Darn that Science

I’m in a bar right now, trying to get the blog mojo working. On the TV I just saw a commercial that featured some sort of record-breaking car jump. I just couldn’t get excited.

Back in the ’70s the guys doing jumps just put a big motor in their cars, set up a ramp, and took a shot at the other side. Sure there were some estimates of how far they would fly if they were going a certain speed at the top of the ramp, but there was still a seat-of-the-pants feel to it. You started small, you jumped farther and farther, and learned to land on your wheels.

Now, I see a specially-modified car sail through the air and all I see is math. The driver has only to hit the ramp at the right speed and keep level and Bob’s your uncle. [This has always been the case, but ‘the right speed’ was not as exactly-known as it is now, nor was it so easy to hit that speed back in the day. I contend. And now that I think of it, some ramps back then might have doomed the driver no matter the speed.]

Daredeviling, like tennis, has suffered from the advance of technology.

WWEKD?

Obvious in Retrospect

There’s a show coming out on ABC, the title of which escapes me even though I saw an ad for it less than a minute ago. Here was the pitch to the network executives: “It’s M*A*S*H, in Iraq, only patriotic.”

That phrase, right there, with maybe a dash of crime drama, would have got you a $50 million budget (if you could tell the right person). But you didn’t think of it. Alas, neither did I.

Movie Time!

Last week the Blockbuster Video store in out neighborhood closed forever. On the last day of operation my sweetie and I took a walk over to see what gems they had on their shelves that we couldn’t possibly live without. At three bucks a pop it seemed like a good chance to grab up a few good flicks.

The most exciting acquisition from my point of view is Black Sheep, a light horror film from New Zealand that features… yes, it’s New Zealand so it has to have… zombie sheep. I saw this flick at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival (The Cannes of the East!) with Fuego, at a midnight showing with a thousand other heavy drinkers. Fun was had by all. That disk is scratched up pretty badly and our DVD player is persnickety, so I won’t be able to inflict it on my sweetie until I burn a fresh copy.

Meanwhile, we’ve had some fun with some of the other movies. One night we watched Due Date with Iron Man and Zach Gallafanagashammalammadingdong, followed by Dinner for Schmucks with Steve Carrell and other people I’m told I’ve seen before. The two flicks are pretty much the same story (wacky interloper exposes then heals the vulnerabilities in the other guy’s relationship), but they’re told very differently and are both good date night options. Dinner for Schmucks I especially enjoyed, as Steve Carrell masters a moment of seeming contradiction and makes us believe it.

We also hauled in The Crazies (I think that was the title). Back in the day I’d seen previews for the film and I thought it looked promising. Still, those preview-makers are good at making shit look like caviar. Turns out in this case, while there were a fair number of WTF moments (Why aren’t they staying together?!) the film worked pretty well. The ending was… perfect.

That same night we watched a movie with John Travolta as a shaved-head kinda-wacko secret operative out to whack a bunch of bad guys in Paris. It’s a partner movie, and it’s the other character (played by what’s-his-name) who really grows. It was a fun movie, if you’re able to ignore: a) roughly 5,000 bullets are launched in the direction of the good guys, and only one hits flesh; and b) the writers had no clue at all about electronic countermeasures and routine security procedures. Near the beginning what’s-his-name does something that would be sure to cause a major international incident, but somehow it comes off as success.

So, the flick wasn’t perfect. It was still a fun ride. Audi might be the big winner here, as the car chase figured their logo prominently. My sweetie might have spoken their brand name out loud for the first time in several years.

We still have a big pile of movies to go, from that ridiculous movie with that chick in it to the one where all the people do intense stuff. I can’t wait!

WatchenMocken

There are nights when it would be smarter to go to bed or more productive to read, but TV appeals. On those nights, there’s no guarantee that anything good will be on. We tend toward Food Channel and Adult Swim, but there’s another category of programming we enjoy. Some shows were just made to mock.

CSI: Miami is a favorite in this category, between David Caruso chewing up the scenery and preposterometer levels in the danger zone, an episode of CSI: Miami is good for 44 minutes of snarky comments and laughter.

The other night as we were looking for an excuse to not be productive, my sweetie saw Star Trek: The Next Generation in the listing. “We can mock that!” she said with enthusiasm. Immediately I saw the potential and we selected that channel. We were not disappointed.

Take the scene in the bar with Whoopi Goldberg and the kid crew member. “Do you want some Blagaturian Tea?” Whoopi asked (or something like that). “How about some Hoobajoobian cocoa?” Just about every object on the show has a polysyllabic adjective to improve its exoticness. They settled on “Gogorotarian soufflé.” Or whatever. And even after the first time, does Whoopi take the easy way out and just say “soufflé”? No. Time after time she says, “Gogorotarian soufflé.”

You know what she’s really saying? “Space soufflé.” “You want some Space Tea? How about some Space Cocoa? No? Ok, I know you won’t say no to some Space Soufflé.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation becomes much more watchable if you simply replace all those silly adjectives with “space”.

This particular episode hinged on a Really Freakin’ Huge Coincidence. The Mysterious Visitor and the Deadly Cargo were incompatible, so the Mysterious Visitor left. That’s the whole story right there. No cleverness or ingenuity on the part of the crew of the Enterprise required at all. The thing is, it would have been easy to create a causal relationship between the the Mysterious Stranger being there at the same time as the Deadly Cargo. It would have been relatively simple to have one of the main characters actually accomplish something, rather than just watch events unfold.

Lazy writing.

Yep, there’s a new show on our WatchenMocken list.

2

CSI: Miami – Live blogging!

10:01 – Hip-hop! inner city. In eight hours a gun will be fired.
10:02 – Hoop-playing cops grab their guns and join a car chase on foot! Crime Scene Investigating cops, no less.
10:03 – Crime Scene Investigation is there for a routine stop in progress. Caruso in sunglasses! Happened to be in the neighborhood.
10:04 – Sunglasses off!
10:04 – Sunglasses back on! Oh, and a body in the trunk. Good thing DC was there.

During the credits, here, I’ll explain. We sometimes watch CSI: Miami. I enjoy mocking it, my sweetie enjoys mocking it and watching David Caruso. Tonight, with my sweetie as my spotter, I will bring you a blow-by-blow of tonight’s gripping episode.

It might be necessary to come up with some shorthand. DCSoff means David Caruso sunglasses off, DCSon means, obviously, on.

10:05 – according to Crestor’s animators, arterial plaque looks like bacon.

10:08 – DCoff tells the tech to document everything. Good advice, since that’s his job.
10:10 – first esophagus shot of the night!
10:11 – Matching humvees! Two people in two huge cars.
10:12 – Mrs. Olsen does not like the police. A suspect who insists on due process? On this show? Must be a fluke.
10:14 – Kicking the fuckin’ door open to take fiberglass samples!
10:15 – Crime scene investigators pawing everything! Even the bad guys’ gloves! (Thought that might give one of them an idea.) Touch each item once and throw it back down. Standard procedure.
10:16 – Talk about timing. The meth lab explodes!

Another commercial break as flames sweep over the heads of our really awful crime scene investigators.
10:18 – my sweetie drinks wine from the bottle for the first time!
I think we will need a shorthand for when DC takes his shades off on camera.

10:20 – house is trashed, so no one will know what bad investigators they were
10:20 – DCoff saves the day! Lifts the beam. Good thing he was in the neighborhood. Again. (Sweetie says they had already called him, so I guess the writers get a pass on this one.)
10:21 – DC without sunglasses – in the day, outdoors!
10:23 – I say Mrs. Olsen is running the meth lab!
10:24 – Hm. might be wrong already.
10:25 – Crime Scene Investigators go on a drug raid! ‘Cause, you know, that’s what they do.
10:26 – Time bombs! It’s a trap!!!!!! – Because they happen to know when the police will be there. Oooohh – elaborate triggered timers that couldn’t possibly go wrong.
10:27 – Nice shootin’ Tex!
10:28 – In the luxury interrogation suite – Crime Scene Investigators grilling a suspect! Because that’s what they do.
10:29 – DCoff emotes!
10:30 – Super-glamorous crime lab scene! Nice that the doc had a full-color printout handy.
10:31 – Second esophagus shot!

Going into the break without anything on fire.
Ah, Local news, how I love you.

10:36 – out of the break with slow motiong explosions, then a lab tech listening to music. Wait – wasn’t that lab tech canvassing a neighborhood earlier?
10:37 – Lab tech in denial after being in a blast. Side drama!
10:38 – “I heard you wanted evidence about the blast in the meth house.” No shit, Sherlock – THAT’S MY JOB!
10:38 – Sure, put the evidence in the clean room – AFTER I tear open the bag and take out the most important item.
10:38 – Back in the luxury crime scene offices.
10:41 – super slo-mo of the maid being beaten for reading her bible. No ambiguity of good and evil there!
10:42 – Crime Scene Investigators (and a helicopter!) going to make an arrest! Because that’s what they do. Oh, yeah, send the coroner, too.
10:43 – DCon->off! “That’s not the whole truth, my friend.”
10:43 – Montage! Work that pipette, baby!
10:44 – A machine beeps. We have an answer.
10:45 – DCoff takes us to commercial: “Natalia, Nothing is impossible.”

CSI: Miami – new night, same shades! (Those are the promo’s words, not mine.)

10:49 – DCoff teaching the forensics lab guys how to do forensics lab work!
10:50 – Suspect slow-motion pacing in the crime lab chicken-wire holding pen.
10:51 – Still pacing. Machines beep and whir.
10:52 – grisly crime reenactment.
10:53 – Full confession! Once again the CSI boys, in their secondary role as interrogators, find a suspect who does not ask for due process of law.
10:54 – Oh, snap!
10:55 – hearing trouble in the super-high-tech designer CSI lab. Flashbacks! Fire! Never mind you look like Lindsey Lohan’s big sister, it’s ok.
10:56 – People go to jail. No lawyers anywhere. The courts are implied, I suppose, but not really.
10:57 – DCoff understands. He’s going to get the illegal immigrant into school. Like this: “You’re going to school.” He puts his sunglasses on. Fade to black.

Switch channel: ANOTHER CSI: Miami! A modest boat ran into a highway bridge and brought it down! Concrete crumbling! A couple (girlfriend: bitchy) plunges into the drink! Whoever built the damn bridge is the one who should be going to jail in this one.

OK, so I’m not going to be giving a blow-by-blow on this one, although it’s starting out to be quite a bit more mockworthy than the previous. I will point out the most ridiculous elements, however.

11:06 – The witnesses say the boat was aiming at the bridge! Oh, wait, the pilot was dead. But seriously – who the hell built that bridge?
11:12 – DCoff knows the wheel base of every car without looking it up!
11:14 – database (that chirps) knows where all recent carp releases have occurred.
11:16 – chemically sensitive evidence goes into a manila envelope. DC’s sunglasses around his neck! What the hell does that signify? We’re going into uncharted waters, here.

11:18 – More wine! On a side note, got some wine cheap at Big Lots called Earth Wise. I have to say, those hippies can make a nice vino!

11:20 – “I’ll process this at CSI and see if I can get any prints.” Translation: “I’m off to do my job, then.”
11:21 – “Murder trumps the bridge”
11:22 – “It looks like over three million in jewelry. I’m going to need two more officers.” Because the warranty for each officer is only good for one mil in stones.
11:24 – a totally needless montage about making diamonds.
11:25 – a laboratory emerald is apparently not as hard as a natural emerald. Huh.
11:25 – “I happen to have the appraisal of the gems sitting here on this table…”

A moment here, during this break after we watched a named character die, to reflect on what makes CSI: Miami so fun to mock. Now is the time because despite the inherent ballsiness of killing a named character, the humor comes from the fundamental laziness of the scripts. Let’s face it, a crime scene investigator was in a place where no CSI wonk would have been in the first place. Caruso is doing a pretty good job of it, not getting too histrionic, but they’re going to make a deal of Speed not being prepared for the situation which is my point exactly.

11:38 – TV computers never cease to amuse me.
11:39 – Will she ask for a lawyer? Will she? Will she? No.
11:40 – she must be innocent; the soulful music started after she spoke.

Another break, more about writer laziness. Suspects confessing to lesser crimes to move the plot along would never, ever happen in real life, but once a week multiple suspects send themselves to prison to make the writer’s life easier.

11:47- “It only happens in Hell’s Bay” – luckily they had a nice graphic in the computer ready to go (with chirping sounds). As usual.

11:50 – DCoff(outdoors) wades into shark-infested water to save a boy in no danger, just to finish as the squad cars arrive. Sharks don’t fuck with David Caruso. And David Caruso can’t wait five friggin’ minutes for support to rescue a boy from sharks who’s not in the water. Another form of laziness, false drama. Unnecessary heroism concluded just as the people who would make the act simple arrive.

The show ended with a police funeral. It was moving, and well done, and I came away feeling, well, manipulated. More lazy writing, filling up the last five minutes of the show with something that couldn’t miss.

How much of this show is filler? Coifed science babes in dramatically-lit labs (with science!) doing science stuff. Sunglasses going on and off. Whats-his-name delivering the big lines. No cleverness. No risk. I came to mock David Caruso but I have to admit that with the material he’s been given he does a pretty good job.

And so we have our unintentional comedy. Lazy writers creating ridiculous situations and then lazily getting out of them by making humans act unnaturally. Then cover it up with slick editing and glitzy montages, and you have yourself a show. Still, good fun.

2

One Last Microsoft-Related Thought

While watching television a couple of nights ago, I saw an ad for the new Windows 7, code-named “all the stuff we wanted to put in Vista but ran out of time.” After the ad was over I turned to my sweetie and said, “I know there’s a joke about the significance of them using the theme for The A-Team in the ad, but I can’t think of it.”

After perhaps a second of reflection she said, “How about, ‘We get the job done but there might be a lot of explosions first.'”

I laughed, thought for a few seconds, and ventured, ‘There will be a lot of shooting, but no one will be hit.’

Obviously my sweetie is funnier than I am.

Talk Radio

The intro to this one might be as long as the episode itself, depending on how well-rested my rambling muscles are. Many years ago, I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, and he paused mid-rant to say (something like) “you realize, people, that this is entertainment.” While I’m sure he likes the idea of being politically influential, he’s not going to let any of that stand between him and ratings. His job is to sell advertising.

So then you get people like Al Franken (an entertainer) who are bogged down in “facts” and “process” and “fairness” and as a result will never put on a radio show that people will listen to. What they need is the Crazy Liberal Bomb-thrower caricature to host a show, and be just as nuts and just as ridiculously wrong as Limbaugh. Maybe the guy who did Borat would be a good choice.