Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Can't Put My Finger On It

Not sure exactly what it is but I jes' luvs me some CSI:NY. I like the vanilla Vegas CSI too but I like this one even better. It could be that NY does great engaging character interaction even better than the original does.

It's also still got a bit more... something significant about it. I really liked how in the first season the mood was downright Gothic (makes sense, being set in Gotham, and all). It happened in the basement, everything was washed out and blue, the crimes were more brutal than ever. Of the three shows this one established itself as the horror-tinted procedural crime drama. Apparently it didn't sell well enough, so several noticeable measures were taken to "lighten up" the show. Brighter colors, more humor, a new penthouse crime-lab for the crew... meh.

But still, the one thing they couldn't "spruce up" were the gritty and dynamic characters. I think I fall for these folks so well because they clearly care so much about each other. In that bleak and morbid world they inhabit the only thing that keeps them living is their undying loyalty to their friends and their unflinching dedication to doing their noble work.

I'm a character guy. Plot's fine and dandy but honestly I can do without it if the characters of a story are complex and engrossing. And this show just plain has the best characters and relationships of aLmost any I've seen. Take Danny Messer and Don Flack for example. These guys are card-board-cutout New Yawk tough cliches transformed into living breathing people like old Geppetto must be their dad.

Anyway... it's good. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chuck E. Cheese That Was

My boss had his daughter's second birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's last weekend. I was pretty excited because it would be my daughter's first birthday party, and also it was Chuck E. Cheese's. When I was much younger, I had a lot of birthday's at Chuck E. Cheese and other similar places. Those were the good days of pizza and plenty of unrated video games. So, I guess I was expecting a bit of nostalgia instead of the experience I got.

First, is the kid check in. Now this is by no means a bad thing, and is pretty appreciated now that I am a parent. When you drag your kid in, there is a check-in/check-out booth that stamps you and your kid with black-light ink. The stamp is a number, so if you want to take a kid out of the place, your numbers have to match.

The second thing amiss was the lack of the animatronic band. That was great. You had a whole swath of characters in the Chuck E. Cheese band constantly playing their tunes and telling jokes. Now there was one animatronic Chuck E. Cheese by himself. They did replace the rest with a sort of green-screen dance floor where kids could go dance with a dressed-up Chuck E. and see themselves on a video screen with a digital background. The only problem was that unlike the automated animatronic band that could be a constant (yet repetitive) entertainment, the entertainment for this area was only active when the hosts were present.

The video games were also different. I remember days of Ghosts'n'Goblins sitting next to Rampart and shooting games galore. This Chuck E. Cheese definitely had nothing but G-rated games. Some were fun, such as OutRun SP on a gigantic flat screen, but most of it was definitely lacking. Most of the video games were not replaced by quick-thrill ticket games, such as punch-the-rubber-ducky-in-the-head-by-pressing-a-button game. The most disappointing change to the games was skeeball. Instead of the nice long lanes and wooden balls, the lanes were very short and the balls were a cheap plastic.

The nail in the coffin was just how cookie-cutter the service had become. It was apparent that our birthday time coencided with 2 other birthdays, so that they would only have to do the show once. But, even worse than that was how quickly the whole operation was. Get there at 2:00, pizza at 2:30, Chuck E. at 3:00, clear your table by 3:30. So, if you wanted to stay and play, you had to pack everything up to the cars because now you didn't have a table.

It was a sad day to see such a great childhood memory become so sanitized. I guess that is the way of things with child-snatchers, parent groups suing against violent video games, and the rising cost of teenager help (heh). I don't think I will be taking my daughter there on her birthdays.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I... Live... AGAIN!

So yeah, the Evil Dead trilogy is pretty awesome. Main reason? The man, the myth, the legend... Bruce Campbell. "King of the B-Movie" he calls himself. Hail to the king. See, I just saw Bubba Ho-Tep and Mr. Campbell turns in a masterful performance as Elvis Presley, atrophying in a Texas retirement home decades after his faked death, struggling against an evil undead creature, and also with his own long life of waste and regret.

See... taking things too seriously is usually a cop-out. Sometimes when we're placed face to face with a profound truth that should shake us to the very core of our being, we'll realize that we can't deny it and that it deserves to not be denied. So we stop. We take a moment (perhaps a moment of silence). We freeze up and get tunnel vision and take a very serious look at this thing that commands every iota of our puny human humility. It's hard, it's touching, it's solemn, and it's over soon.

Well now I'm thinking that that's not really doing these sublime awe-inspiring truths much justice. All too often we treat the really important stuff like a charging Tyrannosaurus Rex: hold still enough and it can't see you, can't get you, can't sink it's claws into you and rend you absolutely apart. Of course it's natural to be afraid of death and by extension be afraid by the realization of death. We'd rather give the idea a nice formal acknowledgment of appeasement and then send it on its way.

That may or may not be a better route than ignoring it outright- just pretending it doesn't exist; I don't know. But, I'm thinking there's an altogether better route than either of those. Make buddies with the T-Rex.

When we solemnly bow our heads in the face of real mortal issues and their psyche-shattering consequences (have I wasted my life? have I missed countless opportunities for meaning and happiness?) we're still keeping them at a distance. We're acknowledging them but we're not becoming intimate with them. We're keeping them distant like our intimidating superior in the workplace when we should really be treating them like our friend. Sure your boss can enforce rules on you, but your friend can change who you are as a person. Your boss rides your ass; your friend touches your heart.

What are your best times with your friends? When you're having fun, right? So why not have some fun with your friend, mortality (or any other really-big-issues). Because then you know it'll really GET to you. It'll really become a part of you and your consciousness. Of course that's terrifying because you don't know what it'll do to you. You suspect that despair is the only possible outcome but the truth is... you don't know, just like you don't know if that girl pouring your coffee at Denny's is a mean psycho bitch or the person who could bring to you lifelong contentment.

Well luckily we have folks like Bruce to remind us that the silly stuff isn't worthless and the serious can't be dismissed. In life they come together all the time, riding the same signal, just varying in amplitude from time to time. So embrace them both because life's better when you have friends.