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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

No Apple, You're Doing It Wrong

The latest in technological gadgetry came out to a resounding…. OOOh, Awww, Dooohh! The iPhone 4 hit the shelves and even Jason Bateman had to have it so bad he was willing to endure the boo birds as he was given the opportunity to skip to the front of the long ass line. But as people flock and grab and go giddy over this new toy a problem has arisen. The signal may drop from holding the phone.

That’s right. You’re new iPhone may just end up being a smaller iPad. Why? From all the jargon and technical speak I’ve read it seems as though the constraints of building bigger and better devices in smaller spaces has caught up with smart phone makers. Requirements laid out by FCC and other bodies will only allow so much radiation and over scary words to penetrate the body so smart phones have had to move the antenna placement into the bottom of the phones. The iPhone 4 went rogue and put the antenna on the sides along the metal band that wraps around the casing. One side for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the other for cellular reception.

Pretty heady concept, but realistically, I guess it has to make sense since I don’t remember the last time I used a mobile device that had an antenna sticking out of it. Great, now I’ve got nothing to chew on. The problem with the iPhone is that there is a small gap that can be bridged by your hand that may [read: most likely] cause you to drop a call.

Apple owned up to the issue [read: feature] after people complained. For once, AT&T wasn’t to blame but I’m sure people were quick to grab some pitchforks and torches. Nope, Jobs pretty much said that it’s most likely user error. In other words, “We screwed up trying this new idea and we pretty much think you’ll still buy the damn thing because you guys are addicted to crack and Steve Jobs is the biggest dealer around.” And sales haven’t slumped by the looks of it, so people are willing to put up with the possibility that the iPhone may not actually work as a phone.

Now, that’s not to say that Steve Jobs didn’t address the problem and offer a solution. The man who can do no wrong, and I give the guy somewhat of a pass for taking on cancer, has a fix for the masses of angry consumers. “You’re holding it wrong.” Steve, I’m sorry, I must have bad reception, did you say what I think you said? Oh, right, it’s our fault. That makes sense. I mean from every commercial we’ve seen we learned how to hold the phone so I guess we can say, “I learned it by watching you!” The other more MacGyver-y fix is to put a piece of scotch tape over the hole, bridging the gap and keeping your mouth breathing, sweaty palm, window licking self from causing the problem. Or, you could put more money into the pocket of someone by getting a rubber case.

My solution? Buy something else. Vote with your wallet. At least never buy the first version of anything new that comes down the pike. The 2.0 version of the IFailed 4 will probably fix the issue and all those early birds will have to buy a new one. It’s called genius marketing. Put out a device that just makes it worth buying and then bring out another version that addresses all the public’s concerns and at least half of those people will buy the newer device as well. It’s like the home movie industry rereleasing new DVDs of the same old movies, now with more bonus features. How many versions of the same movie do you need to own before the Ultimate-Directors Cut-Unrated-Double Wide version finally gives you what you want from a movie that you will probably watch once and then never again?

So, frankly, my comment to Apple is “You’re Doing It Wrong” yet we still buy the crack because we are all Tyrone Biggums and Apple is throwing a Free Crack Party. I just wish they’d release a phone that actually functioned as a phone. I mean isn’t that why they call it a Phone in the name of the device? Can you hear me now, Steve? Am I holding this thing right?

Probably not.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

No, this isn’t a pizza commercial. It’s the first REAL post about my Mother-In-Law since she died. I still don’t have it in me to detail exactly what happened. Those close to me already know but actually writing it down makes it still all too final and I really don’t want to go there yet.

But there has been a whirlwind of things going on since her death. We had Mother’s Day, which was rough, my F-I-L’s birthday, vacation and Father’s Day since then and we’ve been real busy with just life like getting the pool situation fixed, planning a third birthday, and gardening and some minor landscaping. Loads of fun. However, one thing was still hanging out there undone. We needed to get a final marker for her grave.

My F-I-L got a set of plots when she died and decided to get a marker for both of them at the same time. Before my wife left for the appointment she asked if I had any suggestions on what they should put on the marker. I said, “Me?” After all, I’m just the in-law. I’m not blood. Besides, how can you expect anyone to spend two minutes and come up with something that encapsulates their life and will be a permanent testament to how they lived? But, that’s not to say I had an opinion. In fact I had something pop into my head immediately after my wife asked me the question.

There’s something you have to understand about this woman. She never backed down from a fight. She spent the last twelve years beating the pants off of cancer. In the end, she had beaten it but a stupid hemorrhage in her brain, exacerbated by the fact that she was on a blood thinner for pulmonary emboli, is what nailed her. In fact, most people’s markers at the memorial park where she is buried only have years, maybe months and years listed for their birth and death dates. My wife wanted to make sure the entire birth date and death date were listed because she fought for every single one of those days since 1996. But that’s who she was.

And it’s because of that spirit that she didn’t pull any punches. You knew exactly where you stood with her and if you had an inkling that maybe she didn’t like you, there was probably a reason for it. Some may call that being a bitch but if so, that was a badge of honor. She learned to live life without fear of regret or retribution after staring down death’s door and she let even the highest level of management in her company know exactly how she felt. It wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns and she told them like it was. I think they respected her even if they didn’t like what she had to say. And for every difference of opinion or opposite position she took, when she finished her piece she’d say, “How am I doing?” She’d even say it with a smile. So, when my wife asked me that question, the first thing that popped into my head, albeit morbidly ironic, yet fitting was, “How am I doing?”

Yeah, it was morbid. “How am I doing?” Well, you’re dead but other than that just fine. As bad as it sounds saying it out loud, in the back of my head I can hear this cackle of laughter because she would have laughed out loud in a raucous way at the mere suggestion of that being her final words. She would have got the joke. Even my wife smirked at the thought but I didn’t expect her to take it seriously. After that, I said there were not enough words to sum up her life. She was an exceptional human being, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a fighter, a hero, and a million other appropriate words that would not fit on a piece of bronze that measures roughly two to three feet in length. I had one other suggestion that I thought was appropriate and would still get a laugh in my head from my Mother-in-Law. It was silly and a throw away suggestion.

“Sassy, brassy, and oh so classy”

My wife chuckled and went out the door. She came back a few hours later and handed me the picture of what the marker would look like. On one side there was the information for my Father-in-Law, which included a deer and the words, “Just cleaning my guns” and on the other side was my Mother-in-Law’s information with a cross and the words.


I laughed and then wept a little. I never expected them to use my goofy comment and I didn’t try to even suggest that they should. Again, I only married their daughter. I don’t claim ownership of anything decision related in the family. I merely offered a suggestion after I was asked. Of course, it made me honored, even though I was bummed that they didn’t use the whole quote. Apparently, it’s $20 a word. I would have given them the $40 or suggested that they used supercalifragilisticexpialidocious just to be a prick. My wife said I could have that one on my marker.

I think I’d like a different quote. “How am I doing?” seems to be one of my favorites at the moment. At least I don’t have to pay royalties to the originator. But I’d gladly cut her a check if she’d pick it up in person, right now.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Demented Radio Icon Ends 40 Year Run

The name Barret Eugene Hansen might not mean anything to you. He’s not Ryan Seacrest or Rick Dees or even Casey Kasem for those of us old enough to remember that last name. In fact Hansen may not even be known to you by his radio moniker, Dr. Demento. But for 40 years, radio was a little more demented. The Dr. Demento show ends its broadcast run this year.

Growing up in the 80s, there were about four stations that I was familiar with, in my hometown. There was the top 40 station B94, which is now a sports talk station. There was/is the classic rock station 102.5 WDVE. There was the AM news station 1340 WCVI which has been defunct for a number of years and is now another station under different ownership. And there was the small easy listening, oldies, and pop station on top of the mountain called 103.9FM WLSW aka Music Power 104. Between the three I received an equal dosage of 80s, Oldies, and Paul Harvey.

But something happened during the rise of popular music in the early 80s. Another musician became prominent as a parody artist, cover tunes like My Sharona, Another One Rides the Bus and I Love Rock and Roll. His emergence on the music scene was, in part, thanks to a goofy radio program called the Dr. Demento Show. Had it not been for the constant airplay and admiration for his parody styling of popular hits, “Weird” Al Yankovic might have remained an architect from Cal Poly.

Now, novelty music and parodies were not unheard of in the 1980s. In fact, Dr. Demento had already been on the air since 1970 playing hits of Frank Zappa, Tom Lehrer, Spike Jones and Allen Sherman. But it was the mainstream success of Yankovic that drew more attention to Demento’s show from the “normal” audience. I began listening around 1984 when I found his radio show being played on WLSW on Sunday Nights. It was a big thrill to me to have my own room, with a radio in it and stay up as long as I could on a Sunday night listening to songs like “Shaving Cream” and “Pencil Neck Geek.” That interest in parodies and novelty songs is probably what cemented my geekness and affinity for comedic absurdity. At the height of home recording, armed with a TDK 60 minute tape and OTR (One Touch Recording) I began taping the Funny Five and other popular songs. While other people were watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, I was frantically trying to record his Funny 25 over the course of four hours with only 60 minute tapes, 30 minutes on a side.

It’s not like I was recording a live concert of the Rolling Stones or Van Halen, but to me, I was in geek radio heaven. As CDs became the norm and dual cassette tape decks became something of a novelty I missed out on the radio show and didn’t even know if it was still playing on the local radio stations. Junior High, High School, College. These were times not spent listening to the radio for the rare chance to record “Stallone Again, Naturally” or “99 Dead Baboons.” There were more important things to do like drink beer and stay up all night doing absolutely nothing. I would still catch myself humming, “Dead Puppies” or “Shaving Cream” but nothing compared to the ravenous appetite for mad music that I had in my youth.

Dr. Demento represented a time and place in my life, alone in my room on a Sunday night with a tape recorder at the ready. I still love those songs and can’t help break into “Fish Heads” once in awhile, much to the eye rolling of my wife who just doesn’t get it. Even as “Weird Al” enters his 50s I feel his music is as good as it ever was and if you’ve ever heard his original music, you’d be surprised at how well the guy can write a song. I’m glad I had the opportunity to listen to him and other novelty and parody artists on The Dr. Demento Show. In fact, Dr. Demento isn’t gone forever. He’s alive and well on the Internet. Radio may have changed and demographics may be more narrow but the one place that equalizes the playing field is the Internet. Anyone, anywhere can find Demento on the air. As long as you have someone paying for the site, the music will be there. No pesky format changes or inability to expand your play list past a four song rotation. It’s a perfect match of madness and technology that speaks to the hearts and ears of geeks like me. Stay Demented!

Here’s a list of some of my favorite songs from the Demento Show

“Existential Blues Parts 1 and 2” Tom “T-Bone” Stankus

“Dead Puppies” Ogden Edsl

“99 Dead Baboons” Tim Cavanaugh

“Pencil Neck Geek” “Classy” Freddie Blassie

“The Ballad Of Irving” Frank Gallop

“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” Allan Sherman

“Christmas At Ground Zero” “Weird Al” Yankovic

“Yoda” “Weird Al” Yankovic

“Ti Kwan Leep” The Frantics

“Earache My Eye” Cheech and Chong

“Shaving Cream” Benny Bell and Paul Wynn

“The Scotsman” Bryan Bowers

“Wet Dream” Kip Adotta

“Beep Beep” The Playmates

“Star Trekkin” The Firm

“The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” Julie Brown

“Fish Heads” Barnes and Barnes

“They Coming To Take Me Away, HA HA” Napoleon XIV

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Queasy Rider

Summer is officially here, at least that’s what those pesky Gregorians say. That means I can get to work earlier because there are no busses stopping every ten feet in front of me. It also means parents are going nuts because their kids are home for three months. For some of those parents it inevitably means trips to the amusement park. I am a big amusement park enthusiast and have even worked for two different parks during my college days. Of course, over the past ten years my enthusiasm has waned, probably because of my approach towards curmudgeon years. Yeah, I skipped midlife crisis and straight to UP in terms of “get of my lawn” mentality. But in my youth, oh my youth, I was a diehard park denizen.

It seems rather odd that I fondly remember my youth and recall a time when I was deadly afraid of even stepping near a roller coaster. My first memory of actually riding a coaster was The Big Bad Wolf at Busch Gardens. After that, I went straight to the Loch Ness Monster. After that trip, I was fully prepared to take on the sum of all fears back home, The Laser Loop.

Yes, The Laser Loop scared the pants off of me as a small child. The damn thing was a straight track that one way, and then back. But it had a loop in the middle that you rode through twice, once forward and then in reverse. I figured I needed to build up courage a bit so I tackled the rest of the coasters at Kennywood in preparation. That meant I had to survive the double dip popping out of your seat terror that was the Jackrabbit and the equally tension filled race to the finish that was the Racer. These were mere child’s play against the heart stopping Thunderbolt. I am of course adding a dose of exaggerated sarcasm to this posts. I had already passed the test by riding the Loch Ness Monster. These other coasters were pretty tame, but still exciting.

But that’s what Kennywood was to me as a kid. Each May we’d anticipate the joy of going to school to buy ticket books for the school’s picnic. Yes, I said tickets. In fact, I am totally piggy backing this post from another local blogger who just waxed on / waxed off nostalgic by mentioning the ride tickets in Pittsburgh Magazine.

In another, “get of my lawn” moment, a bunch of kids out there are probably saying, ”tickets?” Yes, you whipper snappers, now show me your damn ride ticket or I’m tossing you over the railing, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade style. For most of my life, going to Kennywood meant buying tickets to ride the rides. There was no “all day pass.” There was no wrist band and black light stamp at the gate. There was no metal detector, restrictions or Spanish ownership then either. Nope, just a pavilion, a goofy sailor hat with your name on it, and a quest for Potato Patch Fries or funnel cake.

Oh, yes, the sights, sounds, and smells of Kennywood, growing up.  I know it's a tad outdated but everytime Rick Sebak's Kennywood Memories comes on television, I have to watch it.  Even though it's from 1988 it still holds a lot of great history about the park pre 1990s. And to me, that's when the park was most fun.  The day I would go to school, armed with my parents' money to buy tickets was like going opening up that Wonka bar and finding the golden ticket.  I received my booklet and some older gentleman would usher me away from the hordes saying, "Run home, and don't stop till you get there!!!!"

After we got our ticket books and a day off from school, we would descend on the park in yellow busses. College students bemoaned the sight of that sea of busses pulling into the lots and soon the check-your-brain-at-the-gate-ask-any-and-all-stupid-questions mentality took over. First up, the Thunderbolt. The pre-coaster me would have needed a change of shorts but the new and improved thrill seeker wanted front car, hands up, loosened seat belt adrenaline. As we’d come around that first hill and get ready to plunge into the circular curves in the front, I could see that damned Laser Loop in the distance taunting me.

Next up, the Racer. Everyone would split up into factions, choosing opposite cars in an attempt for bragging rights. Only those who knew the secret could easily predict the winner, and it had nothing to do with color of car. Lastly, we’d hit the Jack Rabbit and nearly lose our stomach and seat on that double dip hill. By then, it was time to get some Potato Patch Fries, drowned in cheese and salt. The eleven year old body could handle two or three baskets whereas my more stout frame now needs to consider the seat belts on rides after eating. Still, that Laser Loop dogged me from behind. I could hear it laughing as it screamed past my head in the background.

In fact, I didn’t ride the Laser Loop at all that year. More to the point, I was still afraid to ride the Gold Rusher. Ok, I admit it, I was a wuss. The Gold Rusher was one of those in the dark, turn the corner and there’s the monster with loud blaring sounds and bright lights. The spider and the train really made me lose my bowels. Eventually, I laughed at the notion of being so scared of such a cheese ball ride. But that Laser Loop was still scaring me silly. Now, to be totally honest, the ride stopped scaring me about a year after I started riding coasters. However, even when I was ready to ride the coaster it would always be broke down. I never did ride it and I wasn’t about to travel to Mexico to ride it after they moved it in 1991. But the replacement was an upgrade. The Steel Phantom boasted, at the time, one of the steepest drops at 232 feet. Of course, this was going downhill along the landscape through the Thunderbolt. But even that ride was changed almost a decade later to The Phantom’s Revenge. No loops and no headaches. Those came from being in the park as an adult.

But as an adult, there are still reasons to go to the park. Unfortunately, for my cholesterol level, the main reason is food. Nothing beats good amusement park food and you cannot go wrong with Potato Patch fries, a funnel cake, or a Cyclone Cone from nearby Idlewild. Who can resist a waffle cone with vanilla ice cream, fresh cut strawberries and whipped cream? Now that I’m a parent I can safely say that I am not there for the rides as I will probably be in Kiddie Land all day long smelling the pizza stand just outside the archway. I also like to play the games. Not because I like to collect stuffed animals but because as a former games attendant in my youth, I feel the need to show that I can still take the Bowler Roller game for a huge prize without spending more than two dollars. However, I am out of practice these past few years. As an adult, I’ve traded in school picnics for company picnics. I’ve traded in trying to look cool for actually being cool as in temperature. It was always a fashion show, growing up, as we wanted to look good for that special girl or guy that we’d hope would ask us to ride the Haunted Hideaway. But now, I was just hoping to make it through the day without heat stroke or a pizza stain on my shirt.

Another year would go by and the park seemed smaller. The summers got hotter and the lines longer. My tolerance for crowds was lessening Also, my Eustachian tubes’ tolerance for going in circles or backwards was diminishing. There was a time, at the age of 15, that I could ride the Rotor five times in a row. No more. I can’t even ride the Pirate Ship without wanting to vomit.The park also seems a little less sparkly every year. You get that overwhelming smell of wet and sweat from people who come off of water rides onto the hot pavement. The proximity to the water and trees raises the humidity a good deal. Soon, I find myself trading in the thrill rides for the quiet and gentle ride on the train with the ever present Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In the USA” capping off the regional history lesson. As I hit the back nine of my 30s I feel as if the greatest ride in the park is the ride home.

It’s not that I have stopped loving amusement parks, it’s just I hate dealing with everything else at a amusement park besides the rides and attractions. I will ultimately be forced to make a trip to Disney World one day because my daughter will be old enough to enjoy it. It upsets me that I should be wanting to go there and have a good time. It upsets me that I know I will be my old curmudgeonly self yelling at the kids to pull up their damn pants and get out of my way. In a weird sort of way, I will become the Laser Loop, scaring kids who come near me. I can only hope I don’t end up being sold to a park in Mexico City. I don’t think they will have as good of French fries as we have here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pittsburgh Pirates Get Rid Of Dead Weight Month Before Trade Deadline

As Pirates fans consider the shame of 18 losing seasons for the battling Buccos, a turn events may have unlatched the albatross that has hung their necks like a Bjork Oscar gown. This shift in momentum comes shortly after it was revealed that manager John Russell and GM Neal Huntington had their contracts secretly extended last October.

After a 12 game losing streak, the Pirates managed to take two from the Cleveland Indians this weekend. Had they lost these two games they would have beaten their longest losing streak from 1890. Now, it’s one thing to see a team that hasn’t had a winning season since the class of 2010 was born, it’s an entirely different thing when they start breaking bad records from when the class of 1908 was born. So, what did the Pirates do to fix their leaky vessel? Bring up Pedro Alvarez? Designate Aki Iwamura for assignment? No. They fired a pierogi.

That’s right sports fans, they trimmed the fat from their roster by dumping a dumpling. Turns out, the kid who sported the pierogi suit, one of 18 men who race between the fifth and sixth innings dressed up as a pierogi, put a disparaging remark in his Facebook post about the contract extensions that lead to his dismissal. Clearly, he was a threat to the morale of the team. He was a poison pierogi, hanging in the club’s belly like a lead bullet. I’m surprised he hasn’t been banned from baseball altogether. He deserves to be sautéed in garlic and butter and then left out in the sun to rot at a County Fair.

Honestly, this is your answer, guys? The kid says what we’re all thinking and you fire him? You know, it’s not like anyone would recognize this kid out on the street as a representative of the Pirates’ organization. Well, let me rephrase that. It’s not like anyone would HAVE RECOGNIZED this kid before you fired him. Now, the story is national news showing up in USA Today. Businessmen in Holiday Inns, all over the country, woke up to the freshly delivered paper adorning their room service stained door steps and saw the news, Pirates fire racing pierogi mascot for Facebook criticism. That’s like being told you’re a lousy employee and then going home and kicking your dog in retribution. Guess what? The kid is right.

He posted a disparaging remark on a social network. All you had to do was ask him to remove it. Nope, you decided to use a nuclear warhead to get rid of a few pesky ants. Now, I have not looked at the facebook page of Andrew Kurtz but I’m willing to believe that not only did more than a handful of people LIKE his post, he now has more than a handful of new friends on facebook. In fact, he already has been offered a job with the Washington Wild Things, a local baseball team in the Frontier League. Look, if you’re really pissed about the response to your organization’s inability to break .500 for the year then maybe fix the problem, not fire the mascot. Better yet, explain why you decided to keep the contract extensions of two of your suspected problems a secret? Why not come out in October and say, “You know what? We had a bad season. But I have faith in these two guys so, we’re going to extend their contracts.” You know why you didn’t say it. Because you looked on the schedule for next year and saw one of the games was torch and pitchfork night and thought, maybe I better keep this to myself.

I guess the real point of this story is the ever present threat to employment by Facebook posts. I’m surprised and shocked that no balls to the wall, Judd Nelson style in From the Hip or Denzel Washington in Philadelphia, lawyer has not tried to sue the pants off of an employer for firing a worker who had an opinion on Facebook or twitter. Apparently, freedom of speech is no match against the HR machine. If it wasn’t the fact that Andrew was a part time employee he may have had some reason to be truly upset and miffed. But, now he can disparage the Pirates all he wants, because he is now like all the other employees who probably had a smidgen of talent, working somewhere else. And to those who cry, “But according to the news, he was already on a suspension for violating company policy.” He’s a freaking pierogi. It’s not like he tweeted trade secrets or gave insider odds on who was going to win a race. “FYI, Oliver’s juicing and Hannah’s got a sprained noodle. Count on me for the win!”

But now, that’s all over. Nutting, you’ve turned the ship around and are sailing high on the water with a two game winning streak. I smell success. I smell contention. I smell pennant. I smell dinner cooking. Bob Nutting is sitting in his office feasting on the remains of Cheese Chester, laughing at the notion that he finally cracked the curse of Sid Bream with every cheesy bite. Stay Classy, Buccos.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Response to Entertainment Weekly's 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years

I often find myself catching up to pop culture because real life just gets in the way. But that’s the thing about Pop Culture, it waits for you. Sometimes it waits a long while, keeping dinner warm. Only something worthy of being an icon of Pop Cult could endure the time it takes for me to get around to it and it lasts for years. There is no expiration date for a truly great piece of PC history. So, it wasn’t until this past week that I finally got around to reading EW’s article on the 100 greatest characters in the last 20 years. For once, I’ve lost my appetite for a dinner that should be piping hot even after two decades.

Now, I am usually pretty quick to go after EW online for it’s shameful lists. I may not even be a mediocre writer, but the people they get to write up their top whatever of the whatever lists needs a serious slap in the face from a tuna. Plucking through the written pages of the actual magazine usually derives more satisfaction because this is you’re A-Team working on the articles. Yet, the author gives us such tripe that I expected to it be written for my blog. That’s how bad I regard my skills.

First of all, why 20 years? Could it possibly be a running theme with EW as of late? They’ve been waxing nostalgic about “20 years ago, this week” in the mag, bringing me back to my Sophomore year of high school. The problem is that some of the more iconic characters they are choosing share their roots with pre 1990 Pop Culture. In fact their number one pick, who I don’t necessarily disagree with, got their start in 1987. So let’s dissect the biggest offenders an then, as usual, I will offer my own truncated list of 20 in 20.

Homer Simpson from The Simpsons
There is no denying that Homer Simpson is one of the greatest. But to say that he’s the greatest of the last twenty years makes me say wonder if EW is really so smart, s-m-r-t. Homer got his start as a crudely drawn loud mouth father, featured in animated shorts on the Tracey Ullman show in 1987. It wasn’t until December of 1989 that The Simpsons became a full fledged show on its own. Even then, the draw to The Simpsons wasn’t the bumbling everyman but his sarcastic, rotten son named Bart. Look back at the first part of the 90s and you’ll be pressed to find Homer on every other t-shirt. Bart was the real iconic character of the early years. Homer was dumb and slovenly but It wasn’t until the second and third seasons when Dan Castellaneta dropped Homer’s voice from one that sounded like Coach Buttermaker to one that gave him greater comedic freedoms that Homer finally took his place as the face of the show. So, I guess it’s debatable as to when Homer finally was born into the Pop Culture lexicon.

Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series
I have no arguments with Harry Potter being in the top 10. I have some concerns about him being number 2.  Books, movies, video games, amusement parks, you name it. That’s a true sign of Pop Culture proliferation.

Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I’ll be the first to admit that I am shocked and elated to see Buffy on this list. The character represents a great deal of girl power...more so than the Spice Girls. Strong, witty, honest, loving and tough to kill she’s equal parts Ripley and Cher from Clueless. But I think a better choice for the number three slot would be to take a page from Buffy herself. In much of the series and especially in the final episode, Buffy broke the rules of The Slayer. For millennia The Powers That Be stated that it was always a solo gig, when the Slayer dies, another one is “activated.” One girl against the forces of evil. That disallowed attachments for family, love, and life. However, the Scoobies evolved as a desire to not tackle the demons in the world alone and in a final act of teamwork, Buffy devised a plan that involved using her team to activate every potential Slayer in the world at the same time, allowing her to attack the First Evil head on with her own army. So, that act of selflessness and teamwork leads me to nominate someone else in her place....further down the page.

Tony Soprano from The Sopranos
No complaints with Tony being on the list. Welcome to the club. Much deserved.

The Joker from The Dark Knight
I was all prepared to blast this one away as a moment of pretentiousness but the more I read that title, the more I see this as preserving a moment in the life of the character. The Joker is 70 years old and has been played by Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill (voice), Andrew Koenig (Growing Pains’ Boner), and Heath Ledger. To be fair, the cutoff of 1990 excludes Jack Nicholson’s performance however, how could you not think of at least Cesar, Jack, and Heath as the trinity of Pop Culture Jokers on film? Heath’s portrayal and academy award for The Dark Knight is bittersweet in that it’s up in the air as to the lasting impression his performance would have made had he not died.

Rachel Green from Friends
Another deserving to be on the list but I don’t know if I would have put her above Hannibal Lecter. Rachel Green inspired a hair style and a love of the idea of a spoiled rich girl actually seeing the love of her life in the form of her childhood best friend’s dorky older brother. Ross and Rachel embodied a triumph for all of us schlubs who pined for the pretty and popular girl in our home town but never got her. Friends was a decade long love affair with a close knit group of twentysomethings that grew up with us and to not acknowledge one of them would have me knock my fists together with my thumbs out at you.

Edward Scissorhands from Edward Scissorhands
Great character, great portrayal, wonderful addition but top ten? Meh. Jack Sparrow belongs in the top ten in Eddie’s place. Sorry, Johnny, but you are better than you.

Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs and its sequels
It puts the doctor in the top five or else it gets the hose. I’m slightly torn. Once again, EW looks at a microcosm of a character, a performer. That’s not to say that Sir Anthony Hopkins didn’t chew up the scenery with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, but the “Character” was born into existence a decade earlier in the novel Red Dragon. Lecter was also played by Brian Cox in the 1986 adaption of that novel. Still, I will give props to Hopkins for turning Lecter into the icon he is today but to put him at number eight behind Edward Scissorhands and Rachel Green is something that makes the lambs scream.

Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City
I will not dismiss SATC as a piece of Pop Culture history, however, putting Carrie Bradshaw in the top ten is ridiculous. And since EW found it ok to list two characters for the price of one throughout this list, I say you need to have all four characters from SATC to be accurate. Together they are better than their individual parts. Alone, Carrie is not memorable, it’s only the addition of and observation of her close friends that makes her interesting. Without them, she’s just a goofy girl on the corner in a tutu.

SpongeBob SquarePants from SpongeBob SquarePants
Oh, how I wish it weren’t so. But, yes, SpongeBob is a part of Pop Culture. To put him in the top ten above another kid targeted icon is a huge fail for EW. Listing SpongeBob at 10 while Elmo is at 38 is crazy. And with that, I will give you my gripes with the rest of the list.


19. Morpheus from The Matrix series
Why not Neo? After all, he is the one. Hey, I love Laurence Fishburne and Morpheus was a great character but dude, Neo or even Mr. Smith was a greater character.

33. Sarah Connor from Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Yeah, the 2.0 model of Sarah Connor was more kick ass than 1.0 but still, the character was born in the 80s. Shouldn’t be on this list with these parameters.

40. Ron Burgundy from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
You mean to tell me that Ron Burgundy is a greater character than Jack Bauer or Tyler Durden. Stay Classy, EW.

46. Jerry Maguire from Jerry Maguire
Tom Cruise didn’t win the Oscar, Cuba Gooding, Jr. did. Jerry Maguire was not as great as Rod Tidwell in terms of character. Hell, the kid was a better character than Jerry Maguire. Rod Tidwell should be in the number 46 slot.

57. Clayton Bigsby from Chappelle’s Show
Great, yes. Better than Chappelle’s Rick James? No. Oh, but Rick James is a real person and he was from 40 years ago. If you are going to allow characters from previous decades a place on this list then the second season’s inclusion of the actual Rick James as a commenter on his life being recounted by Charlie Murphy should be allowed if you can’t handle Chappelle’s portrayal.

63. John Locke from LostLocke is an awesome character. But LOST produced so many of them that they are all great individually. And with the season six finale revealing that John Locke truly was dead and his image was being used by The Man In Black, the actor, Terry O’Quinn made the guise of John Locke that much more interesting. However, if I had to pick one character from all of LOST that summed up a “greatest character” representation I would have picked the island. And if that doesn’t suit you, I say Benjamin Linus as a very close second. Michael Emerson’s portrayal of Ben is hands down one of the greatest in Pop Culture, ranking up there in the shadow of Hannibal Lecter.

93. Game Boys: Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series; Kratos from the God of War series; and Niko Bellic from Grand Theft Auto IV
Nathan Drake, Hell yes, Kratos, ok. Niko Bellic? Maybe, but if you want to really look at the Grand Theft Auto series as a part of Pop Culture then you need to take a step back and look at a character that thrust GTA into the annals of PC and that would be Claude Speed. Not good enough for you? Fine. Then Tommy Vercetti. Still not good enough for you? Then how about ALL of the main characters from GTA. Since Master Chief got his own slot, Nathan Drake can have his own on the 100, too, preferably above Mary Catherine Gallagher.

100. Tim Riggins from Friday Night LightsI have never seen Friday Night Lights in movie form or television form but if you are going to cap off your list with Tim Riggins and neglect having Walter White on this list, you need to have your head examined.


20 Senator / Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars Episode I – III)
19 Wolveine (four movies)
18 The Genie (Aladdin)
17 Sue Sylvester (Glee)
16 Lara Croft (The Tomb Raider Series of games and film)
15 Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar (Waynes World movies and SNL sketches)
14 Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (The Big Lebowski)
13 Walter White (Breaking Bad)
12 The Joker from Dark Knight
11 Andy Sipowicz (NYPD Blue)
10 Benjamin Linus (LOST)
9 Shrek (Shrek movies and television special)
8 Harry Potter (From the novels and films)
7 Verbal Kint aka Keyser Soze
6 Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
5 Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld)
4 Elmo (Sesame Street)
3 The Scoobies / Angel Investigations (The Whedonverse)
2 Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal films and novels)
1 Homer Simpson (Simpsons)


I can’t say that I’m completely familiar with the entire list but there are some glaring omissions and I’m going to replace some people who should have made this list. I’m not going to reorganize the placement of the list but some will probably move up or down based on my substitutions.

Hancock (Hancock) Sorry will, I didn’t really like the movie all that much and it didn’t hit Pop Culture all that much.

Tim Riggins (Friday Night Lights) See above

Tracy Flick (Election) I can think if ten other characters that are greater, but she is pretty awesome so she’s gone.

Mary Katherine Gallagher (SNL and Superstar) There are much better sketch characters than Superstar MKG The Spartan Cheerleaders, Nat-X, The Church Lady (who appeared in the 90s and 2000) and my substitution listed below.

Mary Jones ((Precious) The next ten years, maybe we’ll go back and include her. Like Avatar, the characters are too fresh on the canvas of PC

Allie and Noah (The Notebook) meh... just meh

Wikus van de Merwe (District 9) Same reason as Mary Jones. Too soon.

Tracy Jordan (30 Rock) I substituted a better character from the show below.

Jerry Maguire (Jerry Maguire) See above

John Locke (LOST) I hated to do it but Benjamin Linus is a better choice.

Clayton Bigbsy (Chappelle’s Show) See above

Austin Powers (Austin Powers Movies) great character, but if you are going to recognize Mike Meyers in that movie a better choice would be Dr. Evil

Cal Stephanides from Middlesex I admit it.  I've never read the novel and I really don't care.  I just needed to get rid of somebody to include The Borg.

Leo McGarry (The West Wing)  The late John Spencer was the greatest straight man in a show about a bunch of screwball West Wing Staff, he was the glue that kept the daily operations together. I could have chosen Toby Ziegler, C.J. Cregg, Josh Lyman, Sam Seaborn Donna Moss, or even President Bartlet but Leo McGarry made them all better characters with his excellent wrangling of personalities.

Angela Chase (My So-Called Life)  Before there was Dawson, Pacey, Joey, or Jen, there was Angela, Rayanne, Brian and Jordan. It was a short lived show that had it aired two years later would have been picked up for more seasons.

Spider-Man (The Spider-Man films)  With great power comes great responsibility. If X-Men proved that superhero and comic book films were not dead, Spider-Man gave the genre eight legs to run amok. Spider-Man in the hands of Tobey MaGuire made the geek king and allowed a vulnerable teenager the chance to play God and figure out his way in the world of duality. The man you are, the legend you’ve become, the legacy you leave.

Lenny Briscoe (Law & Order franchise)  How could you not include such an iconic character as one of New York’s finest hard boiled detectives. His legacy is only stunted by the fact that Jerry Orbach died before he could assume the lead in his own spinoff.

Robert Langdon (Dan Brown novels) Bookish yet devilishly adept at fending off assassins and terrorists, Langdon emerged as a thinking man’s hero on the pages of Dan Brown’s controversial novels, Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. In film, Tom Hanks brought a whole other facet to the character, as well as a weird hairstyle that reminded us of bad coif choices like Harrison Ford in Presumed Innocent.

Jack Ryan (Tom Clancy films and novels)  People will debate who was the better Captain of the Enterprise, James Bond, and Jack Ryan for as long as there will be a bar to sit in and debate the topics. For my money, I loved Harrison Ford from Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. A friend of mine will defend Alec Baldwin with his life. No one is willing to touch Ben Affleck, though.

Jack Donaghy (30 Rock) I admit that I don’t watch 30 Rock due to my hatred of it in light of winning the sketch show within a show war against Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip, however I cannot exclude Alec Baldwin’s excellent portrayal of the Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming for GE. All I have to say is three words, porn for women.

Troy McClure (The Simpsons) The late Phil Hartman had so many wonderful characters, Anal Retentive Chef, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Bill McNeil, Frank Sinatra, Frankenstein, to name a lot. However, Troy McClure represented a great pitch man and washed up movie actor. McClure had become one of Hartman’s most popular characters and voices and it’s only fitting that the character was retired after Phil’s death.

Rod Tidwell (Jerry Maguire) See above

Ben Linus (LOST) See above

Rick James (Chappelle’s Show) See above

Dr. Evil (Austin Powers movies) Mike Meyers nails down at least four characters throughout the three films but none of them, not even the International Man of Mystery can hold a candle attached to the head of a frickin shark to Dr. Evil. Case in point...

There you have it. My soap box is now gone. EW, you really missed the boat on this one. For shame.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bittersweet Nights In Corolla Light

In case you were wondering where I was last week, and I’m sure you pulled out all the stops looking for me like I was Abby Sunderland, take comfort in knowing that I was on vacation. Perhaps you’re not taking comfort and instead are taking out a hit on me for flaunting that I was able to do such a thing. In either case, I’m back and semi ready to resume boring you to death with useless stories. However, among these trite posts hides little nuggets of wisdom like corn in your… never mind.

So, once again, I travelled to the Outer Banks for a much needed yet hardly attainable vacation. If you recall my lengthy diatribe last year, Nights In South Rodanthe, you’ll probably want to skip to the end or go back the way you came. Yet, I will try to minimize the muck and show some brevity of dimwit. Yeah, right.

The trip this year was bittersweet.  Last year's trip to Avon marked the first vacation my in laws had ever really taken.  It was also the first time my mother-in-law had seen the ocean in real life.  Sadly, it was also the last time.  I've mentioned it before but the last night we were there, the two of us finished off the last of the frozen custard we bought at a place in Buxton.  We sort of bonded over a bowl of some of the best I'd ever had.   I asked her if she had a good time and she said she did. I asked her if she understood why people did all this work for a week’s worth of beach time and she said, “No.” I laughed and agreed with her.  I don’t know why either.  I still haven't talked much about her dying and I'm not really ready to do that post.  As it was, we were finalizing plans for this year's trip at the end of March and she died the week after Easter.   She was looking forward to going back and really liked the house we picked.    I was looking forward to getting another quart of custard and shooting the breeze again.  I didn't have any this year and that seems right to me.  if you knew me, you'd be apalled at my missing out on such a great treat.  Maybe next year.

Instead of staying in Avon, this year, we headed North to Corolla, again. I say again because I stayed there in 2005 during Hurricane Ophelia. Ironic in that the storm was named after a character who drowned. Nice. Anyway, After dealing with some company in 2005, that I cannot recall at the moment, and having issues with Sun Realty, last year concerning the pool heat and them calling me a liar and trying to keep my money, I decided to go with a different outfit called Outer Banks Blue. I had a few places in mind with different companies including Sun Realty because we really liked the house we had last year in Avon, even with all the issues. Unfortunately, the new owners of the house put in minimal updates and raised the rental price $1000 for the same week as we had last year. Regardless, I kept a few properties on the back burner and played them against each other in the pricing game.

The one nice thing about Outer Banks Blue was that they gave you the final cost upfront and the house we were looking at was in the Corolla Light Town Center section with access to the various amenities such as free beach parking, use of the pools, playgrounds, and basketball and tennis courts as well as a shuttle that could take us to and from the beach. The bad thing was that they did not check their listing very well against the house. Granted, it wasn’t the end of the world in terms of inaccuracies on their part but it did end up influencing my vote on which house to go with in the end. Still, even after I brought it to their attention they neglected to fix the listing. Here is the listing for the house. In case they do finally fix it, here is a screenshot of what the listing said when I booked the house, rented the house, lived in the house, and wrote this post the week after I left the house.

Like I said, a minor inconvenience for most people. But when I could have had an awesome house on a golf course or a place we called the Taj Mahal for the same price with wireless access, it makes me a little miffed. Since, I like to keep up with the important things like, you know, my email, shirt shops, [muffled voice] mafia and farm [/muffled voice], it’s nice to be able to get up and make the little one some breakfast and surf the web while she watches Dino Train or Sid the Science Kid in the same room. When I have to go to a whole other floor to be jacked into a three foot cable just to get a connection it becomes counterproductive.

I knew within minutes that there was no router but acted ignorant of the fact when I called the office. I asked how I went about making the wifi work. She said she wasn’t sure but would send someone out to check on it. When the guy arrived he said there was no wireless and called back to the office. Now, you can always tell when someone is going to try and pull one over on you. I learned that from the experience with the pool heater last year. When this guy first mentioned to the other person on the phone that he was at the house that used to belong to Village and that I was standing right there, the plan fell apart. I had already heard enough to figure out what happened. I had also found a journal left by the owners giving basic instructions and tips along with guest comments and all mentioned Village Realty. I put it all together and when he got off the phone, I said to the guy, “Let me guess. Outer Banks Blue acquired this property from Village Realty and just copied and pasted the listing, not bothering to check if they had kept the router?” He sheepishly looked at me and said, “Yep.”

He told me to contact the manager and discuss it. Frankly, I was tired of fighting with people for stupid stuff. It wasn’t the end of the world and figured, “OK, no wireless. Business will have to wait until I can get time. I’m on vacation for crissakes!” Instead of fighting for refunds or principles, I’ll just vote with my wallet and go somewhere else… and blog the whole experience so that other consumers can be sure to check on these things before they rent houses. I’m still a prick, first and foremost, I’ve just decided to use other methods to deal with issues. After working for almost ten years in a customer service capacity, I’ve learned that losing a customer can be more expensive that properly dealing with an issue. If it were my company, I would have taken the opportunity to reach out to the customer, proactively, and offered an apology and even made a deal to offer them some kind of discount, whether it be a gift card to the local grocery stores or a discount on a repeat stay the next summer. But then again, that’s why I am not in charge of anything.

My sister-in-law decided to stay in the 4X4 section in Carova. It’s a bit hairy getting up there but pretty awesome to drive out onto the beach and see wild horses. Although, the bugs are pretty big and I think I saw one of them carrying a small child away. You also have to plan your schedule around the tides and nightfall. This can play havoc for you if you like to eat out or visit with the rest of your group who decided to minivan it in the paved sections of the OBX. For us, we managed to get out a total of four times for dinner.

Fat Crabs Rib Company, Corolla, NC
For a little joint in the shopping plaza next to Corolla Light I was impressed. It’s kind of like picnic table and chair fair with cold cases set up for grabbing a drink out of at your table. I had the pulled pork sandwich and it was pretty darn good. My father-in-law had the crab and was impressed. The hush puppies were pretty damn good to. I give the place three out of five stars for food quality.

Jimmy’s Seafood Buffet, Kitty Hawk, NC
I can remember the Bonfire restaurant in Ocean City, MD as being my first taste of seafood buffet indulgence. I went there with a couple of friends and we spent three hours just eating. I think we may have taken a power nap in between trips to the buffet. At the end of the meal we probably had 20 or so plates stacked on the table. My one friend then defiled the experience by getting drunk and throwing up in the middle of the night. “$20 worth of prime rib, down the toilet” was the quote the next day. That was 1995, I believe. $20 for all you care to eat prime rib, crab legs, seafood, pasta, desert, etc. 15 years later, I still remembered that quote as I got my bill from Jimmy’s. $28.95 for the buffet. On that buffet, ten types of crab legs, seafood of different kinds, pasta, meats, and desert.

However, compared to other places, I was a bit disappointed. I had heard of some bad reviews online but was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. First off, expect a wait. It is the big name buffet in the OBX. However, to pass the time with the impatient kiddies, there are free pony rides out back. Once we got in, we were cramped into a nook near the bar that had a five foot high wall separating us from the main flow of traffic. Together with two tables, placed perpendicular to us at the front of the nook, we felt a bit trapped. It took some tactical planning to effectively make trips to the buffet and not have to make everyone move for you to get back into the corner. For as big and as busy as this place was I would have expected bigger bathrooms, but unfortunately, they were one man bands.

The food was pretty decent. I ate a ton of food and at least four sets of crab legs. I stuck to the Alaskan but if I ever go back will try the big spiny ones as well. I was eyeing up the Russian, King, and Dungeness as I picked up a second helping of Alaskan.

Overall, I give it three stars but I would suggest getting there early if you have to drive back to the 4X4 section. Also, they just opened up a location in Ocracoke last year, I think. That may be a hell of a lot nicer place to visit but you have to go by boat and once again, plan accordingly.

Captain George’s, Kill Devil Hills, NC
If you’re heading East on 158… which feels like South, and you’ve just passed the Wright Brothers’ Memorial, it’s on the left. I highly, HIGHLY, recommend going there. For the same price as Jimmy’s you don’t get the ten types of crab legs, but you get awesome food, service, and a bit of ritz. The OBX location is brandy new and if you are familiar with the Virginia Beach location, it’s a bit of a departure. I’ve been the one in Virginia a few times and I liked it. It looks like an old sailing ship, akin to Pirates of the Caribbean, on the inside. The new one in the OBX might as well be called Captain Trump’s because the inside is pretty classy looking. The servers and bus staff wear those floor length apron things and they keep clearing your table as you eat. Believe me, they are on top of things. The food was excellent. I had four sets of crab legs, all Alaskan, hush puppies that were pretty good, and the best G’Dam corn bread I’ve ever eaten. It’s in muffin form for easier picking and believe me, you’ll want more than one. They also had the one thing I love, that was missing from Jimmy’s, Seafood Norfolk. That’s pretty much a hodgepodge of crab bits, shrimp and scallops drowned in butter. I had two helpings of that. The deserts were excellent and I cannot complain about driving a half hour from Corolla to get there. We went at the same time as we did for Jimmy’s and walked right in and sat down.

Kill Devil's Frozen Custard, Kill Devil Hills, NC
And if you are already in Kill Devil Hills, try some of the best frozen custard around as well as hot dogs, fries.  The last time I stayed in Corolla, which was 2005, I happened upon this place with my wife while looking for some frozen custard.  It is truly awesome.  I take frozen custard very seriously.

Uncle Eddie's Frozen Custard, Buxton, NC
If you happen to be on Pea Island and near the Cape Hatteras Light, run up to Buxton and get some Uncle Eddie's.   We bought it in quarts last year and on our last night there, we had to finish it up.  It was a nice little moment between myself and my late mother-in-law.  It still gets me thinking about having that conversation about her first trip to the beach.

Route 12 Steak and Seafood Company, Corolla, NC
We wanted to stick close to home our last night and we knew that driving to Duck would take an extra 15 minutes so we tried something different. Right in Corolla, at the TimBuck II shopping plaza is this little joint. It’s pretty small inside but that wasn’t a problem. They have a limited menu and it’s all pretty fancy and high priced. I will recommend the pasta marinara as my wife and daughter both liked it. I had the Seafood Fra Diavolo. That’s noodles with lobster, shrimp, and scallops mixed in with a spicy tomato based sauce. It was excellent. The scallops were about half the size of hockey pucks and tender as all get out. There was no rubbery texture at all.

Fishbone’s Sunset Grille and Raw Bar, Duck, NC
We tried this place out in 2005 and liked it. The menu is a bit on the spicy side but you have the opportunity to eat out on the deck of the sound and watch the sunset. I honestly cannot remember what I ate but it was pretty good and I would eat there again. It was a backup plan for our last night but we didn’t want to have to drive the extra fifteen minutes into Duck to go there and wait. And you will wait for a bit.

Other than that, we didn’t do much else. I climbed the top of the Currituck Light and after climbing Hatteras Light I can say this one seemed harder to do. The view is pretty cool. You can see the sound and the ocean and it’s a bit of a disappointment to see how built up the area is getting in Corolla. Soon, it will be just as crowded as Nags Head. Staying in Corolla has the potential to appear pretentious but honestly, it’s a hell of a lot quieter and relaxing than Avon was. The only drawback is the one way in and out on Route 12. There are talks of putting in a short cut which would consist of a bridge to Corolla from the mainland. I’d like it but I’d hate to see that drive more people into the area. There’s already concern of overdeveloping the 4X4 area which is the last place to see the Wild Mustangs of the Outer Banks. They have a huge fence up at the end of Route 12 to keep them north and it would be sad to see them driven even further from their natural habitat. The other piece of advice I’ll give about staying up in Corolla. Leave early. It took us nearly two hours to get to the Border Station in Moyock. A majority of the rentals end on Saturday so expect there to be a lot of traffic on 12 and 158. In fact we were stop and go almost all the way on 64 until we reached the tunnel.

All the issues aside, I’ll be back next year and with more tales of Mongo in the wild. Have a great summer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

LOST Thoughts For S6E17 The End May 23rd, 2010 Part Four

I promised to be done with the last post but I just wanted to pass along some final thoughts. I don’t want to come off like one of those fanboys that spend WAAYYY too much time analyzing something but I gotta put on the whole BIG DORK button and wear it proud for this show. LOST spoke to a need in the television landscape. It was one of those shows that redefined how a story could effectively be told with compelling characters and intricate plot lines. The fact that it bordered on Science Fiction, Drama, Comedy, and Fantasy all made for a nice blend of genres that could attract any number of fans. At times it was tedious and I know a few people who gave up along the way.

However, like the island, the show had a source, a bright warm light that represented life, death, redemption, corruption, pop culture, religious themes, mysticism, literature, science, mathematics, logic, and plain old pulp. It went beyond its 60s and 70s B Grade predecessors like Lost in Space, Gilligan’s Island, Land of the Lost and even The Prisoner. It also combined elements of shows from the 80s and 90s like The X-Files and Twin Peaks to give it that edge. It was as ground breaking as Star Trek for including characters from all walks of life on the show as well as the people who portrayed them. You had actors from England, Australia, Canada, Korea, Brazil, Croatia, Scotland, Venezuela, and of course The U.S. There were social and ethnic issues surrounding the castaways predicament. LOST encapsulated a lot of the world we know into a microcosm of isolation and constant threat to survival, doled out in 121 hours, over six seasons spanning over 2000 years of storytelling. That’s quite an accomplishment for a show that was worried about being picked up and even proposed killing off it’s man character in the pilot. How ironic would that have been?

When I first posted my thoughts about the finale I ran down the pilot and much of the first season in order to wax nostalgic. Here I thought I would speak to the finale, "The End", and pass along a few of my personal insights, because, as you know, I am the pinnacle of compelling bloggers… pffft!

On the island we have a final standoff. Jack believes that Desmond is the key to killing Locke (MiB) and MiB believes that Desmond is the key to destroying the island. Desmond thinks he is going to go down a rabbit hole and meet up with his sideways self. This is one of the big problems I had with the whole coming together of both timelines. Desmond admits to Jack that he’s going to go to a place where everything is peaceful and he’s with his loved ones. And you and I were sitting on Oceanic 815 and we had a conversation, and you were there, and you were there. But Desmond was wrong. He simply pulled the plug on the island. So, did Desmond have an out of body experience when he was subjected to Widmore’s experiment?

Soon, the island began a quaking as if the source of the island’s life blood was the waters themselves. Pulling the plug left the island and its inhabitants vulnerable. The ultimate question of bragging rights was about to unfold. MiB revels in his premature victory telling Jack he was wrong. Jack, pissed off as hell tackles MiB and punches him. Blood shows up. He’s human again. Without the island’s source he’s just a man. He quickly makes his escape where Jack and MiB fight until MiB delivers a knife to the ribs, another Christian image. Then, Kate shoots him in the back. Jack kicks MiB over the cliff just like MiB kicked Jacob into the fire. MiB’s… err Locke’s body falls, as if out a window, to the rocks below.  However, this time, no one is around to touch him, resurrecting him as it were. MiB is finally dead. Plans are changed, last minute escapes are made, people stay behind. Ben chooses to go down with the ship, as does Hugo. Jack decides that his reign as King of the Island is short lived and passes the torch to the rightful heir, Hugo. It was always meant to be Hugo. He said he didn’t want it, but it needed to be him. He just needed to be persuaded. Jack was dying and the island needed a protector. Jack and Hugo both let go. Jack took the baton from Desmond and plugged the whole. “You have to lift it up" would have been a great line from Desmond at this point or from Jack, even, trying to help Desmond get into the rope sling. In any case, Jack did what he had to do and was now free to die. So, he made his way back past his father’s shoe, still hanging in the tree three years later. He took his original spot on the ground with Vincent, again, by his side and with witnessing the plane with his friends leaving for good, he realized his death was not for nothing as MiB told him. He could die, he finally fixed everything.  Hugo, now King of the Island chose Ben as his number 2, a fitting redemption for a man who did everything he did, good and bad, for the island.  He finally got his shot to be special.  He was never meant to be a leader but someone willing to show from experience how things should be done.   If anything, I fully expect the Harlem Globetrotters to show up not that Hugo is in charge.

I said before that I really loved the finale as a standalone episode. The afterlife, flash forwards, sideways world, etc. was a great complimentary bookend to the pilot episode. But coupled with the action of the island coming apart and the final battle for the lives of the castaways and perhaps the world as MiB tries to escape was all caddywampus. Don’t bother looking up that word. It only exists in Colloquialville. The two halves did not make a symmetrical whole. The ending was like Chinese food. I liked it. It filled me up, and then I was pissed because I was still hungry and it was all gone.

Often times shows become self aware of their impact and their own existence. Sometimes they end up playing off of that vibe and become self referential or a parody of themselves as the go to lengths to break the fourth wall. To give an example, two of my favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural make references to them ‘being’ a television show with nearly the same line. Buffy’s sixth season made the quip, “Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday." Supernatural’s latest season dealt with Christian religion and the apocalypse and one of the characters said, “Another Horseman. Awesome. Must be Thursday.” Both shows aired on days listed in the quotes. It’s all rather Brechtian or Pirandelloesque, I suppose. Sometimes the breakdown of what is fiction and what is real becomes silly as such was the case with an episode of Charles in Charge where Scott Baio’s character walks off set in one direction only to reenter from outside the “house” in an admittance that the entire house is simply a set with a backstage area beyond every door and that this is indeed a television show. To another end with LOST's farewell tour, people speculated the “Christian” implications of the publicity stills showing the cast in a sort of Last Supper scene, having dinner and breaking bread. “Oh his leg is hidden” or “She’s giving a look downward.” "These things must mean something." Nope. It was just what it was, the last supper for the cast, a nod to their fate as well as the show.

But in this episode the characters all experience a moment of realization where their lives in the world of the island connect the dots back to their time in Purgatory. It then becomes a sort of nod to the show ending as characters kind of reminisce with each other in their new found ‘awakening.’ The characters seem to detach themselves from the action and wax nostalgic with each other as if they were the actors playing them instead. When Jack finally gets it, he joins the others in a gathering, a sort of farewell tableau in the church, which incidentally looked much like the seating on a plane. As Christian Shephard opens the doors at the back of the church, it sets the tone for the cast to be captured one last time on screen together, like a yearbook photo. The show was ending and we were seeing their lives play out as characters and actors in a show that had a huge cultural impact. It was a chance to let them accept their fate. The remembered connections which allowed the characters to move on could have just as well meant the actors remembering their greatest hits on the show. Sometimes, for an actor, it’s hard to let go of a show or project that you’ve worked on for a while. You become so intertwined with the characters, the fans, the media, and the impact that you find it hard to separate from the role and move on to a new life. For some, they feel as if they aren’t ready to move on and kind of linger in that nostalgic place that they created, kind of like Ben choosing to hang out a bit and work on some things. He probably meant atonement for Rousseau and Alex.

I fought long and hard to understand why certain people were in the church and others weren’t. I especially had a hard time realizing what Desmond and Eloise were speaking of in regards to his meddling and her son. I think she knew all too well what she was experiencing and was afraid that moving on would leave her and her son in a fixed state, still broken. After all, she shot him in the past and even sent him to his eventual death in the present. Maybe she just wanted some time to enjoy the reunion. As it was, Daniel and Charlotte didn’t have that moment like Sawyer and Juliet or Charlie and Claire. Maybe they weren’t ready to take that next step. They certainly weren’t ready in real life as they never got together before Charlotte died. And where were Miles and his father? They weren’t in the church and neither was Michael or Walt. Miles didn’t have his moment of enlightenment. Not sure when he would have had it since he already had a pretty decent relationship with his Dad. Perhaps that was by design. Michael was not in the church because he is still a whisper on the island, unresolved in his sins. Walt… who knows? There is supposedly going to be a 20 minute extra on the DVD that kind of wraps things up. Sounds like a patch or a hot fix to satiate fan ire.

So, this is it. Time to let go. I could speak forever about LOST and this episode; good and bad, but I think it’s time to move on. Thanks to the cast and crew for some of the best television I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Maybe, with it over, I can supplant LOST with something else that is worthy of the mysteries and theories and wasted hours of blogging.  Perhaps Flashforward… um, Happy Town… um never mind.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

LOST Thoughts For S6E17 The End May 23rd, 2010 Part Three

So, how did I do in my predictions of what was going to happen this season? I’d give myself a C. I know that’s kind of vanilla but I was really way off on some of my theories. I could have never seen the big reveal with the Alterverse coming. That was a pretty nice touch.

Here’s the rundown of the remaining theories I had out there.

  1. The Flash Lefts are not reality and are just a metaphysical construct brought on by the MiB (Kind of like the Matrix) and Jack is becoming more aware of this in the Flash Lefts.
Result: DING! WRONG!
They were dead and the flash lefts, alterverse, etc. was a construct of their souls as a meeting place to find each other and make a spiritual connection in order to remember their lives so that they could move on to the afterlife. I don’t know if some accepted spiritual or religious doctrine speaks to this as a version of purgatory or the afterlife, but I connected with an 80s movie when I found out what the alternate timeline was. Made In Heaven was a movie with Timothy Hutton and Kelly McGillis as people who meet and fall in love each other after they are dead. McGillis’ character has not yet earned her wings and must do a tour of duty on Earth in order to do so. Hutton convinces the powers that be to send him to Earth, too but they will have no recollection of each other. They now have 30 years to find each other on Earth and fall in love or be fated to an unhappy life. Not quite the same thing but it came to my mind seeing how the characters didn’t remember one another.

“Dr. Linus”
  1. The island sank after the Dharma Initiative left due to:
    1. The Incident minus the Jughead. Most DI non essential personal were off the island prior (Amy, Horace, Roger, Ben)
    2. The building of The Swan by the DI which hit the pocket of energy and with no way to contain it (i.e. Jughead, button) the island sank but not before Dharma Initiative were able to escape.
The sunken island was not real. And had it sunk for realsies it would have been because that stone carrot was removed.
  1. Roger and Ben left the Dharma Initiative because:
    1. Roger did not want to be a Workman anymore and Horace couldn’t convince him to stay or was not there due to the birth of Ethan off island.
    2. He was fired.
They were dead.

“Happily Ever After”
  1. Desmond is going to:
    1. Be the package.
    2. Deliver the package.
  2. And his sacrifice will be:
    1. Die in the process.
    2. Become the new Jacob.
    3. Keep the alterverse the way it is.
Result: WRONG! on both parts.
Well, except if you count “being the package.”
  1. Sayid is:
    1. Evil.
    2. Pulling a Sonny Crockett and playing evil
    3. Just plain crackers
Result: WRONG!
  1. The experiment was meant to:
    1. Show Desmond the alterverse and allow his doppelganger to realize the truth.
    2. Simply show that he can withstand a C.E.E. so that he can interact with the “Hot Pocket.”
Result: Indirectly DING! DING!
I was right on both counts but his doppleganger did not realize the truth because of this, it was just because of Charlie making the connection to his death on the island.
  1. Widmore is able to find the island because:
    1. He is the friend Jacob was guiding towards the island and his name is actually Wallace.
    2. Desmond is on that sub and his name his family name is actually Wallace.
    3. Locke-Ness has killed Jacob leaving the island unveiled and seen by Widmore
    4. He went to the Lamp Post
Result: DING! DING!
Although I don’t know why, since we never found out what he planned to do with Desmond once he got to the island.  And I don't know that Wallace ever had anything to do with anything.  In fact, I don't really know what the purpose of the lighthouse really was or what is was showing since the Altervese was their purgatory after they all died.

“Everybody Loves Hugo”
  1. Desmond plowed through Locke because:
    1. He loves Grand Theft Auto, brutha.
    2. He knows Locke is really MiB (The mirror to this is his response of “John Locke” when MiB asked if he knew who he was.)
    3. He wanted to show him something (Indirectly a nod to Charlie’s failed Lupe’s Escape move)
Result: DING! DING!
  1. The pouch contains:
    1. Jacob’s ashes gathered by Ilana from the Foot.
Result: DING! DING!
That was an easy one.
  1. MiB needs the others (no pun) because:
    1. He needs the conditions of the O6 leaving in order to be able to replicate it.
    2. He plans to just kill them in order to keep them from becoming the next Jacob.
Result: DING! DING!
He told the candidates that's why he needed them but it was really just to kill them.
    The little boy is:
    1. A rapidly growing Jacob getting ready to assume the persona of a candidate and that’s why his hair has changed color with every candidate that witnesses him in the presence of MiB. Blond for Sawyer, Brown for Desmond.
Result: DING! DING!
Although I was probably wrong about the hair color and that he was going to grow up to be the candidate. It was most likely a trick of the light or just casting.

“The Last Recruit”
  1. Jack’s wife/ex-wife is Juliet. The age of David puts Jack’s age at the time of conception around 21. He could have conceivably met Juliet at medical school and fathered a child. Now that she is divorced or weary of men because of Jack she meets Sawyer and decides to get coffee but go Dutch. Perhaps Juliet will meet Sawyer at the hospital when he goes to talk with Sun about the shooting. Juliet will be the OB/GYN that helped save Sun’s baby.
I made that prediction a month in advance.

“The Candidate”
  1. The following are dead:
    1. Frank, Sayid, Jin and Sun
    2. Sayid, Jin and Sun (Frank is only mostly dead which means he’s slightly alive.)
    3. Sayid, Frank, and Sun (Jin is still a possible candidate and could not be killed, therefore he was able to swim away)
    4. THEY’RE ALL DEAD!?!?!?!?
Result: DING DING!
Yeah Frank!
  1. The show will end with:
    1. Jack and Locke sitting on the beach having a conversation about killing each other.
    2. Locke and Locke sitting on the beach having the same conversation.
Result: WRONG!
Locke is lying in a broken bloodied mess over the cliff while Jack goes off to die in the bamboo where he woke up three years prior.

“What They Died For”
  1. MiB will attempt to leave the island:
    1. Via the donkey wheel.
    2. Via Ajira 316 which will be disarmed.
Result: WRONG!
It was The Elizabeth.
  1. The Alterverse Castaways are going to:
    1. Meet up on a boat to go to the spot where the island should be.
    2. Fly in another plane and somehow get back to the sunken island.
Result: WRONG!
They were dead.
  1. MiB will attempt to destroy the island by:
    1. Throwing Desmond down the 100 watt cave.
Result: CLOSE! ½ credit.
  1. MiB will be killed by:
    1. Blown up by the remainder of the C4 making Ben a suicide bomber who decides to kamikaze Smokey.
    2. Jack will go all Neo on him like he did Mr. Smith
    3. He won’t. Everything will simply go back to the way it was.
Result: ALMOST!
Jack, but Kate pulled a Schwarzenegger and one linered him after shooting him in the back.  But Jack did go kick ass on him.
  1. The Survivors will leave the island by:

    1. Ajira 316. Frank really isn’t dead and has been spending the last two episodes disarming the bomb. He’ll show up at the last minute like Bishop did in Aliens.
    2. Penny will arrive on Penny’s Boat and rescue them but will lose Desmond
    3. Each one will take a turn on the Donkey Wheel.
Result: DING DING!
Yeah Frank!

Ok, that was painful.   One mroe to go, I really promise this time.   Next I look at The End and after.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

LOST Thoughts For S6E17 The End May 23rd, 2010 Part Two

When the decision was made to end LOST after six seasons, I felt it was a sad, but great move. The problem with a show like LOST is that you can find yourself hard pressed to figure out the ending when you keep getting renewed each season. A lot of things can happen in a year’s time. The continuity of your storytelling model can sometimes be left to the mercy of contract negotiations and puberty, as in the case of Walt growing up faster than the timeline of the island being shown each season. Not to mention, if you find yourselves dragging out mysteries, you need to pay attention to what has already been shown in previous seasons. You need to establish the continuity of something an actor did three years ago with how they finish a plot line next year, as in the case of the skeletal remains of Jacob’s family (a.k.a Adam and Eve) appearing to change positions from season one to season six. So, I applaud the creative team for picking a point in space and moving towards it. That gives them some framework in which to explore and tie up story lines and mysteries on the island. Where they did come up short was that there was no shortage of additional mysteries being added to the mix in season six.

So, now that the show is over, are you satisfied with the way it ended in terms of answering all your questions? I’m not. It’s not that I’m and jumping up and down mad that there was some ambiguity left out on the field but man, they knew where we were heading. Don’t you think they could have tied everything up this season?

There’s a great video from that illustrates the many, many questions that some LOST fans might still be asking. I know I’ve had a few of my own.  First and foremost the one question I thought would be answered above all others was never solved. Those who have read my posts about LOST can probably answer this without any prompting.

This had to occur in the present day (2007) Why? Because there was an Ajira bottle in one of the outriggers. So, how hard would it have been to just show a scene of red shirts from Widmore’s team patrolling the shore in the other outrigger this season? No big mystery. Problem solved.

There was a lot of speculation that she was really important. She was searching the island for something. It made her character overly annoying and I was glad MiB killed her. It was almost a nod to the fan base. Nobody liked her. She was equal parts Nikki and Paulo.

From day one of his introduction he was labeled the bad guy. Since we know that Ben was acting on orders from MiB and not Jacob that makes it seem like Widmore was really the good guy. But if that’s the case then why didn’t Richard already know that and say, “Hey, everybody. I’ve been on the island longer than anybody else alive, I can vouch for this guy?”

It seems to me if you are going to make a big deal about a kid being special then you better at least explain why you kidnapped him, subjected him to Room 23, made him jump through all sorts of hoops and then just let him go. Beyond that, how the hell did Walt show up on the island in different places like talking backwards just before Shannon got shot and standing above John Locke who was lying in the D.I. burial pit. We know that MiB could only take the form of someone dead so we know it wasn’t him impersonating Walt. We also know that John Locke saw Walt after he left the island and there wasn’t a clear acknowledgement of that little pep talk at the edge of the pit. What gives?

MiB impersonated Jack’s Dad in "White Rabbit." He led Jack to the caves. But, the coffin was empty both in that episode and… oddly enough at the end of the series. Where the hell was it? My one and only theory was that the body never left Australia. Remember when Jack fought with someone at the airport in Sydney about lacking the proper documentation to store the coffin on Oceanic 815? Well, what if they removed the body but left the coffin? We get a similar sense of this in the afterlife flash forwards as Jack finds out that the airline lost his dad’s body. I think Christian Shephard became a lost piece of luggage in Australia and was probably buried in an unknown location.

I’ve theorized that all the different people brought to the island over the last few millennia were done so in order to debate the bargument that Jacob and his brother had. “You say that humanity is inherently evil and will always chose the wrong way and I say that free will exists and allows people to chose to do the right thing with little encouragement.” So, in that case, while they are stranded on the island bickering and killing and being generally naughty they have explained their surroundings and experiences in the form of structures (i.e. The Statue and The Temple) that are native to their own culture back home… Across The Sea. But… What the hell did it all mean in terms of the statue being depicted as Taweret in regards to pregnancies on the island? Jacob and his brother were conceived elsewhere and born on the island. Aaron was conceived elsewhere and born on the island. Sun and Jin conceived Ji Yeon on the island but gave birth away from it. Miles, while not specifically shown being BORN on the island was obviously conceived there. So, why is it that Juliet was really brought to the island? Why do pregnant woman die if the child is conceived on the island? Was this all part of Jacob’s plan? Did he intend for women to not be able to give birth on the island? Did his brother? WTF?!?!?!?

What the hell did the Blast Door map have to do with anything? It showed the LOSTIES some of the stuff on the island such as other hatches but who cared? Kelvin took over for Radzinsky when he died… supposedly from suicide… I think Kelvin shot him. He was a tool. But why was Radzinsky stuck in the swan? Punishment for the Incident? Why did nobody bother to relieve him from DI? Was it because he was stuck down there during the purge and no one bothered to come back and find out what happened? It’s obvious that there were still Supply Drops made by… someone. I think if I spent a hell of a lot of money on something like the Dharma Initiative I’d want to check up on it from time to time. Was it like Isla Sorna in The Lost World Jurrasic Park… left for dead? Was the quarantine on the hatch written to keep people in because of the purge or a sick psychological experiment perpetrated by DI? Why would Ben tell Locke that nothing would happen if he pushed the button. He was in the Dharma Initiative? He ended the Dharma Initiative. He saw exactly what happened when you didn’t push the button (Oceanic 815) And why didn’t someone just turn the fail safe earlier?

Was this all red herring? Did the DI serve only to be the newest players in Jacob and MiB’s game of free will? Instead of Egyptians or Romans there were scientists and hippies? The hatches and stations were simply the temple and the statue of the latter 20th century? Who built the Lamp Post and why was Eloise Hawing off island, anyway? If Eloise was an Other, then why was she involved at all? After spending an entire season with the characters in the damn thing (D.I. circa 1977), did it mean nothing in the end? Probably. Just another plot line being launched into an open field somewhere in the framework of the show.

Jacob and his brother were told by their mother that they could never kill each other and that there were rules. So, are we to believe that MiB was not killed by being thrown down the into source waterfall? His body was merely resting in the caves for 2000 years. He was mostly dead? And why did the rules apply to Ben and Charles? Were they the same rules? Obviously, not since Ben unloaded a clip into Charles during the finale. Also, if Charles broke the rules by having a life as well as a family, off island, then why wasn’t Tom reprimanded for his little off island escapades? Was Charles’ indiscretions more about Eloise than anything else? Was his sentence proposed by the same governing body of Others that branded Juliet? Why was Richard Alpert not more vocal about their dealings as an advisor to Jacob?

Why is it, or more to the point how is it that Jacob knew where the Candidates were and were able to contact them? What means of transportation did he use? If we are to believe that Christian Shephard was primarily being worn as a suit by MiB then how did he appear to Jack in "Something Nice Back Home?" Was his appearance off island a hallucination? If not, then why the hell was MiB trapped on the island?

Why did she appear to be in front of an Olan Mills photography backdrop in video communication with Charlie? Did she ever reunite with Desmond and how?

Why was he a globe trotter? Was he working for MiB all along and never for Jacob? Why didn’t Richard make that distinction? Why did Richard go to the foot and say, “Jacob, you know that cabin out in the woods? Do you still use it? Is that you telling Ben what to do?” How did Ben acquire so much money?

Why was she mental and how did she get out?

Who finished the work MiB started? Why was the chamber frozen? How did the DI get a polar down there to turn the wheel? Why does the island move? How is water involved? Why are you never allowed to return if you spin the wheel? Ben did. Locke did. If the wheel was just a piece of a larger mechanism how did that get built and did all the workers turn into smoke before completing the machine?

Why did the water stop flowing when the plug was removed? The water did not flow backwards. It did not continue to simply flow down the drain when it was removed. Where did that drain go? Why did the MiB instantly turn into a smoke monster upon falling over the waterfall but Jack and Desmond had to walk a ways before reaching the plug? Who drew on the plug and how did they do so without dying? If being in the pool caused a fate worse than death, then why did Jack die and go to church with his friends?

I could go on but you get the idea here. There were more questions left open than answered by series end. Next up, a report card on my theories throughout S6. I promise this is the last one…

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