Saturday, June 5, 2010

Just when you thought there were no more Saturday Grab Bags!

I realized this week that one benefit of my incredibly low-end GFE (government-furnished equipment, aka my work computer), including no speakers whatsoever, is that I can surf the web at will and never worry about embedded video suddenly giving away the fact that I am slacking off. Because man that embedded video crap is everywhere now.


I also got some spam this week from "Mr. Dalek Wang". Good alias ... or BEST ALIAS EVER? This spam was selling neither sci-fi collectibles nor Viagra, but ... train set toys? Oh interwebs, you bemuse me so.

Surprisingly, the wang is actually the appendage on the right.


We got through the sixth episode of Buffy Season One this week. It's still pretty rough and the special effects are laughably cheap, but that actually makes for some fascinating storytelling. Eventually, BTVS got a proper budget and the makeup effects for the various exotic demons were pretty good (or at least not totally risible). But that first season, when they tried to put something really unearthly on-screen it ended up making 60's Doctor Who look like it was done by Industrial Light and Magic. (Hello, she-mantis!) But more often than not, they got around this with acting. The actress who played the human disguise of the she-mantis was pretty suitably creepy. And the hyena-possession episode is about some pretty wild high-concept supernatural stuff but the special effects consist of an unconvincing hyena puppet that gets only fleeting camera time, and some post-production green glow effects on the students' eyes, also fleeting. Much more of the story is conveyed via the kids (or the actors playing them, who to be fair are probably all 30) just acting creepily hyena-ish. Which is kinda cool.

Out of curiosity I went back to re-read the old AVClub TV Classic write-ups of Buffy, and I was surprised to see the reviewer question the wisdom of the dodgeball sequence in which the possessed students are all on the same team, opposite Buffy, and everyone else on Buffy's team gets eliminated, and rather than finish her and the win the game, the possessed kids turn on a non-possessed teammate of theirs. The AVClub reviewer thought it would have been cool to see Buffy's mad martial arts skills as she dodged incoming attacks from five different directions. Which, OK, but again, I don't really think they had the budget for a Matrix-style gym class showdown. And, on the other hand, the kids aren't possessed by tigers or wolves, they're possessed by hyenas. They don't challenge Buffy because she's strong and they are scavengers who prey on the weak, and that's why they punk out their nerdly teammate. Which also feeds better into the whole metaphor about high school cliques being capricious and mean-spirited. I just wanted to point that out because I remember the first time I saw "The Pack" I thought the writers chose hyenas exclusively so that they could give the actors lots of opportunities for sarcastic giggling. Second-time through I'm picking up on other things. So the re-watching project is totally worth it.


Today I took the little guy to Train Day down in Old Town, and it was a hot and humid afternoon but we had a good time. Walked around and checked out various tables of model trains, including one presented by the Washington Metropolitan Area Lego Train Club, which apparently is a thing! The little guy is fascinated by model trains, and he was especially tickled by the sets which had tunnels that trains could disappear into and magically emerge out of. Simple pleasures. We also saw the real train come and go from the station, and split an ice cream cone, which my boy proclaimed "delicious", a word I did not know he knew (everything else is usually "yummy"). Since we were in Old Town anyway we also stopped in at the used bookstore I've been meaning to check out, and I bought one book for each of us. One for him because it had both a kitty and a bulldozer on the cover, and he had been very good all day, and one for me because, I'm pretty sure, when you run across a $2 airport-paperback thriller from 1988 about a plot to steal Lenin's body in order to prevent World War III, you pretty mich HAVE TO buy that book, right? I thought so.

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