety of tasks they have to complete, and whoever takes the longest is out.

Ben goes first, and his time is 3:12.

Steven goes second, and he has a little trouble with the last task, and his time is 4:37.

Last up is Sandy, who is hindered in a few of the tasks, like climbing the ladder and pulling the rope, because she broke her finger. Her temper ends up costing her the competition because with her handicap, her time is 4:50, and she is eliminated.

The last competition brings Ben and Steven back to Port Angeles, Washington and logging. Again, there are a series of tasks that they have to complete, including felling a tree, cutting another tree into segments and loading the cut logs onto a truck. Instead of going in legs like in the previous two tasks, they will be going head to head, and whoever finishes first wins the grand prize, which is the combined salaries of all the jobs they've done during the course of the competition, which totals $298,000, and, of course, the new Dodge.

Ben does a good job in cutting the section out of the tree, whereas Steven has a much more difficult time because he can't get the second cut to line up with the first cut. However, Ben has difficulty getting the wedge to stay in the tree, but he eventually manages to fell the tree. He has already cut the logs and is attempting to load them onto the truck with a crane when Steven finally manages to fell his tree. Steven starts to cut his logs and sees that Ben is having a hard time getting the logs properly situated, but after a number of attempts, he finally manages to get it done right, and Ben is the winner.

It's revealed at the end that Ben is using his money to buy a house, and that he's training to be a Monster Jam driver, a job he was best at during the competition.

Ben wouldn't have been my choice to win - I would have preferred either Sandy or Michaela to win, and barring that, I wanted Steven to win because of his mother, but preferences aside, it was just about who did the best job, and Ben did the best job.

I really enjoyed the show, so I hope it returns next summer.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Survivor: Gabon" - October 23, 2008 episode

At Fang, Ace looks for another ally to strengthen his position, and he makes an alliance with Matty, who also includes Ken in the foursome, though it was unclear to me whether Ken knew or agreed to be included. The tribe is dangerously low on rice, without enough to ration amongst the tribe until the merge. Ace tells Sugar that he thinks the rest of the people know she has the idol because they must have gone through her bag, so she gives the idol to him for safe-keeping. I didn't understand that move at all. OK, so they know you have the idol, but if you give it to Ace, aren't they still going to want to get you out, but now, you don't even have the protection of the idol? How is giving it to Ace going to make a difference if they already know you have it?

Things are going much better at Kota, where food is abundant, but even still, tribe mates notice that Dan is eating much more than his share of the food.

The reward challenge has each team carrying a 200 pound cloth snake, and they have to race around a track to catch the other team. Members can drop out, but that leaves the rest of the weight for the remaining team members to carry. They've done a similar challenge before, except the team members had sacks of weight that they'd have to transfer to others when they dropped out. The reward is a variety of different pastries as well as the ability to make fresh coffee and tea.

The two teams start out fairly evenly, but members of Fang tire quickly. They manage to pick it up a bit when Sugar, Ken and Kelly drop out, leaving Matty, Ace and Crystal, but they soon falter as well, and when Crystal drops out, Matty and Ace struggle with the weight of the snake all on their own. Kota is able to easily overtake them and win the challenge.

Usually, when there's a reward food win, Jeff tells the winning team to take their stuff back to their camp with them. In this case, he takes the tray of pastries and offers them to each member of Kota, who each take something and eat it right there, in front of Fang, devastating Fang even more. Pretty evil on Jeff's part!

Crystal is especially defeated and cries a bit that it's hard to lose all the time, and Randy mocks her, which I thought was pretty mean. Yeah, it would have been a nice morale booster for Fang, but in terms of doing them actual good, the prize wouldn't have helped that much. It was all sugar and caffeine, no protein at all, so they would have had the sugar and caffeine high and then the inevitable crash.

When Kota gets back to camp, they decide to ration the pastries then and there, so each person can eat their share whenever they want, and the division is implemented mostly because they don't want Dan to eat more than his share. Dan still wants to have a regular meal in addition to the pastry treats though, a thought not shared by his teammates.

After the challenge, Fang again sent Sugar to exile, but she's no longer enjoying her "Sugar Shack". She's hurt and crying and she's tired that she keeps getting sent away from the rest of her tribe and that she has fruit to eat while the others are starving. Well, at least they have one less person to feed for their next meal.

Back at Fang, Kelly and Ace have gone for a walk, and Kelly is bad-mouthing Crystal for crying. When Crystal catches up to them, Kelly greets her with "How'd you get here?", and Crystal calls her on her stupid remark. Ummm, it's not like you guys climbed a huge mountain or teleported anywhere - it's just a path - what do you mean "how did she get there?"

At Kota, things just keep getting better for the tribe when they catch a fairly large turtle and make turtle soup, providing them with even more protein. I was sad for the turtle, though.

For the immunity challenge, tethered pairs have to run through obstacles to retrieve flagpole pieces, with each subsequent pair having an extra obstacle to conquer and farther to run. Kota has a decent lead after the first two legs, but Fang's last pair of Matty and Ken do an amazing job with the obstacles, and with obstacles that others are climbing through, they are instead just climbing on top, which is easier and faster. The last two pairs get back pretty much at the same time, so it's a race to untie the pieces and put the flagpole together. Kota is doing a good job of using teamwork to make quick work of the flagpole while at Fang, Ace tries to take over and stubbornly tries to keep fitting one piece onto the flagpole base, ignoring the fact that there are many other pieces, one of which might actually fit. He puts Fang at a standstill, and Kota easily wins. This is the second week in a row where Ace has lost the immunity challenge for Fang.

And when Fang gets back to camp, Ace criticizes Kelly's performance! OK, she wasn't great, but the team had made up any setback she might have created since they were tied when they started putting the flagpole together. But it was Ace who completely screwed up the challenge by taking over and refusing to let anyone else help him. But I guess that doesn't count. Ken wants Ace out, and he tries to talk various people into it, including Sugar, who then tells Ken that she gave the idol to Ace, which Ken can't believe. Sugar then later tells Ace that she's taken back the idol.

In the end, though, it's Kelly who is voted out after a very contentious tribal council discussion. I can't believe she didn't out Ace by saying at tribal that he had compared Crystal to GC, which might have turned Crystal's vote, and her outrage might have turned others' vote as well. I did laugh when they showed the vote, and they had to blur what I presume is the finger that Crystal gave to Kelly when she put in her vote.

In the grand scheme of things, it was probably smarter to vote out Kelly since she's weaker in the team, but Crystal is right in that even though they have Ace, they haven't won an immunity challenge since he's been there.

Next week should be a good episode, when both teams have to vote someone off, and machinations abound. It sounds like Sugar isn't quite as much in Ace's pocket as Ace thinks, but we'll see if that actually plays out. I would like Ace out of there - he's too arrogant and too much of an ass.

Friday, October 24, 2008

plans for Saturday?

I've previously mentioned a co-worker who is a runner. And I don't mean the "I jog around the block" variety, I mean he's a serious RUNNER.

Well, while I will be taking care of errands and doing housework and maybe going to a movie or whatever on Saturday, he will be participating in a 24-hour running event in San Francisco. The event begins at 9am on Saturday, October 25 and ends at 9am on Sunday, October 26. He has goals as far as how many laps he wants to be able to complete.

And yes, he'll be back at work on Monday.

Me, I'm going to feel like a slug again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Criminal Minds" - October 22, 2008 episode

I am not a regular viewer of "Criminal Minds", though I sometimes watch the occasional episode or hear it from the other room because the husband likes and watches the show. I was a bit more interested before when Mandy Patinkin was on the show, but after he left and was replaced by Joe Mantegna, I was even less interested than before.

The show is about a team of FBI profilers who are called in to solve various very serious cases, usually serial killers and the like, people who have a pattern of behaviour that, if they can figure it out, they have a chance of stopping and catching.

I happen to follow Wil Wheaton on his Twitter feed, and Wil had mentioned a little while ago that he would be on an episode of "Criminal Minds" this season, so I was interested in seeing it. That's the episode that was shown this week.

The team are investigating a series of accidents that appear to be staged in the Reno area. A car is left in the middle of the night in the middle of a remote highway around a blind curve, and the car is then slammed into by the unsuspecting driver of a random tractor trailer. The passengers in the car are always a couple, male and female, who have been missing for two days, but the couple are already dead before the truck ever hits them, and the woman also shows signs of having been raped. It turns out that the victims have all stayed at a remote cabin motel in the middle of nowhere, where the owner of the motel, Floyd Hansen, is the one committing the crimes. He has serious mommy/women issues, which is what's driving his actions. The team track down his identity and whereabouts before he is able to further hurt his latest captives, and when he tries to run away from the authorities, he is appropriately mowed down by a tractor trailer after he runs into the middle of a remote highway.

So, can you guess which role Wil played? Well, he's not a regular, so he wasn't on the FBI team. He didn't have a bit part. And no, he didn't play the male half of the last captive couple. He played Floyd Hansen. And he did a really good job - not over the top, not campy, not unbelievable, just menacing, and mostly, very calm, which is what made him even creepier.

The last captive couple are played by William Mapother and Robyn Lively. She looked familiar, but I couldn't place her until her name popped up in the credits, and then I knew she was in fact the person I thought she was. Except that in looking through her credits, I can't figure out what show or movie I am actually remembering her from. But William Mapother, on the other hand, I definitely know. Yeah, he's Tom Cruise's cousin, whatever, who cares. I know him for often playing the creepy dude, whether it was creepy dude from "Threshold" or creepy Ethan from "Lost". And in this episode, he actually plays the normal guy, the straight man part, whereas Wil plays the psycho, and Wil totally out-creeps Mapother, who as far as I'm concerned is the creepiest dude around.

It was a pretty good episode all around, though both the husband and wife did really stupid things at various times - he left the car running outside when he came back to get her, he peeked into the peep-hole without being careful, which is how he got poked in/around the eye, she approached the window when the shade was finally lifted without apparently realizing that it was being lifted by the person who had imprisoned them in there. And then the stupid arguing between them was just annoying. But as I said, I thought Wil did a great job, and he definitely shows that he's not little Wesley Crusher anymore.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher in "Star Trek: The Next Generation".

Wil Wheaton in an episode of "Criminal Minds".

His Creepiness in an episode of "Criminal Minds" with series regular Thomas Gibson.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" - October 20, 2008 episode

Dr. Boyd Sherman thinks he hears people rummaging through his house (he does - Cameron and Sarah are there looking through things), but all he sees is an open window. His name was on the wall along with the other clues, so they're trying to figure out what his connection is. What's the best way to investigate further? By utilizing his services, of course. Sarah takes in John and Cameron under the guise of needing therapy from Dr. Sherman, and after some discussion, he says he wants to talk to all of them separately. We find out later that they actually planted a listening device in the office so they could try to get information about the other patients.

Catherine is in her office doing a photo shoot, but she has seemingly developed the inability to smile convincingly. I could have sworn that she was smiling just fine previously with Ellison and such. Daughter Savannah is nearby playing, but when she's asked to be in the pictures, she refuses, and when Catherine presses her, Savannah runs away after having peed in her pants out of fear.

Catherine has other problems as well. The AI program isn't doing what it's supposed to be doing. It's not reacting according to plan, and instead, it's flashing a series of random pictures. At some point during the episode, Ellison is in the building, and he finds out that there's a super-secret basement area that he's not allowed to go to, so he asks Catherine about it, and she says they're building something. It was kind of a throwaway scene, so maybe they're just setting up for Ellison finding out about the AI, with or without Catherine's consent?

Catherine takes Savannah to a therapist and conveniently picks Dr. Sherman, who shows Savannah a series of cards with facial expressions to depict a particular mood. Unbeknownst to Catherine, Dr. Sherman sees that Savannah has picked the card showing "scared". Savannah tells Dr. Sherman that her mommy is different and that she wants her old mommy back. Dr. Sherman figures out that the death of Savannah's father is still with her, and she feels like she's lost her mother as well, and Dr. Sherman tells Catherine that she must have changed because of her husband's death. Of course, there's no way he'd know that she's changed so much because she's now actually a maleable metal alloy that kills, but they probably didn't cover that in med school.

When John goes to see Dr. Sherman, he ends up meeting Savannah and teaches her a trick on how to tie her shoelace. In his meeting, Dr. Sherman encourages him to talk, that his office is a safe place, but since John knows the office is bugged, with Cameron and/or Sarah listening, he says nowhere is safe. In later sessions, John does open up to him a bit and tells him about the intruder that was encountered, with flashbacks being shown of what we didn't see at the time, leaving out the details about the terminators and such. Dr. Sherman says that he doesn't have to protect his mother, that he has the right to be just a kid, but Dr. Sherman doesn't know how much John longs to be just a kid. Eventually, John takes out the recording device and tells Dr. Sherman about how he really feels, that Sarah never wants him to feel safe, but that's probably a good thing because fear will keep him on his toes. Dr. Sherman had made some comment about John acting like the Vietnam vets that he previously treated, scouting out a room for exits when he first enters and such. He's dead on. John isn't just a kid. He's seen way more than a kid should, and he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders. I really liked the development of the scenes between John and Dr. Sherman.

Derek figures out that he's being watched, and after giving chase, he comes face to face with Jesse, who we learn is from his time and someone he had a relationship with. Derek thinks John sent her back like he sent Derek, but she reveals that she left on her own, so Derek says she's AWOL. Jesse says she just wants a new life, one that includes Derek.

Catherine watches old tapes of real-Catherine with her husband when she was pregnant with Savannah, and she learns mannerisms that she adopts, like stroking Savannah's hand in comfort.

Catherine thinks Dr. Sherman is doing a good job with Savannah, so she asks for his help on the AI project, which she describes as being like an interactive human child. She tells him about the pictures that it's flashing, and when she shows it to him, he laughs. He says the computer is trying to tell a riddle with the pictures, which means that it's bored and is trying to find ways to amuse itself, but of course, it's just a computer, so it can't possibly be doing that. Later, in Dr. Sherman's office, Catherine says that she wants him to do more work with the AI system, which he declines, saying he needs to tend to his patients, but Catherine wants him to work as a consultant, whenever his schedule allows, and she wants him to treat the AI just like another child that he teaches. Unfortunately, because John removed the listening device, no one else will know this conversation took place.

Another female terminator has come through the portal, and it's eventually revealed that the terminator is targeting Dr. Sherman. The new terminator and Cameron end up walking into the building and the same elevator at the same time and then realize who each other is, and there's a pretty awesome fight between the two as the elevator is moving. It's about to stop on a floor, and they stop their fighting and try to fix themselves up, even though they have messed-up hair and cuts and bits of metal showing through. A family of three get on the elevator, but the parents are so pre-occupied that they aren't even paying attention whereas their little boy is just staring at the two female terminators who are just standing there. When the family gets off on a floor, again, the parents don't notice anything, but as the boy looks back and the elevator doors are almost closed, the two terminators are fighting again. Cameron eventually defeats the other terminator and brings the bent-up body back to the house. They discover that it's a new model of terminator, one with a chip that self-destructs, and John figures out that they've changed them so that he can't reprogram any more terminators.

Early in the episode, a gunshot is fired, which immediately puts Sarah, Cameron and Derek on alert, but it turns out that John was cleaning a gun and accidentally fired it, grazing himself with the powder burn. Both Cameron and Derek are concerned that John may have been giving off a sign of suicide, but Sarah refuses to believe it. Derek tells him the story of a rough soldier who went outside one day and almost killed himself just like that. Derek says that tough people can just break.

It's later revealed that the soldier he was talking about was actually himself, and Jesse was the one who inadvertently prevented his suicide. After sex, Jesse convinces Derek to go get her something to drink. I knew something was up. Why couldn't she go get it herself? And sure enough, as he walks away, she has a pile of photos of Derek and John et al which she shoves under the bed. OK, so is she really Jesse or is she a terminator? If she's really Jesse, why is she spying on John and Derek?

At the very end, Sarah is back in Dr. Sherman's office, and the end of the struggle with the intruders is revealed in the flashback. Andrew's comment on this blog post about that episode was dead on - it wasn't Sarah that killed the intruder. John did. John the teenager who still isn't really comfortable with having to be the saviour of the entire human race. That's why he's been so freaked out, and why he wants to just be a normal teenager going to the mall and interested in girls, not someone that machines keep trying to kill.

I did like the contrasting of Catherine and Sarah as mothers. Catherine doesn't know how because she's not a human, and while she can't ever feel the feelings, she can mimic the actions, like letting her daughter sit on her lap. Sarah would probably have been a good mother, very nurturing, but from before John was born, Sarah knew what she had to raise him to be, what skills she had to teach him that normal kids don't ever have to learn. She's never been able to be nurturing or loving or kind to him because she can't allow him to be soft and unguarded - that could get him killed. She tells John that he can talk to her about anything, but he needs more than she can give him, and he knows that she probably wouldn't want to hear that he's scared or that he doesn't want to be shoved in that role, because they both know he has no choice.

"The Big Bang Theory" - October 20, 2008 episode

Leonard arrives home exhausted in the morning, and Sheldon comes out to tell him that they have to go return his Star Wars sheets because he doesn't like how Darth Vader is staring at him. Leonard says that he's just gotten home, and he had told Sheldon that he'd be working nights for a few weeks because it's the only time he has access to certain equipment for his experiments, and since Sheldon doesn't drive and refuses to take the bus (since they won't let him use the bungee cord strap he devised as a make-shift seatbelt), Leonard had told him to arrange another way to get to work, but Sheldon had neglected to do so. Sheldon then knocks on Penny's door and invokes the "favor" clause of their friendship. (Oh, and for equal time, later in the show, Sheldon makes a comment that he likes the blue like Luke Skywalker's lightsabre. And then it's even funnier when he says the blue before it was digitally enhanced. Geek!)

Penny is driving Sheldon, but along the way, he is babbling incessantly, whether it's about the lit "check engine light" on her car that she's been ignoring for a month, the route that she decides to take that's different from Leonard's and that contains multiple speed bumps, that she doesn't want to play brain teaser games involving the elements with him, that her drinking coffee while driving is a distraction, and such. It was funny to watch her take the speed bumps at full speed and his reaction to that, even though in real life, it bugs me to no end when people don't slow down at speed bumps because I find it incredibly painful to ride in a car doing that. He infuriates her so much that she pulls over and orders him out of her car, leaving him on the sidewalk.

At the end of the day, Sheldon expects Leonard to drive him home, but Leonard says he just got to work and Sheldon needs to find another way. Sheldon knows he can't ask Penny again, so he coerces Howard into driving him, but Howard drives a scooter, so with both of them on it, hilarity and panic and terror ensue. Next, it's shown that Howard also left Sheldon on the side of the curb, and Raj is now the one driving Sheldon, but meanwhile, Sheldon says he has to stop at the comic book store and Souplantation and he still has to return his sheets, which does not appear to have happened since Sheldon is later seen asking Penny if she'll take him to return the sheets, but she slams the door in his face.

The next morning, when Sheldon comes out of his room, the entire gang is sitting there, and they stage an intervention - they've already made an appointment for Sheldon at the DMV to get his learner's permit because they just can't deal with him not driving anymore. Penny drives Sheldon and Howard ends up tagging along. Penny later expresses surprise that Sheldon didn't get his license as a teenager like everyone else, and Sheldon has this long-ass explanation for some thesis thing he was doing instead. Very impressive on pulling it off on the part of the actor! No, I have no idea what he said or what any of it meant. When Sheldon is given his test questions, he starts arguing about the questions with the woman at the counter, and she eventually gets so fed up with him that she approves his learner's permit just to get rid of him.

Howard hooks up some kind of high-tech driving simulator that was previously used by the military (it's really impressive!) so that Sheldon can practice. Sheldon makes a production of putting on his imaginary seat belt and when he expresses concern about whether the vehicle has air bags, Penny says she'll just hit him with a pillow if need be. Good quick delivery on that line. Sheldon tries the simulator but is completely unable to grasp how to handle driving, and from the noises made by Leonard and Howard and Penny, not to mention the screams and crashes coming from the simulator, he is apparently plowing through people and things equally. There is a final crash at the end, after which Penny hits him in the face with the pillow. The move in and of itself was hilarious, but it was even funnier because Sheldon and Penny were both fighting back laughter, but Penny especially looked like she was about to burst out laughing.

The next day, Sheldon is still trying to master the simulator, but he is failing miserably, and he is unable to quite explain to Leonard how he ended up driving through the second floor of the Glendale Galleria. He finally gives up out of frustration, but when Leonard questions him, Sheldon says he never quits anything but that he is too evolved to drive.

Howard, Raj and Leonard see Sheldon coming out of his office in a robe, and Leonard explains that Sheldon just decided to sleep at the lab while Leonard is doing his experiments so Sheldon wouldn't have to figure out how to get to and from work. When it's pointed out that Leonard's experiments ended a week ago, Leonard just smiles and confirms that they did end the previous week.

The very end of the show is a bit weird, with two cleaning women finding mysterious clues and being very frightened about what they might find, when a robe-clad Sheldon is seen at the soda machine, and he's got a sort of hood on, which makes him look mysterious in the dim light, kind of like Batman or the phantom of the opera. He takes off, with his robe fluttering behind him like a cape.

Ummm, ok...

And can I just say, I know exactly how irritating it is when someone always needs to bum a ride somewhere because they have no other way of getting there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"America's Toughest Jobs" - October 18, 2008 episode

The five remaining contestants are taken to Mt. McKinley, Alaska, where their next job will be as a mountain guide. Their boss looks so young, and he certainly doesn't look old enough to have 20 years of experience. He looks like a kid!

The first thing they learn is self-arrest, where if they're falling or someone else is falling, they have to be able to stop themselves with nothing but a pick axe. Next, they go on a hike to where their campsite will be, and along the way, they have to carry a pack with gear that weighs 100 pounds, and they're climbing uphill, and the air is getting thinner so they're getting less oxygen AND there's a snow storm. Sandy is having a particularly difficult time through all this.

When they get to where they'll be making camp, they still have to dig in the snow to set up their site, including trenches where the kitchen and sleeping tents will be put up as well as a latrine for their use. Once the tents are pitched, they cook a make-shift dinner and eat before finally going to bed.

The next morning, they have to learn how to rescue someone who has fallen into a crevasse. They have to stop themselves from falling, tie knots to transfer the line to a pulley system, and then pull the person up from over the edge. They will each be "saving" another member of their group.

Steven goes first, rescuing Ben, and he does an excellent job. Michaela is up next, rescuing Sandy, and she has a hard time planting herself initially, but she makes up for it in the rest of the task. Sandy rescues Rommel and does a pretty good job, and Ben rescues Steven, but he also has a hard time planting himself, so since Steven had fallen further, Ben has to pull him up a longer distance. Rommel is last to go, rescuing Michaela, and he does a good job as well.

The last task is the next day, when they have to make a high-altitude summit climb, to Control Tower, which is the peak. It's a very difficult time, and Sandy is still having a hard time being tired and losing her footing, and Rommel messes up their anchoring system at one point, putting them all in potential danger, but finally, five hours later, they make it to the top and are able to enjoy the view for a short time before having to make their way back down.

So they go through adding the salary to the winning pot, and a first-year guide makes something like $15,000. Are you kidding me? Cold, wind, potential death - all for $15,000? No frickin' way.

The best of the group is determined to be Michaela, and the bottom two are Sandy and Rommel, which was pretty evident based on everything that happened. The final challenge is to rescue a 100 pound dummy who has fallen into a crevasse, and the person with the fastest time goes on. In the end, Sandy's time is 4:41 and Rommel's time is 4:53, so Rommel is eliminated. Sandy was dead on during her portion of the challenge, and Rommel was doing a really good job as well, but near the end, he had a problem with his rope, which he had to adjust, and I think that's what cost him. I'm glad that Sandy made it through.

The final four are Michaela, Sandy, Ben and Steven, and next week is the season finale. Who will come out on top? I'm rooting for it to be either Sandy or Michaela because I like them best.

"Survivor: Gabon" - October 16, 2008 episode

They start the show with a recap of what's happened so far. Ummm, ok, a little early for a recap, isn't it? Running short on this episode?

Sugar arrives at the Fang camp and is happy to be reunited with Ace, but she is surprised and disappointed to see Kelly there, which meant Jacquie had gotten voted out.

At Kota, they catch an electric fish among other types of fish. I was wondering if they were going to get some use out of it being electric, but nope. That was funny to watch in any case, as the people got shocked. The husband and I talked about what our cat Orkid would do with an electric fish. We agreed that she'd get shocked. Over and over and over again.

Back at Fang, the group see/hear an elephant grazing nearby and watch it for a while, in awe of nature being so close. Ace and Matty seemed to want to get even closer to nature as they paddled out on a kayak to get a better look at the huge elephant. OK, yeah, cool and all, but I didn't think it was really that smart to do.

The reward challenge is for an herb garden (self-replenishing since it would continue to grow), salt and oil, and they can keep their fruit from the challenge. The challenge is that some team members have to throw various fruit (cut watermelon, whole pineapples, whole oranges, etc.) through a particular opening in an overhead fence, and their teammate has to catch it. Meanwhile, someone from the opposing team has a bat and tries to whack the fruit away instead. Whoever ends up with the most fruit by weight at the end wins. Ace is doing a terrific job for Fang by rejecting almost everything Kota tries to throw past him. Kota finally finds a way around him by throwing two fruit pieces at a time, so he can only reject one, but the other gets through. Kota manages to make up a lot of ground with this new method, and in the end, they end up barely beating Fang. They choose to send Sugar back to Exile, to what she has deemed the "Sugar Shack", and she doesn't really care that much, because she likes it there - shelter, food she doesn't have to share or work to get, no work to be done, just relaxing and actually having some time to herself.

At Fang, they're still running out of rice, so they get very small portions, and GC is still complaining about how little food they're getting. Crystal does what all the viewers and probably most if not all his teammates want to do and tells him to just stop complaining and eat his food. (She later goes and tells him she was just kidding, but really, he needed that beat-down and more.) GC disappears in a canoe shortly before it's time to leave for the challenge, and many of his team members are yelling for him, and right before they have to leave, he comes back, without a care that he almost missed leaving with them. Ass.

The immunity challenge involves dropping big balls made of twigs/branches over a cliff, and the balls will hit other obstacles as well, and then they will roll into various pockets, each worth a different amount of points. A member of the opposing team will be trying to block the other team's ball, but the defender will be blindfolded and will be guided only by a caller. For Fang, Ace is the defender with Sugar as the caller, and for Kota, Dan is the defender with Randy as the caller. Both sides manage to block a ball or two that the other members toss off, and Randy and Dan actually have a very good rapport going with very definite instructions. When it comes to the last ball, Randy is able to get Dan to stop Fang's ball, but Ace seems on his way to stopping Kota's and with Fang in the lead, that would have led to Fang's win. In a brilliant move of thinking fast on his feet, Randy yells out to Ace to freeze, which Ace does, allowing Kota's ball to continue into a pocket, giving Kota the win. It was a great tactic on Randy's part, but it was an incredibly stupid move on Ace's part. Did he not remember that his partner was Sugar? Randy sounds *nothing* like Sugar. Ace should have just been listening for Sugar, not anyone else. It would have been different if both callers were the same gender and had the same kind of voice, since they would have been harder to distinguish, but between Randy and Sugar, there can be no confusion. I did notice that earlier in the challenge, Randy would periodically yell out Dan's name along with his instruction, so maybe he realized that yelling the name got the person's attention more. And Sugar is not faultless in this, because she stopped saying anything. She didn't tell Ace to keep moving, to ignore Randy, nothing. She just let Ace stop and stand there.

At Fang, the team has to decide what to do at tribal council. GC says he's fed up with the game and the suffering and work and personalities and lack of food, and he's ready to leave. While GC is off and Ace and Sugar are swimming, the rest of the team are talking about whether Sugar has the idol, and Crystal actually rummages through Sugar's bag and finds it, confirming for everyone that she has it. They then discuss voting off GC or blindsiding Sugar to get rid of the idol since she's dangerous in possession of it.

At tribal council, I was really expecting Jeff to ask about why Ace listened to Randy or why Sugar didn't say anything, but there was nothing, or at least if there was anything, it wasn't included. I was totally bummed because I wanted to hear them talk about it, since their joint blunder effectively caused Fang to lose. In the end, Fang ends up voting out GC. That was ok too. He really is an ass and a whiner and just has too much attitude. And he complains about the conditions. Really? You applied to be on "Survivor", and you had no idea what you were getting yourself into, that you'd have to work and get food and that there would be no fully-stocked fridge to help yourself to all the time, AND that it's a social game? Why the hell did you apply to be on the show? Good riddance.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Kitchen Nightmares" - September 25, 2008 episode

This visit was to Great Neck, New York, to an Italian restaurant called Trobiano's. The restaurant is co-owned by Anthony and the parents (Joe and Pat) of Anthony's girlfriend Tiffany. Anthony is also the executive chef and Tiffany is a waitress in the restaurant. The business isn't doing all that well, but Anthony has implemented an early bird special which practically fills the restaurant at 4:30 with old people, but by the normal dinner rush of 7pm, the restaurant is empty. The portions are also so big that many people have enough leftovers to take with them to be a meal for the next day. Gordon comes in and sees the limited business that the restaurant has as well as the wastefully large servings, and on top of that, he hates the food. When he berates Anthony for his seeming lack of care, and Anthony is unresponsive, Gordon leaves, but Anthony goes after him, and after a sidewalk chat, Gordon is convinced to come back and try again.

The first thing Gordon does is to take all four of them to a farm and have them each milk a cow. They then bring the milk back to the restaurant where Gordon teaches them to make homemade and fresh mozzarella cheese, which will be the new signature dish/ingredient in the restaurant. He also introduces a new menu with new dishes which are more properly proportioned.

One problem that persists, though, is that Anthony is not tasting the dishes he sends out, so many get sent back because they're not done correctly or don't taste good. It's an obstacle Anthony manages to hurdle just in time for the arrival of Bon Appetit's editor-in-chief. Luckily, she and others at her table seem to like their food. Gordon takes Anthony aside and says there's only one thing missing, and that's his long-put-off proposal to Tiffany. Gordon presents Anthony with a ring to give to her, and after Gordon presents executive chef Anthony to the restaurant, he calls Tiffany to him, gets down on one knee and proposes, which she accepts. Gordon then says that he's arranged for them to get married that very night, which does happen. I thought the whole proposal thing was pretty cute, but the wedding thing was a bit much for me. Being that rushed and not being able to enjoy it wouldn't have been my choice. All I can think is that Gordon talked to both Anthony and Tiffany about it, and they each had expressed a desire to get married soon. I'm also not sure about the wisdom of Joe and Pat putting their home and whole life savings at stake for the sake of a mere boyfriend of their daughter's.

In the second part of this double episode, we go to the heart of New York City, to Black Pearl, which has three owners that end up creating chaos for the staff. One of the owners (David) is so controlling that he doesn't even allow the head chef to season his own dishes, which Gordon finds appalling. Gordon then later gets into a heated disagreement with David about the difference between Maine lobsters, which is what the menu advertises serving, and Canadian lobsters, which is what the restaurant actually serves. (From doing a search on the net, there seems to be a lot of dispute about whether or not there is actually a difference between the two. Fascinating.)

The consensus is that the restaurant has no direction or leadership, so it's decided that one of the three managers needs to be the general manager so that there's really one voice making the decisions. Gordon sends home one of the managers, who seems to have almost no real interest in the restaurant, and the remaining two managers, David and Greg, take turns running the restaurant's dining room and being the expediter. David is condescending and arrogant as an expediter and downright rude, including to guests, as manager of the dining room. Greg is better running the dining room, and though he initially struggles as the expediter, he manages to finish the task. A poll of the restaurant staff determines that the overwhelming majority would rather have Greg as the General Manager, so that is implemented. To help promote the new place, Gordon introduces a lobster claw machine in the restaurant, like the kind where you normally get stuffed animals, but in this case, they are live lobsters in a water tank - if you pay the money and can fish one out, they'll cook it and feed it to you for free. To help promote the new restaurant, Gordon also arranges for a walkaround lobster - "Louis" - to be with them as they pass out flyers in Times Square. I thought the lobster claw machine was actually pretty funny, but I also thought that, as well as Louis, were a bit odd and a bit of a departure from what Gordon normally does.

The third partner seemed to agree that he really shouldn't be in the restaurant business, but David was in total denial and blind about the harm he was doing the restaurant and the staff with his attitude and behaviour. Gordon says that the restaurant has a chance of surviving if the other two get out and Greg is left as the sole owner of the restaurant. It will be interesting to see if they revisit this place to see if it survives.

One problem I still have with this show is that they seem to run short on content and expend inordinant amounts of time showing you what you're about to see in the next segment. It's like watching a trailer for a movie that shows you all the plot points of the movie. What's the point of that? They must take hours and hours of footage for each show, and they can't cobble together 48 minutes or so of actual show from that?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Desperate Housewives" - October 5, 2008 and October 12, 2008 episodes

October 5, 2008 episode

When Susan's new boyfriend Jackson stays the night, he inadvertently ends up separately meeting both Mike and their son MJ while he is still in his robe. Mike says that he wants to get to know Jackson if he's going to be around his son, and they arrange a night out together, which goes smashingly well. Susan is happy that Mike approves of Jackson until she finds out that during their night, Mike happened to reveal a bit of information about what she finds appealing sexually, and she's weirded out about them exchanging that kind of information so doesn't want their budding friendship to progress. She is also concerned about what bad things Mike might tell Jackson given their acrimonious breakup, but Mike assures her that he holds no such bad feelings about her, which makes Susan feel better about letting their friendship continue to develop. I can understand Mike's desire to make sure a man around his son is ok, and I get that Susan wants them all to get along ok, but I'm with her in that I would probably be weirded out and not happy about it if my new boyfriend was going to be bff's with my ex-husband.

Edie still doesn't understand why they came back to Wisteria Lane when they could have gone anywhere, but husband Dave says he thinks they could have a nice life there, though she is (and we are) unaware of his ulterior motive.

Karen McClusky makes a remark to Edie that hurts her, and after she tells Dave about it, Dave goes over to see Karen to ask her to apologize, but Karen refuses. Dave then makes a veiled threat about her not wanting to lose the friends she has, and her cat mysteriously disappears for several days and then immediately and just as mysteriously reappears right after she apologizes to Edie. Karen has a feeling something is up with Dave and enlists Katherine's help in find out what that is.

Carlos works as a massager out of the home, but Gabrielle convinces him to take a job as a masseuse at a swanky country club because the clients will be more wealthy and therefore pay more. That ends up having repercussions she didn't anticipate when a birthday invitation she had previously been excited about receiving ends up being rescinded because most of the guests are members of the country club and the birthday lady thinks it would be weird for her guests to be mingling with the hired help. Gabrielle is concerned that she's falling further and further down the social ladder and that not being at this party will make her standing fall even more, so she arranges to crash the party, with disastrous results when they're discovered. Carlos tries to explain to her that money isn't everything, that as their blind masseuse, he hears all about how miserable they all are, just as miserable as he was when he was always thinking about money, and he says that with each other and the kids, they're much better off and happier now.

Bree is getting ready for the launch of her cookbook, but her decision to use the name "Mrs. Van de Kamp" because it sounds better than "Mrs. Hodge" hurts Orson, who would rather she use his last name not just for social purposes but also professional ones. She convinces him that she's already got that name out in the public and that she had used that name when they were separated, so she doesn't want to lose the branding now. However, when she's being interviewed on a much-coveted food radio show, she doesn't see the irony of talking about her cookbook and how she focuses on home-cooked meals while Orson is sitting at home with take-out. When asked about her husband, Bree effectively denies having one, which Orson hears and is upset about. When Orson later confronts her about that, she relies on the techicality of being asked whether there is a "Mr. Van de Kamp" and her saying there wasn't, which is true. Orson then accuses her of hiding him because she's ashamed that he went to jail, and she more or less confirms that. He says that he went to jail because she said it was the only way to get her back, but now, she's still denying him. I'm going to agree with Bree that "Mrs. Van de Kamp" sounds better, and somehow to me, it also fits better with the cooking persona than "Mrs. Hodge", but I completely see how and why Orson would be angry that she did not contradict the notion that she currently has a husband.

Lynette is concerned that Porter might be involved in drugs because a fellow student and former friend was recently busted, so she decides to open an account and pretend to be a similarly-aged girl on a sort of "myspace" website in order to talk to him and get information from him. She gets hooked because she finds out more and information from him, information he would be unlikely to tell his mother, but she doesn't realize that he's actually falling for this girl. When he tells her, she writes him a lovely "I can't get involved with you" letter that's nonetheless supportive, but she makes the fatal mistake of absentmindedly signing it "love, mom". Porter is appropriately angry and refuses to speak to her for some time, though we see that he misses talking to her too. I can't believe that she didn't see it coming that he'd fall for the persona she had created.

October 12, 2008 episode

Orson has been trying for several years to get Danielle to visit for a weekend, and Danielle finally agrees, bringing husband Leo (who works as a lawyer for the EPA) and son Ben, now 6, with her. Orson cautions Bree to be on her best behaviour, but Bree can't help herself from butting in and judging, especially when she finds out that all three of them are vegetarians and that Danielle will be homeschooling Ben, not to mention that they're apparently Jewish now as well. When Bree is alone with Ben at the park, she tempts him with a story of how little boys and girls need hot dogs to grow up big and strong and then offers him a hot dog, as long as he doesn't tell his mom. At a dinner party later that night that Bree throws which includes their family and the neighbors, Ben gets sick and Danielle finds out that Bree not only fed Ben meat in the form of two hot dogs but that she also instructed him to lie to her about it. Danielle is furious and declares that her family will be leaving in the morning, and Bree's apologies do nothing to help the situation. Orson is angry at her for her behaviour, but he's most angry because when he agreed to go to jail, he still had Ben in the house as his son, but when he got out, Ben was gone and now barely even recognizes him. He blames Bree for not fighting hard enough for Ben, a comment which angers Bree in turn. I can certainly understand if Bree objects to how Danielle is raising Ben, but she herself said that Danielle is actually Ben's mother. How she could think it's ok to completely undermine Danielle with the vegetarian thing, not to mention her not realizing that if he hasn't had meat in a while, having meat and lots of it was going to make him really sick, really surprised me. I can't imagine she would have been very happy if her mother or her MIL had pulled the same thing on her, encouraging her children to do something she didn't allow. She also makes a comment about not being able to watch Danielle make all these mistakes with Ben. Ummm, yeah, you know, Bree, you're not exactly the paragon of child-rearing, given your track record with Danielle and Andrew. She said so herself that she did a horrible job with them and that she was going to get a second chance with Ben. Well, who says she wasn't going to screw up again, and why should her second chance trump Danielle's first chance at being a mother? The husband also noticed that when they were at the dinner table, she made some comment about having her entire family under the same roof for the first time in a long time, but Andrew was noticeably absent. Yeah, I guess Andrew doesn't count. That's a mother's love and concern for you.

Susan's son MJ is getting picked on by other kids, but when Susan tries to talk to him, he says he wants to talk to Mike. Susan eventually finds out that the person picking on MJ the most, that he didn't want to disclose, is in fact Juanita, Gabrielle's oldest daughter. Susan tries to talk to Gabrielle, but Gabrielle is mostly defensive. Things escalate when Susan tries to handle the situation herself and Juanita refuses to stop bullying MJ, which results in a catfight between Susan and Gabrielle. Later, Susan comes over to Gabrielle's with a peace offering of wine, and the two bond and talk about their fears raising their children. I wasn't crazy about this story at first because I didn't like Gabrielle's reaction. Your child is bulling another child, the child of a good friend no less, and you're not really all that concerned about it and instead turn it around and insult the other kid for not being tough enough? However, I did like the heart-to-heart talk they had in which Gabrielle admitted how and why she felt what she did when Susan told her about Juanita's bullying, and then Susan expressed her fears about MJ's growing up without his father being there all the time. These are the kinds of moments I actually really like about this show, and which they do really well but haven't done much of lately.

Gabrielle and Carlos are hurting for money and decide they have to sell their sports car, much to Gabrielle's dismay since she is losing more and more signs of her once-wealthy stature. Their negotiation tactics, partly because of their desperation, are awful, and the sale goes through with them getting much less than they had originally wanted. I thought it was odd, though, that after the verbal agreement, she tossed the keys to the new owners and then she and Carlos just walked away. Ummm, don't they need to pay you first? Gabrielle and Carlos then end up buying a really crappy car from Andrew, and they aren't able to negotiate him down. Gabrielle drives the car and then discovers that it needs a new radiator, but Andrew is completely unremorseful about having sold her a lemon. After Gabrielle's talk with Susan, though, in which she admitted to feeling defeated, she gets her spunk back and forces Andrew to pay for the new radiator. Hmm, ok, maybe now, she'll also stand up to both Carlos and Juanita about Juanita's weight and attitude.

Karen asks Katherine how she's done about looking up information on Dave, but Katherine says that because he has a fairly common name (Dave Williams), she's coming up with a billion hits, so she needs more information about him, like where he grew up or where he went to school or something. Katherine and Karen arrange to meet Edie for lunch in order to get more information about Dave, but whereas Katherine had recommended subtlety, Karen just starts firing question after question about Dave, most of which Edie doesn't know the answers to, and Karen berates Edie for not knowing that information about her husband. Edie is startled and leaves.

Dave happens upon Tom and Lynette cleaning out their garage, with Tom being upset that he has to throw away so many things, including his guitar. Tom mentions that he used to jam with Mike before he moved away, and Dave says he plays the drums so offers to jam with him. Tom enjoys jamming with Dave so much that he enthusiastically tells Lynette that they're going to add a few more people and start a garage band and maybe even play some gigs. Lynette reminds him that with the restaurant to run, and being a husband and father, he doesn't really have time for that, but Tom is stubborn and insists. Lynette arranges for his very-expensive guitar to be "accidentally" destroyed, but then Dave comes by with another one and ends up manipulating her into accepting the guitar and then presenting it to Tom as a gift from herself. The more they play out Lynette and Tom, the more I'm getting to dislike him. They actually used to be my favorite couple because they were the most honest and grounded, but more and more, Tom has just turned into a completely ineffectual father and husband. They have the restaurant because HE wanted it as it was his dream and he threw away a perfectly good career to pursue this. HE doesn't want to deal with being a real father to his children and so pretty much has a hands-off approach, leaving Lynette to do everything. HE is the one having a mid-life crisis with his red sports car. I get that there are things he wishes he could do, but he's completely throwing all responsibility out the window, and he has been for some time, and Lynette totally allows it! The boys are in so much trouble precisely because they get no guidance and direction from their father. I've gotten to really dislike Tom for being such a big baby and Lynette for allowing him to be one.

At Bree's dinner party, they're talking to Leo about what he does and where he grew up and where he went to school, and the same questions end up being asked of Dave, who deflects them, but then Edie presses the issue, at which point Dave tells a well-fashioned and sympathetic sob story about how he's ashamed to admit he didn't go to college and that he grew up in a terrible household with abusive parents. Later that night, Edie apologizes and says she was egged on by all of Karen's questions, and Dave finally understands what happened, but he makes up a story about a relative who started going senile and becoming paranoid, so much so that she ended up having to be put in a home, all of which we know is a thinly-veiled threat against Karen. I think Karen went about it the wrong way, but I do think it's weird to marry someone without knowing so many details about their life. I would think that would just come out in conversation and that you'd want to know about a person you were planning to spend the rest of your life with. Dave's telling of his story was just awesome though. Karen better look out!

"The Big Bang Theory" - October 13, 2008 episode

The gang, including Penny, is gathered in Leonard and Sheldon's apartment, and as Leonard is distributing the Chinese take-out, Howard is making creepy comments to Penny. "Creepy good or creepy bad?" asks Howard, and Penny just stares at him. She's really good at that and does it a lot. When he makes yet another creepy comment, she makes him sit somewhere else.

When Sheldon comes in, he uses baby wipes before eating, and when Penny innocently asks why he uses them, Leonard's and Howard's groans of protest and caution are ineffective in staving off Sheldon's diatribe about the lack of supplies at work.

Raj comes excitedly into the room with good news, but he clams up as soon as he sees Penny. Penny decides to go back to her apartment to eat, and after she leaves, Raj is able to tell the guys that he has been picked to be on People Magazine's list of 30 people under 30 to watch, a list that includes Ellen Page. When the guys question the validity of his inclusion on the list, Raj says he doesn't figure Ellen Page's friends are giving her a hard time.

The next day, Leonard and Howard go into Sheldon's office to say they need to go see Raj and tell him how happy they are for him. When Sheldon doesn't understand why he needs to apologize for his behaviour the previous night, Howard says "You were a colossal asshat". I've never heard "asshat" used on TV before, just on the radio, so that was funny. Leonard tries to get Sheldon to smile so that his congratulations will seem more genuine, but Sheldon's attempts are just too frickin' funny, and sometimes even frightening, prompting Leonard to say that they're not trying to kill Batman, making a Joker reference.

While they're in Raj's office, a higher-up comes in and congratulates Raj, especially with all the publicity they're getting, and he even offers him a bigger better office and lunch in an exclusive restaurant.

Later that night at dinner (presumably at the fake Cheesecake Factory since Penny is working there, but it looks different than every other time they've been there), Raj is bragging about his lunch and that he now has an assistant (or lackey, as he calls him, although he mentions that someone like that would normally be called an unmentionable), and he also mentions that People is having a reception and he has managed to get them invites to the reception (though not VIP invites since they're just Ps), but they're fed up with his bragging so they all decline to go. When Penny hears about it, she accepts Raj's invitation to go with her (he's already a bit inebriated, so he can talk to her), and she also chastises them for not going. Raj says that it took Leonard a year to get a date with Penny whereas he just did it, so he wonders why it took Leonard so long. With that, the others leave, leaving Raj at the table by himself. He leans over to someone at the bar and announces that he's going to be in People Magazine. We only see the person's back, but I knew it was going to be someone we know, since that made sense for the setup, and when the guy turns around, he says, "Call me when you're on the cover", and it's Charlie Sheen! That was funny because he's on "Two and a Half Men", another show by the same creator of this show.

When Raj comes to pick up Penny, he's already drunk from the alcohol in the limo, a concept and a word that seemed to really tickle him. He's also a bit obnoxious and even questions the outfit that Penny has chosen to wear.

As they're leaving, Leonard is returning with yet more Chinese take-out, and Sheldon and Howard rag on him because he's afraid that Penny will have sex with Raj that night. As Sheldon is telling the story of having a cat named Lucky who was killed, completely missing the irony of the situation, and how he instead wanted a griffin, he is pouring exhorbitant amounts of soy sauce and hot mustard into his container of food. You know, the container isn't that big - do you really need that much added condiment to it? I know, that wasn't the point, but I couldn't help noticing. As Sheldon finishes his story, he mentions building a new friend, using the animatronic technology used by Disney, but after further discussion, Leonard concludes that they really just need to make friends with Iron Man. Wow, do you think they could cram more pop references into one 22-minute episode? (There was also a reference earlier in the show to Apu of "The Simpsons", which I didn't mention.)

The next day, Raj comes to Penny's apartment and tries to slip a note under Penny's door, but she opens it, and when he thrusts the paper at her, she says that if he has anything to say, he needs to say it to her face, and he manages to literally squeak out "sorry". She forgives him and hugs him, just as Leonard opens his apartment door. Since Penny is in her robe, it appears as if Raj has spent the night and is just leaving that morning, and after Penny goes back into her apartment, Raj turns around and gives Leonard the thumbs-up, further confirming Leonard's misconception that he stayed the night. Hmmm, wonder if they'll play that misunderstanding in next week's episode.

This was a really good episode!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

attempt to get into Guinness World Records

I heard about this a little while ago, and the event itself happened several years ago (2002). APPARENTLY, someone was trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records and wanted to expend the least amount of effort possible.

Here it is. I do agree that it's a bogus attempt since it's not really any great feat. I wonder if in the intervening years, someone has actually registered a longer domain name.

Be sure to read the link to the letter from Guinness World Records.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Are those lobsters in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

We were at the mall last Sunday when I heard a snippet of a news story on a television we were passing. Something about a man stuffing lobsters in his pockets in an attempt to steal them, and he was discovered because he had "odd bulges" in his pants.

Here's the story. The story is entirely too short, with very little information. I have lots of questions.

I'm kinda wondering why the lobsters were in a marine conservation area. I wouldn't think lobsters are an endangered species.

He's been cited for poaching on four previous occasions. I want to know what he tried to steal the other times.

I want to know how big the lobsters were. He had SIX of them stuffed in his pants. Was he wearing cargo pants? Were they tiny lobsters? Were they actually crawfish instead?

And why don't lobsters in the San Diego area have pinchers?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Iron Man" sequel news

This article has some interesting casting news about the "Iron Man" sequel, which is due out summer of 2010.

In the film released this year, Tony Stark's aka Iron Man's Army buddy was played by Terrence Howard. In the next film, Rhodey is going to be getting a little plastic surgery make-over as the role is being taken over by Don Cheadle.

Obviously, Robert Downey, Jr. is returning, and Gwyneth Paltrow is expected to return as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

mother cat and kittens

I'm not in much of a mood to write happy or frivolous today, and I probably shouldn't be writing what I feel, so instead, today's post will be a youtube video of cute little baby kittens and their mom.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Las Vegas Hilton

The husband and I have made regular visits to Las Vegas for a number of years now. We're not huge gamblers, though we do enjoy playing various of the slot machines. I only do slots and don't do table games at all. The husband enjoys craps, and he even knows how to play! We've also enjoyed looking at the architecture and decor of the various hotels/casinos as well as trying out different restaurants.

One place that we have made a point of visiting on each trip is the Las Vegas Hilton. We had originally gone to look around like everything else, but there was the added appeal of Star Trek: The Experience. They had a section that simulated the Promenade from the Star Trek television show "Deep Space Nine". They even had a restaurant named Quark's. There were a couple of stores, some with regular merchandise like t-shirts and plush, and some with the higher-end stuff. They also had an attraction where you were put into the story of a Star Trek happening. I really liked the Klingon version, but I hated the Borg version because at the end of that one, you get rescued by Voyager. Ugh, please, just let the Borg take me then.

We went on the attraction once, and it was fun (and the museum section was cool too), but for the experience and the price, it wasn't something we felt the need to do again. We did enjoy browsing around the shop, and we had dinner at Quark's once.

The other nice thing is that adjacent to the whole Star Trek area is the SpaceQuest casino, which was, to me, a little less stuffy than the main casino, and they had good music too. We always made it a point of visiting the Hilton once on each trip to wander around the Promenade and play in the casino.

Well, the Star Trek section closed in early September of this year. Our trip came about two weeks afterward, and the area was completely closed off, though nothing had been done to it yet. I'm not sure what their plans are for it. The SpaceQuest casino was still there, and the Star Wars slot machines were still there, but the Star Trek machines that the husband had found during our earlier March trip had been moved to the main casino. I actually spent some time looking around the SpaceQuest casino, but I literally did not find one machine that I wanted to play, so I ended up back in the main casino.

We had figured that with the closing of the Star Trek section, there really wasn't going to be any reason to go back to the Hilton anymore. However, since the husband found the Star Trek slots and really likes them, and for the moment, they don't seem to be anywhere else, we'll be going back so he can play them.

I played for a little bit on a machine that was new to me that was kind of fun but which fairly quickly put me in this mega-bonus round that just kept going and going and going like the Energizer bunny, and when all was said and done, I had won something like $60 on a penny machine, so I quit. And then I looked for something else to do.

I had seen signs posted in various places about something called Football Central. Well, we were there on a Sunday, and the second set of football games for the day would still be going, so I figured I'd go and see what it was like. Yes, I like watching NFL games. I followed the signs, figuring it would be some room with some big-screen TVs set up or something. And then I walked into an auditorium, with five huge giant screens. Not TVs, but more like the giant screens that are normally up in any Sports Book. Five of them, with five different games. They only had the sound from one of them on, and it wasn't the one I was most interested in, but that was ok, since I could still follow the action of the one I really wanted to watch, and the game with the sound on ended up being an amazing game. And I got to glance at the other games on the other screens as well.

As I mentioned, it was like an auditorium, not just some dinky little room. They had rows and rows of seats lined up, and it was crowded, but not packed, so finding a decent seat wasn't an issue at all. There were signs about inexpensive food and beer being sold from an adjacent room/restaurant, but I'd already had brunch so wasn't hungry.

I loved sitting in that room and watching the games, especially since I was around a lot of people who were really into it as well. The husband came into the room a bit later, and we watched the various games for a little while.

If I lived closer, I'd so be planting myself at the Hilton every Sunday during the NFL season. I guess that means it's a good thing I don't live nearby because then I really wouldn't get anything done on Sundays while professional football is on.

Here's a link to official information about Football Central, but I'm not understanding the "11 huge screens" thing. I didn't miscount - there were 5. Maybe they've changed it since that web page was first constructed. But no matter - it's still an awesome place.

So, while we thought we'd be leaving the Las Vegas Hilton behind, it looks like we'll still be making visits there, probably moreso during football season if we're in town.

This trip report from April 2002 has some information about a visit to the Promenade. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.

This trip report from March 2003 includes information from another visit to the Promenade as well as our dinner at Quark's. Scroll down to about half-way through the report.

And this little trip report is about my first ride on the Las Vegas monorail, which included a really cool feature on a particular monorail as it approached the Hilton.

Here's information about a really cute t-shirt that I'd found in the Promenade during our March trip.