Dead Heat

Dead Heat
You Can't Keep A Good Cop Dead

I knew Joe Piscopo from his time on Saturday Night Live. Sure, I was between the ages of six and ten during his tenure, but the weekend is for staying up late. I’d also seen Johnny Dangerously and Wise Guys. So, probably sometime in 1989, when I saw Dead Heat on the shelf of the local video store, it was Joe who made me say, “I need to see this!” These days I remember it as the first movie I recall Treat Williams being in.

I also remember it as being a funny action buddy cop zombie movie.

It’s the story of a couple of cops, Roger Mortis and Doug Bigelow, looking into a recent rash of crimes perpetrated by criminals thought to be dead. And when they track down the nutcase behind the reanimations, Roger gets himself killed… and reanimated. Now just as indestructible as the bad guys, and finding out his condition is irreversible and deteriorating, he’s got a time limit to finish the job before he dies for good.

This is just such a fun movie that manages to blend horror and comedy well, while leaning more toward comedy, and action. And much to my delight, as of this morning it became available on Netflix Instant. I can’t wait to see it again.

Friday Night Lights

Back in 2006 when I took a look at the upcoming fall TV season, I said:

Friday Night Lights? Didn’t enjoy the movie, I’ll probably not enjoy the show.

At the time, that was accurate.  I’d seen the movie and while “didn’t enjoy” might have been a tad harsh, the movie was decent but it didn’t blow me away.  I certainly didn’t see why it would be turned into a TV show.  Later on, people would tell me how good of a show it was, but I still avoided watching it.  I didn’t want to watch a show about football.

Thanks to Netflix’s Instant streaming service and my Xbox 360, I’ve caught up on 4 seasons of the show and am now watching season 5.

Surprised is just too small a word to describe my reaction to Friday Night Lights.  I was naive to have dismissed the show as being “about football” when football is just the backdrop for this story about people living in a small town.  The drama depicted here is just so well done, so deftly written and played out, I’m kicking myself for having waited so long.

And it isn’t just the story or the writing, the performances by the actors here is amazing.  I suppose it helps that many of them are people I don’t recognize.  Outside of Kyle Chandler (who I know from various places including Early Edition) and Connie Britton (from Spin City), I don’t think I’d seen any of them before, and if I did it was clearly not enough for me to remember them.  But each of them clearly understands their characters and their scenes play out so naturally, so real.

The main reason I write about the show now though is that this season, the fifth, is going to be the last.  And it will be missed.  If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend watching Friday Night Lights.

Putting Down a Book

It is not often that I will actually put down a book for good.  I mean, I have never finished — don’t hold this against me — The Lord of the Rings.  I’ve read Fellowship probably five times and Two Towers three times, but I’ve never read Return of the King.  I just get bored.  I almost didn’t finish The Once and Future King, but I powered through.  Dune was another rough one.   Not too long ago I posted about the First Law Trilogy that I waded through.  There are books that I have put down, a number of them in fact, but I usually go back eventually and finish.  I swear, I will read Return of the King before I die.

But there are rare books that I have put down and never intend to go back to.  Recently I’ve run into two and both of them have to do with the writing itself, not the subject matter.  The first was Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow.  The story itself is something I would be interested in, and I’ve actually heard good things about the series, however, the author decided that her main character’s profession would be called a “necromance”.  Even now my spell checker is telling me that I’ve dropped an “r” off the end.  For whatever reason, she went with this spelling, and it bugs the crap out of me.  It happens just often enough in the text that it pops me out of the story and back into myself where I commence screaming “ER! ER! NecromancER!”  I had a similar problem when reading Dead Witch Walking about that author’s choice to make up her own swear words, but I was able to gloss over that.  For some reason this use of “necromance” is something I just couldn’t get past.

More recently I made a stab at reading James Patterson’s The Dangerous Days of Daniel X.  At first, the description of a superhero book sounds like it would be right up my alley.  However, I might have skipped it had I read the red box on the inside back flap of the cover.  It reads:

In the spirit of the most enduring hit movies and books, James Patterson has written this story for readers from ten to a hundred and ten. Special care has been taken with the language and content of The Dangerous Days of Daniel X.

I’ve read a number of Patterson’s books, but mostly his more adult murder mystery stuff.  Going into this book with that mindset I was terribly disappointed and felt like I was being talked down to.  The story itself was interesting enough, but the simplicity of the language intended to be good reading for kids as young as ten just left me with an odd feeling.  I can’t say for sure that I’ve put this book down for good, but I definitely probably won’t pick it up again until I have a ten year old to read it with, either as a bedtime story or something we share and discuss.

So… have you ever put down a book? Why?

Good Reads

Several of my friends have been using Good Reads for a while now, and I finally decided to sign up.

This is me.

I’ll still be keeping my book list and reviews here on this blog as well, but hopefully Good Reads will turn up a recommendation or two for things to read in the future.

Good News for Zombie Game Addicts

By way of the ZRC, I have learned that you no longer have to complete Call of Duty: World at War to unlock the Nazi zombie mode for online play.  You still need to unlock it for solo play, but at least now I have a reason to bump the game up on my want list since I don’t have to wait to wade through zombies as long as I want to bring some friends with me.

The Rock-afire Explosion

If you are anything like me and grew up in the 80’s, you probably went to Chuck E. Cheese or Showbiz Pizza for someone’s birthday or some other special occasion, or maybe you just went for the fun on it.  Both places had, in their dining hall, animatronic bands that would play songs while you ate.  I haven’t been to one lately, so I can’t say if they still have them, or if the shows are any good, but I do recall the last time I went (on a first date when I was 17 back in 1992… I wonder if she remembers that date, heh) the dining hall remained well lit while the band performed, which was kind of a let down.

Anyway, it seems that the band from Showbiz, The Rock-afire Explosion, is experiencing a resurgence.  A guy, a car salesman, bought himself one of the animatronic bands and with the help of the original designers is making music videos for more current songs.  They made a documentary about it.  You can see videos of several performances by searching for “Rock-afire Explosion” on YouTube.

I just wasted an hour watching this stuff, and I am bound to do it again.  I want to go to a Showbiz now, although I figure it won’t be as cool as these videos, and I would love to see those old pizza party places make a comeback, old-school, with the darkened dining hall, music and light show.  If I have kids one day, I want to take them there, or some place like it.

Thanks to Cyanbane for the heads up…

The Amulet of Samarkand

I suppose one of the things that always kept me away from the Harry Potter books were the descriptions of Harry himself. In the beginning he’s pure and noble, and everything he does is for the good. Its almost sickening sweet. The later books help fix him up right as he makes mistakes and costs people their lives.

In The Amulet of Samarkand, the first of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, one of the main characters is a horribly flawed boy who lives in a horribly flawed world. In the London of his world, magicians rule, literally. They aren’t hidden or secret, they run Parliment and keep the “commoners” beneather their feet. Common children are sold into apprenticeship where they are forced to forget their birth names and learn the ways of magic. Nathaniel, is one such child who is apprenticed to a minor magician of small power, but Nathaniel wishes to be greater, teaching himself more than his master will allow, especially once he is humiliated by Simon Lovelace, a much more powerful magician. Nathaniel takes his self taught knowledge and summons Bartimaeus to help him get his revenge on Lovelace. The only problem is, in seeking his revenge he stumbles on to a much more deadly plot by some of London’s other magicians. While keeping revenge on his mind, Nathaniel also decides that he needs to help the society of magicians by stopping this fiendish plot.

Most of the tale is told by Bartimaeus, who like many of the demons summoned by magicians, hates magicians and their petty squabbles. He’s also a wise cracking smartass, which helps keep the book fun and fast. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book, however, is that while it does leave some loose ends, the tale sits well by itself, and if I never manage to read the rest of the trilogy, I won’t feel like I’m missing something. I would gladly recommend it to young and not-so-young readers.

Gangsta Scouts

I’m riding MARTA minding my own business when three young African-American males board the train. These men were garbed in traditional “street” attire: pants hanging low, shoes with the laces out, Starter jackets, baseball caps on at angles other than forward or backward. One sat and two stood. And then, they spoke:

Gangsta_1: Yo dawg! Check it. I gotta get home an’ get me some of them cookies, yo!
Gangsta_2: What kind you got?
G1: I got me some thin mints just chilling in the freezer waitin’ for me, yo.
G2: Yeah.. thin mints are da bomb yo. But I didn’t get none this time round.
G1: What you get, dawg?
G2: Listen to this, yo. I got me a couple of boxes of Do-Si-Dos.
Gangsta_3: Man, them peanut butter cookies are good. Damn good.
G2: I know, yo. I gots to find me a way to order more.
G3: I think my sister has some friends who be sellin’ cookies still.
G1: Get some thin mints, yo. And Tagalongs. That shit is crazy good!
G2: Damn, I forgot about them. Shit, I think I could eat nuthin’ but Girl Scout Cookies.
G3: True dat.
G1: No doubt.

The doors opened at the next station and the three young men left, and as they did, one of them said, “Man, I’m hungry now, yo. I don’t think I can wait until my lunch break to eat my cupcakes.”

As the train pulled away from the station, most of the passengers, me included, burst into laughter.

Nobody Gets the Girl

So lately I have been reading alot of books, largely superhero books from Marvel and DC, but whenever I can find one I prefer those that did not start as a comic book. Nobody Gets the Girl is one of those books.

The story is simple: Richard Rogers wakes up one morning to find out that he was never born, but somehow he’s still around, and no one can see him or hear him… except Dr. Knowbakov and his daughters, who go by the names Rail Blade and The Thrill. And just like that, he is sorta a superhero trying to save the world from itself and Rex Monday.

This was a good, fun, fast read. It really read like a comic book, only without the art to linger over the pages just flew by. One word: Awesome. I highly recommend the book.

Playing Hooky

Sometimes I just feels good and right to blow off responsibility and do something else. Today I decided that it just wasn’t really worth my time and effort to actually go to work. My boss and our main backend programmer are both on vacation, and my immediate responsibilities involve redesigning a page layout so that its “printer friendly”. So last night, in a burst of brilliance, I turned off my alarm and slept the sleep of the contented soul. I woke up and did my best to do nothing upwardly productive all day long. I played computer games, I browsed the web, I went out for lunch, I went to a bookstore and bought crappy books off the bargain table by authors whom by sheer virtue of their being published I respect but by the fact that they were only published once I figure from their work I can get a taste, perhaps, of how not to write.

Damn, I think when I bought those books I did something that might be considered productive. Crap. Now I’ll have to skip another day in a couple weeks and try again.

There are days when I love being a contract programmer, and confident in the knowledge that no amount of work they can throw at me will ever be more than I can deliver on time.