Ken Jennings Has a Blog

Former Jeopardy! stalwart Ken Jennings recently started a blog. No doubt, part of it has to do with him wanting to promote his first book that will be coming out in September. However, it's a really good read, with minimal book-plugging.

If you ever watched a KJ Jeopardy! episode, you would see him as a rather quiet, geeky, dorky player. Reading his words, however, will change your mind -- he's geeky, dorky, and articulate. And man, this guy has watched a lot of TV.

So far he's delved into the legal battle that erupted from the publishing of an "unofficial" Seinfeld trivia book, as well as devoted an entire entry to the subject of failed television shows that were based on movies titled: “I know John Lithgow. I worked with John Lithgow. And you, Bruce Davison, are no John Lithgow!”.

One great aspect of his writing is that he'll spew a ton of trivial facts, references, quotations, character names, etc., but not give any hints as the where in the pop-culture universe they come from -- either you're in on the joke, or you're out in the cold.

Check out the blog here. I'll soon be adding a section of links to interesting blogs/whatevers that are by people I don't know personally, but still enjoy.


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Happy Anniversary

Yes, it was two years ago today that I was so bored at work, I started a blog. It was one of my most clever entries.

Thanks to you, the readers, all eight of you, who have read and commented from way back when.


Blogger Coolhand complained...

NO problem!

6/29/2006 2:37 PM
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Blogger jomilkman complained...

we're still here, dudebro

6/30/2006 9:24 AM
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Summer sports

I guess the NHL still hasn't gotten the memo -- "Your championship series of games takes place in the second week of JUNE."

Despite that and my total lack of enthusiasm for professional hockey, I did watch game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. It was actually good, despite one of the teams being from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I'm not sure what it is about hockey that doesn't attract more people -- the action is pretty non-stop, players are crashing into boards every 30 seconds, you're almost guaranteed a brawl, and if the arena is packed, it's a loud and high-energy atmosphere. Watching the game in HD on Monday night was actually enjoyable. Maybe if a goal counted for six points, things would be different.

Hockey also one-ups basketball late in close games. While the final minute of a close basketball game might actually take 10 minutes with all the intentional fouling that goes on, hockey pretty much take as long as the clock says. How refreshing.

I also caught the last half of the NBA Finals game seven last night. Bill Simmons was pretty right on that the subplot of this year's finals was 90's NBA vs. 00's NBA. The Heat went Michael-Jordan-style with a superstar (Wade) an all-star (Shaq) everybody else on the team. The Mavs had their superstar (Dirk), but everyone else on the team was called upon to give it their all -- not just feed the ball to Dirk and hope for the best.

It was a pretty good game. I wasn't rooting for either team really, just the sport of basketball. Now that Antoine Walker is a world champion, I can sleep easy.

Remember when the Celtics were the greatest NBA franchise of all-time? I hardly do either. Their media guide probably still says it. It's a joke when you see the quality of play that took place over the last two rounds of the NBA playoffs and then get a piece of direct mail asking for several hundreds of dollars to watch the Celtics play the Pacers. You know a team is in trouble when it resorts to advertising who they're playing, rather than who is playing for them.


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Carl's Netflix Review #6

The 4400 (season 1)
4/5 stars

The 13-episode-season is one of the few good trends happening in television (reality programming and talent shows of the average joe/celebrity kind being a couple of the worst and most tired). Viewers are treated with rich storylines that run for the 13 episodes, and in most cases -- because these programs are on cable -- it's hard to miss a week when a show is repeated almost every day. The doldrums of summer repeats is subsiding.

HBO invented this practice and now FX, TNT and USA are moving forward with it -- and with success.

I'm not sure how I heard about The 4400. I saw somewhere that the third season was to premier last week, so I decided now would be a good time to Netflix the DVD's and play catch-up. I'm always willing to give a science fiction program a look.

The 4400 is the poor man's X-Files, which I suppose is better than no x-Files at all. In the pilot episode, 4400 people who were thought to have been abducted an disappeared over the last 50 years all of a sudden return in the mountains of Seattle. The show follows the stories of these 4400 "returnees" and the federal investigators who are trying to figure it all out. Your average show consists of a few storylines:

1) Investigation of the week: It seems that each of the 4400 has also gained some special powers since they were away. Usually every week someone ends up dead and it's up to Federal investigators Tom and Diane to solve a crime.

2) The pregnant girl and her boyfriend who also happened to be her grandmother's boyfriend because he's from 1951 and she's from 1991: Her baby might be the second coming of Christ or something. She can sense its feelings while still in the womb. Season one ends with them on the way to the hospital.

3) Boring Billy and his brother's boink-able girlfriend: This is the most annoying subplot. Billy -- I think his character name is actually Seth -- can heal things just by touching them. How Carnivale. He can also suck life out of people by the same method, if he's pissed. For some reason his younger brother's hot girlfriend is immediately attracted to him upon his return (she was 14 when he disappeared, now she's 17). He's conflicted, but he's also horny and they have sex.

4) Federal agent Tom's son Kyle: He was with Billy/Seth -- his cousin -- when Seth was abducted. Kyle went into a coma instead. In the season one finale, it turns out whatever/whoever was behind the abductions was using his body as a ways of communicating with modern-day people. Too bad he took a three year nap.

The writing is pretty atrocious and the sexual chemistry between Tom and Diane is pretty forced, but I can't stop watching -- and I can't help from giving it four stars. Peter Coyote is the biggest name in the cast.

Despite all this I'm liking it. If you're bored of what's on TV in the summer, and miss the X-Files enough to want to see a shadow of what it used to be, check out The 4400.


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Just Cause

I'm not one to politicize things, howeverI was reading the Phoenix today and saw something that I'm going to put on my radar, and I think you should too.

To sum up the article: The House of Representatives just recently passed legislation to allow telephone and internet companies to charge for different levels of meaningful access to the Internet. I'm not talking about RCN's stupid MACH10 or MACH7 or whatever the hell tiers of connection service they have; this is about actual content. Would you like it if your ISP slowed down service to Yahoo! because Google paid them a little extra to be put in the "faster loading" lane? How about having Craig's List blocked for "security reasons?" and not the fact that it might be because of competition reasons?

Do you want to have to pay for faster access to prefered websites? Why should Internet service providers be allowed to tell us what is worth our time?

This site is a little preachy, but it has the information. Look and decide for yourself. If you look at the list of coalition members, you will see it's a group from both sides of the aisle. This has nothing to do with Red vs. Blue -- it's all about common sense. Members of Congress have not been known for this, so please remind them.

This legislation moves to Senate shortly. Let's hope it dies there.


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iPod Bash

Well, I caved and bought an iPod on eBay. I'm not a big fan of Apple and the weird consumer-cult vibe that surrounds it, but I couldn't find anything with a larger capacity (a mammoth 60GB, compared to similar hard drive-based players from other manufacturers), plus the fact that more and more car stereo manufacturers are developing units that allow for iPod integration.

Having bought the iPod, I now have to live with iTunes on my computer. This is where my major beef with Apple lies -- iTunes has almost zero flexibility. I'm an organizational freak. I despise myself when my apartment or computer desk gets even a little messy. I like for things to be stacked and sorted by whatever method that is best suited for those things.

The same goes for music on my computer. I just recently downloaded the beta version of Windows Media Player 11 - and it's great. The library feature allows me to sort my music in several ways, and I always get to see album artwork as well as detailed track information (not just album artist, but track contributing artists and composers), that get updated from the Internet.

This is were iTunes fails; and that failure gets loaded onto my iPod. In WMP, I'm able to organize my soundtracks and compilation albums by simply entering that the album artist is "Soundtrack" or "Various Artists" -- pretty simple. WMP knows what tracks belong to what soundtrack or compilation, and it also knows who the performer of each track is.

Not so with iTunes. iTunes doesn't believe in "Soundtrack" or "Various Artists". iTunes believes in listing every single track by every single artist. Now, on my iPod, when I search by Artist, I have to go through a list that includes Sinead O'Conner, Paul Carrack and the Redfunk Orchestra all because they appear on The Wall Live in Berlin. How hard is it to list all tracks from that album under Roger Waters? Incredibly hard, since iTunes/iPod won't let me.

Why do I have to go through Mick Jagger as an artist because he introduces Jethro Tull on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus? It's pretty stupid if you ask me.

To compound this lack of foresight into simple music organization, the iPod will not recognize every track on an album if there are multiple artists. For instance, if I search for Artist and select Johnny Cash, I can look at all his albums, but when I select on of this albums (the Essential Johnny Cash), all I can see are tracks for which he was the only artist -- meaning, his duet with June Carter Cash on Jackson does not show up if I search this way. I have to look up Johnny Cash/June Carter to see that part of the album. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

So if I want to listen to a full album, I have to search through a list of ALL my albums, listed alphabetically (since that's the only way to list things in iTunes/iPod). I don't know about you, dear reader, but I have not yet taken it upon myself to memorize every album name I have (over 250) and index them in my brain alphabetically.

Alternatively, I can make a playlist for every album and call it what I want, such as "Artist - Album" and play them like that. Sure, that won't take long since I have to do it for every F-ing album.

For a company that prides itself on simplicity, why is it so difficult to listen to my music, unhampered? Microsoft has Apple beat on this one.

So, to give a consumer's summary of the iPod and iTunes: +1 point for capacity, -100 points for incredibly stupid organization and inflexibility.

iPod/iTunes: -99 points.


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One of My Favorite Phrases Is...

... Word Cup Fever. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's the global implications -- like Spanish flu. Either way, as with the Word Baseball Classic, I'm looking forward to minimal coverage by the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" and derision from local sports radio.

I think that as the new generation of sportscasters and commentators replaces the old guard, we'll see somewhat increased coverage of the world's most popular sport, simply because this new guard might have actually played soccer in their youth. Can you see Glenn Ordway as a striker and Eddie Andleman as a wing? How about Dick Ebersol as a goalie?

I agree that soccer isn't the most fun sport to watch on television, but how is golf any better?


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Last night I had a dream in which I stayed up for something like 36 hours straight. I woke up this morning totally exhausted, even though I had eight hours of sleep.

My favorite dream occurred when I was 12 or 13 years old. In reality, we had recently moved into a new house in Lexingtn and my mother had not gone food shopping for a while, so the cabinets were bare of snack food. In my dream, I was so hungry that I broke into my old house to eat their food.


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X-Men: The Last Slap in the Face

I promised myself that I would not rely on movie reviews to provide content for this blog, but some things are too hard to avoid, especially when 20th Century Fox decided to steal my money by showing 104 minutes of absolute near-crap and calling it a movie.

I am not a super X-Men fan. I've read probably less than a dozen X-Men comics, watched a bunch of episodes from the early 90's animated series, and enjoyed the last two films (X2 in particular).

X-Men: The Last Stand (because X3 or X-Men III would be too much of a complicated title for audeinces to understand -- I'll refer to it as X3) is at times an incomplete movie as well as a movie that tries to do way too much and fails horribly. To paraphrase a review from Ain't-It-Cool, imagine trying to stuff several James Bond plots into one movie, except cut off about 40 minutes from your average Bond film running time. Kill M, Q, Miss Moneypenny. Rob Bond of all his gadgets and cars, and castrate him for good measure. Add mutants and you have the third X-Men movie.

The sad thing is that there are elements of X3's story that could have made it into a GREAT film -- one of the few sci-fi/action/comic book films that could have addressed current American social and politcal issues, as well as deep personal issues that affect nearly all of us. The movie screws this up in several ways.

Major characters are killed with little effect, could-be-major characters are introduced with little or no backstory (or dialogue for that matter). The final few minutes feel like the final few minutes of a Police Academy movie. Truthfully, the plot and subplots of X3 could have easily been divided into two or three separate movies, had they been expanded. Instead, the audience is treated to half-baked plot, poorly shot fight sequences, stupid one-liners and incredibly raw writing -- oh, and the feeling of a rug being pulled out from underneath us during the final scene and the "secret" post-credits scene.

Why couldn't the studio have trusted us, the fans? It's doubtful that anyone who skipped X1 or X2 would want to see X3, so why not make an X3 that would be enjoyed by those who did enjoy X1 and X2, rather than trying even more to broaden your audience? I don't blame director Brett Ratner for this. He was the captain of a sinking ship. The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of a studio that botched the creative process of what could have been one of the best comic book-adapted films ever.


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Carl's Netflix Review #5

A Very Long Engagement
3/5 stars

Yes, it's been over two months since my last mini-review, and it's been nearly that long since that last time I've sat down to watch a DVD at home.

If you've ever seen a movie by Jean Pierre Jeunet (The City of Lost Childre, Amelie), you know that they are visually rich like a dark chocolate cake, ready to give you diabetes. A Very Long Engagement falls onto the same dessert tray, though it is a bit darker and lacking the same kind of "magic" that was felt throughout his last picture, Amelie.

The premise of the film is that five French soldiers during WWI are court marshalled and left for dead in no-man's land as punishment. At first, it seems that all perished, however as we see through the eyes of Mathilde (Audrey Tatou), whose fiance was one of the five, that is not necessarily true.

It's hard to talk about this film without comparing it to Amelie, JPJ's last film, that featured several of the same actors, crew, and storytelling style. Whereas Amelie was light, airy and magical, AVLE is much more somber, depressing and wet. Amelie has talking photo-strips and neurotic waitresses. AVLE has hookers-turned-assassins and people getting stabbed in the ass. Nearly every character in Amelie has an interesting backstory that somehow becomes pertinent sometime during the course of the film, AVLE has several characters with interchangeable backstories that sometimes feel like filler.

My biggest problem with AVLE is that there are too many indistinguishable characters. JPJ makes an effort at the beginning of the film to introduce us to the five condemned soldiers, but as the mystery unfolds and more soldiers and family members come into play, it gets confusing. Maybe the film's French dialogue causes that.

Anyhow, if you're a fan of JPJ's, or just a fan of Amelie, AVLE is worth checking out and for making your opinion.


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