Monday, January 31, 2011

Formspring Question # 75--Geek Geography Edition

Would you rather live in the Star Wars or Star Trek universe?
Star Wars. It looks like a much cooler place with all the droids and Jedi running around. Star Trek is a boring socialist utopia. It is too rigid and preachy for my tastes. I would prefer a wild frontier like that in Star Wars.

Can I be a Jedi? That would definitely sweeten the deal.

Formspring Question # 74--Smoke Gets in Your Eye Edition

You're about to reveiew "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" for The X-Files. It's one of my favorite episodes.
Mine, too. Wednesday.

Formspring Question # 73--Speaking Truth to Blogger Edition

You have one strange little blog here, but I can't stop reading. Good job.
Thanks.

Charlie Sheen Will Not Last the Projected Three Months of Rehab

I said I would stop picking on Charlie Sheen, but I just cannot help myself. The guy said he likes to party. He is having a good time and giving you Two and a half Men, so he does not need rehab. Why can you turds not understand that? I am paraphrasing all but the “turds” part, which violated the declared ceasefire.

Sheen is checking into rehab fort drug and alcohol abuse for the next three months. Production of Three and a Half Men will shut down for the duration. By shutting down, I mean fully. The entire production crew from the light handlers to the guy who moves props from set to set is out of a job until Sheen is clean and sober. If he had an decency, Sheen would pay their salaries out of his pocket, but considering his attitude towards rehab, my guess is he is blaming the shut down on all the turds who do not understand snorting cocaine off a porn star's left buttcheek qualifies as harmless fun.

Three months covers the production of eight episodes, so CBS will air what it already has in the can, some reruns, then move episodes of Mike & Molly into the timeslot. So those of you who are not watching Mike & Molly at 9:30 can now not watch it at 9:00, either.

I would not hold my breath for Sheen to finish the whole three months, either. I gave him two weeks maximum. I imagine the production staff of Two and a half Men will go along with the abbreviated stay, too, rather than lose the revenue. Bet on it.

Federal Judge Strikes Down ObamaCare; Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

Federal Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern district of florida has ruled the individual mandate of ObamaCare is unconstitutional. Unlike the decision in Virginia last year which also ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional, Judge Vinson denied the mandate was severable from ObamaCare, thereby ruling the entire kit and kaboodle unconstitutional. There is no need for an injunction against obamaCare because no part of it may now be implemented.

Do not get too excited about this ruling. While it is the 26 state lawsuit against ObamaCare, nothing much matter about rulings at the federal court level. Judge Vinson’s sweeping end to ObamaCare in its entirety makes me suspicious of the legal grounds of his decision. There is a flaw in the drafting of ObamaCare, however--it does not have an expressed severability clause which virtually every other piece of legislation possess just in case paert of the new law is ruled unconstitutional. Perhaps if anyone had, you know, read the darn thing before passing it, that would not have happened.

I guarantee none of the mechanisms putting ObamaCare in place, even in states party to the suit, have slowed down, much less stopped because of this ruling, nor will they. Nevertheless, this is an indication the legal battle over ObamaCare will continue. I dare say it will end up in the United States Supreme Court eventually. With at least half the states questioning the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the issue is already ripe. The case just needs to make its way up the judicial hierarchy before the SCOTUS can hear it.

You may read a PDF of the decision. Meanwhile on the political front, the Senate GOP is united in support of ObamaCare repeal. I imagine any real scaling back of ObamaCare will take place on the political front, but we shall see in time.

X-Files--"The Field Where I Died"

" ...at times I almost dream
I, too, have spent a life the sages' way,
And tread once more familiar paths. Perchance
I perished in an arrogant self-reliance
Ages ago; and in that act, a prayer
For one more chance went up so earnest, so
Instinct with better light let in by death,
That life was blotted out-not so completely
But scattered wrecks enough of it remain,
Dim memories, as now, when once more seems
The goal in sight again..."
--"Paracelsus," Robert Browning

“The Field Where I Died” is the most atmospheric and tragic episode of the series. It remains one of my personal favorites, not only because I am a history buff, but because of how much it stands out among the rest of the series. There is very little action to it, yet it feeld larger than life. Considering the point of the story is living multiple lives, I assume that is intentional. Personal drama propels the story, including allowing a guest actor to splendidly take front stage. In short, it unusually poignant.

Mulder and Scully take part in an ATF raid on a religious compound that has a large cache of illegal firearms. The FBI was tipped off by Sydney, an informant whom they are there to rescue as a secondary objective. After the most heated part of the raid in complete, mulder feels in explicably drawn into a field near the compound where he finds an underground bunker in which the cult leader, Vernon Ephesian, is hiding with his six wives. Mulder has no idea how he knew about the bunker.

The cult hid the weapons. Their lawyers can have them freed within 24 hours if the guns are not found. The Fbi is in a race to find the guns in order to hold all the cult members in custody because, in accordance with their fanciful interpretation of Revelations, they will commit mass suicide rather than allow the Armies of Satan--the ATF and FBI--to defeat them. Their biggest obstacle is that Sydney is discovered to be one of the personalities of MPD sufferer Melissa.

Melissa not only exhibits MPD, but past life regression. One of her pass lives was a Confederate widow who witnessed her husband die in the field behind the cult compound during a battle in 1863. What is more, her past life believes Mulder is her dead husband. Scully, who is not a psychologist, thinks she is suffering from MPD. Mulder, who is an oxford trained psychologist, believes her past life regression. There is a juxtaposition best to gloss over.

Mulder thinks they can bring out the Sydney personality to reveal the location of the gun cache if they take Melissa back to the compound. They do, but she is dominated by her Civil War era life. The agents try hypnosis, much to Scully’s skepticism, but that does little more than cause melissa to reveal the heartbreaking story of how she witnessed her husband die. The two are intertwined throughout eternity because of their love for another.

With Mulder’s attention piqued, he goes under hypnosis himself. He confirms his past identity, that many others in his current life have been with him before, and how his true love has always been with him, too. He tells stories of their past together in the Warsaw ghetto and as lowly bureaucrats. David Duchovney makes the entire sequence come off much more emotionally wrenching than I can describe.

But the Sydney personality never emerges, so the gun cache is never found. Without any reason to hold the cultists, they return to their compound. As expected, they commit mass suicide by drinking poisoned Kool Aid before the ATF can raid the place again looking for the gun cache. Mulder mourns the death of Melissa, someone with whom he obviously shares a connection., even if it is inexplicable.

“The Field Where I Died” is a fantastic episode. It certainly ran the risk of being derivative. The cult is a blatant mash up of the Branch Davidians (The guns, the apocalyptic prophecy, and Vernon, which was David Koresh’s birth name) and Jonestown (The mass suicide by poisoned Koll Aid.) The whole idea of past life regression being brought to the surface by hypnosis is also in many ways sillier than aliens and ghosts. Yet it all works here because of the actors’ skill.

Kristen Cloke, who later married episode writer Glen Morgan, gets much more screen time than most guest cast members in order to shine. She not only affords each personality within her a distinctive spirit, but genuinely establishes her Civil War era self with an air of deep sorrow. Cloke is also the actress in the Millennium video I posted yesterday.

I often praise mark Snow’s musical scores, but they stand out in particular here. When I spoke of “The Field Where I Died” as atmospheric, it is the music I mostly credit, the the early morning/late evening cinematography plays a big part in the discovery of new life/death of the old theme. The musical score mixes the acoustic, Civil War era sound on the field when mulder searches for the bunker and the ATF raids the compound much like the Union army in 1863. Inside the compound, the cult’s religious services, including the mass suicide, are done to ethereal Gregorian chants. Very haunting on both counts.

The only downside to “The Field Where I Died’ is that none of the revelations will mean anything for the characters later. Finding out mulder, Scully, et al are spiritually connected throughout eternity with mulder destined to have a one true love is too big a deal to just drop and never mention again. But that is exactly what will happen. The flaw is only going to knock off a star from my rating, denying “The Field Where I Died” a perfect score.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Patsy Kensit

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Julian Assange on 60 Minutes

I just watched the Julian Assange interview on 60 Minutes. beforehand, I knew very little about him other than the general word he was a weird information anarchist. From this interview, I think amoral egotist ought to be added to his description. Assange is flippant about the damage Wkileaks has caused because he values his own sense of chaotic freedom over any other principle.

The best example is his response to the charge the Taliban hunted down and killed informants who were working with the United States military in Afghanistan because field reports made public by Wikileaks revealed their names. He acknowledges, matter of factly, people died because of the revelations. He sjows no emotion about it, however. His freedom of the press trumps the liberation of the Afhan people. If a few have to die for the exercise of free press as Assange sees it, they are the broken eggs for an omelet. Ironic, considering he goes on later to express pride Wikileaks revelation of unreported civilian deaths in Iraq is a check on United states power.

He also hangs Bradley Manning out to dry, expressing sympathy Manning’s traitorous actions have made him a political prisoner, but that is the sum total of what he has to say. Volunteers who may be considering leaking documents onto the Wikileaks site should take note of Assange’s attitude towards you. Your fate mighrt be unfortunate, but Assange will not do much much than sympathize while you enrich him.

Make no mistake, he is being enriched. The background information on the interview stated Wikileaks drew in over $ 1 million in donations last year with only $ 500,000 in expenses. Where is the bulk of the money going/ Assange’s pocket would be my only guess.

He is getting an emotional kick out of the power he has acquired for himself to watch countries, corporations, and other major entities squirm under what he might reveal next. He is a little man who enjoys being big. For years, he was satisfied playing cloak and dagger games by running from country to country, changing his appearance constantly to avoid, as he says, kidnappers and assassins, all while displaying his hacker kung fu. It is all a clear ego trop for him. Whoever gets hurt along the way is irrelevant. While he is claiming those who are hurt are martyrs to freedom of the press, they are really martyrs to his egomania.

I have been inclined to say the guy ought to be prosecuted for espionage. I still do, but now I am convinced he is a far more dangerous man than just a top secret information leaker. He honestly believes whatever damage he causes is perfectly fine because it further the egomania of Julian Assange.

Blogroll Spotlight # 79

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.

American Perspective--Democrats Need to Work on Their Message
Amusing Bunni's Musings--Visit Bunni's comedy Club
Big Feed--Love Child
Bluegrass Pundit--Obamacare may Leave More Without health Insurance
Camp of the Saints--Rule 5--Jennifer Liano
Classic Liberal--An Obligation to Serve the State
Da Tech Guy--Muslim Brotherhood? What Muslim Brotherhood?
Daley Gator--Andrew Klavan on the culture
Essential Mr. Bill--The Great One, Pig Butts, and Unsung Heroes
Fishersville Mike--All Palin February
Fuzzy Logic--the SOTUS in a Nutshell
Gorge's Grouse--Unwise Waitstaff
In a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World--Friday Pin Up
Jaded Haven--Sex Keeps You Sane
Left Coast Rebel--Your Next President: Mitch Daniels?
Mind Numbed Robot--Marxism in America by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) W. G. Brown
No Sheeples Here!--The Big Audition
Other McCain--Who will Be the Bob Dole of 2012?
Pirate's Cove--George Bush Proves the Classy Type of Guy He Is
Proof Positive--Even Obama Supporter Focus Group Does Not Believe Him
Randy's Roundtable--Harry Reid in Denial Over Social Security Deficits
Sentry Journal--What is America's goal?
Teresamerica--Would Their be Outcry by the School If...?
Sundries Shack--Clearing Browser Tabs: global Warming
Three Beers Later--Rule 5: Barbara Eden
Troglopundit--One Million by Second Blogoversary
Wsashington Rebel--Down to the Brass tacks

To the guy who keeps Formsprining me about reviewing Millennium, I present the third act of the second season finale, "The Time is Now," in its entirety as originally aired. The scene is Lara Means' apocalyptic vision on the eve of the Millennium Group releasing the Marburg Virus across the United States with Patti Smith's psychodelic "Land" playing over:If anyone has a suggestion how one can write 67 reviews with similar content, fill me in. Until then, we should probably let Millennium keep.

X-Files--"Unruhe"

I have a penchant for the crime/horror episodes of The X-Files in which the paranormal elements take a backseat to the complete madness of the villain. “Unruhe” (German for ’unrest”) is a fine example. It is also a showcase for the best, often underused aspects of the main characters in their crime solving. Namely, Mulder is a top criminal profiler who can get inside the twisted heads of the criminally insane and Scully, perhaps because of an empathy due to her her diminutive size, exhibits an obsession with protecting the powerless.

“Unruhe” is also a particularly well done episode on a technical level. The Vince Gillgan script takes a story we have generally seen before--woman kidnapped and brutalized, Scully becoming emotionally involved, Scully kidnapped herself--and turns several incidents in the polar opposite direction of what we expect. It is a good thing, too. I have lost count of how many times scully has been put in peril, but this is at least the seventh or eighth time she has been taken captive. At least she is not playing the complete victim in most. She even rescued Mulder in the previous episode. Kudos to the directing, as well. Considering much of the episode is from the perspective of a schizophrenic rapidly losing control, the weird camera angles and demonic imagery is perfect.

A woman is kidnapped from outside a drugstore while her boyfriend is murdered with an ice pick behind the ear. The only clue left behind is a passport photo the woman took minutes before which depicts her, surrounded by demons, screaming. Mulder believes the photo is a psychic imprint of the killer’s fantasy. Photos are left in four other instances, each of which prtedict the fate of the person in the photo. No explanation is really given for this, but it is incidental to the psychological thriller the story is.

The killer, Gerry Schnauz, is a former mental patient who kidnaps women and performs ice pick lobotomies on them because he fears the “Howlers” in his own head are controlling them. In his mind, he is helping them. The passport photo girl survives, but is near catatonic with brain damage. The agents are in a race against time to save a secretary who has just been kidnapped while they were investigating the first. They catch the guy through a combination of photo manipulation and shoe leather detective work.

Scully is the central agent in “Unruhe.” we are not far into the first sact before realizing she is going to wind up kidnapped as a potential victim. Her emotions over the lobotomized woman are clearly getting the best of her, so when Mulder heads back to Washington for the FBI crime lab and leaves her behind in Michigan to pursue a theory a construction company is a central factor in both kidnappings, we know she is on the right track, but it is going to cost her. It ilmost does, as she is alone with the guy we already know is the killer, yet she captures him with relative ease.

But not before the second woman is found dead from a botched lobotomy. Scully takes blowing it hard, but has little time to wallow as Schauz escapes from police custody and kidnaps her. It is an interesting point that as he has her duct taped to a dental chair ready to perform ‘surgery,” he explains she has a Howler that must be killed. We do not know it yet, but Scully does have a brain tumor caused by her abduction. Is Schauz’s comment a subtle reference to that? I think so.

Mulder rescues her in the nick of time by figuring out from Schnauz’s past that he is hiding out near his father’s grave. Evidently, his father had something done to his also mentally ill sister, which prompts his need to “save” women. A photo Schnauz too of himself before nearly jamming thre ice pick in Scully’s left eye--*shudder*--predicted his own death by Mulder’s gun.

“Unruhe” is a tight psychological thriller. While never fully explained, the photographic insight into Schnauz’s tormented mind are effectively terrifying. He makes a good, monster of the week villain. Admittedly, the scully in peril meme has already been done in about as many conceivable ways as possible, but its appearance yet again is not a detriment. One gripe: she is duct taped hand and foot to a dentist’s chair. When Mulder frees her hands, she stands up and walks off as though their was no tape around her ankles. That is an element they should hasve gotten right. But no biggie. “Unruhe” is quite good in spite.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Charlize Theron

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tumblr Founder: Complaining Users Should Go Away

Tumblr founder William Tildesley has a unique approach to customer service: those who complain about the site's frequent technical issues should go away:
“…we have no interest in customers that will go out of their way to discourage our entire team” continuing to say that this is a “…team that regularly spends their nights and weekends working feverishly to provide the best service we can against extraordinary challenges”. He signed off saying that “Plenty of services will import Tumblr blogs. Please go away.”
Well, there is a fine way to grow your business. Every company with frequent technical problems should tell their customers to either stop whining or go over to a competitor since things are probably done better over there anyway. The internet business is not what it used to be, no?

In Tildesley ’s defense, Tumblr is overpopulated by whiny hipsters, emotionally troubled agoraphobics, sexual perverts, and other such damaged individuals. The sheer amount of whining he must face on a daily basis as a result of their excessive use on the site’s limited servers must be incredibly annoying.

I am only half kidding. Tumblr is growing at a rate of 250 million impressions per week. That iis a lot of eye balls for potential advertisers. Tumblr is fast becoming a place where brands connect with consumers. What that is not is the place for anti-corporate emos to take up valuable server space and tech time. On a site in which the vast majority of users pay no fees to use it, who can blame the guy?

Here is the problem--aside from the arguable point that the free users make up most of those 250 million and growing impressions--Tildesley’s snappish tone reveals a friction within Tumblr. The company has a new influx of $ 40 million in cash that ought to be used to expand servers, fix queuing issues, back up applications, and a myriad other problems that have popped up over the last few months. But that is not where the money is going.

Tumblr recently paid twenty fashion bloggers to go to New York to cover fashion week. Is that the wisest way to spend revenue on a site with so many issues? It only is if Tumblr is seeking to become the next cultural hub like MySpace used to be. Tumblr is strolling down that path, no doubt. Consider where MySpace was just a few years ago versus its likely shutting down this June due to revenue fall offs.

What happened to MySpace? Users found greener pastures with Facebook. Tumblr already face stiff competition from WordPress and Posterus. The flippant attitude of Tumblr management current users unhappy with Tumblr ought to go over to them is not going to help. A number of users already migrated after Tumlr went down for a day in December, albeit not en masse. So that is poor tech, bad customer service, unwise spending decisions, and alienation of users. It looks like Tumblr will go the way of MySpace sooner rather than later.

Full disclosure; I have a Tumblr. It is linked in the Stalk Me Not section of the right hand column. I signed up in September 2009 in order to have a place to dump photos I had planned to attach to a blog entry at The Eye, but never found a post for. My interest in Tumblr has gone up and down depending on who I have been following--usually reciprocals. Maybe many users spend more time on the site than I do, but I have rarely experienced any glitches. Nevertheless, I say a big “meh” to the possibility of its death.

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around # 83

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

Proof Positive links to Anne Hathaway Cast as Catwoman.
Say Anything Blog links to Anne Hathaway Cast as Catwoman.
Mind Numbed Robot notes Rule 5.
Sentry Journal links to Surprise: MSNBC Fires Keith Olbermann.
Amusing Bunni's Musings offers thanks for a link.
Yankee Phil links to Scarlett Johansson.
Pirate's Cove links to FMJRA # 82, Blogroll Spotlght # 78, and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.
iPhone Wallpapers links to Katherine Heigl.
Left Coast Rebel links to Kaley Cuoco and Anne Hathaway.
Classic Liberal links to MySpace Likely to close by June.

Ouch. Ten less than last week. oh, well. outside of pretty girls, the Illinois Supreme Court, and a decent run of The X-files, it was not much of a week for blogging.

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--"Teliko"

Get ready for a bit of a letdown here. After three four star episodes in a row, you knew it had to be coming. ‘Teliko,” the last Friday night airing of The X-Files before Millennium took over the timeslot, is a mundane, formulaic story. I could not help but feel how much it would have fit in better within the first season when the series had not yet found its voice. A saving grace is my enjoyment of the first season. “Teliko” may be pedestrian, but it does have Mulder and scully working a mysterious case in their old role of faith versus reason with it somehow working out in the end.

Mulder and Scully are called to Philadelphia--yes, Pennsylvania two cases in a row--to investigate the disappearance of four black men when one of the men’s corpse is discovered completely devoid of pigmentation. The men have been kidnapped and drained of pigment by Samuel Oboah, an immigrant from West Africa who has no pituitary gland, so he has to survive as a hormone vampire Mulder and Scully find him mostly through shoe leather detective work They discover he has been stashing the now albino bodies in the ventilation system at a construction site. Oboah captures Mulder for dramatic tension, but he is saved by Scully, who shoots oboah.

The faith versus reason tension between Mulder and Scully consists of Mulder learning about the Teliko, a lost African tribe who prey on other Africans, living them albino as ghosts. Scully believes there is a scientific explanation for Oboah’s lack of pituitary gland, perhaps some new disease. Even though she believes this, she is not wearing a haz-mat suit or even a surgical mask when performing an autopsy on the first albino victim even though, under her own theory, he may have suffered from a new, contagious disease. Is that supposed to be an admission Mulder is most likely correct and she is just being contrary for the heck of it?

I mentioned above the story is a shoe leather detective story. That is true except for one point which I think it awkwardly thrown in just to legitimize Mulder’s new status with Syndicate insider Maria Covarrubias. Mulder goes to her to find out whether there is something bigger behind the discovery of a paralyzing West African plant found in the blood stream of the first albino corpse. No, it is just the drug Oboah uses to knock out his victims. Nice to see you, though, Maria.

There is nothing inherently wrong with “yeliko,” unless you want to count the pointless appearance of Covarrubias. There is nothing terribly exciting or scary about the episode. Mulder being put in peril briefly is manufactured drama that could have been done better. He is not actually a hostage, he is just paralyzed and cannot tell scully to look out behind her as Oboah stalks her. Unremarkable is the word.

Speaking of words, Scully uses the words inveigle and obfuscate in regular conversation. I love her.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Mila Kunis

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mike Pence is Not Running for President. Say, What is for Lunch?

It is way too early to start talking seriously about 2012 at the Eye, but it is for that reason I mention that US Rep. Mike Pence declared he has no intentions of running for president at this time. The true conservative insider types are upset with the news, but I am having flashbacks to 2000 when California Gov. Gray Davis, the only politician dull enough to make Al Gore appear dynamic, scheduled a press conference to announce he would not be interested in being Gore’s running mate. My reaction botyh times: Thanks for telling me. Now who are you?

Just for the record, I will not accept offers from any Major league baseball teams who want to take me in the draft this year. So none should waste a pick on me.

Seriously, pence’s mild flirtation with running for president was a way to get the most publicity for his gubernatorial run in Indiana, the office he planned to seek all along. No one outside of his home state would have cared about his eventual announcement otherwise. He likely would not have attracted as much attention as he would like instate without the national media attention. Not only does he have everyone’s attention now, but it will make national news, ever so briefly, that former presidential contender pence announced for Indiana governor today…

Charlie Sheen's Enablers Speak; It is Exactly What You Expect

I am not only interested in how far Charlie Sheen can spiral before crashing, but the business end of it. His allegedly close--the Hollywood definition is far less emotionally attached--friends allowing Sheen to crash and burn because he is making them money. You hear a lot about how management of record labels either looked the other way or even provided drugs for moneymaking rockers and have a tough time believing no one cares to intervene as long as the cash is flowing, but here is a tragic example flowing right before your eyes.

The official story goes Sheen has a hernia that was aggravated by laughing too hard at something on television yesterday morning. This was the morning after partying all night with five adult film stars and a briefcase full of cocaine. One assumes his public relations team could come up with a better cover story than that.

But more to the point of his enablers, CBS Entertainment Pres. Nina Tassler told the press--and I quote--”We have personal concerns, but Sheen has a job, he does it well, and the show iis a hit. In other words, as long as he is making us money, who cares? Amazingly enough, Tassler will be one of the most tearful speakers at his funeral, expressing such shock over how he could have died at such a young age.

Her personal concern should not fool you, because it does not fool sheen himself. He has retained uber-lawyer Marty Singer to sue all parties involved in the production of Two and a Half Men if any shut the series down in an effort to force him into rehab. Note the inherent admissions in his action. He tacitly admits to a drug and/or alcohol addiction problem he does not want to beat. He knows management would like to force rehab on him, but not at the cost of losing a profitable show. Management, in their lack of shutting the show down for the sake of Sheen rehab, admit not only is the money the show makes for them worth more than his health, but they will not even risk incurring legal fees . So the train rolls on without brakes.

UPDATE: Charlie Sheen is in rehab. I will lay off the situation for now.

X-Files--"Home"

“Home” is the most controversial episode of The X-Files. It is the only episode of the series to be banned from FOX after its initial airing. One wonders how it ever aired in the first place with its graphic depictions of infanticide, double bludgeoning, a decapitation, and the graphic depiction of the deformations caused by inbreeding. You can imagine how this description must mean a divisive split among X-Philes as to the popularity of the episode. It is practically a litmus test for true fans.

I pass the test for a full fledged X-Phile. It is not a fun episode to watch, but it is so well written and directed, with some incredibly thought provoking elements that I am glad it was produced as an episode of one of my all time favorite television series, but one viewing will stick with you likely for the duration. I feel the same way about the films The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en for much the same reasons. “home” is gruesomely brutal, yet shines a light on the hopelessly sad state of some people that you feel like you really need to see. It is not Freddy Krueger popcorn horror, but a real world nightmare that probably really is happening somewhere.

I watched ’Home” when it first aired. Rarely will watching a random episode of a television series stick in my mind, but I still recall the gape jawed reaction to the opening teaser. Right off the bat, it reminded me of classic Tales from the Crypt comics from the ’50’s. the kind that brought on the now nearly defunct Comics Code Authority self-censorship. Anyone who does not know comics will likely dismiss my above comparisons to Oscar winning films. You will just have to trust my judgment. Not all comics are or have been as frivolously juvenile as you probably think. The rest of the episode confirmed my thought ‘Home” was an EC Comics story come to film, though no where have writers Glen Morgan and James Wong confirmed an homage, at least to my knowledge.

The first scene involves a carefully shadowed childbirth, then burial in a field of the infant--from the infant’s perspective. The only concessions to censorship allowed was cutting the audio track of the baby’s crying as it is being buried alive. In spite of my Christian conservative roots, I am not big on censorship. I am all about personal responsibility and letting you pay the consequences, natural and eternal, for whatever you choose to experience. But even I am glad they chose not to cross that line.

The child is discovered by kids playing a pick up game of baseball in the field when the batter kicks up some bloody sand. This is a small town in which nothing like this ever happens, so the local sheriff immediately hands the matter over to the FBI. It is not a federal matter until Scully, repulsed by the appearance of the severely deformed corpse, theorizes someone, probably kidnapped, is being forced to breed children and needs to be rescued.

There is no mystery here beyond the identity of the mother. We only see her in the shadows. We have already seen the three deformed monster burying the infant. We know exactly who they are and what they have done. So does the sheriff. The Peacock family, as they are known, are complete throwbacks to savagery. Total recluses without any modern conveniences, they eat, work, and *ahem* breed within their own. The sheriff and the rest of the town pretend they do not exist. He assures the agents they have not been breeding. Hence, Scully’s kidnapped woman theory.

You cannot blame the sheriff for his lack of trust in Scully’s theory. Every effort is made to make Home, Pennsylvania into mythic Mayberry. Literally. The sheriff is named Andy Taylor. At one point, he is shown pulling his gun out of a dusty lock box. There are no bullets in it. This is down home, never have to lock your doors Norman Rockwell America. Contrast that idyllic image with the reality of the Peacocks.

Mulder, Scully, and the deputy, before he is decapitated by a booby-trapped front door, invade the peacock house and discover the woman is not a kidnap victim, but the mother. Missing three limbs from a car accident she was presumed killed in decades ago, the three boys keep her in a box under the bed until they are ready to--use her. She is perfectly content with the arrangement. This is her home, her family way. Outsiders are intruding on it. The agents have little recourse but to intervene. By this point, her sons have murdered Sheriff Taylor , his wife, and deputy. They have to be brought in.

The confrontation is the most violent on The X-Files, including one of the boys being impaled on another booby trap. Somehow, the mother crawls away during the skirmish. It is revealed later that one son survived and took his mother to safety. They drive off into the night in a stolen ’57 Cadillac to find a new home to start over all again.

Oh, mercy. Where to begin?

It is difficult to not assume the Peacocks were inbreeding from the beginning or, at the very least, the mother was a freak. No effort was made to give any credence to Scully’s kidnapping theory even before she convinced Mulder, who thinks the baby’s death is a local matter the FBI has no business dealing with., to go along with it. He concedes solely because because Scully’s maternal instincts strongly emerge. Not that this is the first or last time Scully has or will show a strong inclination to protect children, but it is particularly poignant since she is the one to confront Ms. Peacock in the climactic scene to get an earful of a warped mother’s sense of devotion. That is what the episode is really about--the devotion family members have for each other. However sick that may sound in this case.

“Home” is definitely sick. Definitely tasteless, too. Not just for the content of the plot, but also for much of the banter between Mulder and Scully. Mulder comes across as particularly aloof reminiscing over his childhood while Scully examines the infant’s shallow grave. Both come across as cruel in their witty banter throughout, even during the assault on the Peacock home. Really, Babe quotes while sneaking passed a hog pen? Come on.

There are some logical flaws, too. The agents would never assault a house with at least three armed men inside without state police for backup. It is doubtful Scully could identify such severe birth defects specifically by name just by looking at the infant’s corpse. She is not an expert in such things. Oddly enough, the biggest flaw is in geography. The Peacocks are presented as Southern hicks. The mother even refers to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression. But the episode is set in Pennsylvania, not a southern locale. James Carville once famously quipped the Keystone State is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. Still, that is not good enough. If you are going to make fun of Southerners as inbred hicks, at least put them on the proper side of the Mason-Dixon line.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend “Home.” It is a divisive episode for an X-Phile. One either ranks it near the top or in the cellar. I am of the former. Watch it at least once. Once is probably all you will ever need.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Anne Hathaway

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Illinois Supreme Court Puts Rahm Emanuel Back on the Ballot

When I am wrong, I am really wrong. The Illinois Supreme Court literally scolded the Court of Appeals for getting their decision wrong:
"So there will be no mistake, let us be entirely clear," the Supreme Court wrote in its ruling today. "This court’s decision is based on the following and only on the following: (1) what it means to be a resident for election purposes was clearly established long ago, and Illinois law has been consistent on the matter since at least the 19th Century; (2) the novel standard adopted by the appellate court majority is without any foundation in Illinois law; (3) the Board’s factual findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (4) the Board’s decision was not clearly erroneous."
Upper courts are reluctant to overturn lower court decisions. The judges and justices used to serve on theose lower courts and are empathetic to the professional embarrassment of having a decision overturned. So when a decision has to be done, it happens with finesse. I only only assume the Court of Appeals committed near professional negligence in coming to its decision in order to merit the Supreme Court's aggressive tone.

UPDATE: This was a 7-0 decision, meaning no room for debate whether the Supreme Court might be wrong. It is not. Then again, it has ruled that one is the resident by owning property someone else lives in entirely. Does that really sound logical? If the decision is a correct interpretation of statutory law, the responsible legislative body needs to clean that up.

UPDATE II: Here is the opinion. Yes, it is brutal:
Thus, from April 1867 through January 24 of this year, the principles governing the question before us were settled. Things changed, however, when the appellate court below issued its decision and announced that it was no longer bound by any of the law cited above, including this court’s decision in Smith, but was instead free to craft its own original standard for determining a candidate’s residency. See No. 1–11–0033, slip op. at 6-8 (dismissing the foregoing authority in its entirety). Thus, our review of the appellate court’s decision in this case begins not where it should, with an assessment of whether the court accurately applied established Illinois law to the particular facts, but with an assessment of whether the appellate court was justified in tossing out 150 years of settled residency law in favor of its own preferred standard. We emphatically hold that it was not…
(Emphasis added.)

D'oh! Ripped like an arrogant first year law student.

Charlie Sheen Hospitalized; Hooker Population Devastated

The Eye has inadvertantly gotten into the habit of looking to answer the age old question of whether there can be an even further downward spiral after attempting to slit your wife's throat for Christmas. Drunk, cokehead, hooker aficianado, and alleged actor Charlie Sheen has provided my lone peeper with the prime opportunity. This morning, he was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles. Wild guess here--drug overdose.

Neighbors, who most certainly hate his guts by this point, say he was removed by stretcher this morning around seven after a long, loud party in which the neighborhood was treated to numerous renditions of Red Hot Chili Pepper songs. They also say Sheen was accompanied by two young ladies. Wild guess, but they were either porn stars or hookers.

A Sheen representative released a statement saying that 911 had been called at around 6:35 AM because of severe abdominal pain. The rep also said a crowd had gathered at the hospital, including the two porn star/hookers, sheen’s parents, and his ex-wife, Denise Richards. While his condition is said to be “serious,” there is no indication that is an official medical opinion. So even though this probably is not a deathwatch, it is still nice to see all the loved ones who are going to eventually contest the will gathering together to fake sincere concern.

It beats me where Emilio Estevez is. He is certainly not busy acting anywhere.

Who is the big loser in all this--besides Sheen, who is probably going to be stuck paying overtime to those hookers? I could say CBS and Warner Brothers, since they have heavily invested in Sheen’s cooperation for three more years of Two and a Half Men at nearly $ 2 million per episode in salary for him alone, but I really think it is the people who are still keeping that putrid show on the air. They are not only enabling him, but since he is essentially playing himself on the show, enthusiastically enjoying his crash and burn.

X-Files--"Herrenvolk"

We have reached the premiere of the fourth and excellent season. As I said yesterday, there are an unusually large number of highly rated episodes in the fourth season. While I am not ready to declare an absolute favorite season just yet, the four is a definite contender. The mythology episodes are some of the most compelling, while the monster of the week installments balance well between terrifying and humorous. The best part is the Mulder and Scully dynamic of the first couple seasons is back. Good riddance to the hostility between them throughout most of the third.

“Herrenvolk’ (German for “Master Race,” referring to the clones or the colonists/Syndicate? Fifteen tears later, still have no clue) is a very entertaining hour of The X-Files in spite of not offering up any new pieces to the overall mythology. We already new about cloning experiments, the creation of hybrids for future colonization, the alien bounty hunter, Samantha Mulder’s abduction is a vital part, and the small pox inoculation is a cover for national cataloguing. Chris Carter is able to get away without revealing anything new by making “Herrenvolk’ an often heart wrenching story of human drama.

The X-Files has thus far featured the concepts of sacrifice and martyrdom as much as the paranormal. Mulder has lost his sister, father, and Deep Throat, while Scully has lost her sister, all in the pursuit all in pursuit of unraveling an immense, dangerous conspiracy neither of them of them have any idea how to resolve even if smoking gun evidence came into their possession. There is a sense of hopeless idealism within the whole story. Our heroes are never going to win, but are compelled to play the game anyway for the tiniest hope of answers.

The desperation of their quest comes to a head in “Herrenvolk.” Mulder in particular is nearly come undone. From the very beginning, he is desperate to save Jeremiah Smith from the alien bounty hunter for the sole purpose of healing his dying mother. He must abandon his goal when smith insists there is something he must see in Canada--a farm which is managed by numerous clones of an unknown boy and Samantha, still eight years old. Before we get any answers, the alien bounty hunter catches up with them, presumably killing Smith and Samantha while Mulder is unconscious. All he can do is go to Rhode island and collapse by his dying mother’s bedside.

Scully’s desperation is much more subtle and will not come to a head until the middle of the season when the cancerous aftermath of her abduction emerges full blown, but she is fast losing her comfortable role as the skeptic sent to debunk Mulder’s work. She is not a true believer yet, but as she gathers together several government heads in order to reveal her findings about the human cataloguing behind the small pox inoculations, she is presenting solid facts to support an extraordinary claim--one that, as quipped by a government poobah in attendance, sounds like it would have come from “Spooky” Mulder. Mulder and Scully are striking the right combination of faith versus reason to solve real problems. I am speaking as a man who posseses a reasoned faith. Your mileage may vary.

It would all be in vain if not for the final decision of the Cigarette Smoking Man to convince the aliens to heal Mulder’s mother. To let her die would be to destroy everything Mulder has. A man with nothing to lose is the most dangerous enemy one can have it is that one hope I talked about above that keeps everyone continuing the struggle.

Continue our heroes do. While it has been building up for a long time, The x-Files is not much of an episodic monster of the week series with two disagreeing FBI agents any longer as much as it is a entire cast of characters intertwined in an epic conflict in which each has enough of a personal stake, one wonders how they slept at night under the pressure, much less run off to investigate paranormal cases involving strangers. Eventually, the powers that be at The X-Files realized that meant stepping up the monster of the week stories or alternating their tone to contrast the mood of the mythology episodes. For the most part, it worked, but I must confess it is difficult to see how when the mythology has been so costly to the characters personally.

I like “Herrenvolk.” It is a highly personal story that feels epic. There are not any revelations, in fact, but still a vital part of the mythology for its personal moments: Mulder’s increasing anguish as everything he loves is being taken away from him, Scully losing her objectivity, Mr. X paying the price for betraying the Syndicate and using his last act to leave a clue for Mulder written in his own blood, and the Cigarette Smoking Man offering Mulder a shred of hope by sparing his mother. Small incidents that say big things in the grand scheme of things.

I forgot to mention this yesterday, but Jeremiah Smith is played as a meek, messianic healer perfectly by Roy Thiennes. Thiennes was the star of the ’60’s series The Invaders. on the series, he played the only man who was aware of the impending invasion of Earth by an alien race. His would be a fun bit of casting for that fact alone, but his portrayal of Smith is spot on perfect. Consider that a compliment retroactive to yesterday’s review as well.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Emma Roberts

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kevin Smith Suffers Meltdown Over the Multiple Failures of Red State

Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of Kevin Smith. Most importantly, he has repeatedly insulted reese witherspoon. Attacking my baby is the unpardonable sin. Secondly, I have never gotten into his films. He certainly is wordsmith with dialogue. He ranks right up there with Quentin Tarantino in that regard. But unlike Tarantino, he does not have any other talent to go along with it. I thought Chasing Amy was mildly amusing, but mostly because I pictured armies of slacker geeks attempting to convert lipstick lesbians. Bottom line; I rank slacker film down there with Hick chic like My Name is Earl. Mayber I am just too yuppie to get into either genre.

All that too say I am going to pile on even further with smith’s recent complete meltdown over the failure of his latest film Red State to generate the sort of anti-christian controversy that he used to make Dogma, a film specifically attacking Catholicism, a decade ago.

If you are not aware of the background, Smith has filmed his first horror movie called Red State. the horror element is that ordinary people do really grotesque things. In this case, it is a Fred Phelps-type murderous holy man. As you can guess by the title, the film is an ‘expose” on how fundamentalist Christianity promotes violence. What may surprise is that distributors have passed on the film and critics have ravaged it, not because it bashes Christianity, but because it is an awful film. The already clear failure of Red State sparked a complete meltdown by Smith at Sundance a few days ago.

Take your pick on the root of Smith’s problem:

One option is his frustration with Christian conservative outrage to erupt. He had made it well known his film was going to be about before he even had the script done. As I said above, he already knew how to puush the right buttons to incite controversy. He used to send incendiary faxes to catholic organizations hoping they would protest Dogma which they did. More people bought tickets because of the free publicity. So christian groups are not buying into his promotional strategy.

The second option is the fact smith is a one trick pony capable of nothing but snappy dialogue is being apparent to Hollywood. The idea is something smith himself has not really hidden. He refused to direct .Green Hornet because he felt it was too big a job for him. What Hollywood creative type ever says something like that? Not one with much of a future in the business. Regardless, Red State has failed to impress distributors because of its sheer lack of quality. Smith’s limitations as a fiomaker have finally caught up with him.

That sundance meltdown involved Smith blasting the Hollywood mechanism for distributing movies. He claimed he was going to self-distribute Red State and had planned to do so all along even though one presents his film at Sundance in order to find distribution in the first place. He also announced his retirement from filmmaking after his next effort. It all adds up to the realization of his own failure at keeping his career going.

Smith plans to take Red State across the country for personal screenings. He is assuming his loyal fan base will show up and help him recoup the $ 4 million budget. Why else would he go to so much effort? He would noty be so otherwise dedicated to a film if it was not his Citizen Kane, which it obviously is not. He has lost his mastery of marketing, his status in Hollywood, a bundle of cash, and it looks like his grip on sanity.

Jimmy Buffett Hospitalized After Fall Off Stage

Jimmy Buffett took a tumble off stage in Australia and sent to the hospital for treatment of a head injury.

Buffett was allegedly blinded by a bright spotlight during an encore performance of ‘Lovely Cruise” and fell off the stage. It was a full ten seconds before anyone in the audience beyond the front row area knew he had even had an accident. A concert goer in the front row claims Buffett hit the ground head first. He subsequently remained unconscious for five to ten minutes.

The hospital reports Buffett is responsive and in stable condition. He will remain hospitalized for observation.

I realize the guy is a free spirit--that is one of the reasons I like him so much--but he is 64 years old. Is that not a little too old to be bouncing around the stage like he is forty years younger? This is not the first time I have critiqued aging rock stars for not slowing it down in the twilight years lest they embarrass themselves at best and injure themselves at worst, but this is the first time I have said it about a performer who I really enjoy, antics and all. So I mean business here.

X-Files--"Talitha Cumi"

I am fond of well done literary references done in other forms--well done meaning more than just thrown in to fake intellectualism. There is a clear distinction. If you want a fine example, look to “Talitha Cumi,” which is also the best mythology episode since “Paper Clip.”

The title ’Talitha Cumi” comes from the Gospel of Mark 5:41. Translated from Aramaic, it means ’Arise, Maiden.” Jesus said this to a girl he had risen from the dead. The allusion ties into the episode because a mysterious man named Jeremiah Smith uses some mystical powers to calm an armed hostage taker in a fast food joint, then heals him and several wounded customers when he panics after seeing police snipers outside. Mulder and scully are on the trail of Smith throughout the episode, but he is captured and imprisoned by the Cigarette Smoking Man.

It is their prison cell confrontation that is the most prominent literary reference. There conversation over the future of humanity is a direct lift of the conversation between the Grand Inquisitor and Jesus in a parable told in “The Grand Inquisitor“ chapter of The Brothers Katamazov.. smith is one of the aliens attempting to prevent the eventual colonization of Earth. The Cigarette Smoking Man assures him he will fail in his effort to save humanity, but is visibly upset by Smith’s valid warning that mankind’s love of freedom will conquer the Syndicate’s control. Man lives for hope, which is why smith’s miracle healing has caused such a stir.

Smith escapes prison and tracks down Scully seeking protective custody from the Alien Bounty Hunter. He makes his first appearance since the second season. Mulder is off to the hospital in Rhode Island where his mother has suffered a stroke after a confrontation with the Cigarette Smoking Man. Their dust up is one of the most famous in The X-Files. for one, it reveals she was given one of those alien ice picks--the only weapon known to kill the aliens. Two, the Cigarette Smoking man hints at having had an affair with her in the past. The revelation lead to long speculation that he, and not Bill, is Mulder’s real father.

The episode comes to a head when Mulder meets up with Scully and Smith at an industrial site as the Alien Bounty Hunter shows up to kill smith. To be continued.

An exciting ’to be continued” it is, too. The mythology has suffered in the third season thus far, either by being muddled with Native American mysticism or meandering plots about black oil attempting to return home. The mythology is not only back on track, but we finally get the notion there is more than just Mulder waging a one man crusade against the impossible. He has alien aliens. Said allies have faith in man’s ability to overcome. Speaking as a cynic, that is more faith in man than I can muster. Maybe more than Mulder’s nigh bottomless well of faith in his cause.

“Talitha Cumi” is the third season finale. The audience for The X-Files had grown this season because of all the buzz from the second season cliffhanger. While I enjoyed it overall, the third season falls below the first two as far as consistent quality., particularly in terms of the mythology. The season is saved by several, very strong monster of the week episode. But how the series managed to grow its audience by offering less quality than it had when it was a cult favorite is beyond me.

Fret not, folks. The fourth season is one of my favorite of the entire series. Out of all nine seasons, it contains more highly rated episodes than any other in my book. I am looking forward to putting my thoughts down about them.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Careful, That Drop is a Good Four Inches

Jessica Simpson stumbles out of a Japanese restaurant a couple nights ago clinging to fiance Eric Johnson to keep from falling off the planet. The big question--is johnson truly in love with the woman and therefore willing to tolerate such behavior, or does he think it will be easy to convince her to get married sans prenup? You make the call.

Palate cleanser:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

X-Files--"Wetwired"

The X-Files has managed to flirt with social issues while mostly avoiding being preachy, but one always fears when subjects like violence on television come up. Considering the often graphic nature of the series, there is a certain fear of hypocrisy as well. It would seem rather strange to complain about violent imagery causing real violence when The X-Files routinely visualizes the most gruesome of criminal acts. Fears laid to rest, “Wetwired” a meat and potatoes conspiracy romp.

Mulder is let in on a series of murders by ordinary people who saw illusory images by the plain Clothes Man, his first appearance. While the agent knows nothing about him, Mulder looks into the matter after being warned ignoring it would cost lives. The case involves a man who killed his wife and several police officers because he believed they were a Bosnian war criminal and an older woman who shoots her neighbor because she believes he is her husband cheating with another woman. A common factor is a stack of videos in each residence and a cable company man checking a device shortly after each incident occurred.

The agents view the3 video recordings, which all appear to be regular television programming. Unbeknownst to Mulder, Scully is being affected by it. Her paranoia increases as she slowly begins to suspect Mulder is in cahoots with the Syndicate. He finally discovers television viewers are being manipulated when he takes one of the devices the cable repairman installed to the Lone Gunman. It produces visual signals which enhance the viewer’s fear. Mulder was not affected because he is red/green color blind. Scully, however, has gone over the edge.

(Can color blind people pass the FBI physical? I am guessing they can, but there is enough doubt to make me wonder.)

Knowing Scully is probably affected, he goes looking for her and finds six rounds from a glock instead before she heads off. At least, I counted six rounds. Mulder later says it was four. I try not to pick nits too much, but that sounds like an easy detail to get right. Her mother finally brings her down from her delusion by convincing her she would not associate with anyone who kidnapped her daughter or killed her other one like she is with Mulder. The power of mom overcomes subliminal messaging.

The episode is turned on its ear in the end when Mr. X, who sent the Plain Clothes Man to Mulder in the first place, shows up to eliminate all evidence of the project. Mulder is not thrilled that his “ally” has screwed him over, but that is typical of how their relationship goes. Mr. x meets with the Cigarette Smoking Man. It is not spoken between them, but it is obvious he suspects Mr. X is a traitor to the Syndicate.

“Wetwired” is a routine, but entertaining installment. The general plot was done better back in the second season with “Blood”, but after a string of less than stellar monster of the week and mythology episodes, it is a welcome sight. Interestingly enough, the episode was written by the show’s visual effects director Matt Beck. It is his only writing credit.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Alyson Hannigan

Monday, January 24, 2011

Appeals Court Knocks Rahm Emanuel Off Mayoral Ballot

Rahm Emanuel is bound to appeal the decision, but it looks like that will be a way of taking it to the distance rather than giving up. I do not believe he has much of a chance at overturning the decision. The following analysis is an example of my less than stellar legal education and experience, so consult experts for better quality horse manure if you need more credibilie legal opinion.

There are two statues which discuss eligibility which are relevant to Emmanuel’s case. One deals with the eligibility to vote. The other deals with the eligibility to run for office. The first is far less strict. A resident of Chicago is eligible to vote if he has “constructive” residence. Even the appeals court agreed Emanuel passes the first test by owning a residence within Chicago even though he does not physically live there. The second statute dealing with eligibility to run for office is far stricter. One has to have been a literal resident of Chicago for one year before filing to run for municipal office. Emanuel fails this test because his Chicago residence has been nothing but storage for boxes of his stuff while he has been in Washington.

Emanuel’s lawyers argued that the statues mean the same thing. If he has been a constructive resident of Chicago for over a year under the first statute, then he ought to be considered a resident eligible to run for office in Chicago. They are arguing it is not reasonable to allow a resident to vote, but not be a candidate himself, when he qualifies for residency.

Emanuel, who is a speech therapist rather than a lawyer, is under the mistaken impression the law is always fair and statutes are not open to interpretation. The two statutes do not say the same thing. The first establishes residence for voting eligibility but the second statute requires voting eligibility plus residency for a year prior to filing for office. So it goes back to there being a lesser standard for residency for voting, in which he qualifies, than for running for office, which he does not qualify.

This makes since. Why have two statutes that say the exact same thing? The drafters of the statutes had to have intended for different standards for voters than candidates in residency requirements. So emanuel can vote in the mayoral election because he owns a residence and has some connection there, but cannot run in the election because he has not actually lived there within a year before making the ballot.

X-Files--"Quagmire"

“Quagmire’ is a personal favorite. It is not a great episode because of some glaring flaws, most notable how poorly april in Vancouver doubles for april in Georgia, a mismatch of humorous versus overly grizly scenes, and a mischaracterization or two. The episode is saved for many fans by the third act, in which Mulder and scully believe they are stranded on a rock miles from shore in the dead of night, so they wax philosophical while waiting for daylight. I think the third act being so popular proves X-Phile shippers are cheap dates, but that is just my $ .02.

Mulder takes advantage of a missing biologist near a georgia lake in order to search for a mythical Loch Ness Monster-like creature named Big Blue. Because scully is dragged along at the last minute, she has to take her dog, Queequeg, along with them. If you do not see something bad happening to the dog already, you are too naïve to leave the house unsupervised.

One of the reasons “Quagmire is” a personal favorite is because the entire premise and execution is similar to a story that occurred near my neck of the woods called the Lizard Man of Lee County. The Lizard Man was allegedly first spotted by a young man driving home from work at 2 AM one night in 1988. One of his tires blew out. As he was finishing putting a new one on, his car was supposedly attacked by a seven foot tall, humanoid lizard with red eyes, three fingered hands, and three-toed feet. In others words, a shorter Sleestak from Land of the lost . The incident caused a stir because there were scratches on the roof of the car and a missing rear view mirror as physical evidence.

Most people thought the guy had been drinking and was making up a story to cover for an alcohol related accident which damaged his car, but people started reporting sightings of the Lizard man all over. Plaster casts of a set of footprints were made, but never sent to any lab for testing, presumably because someone had faked them as a hoax to keep the story going. It was not too long before locals were selling tee shirts and booking hunting expeditions to boost tourism. All these elements are prominent in “Quagmire,” though altered enough to avoid too much similarity.

There are still occasional reports of Lizard man sightings. It alleged tried to drag a young girl into the swamp in 2004 and attacked an older couple’s car in 2008. But a airman from Shaw Air Force base who alleged shot the creature recanted the scales and blood he presented as evidence after he was convicted of a fire arms misdemeanor. He claimed he lied to keep the myth--and the tourism cash--rolling in. If you are interested, this web site covers twenty years of the myth.

No, I do not believe in the Lizard Man, but I do believe in the greenbacks gullible Yankees have left behind when they have come to Lee County looking for it. The georgia locals in “Quagmire” are the same. At one point, a guy selling tee shirts and key chains is seen making fake footprints with novelty rubber monster feet in order to further the lended and drum up business. It is another of the aspects I like most about “Quagmire”--the Southerners are not presented as ignorant yokels. Instead, Mulder is presented as the naïve guy who believes without question while the locals understand the real deal. Even when other people are attacked on the lake, the sheriff responds to Mulder’s panic by assuring him it is vacation season. At least eight or nine rednecks get drunk and drown themselves, get hit by a boat, or bitten by a water moccasin. It is to be expectected.

However, there is a creature killing people and Scully’s dog. I mentioned above the girzly combination of humor and gruesome death and mischaracterization. My problem zeros around Queequeg’s death. Scully takes him for a walk at night.. He runs off barking at something, then after a pitiable yelp, goes silent. When Scully pulls back the leash, there is nothing left but his collar and nametag. The scene comes right after the silly fake footprints bit, so it is jarring. That would not be so bad if the subsequent scene did not have Mulder, completely unsympathetic to a teary eyed Scully, engrossed in local photos allegedly showing Big Blue and then dragging her off on a moonlit boat ride to search himself. I am no fan of dogs, but I can appreciate when a friend is upset when a friend is upset over hers==and I am not a Rhodes scholar psychologist like Mulder.

Granted, the scene was meant to emphasize Mulder’s obsession with finding truth in the unexplained, but he comes across as nothing but cruel instead. We get some resolution in the third act after something sinks their boat and the two agents are stranded on a rock for the night. Mulder makes an effort to show interest in her dog by asking she named him Queequeg. Her father had a fascination with Moby Dick, so the whole family had nicknames relating to the novel. We already know tjis from past episode; mulder does not. Is that not odd considering how involved he has been in scully family tragedies of late? Again, he comes across as a self-absorbed jerk.

It is presumably this realization that prompts Scully to compare her partner to Ahab in a line that, I painfully admit, jabs me personally:
"You're so consumed by your personal vengeance against life, whether it be its inherent cruelties or mysteries, everything takes on a warped significance to fit your megalomaniacal cosmology."
Ouch, Scully. How long have you been spying on me?

Mulder respons jokingly by saying it has always been a boyhood dream to have a pergleg. That way, he would have a disability which would lower expectations for his sucdees. People would admire him for simply carrying on with life. Let me assure you, this dream is crap. Even if you graduate valedictorian, earn a full scholarship to a big university, and eventually earn a law degree while holding various jobs in the interim inspite of disabilities, all any numb nut will say to you is how much they admire you for getting out of bed in the morning. exceeding the low expectations for cripples ain’t all it is cracked up to be, particularly when surrounded by…well, you know. Morons.

You can see how Scully nailed me as well as Mulder with her Ahab comparison

Anyway, enough with the self-psychoanalysis. The killer turns out to be a large alligator who has been moving closer to people because his regular food source’s population has been cut down. Mulder is disappointed to learn Big Blue is not real, but he misses the creature popping up out the water as the two agents leave the lakeside.

‘quagmire” is a mixed blessing for me, considering its ties to a local legend and an accurate mirror it holds up. I still give it a highly positive review. I can appreciate anything, but particularly an idiot box offering, which prompts serious thought. Considering ’Quagmire” is probably light entertainment to most everyone else, i6t is fully understandable if the general consensus is in disagreement. The shippers get the famous Conversation on the Rock, though. So there is that.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Jennifer Aniston

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blogroll Spotlight # 78

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.

American Perspective--The Donald Says Tax Chinese Products
Amusing Bunni's Musings--Squirrel Appreciation Day
Anchoress-Bearing Knowledge Not Meant for You
Blazing Cat Fur--The Left's Climate of Hate and Assassination
Bluegrass Pundit--Paul Ryan makes the Case for the Repeal of ObamaCare
Camp of the Saints--Rule 5 Saturday: Fran Gerard
Classic Liberal--Salma Hayek in Defense of Clear Thinking
Da Tech Guy--The "Why" of the Left's Call for Civility
Daley Gator--Another Democrat Who Has Never Read the Constitution
Doctor Zero--Remember the 11th
Essential Mr. Bill--Blah, Blah, Blah
Fishersville Mike--So Long, Keith
Fuzzy Logic--Obama & Hu
Gorges Grouse-Confession
In a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World--Are Things Better with Obama?
Lazy Farmer--My Perpetual Motion Machine
Mind Numbed Robot--Rule 5 Saturday: Cheryl Cole Tweedy
Motor City Times--Treehuggers v. Starbucks
Pirate's Cove--Will obama Push Climate Change Alarmism During SOTU?
Proof Positive--A Little Saturday Night Music
Randy's Roundtable--Picture of the Day
Sentry Journal--Sell Your Cloak, buy a Sword
Teresamerica--Is America Following in the Footsteps of Ancient Rome
Troglopundit--Traffic Drive for 1 Million Hits
Washington Rebel--A New Answerr for Everything
Yankee Phil--Newsbusted

Proof Positive's post linked above reminded me I like Sixpence None the Richer's version of "Don't Dream It's Over" better than the original Crowded House version. Blasphemous, I know:

X-Files--"Avatar"

Stargate SG=1 fans should brace for mixed emotions regarding “Avatar.” Yes, Amanda Tapping follows Don S. Davis as the second main cast member from that series to appear on The X-Files. She plays a prostitute who spends the night with Skinner, for those of you who get excited over such things. Unfortunately, she is killed by having her neck broken by the end of the teaser, so she spends the remainder of the episode as a corpse autopsied by Scully. Not the most illustrious of science fiction debuts, but Tapping made it out okay in the long run.

Onm a related note, we meet Skinner’s wife for the only time in the series. She is played by Jennifer Hetrick, most famous to science fiction fans as Vash on Star Trek: the Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She is currently doing commercials for Tylenol and ThermaCare, so draw your own conclusions as to whether she has made out as well as Tapping. Or evaluate Skinner’s taste in women, whichever floats your boat.

Generally speaking, The X-Files does episodes centering on secondary characters very well. A couple have become favorites of the entire series But I have to sadly admit ’Avatar” disappoints. It is not that it is a bad episode, but that it does not explore Skinner’s character as much as one would hope. He is a good character overall, but he has had a hard, tough guy exterior with very little inclination to open up so the audience can see what makes him tick. “Avatar” should have given him the opportunity to expose more of his inner self, but he still carried on the tough, inpenetrable exterior even through what has to be one of the most traumatic times in his life.

Skinner is in the midst of a divorce from his wife of seventeen years, but he refuses to sign divorce papers. He storms out of his lawyer’s office into a hotel bar where he meets a woman with whom he spends the night.. When she wakes up beside her the next morning after a nightmare involving an old woman, she is dead of a broken neck. Skinner is naturally the only suspect.

Mulder and scully take it upon themselves to investigate. They feel they owe Skinner for as many times as he has gone to bat for them. However, all evidence points to Skinner having committed not only that murder, but having later used his car to run his wife off the road in an attempt to kill her, too. Mulder gived skinner a big benefit of the doubrt. He believes some forensic evidence found on the dead woman’s body plus Skinner’s continuing visions of an old woman are evidence of a spirit visiting him and causing these incidents.

For which I have to pick a nit. A avatar is from the Sanskrit. It means the physical manifestation of a diety. This old woman does not fit the position of a diety in any way. She is more likely a banshee, imp, or even a Syren, all of which would seem more appropriate. How could a guy like mulder blow this one so badly?

While skinner is experiencing the illusions of an old woman, it is the manifestation of his fears of growing old alone. The woman has nothing to do with the murders. Mulder discovers the truth when the FBI crime lab can (extraordinarily) reconstruct a face from whoever got hit with the airbag when Skinner’s car was used to force his wife off the road. The perpetrator is also the guy who hired the prostitute using Skinner’s credit card and eventuallt kills her madame to make it appear Skinner is covering his murderous tracks. It is all a plot by the Syndicate to get rid of Skinner for his protection of Mulder and Scully. He kills the assassin himself. In television, that clears up everything. Naturally, the divorce is called off, too.

Like I said above, “Avatar” does not explore Skinner’s character like one would hope. The only time we really get inside his head is when he is at his wife’s hospital bedside confessing why he cannot sign divorce papers. Maybe the scene resonates with others, but it had no where near the emotion of the similar Mulder/Scully scene from “One Breath“ and those two have not been married for nearly twenty years. I do not think it is asking too much to expect Skinner to appear at least as hurt as Mulder did over Scully under the circumstances. Instead, skinner resolves all his problems in the expected way--he kills the guy ruining his life. Now we are all back to normal. It is all quite underwhelming, as is the idea the Assistant Director of the FBI can be found in bed with a dead woman and not have it become a national scandal. A spirit committing murder is more plausible than that. Happening.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Scarlett Johansson

Saturday, January 22, 2011

MySpace Likely to Close by June

Newscorp is likely to shut MySpace down by June unless it makes a big turnaround within the next few months. a turnaround is not likely. MySpace is expected to lose some $225 million in 2011, which is up from the $189 million loss in 2010. Considering its most high profile user in recent weeks has been Jared Lee Loughner, the former giant in the world of social networking is not winning friends with the public, either. Expect MySpace to go with little fanfarew by summer.

MySpace’s fate goes to prove anything that enjoys a meteoric rise can come crashing down just as abruptly. It was only a few years ago the site was purchased by NewsCorp for $ 580 million. In order to cheaply promoye product to tens of millions of users. Even then, many scoffed MySpace was over valued. The skepticism looks prescient now, not kneejerk.

I am not completely surprised myself. I signed up for MySpace back in 2005 at the height of its popularity for the sole purpose of ending sales pitches from friends who could not believe I did not already have a page. The non-uniform, wild frontier aspect of the personal pages prompted a nostalgic rage for the late ’90’s internet era of Geocities homepages and fan made websites at the top of search engine results. But my interest evaporated quickly. I am quite confident I have only logged into my page four times in the last year. Judging by log in dates, many of my “friends” have given up, as well.

So what is the problem/ For me, nostalgia only went so far. I was reminded that not everyone has the talent to create interesting content when given free reign to do so. The social contact of social media is not all that social, either. What is with the silly obligation to regularly post photos in someone’s comment section or else be deleted for the sin of being a fake friend? It sounds more like social networking is a venue for indulging the emotional problems of the socially awkward. Do consider the only MySpace users who are left are disaffected hipsters and obscure bands both attempting to find each other as proof.

So aside from the emptiness of online socializing and an aversion to dirty hipsters, what turned people off from MySpace? For one, it was easy to be fake. I do not mean a shallow friend, but pseudonymous. How do you maintaining a relationship, even a superficial online one, with someone named xxxFroggy69xx? Maybe there is a cool factor to that for younger folks, but once your grandmother got a MySpace, the thrill was gone. Even though she has long since departed for face book, the damage has been done.

I switched to Face book a couple years ago myself. Not that I think Facebook has a long, bright future, either. After setting it up to publish my blog and Twitter feeds, I visit maybe once a day. Certainly, there is an authenticity to having to use your real name as well as a uniformity in pages. Facebook has also adapted to mobile devices and other web services like twitter far better than MySpace ever did. I imagine these factors make Face book a more attractive venue for business to advertise there, as well. But the fact is, the more mainstream face book gets, the less likely the cool people are going to want to be a part of it.

What we have is MySpace failing because of its free-range style and failure to adapt with, I am guessing, Facebook peaking because it is becoming mainstream. Polar opposite business models, but likely the same result--eventual crash. But, hey--it is the internet. Three to five years is a long, successful life here.

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around # 82

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

American Perspective links to Rule 5 offerings.
Proof Positive links to Olivia Wilde, Kim Kardashian, and Billie Piper.
Say Anything Blog links to Olivia Wilde, Kim Kardashian, and Billie Piper.
Classic Liberal links to Further Proof Jared Lee Loughner Has a Sick Mind.
Yankee Phil links to Kaley Cuoco, Katherine Heigl, and Nikki Sanders.
Pirate's Cove links to FMJRA # 81, Blogroll Spotlight # 77, and Kim Kardashian.
Sentry Journal links to What is Government if Words Have No Meaning?
Amusing Bunni's Musings thanks me for the linky love.
Old Dominion Blogs links to Kaley Cuoco, Katherine Heigl, and Nikki Sanders.
Nanaland News links to Kaley Cuoco.
Teresamerica links to Further Proof Jared Lee Loughner Has a Sick Mind.

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.