Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ladies Love Cool NCIS: LA

So, I'm going to share my thoughts with you on television. I like it. The new season started on September 21 (well, the 17th, really, if you watch NBC comedy on Thursdays), and I want to talk about it. I will do so in short little opinion pieces.

Today, I feel compelled to talk about NCIS: Los Angeles.

It's a spinoff of NCIS. Both shows deal with the Navy's Criminal Investigation branch. If a military person is killed or commits a crime, these guys show up. The newer one, as you may have guessed, is based in LA, versus the original in the DC metro area (and, really, all over the world). It stars Chris O'Donnell and L.L. Cool J. Weird combination, I know, but it works, against all odds.

But, while their on-screen banter is cool and the other characters are good, that's not the highlight of the show.

Linda Hunt as Hetty is just fantastic and they always give her something to say to someone else (or to no one in particular, as in Tuesday's episode) that brings a smile to my face. She's like the Yoda of the group, in wisdom and stature. I've seen her before, but I've never seen any of her work. Maybe I should seek it out. She's great.

I am thoroughly enjoying NCIS: LA. The strength of its predecessor has always been its characters and this spin off is following the same cue. For the most part, the investigations in these stories always seem to be secondary to character interaction and development and that's very okay with me.

Though, I will add, if L.L. ever says "Momma say knock you out" in the show, I may have to stop watching.

Chris O'Donnell should not make any Batman references, either.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I Dare You to Do Better (or Please Let My Friend Rest in Peace)

My good friend passed away ten years ago, today. I knew my friend for many years. We shared many good times together. We laughed together; we cried together. We battled side-by-side and celebrated arm-in-arm. My friend appealed to my interests and helped me look at them in a different way. My friend and I explored the cosmos together. On this very day, though, in 1999, my friend passed on.

That was the day Star Trek ended.

One June 2, 1999, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s final episode, “What You Leave Behind,” aired, and it signaled the passing of Star Trek. I didn’t realize, that day, that my friend was gone. I was in denial. I clung to the past; I existed there for quite some time.

As the years passed, I slowly began to realize.

In 2005, I visited the “Star Trek Experience” in Las Vegas. That was when it really started to sink in. As I walked through the area the Hilton had set aside for the exhibit, I jokingly made a comment that, even though it was created during Star Trek’s thriving prime in the mid-nineties as an attraction, it was now more a mausoleum of sorts.

In 2006, Christie’s auctioned off Star Trek memorabilia, props and set pieces. Actors and writers who had been a part of Trek’s history came back and said lovely things about my old friend, in the form of a TV special. That was Star Trek’s eulogy. It wasn’t until then that it completely sunk in. My friend had passed away.

It wasn’t a depressing realization. It was more of a pleasant relief. Star Trek had a great life. I still think back fondly and reminisce about the good times. The television episodes and movie that followed Deep Space Nine, I realized, were (with a few exceptions) merely life-support: the artificial tubes and pumps that others used to try to keep my friend alive. They couldn’t let go and, for a while, neither could I. Then, one day, I just did.

Unfortunately, others still could not let go, as I had done. That very same year, development on Star Trek, the eleventh film in the franchise, began. Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and, ultimately, J.J. Abrams, were charged with breathing new life into my friend. I was apprehensive about this, because no one from Star Trek’s past – who had proven they understood the franchise – was involved. Ever the optimist, however, I kept an open mind. The finished product was still a long way off.

Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman' are always mentioned together because their resumes are identical. Of note, they penned Transformers (2007), in addition to the sequel, due this summer. The former turned out to be shallow and one-dimensional. It is possible that (but unknown if) producer/director Michael Bay may have trumped Kurtzman and Orci and re-wrote a lot of the script, but they never protested. They didn't take their names off the script.

From a financial stand point, inaction in that case is understandable. Transformers went on to make a lot of money. On the other hand, if one takes into account their resume, it seems they set out to write thin, shallow, juvenile stories in the first place. There is a place for that. It’s not invalid. Perhaps it is more forgivable in a franchise like Transformers.

What isn’t forgivable are the unfulfilled promises. For example, those of us who were little six-year-old boys during the Transformers hey-day were promised a lot of things by Kurtzman and Orci, during development of the film, on which they didn't follow through -- chief of which being the classic relationship between Megatron, the leader of the evil Decepticons and Starscream, his ambitious, delusional, chronically ill-fortuned second in command.

Megatron’s and Starscream’s original relationship was one of master and servant, with servant always trying to earn the master’s respect and, failing that, overthrow him, only to be put down at the last moment. It is one of the elements of Transformers (1984) most revered by fans. Kurtzman and Orci promised this relationship would be preserved. Ultimately, the two iconic ‘Cons share one scene together -- a scene which is so brief, it is missed if one blinks.

As if Kurtzman and Orci’s collective resume wasn’t enough, this example strongly suggested that they were incapable of treating a beloved franchise with the respect and dignity it deserves. How could Star Trek fans trust them to handle, properly, a franchise that's even more beloved and venerable, when they've already let down one group of fans? It was at this point that I realized it would be best to continue to let my friend rest in peace, rather than try to resurrect it.

Alas, the mission continued. Kurtzman and Orci wrote the script for this new Star Trek film. J.J. Abrams brought his vision to it by directing and producing. The misguided writers both claimed to be Trek fans (one more so than the other), but Abrams admitted he was not a fan, though he had watched the original Star Trek (1966). The three of them put together a creative team of fans and non-fans alike, in an attempt to maintain credibility with the Trek base in the audience, and simultaneously attract newcomers.

This notion is the holy grail for “The Powers That Be” which own the rights to the franchise. It has been attempted many times in the past, often alienating fans rather than retaining them. Only once did lightning really strike: Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) became the highest-rated syndicated television program, at the time, and held that honor for the better part of a decade after the series ended. That show, and the creative team behind it, was able to create a Star Trek property that retained fans and brought in new blood and somehow still managed to maintain Star Trek’s soul.

What is Star Trek, though? A lot of fans focus on the framework: the ships, visual effects, aliens and even the history of that universe – down to the most miniscule of minutia. All of that is a part of Star Trek, but not the whole. Star Trek, at its best, deals with social issues, inspires the imagination, provokes emotions and may even persuade one to think about something in a way one never had before. Star Trek has always been character driven. Great changes may have been happening in the universe Star Trek created, but the stories always dealt with how those changes affected the characters. This is what makes up Star Trek’s soul. All of these elements work together. When one is out of balance, the whole thing falls apart.

Most importantly, the majority of the adventures in the seven-hundred-plus hours of Star Trek content were born out of some sort of exploration. That is one of the fundamental elements that the creative team behind the new Star Trek film ignored.

In the film, James Kirk is a young, brash farm-boy who is oozing potential but lacks discipline. Captain Christopher Pike (Kirk’s predecessor as captain of the Enterprise), seeing Kirk’s potential, attempts to convince young Kirk to join Starfleet. As Pike lectures Kirk, he mentions that Starfleet is a “peacekeeping armada.”

Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the true nature of the United Federation of Planets’ Starfleet. While Starfleet vessels are certainly equipped to defend themselves, and keep the peace, Starfleet’s primary goal, as an entity, is exploration. This is repeated time and again in countless episodes and is, in fact, stated, clearly, during the opening sequence of both the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation: “…to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

The second fundamental element ignored in Abrams’, Kurtzman’s and Orci’s film is the nature of Humanity, itself. In the new film, a ten-year-old Kirk’s stepfather catches little Jimmy stealing his vintage Corvette. The manner in which Kirk’s stepfather speaks to the boy -- the vitriol injected into it and the language used -- is inappropriate in the Star Trek universe. Later, in the bar scene that precedes Kirk’s first conversation with Pike, a bar-brawl ensues that turns ultra-violent with Kirk pinned to a table, repeatedly and brutally punched in the face – by a Starfleet Academy cadet, no less.

These moments, in a film touted as Star Trek, are completely inexcusable. By the twenty-third century, in the Star Trek universe, all human conflict (among other afflictions) has been abolished. It is unclear if that means personal squabbles and similar friction still exist, and the realistic achievement of such a concept is questionable, especially given the current state of our society, but it is a clear element of Star Trek. It may be alien to us, but that is something that makes Star Trek so appealing. It shows humanity how good it could be. Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci missed that point.

So-called “reboots” allow movie makers to change and update elements of an original story, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ronald D. Moore and David Eick were able to successfully do so with Battlestar Galactica (2003). Good reboots, though, always maintain the core essence of its predecessor. Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci seem to have ignored Star Trek’s core essence. They might as well have put a gun in Batman’s hand or written James Bond into a committed relationship with Moneypenny. Making those sorts of changes would change the very essence of the final product, and it could no longer be called Batman, or James Bond, or Star Trek.

Another important element in the essence of Star Trek is in the details. The intellectual challenge, the emotional provocation and character development make up the “meat and potatoes” of a good Star Trek “meal.” Clearly, though, a good dessert completes a good meal. Star Trek’s “dessert” is in its mythology and technology. Throughout forty years of stories, quite a bit has been established about the history of the universe and the technology.

Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci tried to “update” the technology in the Star Trek universe, particularly because the production values of the original Star Trek series were considered sub-par because it was filmed over forty years ago. Most of this effort was relatively successful. There were a few irksome points. The size of Abrams’ Enterprise is three times larger than its counterpart of forty years ago and really doesn’t need to be. The visual effects chosen to portray warp speed, seemed to feel more like Star Wars’ hyperspace.

Adding to the irksomeness was the use of stardates. A stardate, in the Star Trek universe, is simply that: the date. During the original series, there was no rhyme or reason to them, other than to sound “futuristic.” Once Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, stardates had a loose structure to them, which carried through its successors. The important thing, though was the stardate was not the actual year in the Gregorian calendar, it was a separate number (although the Gregorian year was used quite often, in tandem). In the newest Star Trek film, when the stardate is mentioned, it is actually the Gregorian year.

None of these minor points doom the film, but they all add up, with everything else, to pull this film further away from the essence of its source.

Other technical flaws involve the timeline of the Star Trek universe, itself. It’s been stated that, early on, Kurtzman and Orci employed time-travel – a ubiquitous plot device in Star Trek – in their story to freely add elements they wanted in the film. In so doing, they created an alternate timeline in which they could do, essentially, whatever they wanted. Given the Trek stories that have been told over the years, rebooting in this fashion might be considered quite apropos, but this misguided team took it one step too far.

These days, multi-media tie-ins are a staple of films. For Star Trek, a four-issue comic mini-series was written. The comics were written by Mike Johnson and Tim Jones, but Kurtzman and Orci wrote the story. Most of the details are inconsequential, but it is supposed to set up the villain’s motivation in the new Star Trek film, as well as explain why an older Spock (reprised by Leonard Nimoy) appears in this alternate universe reboot.

The comic story accomplishes what it set out to achieve, albeit in a ham-handed way. What it also does, though, is fundamentally alter elements of the universe Star Trek fans already know – before any proof has been offered that the people involved in these projects are capable of treating the franchise with the respect it deserves. Main characters are killed, for no reason. Other characters were brought back to life, after being killed in previous stories, with little explanation. The entire Romulan Star Empire, major villains throughout all of Star Trek, and occupants of a rather large swath of real estate in the galaxy, are completely wiped out for the sake of a plot device.

This establishes the motivation for the villain -- pure, unadulterated revenge -- but that motivation is very one-dimensional, unfocused and, frankly, insulting to the audience’s intelligence. As if to pour salt in the wound, this story left the continuation of the Star Trek universe that fans knew and loved in tatters – never to be visited again by film or television.

In spite of everything Kurtzman, Orci and Abrams got wrong, they did get some things right. Kurtzman and Orci took great care to portray the conflict between Spock’s Vulcan half and human half.

Vulcans, once upon a time, were very emotional people. At one point, that society embraced logic and learned to control their emotions. It is necessary, however, for all Vulcans to go through this same process as they grow up. It has been suggested that Spock, being half human, would have had extra difficulty mastering his emotions than other Vulcans.

When we first met him, forty years ago, he had already mastered his emotions. We never saw the process by which he accomplished such a feat. Kurtzman and Orci laid the groundwork for this process (though the speed at which they traveled through the process may leave some wanting), in the new film. It was the actor portaying Spock, Zachary Quinto, who made it work, though. He mastered Spock’s cold, logical side, added that raw, sometimes violent Vulcan emotion -- that has only been hinted at, in the past – and, at the same time, showed the struggle of the two, sometimes in nothing more than a glance.

Another diamond in the rough was Captain Christopher Pike, portrayed by Bruce Greenwood. Pike appeared in the original series, forty years ago, and it was suggested that he and Kirk were relatively close. Spock definitely had a past with Pike: he served with him on the Enterprise for seventeen years before Kirk assumed command (in the original timeline, that is). Pike was written as a father figure for Kirk, recognizing his potential and attempting to nudge him in the right direction.

Kurtzman and Orci missed a great opportunity, though, to use Pike as the catalyst to jumpstart Kirk’s and Spock’s relationship. In the film, there is much friction between the two young officers throughout most of the film. Pike is kidnapped by the villain, midway through the film, and remains on the enemy vessel for much of the rest of the story, where he misses all opportunity to nudge Kirk and Spock together, perhaps realizing their strength as a team, much as he recognized Kirk’s raw potential. This task ultimately fell upon an older Spock, from the original timeline, a move that sacrificed storytelling for novelty.

If this new version of the franchise is going to continue (and if box office receipts are any indication, it will), Abrams and company would be wise to focus on these strengths (and hopefully correct the mistakes they made). It will prove difficult though, as the story safely removes Pike from prominence and puts Kirk in the spotlight. This was its intent, so, next time, it might be wise to focus on the fact that Kirk and Spock work best together and that the rest of their team is ultimately what makes them the best.

It might be best for this creative team to look beyond the original Star Trek for inspiration – not for story ideas, but for tone, maturity and integrity. There are hundreds of hours of what can be considered good Star Trek. We all like dessert, yes, but perhaps Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci can look to other iterations of Star Trek to find more of the meat and potatoes.

The new Star Trek creative team did look to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) for inspiration and it’s, at times, very apparent. They could have drawn upon Khan’s greatest strength for a major piece of their film, though. In Wrath of Khan, a villain from Kirk’s past (and seen in an episode of the series), Khan Noonien Singh, comes back, seeking revenge.

It sounds familiar, but Khan’s need for revenge came from the fact that Kirk marooned Khan and his followers on a planet after his failed attempt to take over the Enterprise. Another planet in that system exploded between the point Khan was marooned there and when we next see him in the film, causing the environment to change on Khan’s new prison. He suffers hardship and loses some of his followers (including his wife). Khan blames Kirk for this and sets out to make Kirk suffer as much as he has.

Khan’s motivation in Khan is simply revenge, but there’s a personal connection between Khan and Kirk that makes it compelling. Kirk did these things to Khan and now Khan wants him to suffer. It’s personal, laser-focused and brutal. In the new Star Trek, the villain, Nero, is simply angry with all of the Federation. There is no personal connection. There is no focus. An attempt is made to make it personal, as Nero also blames older Spock from the original timeline, but there is never any interaction between the two on screen.

It’s clear that Star Trek and time-travel are forever intertwined, and Kurtzman and Orci were quick to jump on this plot device to suit their purposes. While it has been handled poorly, there are also very good examples of how to do it well. In Star Trek: The Next Generation’s season three episode, “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” the USS Enterprise-C travels through time by way of a rift and meets Captain Picard and the Enterprise-D, changing the time line. The Enterprise-C was instrumental in the peace process between the Federation and the Klingons. Since it was pulled through the rift, it never played a role in that process, and a war ensued with the Klingons.

Only Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) knew something was off, and once Picard finally listened to her, both Enterprises were able to put it right. There was a twist, though. The altered timeline also prevented the death of an Enterprise-D crewmember, Tasha Yar (played by Denise Crosby). She ended up on the Enterprise-C when the timelines were corrected, the ramifications of which were dealt with in other stories. Not only does this episode deal with time travel in a creative manner, it also reiterates the Federation’s (and by extension, Star Trek’s) credo: exploration – not war.

Star Trek has also dealt with inner conflict before. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, possibly the most under-appreciated of all the Star Trek iterations, dealt with inner conflict quite often. The best example of this was the sixth season episode “…In the Pale Moonlight.” By this point in the series, the Federation is embroiled in a brutal and bloody war with an enemy called the Dominion (a story arc that could be discussed in essays ad nauseum). At this stage of the war, the Federation is suffering greatly and Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), commander of Deep Space Nine, feels responsible for starting the war that led to all of this bloodshed (he and his crew were the first to meet the Dominion).

In the episode, Sisko realizes that the only way to win the war now is to bring the Romulans into the fight. At the time, though, there was no actual means to do so. He turns to Garak (Andrew J. Robinson), a former secret agent of the Cardassians (who also happen to be part of the Dominion, at this point), to try to find evidence that the Dominion will betray the Romulans. After none can be found, Garak suggests that they manufacture the evidence and Sisko has to balance his Starfleet morals against his desire to cease the bloodshed. He follows a dark path but comes out the other side, ultimately believing that saving lives is worth sacrificing his self-respect.

All of these are examples of how elements in the new Star Trek film have been executed well, in the past, maintaining the essence of Star Trek. Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci missed the mark. Maybe not by as much as first thought, but they missed it by enough to be extremely noticeable. The whole film plays out like two people talking about Star Trek who haven't seen any of it for years. It's close, but they get some things wrong because they don't remember or never saw it.

Too much focus was put on action and explosions and empty pandering and not enough on the emotion or the challenges to one's way of thinking or interaction between the characters. Star Trek isn't any of these things exclusively; it's a combination of all of them. It just seems like those involved in this film do not understand that. They want to give us dessert, but we need the meat and potatoes, too.

With a producer/director who seems to have ignored fundamental elements of the franchise, in one hand, and a pair of writers who have, together, now proven that they do not understand the franchises for which they write, in the other hand, all fans are left with are two handfuls of mistreated American pop-culture. Star Trek deserves better.

I think they should have just let my friend rest in peace.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Watch this space. Good things will happen.

Friday, July 18, 2008

More on Euclid Avenue

I owe you an apology. I left out a whole slew of photos from yesterday's article.

This is looking east down Euclid Avenue:

This is looking west:

These are some of the decorations along the corridor:

And, I left out another project:

668 Euclid Avenue

This building has been in this state for quite some time. Developer Doug Price is going to re-habilitate it. It will become -- you guessed it -- retail and apartments.

Okay, now your stroll down Euclid is complete.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Stroll Down Euclid Avenue

Remember when I wrote about the Flats? Check out this little comparison:

Before (taken Sunday):

After (conceptual sketch):

That's going to be pretty sweet.

Progress is being made down in the Flats. Or, rather, demolition. I'll save that for a seperate article, though. Today, you get something new.

The Euclid Corridor!

The Euclid Corridor referrs to Euclid Avenue, stretching from Public Square in Downtown Cleveland to the East Cleveland border at a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) train station (Windermere). Construction has been underway for a couple years, now, to turn that long stretch of Euclid Avenue into a transit path with dedicated bus lanes. The idea is to link Downtown with University Circle, where the Cleveland Clinic, University Hopsital, Case Western Reserve University and a boat-load of museums reside. It's intent is to also rejuvenate retail and residential development along it's path; which it's starting to do.

The construction is almost done. The ribbon-cutting is set for late October. The new buses have been shown around town and everybody's excited about that (they're hybrid buses, with two sections; I believe I heard the term "articulated rapid transit vehicle" at one point). The bus-lanes have state-of-the-art platforms and shelters that look like this (click for a bigger version):

I wanted to show you some of the development that's sprouting up, already, because of the corridor.

Josh Hartness Brown Building

This site is just west of E. 9th Street. I don't know a lot about it, yet, but it was covered up in the sixties with brown aluminum paneling, which has now been removed. Underneath was a beautiful building.

If you click and look at the larger image, you can see what I'm talking about (sort of -- I should've taken a close-up). They bolted this aluminum crap right into the original face of the building, and it's been severely damaged in some places (other spots fared pretty well).

Anyway, it will see new life as apartments or condos and ground-level retail. Like I said, I need to learn more about it (this is realtively new -- at least to me).

Cleveland Trust

This building has really started to grow on me. Designed by Marcel Breuer, it was completed in 1971. Breuer's style of architecture became known as brutalism (not because of what you might think). Once Cleveland Trust was swallowed up in bank mergers, the building sat vacant for years.

It was supposed to be deomolished to make way for a new County office building, but it's been saved and is now going to become a hotel (the first twelve floors) and apartments (the top). The rotunda in front (which is beautiful) will also be renovated. This article was just posted recently, that can tell you more.

At first, I thought it was an eyesore. It's dirty as hell, but of course it would be cleaned. I think it doesn't really fit with the rest of the skyline, but we'll see once it's been renovated. Regardless of how it looks on the outside, the upper-floor apartments are going to have a hell of a view.

Random Retail on Ground floor of Garage

These suites have been vacant for at least two years, which is right about when the Corridor construction started. They're roughly across the street from House of Blues (you can see the E. 6th street sign in the picture). I'm hoping they fill up pretty quickly, once Euclid is done. If you're a shop owner, look into it.

The May Company Building

This was the headquarters of May Company, which became Kaufmanns, which was bought by Macy's a couple years ago. This building was pretty awesome even when I was a kid in the eighties. It, and the Higbee building (built into the Terminal Tower complex) had pretty good Christmas displays, and there was always a guy playing his saxaphone under the awning (his descendant now plays the Kit-Kat theme around Jacob's Field-- I'm sorry Progressive Field). I think there's some activity in there now, but news on the street is that it's slated for mixed use development.

Plans aren't too coherent, yet, but a resturant called Cadillac Ranch is going in on the ground floor.

That's all I've got, for today. I'll leave you with this photo, just because:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Let's Get Dangerous

I was all set to go on another rant about politics (this time, about war powers), but a quick few minutes to brush up on the constitution took most of the wind out of my sails. Still, though, this seemed weird to me.

Former secretaries of state James Baker III and Warren Christopher say the next time the president goes to war, Congress should be required to say whether it agrees.

Isn't that already the case? Isn't Congress supposed to vote on whether our country goes to war, or not?

The co-chairmen of a bipartisan study group have proposed legislation that would require the president to consult lawmakers before initiating combat lasting longer than a week, exceptin cases of emergencies.

In turn, Congress would have to act within 30 days, either approving or disapproving of the action.

Am I crazy? I was sure this was already well established. You know, like, 221 years ago.


In lighter news (well, not news), I know all of you have been losing sleep over where I could've possilby derived "Let's. Get. Political." Those of you who were considered kids in the early to mid-nineties should be ashamed of yourselves for not knowing (or at least not saying).

It's Darkwing Duck.

I loved Darkwing Duck when I was a kid. I used to watch it every day after school. His catch phrase was "Let's get dangerous."

So, none of you win.

(There wasn't a prize, anyway. ;) )

Monday, July 07, 2008


Click to appreciate it's full glory.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tube-Socks Full of Wood Screws

I've watched a bit of TV in my day, and with that comes commercial watching. Most commercials make me want to claw my eyes out, or are just not noticeable. Sometimes, though, there are well-crafted, funny (because commercials have to be funny. It's a rule), commercials. Once commercials become serialized, it gets even better. This time, I'm specifically talking about the Alltel commercials.

I don't like Alltel. I do like their marketing consultants though. They done good. The Chad vs. The Other Nerds campaign is one of my favorite commerical series these days. When it first started, the Sprint Kid (yellow shirt, in the back of that promotional photo) was the funniest (and the quietest -- it's always the quiet ones). Well, turns out, the Sprint Kid went to High School with me.

His name is Mike Busch. He is one year older. I never knew him in high school, but when this was brought to my attention, I looked him up. He's in there.

He won me over when he threatened to beat Chad with a tube-sock full of wood screws. Not wooden screws. Wood screws. Those things are very pointy and made of metal. The thought of this relatively harmless kid threatening that extreme level of violence on someone over a cell phone is comedic genius... then, as if that weren't enough, when his nerd-buddies look at him in shock, he tires to justify it by saying his dad's a carpenter. Awesome.

Well, I'm not sure what happened after that. Maybe the wood-screws line was ad-libbed and someone at Alltel didn't like that. Maybe Mike's moving on to bigger and better things, but he's not the Sprint guy anymore. Now they've got some afro-totin' stoner fuck who doesn't have the same delivery that Mike had. It's depressing.

Since he dissappeared, I've been trying to find Mr. Busch on IMDB or Turns out, I was spelling his name incorrectly (I thought it was Bush). My theory was that since he was no longer in the Alltel commercials, he was moving up the ladder and the next rung was either being the dead body or finding the dead body on Law & Order or CSI. Well, I was close.

He was a ghost on Ghost Whisperer.

So, maybe he is moving up in the world. I still expect to see him in something when the fall season starts up. He's already done a little bit, which I have not seen yet. See his resume here.

Mike, you made Alltel bearable. I'm sorry to see you leave that series. You would've made the wizard commercials even better.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Through the Oily Mess, a Little Clarity Comes.

Okay, kiddies, here we go.

Read this and this.

Done? Okay.

Let's. Get. Political.
(First to tell me what that sentence is a parody of gets a prize.)

I used to like John McCain. I don't know if I would've ever voted for him for president, but I didn't have a problem with him. That all changed in May of 2005. He was the commencement speaker at the University of Oklahoma, that year, and I had the "honor" of seeing him speak (the reason why I was there will remain a mystery).

Since that day, I've been trying to find a transcript or a video of his speech. I have yet to find it. You could say that it's a right-wing conspiracy to cover up what he said that day, or you could say I suck at Internet searches. Personally, I believe both. To paraphrase what he said though, "It's great that you've achieved all these accomplishments, but there's a war on, so they don't really mean anything."

It wasn't just cynical old me who was dumbfounded by that. I looked around as he was giving his speech and most people had a look on their faces as if to say, "Uh... what, now?" Commencement speeches are supposed to be inspiring, not defeating and, oh yeah, politically charged.

So, okay. I don't like McCain. Now he's running for president again, and I'll admit that I'm biased, but a lot of the things he says are pretty ridiculous. Not Bush-grade ridiculous, but pretty close. Today, his big point was about offshore drilling.

If you read the article above, you know that off-shore drilling is exactly what it sounds like. Drilling for oil, off the shores of the United States. Most reasonable people think that's a bad idea. A leak could occur, and cause a spill, and ruin the environment.

This is why McCain's willing to risk it (and, one should note, flip-flop on his stance from eight years ago): "And with gasoline running at more than $4 a barrel ... a gallon ... I wish ... $4 a gallon, many do not have the luxury of waiting on the far-off plans of futurists and politicians."

Far-off plans, Mr. McCain? Did you read the second article I posted? Honda announced yesterday, before McCain's comments, today, that they are test marketing the hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity in California. The article says they will roll out a "few dozen" units, this year, and 200 more over the next three.

Right now, only rich people can afford them (Jamie Lee Curtis is getting one), but if they test well and become popular (Toyota Prius, anyone?), Honda will be able to improve on the technology and make it more affordable to us common folk.

Other companies are developing hydrogen-powered cars, too. GM is further behind, but chugging along on their hydrogen car. I don't have other information right now, but the point is: it's coming.

And, it's clean. Conventional cars emit carbon monoxide and other nasty gasses. Hydrogen fuel-cell cars emit water. Steam. It'd be as if a teapot was glued to the back of your car. Actually, I don't think it's even that dramatic (maybe in the winter). IT'S CLEAN.

So, my point is this: instead of pouring money into something that's potentially hazardous, and really only delays the inevitable, why don't we just suck it up for a few years until hydrogen fuel-cells are affordable and start to become ubiquitous? Pour all that money that would go into off-shore drilling into making sure that American companies can catch up to foreign companies and get this technology rolling (bad pun, sorry). To me, it makes total sense.

I know oil companies are big, and persuasive, but so are automotive companies. Maybe they're all in cahoots. I don't know. I'm still pretty sure that all of the ideas for this kind of stuff existed 60 years ago and the oil companies have been sitting on it until the time was right where they could maximize their profits from it (and from oil). I don't know.

What I do know is that I'm willing so suck it up for a few years until I can afford a hydrogen fuel-cell car. I'm sure if you asked a lot of other people, they'd say the same thing.

Except oil execs.

And John McCain.

(I didn't go into Obama's counter-idea because I don't understand it, very well, right now -- not that ignorance has deterred me in the past, but gimme a break, okay? :))

Monday, June 16, 2008

Concernity: The Aftermath

I got a response back from Discernity. It's nice, and polite. If my service outtage, and all the problems that came with trying to get it fixed, had dragged on longer, it wouldn't be enough, but for now, I am appeased.

Here's the response:


My name is Karen Christenson. I apologize
for the lack of follow through that you received from us here at Discernity. You are absolutely correct in feeling dissatisfied and I will work diligently to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

It was I who left you a message on Monday letting you know that we wouldn’t be able to correct your TV issue until Tuesday. Due to an unexpected turn of events, we have had to employ a new team of technicians to service the Cleveland area. They are doing their absolute best in catching up on service issues left unattended but that does not excuse the fact that they didn’t leave you a door hanger or a copy of the work order to let you know they were

I know you understand when using a new staff, it takes a little bit of time to make sure that policies are being followed accordingly. I appreciate your letter and I will contact the parties to rectify the issues you brought to our attention.

Because of customers like you, it allows us to see where we need to make improvements.

Should you have any other issues or concerns, please feel free to contact

All My Best,

Karen Christenson

Well, played, Ms. Christenson. Well played.

Further, my letter was copied to the owner of my building (and two others in Cleveland), and Warehouse District Cable credited my account. So, I'm claiming victory on this one.

That's all I've got for today. Two posts in three days. Consider yourself lucky. :)