Thursday, May 31, 2007

Brief Movie Recommendation: Waitress (full review forthcoming)

There hasn't been a lot out at the theater lately, but I was bored a few days ago and did go see the limited release sleeper hit Waitress.

Waitress stars the surprisingly talented Keri Russell, the always impressive Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Serenity, Drive), Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto (from the short-lived TV show Kidnapped), Eddie Jemsion (Ocean's 11/12/13), and the legendary and frighteningly shaky-handed Andy Griffith.

A full review is forthcoming in the next day or two, but since this movie is in limited release (it's only at one theater in the Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, NC area), I thought I'd just give a very brief and definitive recommendation before it goes away...

Thumbs up. Four out of five stars. A-. Just a few flaws; otherwise, witty with a lot of charm and a decent amount of laughs.

More about it later...

The 22 Worst Place Names in the World

On The Cooper Lawrence Show (one of my favorite syndicated radio shows out of Charlotte's 107.9 The Link), Cooper just read the list of 22 Worst Place Names in the World. They're the worst place names because some of them are derived from cuss words or vulgar biological terms. Of course, Cooper had to censor certain words out of the list, and her producer Anthony Michaels was nervous about a potential FCC violation and had his hand poised over the "dump button" (censor button) the whole time.

It was a somewhat funny list. Making #5 on the list is North Carolina's own Horneytown, which just happens to be about 10 miles from where I live. It's at the far southeast corner of Forsyth County near both Guilford and Davidson Counties. What the list doesn't mention is that Horneytown is just 25 miles from Climax, NC, which is near the southeast corner of Guilford County.

Some of the names are also a little too "colorful" for me to re-list here, so I'll just provide the link that I found for it. Just in case anyone's curious, here it is...

The 22 Worst Place Names in the World

Fall TV Line-Up: ABC

Personal Interest Rating System
[5] = Established Favorite (will definitely watch)
[4] = Established Honorable Mention (will definitely watch)
[3] = New Show, High Curiosity (will definitely try)
[2] = New Show, Moderate Curiosity (will possibly try)
[1] = Low Interest or Need More Info (might watch if bored)
[0] = Zero Interest or Curiosity (no chance)

Shows in ALL CAPS are new shows in 2007-2008 season.

08:00 PM [0] Dancing with the Stars
09:30 PM [1] SAM I AM
10:00 PM [0] The Bachelor

08:00 PM [0] CAVEMAN
09:00 PM [0] Dancing with the Stars the Results Show
10:00 PM [5] Boston Legal


08:00 PM [4] Ugly Betty
09:00 PM [4] Grey’s Anatomy
10:00 PM [1] BIG SHOTS

08:00 PM [5] Men In Trees
10:00 PM [0] 20/20

08:00 PM [0] Saturday Night College Football

07:00 PM [0] America’s Funniest Home Videos
08:00 PM [0] Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
09:00 PM [0] Desperate Housewives
10:00 PM [4] Brothers & Sisters

CASHMERE MAFIA [1], Notes from the Underbelly [0] and October Road [0] will premiere after Dancing with the Stars [0] and The Bachelor [0] conclude their fall seasons.

New Shows

  • Sam I Am: Comedy starring Christina Applegate about a woman who has amnesia

  • Cavemen: TV show spinoff of the cavemen from the Geiko commercials

  • Carpoolers: Four office workers talk about life in the carpool lane

  • Pushing Daisies: A guy can bring people back to life for one minute by touching them

  • Private Practice: Spin-off of Grey's Anatomy about an L.A. wellness center

  • Dirty Sexy Money: (not sure)

  • Big Shots: Drama about four rich, male corporate CEOs dealing with life problems.

  • Women's Murder Club: A lawyer, detective, medical examiner, and reporter work together to solve murders

  • Cashmere Mafia: Four ambitious women balance work and life (starring Lucy Lui)

Fall TV Line-Up: NBC

Personal Interest Rating System
[5] = Established Favorite (will definitely watch)
[4] = Established Honorable Mention (will definitely watch)
[3] = New Show, High Curiosity (will definitely try)
[2] = New Show, Moderate Curiosity (will possibly try)
[1] = Low Interest or Need More Info (might watch if bored)
[0] = Zero Interest or Curiosity (no chance)

Shows in ALL CAPS are new shows in 2007-2008 season.

08:00 PM [0] Deal or No Deal
09:00 PM [5] Heroes

08:00 PM [0] The Biggest Loser
09:00 PM [2] CHUCK
10:00 PM [0] Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

08:00 PM [0] Deal or No Deal
10:00 PM [1] LIFE

08:00 PM [0] My Name Is Earl
08:30 PM [0] 30 Rock
09:00 PM [0] The Office
09:30 PM [5] Scrubs
10:00 PM [0] ER

08:00 PM [0] 1 vs 100/THE SINGING BEE
09:00 PM [0] Las Vegas
10:00 PM [0] Friday Night Lights

08:00 PM [0] Dateline NBC
09:00 PM [0] Drama Series Encores

SUNDAY (Fall 2007)
07:00 PM [0] Football Night in America
08:00 PM [0] NBC Sunday Night Football

SUNDAY (January 2008)
07:00 PM [0] Dateline NBC
08:00 PM [0] Law & Order
09:00 PM [0] Medium

New Shows

  • Journeyman: Involves a guy who can time travel

  • Chuck: A computer nerd accidentally downloads all the government's secrets into his head

  • Bionic Woman: Remake of the classic Bionic Woman series

  • Life: A cop returns to service after being in prison for several years himself (I think)

  • Lipstick Jungle: Drama about three powerful NYC females, starring Brooke Shields

Fall TV Line-Up: Fox

Personal Interest Rating System
[5] = Established Favorite (will definitely watch)
[4] = Established Honorable Mention (will definitely watch)
[3] = New Show, High Curiosity (will definitely try)
[2] = New Show, Moderate Curiosity (will possibly try)
[1] = Low Interest or Need More Info (might watch if bored)
[0] = Zero Interest or Curiosity (no chance)

Shows in ALL CAPS are new shows in 2007-2008 season.

08:00 PM [5] Prison Break
09:00 PM [1] K-VILLE

09:00 PM [5] House

08:00 PM [0] BACK TO YOU
08:30 PM [0] 'Til Death
09:00 PM [0] Bones

08:00 PM [0] Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

09:00 PM [0] NASHVILLE (working title)

08:00 PM [0] Cops
08:30 PM [0] Cops
09:00 PM [0] America's Most Wanted
11:00 PM [0] MADtv

07:00 PM [0] The OT (NFL post-game)
08:00 PM [0] The Simpsons
08:30 PM [0] King of the Hill
09:00 PM [0] Family Guy
09:30 PM [0] American Dad

New Shows

  • K-Ville: Cop show starring Anthony Anderson

  • New Amsterdam: Drama about a long-lived guy with "eternal" life

  • Back to You: Sitcom about newscasters starring Kelsey Grammar & Patricia Heaton

  • Kitchen Nightmares: (not sure)

  • Search...Band: (not sure)

  • Nashville: (not sure)

Fall TV Line-Up: CBS

Personal Interest Rating System
[5] = Established Favorite (will definitely watch)
[4] = Established Honorable Mention (will definitely watch)
[3] = New Show, High Curiosity (will definitely try)
[2] = New Show, Moderate Curiosity (will possibly try)
[1] = Low Interest or Need More Info (might watch if bored)
[0] = Zero Interest or Curiosity (no chance)

Shows in ALL CAPS are new shows in 2007-2008 season.

08:00 PM [0] How I Met Your Mother
09:00 PM [0] Two and a Half Men
09:30 PM [0] Rules of Engagement
10:00 PM [0] CSI: Miama

08:00 PM [0] NCIS
09:00 PM [0] The Unit
10:00 PM [1] CANE

08:00 PM [3] ***** KID NATION *****
09:00 PM [0] Criminal Minds
10:00 PM [0] CSI: NY

08:00 PM [4] Survivor
09:00 PM [0] CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
10:00 PM [0] Without a Trace

08:00 PM [0] Ghost Whisperer
09:00 PM [2] MOONLIGHT
10:00 PM [0] Numb3rs

08:00 PM [0] Crimetime Saturday
09:00 PM [0] Crimetime Saturday
10:00 PM [0] 48 Hours: Mystery

07:00 PM [0] 60 Minutes
09:00 PM [0] Cold Case
10:00 PM [0] Shark

Slated to return midseason: “The Amazing Race” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” along with the New Drama “SWINGTOWN”

New Shows

  • The Big Bank Theory: sitcom (not sure about content)

  • Cane: Jimmy Smits and Hector Elizondo star as members of a Cuban-American mob family

  • *** Kid Nation: Reality show about 40 kids and teenagers who are challenged to establish an adult-free society in an old, abandoned Western ghost town (Brilliant!!!)

  • Moonlight: Romantic drama involving vampires

  • Viva Laughlin: Las Vegas based show starring Hugh Jackman

  • Jericho: New show *last year* that should be returning but was canceled (and I'm pretty bitter about it)

Fall TV Line-Up: The CW

Personal Interest Rating System
[5] = Established Favorite (will definitely watch)
[4] = Established Honorable Mention (will definitely watch)
[3] = New Show, High Curiosity (will definitely try)
[2] = New Show, Moderate Curiosity (will possibly try)
[1] = Low Interest or Need More Info (might watch if bored)
[0] = Zero Interest or Curiosity (no chance)

Shows in ALL CAPS are new shows in 2007-2008 season.

08:00 PM [0] Eeverybody Hates Chris
09:00 PM [0] Girlfriends
09:30 PM [0] The Game

08:00 PM [4] Beauty and the Geek
09:00 PM [1] REAPER

08:00 PM [0] America's Next Top Model
09:00 PM [1] GOSSIP GIRL

08:00 PM [0] Smallville
09:00 PM [0] Supernatural

08:00 PM [0] Friday Night Smackdown

07:00 PM [0] CW NOW
08:00 PM [1] LIFE IS WILD
09:00 PM [0] America's Next Top Model (Encore Presentation)

One Tree Hill [0] and Pussycat Dolls [0] will return midseason.

New Shows

  • Aliens in America: Comedy/drama about a family who is shocked when a exchange student they are hosting turns out to be Muslim

  • Reaper: Fantasy/action ripoff of Brimstone about a guy who tries to return escaped souls back to hell

  • Gossip Girl: Soap opera by The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz about socialites at an NYC high school

  • CW Now: (not sure)

  • Online Nation: (not sure)

  • Life is Wild: An American family moves to South Africa.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Season Finale Reviews: Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs

Ugly Betty [s1 ep23]: "East Side Story"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In Brief: What's Good

  • Excellent performances all around.

  • In general, a lot of twists and turns. For a comedy/drama/soap opera, there is plenty of suspense and intrigue.

  • I'm not positive, but I think Ana Ortiz, who normally plays Betty's "fashionable" sister Hilda, was made to look very different for a bit part as a nerdy dental hygentist (or maybe just an office assistant) at Betty's orthodontist's office. This is reminiscent of Becki Newton, who plays the witchy receptionist Amanda, one time appearing--under heavy disguise--as a geeky office assistant in a previous episode.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • Daniel's on-and-off-again relationship with his brother/sister Alex/Alexis is getting a little old, as is his growing dependency on sex, alcohol, and pills.

  • The "romance" between Bradford and Wilhelmina is just creepy.

  • The episode does not address the possibility that Ignacio's life may be in danger because the family of the man he accidentally killed long ago knows he's back in Mexico while waiting to complete his visa back into the U.S. This subplot was hinted at in the previous episode, but in the finale, Ignacio only appears in a brief phone conversation with Betty.

8 Story
8 Performances
7 Drama/Intensity
8 Suspense/Cliffhanging
6 Nostalgia/Coolness
Plot Points

  • Betty is back from Mexico and decides to pursue Henry, even if she must compete against Henry's current girlfriend Charlie.

  • Bradford asks Wilhelmina to marry him.

  • Alex/Alexis has hired someone to kill his/her father.

  • Claire is included in on plans for four women to escape, in transit, from a prison van.

  • Betty confesses her feelings to Henry. He says he broke up with Charlie, so they are free to go out on their first date.

  • Hilda is planning her wedding to Santos.

  • Alex/Alexis embarrasses Daniel in the press by calling him on his lie about saving a girl scout form drowning in the lake.

  • Wilhelmina is competing with Fabia (Gina Gershon) for a wedding location. The only way to get it is to give her assistant Marc to Fabia.

  • Charlie tells Betty and Henry that she's pregnaant. Henry goes to make plans with Charlie instead of having his first date with Betty.

  • Justin is the understudy for the part of Tony in West Side Story at his school. When he gives the primary actor a sandwich that has walnuts in it, he gets sick, forcing the role to fall to Justin.

  • Christina finds out about Fey's "love dungeon," and she and Amanda get locked in. While stuck inside, they get drunk and find a safe. They crack the safe and find documentation inside showing that Fey Summers is actually Amanda's biological mother. If there's any chance that Bradford could be Amanda's father (since Bradford and Fey had an affair long ago), then that means Daniel and Amanda--who have dated and had sex multiple times--could be half-siblings.

  • Fabia mistreats Marc. Wilhelmina remembers the good times having him as an assistant and gives up on the wedding location to get Marc back.

  • Daniel tells Alexis that he's quitting his job instead of continuing to compete with him/her. Daniels's high from pills and alcohol. Alexis takes Daniel in their father's car to get medical help. The brake lines have been cut (as a result of Alexis plotting to kill her father), and the car crashes with both of them unconscious.

  • Betty finds out that her orthodontist and Charlie have been dating, so Charlie is using her pregnancy with another man as a way of holding onto Henry.

  • On his way to see his son in West Side Story, Santos stops at a convenience store to get Justin teeth whitening strips as a gift. He has walked in on a robbery, and the robber holds Santos at gunpoint.

  • Claire and a fellow inmate she's chained to are able to escape from the prison van.

  • Santos is shot in the store robbery.

  • Receiving the news about Santos at home, Betty is interrupted from her plans to track down Henry.

  • The episode ends with Betty going to Justin's school to tell Hilda about Santos being killed.

Grey's Anatomy [s1 ep25]: "Didn't We Almost Have It All?"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In Brief: What's Good

  • Intercut throughout the episodes are scenes of Chief Webber having meetings with attendings to tell them whether he's chosen them to replace him as chief of surgery.

  • Nice scene between George and Dr. Bailey when they talk about George failing his intern exam.

  • I am *sooo* glad that Burke and Yang did not get married. That relationship has seemed doomed from the beginning.

  • I'm glad that the Chief Webber character is not leaving the show, even though he was trying to retire.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • Neither the marriage between George and Callie nor the restrained attration between George and Izzie are particularly believable or enjoyable to watch. So, when Callie says she wants to a have a baby with George, it comes off as forced and far too sudden for that character to be thinking about such things. Izzie's confession to George also comes off as forced.

  • A scene of Yang freaking out near the end of the episode seems a bit over-acted.

  • I was hoping that Dr. Bailey would get the Chief of Surgery position. That may be unrealistic, since she's apparently a resident instead of an attending, but she's also very capable and the most emotionally grounded. I thought she deserved it the most and that it would be ironic if she got since she everyone else was fighting so hard for it and all she wanted was Chief Resident. Things didn't work out my way.

7 Story
7 Performances
6 Drama/Intensity
6 Suspense/Cliffhanging
6 Nostalgia/Coolness
Plot Points

  • Burke and Yang are getting married in 24 hours, and Christina still seems more concerned with being a surgeon. Burke is needed for surgery, but he's confident he'll be on time for the wedding. Bailey sends Yang home to prepare for the wedding.

  • Chief Webber's estranged wife has collapsed in the hospital with complications from her pregancy. Webber stands by her side.

  • Several of the doctors are trying to determine what happened among four mountain climbers that led to one of them having an ice axe embedded in the back of his head.

  • Jeff Pope, the husband of Rebecca Pope, shows up to re-unite with his wife who has been missing and has had amnesia and facial reconstruction.

  • Derek throws in Meredith's face that he met a woman at the bar last night and that he enjoyed flirting with her.

  • Callie tells George that she wants to have a baby with him.

  • In surgery on ice-axe-in-the-head guy, Derek determines that the axe did not go in by accident. The climbers are lying about what happened.

  • For practice, Burke recites his wedding vows, from memory, in the operating room, and all the women in the room are thoroughly impressed by his words.

  • Karev confronts Jeff Pope about why he didn't look for his wife sooner. He says they had a fight before she left, and Jeff thought she didn't want to be with him any more.

  • Burke's mother has had Yang's eyebrows ?waxed? off.

  • When Derek confronts the climbers, they're forced to reveal the truth to the cops.

  • Yang *begs* Bailey to let her operate on someone so she can feel like herself again.

  • Webber's wife Adele has complications from pregnancy at 52, and the baby is lost. Adele tells Webber that the baby was actually his.

  • Izzie confesses to George that she's in love with him.

  • All the interns are given their final medical exam scores. They all claim to have passed.

  • Rebecca Pope has been discharged from the hospital. She tells Karev how good a man her husband Jeff is, but she also says she wants Karev to give her a reason to stay. Karev says he thinks she "should stay with the decent guy."

  • Derek discusses his and Meredith's relationship with Meredith and then with Burke.

  • Addison tells Karev that she can tell he wants Rebecca (a.k.a. Eva) and that he should fight for her.

  • Dr. Bailey finds out that Callie got the Chief Resident position.
  • George and Dr. Bailey didn't go to the wedding. They're both depressed. George has failed his intern exam. Bailey says he can walk away or do the internship all over again. Bailey asks, almost tearfully, "Did I... Did I fail you, George?" He replies, "No, I failed you." She puts her hand on his arm as if to say, "No, you didn't."

  • Karev leaves the wedding early to see if he can stop Rebecca before she leaves.

  • Callie tells Izzie that she and George are going to try for a baby; she kind of rubs it in Izzie's face.

  • Yang had written her vows on her hands but realizes they've been washed off. She panics which delays the wedding long enough to make Burke question whether Yang is ready.

  • Meredith talks Yang into being ready even without the vows written down.

  • Burke goes to the doors at the back of the church to check on Yang. Once he's back there, Yang says she had a snag but that she's ready. But, in a sudden switch, Burke is the one that says he can't get married. He doesn't believe Yang wants to get married. Meredith walks down the aisle, gives Derek a weird look, and says, "It's over. You can all go home. It's over," and then under her breath, as if talking to Derek or at least about her and Derek, "So over."

  • Karev is too late to catch up to Derek.

  • Meredith goes to Burke's apartment where Yang is noticing that certain prized possessions of Burke's are gone. Yang thinks Burke is gone despite how much other stuff he let behind. Then Yang says, "He's gone. I'm free. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Get this off. Get this off. Get this off." And, then Meredith takes off the choker necklace that Burke's mother gave her and gets scissors to cut Yang out of her dress as Yang cries and gasps for air.

  • Izzie and Callie are both still at the empty church waiting for George.

  • As George cleans out his locker. The next year's new interns come in. One new intern introduces herself to George. Her name is Lexie Grey (played by Chyler Leigh). I'm assuming that Lexie Grey is Meredith Grey's half sister (who doesn't know that she has a half sister).

  • In the final scene, we see Webber try to give the chief position to Derek. Derek says that he's still trying to learn from his mistakes, something Webber is already good at. He says that the chief should be able to do it all over again. Derek says that Webber should keep the job because he is the best man for it.

Scrubs [s6 ep21/22]: "My Rabbit" / "My Point of No Return"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In Brief: What's Good

  • Elizabeth Banks does an excellent job playing Dr. Kim Briggs, the pregnant mother of J.D.'s child. Her performance made it really believable that Kim felt bad lying to J.D. and that she wanted to try for a lasting relationship with J.D.

  • Bunny-headed gym-teacher conscience is yet another funny sight gag from J.D.'s inner psyche.

  • When Jordan refers to her and Dr. Cox's newborn daughter (Jennifer Dillon) as J.D., it drives Dr. Cox nuts.

  • Love Ted's way of getting warmed up to role-play as Elliot in a demonstration for Keith.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • I'm not an expert on weddings, but is it unusual that Elliot's bachelorette party is approximately four weeks before her wedding (at the beginning of the Part 2 episode, Elliot says he and Kim have been growing closer over the last three weeks and then says Elliot's wedding is a week away)? That seems like a long gap between party and wedding.

  • It's still creepy as always whenever The Todd rips his pants off to expose his filled-to-capacity "banana hammock" underwear.

8 Story
9 Performances
8 Comedy/Drama
8 Suspense/Cliffhanging
8 Nostalgia/Coolness
Plot Points

  • Carla has to reassure Elliot as she starts to have second thoughts about marrying Keith.

  • J.D. continually avoids Kim because he's still in shock over the fact that she did *not* have a miscarriage and is still pregnant with his baby.

  • Eventually J.D. gives in and agrees to let Kim stay with him. Their relationship gets better the longer that she's there.

  • Many people are mad at Kim for what she did to J.D. Because of that, she agrees to let J.D. name their son whathever he likes. He wants to name it Sam Perry Gilligan (Sam after his father, Perry after Dr. Cox, and Gilligan because he lost a bet to Turk). Kim says at long as it isn't nerdy like Aragorn or Chewbacca. J.D. says Turk already has dibs on Chewie.

  • Turk has second thoughts about doing non-critical vascular surgery on an older patient after he finds out the patient is the father of a very young child.

  • Carla gets upset when Elliot starts taking over more and more control over the bachelorette party that Carla wanted to plan for her.

  • To accommodate for Elliot's control freak nature, Carla plans a multiple-choice bachelorette party in which they can do virtually anything Elliot wants to.

  • J.D. has a vision of a future with he and Kim together with their son, and he realizes he needs to give the relationship a chance.

  • For the next three weeks, J.D. and Kim stay up nights talking, they get the baby's crib ready, and they're a couple again.

  • J.D. convinces Kim to give up her old apartment and move in permanently with him. He also convinces her to quit her old job and look for one locally, since her old hospital will only grant her a six-week leave of absence and Dr. Kelso hates the new urologist at Sacred Heart.

  • Janitor gathers the braintrust to help pick a wedding gift for "blonde doctor" (Elliot). They decide they should try to control what kind of husband Keith should be.

  • Dr. Cox tries to make a deal with J.D. to get him to relinquish his status as his daughter's godfather. J.D. turns it down. But then Dr. Cox makes a deal with Jordan to let relinquish J.D., and she agrees after a list of demands. At the christening, they pick Carla to be the godmother.

  • At the christening, Elliot starts to have doubts about marrying Keith, and J.D. starts to have doubts about being with Kim. Later, they both avoid their troubles by hanging out in the doctors' sleep room and talk about their problems.

  • Keith refuses "help" from the braintrust, stating that he'll be the best husband to Elliot that he can be without anyone's help.

  • In the final scene, J.D. and Elliot are lying next to each other. They're done talking. They hold hands and lean in like they're going to kiss before the screen goes to black.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

1st Republican Presidential Debate

Thanks to being out of town for a few days, a temporary glitch in's post preview functionality, and just some general procrastination, I haven't gotten around to blogging about the first Republican presidential debate until now. It happened earlier this month, and it's been on my TiVo for several weeks. They've already had the 2nd debate (which I also TiVo'ed), so my comments here on the first debate will be brief.

It was moderated by Chris Matthews with some questions coming from viewers online. It took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, so there was a lot of mentioning of Ronald Reagan.

In case you're not familiar with all the candidates, they are:

  • Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas

  • Former Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia

  • Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City

  • Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas

  • Congressman Duncan Hunter of California

  • Senator John McCain of Arizona

  • Congressman Ron Paul of Texas

  • Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts

  • Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado

  • Former Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin

In my answer tallies below, I skipped certain questions such as one toward Mitt Romney, "What do you hate most about America?" as well as questions speficially about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. I also skipped a few Yes/No questions or show-of-hands questions such as, "Do you believe in evolution," as well as just plain stupid questions like, "Do you believe it would be a good thing to have Bill Clinton back in the White House?".

Many of McCain's answers seem oddly "speechified". Throughout the debate, Tancredo seems nervous or just ineloquent.

Thompson believes that:
1. Iraq should be allowed to vote on whether they want us there or not. If "Yes" our presence is legitimized; if "No" we get out.
2. Iraq's 18 territories should be treated like our 50 states, each one with locally elected regional governments.
3. Split oil reserves: one third for federal governmnet; one third for state governments; one third for "every man, woman, and child" (for investing).

Ron Paul says the war should not have been used for political gain, to enforce UN sanctions, or to pretend that the Iraqis were a threat to us. He believes that the U.S. should have a non-intervention foreign policy that is more traditionally conservative and Republican. He believes if we wanted to go to war, Congress should have voted to officially declare war.

When asked whether he'd feel comfortable with Tom Tancreo in charge of immigration, McCain said, "In a word, no," and then immediately went on to address a previous question about terroists with an answer that felt overly practiced, that included a reference to following Bin Laden to the gates of hell, and that was concluded with a creepy grin.

Each candidate is asked if he'd be willing to change the Constitution such that non-US born citizens, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar could be president. Most say no, and those that say yes seem to be joking. The best answer comes from Mike Huckabee who says, "After I've served eight years as President, I'd be happy to change the constitution for Gov. Schwarzeneggar." McCain says, "It depends on whether he endorses me or not."

When Mike Huckabee was asked if he believed in global warming, he talked about how much we have a responsibility to be "good stewards" of the earth and leave it in as good a shape or better than we found it. It was an eloquent answer that fit perfectly within the 30 seconds allotted, and I would have counted this as an excellent answer rather than just good if he had been more specific on how to take to care of the environment.

When asked if he is a compassion conservative like Bush, Duncan Hunter also gave a one word answer, and then gave his opinion about Iraq.

When asked if he would plan on phasing out the IRS, Ron Paul said, "Immediately," and elaborated on how it is not government's role to police the world or protect people cradle to grave.

When asked if abortion within first eight weeks of pregancy is okay, Jim Gilmore said he believed it to be okay but that there should be several provisions such as 24-hour waiting period, parental consent for minors, partial-birth ban, etc. Tommy Thompson said that the states should be responsible for decisions on abortion. Romney said he is personally pro-life but upheld his state's pro-choice stance as law until he felt Roe v. Wade had gone too far when cloning was discussed. When asked about public funding for abortions, Giuliani said states should decide and was forced to admit that he supported it in New York.

When asked about which tax each candidate would like to cut, I especially like Duncan Hunter's answer. He says he would cut taxes on domestic manufacturing to help encourage the production of goods in the U.S. rather than importing at higher costs due to the free trade agreement. Ron Paul repeats that he would get rid of the IRS but also says that he would get rid of "inflation tax." He explains that when we spend way beyond our means, we print more money which lowers the value of the dollar, thus inflation. The answer is wiser spending.

When asked what mistake by a president he's learned not to make, Mike Huckabee says we should stop letting jobs get shifted overseas while CEOs get enormous bonuses.

Overall, most of the candidates had a decent number of good answers, but there were fair and poor answers sprinkled throughout. Tancredo was consistently unimpressive, having nothing but fair and poor answers. Much of that was bad delivery and bad timing (not ending his answers well within allotted time), but the content of his answers wasn't always decent either.

The only excellent answers were as follows:

  • Mike Huckabee's answer to "Which mistakes have you learned not to repeat?"

  • Mike Huckabee's answer to "How would you be different from George W Bush""

  • Duncan Hunter's answer to "What tax would you like to cut?"

  • Ron Paul's answer to "You voted against the war; why are the other wrong?"

  • Ron Paul's answer to "Would you phase out the IRS?"

When scoring excellent answers 3 points, good answers 2 points, fair answers 1 point, and poor answers 0 points, my averages are as follows:

  • [2.125] Mike Huckabee (based on 8 questions)

  • [1.900] Tommy Thompson (based on 10 questions)

  • [1.800] Sam Brownback (based on 10 questions)

  • [1.780] Ron Paul (based on 9 questions)

  • [1.769] Mitt Romney (based on 13 questions)

  • [1.714] Jim Gilmore (based on 7 questions)

  • [1.556] Duncan Hunter (based on 9 questions)

  • [1.500] Rudy Giuliani (based on 12 questions)

  • [1.429] John McCain (based on 14 questions)

  • [0.556] Tom Tancredo (based on 9 questions)

These results kind of surprise me. I like at least certain aspects of almost all the candidates. I like Huckabee's way of thinking, and yet I'm not sure I get a complete sense of his plans and policies. His answers to questions, while sometimes idealistic and vague, were always eloquently delivered. That, and his overall likeability, sense of integrity, and lack of obvious flaws pushed him to the top in this debate.

I've seen Thompson be lackluster in one-on-one interviews, but he was really good in this debate. Sam Brownback seems nearly worthy of being a front-runner. I really like Ron Paul and his policies, but he's the most extreme of the candidates and sometimes comes off sounding less sensible--even when I agree with him. It's not that I don't like the front-runners of McCain, Giuliani, and Romney, but they tended to have their drawbacks exposed too much in this debate. Gilmore and Hunter should not be written off yet either.

Out of the ten, only Tancredo seems totally over his head.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Series Finale Review: Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls [s7 ep22]: "Bon Voyage"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In Brief: What's Good

  • Surprisingly, it does feel more like a series finale than I was expecting (considering it was canceled *after* the "season" finale was already filmed).

  • Nice to see pretty much every current character in the episode (except for Logan, since he and Rory broke up in the previous episode; Paris, since she was a part of Rory's non-Stars Hollow life; and April, since she's a predominately unliked recurring character attached to Luke's separate storyline; oh, and no Mrs. Kim either).

  • Nice to see Luke up to his old ways of going above and beyond the call of duty to do something nice for Lorelai and Rory.

  • A nice conversation between Rory and Lane.

  • Glad to see Richard say something nice about Lorelai.

  • Lorelai agreeing to continue Friday night dinners with Richard & Emily, even though Rory will be gone for over a year, shows she's come a long way with her parents.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • Not enough closure nor progress in the Luke and Lorelai relationship. Yes, they seem to be back together, but the show won't be around any longer to see it. I don't think fans want to assume they gradually rekindle things with the possiblity of getting married someday (off-camera); they want to see it happen--or, more appropriately, wish it *already* had happened. [sarcasm] Thanks a lot, season six & seven. [/sarcasm]

  • Despite wrapping things up nicely and being a better series finale than I expected, even this final episode did not carry as much humor, wit, and emotional gravity than some of the miscellaneous episodes of earlier seasons. Even though there are still nice moments and some redeeming qualities of seasons six and seven, the show started losing its "spark" some time in the last few episodes of season five. The last really excellent episode was probably season five's 16th episode entitled "So...Good Talk."

7 Story
8 Performances
5 Drama/Intensity
n/a Suspense/Cliffhanging
7 Nostalgia/Coolness
The episode begins with Rory getting to meet her idol in journalism, Christiana Amanpour (sp?). Amanpour is staying at the Dragonfly Inn. Rory doesn't believe Lorelai when she wakes her up tells her Amanpour is at the inn, so when Lorelai drags her to the inn, Rory ends up having to meet Amanpour in her pajamas.

Rory has prepared over 70 resumes to send out to what I'm guessing is every major newspaper in the country. (Who knows, with over 70, the Winston-Salem Journal might even be in there.) Rory is still lamenting having to turn down Logan's proposal. She says the sadness comes in waves, but she seems to be handling it well. Lorelai and Rory are planning a one month tour of roller coasters to celebrate Rory's graduation. Lorelai warns Rory of the town's graduation celebration for Rory that's happening in about a week.

Luke is preparing the food for the celebration. Liz and the baby come by begging for Luke to babysit, and Liz asks how things are between him and Lorelai.

Rory shows up to Emily & Richard's late for dinner because she was talking to someone about a job. She got a job as an online reporter covering Barrack Obama's campaign trail. She leaves in three days. The salary is low, but all her expenses would be paid for. Everyone is happy for Rory but also sad because Rory will be gone for, possibly, a year or more.

Lorelai tells Luke the graduation celebration is canceled as is the massive food order he put in. Kirk, Lulu, Babette, and Miss Patti are all upset that there'll be no party.

Luke goes to the inn to see Sookie. Luke proposes having an earlier surprise party for Rory and needs Sookie's help. Lorelai and Rory go by Patti's studio to borrow something, but Patti doesn't let them in. The whole town is in the studio to plan for the impromptu graduation ceremony. Taylor stresses out over all the codes and rules the town will be violating by having the party, but they revolt and plan it anyway.

As Lorelai and Rory discuss Rory's shopping list, the townspeople try to set up in the town square. When they see Lorelai and Rory nearby, they move everything back so quietly that Lorelai and Rory don't even notice. Rory and Lane are talking out on Lane's porch. Because Lane's porch has a view of the square, it's delaying everyone from setting up.

Rory starts to worry she won't be a good reporter or that she's rushing things. She's also freaked out about leaving Lorelai and that she doesn't seem too sentimental. Lane reassures her. Then, Rory and Lane talk about how much their friendship means and that they're like sisters to each other.

The whole town is busy setting up at night for the party. Luke is coordinating everything. Babette runs up panicked that it's going to rain because her ankles are swollen, something that always happens to her before a rain. Luke tries to figure out how they're going to have the party despite the rain.

Lorelai goes into Rory's room and just watches her sleep. She nearly cries.

Luke is in the diner stitching together every tarp and water-proof material he could find. He's determined to build a shelter for the party. He sees the necklace under the counter, the one he claimed to Liz was just a backup gift for Rory but is probably meant for Lorelai. He puts it in his pocket.

Lorelai is driving Rory through town in the jeep with it raining like crazy. The whole town is under the tarps Luke made. Zach and Jackson run out to them with huge umbrellas. Everyone is there and is applauding. Kirk presents Rory with a sash he made for her.

Emily and Richard are there too. They just found out about the party from Sookie last night and had to cancel plans to be there. Richard says the party isn't just a testimony to Rory but also to Lorelai as Rory's mother. He says, almost choking up, that it takes a remarkable person to inspire all of this.

Rory gets to make an impromptu speech. She thanks her mother, and Lorelai almost cries.

Emily brings up to Lorelai her idea to add a spa to the inn. She and Richard are willing to give Lorelai a loan to start it up, but they would need to discuss the business occasionally. Lorelai realizes it's just Emily's way of trying to stay in Lorelai's life, so Lorelai says they can discuss it Friday night at dinner. She's gotten used to the Friday night dinners, so she doesn't mind continuing, even without Rory.

Emily tells Rory that it's an honor being her grandmother.

Sookie tells Lorelai that Luke planned everything for the party and that he must have stayed up all night stitching together tarps, tents, and raincoats that he collected from townspeople. Taylor tells Lorelai to tell Luke that he's responsible for all the cleanup.

Lorelai goes to thank Luke. He says he just wanted to see Lorelai happy. Then, they kiss.

The next morning, Lorelai and Rory are back at home. Lorelai goes on about how she needs more time, like she feels ambushed (ironic since that's how I and probably a few other fans feel about the show being canceled *after* this "season" finale was filmed). Lorelai rambles off advice to Rory. Rory has to stop her and says, "You've given me everything I need."

At 5:00AM, Lorelai and Rory go to Luke's diner. He opened up early just for them. They order massive amounts of food, as usual. Rory noticed she's wearing a new necklace, no doubt the one Luke must have given to her off-camera. Lorelai starts rambling something about getting Rory a "World's Best Reporter" thrermos or mug to match her hat. Rory says something about the hat not quite looking right.

Meanwhile, the camera slowly pulls back outside Luke's diner. You can see, through the large front window, Lorelai and Rory, best friends, bantering about while Luke works on preparing food and coffee in the background. This shot closely matches the shot at the end of the very first episode, in some ways, bringing the show full circle.

Season Finale Review: Survivor Fiji

Survivor: Fiji -- Season Finale and Reunion Show

In Brief: What's Good

  • Thanks to Yau-Man's intense strategizing and Dreamz' wavering integrity, there were plenty of twists and surprises to make things interesting.

  • The final immunity challenge, which is always endurance based, was quite a bit more interesting than most final immunity challenges.

  • This season continues a trend started last season in which the penultimate tribal council automatically leads to a final three instead of a final two formed by the last immunity winner choosing his fellow finalist.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • In the reunion show, Jeff Probst spends a little *too much* time and effort prodding Dreamz for a straight answer about whether Dreamz ever planned on keeping his word to Yau-Man or if he always planned to betray him.

n/a Story
n/a Performances
8 Drama/Intensity
8 Suspense/Cliffhanging
6 Nostalgia/Coolness
The next-to-last immunity challenge involved the contestants wandering blind-folded through a series of mazes. Each maze was separated by a pool and a draw-bridge. Each player had to find a key station where they unlock a device that lowers another key that lowers their next draw bridge. Cassandra did horrible in the maze, hardly even able to get it started. Earl didn't do that great either. Boo and Dreamz were hot on Yau-Man's trail the whole time, but Yau-Man won.

I was really excited at this point. Earl had found the third hidden immunity idol in the previous episode. So, with Yau-Man now having the immunity necklace, the best players were guaranteed to move on.

Boo knew his neck was on the chopping block. He tried to convice the others that they'd have a better chance if they kept him for the final four or three and voted out Dreamz instead. At tribal council, Earl played his immunity idol. He probably didn't need to that badly, but it was the last time he could use it, so it would have been a waste not to. The alliance stuck to their original plan, and Boo was voted out.

The final immunity challenge involved the contestants hanging by a bar on a slope. Water dripped from barrels over their heads making the slope slippery. Every five or ten minutes, Jeff Probst increased the steepness of the slope, making it that much harder to hang on. Cassandra was the first to let go (of course). Earl played it smart by positioning himself to the side so that the water dripped beside of him rather than down his back. But, eventually, the wrist pain was too much for him, and he had to let go.

Dreamz and Yau-Man continued to fight for immunity. In a way, it shouldn't have mattered. According to the deal Yau-Man struck with Dreamz previously, Dreamz got Yau-Man's truck reward in exchange for giving Yau-Man immunity in the final four if Dreamz won it. Yau-Man couldn't hang on any longer, and Dreamz did win.

For the rest of the day Dreamz talked about being okay with making it to 4th place and that he wanted his son to see his dad making the right decision based on integrity and keeping his word. However, he also struggled with the fact that keeping immunity would guarantee him a chance at $1 million, since--like last season--there would be a final three rather than final two.

For the whole day, including the tribal council that night, Dreamz continued to struggle with the decision. Either he really was stuggling or was doing some really good acting, because his final decision was to keep the immunity necklace, which shocked everyone. Because he was the biggest threat, Yau-Man was voted out, even by Earl.

I was really surprised and disappointed in Dreamz for going back on his word, especially since it spelled certain doom for Yau-Man, one of the most strategic players in Survivor history. After council, Dreamz tried to act like he had planned to keep immunity all along. Earl was surprised that he found himself voting Yau-Man out, since their alliance was so strong, but Earl knew he could never win against Yau-Man. Voting Yau-Man out was his only chance to win.

Trivia Note: Last season, Survivor tried to address criticism about lack of diversity by starting out with four separate racially segregated tribes: Caucasian, African-American, Asian-American, and Latino. Ironically, the final four (which also happen to be one of the stronget and most likable alliances in Survivor history) consisted of one Latino, one African-American, and two Asian-Americans. I thought that was pretty cool, especially since the Caucasians were doing so well up until the last few rounds. This season did not start out with similar tribal divisions but did continue the same extent of racial diversity. And, this time, the final four consisted of three African-Americans and one Asian-American. After Yau-Man's elimination, the final three were all from the same non-Caucasian ethnicity. Another first for survivor (although it was never mentioned in the finale or the reunion show). I wonder if Survivor will continue the ethnic diversity in the next season. I think they should.

At tribal council, there were the usual angry tirades from formerly eliminated jury members. Lisi was as annoying as ever with her comments and questions in which she kept interrupting and wouldn't let the contestants give a response. Alex seemed angry at the world and used his lawyering skills to grill the finalists. After giving a shout-out for the excellent playing by Yau-Man, Boo chose to focus on Dreamz, accusing him of un-Christian actions when he betrayed Yau-Man and others. Maintaining her cute and sunny personality, Michelle asked easy, non-confrontational questions (sure, a little wimpy, but she's just so cute, I really like her). Yau-Man did ask Earl why he voted him out. Earl was completely honest and said that he knew he couldn't win against Yau-Man. Yau-Man seemed very satisfied with that answer.

Most were especially angry at Dreamz for his repeated double-crossing and back-stabbing. A bit of ire was directed at Earl and just a little to Cassandra. Cassandra was barely addressed, and surprisingly, no one asked whether she felt she rode coat-tails to get as far as she did (which I feel she did).

The voting results, as usual, were held over and revealed on the live portion of the show. Jeff read out five consecutive votes for Earl, enough to win the game. Before going to commercial, Jeff announced over all the cheering that Earl did, in fact, win unanimously with all nine votes, which I think is another Survivor first.

I'm guessing that Dreamz angered too many people and that no one saw Cassandra as deserving. Also, in the tribal council in which Boo was voted off, Dreamz addressed a comment by Boo, insisting that he would never use his poverty-filled personal background to gain sympathy in the final vote. And yet, Dreamz did bring up his homelessness in the final tribal council in a trying-to-get-sympathy-votes kind of way.

I was glad Earl won. Even though I was pulling for Yau-Man because he was such a smart player, Earl was a little more likable and played more of a subtle game.

Overall, this was not one of the best seasons of Survivor. Thanks to someone dropping out of the game on the plane going to the island, it started off with the odd number of 19 contestants. The twist of having one tribe with a lot of luxuries and another tribe with almost nothing seemed unfair, because the tribe with more comfort, shelter, and food did much better in the challenges, as one might expect. The players did not seem that interesting until they got closer to merge, and even then, there were several unlikable players still in the game. And, I didn't like the change in which the hidden immunity idol must be revealed before the votes are read instead of after the votes as in previous seasons.

On the positive side, Exile Island was better utilized this season than usual. I liked that there were multiple hidden immunity idols, one per tribe. I liked that once a hidden immunity idol is used, a new one is hidden, with Exile Island having new clues for it. The hidden immunity idols were, overall, utilized better in this season than in previous seasons and really did add a new dynamic to the game. And, as mentioned, there were several firsts this season: first unanimous final vote, first time for African-American dominance in the game, first time the car prize was used as a strategic bargaining chip, first time a reward challenge winner ever turned down a reward to send himself to Exile Island, and first time hidden immunity idols were ever "shared" and exchanged among multiple players.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Misc. TV News & Updates

  • As you can see from my last couple entries, I *finally* got around to watching and analyzing the first Democratic presidential debates. I still need to re-watch and blog about the first Republican presidential debates, and they already had their second one tonight (thank goodness for TiVo). I'm busy in the next few days, so I may not get around to them until Sunday or even next week.

  • Sunday night's Survivor finale was pretty good. I still need to blog about that.

  • I just watched the series finale of Gilmore Girls. To save time, I wrote the text for a blog entry while I was watching it. I have the text ready and will post it after I do the Survivor entry. Just a preview... Since this was meant to be a season finale or series finale -- and the decision to end it didn't come down until after the episode was filmed -- I'll admit that it worked as a series finale better than I expected. It wrapped things up nicely, contained as many characters as possible, and had some nice emotional moments. On the down side, the Luke and Lorelai relationship doesn't have enough closure or progress to warrant satisfaction, and the show overall lost its spark about two years ago.

  • In really bad TV news, I just found out that CBS has *probably* canceled Jericho. For now, I think it's technically unconfirmed, but the rumor sounds pretty strong. Plus, CBS's upfronts are tomorrow, so it's most likely some valid information that leaked early. I'm majorly disappointed. Jericho was one of best new shows of the 2006-2007 season. It was good enough to get picked up or a full first season, ended on a cliff-hanger, and garnered a significant cult following (as well as a wealth of speculation and analysis all documented at the Jericho Wiki). It feels like Alien Nation, John Doe, and Commander in Chief all over again. Thank goodness The Shield is rumored to have an excellent episode tonight. I'm getting ready to watch it now, and I could use a pick-me-up.

  • Actually, this is on the good side... NBC and ABC have already had their upfronts, and it sounds like they may have some good shows in development for this fall.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

1st Democratic Presidential Debate (Part 2)

Picking up where I left off...

Clinton is asked about Guiliani's quote about Republican's being better at protecting America and fighting terrorism. Her answer includes a lot of complaining about the current administration. Dodd answers similarly.

Another show-of-hands question... Do you believe there is a global war on terror? Kucinich does not raise his hand. He addresses that by saying he would not use war as an instrument and would increase diplomatic efforts.

Obama is asked how he would respond to any new terrorist attacks. His answer is a bit rambling, but he concentrates on good intelligence and communication with the world community. Edwards is given the same question and concentrates on finding out how terrorists would have gotten weapons through the borders. He says that there are dangerous people and nations in the world that need to be dealt with strongly but that there are more instruments at our disposal than bombs. Good answer. Clinton concentrates on the idea of swift retaliation but also emphasizes that we should not go looking for other fights. And, she works in a complaint against the Bush administration.

Show-of-hands: Does anyone want to join Kucinich's efforts to impeach Dick Cheney? No one raises their hand. Kucinich addresses the question by getting out a pocket copy of the constitution and claims that Cheney has violated the constitution. His passion for the constitution is admirable, but he doesn't do a good job explaining how and why he thinks Cheney violated it.

Dodd is asked if there is a difference between gay marriage and civil unions. He says he does not support gay marriage because of the traditions of marriage but that he does strongly support civil unions.

Biden is asked what he would do about the climate and energy problem. He says that he and Obama have a bill in proposal that would require every car produced in America to be a "flex fuel" automobile, require gas stations to pump ethanol by 2009, encourage research into lithium battery technology, cappin emissions, etc.

Richardson is asked a question about relations with Castro's Cuba. He begins responding to a previous question about terrorism response, that he would respond militarily and aggresively and build international support for our goals. About Cuba, he says we should be planning for a post-Castro Cuba right now, re-examining the embargo, etc.

Gravel is asked if we're behind other countries when it comes to nuclear energy. Gravel barely and inarticulated answers the question and swerves over into ranting about terrorism. Brian Williams even comments how unbelievably the question went from environment to terrorism, earning a little laughter from the audience.

Obama is asked what he's doing to help the environment. He talks about planting trees on Earth Day, but Brian Williams interjects asking "What about fluorescent light bulbs?" Obama jokes that he thought the tree thing was pretty good. Then, startingly, even he swerves over into talking about terrorism. Bad move. I like it better when candidates answer the question they're given. Nearing the end of the debate, I think they just want to get in their last words on terrorism regardless of what the questions are.

Kucinich is eager to respond to Obama. He says we need to end both global warming and global warring. He says we attacked Iraq for oil, and we're about to attack Iran for oil. Until we change energy policies, we'll continue to have aggresive stance against other countries. Wow, score one for Kucinich.

Obama is eager to respond to Kucinich. He says he does not wish to go to war with Iran but emphasizes their growing potential to build nuclear weapons. He says that information is not disputed. Kucinich tries to interject that it is disputed. Gravel is given a chance to respond. He inarticulately spouts something about scaring the "bejezus" out of Iran for decades. Then he says the greatest violator of non-proliferation is the U.S. because we're not disarming as we pledged we would. Then he asks Obama, "Who the hell are we going to nuke? Tell me, Barrack" Obama responds, "I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike."

Edwards is aksed who is moral leader is? Edwards pauses for several seconds. He says he can't identify with just one person as moral leader. He says God is a moral leader, and he prays every day. He then mentions his wife and family as being strong moral support. Granted, that's a softball answer, but it was a weird, tough question. And, as softball answers go, I don't think he could have answered any other way, and I still like the answer.

Sweet, Brian Williams asks Clinton if Wal-Mart is a good or bad thing for the United States of America, earning some laughter from the audience. Please say bad. Please say bad. She starts by saying it's a mixed blessing. Okay, decent start. When Wal-Mart started, it brought goods to rural areas. As they've grown, they've raised controversy over fairness and treatment of employees. Then, she starts ranting about the current administration and corporate America being oblivious to the needs of the middle class. Granted, there may be some truth to that, but I wish she had stayed more on topic about Wal-Mart and not used it as an opportunity to rant. Almost an excellent answer, but I gotta go with good instead.

Biden is asked if the Democratic party will become extinct if they lose another presidential election. His answer is kind of rambling. He says something about how the Republicans should be more afraid of Hillary than they are. Then, we swerves into some kind of comment about international relations. Not well answered.

And, that was the last question of the night.


Again using the same point system: excellent answer = 3 points, good answer = 2 points, fair = 1, and poor = 0, and including questions from all 90 minutes of the debate, my numbers work out to the following:

  • [1.778] Former Senator John Edwards (9 questions)

  • [1.600] Senator Barrack Obama (10 questions)

  • [1.600] Senator Joe Biden (10 questions)

  • [1.400] Senator Hillary Clinton (10 questions)

  • [1.375] Governor Bill Richardson (8 questions)

  • [1.143] Senator Chris Dodd (7 questions)

  • [0.875] Congressman Dennis Kucinich (8 questions)

  • [0.288] Former Senator Mike Gravel (7 questions)

In the last third of the debate, there were three more excellent answers. Biden brought his excellent total up to three with his answer to the climate and energy crisis question. Edwards had an excellent answer to the moral leader question. And, oddly enough, Kucinich had an excellent answer to an environmental question.

As far as poor answers... Biden's answer to the last question of the night was poor. Otherwise, the poor answers remained confined to Kucinich and Gravel.

I'm kind of shocked that the final averages worked in favor of John Edwards. I've never been particularly impressed with him. It's always seemed odd to me that he's considered such a strong candidate now or back in 2004 after only one term as a senator from North Carolina. However, he does have a lot of poise and may handle debates well the way some people handle tests well. Also, he got a last minute boost by his moral leader question. While it was an excellent answer, I'm sure a few other candidates would have answered similarly.

It's interesting to see that Obama and Biden are tied for 2nd place. I'm somewhat more familiar with Biden because he appears on TV news shows all the time. From what I know, I'd say Biden is the strongest, most likable, and most straight-talking candidate among the Democrats. If he were to win the nomination, I'd be very tempted to vote for him, especially if the Republicans don't nominate a strong alternative.

It seems like every election has to have a crazy person in it, whether it's a good kind of crazy or a bad kind of crazy. In the '90's you had the good kind of crazy with Ross Perot. More recently, you've had the mixed bag kind of crazy with Rev. Al Sharpton. This year, we've got the bad kind of crazy with Mike Gravel. He's inarticulate and unmistakably angry. Seriously, that guy appeared to be ticked off at everything and everybody. He's a ticking timebomb. I think he himself is a weapon of mass destruction. If he were elected, I could envision him having a heart attack in the first week just from yelling at people. It's a shame too, because Perot, Sharpton, and the other "crazies" were at least fun to watch and listen to, and they cut through the crap dished out by the other candidates. But, Gravel is not fun or poignant or particularly helpful to the process. He's just scary. Some of his ideas are decent, but he needs some composure, and he needs to express his ideas better. Then, he might be okay.

As far as the other 2nd tier candidates, I think Richardson isn't that bad, Dodd isn't horrible but not nearly spectacular enough either, and Kucinich may be serving the Perot/Sharpton purpose without actually being a "crazy."

And as for Hillary Clinton... I'm not a fan of hers. There's just something about the way she talks that I don't believe her. She does not have a tenth of the charisma of her husband Bill. Bill Clinton could lie to my face, and I'd thank him for talking to me (okay, an obvious exaggeration, but you know what I mean). Hillary, however, could tell me the sky is blue, and I'd be tempted to look up "sky" on Wikipedia to see if she really was correct. She did a decent enough job in this debate, and I'm gradually finding her less annoying. However, she spends way too much time being negative about the current administration. Don't get me wrong, this administration deserves the insults, but I'd rather Hillary focus on her plans, her policies, her better ideas. I think it would help her if she talked more about what she would do rather than what Bush should have done.

Overall, a lackluster debate. Too few excellent answers. I've already watched the recent Republican debate but will need to watch it again for blogging purposes. From what I remember, there are too many among the ten Republican candidates that aren't very recognizable or distinguishable. I think Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are more articulate and eloquent than all eight Democratic candidates combined. I don't understand the appeal of Rudy Guiliani. I think, scarily enough, that McCain might be the "crazy" in the Republican camp. And, I think the best overall candidate, Ron Paul, could probably use a little polishing in his answers and some more visibility outside the internet (where he is already *extremely* popular).

I think I read somewhere that another debate is coming up this week. I look forward to it.

1st Democratic Presidential Debate (Part 1)

Okay, I've had the first Democratic presidential debate on my TiVo for about two weeks now, and I'm finally getting around to watching it.

I like how Brian Williams says that the sponsors of the event "consider themselves thanked" and that the participants are asked not to make opening statements. That way we get right to the questions and the issues.

For a 90-minute debate, I won't comment on every question or every response. But, I am going to try to track how many questions each candidate gets and how well they answer those questions. Then, I'll tally the information in the end.

The first question goes to Senator Hillary Clinton regarding Senator Harry Reid's comment that "the war is lost." Clinton doesn't address Reid's statement directly and states her own opinion about the war and the American people's desire to end the war. Her answer is the standard, safe answer we've heard before. Senator Joe Biden is given the same question. His answer is similar with a little more emphasis on the responsibility of the Iraqis to take over their country. Biden is more of a straight-talked, which I like, but also has a twinge of arrogance in his voice.

So far, only seven minutes in, only three questions, responses from only Clinton, Biden, Obama, and Edwards, and already there's a lot of shots at President Bush. Not necessarily anything wrong with that. He deserves it.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich just got a question about whether you can oppose the war and yet still support it with funding. His answer was decent, although not very articulate. He did mention that he has a proposed bill for the House that would transfer responsibility to the Iraqis as our troops pull out. I would think that would be expected and under the control of the president, so I wonder how exactly his bill adds anything to that idea.

On the same question, Governor Bill Richardson really breaks down the actions he would do. It's good to hear that he can point to specifics of a plan.

Former Senator Mike Gravel gets a similar question. This guy seems like he could use some blood pressure medicine. He comes off as being really honked off. He even looks a little scary. He spends most of this time answering the question by trashing the president and being brazen. I think I caught him saying something about making it a felony to stay in Iraq, or something like that.

An audience member's question is directed to Obama regarding what a "mission complete status" would look like. His answer comes off a little vague and rambling. Clinton gets the same question and emphsizes the need for Republican support to get out of a sectarian civil war. Both their answers make sense and are true, but the don't quite address the question. What does a "mission complete status" look like? Or, are we past the point of worring about completing the mission and just getting out. If so, I think I'd have to agree, but neither of these candidates seemed willing to come right out and say that.

The next set of questions address possible character issues. Obama is asked about kickbacks from Illinois business deals. Edwards is asked how he justifies expensive hair cuts while having a theme on poverty. He admits he has a privileged lifestyle now, but that it's "not where [he] comes from."

Clinton is asked about hedge funds. Richardson is asked why he took so long to way in on Attorney General Gonzales and then said it was because he's Hispanic. He rambled a bit at first, but then finally admitted (again) that being Hispanic did factor in to his late decision. He said it's better to be honest. Plus, he did *eventually* give in and call for Gonzales's resignation.

Dodd is asked about his money from lobbyists while publicly being for reform. His answer is articulate but doesn't quite address the question. Kucinich gets a question about why his political "traction" isn't greater despite being against the war from the beginning. His answer is not very good at all.

Biden is given a review of times he's been outspoken or abrupt and then asked if he would have "discipline on the world stage." His answer is, "Yes." Laughter from the audience. Just, "Yes."

Gravel has been quoted as saying that it doesn't matter whether he's elected, so he's asked why is here tonight. He says that after being around the other candidates he wonders how they hell they got there too. He even says, quite angrily, that some of the candidates "scare" him. Brian Williams prods him further by asking specifically which ones worry him so much. He points to the "top tier" candidates (Clinton, Obama, Edwards), and then says he'll include Biden because he's arrogant and wants to tell the Iraqis how to run their country. Gravel says we "should just get out."

Clinton is asked why Republicans are so eager to defeat her. She explains how much she's ready to institute universal health care and to bring out change and renewed trust on the world stage.

The next question is about partial birth abortion. Edwards gets it first. He semi-dodges the question saying how tough an issue it is for people and talking about how the election will affect the Supreme Court, but he does eventually say that he is for a woman's right to choose. Obama steers the question toward reducing teen pregnancy and increasing prevention.

Biden says he strongly supports Roe v. Wade. He said he believes that partial birth abortions should only be in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. But, he also said he fears outlawing partial birth abortions is a stepping stone toward overturning Roe v. Wade. Even if I don't agree with him on this topic, at least his answer was rational and clear-cut.

Kucinich also steers the question toward pre-natal care, natal care, adoption, child care, universal health care, etc. Dodd even states that he agrees with Kucinich but elaborates more about the aspect of a woman's health in this issue.

Oddly, Clinton, Richardson, and Gravel are not asked the abortion question.

The next question is for each candidate: Who is your model Supreme Court Justice alive today.
Richardson: Whizzer White???, then he says Ginsberg after Brian Williams tells him to mention someone alive
Dodd: Ginsberg
Edwards: Ginsberg or Bryer(?)
(The question and answers took so long, they didn't get to everyone before moving on...)

Clinton is asked if any government failure played a role in the tragedy at Virgina Tech. She says yes, almost gets choked up, mentions Columbine, and talks about gun control. Richardson gets a similar question about gun control and Virginia Tech. He admits that he's from a state where the 2nd amendment is crucial, so he steers the question toward mental health checks.

Brian Williams asks a show-of-hands question about who, as an adult, has had a gun in the house. Richardson, Dodd, Biden, Kucinich, and Gravel all raise their hand. And, you know, the idea of Gravel with a gun is a little scary. Odd how the "front-runners" in the race are the ones that didn't raise their hand.

Biden clarifies that he owned a rifle, not a pistol and answered another similar question about gun control. He brings up his crime bill from the Clinton administration that put more cops on the street. He also said the assult rifle ban should not have lapsed and that they need to do something about the loophole in which you can buy a gun from a gun show that you couldn't get from a gun shop. Then, he also steers the topic toward mental illness saying that if a teacher can determine that a student may be a danger, they should have the right to get them taken off the campus.

The next question is about how they would pay for health care. Edwards focuses on eliminating Bush's tax cuts for the upper class and explains how he would work employer benefits and give employees choices. Obama says there should be a "national pool" for those that don't have benefits, that the country should do better about controlling costs, and that there should be catastrophic insurance to protect against enormous medical bills in families.

Clinton gets the same question and says that some of the current ideas have been tried before but that the insurance companies got nervous. She's ready to try again. She doesn't want to put new money into a new system; she wants to better use the money we have now. I like that answer.

Richardson says no new beauracracy, focus on prevention, deal with inefficiencies, and re-establish doctor-patient relationship.

One e-mail question for each of the candidates was to give an example of a mistake and whether you learned from it. One excellent came from Obama where he plainly admitted that he regretted the way the Terry Shivo case was handled, and in retrospect, felt that that decision should have been left to the family. Edwards also plainly admitted that voting for the war was a mistake, and that he learned he should listen to his own judgment more in the future. Richardson admits that he tried to rush the increase of the minimum wage in his state instead of pacing himself and handling the situation more diplomatically.

Clinton is aksed about amnesty for illegal aliens. She says we should tighten border security, sanction employers who get undocumented workers, help communities with cost caused by illegal immigration, better tracking of who's in the country, and better opportunity to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn Engligh, and eventually become citizens legally.

On a question about education, Biden says he need the best teachers in the world and implied that teachers should make more money. While that's true, I don't think money is the only problem with the teaching profession, and I think there are already a lot of really excellent teachers out there who teach despite the bad pay. I think you need to do more for this problem, than just throw money at it. Part of the problem with the education system is everyone but the teachers: the administrators, the parents, and sometimes the students themselves. There needs to be more respect in school all around.

A question for all candidates is about what they would want to accomplish on the first day. Richardson says, first day, get out of Iraq with diplomacy, second day, energy indepdence, third day, climate change, fourth day, take the day off.

At the one hour mark, the debate questions switch to non-Iraq foreign policy.

What are the three most important world allies? Obama says European Union and Asia (Japan and China).

What are the three biggest non-Iraq threats? Biden says North Korea, Iran, and Russia. Gravel says we should deal with the rest of the world as equals. He complains about how much we pay for defense and war. As a follow-up, Edwards and Richardson are asked specifically about Russia. Edwards dodges the question; Richardson addresses it a little more directly and then braches off into Darfur.


It's getting late, and I'm getting tired. So, I'll have to blog about the last 25 minutes of the debate tomorrow. But, here's my summary as to how well I feel the candidates answered the questions and addressed the issues so far (regardless or whether I agreed with them or not)...

If every excellent answer is worth 3 points, every good answer is 2 points, fair answer = 1, poor answer = 0, and I take the point total and divide by the number of questions each candidate got, the numbers would work out as follows:

  • [1.75] Senator Barrack Obama (8 questions)

  • [1.63] Senator Joe Biden (8 questions)

  • [1.57] Former Senator John Edwards (7 questions)

  • [1.50] Governor Bill Richardson (6 questions)

  • [1.43] Senator Hillary Clinton (7 questions)

  • [1.20] Senator Chris Dodd (5 questions)

  • [0.60] Congressman Dennis Kucinich (5 questions)

  • [0.40] Former Senator Mike Gravel (5 questions)

So far, there have only been four excellent answers. Senator Biden had excllent answers to the questions about partial birth abortion and the Virginia Tech/gun control issue. Senator Obama had an excellent answer about what mistake he's made and what he's learned from it. And, Senator Clinton had an excellent answer to the question about illegal immigration.

Biden may be the only person with two excellent answers, but he's only had one good answer, and the other five have just been fair. Clinton has the same exact numbers except one fewer excellent answers and one fewer total. The only ones with poor answers have been Kucinich and Gravel.

More tomorrow (or, technically, later today).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Season Finale Review: Jericho

Jericho [s1 ep22]: "Why We Fight"

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In Brief: What's Good

  • Glad to see that Jericho finally got to use their tank

  • Glad to see that Heather Lisinski is still alive, despite assumptions that she had been killed in New Bern

  • Liked that Darcy now knows all, well most, of Robert's secrets

  • Heather's time on an Army base is informative as to the structure of the new "United States"

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • Did not like that ________ was killed (spoiler, see summary for character's name)

  • The flashbacks, althrough brief and well done, distracted from the action and intensity of the New Bern attacks

  • Overall, a good episode, but for a season finale, not quite as exciting as I had hoped; they've had better episodes recently than this one

8 Story
8 Performances
8 Drama/Intensity
6 Suspense/Cliffhanging
8 Nostalgia/Coolness
The episode starts with a flashback to Eric & April's wedding reception, six years before the bombs. Brief flashes back to this event are intercut throughout the episode, revealing that Eric was Jake's best man but only upon their mother's insisting because Jake was no hero back then and didn't get along with his brother.

Meanwhile, Constantino and his army from New Bern is on the way to invade Jericho. They've already taken at least one farm, and they have a huge line of trucks and several mortars. We also find out that Heather, who has been missing and presumed dead, is actually alive despite being in a car wreck 60 miles from Jericho. She's picked up by the military and nursed back to health on an Army base.

Best Quote of the Night
Hawkins reveals to Johnston that he has access to a keyhole military satellite that he can use to track New Bern's movements in the field. All he asks is that Johnston keeps it secret from *everyone*. Hawkins is surprised how easily Johnston accepts the offer without asking any intrusive questions. Best line of the episode...

Johnston: "I am about to go to war with New Bern, Kansas, the home of the nearest Costco. Today is already about as weird as I can handle. I'm not asking any more questions."

Jericho plans to make their stand against New Bern at Stanley Richmond's farm because it's on the outskirts or town, is near an entryway into town, and has the highest ground.

I like the scene with Stanley, Mimi, and Bonnie at the grave, talking to Stanley and Bonnie's parents, with Mimi introducing herself and Stanley joking how she shouldn't reveal that they're living together.

I also liked that Robert didn't bother trying to hide from Darcy that his laptop was being traced while he was linked into the satellite. He has enough to handle right now without trying to keep secrets from his wife any longer. She even helped him think out the bomb situation, that the people that are seeking the one remaining bomb don't necessarily need it to detonate it but to get rid of the evidence of who made all the other bombs..

The Tank and the Big Death
It was so good to see the tank (from a previous episode) come into play on Jericho's side. It helped, but it was also a little anti-climactic, considering they only loaded it with one mortar. The tank was used just long enough to scare away New Bern's first wave and to result in our big impending death--Johnston Green. He was walking beside of the tank when it came up over the hill and was shot by someone from New Bern. Johnston didn't die right away. He lay on Stanley's kitchen table long enough to get some final words with his sons and for them to have an emotional moment.

I had heard that the season finale was probably going to have a major death, but I was *really* disappointed to see that it was Johnston Green. I had never been a Gerald McRaney fan before, but he was so cool in the role of Johnston Green. Despite losing the recent election after being mayor for decades, Johnston had ten times more wisdom, courage, and fortitude than the new mayor Gray Anderson, and people still looked to Johnston for advice and leadership. It was also Johnston's idea to keep the tank (that they had previously confiscated from wanderers pretending to be Marines) in Stanley's barn in case they ever needed it. I had hoped that perhaps Emily, Gray Anderson, Mary Bailey, one of the deputies, or one of the teenagers would be the one to die. Not Johnston. I like this show, but I'd like it better if he were to be in 2nd season (if there is a 2nd season).

The United States Restored (allegedly)
In the next scene, Heather talks with a colonel on the Army base. She urges him to get military support to Jericho because she became aware of New Bern's plans before her escape from there.

A few weeks ago at Black Jack Fairgrounds, Heather heard that there were six people claiming the presidency and saw six stars on the map representing regional capitals.

  • Sacramento, California

  • Cheyenne, Wyoming

  • San Antonia or Austin, Texas

  • Montgomery, Alabama

  • Columbus, Ohio

  • Syracuse or Albany, New York

In their conversation, Colonel Hoffman reveals to Heather that the new federal government has been restored in Cheyenne, Wyoming. But, he also says there are a couple hold-outs, one in Texas and one in a "bloc in the East." With Sacramento in the west, they must have come to an agreement with Cheyenne. Obviously, the Texas hold-out is San Antonia or Austin, but the "bloc in the East" could be any one of the remaining three.

When Heather looks up at the flagpole later in the episode, she sees a new American flag with 13 vertical stripes and 21 stars. According to the Jericho Wiki, vertical stripes implies a civil government as opposed to horizontal stripes of a military government.

Wyoming, California, and each of their border states add up to to 11 states. If you include nearby Washington state and North Dakota, that equals 13. I get the feeling that the new "United States" is mostly to the west. It's tough to say whether Kansas would be claimed by the new U.S. or by Texas or caught somewhere in between.

The Toast and the Death Announcement
When Jake steps out of Stanley's house to tell everyone that his father is dead, he pauses for a *long* time. The very long pause is intercut with flashback scenes to Jake's best man toast at his brother's wedding reception. The toast starts off painfully awkward, where you're worried he's going to make a huge scene, but then he turns around and talks about how proud he is of his brother. When Jake, in the present, finally says something, it's much more simple and straight-forward...

Jake: "My father is dead. We'll get through."

While I don't like that Johnston was the one killed or that the flashbacks interrupted the intensity of the conflict, the flashbacks do give a nice contrast between the screwed up Jake of six years ago and the new leader Jake has become today.

Jake Takes Command
Jake is shown assuming leadership over the resistance against New Bern. He feels that Gray Anderson should be escorted to a safe location away from battle so the town won't lose another leader. Gray resists at first, but Jake says it's non-negotiable.

Gail shows up. I like how they handled this scene. They didn't waste time having her talk to Johnston or cry about his death. As the men file out to give her some privacy, the camera simply shows her from behind leaning over her husband as sad music plays.

Jake is sitting on the porch alone, trying to keep it together. But, when Emily walks over and hugs him, he breaks down. Hawkins comes on the radio to tell Jake that New Bern's reinforcements are coming. Hawkins then notices a train coming from New Bern. Darcy is concerned that the trace on his laptop is almost complete, and she shuts the lid, but not before the trackers decode the final digit of the satellite link number. When Hawkins gets off the radio, Jake kisses Emily.

Military & Government Intervention
As Colonel Hoffman communicates via video conference with government officials about the situation in Kansas, we see that the bald guy with the cane (that Hawkins suspects of being behind the bombings) is on the government committee. The bald guy says that there is a suspected "terrorist" in Jericho (no doubt referring to Hawkins) and that Hoffman's men should quell the conflict between Jericho and New Bern so that they can search Jericho for the "terrorist."

Stanley tells Jake he's going to propose to Mimi and that he doesn't want to die today. When Hawkins meets up with Jake and the others, he asks to borrow the tank. I was really afraid that he planned to use the tank to block the train tracks or ram the train. But, all he does is park it on a hill and watches the train. I don't understand what he's doing, but I'm just glad the tank will survive into the 2nd season.

In the last of the flashbacks, Johnston and Jake have a heart-to-heart talk outside of the reception hall. In a moment surely symbolizing death and passing on, Johnston walks down the street with Jake's grandfather to drink 30-year old malt by the lake. Jake says he'll catch up, but his grandfather jokes that Jake would surely rather stay behind with Emily.

Back in the present, Constantino contacts Jake by radio to apologize for the death of his father and to offer one last chance for surrender. But, Jake tells him to go to hell and that he'll be after him for causing his father's death.

Colonel Hoffman tells Heather that the Jericho conflict has been moved to top priority and that he's on his way. We then see a cloud of gas near Jericho's line and hear trucks pulling toward them. Jake, Eric, Stanley, and the others get ready to fire their weapons. Meanwhile, Hawkins, observing the train from a hill sees eight military helicopters flying overhead. Jake orders the men to wait, wait, and then fire--and the episode ends.

While this season finale was not as exciting as I had hoped or expected, the season overall has been excellent, very much worthy of a 2nd season. So, I hope that, when the networks have their "up-fronts" in the coming week, Jericho will be on CBS's line-up for the fall.