Friday, December 31, 2010

My Predictions for 2011

I only earned a 7.5 out of 13 for 2010’s predictions, but that will not fiscourage me from giving it another go in 2011:

1. Although he lacks the political skills of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama will make a minor comeback solely on the basis of progressive hatred over the agenda of the Republican House.

2. Much of nothing will come from the threats of ObamaCare repeal.

3. The financial woes of states and cities will increase. Conservatives will blame them on unions. Democratic mayors will propose spending cuts and tax increases on business, but will ultimately seek federal bailouts.

4. Immigrant amnesty is not dead. The debate will focus on whether the children of illegal immigrants ought to be citizens. Those who say no will be demonized as racist.

5. There will be no significant economic recovery until late in the year, if at all.

6. The influence of the Tea Party is going to scare off a couple of potential GOP presidential candidates. Most surprising? Mitt Romney, whose time has likely passed, anyway.

7. Small acts of Islamic terrorism against the European infrastructure are going to increase.

8. The tenth anniversary of 9/11 will prompt some smaller terrorist act in the United States. They will be foiled.

9. Bill Richardson will become Secretary of State.

10. Facebook’s popularity will peak after achieving mainstream status in 2010.

11. Miley Cyrus will have an alcohol or drug related run in with authorities which will confirm her inevitable slide into Lindsay Lohan territory.

12. The last Harry Potter will be the biggest movie hit of the year.

13. The Eye will hit 2 million visitors by New Year’s Eve. I can dream, yes?

Scorecard for 2010 Predictions

Last New year's Eve, I put on my prognosticator's hat and took some educated guesses about the coming year. Let us see how well I did.

1. The economy will still be in the dumps all year long. Barack Obama’s approval ratings will continue to sink as he opts to spend the country’s way out of it.
Spot on. I started with an easy one.
2. Some red state Democrat senator up for reelection hoping to score points with voters will change his or her vote on ObamaCare on its second time through.
It did not have to go through the Senate a second time, so i blew this one on procedural issues.
3. Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear sites. Obama will go cross=eyed trying to figure out what to say, much less how to respond.
Most everyone credits Israel with the Stuxnet worm ravaging iran's nuclear sites. It is not exactly the shock and awe I predicted, but there you go.
4. Hillary Clinton will resign as Secretary of State in anticipation of either challenging a weak Obama for the nomination or that his low approval ratings will compel him notto seek reelection at all.
I was wrong here. Definitely wrong on Hillary Clinton resigning to seek the Democratic nomination for president and probably wrong Barack Obama will have a primary opponent period.
5. Janet Napolitano will resign.
I figured at the time there would be more blowback from the Christmas Day Panty Bomber. No such luck.
6. The Lost series finale will not satisfactorily answers the questions posed over the last six seasons.
I liked it, but no one else appears to have.
7. Democrats inexplicably try to push illegal immigrant amnesty. It will be a diaster for them.
Got this one right just under the wire.
8. The Republicans will win the House, but not the Senate.
Bullseye!
9. Nevertheless, Democrats Chris Dodd and Harry Reid will lose their seats.
A split. Chris Dodd did not run for a hopeless reelection. harry Reid probably would have lost if he had not been running against a bad candidate like Sharron Angle.
10. Sarah Palin will continue to draw the ire of the left as she increases her prospects of getting the GOP nod in 2012.
Another freebie. I did not predict her kids would be so viciously attacked, however.
11. Iron Man II will be the big ht of the year.
Not quite. Final box office totals for 2010:

1. Toy Story 3 ($415,004,880)
2. Alice in Wonderland ($334,191,110)
3. Iron Man 2 ($312,128,345)
12. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will split up.
Rumors persist, but they are still hanging in there.
13. Sometime tomorrow, my Sitemeter will record my 500,000 hit. Thanks to all my visitors who have made it possible.
Indeed, it did. I hit a million yesterday, making 2010 a bigger year than all the previous combined. Thanks to everyone for making it happen!
That is 7.5 out of thirteen. Not good enough for a Vegas act, huh?

X-Files--"Soft Light"

“Soft Light” is one of many episodes which prove either being friends with or related to either Mulder or Scully is essentially painting a target on your back. It is also one of the more interesting monster of the week episodes. That is largely due to the great character actor Tony Scaloub playing the unfortunate soul who is the target of the investigation.

Scully is contacted in an unofficial capacity by one of her former students, Kelly Ryan, who just made detective in Richmond, Virginia. She is in over her head in her first case involving a missing person with only a large pile of ashes in his apartment as a clue to go on. Scully, empathetic to Ryan trying to make it in an old boys’ club, Drags Mulder off to help. While Mulder runs rings around the novice Ryan in pointing out forensic evidence, he draws the conclusion the man is not missing, but spontaneously combusted. Such a combination must make Ryan feel really good about herself, being shown up by a nut and all.

Turns out, Mulder pretty close. The killer is Chester Banton, a mild mannered scientist who had been working with dark matter, a theoretic element which an accident proves is not so theoretical anymore. After the accident, Banton’s shadow becomes a black hole which incinerates anyone who steps on it. Banton has accidentally killed two people, including the missing man from Ryan’s case. She sends two cops after him. They get killed, too. Only Mulder seems to know how to handle the guy. He arranges for Banton to be locked up, under soft light, in a mental hospital.

Up until this point, we have seen Banton played as a bum on the run, trying to stay out of the light so he will not catch a shadow. It is the scene in the hospital when he is finally interviewed by Mulder the character starts to shine. Shaloub plays him as an eccentric beta male type. It is perfect, because he is literally afraid of his own shadow. He is also fearful the government wants to use him for weapons research, so he is also quite the paranoid madman, too.

The problem is, he is right. While Mulder contacts Mr. X for help, he uses what he learns from the agent to make a kidnapping attempt from the hospital. A couple agents of the Syndicate are incinerated by Banton’s shadow in the process. He escapes to the scene of the original lab accident, hoping to repeat it in a suicide attempt. Unfortunately, Ryan gets in his way and is killed, too. That is what you get for being friends with Scully. Banton is betrayed by his lab partner and handed over to the Syndicate for experiments before our heroes can reach the lab to save him.

"Soft Light” features many elements of the first season favorite, “Ghost in the Machine.” There, Mulder was contacted by his former partner who needs help on a case in order to boost his career. The case involves a scientist working on theoretical artificial intelligence. The result winds up murdering people, including Mulder’s former partner. Conflict arises when he puts his own career aspirations ahead of his need for Mulder and Scully’s help. In the end, the project is stolen by the government. That is pretty much what happens here, right down to Mr. X replacing Deep Throat in the role of the Syndicate associate who betrays Mulder’s trust. All those elements are transferred to different characters in ‘Soft Light,” but it is all still there, right down to a mention of Robert Oppenheimer’s guily over having created a weapon for the government.

“Soft Light” does not feel like a rip off, however. There are enough unique elements to make the episode its own, unique animal. I also find Shhaloub’s portrayal of Banton to be a neat preview of many of the emotional quirks he will eventually exhibit as Monk a decade later, albeit not for comedic effect here. It does not quite measure up to “Ghost in the Machine” for me, but it is still good.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Karen Gillan

The number one Google attraction of the year is Karen Gillan, aka amy Pond from Doctor Who. I have a history of attempting to capitalize on new companions for the show, such as with Billie Piper and Freema agyeman. I even had a brief amount of success with two time guest star Jo Joyner. (Last photo, naturally.) But none of them compared to the avalanche of hits I received from photos of Karen Gillan in a bikini, Karen Gillan in her underwear, Karen Gillan in latex, and Karen Gillan drunk. (Scroll down on that last one.)

I tried to capitalize on Karen Gillan’s announcement as the new companion for Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor back in August 2009 with only minor success. However, once the first episode of the fifth series aired, Gillan-mania was in full swing. The bikini and underwear photos were a hot from April until late summer, serving as the biggest attraction for the Eye in years, to a steady stream of visitors since then. There was a surge on Christmas Day when the special episode “A Christmas Carol” aired even though she was barely in it. By barely in it, I mean both the episode and her outfit. One can only assume the good times will keep on rolling. Into April when the sixth series begins.

While I hate to throw cold water on the issue, but I must confess Gillan does not do much for me. She has nice legs and the Scottish accent is charming, but she is just not that thrilling. She looks like the cute sorority girl you dated a couple times, but can barely remember having done so. But like I have said, I am firmly in the Hits is Hits Philosophy of Blogging, so whatever floats your boat, I am happy to provide. In the name of improving the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom, if nothing else.I was not going to mention this since it is Photoshopped, but it has brought in a lot of visitors, so someone is interested. a fake photo of Stephanie Courtney in her underwear has brought visitors here on a daily basis since August. Courtney plays Flo on those Progressive.com insurance commercials. Quite a few folks appear to think she is attractive. Suit yourselves, people.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Katie Couric Suggests Muslim Version of The Cosby Show

Katie Couric has a suggestion for enlightening Americans who have tainted views of the Religion of peace because of 9/11, the USS Cole bombing, the beheading of Daniel Pearl, suicide bombings, honor killings, fatwas against cartoonists and authors, threats of another jewish holocaust, being referred to us The Great Satan, thousands of american soldiers killed by Jihadis, and a few other similar, minor issues--a Muslim version of The Cosby Show.

She is definitely onto something. I even came up with a cast:
Abdul Ahad--The patriarch. Gets big laughs blaming all his calamities, Mjor and minor, on Zionists conspiracy. For example, the dishwasher breaks. He blames it on a curse placed on the family by Abraham, their wacky Jewish neighbor, using the blood of a slaughtered Muslim baby. Abdul Ahad carries around a large switch to beat his wife for her frequent infractions of speaking at all or making eye contact with a man. Think, "To the moon, Alice!” with deep bruises. Big laughs.

Mussah--The wife and mother. Rarely has any dialogue. Wears different burka every episode in the same manner Bill Cosby used to wear different sweater. You cannot tell, though, because they are all black. Dies of old age at 42 in a poignant, Emmy baiting episode.

Achmed--Mussah’s aged father. Lives with them because his hands were chopped off for stealing an apple as a starving child. Think Abe Vigoda, but without hands. Pure comedy gold.

Muhammad--Oldest son. Now in Gitmo after being captured by Americans in Afghanistan. Never seen, but fodder for light political commentary on US foreign policy and that folksy racism only non-whites can get away with.

Udai,--Wise cracking youngest son. Becomes a suicide bomber at the ripe old age of ten by blowing up an Israeli supermarket when the after work crowd is shopping. He makes daddy proud.

Shimaz-Teenage daughter. Subject of honor killing after father discovers her Facebook account. Showed too much ankle up until that point, so she is the slutty one. Think Kelly Bundy with fewer teeth and more body hair.

Bariah--Youngest daughter. Given to a 43 year old Bedouin as a bride on her ninth birthday in a very special May sweeps episode.

Nassan--A Genie added late in the series as a Jump the Shark welement. He is kind of like The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones, except when his spells go wrong, it is torturous like 1,001 Arabian Nights. he lightens up the show after all the death and dismemberment Islam demands.
Yes, I can see how this idea would work in improving the Americans' warped view of that beautiful Muslim culture.

The Eye Logged Its 1,000,000th Hit This Morning

My 1,000,000th hit came from Leicaster, United Kingdom at 7:04 AM. The visitor was looking for this photo of Kaley Cuoco.

X-Files--"F. Emasculata"

F. Emasculata“ is one of those rare episodes of the series that feels more like a standard cop show than X-Files. the only feature that says it belongs on the show is the loose tie to the overall mythology. In hindsight, it does not fit well into the mythology unless you speculate the bugs that carry the title injection lead to the later experiments with the bees. I do not recall any connection emerging, but that could be my lapse of memory. I promise to flog myself thirty lashes with a wet noodle as penance if this episode turns out to be a bigger piece of the puzzle than I recall.

A scientist researching in the jungles of Costa Rica for possible new drug sources for Pink Pharmaceuticals comes across the corpse of a hog covered in pustules and crawling with strange insects. A pustule bursts in his face, squirting a sticky fluid all over him. Later that night, he is desperately radioing for help. When help arrives sometime later, the scientist is dead.

Flash ahead to a prison in Virginia where prisoner Robert Torrance receives a package. It contains an animal leg which looks like it has been infected by the same disease as the hog in Costa Rica. Soon, the entire prison is quarantined, allegedly by the Center for Disease Control. Over a dozen prisoners, including Torrance, have been infected. Torrance uses the panic to escape with his old partner in crime.

Mulder and Scully are inexplicably assigned to assist federal marshals in assisting in the capture of Torrance and his partner. Neither can figure out why. This is not an FBI matter. They are not the only ones in the dark. The marshalls have no idea there is a contagion being contained or that Torrance is infected. Mulder joins the manhunt while Scully, suspicious about the strange goings on at the prison, elbows her way in to find the truth.

The chase for Torrance is a standard police procedural until it is discovered Torrance’s partner died on the run after a pustule on his face burst. Scully learns the prison quarantine is what she thinks a CDC operation, but later learns and informs is a purposeful infection of prisoners by Pink Pharmaceuticals in order to save time on research. She informs Mulder, who later discovers the Cigarette Smoking Man is in on it.

The revelation begins the true conflict of the episode. Mulder, ever obsessed with revealing the truth, wants to go to the media to inform the public of the contagion. The Cigarette smoking man says no in that smug way of his. It will cause a panic that may cost more lives than the disease. Torrance needs to be captured quietly. Scully, still stuck in the prison because she may be infected, too, agrees. Lying to the public goes against everything Mulder is working for, but he reluctantly agrees. It is painful to face a logical argument against beliefs you hold dear, particularly when your greatest enemy and closest ally both agree on it.

Mulder learns through Torrance’s girlfriend, who is also infected, he is planning to leave for Toronto by bus. Mulder and the marshals catch up to him and defuse a hostage situation, but a sniper kills Torrance before he can implicate Pink Pharmaceuticals. All evidence, including the corpses, are burned inside the prison, so there is nothing left of the conspiracy. Had Mulder or Scully gone public, there were plans to implicate the two. Cue foreboding music. The Syndicate is out to get them.

While the mythology connection is flimsy and quickly forgotten, it is not a bad episode. It is interesting to see Mulder and Scully working apart in roles that emphasize their crime fighting skills. They do so without being corny. Mulder is not the ubber-profiler who knows every step Torrance is going to make even before he does. Dr. Scully does not come up with a miracle cure by the end. In fact, they are both hapless victims right until the end and beyond.

The way the contagion is presented is disgusting. The exploding pustules that spray fluid everywhere are the nastiest concept the show has come up with so far. There is at least half a dozen that explode, so you get an eyeful on a fairly regular basis. The brief time Scully may have been infected does not carry much drama. By that point, we have long since figured out the disease is spread by the exploding pustules. That is the only real drag on the episode outside of the forced mythology aspect. It is not for the weak of stomach, but it is an entertaining episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Kaley Cuoco

Coming in at # 2 as far as Google Image Search is concerned is Kaley Cuoco. The hot chick who gives all geeks hope hass an impressive four images on the Google Image Search front page which lead to the Eye: this one, the first photo, this one, and finally this bikini photo.

I got into the habit of posting a photo of Cuoco the day of every new episode of The Big Bang Theory. It has paid off in spades. The Eye gets a steady stream of hits on a daily basis from any combination of those four photos with a huge surge often occurring after an episode airs. The surges usually last well into the next day. Bloggers take note, if you follow the Hits is Hits Theory of Blogging like I do.

Cuoco is also on Twitter.

In spite of having four photos regularly bringing in hits from Google to the Eye, cuoco still has not been the number one draw to the blog. The number one beauty has brought in over 100,000 hits since April, virtually all of them from science fiction geeks in the United Kingdom, and still counting.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Doctor Who Series Six Trailer

It looks like we have a lot of scenes from the first three episodes.

The first two episodes are said to be one story taking place in the southwest of United States. Hence, we have shots of the Doctor in the Utah desert, wearing a Stetson, in a straightjacket imprisoned at Area 51, battling Men in Black. Encountering astronauts and grey aliens, and parked in the Oval Office. River song is a big part of the episodes.

The third is the one written by Neil Gaiman. It looks to be set in the 17th century or swo France. Gaiman is masterful at weaving tales of gothic horror. His work has been fantastic since I first noticed his award winning run on DC Comics’ Sandman. I am looking forward to see what he can do with the Doctor.

From unknown episodes: More Nazis. Those always make good villains. The faux TARDIs from “The Lodger” returns. That episode has to be part of the season story arc. Will we finally find out who was building his/her own TARDIS? Is it me, or does Amy look possessed in some of those scenes? The Doctor reiterates her name deliberately as if he has to remind her of who she is. The Ood return, too. I am surprised. They are a holdover from the Russell T. Davies era who have really run their course. But a mystery does remain how their technology has been so rapidly advancing, so perhaps Steven Moffat is picking up with that.

I had heard Mark Sheppard is in the Utah set episode. He is not in the trailer, though.

This season looks scarier than usual. I am hoping it is. Doctor Who does gothic horror often better than science fiction. Moffat has a penchant for it. I have already mentioned Gaiman does, too. Spring cannot get here fast enough.

X-Files--"The Calusari"

The formula of “The Calusari” is to borrow liberally from The Omen, The Exorcist, and Rosemary’s Baby, add Mulder and Scully, then cross your fingers hoping no one notices. I am not a huge horror fan, but I recognize the biggies of the genre. The story added some particularly gruesome kills--the most gruesome of the series so far--as a distractive from the episode being so derivative, but the combination gives the episode a derivative and undue grotesque feel.

The episode begins with a family visiting an amusement park. They have a baby with them. The baby loses his balloon. The father takes a balloon away from his nine year old son, Charley, and gives it the crying baby. He promises to get Charley another, but that is not good enough. Some sort of ghostly force moves the balloon away from the baby while his mother is in a bathroom stall and leads the baby out to a park ride which runs over the child, fatally injuring him.

The father works for the State Department (The Omen), so Mulder decides to run his own investigation because he believes, through photographic evidence, a ghost used the balloon to lure the baby unto tracks. The agents visit his home. There, we are introduced to the big red herring. The man’s wife is a woman he met while working in Romania. He married her over her mother’s objection, and brought her to the united states. His mother-in-law came to live with them even though she thinks he is the devil. Meh. Do not all mothers-in-law think that? It gets worse when he is strangled by the garage door in a freak accident. (A la The Omen

She performs all manner of candlelight ceremonies in the home (Rosemary’s Baby) including some which frighten Charley at best, send him to the hospital will strange illness at worse. It looks like she is using some of that old country magic to destroy the family. But she is actually trying to cleanse the boy of an evil spirit with the help of four ambiguously religious figures who are essentiall Max von Sydow stand ins. (The Exorcist)

In the climax, it is revealed Charley had a twin brother named Michael who died at birth. Some separation ceremony was never performed, so the evil spirit of Michael is connected to Charley. Mulder contacts the Calugari to perform an exorcism on the hospitalized Charley while Scully races home to protect his mother from Michael. Note Scully does this without question. She is losing her skeptical edge and joining in with Mulder no matter how far out there he goes.

Mulder helps perform the exorcism, which has all the trappings of The Exorcist sans spewing pea soup. It is successful just in the nick of time to save Scully from being stabbed by Michael. In the voice over, Mulder informs us Charley is blameless and physically okay, but evil is all around us and does not care who gets hurt by it. Well, there is a comforting thought.

I may sound harsh, but “The Calusari” is not really a bad episode. Even its borrowing from horror movies is not so bad. Part of the fans’ enjoyment of the series was speculation about pitting Mulder and Scully against traditional science fiction and horror elements to see how they would handle it. My problem is I prefer gothic horror when I like it at all. Seeing an infant run over by an amusement park ride or a father strangled by his necktie becoming entangled in the gears of a garage door strikes me as gratuitous violence, no genuine horror. Nor does irt fit well with the adventures of our agents.

Indeed, I have already remarked how strange it is for Scully to unquestionably run off in pursuit of a woman because she believes an evil spirit is going to kill her. It dfoes not fit in with the character. Mulder is visibly shaken by participating in the exorcism, but that would freak anybody out, I guess. It just does not fit well. The episode is mildly entertaining, but its gruesome kills and the fact the evil children motif has been done better in “Eve” and evil spirit possessions were done well in "Die Hand Die Verletzt" keep it from receiving too high marks.

The Calusari were a real, historical Romanian cult. They were famous for allegedly removing the curses of fairies. Although they took an oath to God, they had little in common with Christianity. The Church stood in opposition to them, often refusing to allow the Calusari to take communion.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Katy Perry

Coming in at # 3 on the list of biggest Google searches for the year is the screengrab of Katy Perry's Elmo t-Shirt from Saturday Night Live. The skit, which features perry's boobs spilling out a tiny t-shirt featuring the puppet character, came days after Sesame Street killed a segment pairing Perry with Elmo because her outfit was deemed too provocative.

I got the screengrab up before Saturday Night Live was even over, dropped a link into the SNL comment thread at Ain't It Cool News and the overnight thread at Ace of Spades. I had an avalanche of hits from both. My link soon became the top result for Google.

Much like this Jessica Simpson bikini photo, it had a quick rise and fall which lasted only a couple days, but brought hundreds of hits to the Eye while it lasted.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

X-Files--"Humbug"

You may not realize it by the above photo, but "Humbug” is the most comedic episode of the series yet. It was the first of four scripts written by Darin Morgan, who previously appeared as Flukeman in “The Host.” The episode features the murder investigation of a sideshow freak with no paranormal aspects. The script actually makes no effort to add who the murderer really is in order to set up the final joke. Nevertheless, what could have been a one trick episode at best or a bad Vincent price movie at worst winds up a fun, but unusual installment.

Aside from the one joke set up I mentioned, the other significant issue with ’Humbug” is how poorly Vancouver doubles for central Florida. It is obviously late fall in Canada. The actors have to suffer through wearing lighter clothes, a few even swimming in pools or a lake, with their breath clearly visible in the cold air. (They have not yet learned the BBC trick of sucking on an ice cube in winter to keep that from happening.) The only concession is overcoats during night scenes. It must have been a tough shoot.

Mulder and Scully head to central Florida to investigate the murder of the Alligator Man, a sideshow freak suffering from a skin condition which caused him to grow scales. The Alligator man had a hole borrowed into the left side of his abdomen just as a number of previous victims have. Mulder not only believes there is a serial killer targeting sideshow freaks, but unusual tracks near the corpses lead him to believe the killer is a freak himself.

Once they get to the carnival, all signs point to Dr. Blockhead, the human contortionist who can feel no pain. Or perhaps it is The Conundrum, a tattooed human who will eat anything. Or maybe it is the local sheriff, who used to be the Dog Faced Boy before receiving a Nurelco for Christmas. Only the agents are in the dark. We bear witness to two murders during their investigation which are clearly committed by a tiny, but vicious creature. The only character we have met so far who could fit that description is Leonard, the undeveloped co-joined twin of Larry, an assistant to the sideshow owner, Mr. Nutt.

Sure enough, that is the case. Leonard can separate himself from Larry for short periods of time. He resents Larry for whatever reasons, so he seeks out other people he can borrow into in order to survive. When he escapes Larry’s abdomen in the climax, Larry dies from years of alcohol abuse, so Leonard is desperate to find another host. There is a morbidly funny chase between the agents and Leonard in a fun house before Leonard escapes, attacks The Conundrum, and, known only to the audience, is eaten by him. Case closed.

“Humbug” has a highly entertaining combination oftwisted humor and horrific violence. Watching Leonard scurry about seeking a new host is both hilarious and terrifying. There is a moral message throughout about celebrating differences, but it is buried in so much weirdness, the episode never gets preachy.

I do have to mention one bit. There is a scene in the second act after the second murder in which Larry awakens scully by knocking on her trailer door. It is early in the morning and both are in their robes. Their robes are both open enough to expose themselves--Larry’s parasitic twin and Scully’s cleavage. They glimpse at one another for the briefest of moments before wrapping themselves up in an embarrassed manner. While the rest of the episode clearly has a celebrate the difference theme to it, even if often done tongue in cheek, that one scene stands out as the polar opposite. Here is Larry the freak, clearly deformed, and obviously never been with a woman catching a glimpse of the beautiful Scully he could only ever accidentally do. There is sad reality to the encounter which both realize as they quietly, but hurriedly hide themselves. Larry was obviously embarrassed by his deformity. What was running through Scully’s mind is anyone’s guess. Fear of Larry’s attraction or the shame of reminding him of something he can never have? I do not know, but there is a certain deflation of the central theme because of me dwelling on it.

A couple casting notes. Larry is played by the late, great character actor Vincent Schiavelli, probably best known for his role in Ghost. Mr. Nutt the dwarf is played by Michael J. Anderson, who starred in Twin Peaks as did David Duchovny. I do not believe they were ever in the same episode, but I could be wrong. I have not seen Twin Peaks in twenty years. The other sideshow freaks were real carnival performers essentially playing themselves with surprisingly good acting skills.

“Humbug” is an entertaining episode unlike any which has aired thus far. As I explained when I reviewed Freaks not too long ago, my disabilities make it difficult for me to watch such things. I understand the alienation some freaks feel. It is difficult to deal with the reality of certain truths, such as the deformed cannot participate as freely in life as others do, but even worse when said reality is dealt with in the form of entertainment. Nevertheless, I am overall amused by “Humbug” even through some uncomfortable moments.

Ratings: *** (out of 5)

Alessandra Torresani

Coming in at # 4 in Google hits for the year is Geek Queen Alessandra Torresani. Specifically, this photo, posted in April 2010 to capitalize on her starring role in Caprica, and this one, which was just posted on December 2nd, but has been pushed quickly up the Google Image Search ranks. Both have brought in steady numbers with a surge after an airing of Caprica.

Caprica was cancelled last month. The show failed to capture the feel of its Parent show, Battlestar Galactica. A pilot for a potential successor chronicling the First Cylon War called Blood & Chrome is in the works. Torresani will not reprise her role as Zoe Graystone, but it she will be starring in a network pilot about newspaper journalists created by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Keep your fingers crossed for more lovely photos to keep the visitors headed here.

If you like Torresani, she has a blog called The Bambola Factory upon which she posts personal photos and videos, and a Twitter.

UPDATE: Lookee--a personalized thank you from Alessandra Torresani herself! Awesome!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Death Panels Through Medicare Regulations

During the most tense moments of pushing ObamaCare through the House, the White House was able to convince the most progressive members, who were adamantly demanding a public option, that the healthcare plan did not need an expressed public option. Through regulation, one could essentially be established after the fact. Even more sinisterly, the backdoor implementation of grossly unpopular healthcare reforms could be implemented through regulation. Case in point--death panels.

New Medicare regulation allow for counseling for end of life decisions, which sounds fine until one reads into its real purpose. The counseling is intended to help patients adjust to the idea their lives are not worth the cost of certain medical procedures. In other words, like Obama told a woman during a town hall meeting, why give grandma a pacemaker when a cheap pill is available?

Welcome to the wonderful world of saving money on healthcare by trimming overhead. Overhead, in this case, being human life that has been deemed unworthy. Not only deemed unworthy of further existence, but through counseling, said patient will be convinced he or she is unworthy. It is a classic con job--convince someone to do what you want by making them believe it is their idea in the first place. I did say this was sinister, no?

There are two points in my mind competing for which is the most macabre aspect of these regulations. One is the necessity of placing a dollar value on human life. Some would argue we do that already in certain cases, such as personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits in which earning potential of the victim is considered. With end of life decisions, we are taking earnings completely off the table. What we are dealing with the existential value of life itself. Who lives, who dies, and the dollar amount we think is too much to spend on the former. Two, and in many ways the saddest realization, people will actually want to be on a death panel. Someone out there--probably many someones--want the power of life and death over others. They will probably sleep well at night when they possess it.

X-Files--"Død Kalm"

I haave reviewed a ton of Star Trek episodes over the last couple years which featured the dreaed reset button. You know what i mean--some sort of seemingly irreversible disaster or otherwise continuity busting event happens, but the last five minutes or so reverses it all? "Død Kalm" is one of the few X-Files reset button episodes. For me, the reset was awfully flimsy.

An American ship becomes stranded in the North Sea when the crew abandons it and the captain. They are discovered drifting in a lifeboat with the appearance they have all aged decades in a matter of hours. Mulder learns of the incident, even though the fate of the crew is being kept under wraps. He suspects the rapid aging is a remnant of the Philadelphia Experiment, an alleged government project which sent matter through time and space. He skips off to Norway to investigate. Scully, having her medical curiosity piqued, goes, too.

They hire a local sea captain to take them to the abandoned ship. They discover it adrift and covered with what looks like centuries of rust even though the ship was commissioned only four years prior. They discover the rest of the crew’s corpses scattered about. They appear to have been dead for years. The discover scares off the captain’s crew. They strand the agents and the captain on ship.

Sure enough, they begin rapidly aging. They have nothing to go on until they discover packs of rats, apparently unaffected, living off the water in the sewage system. Scully discovers the aging has been caused by the drinking water. There is some sort of contaminant that causes cellular deterioration. The three off them have to survive off clean water is in the toilet bowls until help arrives. As well, but does not save the episode ultimately.

Scully keeps notes on the cellular degradation while the the three of them begin arguing over how best to conserve the clean water. General health and life expectancy become point of contention. Neither of the agents is willing to sacrifice anyone. The captain is not so humanitarian. He locks himself in with the rest of the water, then gets himself drowned when the ship begins taking on water.

The agents only have the water from a broken snow globe left. Neither of them get to drink it before it is broken in the jarring of the ship as it takes on water. They pass out, but wake up normal aged in a Virginia hospital. Thanks to Scully’s notes, the doctor knew to use hormone therapy to save them.

There is your reset button. The episode falls apart with it. Certainbly, the miracle cure which returns the agents to normal is bad enough, but how did they get from Norway to Virginia in time for the doctor to study Scully notes and find a cure when everyone else died from the illness in a far shorter time than Mulder and Scully? Because they are the stars of the show, I guess. The resolution is illogical and a cop out.

I am not a fan of the episode, obviously, but I will give some credit for the make up job. It is quite good. Far less rubbery than many I have seen. The claustrophobic, Lifeboat feel to much of the episode is intense . But neither of those two points save the bad ending. At least is was not all a dream, no?

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Tea Leoni

For the remainder of the year, I am going to feature the top five women who have brought Google hits to the Eye. Some of these may surprise you. Case in point, Tea Leoni coming in at # 5.

I get a steady stream of hits off the 2008 post featuring Leoni naked, but with the naughty bits strategically covered by her arms and legs. The photo has hounced around being within the top fifteen photos when searching for her on Google Image Search for the better part of the year.

The point of the original post was that Leoni and her husband, David Duchovny, had split up. Many speculated at the time their marriage was on the rocks because Duchovny had entered rehab for sex addiction. Considering every man has a sex addiction, the theory did not hold much water. As it turns out, they split because Duchovny found explicit text messages to Leoni from Billy Bob Thornton. That is kind of nasty. I have long since lost the miniscule interest I had, but it appears the two have reconciled.

Leoni does not do much for me. I will give her credit for looking quite nice for 44, but that is about it. Why people are regularly Googliong for her is a mystery to me, but I have appreciated the steady number of visitors.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blogroll Spotlight # 74

It is time for the weekly round up of favorite posts from my blogroll. As usual, these are not ranked, but in alphabetical order by blog title.

We have all been a little too distracted by the holdiays to do much blogging, so how about a round up of the usual suspects for this week. lots of Christmas messages and pretty girls to be found within the last week of content. We will start the new year off with a regular spotlight.

American Perspective
Amusing Bunni's Musings
Big Feed
Camp of the Saints
Classic Liberal
Da Tech Guy
Daley Gator
Gorge's grouse
In a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Jaded Haven
Large Regular
LiberalGuy
Mind Numbed Robot
Nice Deb
Other McCain
Paco Enterprises
Proof Positives
Pirate's Cove
Randy's Roundtable
Self-Evident Truths
Sentry Journal
Teresamerica
Theo Spark
Troglopundit
Washington Rebel
Yankee Phil

X-Files--"Fearful Symmetry"

Every now and then, X-files took a trip into social commentary. Such trips can be awfully irksome considering Hollywood’s single-mindedness. It seems logical one should brace for a bumpy ride with a story is going to be about animal cruelty. Surprisingly enough, while the moral of “Fearful Symmetry” is one promoting conservation, it is quite evenhanded. Two PETA like advocates are killed, one being mauled by an animal. One cannot call the episode an advertisement for animal rights groups then, no?

Mulder and Scully are called to Idaho when a federal employee is killed by what by all signs was a rampaging elephant. Eyewitnesses say there were all sorts of signs an elephant was on the loose, but no one could actually see it. Mulder is open to the possibility of an invisible elephant, but Scully theorizes a militant animal rights group called the WAO is responsible for letting the elephant loose. However, a WAO member is mauled by an invisible tiger, pointing to something bigger going on.

The break in the case comes from Chelsea, a gorilla who knows sign language. She signs of a bright light which takes away babies of which she is terrified. She is pregnant, although she has never been bred. Autopsies reveal the elephant and tiger had both been pregnant, though they never gave birth. Mulder theorizes the bright light is aliens abducting the animals to perform breeding experiments. The animals went on rampages after their babies were taken.

Because of the violent incidents, the zoo is shut down. The naturalist in charge, who has formed an attachment to Chelsea, hides her away in order to keep her. She and her associate kill another WAO member to cover up her crime. Chelsea is abducted in a bright light just like the tiger and presumably the elephant. She winds up miles away with her baby gone.

Mulder’s vioce over at the end speculates aliens are abducting endangered species and breeding them to preserve them against man’s carelessness. He then speculates humans are being abducted for the same reason. Silly, I know, particularly since zoos, including the one in this episode, are making every effort to breed and care for the young of any animal in captivity. I am afraid the moral of the story did not tug at my heartstrings. It did remind me of this groovy song:The title of this episode is taken from "The Tyger" by William Blake:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Blake’s poem speculates that every creation must must possess some reflection of its creator…or in this case, Creator. The poem asks what can the true nature of God be if He allows evil, represented by the tiger’s brutal characteristics, into the world, and how he could create a world in which beauty and horror both exist. Take what you will from that and apply it to “Fearful Symmetry.”

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Hayden Panettiere

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Doctor Who--"A Christmas Carol"

Ever since Doctor Who was revived in 2005, there have been threats the annual Christmas special was going to be an homage to Charles dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Every year, I brace for it. Sight unseen, I generally think such homage are done way too often without anything interesting added to the mix. Ditto for It’s a Wonderful Life stories. Steven Moffat finally did it this year. I was not expecting much, even though I have much faith in the Moff. I should have had much more faith. “A Christmas Carol” was touchingly terrific.

Amy and Rory, on their honeymoon, find themselves and 4,000 other passengers on a cruise ship that is crashing. In order to save them, the Doctor must find a way to eliminate a mysterious fog that ias being controlled by a bitter, lonely rich man. The problem is the man does not care because there is no benefit for him in saving them. The Doctor has an hour to convince him otherwise. To do so, the Doctor plays the Ghost of Christmas Past. He travels back to the man’s brutally abusive childhood to discover the source of his pain.

The old man is played by Dumbledore himself, Michael Gambon. I am not a Harry Potter fan, so I will have to confess this is my first experience with Gambon. He plays a futuristic Scrooge well without overshadowing matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor. It is impressive how Gambon bounces between evil than hopeful and back again to evil without hamming it up. Russell T. Davies would have had the guy chewing more scenery than an army of William Shatners.

The episode it as times hilarious, with the Doctor at his manic best, and heartbreaking. The root of Scrooge’s pain is the loss of his true love. You might think such a plot device risks turning corny, but in Moffat’s hands, it is the most poignant I have experienced in a long time. It helps his true love is played by opera singer Katherine Jenkins., who provides a haunting aria over the climax as the Doctor completely changes scrooge’s attitude.

There are some cheap special effects, duch as a giant shark that roams through the mansion, that are painful examples of the BBC’s tight budget, but no matter. The show utilizes what it has on hand asnd does so beautifully in this case. If Christmas makes you melancholy for loved ones who have left you, “A Christmas Carol” might even elicit some tears. Christmas can be a very tough time for some.

The trailer for season six was included after the credits. It looks more intense than usual. Perhaps we will find out soon who forced the Doctor to reset the universe in the fifth season finale. April is going to be a long wait. Until then, “A Christmas Carol” is a lovely way to tide us over.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

This Week at Apocalypse Cinema

Reviews for:

Three Kings
Kelly's Heroes
The Wild Wild West
Pee Wee's Big Adventure
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
It's a Wonderful Life

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around # 78

It is time once again to round up all the bloggers gracious enough to link to me this week.

Min Numbed Robot links to Pocahotass.

Pirate's Cove links to FMJRA # 77, Blogroll Spotlight # 73, and Januaey Jones.

Classic Liberal links to Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Yankee Phil links to Christina Ricci, Olivia Munn, Salma Hayek, Kaley Cuoco, and January Jones.

House of Eratosthenes links to Progressives v. Conservatives on Christianity.

Say Anything links to Katy Perry

If you linked onThursday or Friday, you are going to be held over for next week's FMJRA. Sorry if that is inconvenient, but it is Christmas.

A sincere thank you to all who linked this week. If you linked to me in the last week, but I do not have you here, you unfortunately fell through the cracks of Technorati, Google Blog Search, and Sitemeter. Please drop me a note in the comments and I will update with your link.

X-Files--"End Game"

I was down on the revelation of the ending being featured in the teaser of the previous episode, but I will admit the payoff was much better than I thought it would be. The addition of a cliffhanger to the first episode was not such a detriment, either. Chalk it up to uberwriter Frank Spotnitz, who will pen a number of pivotal episodes. “End Game” is his first contribution to the series.

The cliffhanger is resolved by the Alien Bounty Hunter holding Scully in exchange for Mulder to hand over Samantha. He still is not clear on what is going on, but she tells him there are two alien factions. One wants to colonize the Earth through DNA experiments in cloning experiments. The other sent the Alien Bounty Hunter to eliminate everyone associated with the plan.

Samantha opts to help Mulder rescue Scully. Skinner joins in the rescue. For the first time, he takes an active role in unofficially helping both Mulder and Scully along at great personal risk to himself, both professionally and with his life. The3 hostage exchange goes badly. When Samantha tries to kill the Alien Bounty Hunter with a needle through his neck, the struggle causes the FBI sniper to miss. They both fall off the bridge into the icy water. Samantha’s corpse is found the next morning.

Mulder blames himself for losing her yet again. The tense relationship demonstrated between him and his father in the previous episodes grows even more hostile. It is an incredibly painful scene that I think is broken too early when not only is Samantha’s corpse eroded like the clones, it is discover she is one of many. The scenes involving Mulder’s father to the revelation of the clones is about two minutes. It is supposed to be a rollercoaster of emotion, I suppose, but it is actually a let down. All this even though it was pretty obvious Samantha was a clone in the first place. Am I being harsh?

The Samantha clones urge Mulder to kill the Alien Bounty Hunter. He is en route to northern Alaska where a submarine has run aground in the ice. Mulder refuses to notify Scully where he is going, but she and Skinner beat it out of Mr. X. Good thing, too. The guy’s lack of cooperation has gotten annoying. Mulder confronts the alien Bounty Hunter in the submarine and is thrown about like a rag doll before being stranded on the Arctic tundra. Which leads us to the previous episode’s teaser of him being treated for hypothermia. But he learns through the alien Bounty Hunter his sister is still alive.

“End Game” is very much on par with yesterday’s episode. I have to admit the submarine prop is a bit flimsy for a network show, but since it was, sadly enough, better than the CGI sub used recently in LOST, I am going to forgive it. Obviously, it could have been much, much worse. One other note--Mark Snow's music has been a vital part of setting the mood for the series, but his score is especially intense here. Very well done.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Jessica Simpson in Santa Outfit

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

X-Files--"Colony"

“Colony” is a pivotal episode of firsts. We meet Mulder’s parents and a woman claiming to be his abducted sister Samantha. More importantly to the overall mythology, we meet the Alien Bounty Hunter. All the trimmings are here--the shape shifting, the Lrge needle to the neck as his weapon of choice, and poisonous green blood. The episode is also the first to imply the aliens’ intention is to colonize Earth.

In spite of “Colony” sounding like an X-Phile’s nirvana, I do have a nitpick. The teaser shows the aftermath of the story. Mulder has been taken to a medical research facility to be treated for severe hypothermia when Scully bursts in, ordering the doctors to stop the usual treatment of submersion in warm water. She claims Mulder has been infected by an alien parasite and only the cold is keeping him alive. After the opening credits, the story begins two weeks prior. Beginning at the end is a narrative technique that is often irksome for me. Your mileage may vary, but I am firmly in the just Tell the Freaking Story school of thought.

But that is a minor nitpick. The story is engaging otherwise. A mysterious benefactor e-mails Mulder the obituaries of four men, all identical and all within the medical profession, who were killed within days of each other. Mulder’s interest is piqued when he not only cannot find any blood relation among the four, but discovers there is a fifth. He and Scully arrange for the FBI field office in New Jersey to put him under protective custody, but they are too late. All five of the men have been murdered by the alien bounty hunter.

The agents have nothing else to go on until Mulder is contacted by a CIA agent named Ambrose Chapel. He reveals the men were part of a Soviet plot to create clones to infiltrate and sabotage the healthcare resources of the United States in the event of a Soviet attack. Chapel claims the Alien Bounty Hunter is KGB agent erasing all evidence of the plot while the US government looks the other way. The scientist who created the project, Dr. Gregor, must have anonymously contacted Mulder for help because of his reputation for buying into such wild conspiracy theories. Chapel is the Alien Bounty Hunter in disguise. He kills Gregor once the agents locate him.

Mulder becomes immediately distracted when a woman claiming to be his long lost sister shows up at the family home. Treatment under hyponosis revealed repressed memories of her life before being abducted. The entire family is skeptical, but whern she reveals knowledge of the alien colonization plot, Mulder’s attention is piqued. Meanwhile, Scully, left alone in the investigation, is stalked by the Alien Bounty Hunter. The cliffhanger involves her talking on the phone with Mulder at the same time “he” shows up at her motal room door.

Yes, that does mean the scene from the teaser is the ending to the nest episode, and I think that is even more irksome because it dissipates the tension even further. Aspiring writers take note--do not reveal the overall ending to build up tension, then make us wait a week plus offering another cliffhanger in the interim. It is too much.

Nice touch: Ambrose Chapel is a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. In that film, Jimmy Stewart, who is looking for his kidnapped son, finds Ambrose Chapel on a piece of paper and mistakenly assumes it is the name of a man who can help him. Instead, it is the name of the church in which the kidnappers have taken his son. If only our heroes were better movie buffs, they would have known Chapel was not who he claimed to be.

There is tension between Mulder and his father that has not been mentioned before. When Mulder returns home, he is noticeably cool, but cordial to his father. They shake hands as a greeting. Mulders initiates, but does not appear confident his father will take his hand. He and his mother have a much warmer relationship. She even calls him Fox without incident.

I sound a bit down on “Colony” because of some structural gripes, but that is misleading. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. The early mythology episodes before the story began to meander were the best. I also like the implication that Mulder’s father must be part of something sinister because of the palpable suspicion. In the air. There is a tense feeling, even Scully scolds him for it for it here, that Mulder is ready to believe just about any weird idea that suits his vision of an evil mass conspiracy. I often forget just how on edge the character was early in the series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Jennifer Aniston

Thursday, December 23, 2010

X-Files--"Fresh Bones"

From Satanism in school administrations to voodoo in military run refugee camps, that old black magic runs rampant in the United State government. “Fresh Bones” deals with the aftermath of the US involvement in the return of deposed Haitian Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in 1994. A Marine colonel and a refugee camp leader clash in North Carolina. But who is really at fault?

A deceased marine’s wife notifies the FBI when the military rules her husband’s car crash a suicide and refuses to investigate further. He is the second Marine assigned to guard Haitian refugees to die in as many weeks. Voodoo symbols were found at both death scenes. The agents arrive at the camp to find tensions are reaching the boiling point. There was a riot a couple days before in which a ten year old boy was killed. The camp leader, Col. Wharton, has the leader of the rioters, Pierre Beauvais, placed in solitary. Beauvais is a political radical and voodoo priest. Mulder treats the case as though voodoo Beauvais used voodoo to kill the Marines, which is a clear sign he did not do it.

Mulder and Scully are helped along by a Haitian kid named Chester who seems to know a little voodoo himself. At one point, he sells the agents a good luck charm which saves Scully from a curse in the climax. If you have not figured out who Chester is yet, you are not cynical enough.

All the trappings of voodoo appear as the conflict between the Marines and Haitians escalates. The first Marine, semi-simplified, returns from the ’dead” in order to kill another. Marines hallucinate maggots and blood coming from their food or they themselves decaying like corpses. Scully has a curse put on her. The twist of the plot is that Wharton is the one behind the voodoo. He got interested in it while in Haiti, but never built a kinship with the people. Several of his men were killed in Haiti, so he has been taking his anger out on the refugees. The Marines were killed by him to keep them from telling all to his superiors. The Haitians eventually use voodoo themselves to kill him in revenge. Chester defends Mulder and scully himself--and yes, he is the ten year old boy who was killed in the riot.

I have a theory that every high concept show, be it supernatural or super hero, does a voodoo episode eventually. It is a television law. I have never been interested in the subject, so I take them as they come. “Fresh Bones” is a combination of the painfully obvious--Chester’s identity--and the painfully absurd--the colonel is a secretly evil voodoo priest, while the imprisoned revolutionary is a good guy. Oh, yeah, he does know voodoo, too. Much of the maggot infested hallucinations ands blood lettings are stomach churning. It is a decent episode , but like I said above, it feels like the obligatory voodoo paint by numbers voodoo story with an implausible rather than someone coming up with an inspirational take on the issue.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Jenn Sterger

Brett allegedly sent photos of Lil' Favre to her.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Formspring Question # 69--Not Ready for Some Football Edition

Why doesn't Los Angeles have an NFL team?
As I recall, the ownerships of the Rams and Raiders blamed their moves out of the city on fan disinterest, but lack of a decent stadium was the real reason. I imagine the latter is the big problem. Then again, the city seems preoccupied with all entertainment venues but sports. The Lakers are more famous for their half-naked cheerleaders and celebrity backers than their connection with regular fans, are they not?

The NFL does not appear to be in any hurry to offer an expansion team, nor is there any buzz of an established team wanting to move there regardless of the reason for their reluctance.

Someone who follows professional football more closely than I do can give you a better answer. I am a baseball guy instead.

Speak of the Devil

It looks like when Old Scratch was done with Mulder and Scully in New Hampshire, he went to New Mexico and get himself killed.The Bible experts call this skull the find of the century? Sounds like some folks need to get a little perspective!

X-Files--“Die Hand Die Verletzt”

I have spoken many times of the struggle to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the heavily bob Jones influenced Christian education. Christian fundamentalism is much like our natural sinful nature--which might be a revealing sign, come to think of it--in the sense you can never really get rid of it. My fundamentalist influence always bubbles to the surface when I experience things like “Die Hand Die Verletzt.” (Translated from German: "The Hand That Wounds.") The episode is combination of that fundamentalist fear public schools are controlled by Satanic forces and a satire on flaky religious adherents. My reaction: a slight twinge of discomfort with the former and a smirking recognition of the latter.

Two teenage couples head out to the Nw Hampshire woods to a site that is said to be a place for witch ceremonies. One kid begins reading incantations from a torn page of a book. The kids hear demonic voices in the distance. The kid who was reading the incantation bursts into flames. The local sheriff calls in the FBI because he, like the rest of the town, have heard stories of a secret coven a Satan worshippers who secretly run everything. He fears the conspiracy is too big for him to handle.

Mulder and Scully are both skeptical. They think someone is playing with the town’s fear in order to cover up the real motivation for killing the boy. It is not an FBI matter, that is until toads start falling from the sky. Then Mulder suspects something is odd. They opt to investigate further by interviewing the murdered kids’ friends.

They admit to playing around with devil worship solely because everyone in town is so afraid of it, they wanted to see what the fuss was all about. They had no idea they could actually invoke satan. Truth is, they did not. The school, Crowley High, is run by a coven of Satan worshippers. They killed the kid for blasphemy.

They cover their tracks well up until the murdered kid’s girlfriend has repressed memories of secret ceremonies in which she was subjected to as a small child return. Again, the agents do not believe it, but the description is enough to make them suspect she has been abused by her father. The other members of the coven use black magic to force the girl to commit suicide in order to shut her up. Her sacrifice convinces her father to abandon his beliefs and confess all to the agents.

The truth is they are wishy washy Satanists. They do only the rituals that are easy and do not involve any bloodshed. They did use the girl in their early rituals, but it was little more than playacting. The fact two kids are now dead scares the heck out of him. Realizing they have been betrayed, the head of the coven summons a python to kill the traitor. The rest of the coven captures Mulder and Scully to get rid of everyone who knows anything about them. In the climax, the coven members are all killed, saving the agents. A message is scrawled on a chalkboard saying it was nice working with them. The implication being Satan intervened on their behalf because he is not found of Loadiceans, either.

As I said above, the episode prompys mixed emotions. I do not care much for involving Satanism in popular entertainment. It makes me uneasy. However, the satire on half hearted religious types is still amusing. Overall, I have to give the episode reasonably high marks. It is not bad, but it is one a small army of teachers from my past would rail against. There is also a knowing wink in that the high school is named after Aleister Crowley, the British occultist who heavily influenced modern day Wicca and realy bad mysticism in ‘60’s rock and roll The guy was a huge waste of flesh.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Kate Hudson

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Formspring Question # 68--Granny Drawers Edition

The baggy underwear never upset Team Scully?
Yes, yes it did.Why attractive women wear such abominations is beyond me. Gillian Anderson had the sexy grade school teacher/naughty librarian look down pat, though. It more tham made up for our initial revealing look at her bod.

Come to think of it, there were some pretty inticing views in the later episodes to make up for this one, as well.

Formspring Question # 67--Funny Bone Edition

Who are some of your favorite comedians? Who are some of your least favorites?
I like stand up comedy in general, though I have not gotten into that Last Comic Standing show NBC airs in the summer. My favorites change periodically, but here is my current top five:

1. Lewis Black--I like his attitude. He will make fun of any and all absurdity as he sees it. That is a consittent trait in most of the comedians I like.

2. Ron White--He is the only member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour I find consistently funny. I enjoy most how he applies ’common sense” to the stupid things people do. He is what Bill Engvall wants to be with his “Here’s Your Sign” bit, but cannot pull it off. White is head and shoulders above his fellow Blue Collar comedians, which is probably why he hardly appears with them on television.

3 Bill Hicks--I am going to catch flak for this one, but I enjoy the guy. He was an abrasive progressive atheist, so I disagreed with him on virtually every specific point. Nevertheless, his general theme that people settle for the mediocrity presented to them by government and entertainment is still pointed sixteen years after his death.

4. Mitch Hedberg -- Hedberg is another comedian who died way too young. The guy had been killing himself for years with drugs before they finally caught up with him in 2005. You had to be in the mood for Hedberg’s style of comedy. His comedy was one liners, word play, non-sequiturs, and paraprosdokian delivered in an abrupt manner. He was a lot like Steven Wright, but I think Hedberg was much funnier. He suffered from stage fright, so he often performed with red sunglasses or kept his eyes closed during the performance to avoid eye contact with the audience.

5. Eddie Izzard--He may very well be the smartest comedian I have ever seen. His jokes are clever, often involving knowledge of history, religion, or geeky science fiction. A lot of Americans do not “get” him. It is probably the cross dressing. But it could be the fact we are mostly ignoramuses. Whichever, I think he is hilarious.

There are other comedians I think are hit and miss. George Carlin was often spot on, even if I largely disagreed with him. Dennis Miller has lost a step since abandoning his nihilistic routines. Eddie Murphy was great back when he still did stand up. So was Steve Martin. Robin Williams runs hot and cold for me, but when he is on, he is hilarious. Emo Phillips was funny when he was younger, but he is still doing the same type stuff in his fifties he did in his twenties. It comes across as more freakish than entertaining. Weird, because Paul Reubens is doing the same, and I still often find Pee Wee Herman amusing. Sam Kinison was great in small doses. Rodney Dangerfield made a better comedy actor than stand up, but I cannot leave him off the list.

In violation of conventional wisdom, I have often laughed at Carrot Top’s comedy routines. He is not one of the top comics, but much of the criticism he gets is unfair. Ditto for Jeff Dunham, though certain puppets of his are more funny than others.

I see a lot of stand up acts. It would be unfair for me to pick on many of the small potatoes guys who are obviously never going to hit the big time, so here are some comedians who are generally popular for reasons which are lost on me: Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Norm McDonald, Russell Brand, John Stewart, Bill Maher, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon, and a cast of thousands.

X-Files--"Irresistible"

“Irresistible” is another incredibly intriguing episode of the X-Files. It is unusual in the sense it features no paranormal elements. Instead, it centers largely on Scully, as a case of particularly gruesome murders trigger post-traumatic stress in her from her recent kidnapping and near death experience. If nothing else, I would appreciate the continuity. But there is far more here to like.

Mulder and Scully are called to Minneapolis by a detective who is a UFO enthusiast. He has discovered a grave dug up with the corpse shaved and fingernails removed. He believes it is similar to cattle mutilations and assumes aliens were involved. They are not, and Mulder knew it all along. He traveled to Minnesota on the Fbi’s dime so he could take Scully to her first NFL game. Mulder advises the detective there is a fetishist on the loose collecting trophies from corpses, but such a case does not fall under FBI jurisdiction.

The guy strikes again, however. This time he kills a hooker for her hair and nails. The murderer is Donnie Pfaster, a former mortuary worker who was fired for desicrating corpses in his unique way. Now that he has moved onto the living and likely serially so, the agents join in the investigation. Scully is particularly disturbed by the crimes. He stated reason is how she considers mutilating the dead to be the worst violation imaginable. The truth is, she has done dealt with her own feelings of being violated.

Scully and Pfaster cross paths when he is arrested in the attempt to snatch his next victim. He spots her from his jail cell while the two agents are interviewing a suspect in the adjacent cell. Pfaster is enamored by her red, but just a little too red hair. If you did not see that coming within the first ten minutes of the episode, you are way too naïve. He learns her name through the other prisoner once they have left.

Scully returns to Washington to meet with a therapist to deal with her emotional issues regarding the case. It is established she has unresolved feelings about the recent events in her life, from her father’s death to her kidnapping by Duane Barry. She gets a call back to Minneapolis after discovering a fingerprint on evidence discovered found on the hooker’s corpse. It was Pfaster who called her back, not Mulder. He kidnaps her from the rental car place at the airport as soon as she lands.

It is inevitable when there is a female lead in a crime or action series that she is going to be the damsel in distress on occasion. There is too much appeal for the male audience to fantasize about being the swashbuckling hero rescuing the pretty girl for it not to happen. I am fine with it myself under two conditions. One, that it does not become a habit. Two, the character is not degraded. “Irresisible” marks the third time Scully has been kidnapped and the fourth she has been attacked by the villain of the week. This will not be the last time for either.

But it works here. Scully is missing for hours. Mulder and the detective take an unknown additional amount of time to trace the fingerprint and a paint blotch on the back of Scully’s rental car from where Pfaster ran into her to find his house. In that time, Scully, who is near nervous breakdown, manages to fight back through hallucinations Pfaster is a demon. There is a moment at which she overcomes her fear to fight him off, even though her hands are cuffed, until help arrives--not that she knew help would. She is not the entirely helpless victim here, but I am well aware her breaking down in Mulder’s arms after her rescue has the ’shippers all aflutter.

It is no secret I am Team Scully, so I am bound to like episodes centering on her. I think ’Irresistable” struck the right balance between the character’s toughness and her human frailty. Without any romantic undertones, either. Come on folks. Consoling a crying friend is not necessarily an act of romance. Neither is taking a friend to her first NFL game. Appreciate those things for what they are.

But “Irresistible” is good not just for Scully. Nick Chinlund plays Pfaster as an androgynous, very disturbed man. The genral assumption is the role solidified Chinlund as the go to guy for quietly psychotic villains. He has been playing such roles almost exclusively for the last fifteen years. I can see why, too. Pfaster is an ordinary guy who grew up in a house full of older sisters. He has built up a hatred of women with subtle hints of issues with his own sexuality. Originally, Pfaster was to be a necrophilia, but the network nixed the idea. I am glad they did. The Pfaster presented here is more terrifying. He will return in the seventh season to attempt murdering Scully again. He is one of only a handful of villains of the week to do so.

“Irresistable” is definitely one of the highlights of the second season in particular and series in general. So far, Scully-centric episode have been outperforming the Mulder-centrics. But, hey--I am Team Scully. How do you expect me to feel?

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Megan Fox

I do not see the appeal of Megan Fox. Her witchy personality makes her even less attractive. But she still has fans. No accounting for taste, but here you go.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Formspring Question # 66--DADT Repeal Edition

Are you going to weigh in on the DADT repeal?
Sure. I hope we do not run up against too many fruit flies within the ranks of enermy combatants. Divided loyalties would be awful under fire. The victory parades might be a little weird from now on, too.

Seriously, like I said the last time I was asked, I did not support the repeal of DADT, but felt like it was a military decision. They are the ones getting shot at. They ought to be the ones deciding who they want to being fighting alongside. There will probably be some foot dragging, but the military brass will end the policy. Probably at the last possible moment allowed, which ought to tell you why we ought not let Lady GaGa dictate military policy.

The reason I am willing to bow to the military to decide on its own is twofold. First, I respect servicemen enough for the sacrifices they make to create a working environment which best suits them. Second, I am suspicious of progressives’ motives for repealing DADT. The two possible outcomes are that gays serve openly in the military, thereby offering a bone from the Democratic party which usually pays only lip service to gay rights, or wrecks military recruitment, thereby hamstringing the military. Do not tell me progressives would not be keen on that. Any policy decision that is win-win for progressives is automatically a loser in my book.

But DADT’s repeal does not mean much to me when the military finally goes through with it. Others may not see a difference between condoning sinful activity and tolerating it, but there is one. I am live and let live as far as gays are concerned,. It does not bother me to have them join the military. It will not bother me when they inevitably gain the right to marry. But I will not condone either, by supporting the rights or defending them. If anyone needs my approval for their behavior, that is a big clue said behavior is not proper.

Do I think there will be any problems? Of course. All you have to do is look at how Bradley Mannings’ psychological/emotional issues lead him to betray his country to figure that out. In some ways, I suspect there will not be many gays signing up for military service, anyway. Like voting, people in history have struggled to gain a right, then completely dismissed it once they have gotten it. I doubt allowing gays into the military will be much different. But who knows? Maybe they fantasize the military is all one big gladiator movie.

X-Files--"Aubrey"

I am a sucker for crime stories in which a decades old case is suddenly solved, particularly from the era of the ‘80’s or ‘90’s when such an unsolved case can involve detective noir of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. Such is the case with “Aubrey.” It has a sketchy paranormal touch with the concept of genetic memory, but is otherwise a decent story.

One point--they do try a little too hard to position the original crimes firmly in the World War IiI by connecting a rape at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York with a serial killings in some Podunk town in Missouri. I would think that is a stretch, but it honestly reminded me of DC Comics’ revival of the Wesley Dodd Sandman around about the time of “Aubrey.” I am not claiming any plagiarism. It is that both stories took place partially at the World’s Fair and possessed a spooky, ethereal quality. I am connecting them fondly in my mind.

The episode takes place in 1995 and centers around Detective BJ Morrow. She begins having flashbacks to the murder of an FBI agent who was on the trail of a serial killer when the killer caught up with him instead. She travels right to the spot in the middle of a barren field where his body has been buried for fifty years. Mulder takes an interest in the case because of her apparent psychic episode.

There is more to his interest than that. The slain FBI agent was an early advocate of using psychology to catch criminals. Mulder, who is an FBI profiler, admires the guy as a pioneer in the field. Perhaps that is what prompts Mulder and Scully to investigate the corpse the traditional way while paying only marginal attention to Morrow’s psychic episode. She keeps suffering them. Each time, she appears to slide further into madness.

Morrow had been investigating a rash of murders similar to the ones occurring fifty years ago. A now elderly man, who has spent years in prison due to a rape conviction, was a suspect in 1945 and is one now. Ironic, considering the plot of the previous episode involved the elderly being rejuvenated and committing crimes with their newfound strength.

The twist is, while the old man was the serial killer in 1995, he is not the culprit now. It is morrow, who is his granddaughter by way of rasping a woman at the World’s Fair. He passed on a genetic desire to commit murder that morrow has been acting on without memory. She plays out her grandfather’s killing spree by attacking her grandmother and eventually her grandfather himself, who dies by her hand. In the end, she is instutionalized with the note she is pregnant. By her detective partner, who plans to adopt the child. A future serial killer, no doubt.

The babydaddy is played by Terry O’Quinn. It is the first of three appearances he will make. Two will be on the series itself. One will be in X-Files: Fight the Future. he will play a different role each time. O’Quinn will also become a semi-regular on the kinda sortas spin off Millennium. he is best known as John Locke on Lost.

I have already mentioned the episode reminds me of a some particularly good comics I read once upon a time, but there are a couple other high points. One, the story is incredibly gruesome in its display of mutilations, including morrow slicing up herself. It is a key plot point because the main question the story asks is if certain people are born sadistic killers or do they become them. With genetic memory, the answer appears to be the former. The second high point is how well Deborah Strang plays Morrow’s slow morph into her grandfather. Much of the change is physical. She actually looks more demented as she lets go of her real self. She creates a terrifying character.

I am not a psychologist, but I find genetic memory awfully implausible. It is not like a younger family member repeating behavior he has witnessed another family member engage in, such as an abused child growing up to abuse his child as well. Genetic memory skips generations so one will act as a distant relative one may never even knew existed acts. That is tough to swallow, even for this show. I did, however, enjoy the philosophical question of whether evil is born or made. It was not explored but, nor in terms of the Christian worldview, but it was interesting nevertheless.

Rating: *** (out of 5)