Right on the heels of starting a snazzy new message board, I put up another fancy new doodad. I’ve had one or two chat rooms set up on the site for a while, but I don’t really use them since they don’t work around the firewall at my job. I stumbled upon some cool Flash chat rooms that would work, but they need an ASP server. However, I was able to come across a PHP version of one them, Shoutbox from Webfroot.
    I set it up here, on the front page (and therefore echoed on the archive page and guestbook). It’s not exactly private, but it’s in realtime so it’s more immediate than an e-mail.
    Also, to make room for it, my “Current Interests” box has been moved to the bottom of the page. (My more long-lasting interests are, as always, listed on the Links page.)

    I meant to install a new chat feature but it was too complicated for my caveman brain. Instead I got sidetracked into installing a new YaBB SE.
    What? Another message board?
    Well…yes. This one looks nicer and runs faster than my current CGI Ultraboard, so it could quite possibly end up being the message board. I’ve already tried to transfer most of the existing categories over (though not the messages themselves).
    Please pardon the dust since this baby is brand spanking new.

It may be foolish to stay indoors on such a nice day, but at least I’m getting some work done. There is new audio material on my Buffett page; there are two RealVideo files up for grabs on my U2 page (about time I did some work on that one); and I’m busy creating (finally) and updating the May page of my Diary

I’m sampling a glass of the new Vanilla Coke as I type this. I assumed it would taste like cream soda, and since I’m not a big fan of cream soda I was not looking forward to this latest flavor. Vanilla Coke tastes a lot like a Coke float, like Coke with some ice cream […]

    I think Gillian Anderson said it best when she was on the Late Show. The end of The X-Files really hasn’t sunk in; and the fact that the series ended for good on May 19 probably won’t hit me until late summer when I start looking forward to new episodes. A lot of online critics (pro and am) have had some rather harsh words for that final two-parter. True, the show did not reveal anything and no ultimate truths were uncovered, despite what we’d been told by the Fox publicty department. But anyone upset over that must not have been paying attention to the other 200 episodes. There are no answers; and even if they might be given, we can never believe them. Chris Carter himself warned of this back in the first season. The underlying theme of the show isn’t “Trust No One” for nothing.
    So what did we learn? That the conspiracy Mulder tried to fight has actually grown bigger. That the date is set, Mulder knows it, and now that the aliens have infested our very government he also knows he can do little about it. I like this thinking. I like having an un-happy ending. It fits in well with the general paranoia of the show. The more I think about it, the more I like the final scene, where Mulder admits defeat to himself. To be perfectly blunt (without the silent “H”) he never was that great an investigator when it came to the conspiracy; he just sat around until someone like Kristchgau or Kurtzweil showed up to explain everything. And with that in mind, Carter’s decision to end the series on a note of defeat is actually pretty cool.
    So when you put aside the grievances on how Mulder was not revealed as a great messiah, that (as some would want) Mulder & Scully didn’t “get it on” right there in prime time, and that the fates of Gibson Praise and AD Skinner were given short shrift (a complaint I happen to agree with), what were we left with? A two-parter that in many ways typified the series itself: a well-produced, well-acted, usually well-written piece of television entertainment. I’m happy with it, and once again I am amazed at the fantastic production design work that that team could put out in a weekly television schedule.
    Now if they could’ve gotten Darin Morgan to write it… Then we’d really be talking!

    I just heard a standup comic* joking about how old people always insist on giving out long distance numbers by preceding it with a one. The joke is that everybody knows you dial a 1 first, and that old people are too set in their ways to adapt and drop the obvious reference.
    Well, let me tell you, way too many people do not know they need to dial the 1. Too many people when they see “800-800-8000” on a billboard or on TV will dial exactly those ten numbers — which does nothing more than piss off the unfortunate sod who has 800-8008 for a phone number.
    I speak from experience. My neighboring area code is 248 and in a cruel twist of fate my phone number at work has a 248 prefix. Thus, hilarity ensues. Much too frequently (especially this morning as it turns out), we’ll get calls for AAA, the public library, a law office, the power company (DTE)…all because people businesses are following that standup comics advice and assuming it’s safe to drop the 1 from their ads. And because too many peoplle are too stupid to know they need to dial that 1 first.
    In short, do not be swayed by that standup comic. Don’t make fun of old people for reminding us to dial 1. Cherish them, follow their example, dial the 1, quit calling me.

*The standup comic? It was that hump, Jay Leno.

    Well, through the power of the Internet, I was able to watch Star Wars: Episode II last night. I still fully intend to see it at the theater, but I couldn’t possibly pass up such an opportunity at a sneak preview. The movie is nowhere near as vapid as the The Phantom Menace, but it’s still a far cry from the exciting fun of the previous three. Mostly this is once again a problem in the story’s construction. In Empire, for instance, our heroes fought the Imperial forces on Hoth and then escaped to Dagobah and Bespin. Nice and simple. Here, in Attack of the Clones, our heroes chase an assassin but then find out the assassin was actually working for a bounty hunter whom Obi Wan has to chase to a planet called Kamino where he uncovers the plot to build a clone army — but the army is actually supposed to be sent to Geonosis, so Obi Wan goes there too and discovers a rival army being built. And that’s all within the first hour. Not forgetting Anakin has been asked to protect Senator Padmé, which involves their flying to various planets too.
    In short, the movie is a mess. It’s been so jam-packed with chases and battles and romance and intrigue and torture and duels that about halfway through sensory overload kicks in and everything turns into a loud blur. The movie also suffers from the Pixar Syndrome, where the climax has about eight or nine endings. Just when you think the war is finally over, there’s another battle to follow. “Didn’t like our attempt to outdo Gladiator? Then how about a full-on battle! No?, then what about a chase scene! That not to your liking? Then what about another lightsabre duel!” The acting is still poor too, though Hayden Christensen does a better job than I’d been led to believe (thank God). He starts out roughly — with an annoying knack for emphasizing the wrong word in each line — but once he’s called upon to start expressing emotions he does a decent job of conveying his conflicts. Natalie Portman fares better as well, since she’s no longer required to voice Amidala’s royal monotone. Jar Jar is still with us, and a bit more than I’d expected after reading the leaked screenplay. Christopher Lee is his usual malevolent film self, but I can’t help wondering why if he’s such a poweful enemy he wasn’t mentioned in the first movie — or does George intend to remedy that in The Phantom Menace: Special Edition?
    The dialogue is as silly as in other Star Wars movies, but this one suffers even more since it engages in “sweet nothings” as Anakin tries to woo Padmé. Anakin hates sand, we learn, because it’s “coarse and rough and irritating, and gets everywhere. But not like you…” meaning, I suppose, that Padmé is “soft and smooth” and doesn’t get wedged in his ass-crack. Thanks George, I’ll have to remember that pick-up line. But fall in love they must, even though Padmé’s fall seems a little arbitrary. The direction is as awkward as the script, but that’s not much of a surprise since Lucas is known as an action director more than an actor’s director. Still, I was surprised to find some rather awkward editing in certain scenes. On more than one occasion, George and his editors insist on cutting to a close-up of the wrong thing. In an early conversation between Anakin and Padmé there’s a close-up of Jar Jar’s reaction shot, even though no one in the room (and in the theater) cares how he is responding. Later on, when something dire happens to Jango Fett instead of showing his son Boba’s reaction we cut to a close-up of Count Dooku. Very strange — especially since Lucas started out as a film editor and should know better.
    Apart from the mundane aspects of writing and acting and editing, the action scenes are quite gripping. The chase through Coruscant is dizzying fun and some of the scenes of hand to hand combat (such as on Kamino) are exciting. The big climactic battle is so fast and furious that it’s almost a blur of lightsabres. So at least the movie has that going for it. But to be perfectly honest, I need more. We know going in the special effects will look great. For the next few months these effects will be state-of-the-art. But the one thing that will keep people coming back is a fun story to go with it, and that’s still missing here. Sure I’ll see the movie and I’ll buy the DVD, but instead of watching the whole movie over and over I’ll probably just skip around to a few selected scenes. And that’s a shame.
    Update: I have to take back one of my complaints. Anakin was not referring to Padme when he talked about sand. He said “not like here”, not “not like you”.
    To which contributor JFathers replies, “AOTC sucks. You suck. Life sucks. I’m going back to bed now.”

I know it’s been a while since I put up anything new on this page, but the truth is I really haven’t been able to come up with anything worthwhile to say these last few days. I have been doing some work on some other pages though, including adding a couple reviews to my Movies page, moving some of my current interests to the more permanent Links page, and updating the Gadgets page; not forgetting creating a brand new site at Bitter Old Man.com

The IMDB reports TV viewership was at a surprising low Saturday. It’s not that I care, it’s just that I’m still trying to puzzle out this comment from their “Movie/TV News” page: “NBC won the night with a 5.6 rating and an 11 share. NBC was second with a 5.0/10.”

…Huh?’

    O, Helena, the seat of democracy.
    Dozens if not hundreds of sites are already spreading the news of the incredibly misguided and stupid Greek law 3037 which, in an attempt to curtail illegal gambling, puts a blanket ban on any type of electronic game from PC games to handhelds, even some cellular phones, both for public or private use. This law also extends to tourists, who might have foolishly brought some little handheld electronic game with them. Punishment runs up to twelve months in jail and up to $75,000 (US).
    The Greek paper Kathimerini reports, “The blanket ban was decided in February after the government admitted it was incapable of distinguishing innocuous video games from illegal gambling machines.” But of course. Aristotle himself would find such logic irrefutable. And if they need to combat reckless driving, I assume they’ll just start arresting anyone with a car.
    Thank Zeus, the Greek gaming community is putting up a fight. The Gameland.gr website was keeping track of the story, as well as a planned protest over the arrest of two Internet café owners. The interest in the story has overwhelmed their server, but the site has several mirrors, two of which can be viewed here or here.
    Maybe the lawmakers need to soak their heads in Windex.