October 31, 2006

Two 'Tube for Tuesday: Whose Line

I'm apparently one of the twelve people nationwide who actually watched Whose Line is it Anyway when it was on network TV, which always confused me because to my mind it was consistently funnier than most sitcoms. But whatever. It's been relegated to ABC Family on reruns, and that's fine. It seems that fans of the show have posted a ton of clips on the 'Tube as well. This is good news. So here are two of my favorites.

Improv is hard, and these guys do it extremely well, pulling off great comedy and never cracking a smile at their own stuff. Well, almost never. Some of the best moments, as far as I'm concerned, are when the people performing just can't hold it together, and crack up despite themselves.
First, Ryan and Colin in "Improbable Mission." Poor Ryan just can't hang.

And second, Wayne Brady doing "Song Styles" as a male strip-o-gram for a retired lunch lady. Quite possibly one of the best WLIIA scenes ever.

October 30, 2006

Low-effort Halloween is easy, thanks to the Wachowski brothers

This has been kind of a hellacious week at work, and only marginally better at school. As a result, I had exactly no time to think about the weekend and any kind of costume ideas for the party I was planning to go to Saturday night. I usually try to be at least kind of clever about it, but there just wasn't time. To make matters worse, the party had a theme, villains, so just any old thing I could come up with wasn't sufficient: I had to be specific.

So I spent a few minutes thinking about it here and there Thursday and Friday, with little luck, and then it struck me. As a professional male, I have most of a pre-fab villain costume in my very own closet.

I own a black suit.
I own a black tie.
I own sunglasses (rimless, which came in handy).
I own white earbud headphones.
Just a quick trip to Target for a tie bar, and I was all set in my Agent Smith-ness.

Since it was chilly out, I got to add to the image with my trenchcoat, which made the entrance even better. As it turned out, people really liked it, which is always cool. The only downside was that, in keeping with the Halloween theme, the house was poorly lit, which made walking around wearing sunglasses a serious health hazard. So they didn't stay on all night, for the benefit of my safety and the safety of those around me.

The great thing about Agent Smith? The more people wearing the same costume, the better. We had two.

There were some great costumes there as well; some folks went all-out. Probably the best: a full-on Cobra Commander, with Baroness and Cobra soldier in tow, was amazing. We had a Borat, mostly because I think every party was required to have at least one this year. We also had the villainous trio from Superman 2 (brilliant), Dr. Evil plus Fembot (complete with ballistic boobs), Pennywise the Killer Clown, and a host of other well-put-together outfits. All in all, a very good time. I'm not a huge Halloween person, but it's always good to be around fun people who do it up right.

October 25, 2006

If I were in charge

Kathryn's post yesterday strikes pretty close to home for me, as I'd imagine it would for most people I know. Pretty much all of my friends (and most of my coworkers and classmates, for that matter) are overworked or overextended and underslept. I have a lot of thoughts as to the hows and whys of it (possible subject of a later post), but the bottom line is this:

Who decided adults didn't need naps? Why did this get taken away when we were kids?

In grade school, we got naps and recess. Middle school came, and we still got recess, but no naps. High School? Lunch, but no recess and certainly no naps (at least, no intentional naps, ccasional in-class dozing notwithstanding). College was a mixed bag; if you were lucky, you could build a schedule that either let you a) sleep in, or b) arrange some mid-day naptime to recharge before the afternoon. If you were me (or my engineering classmates), you got neither. What you did get was loads of homework and a bunch of all-nighters, neither of which sound like naptime. And now, as adults, we get progressively longer work-weeks, work to take home, responsibilities for house/home, relationships, grad school, taking some hobby/recreation/social time, and trying to get as close as possible to a full night's sleep in the middle of all of that (which usually results in a change to what 'full' means for most folks).

A thought experiment: by how much would Starbucks' stock drop if we got to a point in this country (or just this city) where the average adult was actually getting 8 hours of sleep nightly?

I, like a lot of people I'm sure, spend a fair amount of time considering How I'd Run Things. That was one of the most interesting things, to me, about the dot-com boom: a whole lot of people who would not necessarily have been in charge otherwise started companies. The intense demand for skilled employees created an environment where the non-financial benefits of employment became nearly as important as the salaries: company-sponsored gym memberships; on-site pool, foozeball, or ping-pong tables; employee lounges in the true 'lounge' sense of the word (bean bag chairs, video game consoles); I even read about some companies putting together massages or salsa classes for their people. Granted, the demise of that industry, and the general downturn in employment overall, has led to the disappearance of a lot of those things, but a few still remain (my company subsidizes gym membership now, which it didn't a few years ago).

Personally, I'd give most of that up for a half-hour nap in the middle of the day, grade-school-style, just to avoid that stretch from about 3:00 - 3:30pm where I feel like I'm back in my freshman Chemistry class early Thursday morning, just trying to keep the eyelids open.

I have long said that if I am ever in the position to do so, I will set aside a room in my office that will be devoted to naptime. La-Z-Boy recliners and egg timers, that sort of thing. Maybe a Sounds of Nature machine. One of those bubbling fountain things. Something.

The point is, I want my naptime back. And while we're at it, some cookies would be great as well.

It probably won't happen, but it sure would be nice, wouldn't it?

October 23, 2006

Two 'Tube for Tuesday: Classic Carlin

I have been a fan of George Carlin for years. That is, when he was still doing comedy, as opposed to what he's been doing on stage the last couple of years or so. In rememberance of the comic genius that was, I offer the following.

First, one of my all-time favorites, about losing things:

And second, one of the best versions of one of his best, "Stuff," from the '86 Comic Relief show:

I miss funny George. Angry screaming George just isn't the same.

October 19, 2006

Just one of those...

Based on the way the past couple of days have gone at work, I have decided on a new favorite word:

clusterfuckery (n): the quality or state of being a clusterfuck.
["This is whole thing is an exercise in clusterfuckery."]

And that's all I have to say about that.

October 17, 2006

Two 'Tube for Tuesday

Since other bloggers tend to post their weekly fare on Fridays, I thought I'd try something on an otherwise unclaimed (and frankly, underappreciated) day of the week.

I've been sending a bunch of YouTube clips around lately, and did an entire post of them on Sunday (some might call it procrastination, and I'm in no position to argue), so I figured I'd make something regular out of it. On Tuesdays, I'll post a pair of pleasing pieces (so I'm a sucker for alliteration; sue me) from my wanderings for your viewing (and my procrastinating) pleasure. Most will be from YouTube, but I'll dip into Ifilm and other places as I can find them. I'll embed where I can, and link otherwise. Pretty much everything will be safe for work, unless otherwise noted. Feedback/suggestions/requests welcome, of course.

For the inaugural T'T4T, we have a classic, and the extended version of one of my all-time favorites.

First, something everyone should see at least once: the Camelot scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, done entirely in Legos.

And second, the full-length version of a video I linked to a while ago, which is still one of the funniest things I've ever seen (the mime link). I've been looking for a longer version for a while, and I finally found it.

More next week, or at least until the Google people shut it all down...

October 15, 2006

Tasty nuggets of awesome

Found this on Youtube today. Excellent JT parody, "Paxilback".

While we're parody-ing, we might as well give a nod to the master.
The latest, "White & Nerdy":

And the original, "Eat It":

And some more musical chuckles for your arse:
Flight of the Conchords, "Business Time"

Stephen Lynch, "Superhero"

And finally, this isn't musical, but it's absolutely hilarious. Check it out.

October 12, 2006

While I'm reviewing things...

I did something over the weekend that I rarely do these days: went to the movies. I saw The Departed, the new Scorcese movie with Jack and Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio and Marky Mark (regrettably, still sans Funky Bunch) and a host of others. I really liked it, although there were a couple of things I could have done without.

First of all, pretty much all of the performances are great. Leo managed to go an entire movie without irritating the hell out of me, and that in itself is an achievement. But beyond that, he's really good. Ditto for Jack, but it's kind of jarring listening to Nicholson trying to inhabit a Boston accent. I kind of wish he wouldn't; I don't really think Jack is (or needs to be) acting anymore, he just has to find cool lines to say and go be Jack doing it (he gets a pass for this, unlike Costner, who is just incapable of anything else, including making movies that are under like 7 hours long). Matt Damon is managing to put together an awfully long streak of movies that I can't dislike (as opposed to Affleck, for example), and this is another good choice for him. I don't think that Matt is an overtly good actor, in the sense that he doesn't ever really wow you, but he just manages to put very believable characters on screen. Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin both pop in with good roles as well. Oh, and the girl - Vera Farmiga - is excellent (I say 'the girl' because there's really only one of any significance in the movie). Good job of casting and acting pretty much all around.

I liked the writing a lot, mostly because while being very dark, there is a whole lot of humor in it. This is a film that makes the most out of down time, with a lot of the the sort of back-and-forth banter and ribbing that you'd expect to find between the characters. I think a lot of serious films try to stay serious, to their detriment, but this one works plenty of comedy in to break up the rhythms a bit. Plus it's almost all sarcasm and snark, so that appeals to me immediately. I would be curious to see how people from different parts of the country react to some of the writing. I just think that the sense of humor that comes out of the Northeast is markedly different from most anywhere else: it has an edge to it that I don't find down here, for example, and I kind of miss a lot of the time. But in any case, this is a surprisingly funny movie, intermixed with a lot of violence and drama.

I won't get too much into the plot, since you get all you need to know about it from the commercial (and then some, but more on that in a second). Moves fast, has plenty of twists, the kinds of things you expect from a director like Scorcese. It gives you about 20 minutes to settle in and then off you go. And go. And go some more. Right up to the end, which is really the only major flaw in the film.

I'm all for plot twists, but I think there should be a limit to the number of them you can cram into a 2-minute stretch of film; there is one scene that violates that limit, whatever it would be. It's unfortunate when, after having an audience pretty well wrapped up in the story, to get laughter and strains of "Oh, come on!" in one of the more important points in the story. I understand the why, but I just would have preferred it to be handled differently. It in no way ruins the movie, it's just an unfortunate speed bump in an otherwise great ride. The only other thing that bothered me was that the commercial for the film, like so many these days, gives you a shot out of the last 2 minutes of the movie. I'm not going to tell you which one, but it had me looking for it for about half the picture, and I eventually figured out that it would be one of the closing shots. That's not the movie's fault, I know, but it irritated me all the same; it's becoming all to common with studios these days, and I'm really, really tired of it. What makes it worse for this one is that this is one of those movies where you really can't tell how it's going to play out from watching the commercial, and that's rare enough that they shouldn't mess with it.

All in all, I recommend it. Whatever flaws it has are vastly outweighed by the things it does well. Of course, if you're not sure about taking my word for it, here's a review if you'd rather hear what a pro thinks.

October 11, 2006

We interrupt this commercial to bring you the following programming...

The grad school schedule is pretty hectic this semester, so I figured I'd share a couple of shows I'm actually making time for.

Studio 60: It's a pretty difficult thing, to come into a brand new series with the kind of expectations that this one did. Think about it: what show in the last few years has seen the kind of pre-hype that S60 has gotten? Usually the great shows sneak up on you after a year or two of warming up (how many people really watched the first seasons of Seinfeld, Raymond, etc.?). Hell, it took Conan a good two years or so to figure out his show, and he has a whole team writing just for him. Anyway, after a few-year break from The West Wing, Sorkin is back on television, and with a great show. Granted, I was very much into both The West Wing and SportsNight when they were on, so I'm a little biased. But I also think that Sorkin's writing on S60 is his best so far.

I am a huge fan of well-written dialogue, and if you're like that as well, there are few better scratches to that itch than a Sorkin script. Fast-paced, intelligent, alternately damn funny and affecting, watching one of his shows is like watching uber-intellectual semantic ping-pong. My problem with WW, though, was that I felt like a lot of the dialogue was interchangeable: any of the lines could have been given to any of the characters, and you wouldn't have noticed much of a difference. Of course, all of the characters were highly educated intellectual types, but I often felt a little let down by the lack of specificity in it. After watching the first few episodes, I can honestly say I think he's fixed that problem, and fixed it good. The group of characters is both broader and deeper, with a more varied cross-section of attitudes and perspectives to work with. And they've done a very good job of casting, pulling in some excellent talent. They've even managed to get Matthew Perry to not play Chandler (well, for the most part, anyway). Brad Whitford is still being Josh, but they've managed to write him a spine, so that's a big improvement.

Oh yeah, and it's also damn funny. If you can, try to find the pilot episode, if for no other reason than for the musical number towards the end. I especially like the fact that it's not all behind-the-scenes; we do get to see some sketches played out as well.

There are still some question marks about how it's all going to play out, but I think it's been a promising first three episodes. And I, for one, will be parked on the couch Monday nights to see how it goes.

The Wire: With apologies to those of you without HBO, this may be the best show on television right now, and it's not especially close. Rave all you want about Lost or Grey's or whatever, but I'll take this show every time over most others. For my money, it's better than The Sopranos ever was, and manages to do what that show never really did: make me care about what's going on week-to-week. I went to viewing parties for Sopranos and everything, but I didn't really take the time out to watch it otherwise. But I make sure to tune in to this one.

The Wire is a serial, so it's tough to drop into (much like Lost or 24), but it's totally worth renting the previous seasons on DVD to catch up (well, I can't really speak for Season 2, but 1 and 3 were great). We're three or four weeks into this season, but the On Demand crowd can catch up relatively easily.

The show is dark, and tragic, and disturbing, but it's Just. So. Good. It's set in Baltimore, but I don't think I've seen a shot of the Inner Harbor used for anything other than an interstitial; the whole show takes place in the parts of the city you never want to be caught in. On one hand, it's about bad people doing bad things, the good people trying to stop them, and the people who get caught in the middle. On the other hand, nothing about the show is that simple; nothing is quite that clearly defined, and that's part of what makes the whole thing so compelling. Sympathetic "villains," "heroes" you want to spit at, and everything in between. And it's all completely believable. The show is run by a former Balt Sun reporter and a former Balt homicide detective, and they succeed in showing the city a fair amount of respect while letting the light in on some of its worst aspects. Perhaps most importantly, they get a lot of support from the city itself, which is a strong endorsement in my eyes. It's not easy to watch at first, but the discomfort passes as you figure out just how good it is.

I watch other stuff as well, but nothing all that regularly. I would probably watch even more if I still had my DVR (which didn't come with me when I moved), but the fact that I don't is probably better for my grades. I pick a couple of shows in a given semester to plan around, and these days it's Studio 60 and The Wire.

What are you watching?
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