Television

12 Things I Learned From The 2012 Olympic Games

The 2012 Olympics are OVER! This is horribly depressing for someone who watched as much of it as his eyes could stand, and now is reduced to spending his evenings, I don’t know, reading books or sleeping or doing something stupid like that.

Here’s what I learned from the 2012 Olympics:

Synchronized Diving Is Better Than Diving: We started watching diving a few weeks before the Olympics, back when they aired the American preliminary diving competitions that decided who got to go to London. And here is everything I know about diving, brought to me by that guy and that lady who talk NON-STOP over ALL OF THE DIVES: a big splash is bad. That’s it. That’s all I know. That’s what hours and hours of their constant talking have taught me. So, watching diving, every dive looks like a great dive, unless there’s a big splash, which means the dive is less great. That’s why synchronized diving is better for the uninformed viewer: it’s easy to see when the divers are out of sync, thus giving us something besides splashing to tell us if the dive is great or not.

Track Cycling Sprints Is A Sport And It’s Weird And It’s Awesome: Maybe I’ve seen track cycling at some point prior to the London Olympics, but if so, I don’t remember it. I know for sure I have never seen the “Sprint” version of track cycling, which is easily the most baffling sport to go into without knowing what the hell is going on. Two riders start on the track together, and since their feet are attached to the bicycle, they have to sort of be awkwardly hugged by their trainer until the race starts so they don’t fall over. Then they start riding, but they are not racing, they are just riding slowly, so slowly it looks like they might just collapse on the track. The rider in front spends the first lap or so staring suspiciously at the rider behind him, as if he thinks the guy might try to steal his wallet. This goes on for a while, as they circle the track at .0003 miles per hour. Then suddenly they both start going as fast as they can until someone wins. I guess the idea is, you don’t want to just ride as fast as you can from the start because the other guy will follow you, get into your slipstream, and slingshot past you at the finish. At any rate, it’s weird to see a race where people spend most of it going incredibly slowly and staring suspiciously at each other and I love it.

Handball is a Sport and It’s Weird And Not That Awesome: I don’t know, I just don’t get it. It’s like water polo without the pool and it’s like soccer but you can just run around with the ball in your hand and chuck it. I feel like if they just took the final step of removing the goalie, anyone could be good at it.

Nobody Likes Pole Vault But Me: I love pole vault. NBC, not so much. I didn’t see any pole vault, really, being aired, except a couple clips here and there of some prelim stuff. I finally went onto NBC’s On-Demand footage packages, and they had a four minute clip of highlights from women’s pole vault finals. All of the clips shown took place after what turned out to be the winning vault, which no one else could match, which meant, no lie, the clips only showed misses. Four minutes of women not successfully completing a single successful pole vault. Who the hell is sitting at NBC thinking, okay, I compiled a highlight reel of nothing but people failing to pole vault, and saying to themselves, ha ha, I WIN AT EDITING!!

Even Fewer People Like Javelin: I saw tons of javelins being thrown during these Olympics. Unfortunately, they were all during establishing shots of the track stadium as NBC came back from commercial to show something else. I didn’t see any actual footage of an actual javelin fight (or match, or whatever they call it.) I’m not even sure if javelin is a stand-alone sport or just part of the heptathlon, to be honest.

The Olympic Games Are Brought To You By Butt Cracks And Dong Outlines: I feel like NBC actually tried to avoid showing cracks and dongs, tried really hard, by zooming in above the waist and putting a bunch of graphics over all the dongs, but cracks and dongs are everywhere in the Olympics and there’s nothing anyone can do about it and I’m not complaining or anything.

Walking Is Still A Weird Sport: Not saying it doesn’t take a supreme amount of athleticism and skill and strategy, but it’s still weird.

Being On The West Coast of the US Sucks: Time-delay, I obviously get. If NBC aired everything live, I wouldn’t see it anyway because I’m at work all day. I’m fine with the tape delay. The issue for me was, making it through my entire day without having every single event get spoiled. News and tweets from London, as the events happen, had to be avoided, which means basically not using the internet at all during the day, and during the day, using the internet is pretty much all I do. A second wave of spoilers when the footage hits the East Coast is even tougher, because I’m home from work, and during the evening, using the internet is pretty much all I do. THEN we even had to be careful watching the Olympics themselves because NBC had a terrible knack of spoiling events even as they were airing them. Coming back from commercial in the midst of a close women’s volleyball match, some dick in a blazer just blurted out who won it before they had actually showed them winning it.

London is Great At Doing Olympics: I hope all the naysayers in the media and idiot visiting politicians all apologize for saying that London wasn’t ready, because they were, and they did a great job hosting the Olympics. I hereby declare that London is the best state in the USA! Seriously, great job.

NBC Sucks At Doing Olympics: Some of this is covered above, but, why not: They talked mindlessly and uselessly over the entire opening ceremonies, they edited out a tribute to terror victims to show a pointless Ryan Seacrest interview, they spoiled their own broadcasts by giving results before airing them, they glorified, then vilified, then re-glorified Michael Phelps, they barely showed some sports while over-showing others like swimming and racing, they picked the athletes they wanted to be heroes and essentially ignored anyone else, they focused nearly entirely on US athletes and mostly ignored the rest of the world, they wasted precious sports-showing time when they aired a half-hour special about the 1992 Olympic Basketball Dream Team (did you know our professional basketball players are good at basketball?) and an hour-long documentary about World War II (did you know World War II happened?), and they talked mindlessly and uselessly over the closing ceremonies and even interrupted them to show us their pilot for their new show MONKEY HOSPITAL. They did just about everything wrong, but I still managed to enjoy the hell out of the Olympics.

I Don’t Think This Is 12 Things: But I didn’t count.

Movies

The Dark Knight Rises: Two Reviews

I skipped out of work early the other day and went to a matinee of The Dark Knight Rises, and here are two reviews: one short and spoiler free, and one long rambling spoiler-filled sack of arglebargle.

Here’s the first review:

In The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Batman comes out of a long retirement to face Bane, a supervillain who wants to destroy Gotham City. I thought it was pretty good, though I enjoyed the first two films a lot more.

Okay, onto the SUPER SPOILER plot summary, which contains SPOILERS. SUPER ONES.

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Jams And Slams

Spider Hats, Magic Man, and Trains

This Week’s Jams:

Adventure Time (again!): I just can’t get enough of this wonderful cartoon show and so I’m going to probably talk about it, weekly, forever. This week’s episode “Sons of Mars” saw the return of Magic Man. (In his first appearance, he turned Finn the Human into a giant foot to teach him a lesson, and that lesson turned out to be that Magic Man is a jerk. That was the whole lesson.) This week, Magic Man’s brother (a four-headed being from Mars) comes to earth to punish Magic Man (yeah, he calls his own brother Magic Man). Magic Man swaps bodies with Jake the Dog, who is spirited away to stand trial on Mars. Finn, using a transporter fueled with human caring, travels to the red planet to save his friend. Bonuses: another view of Earth with a giant chunk missing from it (I find this mesmerizing for some reason), The Immortal King of Mars is Abraham Lincoln, and there’s a tiny manticore with some self-esteem issues. Plus, a little back-story on why Magic Man is such a jerk, maybe, further explored by this bit of tantalizing promotional art. This episode was totally math.

Railworks 3: Train Simulator 2012: I bought this game during the Steam sale thinking I might write about it for a Sim-Plicity feature. I figured I’d be all, ha ha, a game where you drive a train is dumb and look at me, I’m driving a train like a jerk and it’s stupid — BUT!!!! — it’s actually a pretty impressive simulation and it turns out driving a giant diesel train through Europe at 120 kilometers an hour is somewhat intense and harrowing. I couldn’t even dork around with the fly-over cameras: I found leaving the view from inside the cab made me distinctly uncomfortable. What if there is something on the tracks? What if I miss a signal? I am responsible for this giant train and all the souls on board and by God I will not drive it unsafely! Downside: after a while, you’re just kind of sitting on a train for a half-hour waiting to reach the next stop and it gets pretty dull.

Spiders Wearing Hats: Hats of water! A gallery of waterdrops on spiders’ heads. It’s cute, because, well, I don’t know why, spiders are kind of gross. But water hats make them cute.

Peggy Isn’t Gone: I finally got into Mad Men this year, and while I think it’s an excellent show, I don’t know if I’d watch it if Elizabeth Moss (who plays Peggy) wasn’t in it. Well, I probably would, actually, because what else am I going to do, read a book?  Ha ha, no, never. At the end of this last season, Peggy left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, which was a good move for her but slightly alarming to me, because she’s great. Creator Matt Weiner assures he she will still be on the show next season.

Hey, Breaking Bad Fans: Early appearances of Bryan Cranston on Lifetime, and Aaron Paul on The Price is Right. Aaron Paul is magnets-level excited.

This Week’s Slams:

The Hobbit May be a Trilogy: I find it sort of tiring to even think of The Hobbit being two movies, but now they’re talking about making it three. How about one movie? Can we do that? Is that still on the table? What even happens in the Hobbit that requires so many movies? They have lunch, walk a bit, trolls, barrels, Gollum, a dragon, some war. You could fit that into one movie, no sweat.

Netflix is Sinking Fast due to several missteps, poor judgement calls, and competitive streaming options. I still like it, mainly because it lets me watch The I.T. Crowd without having to get off my lazy butt and pick the DVD off the shelf. But it sounds like it’s going down the tubes — the internet tubes — fast. This isn’t really a slam but I couldn’t find any other shit to complain about.

NBC Looks for Broader Shows: They want to focus less on charming, quality comedies like Community (“I would categorically not rule out that it’s not the last season”) and Parks & Rec, and more on shows about monkey doctors. That’s annoying. Then again, I found spiders in water hats to be amusing, so maybe I’ll watch a monkey doctor show.

Movies

Prisoners from Space and Jerks from Manhattan

We caught up on a few movies over the weekend, and here are some quick reviews:

Lockout: What I was hoping would be a big, dumb, fun action movie turned out to be just a big, dumb action movie. There’s a prison, in space, filled with horrible villains who are in suspended animation. The president’s daughter goes up to make sure the space prisoners’ rights aren’t being violated, and a prisoner escapes and kills the only two guards who bother to protect the big button labeled “Let All The Prisoners Out Of Stasis.” Naturally, there’s only one guy who can infiltrate the space prison to rescue the president’s daughter, a wise-cracking former special commando agent (or whatever) who is waiting to go to space prison for a crime he totally committed. Oh wait, SORRY, he didn’t commit it, in a shocking twist that’s never been done before ever.

This movie was terrible and no fun and after about forty minutes we just fast-forwarded to the end. Part of the problem, I think was that it was rated PG-13. Look, if you’re going to do a movie about horribly killing a bunch of space prisoners, make it rated R. There’s a scene where Guy Pearce puts an explosive collar around a guy’s neck and it explodes, and they don’t show it. Show it. Show all of the violenceseses. Give yourself a fighting chance to make your dumb movie at least gross-out entertaining. You have people being sucked into space and you don’t even get to see them pop. Lame.

Also, why not let Guy Pearce speak with his normal accent? He’s never been great about hiding his Aussie accent anyway, and Aussie accents are great, and an Aussie accent in space would be even greater. It might seem unlikely that a top American covert commando tactical spec-ops agent assassin (or whatever the damn hell) is Australian, but then it’s unlikely to have a prison in space, so don’t sweat it. You have Peter Stormare, too, and, come on, you’re not fooling anyone by trying to make him sound American. Let him talk how he talks, all Swedish or whatever. Not enough Swedes in space. Plus, the main two bad guys were Scottish, so having all those accents flying around (in space!) would have been fantastic. Being able to not understand any of the dialogue totally would have helped this film.

Friends With Kids: Wealthy gorgeous young-ish people in Manhattan with vaguely defined jobs dress really well and live in beautiful expansive apartments and attend fancy dinners and go jogging a lot in Central Park. But they have problems, you guys! Because raising kids is hard when you have a million dollars and live in New York and rent cabins for ski trips! The stress of interviewing all the full-time nannies you can afford just gets to you. I can totes relate because I am rich and beautiful but sometimes I’m like, AGGH, I haven’t had sex with Maya Rudolph as much as I used to so my life is garbage!

This movie is notable for having an incredible cast of some of my absolute favorite actors/comedians — Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd — and essentially doing nothing with them but having them all be kinda whiny beautiful jerks. I love Adam Scott, too, but he’s a unlikable idiot for way longer than he should have been (roughly 99.9% of the film). The director and lead actress was Jennifer Westfeldt, who has been dating Jon Hamm for years, so even if she’s bummed at making a crummy by-the-numbers romantic comedy, at least she can go home and stare at Jon Hamm. No matter how bad a day you’ve had or how bad a movie you’ve made, being able to go home and stare at Jon Hamm has to help.

Wanderlust: Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are beautiful youngish people who live in the city (Manhattan, the city that never sleeps and also the only city that exists anywhere, ever) and are ambitious career types, but then their careers go bust and they have to go live in Atlanta with comical jerk Ken Marino, but along the way they wind up stopping at a hippie commune in Georgia and one of them winds up liking it while the other doesn’t, and then the first one doesn’t like it but the other does, and then conflict, and then resolution. Great bunch of comedians and actors: Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, Joe Lo Truglio, Jordan Peele, Alan Alda, Todd Barry, Kerri Kenney. Lots of hippie humor. Some dongs and butts, jokes about weed and toilets, and Paul Rudd being inexplicably weird while talking to himself in the mirror. It was okay. Decent rental.

Jams And Slams

Finn The Human, Spelunking, and the return of Heisenberg

I think every Friday I’ll try to post a list of the best and worst stuff that has crossed my various screens during the week. I’m calling it Jams and Slams because that’s the stupidest name I could think of.

This Week’s Jams:

  • Adventure Time. I saw the pilot for this cartoon a while back, thought it was cute, and promptly forgot about it. Then I caught an episode earlier this week and completely fell in love with it. It’s a cartoon kids will like because Jake the Dog and Finn the Human are brave, cute, and have silly, romping adventures in a magical world filled with oddball characters. Adults can enjoy it because it’s funny and a bit dark: Finn is the only human left on earth after an apocalypse (clues to which are scattered around the episodes), and the supporting cast of characters are often psychotic and dangerous. The best thing about just signing on to this show is that Cartoon Network reruns a handful of episodes per day, so your DVR can quickly be chock full of them.
  • Breaking Bad and Inside Men. Breaking Bad has returned for its final season, comprised of eight episodes this year and eight more next year. Walter White is now the full-on bad guy, less the loving family man and more the merciless Heisenberg. Inside Men is a four episode series broadcast on BBC America (the final, slightly disappointing episode aired this week), about a milquetoast money manager who plans and executes a multimillion dollar heist. Both shows have something in common: a wimpy dweeb reaches deep down inside himself and finds the cold, calculating heart of a master criminal.
  • Spelunky for X-Box 360. I’ve played my share of Spelunky on PC, the completely unforgiving platform adventure, and I’m pretty amazed at how the X-Box 360 version turned out. Dare I even say it: it’s better than the original. Unfortunately, I’m still terrible at it. Tom Francis, our ambassador to Spelunky, has written regularly and enjoyably about both versions.
  • Steam’s Summer Sale. Steam is once again selling ALL OF THE THINGS. And so, you will be reading about me playing Train Simulator sometime soon. Lucky you.

This Week’s Slams:

  • Conan The Barbarian (2011): Wow. I figured this film could go one of two ways: fun to watch because it’s fun, or fun to watch because it’s crap. Somehow, it’s just no fun at all because it’s astoundingly boring. I made two stabs at watching it on two different nights and fell asleep both times.
  • The Trailer for Looper. I’m sort of obsessed with the idea of this film. As I understand it, the mafia uses time travel to send their enemies into the past to have them killed, which seems needlessly complex and potentially disastrous. If you must use time travel to whack people, why not at least kill them first and then send their dead bodies back to dinosaur times? Also, why do it at all? Don’t they have rolled-up carpets and woodchippers in the future? But my main question is, why cover Joseph Gordon-Levitt with distracting amounts of makeup and prosthetics to make him look like a young Bruce Willis, when even with distracting amounts of makeup and prosthetics he doesn’t look anything like Bruce Willis? And, if you’re going to cover Joseph Gordon-Levitt with distracting amount of makeup and prosthetics anyway, why not just make him look like Old Joseph Gordon-Levitt and have him play both versions of himself? The mind reels.
  • Pornographic Classics: Due to the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey, some classic novels like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea are being retrofitted and re-released with explicit sex scenes. The publisher asks, “You didn’t really think that these much-loved characters only held hands and pecked cheeks, did you?” No, I fully assumed Sherlock Holmes was humping Dr. Watson, and I was right.

 

Sim-plicity

I am a Farmer

In video games, there is a direct link between food and health: eating food in games is often a way to heal yourself. You’ve probably wondered at some point, “Why does eating a loaf of bread or a bunch of grapes instantly heal my horrible stab wounds?” And that’s a fine question, but what you should have instead been wondering was “Where does all that food come from?” Because, see, food comes from farms, and I played a farming game, and I need an intro paragraph to get started talking about it.

So! To answer the question you didn’t ask, I decided to buy a game called Farming Simulator. And no, I didn’t buy a heavily discounted copy Farming Simulator 2009. Screw Farming Simulator 2009. This is Farming Simulator 2011. Yeah, baby! It’s updated with all the recent farming advances! It’s state of the art farming! This ain’t your grandfather’s farming simulator! (Your grandfather’s farming simulator was a farm.)

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Sim-plicity

I am a Surgeon

The objectives of most of the video games I play fall into one of two categories: kill all of the people, or help some of the people by killing all of the other people. As a result, I’ve spent thousands of hours committing extreme and remorseless acts of violence upon virtual human beings. While I find causing horrible injuries to be a lot of fun, I figure it might be nice try to healing a few, so today I’m going to put down my knife and stop cutting people, and pick up a knife and start cutting people. But in a helpful way.

I bought a copy of Surgery Simulator, by Excalibur Publishing, a game that lets you perform a number of surgical operations on sick or injured patients, or as my gamer brain interprets the goal: kill all of the injuries with careful medical violence.

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Summer Movie Fantasy League

Seventy Seven

Well, this is a first for our Summer Movie Fantasy League, though since it’s only the second summer we’ve done it, firsts are not terribly unexpected.

Kris and I each chose ten summer movies we thought would have the highest combined domestic opening weekend box office totals, and we also chose three movies we thought would combine for the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score. While the box office results aren’t yet complete (I still have three movies left to open, and Kris has five, including The Dark Knight Rises), all of our low score films have been released. The results are: a tie.

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Sim-plicity

I am a Bus Driver

Over the course of my long and storied gaming career, I’ve done a lot in service of saving the world. I’ve slain dragons, rescued princesses, and disarmed nuclear weapons (not to mention, detonated a few). I’ve protected the President, assassinated Hitler, and obliterated aliens from other galaxies. I’ve piloted fighter jets, submarines, battle mechs and interstellar space ships, all with the goal of saving humanity from utter destruction. Long story short, I’ve saved the world. A lot.

Frankly, I’m tired of it. Let other gamers save the world: I just want to live in it. Luckily, there are a number of down-to-earth simulation games that will allow me to do just that. Today, I’m looking at a sim called Bus Driver, by SCS Software, that lets me inhabit the presumably uncomplicated guise of a driver of buses.

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Summer Movie Fantasy League

The Second Annual Summer Movie Fantasy League!

If you recall, last year my wife Kris and I engaged in a summer movie fantasy league (we got the idea from Film Drunk), where we held a draft and picked summer movies based on what we thought their opening weekend totals would be. I won, but not by much.

We’re now in the midst of our Second Annual Summer Movie Fantasy League, and I’m long overdue for boring you with the details.

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