31 December 2006

End of 2006 and the books I read

New Years Eve.

Those pesky resolutions.

Drunks driving on the road -despite the laws.

Anyways, working tomorrow, so no late night for me. Might be in bed before the witching hour.

But, I will get back to jogging. I have too.

01. State of Fear -Michael Crighton
02. Cell -Stephen King
03. Great Influenza - John M. Barry
04. A Dirty Job -Christopher Moore
05. Angels & Demons -Dan Brown
06.The Da Vinci Code -Dan Brown
07. Bad Twin -Gary Troup
08. Map of Bones -James Rollins
09. Icon
10. Valley of the Dolls -Jacqueline Susann
11. Mayflower -Nathaniel Philbrick
12. Gil’s All fright Diner - A. Lee Martinez
13. Shadowmarch -Tad Williams
14. Lisey’s Story -Stephen King
15. Pirates In an Adventure with Communists -Gideon De Foe
16. The Innocent Man -John Grisham

Happy New Year!!!

25 December 2006

24 December 2006

T'was the Night Before Christmas -Clemet Moore

T'was the night before Christmas,
when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, --not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name; "Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN! On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,


Christmas Eve

23 December 2006

Out with the old Dell printer in with a Epson.

I decided to buy a new printer today. Which really surprised me. I mean, really, I've not bought a lot of expensive things since, well, cash is always low, and it wasn't like there was anything wrong with the Dell printer I got when I bought this computer 18 months ago.

I did not realize at the time, was that when I bought the Dell Printer, I could only get ink from Dell. I could not, as the say, run out to Office Max and get some. This pissed me off for a number of reasons. First off, ink is way too expensive - it makes gas look like a deal. While I can understand that Dell likes to make money, but it seems rather short sighted of them. I mean, at $80 bucks, this Epson printer -which does everything my Dell did - is cheap. And I can buy ink right off the shelf. I hate the idea of ordering it online, then waiting, then hoping nothing happens to it in transit.

Plus, I can buy ink on sale. I'm sure Dell would never have a sale. It has a monoploy, why should they?

So, we'll see how this works out. Plus, I can download images from the future didgital camera I intend to buy in the coming months. Of course, my computer has a port for it, but so does, now, the printer. The Dell did not have that!

Anyway, Saturday is coming to a close, as darkness creeps in like a thief. It's cloudy and cool, but they are promising a smashing day for both Christmas Eve and Day; Monday they say it will be in the low 70's.

22 December 2006

Winter Solstice and the final holiday shopping days

Today was the shortest day light day of the year, and the longest night. Generally, I dislike this time of year. The darkness comes early and its cold. While my midwest blood remains thick, there is a chill in the air you cannot ignore.

Still, I won't give up the flip flops.

And here, in Southeren California, the days are always short. Once the sun dips behind the hills, it gets dark very fast. That is when I'm jealous of the folks who live near the ocean. They see the sun until it passes beneath the ocean.

Of course, the days begin to lengthen after today, though it will be at least 6 weeks before you really notice the difference. And the that is good. I like spring -well here anyway - and by mid March, when new Day Light Savings kicks in, the days will go on.

The best part of IPT is that today was my last day dealing with Christmas shoppers. As soon as the store opened this morning, people poured in. The last minute shoppers seem to be growing every year. When I was a kid, Black Friday WAS the day you went shopping, finishing 60 to 70% of it. Then over the next few weeks, you took the time to enjoy the colorful lights, prepare for family and friends and getting ready for their trek to Church.

Now, though, people avoid that day after Thanksgiving, maybe because for years it was a battle; the long lines, the day and half look for a parking space. And over the last few years, retail stores have panicked, and to draw folks in, started putting things on sale. Its worked, so now more people wait.

But they have very little patience, as do I.

I will admit, I hate chaos, which is no big surprise to people who know me. All these folks running around with only bits of information and expect us to solve their problems. But this just adds to my anxieties. I mean, how do you go out shopping for that special present for what ever relative or friend, with only the merest of information?

It's one of the reasons why I have to get out of retail. After 26 years, I'm burned out. I can no longer tolerate the idoicy of people and a company that will almost throw its cash registers open and ask for an honor system just so its convient for the customer.

Sadly, after working in retail for so many years, this holiday means very little to me. But there is a host of other reasons, beyond that. But, I will be glad when I return to work on Tuesday, that all the madness will be over.

It's still busy, as returns, those lovely gift cards that need to redeemed ASAP and calendars that are half price drive people into the store, but its like a balloon that has lost most of its air. The tension and fustration is gone, replaced with a more slower pace. It's like a summer day after a brief summer thunderstorm.

Of course, the realization is that if I don't get a new job by next Christmas, I will be working Christmas Eve, something I've not done in years.

Oh, boy.

Hunk on a Friday

Proof that God has favorites.

And I'm not one of them.

21 December 2006

The Center Cannot Hold

It's time to put my money where my mouth is, as Rob has finally agreed to let me direct an episode of Hidden Frontier. Starting this January -almost a year after meeting the cast and crew of HF - I'll helm the penultimate episode, The Center Cannot Hold. I've been dropping hints for weeks, and at the Christmas party last week, I think he finally thought it was time to let me do it.

Beo will AD for me, what a sweetheart.

I'm totally excited about this, and a bit scared. After watching all the directors of HF, Jenn, Risha, JT, Adam, I've learned a great deal from them, especially JT. As a real actor and director, he knows people and their motives and moods. After reading the script, I got some ideas of what I want to do, without getting too "first time director" crazy.

There's some action, but witht eh aide of both JT, Rob and Beo, I'm hoping not to come off too much of an ass.

Rob will helm the final episode, as he did with the series opener. That promises to be the most complex -and probably longest episode - of the entire series, with 7.07 and 7.08 coming in close to 2 hours (The Center Cannot Hold should run about 40 minutes, while 7.08 is rumored to run a little over an hour).

Like 7.05/7.06, these two episodes will film together, but Rob hopes to have my episode ready for the official wrap party -and final day of shooting - on April 28.

09 December 2006

The Myth of The War on Christmas

The way I see it, religious conservatives are trying to cast themselves as the oppressed victims of secular tyrants. I’m not saying there are some extremists out in this scary world who are trying to separate religion from -well, almost anything. But they are just a bunch of damn crybabies, and should -who ever they may be - just shut up.

There, is in fact, no war on Christmas. This myth of a war is assembled like a Frankenstein monster out of old reactionary images, urban legends, exaggerated anecdotes and increasing hostility to the American Civil Liberties Union. (I believe one of these "entertainers" on FOXNews accused the ACLU - a establishment set up to defend our civil liberties - of being a "terrorist" organization. Hope they won’t need them to protect their civil rights in the future). My research showed that as far back as the 1920's, Henry Ford went on and on about Jews stealing Christmas, while the John Birch Society, formed in the late 1950s, tried to do the same during the Cold War. Both stirred little importance to stop people from shopping. Besides, Birch’s philosophy was considered too extreme even for conservative Barry Goldwater in his 1964 presidential campaign. Those Birchers were denied working on his campaign, as they carried too much of a taint (and if my memory serves me right, Birch also thought that the adding of fluorination to water was part of a "Red" plot to poison America's brains).

Of course, Birch and Henry Ford did not have access to a major television network.

But, sometimes this myth that can be self-fulfilling, as FOXNews will point out ad nauseam. There are school boards and local politicians who believe the false conservative claim that they can't celebrate Christmas without getting sued by the ACLU and thus have jettisoned traditions, which have enraged these citizens, thus perpetuating this culture-war attitude and furthering the myth of an anti-Christmas conspiracy.

In order to prove there is some conspiracy, Gibson and O'Reilly (and others like them) gather these anecdotes from around the country. Some of these are exaggerated, some legitimate, but none support their paranoid claims of a vast secular-humanist conspiracy (melding of concrete documentation and wild speculation is common to conspiracy theorists, by the way).

And, dear Christians (of which I was baptised as), since when does the true meaning and spirit of Christmas have anything to do with retail stores? What does it matter what a Target/Wal-Mart/Macy's clerk says to you? It's not like Jesus was born, and his first words were "Rejoice and be merry - oh, and there is a huge sale at The Pottery Barn." If this holiday is so fragile that two words are all it takes for it to "come under attack", then I think our holiday (and our religion, for that matter) has bigger problems.

Call me when they start shooting Christians in the streets of America every day for being just that. Then, I’ll accept there is a war going on.

Merry Christmas.

05 December 2006

ABC moves Lost to 10pm

ABC is shoring up its Wednesday night line up this January in preparation for the return of Lost on February 7. The alphabet net will outfit the night with a comedy block starting January 3 with back-to-back episodes of veteran sitcoms According to Jim at 8pm, followed by two new shows, The Knights of Prosperity and In Case of Emergency. George Lopez returns January 24, bumping Jim back to 8pm.

This means when Lost returns, it will be in the 10pm slot (its third timeslot change in as many years), safely away from, it seems, FOX’s American Idol and even CBS’ Criminal Minds, which beat Lost a few times during its fall run. The move to 10 will also solve ABC’s other problem, which was the viewer fall-off from Lost’s lead-in, and there is hope, also, that by moving the show to the last hour of prime time it will also have a less competition, as it will air opposite CBS’ CSI: NY and NBC’s Medium.

The bad news for the two new comedies is that they will be left to fend for themselves against Criminal and Idol.
The new schedule also reflects the quiet departure of the Taye Diggs series Day Break. ABC made no mention what will happen to the series, which was originally planned to stay on through January. As of right now, the last episode of Day Break will air on December 27.

The Knights of Prosperity, whose premiere date was pushed back from October, stars Donal Logue (Grounded for Life) as a sad-sack janitor who organizes a group of very amateur thieves to rob the palatial apartment of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger (who has a cameo in the pilot). In Case of Emergency features David Arquette, Kelly Hu, Jonathan Silverman and Greg Germann as former high-school classmates whose lives didn't quite turn out as they planned.

TNT to adapt Stephen King/Peter Straub novel The Talisman

With broadcast networks having abandoned the TV movie format and killed the mini-series, the cable networks seemed to have taken up the torch, as TNT will adapt the Stephen King/Peter Straub novel The Talisman as a six-hour made for TV movie. This the third time the cable net has dipped into the King catalog, having produced the horrible ‘Salem’s Lot remake and this years Nightmare and Dreamscapes.

For over a decade, Stephen Spielberg has owned the movie rights the book, and has always wanted a big screen version. However, the book is complex and would need a long time to unspool. The mini-series format allows such a chance to flesh out the book.

The Talisman tells the story of Jack Sawyer, a boy who goes on a quest through this world and through a parallel world known as "The Territories," experiencing both good and evil in each. His goal is to obtain a mysterious talisman that will save his dying mother’s life, as well as the life of her "twinner," the Queen of The Territories.

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Arlington Road) is writing the adaptation. It should air in the early half of 2008.

One wonders if this movie works and is successful, would TNT produce the sequel, The Black House? And while the second book is stand-alone, it is, however, closely connected to King’s Dark Tower series, which has yet to see the light of day for adaptation. And to excise the Crimson King and other Dark Tower references, would ultimately ruin it.

03 December 2006

Books of 2006, Part 16: The Innocent Man by John Grisham

John Grisham in his author notes at the end of The Innocent Man said that writing nonfiction was something that “seldom” crossed his mind. Writing fiction was so much more fun and, probably, much more profitable.

But when an obituary about a freed Death Row Ronald Williamson catches his eye, Grisham becomes so intrigued about the man’s life and what happen to him, he would devote 18 months to lay out how our justice system failed to see the obvious.

Yes, I’m sure there are many in prison who did not do the crime they were convicted of and, sadly, some have died also from capital punishment. And Ronald Williamson’s life story is just one story of many, but it does shine the light into the dark corners of our judicial system. Over the last 3 or 4 decades, some people have claimed that the guilty get a better treatment than the victim. Here, though, is proof that at least one man, was abused by the system there to protect him.

While hindsight is always twenty-twenty, there was many obvious flaws in Ada, Oklahoma’s near zealous attempt to prove that Ronald Williamson and Dennis Fritz committed a brutal murder in 1982. Like Kenneth Lay, the Enron CEO who went to his grave convinced he did nothing wrong with his employee’s money, we have two people -District Attorney Bill Peterson and a cop named Dennis Smith - are still convinced that Williamson is guilty of murder, despite DNA evidence exonerating them.

This, or course, calls up another issue. Yes, both Williamson and Fritz had run-ins with the law in the 1980's, but even as evidence shows them not guilty, people are still convinced they were involved. After all, they have rap sheets. They are crooks, how can you believe a word they say -despite that the Ada police used snitches to convince the jury that Williamson and Fritz killed the girl.

All in all, The Innocent Man opens the door to a community under pressure to find a murder and a town willing to ignore every judicial right a person has to make bogus evidence stick.

While I believe in the death penalty, this book raised some doubts for me. Williamson was tragic character out of Shakespeare, but he was a sick man, a poster boy for bipolar disorder. He was wrongfully accused of a murder and only had a few people in his corner that believed him.

Science, like DNA evidence, will ultimately set a person free or convict them. And while character is always useful, hard proof is, and will be, the smoking gun in solving a crime. Making that science available to little cities at a cheaper price can save a person from sitting in jail for the rest of their lives -especially if they are innocent.

And we are still innocent until proven guilty?


02 December 2006

Rebooting of Star Trek not a bad idea?

So, would a reboot of Star Trek be so bad?

It occurred to me, while watching the latest Bond film, Casino Royale, that maybe, just maybe, rebooting the franchise could work.

Batman Begins, Superman Returns and now Casino Royale. Three franchises that have had successful re-starts. And while SR is not so much a reboot of the Superman myth, it did well enough to give life to the creaky franchise after nearly 20 years. Which is why, there will be a sequel in the summer of 2009. A Batman sequel, The Dark Knight, will hit theaters in 2008, along with James Bond 22.

Since the failure of Enterprise, the future of Star Trek has caused a schism within the fan base and even with in Paramount. The biggest problem Enterprise had was it should’ve been a fully reboot of the franchise, not the half-hearted attempt that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga did. Whether it was fear of alienating the fans or financial issues, or "franchise fatigue" its cancellation after four disappointing seasons put its future in a fog.

Now that Lost creator JJ Abrahms has been handed the movie franchise, speculation on what direction he’ll go in has run rampant: should it be the long proposed Starfleet Academy film that has been around since Trek II? Should it show the early days of James Kirk and Spock? Should it start just at the beginning of the original TV series?

But the biggest issue where ever it starts, should you pay homage to the first TV series and its continuity or ignore everything that has come before -TOS, TNG, DS9, VGR, ENT and 10 films and basically start from scratch?

From TOS point of view, not much of the early days of the Federation and Starfleet was nailed down; there was plenty of wiggle room, so to speak. My guess is, the original idea of ENT was to sort narrow those plot threads that popped up in the later series and movies; flesh out those ideas and see what happens. Again, as noted, they failed to excite many long time fans due to the fact that neither Braga or Berman felt obligated to stay within what little continuity there had been established about that time period.

They kowtowed to fans who wanted to see Romulans, Borg and Ferengi. They changed the history of Vulcans and created a starship named Enterprise, even after it was established that the one featured on TOS was the first.

But, ultimately, ENT failed because their stories sucked. They were dull, predictable and boring. The miscasting of Scott Bakula as Archer also hurt the show, as his wooden performance and his ability to get beaten up every week annoyed everyone. Then there was the opening title song, which hurts the brain even to think that had one.

Still, all that being said, I think now -based on the success of Batman Returns, of Casino Royale and, maybe, Superman Returns maybe the wild idea of returning to the early years of Kirk and company is not such a bad idea.

But this would need to be a total reboot, and fans of the franchise will need to accept that the continuity they’ve grown to love and hold dear, will need to be ignored. Star Trek can come back, but it needs to jettison the baggage it came with.

It can take the myths that have been around for 40 years, but give it a new twist. It could be everything ENT should’ve been. Take pieces from those myths and other new ideas and see where it can go.

And while the toughest sell would be on hardcore fans, I see no difference updating Trek for the 21st Century as Barbara Broccoli has done for James Bond. The new Bond film starts the franchise in the post 9/11 era. The Cold War is over, but this Bond was never a part of it. Terrorist will be the franchise new bread and butter.

The same could happen to Trek. Launching the franchise anew, with modern day visual effects, with new stories that -while harking back 40 years of TV shows and movies - create new history.

But it all begins with a script. My criticism of VGR and ENT comes mostly from the poor writing and then bad acting. Abrahms can put all the women he wants in cat suits and have visual effects up the wahzoo, but it’s the script that makes a film.

Then again, one can look at X Men 3. Here was an example of a hugely successful film, grossing more than the first two films in the franchise, yet at the end of the day, the weakest film -creatively - of the three.

But done right, Star Trek can be saved. Rebooting it and jettisoning that hobgoblin known as continuity by saying this is the beginning and what has come before is from another era -like Casino Royale - and see where it takes us.