Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of Confusion Address

The pagentry, the mystery, the excitement that is the State of the Union Address. Do I really care what President Bush has to say? No, not really, but it's still fun to watch. In fact, this year I created the Modified State of the Union Applause Scoring system.

The final score of the address:
46 full applause breaks
13 half applauses (12 from only the Republicans, and 1 from only the Democrats)
7 interruptive applauses
1 joke
1 wagging finger

Of course, the wagging finger was in response to the half applause from the Democrats which was actually one of the more entertaining parts of the show (I say "show" because the whole thing is so scripted it's hard to believe it doesn't have theme music).

That's probably about all the time that's worth devoting to this.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Iron Age Technology

At my desk are countless writing implements at my disposal. Several types of pens, in varying colors and styles; a variety of highlighters; permanent markers, in both fine nad broad tip; even mechanical pencils. But despite all the variety, I'm consistently drawn back to the simplicity of the solid #2 pencil. By all accounts, the other options are far superior, no need to sharpen, constant flow of ink, less smearage, bright colors, everything. Yet I still keep pencils around, and actually go through phases where I love writing with them. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it's the simplicity of it... the fine point of a freshly sharpened pencil... the convenience of the eraser when things go awry... or just the distinct feel and sound of the pencil graphite scribbling on the paper. Nothing else is quite like it.

Why does it matter? It doesn't. I just find it interesting that technology can't improve upon it. No doubt the rocket scientists at NASA still keep countless pencils around for the astronauts to use in space, because it's one thing that isn't affected by changes in gravity in the slightest. The only improvement that could be made would be a pencil that never needs sharpening... but still works and feels exactly like a normal graphite pencil. Perhaps someday our space age technology will figure that out... until then, I'll stay back in the iron age.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The West Wing... dead after 7 seasons

As I was watching The West Wing last night on TV, I thought to myself, "this show will be cancelled at the end of this season". Lo and behold, it was announced that indeed The West Wing will end on May 14th with the inauguration of the new president, still to be determined.

Now I don't think I really became a dedicated watcher of the West Wing until its third season. Fortunately through the miracle of DVD, I've watched straight through the first 3 seasons to catch up on everything I never saw. Unfortunately, my DVD viewing habits are sketchy, and I still haven't completely finished the 3rd season shows... with the complete 4th and 5th seasons sitting on my shelf vastly untouched except to be removed from their Amazon.com packing box. Though I must say, they are excellent for long flights when you need to kill time with some quality DVD viewing. That's how I made it through so much of Season 3.

Why am I not surprised the show was cancelled? While I think the writing was not so good after Aaron Sorkin quit writing the show at the end of Season 4, it seems to have improved vastly this season, especially in the plots surrounding the election of the new president. Perhaps that's just because they found something to write about. But the show itself had one necessary flaw, a president can only serve 8 years... and once that's done, you're out of luck. Could the show survive with an almost completely new cast? Could ANY show survive with a completely new cast? Perhaps, but doubtful. The only way to stay true to a show that prides itself on keeping true to the reality of American politics, is for the show to end and the characters fade off into their post-White House lives where nobody even remembers their names.

Certainly it didn't help that NBC decided to move West Wing out of it's traditional 9pm Wednesday time slot for a cursed 8pm Sunday time slot. The last show I think I ever remember watching on Sunday at 8pm was Murder, She Wrote. It still baffles me why TV executives haven't figured out that moving shows out of their well-established time slots always signals the show's demise. Maybe they know this, and move them to help speed along the process.

Whatever the reasons, at least I'll have my 7-seasons of West Wing DVDs to watch whenever there are terrible new shows on TV that aren't worth watching.

In related television news, a few interesting lineup changes will be coming too:

For the past 14 seasons, Law and Order (the original, not SVU, CI, or the ill-fated Trial by Jury) has been in the Wednesday 10pm timeslot on NBC. But no more... NBC shakes things up by moving it an hour earlier to 9pm. I think this one will be able to survive the minor shift, but I'm no expert. It goes up against Mythbusters, which is the same problem I had when West Wing was on Wednesdays at 9, but fortunately I have a DVR now. Problem averted. :)

Las Vegas continues it's tour of the NBC schedule, after being moved from Sunday to Monday it makes its way down to the Friday night time slot. Might work, since there's nothing else good on Friday nights, but also who watches TV on a Friday night unless you want to see Dateline (which is moving to Saturday) or 20/20?

Las Vegas' move to Friday clears the way for that epic sensation Deal or No Deal to have a permanent spot on the Monday at 8pm timeslot followed by the Donald. I've said my thoughts on Deal or No Deal before... I give the show 10-weeks before it gets the axe and is buried in the gameshow graveyard along with the short-lived revived classic "21" with Maury Povich, and the Weakest Link (which was only entertaining to hear Anne Robinson verbally berating the contestants).

In the meantime, Food Network probably has plenty of episodes of Emeril Live, Good Eats, and Paula Deen stocked up to satisfy your TV viewing needs... with extra butter.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Things you'd never expect to see...

There are a few things you would never expect to see... one of those: the Seahawks going to the Super Bowl. Not only did they win, they beat Carolina hands down. What does this mean? One very important thing... this year I'll watch the Super Bowl for more than just the commercials.

As for my weekend... it was a busy curling weekend. We had a bonspiel (which for you who aren't hip to the lingo, a bonspiel is a curling tournament) with teams from the Evergreen Curling Club down in Portland. It was fun, but as a result over this past weekend I curled 6 games because I had my normal Friday and Sunday games, with 4 games for the bonspiel inbetween. Lots of fun, but equally tired now.

Now I have to go back to work tomorrow... but that's no surprise. Still doesn't mean I have to like it. :) I think every weekend should be a 3-day weekend... that's a better idea.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Remember to honk... when you drive by Tom Shane

Few people in Seattle can watch television between the hours of midnight and 6am without encountering that shady auto insurance pitchman imploring you to "Remember to honk when you drive by Vern Fonk." Though I know of nobody who actually has purchased insurance from Vern Fonk, most everyone can clearly recognize and remember his obscure, bizarre, yet often entertaining and creative commercials.

Well move over Vern, there's a new resident moving in down the street. The illustrious jeweler whose trademark voice has graced Seattle radio airwaves for decades has made the leap to television with a new series of advertisements and a jingle that puts "Remember to honk..." to shame. Tom Shane, your self-proclaimed "friend in the diamond business," stars as a faceless version of himself in these creative, yet odd commercials for the Shane Co. jewelers. In past radio advertisements, the closest thing to a jingle was the distinctive slogan, address and store hours that concluded each spot. The crossover to television ads seems to have warranted an actual jingle that reinforces the quirkiness of the commercial: "He's dull. But he's brilliant." Short and to the point.

On the bright side, the commercials are highly entertaining. I guess I can't complain too much about that.

And in a brief addendum, a bit more research has shown that much to my surprise the Shane Co is actually not a local company. Despite the fact that they do a very good job of making it seem (at least to me) like Tom Shane is sitting in his Medina mansion extolling the virtues of the Shane Co, he's actually headquartered and originally based in Denver. He now owns over 20 stores nationwide from Washington to Georgia. Fascinating. Still funny commercials.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Small annoyances

Isn't it ironic how sometimes the smallest things are the most annoying? I own a 2001 Nissan Altima, which is a great car. I've had the car for nearly 4 years, and have yet to require any major repairs of any sort on the car (I do have a broken power window on the passenger side, but I'll worry about that when the warm weather comes). However, there is one thing that I consider to be a fatal flaw in the design features of this car. There is NO sensor/light on the dash that tells you whether or not the trunk is open.

This seems rather small, I admit. But the trunk is also very well designed (or is it poorly designed?), such that if the trunk is unlatched, it still sits down as if it were closed. You actually have to pull up on the trunk to open it. It's very well balanced so it doesn't really have a preference of up or down. Convenient I guess.

The problem is, on multiple occasions, whether because I just forgot I had unlatched it, or because I had accidentally bumped the trunk release on my keychain, I've driven extended distances before I've noticed that the trunk is open. On several such occasions, I drove down I-5 at about 70mph for 30 miles or so, only to notice in the middle of the freeway that the trunk lid was bobbing up and down as I went over bumps in the road. At that point, it's not like I can do much about it, so I just keep going. But still, is it so much to ask that there be a little light that tells me the trunk is open... that would solve ALL of these problems.

Fortunately, I don't think I've ever lost anything out of the trunk as a result. It's a pretty deep trunk so stuff can't just slide out. At least I don't *think* I've lost anything. Wait, what about that million dollars I had sitting in my trunk last week? Maybe I should call my insurance company about that right away... hmmm.....

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

And the award goes to...

It's that time of year again... the time of year where we "honor" the best of the best (or the best of the worst) from the previous year. Last night was the People's Choice Awards, apparently the kickoff to the awards show season.

First a recap of last night's People's Choice Awards: ZZZzzzzzzzzzzz. What an action-empty, non entertaining show. Hosted by TV's Craig Ferguson, who I usually find quite funny, he was not at all funny on the show. I blame it on bad writing, but perhaps it's his own lack of humor. Plus, who shows an awards show on a Tuesday night? Isn't that just a blatant declaration that the show is not important enough to even bother to watch? Tuesday night is when you show made-for-TV movies that you don't expect anyone to watch, not award shows.

As far as "award season" goes though, there seems to be a lot of wasted bandwidth there. How many award shows are there that all give away awards for the same things? Obviously they're all given away by different groups of people, but does anyone really pay much attention to which organization is giving the awards away? Probably not. Most people would tell you that the Emmy's are for TV, the Oscars are for movies, the Grammys are for music, and the Tonys are for theatre. Beyond that everyone's mystified. The People's Choice awards are given to nearly all of the above (except theatre, obviously the people's opinion isn't worthy about the theatre). The Golden Globes? both movies and TV. Screen Actors Guild? Also movies and TV (but they actually only have 13 award categories which is nice.) The Emmy's are apparently so important that they break them into two pieces, one for daytime television and one for primetime television. Though I think only people who have no lives care about the daytime awards.

Actually, I think people care far less about the awards themselves, than they do about the celebrities and how they dress and who they're with and... well, it's just a big celebrity paparazzi event if you ask me. But for my own benefit to know which to avoid, or for your benefit if you need to mark your calendars, the major award shows of the year:

32nd Annual People's Choice Awards - Tuesday, January 10th
63rd Annual Golden Globes Awards - Monday, January 16th
12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Sunday, January 29th
48th Annual Grammy Awards - Wednesday, February 8th
78th Annual Academy Awards - Sunday, March 5th
33rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards - Friday, April 28th
60th Annual Tony Awards - Sunday, June 11th
58th Annual Emmy Awards - Sunday, August 27th

Now I'll go back to not caring again.