Friday, January 18, 2008

Terminator on TV

So Friday night I watched the pilot of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. (Beware any college-kids reading this.... eventually you, too, will not feel like going out on a cold and rainy Friday, staying in for a meal of tuna melts and apples).

Folks who've known The League for a while will know The League is a big, big fan of the first two Terminator movies (but not so much the third in the series). It falls squarely in with the high-budget sci-fi action flicks that were a huge part of The League's youth.

And, honestly, I kinda liked Terminator 2 more than Terminator. Tracking further back, when I was in middle school and high school I was a pretty-darn big fan of anything Arnie put out. There was a time when the only Arnie movie I hadn't seen was "Kindergarten Cop" (I'd watched a good chunk of "Hercules in New York" on basic cable). T2 had a bigger budget, more explosions, and the kick-ass performance of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Add in what were, at the time, unbelievable new CGI effects.

I was deeply skeptical of anyone taking the place of Linda Hamilton. In Terminator, Cameron had given us the glimpses of the female action hero that was not part of the usual American film scene. We'd get an occasional Princess Leia, but by and large, it was still up to the male lead to save the day. In T1, Hamilton still played the damsel in distress to Michael Biehn's Kyle Reese. In "Aliens", Cameron gave us Sigourney Weaver as the full-blown action heroine who might get some side-kicky type help from Michael Biehn, but who is fine on her own. This all paved the way for T2, in which we got a shotgun-toting, face-punching Linda Hamilton who only grudgingly accepts the help of the new Connor-friendly Terminator. This was all awesome, and I have graphs and charts to prove it.

Less awesome was T3, despite the inclusion of Claire Danes. The only thing to like in T3, really, was the obvious conclusion that SkyNet was not a single system, but a software system which had gone all self-aware and virus-y haywire.

The TV show's pilot (I've not yet watched the second episode) seemed to pick up after T2, rather than acknowledging T3 in any way. And that's okay. SPOILER ALET: Sarah Connor was supposed to be dead of leukemia before the start of T3. Something I never bought, although it provided a reasonable explanation of why they wouldn't bring Hamilton back while propelling John Connor forward as the protagonist in the franchise.

But,as the producers are aware, it's not John Connor who is the star of the Terminator franchise, its Sarah Connor. Terminator is not about the war of the future, its about trying to stop the war from ever happening.

Lena Headey takes the role of Sarah Connor, and, judging from the pilot, she will be able to fill the boots Linda cobbled herself back when I was in high school. Headey's toughness in teh role may not come as a surprise to those wh saw her in 300 as Queen Gorgo, but her role here is a bit more direct.

ChronSnob calls into question the age of Headey, but the show does state, flat out, that Connor is 33, the same age as Headey. However, with a 15 year-old son, I'm not sure how that manages the continuity of the first two movies. Certainly Hamilton was never supposed to be a teenager in T1?

Thomas Dekker's young John Connor never feels like the mouthy, semi-precocious brat that Edward Furlong seemed to portray in T2. Nor does he come off with the Andy Rooney-with-an-edge that Nick Stahl brought to T3. He seems like an overwhlemed kid, understanding of his situation but still trying to avoid his destiny.

The buzz will probably be around Summer Glau, who sci-fi dorks will remember as Rain from Firely and Serenity. Poised as a Lady Robot of Interest for both the fanbase and John Connor, Glau plays Cameron (yeah, they went there), a Terminator sent from the future with a bit more of a plan than "Save John Connor".

Pity Glau, for she is about to become the subject of many-a-nerds' rich make-believe love life.

What will surely drive sci-fi fans and lovers of logic insane is that the show seems precepted on the idea that the future is fluid. I am sure the time travel elements of the show will be handled with varying degress of logic and competence. But its hard to see how the future timeline of a war with robots can be erased unless someone with knowledge of that war is sent back to stop it. Which, of course, means that the eprson from the future would have no knowledge of the war and would have no need to travel back in time.

So you see where I'm going with this.

The actual feel of the pilot was very, very close to the first two movies (I actually kind of thought the third movie felt a bit like a made-for-TV movie), right down to the vividness of Sarah Connor's dream echoing portions of T2. The soundtrack uses elements of the T2 music to good effect, and that certainly helps to draw you back into the Terminator universe as well as a through-line regarding reconnecting with Dyson's family in what appeared to be the same house from T2.

Jamie's concern, and one I share, is that few series are able to come off of a good pilot and sustain the quality. A quick glance at IMDB, as well as some of Glau's dialog suggests that this will not be the Connor's + robot moving from town to town to solve crimes, a la The A-Team, but rather them digging in their heels for a fight. Which seems kind of... like not a good idea when an endless line of killer robots diguised as people is coming for you.

Only future episodes and time will tell.

I am a bit down knowing that Arnie will, most likely, never appear on the show. One would assume he's a bit busy, what with being Governor of California and all. But I think the Sarah Connor character is strong enough to hold her own, especially if given a decent supporting cast. But, still... that's 100% less Arnie than I usually like.

Check out both Jason's review and ChronSnob's mention of Jason's review.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mel V. Cancer

The day after Christmas, Jamie noticed Mel had a pretty substantial growth in his mouth. As Mel's gotten older, he's grown these weird little lumps under his skin. We got the first few removed over two surgeries (three?). Essentially the growth in his mouth was a similar lump, only in his gums.

They had scraped a similar lump in April and had it sent off for testing. It came back benign, and we didn't really think too much about it any more.

On Friday, the results from Mel's December surgery came back. Our vet called me on my cell about 3:00. After a lot of explanation of words that really didn't mean a whole lot to me, the bottom line was that they'd found cancer cells in the growth. Mel, my pal, has cancer.

As hard as it was to hear, I also knew it was now my responsibility to share the information with Jamie. And so I asked about our options. Mel is not yet 10, and he's still as frisky as he's really ever been, so letting him just be an old dog and try to just keep comfortable until it gets bad isn't an option.

Apparently there's now dog radiation and dog chemo. For people, who understand what's going on, that's the path you go. For dogs who only know you're taking them to get sick over and over every time they get in the car. There's also a dog oncologist in Round Rock (of course), and so we had options, anyway.

I did my bit of steeling myself on the way home. We were headed out to dinner with Steven and Lauren, and while I wanted Jamie to know, I also didn't want to tell her over the phone. So while Jamie was getting dressed and made-up to go out, I had to drop the bomb.

Jamie is, despite outward appearances, the toughest person I know. She's never given up on anyone or anything, and certainly knows that before you shed too many tears about bad medical news, you grit your teeth and start figuring out your options.

What made it easier to share, of course, was seeing Mel when I walked in the door. As usual, he was sitting on the couch, ears pitched forward, tail spinning wildly and happy as a clam.

"You aren't sick."
"Look at you."
"We've got a long way to go before we write you off, pal."

And so on the way to dinner we discussed our options, and talked about the fact that Mel was okay right now. So what we have to do, we decided, is just make sure he's a happy boy.

Saturday we took Mel and Lucy to the dog park, where Mel ran around just as happy as ever, playing king of the dog park while keeping that nice safety zone close by, with Lucy playing the little tag-along sister.

He is not sick. He is fine. He can play and chase the ball and goof with other dogs, and when he comes back to check in with you, his eyes are still that same bright brown, his tongue still pink, his ears still perked and eager.

On Monday Jamie went to see the vet and got the name of the Oncologist and Surgeon team. Yesterday Mel went to the oncologist for a CAT scan and to get checked out.

They think they can get it with surgery. He's going in next week for a consultation. He has no idea what's going on, but he's still Mel.

"Do you have any idea what's going on?"
"They say you're sick. You've got the cancer, pal."
"The heck you say."
"Yeah. On your gum."
"Oh. Yeah. That figures."
"It's not supposed to metastasize. They think they can get it with some surgery."
"So it's gonna get cleared up. But it's going to take some tough days ahead."
"Okay. Jamie will take care of me?"
"You know she will."
"Okay, then."
"We're gonna have you around for a long while yet."
"And then where will I go?"
"A place full of couches and tennis balls, other dogs to play with and an endless sea of Milk Bones."
"Will you be there?"
"I'll catch up sooner or later."

More Real Life Superheroes

Here's an article about the tiny (but growing) subculture of Real Life Superheroes (or Reals, as they seem to call themselves).

I certainly think its a terrible idea to dress up in a costume and try to patrol your city. The article does mention the potential for violence, and certainly The League is a lover, not a fighter. And as good-natured as I think it is to dress up and head down to the homeless shelter to help out, do you need a superhero outfit to do that?

Well, honestly, it sounds like it worked out for the guy in the article when he uses his time to read to kids. But, let's be realistic... you don't need a super suit to help people.

Let me be perfectly clear: I think its a good idea to wear clothes if you want to go out and help the public. Otherwise, you're looking at some jail time. Ask Randy.

I don't honestly know what to make of the Reals. Part of me thinks its really cool, but I'm also aware of the potential for this get really bad, really fast. So in what capacity, if any, is there room for Real costumed do-gooders?

I know how Superman feels...

From Chris's Invincible Superblog

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chron Snob can't just "let it be"

Chronological Snobbery has an interesting post on the album "Let it be... Naked", a stripped down version of the Beatles' efforts formerly produced by Phil Spector.

I'm a fan of Spector's work with the Ronettes and others. I'm also in a cultural blindspot when it comes to the Beatles. You should check out the article.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bug Comes to World of Blog

League pal Erica (aka: Bug) has come to the world of blogging.

She's a teacher in the Houston area, and so I look forward to seeing her tales of Zen-like-Calm in the face of chaos as she manages a herd of kids.

You can read Bug's blog here.

Welcome new blog: The Polka Dot Bug

Whip It! coming to a multiplex near YOU

Hey, Leaguers...

League-Pal Shauna is a screenwriter in Hollywood. Looks like her latest project is headed for a green light.

Read up on Whip It!

And they got Ellen Page from Juno. Kind of wild.

There's a chance they'll shoot in Austin, so I'm hoping I can catch up with Shauna (whom I have not seen since 2000) if she comes to town.

Monday, January 14, 2008

It Ain't Grey's Anatomy

Apparently Glenn Beck has never been to the ER.

I'm not dismissing the man's health issues, his misery or his concerns. And as much as I don't really think his show is... good... I will be curious to see what happens based upon his recent escapades at the hospital.

You can read Beck's account here.

You can read the story here.

But, from the description I see here, his visit is either par for the course for the average trip to the ER, or maybe marginally worse.

I'm not sure if Beck's surprise comes from his expectations of a clean and happy ER based upon years of TV shows filled with caring doctors who weep whenever someone has a boo-boo. Or, not to be a jerk, but it could also be that Beck has been living in a celebrity cloud long enough that he is shocked to find out about the sort of service the average person expects, even when in dire pain. In either case, the only thing in the story that surprised me was that they found dirty bandages in the shower. Which might just mean that they didn't get to clean the room between patients because they were running patients through so quickly.

The League doles out advice: By the way... if you start to think you need to go to the ER because you're in pain, go... Waiting at home just adds to wait time you're going to get when you get to the ER. We've done 8+ hours of just sitting in a waiting room before seeing so much as a nurse. There were reports of hospitals in Mesa with 16-24 hour waits in the ER.

Sitting for hours in the cheapest chairs the hospital could buy while you wait to get a room and talk to someone about your pain is not where you want to be when your eyes are bleeding out or whatever.

There's really nothing like the ER to remind you that you are not a special snowflake in need of special attention. No matter what you came in with, if you didn't come passed out in an ambulance or with a piece of metal in your head, 50% of the people sitting around you are as bad off as you are (or worse), and they've been waiting longer than you.

Here's what I want to stress, and where I think Glenn Beck is off-base: The people who work in hospitals have the hardest job in the world. I'm including them with combat soldiers.

No matter what these people are making, its not enough.

When you or I go off to work, we sit at a desk in front of a computer, or put on a tie and depose people all day. These people put on clothes specifically designed to be cheap and washable because they will be covered in blood, vomit, and other bodily fluids before they finish their 12-hour shift.

When I screw up at work, a project slips a day. When these people get a new client, which is every few minutes, their client could potentially die on them. And I've spent enough time in hospitals and ERs to tell you, most people walk out of the ER after they've been seen. But sometimes people, despite herculean effort, do not walk back out again. If things are taking a little while for you to get your shot of morphine, Mr. Beck, it could be because the guy on the other side of the curtain was in cardiac arrest and heading into the light.

I've seen kids with lite-brights shoved up their noses, people who had bugs stuck in their ears, people so constipated a doctor was going to have to go in manually, people who were in kidney failure and didn't know it carrying gallons of extra fluid around, knees completely shattered from a bad touch-football play, people with broken limbs, folks with mysterious stomach ailments that have lasted weeks and only now become unmanageable... And I do not work in the ER. I am an observer.

And these people do this every single working day. Every day.

On the regular hospital floor, its a bit different, but there it's often even more life or death. People check into the cardiac floor because their lives are at stake, not because they need some vacation time. These are people with dignity being asked to wear a flimsy robe and sit still for days while they're poked and prodded. Some of them have other ailments. Some are in pain.

Here's the other thing.... if you're not feeling well, and they keep asking you if you need more pain meds, and you keep saying "sure", they will give them to you right up to the point where you might slip into a coma. After all, they have no idea how much pain you're really in except by what you tell them.

If the employees seem a bit callous, you have to understand the wall they set up between themselves and their patients. I think that's more than understandable for people who live around misery every day of their professional lives. Ask a cop, soldier or even a person involved in criminal law if it doesn't all get sort of detached after a while... Glenn Beck can walk into a hospital and walk out again, in relative certainty he need not visit again for years. Doctors, nurses, techs, administrators, janitors... the people who keep the hospital working are the same folks who see thousands of Glenn Becks in a year, and will see just as many next year.

I can't say how much asking questions, and not expecting nurses to treat you like a customer, helps. They aren't working on tips or commission. You are not always right. Be nice. Say "please" and "thank you". If you think something is wrong, ask. But ask politely. These people are dealing with people in eight other rooms, each as sick or sicker than you. And before you start buzzing the nurse for a cup of juice for the tenth time, think about how you'd want other patients to be if you were in need of immediate help and/ or croaking.

I think this is also worth calling out: as scary as it is, medicine is not an exact science. No two people are alike, nor are the ways in which their particular ailment will be managed.

Glenn Beck may be an individual snowflake regarding body chemistry, and it may be true that his system did not know how to manage the meds he was given in order to help him. When you enter the hospital, they are making the best decisions they can based upon the best info available as it relates to the most people. Any time you take a pill, it can have unknown side-effects or known side-effects.

I don't think I'm telling anyone anything that you don't already know.

What I find ridiculous is that it took Beck having a bad few days of health to take notice that people can't be cured with a pill or that their problem won't be resolved in an hour, as if they were dropping clothes off at the dry-cleaner. Further, he's asking each and every hospital worker to care as much about his woes as he does, and, Leaguers... that isn't going to happen. Hospital staff do care or they wouldn't be there. The pay isn't good enough to put up with the day-to-day insanity of healthcare work if they didn't care (and I've personally talked to one young nurse who confessed he couldn't take it any more and was quitting after years of schooling).

I find it a bit unrealistic that Beck identifies the necessary emotional detachment required to work in stressful conditions day-after-day as a sign of a failing healthcare system. There's probably some grain of truth in that insofar as there are not enough hospitals and too many people going into ERs who could just as easily head to the local minor emergency center. And, yeah, the ER nurse didn't do everything exactly to Mr. Beck's satisfaction. The ER's are overcrowded, but it doesn't sound like Beck was seen any faster or slower than when you see other folks fast-tracked. The delays he experienced weren't done out of spite, they were part of procedure so each person is seen and given full attention. Further, "doctor's orders" isn't just a term from the movies. It's what nurses and techs must wait in before doing anything. It's procedural, and not always lightning fast. 40 minutes is fast.

The League doles out more advice:
If you're as jacked up as Beck claims he was (and I believe he was that bad), call an ambulance. Beck has a lot of money and no doubt decent insurance. If you can get into an ER under your own power, the ER staff are going to make their own decisions. They aren't always the right ones.

But what Beck experienced was "Fast Tracking". That's the coveted position of the ER visitor. They saw he was messed up. They got him back second. He doesn't know how long the person who was seen before him was there, he doesn't know which nurse or doctor that person was going to see. Most often you do NOT go from triage into the back. That's what they do with you when they actually care ow you're doing.

If his wife had to hoist him, its because neither of them asked for a wheel-chair or help. Which is... not a great choice and doesn't tell anyone you're in the level of pain Beck was in.

They have these charts at the hospital with a pain scale of 0-10. They even have little descriptions and/ or faces for you to match your level of pain. I'm not sure "I'd lost all hope and wanted to die" is exactly how they put a 10 on the chart, but it also doesn't sound like they avoided trying to help beck outright. It sounds like he got the same treatment I see everyone else getting.

For an interesting response to Beck's rant, check out this nursing forum.

Of course a lot of what the nurses have to say about orders, side-effects of meds, etc... is going to get ignored by Beck, lest he admit he just had a bad experience as a side-effect of surgery and medication and not get a new cause to rant about.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

American Gladiators

Last week Jamie and I watched an alarming amount of American Gladiators. For this reason alone, I may be willing to kick in some extra dough for the writers so they'll end their strike.

While the current crop of Gladiators is every bit as ridiculous as the Gladiators of yesteryear, and the games are the same, I'm not sure I'm as into the show as I planned to be. It's one thing to wrap up your Saturday evening as a high-schooler watching American Gladiators because it's that or QVC (AG aired late at night in Houston when I was in high school). It's quite something else to realize you're 32 and spent your time from 7-8pm watching American Gladiators with your erstwhile Honey Bunny.

But as the Gladiators themselves are rarely given time to talk (the show is about clubbing weaker opponents, not chit-chat), how do we get to know the Gladiators? The Hater is here to help out.

My favorite Gladiators? All female. Why? Need you ask?

But I have a particular fondness for Hellga.

I've also decided that, if I were doomed to die and I got to choose HOW I was going to die, exactly how would I decide to go out...?
The Gauntlet, staffed by the ladies of the American Gladiators.

If you gotta go, you might as well make it interesting.

And, WB Execs... when casting for Wonder Woman for a movie...

Less of this and more of this.
Hey Leaguers, long time no post.

It's been a fairly busy weekend here at League HQ.

Friday night we met up with team Harms-Roth at Eddie V's down on 5th. It's definitely a sight nicer than the usual run to Casa Garcia's we might have on Friday, and the swordfish I got was fantastic. I'm a big fan of fish, but living in land-locked Austin, I'm frequently skeptical of most seafood at restaurants. You're always one bad clam away from a really tough 24 hours. Eddie V's delivered on food, drink and dessert.

More important than the food was the company, and as always it was great to catch up with Lauren and Steven. We're all fairly busy folks, and it was the first time we'd seen each other since the Holidays. I neglected to ask Steven about his experiments with Ruby on Rails, so that gives us an excuse to catch up for drinks in the near future. Lauren's been learning to sew. Like, really sew. She made a dress for herself. Then re-made the dress for herself. I Look forward to seeing what she cooks up. Also, I think she should start making all of Steven's clothes. And only use houndstooth and tweeds.

Saturday we ran an errand or two and took Mel and Lucy to the dog park at Riverside and I-35. Mel's getting up there, and he's not as healthy as we'd like, but... man. Set him loose at the dog park and he's as energetic and tough as any of the puppies out there. And not to brag, but Lucy is faster and more accurate than any other dog at the park when it comes to fetch. I know not everyone is a dog person, but there's a genuine pleasure in taking your dog down to the park and seeing them run with other dogs, but still wanting to keep near you, keeping the pack intact. I'm not ready yet for summer heat and swimming holes, so the dog park is a good substitute.

Saturday night we met up with Matt and Nicole at Maudie's on Lamar where Matt and I had the Rockin' Ruthann's and a few margaritas. Luckily, Jamie drove.

I should also mention Jason and I squeezed in not one but TWO practices this weekend. Our two-man band is on its way. We're trying to get a drummer, and so far two people have volunteered, my pal Julia from work (who didn't flinch when I said "well, you'll have to grow an afro..."), and Lauren, who I visualized in an afro, and I'm not sure it will work. Perhaps those novelty antenna deely-bobbers?

At any rate, Jason is incredibly patient with me, and I'm having a huge amount of fun. I must learn something called "12 bar blues". I'm also practicing from a book Cousin Sue gave me for Christmas. I think both Jason and Jamie are disappointed that I've named my bass "Lois", but... c'mon. Who couldn't see that coming a mile away?

Jason's been in a few bands, but since its him and me, and I have no idea what I'm doing, and so by default, he's sort of singer and guitarist. I think we're going to recruit Jamie to sing, at least harmonies. She's skeptical, but if we play Radiohead's "Karma Police", I think we can get her onboard. Now, she may need to hide in a box or something if we ever play out somewhere, but maybe not. She's got some stage-fright issues.

Today I went down to Reed's to get a look at his recently unearthed comic collection. It had been in a closet in his house for a while, and he was curious as to the value of the collection. Really, he's got a lot of key-80's era stuff and if he ever decided to sell, he could do pretty well. Stuff like "first appearance of Spider-Man black suit", "first Black Cat", and some Batman stuff that's worth something.

I really don't know what comic collections mean to folks to who don't hit the Ye Olde Comick Booke Shoppe anymore. I know what I'm doing to augment my Superman collection. If I quit buying comics, what would I keep? What would I sell? It's something to ponder.

This evening we met up with Stuart and Hilary at their place, roughly half-way between Jason's house and our place. Carla and David were supposed to make it, but unfortunately Carla wasn't feeling well, so they had to scrub plans to join us. While we missed them, we had a good time, ate some great food (I hear an exchange of recipes is imminent) and more promises were made that our living room will be painted at some point.

All in all, its been a busy, busy weekend.

Now Jamie's retired for the night, I've got our gas fire going, the dogs are asleep (Lucy sleeps inverted), and its back to work for a new week. Egads.

Hope your weekend was good.