Happy Holidays

Holiday Card 2009
Originally uploaded by xadrian.

This has been an interesting year for the BGF. We've made new friends, discovered new loves and participated in a lot of life changing events. I have to say this was a pretty good year for me. It was rough and emotionally challenging and promises to end in a fist fight or a trip to the ER, but I'm quite happy with this year.

A lot happened in 2009. Remember Obama? Yeah, his presidency started in 2009. It seems longer doesn't it? We lost a lot of people in 2009; some famous and some I'd not heard about until doing a search. The US went into then came out of a recession. Swine Flu reared it's sickly head. Climate change became a big political topic. And the world was rocked by tsunamis and earthquakes.

Locally, two people in our house became roller derby girls. Both Ms. A and LMA started skating over the summer. Mom got into TXRD and daughter skated for Derby Brats. Both of them love the sport and will continue to pursue it in 2010.

Ms A. and Miss LA got engaged.

All of the adults went back to school as well. Ms. A started in Fall of 2009 by going to ACC. Miss LA and I will be starting in Spring of 2010. I'm going for a degree in Art and Miss LA is going for a medical technician degree. Ms. A is studying to be a social worker. I didn't draw or build as much in 2009, but I wrote a lot and watched a lot of TV. I quit smoking and started running.

G-man started kindergarten in the fall. So far he loves it and his teacher is a wonderful lady who loves all the kids and has a great time teaching. He's made new friends but still plays a lot with his sister (when she lets him, that is.) LMA did Destination Imagination AND Math Pentathlon. She started 3rd grade in the fall and continues to get high marks in school.

This last year has given us a lot of opportunities to change and for the most part we took them. 2010 promises more change and more adventure and I hope we're all up to the task.

So Yule 2009 will have special significance. While Ms. A and Miss LA's plans to have a commitment ceremony have fallen through, there will no doubt be a lot of merry-making around our house. We'll awake on the 22nd to see what Santa has brought, share a nice breakfast, play with our new toys and then likely try to take naps. (The adults.) I'm sure the kids will be high on new toy smell for at least a week. We'll then likely spend the 25th finding an open restaurant in which to have dinner, as is our tradition.

Something struck me in this past week. Twice actually. The first was from a few comments made on this site (which I sadly had to delete) and the other from a holiday parade we attended last weekend. People believe Santa Claus has something to do with the real Christmas.

And by "people" I mean Christians. And by "something to do with" I mean "was at the nativity." A parade float we saw actually had a Santa kneeling in prayer in front of The Manger. The comment left on this site was, "If you guys don't believe in Christmas, why do you have so many pictures with Santa Claus?"

I'd like to address this because I do it every year, but it bears repeating: Christmas is a Pagan holiday.

Ok, technically "Christmas" is Christ Mass and yes it celebrates the birth of Jesus which happened some time in June. And yes it was taken by the Romans to go along with the Germanic mid winter festivals when they went steaming through Europe and needed to appease everyone. Just think about it for a second, were there any pine trees in Nazareth? Snow even? Elves? Were any of the gifts left in stockings above the sheep and mules and oxen? The the wise men come in on a sleigh?

No. No, not really, no.

Santa Claus is Odin. He's a different spirit from a different realm than Christendom altogether. In fact, some Christians believe that Santa is a hurtful lie perpetuated by commercial interests in the United States and some European countries. It removes the true meaning of Christmas from the holiday and teaches children to believe in a false idol.

To say a Pagan, then, can't believe in Santa is ludicrous. Santa was a Pagan god first, a Christian co-opt second. To say Santa is some how tied to the story of the birth of Jesus or his teachings is akin to saying George Washington was a great Civil War general or that da Vinci was the first man in space. It's just not true.

But, here's the kicker. You don't have to be of any faith to believe in Santa Claus. Just like you don't have to be of any faith to believe in snow or mistletoe or bells or ribbons or wassail or gift giving. Just because it's not technically right doesn't make it morally wrong. I believe what I want to and so do you, dear reader. If I want to believe that a giant bell goes from house to house delivering candy on Easter, the Christian thing to do would be to let me believe it, not give me reasons why I'm going to hell because of it.

My choice to believe in what I believe is inherent with being a sentient human being. My appreciating others' beliefs and letting them do as they will is inherent with being a compassionate human being. If I were to think less of someone because they don't believe what I believe, it turns out, that's inherent with being a Christian.

Happy Yule everyone.

(PS, I didn't intentionally turn commenting off, but Haloscan is moving to a pay only service so I'm trying to enable Blogger commenting.  I'll try to make sure it works.)


Wikis, Lego and Running

First of all, I hate wikis.  I hate giant public wikis that are run by 5 guys with Napoleon complexes.  I hate the fact that they are useful.  I hate that I try every once a year or so to be involved in one or more only to have my additions or changes reverted back because of someone's concept of quality or notability.  No matter how big they are, they always ask to make the page better by editing it.  So I do, and then it gets changed back.  And frankly, I don't want to invest that much time.  So, have fun Alpha Geeks.  I'm sure your noble contributions will not go unseen by the great Eye of Time or whatever awaits you.

Next up, Lego!  I have a new project, which actually lead me down the wiki path.  Star Wars: The Clone Wars, while actually quite good, has also been an inspiration for Star Wars ship building.  I haven't taken advantage of this because I've been organizing and sorting and I can't build and sort simultaneously for two reasons: First, I get panicky.  I'm not a hoarder or OCD about sorting papers or pens or canned vegetables, but for some reason Lego all has to be in its place.  LMA and G-man both have their own sets and as children they are, to their rights, constantly losing pieces and scattering bricks hither and yon.  I think they do this to watch my eyes twitch.  Reason two, I have a limited space and can't have a giant thing of unsorted bricks hanging out on my drawing table AND build on it at the same time.  Not to mention if I've got drawing to do (which I don't, order a robot people!) as that would require the same flat surface.

The drawing I can get away with doing elsewhere, but I doubt I'd get the same amiable response to a giant box of Lego.  On top of being underfoot and a nemesis to vacuums, Lego is really loud when you're pushing it around in a box while looking for that one piece.  Hence the sorting.

So I'm building a T-6 ambassador shuttle.  I was going to build a little snow planet speeder seen last season but I got distracted.  Now they actually have a set for it and I must say it's a little weak.  But this is on the heels of the SERIOUSLY weak Republic Y-Wing set.  I say weak because I did the same thing to a much better scale, in my opinion.  The problem I have with minifig scale items from Lego is that they are generally more playable, but they don't line up really well with actual scale.  For instance, the image of the shuttle here looks to be a fairly monsterous size, were it to be built out to actual size.  The cockpit seats four and there's room to walk around behind the cockpit seating.  I drew it out based off screenshots from the TV show, and I took my minifig to human scale of 1 in. to 1 meter and the ship turned out to have a 30" wingspan.  To give you an idea of what that looks like, when I built the Nebulon Ranger last year, that had roughly a 30" wingspan and that thing was a beast.

(I realize the descrepancy between a minifig being 1" and a human being ~1.5m, but for sake of building, 1:1 is easier.  Also, minifigs tend to be shorter and fatter so that changes much of the perspective.  For more on this, read here.)

So I'll be spending my next few non-drawing months building that.  I don't know why I take on these big projects.  I don't have the right supply of bricks for big ships and yet I do them anyway.  Which reminds me, the holiday season is coming up.  If you really want to be an awesome reader, you can order and ship me some Lego sets, I don't care what they are or how big or small.  In fact, if you did that, I'd draw you whatever you wanted.  Say you sent something like this, that's worth, to me, two 8x10 robot portraits.  But I mean we could totally work out something else.  Pencil, ink, watercolor, photoshop graphics, posters, whatever.  I think I might start a new business model.  Get paid in Lego.  Hmm.

Meanwhile I've started running again.  I get horrible shin splints and I'm pretty sure the crunching sound in my knee is a bad sign, but I'm 210lbs at 5'8" and that's just not healthy.  When your kids say things like "Well, at least your not fat like daddy..." you know it's time for a change.  I stopped smoking a while back (or as my Grandma Vi would say, "I choose not to smoke now") no reason I couldn't drop a few pounds.  Plus it'll help when I play basketball.

So far it's no bad.  I can run in the gym at work and watch Daily Show repeats and the time just flies by.  I'm no fool, though.  I run/walk a mile so far and that's about my limit.  I'll just slowly build up until I can actually run the whole mile and move on from there.  Even if I don't lose much weight, it beats doing nothing.

Thanksgiving was a blast, had a fantastic time with the folks that were at our house.  It's like a new little family that we've adopted.  If you've been watching Ms. A's and my Flickr pages, you'd have seen most of these people.  It was wonderful to have a full house, beer, food, music and laughter.

Miss LA and Tiger Lily were in Louisiana for Thanksgiving so we had to do without the cajuns, but it was a good time none-the-less.

Speaking of Louisiana, guess where I'm going for Christmas?  That's right.  I'll be taking a drive to Abbeville to hang out with Tiger Lily's family.  Last year she went and I stayed and it was a long sad three weeks.  We were a newly minted couple but it was still hard to be apart in that tentative and formative time.  We text like crazy so were at least in communication with each other.  I know my parents will be upset by this seeing as I said I wouldn't be able to make it up to Colorado for either holiday.  To be honest, it's a sight easier to drive alone for six hours than it is to fly with two kids.  Think about it, come the 23rd or 24th or whenever I leave, I get up, grab my bag and go.  I stop for gas, maybe a donut and coffee and I'm gone.  And I'm a guy so I don't have to stop and pee for three weeks.  (Tried it once, true statement.)  If I went with the kids, it's getting up two hours before you have to leave for the airport, then you have to get to the airport and hour before your flight, then the flight is two hours, then getting out of the airport is another 45-60 minutes.  So, let's plan for maybe early in 2010.  I want to go to DC next year too so we'll have to see.

Finally my car needs to go to the hospital.  It's getting sick.  It didn't pass inspection and will likely need the following: transmission flush, head gasket, O2 sensor, shocks, breaks, belts.  Time for a new car?  Probably, I've already pulled my free credit reports to see what I can clean up before buying a new one.  And it's time for a new one.  I've had this car for 8 years and the exact same model for two years before that.  I want a nice, fuel efficient sedan with an mp3 jack and cup holders that don't sit in front of the vents.  I'm leaning toward a VW Jetta or maybe a Kia Forte.  We'll see.  (I'd also like a 47" Vizio LCD but that's just me being selfish.)

Off to do X-mas cards.  Carry on.


Fall Update

Well hello!  Fancy seeing you all here.

I wish I could say there was some ground breaking news from the BGF House, but there just isn't.  A visit to Four Pines at Rollman Manor would result in any number of friends hanging out, studying, working, singing, making food, playing with children or dogs, watching TV or drinking beer.

Just like everyone else.

There have been high points and low points.  The low points are of the "We don't talk about it in public" type of things, so don't expect to hear about anything calamitously juicy or worthy of repost on a gossipy site somewhere.  (And yes, I fully expect that.  My fans are rabid and uncouth and would push their mom in front of a speeding 18-wheeler if it meant a retweetable twitpic.  Some of you may have to look that up.)

On to the more high of the points then.

Lil Miss Austin is truly enjoying Derby Brats.  She has a scrimmage coming up and I'm excited to attend.  Her group ranges in age from 8-18 so it can be a little unfair to the little girls, but they break them up.  Among the littler of the skaters, she's one of if not the fastest.  She goes to practice twice a week and still has time to complete all her third grade homework.

However, she has been tired lately.  We worried she was not getting enough sleep, but knew she was getting 10 hours.  Eventually a visit to the doctor confirmed she had mono and so she's been at home recuperating for the last two days.  It's been a little stressful for her as she really doesn't like doctors.
Nothing new with G-man, though he is doing fine in kindergarten.  He has taken to reading more and more.  He's able to put letters and sounds together to actually form the words.  He's moved away from knowing what the words in books are because he's memorized them, to actively breaking them down and reading them.  It's quite exciting to see his brain working.  And he's a Rollman so you can tell his brain is working because his mouth is opening and closing like a fish desperate for water.

The BGF as a whole is a little larger as well.  As you may have been able to tell from the photos on Flickr, the house is a bee-hive, though not the dying of indeterminate fungus type of bee-hive.  The ladies have friends who visit at least once a week if not more.  Everyone's social lives seem to have been turned up a few degrees and the house just never seems empty.  I personally enjoy that and I think if I were by myself for too long without kids or company or friends I'd probably become depressed.  We've adopted a derby girl and her daughter as near permanent fixtures in our lives as well.  Also, Ms. A's mom's dog (which I've loving dubbed Jerk Dog) continues to pee and poop his way into our hearts.  (Don't tell anyone, but it's me who leaves the doors open and then feigning shock when he has run off again.)  (Not really.)

The past couple weeks my time's been consumed with design projects of small and helpful kinds, some robots and a LOT of review writing for TVZ.  We recently switched our cable and internet from Suddenlink to AT&T U-Verse.  DVR, HD Channels, faster internet connection AND a home phone and we're staving about $20 a month.  So my TV viewing hasn't stopped.  In fact, at one point I was reviewing five shows for TVZ.  Don't ask where or why I found the time.  Luckily one show was canceled and the other was picked up by Tiger Lily so I'm down to three.

As to the new cable, like most things AV, the equipment and knowledge I have surrounding the available technology is lacking.  Our surround sound system and TV are about six years old and probably about two years old when we bought them.  They are scratched and don't exactly work right.  I don't have the time to muck with repairing or replacing the receiver or getting a new system so that center channel will just have to be out.  The downside of that is you can't hear anyone.  But U-Verse fits our needs so far.  I have a TV in my room that's also hooked up, which means I can watch all my shows in my room without upsetting the non-geeks.  It also means I'm watching sci-fi shows in my room surrounded by Lego.  I own my geek-ness, I have no shame!

I've officially registered for classes at Austin Community College.  Now I have to officially see if the government will pay for it.  I have my financial aid paperwork done, but I may already have too many credits to qualify.

The holidays are coming up and all our plans are still unmade.  We have general ideas about them and I can say that we'll all generally be at our house or somewhere in Louisiana.  As much as I'd like to see my family in CO, it's just too much this time.  I've said that the last five years I think, it's starting to sound dick-ish.

So overall, no complaints.  Life is decent.  Carry on.

Well, Hell.

I was going to write a post today, but Blogger is either having problems or I'm having problems with Blogger.

Nothing really major going on, but I thought a couple weeks was too long to let the site go by without some attention. I'll have something up as soon as the editor is fixed.


Review: V 1.1 - "Pilot"

(for more news, reviews and discussion, visit www.televisionzombies.com)

Quoting an online friend, "It moved so fast I felt like I fell asleep and missed huge chunks of it. And then it was suddenly the season finale."

(Review contains spoilers, if you don't want to be spoiled, never saw the original series, don't expect the aliens to end up being villainous lizard people, please don't read on.)

Originally aired in 1983, V was a two part miniseries running on NBC. It was followed by a sequel mini series in 1984 and then a regular series that ran for 19 episodes until 1985. This reimaging (which has been the catch phrase of remakes since BS:G) focuses on the same principle plot points: Aliens from another world visit Earth under the guise of peace and cooperation. Their cover story is they have no home and need resources which are abundant on Earth and once they are replenished they will leave. We come to find out that they are not what they say and a resistance forms to drive the aliens away.

ABC hyped the coolness right off this show. When it first started putting out ads for it, it was exciting, but you couldn't go a single commercial break without seeing Scott Wolf say, "Excuse me?" When it finally aired, my first comment was, "Really? It's only an hour?" To which a friend responded, "Hey, you don't mess with my Dancing with the Stars."


I watched this on my DVR after waiting the traditional 20 minutes in respect for the TV gods and so I could fast forward through the commercials. However, between the DVR skipping and jumping to different spots (well done Suddenlink) and the kids needing to be fed and bathed, I had to watch it in starts and stops. At one point I had to let the recording finish and start over. My reaction, then, was unsettled. Whether or not I gave the show enough of a chance at this point is academic.

Without further ado, meet our story lines.

Erica Evans (Elizabeth "Lost's Juliet" Mitchell) is an FBI Agent (of course) who is investigating terrorist cells with her partner Dale Maddox (Alan "I make everything I'm in a little better" Tudyk.) Erica has a teenage son Tyler and he has a best friend Brandon. They're in a clinic after being in a fight.

Chad Decker (Scott "Party of Five" Wolf) is a news anchor who really wants to be a reporter but the network won't give him a shot. When the Visitors arrive, he makes a joke and suddenly becomes the news liaison to the Visitors.

Ryan Nichols (Morris "Yes this is my name" Chestnut) plays a banker or clerk (his abc.com bio says "business man") who is buying a ring and getting ready to propose to his girlfriend Valerie Holt (Lourdes "24" "NYPD Blue" Benedicto.) He's being hounded by an old acquaintance, Georgie Sutton, who wants him to come back to the operation. Ryan tells him to shove off.

Father Jack Landry (Joel "The 4400" Gretsch) and his mentor (I don't know how priest hierarchies work) Father Travis are arguing over the fact that no one comes into church any more.

And along come the visitors.

Anna (Morena "Firefly" Baccarin) is the leader of the Visitors. They arrive on their giant space crafts which they stole from the Independence Day aliens and hover over several dozen major metropolitan cities. Why is it aliens love to hover over major cities? Wouldn't you want to land somewhere or stay in orbit and send down smaller craft? It seems like a perfect way to scare people and waste a lot of fuel. Yes, they've perfected the technology behind gravity manipulation, but it still seems a bit showy.

Anna calms the people by saying, "We mean you no harm. We are of peace. Always." The once panicked humanity actually applauds the giant jumbotron screen in the sky. Anna gets Chad Decker to do an interview but doesn't want any negative questions. The Visitors were once like humans in their emotions but have since learned to control it and realize that negative emotions are wasteful.

Meanwhile, Agents Evans and Maddox are investigating a terrorist cell. They noticed a certain group's activity increased after the Visitors arrived, rather than decreased like all the others. They go to track some leads but are one step behind at each turn. Finally a clue leads them to a resistance meeting led by Georgie Sutton. Erica and Father Jack are both there and suddenly a floating shrapnel bomb explodes and kills several people. The hideout is then raided by people wielding bladed weapons. They start tearing down resistance members. Erica is attacked by her partner and when she hits him with a metal bar, she sees reptile skin under his human skin.

Erica's son Tyler is smitten with a recruiting hottie named Lisa (Laura "Smallville" Vendervoort) and forges his mom's signature so he can be part of the Visitor Youth something or other. As his mom and Father Jack are escaping with their lives, he's accepting a toast at the first meeting of the Visitor Community Awareness shindig.

Oh, also? Ryan is a visitor and helps Georgie escape. He's a traitor. The visitors have been here for decades. This "arrival" is just the last phase of their plan to take over the world.

I have to go back to the quote at the beginning of this post. I rewound several parts of this first episode because I missed something truly integral to the rest of the show. I mean, if you blinked you missed the whole reason Agents Evans and Maddox were investigating an underground storage area. You missed Georgie's speech about who the Visitors really were. You missed the recruitment pitch by Lisa and the interview post mortem by Chad and Anna's first in command Marcus. It was a breakneck pace and at the same time it moved too fast for me to appreciate what was going on.

The comparison I have to V is to the recent film District 9 in which an alien race becomes stranded over South Africa and are forced to leave their ship and live on Earth in a refugee camp. At the beginning of the movie, we are told the entire back story in news clippings and interviews and it takes about 15 minutes. Comparatively, in Independence Day the entire invasion takes place over just a couple days but also spans the full movie until they are fought off right at the end. V took this unsure middle ground where the ships show up in the first couple minutes, but then we spend the rest of the time in an unsure time machine. The only part that gave any indication of how much time had past was half way through when we see the caption "Three Weeks Later" but by that time I was already confused as it seemed much more time had past or none at all.

This treatment could have been given a better chance had it run two hours. I'm not saying that because I think Dancing With The Stars is a waste of my time, but because it was hard keeping up with everyone. You have 40 minutes to introduce four different plots, 8 major and several minor characters AND an alien invasion, something's going to get lost. And in this case it was the identification I had with anyone. What also suffered was the writing. Because we only get a few short moments with each character, their lines have to be jam packed with emotion, meaning and clues. We don't get the film approach to dialog that can be drawn out to explore the full range of an actor's abilities; we get sound bites that are awkward and stiff. Even Mitchell, who is great in Lost had some lines that were just flat. Alan Tudyk was only mildly interesting. The rest of the cast was fairly boring.

I will make an exception for Georgie, played by David Richmond-Peck. He had the typical task of being the Resistance leader and in doing so had to deliver conspiracy and paranoia in a limited space, but I feel he did a bang up job. His revulsion but ultimate need to remain close to Ryan was painted skillfully on his face and the indoctrination scene with Erica could not have been handled better.

There was a lot that didn't make sense in the show. Early on when the alien ship first arrived, the army was already in place to section people off in some random order, but right out in the middle of the streets of New York. There was no reason given and there was no obvious need to do so. Erica and Tyler were a family without a husband and dad and yet despite the arrival of another life form, they can't work out their mistrust. Also, despite the arrival of aliens, Agent Evans continues to work on terrorist threats. Little things like that make me pull my hair out. I don't know about you, but if an alien ship started floating over Austin and Morena Baccarin came out, I think I might quit my job and go wait around by that ship.

This series is going to be set up as a constant fight between the Resistance and the Visitors. It can't go forever and one side will have to win. But they crammed the entire fight into one episode and now instead of any meaningful discovery, all we have left is the fight and I'm not sure I can deal with 17 episodes of rebellion.

Three out of five Anna heads.


Review: Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol

Man, it's another The Polar Express and Monster House with those creepy zombie eyed people with the CG mouths that are close but just not quite past the uncanny valley. Plus, aw hell, it's got Jim Carrey in it. This is going to be awful. It's in 3D too? Yeah, it's going to be horrible. I still haven't forgiven Zemeckis for Contact.

These are all the things we said going into the theater. I was cautiously optimistic. The trailers looked promising, but I really hated The Polar Express and I was worried this was going to be another single actor ham fest with unsettlingly real yet not real animation. But it was a free screening at IMAX and it was 3D so why not, right? Halloween is officially over, I can see a Christmas movie.

I'll cut right to it. While I was not blown away, I was really impressed. A Christmas Carol is as charming, spooky, funny, scary, and emotionally charged as I've ever seen it. Up until now my favorite renditions were Patrick Stewart's one man theatrical performance and Scrooged starring Bill Murray. This would rank among my favorite versions of Dickens' classic tale.

The film is done in what's called "performance capture." I've never heard the term until today, but I know what it entails. Unlike movies that create the characters with the computer, performance capture sets a skin over the recorded movements of real actors. It's modern day rotoscoping and while it produces very believable movement in what is obviously a computer animated world, it also creates some barriers.

The first barrier being what I already mentioned, the uncanny valley. The hypothesis of this is basically that the closer robots look and act to humans they reach a point where our emotional response becomes negative and they begin to scare and revolt us. Nothing in robotics is quite human enough to over come this, though some people say there are puppets that can be made to act near human without being creepy. (To me "puppet" and "creepy" can be synonymous.) This carries over into the digital actor world when the technology to capture lifelike movements and reactions and emotions begin to dip way down into this valley and start to unnerve the viewers. Regardless of how lifelike the animation is, people will (so far) be adverse to it. The Polar Express (a Zemeckis movie) was one of these. The people moved like people, but the eyes were wrong, the mouths were off. They seemed like dolls or zombies. There wasn't a spark behind the stares and the smiles were heinous grimaces doing not much more than baring oddly gapped teeth.

Carol is able to get past that for the most part. I won't lie and say it's perfect, but the main characters are without the vacant quality Express had. The side characters and street people still showed signs of this and likely only because they didn't have the man hours at the computer to bring them to as much life as Scrooge, Cratchit and the spirits.

The second barrier is one that may not be avoidable with this type of animation. The designers and directors work so hard on making Victorian London believable and real that they designed themselves right out of some of the more fantastical abilities inherent to computer animation. There's not much in the way of lightsabers or heavy blasters or ancient goddesses in A Christmas Carol but there is a whimsical aspect to the spirits and the times they show Ebenezer. In one part of his past, a dance is held and his old boss, Mr. Fezziwig, and his wife cavort and careen around the makeshift dance hall in odd, jerky movements. Their jumps linger, purposefully, too long and at one point Mrs. Fezziwig pirouettes herself into the air like a helicopter. Now, it's one thing when the candle-head spirit of Christmas Past takes Scrooge on a hair raising flight through snow covered fields, but when real people suddenly move like fairies, it can make you suddenly feel again like you're watching something that's not quite right.

However, all in all the animation is top quality and the design altogether was remarkable. We walk through Ebenezer's home in the evening and true to form in late 1800's London, there's no electricity or central heating. His large house is cold and dark and at times the only light is his small candle and the only sound is his breathing and the creek of stairs. The character's breath seen in the cold is just the right visibility. The clothing drapes and moves realistically and without the stretching skin quality seen in early and dodgy CG attempts.

The spirits (all voiced by Carrey) were true to the original story and completely brought to life. Everyone who went to the showing came away with a favorite and each specter (including the last) had qualities than made them enjoyable to watch on screen but also of which to be afraid. They were frightful in the way they were intended to be, not because of an emotional attachment to their animation. They were well executed if not, at times, a little gratuitous.

And finally Jim Carrey's performance was quality. This was like watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or even Ace Ventura: Pet Detective again. It was nice remembering that despite some of the crap work Carrey has done (and let's face it, most actors do crap work from time to time) his Scrooge was a wholly enjoyable and well put together performance. Despite some of the trademarks of performance capture (that animates the characters to look like the actors) Scrooge was superb and almost never did I think "That's Jim Carrey doing that." Later in the film as Scrooge becomes more light-hearted, you can see Carrey's face in Scrooge and it does pull you out a little. Up until then the hawk nose and plow chin Scrooge was his own man and not one driven by a comedic actor.

The other actors were obvious and for the most part it did not hurt the story to have them so any more than if it were a live action telling, which in the end is the highest praise a movie like this can earn.

If you have little ones, this is not the movie for you. Rent the Muppet version and be done with it. Zemeckis's version is every bit as creepy and at some points down right frightening as the original could be.

God bless us, every one.


Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

A facebook contact joked, "How awful it must be to be blind and dyslexic at the same time."

So, without giving up my day job and completely divesting what little time into auditions, workshops and low paying entry gigs into the world of voice acting, I've instead decided to volunteer to read for the blind.

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic is a non profit, nation wide organization dedicated to making written material available to the visually impaired and cognitively challenged. It started over sixty years ago when a woman named Anne T. Macdonald began reading to veterans of WWII who had returned without their sight, having lost it do to injury or illness while in the service. It eventually became more than the New York Library's Women's Auxiliary could do alone and soon it became a nation wide organization.

I drive by the school of the blind often enough to see the sign for the studios (there's also a state run organization) and I hear about volunteer opportunities on the local NPR affiliate KUT quite a bit. I decided to go.

This is going to be rad.

Coming from a theater background, I have a bit of an ego-centrism issue; I like hearing the sound of my own voice. It's probably more than just wanting to talk, I actually like reading aloud. For a while I'd read to Ms. A so she could go to sleep. I'm sure it was a combination of someone's voice and the science fiction or science material that put her out, but I enjoyed it and would read till I went hoarse. I love reading to the kids and if I didn't have this, I might have tried to get in on the story time events book stores do (except those are always on a Wednesday at like 9am.)

The added benefit is the material I'd be reading is all educational. There are requests for fiction, but for the most part the RFBD focuses on text books. It's their mission to provide educational materials, so there will be a lot of reading of history, chemistry, sociology and a lot of foreign language. Sitting in with a couple people last night, I listened to a recap of most of the political events of the late 1960's.

The studio on 45th and Burnet is quite nice too. It's small and cozy with 7 or so recording booths, some offices and a lot of reference and training material. I've only gone in twice, but the staff is very friendly and the two volunteers I worked with last night were equally as amicable.

I'm really excited.

This is also the time where I say that if you're looking to volunteer, RFBD is always looking for more volunteers. If you can't but know someone who might like it, tell them about it.

Carry on.



Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Last weekend we visited my cousin in Houston. The trip was timed with my mom and aunt's visit so we could all spend the weekend. Technically I wanted to leave early Friday but a problem at work kept me there till late which means we got to Houston (or the Cy-Fair area of North West Houston) by 9pm.

Also, it was a short trip because we had originally planned to go to the TXRD championship bout on Saturday night, but we ended up not being able to get tickets in time and the prevalent thinking is that the kids don't do well at bouts so we skipped it. Tiger Lilly came along and got to meet a small fraction of my family.

By the way, Ms. A is officially a Texas Roller Derby skater. Her skate name is Fishnet Stalker. She'd gone through a few names but ended up choosing this one because it more accurately reflected her propensity to stalk people online and off. I warned her people might call her Fishy but she was ok with that.

School is going ok for the kids. They missed a chunk with the flu but LMA's grades are all A's thus far this semester. As far as we've heard, she hasn't beaten anyone down recently. Maybe derby brats is teaching her something or just giving her an outlet. She still a few weeks left of this season and I can perfectly envision her picking it up again. She genuinely seems to enjoy it despite the requirement that you have to practice.

I've been trying to do more drawing and actually do something with all those interlocking piece of plastic hanging around my room, but work has been really busy and lately when I'm home I'm either working more, doing some chores or sleeping. I've got four shows to write for at TVZ and half the time I don't have time to watch them.

I was able to record and watch the the Discovery Channel's "Discovering Ardi" which was terribly exciting. If you don't know anything about evolution or human paleontology, you may at least know about Lucy. Lucy was the, up until about 1992, the oldest known skeleton (or partial skeleton) scientists have discovered. Australopithecus afarensis, a 3.2 million year old species, Lucy was thought to have been somewhat of a missing link back in the 1970's. It was an upright walking ape, but was more human than monkey. Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus) predates Lucy by more than a million years, to roughly 4.2 million years ago. Ardi was another hominid but with some striking features. Foremost was that of a grasping foot.

Whatever your beliefs are, you have to admit that finding a hominid skeleton that walked upright but had a grasping foot is pretty cool. There's really no comparison in the animal world. The find makes Lucy look positively Cro-Magnon. Scientists were able to determine that not only was A. ramidus bipedal, but also that they were changing in terms of social and sexual traits as well. They were still instinctual, but the instincts were becoming refined.

Anyway, Tiger Lilly and I watched the show on Sunday, absolutely fascinated. We're nerdy like that. Miss LA continues to be sick but was able get someone to fill in for her at work and get some much needed rest. Ms. A is still going to class though she missed a few days when she and the kids were sick. Life still rolls on here.

Carry on.



Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Aside from the threat of pandemic, this weekend was quite lovely.

First thing's first: Yes, little G-man got sick on Saturday. My dad came to visit the grandkids for the weekend but all outdoor festivities and external or traveling plans were squashed by a combination of rain and illness. But it wasn't all gloom and iron-lungs at the BGF. We still had plenty of fun.

Lil' Miss Austin has been religiously attending her Derby Brats practices and this coming week is her big bout. It's more a scrimmage with the other girls, but it'll be a lot of fun regardless. Her speed skating practice is at Playland Skate in N. Austin and we usually stay after and skate for a couple hours. Grandpa was there to hang out with G-man (who doesn't like skating much) which left me and LMA and Grace (who will be nicknamed Tiger Lily for this blog) to skate for a while. LMA is becoming a really skilled skater and more often than not she was outpacing me.

And speaking of skating (which is what we all do lately) Ms. Austin's final practice for TXRD was Saturday. We don't know if she's been picked to be on one of the five teams, but she felt she nailed the evaluation practice. She'll likely find out today or tomorrow; I'll keep you posted.

So we watched movies and TV a lot. G-man had a fever most of the weekend but when I took him to the clinic on Friday, the doctor said that because he had an appetite, no coughing or congestion and just a fever and headache, it was likely not the media darling H1N1 (aka Swine Flu.) By the way, we call it the Heinie Flu because of the spelling. Which actually sounds just as bad as Swine Flu.

So G-man and I roll up into the clinic and are met by a line of 20 people just to check in. There area lot of kids. I pull G closer to me as though I emit a force field that protects him from contracting even more germs. Yes, my logic is sound. We check in and go to the waiting room where I kid you not there was no where to sit except the floor. There were easily 25 families in there, some with two or three kids. About half the people in there were wearing masks.

Madagascar's ports were all closed.

But the doctor didn't do a swab test. The presenting symptoms were not indicative of flu, just a common virus, so he sent us on our way. Which is fine because frankly I don't have $300 to spend on Tamaflu anyway. Rest and fluids for you kiddo. G spend most of Saturday and Sunday sleeping on the couch, being adorable and just a little warmer than normal. Today he woke up with me as I was leaving for work and was bright eyed and bushy tailed.

LMA is having attention pains. It's hard to say if she's actually not feeling well, but she is a little warm. Her friend and skate partner was actually diagnosed with H1N1 and that's where we think it all started. Which is really sad. The girl's mom and Ms. A are New Girls in Derby and she's a really rad lady but is having a rough time currently and now a sick kid. We want to be the good people and make sure they're both ok but it's hard to want to take care of sick people knowing you'd be compromising your own family.

For Sunday I was able to talk Miss LA to make some gumbo. My dad said he's never had it, so it was a treat for everyone. Miss LA makes some mean gumbo and it's always nice to have a house full of people and good smells from the kitchen. You know it's fall around our house when there's gumbo, wassail, football and Rock Band. Her sister helped her, a couple friends came by to watch the Cowboys and Broncos game and we all drank beer.

As I type this, though, I have a sore throat and a headache. I'm congested, which isn't saying much considering how much it's been raining, and I'm a bit worn out. I don't want to get sick, but I think considering how much time I spent around G man, it's inevitable. I'm hoping it's allergies and lack of decent sleep.

Still, it was a good weekend. How was yours?

(PS, I have four reviews to write, but my weekend was a bit tied up. They will be up soon.)


Review: FlashForward 1.1 - "No More Good Days"

These reviews are done for Television Zombies, please visit for discussion, news, commentary on science fiction, fantasy and cult television.

I think it's the announcer. Yeah, I'm pretty sure ABC needs to replace their promotional voice talent because everything I see on ABC that isn't Extreme Dancing with the Makeover Wives, sounds like Lost. It always sounds like everything depends on if I watch this show. Even the sitcoms seem as though something catastrophic is going to happen.

Why is that important? Because it colors the programming. If your introductory hype makes your show sound like something it's not, it unfairly skews your perception of that show. When that guy's voice pimps any ABC show, it always sounds to me like Lost. Plus, Penny Widmore is in it.

Okay, okay. Unfairly, I'm comparing this to another show so let's boil it down to what it really is.

Flashforward is a novel by Robert J. Sawyer. ABC's show is loosely based on this science fiction story in which scientists at CERN run an experiment having the side effect of everyone on Earth going unconscious for two minutes and seeing a future 21 years from now.

FlashFoward starts our fairly regularly and instead of scientists, it's regular people in Los Angeles. We're inserted very deftly into the lives of the Benford family. Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) is an FBI Agent (again? really? ya really) whose wife Olivia (Sonya Walger) is a surgeon (yes really.) They have a little girl named Charlie who is watched during the day by the nanny. Mark's partner is Demetri Noh (John Cho) and Mark's AA sponsor is Aaron Stark. Aaron is an electrician whose daughter was killed in Afghanistan. One of Olivia's residents is a guy named Bryce, Mark's boss is Stan Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance, from Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and the nanny has a boyfriend.

Mark and Demetri are trailing some suspects when their whole world goes awry. Olivia is in the middle of surgery, Bryce is committing suicide on a pier, the nanny and her boyfriend are about to have sex and Aaron is climbing a pole to reach a power line. The entire world blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. But the time doesn't go by uneventfully. Mark has a vision of himself drinking in his office in front of a big case planning board with numerous photos, strings, notes and other pieces of paper. He loads his gun and off in the distance, men with laser sites on rifles approach. He comes to and he's upside-down in his wrecked car. LA is a mess and we find out it happened everywhere at the exact same time for the exact amount of time. We also find out, everyone had a vision. These visions are also corroborated with others to give a precise date, six months into the future. Everyone had them except for Demetri, he had no vision, which he thinks means he'll be dead by then. Olivia has one that she's with another man. Aaron has one in which his daughter is alive. Little Charlie Benford says she had a dream in which there were no more good days.

Mark, Demetri and another agent, Janis Hawk, are given the task to coordinate the effort to find out what happened, what people's visions are and if it could happen again. They call the project MOSAIC and start with the same board Mark had in his vision. Already we see the small threads of the envisioned future start to tie together. Mark talks of drinking again, which is the only reason Olivia would leave him. The other man Olivia envisioned is the father of a boy she saved the day of the blackout. Demetri is planning a wedding with his girlfriend but is always thinking of why he had no vision. Aaron is now hopeful about his daughter, but angry that he's hopeful.

And the world went into chaos. Just stop and think for a minute of what would happen if nearly 7 billion people just passed out for two minutes, what would happen. Would would happen in traffic, airports, people on stairs, people in surgery, athletes, people in baths or hot tubs or pools or lakes. I'm not sure the death toll will ever be mentioned, but it wouldn't be surprising to think of something in the hundreds of millions. Granted, most of Asia would have been asleep at the time and would they even notice? So far the show is very good at throwing questions at you.

But where do we go from here? FlashForward was well put together and at least decently written and acted. It follows the same formula as another show I'll try not to mention in that we start with a huge event and then spend the rest of the time digging for answers. Will it be sustainable? Will the answers sate the viewers? Is it a big enough mystery to overcome any story telling problems?

I enjoyed watching the pilot, but I felt more than a couple times that it was trying to be overly dramatic, overly serious. A meeting the FBI agents had with their boss took place in a lobby and they were standing in a circle, I kid you not, 15 feet apart. The only reason you do that is to get nice camera angels. I want to know what happens to the world I live in when we all fall asleep for 137 seconds, not what happens in Michael Bay's world. Give us some realism and some believable human interaction and the show will do well. Give us short scenes in which people lie or withhold information to push the story along and you'll end up looking pedantic.

At the end, Agent Hawk finds something that will keep the show going for at least two more episodes. During a curious (morbid?) viewing of security footage from around the US in which people are dropping like well coordinated flies, she sees a man in a baseball stadium who is not out. While the entire crowd and both teams are unconscious, this man in black trenchcoat and knit cap walks around very secretly like. He's not panicked, he looks like he's trying to avoid something.

Maybe he's trying to run from low ratings.

It's not a bad outing actually. It's one of the more entertaining pilots I've seen. I may be thinking too far ahead to give it much of a sustainable chance. John Cho and Sonya Walger are very pleasing to watch, as well as much of the supporting cast. That voice over guy, though...have him do just Lost please?

Three and a half broken clocks.

Review: Fringe 2.2 - "Night of Desirable Objects"

These reviews are done for Television Zombies, please visit for discussion, news, commentary on science fiction, fantasy and cult television.

First off, we have a new intro. It's Nina Sharp recapping who works in the Fringe Division and what their emerging purpose is.

Pennsylvania. There's a construction/road work team wrapping up for the day. On one man's truck radio, the local news continues the story of the six local missing persons. One man forgets something and goes back to get it. He senses something odd in a cornfield near a scarecrow and goes to investigate. He sees something on the ground, it looks like a blue hand. As he digs it out, the hand grabs him and pulls him into the ground.

Opening Credits.

New York. Agent Olivia Dunham is being released and Peter is there to help her. She had a fractured hip and so is walking with a cane. As they reach Peter's car, we see Agent Charlie Francis in a car watching them. Peter senses something and looks around, sees Charlie's car, but Charlie is hidden. Back in PA, the man underground ignites a lighter and looks at his wounded leg, then around the cavern he's in. There are body parts everywhere; some human, some animal. He sees a tunnel and crawls toward it when he sees a creature emerge from the tunnel. It's just a silhouette but we sense that it's almost human, the same shape and sound as Gollum from Lord of the Rings. The creature attacks.

(sea horse, light lower left)

Peter meets with Broyles, asks about the requests Walter has. Broyles says it should be no problem, but the C-130 might be hard to get. They talk about the mispers in PA and that it'd be a good thing to look into proactively. At the lab, Walter and Astrid are recreating Olivia's accident using a toy car and a frog (1.21 Gigawatts?!) to see if he can make the frog disappear. Olivia was missing for over an hour. Walter tries to explain his multiverse theory with branching time lines, but then stops realizing he's done it before, then gets very sorry for what Olivia went through. Then he talks about the consequences of visiting an alternate reality, then drops it. (We'll see later, I'll let you know.)

Peter, Olivia and Walter go to PA and talk to Sheriff Golightly (Charles Martin Smith) about the mispers and the Sheriff quibbles with the crew about rules of evidence, but they're finally allowed to investigate. Back at the Sheriff's office they again butt heads about this being a local investigation. Olivia starts getting angry but then stops when she hears a fly quite clear and loud, cleaning its legs. Peter jumps in and deflects the tension by talking to the Sheriff about this great lure he has in his office.

Olivia calls Charlie and asks for some help getting some information run through. He agrees to help after he's done running an errand. Charlie goes into the typewriter shop, gets the key from the becrutched proprietor and goes into the backroom. He types, Target Trusts Me Completely. Believes I'm Her Partner. Awaiting Instructions.

(flower, light upper left)

Olivia and Peter pore over the extensive but almost useless information the Sheriff's office has collection on the missing persons. Walter discovers the blue liquid found at the scene is a paralytic, interacting with human DNA or containing it; a possible mutation.

There's a light in the darkness coming towards us. As it gets closer, we see the dead body of the road worker. Then we see a shovel and someone says, "Oh no." We pass up through the ground and come to light in view of a mailbox marked 'Hughes.' Olivia and Peter are on the porch knocking when a grizzled man with a shovel appears behind them. He his Mr. Hughes and as he lets them in, he indicates he's been digging wells. Olivia's super hearing kicks in and she asks if someone else lives there. Mr. Hughes says no, but Olivia goes to investigate. A fairly tense few minutes of her limping along hearing a heartbeat and breathing, she finds a lab of sorts upstairs. When she opens a closet and finds nothing in it, Peter appears in the door behind her and she whirls around and shoots at him, just missing his head.

(frog, light lower right)

Mr. Hughes is in an FBI room behind questions by Agent Dunham. He says he visited the families of the mispers to try and comfort them. He had lost his wife and child, his son died after five minutes. Olivia asks for a blood sample and Mr. Hughes refuses. Broyles asks Peter about Dunham's gun and he says it was a misfire. Olivia is getting a check up on her injuries. She's getting dressed and we see a lot of bruising. Nina Sharp comes in and talks to her about a man who helped her after her cancer. She gives Olivia a note with the name Sam Weiss.

The FBI is going through the Hughes house. Agent Jessup finds an area with a few crosses and a Bible. In the bible is a news clipping of the death of Mr. Hughes wife and child as well as an inscription from a Pastor Lisburn saying it wasn't his fault and they are with God now. Peter tells Walter that Jessup thinks they may have been killed and an exhumation order is requested. The crew digs up the caskets and opens the wife's first, nothing obvious. Back to Hughes in the holding room, he has taken the wire casing off the lights and is bending it and chewing at it, shaping into something. The crew digs up the baby's coffin but there's nothing in it, but a hole has been chewed, clawed, blasted out of it and they see under the coffin is a tunnel leading into the ground. They go back to question Hughes but he has hung himself with the wire.

(frog, light lower right)

Agent Dunham finds Mr. Hughes hanging from the light. Back at the lab, Walter, Peter and Astrid discuss the findings on Mrs. Hughes. She had lupus, there was no way she could have kids, but still she had a baby. We flash back and forth to the Sheriff putting stakes in the ground wrapped in crime scene tape and the ground swelling behind him. Olivia talking with Broyles and her super hearing kicks on again for a second. Walter tells Peter the Hughes boy wasn't all human and likely had scorpion and mole rat DNA to combat his mother's lupus. Olivia arrives and they determine the boy must be under the house.

The Sheriff sees burrowing come toward him when the ground explodes and he his pulled under.

(butterfly, light lower left)

Agent Dunham and Peter revisit the Hughes house and search it. Peter finds a door that's been wallpapered over and behind the door is a nursery. They also find a store room/shed/lab with a large canine tooth on the floor and a cinder block wall. They move away some bricks and a rotting dog head before Peter goes to get a shovel. Olivia sees bones and corpses and looks back for Peter when a thing springs from the darkness and drags her into the tunnel. She and Peter fight it off. It's a nasty looking teenage boy sized creature with an elongated head ending in a gruesome muzzle of teeth. Its skin is pale and covered in blood and dirt. Peter is able to stick the thing with a broken shaft of wood and the creature begins digging away. Unfortunately it digs under the Sheriff's car which comes crashing down on top of it.

Olivia rides back with Charlie and recaps, talking about all the holes Hughes dug in the ground. She says she may not want to remember. He says it may be important and whatever it is, they'll deal with it together. Peter tells Walter he's going fishing, tells the story of a boy who bought his dad a special lure but the dad didn't go. Walter doesn't gather that he's the dad or the one Peter wants to go fishing with, but asks if he can go with him. Peter and Astrid exchange knowing glances. The lure he gives him is called Night of Desirable Objects.

Olivia is in the bath tub when she starts hearing bubbles, a fly, voices, sirens, seemingly the whole city. She goes to a bowling alley and asks for Sam Weiss. He originally says Sam moved away but then chides Olivia for giving up easily. He says Nina told him she'd be coming and asks if the headaches have started yet.

Charlie Francis is in the typewriter room, he types: Target Visted Other Side, But Remembers No Details, Please Advise. Response: Unacceptable. If She Can't Remember On Her Own, Then Do Something To Help Her.

(frog, light lower right)

The glyphs spell MIRRLR, which is a disappointing oversight. We want it to say mirror, and the glyph for L is close to the one for O. Is it really an oversight or a way for the producers to see who's paying attention?

Monster of the week with an inordinately long denouement. The monster was captured with 7 minutes left to go, meaning Fringe is really trying to get the bigger story more air time. I think they realize that they can't do Peter's new Proactive Fringe Division AND keep fighting mutated humans, but the transition will happen slowly. After a full week debating on whether or not I like the Charlie Francis mole, I think it's a good move. It builds tension that only the viewer and that character can see. The rest of the Fringe Division crew and the FBI have no idea, and that makes it juicy.

The problem the show will run into is trying to mix too many monsters with the larger Olivia, Massive Dynamic story. They are at times completely separate, as is the case this week, and may only cause each episode to feel short. Olivia Dunham and crew were able to help the families of the missing persons by solving their disappearances, but they learned almost nothing about the Hughes family, which seems more important to the overall story. Nothing tied Andre Hughes to Massive Dynamic or William Bell or Walter Bishop and if they get more stories like this we'll have to have two teams. One to follow the Bishops, one to follow Olivia.

This was a little repetitive and reminded me too much of "Unleashed" or "The Transformation." Yes this is part of the show to have mutated people, but at least give us a link to the bigger story.

Three out of five randomly chosen glyphs.


Review: Fringe 2.1 - "A New Day in the Old Town"

The fall TV season is yet again upon us. No doubt most of you have already picked the shows you are going to watch and have decided to give some new shows a chance. I was not as prepared this year as I was last year and I know I'm missing Glee and Vampire Diaries but I am going to try and pick up Modern Family, V, and Flash Forward.

I'll also still be reviewing Fringe, Dollhouse, and Clone Wars for TVZ, as well as a couple others possibly. The fall season took most of us by surprise as we'd all be watching summer shows with much enthusiasm and I think the new shows didn't see that spectacular. I know we've all been surprised a little and I hope V and Flash Forward continue that.

Fringe premiered last week and I have a review pending at TVZ, so make sure you stop by and check it out when it posts. Also, ABC posted the first 15 minutes of Flash Forward and I know it's probably too early to say anything, but I think I'll like this one. Give it a watch, let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, here's the review of the latest episode of Fringe.

...and we're back. A quick recap of the season finale is in order. Thought not a cliffhanger, there are some parts that are integral to the story line in the premiere.

The season one bad guy, David Robert Jones, is dead. He was trying to use equipment powered by a power cell from Nina Sharp's robot arm to open a gateway into another universe. (If I had a nickel...) Peter stopped him by using a "patch" that Walter found in an old beach house. We also find that this universe's Peter may have been pulled from the another when his other version died. Walter mourned him at a grave that indicated he died when he was seven. The Observer intervened, helping Walter find this patch device. Olivia, still bubbling with uncertainty about her cortexifan induced powers, visited William Bell at the top of the World Trade Center.

That's all you need to know for now.

A man wakes up with a cut forehead in a car that's been in an accident. We're in Manhattan. He flees the scene, gains entrance to an apartment building, jumps a guy in the laundry room and drags his body back to his apartment. Once there the man crushes his own face like Playdough. He then takes a tool that looks like a large RF switch with two wires coming out of it, each ending in a three-pronged attachment. He jams one of these into the soft palette of the dead man, the other into his own mouth, hits a switch and begins grunting and shaking. The TV is playing the X-Files movie and we see now that the car wreck man now has the face of the dead man. The FBI and police are investigating the crash and when the agent asks who was driving the vehicle, another agent hands her a print out of Olivia Dunham.

Boston. Walter and Peter are in a grocery store shopping for custard ingredients. They banter, Peter's birthday is coming up, Walter makes a few unintended dirty comments about custard, when Peter's phone rings. They arrive at the scene of the accident and meet agent Amy Jessup (Meghan Markle) who begins grilling Peter as to what Fringe Division does for the FBI. Peter tells her it's all classified and asks where Charlie Francis is. Walter is checking out the car. Peter asks where Olivia is, and Agent Jessup says there was another vehicle out of which a man exited and left. No one was in the SUV licensed to Olivia Dunham. Walter, inside the car, hears static as the electronics all kick on. He gets out, the car revs its engine, the alarm goes off and suddenly Olivia Dunham crashes through the windshield onto the pavement.

Opening credits.

**A quick note here. Shortly after the season finale last spring, Kirk Acevado posted on his Facebook page a note that he'd been fired from the show. In shifting the production company to Vancouver, it seemed like a cost saving move to not pick up the options of secondary characters. Some saw it as a publicity stunt, some marked it up to reportedly common outbursts by Acevado as experienced on other shows, but no one knew if it was true. The production company and Fox said he wasn't fired, but the summer news was somewhat quiet about the matter.**

Dunham is wheeled into the ER at New York General with quite a few injuries. Broyles intercepts Agent Jessup with the "report" of the accident that says nothing was out of the ordinary, and makes her sign it. A doctor comes out and tells Peter and Walter that Olivia sustained too severe an injury to the brain and will likely not regain consciousness. Walter goes to see her, and apologizes, calling her Olive.

At a nearby bar, Broyles joins Peter for a few drinks. He tells Peter he's going to Washington; Fringe Division is being shut down. Peter questions what they were doing anyway, saying they were always too late. Too late to save Olivia. Back at the Federal building, Agent Jessup gains access to Fringe Division's files via a scrap of paper with a number on it. Where she got the paper we don't know yet. Peter runs into Rachel at the hospital who tells him Olivia had a living will saying not to put her on life support and in the morning they were going to unplug her. He goes in to see her, wrestles with emotions, leans in to kiss her and say goodbye when her eyes snap open and she speaks a phrase in a foreign language and then screams and sits up.

Olivia says she went somewhere, but someone is trying to stop her, but she doesn't remember anything. She begins freaking out and asks Peter to go get her gun. He goes to the Federal building in Boston where he finds out his credentials have been revoked. When an agent tries to escort him out, he throws a nifty release move, surprising the agent. Amy Jessup says she'll escort him. She already has the file he was requesting about the accident. The tire marks indicate the other car was speeding up, not stopping. And surveillance cameras got a picture of man they're en route to question. When she asks what Fringe does, he says, "Nothing." They find the body of a man matching the photo, but he's been dead a while. Jessup allows Walter to take to body to his lab. She asks if Walter's crazy, Peter says he is.

The man from the apartment enters a typewriter shop asking for a specific model that's never been made. The shop keep says as much but when the man persists, he says "Oh, you're one of them." It's been six years and he's not waiting around forever. The man takes a key and goes to a back room with a desk, a type writer, paper and mirror. He puts in paper and types, Mission Accomplished, Target Eliminated, In Fatal Car Crash, Meeting Prevented, Request Extraction. Then from the mirror, the reflection begins typing in an odd reverse sound. The message is, Negative, Mission Failure, Meeting Occurred, Target Still Alive. The man types, Request New Orders and the response is, Interrogate Target, Then Kill Her.

Peter takes Amy Jessup to the lab and gives her a little back story. They introduce everyone, Walter asks for custard ingredients and autopsy tools. Amy sees Jean the cow.

Charlie Francis visits Olivia in the hospital, she says she's fine. Charlie recaps a story about a domestic disturbance that went really wrong, in which his partner died and he was shot. He kept telling people he was fine but he wasn't. He was shaken and like him, she probably has a gun under her pillow. She cracks a little, says she's so scared she can't even load it. At the lab, Peter gets Walter to focus on the dead body instead of the custard (which Astrid is making) and they see in the mouth the three holes and it makes Walter remember something. A video tape of an experiment Walter and Bell did with a subject and a lot of drugs. The 30 year old taped subject talks about three nails in the mouth and a soldier from somewhere else that can look like any of us. Peter and Astrid put in a law enforcement alert for bodies matching that description. Olivia frantically tries to load her gun.

(right hand, light on the right)

Washington. A committee says Fringe Division is basically taking too much money and not providing any results. Broyles reminds them he's a colonel and they should thank God they don't see what's being stopped by Fringe Division. Another senator says that without some kind of proof, they have no choice. Nina meets Broyles on the steps and says it's important that the division stay operational. She and Broyles then kiss and she tells him to save the day like he always did.

Peter and Agent Jessup find another body with three holes in its mouth. Jessup reminds Peter that if this shape shifting person is a soldier, they do one thing; stay on mission, that being to kill Olivia. The soldier arrives at the hospital, surprising a nurse on a break. The same nurse shows up in Olivia's room and asks about her memory. She can remember going to meet someone but that's it. She feels like she went somewhere, talked to someone, then came back to the accident. (If you remember episode 1.20, right before she met with Bell, she was almost in an accident that I commented on seemed to have no purpose.) But she doesn't remember who she was meeting. The nurse prods her but she can't remember what she was supposed to do or what this person said. Something's hidden, but she doesn't know where. The nurse jumps on her and starts strangling her. Charlie, Peter and Agent Jessup arrive and put a couple bullets in the nurse who jumps out a window about 60 feet down and flees into the lower levels. The three pursue. The nurse jumps Charlie and he fires a few shots. The other two catch up to see Charlie standing over the nurse. The electronic changing box is on the ground nearby.

Peter brings Olivia flowers and they recap a bit about the soldier and what she asked Olivia. Peter repeats the phrase she uttered when she woke up. She doesn't remember, but asks if it's Latin. Peter says it's Greek and his mother used to say it to him every night before he went to bed. It means, "Be a better man than your father" and was a code between them meaning keep your people close. They smile at each other. As he leaves she asks if they're shutting Fringe down, he says no.

In front of the capital, Peter stops Agent Broyles and gives him the shape-shifting box. Walter had said the technology is not from here and it's proof. The Feds can have it, use it to make an army to look like anyone, but they are not shutting Fringe down. Peter says they're done reacting, they're not going to be too late any more, they're calling the shots. Agent Jessup is cataloging Fringe cases and ties them to Bible books, chapters and verse, ie 7546B-FD - The Beast, R19:19. Peter returns to the lab where Astrid, Walter and the cow surprise him with birthday custard. Olivia loads her gun with a smile.

In the hospital basement, Charlie Francis wheels a laundry basket to the incinerator. He removes a bag of laundry and we see the body of...Agent Charlie Francis. The shape shifter dumps Charlie's body into the incinerator.

(Commercial glyphs spell TOWER)

Was Kirk Acevado partially right? Was he "fired?" His character certainly was. I think, however, his option on Fringe was not picked up but they felt the need to wrap up his character. And wrap it up they must. The Soldier now is without its shape shifting technology, which means it has to be Charlie for a while. It interrogated Olivia but didn't kill her. It also didn't discover anything as her memory was scrabbled via windshield and asphalt. He now has to be close enough to her to find the information he needs without causing her suspicion enough to withhold it. However, how long can this soldier remain Charlie? Does this transfer via the little box change just the physical appearance or does some of Charlie Francis go with it, enabling this soldier to act as Charlie? The length of this character's run is uncertain.

The tone of the show changed at the very end. Peter says they're going to stop just reacting but what that means exactly for their group will have to be seen in weekly installments. We will have to see if Olivia regains her memory of what she and William Bell discussed. We will have to see if the shape shifting Charlie continues to be the killing soldier or if he becomes something more intricate and sustainable.

And what of Agent Amy Jessup? She was brought in rather quickly as though Charlie's departure was a foregone conclusion. Given the Acevado news and her early debate with Peter, you could see the cast list shifting from space. But what will she bring if not another eye-rolling skeptical attitude, playing by the Federal book and only willing to get involved if it moves the plot along. Her itemizing the Fringe cases by scripture was unique to this show. The area of spirituality has yet to be explored by Fringe and my guess is Agent Jessup will become the Christian foil to the group's emerging war on other plains of existence. I'm also wondering where she got that paper with the access code needed to get into Fringe Division's files. Is she a mole? Is someone using her?

I'm disappointed we got roughly 20 seconds with William Bell and now he's a nearly forgotten memory. I'm also a bit disappointed that Nina Sharp and Agent Broyles had to kiss. It immediately reminded me of season two of Heroes and the Petrelli matriarch, and frankly the less I'm reminded of Heroes the better.

I'm looking forward to season two and this episode picked up right where we left off. I liked the nod to X-Files and I'm excited to see more.

Three and a half randomly chosen glyphs.


Word Usage - Corporate Speak

Corporate meeting speak is a bane on most wordies' existences. When middle to upper management convenes to go over plans for the year or catch up on everyone's progress, we understand that time is a factor. You may have only a short time in which to get important information across and dwelling on minutia eats up precious seconds and it bores the crap out of those not intimately involved. So you dumb it down and shorten it up, but the words are still smart sounding so as not to reveal the true nature of the actions. You don't want people to think you're ineffectual either, and being to curt can impact your ability to manage your people.

However, there are some words and phrases that are meaninglessly long or overblown and what they are replacing may not need replacing.

The following are examples of words or phrases that should be retired from our vocabulary and not because they are wrong, but because they border on double speak or redundancy.

Spend (or other verbs) as a noun, ie "...our third quarter spend." That "ing" was really tripping people up.

Take it off line. To a tech, that means shut something down. To a manufacturer, it means to remove a worker. To cube dwellers, it means to talk outside of the meeting. You can't say, "We'll talk later?"

Skill set. You're adding an 'e' and 't' to say the same thing. More words doesn't mean better meaning. "This doesn't fit my skills." That works for me.

Going forward - (quoting my friend Dstew) "Indicates I am an executive; I'm keeping this intentionally vague." This can be said for most things said during quarterly meetings.

Higher level - Another friend (Mer) suggested this one as a way of indicating that nothing will be accomplished at the meeting. "Those decisions will have to be made at a higher level."

30,000 ft. view - I don't know why this one bothers me. It's to indicate a broad, macro view of a project or business goal. Rather than get mired in minutia and micromanaging, a group will step back and assess things as a whole.

Big pole in the tent - Again, don't know why this gets to me; probably because it's over used. To indicate the biggest problem/project a group or company is currently addressing. It makes me feel like if it's not accomplished, the whole thing falls apart, which I guess is the point. I just hate the idea of getting paid by a circus.

If you have more, please add them to the comments.


Word Usage - Misuses

SeedListening to NPR this morning, an interviewee used the word decimate. It was used incorrectly. It wasn't the man's fault, we all use words incorrectly. Either through lack of knowledge, high levels of laziness or a zealous adherence to tradition, we all use words and phrases as they were not meant to be used.

We use words and phrases to describe things, as humans are want to do. Our language separates us from other animals. We represent objects and ideas as symbols written into a medium to be read later by other humans. Over time these symbols change, grow, evolve and in a few hundred, or even a few dozen years can mean something completely different or lose their meaning altogether.

Phrases are zeitgeist and will drop out of use once the need for them has passed, but some linger and become indelible points in the lexicon. We move passed the use of certain transportation, we no longer adhere to archaic laws, we've modernized many agricultural or pre-industrial methods. The phrases and words used to tell other humans about these things passes in time as well.

The problem is that some don't. Some linger but without the original context they tend to be used incorrectly. Take decimate. The word, as agreed to by a selection of usage experts, can mean to destroy but not completely. Its original meaning is to take one tenth; it's in the word itself. Decimatus or decimare in Latin; to kill (or have killed) one tenth. My Latin/Roman research is weak at best but I've heard tell it was a punishment from the ruler of the time to upstart villages that a Roman legion would go in and kill every tenth male. Hence the term.

Now we use the term to mean 'near total destruction.' It could be 'destroy 9/10ths of something' leaving only a small portion. It's generally accepted that a large number of people killed is okay for this usage, but livestock and crops it's not. The hilarity was the phrase "literally decimated."

But that's not the only word that's being misused in our 21st century vocabulary. Without going the obvious route of trying to wrap a single blog post around the use of 'irony,' I've asked some folks what their pet peeves are with English words and uses. Feel free to add yours to the comments.

Literally - Literally has become a punctuation. When you want to express how large an impact an event had or how truly awe inspiring someone's actions were, you include literally to indicate to the listener that was happened really happened. "He literally jumped out of his skin." No, he didn't. Literally has become what super and mega and ultra have been in past decades. It's not enough something has to be good, it has to be best, then super, then mega, etc. etc. Someone can't almost jump out of their skin, or virtually, or nearly, or seem like, they have to literally do it. Let's use literally with actually more often, please.

Fall Down - Redundant. The definition of "fall" is to descend or drop or be lowered or lose status. The converse being the phrase rise up as though you could rise any other direction.

Similarly, Flush Out. I've never seen anyone flush in anything. Also, it does not mean the same thing as flesh out. (I'm looking at you, corporate consultants.)

For all INTENTS and PURPOSES - It's not for all intensive purposes. Though you could technically use the later phrase for a product that you use in emergencies, for all your intensive purposes.

In lieu of - means "instead of." It doesn't mean "in view of" or "in light of." Incorrectly used: In lieu of recent events, the offices will be closed. Correctly used: Please contribute to the fund in lieu of flowers.

A whole nother - I'm extraordinarily guilty of this one. Derived from another whole or a whole other, this surprisingly dates back to the early 1900's, something I thought was rather odd. It always felt like a newish phrase.

There are other words that are just plain misspoken. You could spend days with people, listening to their idiosyncratic turns of phrase; an 'x' here, a dropped 'g' there. After a time, I begin to wonder if the language is evolving again to suit the needs of lazy tongues.

Supposively or supposibly or supposenly - For all concerned, say it with me suh-pose-ED-lee. This sort of relates to 'supposed to' not 'suppose to.' Yes that d-t combo is hard to get your mouth around, but let's give it a shot.

Sufficide to say - Sufficide, from Pfizer. Treats swollen tongue and hurty brain. It's suffice it to say.

Strenth - When sports broadcasters use this, it makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Then I realize they are broadcasters because they were likely athletes, not English majors. Gimme a G!

Then there are those that just plain don't make sense.

Head over heels. Understandably. We are normally walking around with our heads over our heels. Originally said as heels over head to indicate someone doing a cartwheel or somersault.

Next - Corporate lingo.



What stars Elijah Wood and contains a hero's journey fighting against all odds against a red-eyed monster and where his party numbers up to nine?

But wait, some of his party die. There's a couple of old stage and screen actors lending their talents. There's a fight on a bridge, there's winged beasts and a talisman that rules all nine souls.

If you guessed 9 then you're right. If you guess something else...well, you're right as well but let's stay current, shall we? The similarities between Lord of the Rings and 9 are mainly Elijah Wood's fault. His voice - at times pleading, at others resolved - is so ingrained into our film going subconscious that it's hard to picture him doing anything but his Frodo role. At times during 9 I was actually waiting for him to mutter something from The Fellowship. Wood is sadly one of those actors whose careers will be ever tied to the one ring. It will take an Herculean effort and so many films over such a length of time to remind us that he's able to do other things.

But first, he has to do other things. If he continues to be the wide-eyed manchild who sets upon a nigh impossible mission to save Middle Earth or Post Machine Earth or even Penguin Earth, he's going to always be remembered as Frodo, just with different outfits.

9, then, ends up being a very short, action packed reminder of what Wood did in Fellowship and the rest. 9 in and off itself is charming and fun and entertaining. It is not thought provoking or ground breaking. Its thickly veiled messages are a spoof meant to eliminate themselves from the story entirely. This leaves you with the feeling that you've possibly watched a 79 minute commercial for a unique line of toys.

The movie's attention to detail was stunning. All the doll characters sprang to life and each was gifted with their own stunning personalities that had only a little to do with the voice acting. The screenplay and direction was really incredible. The pace and tension the movie builds and releases was enough to keep me riveted and a little sad when it was over so soon. But in the end, its length and Wood's ubiquitous voice reminded me only too well that there wasn't much of a story to be told.

It's a definite theater viewing movie, just make sure you go some place that has good food or go to a matinee. Otherwise you might feel cheated. Also, the role of the scientist in charge of building the big thing the military wants to use as a weapon? The actor's name is Oppenheimer.


Avatars and Aliases

D&D Dwarf Figure
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Lil Miss Austin asked me the other day why people on the computer call me "xadrian." I didn't have a good answer for her right away.

I spun in circles. At first I was taken aback that she would utter that name. She has an email address and I've sent her some links to Flickr sites with neat Lego builds, so she may have seen my name somehow that way. But that name to me is not something my family or my friends in Austin and surrounding areas use. If you asked my old friends from high school or college who I was, they wouldn't say xadrian.

It's a name I picked up, or made up, a long time ago. I was writing a fantasy story in which the villain's name was Xadrian. When I started becoming more and more involved in the Internet community back in 1996-97, I started out with names like Chimaera and Muad'dib but ended up using xadrian when I registered for an AIM handle. Since then I used it for all my forum names until most people online knew me only as xadrian (or Ex Adrian.)

One guy's kid even thought it was pronounced X Ray Dan, which became a back up handle used at DeviantArt (which doesn't matter because I don't use that site any more.) But it is pronounced with a Z, zay dree un. It's funny, people don't say Ex Avier.

So LMA posed this question to me and I didn't want to give her the whole back story, but I wanted to make sure she understood. I told her that she and her brother call me daddy. The people I live with and go to parties with and play basketball with call me Ben. The people with which my interaction is just on the computer call me xadrian. I said it's just a name, but that doesn't mean I'm a different person.

And as soon as I said that I knew it was wrong.

Daddy, Ben, xadrian are all different people. Daddy doesn't complain about work or ask if they talked about the UK taking over Turks & Caicos at kindergarten. Ben doesn't talk about the latest episode of Phineas and Ferb while out for happy hour. xadrian doesn't talk about his rent or car troubles. They are different people. They are based on different interactions. They are forged in different environments and respond differently to stimuli.

They're all based on the same person, but that person has interchangeable masks to meet different situations. Normally you just go through life like this; everyone has a drawer full of masks. I've just named mine.

I don't think she wants her own mask for the Internet yet. She wants a bank account instead.

Carry on.