28 September 2005

New Link

I just added Beth's new blog, Lair of the Dorkfish, to the list of links to the right. She's much better at this than I am -- I'll bet she even updates her blog from time to time.

Currently drinking my last Rogue Shakespeare. The joy that I get from consuming such a fantastic stout is partially dampened by the fact that I can't get any more until I go up to Nashville again, which given Beth's job situation (see her blog for details) might be a little while coming.

If anyone knows of a position open for a Java programmer in Huntsville that requires about two years of experience, email one of us. Please.

20 September 2005

Animated Fox Television Shows

I'm twenty-five years old, and I grew up with The Simpsons. Other than Saturday morning cartoons and the like, one of the first shows I can actually remember watching was that classic Fox show with Bart, Lisa, Homer, and the rest. And while there are very few shows that I currently will actively try to watch, The Simpsons maintains its interest for me, for nostalgia value as much as anything.

I say this because I just watched the tape I made of the first two episodes of the newest season, and I think it's clear that the show is, if not quite as good as when it was at its peak, perfectly good entertainment, funny, intelligent, and with sharp satire, and is fucking loads better than that steaming pile of cow manure called Family Guy.

Here'sa review I wrote about five years ago of Family Guy. And here's a review I wrote of The Simpsons a few weeks later. Re-reading the two of them now, I still agree with much of what I said back then, so I'll leave it to the reader to poke through those reviews to check out my overall feelings, but allow me to continue on for a bit.

Humor is very often about context. Great comedians know how to build jokes on a suspension of disbelief, and how to use the audience's expectations in their favor to create unexpected and hilarious moments. Family Guy is popular because it is beloved by fans who adore the wackiness and the outrageousness of the show's many pop-culture references and sexual humor, but the very thing that they love about it, its randomness, is exactly what causes it to fall flat in the long-term -- it lacks any sense of structure or context into which its humor can be placed. The Simpsons, at its best, is highly-polished social, political, and pop-culture satire with a wildly strange fictional universe at its center. Family Guy at its best is, well, a gag reel that feels highly derivative of the other show.

The common retort here is that, of course, modern-day Simpsons isn't nearly as good as the previous seasons, and that the present-day episodes of Family Guy are at least equal to those of . Now, I admit that there is an element of truth to this -- many of the current adventures of Homer and the gang are, well, tired and recycled from previous episodes. And some of them, the season premiere being a prominent example, are simply not very good to begin with. But even episodes like that one have their moments, and both of the episodes from the current season have been infused with some new energy that strikes me as being a positive sign for good-quality comedy. Hopefully the writers will get the kinks worked out and the show can spend its final years being the brilliant critical powerhouse it once was.

I titled this post "Animated Fox Television Shows", and yet so far I've only discussed the creations of Seth McFarlane and Matt Groening. There's another juggernaut in the room that quite possibly has the kind of quality that exceeds even that of The Simpsons, at least on the average of any given episode, and that's Mike Judge's King of the Hill. Now entering its tenth and final season, this show, episode for episode, has been some of the finest television of its kind -- it succeeds not by aping the grandaddy, but by mining the small moments between people for their absurdities and their humor. Nowhere in King of the Hill do you find endless pop-culture parodies -- the shooting style of the show owes far more to live-action TV than to any animated series, and the humor comes from character, not from overblown absurdity. Hank Hill and his family and friends are characters that actually reward deeper thought, and are, in some bizarre sense, believable as human beings at every moment.

My sister's child will almost certainly have his own interests and will watch whatever children watch. But my guess is that he, and his children after him, will gain far more enjoyment from watching King of the Hill and the first seasons of The Simpsons than anything Seth McFarlane will every produce. Family Guy exists for the moment -- the other two shows are for posterity.

16 September 2005

Two short bits about beer

Just a short one today, but enough to whet your appetite, I hope. :->

One: I was having a splitting headache until a few minutes ago, but instead of taking Tylenol for it, I decided to have a couple of beers. The reason being that the alcohol (in moderate doses, of course) helps to stimulate the production of dopamine and other endorphins, and causes a feeling of well-being that is a hell of a lot better than anything Tylenol can do for me. And because I have the sneaking suspicion that the reason I was having such a serious headache in the first place was because I'd been neglecting my beer lately -- I've become slightly chemically dependent on it, although not nearly to the level that I could be classed as alcoholic in any way, shape, or form. My body's just used to having a pint or two of beer every day or so.

Two: Last night Beth and I went out to Ruby Tuesday for a nice dinner of good burgers and onion-thingies for her. I ordered a Sam Adams to go with the meal and, like the dumbass I am, forgot to order it in a non-chilled glass. They brought me a frosty ice-covered glass of Sam Adams that was almost completely undrinkable. Even as the beer warmed, it only became slightly moreso.

Now, I love Sam Adams as much as any beer that you can find just about anywhere in the United States, but drinking it ice-cold just accentuates the bitterness and robs the beer of its more sophisticated flavors. I like my Sam Adams at very close to room-temperature, of course poured into a glass. I'm pretty sure that the process of tapping the beer into an ice-chilled glass killed much of the flavor that went into it, and created a much-different beer than the Boston Beer Company intended.

Anyone who's only tried Sam Adams cold should let it warm for a bit, and pour into a glass. Only then does the beer reach its true potential.

12 September 2005

A bit of my personal life

Over the weekend I went to see my parents and sister, which was really nice because A) I don't do it nearly often enough and B)my little sister Alicia is pregnant with her first child, and it was really nice to see how she was holding up. The family seemed fine and all, so I was really happy to see them, but what astonished me was looking at my sister, seven months pregnant, and looking as happy as she could be.

(Check out the new link "The Story of Boo" over at the right to visit her blog.) Psst -- Alicia, re your July 23 entry, the whole "eight glasses of water a day" thing has been dramatically overplayed, and few true experts in proper nutrition recommend that much water every day. But I digress.

Getting to see my sister for only the first or second time since the beginning of her pregnancy was a really fascinating experience. Y'see, I was always the boring, good little nerdy kid who followed the rules and got in trouble only for being too antisocial to those around me. Alicia, well, she wasn't by any means a "wild child", but she was certainly more social than me, had more friends, and in general tended to push her boundaries a lot more. A year ago, I was living a life of sitting at my computer and reading messages on talk.origins, while she was out having adventures with her friends and basically raising a little hell -- in other words, exactly what you'd expect a hot young twenty-three year old blonde to be doing.

So when she found out that she'd accidentally gotten pregnant, while my first reaction was to be happy for her and to wish her the best, part of me, the part that I really don't like because it's not a very polite person, worried about the welfare of the child, whether or not Alicia would have the maturity to pull it off.

(No disrespect to Alicia here, as I know I'm sure as fuck not ready to be a father, and I'd probably end up seriously fucking the kid up if he was left with me for a week or two. I have trouble keeping my two cats fed and their litter cleaned, so a son or daughter would be way more work than I was ready for.)

But it turns out that my little baby sister, who part of me still insists is such a little girl, is actually maturing and preparing for impending motherhood right before my eyes. I was sitting on the couch in the living room where I grew up and watching her sit in a nearby rocking chair -- she had her eyes half closed and was rocking gently in the chair, all the while holding her stomach gently in her arms and looking for all the world like she was simply listening to a far-off song that only she could hear. Which, really, probably isn't all that far from the truth.

I'm not a very good brother. I'm distant and antisocial and difficult and self-centered to a fault. But seeing her with the love and affection she feels for that baby makes me realize that she's grown up while I wasn't looking, and is a wonderful person whom I'd like to have the opportunity to spend some more time with. The prospect of being an uncle soon is just icing on the cake.