Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Well, there's that, at least

So the Astros suck pretty badly right now, huh? Nine straight losses is never, ever a good thing. It looks like it'll take another Miracle Astros Summer for them to even approach a .500 record, let alone the playoffs. And Lance Berkman needs to get slapped -- come on, Fat Elvis! The team kinda needs you to play well to win.

But hey -- there is the silver lining. 'Cause as bad as the Astros are playing, the Yankees are playing just as badly, and they're even further out of first place than we are. Even though Rawga Clemens hasn't made his return yet, the announcement of his imminent second coming was supposed to be the fire the Yankees needed, the spark to get them playing again. According to a graphic I saw on ESPN yesterday, they were 14-15 at the time of that announcement, and they're 7-14 ever since. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

But I must stay focused in support of my Astros. They are the hometown team, right? And I have to support the hometown team.

Though I used to live in Los technically...the Dodgers could be my hometown team. And they're playing great.


How 'bout them Dodgers?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Believe me, Mike. I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid, and...I went ahead anyway.

"Suddenly, I have a refreshing mint flavor."

"You know what my kids would say?"
"'You're not my real father!'"

This is why the internet was invented, friends: somebody uploaded Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie to Google Video. Here it is:

Yes, that's the whole movie, all hour-thirteen of it. Enjoy it, if you have time. (Or you can just go here and watch it, or even download the whole thing.) I wouldn't endorse this sort of thing, really, except the movie is no longer commercially available. So go ahead.

"And then I'll ram my ova depositor down your throat and lay my eggs in your chest. But I'm not an alien!"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Weekly iPod Shuffle: 5/26/07

1. "Bring It All Back," The Tragically Hip
One of the many superlative tracks from Road Apples, my favorite Hip record. I've listened to it dozens of times, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what Gord's talking about.

2. "Leaves That Are Green (live)," Simon & Garfunkel
Remember what I said the last time Simon & Garfunkel showed up on my shuffle? About how all their songs pretty much sound the same? Yeah. Same here. It's not bad, heavens no. But really, acoustic guitar picking and pretty harmonies with obtuse poetry doesn't always really work.

3. "The Ecstacy of Gold," Ennio Morricone
The finest piece of film composition ever written. This is, of course, from The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, when Tuco stumbles upon the graveyard. It's a magnificent scene, one of my favorites in all of movies, but I can't imagine it working at all without Morricone's perfect score.

4. "All Along the Watchtower," Dave Matthews Band
With six, I have more versions of "Watchower" than any other song in my library. There's Bob Dylan's original, the definitive Jimi Hendrix version, and four live covers by the Dave Matthews Band. It's one of their trademark live songs, played at virtually every show they've ever done. This particular version is from Recently, the five-track EP that also featured the original "Halloween" and an acoustic performance of my favorite Dave song, "Warehouse."

(And hey, what the fuck is Dave doing in that new shitty Adam Sandler movie?)

5. "Wasting Time," Jack Johnson
My sister spreads Jack Johnson fandom wherever she goes, like some sort of groove music Johnny Appleseed. It's so easy to do, of course -- Jack's music is so groovy, so laid-back and cool that it gets under your skin and into your system before you even know it's there. His lyrics generally say the same thing as the music: "Chill out. Be cool. It's all gonna work out."

6. "All I Really Want," Alanis Morissette
If I could be said to have a motto, it would probably be made up of lyrics from this song. I don't want to dissect everything today, I don't mean to pick you apart, you see, but I can't help it....Do I wear you out? You must wonder why I'm so relentless and all strung out; I'm consumed by the chill of solitary. Boy, Alanis's career went nowhere and got there in a hurry, didn't it? Too bad.

7. "At the Hundredth Meridian," The Tragically Hip
Probably my favorite lyric of all time opens this song: Me, debunk an American myth? And take my life in my hands? This is one of their very finest songs, and one that I'd recommend to any non-Hip fan who was curious. If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me, you'll bury me someplace I don't want to be.

8. "Takeover," Jay-Z
I'm not a huge rap fan, but I can appreciate the best of the artform, and "Takeover" is right near the top. As far as "diss" songs go, this is one of the most harsh I've ever heard -- Jay-Z takes his rival, Nas, and absolutely shreds him. According to Wikipedia, the song was such a devastating attack that "many hip-hop fans had thought that [it] could have potentially ended Nas's career." And that unnecessary adverb in the quote isn't mine, obviously.

9. "The Fool on the Hill," The Beatles
Another Beatles song that sounds infinitely more interesting with one speaker broken: all you hear are Paul's vocals and the orchestration. This is how the song should been released originally. This rules!

10. "Turn Up the Night," Black Sabbath
This is post-Ozzy, when Ronnie James Dio had taken over Sabbath's vocal duties. Dio is, of course, a far, far superior singer to Ozzy, which means nothing in the case of Sabbath. This song is actually quite good, but it's just not Sabbath without Ozzy.

That's the greatest video game title ever

Surely, anyone who wants to see this has already seen it, but I couldn't resist putting the trailer for the Penny Arcade game, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One here for you to see. I think it looks fantastic.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Demon Days: Season 3, Episode 5 -- "The Chamber of 32 Doors"

Note: In my recap of the previous episode, "House of Leaves," I made a rather egregious error -- I stated (repeatedly) that Willem and Edgar explored the house as a pair, when clearly it was Willem and Dan who did so. This has been corrected, and I give my apologies. (And thanks to Rene, who managed to spot the error I couldn't, even though he's recovering from minor surgery and is floating on Vicodin.)

Previously, on Demon Days...
  • The Hunters found an emblem representing the names of Bazemore's vampire leaders. Later investigation turned up full sets of initials, which corresponded to the initials of four classical composers: Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and Haydn. Further information lead them to believe Beethoven (LVB) the most important.
  • Sunday was arrested by her fellow mages for aiding and abetting Evets, her fugitive friend. She was imprisoned in "mage jail" and left there to rot. The Hunters went in to rescue her, but quickly found themselves lost in the space-bending labyrinthine hallways. Lucy and Dean found her, but she was unconscious and unresponsive.
  • Willem and Dan found a vampire named Victoria (or so she says...) locked in one of the cells. When she told them they need "dead flesh" to open the door to get out, they release her and drag her along. She quickly said too much for her own good, and Dean paralyzed her with a quick staking...but not before she could tell reveal a startling revelation to Lucy: "I'm your mother."
"The Chamber of 32 Doors"

Lucy is, understandably, rattled. When she says that this can't be, that her mother is dead, it's pointed out that so is the vampire before her. She doesn't have long to process the information, though, because Sunday starts coughing -- she's awake. She overjoyed to see the Hunters, though obviously unhappy to hear that Simon is missing and Edgar is blind. And then there are the problems with being stuck in a mage jail.

SUNDAY: I feel...naked. Powerless.
DAN: You don't have your raincoat.
DEAN: Or your magic.
SUNDAY: Oh. Yeah. That, too.

Sunday does give them some good news, though: she's helped design a few of these mage prisons, so she has a good idea of how to get around. The bad news, of course, is that didn't help design this mage prison, so it's not going to be that easy. She does confirm that they'll need Victoria to open the door, though how much of her dead flesh they'll have to use she doesn't know.

Dean and Lucy reluctantly decide to remove the stake from the vampire's chest. Dean pins Victoria down and patiently informs her of the consequences of betrayal. She swears -- not for the first time -- that she would never betray the Hunters. Never.

Sunday remembers an, um, interesting way to navigate the prison. She has Dan put his face against the wall, and if he detects an odd feeling in the fillings in his teeth, then they're onto something. When he does so and detects an odd vibration, she happily leads the group in the right direction.

She tells them that in order to get back to the front door, they first have to find the chamber of 32 doors -- a final test they'll have to pass before reaching the end. One of the doors in that chamber will lead to the entrance; the other 31 lead back into the chamber itself.

Along the way, Lucy tells Victoria she can't be her mother. Victoria responds by reeling off Lucy's birth date, birthplace, birth weight, and even that she had a red birthmark on her left shoulder. "I don't know if it's still there," she says, though both Lucy and Dean know that it is. Lucy's rather tepid response is, "You could've gotten that information anywhere."

"Even the birthmark thing?"

The next puzzle room they find isn't the chamber of 32 doors, but it's a new room, and that's a good sign, Sunday tells them. Luckily, the puzzle isn't that hard -- it's a take on the old counterfeit coin puzzle, which they solve fairly quickly. They move on, with Lucy still glowering at Victoria when she gets the chance.

As Sunday pauses to determine the next route they should take, Dean talks with Victoria. He asks why she never returned to her family after her Embrace. She tells him he didn't have a choice, which he thinks is nonsense. "You wouldn't understand," she says, and Dean confirms that he doesn't. Lucy grills her for information regarding the night of her death, and Victoria has all the right answers. Lucy grows more uncomfortable.

Luckily, Dan gets a strange feeling in his fillings -- "You taste tomato soup. Good tomato soup, with cheese" -- and Sunday leads them on to the next puzzle. A door with no handle; the handle hangs above the room on a string. The floor is covered with sand, and six faucets line the walls. Lucy digs a bit into the sand and finds a drain buried near the door. Dean's idea is to shoot the handle down -- "You're going to shoot a string?" "...No!" -- but Dan has a revelation while building a moat for his sand castle (yes, he built a sand castle). Digging trenches into the sand, they lead water from each of the faucets to the drain, and the handle drops to within reach. (Ah, diverting water to open a door -- it's like Myst all over again.)

The next room is filled with fire. Dean pulls a fire extinguisher out of his bag and puts out the flames long enough for them to get to the other side. In the next room, they find no puzzle, but they do find a crazed mage out of his cell. He's got a gun, and he's decided to use it to shoot imaginary people sitting the corner. Dean takes no chances and simply shoots him.

The key to the next room's exit is guarded by a fierce lion, but Second Sight reveals the lion to be fake, so the key is easily retrieved. Sunday feels they're getting close to the exit.

The Hunters continue to idly chat with Victoria. When someone mentions "Mozart," she is puzzled for a moment, then remembers -- "Oh, right, the composers." Since she's from out of town, she doesn't exactly understand how it works, but says those aren't their real names. They simply noticed the coincidence and, at "Beethoven"'s insistence, starting referring to themselves by those names. She can't tell the Hunters who the composers are or where they are -- "I work for the Queen," she tells them. The Queen, apparently, is the most powerful of the city's vampires. She says that the Queen might be one of the composers, but she's not sure. "You don't ask the Queen for her name."

The possibility of Victoria betraying them comes again, and she denounces it again.

VICTORIA: If you knew anything about me--
LUCY: That's just it, isn't it? I don't know anything about you, do I, Victoria?
VICTORIA: That's what I mean. That's not even my real name, it's--
LUCY: Shut up! Shut the fuck up!

Finally, they reach the chamber of 32 doors. As Sunday described, it's filled with doors -- but only ten of them are at ground level. The others are built into the wall high out of reach, with no apparent access. Hanging from the ceiling is a small bowl-shaped disc; directly underneath it on the floor is more Greek writing. The Hunters still can't read it, and neither can Sunday, so they turn to the cryptography expert -- Victoria tells them it reads "440."

This is useless nonsense to them -- 440 what? There are only 32 doors, after all. After watching them futz around for a few more minutes, Victoria lets out a pointed sigh and gives them an answer: "It's a frequency." She stands in the center of the room and sings: a solid, true note, unwavering and in perfect pitch. Certainly like the kind of singer Lucy's mother was reputed to be.

DEAN: It's getting harder and harder to believe she's not telling the truth.
LUCY: ...Yeah.

The bowl above them (a magical microphone?) picks up her note. The room starts to shift around them. The doors shift around the walls like turtles in the ocean, with one door finding its way to the floor...and then onto it, ending up at the very center of the room. When it's opened, they realize they're standing above the chandelier in the entrance chamber. Lucy is worried about leaving without finding her brother, but Sunday assures her that the seals preventing her from using magic are weakest at the entrance -- if they can open the door, she should be able to use her spells to determine if Simon's still in the house.

They climb onto the chandelier and find the switch that lowers it to the ground. Back at the front door, Victoria removes her own flesh -- she rips off her right thumb and drops it onto the scale. Sure enough, the door unlocks and pops open. But the second it does, both Sunday and Victoria call out, "Wait!" Thanks to their supernatural powers, they've both detected the presence of a horde of Kindred waiting for them outside. (Yes, it's now nighttime, though they don't think they've been in the house long enough to get to sunset.) What's more, Simon is outside, facing all 30 (!!) of them single-handedly, holding a pistol up and challenging them to a fight. Even more surprising, they look out the door to see their old nemesis, the Stinger, leading the vampires. Guess they didn't kill him, after all. Victoria (using her vampiric disciplines to read the minds of the attackers outside) tells them that the vampires put a tracking device on Dan's van (again!) and followed them here. "They don't even know I'm in here."

Victoria tells them they'll never make it out alive, that there's too many of them, but offers a solution: "Trade me." It's unlikely to work, but they dragged her all the way from Nevada to Bazemore for a reason, and it must be a pretty damned important one. The Hunters aren't interested, though, and come up with plans of their own. Sunday's magic is still a little weak thanks to her imprisonment (and because she's lost her raincoat, which she uses as a magical focusing tool -- this was implied in the episode itself, but never stated directly), so she can't help, but the Hunters have it covered. Willem gives Dean some of the explosives he bought from the North Texas Militia, and the Avenger activates Hide and sneaks out.

In the few minutes that follow, words are exchanged between the Stinger and the Hunters, as he asks to come out and fight. Dean sneaks into position and lobs grenades, hoping to mass damage, but unfortunately Willem got ripped off -- the explosions are fairly weak and inefficient. Dean still has Hide activated, though, and walks through the vampires undetected, hoping to get to the Stinger...but then one of his wasps lands on Dean's face and stings him, and the Stinger locates him more or less instantly.

Things are bad and getting worse, as now Dean is in the middle of a couple dozen vampires with machine guns. He manages to use Respire to weaken the Stinger and take him hostage, but it's still a no-win. When the Stinger starts to heal his damage, Dean uses Cleave to kill him once and for all, but now he's lost his hostage.

Out of options, Dan takes Victoria's advice. He grabs her, holds a gun to her head, and drags her outside. She calls to the Stinger's second-in-command, a muscular Kindred named Adam -- "You! Adam, right? Let them go, and they'll let me go. Please. Please."

Adam thinks for a moment, and then...agrees? The other Kindred lower their weapons, which Dean promptly collects. The Hunters demand a car, and Victoria demands one for them, one with no bombs or tracking devices -- "A clean car!" Adam provides a car for them, which Dan inspects and finds to be clean.

Victoria is released. Simon sees her, and later dialogue makes clear that he recognizes her as his mother. The Hunters and Sunday get into their car and start to make their getaway, but the car is halted by a pair of blood-juiced vampires the size of bridge support columns. "Kill them!" Adam cries. They start to exit the car to fight, but--

ADAM: For what?
VICTORIA: Let them go.
ADAM: Huh?
VICTORIA: Let them go.
ADAM: I...I don't think that's wise.

And a new facial expression comes across Victoria's face. One of rage. One of disdain.

VICTORIA: I don't think I asked for your opinion, did I? Did I?
ADAM: ...No.
VICTORIA: Let them go! Now!
ADAM: ...Yes, Queen.

And the hulk Kindred let them go.

DEAN: Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

They had the Queen of the Vampires in their grasp, and...

They return to the hospital, where they find Evets and Edgar playing Pictionary. Evets is beyond relieved to see his friend alive again, and volunteers to take the entire group out for a celebration at a place he knows downtown. (He gives them all a ride in his massive Hummer. "I can't believe they keep finding you," Simon says.)

At the restaurant, they cap the long, long day by gorging themselves on every kind of food imaginable and listening to bad karaoke. Simon explains that when he stepped through the door everyone else did, he wound up on the roof at night. When he jumped down (injuring his ankle in the process), he saw the vampire army and pulled his gun. A few moments later, the Hunters exited the house behind him.

They ask Sunday about the Man in White they met during the subway incident, but she has no idea. Dan also tells her about Faith, the woman in white who was looking for her, but Sunday also has no clue -- "I don't know anyone named Faith." Lucy asks Dean when he wants to get married, and he says he's waiting for her. "I could go tomorrow." He also states conclusively that there will be no open bar, much to Dan and Willem's dismay. Lucy says she wants to do it very soon: she wants "just one day" where they don't have to worry about any of this supernatural nightmare. "I wouldn't count on it," Dean responds. (You can always count on him for some good-natured cheer, huh?)

Simon goads Lucy into singing some karaoke. As she performs her song (Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery," which could be interpreted as a song for Lucy's soon-to-be husband, if you read the lyrics), something that Victoria said occurs to Sunday. "That's not even my real name..."

SUNDAY: Simon? What was your mom's name?
SIMON: Victoria.
SUNDAY: And that was her real name? Not a stage name or anything like that?
SIMON: Well, yeah, it was her real name. It wasn't her first name.
SUNDAY: What was her first name?
SIMON: Lucia. That's where they got Lucy's name.
SUNDAY: Lucia...Victoria...Belmont.


Storyteller's notes: Yes, children, he planned the whole thing like that! You'll remember, way back in the sixth episode, Lucy could lift the curse Sunday placed on Edgar. Why? Because she's the daughter of the Queen! Man, I've been waiting for this reveal for a long, long time. In your unoriginal note of the week, "The Chamber of 32 Doors" is a song by Genesis. (Written and sung by the band's original lead singer, Peter Gabriel, whose "Kiss That Frog" directly inspired the frog episode and indirectly inspired the chronicle as a whole.)

Next week we submit to my sappy nature and give the Hunters a little break. Yes, it's time for the obligatory wedding episode, entitled "Just One Day."

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Blogger has (rather swiftly) answered my concerns, got into the code, and fixed the problem: comments are now perfectly easy to get to, as you might see at the bottom of this here post. Thanks a million, Blogger tech people -- you guys rock.

Man, with this thing fixed, and last night's Lost finale, and last night's hella-cool Hunter episode (recap coming tomorrow), this has been a bitchin' couple of days. And I'm now off to a midnight show of the new Pirates of the Caribbean. Surely, the trend must continue, yes?

That sound you heard was my jaw hitting the floor

"We made a mistake, Kate."

So. Lost. The season finale. "Through the Looking Glass."

If you're curious, I won the bet, but only because of a prearranged tiebreaker. We each got exactly one death right.

But the god. Two of the most extraordinary hours of television I think I've ever seen. Charlie the hero! Ben the...good guy? Maybe? We don't know! Walt's back (or is he?)! Locke the even-more crazy man! You can't kill Patchy! "Good Vibrations" is the key to rescue! Hurley saves the day! Sawyer goes all dark and evil (more than usual)! Jack admits his love for Kate! Alex finds out who her mother really is!


And that was all before the big finish -- the last five minutes, which Lindelof and Cuse have been calling their "rattlesnake in the mailbox," for how quickly and completely it changes everything about the show. How unexpected, how cunning, how evil it is.

And they were not kidding. Not at all.

In the space of a single conversation, a simple exchange of words with two characters we already know, they turned Lost inside-out. Sent it "Through the Looking Glass," if you will.


But it's being ruined by stupid people who are reading waaay too much into a comment Jack makes, in one of his flashbacks -- erm, uh, "off-island" scenes. A comment that's perfectly understandable, considering that he's drunk and on drugs and emotionally distraught.

He tells someone to go get his father, "the chief of surgery," and that if Jack is "more drunk than he is..." at which point he trails off. Of course, Jack's father is dead, and so can't be "gotten" from anywhere, and is probably not drunk.

Jack said this, of course, because he's drunk, on drugs, and emotionally distraught.

But not to hear Lost fans tell it. Most of them understand, but some are quick to jump out and start spinning theories about time travel and wormholes and alternate universes.

Guys: calm down. You're ruining this beautiful moment. And you're going to be disappointed when the truth turns out to be far, far simpler than you think.

Man oh man, what a spectacular finish to the season. How long until season four?

...February? Seriously?


*looks at watch*

As promised, Mr. Steve

I said I'd get ti for you, Steve, here it is: the new Rambo trailer.

You gotta ask yourself, do you really want to watch it?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I should just go ahead and give Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof my credit card number, it'll be easier that way

So, how much of a Lost whore am I, really? I bought Bad Twin, the awful novel "written by" one of the survivors of Flight 815. I've purchased both seasons of the show available on DVD. I bought several episodes from the iTunes store.

And now? Now, what have the nefarious Lost creators offered me to deprive me of funds?

That's right, bitches: Lost the frickin' video game. For the iPod!

Hey, it was five bucks. I'm all over that. Haven't played it yet, but odds are it'll suck. I mean, it almost has to.

Yeah: whore.

Don't fear the reaper

Last week, I posited my picks for the five future corpses on Lost. They were off-the-top of my head choices, not something I put thought into. But now, Airfon and I have decided to make a friendly wager out of it: we each pick five, whoever gets the most right wins. A Quizznos sandwich is on the line. My honor will not be defeated!

The really glorious thing, of course, is that Lost is so batshit crazy that it could be anybody. Hell, I've rethought my picks three times while typing this far.

So here's your dead pool, for real this time, for tonight's massive season finale, "Through the Looking Glass":

Sayid. Hasn't done anything interesting since the second season, and it's time to either give him a serious role or kill him. I'm voting "kill him."

Charlie. If they go through all this "You're gonna die, Charlie" stuff and then don't kill him, it will look kinda ridiculous. Then again, that would be the kind of swerve they get off on.

Bernard. Hasn't been seen all season, then pops up again in a prominent role in last week's episode? That's a coincidence. Sure.

Jack. Hey, one of them has to be truly shocking. Plus, Jack gets flashbacks in this week's episode, and he tearfully says "I love you" to Kate in the trailer. I doubt he'd do that without an imminent bullet to the face.

Jin. Same reason as I said before -- angst, baby! And hey, the new kid just wouldn't be a Lost character if it didn't have some daddy issues.

Those are my five. Of course, Desmond could go. Or Tom. Ben. Or Hurley. Or Sawyer -- Sawyer could definitely die. Rose. Claire. Mikhail -- Patchy could eat it, for sure. Sun. Danielle. Alex. Karl....

There are a lot of possibilities, is what I'm saying.

Monday, May 21, 2007

If they had a church, I'd nail my letter to their door

Okay, so it appears that it is possible, after all, to leave me comments. In order to do it, you'll have to go to the post page of whatever post it is you'd like to comment on.

Where do you find the post page? Look at the "Posted by J. Walker at x:xx" text following each post -- click on the time. There you go!

Yes, this is inconvenient as hell, both for you and for me -- I have to sign in and flip through my "Edit Posts" menu to see if I've any comments. But this can work for now, if you want to give it a shot.

I've just sent a e-mail to Blogger. They should be getting back to me anytime now.

*checks watch*

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Weekly iPod Shuffle: 5/19/07

(Okay, it's forty-eight minutes late. My apologies.)

1. "Burning Down the House," Talking Heads
David Byrne's voice has the ability to immediately make me feel six years old again. I remember my mom listening to "Once in a Lifetime" and "She Was" over and over when I was a kid, too. This was a personal favorite of mine -- my childhood hero, David Copperfield, used it to underscore one of his in-retrospect-lame-as-all-hell Big Illusions, which I just have to share with you (of course, this is a later-released DVD version, which doesn't feature "Burning Down the House," instead going with Seal's "Crazy," for some reason):

2. "Ultra Violet (Light My Way)," U2
The Joshua Tree gets all the credit, and deservedly so, but U2's follow-up, 1991's Achtung Baby, is their greatest achievement. This track isn't among the best ones, but it's still a decent enough track.

3. "Having a Blast," Green Day
Taking all you down with me. Explosives duct-taped to my spine, nothing's gonna change my mind. I won't listen to anyone's last words. There's nothing left for you to say, soon you'll be dead anyway. I remember once listening to this song thirteen times in a row, headphones playing at almost painful volume, my eyes fixed so hard on the wall in front of me I forgot to blink. I had some emotional problems in junior high school. ("Had some emotional problems?" a voice calls from the back. Thank you, sir, thank you. Security!)

4. "Army," Ben Folds Five
I first heard this song on an alarm clock during my trip to Philadelphia senior year. I was there for the Business Professionals of America National Championship Finals, where I was one of the Texas representatives. I did databases and spreadsheets in Excel so well I got a trip to Philly out of it. The fact that they actually have competitions for stuff like this boggles my mind to this day.

5. "My 1st Single," Eminem
Wow, Eminem's last album had a shelf life of about two weeks, didn't it? I loved it to death until I listened through it twice, at which point it was removed from the CD player and mostly ignored. I guess after beating his mom and his ex-wife in rap feuds, he had nowhere else to go. (Except "Mosh," of course, which was notable for being the election call-to-arms that he put on an album released two weeks after the election. Nice try.)

6. "Yellow Submarine," The Beatles
The left speaker on my laptop doesn't work, so it's fascinating to listen to this song: all the instruments are panned to the left, so all I hear are the vocals and the sound effects. It's really cool, like having my own personal remix. And really, really bizarre.

7. "Dreamer," Ozzy Osbourne
Ah, Ozzy shows his sensitive side. 'Cause you know, he's really not such a bad guy. He's actually really zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz -- Huh? Oh, sorry, left this song playing while I was trying to write. Probably not a good idzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

8. "I Wish You Were Mine," Ray Charles
Is it too weird for a Ray Charles song to feature the lyric, "From the moment I first saw you"? It is, right? The song is pretty catchy, though.

9. "Sweet Up and Down," Dave Matthews Band
From the aborted album-that-never-was, The Lillywhite Sessions. This was seven years ago, and Daveheads are still clamoring for a proper studio recording. The song is good and all, but come on, people. Move the fuck on, you know? But those are Daveheads for you. Actually, those are diehards fans of anyone -- inevitably, your best work is long behind you, and no matter where you try to take your art, thousands of people will be there to crap on it. Or as Henry Rollins put it about people saying the same things to him: "We liked you better before you got fat and died."

10. "Scentless Apprentice," Nirvana
Hey, remember that movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer that came and went without anyone noticing a while back? No? Neither does anyone else. But it was based on a book called (duh) Perfume, which Kurt Cobain read back in 1993. It inspired him to write this song, which is one of Nirvana's very best tracks. On the With the Lights Out box set, there's a track that actually lets you hear the band writing the song -- Dave Grohl says, "Let's try that riff I wrote," and the band jams around it for eight minutes, eventually stumbling across the melody and structure.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Demon Days: Season 3, Episode 4 – “House of Leaves”

Previously, on Demon Days

  • Sunday was arrested by her fellow mages for helping Evets, her fugitive friend. She begged to be rescued.
  • A bomb went off on a subway car. In the aftermath, Edgar was left blind (a psychosomatic blindness, probably caused by the shock), and the other Hunters recovered the hard drive from a vampire's computer. It's unknown who set off the bomb, or why.

"House of Leaves"

The next morning, the gang gathers at Edgar's apartment (though Edgar is still in the hospital). Simon and Lucy are in a gloomy mood: today is March 9, 2007 – it was on this day, twenty-seven years ago, that their mother was murdered. It hits Simon a little harder, for he's old enough to remember her; Lucy was only a month old at the time of her death.

The Hunters crack into the hard drive. In addition to an endless amount of music and music videos (including many copies of LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out," for some reason), they find a stash of e-mails, all of them correspondence between the computer's owner – named "Jorge Bastille" – and a woman known only as "Wilhelmina." This would be a terrific find, fantastic for discovering information, but all of the e-mails are written in spy-movie gibberish: "The second baseman stands in the sun," or "The roses are in the vase, but they get no sunlight." They search the computer for anything more useful, but nothing is found. They do, however, note the oddity of Jorge Bastille's name – could the initials "JB" mean he's Johann Sebastian Bach? And could Wilhelmina be Mozart? The WAM Willem spoke to was a woman. They leave the computer for later.

At the hospital, Edgar is in poor spirits, even before Willem starts taunting him. He's still blind, and his doctor – "a bad House impersonator" – has been taunting him, too. As it turns out, Little House (ha!) is actually our old friend Evets, in disguise as a doctor. He wants to help them rescue Sunday, but can't – she's being kept in "mage jail," as he puts it, and if he were to step inside, magical wards would teleport him to a cell of his own. He can, however, tell them where the jail is, and give a few other pieces of advice. For instance, he says the jail probably won't be closely guarded – the mages in the city are busy dealing with a massive bout of supernatural bad vibes. See, each of the major groups of creatures blame the subway bomb on someone else, and massive conflict is brewing because of it. (And if anyone wasn't already sure why the three-parter about the bomb was called "The Black Hand," that's why.)

Evets gives them the location of the jail, and tells them to be careful: he's not sure what they'll find inside, but it's not likely to be pleasant. He also that says that, even if they manage to find Sunday, she won't be able to help them get out – magical seals prevent prisoners from using magic, and they're impossible to break. Other spells keep the prisoners without need for food or water, meaning they can just be left to rot in their cells indefinitely without interruption.

With all that cheery information, the Hunters head off for their rescue mission. They ask Evets to watch over Edgar, and he agrees, though he points out he won't be able to use his magic should trouble arise: that's how they found him last time, and if he does it again, they'll find him just as quickly.

The Hunters head off to the address given to them by Evets (3122 Ash Tree Lane). They find a nondescript blue two-story house, but Evets warned them that the house will be "much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside." They step up to the front door and find it locked, but a note is taped to the door: Three Blind Mice is a good rap number. They knock three times, and the door unlocks.

Once inside, the door closes and locks behind them, leaving them trapped in an enormous circular chamber that stretches several stories high. The room is lit by a giant chandelier with a diameter the same as the chamber; if it falls, no one gets out of the way. The door they entered is closed and locked. A small shelf (which they realize quickly is a scale) next to the door bears Greek writing, which they can't read. The scale depresses with the weight of whatever they put on it, but nothing opens the door.

That leaves the only other exit from the room: a huge wooden door opposite the entrance. It also bears Greek writing, but it's unlocked; opening it reveals a stone corridor. With nowhere else to go, they enter together…

…but arrive separated. Lucy and Dean are together in one version of the hallway, while Dan and Willem are together in another. (Simon is missing, but neither pair realizes that.) They can each return to the entrance, even at the same time, but can't find one another. Left still with no options, each pair ventures deeper into the house. They find several intellectual and logical obstacles waiting for them.

Each pair enters a room that would either be fatal or inescapable without the ability to see in the dark; luckily, the Discern Edge gives them that power. (The magical seals apparently do not suppress Hunter Edges, thankfully.) Lucy and Dean have to solve the old "Get exactly four gallons of water using only a five-gallon jug and a three-gallon jug" chestnut, though Dean cheats by just pulling several gallon jugs of water from his magic bag. That violates the spirit of the puzzle (as he'll be chided later), but it's somewhat fair – though they had to get four gallons of water into a bowl to open a door, they weren't given any water to start with; it's definitely assumed the user will be able to create water from thin air.

Willem and Dan come across a room of cells, which are unlocked on the outside but sealed on the inside. All are empty, save one…and its occupant is a vampire, a red-haired woman who screams for help as soon as they enter the room. "They've left me here to starve!" she says, and offers to help them escape, adding, "You can't get out of here without me!" When asked for clarification, she says she knows what opens the front door, and that only she can get it for them.

When they open her cell, she's overjoyed…for about a second, and then she recognizes them. In terror, she ducks into the corner of the cell as begs not to be killed. She's been "briefed" on the Hunters, she says, and pleads for her life (er, well, un-life, I guess). She knows, sort of, their names and recognizes their faces, but that's all – she was only in town for a few days before she was apprehended by the mages. But she offers to help them get out – the scale at the front door requires a quantity of "dead flesh," which she can provide. Not ashes, though – killing her won't help them. "You need me," she says. But after a longer discussion, they leave her in the cell and continue on their journey.

They find another door, one that leads to the roof of the house – another exit, and one they won't need the vampire for. But after only a moment, a spell kicks in and the door leads to somewhere else in the house – the destination appears random. Following the corridor in the other direction, they find another puzzle chamber – a room filled with near-freezing water, at the other end of which is a doorway blocked by a stone slab. At the bottom of the chamber, nearly 150 feet down, is a switch that, theoretically, opens the slab. They manufacture a clever way to cross the chamber (ripping the door of its hinges and using it as a surfboard), but they know that neither of them could survive swimming down to flip the switch. But someone who was already dead….

They return to the cells and retrieve the vampire. She thanks them profusely, and introduces herself as Victoria. She says that she is from out of town – her fellow "Kindred" (what the vampires call themselves) brought her in because she's an expert in cryptography. Why they need an expert in cryptography she doesn't know, because she was abducted before she had a chance to find out. She says she unknowingly wandered into what had been agreed was "mage territory," and was arrested and thrown in jail before she had a chance to defend herself.

Returning to the puzzle chamber, Victoria effortlessly swims down to the bottom of the well and flips the switch, opening the slab and allowing them to continue. She offers this as proof of her good intentions.

Meanwhile, Lucy and Dean explore their own puzzle chambers. They also find a room of cells, though these are occupied by sleeping mages – and one of them is Sunday, though without her trademark purple raincoat. Retrieving her is simple enough, but they can't wake her no matter how what they try. (In what I thought was an amusing moment, Dean deduces she may need her purple raincoat to wake up and goes looking for one in his magic bag, but all he can find is a copy of Purple Rain. I kill me.) Dean slings Sunday over his shoulder and continues on through the house.

Soon enough, the groups run into one another. Before the meeting, Victoria begs Dan and Willem, "You can't let him kill me [referring to the kill-first-and-ask-questions-um-never Dean, obviously]; you need me to get out, remember?" And sure enough, Dean and Lucy are not pleased to see a vampire walking with them: "I leave you guys alone for five minutes…" But the Avengers agree to let her follow them as they try to escape.

Unfortunately, the house seems to start folding in on itself – they travel through several rooms they're already seen, and not in the proper geographic order, either. Tensions rise, and when Victoria gets a little too chatty, Dean tries to stake her (Victoria having told them that staking a vampire will only paralyze them, not destroy them outright). He's unsuccessful, but only just barely.

The rooms again start to repeat, and the Hunters find themselves in the jugs-of-water room. Lucy, confused, pissed, and worried about her missing brother, lets out a string of profanity. Victoria chides her, "I don't think your father would like that very much." Lucy turns to her in a rage, and Dean tries to stake the Kindred before anything else can come out of her mouth.

Victoria pleads with Lucy, "You can't let him kill me, Lucy." She asks why not; Dean's stake finally hits home, but not before the vampire can answer her question: "Because I'm your mother."

Storyteller's Notes: Following this session, FRINAN generously pointed out that I'm an unoriginal bastard, which I've noted before. The title of this episode is, of course, a reference to Mark Z. Danielewski's novel House of Leaves, which is also about a house far bigger on the inside than the outside. The puzzle that opens the front door – the one about Three Blind Mice – is lifted verbatim from the game The 11th Hour, which is also about solving puzzles in a magical house.

At the beginning of this game, I mapped out a vague mytharc, one I never really imagined would come to resemble anything close to the plan. It's with great delight to see that I have, in fact, managed to lead the game to a territory that at least looks like the one I plotted out at the beginning. (For example, I wanted to begin the third season with a bomb in the subway tunnel. And lo and behold, there it was, a bomb in the subway tunnel at the beginning of season three. The why has completely changed from my original intent, but the how is still there. Joy!)

Next week's episode: "The Chamber of 32 Doors."

Friday, May 18, 2007

How very, very sad

Last night's double-sized season finale of Scrubs was actually not good at all. The endless attempts to make me care about a possible J.D. and Elliot reunion have failed, spectacularly. Just pull the plug on this show and get it over with. Please. Don't pull an X-Files on me.

Here's a reminder of when the show was better:

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You can't blame him

Man, I love The Onion:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Demon Days: Season 1, Episodes 9-13

Yes, the Hunter recaps are back. Largely because I enjoyed writing them quite a bit, and also because they served a good purpose: helping me remember what the hell is going on.

To keep things simple, I've just summed up the eighteen-or-so episodes I've neglected to recap, including "The Black Hand," the three-part episode that kicked off Season 3. Full recaps continue with this week's session, "House of Leaves."

Fair warning: it's been some time since most of these episodes. So I'm going to forget things. A lot of things. Feel free to correct when I screw up or forget something. (Of course, you'll have to e-mail me for now, until I get comments working again.)

To make them a little easier on the brain, I'm posting them in three parts, in reverse chronological order. If you scroll down after this one, you'll find parts two and three.

The last few episodes of Season 1: Some Kind of Monster

When we last left off, the Hunters had just killed a cop and battled a shadow monster that attacked them from underneath a car. You'd think the next few episodes would follow that plot thread. You'd be wrong.

After a caustic meeting with Detective Weathers, who thinks they're somehow involved in Detective Panam's death (perish the thought!), the Hunters investigate the Big Red 16 – the building in Glenville with the gigantic "16" painted on the side. Of course, for years the number was a 17, but it inexplicably switched a few months earlier.

Some internet research reveals a few interesting facts about the building: back when it was still in use (which was some time ago), it was a deli. Old newspaper photographs display two teenaged employees – Charlie and Rico, the two annoying mages. The deli closed after a fire, and the building has stood unused ever since.

The Hunters break into the building to discover a disturbing sight, perhaps waiting just for them: the corpse of their missing Hunter (whose name I've managed to forget again), hanging from his neck with wire.

That's pretty screwed-up, sure, but close inspection reveals the corpse is, in fact, not real – it's a very realistic wax sculpture. The Hunters crack it open to find a CD-R that contains a very eclectic playlist: Johnny Cash, Peter Gabriel, U2, even Jay-Z. They deduce that the songs represent a scavenger hunt-like list of clues; following them leads to a cemetery in Westwood and a VIP membership card for an exclusive downtown nightclub.

The card gets them into the private suite upstairs, where a vampire named Charlie (not to be confused with the Mage named Charlie) is waiting for them. He's got a tattoo of a dragon running down one hand – the Hunters ask if anyone calls him "the Dragon." He says, "Not to my face," which the Hunters see as an invitation. The Dragon says he left the CD to draw the Hunters to him – he wants to help them, he says, but "can't." He can't even say why, but the implication is that he's under some sort of mind control that prevents him from directly betraying his superior…who he claims is the "Haydn" the Hunters know about from the logo they found. (He also says that their missing Hunter is, in fact, quite dead, just like the wax sculpture they found.)

The Dragon tells them he'd like to help them destroy the other vampires, and offers to prove it by giving one of them up: a vampire who lives in an apartment building in Staunton. He gives them a location and assures them a lack of booby traps or decent security into the place. The Dragon informs them the vampire retains the entire fifth floor of the building as his haven.

The next day, however, the Hunters manage to kill the vampire without getting into his apartment when they run into him in the alley outside. Not finished, they break in and investigate the building – there are, in fact, a few security measures and booby traps: the fire escape, for one, is coated with a sharply acidic substance.

Making their way to the fifth floor, they find that yes, the vampire does hold the entire floor…and it's a good thing, too, because the stench of death is prevalent. Dead bodies are everywhere, in each of the floor's many apartments – all but one, that is. The last apartment is, instead, dominated by a large network of lines burned into the carpet. It only takes a moment to recognize it for what it is: a map. And a few more moments allow the Hunters to recognize several of the lines as matching Bazemore's subway tunnels.

More puzzling, though, is the large pile of ash sitting on one of the lines. Even stranger, it pulls itself back together when it's broken apart. And even stranger still, it occasionally moves along the lines all on its own.

The Hunters do a little inductive reasoning. They recall the large red eyes Dean saw in the subway tunnels (way back in the second episode, "Corpses"). They also remember Sunday's dire warnings to stay out of the subways. They infer that the pile of ash could represent whatever mysterious creature Dean saw that night. The bodies…its food?

The next day, they get their walkie-talkies and split up. Willem, Lucy and Dean (referred to for the next few paragraphs as the A-Team) head into the subways, while Dan and Edgar (the B-Team, naturally) remain in the apartment with the map, radioing directions the best they can.

Beneath the streets, the A-Team sneaks from the platform onto the tracks. They follow the line for a distance and eventually find an opening tucked into the wall. Inside, a long, stone staircase takes them far down under the city. Not only is the stairway completely unlit (so only Dean and Willem can see, thanks to Discern) but it's infested – humanoid "Lizard creatures" leap at them from the ceiling. They're dispatched fairly easily, though not without dousing Lucy in their pale blue blood. Yuck.

The B-Team does what they can to guide from their place of relative security. But they're interrupted when an old man starts banging on the door – he yells for the apartment's owner to open the door, and waits only a few moments before ripping the door off its hinges with stunning strength. The B-Team hides in the closet, but that doesn't work. As it turns out, the old man has little problem with them, and doesn't even seem too perturbed that they killed the guy he was looking for. He can't stay too long, though – birds start hurling rocks at him through the window (!), so he turns into a wolf (!!) and leaps out (!!!).

While all of that is going on, they can't instruct the A-Team on where to go, and things go from bad to worse. They have to unlock several hidden doors (pressure-sensitive triggers in bricks on the walls and floor) and avoid more lizard-things. They stumble upon a pit trap, and inside discover a secret room: a small space filled with archaic computer equipment. The Apple IIs still work, but demand a password.

At the end of a long string of hallways, the A-Team comes across a gigantic open space…and inside it, an enormous Godzilla-like lizard monster with glowing red eyes. It roars and attacks the Hunters, who each fight back in their own unique style: Willem runs around the corner and hides, Lucy tries to attack the beast's underbelly, and Dean leaps into its mouth. Willem hides successfully, Lucy gets stomped, but Dean pulls off the impressive gambit – he jumps inside and activates Ward. The massive protective shield rips the creature's head apart. Victory!

As quickly as possible, the A-Team gets out of the tunnels and heads back to the surface. The B-Team meets them as they exit the tunnel, and at that exact moment, Sunday gets off a train: "What'd I miss?"

Demon Days: Season 2, Episodes 1-13

Season 2: Trust No One

"Right. Because hubris always wins in the end. The Greeks taught us that."

Sam Seaborn, on The West Wing (episode 4.05, "Debate Camp")

The Hunters take a month off. Willem tends bar, Dan does his city tours, and Lucy decides to actually go on a date with Dean. As Sunday suggested, he takes her ice skating. They rapidly become an inseparable couple.

In this season, the Hunters meet other Hunters, find (and kill) more vampires, get help from an unlikely source, find out the truth behind one of baseball's most infamous disasters, and encounter several of Bazemore's other supernatural denizens. They also learn that the city's mages are in the middle of a territorial skirmish with werewolves – hence the birds throwing rocks at the guy turned into a wolf.

The notable incidents from the second season (in not-exactly-chronological order):

  • The Hunters stop a ghost from killing people. Having died agonizing for an unrequited love, the ghost fed from passionate, romantic love, and in the process killed a few people.
  • Dean starts leaving an arrogant calling card at the scene of each vampire slaying: a scoreboard. For instance, after their twentieth kill, he writes 20-0 somewhere at the location.
  • Lucy's journeyman brother, Simon, shows up at her door. Unfortunately, Dean answers it, and Simon starts throwing punches, thinking him to be Lucy's cheating ex-boyfriend Brian. Simon's attack is, um, unsuccessful (he misses all his swings, slips on Lucy's Nintendo controller and smashes his head on the table), and the mistaken identity is quickly cleared up. They later learn that Simon is also Imbued, and he decides to stay in town to help.
  • They meet another Hunter, who points them to hunter-net. They sign on with the call sign "Swan107." (Because of the Drowning Swan, where they meet. And I'm pretty sure that's the number.) The Hunter, whom they don't like at all, is known only by his call sign, "Driveshaft97." They have yet to get that name right once. ("Crankshaft! Spark plug! Carburetor! CO2 sensor!")
  • They return to the club where they met the Dragon, but he's gone. In his place is a stern-looking business woman – another vampire – tapping at a laptop computer. She says the Dragon is dead, and accuses the Hunters of killing him. They kill her and take the computer. On it, they find only an exhaustive stash of Charmed
    slash fiction and a database listing the names and locations of over a dozen vampires. The following afternoon, they split into teams and kill everyone on the list, including one listed only as "Stinger" – the mysterious wasp-throwing villain who shot Lucy? It could be, and the apartment they find him in is filled – literally – with ferocious wasps. They destroy the vampire sleeping there with sunlight, but never get a look at him. Did they kill who they thought they did?
  • Detective Weathers follows the advice of the Hunters and looks into Panam's background. When he finds things he's not meant to see, he's suspended. In vengeance, he quits the force and gives the Hunters a video tape he found buried in the evidence archives – security camera footage of the murder for which Edgar was tried and arrested. The video shows someone else committing the crime, exonerating him and giving him grounds for a lawsuit against the police department (which he'd been threatening to do for years, but would have lost – despite his acquittal, everyone thought he did it). Edgar sues the pants off the Bazemore PD.
  • They also track down the real killer – a vampire with a shoe fetish. The whole incident is tied up in a massive, international corporate conglomerate called Privera. Cursory investigation into the company reveals a strong vampiric presence.
  • Lucy's ex-boyfriend shows up at her door to try to win her back. But he's cheating – he's using a magic love potion. (You may remember a cut scene back in season one where Brian met Charlie at a bar. Also remember that Charlie once gave the Hunters a potion when they were trying to save Edgar from life as a frog.) Once Dean takes him out, Brian tells them he bought it from a "big German guy." Dean calls Charlie, demanding answers. Charlie admits that he did meet Brian at a bar several weeks earlier, and did direct him to a potion-maker, but he didn't know who Brian was. The Hunters visit the potion-maker – an enormous German with a He-Man-like broadsword – and kill him, though not without some disagreement.
  • Willem buys the Drowning Swan.
  • Sunday keeps leaving town for a few days and returning without explanation. Reluctantly, she fills the Hunters in: she's helping a friend of hers, whom she refuses to name. He's a pariah among mages, running from a nationwide manhunt – if they find him, they'll execute him on the spot. She doesn't say why.
  • She doesn't have to – he arrives in town unexpectedly and meets the Hunters. He introduces himself, to Sunday's disdain, as "Evets Namtrab." This is a rather pathetic code for his real name, Steve Bartman. A lifelong Chicago White Sox fan and Chicago Cubs hater, he was responsible for a rather egregious incident in the 2003 National League Championship Series, for which he was sternly reprimanded – using magic in such a public fashion (on international TV, no less) is against magical law. But he didn't know when to quit: he used his magic again in 2005 to help the White Sox coast through the postseason. ("Oh, right, Scott Podsednik doesn't hit a home run all season, then in the World Series hits a walk-off homer off Brad Lidge? That's not magic? Come on.") Though the magical government managed to cover up the violation of their pact of secrecy, all patience with his rather public spectacles had run out, and he was sentenced to death. But Sunday has been protecting him in secret, knowing she'd be severely punished if other mages ever found out.
  • Evets makes a mistake during his visit, however: he uses his magic. Within minutes, mage goons are knocking on the door of the Drowning Swan. The Hunters stall until he can make his escape. He hasn't been seen since.
  • The Hunters find another ghost, this one haunting the ice skating rink where Dean and Lucy had their first date. (The rink is owned by old friends of Lucy and Simon.) This ghost only manifests when the song "Blame It on the Boogie" is played on the stereo, and it only speaks to those who are also dancing. After unraveling a murder mystery, the Hunters free the spirit and allow it to "move on." Happy times!
  • But Dan returns home to find his house wrecked and his girlfriend, Hannah, missing. Scrawled on the wall: 57-1.
  • Sunday's out of town, so the Hunters recruit Charlie and Rico to help them. The two mages owe them for…something (?), and agree to help. (Rico is upset, though, because he'll miss a rerun of his favorite show, Charmed. Hmm. Charmed. Where have I heard that before?) The trail of evidence leads to the Millhaven Home, where they've been before. Inside, they discover a vampiric infestation and an even more horrible secret: the vampires inside are using a magical artifact to steal the patient's souls. The Hunters destroy the artifact and find Hannah, but it's too late: she's been turned into a vampire. Even worse, she doesn't know – she's under some kind of mental control that blocks out that knowledge. With a broken heart, Dan does what he thinks is the humane thing: he kills her.
  • But things get even worse soon thereafter: Charlie and Rico attack Simon and leave him in a swimming pool to be eaten by lobsters. He's rescued, but the two mages make the truth clear – they're responsible for Hannah's kidnapping and Embrace (and, thus, her death). Then they burn down the Drowning Swan. Betrayal!
  • The next day, the Hunters find Sunday and prepare for vengeance. The mages taunt the Hunters into open combat, leaving a trail of clues that point to their location. After hours of searching and puzzling, the Hunters deduce the answer and head to Dr Pepper Park, the home of the Bazemore Fury, Bazemore's major league baseball team. Sunday asks the Hunters to let her talk to the Evil Mage Brothers for a minute before they start shooting; this will let her try to dispel any magical shields they have in place. But things get worse when they arrive, as Sunday realizes the baseball stadium is a Clearing: a place where the natural barrier that inhibits magic doesn't exist. Charlie and Rico can use their full magical powers without reality fighting back.
  • Sunday tells the Hunters that, after the fight (assuming they're still alive), they need to break up and leave town for about a month or so, just in case the other mages want retribution.
  • The hits just keep on coming. While Sunday does keep them talking long enough to disable one of their magical shields, Charlie also tricks her into admitting she's been aiding Evets…and the Mage Police descend from the sky. As she's taken away, she tells the Hunters, "Don't rescue me," but then screams at Dean telepathically, "Rescue me! You have to rescue me!"
  • The mages try their best, but they're no match for six Hunters with Zeal edges galore. Charlie dies in seconds, and Rico only holds out for a little while longer. Victory!

The Hunters have won. This time.

Demon Days: Season 3, Episodes 1-3

And now, the three-part arc that opened the third season.

Season 3: Things Are Gonna Get Worse Before They Get Better

"New people are bad."


"Come on, come on

You think you drive me crazy

Come on, come on

You and whose army?

You and your cronies…

Come on if you think

You can take us on

You and whose army?

You and your cronies

You forget so easy…"

Radiohead, "You and Whose Army?"

The Hunters take a month-long break, as Sunday instructed. Dean and Lucy go to Missouri to stay with his parents, then to Colorado to stay with Lucy's father, where they meet up with Simon. Meanwhile, Edgar, Dan and Willem head to Vegas.

During the downtime, Dean proposes to Lucy, who accepts. Also, Willem visits a separatist militia in North Texas and buys more guns.

Unfortunately, trouble finds the group before they can even reunite.

"The Black Hand, Part 1: No Surprises"

[This episode followed Lucy, Dean and Simon.]

Returning from the airport, Lucy spots a corpse walking down the street. This isn't like the other corpses they've seen – it appears human to the naked eye, not a shuffling, rotting zombie. The Hunters follow the corpse on foot as it ventures downtown, and are on the verge of making a move when Simon's phone rings – it's Edgar, calling from Willem's phone. He manages to say that they've followed someone onto a subway train when, suddenly, the phone cuts off with a loud roar and the Hunters hear an explosion. Behind them, a subway grate rips open and fire spills out, flooding the area with choking black smoke.

Dean, without missing a beat, hurls the corpse into the fire, but that turns out to be a misstep: there were two other Hunters following that corpse, Waywards named Olsen and Adam, and they're none too happy to have their lead killed. (They seem less concerned about the explosion in the subway tunnel.) The two Hunter groups argue for a moment, but then catch a man dressed in white walking out of the fire. They quickly follow.

The man (referred to from here on as the Man in White), startlingly, seems to recognize the Hunters as Hunters. He's not human, but Discern doesn't help them figure out what he is. When they try to follow further, he throws up a wall of flame to block their path. He disappears.

The Hunter groups – largely at Lucy's insistence – "work together" for a short while. This amounts to Dean walking around until the Waywards get bored. It works: soon the Hunters are free to head for the subway in an attempt to find Willem, Edgar and Dan…assuming they're still alive. On the way, they spot a mage woman dressed in red – one of the mages who captured Sunday (from here on referred to as the Woman in Red). They make sure they're not seen.

The two Waywards also spot the Woman in Red, and pause to eavesdrop on her telephone conversation: she and someone else (presumably a mage) discuss the possible ramifications of the explosion. She seems to be fairly certain of the culprit. For that matter, so are the Waywards: they think their former associate Spire (a truly disturbed psychopath, even by their standards) was surely responsible. After a brief discussion, they decide to head for the subway as well.

Sure enough, the two groups meet in the tunnels and are forced into each other's company again. During the long, long walk to the exploded subway train, they run into another hunter, a twitchy little guy named Hopper. He's another associate of Olsen and Adam, and is a flaky crack addict. He also doesn't know where Spire is, only that he sent Hopper away.

Continuing in the tunnel, they encounter two individuals walking the other way. Discern reveals them to be werewolves. Olsen uses his on of his Wayward edges to force the others to attack, and they're quickly defeated before they even have a chance to defend themselves. The Hunters demand to know what's going on, but before the conversation can go on too long, Hopper's watch starts beeping.

"Time to take my medicine," he says, and shoots Olsen and Adam, killing them. He claims Spire told him to do that, and says he won't shoot the others. Dean's paranoia is rampant, though, and when a bright light fills the tunnel, he puts a few bullets in Hopper anyway, just to be safe.

The light turns out to be the Woman in Red, teleporting in with some style. She's surprised to see the Hunters, thinking them long gone. She tells them to get out of here, and makes several other vague threats. She casts another spell, but its effects are not immediately apparent.

She disappears again, leaving the Hunters alone – Hopper has suddenly vanished. They decide to head back, but only make it a few steps when Hopper reappears…jamming a knife in Lucy's back. Dean blasts him immediately, but the damage is done: Lucy falls to the ground, blood spurting; she twitches, gasps, and stops breathing.

"The Black Hand, Part 2: In Limbo"

[This episode followed Dan, Willem and Edgar.]

One day earlier, Dan wakes to find a find a woman dressed in white sitting on his dresser. She introduces herself as Faith, and asks for Sunday. But Dan doesn't know where she is, obviously, and the woman starts to panic (though she hides it well). She asks Dan to leave a signal for her when Sunday's found. She then leaves…and Dan never bothers to use his powers to figure what exactly she was. Oops.

Edgar moves into an apartment of his own (he'd been living with his sister), thanks to the large settlement he's been granted by the Bazemore Police Department. The next day, he invites the other two over to check the place out. Willem asks him for money, naturally.

That morning, the three of them head out for some coffee. As they walk through downtown, Edgar spots a man he used to know walking past them – a man he knows to be dead. Intrigued – a non-zombie walking corpse! – the Hunters follow him. The corpse walks into the subway.

Before boarding the train, the corpse is stopped by a man (a non-supernatural man) who asks him to take a backpack to a woman on board: "She dropped it." The corpse, perhaps just to get the man to leave him alone, agrees.

On board, the corpse makes a cursory check for the woman, but doesn't see her, so he drops the bag. The Hunters watch him (it?), unaware that Spire, the psychotic Wayward, is on the train as well. When Edgar goes to talk to the corpse, the bag starts beeping. Dan opens it and finds a bomb.

Dan tries to get the car evacuated, but people start to panic and get nowhere. Spire begins to unsubtly use the other passengers as human shields, Dan tries to toss the bomb out of the train, and Edgar steals Willem's cell phone to call Simon. Willem, for his part, also tries to put a few people between himself and the bomb – one of those people is the Man in White (though at this point, he isn't supernatural).

Despite Dan's best efforts, the bomb explodes. Several people die, more are wounded, and a giant hole is opened in the top of the subway car. (There is also much fire, though most of that ends up outside the car.) Spire calmly exits the train. Willem follows him, Dan tries to help people get out of the train (though the Man in White has vanished), but Edgar has a new problem: he can't see. He hit his head when the bomb went off, and now he's totally blind.

Spire and Willem chat outside the train. Spire asks if the bomb was their idea – apparently, it wasn't his, either. While they talk, Willem hears a familiar skittering noise – one of the little lizard creatures (from waaay back in Season 1) is running across the ceiling. The creature is dealt with swiftly, and when another one is seen poking its head out of a subterranean passageway, the choice is made to follow. Dan has to guide Edgar, of course.

The journey through the labyrinthine passageways is long and arduous. Supernaturals are met and dispatched with ease.

They find another room filled with ancient computers, just like last time, but this room is guarded by a young mage. Well, more like "occupied" – the mage is asleep when they find him. When it becomes clear he has no useful information, Spire uses his most terrifying Edge to turn him into paste.

Further along the passageways, they encounter a locked door. Several of the bricks in the door play musical notes when pressed. They quickly deduce the key – the opening of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" – and go inside.

Down a hallway, they come across a small office-like room. Inside, a disgusting slob of a vampire sits at a computer (a modern computer, not an Apple IIe), watching a surveillance feed of the other three Hunters while hacking gobs of black goo onto the floor. They banter for a while. Spire uses his edges to get some information from the thing – first, that he's not "Beethoven" (remember, the vampire leaders and their composer names) and that he doesn't know where Beethoven is. Spire also gets the password to the guy's computer.

Willem sees, on the surveillance feed, Hopper stabbing Lucy. Shortly thereafter, the Thing shorts out the computer, morphs into a dog, and starts coughing up clouds of acidic green gas. The Hunters retreat into the hallway, wait for the Thing to exit, and slay him mercilessly.

Willem renters the room and removes the hard drive from the computer, in the process disarming a bomb. Before they can decide what to do next, the ceiling in the hallway collapses, raining rocks, bricks and cement onto Dan, Edgar and Spire. Spire is crushed and killed by the falling stones.

A cry goes out from the rubble: "Oh, my fucking arm!" From under a rock comes Simon, and Lucy follows him. Dean looks down from the new hole in the ceiling, shaking his head in disappointment.

"The Black Hand, Part 3: Knives Out"

But how did Lucy survive? She was, after all, not breathing, thanks to a vicious stab wound in the back.

While Simon panics (understandably so), Dean manifests a new Edge – a "Kiss of Life"-like healing ability. Seconds later, Lucy is as good as new, though covered in blood. The Edge takes quite a lot of Dean, so they wait a few moments while he tries to recover.

Simon, though, decides he can't wait, and heads off down the tunnel. He doesn't get far before he stops and calls back to the other two: he's found the wrecked subway car.

Maintenance crews are everywhere. Simon decided to run to the car, Lucy tries to stop him, and the floor beneath them crumbles, dropping them on top of the rest of their group (and killing Spire, of course).

Simon's shoulder is dislocated, but he pops it back in Mel Gibson-style. While discussing what to do next (Dean still standing high above them), they hear the "Moonlight Sonata" and the door opening. In steps a mage, a woman dressed in white, who is puzzled at their presence. They lie about who they are, a tactic which works until she starts to recognize them – at which point, Dean opens fire, and the woman is quickly killed. To avoid the maintenance workers nearby, Dean leaps into the hole.

(An interesting point: Willem, Edgar, Dan and Spire walked for hours under the subway tunnels, frequently going down staircases. At no point did they go up a staircase; yet, they end up no more than forty feet from where they started. No one notices how odd this is.)

The Hunters now have to make the long trek back to the surface. Along the way, they stumble across a fight in progress: a werewolf, in full man-beast form, fighting a…well, it's not clear, because by the time the Hunters get there, the wolf's opponent is no more than a few chunks of flesh. The wolf eyes the Hunters, but before it can make up its mind on whether to attack or not, Dean slays it.

At long last, they reach the surface. The maintenance crews are gone, but four men – ghouls – are attempting to jackhammer through the floor of the subway tunnel. The Hunters investigate, obviously, and learn they're working for a vampire with the initials WAM – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

Dan tries to get Edgar out of the tunnel, for obvious reasons, but when they reach the subway platform, they find the Man in White there, alone. He's watching the news on the TV screens in the platform. He watches the news of war, poverty, famine, violence in the streets, and turns to the Hunters with rage in his eyes. "You destroyed everything," he says, seething. Dan puts up Ward, but the Man walks through it like it was nothing. He makes to attack, but police are coming down the stairs, so he retreats. The cops take Dan and Edgar to the hospital for medical treatment.

Meanwhile, Willem uses one of the ghoul's cell phones to call this "WAM." Surprisingly, a woman answers. Willem tries to pretend he's one of the ghouls, but the subterfuge fails, and the Hunters are set upon by four motorcycle ninjas within moments. Unfortunately, they're ghouls, too, and Dean's Ward knocks them off their bikes. They are easily dispatched.

The Hunters reunite at the hospital. Bad news for Edgar, though: there's nothing wrong with his eyes. As the Hunters have been suspecting, his blindness is psychosomatic. When asked how long it might take for him to recover, the doctor is depressingly vague. "It may be tomorrow. Or next week. Or he might never recover."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Well, the site overhaul looks pretty decent. And it's certainly easier to update the Countdown with the new format.

The only sticking point is the same sticking point I always have when I change formats around: the comments. For some reason, I can't get them to show up. But I'm still working on it.

I'm also working on a new logo. Been a while, hasn't it?


I'm updating my Blogger template to the new Blogger "customizing" format, so things might look a little goofy here for a bit. Watch your step.

The following post is brought to you by Just Brakes

Three or four times a day, I hear these commercials for Just Brakes. It takes the form of a telephone conversation between a helpful Just Brakes employee and a prospective customer. They do all sorts of repair crap to your brake system for "only $99.88 in most cases." I remember that because they say it about seven times in thirty seconds.

Anyway. At one point in the ad, the prospective customer asks if she can make an appointment for next week. But the helpful employee says something to the effect of, "We recommend you come in right away. Failing to fix brake problems immediately could lead to a real brake system nightmare, easily doubling or tripling the cost of repairs!"

No shit: I just spent five hundred dollars fixing my brakes.

Kill me. Kill me now.

Fun with Google Reader

Apparently, changing the labels on my old posts causes Google Reader to think they're new posts and show them as new. So it looks like I wrote ten posts yesterday about things no one remembers from three years ago.

Which isn't all that different from what I actually write. So.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A disaster waiting to happen

I finally watched last week's Heroes this morning, having at last carved forty-five minutes out of a busy schedule. (Working all the time, going without electricity for a day, writing a mass recap of the Hunter episodes I've missed, writing Revolver -- I'm actually doing things. It's weird.)

Anyway, Heroes. It was...ehh. From popular reaction, I expected to be knocked on my ass, but it was kind of there. I mean, it was entertaining, don't get me wrong -- and it was certainly fun to see a totally different side of Sylar. But nothing happened. It was the very worst kind of foot-shuffling exercise as they get ready for the finale. (As opposed to Lost, which does its feet-shuffling at the beginning of the season and then kicks your ass for ten weeks in a row to finish. And while I'm in this parenthetical and talking about Lost, I should say that last week's episode, "The Man Behind the Curtain," was easily one of the five best of the whole series. It was that good.)

And now NBC comes with dire news:
To stretch the normal 22-episode season of "Heroes," which faltered after its long hiatus this year, NBC will add "Heroes: Origins." The spinoff will introduce a new character each week, and viewers will select which one stays for the following season. The two series will have 30 new episodes combined.
No. No no no. The last thing this show needs is more characters. They can barely find time to deal with the ones they have, and letting viewers pick new ones is not a good idea.

Then again, NBC is getting pretty fucking desperate, as you can see:
Since it found an audience this season with superpowered stars, NBC will remake "Bionic Woman" with Michelle Ryan in the title role.

New series "Journeyman" is about a San Francisco newspaper reporter who travels through time to alter people's lives, and "Chuck" is a thriller about a computer geek who becomes a government agent after spy secrets are embedded in his brain.
A new Bionic Woman? Ick. I'll admit Journeyman sounds kinda cool. Though I liked it better when it was called Quantum Leap.

Man, NBC is a mess.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

This is what we've come to

A bunch of teachers got together and decided to stage a little improvisational theater for their students, to give them a little "learning experience":
Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.

The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.

"We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation," he said.


What, exactly, can be learned from this experience? "When a crazy man with a gun is running around shooting people, hide!" Listen: if your students need a drill to learn that tactic, I think they've got bigger problems.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Weekly iPod Shuffle: 5/12/07

1. "Shape of Things to Come," Audioslave
Audioslave is, of course, broken up now, just a few months after releasing their most accomplished album to date, Revelations. Now, seeing as how they've already broken up six or seven times (at least twice before their first album was even released), the reunion could be coming any day. I'm not holding my breath.

2. "Original of the Species," U2
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb has not held up at all over the past few years. And seeing as how this track was fairly dull and nondescript at the time, I'm not exactly delighted to hear it. In fact, I'd forgotten I even had it.

3. "Crazy," Seal
The Main Theme of the next Hunter soundtrack. Miracles will happen as we speak, but we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy. Of course, I doubt anyone in my Hunter group will actually dig it.

4. "#40," Dave Matthews Band
From...uh, one of the Dave live albums I've got. Frothing Daveheads have been clamoring for an album release of this song for years, which is silly, considering that it appears on at least two live records. But those are Daveheads for you.

5. "The Wind Cries Mary," Jimi Hendrix
One of the fifteen or so coolest songs ever recorded. I once had a screenplay in mind about a serial killer who tortured his victims while this song played in the background. For some reason, I thought this was "intense." Ah, my late teens.

6. "Orion," Metallica
Stephen and I once spent hours talking about making a Pink Floyd: The Wall-type movie set to Metallica songs. "Orion" was to be the centerpiece, as it's a long, beautiful instrumental that practically screams for visual accompaniment. For the life of me, I can't remember a single thing about that movie idea, but it certainly held our attention for a little while. Of course, we once spent nearly an hour improvising a sketch that recast various scenes of Full Metal Jacket with professional wrestlers -- "Are you allowed to have jelly donuts in the locker room, Viscera?" -- and giggling so hard we almost passed out, so that doesn't really mean much. Ah, my late teens.

(Seriously: Viscera has a page on Wikipedia? What the fuck?)

7. "Cherub Rock," Smashing Pumpkins
One of the saddest things I've ever seen: my father listening to this album on some headphones and trying to "headbang." 'Cuz, you know, he rocks. What an asshole. (Though in fairness, my dad did play the drums, about a thousand years ago. Though I've never actually seen any evidence of this, come to think of it.) The funniest part about that is that this song is about those who pretend to be "cool" to gain favor.

8. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," Stevie Wonder
Man, Stevie Wonder ruled, back before he got to that "I Just Called to Say I Love You" phase. My earliest memory of Stevie is wondering who the hell he was when he had a cameo on The Cosby Show. 'Cuz, you know, the Cos is hip.

9. "One of These Days," Pink Floyd
One of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces. The song's only lyric, delivered by a creepy, synthesized voice that gives me chills every time. This was included as a piece of "Fight Music" on a previous game soundtrack.

10. "Hard to Concentrate," Red Hot Chili Peppers
Speaking of game soundtracks, again, this song might end up as background music for a future Hunter session: it's a surprisingly pretty ballad about a wedding.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The slippery ethics of peer-to-peer downloading

An ethical query:

If we can agree that downloading music, movies, books, video games, or anything else from a peer-to-peer server instead of paying for it is stealing, at what point does such an act become acceptable?

Case in point: today I downloaded a CD -- The Best of the Moody Blues -- and a PC game, Black & White. Truth be told, I stole them. The end result is really no different than running into Wal*Mart and racing out with the packages tucked under my shirt.

But the subject becomes a little fuzzy when you consider this: I've already bought both of these items in the past. My Moody Blues disc has been lost over the various moves I've done in the last few years, and my Black & White disc was destroyed when it escaped from its case while in transit and was scraped against the bottom of a cardboard box for three days.

I could have downloaded the entire Moody Blues catalog, but did not -- I only got the CD I already paid for. And I downloaded not Black & White 2, but the original, which I bought when it was originally released 127 years ago. (Give or take.)

Surely, this is no less illegal. But is it more ethical?

These are the things I think about. This, and Lost.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Lost is coming to end in 2010, producers announced yesterday. This, actually, is fantastic news: it's always better for a dramatic show to know when the end is coming long in advance. It makes it easier to wrap up the various plots and story threads when you know you've got exactly 48 more episodes to work with. Unlike, say, The X-Files, a show that limped to its conclusion, bloodied and violated, deluded into thinking it had "more stories to tell" when it actually ran out four years earlier.

Of course, my only sticking point is the way they're doing it: 48 episodes to go, got it, that's fine -- in fact, I'd guessed exactly that many in conversation over the weekend. But instead of doing two more seasons, as I had predicted, they're doing three shortened seasons of 16 episodes each. Which is fine, too, I guess. But just weird.

It's understandable, though, and kinda funny. I mean, of course they're doing forty-eight more episodes in seasons of 16 episodes each. Duh!

Also, today at the grocery store I spotted TV Guide, and its headline regarding the Lost season finale, which according to buzz is a "game-changer" that is so awesome it might actually recombine your DNA. (The evidence backs them up: the finales of seasons 1 and 2 were each spectacular.)

The TV Guide headline boldly announces Five will die!, which is fairly stunning: I knew someone was going to die, but five whole characters is a pretty impressive piece of storytelling real estate to chew up in a single episode.

And since I've been pretty awesome at guessing Lost twists before they happen, especially this season (Claire and Jack having the same father, Locke's father being the guy who Sawyer's been chasing all these years, and a few others), I'm going out on a limb and predicting the death list.
  • Charlie. (That one's easy, really, with Desmond's "You're gonna die, Charlie!" premonitions.)
  • Ben. (They gotta take out the villain, and his own people are plotting against him.)
  • Sawyer. (He just resolved his emotional baggage, which is usually the next step before death on this show: see Boone, Eko, and Ana-Lucia. Plus, one has to be a big-time shocker, right?)
  • Jin. (Sun's pregnant, and killing a pregnant lady would be beyond evil, even for this show's writers. But the baby's father -- ah, pathos!)
  • Hurley. (Oh, it would make me sad, but Hurley doesn't really contribute much to the show anymore anyway.)
So it is written, so it shall come to pass. Of course, I could be way off base and wrong: they could go for the gusto and kill off Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Locke and Sun, destroying their narrative and alienating their audience so entirely that most never watch television again. Hey, it's Lost, these guys are fucked up.

(The Lost v. Heroes comparison in that USA Today article is pretty funny, by the way.)