Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Nothing says Christmas in Fallujah quite like Billy Joel and Cass Dillon. Happy holidays everybody.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

I finally saw the legendary Richard Donner cut of Superman II last night, via the magic of NetFlix. This is something you'd think I'd already have bought. Simply haven't gotten around to it, plain and simple.

The movie itself is interesting. Very raw and choppy, which is to be expected, but still better than Superman III: The Richard Pryor Debacle or Superman IV: The Quest for a Coherent Script. For those of you not hip to Superman history, about 75 percent of Superman II was filmed simultaneously with Superman: The Movie, only to have the Salkinds--the producers of the movies--fire Donner after the first movie came out because he wouldn't add more slapstick comedy to them. Richard Lester stepped in and re-shot most of the Superman II footage, with the exception of Gene Hackman's scenes, because Hackman wouldn't return to the set to work with Lester. Marlon Brando's Jor-El footage was left out of the Lester version as well, since Brando demanded a lot of $$ for his work to be used in the Lester film. Essentially, the actors rallied to the defense of Donner, even though it ultimately failed to bring the director back to the project.

The Donner version more closely marries the two films. That second missile Supes deflects out into space in the first movie, thereby saving Hackensack, NJ, explodes and frees the Phantom Zone criminals--there are no Eiffel Tower terrorists this go-round. Lois also figures out Clark Kent's secret identity early on in this one, and there's an amusing scene where she throws herself out of the Daily Planet (about 30 stories up) in an attempt to expose Clark as she forces him to save her. The Niagra Falls sequences are from the Lester version, as the dialogue makes it clear that the Daily Planet sequence didn't happen in this continuity. After Supes saves the boy falling into the falls, instead of Lois jumping into the raging river, we have a screen-test scene (snippets of which appear on the Superman: The Movie special edition bonus features) in which Lois pulls a gun and "shoots" Clark to prove he's Superman. This sequence, although flabby and drawn-out (it was a screen test, after all) works pretty well and is more convincing than Clark's clumsy tumble into the fireplace from the Lester version. In the Fortress of Solitude, there's a lot of Jor-El interaction, and there's a lot more finality and closure here, very much making Superman I and II two chapters in a single story arc. Much of the Kryptonian villain's scenes are similar or the same as what appeared in the Dent version, but there are interesting tweaks here and there. During the big fight in Metropolis, Superman is knocked into the Statue of Liberty's torch. That's pretty impressive and effective, even if it too firmly establishes New York as Metropolis (but that was already done in the first movie).

There are far fewer slapstick jokes in this version, which is good. The opening of the movie is somewhat ponderous, recapping the entire first movie in 10 or so minutes. This could stand for some serious trimming and restructuring, but even so it's worthwhile since it shows significant events from the first movie from different angles and perspectives. I'm particularly keen on young Kal-El opening his Kryptonian space ship after it crashes into the Kansas field.

Most fascinating is the ending, which almost certainly wouldn't have survived had Donner been able to complete the film. The magic kiss is gone. Originally, Superman flying around the Earth to reverse time was the climax of the second film, sending Zod & Co. back into the Phantom Zone and erasing Lois' memory of Clark Kent's secret identity. When Donner stopped production on Superman II to focus on the first movie, that ending sequence was moved to the first movie with the mindset that the Superman II ending would be reworked somehow at a later date. Lester solved the problem with the infamous magic kiss. How Donner would've handled things remains a mystery, since Donner doesn't offer any suggestions.

There's a documentary on the reconstruction of the film that's quite enlightening, and Donner is still understandably bitter about his firing nearly three decades later. There are a handful of incidental deleted scenes along with a few other extras. I haven't listened to Donner's commentary track yet, but that's obviously an intriguing future goodie.

I still wish Warner Brothers would release Mario Puzo's massive original treatment of the material, which, according to rumor, treats the Superman mythos with more drama and reverence than even Donner's final versions. It was supposedly much longer and more complex as well (what would you expect from the author of The Godfather?). Still, a qualified thumbs up for the Donner Cut. Fans of the Superman mythos definitely need to see, if not own, this film.

Now Playing: The Doctor Demento Show Oct. 13, 2001

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My boss is sick

My boss is sick. Not so much anymore, but still enough to make a difference.

You may have noticed (or not) that postings here have been somewhat sparse since the beginning of November. The second week of November my boss came down with the flu, or perhaps a case of that mutant cold strain that's hospitalized a bunch of soldiers in San Antonio and killed a dozen people across the country. Either way, it hammered him hard (along with several other folks that work around us). Once it looked like he was recovering, some secondary complications with preexisting medical conditions set in, laying him out from then until... well, he's still out, but getting better.

The long and short of it is that I've been running the office in his absence. And when you're the only person left in a two-person office that is already woefully understaffed, "swamped" isn't the word to describe it. The end result is that I'm working longer hours, much more drained in the evenings and doing very little writing--bloggish, fictionalish or non-fictionalish.

The good news is that I've somehow managed to keep the ship afloat and highers-up in the university's admin have made approving noises. The bad news is that, well, I'm worn out. That's why I haven't posted any updates on my "Shoals of Cibola" progress--there isn't any. But the big holiday break is coming up for me, and my boss hopes to be back in the office come January. Fingers are crossed that I'll be able to get a bit of writing done between now and then.

Now Playing: Brian Wilson Imagination

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Most of the Christmas songs I've been listening to of late don't have videos to go with them. Heck, most of the artists don't even have currently available record company contracts. So we'll go with Trans-Siberian Orchestra for the season, and a seriously old school video that reminds me a lot of old ELO from the heyday of MTV. "Discovery" anyone?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Now Playing: The Doctor Demento Show Dec. 9, 2000

The Wild Wild West (sans robot spiders)

My review of The Wild Wild West: The Third Season is now live over at RevolutionSF. If your only knowledge of The Wild Wild West comes from Will Smith gettin' jiggy with giant robot spiders, you owe it to yourself to give this thing a look-see. If only for the genius of Miguelito Quixote Loveless.

And remember, Will Smith fought that giant robot spider so Superman wouldn't have to.

Now Playing: Michael Kamen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Night Videos

How is it possible that I haven't yet featured the Squirrel Nut Zippers? Consider that oversight hereby corrected:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Billy Joel.

Now Playing: Vince Guaraldi Trio A Charlie Brown Christmas

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Night Videos

What the heck. In honor of the settlement of the Broadway strike, I offer up one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. Enjoy!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Kenny Rogers & Sheena Easton

Now Playing: Sheena Easton No Strings

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Razor

Talk about a failure of imagination.

For an hour and a half, I felt that old Battlestar Galactica magic. You know, that gritty, in-your-face adrenaline rush that made seasons 1 and 2 so good. Seeing the classic Cylon Raider ships in action was a blast. I almost laughed out loud when we got a peek at the interior, and saw the three Cylon pilots--the third of which was gold. A gold Cylon. In every incarnation of Galactica toys, there's been a gold "Cylon Centurion Commander" figure, but up until this point, there hasn't actually been one in the TV shows (to the best of my knowledge, and I've obsessed about such things). I've never been much a fan of the computer animated centurions in the ongoing series, and have to say I liked the classic centurions better as actual costumes. They just looked fake here. But it was still good to see them again.

What wasn't good to see was Apollo being emasculated again on the command deck. This was the first solo mission of the Pegasus under Apollo's command, so what do we get? Adama tagging along and countermanding Apollo's orders at the first opportunity, then giving a mealy-mouthed rationale that nobody's orders were wrong and we should all be happy that things wrapped up for the best. And Apollo, as always, swallows his idiotic idealism and slinks away with his tail between his legs. And Ron Moore wonders why Apollo is the least popular character on the show?

What bothered me the most, though, is how a tense, engaging episode wrapped up with a bloated, turgid slog through the final 30 minutes. The payoff for the whole movie was a decrepit old man in a pool of snot saying "It's happened all before" and "Kara Thrace is the agent of apocalypse" or somesuch metaphysical mumbo-jumbo? The whole point of this stand-alone movie was to foreshadow the final season? I'm sorry guys, but when you make a stand-alone movie, I feel it should... I dunno, maybe stand alone?

The final season of Galactica may indeed be a good ride, but all indications are that the writers are far too enamored of this ad-hock prophecy/predestiny they've concocted and aren't paying attention to the little things--such as, oh, fans switching channels in droves--that might clue them in to the fact that they've really gone off in the wrong direction with this.

Now Playing:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

As promised...

My review of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is now online at RevolutionSF.
Midway through Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Molly Mahoney, played by Natalie Portman, explains to the eponymous Magorium that as a child, people marveled at her potential as a classical pianist -- but now that she's an adult, people are still waiting for her to fulfill that potential. That, in a nutshell, sums up Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium -- a movie with its heart in the right place, but one that never quite lives up to its promise.

I mention in the review that I believe many of the film's flaws can be traced to the fact that Zach Helm is a first-time director. Here's an example that really stood out for me, but just wouldn't fit into the review:

Early in the film, one of the opening scenes, in fact, shows Natalie Portman's character playing the piano, attempting to complete her first concerto. Portman can play the piano. She learned several years ago for a role. So far, so good. Except... Helm frames the scenes as if he's covering up the fact that Portman can't play. He moves the camera in on her face, with the bulk of the piano hiding her hands. Then he does a close-up of her hands, so that you can't see who they're attached to. Then he frames the scene from the side, with the piano, again, hiding her hands. It looks for all the world like the standard filmmaker's trick of disguising an actor's musical inability... and it's very obvious. Which is mind boggling, since a signature tic of the character is to "air piano" songs with her fingers throughout the film. It's not until the end of the film, when she's paying "Jennifer Juniper" in a piano lounge, that there's a long establishing shot that clearly shows her actually playing. And then it's right back to the "hide the hands" mentality. I've never claimed to be any kind of compositional genius, but several better shot structures suggest themselves even to me. All I can think of is that Helm framed them this way because that's the way he most often sees piano scenes set up in movies and television. Which is, to my mind, a error of inexperience.

Now Playing: ZZ Top ZZ Top's First Album

Monday, November 19, 2007

Piling on

I've seen something this past week that really ticks me off. And it has to do with the movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Not the film itself (more on that in a bit) but rather the reviews of it. To date, I've seen exactly one positive review of it, by MSNBC's Alonso Duralde (although fellow MSNBCer Courtney Hazlett gushes about it in passing). Everything else has been negative. No, negative isn't the right word. "Scathing" would be soft-pedaling it. The reaction to this film has been so unabashedly hateful and venomous that I am pretty much dumbfounded. Now, there's nothing wrong with a bad review if it's honest. But somewhere along the line, it turned into a contest--how to out-rip the competition. From CNN to Ain't It Cool, the reviews generally consist of escalating variations of "suck suck suck suck suck suck DIE!!!!" They generally spend their time coming up with various denigrating insults for the film without actually saying anything substantive about the film at all, and quite often don't even bother to get the name of the film right. To clarify: There's no way to tell if they actually saw the movie at all. The kicker for me came this morning when I found a column listing the 10 worst movies of all time because of Mr. Magorium, but then the author admitted he hadn't actually seen the movie, and wouldn't ever see it because it was so bad. Even though this is the kind of whimsical film he usually enjoys.


I saw Mr. Magorium this weekend. I didn't fall in love with it, and really have to question the objectivity of those two writers from MSNBC. I also didn't hate it. It's a film that tries really hard, but doesn't quite pull off what it's attempting. The performances of Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman are inconsistent at best. The main child actor does a better job than Jake Loyd did in The Phantom Menace, but that's about it. Jason Bateman is awesome in what should've been a throwaway role. It's not a funny movie, per se, but it is clever and amusing. Most of the problems, I feel, stem from the fact that there's a first-time director at the helm, and he's out of his depth.

It's not a good movie, but it's not terrible, either. At best, it's okay, at worst, mediocre. That may well be damning it with faint praise, but it's a hell of a lot more honest of an assessment than most other reviews circulating out there. My full review should be up on RevolutionSF shortly, so I'll post the link when it goes live.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Friday, November 16, 2007

This blog's readability level

Because everyone else is doing it, and I'm a good little lemming.

cash advance

Really, what else would you expect from a blog titled "Gibberish?"

Now Playing: Billy Joel Songs in the Attic

Friday Night Videos

Last night while I was driving home, Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight" started playing on the radio. Now I like a good deal of Seger's material, and think this is a fine song. But even though I normally frown on remakes, in this instance I really, really think the remake does the original one better. When Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton took their version to the top of the country charts in the early 80s, they showed how simply performing a song as a duet could dramatically affect the impact of a piece. Even listening to Seger's version, I always hear in my head how it should be a duet. Another song that I feel the same about is Billy Joel's "Until the Night" off the 52nd Street album, but to my knowledge, nobody has ever covered that one, much less done it as a duet. But I digress.

No proper MTV-style video exists for the Rogers-Easton "We've Got Tonight," but I haven't let that stop me. In 1983 Easton has a television special, "Sheena Easton: Act I," featuring an array of performances by her as well as duets with Kenny Rogers and Al Jarreau. It also featured Easton's now-vanished Scottish accent (which I always found endearing) as well as her performing Billy Joel's "The Entertainer," sans the verse "Played all kinds of palaces, laid all kinds of girls." And yes, I did own "Act I" back in the day, on Betamax, no less. So enjoy this slice of music history.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Fixx.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Fantasies & Delusions

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Wild Wild West

I got a review copy of the season 3 DVD set for the Wild Wild West yesterday. Hoping that it held up as well as I remembered (it's been years since I'd seen it, sandwiched between Land of the Giants and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on Saturday afternoons), I watched a couple of episodes with my brother.

We couldn't stop laughing.

There aren't really any jokes in the series, per se. Not your standard setup and punchline, nor are there many obvious one-liners. But the storylines and situations are so audacious, the characters so unflappable and over the top that you just sit there thinking "I can't believe they just did that!" And I mean that in the best way possible. If you're only familiar with the abominable Will Smith movie, do yourself a favor and pick up one of the season sets, or at least add it to your Netflix queue. It's brilliant.

Now Playing: Marty Robbins The Essential Marty Robbins

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

HEROES: Four Months Ago

Not a bad episode. Thank goodness. Not a great episode either, unfortunately. It did fill in a number of gaps, but in most cases, those gaps weren't that significant. The biggest revelation is that the relationship between Peter Petrelli and Kensei/Adam came about via legitimate means, as opposed to the amnesiatic manipulation of Peter I (and presumable other viewers) assumed Adam/Kensei was undertaking.

Other things learned this episode: Amada Petrelli has just about no redeeming qualities, viciously lying to Nathan's now-walking wife like that. She's just cruel. And what the hell is her power, anyway? The power to sow discord? Sorry, any two-bit soap actress can handle that in a pinch. We do need more of Nathan's (ex?) wife, however.

Veronica Mars/Lightning Lass is just your garden variety unstable psychotic. I was hoping for more.

Did I miss something? When was it established that the Haitian could dampen other supers' powers? I only remember seeing him steal memories prior to this episode.

The los Gemelos De la Maravilla background is kinda interesting in a melodramatic sense. So the sister caught the brother's bride screwing an ex-boyfriend in the middle of the wedding reception, and goes all black oil on them, wiping out the entire wedding party. Oops. The sister seems far more self-centered than is healthy, and the brother far more forgiving (hey, if my sister wiped out my new bride, family, friends and whatnot on my wedding day, I think I'd be a hell of a lot more pissed at her). This family dynamic is so messed up, I can't see them surviving to the end of the season. For all of that, they're still a mere shadow of the wonderfully conflicted Ted/Radioactive Man from season one. Come to think of it, all of the secondary characters this time around are a lot more shallow than those of season one. Interesting.

It should come as a surprise to nobody that the absolute worst storyline revolved around Niki/Jessica. Firstly, we have the utterly pointless reveal that D.L. (aka Walk-Through-Walls-Guy) survived the gunshot wound from the season 1 finale, only to be killed in a LA nightclub by... a gunshot wound. This came after he was clever enough to desolidify when his killer tried to punch him. And Niki/Jessica isn't anymore. Instead, we have Niki/Gina. Gina being a self-centered party girl. Joy. The entire D.L./Niki subplot this episode is a steaming example of writers not only making meaningless changes for the sole purpose of being able to say "Fooled You!" to the audience, but changes that laboriously strive to maintain the status quo. And will somebody please explain to Tim Kring that multiple-personality disorder is not a super power. I'd thought that her actual super power was super-strength, but apparently that's not the case, since it took Niki/Jessica/Gina something like 20 minutes to break down a simple wooden door in last week's episode, whereas your average firefighter or police office would likely kick it in with about five seconds' worth of effort.

Fortunately, the narrative momentum has picked up--that's two back-to-back episodes that were at least watchable. We haven't gotten any dramatic, tension-filled "Save the cheerleader, save the world" moments yet, but if Kring is indeed taking advantage of the writer's strike to embarking on a mid-season course correction, then there may be hope for the show.

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Afterglow

Monday, November 12, 2007

HEROES: Out of Time

Okay, this muddled collection of opinions is coming a week late, and since the next episode airs tonight, I'll keep things relatively short (for me, that is).

Good episode.

Cheerleader Claire's flying stalker boyfriend finally figured out that her dad is the evil abductor. Finally. You'd think a creepy guy with an affinity for voyeurism would've picked up on this earlier.

Hiro finally returns to the present and learns from Ando that Mr. Sulu is dead. To no viewer's surprise, Kensei is the uber-bad guy who did him in. I'm disappointed the feudal Japan sequence turned out so turgid, since I'm a fan of movies such as Ten to Chi to by Haruki Kadokawa. The trouble, I believe, comes from a plot wholly contingent on maintaining the status quo. That's a very passive motivation. If, instead of Hiro trying to make boorish Kensei into the hero of legend, he'd discovered, say, a malicious, already-immortal Kensei pulling strings to use legend to his advantage--a long-term Vandal Savage approach--that could've set into motion Hiro sending messages to Ando in the future to work toward thwarting Kensei's plots in contemporary times as well. That, at least, would give Ando something more dramatic to do than sit around reading tiny scrolls.

Parkman faced down dear old daddy and woke up Molly. It's great to see Parkman finally being something other than a passive wuss, but come on! Daddy is Brainiac of this Heroes universe. He's got years of practice. So what if Parkman has the same potential? He doesn't have the experience or control. What he should've had was a Pyrrhic victory or a Bunker Hill defeat. Think Luke Skywalker getting his head handed to him by Vader in The Empire Strikes Back--yes, he surprised Vader with his ability and even got a couple of good licks in, but at the end of the day he was still over-matched. Parkman turning the tables on his father with that cringe-inducing "This is YOUR nightmare" speech simply oozed cliche out of every pore.

The Nikki/Jessica character is still worthless.

Mohinder is quickly becoming the Lee "Apollo" Adama of Heroes. He's supposed to be the morally pure, ethical soul on the show. The one "unencumbered" by super powers. Fine. That doesn't mean he has to be spineless, disloyal and wishy-washy. The whole "Oh no, Bennett isn't a very nice person, so I'll spill my guts about the conspiracy to Mr. Midas who tries to make me do evil things. Oh, and let me have a gun, too." Very, very, very ham-fisted writing. If you want to give Mohinder a legit reason to switch sides, show Mr. Midas and the agency as a good and noble cause, rather than a shady, shifty and ominous quasi-government conspiracy. Sheesh.

By now, everyone and their dog has read about Tim Kring's apology to Heroes fans. It's a start, but I don't think Kring entirely gets it, even now. He complains about romance not working on the show. But the ones that haven't works are the ones cut from whole cloth as plot devices. Romance can work, but it has to evolve amongst characters naturally, in the course of writing the season. Which would be a lot easier to have happen if Kring & Co. didn't stubbornly stick to the formula of keeping everyone with any ability widely separate from other powered individuals.

Kring also says he thought fans wanted a repeat of the drawn-out season one plot buildup. The slow pacing of season one was my biggest complaint about the series. Too much filler, not enough substance. Granted, I'm not anyone Kring need take notice of, but I wasn't the only one making such observations. And Kring still seems to think plague-ravaged New York is an entirely different macguffin than nuclear-ravaged New York. Dude, open your eyes.

I think a lot of the show's problems would be solved if Kring just gets off his high horse and finally admits that yes, this is a comic book show. Embrace the pulp action heritage that entails. Build the show around episode-ending cliffhangers. And for crying out loud, develop some unaligned bad guys that aren't part of any conspiracy, but only in it for themselves. Have some fun. Here's a thought: Have a funny episode. Even the X-Files did that to break the tension every so often. Introduce someone with lame powers--abilities so embarrassing that Sylar refuses to "harvest" them so as not to debase himself. Anything would liven up the turgid slog season two has become.

But "Out of Time" was a good episode, and the most plot-advancing of any recent installments. Hopefully, this is a sign of the direction the series will be heading from here on out.

Now Playing: Various That Thing You Do Soundtrack

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Today's video fix is... well, The Fixx. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Go-Gos

Now Playing: The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Young Indiana Jones

My review of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 1 is now live at RevolutionSF. You know, if you want my advice on whether or not the box set is worth the $90 or so it retails for.
I became a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark -- and subsequent Indiana Jones films -- almost from day one, so it was with great enthusiasm that I pulled up a chair to watch the debut of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as a college senior back in 1992. I remember the excitement I shared with my friends when George Lucas announced the project, and the unbearable anticipation as we counted down the days to series premiere. An Indiana Jones series!

I clearly recall that excitement just as clearly as I recall the growing horror I felt as I watched the pilot and realized Lucas had committed the one unforgivable blunder I'd never have expected of him: He made Indiana Jones boring.

And that's just the opening salvo. Imagine how the words fly once the battle is joined.

Now Playing: Billy Joel The Bridge

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Ran into some otherwise innocuous things today that unexpectedly nailed me like Bard's black arrow through the chink in Smaug's underbelly. The result being that I'm in something of a funk and not much in a blogging mood. I've got thoughts on last night's Heroes installment, though. Maybe I'll get around to posting them tonight, maybe not.

Now Playing: Prince Batman Soundtrack

Monday, November 05, 2007


Lookie what bloomed for me yesterday:


Passiflora edulis var. flavicarpa. Edulis is the commercial species of passion fruit. Edulis var. edulis is the purple-fruited variety, which you'll sometimes see in the produce department of high end grocery stores. Flavicarpa, on the other hand, produces a yellow fruit and is usually used for juice. This is the first time I've had any type of edulis flower for me, and I'm quite happy with it. Unfortunately, my foetida var. gossypiifolia is the only other passion flower blooming right now, and the two species aren't pollen compatible. I've attempted to hand-pollinate the flavicarpa with some p. gibertii pollen I had stored, but that pollen is old, so I'm not holding my breath.

But, anyway, yay!

Now Playing: The Beastie Boys License to Ill

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Between the failed years as a punk band and the period when Jane Weidlin found fame as Joan of Arc in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure as Belinda Carlisle found fame by shedding her clothes for Playboy the Go-Gos actually reined for a time as a tight, rocking band in the '80s. By the time of their final pre-breakup album, Talk Show, they'd honed their songwriting and musician skills to a sharp professionalism that is clearly non-existent in their early albums. Sure, some of the spontaneity was lost, but it's hard not to appreciate their maturing sound. The lead single off Talk Show, "Head Over Heels," is a good showcase for this. It's a very deliberate effort at a pop hit, and succeeds on most counts. The video is almost pure '80s cheese, with just enough surrealism thrown in to let you know that the band isn't taking itself too seriously. Ultimately, it works much better than half-hearted lesbian cross-dressing theme that dominated the "Turn to You" video, which was the follow-up single and the Go-Go's last top 40 hit.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Escape Club.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Pandora's Box

Thursday, November 01, 2007

HEROES: Jump the shark?

Okay, so NBC has put the spinoff (aka mid-season fill-in) series Heroes: Origins on hold due to the looming writers strike. I have to wonder if those same writers haven't already gone on strike after watching Monday's episode (titled "The Line" if the NBC website is accurate).

My usual complaint about Heroes is that too many episodes have no forward narrative momentum. That's not the case here: several plotlines advanced. It's just that where they advanced to left me very, very cold.

Firstly, Cheerleader Claire got revenge on the snotty, arrogant head cheerleader by virtue of disturbing use of her's and her flying stalker boyfriend's powers. Flying stalker boyfriend dropped another in a string of painfully obvious clues that he is bad news by telling Claire she's better than the nasty head cheerleader not because she's a good person, but because she has powers. Uh oh. And he injures the mean girl, creating an opening on the squad for Claire. Trouble brewing for sure, but I'm losing interest. Why? It's such an obvious, color-by-numbers approach to the situation. Riffing on Heathers might make this whole high school cliqueish narrative work, or maybe even Buffy, but the drawn-out lack of imagination is tiring.

Ditto for our south of the border subplot. Here, we were treated to quite possibly the worst-scripted illegal border crossing in history, with straw man vigilante border guards serving as cannon fodder. We also see los Gemelos De la Maravilla have a falling out as Maria--now suddenly under Skylar's complete and total sway--begins killing without remorse. And Skylar is pretty spry for a fellow who was run through with a sword at the end of last season. Resistance to chest wound infection must be another power he picked up somewhere along the way. What started out as the plot thread that interested me the most has now become the biggest train wreck. When storylines depend on people acting with incredible stupidity to advance, you know you've got problems.

As for Hiro in the past... how can you take all the dynamic, illuminati-style plot potential of super-powered beings in feudal Japan and reduce it to tedium via an ancient scroll narrative? I could go into specifics, but that'd take up a whole blog entry on its own.

Despite those problems, I hadn't given up on the show. The potential, in theory, is still there. Except... in Mohinder's storyline, the brooding, non-powered genius is ordered to inject the Taskmaster analog from New Orleans with an engineered virus that is designed to strip her of her powers. Great, we have another ham-fisted moral dilemma. And he's saddled with Nikki/Jessica as a watchdog when he refuses. And he utters a portentous warning that the virus could mutate and jump into the non-powered human population, shades of "The Legacy Virus" from Marvel's X-Men. Lo and behold, Peter Petrelli, he of every power in the book (including a convenient case of amnesia) jumps into the future to find New York devoid of life, a city in wiped out--presumably by afore-mentioned virus.

Does anyone else see a problem here? It's the same damn story arc as last season! You know what? I don't care. Wipe New York out last season, this season, I don't care. Just show some kind of intellectual ingenuity, people. It may be okay for Laverne & Shirly to scramble around every other episode trying to find enough money to pay the rent, but Heroes has something of a higher writing standard to live up to. I'm not tuning in each week to see "the same thing, only different," and if the writers don't get their collective heads out of their collective asses pretty darn quick, I won't be tuning in at all.

Now Playing: The Police Message in a Box

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mississippi Miracle

Move over, Cal/Stanford--this play just might knock "The Play" from its lofty perch atop college football lore. The fact that little Trinity--just 20 miles down the road from me in San Antonio--pulled it off makes it all the more fun. Fifteen laterals. Watch it and believe it if you dare.

Now Playing: nothing

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Back in college, The Escape Club had one of the coolest videos playing on heavy rotation on MTV. It was a lot of fun, and I never really got tired of it or the song itself. Now the band is active on YouTube, making its old videos officially available to fans (such as me) for embedding on websites and blogs (such as this). If you ask me, this is an excellent and savvy use of the medium to re-connect with the old fanbase and generate new interest in their work. Contrast that with Greg Kihn, who refuses to allow his classic stuff to be presented on YouTube. That's absolutely Kihn's right as an artist, but sadly that's also why visitors here to Gibberish won't see the ultra-cool "The Breakup Song" or "Jeopardy" featured on Friday Night Videos.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The B-52s.

Now Playing: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Music for Glass Harmonica

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quest for passion

Since I haven't obsessed over passion flowers lately, I'll rectify that situation now.

Dr. Larry Gilbert is a butterfly researcher up in Austin at that "other" university. He's got a huge passiflora collection in his greenhouses there--passiflora being the food of choice for many species of butterfly. Back in the 70s he had more than 200 species, plus hybrids, and many of those species weren't in cultivation anywhere else in the world. He discovered some species, and other have since gone extinct in the wild. He has fewer than 100 species now, but seeing as how I only have a dozen or so, and many of those are small cuttings, I've been keen to get up there and tour his greenhouses.

After many false starts and schedule conflicts dating back to the spring, I finally got to head up to Austin yesterday after work and meet the man.

Ye gods, but that was a hellish drive.

We're supposed to meet at the Brackenridge Field Lab, which is right off MoPac on Town Lake. In ideal driving conditions, this would take just over 30 minutes to get to. So I allow for a full hour. Do I take MoPac or maybe risk cutting across Lamar? I figure that even if MoPac is crammed with commuters, it'll still be better than the start-and-stop of traffic lights on the alternate routes. Besides, this is the southern side of Austin, and the heaviest MoPac traffic would be on the north end, right? Things are going swimmingly until I actually get onto MoPac, at which point traffic stops. I don't mean "it slows down some." It ground to a halt. My exit was a mere two miles away, and it took an hour to reach it. An hour. My engine started to overheat because the stupid cooling fan is bumfuzzled, so I had to turn on the heater and shut the engine down as I waited. I didn't actually get to my destination until 6:15 or so, 45 minutes late. After all that hassle, I was terrified Dr. Gilbert had already left.

Fortunately, no.

He greeted me kindly and took me out to see his "small" greenhouse. Most of the passiflora species he has today are in facilities at the main downtown campus, but there's still an interesting array of plants in the greenhouse adjacent to Town Lake. He kept apologizing for the plants not being in bloom, but as their primary role is to serve as butterfly food, they get munched on pretty heavily.

One of the vigorously growing vines that wasn't in flower is p. holoscerecia, pictured above. The leaves were larger than I expected, maybe the size of my hand. It's native to some of the more arid regions of Mexico. I've wanted that one for a while, but it's not cultivated widely. I've found one online nursery that sells it, but they do so only rarely because it is very reluctant to root from cuttings (they say). All the lit I've read says holoscerecia demands dry, almost arid conditions. The greenhouse was extremely humid (the swarming mosquitoes attested to that) but Dr. Gilbert told me that it's always grown great for him in humid conditions in well-drained soil with limestone mixed in with it. Good to know if I ever get one.

Then I saw this one. It had winged stems, and the leaves, too, looked very much like p. alata as you can see in the photo above. Except that the leaves were double to triple the size of those on my alata. I asked Dr. Gilbert what it was, and he said it was p. trilata. I pointed out the size and he agreed, saying the plant "gets huge."

In the back of the greenhouse I spotted some vines growing up the back wall, and there were flowers high up. I wanted to get some pics, so Dr. Gilbert reached up and cut off a length of vine so I could get this close-up image. The plant is p. gibertii, which he originally collected in the wild from Brazil years ago. Because of new biodiversity rules, he can't get any more species from Brazil--the export is restricted. Over the years he's had some rare and obscure plants in his collection, but as they've been lost it's become increasingly difficult to replace them. Since many are tropical species that demand a very narrow set of climatic conditions, they've never made it into commercial trade. The difficulty in replenishing his stock is ironic considering the fact that 20 years ago he had probably the largest collection of passiflora in the world, and supplied many of the commercial hybridizers with plants. Such is the way of the world, I suppose.

Then Dr. Gilbert told me I could have the gibertii cutting if I wanted to try and root it. Did I want it?

Well, duh.

Gibertii isn't terribly common, and probably not one I'd have gone out and bought on my own given my limited space and budget, but it's a fascinating flower. The blossom is comparable in size to caerulea, but comes across as more delicate. The banding is visually interesting as well. So now I've got several cuttings (hopefully) taking root at home. Fingers are crossed. That was really very nice of him. Taking time to show me his collection was more than generous of him. To actually give me a cutting was more than I expected.

I've also got some other interesting pics I'll share, but I want to get the identifying info for them first. And I hope to go back in the spring, when Dr. Gilbert's on-campus greenhouses are in bloom and I can come back with amazing pictures and any other cuttings he'd be so kind as to bestow on me.

Now Playing: Pandora radio Alan Parsons Project station

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Wow. If you like movies, you simply have to see this documentary that exposes the hypocrisy and double-standards rampant within the MPAA film ratings board in Hollywood. The documentary is alternately list as either "Not Rated" or "NC-17," a confusion which stems from the filmmakers' submission of an early version of the movie to the film ratings board in order to document the process. The final product--including the damning reveal of the secret "appeals board" at the end--is unrated and no doubt has earned the eternal enmity of MPAA petty tyrant Jack Valenti (now deceased).

The filmmakers expose Valenti's outright lies and equivocation with theatrical style. The fact that studio films are treated far more favorably than independent projects is absurd. The fact that, during an actual ratings appeal, filmmakers are strictly prohibited from referencing existing films with similar scenes. In effect, filmmakers are stripped of the only possible evidence they can use in their defense. Unbelievable.

Extensive interviews with such directors as Kevin Smith, John Waters and Kimberly Peirce focusing on their sometimes bizarre run-ins with the MPAA, but none is funnier than that of Matt Stone, one of the co-creators of South Park. He talks about the infamous puppet sex scene in the movie Team America: World Police, and how they knew the MPAA would demand massive cuts to it. In order to protect the extended joke, they filmed a significant number of additional acts between the puppets--some of which are hilarious in their spectacular depravity. When the MPAA "slapped it with an NC-17," Stone and Trey Parker simply cut the extraneous shots and this "concession" mollified the MPAA and earned the film an R rating. The MPAA also objected to the original South Park movie title: All Hell Breaks Loose which is pretty descriptive of the movie. The MPAA objected to the word "hell" in the title, nevermind that many, many films throughout history have used that word to no ill effect. The alternate title, "Bigger, Longer, Uncut" passed without trouble--until a week later when someone at the MPAA finally got the double entendre, but by then it was too late.

Quite possibly the most disturbing trend in the broken ratings system is the fact that violence--often extremely graphic, gory and brutal violence--rarely meets with objection from the board. But any hint of nudity, often regardless of the context, will instantly push the film up into the next highest category. Maria Bello is interviewed, and quite rightly irate about the fact that a brief shot of her pubic hair in a scene with William H. Macy initially earned the acclaimed film The Cooler an NC-17 rating. Considering that incidental nudity was not all that uncommon in PG movies from the 70s, and that hyper-realistic violence practically saturates cinema screens these days, and it's not hard to see where our priorities have gone askew.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a keeper. It loses its way a bit in the middle, but recovers nicely at the end. And be sure to check out the deleted scenes, which exposes the MPAA for actually pirating this very movie, in violation of the MPAA's own stated rules. Highly recommended.

Now Playing: Eric Clapton Unplugged

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

HEROES: Fight or Flight

Amazing. Two good episodes in a row with forward narrative direction. Two annoyances--a Hiro appearance that amounted to little more than a glorified cameo, and Veronica Mars' departure from Ireland without a throwdown vs. Peter Petrelli. Turns out that Veronica's secret identity is that of Lightning Lass, so now we know where Peter got those wacky electricity powers. At the end we see her speak to her "Daddy" on the phone, so I'm wondering if King Midas with the agency is her father figure? It'd make sense, since most everyone in the photo of the older generation has kids involved in the show.

Speaking of which, could Parkman be any more of a wuss? He badgers the poor little girl into locating his missing father, who she insists is worse than Sylar, and gets all namby-pamby when pops puts little Molly in a brain-lock. Fortunately, Mohinder gives him some much-needed backbone and as a result Parkman and Nathan Petrelli go confront the old fart. And get their heads handed to them. In classic Brainiac form, the father ego-boogies them into thinking the other is an enemy and they beat the crap out of each other as Brainiac slips away. This happened to Superman and Wonder Woman in the first season of the Justice League cartoon, so Parkman and Petrelli shouldn't feel too badly. The good news is that Parkman went into Petrelli's mind to break the illusion, which shows him finally showing some initiative and developing his abilities into something more than a passive plot device.

The New Orleans subplot was a bit thin, and Mohinder showing up right at the end to pick up the Taskmaster provoked a "What the... huh?" reaction from me. But overall, I'm enjoying this season's writing more than last year's. One quibble: Nichelle Nichols has such a commanding presence in all of her scenes, you'd think they'd expand her role. Right now she's being wasted.

Now Playing: Dave Davies Rock Bottom: Live at the Bottom Line

Monday, October 22, 2007


Oh, and before I forget. I'm not normally a big fan of Anheuser-Busch products, but this Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale that I'm drinking right now kicks all kinds of arse. It's the first thing of theirs I think I've ever had that didn't taste like hopped-up seltzer water. Highly recommended.

Now Playing: Astrud Gilberto The Millennium Collection

True Calling

Mother is the necessity of invention and all that, as they say, and I had a blog post due for No Fear of the Future today. So, rather than come up with some brilliant essay on alternate reality Chinese SF ala Jess Nevins, I took the easy way out and wrote a story, aka my piss-poor attempt to trod Chris Nakashima-Brown territory.

So check out True Calling and see if you ever look at the Special Editions in the same way again.

Now Playing: Astrud Gilberto The Millennium Collection

Autumn arrives (finally)

Autumn blew into Central Texas around 5 a.m. this morning, full of sound a fury. Lots of wind, and a good bit of rain. It's 54 degrees outside right now, windy and gray. Gloomy. Trees have been shedding their leaves for a month now, but the high temperatures have not contributed to the feeling of fall-ness.

Now let's see how long the chill lasts.

Now Playing: The Commitments The Commitments

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Night Videos

No psychic wars this week. Instead, we have something a little lighter in "Deadbeat Club" from the B-52s. This is probably my favorite B-52s song, and the faux-home movie video, while simple, works pretty well with the band's whole retro motif. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Blue Öyster Cult.

Now Playing: London Philharmonic Orchestra Us and Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd

The Shoals of Cibola: Thursday's progress

Not as much time to write tonight, but I still managed to put a decent amount of words down on paper. I'm definitely going to have to do a major polish to get the tone and dialog in sync with "La Riaza" and "The Whale Below," but I pretty much planned for that anyway. Right now, the whole "action/adventure" aspect of it is really taking off.
The Hijo Afortunado drew steadily away. After half an hour, it appeared less than the length of a little finger held at arms length. An hour after that, the Nueces ship caught up to her.

"How do you think the conversation's going, Diego?" Cisneros asked with a gallows grin.

"Not well, for Escarzaga, at any rate," Diego said. "Even if Nueces didn't seem him dump us, he's going to have a time explaining away his Brazos contract."

They stared after the ships, the two hulls seemingly merged into one.

"It's taking a long time," said Del Hoyo. "That's bad, right?"

"Probably taking Hijo Afortunado as a capture," said Diego. "Serves that bastard Escarzaga-- hold on, they're moving off."

The two ships separated, the space between them rapidly widening.

"That's odd," Diego said. "Why are they--"

A volley of sparks lanced out from the Nueces ship into the Hijo Afortunado. Hot, sharp flashes erupted along the Hijo Afortunado's hull. Smoke boiled forth. Then another barrage hit the stricken airship.

"Dios mio! They're pounding her with rockets," Diego said, mouth agape. The implications sank in. Nueces merchantmen were now armed for ship-to-ship combat. "Nueces has gone completely insane."

Flames fully engulfed the Hijo Afortunado, a cloud of gray-black smoke wrapping around the conflagration. The Nueces ship unloaded one final volley into its prey, then turned away to resume its hunt.

Tomorrow: The shoals!

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Shoals of Cibola

I've had a story in mind for quite some time now that I've wanted to write for Interzone. It's a direct continuation of the story that was begun in "The Final Voyage of La Riaza." It picks up with several of those characters in the immediate aftermath of the rather spectacular events of the earlier story, but is quite a different tale all together.

The trouble is, despite having the plot pretty well worked out in my head, and several of the set pieces clearly defined, the story wouldn't coalesce. It wouldn't reach critical mass. Everything, it seemed, was in place for me to write this darn thing, except it didn't want to be written. I'm sure the writers out there know of which I speak.

So today I'm browsing through Half Price Books, and I come across Sian Rees' book The Ship Thieves: The True Tale of James Porter, Colonial Pirate. This is the same author who wrote The Floating Brothel a few years back, so of course I pick it up and flip through it. There, quite at random, I see a sentence that makes everything in "The Shoals of Cibola" click into place. The result is a good night's worth of production (for me) and the growing certainty that what I initially thought might be a fun little 5,000-word adventure is going to balloon into an epic at least twice that length. Ah well, I should know by now, shouldn't I? Here's an unpolished sample of tonight's labors:
"Señor Brazos, what's happening?" Del Hoyo asked in a voice as coarse as grinding rocks. The crooked scar across his throat flushed red with panic.

Diego swore to himself, ignoring Del Hoyo. Almost the entire ship's complement had turned out.

"Señor Brazos, what in the name of Cibola am I going to do with you and your companions?"

Diego's eyes darted to the rear of the safety cage where a fat, yellow-bearded man clung, peering intently through a spyglass.

"Transport us to Ansuly, like you've been paid to do, Capitan Escarzaga," Diego said evenly, the faintest hint of anger seeping into his voice. "A very... generous fare it was, too, for simple passage."

Capitan Escarzaga heaved himself over the clustered airmen and clambered along the ceiling with surprising agility. He hung there weightless, glowering at Diego. "If it's just a simple passage, then why's there a Nueces ship running me down just three days out from Cydone?"

Oh, those pesky Nueces folks. Who'd have thought they'd get so worked up over a little thing like Diego burning half their fleet?

Now Playing: The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos Chant

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Un Lun Dun

For those of you keeping score at home, my review of China Miéville's Un Lun Dun is now up over at SFSite.

Now Playing: Clandestine The Haunting

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

HEROES: Kindness of Strangers

Okay then, so what are the odds that evil Sylar with his chest cut open escapes from the mysterious Lost island whereas all the other castaways can't, swims the Pacific Ocean to Mexico where he comes ashore to stumble his way through mountains and desert only to collapse in the middle of the road right as los Gemelos De la Maravilla come driving up in Cheerleader Claire's stolen SUV? Synchronicity and fate are one thing, but when you can see the writers blatantly pulling the strings, bullshit is the only call to be made.

Other than that bit of bone-headed writing, I liked this episode a lot. Turns out that Micah's ability to manipulate machinery isn't limited to inorganic matter. It's a nifty expansion of his abilities, but I sense power "creep" already slipping into the Heroes universe. By "creep" I mean the inclination of writers to amp up a character's special abilities at every turn to make them "more interesting," which is why Superman literally went from leaping tall buildings in a single bound (circa 1938) to playing billiards with the planets (circa 1975). Not a big fan of that, but we'll take a wait-and-see attitude. Interesting that his cousin has the same powers as Marvel's Taskmaster, though. Nice to see the writers ripping off more obscure abilities for a change. The New Orleans setting was awfully ham-fisted, though, but I suppose I have to give the writers credit for going after a non-LA or NY setting. Awfully nice house for a family supposedly so strapped for cash, though.

Nathan Petrelli finally got rid of the worst fake beard in the history of television. Yay! Had it stuck around any longer, I suspected his power would've shifted to befriending grizzly bears and having old codgers call him "Greenhorn" constantly.

Claire's bit of nookie with the creepy stalking flyboy is going well enough, and creating conflict at home which is good for dramatic tension. I like that the writers are humanizing him and showing him as an average(ish) teen, deemphasizing the creepy stalker aspect of his personality. That'll make it all the more powerful when he goes all psycho on Bennett. I can't wait.

Parkman's dad is the big bad guy that makes Sylar and Linderman look like pussycats. Sweet. I think this is a nifty plot development, if sort of contrived, because really, Parkman's the lamest character on the show outside of Niki/Jessica. Only he doesn't have her looks to skirt by on. He needs serious character development since they wrote off his crumbling marriage. And, once you get down to it, he's really gotten short shrift when it comes to powers. Yeah, mind-reading is useful and all that, but he can't control it. His abilities are comparatively weak compared to the other supers' powers. He can't use them for attack, he can't pry out secret knowledge buried deep, he can't do much more than randomly pick up snatches of surface thought. In short, his abilities are an inconsistent plot device. One that gives him nosebleeds and headaches and gets little girls possessed by evil old men.

Now Playing: Clannad Rogha: The Best of Clannad

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Betcha didn't see this one coming. Michael Moorcock + Blue Öyster Cult = Psychic War goodness. I mean, really. You can't get more science fictional than this.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Peter Gabriel.

Now Playing: Eric Clapton with the National Orchestra Live a the Royal Albert Hall


Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against global warming. Now if he would only run for president. That's not likely gonna happen, tho. But Secretary of the Interior Al Gore has a nice ring to it as well, doesn't it?

Now Playing: Don Henley California Desperados

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Watch the skies

Via the miracle of the interwebs (and a Freecycle mailing list the Wife turned me on to) I am now the proud (well, maybe not proud. Moderately smug is more like it) owner of a 19" satellite dish (Dual LNB) and one digital reciever for DirecTV. What I'll do with the DirecTV receiver, I have no idea. But the satellite dish on the other hand, someday (not all that soon mind you) I will turn it into a backyard radio telescope. I discovered plans for one of these in an issue of Astronomy magazine a couple of decades back, using an old UHF antenna. I actually ran across that issue while cleaning out the garage this spring, and a quick Google search later showed me that backyard radio astronomy has progress by leaps and bounds over the intervening decades. The easy availability of those ubiquitous rooftop satellite dishes, coupled with dramatic advances in home computers has been a boon for the niche.

Besides, I figure if Charlie Sheen can do it, how hard can it be?

Now Playing: The B-52s Time Capsule

HEROES: Niki/Jessica

I think I've finally hit upon why I hate the Niki/Jessica character in Heroes so much. It's not the actress--I actually like Ali Larter a good bit, and think she does a decent job when given decent material.

Initially, my dislike of her stemmed from my utter bafflement as to why the character was even featured on a show boasting super-powered humans. She didn't have a super-power, but rather suffered from multiple personality disorder. Psychiatric treatment and serious medication. So what if the Niki personality was a whiney victim and the Jessica personality was a ultra-violent nut job. That's just Hollywood shorthand for "We're aping Jekyll and Hyde." Apart from her willingness to kill, screw or blackmail (any other morally deplorable thing the script would have her do) there wasn't anything all that super about her. Until the season one finale, that is, where she suddenly manifested super-strength to wallop Sylar but then, uncharacteristically, chose not to finish the job. There were also a few hints dropped that Jessica is actually Niki's dead sister. Those were never followed up on, probably because the concept was too lame and cliche even for Niki/Jessica. Supposedly series creator Tim "I Never Read Comics" Kring claims Niki/Jessica was originally supposed to have the power to be in two places at once. Which would've been an improvement over Sybil-lite.

Now, in season two, we've seen her a couple of times, and she's just as whiney as ever. She drops her son off with Lt. Uhura (Ret.) from Star Trek and is off on some vague quest to be "cured." Whatever that means. And then it struck me--the character is utterly passive. Both of them. It doesn't matter if Niki is being a victim (which she's soon to be once again, since the folks with the "cure" are also the bad guys who Mr. Bennett, aka Horn Rimmed Glasses, worked for last season) or Jessica is slaughtering mafia thugs. They merely react to the actions and directives of others. Neither have goals beyond Niki's mind-numbingly abstract "I just want to be normal and happy with my son" or Jessica's "I want to screw and kill, and not necessarily in that order." Their forward thinking only extends as far as the end of the current episode. They're boring and exercise no active influence over their lives, plotlines or the season story arc overall. That's pathetic.

My solution? Give both a strong dose of initiative. Jessica, the blunt force instrument, becomes focused like a laser. Make her into a super-villain mastermind, but not just any super-villain mastermind, mind you. In Kring's HEROES universe, there are layers upon layers of conspiracy. We've seen this well-established, and thus far only Sylar's been outside of that web (although there've been efforts to draw him in by different factions). Sylar's powerful, but dumb. A loose cannon. Jessica could be dangerous but smart, and there's not a big leap required to assume that throughout her work for Linderman she picked up a lot of useful background knowledge on the various factions in play. In short, Niki/Jessica would become the Mule of the HEROES universe. An unexpected third player that does serious damage to the well-laid plans of everyone else. The wimpy Jessica character could either be phased out and repressed, or actually (gasp!) grow a backbone and become Evil Mastermind Jessica's relentless nemesis. Of course, that won't ever happen, but it's what I'd do if I ruled the world.

Now Playing: The B-52s Good Stuff

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Unsolicited endorsement

Patricia Anthony has read my story, "The Makeover Men." This is what she thought of it:
Oooooooooo. NICE and sick! Good writing, sneaky story. Only one problem I can see: Protect yourself from fundamentalists with flaming torches and pyres in mind, hahahaha.

Is that a heck of a blurb or what? If you haven't read the story yet, what're you waiting for?

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

HEROES: Kindred Spirits

First of all, I believe the evil bad guy stalking the older generation of meta-humans is Kensei from ancient Japan, setting up a nice bit of moral and physical conflict when Hiro returns from the past to discover the avaricious monster he created must now be stopped. I could be way off base here, but the whole regeneration power would lend itself to a kind of Vandal Savage immortality, don'tcha think? If nothing else, he'd be pissed as all get-out at Hiro for dumping him in the midst of 90 angry ronin.

Those Kensei legends added some colorful background in season one, but now they're reduced to little more than macguffins. What's the point? Kensei has to get the Fire Scroll because that's what Hiro remembers the legend as saying he does. That recursive, self-fulfilling prophecy. Utterly pointless. Sloppy, lazy writing. I'm very disappointed.

The Peter Petrelli storyline has degenerated into a concocted mess every bit that rings ever bit as hollow as the worst writing from season one. He's willing to take on armed bank guards and toss armored cars around with his telekinesis to get back a cigar box that may or may not hold the secret of his true identity, but not willing to use those same powers to simply take that box from the punter who tortured him earlier and is forcing him to participate in the afore-mentioned heist? And once he does get the box, decides to kiss the Irish lass instead of opening it because he might not like who he once was!? Because, yeah, being a super-powered thug in a Dublin gang is so much more respectable than anything else you might be. Hollywood writing at it's absolute worst.

So Cheerleader Clair finally tells creepy stalking flyboy her secret, and he shows her his. They kiss. She learns her dad abducted him as a kid and did nasty experiments on him. Who else thinks this will end well?

The less said about our south-of-the-border Wonder Twins the better. It's not just that the scenario this week was contrived--it actually fit in with the rest of the episode nicely in that regard--but that it was contrived so badly. "Hey, my sister has blisters on her feet, even though she's walking normally. So I'll try and steal this expensive Cadillac in broad daylight in front of the fat police officer and let him run me down like the plot device that I am. Then my sister can break me out of jail by bleeding black oil and killing everyone shortly after she tells them she's a murderer. Sounds like a plan." Ugh.

Sylar's alive. Big surprise, that. He kills the hot illusion-making chick to steal her powers. Big surprise, that. How stupid are these people that keep giving Sylar all these chances to kill them and take over the world? Idiot plot, coming right up. The only redeeming elements of this segment are the facts that 1) Sylar can't access his stolen powers (although he can apparently still harvest his bloody crop) and B) he's been marooned on the Lost island to wander around, bleeding out the chest, until a passing alien space ship beams him up and turns him into Mr. Spock.

There's been some grousing online about the first two episodes of season two, but I've liked them a good deal. They both unfolded at a deliberate pace, but there was definite narrative progress being made each week. This week, not so much. My biggest complaint about season one were the filler episodes in which everything went around in circles for an hour and nothing of consequence happened. I'd hoped that was a relic of the past, but it looks like I was wrong.

Now Playing: Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill

Monday, October 08, 2007

Interesting realization

I've just discovered that (counting a couple of in-press stories) I've got enough published short fiction to fill a collection. Not that any publisher in their right mind would want to finance such an endeavor considering the drawing power of my name, but still. I consider it a happy landmark of sorts, especially in light of the ratio of unpublished material I have accumulated over the years.

I'm well aware that this is no big woop for most folks out there. Heck, some guys like Chris Roberson and Jay Lake produce that much copy on a slow afternoon. But for a slow, lazy writer like me, it ain't too shabby.

Now Playing: Sheryl Crow Sheryl Crow

Friday, October 05, 2007

Weirdest. Car. Ever.

Behold the Pivo 2, a new concept vehicle from Nissan. I am agog.

Yes, it's too strange to be believed, but if that disembodied robot monkey head comes standard, I know half a dozen simian-obsessed Texas writers who'd... uh, go ape for it.

Now Playing:

Friday Night Videos

I wanted to post Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" today, but the only version I can find has embedding disabled. Oh well. Instead, we'll got with a more recent gem, "Digging in the Dirt" from his spectacularly good Us album. Peter Gabriel is simply magnificent, and I regret that I've never managed to see him in concert.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Del Amitri.

Now Playing:

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Back around 2003 or so, my torpid, bloated self topped 265 on the scales, and I made up my mind to do something about it. Physically, I was uncomfortable. My clothes didn't fit right and my shoes--shoes--started wearing out with disturbing rapidity. Diet alone wasn't cutting it, so I bit the bullet and started working out with the goal of getting down to 220. One year later I (briefly) hit 215. I felt great. Physically, shedding those 50 excess pounds made a tremendous difference.

Only then, of course, complacency set in. I stopped working out regularly. I stopped swearing off second servings and junk food snacks. Basically, I fell back into old habits because, once you get right down to it, I hate working out. I dislike the sweat, the elevated heart rate, the muscle burn. I have never, ever experienced a workout high. I like the results, sure, but everything else about it sucks to high heaven.

So this past month I tipped the scales at 246. Discounting the brief dip to 215, that meant I'd gained 26 pounds from my goal weight of 220 over a period of 3-4 years. Not a drastic ballooning, but a steady, disturbing creep.

So I've recommitted myself to sweaty physical workouts. And I hate them just as much now--if not moreso--than I did four years ago. After two weeks' worth of sweating through some (very) mild cardio stuff (no weight training as of yet) I've shed three pounds. Not much, but the weight's stable and trending downward. The bad thing is that I hurt. Muscles, joints... every cell in my body seems to be cursing me, arguing stridently for me to stop this madness. Today the burn is particularly bad (even though I didn't work out today) because the Bug decided to play around from 3-5 a.m., and it was my turn to try and convince him that sleep is much more desirable an activity in the wee hours. Now I've got the exhaustion jitters and brain fog working me over but good in addition to the normal physical agony.

Did I mention I hated working out?

I'm just sayin'.

Now Playing: The Kinks Give The People What They Want

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Woe is me

Remember that project I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that had run into a brick wall? Well, since then, it's been roughed up, cast in irons and walled up behind stout masonry in a scene disturbingly reminiscent of that from "The Cask of Amontillado." Plus, I also got a harsh tongue scolding for something completely unrelated, not to mention thoroughly unexpected. And Lamar Smith called my home so crazy people could rant about feeding Mexicans to alligators. Yesterday was not a good day to be me.

Here's hoping that today brings some improvement.

Now Playing: Clandestine The Ale is Dear

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

If you oppose alligators, the terrorists win

I just got off the phone with Rep. Lamar Smith. Sort of.

So there I am doing the dishes, and the phone rings. A recorded voice informs me that I've been invited to participate in a live town hall teleconference with Smith, who (unfortunately) happens to be my representative in congress. You have the option of keying in to ask a question, and in general it strikes me as an interesting concept apart from the bizarre unexpected nature of it.

I'm toying with the idea of asking a question--when the audio kicks in and I hear what's being said. Hoo boy. What sounds like a middle-aged woman is ranting about the border, and although she never actually says "wetbacks" you just know it's a struggle for her not to. She's angry at congress, see. Angry that they haven't already built a wall along the border to keep "them" out. Not only does she want an gargantuan Great Wall of Texas built along the border with Mexico, she want the government to stock the Rio Grande with alligators so that "we won't be responsible for what happens to them."

The scary thing is, she was dead serious. And good old Lamar, he didn't say anything to dissuade her of such notions. Always on the lookout to lock up a vote, he is.

At that point I abandoned any plans to ask rational questions and quickly hung up. Them dishes ain't going to wash themselves, you know.

Now Playing: Dire Straits On the Night

HEROES: Lizard

After watching "Lizard," the second season two episode of Heroes, I'm really starting to believe that the production crew has learned from the missteps of season one and are firing on all cylinders. Of course, that assertion goes out the window if next week's installment stinks to high heaven and returns to the treading water mode we saw all too often last year. But for now they're getting it right.

The difference is that the narrative is moving forward. Last year, there was an unfortunate tendency to fill episodes with padding if they weren't one of the key waypoints in the overarching "blow up New York" plot. So there was a lot of unfocused character interaction and inaction. This time, though, they're pacing themselves much better this time around. There are several mysteries at work here, several distinct plot lines, but instead of saying "This is the mystery--how do we solve it," the story structure is essentially one of picking up enough clues to define the mystery. Granted, the deaths of and attacks on the older generation of metahumans can be viewed as an outright murder mystery, but the fact that survivors thus far know exactly what's going on and (presumably) who is responsible adds to the complexity, and hints that there's a lot more going on under the surfact. So much so, in fact, that learning who killed Mr. Sulu, and why, will only open a much larger can of worms that will take the second half of the season to resolve. Nice.

Good things about this episode include Cheerleader Claire cutting off her little toe and then watching a new one grow back. I kept waiting for the severed digit to start growing a new body to attach itself to--if Claire was split in two, say, by being chained to a log being run through a saw mill, would we get two copies of her? I was bugged by the fact that she snipped the little toe off using the tip of the scissors, since to get enough leverage to do the deed she's need to force the toe deeper into the scissor joint, but I'm just a stickler. Her Flyboy school mate is no less creepy this episode than he was last. Nothing good will come from his discovery of Claire's secret.

Maya and her brother are just getting creepier and creepier. Apparently they were infected with the Black Oil from the X-Files and are trying to reach America where they can contact Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Weird.

The telepathic confrontation between Parkman and Mrs. Petrelli was nicely handled.

The Hiro and Kensei plotline is seven different kinds of awesome. I love period pieces, especially when multiple super powers are involved.

They finally, FINALLY put together a cool fight using super powers. Peter Petrelli, despite being in Ireland, having amnesia and not fulling understanding the abilities he has, escapes being tied up and puts a serious hurting on a number of goons. What's more, he used telekinesis to knock one gun away, which means that he has internalized all of Sylar's stolen powers. That's cool. If Peter weren't such an inherent weenie, he'd be the baddest mofo on the planet.

I can't wait until next week.

Now Playing: The Cars Greatest Hits

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Makeover Men

I've just spent the last hour sending this release out to just about every media outlet I can think of. So now I share it with you:
"The Makeover Men," a dark and troubling near-future novelette by Jayme Lynn Blaschke, has been published by the online science fiction magazine HelixSF #6 in the Fall 2007 issue.

"The Makeover Men" can be read online at

"The Makeover Men" takes place in mid-21st century Houston, a city of the future that is both alien and familiar. Radical cosmetic surgery is accomplished in almost cavalier fashion via genetic engineering while religious fanaticism lurks beneath society's superficial facade like a bomb waiting to explode.

"This is the most difficult story I've ever written. It's the closest I'll ever likely get to doing something in the James Tiptree, Jr., vein," Blaschke says. "It's a cautionary tale, in the mode of a lot of classic SF. It's brutal and graphic. I had to travel down some dark roads while I was writing it--places I wasn't entirely comfortable visiting--but as a writer, you have to be true to the story. 'The Makeover Men' is a wicked little story with a cold, black heart, but it's one I'm proud of."

HelixSF was founded in 2006 by noted science fiction authors William Sanders and Lawrence Watt-Evans as a reader-supported venue specializing in stories too fierce, too eccentric, too politically incorrect or simply too weird for publication--the stories that just didn't fit in any of the standard niches.

Blaschke is a resident of New Braunfels and works at Texas State University-San Marcos. His short fiction has appeared in various anthologies as well as the long-running British science fiction magazine Interzone. He is also author of Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction & Fantasy Speak, a critically-praised collection of interviews with 17 editors, authors and comic creators, currently available from the University of Nebraska Press.

So what are you waiting for? Go read the story, and feel free to throw some coin my way if you're so inclined.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Night Videos

I'm kind of puzzled why Del Amitri never caught on more than they did. Their catchy, smart, guitar-driven sound struck me as perfect for success in the '90s music scene, and I absolutely love "The Last to Know." Unfortunately, I can't find any video of that one online beyond random live performances. So I'll go with the next best thing, their fun "Roll to Me" with some of the most surreal infants you'll ever see.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... R.E.M..

Now Playing: Greg Kihn Kihnsolidation

Nails in the coffin

Today I wake up to find a story on the front page of the San Antonio Express-News that embattled coach Dennis Franchione has stopped selling confidential player information in a secret $1,200 newsletter. Well. I feel so much better now. The information Fran peddled, apparently, was player assessments and detailed injury reports to deep-pocket boosters. Information Fran has told the media and public that it is "team policy" not to distribute.
"I knew it was probably going to be controversial," Franchione said. "I certainly didn't mean for it to be that. When I knew you guys were starting to ask around a bit, I thought, 'Maybe we shouldn't do this.'"

So, he knew it was wrong, but continued to do it until he realized he was about to get outed. Nice, stand-up kind of ethical example to set for your players, Fran. Now, while releasing injury reports and player assessments to the public isn't illegal (in fact for years paranoid Bill Snyder at Kansas State was notorious as one of the few coaches in the nation who wouldn't release this info), keeping it secret from all but a select few raises some troubling issues. Such as, um, couldn't this insider information be used for gambling?
"We asked them to sign something," Franchione said. "And for them not to do that."

Ah. Okay. That iron-clad explanation certainly lays those fears to rest.

The story was broke by Brent Zwerneman, a sports writer I've casually known for a number of years. He's vaguely aware of my existence, I believe. But he does a pretty good job for a Sam Houston graduate, despite the blistering criticism he sometimes weathers on His writing for the most part is even-handed, which guarantees he's regularly accused of being unprofessional by one side or the other. My one real criticism of his writing is that he has a habit of opening his columns with a bit of sleight-of-hand, writing about a past sporting scenario that parallels a current situation in such a way as to play "fooled you" with the reader. It's not a bad technique, as far as it goes, but he uses it far too much, so that it's almost become his default mode. My editorial advice to him would be to restrict its use to once a year, if that much, so as to not dilute its impact. But that's neither here nor there. The significance of the current article essentially throws kerosene on the fire raging under Franchione's seat, and also has the effect of embarrassing Athletic Director "Dollar" Bill Byrne, who was caught unawares by this "secret society" newsletter and most assuredly doesn't like being made to look like a fool by his coaching staff. It also explains why Zwerneman and Coach Fran's assistant, Mike McKenzie (who ghost writes the secret newsletter--very poorly I might add, judgine from the samples I've seen) got into a shouting match at a football press conference earlier this week. All in all, it appears to be a good bit of journalism on Zwerneman's part, and I can't help but offer up my meta interpretation of the situation via a different era and a different sport:
Franchione lands a decent left hook to start the fight. Zwerneman lands a little uppercut and they exchange jabs. Zwerneman catches Franchione with a stabbing right uppercut, FRANCHIONE GOES DOWN. Dennis Franchione is sent down to the canvas in the very first round. Franchione rises at the count of three. Zwerneman moves and lands three huge shots to Franchione's chin. He's bobbin right into the power punches of Zwerneman. Zwerneman lands another big right and Franchione is wobbling. Zwerneman lands a huge straight right and FRANCHIONE FALLS AGAIN!!! Dennis gets up again is trying to move away. Zwerneman pushes forward and looks for the kill, he lands another huge right uppercut, FRANCHIONE FALLS DOWN AGAIN!!! He rises at the count of 6 and goes wobbly back to his corner.

To be continued...?

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fair redux

Went to the Comal County Fair tonight. As I predicted, my jalapeño metheglin did not place. Most of the ribbons went to grape wines (mustang mostly) with a couple lesser ribbons given to agarita and dewberry wines. I found it interesting that there was much less variety among the wines this year than there was last year. Last year there were lots of agarita entries, along with pear and peach and other more exotic fare. Seems like there were fewer entries overall as well.

The womenfolk made out like bandits, though. Monkey Do's aquatic photo earned a white third place ribbon, the Wife's portrait of Fairy Girl earned a blue ribbon, and a celestial-themed quilt sewn by my mother-in-law, aka Nama-With-The-Stairs, won a tri-colored best-of-show ribbon. Very cool indeed.

And after looking over the photos that won in the "Adult outdoors" category, my non-entered Lady Margaret photo would've won a red ribbon, at least. sigh

Now Playing: Greg Kihn Kihnsolidation

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Doin' the county fair thing

This morning I took a bit of a detour on the way to work, stopping by the Comal County Fairgrounds to drop off some entries for this year's fair. And by "dropping off" I mean "stand in line for two hours in almost, but not quite, scorching heat." Those of you who've been paying attention will recall that my holiday spiced metheglin took third place last year in the homemade wine competition. So naturally enough I felt compelled to enter again. This year I settled on entering a bottle of my jalapeño metheglin, since the prickly pear and mint meads will benefit more from aging. The jalapeño metheglin, on the other hand, is like a kick in the teeth and isn't going to benefit much from aging. As I've mentioned before, it starts off sweet on the tongue--deceptively so--before a severe case of afterburn sets in. I really, seriously and sincerely doubt that it will place, but I figure those wine judges are too complacent with all the mustang grape and agarita wines they normally see. This won't be one they're likely to forget any time soon.

Entering the mead took all of five minutes. The rest of the time was spent in line to register photos for the art displays. We had three all together--my photo of the wet Lady Margaret passion flower, one Monkey Do took of her friend underwater, and a portrait the Wife took of Fairy Girl over at Mission San Jose. Unfortunately, the hanger on my framed photo was defective, and came loose right as I finally got to the head of the line. Unable and unwilling to leave, fix it, and return to stand in line for another two hours, I entered the works of the womenfolk and left. Yes, I'm disappointed my shot didn't make it in, since I've been looking forward to entering it for months (I so rarely take a good photo that I don't think I can be blamed for this) but them's the breaks.

Judging in all the categories took place tonight. We're going to swing by the fair tomorrow evening and see if any of the Blaschke clan snagged any ribbons. Or if I've been banned from entering any more honey wine. Wish us luck.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Pandora's Box

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

HEROES: Four Months Later

HEROES is back! Yay! And it answered that burning question we all have: What happens to unemployed ALIAS actors not named Greg Grunberg? Well, if you're David Anders, you become the famed swordsman Takezo Kensei in 17th century Japan.

I've been hearing that these first few episodes of season two will serve as a jumping-on point for new viewers. Jumping onto what, I'd like to know. This episode was very, very continuity-heavy, and apart from Cheerleader Claire relocating to California, I couldn't see much in the way of coherent narrative for Heroes newcomers to grasp onto. Which is good, in that us faithful viewers aren't stuck treading water as the show repeats a bunch of "secret origins," but still.

Otherwise, I thought the episode did a good job of setting the balls rolling on quite a few interesting plot threads that may or may not converge by the end of the season. One thing I found annoying was the afore-mentioned character played by Grunberg having gone through a divorce in the preceding months. His tenuous marriage gave his character much-needed depth, and the move (while plausible) smacks of the showrunners getting tired of juggling his pregnant wife and simply writing her out of the script. On the plus side, the living metahuman radar system that's now living with him, Molly, is coming across more like a little kid as opposed to the badly-written dialog regurgitator she was last season. But does anyone else find it weird she's living with this guy who's not a relative, who was a police department washout not that long ago and presumably spent much of the previous four months in the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds?

Nathan Petrelli has the worst fake beard in the history of fake beards.

Mr. Sulu is dead. And he never even got his big sword fight. That sucks. The fact that his being thrown off a building to go splat on the sidewalk below is another nod to The Watchmen is cool. Except that we never saw his power, unless being a really good swordsman counts.

That Mr. Bennett and Mohinder are trying to play the players is pretty cool. It'll all end in tears, though. Mark my words.

Claire's new potential boyfriend-to-be, despite his goofy, aw shucks personality, is bad news I'll wager. His creepy flying voyeurism at the end of the show is deliberately evocative of a similar scene from last summer's Superman Returns, and I don't think they meant it to show that this guy is as noble as Clark Kent. The opposite is true for the new character of Maya (played by the same woman who was Calliso in the X-Men 3 movie). Her power is a nasty one--judging by the body count and blood on her victims, it's an uncontrollable area effect ability, perhaps sonic, perhaps vampiric. It's all vague right now, but unlike flyboy, who has a relatively benign power he'll likely use for bad, she's a person who hopes to purge herself of what she sees as a curse (and who can blame her?).

Finally, we see an amnesiatic Peter Petrelli chained up in a cargo container in Ireland, doing his best impression of Lightning Lad. Obviously, he survived going boom in the season finale, and in the interim has encountered at least one other metahuman from whom he absorbed these new abilities. I hope the amnesia bit isn't drawn out too long. I mean, really. That'd just be stretching credibility.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Leave Coach Fran alone!

I'm not normally one to dogpile, but extraordinary times, etc.

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No bandwagoner I

Lest anyone think I am jumping on the "fire Franchione" bandwagon, I offer up this post I made back in 2005, wallowing in a post-Thanksgiving funk.
A loss is a loss, and I don't take heart in moral victories. Coach Fran was hired at $2 million a year to win national championships, not put together two losing seasons in a three year period.

I'm not one of the potbangers that thinks Fran's contract should be bought out now. I believe every new coach deserves five years to make his system work, with his players. But Fran's made some terrible, ill-advised decisions regarding this football team, and I'm not talking about failing to go for two when you're only up by one.

The 2005 version of me was pretty astute, I'd say. I'm kinda disappointed that I didn't claim Franchione to be A&M's version of John Mackovick, because I was making the comparison to every who'd listen back around that time. Oh well. Here in 2007, I agree with every single word written back then. See if you don't agree too.

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Friday Night Videos

This one goes out to Dennis Franchione and the Texas A&M football team. I think it's self-explanatory.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Johnny Cash.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007


Back when I worked for the Temple Daily Telegram, I got to cover Baylor football on occasion. Grant Teaff, the winningest coach in Baylor history, was head of the program then, and I got to interview him on more than one occasion. One of the classy things he did was, win or lose, after ever game he'd make the long climb up to the press box to talk with sports writers. This wasn't the formal post-game interview, mind you. That was handled down in the locker rooms. This was something extra, usually after most of the initial game stories had already been sent in. Teaff always had time for every reporter there, even a no-name like me.

When the Big 12 formed, Baylor ran him off in order to get "a real winner" who could take them "to the next level." Some Baylor die-hards will argue this point. They'll say it wasn't like that at all. They are wrong. I saw it first hand. Baylor did Teaff wrong. And since then, Baylor has wallowed in ineptitude to the point where mere mediocrity would be a welcome improvement.

Fast forward a decade. Texas A&M fired R.C. Slocum, the winningest coach in A&M history in order to get "a real winner" who could take them "to the next level." Slocum never suffered a losing season in his years at A&M. He had two 6-6 seasons, and followed up the one in 1996 with a Big 12 championship just two years later. At the time, I had grave misgivings about the move, but nobody listened to me because A&M had just hired the greatest coach in football history, Dennis Franchione, away from Alabama.

We reap what we sew sow, apparently.

In five years of Franball, A&M has lost to Baylor, lost to Oklahoma 77-0 (the worst loss in school history, mind you), lost to Cal 45-10 in the Holiday Bowl (the worst bowl loss in school history, mind you), lost to Tennessee 38-7 in the Cotton Bowl (second worst bowl loss in school history, mind you) and tonight went belly-up against a mediocre Miami team 34-17 in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score might suggest. How bad was it? Here are some of the quotes from ESPN's game crew:
"The Miami fans were chanting 'OVERRATED' and the Aggies look overrated at no. 20. They're certainly not the 20th best team in the country."

"They burned a time out and came up with a quarterback sneak?"

"A&M is tring to run a zone defense, but no one runs it like this anymore. They are using a High School zone defense."

"The defensive line can get no penetration and the wide receivers are running free in the secondary. That's no way to coach defense."

"Wow! How good does Oklahoma look tonight after the statement that Miami has made?"

"This rout is a complete team effort by the Aggies."

For five years, the spectacularly aggressive mediocrity reined over by Coach Fran has been explained away by his supporters as R.C. Slocum's fault. "Slocum left the cupboard bare." "Slocum's players never embraced Fran's system." "Slocum let the air out of the team bus' tires." All summer I heard how great this time would be since all the players now had been recruited by Fran. All of the Slocum malcontents had left the building. Now we'd see some real team football.

Bullcrap, to coin a phrase.

Now the world knows why the option offense is an antiquated offense in 21st century college football, thanks to Miami. Of course, most observers of the game already knew this, but reenforcement never hurts. Conservative play calling when down by three touchdowns doesn't do much to rally the troops either. Nor does lecturing the fans and media how they really don't understand the complexities of football (which I haven't actually seen happen, but my gut tells me it fits the well-established pattern).

Fran has won everywhere he's coached, except for A&M. He's been given every advantage, and come up lacking. This is unacceptable. He must go. As a replacement... well, almost anyone would be an improvement, because it's damn hard to do worse than 77-0. But tapping into Slocum's legacy would be a good start, bringing in someone like Mike Sherman or Bob Davie. Or even Steve Kragthorpe or Tommy Tuberville. Just pull the trigger, the sooner the better, because this water torture has got to stop.

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