Saturday, May 31, 2008

Top 3 New Television Shows of the 2007-2008 Season

Except for the Summer shows like Rescue Me, and the pile of Reality Shows coming in as filler, the "scripted" television season is finally over. It sure took a while, and the writer strike might have changed forever how everyone looks at and appreciates television programming.

However, there was some good, new television happening, and some breakout characters worth writing about.

Breaking Bad - the Jury was in for me about this show after I caught the first three episodes off the DVR. How can a lower level cable channel put together an ensemble of off-the-rail writing, excellent acting, and plotting that kept every episode interesting. Bryan Cranston has probably put being "Malcom's dad," behind him with this performance

Reaper - How this show only limps to getting renewed for next year I don't understand. It's original with a fun cast, and manages to continue to put new, funny, and interesting spins on the "Soul sold to the Devil" type-plot. Ray Wise, who plays Satan, or Jerry Belvedere to those that do not know his real name, is a special kind of slimy. Previously seen by me in "The Closer," as a cut throat attorney, he is perfect for this part.

Big Bang Theory - The collection of geeks and their weekly, hilarious dialogues, wrapped around the standard sitcom romantic plots, make this show one of my favorites. Sheldon, the uber-geek that makes Adrian Monk seem well-adjusted, is the weekly attraction.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sharon Stone's Still Making Movies??

Sharon Stone is making news lately, not her normal kind, you know, for flashing on film or picking bad movie roles, this time she opened her mouth about the chinese. Commenting about China's recent natural disaster, she said it was Bad Kharma. Nice one Sharon, should have stayed home and wrote your worthless, uninformed, insensitive, opinion into a blog where nobody would notice it.

She stepped on some toes and now the founder of a major movie theater chain and chairman of the Foundation of Hong Kong Filmakers is pissed at her too, threatening to boycott her movies.

Which begs the question, what movies has she made lately?
Surely Basic Instinct 2 was the last to see of Sharon Stone, right, both figuratively and literally? Personally, I thought her appeal was gone after she tried her Dr. Jane Medicine Woman impersonation. Does she have some Hasselhoffian foreign grasp on the chinese, well, not anymore. Apparently, she had four movies in the works, not worth typing in because they are probably all in the can now, and not the film can.

You Tube is probably as close as she's going to get film after this last stunt, here's video of a very hot girl telling the story, but not as nicely as I have.

Tommy Lasorda - Superstar 7th Inning Conductor

I'm glad they had Tommy Lasorda come up and do the 7th inning at Wrigley Field last night, one fo the few times the ritual didn't irritate me. Even with Fergie Jenkins in the booth, I got irritated because the game was going by below these announcers that seem to forget they are on air when a quasi-celebrity walks through.

Tommy Lasorda is a different story. He could sing every night and sit through tow or three innings if he wanted to in my book. Not because he sang "Root root root for the Dodgers.., " or because the Cubs rallied while he was in the booth. I can forgive the Dodgers reference, this guy bleeds Dodger blue more than even Ron Santo does Cubbie blue. Read the rest at Cubs Obsession.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Something I Am Proud to See

On my mind constantly these last few weeks, and not because I am driving over 500 miles a week these days is how we are going to stop this whole oil ordeal. If it was ever a driving force, obviously, bombing the hell out of the oil producers isn't going to work, but reducing our dependence on it is.

USA Today's article is the first hint that things may be changing for the better.

NASA Goes Hollywood - Panhandling for Bucks

NASA went Hollywood this weekend, finding the only way to draw interest to it's Mars Probe mission was to sensationalize it. "Seven Minutes of Terror," they called the Mars Probe descent into the atmosphere that more often than not ends up with a destroyed probe.

Luckily, all went well, it went "absolutely perfect," and all terror was unfounded, apparently, or prepared for, as every Jason chase victim learns is the secret by then end of each movie. The whole "Seven Minutes of Terror," kind of hit a sour note with me. An unmanned craft, a bajillion miles away, on a research mission, doesn't really seem like something to get that wound up about, but who can blame them. They've kept two robot probes running around on the surface of the same planet now for years, and they've fallen so far below the public's attention that one is being shut down for lack of finance.

Meanwhile, Billions are going into Iraq, according to Cosmic Variance, who made a nifty chart to show it, $14.9B has been misplaced in Iraq, while NASA's budget is $5.5B. Along with the DOE - $4.1B, and the National Science Foundation($6.4), the sciences budget is barely what has been lost to corrupt Bush cronies overseas. The sciences are floundering and our troops have to buy their own kevlar.

I'm not exactly Anti-Iraq-war, but I am leaning that way and believe that the way it is being done is an insult to our troops and the people stateside that are ultimately supporting it. Naomi Klein's book opened my eyes about this, and seeing the agenda she portrayed being continually carried out is more than frustrating.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Denise Richards is Digging Deep

I used to be a fan of Denise Richards. She was HOT, still is, but as she dissembles her family and leaves every hint of self respect on video for a cable channel, I'm jumping off.
Denise, Denise, Denise, what's happened?

Of course, she has this new reality show,(no link, I'm not watching or promoting it, even if to nobody at all), and she was on Larry King the other night, baring her soul.

I read the interview and could do nothing but shake my head. I guess it is no secret that I enjoy Charlie Sheen, I wrote about him, not in too flattering a tone, but clearly demonstrating that I do watch his show. I admire the guy. He was a good actor back in the day, and has cashed in for a steady paycheck. The parts about him being a partier, womanizer, and frequent solicitor, well, so what?

He's not trotting his kids out onto national television for a buck and some exposure.

Apparently he lost the right to even stop his ex-wife from doing that in court. I caught a promo for the show last night, the kicker line is, "Watch, then judge.."

No need.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book Review: XML Weekend Crash Course

I have spent a lot of money on Programming books, even since graduating from school. They are one of my favorite hobbies. Very often, for various reasons I don't finish or get a lot out of them, BUT I've never had an experience that made me want to write a negative review of one, until now. I am so disgusted with this book that I decided to at least get the word out.

XML Weekend Crash Course is a book that will surely make anyone that makes the mistake of buying it, as I have, crazy. I picked it up because a long time ago I got a Java Weekend Crash Course book that wasn't too bad. After I finished it I knew enough Java to be dangerous, well, almost enough. Unfortunately, the age of this book and bad or lazy planning by the authors makes it more than obsolete, it is a waste of time.

I realize that this book was published in 2001, I know they could not foresee everything about this programming language, but you do not set up more than half your book based on one piece of software. Of course there are other ways to go further with XML without the Instant Saxon software they tout and insist you must use. It is included on the disk, but doesn't work and is not supported(the web site they send you to is vague and the downloads you may use there are confusing and not helpful). Now I will be looking elsewhere for that information when I bought this book for that reason, and all of the fragments of code they have had me updating, waste. The SUPPORT Web Site is non-existent, and the disk harder to access than a 1999 magazine demo disk.

It starts out pretty good, but then they begin doing more complicated code that apparently needs to use an application called Instant Saxon, for reasons which I now do not know. Of course, I might have known if only they had stayed with the 'program'. As somewhat of an experienced reader of these types of books, I realize that this type of work is quickly being replaced by well-thought out, creative franchises like Head First and Pragmatic Books, but this one kind of stung.

I mean, it's like they set me up. 233 pages in and they drop the ball like that. In even a couple more days retrospect since my initial writing of this, I have decided that I was most angry because it was moving so good a the time, not at all like a poorly, lazily written work, then WHAM. It's like getting kicked out of the car at midnight, when you've already gotten to third base.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Smallville Season Finale - Preparing to be a Man

I got onto the Smallville bandwagon just recently, in the last couple years, but I've talked about that already.

Every sporadic Thursday, it almost quenches the thirst for all things comic book, and this season, it's been hitting closer to the mark. Over the past few weeks, as the CW seasons end, I have read a lot about Smallville. I hear Lex Luthor is leaving, I hear that next season they are bringing in some different villains, including Doomsday, the only one to kill Superman. As I don't read the ccomic anymore, I am not sure how DC danced around that particular comic stunt, but of course it is nothing new.

Wait, I was writing about Smallville, which is a television show which for many years kept a distance from the comic book Superman, building it's own mythology and it's own Clark Kent, not doing too terrible of a job either. Thing is, this season, they aren't really staying away from the comic book anymore. In fact, they keep bringing in more of the mythology only previously referred to in the comics. For one, in the episode two weeks ago, "Apocalypse," where Clark did his own version of "It's A Wonderful Life," time-traveling and jumping into a world in which he did not arrive from Krypton, he for the first time sported the classic reporter look, broad-rimmed glasses and all.

This last week, in the finale, more walls came down, and all signs were go that Clark Kent was going to quit being a watered down version of SuperBOY, and become a TV-version of Superman. It's risky, but I'll be tuning in.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ditchdigger's Rant: Working Men and Women

I grew up with a father, step-father and two grandfathers that told stories about hard workers and hard work with reverence that I always sensed. It left me with a respect for hard work and hard jobs that I will never lose. It is nearly unhealthy, because I have always been drawn to those jobs that make most people turn away, even now, as I try to get out of the hard work, construction field. I love coding, and using my mind instead of my back, but there is a part of that will always be a ditch digger.

Today, my battery ran down. There in the parking lot of the big black glass tower amongst the imports and giant SUV's, I needed a jump. I didn't even consider asking anyone I am working with, I wished that the crew that poured the front sidewalks was still there, and thought about the window washers. Because these are people that I can relate to, and tend to know their way around some jumper cables.

Don't get me wrong, I drive by the guys doing roadwork on the interstate every day, crews I could easily walk on and know what I was doing, maybe a step slow for a week or two, and think, "Wow am I glad I don't have to do that every day, right now." I don't miss it, and I'm going to code, blog, network, and every other damn thing I need to do not to go back, but I respect it. And I respect the people that do it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Is CBS Blowing Up Shark?

I thought CBS had a good thing going. James Woods, Jeri Ryan, in a lawyer drama that had a little bit of an edge, a little bit of slick CSI style, and an actor in James Woods that can turn a phrase and stick a line like no other on television. Sometimes popular film actors look cramped on the small screen, sometimes they diminish to nothing, and sometimes like Woods, they take it over.

Woods took the standard star vehicle and drove it like a Ferrari on Top Gear, and it was a fun ride for everyone. I enjoyed the show for the first season, and thought it did very respectably in the ratings. Apparently, I missed something, because I think that they are blowing it up. There are all the classic signs, the changes of venue, the drastic changes in cast structure, bringing in new characters. This is all normal fare in the Law and Order and CSI franchises, but they let themselves build a following first.

Add to all of the constant changes in time slot, things just aren't looking good for this show, another sign that I know nothing about what people are watching. At least Reaper is getting renewed.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Two and a Half Men - Dancing on the Shark

Sometimes a show thinks it can get away with too much. Two and a Half Men gets a lot of passes, because of the likability of it's star, Charlie Sheen, and it's safe little time slot where nobody notices the raunchy tone of it. Well, people notice, but dialog and content now normal at later time slots is tolerated in the family oriented time slot of Two and a Half Men.

Making light of Charlie's previous public solicitation troubles and womanizing is old fare, dating back to Spin City, and why not, it's fun. This week, in a long plot string, the show took a dump on a much wider spectrum, trying to be high farce and ending up just being crude and insulting.

Back Story: Charlie's much-widowed mother is getting married to Robert Wagner, who's daughter, Jenny McCarthy has taken Charlie a couple different times for money. Wagner was fun on the show, and his turn of character and abrupt departure makes you wonder what they are thinking on this show. The ensemble needed some tweaking, and he could have fit in nicely. Jenny McCarthy, before this show, also had a nice plot string going. And was not hard to look at, either.

I'm spoiling it all right here, because I think it was a cheap shot of a script and plot turn anyway. If you actually care about Two and a Half Men plot strings, sorry. Last night could have been nice. The writers stepped out and tried to mock their network franchise, CSI. From the beginning, with the Who in their opening credits and throughout, using the CGI graphic style to explore Jake's stomach, and a Marg Helgenberger clone to interview all of them, also collecting ridiculous evidence samples, and with a real belly laugh as they used the black light semen detector in Charlie's bedroom. "It looks like a Jackson Pollock painting," was one great line.

Lets get this straight, NO sitcom worth watching is high art, and especially not this show, that's not why I watch it. I watch it because it's funny, but they can dance all over the line of acceptability. Last night, as they open the show with Robert Wagner dead in Charlie's bedroom, while his new wife was downstairs at their reception, the running joke is that he has lipstick on his hoo-hoo.

Then they go thru the mock interviews, and with nearly no pretense, McCarthy and Wagner are declared to be grifters, solely after Charlie's and his mother's money. He died while Jenny was giving him a BJ at the reception. This show can be hilarious, and gratingly raunchy, this was one of those low moments.