Monday, September 24, 2007

Heroes: Four Months Later

*Checks calendar* Hmm...so it is. Props to them for getting that little detail right. And I'm glad they didn't feel the need for the same sense of realism for the episode "Five Years Gone" (or "Six Months Ago", for that matter, although that would've been cooler to see).

OK, so Heroes. If you haven't watched the first episode yet, this will probably contain spoilers. If you have, it won't. If you don't care, you're not one of the three regular readers of this blog, so I guess I don't know what to tell you. You were expecting maybe office-related humor? OK, here's something for you to use around the water cooler:

You: Hey, did you hear Marcel Marceau died this weekend?
Co-worker: No!
You: (Shaking head sadly) That's how good he was.

-or-

Co-worker: Yes! So sad.
You: I know. Should we observe a moment of noise?

OK, so for the rest of you, here is the thought that sums up everything I think about the show to date:

Love the ideas, but they got the archery wrong.

Let's do the obligatory preamble. I am a fan of Heroes. I love the premise. I love that it's made sci-fi shows suddenly cool, just like reality shows were after Survivor, even if it means that we'll be flooded with a bunch of sci-fi equivalents of "Temptation Island" and "The Swan". There were active debates in my household as to which of "Heroes" or "24" to watch live and which to DVR. (The excessive number of commercials in "Heroes" did nothing to help it here--something I would like to thank Nissan for correcting, if only for one week.) I still have last season's finale in coveted "Save Until I Delete" status. I love the characters, not in a jailbaited "Is it legal for me to admire those?" way, but in a "I'm genuinely interested in what happens to these people to the point where I'll yell at them when they do stupid things" way. I'm excited to see that Werner Brandes is still working.

But here's why 24 won the pole position in the live-vs.-DVR debate, why I always walk away from "Heroes" with a firm "but..." following "That was great!"

Japanese archery looks funny.

I know this, partly because I am a tremendous nerd, but mostly because I, like most, have a great talent for remembering bits of information that will never, ever, ever be of practical value. In this case, some portion of my brain devoted itself to the book Zen in the Art of Archery in my sophomore year of college. Specifically, it remembers two things:

1) Breathing is very important; and
2) Japanese archery looks funny.

It looks nothing like what you'd expect. It looks kind of like you just woke up and are stretching without yet having realized that there's a bow and arrow in your hands. There's a fun little animated .gif of it on the Kyudo.com site, or you can see it on the YouTubes.

If you were paying attention when the archers fired on Hiro and Kensai (although, honestly, I don't know why you would), you would have seen that they looked like they learned archery from Kevin Costner. I don't fault the actors here. I don't even think I can fault the director. I recognize that this is a stupid, annoying, nitpicky thing on the level of accusing Michael Dorn of accenting the wrong syllable in his Klingon war cry.

To me, though, it's just a symptom of the larger problem with "Heroes": the writing is just...well, good. Too many times last season, I felt like they were dumbing characters down to drag out a big reveal (like Niki/Jessica taking about 5 episodes longer to figure out her bipolarism than anyone with a brain) or inventing inexplicable plot twists because they'd written themselves into a corner (Hiro's missing powers). Little things that could've been done better, but weren't; little details that needed just a little more attention, but didn't get it.

Like the fact that Japanese archery looks funny.

I'm still in for the long haul, and I'll probably write about it again. But I'd hoped that, once they had proof that they could succeed, NBC would lavish money and Joss Whedon on the show, and it doesn't look like they did. And so it looks like I'll keep leaving each episode with a firm "but..." after my "That was awesome!"

Then again, who ever knew that watching TV could give you a firm "but"? (Rim shot)

Friday, September 21, 2007

On Writing

Good stuff over at Pick The Brain. My favorite quote is from Mark Twain:

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain


Even if I'm very, very guilty of breaking the rule very, very, very often.

I'm not going to go on a big long rant about kids these days, primarily because I'm lazy, but I do hope that the difference between "chatting in text" and "writing" is not lost in my lifetime. I think chatting has its place, and I like the Shakespearian aspect of making language evolve to meet your needs. I love using "book" in place of "cool" (it's certainly no worse than some of the other words I've seen used for "cool").

I just hope that I never see my son use "Ur" on a term paper about anything other than the periodic table or ancient Mesopotamian cities. If he does, I may have to get Full Frontal on him.

(Please click the link to see that that statement is very, very, very much less sick than it sounds.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You Make The Call

Is anyone else reading this even remotely old enough to remember that TV spot? (Or should I just stop that question after "this"?) They would show a potentially controversial sports play (like, say, A-Rod slapping Arroyo during the 2004 ALCS, or A-Rod shouting at the Toronto infielder during a routine pop-up, or A-Rod killing and eating babies and copping an attitude), then stop the film just before the crucial referee's ruling, and an impressive announcer voice would say, "You make the call." Then they would cut to commercial, and come back afterwards to give you the correct ruling, so you could celebrate like a madman if you were correct, or pat each other on the butt if you were wrong.

I have nothing so exciting as sports plays to offer you, but I do have HR nightmares. Lots and lots of HR nightmares. Why don't you take a crack at a few:

1. Your IT department has just found a large cache of pornographic images on the company server. They traced the folder to one of your managers, whom you have confronted. Which of these responses are you least expecting?

a) "Uhhhh..."
b) "Someone must have hacked my user ID and put those there to frame me!"
c) "Oh, those? Yeah, those are mine. What's your point?"
d) "Does this mean I won't be getting the additional server space I requested?"

You make the call!

2. Which of the following might be considered Justifiable Stealing?

a) Eating condiments out of the office fridge because you forgot lunch and are too cheap to buy any.
b) Using the company's FedEx account to overnight a birthday card to Europe because you put off sending it until the day before.
c) "Borrowing" the conference room TV for your Super Bowl party, so you won't miss any action while going to the kitchen for more bean dip.
d) Approving a round of low-priced stock options for the Compensation Committee, which in turn approves a 33% pay increase for you.

You make the call!

3. After months of poor performance, late arrivals, threatened lawsuits, unsubstantiated disability claims ("I am sensitive to criticism! It's a documented medical condition and you have to be nicer to me!"), management has had it. You have built an ironclad case to let your problem employee go. The employee knows it's coming. What should you wear to the termination meeting?

a) Business suit
b) Kevlar vest
c) Bomb Disposal Suit
d) Something that will hide the bloodstains

You make the call!

4. Rank these statements from "Most likely to provoke a harassment lawsuit" to "Least likely to provoke a harassment lawsuit."

a) "Well, of course you can't see it...you're Korean."
b) "What do you mean, you won't move those files? Are you afraid you'll break a nail?"
c) "Hey, once you go Asian, you never go Caucasian."
d) "My little grandson is just the cutest thing...and let me tell you, that boy has a whompin' penis! Do you want to see some pictures?"

You make the call!

5. Which of these is the least appropriate statement for a corporate officer to make during the hiring process?

a) "You know that candidate is clinically insane, right?"
b) "If we hired you, do you have any plans to become pregnant in the next year or two?"
c) "I'd really rather not hire an Asian person, I have a lot of trouble understanding what they're saying."
d) "You know, marriage is really just a social construct that goes against all our genetic programming. We're hard-wired to cheat on my spouse...I mean, our spouses."

You make the call!