Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Fifteen: 2 Kings

Chapter One
Israel keeps going through bad kings, and more keep cropping up. The king of Israel keeps sending men to bring Elijah to him, but Elijah keeps ordering God to strike down the men with fire. And God, now a trained seal, does it.

Chapter Two
Elijah and Elisha, the Boy Wonder, go to Jericho, where the prophets tell Elisha that Elijah is about to die. Like, that day. The two of them cross the Jordan and a fiery chariot descends from heaven in one of the Bible’s biggest outpourings of High Fantasy. Elijah goes up to heaven, but his powers are transferred to Elisha. He turns a saltwater spring into freshwater, then proves he’s just the kind of prick God always likes in one of my absolute favorite Bible stories: a bunch of kids run up behind him and make fun of his bald head, so he curses them and two bears immediately rush the fuck out of the forest and maul 42 of them! How can you beat that? The Bible is not going to get any better from this point on. That is the high point right there!

Chapter Three
Blah blah shitty kings blah blah paganism blah blah worship of Baal blah miracles blah.

Chapter Four
Elisha suddenly loves children now, because he performs a miracle to keep two of them from being sold as slaves. Then he gets a woman pregnant. Now, now, it was with a miracle! Get your minds out of the completely plausible gutter! Later, he brings that same kid back to life and makes food not poisoned or something.

Chapter Five
Naaman, commander of the Aramean army, comes down with leprosy. Elisha hears about him and cures him miraculously through a letter. Naaman wants to give Elisha gifts as thanks, but Elisha declines. His servant, Gehazi, accepts them and then lies about it, so Elisha curses his, um, friend with leprosy. He’s a hard man, this Elisha.

Chapter Six
Elisha’s miracles are getting a tad mundane. Making an ax-head float so some dude can find it? Boring! Where are the bears? Man, God will suddenly do anything Elisha orders him to do. Elisha tries to make peace between Israel and Aram with a lovely picnic, but amazingly it doesn’t work. A famine strikes and people resort to cannibalism.

Chapter Seven
Elisha worries he’s the target of an assassin. But instead of anything exciting, adventurous, or intriguing happening, Elisha just uses God’s powers to scare the Arameans into fleeing.

Chapter Eight
Kings dying, new kings ascending, etc.

Chapter Nine
Jehu is anointed, but can’t take the throne from Ahab’s sons. A prophet predicts that Jezebel will die and be eaten by dogs. God likes Jehu and not King Joran or King Ahaziah of Judah. There’s some fighting and Jezebel is, as predicted, eaten by dogs.

Chapter Ten
Ahab has 70 sons, but Jehu has them all slaughtered. They all worshiped Baal, anyway. Then he cruelly captures and slaughters the sons of King Ahaziah, also Baal-worshipers. But Jehu’s not done with Baal yet. He gets all the worshipers of Baal into their temple, has a ceremony, locks the doors, and slaughters everyone inside. God is incredibly proud of Jehu’s intolerant killing spree, and makes him king of Israel for 28 years. But, predictably, Jehu doesn’t keep the people away from paganism.

Chapter Eleven
Judah also slaughters its Baal worshipers. Man, is this really the book people point to when they talk about God’s love for humanity? Because a lot of it is the celebration of murdering people for having different beliefs. Guide to being human, indeed.

Chapters Twelve through Twenty-Five
The rise and fall and wars of several generations of kings, none of which have a real consequence on the narrative. Meh. Some of this is covered in actual non-fictional books. And there’s really no climax, it just stops.

Next time, be here for the First Book of Chronicles, which is even more boring than any book so far. Seriously, it's like, 75% roll call.

The History of the Middle East

Part 9 in a series.

The Parthian Empire

Like the Medes and Persians, the Parthians were Aryan—that is to say, Iranian. Parthia was first mentioned in the records of Darius I, and it may be that Parthia is a dialect-form of the word Persia. It is tempting to think of Parthia as a renaissance of the Persian culture. But the Parthians spoke Greek; at least, the aristocracy did. The general populace spoke their Aryan language and remained Zoroastrian (the upper class established a Heracles cult). The rulers all took the name of Arasarces as a throne name; the sixth Arasarces is Mithridates I.

Mithridates took the throne in 171 BC, absorbing Bactria and, after it had declared itself independent of the Seleucids in 150 BC, Media. Members of the Seleucid royal family were busy fighting each other in Syria, so Mithridates easily pushed west and took all of Mesopotamia, including Seleucia. He reassured the Greeks in his realm that he did not mean to end Greek culture there, calling himself Mithridates Philhellene (“admirer of the Greeks”). It was under Mithridates that the final vestiges of Sumer and Akkad died away, and Greek culture became dominant. But the Greeks in Mesopotamia still thought of the Parthians as foreign, and longed to have the Greek Seleucids back in power. It was hard going, but Mithridates kept his realm together, fighting hard until his death in 138 BC. He had founded a Parthian Empire.

A year before his death, Mithridates had taken the Seleucid king Demetrius II as a prisoner. The Seleucid successor, Antiochus VII, successfully invaded Mesopotamia in 130 BC, but was killed fighting in Media. The Parthians let Demetrius go back home to Antioch shortly after. The king had learned his lesson; no Seleucid king would ever again leave Syria. They left Parthia alone.

Just across the Tigris from the still-Greek city of Seleucia, the Parthian winter capital, Ctesiphon, was founded. One Greek city, one Iranian, side by side. It was how the Parthian kings wanted their empire to remain. It was a beautiful ideal, but a hard one to maintain.


In 124 BC, Mithridates II came to power. He wanted to expand north, into the Caucasus Mountains. But the Armenians were already living there; they had been since the Medes had destroyed Urartu. They had been a subject people of the Medes, the Persians, and the Seleucids. In 95 BC, Mithridates II set up a puppet king, Tigranes, to rule Armenia for him. But when Mithridates died in 87 BC, a fight broke out over the succession and Tigranes made war on Asia Minor, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Media. Armenia had seemed so small, but its army was capable and soon became feared in the Middle East. The king called himself Tigranes the Great, King of Kings. His capitol had been at Artaxata, but he built himself a new one, closer to the west, called Tigranocerta.

Tigranes was, like many of the eastern kings, feeling a call towards the western world. But the west was also being drawn east. Rome was by no means finished with the Middle East. Having annexed all of Greece and Macedonia, they soon took the western portion of Asia Minor. Pontus, a kingdom in Asia Minor ruled by Mithridates VI, decided to fight Rome for control of the area. This was a horrible mistake; Rome sent a force under Lucullus that easily crushed Pontus. Mithridates fled to the court of Tigranes, who was his son-in-law. Tigranes took the whole thing as an assault on his family honor and stood up the Rome. It only provided Lucullus an excuse to march into Armenia and take Tigranocerta. Lucullus led the first Roman army into Mesopotamia, handily defeating Tigranes a second time at Artaxata.

What saved Tigranes was a mutiny of the Roman troops. They detested the dour martinet Lucullus and sent him back to Rome. But the salvation of Armenia turned out to be only temporary; Rome sent the very popular Pompey to replace Lucullus, and in 66 BC Pompey marched into Artaxata and captured Tigranes himself. Pompey allowed him to remain king, but as a puppet of Rome’s overlordship; he also forced Tigranes to pay off Rome. Pompey then turned south, conquering Syria in 64 BC and putting an end to the last vestige of Seleucid rule. The Jewish kingdom quickly followed. Rome was now collecting provinces in the Middle East.


Parthia was understandably nervous. Some Romans felt it was their task to return the east to western rule; they felt they were the inheritors of Alexander. One such Roman who agreed with this was Crassus. The First Triumvirate had come to Roman rule in 54 BC. Julius Caesar had gained Gaul for the Republic; Pompey had taken Syria. Crassus decided it was up to him to win back Parthia. The Parthian king, Phraates III, had been murdered by his two sons, who were now fighting each other for the throne. The time seemed ripe for Crassus to march.

This would be a new type of warfare. Rome had developed the legion, which was nearly unstoppable and had handily destroyed the Greek phalanx. The Parthians, however, had the heavy cavalry, and Crassus, never a quick-thinking soldier, was unable to adapt. One of the feuding brothers, Orodes II, took control and rallied the army. Crassus, meanwhile, was greeted with enthusiasm by the Greek cities in Asia. Orodes, disheartened by the outpouring of love for Rome in his own kingdom, sent a delegate to Antioch to broker peace, but Crassus would have no compromise and continued his march toward Parthia.

On the march, Crassus encountered an Arab who said he could lead the Roman army to the Parthian army. He could; he was employed by them. He led the Romans to Haran, where Abraham had lived and Assyria had died. In a spectacular ambush, the Roman cavalry chased Parthian horse right into a massacre. Crassus’s own son was slaughtered, his head stuck on a lance. The sight of it sank Roman morale instantly; the Romans, including Crassus, were slaughtered. One a quarter of the Roman troop survived. The world had seen that is was possible to defeat Rome.

Parthia had stood and survived. It was not only a great military power, but a great economic one. Parthia’s eastern edge almost touched the border of the empire of China, and Rome was only too pleased to pay Parthia to import Chinese silk. Military incursions ceased and Rome begrudgingly let Parthia stand unbothered for a time.

With a third of the Triumvirate dead, Rome fell into civil wars, with Caesar on one side and Pompey on the other. Caesar won out in 44 BC and, now dictator of Rome, planned to crush Parthia for their slaughter of Crassus’s legions, but he was assassinated before he could (sparking another civil war). When the Republicans lost to Octavian and Marc Antony, one of the Repbulicans, Labienus, fled to Parthia to serve Orodes. In 40 BC, Labienus led a Parthian army against Rome’s provinces, taking Syria, Judea, and parts of Asia Minor. The victory was brief; within two years, Rome had pushed Parthia back to the other side of the Euphrates. But the conflict still continued on, as best as Rome could manage with internal conflict. In 37 BC, Orodes’s son Phraates IV came to power by murdering his father, then went on to defeat a Roman force under Marc Antony using guerilla tactics. Octavian settled the wars in 31 BC, took the name Caesar Augustus, declared himself Emperor of Rome, and decided not to pursue Parthia. Rome needed to strengthen the borders she already had first.

But the respite from Roman incursion would be very brief indeed.

To be continued.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Throwdown 1/19

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Well, apparently Mary Carey can no longer use her name because Mariah Carey has nothing better to do than seek publicity. Too bad. Mary Carey forever!

2. Posh Spice comes to America, and she does this to us? Please send her back home, preferably in a box with no air holes in it.

3. When it comes right down to it, who is Isaiah Washington and what do I care that he called some guy I’ve never heard of a faggot? I mean, really? There’s prejudice, there’s racism, and then there’s the mistaken belief most Americans are living under now, where they think they have some kind of right to never be uncomfortable for even a second. Hey, you know what? There’s never going to be a time when what you do is cool with everyone all the time. That’s just how that is. I don’t really give a shit that some dude called some other dude a fag. Some people are just close-minded. How does this effect some crappy TV show I don’t even watch, and why are actual news outlets reporting on it as though it’s the death of a world leader?

4. I haven’t been following the whole format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray because, frankly, I can’t afford either one and I’m fine with the beloved DVD player I purchased for $450 back in 1998. But I’d call HD-DVD hands-down the winner. They’re putting out porn. What else sells anymore? Although, DreamWorks supports HD-DVD, and they usually support the losing home format (Divx, anyone?), so who can really tell?

5. “Scarlett Johansson has been hand-picked” by Jenna Jameson to play her in a movie. That’s how the Daily Record puts it. Let’s put it more realistically. In her constant and insecure bid for mainstream acceptance, Jenna Jameson really, really wants ScarJo to play her in a movie. Not only does ScarJo have better things to do with her career, but fuck Jenna Jameson. I am so fucking sick of her. Is Scarlett supposed to be honored at being Jenna’s choice? And why the fuck does anyone need to see Jenna Jameson’s life story, anyway? She should pick someone more realistic and not as above her, like Shannon Elizabeth or Tara Reid.

6. This is an old story already, but how dumb do Paula Abdul’s publicists think we are? Oh, yeah, she’s just so stressed out and overwhelmed from being followed by cameras and doing publicity. Funny how, um, every other celebrity on Earth has that problem and is at least able to spit out a fucking coherent sentence on TV without bobbing around like a Parkinson’s patient. Man, and how icy were her exchanges with Jewel on the first episode of Idol? Man!

7. Matthew Knowles was pissed that Beyonce came away from the Golden Globes empty-handed, and decided to blame it on white America: “Today is MLK’s birthday,” he said, “and it saddens me to say that things have not changed for blacks. Working class blacks and blacks in Hollywood are still being discriminated against. We still have a long way to go.” Well, except for Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, Forest Whitaker, and Prince, who all won Golden Globes.

8. I just caught Louis CK’s new special on HBO, so here’s your stupid language joke of the month. Responding to HBO’s warning that the special contained “graphic language,” I asked if the show would also contain “audible images.” Okay, they’re not all winners. Above: Louis CK doing about six minutes on hating people for recreation. I do it too. If you don’t feel like watching, you can always wait until it becomes part of Dane Cook’s repertoire.

9. Lindsay Lohan is the new face of Miu Miu. Thank God for airbrushing. Oh, and she’s in rehab. Inevitable, I know, but given the wonders rehab has been doing for celebrities lately, I’m still calling dead by age 23.

10. Dang, do you believe Raquel Welch still looks this good? Holy socks!

11. Barack Obama wants to run for president? Why? I mean, I like him and I think he’s doing a great job here in Illinois, but what has he done? He really should wait until he’s got a political record. The 2008 race is probably going to be a huge disappointment (I despise Hilary Clinton and John McCain, whom they’re already calling the front-runners), but still… Obama should wait until 2012.

12. Can I hug her???!! America Ferrera brings all the Hollywood phonies to tears, and I love her for that and so much more. And she had so much grace not to clock Maria Menounos over the head with her award statue, even after basically being insulted by her!

13. Jessica Biel continues to be completely amazing to me. Apparently, Cameron Diaz blew up at her because Justin Timberlake was flirting with her. It’s no secret that Cameron Diaz is one of the biggest bitches in Hollywood, and Jessica Biel was just grace under pressure. Oh, would I have loved to hear this story end with Jessica Biel punching Diaz in the face and dislocating her jaw. At least for wearing that hideous lipstick she wore. One punch, that’s all Biel needs. She’s magnificent.

14. And congratulations, my darling Jordan! Katie Price is pregnant for a third time, and I hope she finally has her little girl.

15. Well, the House of Representatives has crested through their “100 Hour” stretch of legislation, and what have they done? Well, they’ve voted to recoup billions of dollars in lost royalties from oil and gas companies, and to stop giving those companies tax breaks. They voted to raise the minimum wage, implement port security measures, expand embryonic stem cell research, give Medicare the power to negotiate lower costs on prescription drugs, and cut interest rates on student loans. And in the Senate, they’ve passed an ethics bill that will no longer allow lobbyists to bribe senators with gifts. And, of course, they’re both trying to figure out how to oppose the escalation of the war in Iraq. They’re even looking at global warming. They’ve already accomplished more in their first 100 hours than Bush did in his first 100 days; all he really did was fuck up the economy with his tax cuts. Now it’s just a matter of whether Dubya (Duh for short) signs these things into law. Nancy Pelosi most emphatically does not deserve to be Speaker of the House. She deserves to be President of the motherfucking United States.

Monkey vs. Robot!

Hey, how about that whole ice storm thing? Did that suck or what? If you're dreading cleaning off your car as much as I am, why not take a look at some links?

At last! The Beast has up its annual list of the 50 Most Loathsome People!

"You're not the only one with issues!" Yas has a funny-buy-scarily-accurate video up over at Good Tidings on a Bad Day that is pants-shittingly hilarious.

No Smoking in the Skull Cave has the posters for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Check out the comments for more Orlando Bloom fan hilarity! And I'm kinda bummed they didn't make a poster for Davy Jones. He's in this one, right? I mean, their inexplicable casting of actors far too good for those shitty movies is what keeps me going to those things.

Geeks like me will enjoy Angela's list of comic book characters she wants to fuck. I'm thinking of doing the same thing, but with cartoons...

The Gilded Moose brings us another shocking scandal.

John Waters loves Kevin Federline. That about says it all, don't it?

Modern Drunkard sez Andre the Giant is the greatest drunk of all time. My favorite's still Oliver Reed, but damn.

Pajiba brings us their First Annual Shit List. They're wrong about Scarlett Johansson, but dead right everywhere else.

Johnny Yen remembers Spy magazine. Man, so do I. I miss the hell out of it.

According to CelebNewsWire, Dina Lohan is exactly the kind of huge slut I've always imagined she is.

The Madman Is a Waking Dreamer lets us in on some of the missed opportunities we've had due to the out-of-control war spending.

Deus Ex Malxcontent has something to say to Fox over the whole Paula Abdul mess and the lack of actual reportage in reports.

Zaius Nation has a story about what a douche bag Representative Jack Kingston is. Seriously, have you ever seen the cross-eyed Kingston interviewed? Douche.

Yasamin can teach us all a lesson about doing good deeds. And if you ain't learned it yet, you need to.

Would this be a week for me without telling you to check out The Rude Pundit? He tells us George W. Bush has no soul, which we knew, but he tells us better than anyone else does.

And finally, progress is possible again. So says Nancy Pelosi in this hopeful editorial. I'd follow her to hell and back, I would.

Horseness is the whatness of allhorse

You're Ulysses!
by James Joyce
Most people are convinced that you don't make any sense, but compared to what else you could say, what you're saying now makes tons of sense. What people do understand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at once brilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings you additional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Sylvia Browne: You Can Shut Up Now

Not to shatter all of your illusions, but psychics are fake. They're liars, and the worst part is, they know it. They just know how willing some people are to believe in their bullshit, and they take advantage of it. They're just dramatically cold-reading, which is basically a combination of intuition and leading you into giving them the answer. The funny thing is, it's always the people who are worst at it that become the most famous: John Edward, James Van Praagh, and Sylvia Browne.

Now, I especially hate Sylvia Browne, just because she really, genuinely seems to not care about even pretending to be believable. She just knows people buy into her bullshit and she doesn't really have to put any effort into it at all. Bizarrely, it's that total lack of finesse that people seem to respond to. Her blunt obviousness is interpreted as some kind of plain-faced honesty, for reasons I can't even fathom. This woman is a sham, a charlatan, someone who preys on people in an emotional state, and that is the worst kind of person in the world.

Anyway, I bring this up because of a news story going around. See, in February 2003, the family of a missing 11 year-old boy, Shawn Hornbeck, went on The Montel Williams Show, Ms. Browne's preferred forum, to ask about their boy. He had vanished, and they were desperate, and they waed some kind of comfort. She told them their son was "no longer with us." She told them that his body could be found in a wooded area 20 miles from their home, near two large, jagged boulders.

Now, that's irresponsible enough. But it gets worse. First, her bogus lie--er, "vision"--caused search teams to redirect their efforts. Dozens of people called to say that they believed they lived near the woods matching the description. And then...this is almost too horrible to even tell you, because it's just so ultimately detestable...the couple allege (I hate that I have to use that word) that Browne called them a month after the show and offered to use her "gift" to help the parents find the boy's body. For the mere price of $700. Per half hour.

Four years later, and it turns out the boy was living just a few miles away with the man who is now charged with snatching him.

Isn't that just great? You see how much damage these fakers, these ham actors, these vampires cause when they prey on human suffering? These irresponsible greedheads who don't give a shit about you or your family; all they want is your money.

Browne is, predictably, denying that she would ever charge for a missing child. Montel Williams, who has her on his show every Wednesday, wouldn't comment. Oops, I mean he "wasn't available." She's also defensive, saying to the New York Daily News: "I'm terribly sorry that this happened. But I think my body of work stands by itself. I've broken case after case. I think it's just cruel to jump on this one case in which I was wrong. I've said thousands of times I'm not God." case? Actually, Browne has been wrong a number of times. In fact, she was wrong most recently just a week or two ago on Coast to Coast, when she claimed in the middle of a live broadcast that the West Virginia miners would all be found alive...only to be told in the middle of the broadcast that all but one of them were dead. Her backtracking is insanely funny to listen to; she just flat-out lies and says defensively: "I did believe that they were gone."


She's so insecure about being discovered as the fraud she really is that she refuses to prove she's psychic. She's got a mini-empire to protect, after all. James "The Amazing" Randi, the greatest skeptic of them all, issued a challenge to Sylvia Browne to test her powers according to very specific protocols for a million dollars. Think about that. James Randi is so sure that she's lying, he's offering a million bucks to prove it. She accepted the challenge, on Larry King Live no less, on 3 September 2001. Five years later, and she still hasn't show up to prove it.

Yeah, it's time for people to just tell her to put up or shut up.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

TV Report: Reality Shows

I do get caught up in the reality shows. Why? I have no idea, but it certainly happens. Just recently, I got caught up watching the first series of The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. And, if you count it as a reality show (which it kind of is), BBC America has started airing the second series of Gordon Ramsay's The F Word, which I enjoy the hell out of. I've really been into watching Living with Ed on HGTV, in which Ed Begley Jr. and his wife try to live together without killing each other. Really, do they seem to just hate each other, or what? What I really like is Ed's house, with its garden, solar battery, and fence made out of recycled milk jugs. It's one hell of a neat house.

But mostly, I seem to get involved in reality shows for sexual reasons. Which I guess is what draws in a number of people. I used to watch Hogan Knows Best, before I just couldn't take it anymore, because I was very into Brooke. And Linda, for that matter. And The Surreal Life always catches me with some chick that turns me on. Usually, it's the weirdest chick it could be (yes, Alexis Arquette totally did it for me in the last series), and if they melt down, somehow that makes me love them more. So, of course, I've gotten pulled into watching Surreal Life Fame Game, which is sort of a Surreal Life All-Stars...or, really, Surreal Life Whoever We Could Actually Entice Back to the Show. And let me tell you, I am in love with Andrea Lowell.

Will she win? Who cares? As long as she's on this show, I'm the one who's winning, baby.

So, I tried to stay away from it, but I did end up watching the third series of Beauty and the Geek. I watched the other two, and I figured it'd be more of the same...and it is, actually, but I still got caught up in it. Hey, I've always been a geek, and I've always liked beautiful girls, so I feel for these guys. And three weeks is enough time to pick favorites, so I have to say my favorite guy is Mario. Because, basically, I'm Mario. And as for the girls...well, it's too early to tell. Predictably enough, it's become the blondes against the brunettes. I like Nadia, who's paired with Mario, because she seems genuinely nice. But you know me, I'm looking for ass.

And I found that in Erin, whom I like very much. She's paired with Drew, who says he would choose Star Trek over women... Man, that about says it all, doesn't it? Hey, both of these two are from towns near my own! That's pretty cool. Maybe I should root for the home team. On the other hand, Mario and I have a lot in common (girth, awkwardness), and he's my boy. I loved him for getting that challenge about listening to women. I mean, they put the geeks in with a nude model and tell them to sketch her (they all sucked), but when she started talking about herself, I knew the challenge was going to be to listen to her. And Mario was the only one who got it. That's my boy!

The one guy I didn't like at first who's become one of my favorites is Nate, which is funny because, with his out-of-control beard and bushy hair, he reminds me of a number of friends I've had over the years. So, what do I know? He's paired with Ceci, who I really don't like. She's stupid, there's no nice way to put that. And she's mean. And she's also living proof that a girl doesn't have to actually be hot to be considered hot; she just has to act like she is, and people reward that.

I also didn't like Andrea at first. She came across as a bitchy beauty queen (literally, she's a pageant winner), but I came to respect her at the last. See, the thing is, the blonde clique has gotten really powerful, and they have had a tendency to ignore the guys and hang out together by the pool. Andrea really did try to understand the guys a bit, learning to play chess and talking to them. And, as a geek, I'm telling you it isn't often that a beautiful girl with an insanely hot body just comes up and starts talking to you. But she totally called the blondes on it in the end, which was awesome! Let me provide some background, in case you missed it.

This is Jennylee and her partner Niels. Jennylee is, as you may have notice, incredibly fucking hot. Seriously, I think she's the hottest babe in the house. She looks like this British actress Lucy Punch that I really like; totally my kind of chick. Niels is...well, I've come to like him more and more. He's not a bad-looking man, he's just a little shy and doesn't understand social behavior. He made me wretch in the beginning with his "I'm smarter than 99.9% of the population...maybe 99.99%" bit, but I've come to like the guy. And he's paired with Jennylee, who seems nice, but who has totally become that one chick on the show--there's always one on Beauty and the Geek--who gets the hots for one of the other geeks. Which always upsets their partners, but the girls never really care. So, Jennylee has totally fallen in lust with Nate. In the makeover episode, Nate went from this...
To this...
Wow, right? When they did the date auction, I had to admit that even I would have bid on Nate. He's actually hot. Seriously, when he came out minus his beard, cap, and long hair, I was stunned and thought, he kinda looks like Hugh Jackman.

So, Jennylee already liked Nate, and his makeover just drove her even more wild. But her being into Nate just made Niels feel like nothing, so when he and Jennylee had the power to send two teams to elimination, he chose Nate and Ceci. Which made Jennylee so upset she cried and locked herself in the closet. Seriously, does she just not care how much she's hurting her partner? Probably not, actually... And Jennylee, predictably, picked Andrea, the brunette, and Matt. But before the elimination took place, Jennylee decided she had to apologize to Andrea and make a half-assed attempt at absolving herself from bitchery, and Andrea actually called her on it! First, she dismissed the blondes as a gaggle of idiots who run around the house screaming "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!" And Jennylee took exception to that by telling Andrea: "Well, at least we're doing something, you're always sitting around and studying and playing chess like a geek!"

Do you see what she did there? Jennylee accused Andrea of acting like a geek. Does she not realize what show she's on? Seriously, it's pretty much like if the geeks were black and the beauties were white, and Jennylee had told off Andrea by saying "Well, at least I'm not acting like a nigger!" Same thing.

And Andrea, beautifully, said that was the reason she was there, to meet people and learn something. And whatever Jennylee said after that was drowned out (it would've been irrelevant anyway) by me thinking, Andrea, I've judged you wrongly and for that I'm sorry.

God, prejudice is unattractive. Which may help me get over the fact that I want to bone Jennylee into unconsciousness.

Oh, and American Idol is back. Real quick, I just want to say this: Fuck Randy Jackson. Seriously, a gorilla should fuck him in the ass against a dumpster in front of an audience while his own mother urges the gorilla on. On live TV.

Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with him? In the earlier series, Randy never used to offer any criticism other than "you're great." Otherwise, it was something like "You did your thang!" or "I was feelin' you, dawg!" or some other meaningless catchphrase devoid of actual criticism. And Paula always bent over backwards to be completely noncommittal and do that whole "You did your best and that's enough" bullshit that's driven America into a brick wall. Simon was the only one ever telling people what they needed to hear, even if they were too fucking dense and unappreciative to notice it.

(And on a sidenote, American Idol is the perfect show to watch if you want to see how badly parents are doing in this country. Seriously, so many untalented young people walking around thinking they're the greatest talents in the world, so sure of themselves that if anyone shakes that belief even a little bit they can only react with rage. We have raised the most pronoid kids in the world; they think all of life is a party in their honor. Fucking ingrates can't even appreciate professional criticism. I'm moving to Canada or England before these "I'm great" assholes are running this place.)

Anyway, Randy Jackson has just dropped all pretense of being nice. All three of the judges seem like they'd rather eat a bullet than look at thousands of people a day try to sing, but Randy's the worst. He's insulting, and purposely cruel. He laughs at people and doesn't offer criticism so much as point and tell them they suck. People used to make Simon the bad guy, but he was never as bad as they said. Randy is. But people still lash out at Simon. Randy needs to be decked. And am I the only one who thinks his now infrequent stabs at street lingo just feel like, well, Negro drag? It's so forced.

The rest of American Idol feels, after just two audition shows, bland and cynical. It's a mean little humilithon. They focus on the worst people now, barely bothering with finding the good. They give entire backstories to the losers, only to take a twisted pleasure in crushing their dreams. So far, I've heard six singers I like in the collective four hours. At least, those are the only ones I remember: Perla Meneses (oh-so-cute and oh-so-Latin!), Blake Lewis, Jordin Sparks, Shyamali Malakar, Sanjaya Malakar (everyone tries and fails to sing Stevie Wonder, but he's one of the few men who can), and Anna Kearns, who is 6-foot-7 in heels and a black amazon and who I'm totally in love with already.

Still, this season has not been remotely exciting, and it's about what you'd expect. Usually the auditions are more fun than the competition, but not here. Ouch. Just...ouch.

Um...Hey, Jess...We Need to Talk

How are you? 2006 was kind of a rough year, wasn't it? You stayed beautiful throughout, but there sure was a lot of bad shit that went down.

Look, this is hard for me, so I'm going to just do this like ripping off a Band-Aid, alright? I think we should see other people.

I think this has been coming for a long time, baby. I'm such a fan of yours, and I think you're really special, but... well, it's the work. The way you compromised on your album, and the shitty movies. God, there was a time when you had class, and now you're forgetting the words to Dolly Parton songs? It's not like remembering Shakespeare, is it? No offense to Dolly, I love Dolly, it's just...

I'm sorry, that was out of line. But look, I don't know how to put this... it's just... Oh, Jess, do you know what it does to me? All of this erratic behavior? I'm not altogether convinced you're not on something, okay? That's hard for me to admit. And the way you seem to have completely lost whatever semblance of class and grace you used to have. It's harsh, but I have to be honest. You were so wonderful once. And you're starting to fade, and it's hard for me to stand around and watch.

No, Jess, come on. You know I can't resist you when you put that on.

Honey, you know I'm still your fan. I'm just not as big a fan as I once was. I can't explain it. But I think a big part of it is your father. Do you really need to keep listening to him? Seriously, you may have actually reached the point where it's too late for professional management to help you. You really need to part ways with him as far as your career is concerned. He's dragged Ashlee down from her brief moment of achievement, and he's dragging you down, too. I just wish you could see it. And the men you choose...

I guess every woman needs to make her incredibly fucking stupid decisions for herself. You'll be fine... I guess...

I'm still following the work, baby.


That hurt. But she's got other things to worry about.

Now...still fancy that ice cream?

Megatron Again

I'm actually getting tired of talking about how disappointed I am with the designs/trailers/photos for this flick, so this is going to be my last Transformers-related post until I inevitably see it on HBO one day and laugh at its awfulness. This is how Megatron is going to actually look in the movie. This isn't a design, this is the full-on CGI. And it looks like the Predator and the T-1000 got together and mixed their crap in a bucket.

The Simpsons Movie

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Susanna Hoffs

Do you believe she's 50 years old today? She's still so beautiful, and I still love her music. Susanna, 25 years ago you helped turn me into a lifelong lover of chicks who rock. Thank you for that.

Buy her Under the Covers album. Just do it.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

I don’t think I can find words to describe how much I despised this movie. I think the thing I hated the most was that this monstrous family pretends to be liberal and open-minded (“Look at my gay son! Look at his black boyfriend!”), but then they really are prejudiced against people who aren’t like them (or who they assume aren’t). Boy, am I glad that we’re over all of that “Rachel McAdams is the next big thing” bullshit, because that just ain’t gonna happen. And way to waste Claire Danes; when she knows she’s being wasted, she just gets bored. No stars.

Another character piece pretending to be a documentary. And it was boring. * star.

A Lifetime movie with Kristen Bell playing a high school girl trying to keep her family together. For one of these, it’s surprisingly good. ***1/2 stars.

You’d think a movie about Danielle Panabaker’s sexual awakening and Gail O’Grady having a near-constant amount of sex wouldn’t be boring to me. But it was. * star.

Borderline-insulting movie about Kaley Cuoco putting on a fat suit so that she’ll know what it’s like to be mistreated because of how she looks. And then she tries to teach fat people how to feel better and "normal." Shrill and whiny. *1/2 stars.

Bizarre movie about Danielle Panabaker raising her baby and pretending its her sister. Predictable and tired, but I still love Danielle. **1/2 stars. Wow, that’s four Lifetime movies in a row. Busy week.

There’s something about English children’s stories that are so deeply fascinating and warm. Maybe it’s because they know how to put children in danger for the sake of a satisfying lesson. Maybe it’s because they don’t shy away from genuine emotions. But I love them, and this one is no exception. Emma Thompson wrote and stars at the title character, a strange creature who grows more beautiful as her charges behave and learn to be good people. Not good children, good people; that’s an important distinction. Colin Firth is fun as their harried father, and the film has a good, solid English supporting cast: Angela Lansbury, Kelly MacDonald, Derek Jacobi, Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie. And Thomas Sangster is one of the child actors I quite like. **** stars; very genuine.

Ray Harryhausen’s third Sinbad movie is pretty damn boring. I loved the first two, but except for the neat baboon and Jane Seymour looking sexy as hell, this one just bored me. Of course, the special effects are great. Oh, and I loved Patrick Troughton, of course. Otherwise, ** stars. It had the misfortune to be an old school stop-motion movie at the same time Star Wars came out.

Best Picture Oscars

I ripped this from Tom the Dog. Yeah, whole cloth, really. He put up a list of the films to win the Oscar for Best Picture, then italicized the ones he'd seen and made some observations. And, you know, I'm doing the same. Hey, it's late and I'm too tired to write my own post.

1928 - Wings
1928 - Sunrise
Because of the weird regulations for the first Oscars, these both essentially win Best Picture. I loved Sunrise, which I only saw recently, and which handily beats Nosferatu for F.W. Murnau's masterpiece.
1929 - The Broadway Melody
What a bad, dated film this is. Second year in, and already they're throwing the big award to overrated, overblown musicals.
1930 - All Quiet on the Western Front
1931 - Cimarron
1932 - Grand Hotel
The film is a little on the slow side, but this is one of the greatest ensemble casts in history: Lionel Barrymore, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and the incomparable Greta Garbo...
1933 - Cavalcade
1934 - It Happened One Night
This is pretty much How to Make a Screwball Comedy 101, and I mean that as a compliment.
1935 - Mutiny on the Bounty
It's hard to go wrong with Charles Laughton. I mean, it happened, but it's hard to do.
1936 - The Great Ziegfeld
A great film, but over Modern Times?
1937 - The Life of Emile Zola
1938 - You Can't Take It With You
How Not to Make a Screwball Comedy 101. God damn it, did I hate this movie.
1939 - Gone With the Wind
I've actually lost track of the number of times I've seen this film.
1940 - Rebecca
This is a real plateau for Hitchcock, but compared to what came afterwards it very nearly pales.
1941 - How Green Was My Valley
I hate the idea of John Ford movies out there that I haven't seen.
1942 - Mrs. Miniver
Joan Crawford at her most stunning.
1943 - Casablanca
Tom the Dog put it exactly right: "A perfect film, from top to bottom."
1944 - Going My Way
1945 - The Lost Weekend
I should see this because I like Billy Wilder and I don't like most of his late work.
1946 - The Best Years of Our Lives
1947 - Gentleman's Agreement
1948 - Hamlet
I have to confess that I didn't like Olivier's Henry V overly much, and that's keeping me from seeing this one.
1949 - All the King's Men
1950 - All About Eve
1951 - An American in Paris
1952 - The Greatest Show on Earth
Junky fun (especially James Stewart as the clown), but Best Picture? Damn you, An American in Paris! If it hadn't been for you, people in 1952 might have recognized the superior genius of Singin' in the Rain and given it the award it deserved.
1953 - From Here to Eternity
1954 - On the Waterfront
Good, but overrated. Elia Kazan's impassioned post-HUAC defense of stool-pigeons and informers just sticks in my craw. For real Kazan genius, see A Streetcar Named Desire and Baby Doll. Hmm...make that Tennessee Williams's genius. I don't know that Kazan had any of his own, come to think.
1955 - Marty
1956 - Around the World in 80 Days
So very bad.
1957 - The Bridge on the River Kwai
1958 - Gigi
1959 - Ben-Hur
So wonderfully perfect in every aspect. And perhaps the only movie about Christ that manages to get across his apparent wonder and love without being condescending or self-righteous.
1960 - The Apartment
After this, Billy Wilder went on to make my favorite comedy of all time, One, Two, Three. Jack Lemmon is so amazing in this movie that even forty years later Kevin Spacey was winning awards just for ripping it off.
1961 - West Side Story
I find people who don't like this movie hard to understand.
1962 - Lawrence of Arabia
I still say the greatest movie ever made.
1963 - Tom Jones
I just don't get the appeal...
1964 - My Fair Lady
I also don't see the appeal of Audrey Hepburn, especially her screechy, over-the-top performance here. I like Rex Harrison, but the music's annoying enough.
1965 - The Sound of Music
When enduring for the fortieth goddamn time the recent car commercial that uses the song "So Long, Farewell," Becca turned to me and asked: "Do you ever wish The Sound of Music didn't exist?" To which I replied: "Frequently."
1966 - A Man For All Seasons
One of my favorite movies; every performance is masterful, but my favorite is Robert Shaw's impish yet deadly Henry VIII
1967 - In the Heat of the Night
It's still a powerful film, even with its pacing difficulties. That moment when Sidney Poitier slaps a white man is still resonant--"What are you gonna do about it?" "I don't know..." I love Sidney Poitier, but I still think that the movie he deserved his Oscar for (and which deserved the big one) was To Sir, with Love.
1968 - Oliver!
Oliver Reed and Ron Moody are great, but damn this movie sucks.
1969 - Midnight Cowboy
1970 - Patton
Perfect. George C. Scott deserved his Best Actor award just for the opening scene alone, but at least when he refused it he had the class to just refuse it, instead of Marlon Brando's cheap Sean Penn-esque publicity stunt.
1971 - The French Connection
1972 - The Godfather
One of the greatest films of all time, obviously.
1973 - The Sting
Paul Newman's good in it, but otherwise I have no use for it.
1974 - The Godfather Part II
I'm still underwhelmed by it. The stuff with DeNiro is incredible, but the stuff with Pacino is just too one-note until near the end. Don't get me wrong, I like it, I just don't thik it equals the first movie. And I still think Chinatown should have won that year.
1975 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
1976 - Rocky
First off, Taxi Driver didn't deserve to win, anyway (I just can't defend that non-ending). And second off, it's a much better movie than people remember. It's passionate and it yearns, and even though it fell into crap sequels, it's still powerful.
1977 - Annie Hall
Not Woody Allen's best, but it's still enjoyable.
1978 - The Deer Hunter
Christopher Walken is brilliant, but I wouldn't want to watch this movie a second time. I found it a struggle to get to the end. Like most Cimino, actually.
1979 - Kramer vs. Kramer
Surprisingly excellent for something so gimmicky.
1980 - Ordinary People
I liked it, but it's a pretty minor movie. The biggest revelation is the depth of Mary Tyler Moore's talent, but that gets overlooked by the anger everyone has towards this movie for beating out Raging Bull. Which the movie totally deserves, but hey...
1981 - Chariots of Fire
This is one of those movies where people always wonder how and why it won. Well, because it's actually a damn good movie, and what the hell else was there in 1981?
1982 - Gandhi
Typical Attenborough, he wants to make something important but makes a nice little movie that's buried under a lot of extra running time. Still, it's a great film.
1983 - Terms of Endearment
Sentiment porn, but Jack Nicholson is great in it. Debra Winger's especially not believable, since she seems to be dying of what Roger Ebert calls "Ali MacGraw's Syndrome": a mystery ailment whose only sympton seems to be rendering the victim more beautiful each time she's on camera. Seriously, a forgettable movie with a great Nicholson performance.
1984 - Amadeus
Tom the Dog wonders if it still holds up. The answer is yes, it really does.
1985 - Out of Africa
I hate this movie a hell of a lot more than I hate Ordinary People. What could the Oscar have gone to? Keep in mind that Brazil was nominated...
1986 - Platoon
Watching it again recently, I'd still say it was Oliver Stone's best and most genuine work.
1987 - The Last Emperor
1988 - Rain Man
Cute, I guess.
1989 - Driving Miss Daisy
Nice, but come on.
1990 - Dances With Wolves
I still defend this one over Goodfellas, I think it's a tremendous film. This is the first movie on this list that I saw in the theater, actually.
1991 - The Silence of the Lambs
Meh. Michael Mann's Manhunter was great. This movie is pitched at the level of a Universal monster film, with Anthony Hopkins overacting and Jodie Foster underacting. It's not bad enough to be horrible, but certainly not good.
1992 - Unforgiven
This is probably still Eastwood's masterpiece.
1993 - Schindler's List
Great, but the ending goes on forever in that Spielbergian "hammer my point home with a sledge hammer" way.
1994 - Forrest Gump
I really loved it. Overrated, but I enjoy it. Best Picture? Nah.
1995 - Braveheart
Mel Gibson's torture fixation before it became obvious! Actually, I still love this movie and I still call it Shakespearean. Gibson knew how to tell a story then.
1996 - The English Patient
Cut out everything that doesn't have Juliette Binoche in it and we'll talk. Because that story's way more interesting.
1997 - Titanic
It still works for me.
1998 - Shakespeare in Love
What a silly, stupid, stupid movie. But Saving Private Ryan was pretty fucking bad, too.
1999 - American Beauty
I saw this on video when it first came out, and I've always thought it was overrated garbage.
2000 - Gladiator
It's a fun movie, but Best Picture? It's no Spartacus, as desperate as it is to force the comparison.
2001 - A Beautiful Mind
Like most American films, it's strong for most of its running time, then meanders out and goes on far too long. Didn't this movie just seem to be begging for the Oscar? Still, it's mostly good.
2002 - Chicago
One or two moments, and Queen Latifah is God, but I didn't care much for it.
2003 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2004 - Million Dollar Baby
It's a great film, but Clint Eastwood is one of many formerly brilliant filmmakers who simply cannot make a point witthout meandering all over the place and going on far too long. Not my choice, but it's a good movie.
2005 - Crash
I'll let Tom take this one, because I absolutely agree: "Hated it. So stupid, so smug and condescending, so self-satisfied, so empty."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Health Report: Week 5

Here’s the best part of the week: I finally had to re-tie the knot on my sweatpants. Here’s a picture:See, the knot on the right hand side is the where it used to be, and the knot on the left is where it is now. Do you believe how much girth I’ve lost in just five weeks? Seriously, this waist cannot shrink fast enough, so sights like this keep me encouraged.

Girth is something to be worried about, too, even more than total weight. Let me explain.

An article in the current issue of Discover deals with the different types of fat. Oh, yeah, there are different kinds now. The one to worry about the most is intra-abdominal, or visceral. It’s what especially makes your midsection large. See, doctors talk about metabolic syndrome, which includes not only visceral fat, hypertension, high triglycerides, blood sugar problems, and low good cholesterol. This metabolic syndrome puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. It can also aid in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, gallstones, ovarian cysts, gastrointestinal disorders, terminal cirrhosis, sleep apnea, and dementia.

Professor Philipp Scherer calls visceral fat “truly evil,” which is the kind of overstatement relying on made-up concepts that should get his degree revoked. Let’s explain this a little better, without the overdramatic personification.

Visceral fat collects deep in the abdomen and surrounds vital organs (liver, heart, intestines, kidneys). It’s hard to the touch, not soft and flabby. The soft and flabby fat is closer to the surface skin; this peripheral, or subcutaneous fat surrounds the visceral fat and, though deep, tends to be benign and even superficial. In fact, it can even be beneficial, catching caloric excess and storing long-term energy. This is the layer that people like Nicole Richie get most worried about, but it’s healthy to have some fat (though an excess of subcutaneous fat causes negative health effects, obviously). The visceral fat is far worse. It pushes against the muscles in the abdominal wall and can lead to less insulin sensitivity, especially in men. Which means diabetes.

Liposuction doesn’t even help, because it pulls out subcutaneous fat. Which is bad. Really, it is, because that leaves the visceral fat in charge, and can even increase health risks because the subcutaneous fat doesn’t balance it out anymore.

Quick side note: you know what’s interesting? The article mentioned that the exceptions to the rule were sumo wrestlers. They’re “artificially obese,” gaining weight to compete. Yes, they’re huge, but it’s a lot of muscle in there. They don’t have high blood pressure (like I do) or gastrointestinal problems (like I do) and are very insulin sensitive (which is good). Why? Because they exercise six to eight hours a day. If they retire and keep eating without the training, then the visceral fat charges in, but until then…

Anyway, did you know that fat cells secrete and store so many active substances (dozens of them) that fat is now being considered an active, complex endocrine organ? And wouldn’t you know it—visceral fat is the most active kind. If the visceral fat stays around for too long, it becomes lazy and stops being active, then turns dysfunctional, and then gets bigger and bigger until it ruptures. Immune cells cause inflammation, producing inflammatory chemicals like the horrifyingly-named tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which contributes to arthrosclerosis. Granted, the levels of inflammatory chemicals here are small (“subclinical”), but any buildup can only be bad for your body.

Now, you can’t know how much visceral fat you have without a CT or an MRI. And this is why I’m worried about girth. You can get an idea of how much visceral fat you might have by measuring your waist. A man’s waist should be 40 inches or less, and since I’m hovering around 48, I have a ways to go. For the record, a woman’s waist should be 35 or less. Hey, some scientist said it, not me. Personally, I like a woman who jiggles when she’s squeezed. But this is something to pay attention to, because doctors are saying now that the measure of obesity is actually more important than your weight. Girth, not weight. And I have girth. And when I feel my stomach, it doesn’t feel flabby. It feels hard. Too hard. There’s something going on there, and I want this shit out of my body. Now. ASAP.

So what do I do? Well, the same as I’m doing now, only better. Of course, losing weight is the most important thing. The weight in the abdomen, the visceral fat, is most important. But, thankfully, visceral fat burns much easier than subcutaneous fat, and it’s the first thing to go. My own experience shows this, because I’ve been losing inches faster than I’ve been losing weight. And mostly in my stomach, which is excellent. (Another side-note: apparently, your girth and volume—your obesity—is not an inherited trait; at the genetic level, only the areas of weight distribution are inherited). And any weight loss, no matter how small, reduces health risks.

Another tip that science is heavily pushing is to stop eating trans fats. Trans fats are added to fat to stiffen it and prolong its shelf life, but it hardens and doesn’t break down easily, meaning it just collects in the body as, you guessed it, becomes visceral fat and adds to insulin resistance. I don’t want to have to inject extra insulin into my own body, so it’s time to get over the tastiness of trans fats. You see, the visceral fat is wrapped around your liver, and it essentially cherry picks the richest nutrients and just sits on them, growing and expanding. The best thing you can do is stop feeding the damn thing before it kills you.

Exercise, obviously. I’m up to 300 steps on my step machine, but I need to feel the burn more. Simply walking six or seven times a week for a little half-hour (alone time with the iPod, which we all need) can actually stop the increase of visceral fat. And jogging or taking longer walks reduces it. If you’re starting, like I am, don’t put a layer of muscle under the fat with weights and such. Just walk and reduce it. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Easier than it feels, I grant you. But it feels better not to be sick anymore.

And finally, reducing stress actually does help your health. It stops the production of excess glucocorticoids, which produce visceral fat (and contribute to diabetes).

And there you have it. My plan to live past the age of forty. No matter how bad I feel, I am sticking with the program. I mean, no more being sick, no more being depressed, no more being tired, actually having energy, and the appearance of a bigger penis? What’s not to like about this?

I’m doing this for you, young cheerleaders of America!

TV Report: Doctor Who

"Come with me."

I’ve just finished watching the first and second series of the revival of Doctor Who. And all I have to say is: wow. This is one hell of a science fiction series. Probably the best I’ve seen since Farscape was unceremoniously cancelled by the SCIFI Channel.

Doctor Who started in 1963 as a series for children, but became a cult hit, especially in America, where the series aired sporadically on PBS. The series centered around an enigmatic man called only the Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who traveled, always with companions, from place to place in the universe and throughout time with the aid of the TARDIS, a time machine that looked like a police call box. The show aired until 1989, during which time companions came and went, and the Doctor was played by seven different actors. See, the Doctor regenerates; he doesn’t die, but takes a new form, allowing for an endless succession of actors to play the role.

The show, however, did die. Since 1989, Doctor Who has been confined to radio shows and novels, and one movie, made in 1996 and starring Paul McGann as an eighth Doctor. The movie was made as a pilot movie for a potential new series, and though the movie was aired on Fox, they had little interest in pursuing it. Many feel this Doctor Who was too Americanized and had lost its British flavor. And so, the dormancy continued.

Until 2005, when the BBC aired a new series featuring Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor. I’ve talked about this show before, and I have nothing much to add to that save for “only more so.” But let’s try, shall we?

And so Christopher Eccleston’s far-too-short tenure as the Doctor begins. Not to disparage the previous eight Doctors (most of whom I quite liked), but Eccleston is the first actor that I really feel plays the Doctor’s alien side. Most actors tend to play him as rather quirky or eccentric, but the Doctor should be alien. After all, he’s not from Earth. He’s from another planet, and he’s lived an impossibly long (over 900 years) lifespan. His perspective is unlike anyone else’s, and Eccleston really embraces it. There’s always a part of him that you can never really know.

But he’s fun. He’s whimsical and he’s also daring. He’s smart and brave. He’s definitely a man of action (he runs around an awful lot), and he can be smug but he can also be desperate. This Doctor is also another thing: a survivor. In the interim, apparently, the Doctor fought in something called the Time War, in which both his race and the mortal enemies of the Time Lords, the Daleks, perished. The Doctor’s loneliness is now as genuine as possible.

Which makes the companion more important than ever. Throughout both series, the Doctor travels with Rose Tyler (played surprisingly well by Billie Piper). She’s the entry point here, and it is through her eyes that the action is seen and the Doctor is observed. And her eyes are sympathetic eyes, full of love for the Doctor and a hunger for the unknown. For the most part, the Doctor treats her not just as an equal, but as a friend that he desperately needs.

Actually, one of the criticisms some people had of the series is that there are rather deep feelings between the Doctor and Rose, far beyond the old teacher/student relationship they used to share when the series was still ostensibly being made for children. But this new series is darker, faster, sexier, made for adults who have been Who fans for some time and have been hungering for a new series, some of them for over a decade. That’s part of the appeal of the show, actually. Some of the silliness is still there, that’s par for the course (though the look of the Slitheen was a tad disappointing), but the emotions are pitched high, which I like.

And the producers couldn’t resist bringing back the Doctor’s greatest enemy, the Daleks. Without a doubt, my favorite episode of the first series was “Dalek,” which not only found a bizarre common ground between the Doctor and his nemesis, but also managed to humanize the ultimate destroyer of humanity. Take a look at the first meeting of enemies, it scared the heck out of me.

This is an intense Doctor, one who overcomes his pacifism when it comes to the Daleks, spending the entire episode ready to destroy. To commit murder.

And now look at this moment, at the end of the episode. The Dalek, who only exists to destroy life, has managed to heal itself with Rose Tyler’s DNA. But that DNA has changed its own, making it now the one thing it most-detests: part human.

When you’re crying for a Dalek, a show has really done something to you. But that’s the way this show goes; you fall in love with the characters, and you share their fears, their dangers, their thrills, their exhilarations. I said the emotions are pitched at a high level, and they really are. That’s one of the things I love about this show too. I found myself moved to tears on several episodes.

And not one bad show in the whole bunch, even though I wasn’t sure I was going to like some of them. And the Doctor (thanks to Christopher Eccleston’s energetic performance) throws himself into them all. He shows Rose the final destruction of the Earth, far in the future, telling her: “You lot. You spend all your time thinking about dying, like you're going to get killed by eggs, or beef, or global warming, or asteroids. But you never take time to imagine the impossible. That maybe you survive.” His love for humanity—for all life, really—is always evident. He advises his fellow travelers to throw themselves into it, too: “time travel is like visiting Paris. You can't just read the guidebook, you've got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers... or is that just me?” When a couple beg the Doctor to save them even though they’re unimportant, he retorts: “Who said you're not important? I've travelled to all sorts of places, done things you couldn't even imagine. But you two...! Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home. I've never had a life like that. Yes. I'll try and save you.” And his exuberance at saving lives is infectious; we share the Doctor’s joy as he opens his arms and shouts: “Just this once! Everybody lives!!

And perhaps my favorite moment on the entire show, when the Daleks return, capturing Rose Tyler…

Dalek: We have your associate. You will obey or she will be exterminated!
The Doctor: No.
Dalek: Explain yourself!
The Doctor: I said no.
Dalek: What is the meaning of this negative?
The Doctor: It means no.
Dalek: But she will be destroyed!
The Doctor: No! 'Cause this is what I'm going to do: I'm going to rescue her! I'm going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet! And then I'm going to save the Earth! And then, just to finish off, I'm going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
Dalek: But you have no weapons! No defenses! No plan!
The Doctor: Yeah! And doesn't that scare you to death? Rose?
Rose: Yes, Doctor?
The Doctor: I'm coming to get you.

The two have such faith in each other, such love for each other, that the scene is tremendously powerful. And their goodbye is all the more terrible and heartfelt.

And it's goodbye to this Doctor, who will be missed indeed.

And so we move on to the tenth Doctor, played by Scottish actor David Tennant.

I was uncertain of this one at first. He’s somehow more intense, more action-oriented than Christopher Eccleston was. All of the Doctors have their unique personality tics, and if I have a criticism of Tennant, it’s that his Doctor is a little too much like Eccleston’s. On the other hand, that might be the reason why I came to like him so quickly. There are new things, though; Eccleston had a tendency to brood, to feel things quietly on his own. Tennant is flippant where Eccleston was understanding. Tennant seems to be much more blasé about things, inviting the unknown with excitement and treating everything with an easygoing manner. To be sure, he can be a bully when he has the moral high ground (as could all of the Doctors), but he’s exciting to watch. Especially in battle with another old enemy. Eccleston got to revive the Daleks; to Tennant goes the Cybermen.

The Cybermen don’t live in my heart the way the Daleks do, but man are they just as rectal prolapsingly scary! Like the Daleks, they are inhuman and want to eradicate the world of human existence. It’s even more pitched than the battle with the Daleks, because Cybermen are made out of humans; the machines are powered by emotionless human minds. The Doctor confronts their leader in a great exchange.

The Doctor’s great love of humanity is what guides him through the whole of the series. And the emotions are pitched even higher on this series, with nearly every episode destroying me with tears. Perhaps my favorite episode was “School Reunion,” which featured the return of Sarah Jane Smith.

Sarah Jane, pictured here with K-9, was a companion to both the third and fourth incarnations of the Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, respectively), and is consistently voted the most popular companion in the whole of the show.

This episode, set in 2006, guest stars both an amazingly-even-hotter Sarah Jane and K-9, helping the Doctor to solve a mystery in a school. The best part of this episode is the way that Rose and Sarah Jane are so chilly to one another at first, only to cool down and bond over the strange remoteness of the Doctor himself. Finally, we have an episode confronting head on the loneliness of the Doctor, and why he can never bring himself to completely open up to his companions; because eventually they’ll die or leave, and he can’t take goodbyes.

At least, for the first time (on her third Doctor), Sarah Jane gets to say goodbye. It’s an incredibly emotional scene for me, with his surprise present and that warm hug. “Goodbye…my Sarah Jane!”

The emotional quality really reaches a head with the finale of the second series. To give you an idea, here’s a picture:
And yes, it’s that good. Cybermen vs. Daleks: robot fight city.

And, of course, the emotion is at its deepest when Rose must part with the Doctor again… Goodbyes, as always, are hard. The Doctor will find a new companion, of course, but this goodbye may be the hardest of the whole of Doctor Who, because the emotions are so much more mature.

Since then, we've had a stand-alone episode, "The Runaway Bride," which I quite enjoyed. I was so into the series that I had to watch it as a bootleg online, but hey, my geeky needs must be satisfied. Donna Noble, the titular bride, would have been an interesting companion, just because her personality was so strong.

I'm serious, if you haven't seen this show, see it. Even if you're unfamiliar with Doctor Who, but you like science fiction, see it. Even if you don't like SF, see it, because this might just change your mind. Trust me, it's better than StarGate SG-1, Battlestar Galactica, and Lost put together. No, really, it is.

And just to be a geek, I have some hopes for the third series...

The first two series brought back some characters we've seen before: Sarah Jane, K-9, Cybermen, Daleks, the Nestene Consciousness, possibly Sutekh (isn't Satan the same guy?), and even UNIT...well, UNIT is mentioned, but Torchwood seems like an updated, more interesting version of UNIT... I'd like to see some more back. Maybe another companion, like Jo Grant or even Ace (not a fan, but it might be interesting). What's happened to Zoe Herriott since her time with the Doctor?
And for that matter, whatever happened to Susan? I mean, I know the Doctor says the Time Lords were killed, but the Daleks keep coming back, so why not Susan? She's Gallifreyan, so you could have any actress and say she's Susan. Wouldn't it be interesting to see the Doctor reunited with his granddaughter?

And the first series revived the Daleks. The second series, the Cybermen. I want the third series to bring back the Master.
The Master always survived. He was the Doctor's arch-nemesis, his Moriarty. He's a Time Lord, too, so you could put him into another body. I think the Master's the last thing missing from the complete revival of this newer, sleeker Doctor Who. In fact, I was disappointed to find that the villain played by Anthony Head on the "School Reunion" episode wasn't the Master. And if you want to make it really interesting, you know who should play the Master?
Zoe Lucker, from Footballers' Wives. Let this newly sexual, attractive Doctor deal with a sexy girl as his newest villain. That would be incredibly good.

Barring that...well, you could always bring back the Sea Devils.
Or not. Whichever.

And you know the final thing I want to see? A crossover. "The Five Doctors" is one of the best of the Doctor Who series, but I wouldn't recommend bringing back any of the older ones, because the first three are dead, Tom Baker sure doesn't look like the Doctor anymore, and the rest of them, really, who cares? About midway through the Peter Davison run, it all gets a little too silly for my taste. No, this would be a crossover with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant.
Doctors are time travelers, why not let the two cross over? It's happened before. I even have the perfect title: "Pair o' Docs." Hell, even Rose could come back for that one, right?

Either way, this is one of my absolute favorite TV series of all time, and I am patiently (but excitedly) waiting for more. Bring on series three, please.