Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Public Service

As you well know, BBT4 is coming, with lots of special goodies and WSOP seats and all that other nifty from Full Tilt via Al Can't Wait To Get To Key West. Yessir, absolutely free World Series seats to some of us.

Before long, we'll all be hip-deep in complaints and flame wars.

So, to allow us to get past that and focus on the fact that we're about to play poker, magically, in our living rooms, for a chance at an extremely valuable prize, because we live in amazing times . . . here's a time saver. Copy and paste.

HANDY FORM FOR BLOG POSTS COMPLAINING ABOUT BBT4
__________________________________________________________


I'll admit it, I'm [ choose all that apply] disappointed / disgusted / saddened/ tired / hungry / sickened / horrified by what's happening.

I mean, back in [enter the year you started blogging] _________ , everything was [choose one] magical / wonderful / great / super / super great / magically wonderfully super-great , but lately, the BBT has been making [choose one] everybody way too worried about money / a lot of people into cheating slime / the fun run away and hide / me to play very badly .

I think that the idea of [choose any] chopping for seats / folding to the points / letting Waffles play / bankrolling bloggers / too many donkeys / pros playing with us / playing for lots of free stuff / prop bets / smack talk in the chat / posts blasting other people's play / new accounts for rakeback / table captains / snarking fake satire web forms / my not winning is a [choose one] terrible / terrible development.

How sad. It used to be about the [choose one] love of the game / integrity / friendship / honor / good times / live blogs / affiliate revenue.

I blame [choose any or write in] Hoy / Don / $mokkee / Waffles / Donkette / Al / Riggs / Lucko /Chad / Hoy / Hoy / Hoy / Hoy / Hoy / Hoy / (Other, Please specify)____________________________________.

I think I will stop playing [choose one] never.

LOST 029: Perfect Strangles

"You have no idea how important you are."
-Ben Linus

"Have you ever stopped to think that...maybe there's nothing important about you at all? That you're just a lonely old man . . . ?"

-Jack Shepherd


For a show that has built such a foundation upon the confounding of expectations, this episode did an interesting thing: It pretty much gave us exactly what we expected, namely, John Locke as Jeremy Bentham, going to each of the Oceanic 6 (less Sun), asking them to come back to the island to save their friends (though one suspects that saving the island is Locke's true motive), and getting shot down one by one.

But in the margins, where the deeper matters of Lost lie, they were totally pulling the rug from under our feet. One of the abiding conflicts of the series is that between Charles Widmore and Benjamin Linus, and one of the abiding questions is the one concerning which of these two men's motives are pure, and which are destructive. In other words, is Benjamin Linus the good guy or the bad guy? Is Charles Widmore the good guy or the bad guy? Tell us who to root for, already.

Last season, Charles Widmore sent a boat chock full of explosives and men skilled in the finer points of killing, where they proceeded to exterminate as many people on the island as they could, with the expressed purpose of capturing Ben. This tipped the scales pretty emphatically in favor of Ben as a good guy who does bad things and Charles as a bad guy who does worse things. But, as with "The Jughead" last month (in which Desmond Hume visited Widmore and got more help and concern than we'd expect, to say nothing of receiving far less scorn and bullets in his throat than we'd expect), we've now seen a somewhat different side of Widmore, haven't we?

Haven't we?

Welcome to the central mystery of last night's episode.

Charles meets Locke in the desert, where he'd had cameras and the world's roughest ambulance service waiting for our injured walkabouter. And, incidentally, this knowledge casts a whole new light on the confrontation with Bedouin that Ben had in Tunisia immediately after turning the donkey wheel, no? It means that those dudes would likely have turned him over to Widmore, and it further means that Widmore probably knew that Ben was scampering about starting in 2005.

Tunisia is the exit, said Charles. Well. I suspect it is AN exit, since we've discovered that Ben comes and goes as he pleases, and if there was just one exit, Charles would have laid that smack down. But OK.

So, Charles is waiting for Locke, and provides him with the roughest possible medical care for his broken leg. But then he lays the bomb: He was the leader of the Others, and Ben pushed him out. He sent the freighter to the island to push out Ben so that Locke could have his time, and he desperately wants Locke to get back to the island, because in the epic confrontation that's coming, there will be all kinds of doom if Locke isn't there. Then he sets Locke up with Abaddan as a driver, and the resources and intelligence he needs to complete his mission as quickly and efficiently as possible. And he thoroughly rejects the notion that Locke is going to die.

Nice guy, right? Right?

Ben, meanwhile, has already tried to kill Locke once, as Chuck Widmore was smart enough to point out to John. He's also alienated Sayid, who has retreated to humanitarian work after coming to believe that he was being manipulated by Ben into believing that Widmore was trying to kill his friends (Imagine we'll find out how that happened in the upcoming Sayid episode). He then kills Abaddan dead, visits Locke in his crummy motel room, talks him out of killing himself with an extension cord, and then . . . um, kills him with an extension cord. How villainous . . . and inconsistent!

What a weasel, right? Right?

But let's start picking at the thread of this sweater and see how it unravels. Widmore's story just doesn't hold water. In the 50s, he reported to Richard, and was a bit of a insubordinate hothead. He wasn't the leader of the Others at the time of the purge, which was organized by Richard and Ben, he was the driving force behind the Dharma initiative. We know this because the freighter's TPS reports all had Dharma cover sheets, mmmkay? Now, the Dharma initiative was waging guerilla war against the Others, who were led by Richard in hair extensions. Furthermore, Widmore certainly didn't send the freighter of mercenaries on a "Ben Linus only" mission. They were there to rampage and kill.

On a more metaphysical note, this episode was all about fulfilling destiny, from Locke calling his friends to return to their own destiny, all the way to the ultimate fulfillment of his own. Which was, Locke knew . . . to die. The scenes of Locke trying to convince the O6 to return were dramaticly bland, and why? Why was Locke so passive in his coersion, if he knew how much was riding on the line, if he was so obsessed with completing his mission?

This episode was not about Locke convincing his island buddies to return. This episode was about Locke realizing that fate had determined that they would never return unless he died . . . and if he did die, that fate would make sure that they returned. It was about Locke coming to grips with that reality. It was about Locke struggling to believe that that could be true. And did he finally realize it? Was his interrupted suicide an act of despair or submission? It's left ambiguous, because in the end, Locke didn't jump . . . he was pushed, by a seemingly sorrowful Ben.

Locke needed to die. And Charles Widmore was trying to prevent it.

Why?

Ben stopped Locke from killing himself. Then he killed Locke.

Why?

Did Widmore know that Locke needed to die? Did his attempt, which on the surface scans as "good", to help Locke down the path with resources and ease, have as a motive the thwarting of Locke's destiny?

Did Ben NOT know that Locke needed to die, until he suddenly did? This was the second murder attempt on John Locke by Ben Linus, and this was the first temporarily successful one. The first one seemed to be brought on by jealousy, Ben's realization that he had been supplanted by Locke in the eyes of Jacob, though his true motives remain murky. The second one was brought on by the mention of Eloise Hawking, which sent Ben from savior to murderer in the space of seconds. Now, Ben already knew about Hawking, obviously, as he is working with/for her. But the fact that Locke knew about her? That meant he had to die. Why? We'll see. Maybe he didn't want Locke to get back to the island, and he's wicked. Maybe it's something deeper than that. In any event, he definitely felt saddened by what he'd done.

And let's just take a quick paragraph to discuss the role of the late, lamented, Matthew Abaddan. He's working for Widmore, which we already suspected but now know full well. He "gets people to where they need to go" for the W man. But the writers did a great job of keeping his true allegiance ambiguous. He was helping Widmore, yes. And Widmore is the guy who was keeping Locke from his destiny, yes? But we've also seen Abaddan is the guy who sends Locke to his destiny, posing as an orderly and sending him on walkabout. This would seem to contradict the BUT Locke and Abaddan never discuss this in front of Widmore. I think it is still possible that Abaddan was a double agent, stirring fate into Widmore's molassass. Remember, Abaddan claimed he was taking Locke to where he needed to go. Ben claimed that Abaddan would get around to killing him, eventually. I think that these two ideas might not be in conflict. Didn't Abaddan's constant goading seem to be leading Locke directly to his feelings of failure, and from there to his suicidal tendencies? It strikes me that Abaddan had been ordered by Widmore to keep Locke alive, but was trying to subtly drive him in the opposite direction.

In any event, here's the tale of the tape.

Whatever his reasons, Ben sent Locke to his destiny.

Whatever his reasons, Charles Widmore tried to keep Locke from it.

Both men claim that they want the Oceanic Six to return. One of them made it happen, perhaps because he meant to, perhaps for other reasons. Take from that what you will.

My take? I think both men think they are doing good, both men are ruthless, and both men think they are doing what is best for the island. I don't think either of them have been straight in their intentions regarding Locke. I think that the conflict between Ben and Widmore is the Man of Science, Man of Faith schism that Jack and Locke have been playing out. The evidence is piling up that Dharma is not something separate from the Others, but a schism from the Others. Specifically, the scientific Dharma, led by Widmore, vs. the Jacob-led Others of Faith (here I'm thinking of Ben and Richard and Hawking).

Ben as Man of Faith too much for you? Well then. I would ask you to remember that Ben, just last week, was making allusions to doubting Thomas and his main home boy, Jesus. If Jack is Thomas, might Ben be Locke's Judas? Because the guy who died for the sins of the Oceanic Six just came back to life, and though I haven't done the math, I'd be very surprised if it weren't on the third day. The guy who was in the coffin last plane crash and is now walking around? His name is Christian Shepherd. Those of you who were hoping Lost wasn't going to get religious might want to hit eject right about now.


More Stuff? More Stuff.

* Caeser. Illana. Roxanne. New Lostaways! I bet the Oceanic folks envy these people because they got to get straight answers from John and everybody else, now that we the audience have so much information. Nice to see Caesar hiding stuff from his fellow castaways already. He'll fit in just fine. Its going to be fun watching the newbies interact with the old . . . bies. But if Illana starts spewing ink from her eyes and only Caesar can calm her down, I'm going on a killing spree.

* I think that Jack and Hurley and Kate (along with Sawyer/Jin/etc.) are stuck in the Dharma 70s, while the rest are in "present" day, whatever that might mean.

* Wow, Jack and Locke just wrecked each other, didn't they? Jack's speech about Locke being a deluded old man tore his heart out, and Locke's "howdy" from Jack's dead dad greased the skids for his pill-popping, Juaquin Phoenix beard growing, slip N slide ride. Those guys need to be separated for their own good.

* Sayid really seemed at peace with where he was this episode. Sad to know that something is going to send him back into Jason Bourne mode soon.

* Holy Hudson! Lapidus got the plane down in one piece. He's 2 for 2 in island landings under duress. My sources tell me that the hatch Caesar was checking out was the Hydra over on the smaller island, and that the work project Ben had Sawyer and Kate on back in Season 3 was a runway. Cool.

* Lapidus and a woman took an outrigger and left. Gotta be Sun, out Jin-hunting. Sadly he'll be sixty by now. Wonder if they're going to shoot at another outrigger sometime soon.

* Hey remember when our heroes would shoot at Others from time to time back in the early seasons? Ever get the sense that they might have been shooting at themselves?


I love this show.

ETA: I'm beyond annoyed at the Walt segment. It was touching, but Walt seemed drugged, and about as specifically interested in what happened to the particular friends he had on the island, or how Locke got back, or ANYTHING, as in who might have won Bingo Night at his grandma's church last Tuesday. What's worse is that this felt like the "good bye" of the show to a character who was totally central to the motivations in the first two seasons -- to say nothing of his surprise appearance at the end of season three. We need Walt explained, Lost. Don't screw this up.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meet The Donkeys

Last week's Donkavatar explanatory post garnered a half-dozen or so Donkavatar requests, which I'll be working on the next week or two. Most of you were nice enough to link directly to a link you wanted, which helps out as well.

Anyway, posting about Donkavatar here seems to have brought that once hopping site back to life, so I think I'll cross-post new Donkavatars over here as well.

Since I'm doing that, I thought, "Why not cross-post all of the currently existing Donkavatars as well?"

And then I thought, "That's a good idea; I will do that."

And then I did.

* * * * *


Name: Two Black Aces

Blog: http://twoblackaces.blogspot.com/

Classification:
BBmT Champion donkey.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\57

Image Title: 2.png


_______________________


Name: Instant Tragedy

Blog: http://www.donahue.org/

Classification:
Radio-free donkey.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\54

Image Title: 2.png

_______________________


Name: Patch

Blog: http://patch--work.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Reanimated corpse pirate donkey.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\47

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: APOSEC72

Blog: http://francaseplace.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Lightsabre wielding Donk Park lemur.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\4

Image Title: 3.png


_______________________

Name: Baywolfe

Blog: http://baywolfe.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Epic poetic donkey.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\46

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: mondogarage

Blog: http://mondogarage.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Man, this is a donk who treats objects like women, man.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\2

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: wwonka69

Blog: http://72off.net/

Classification:
Evil candy-making donkey.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\33

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: Kajagugu

Blog: http://www.kajagugupoker.com/

Classification:
Hammer-dropping chimpdonkey.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\25

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: riggstad

Blog: http://riggstad-nutstraight.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Aggro-roided lemur.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\6

Image Title: 2.png

_______________________

Name: cemfredmd

Blog: http://cemfrommd.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Lantern-powered super donkey.

Instructions:
Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\34

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: Poker Enthusiast

Blog: http://thepokerenthusiast.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Disturbing-singlet-wearing donkey.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\3

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: Astin

Blog: http://astincubed.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Unbelievably lucky gourmet donkey.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\30

Image Title: 2.png

Astin Says: This is a self-created image. Now, put der chicky in der basket, bork, bork, bork!

_______________________

Name: PokerBrian

Blog: http://greenfishbrian.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Will you eat green fish and donk?

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\61

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: DaBag

Blog: http://dabag.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Annonymous donkey.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\50

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: $mokkee

Blog: http://www.smokkee.com/

Classification:
Dope-fiend, Bodog pimp, donkey.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\23

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: Pirate Lawyer

Blog: http://shrike-patternrecognition.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Soullless thief, pilager, and murderer. Also a pirate. Also, donkey.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\57

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name:Schaubs

Blog: http://lolaschaubs.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Sandbagging three-putt donkey.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\54

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: Poker Peaker

Blog: http://pokingandpeaking.blogspot.com/

Classification:
Mountain-climbing tightydonk.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\53

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: Mike Maloney

Classification: Amphibious Donkey

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\30

Image Title: 1.png


_______________________

Name: dtaylo04

Blog: http://lightishred.blogspot.com/

Classification: Girlie-armored lucksack.



Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\63

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: katiemother

Blog: http://4dbirds.blogspot.com/

Classification: Hot military chick donkey.




Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\60

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: Julius_Goat

Blog: http://jgoat.blogspot.com/

Classification:Fake-mustached clown-donkey.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\44

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________

Name: pvanharibo

Blog: http://lawchica.blogspot.com/

Classification: Deep stacked donkey.




Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\0

Image Title: 3.png

_______________________


Name: bayne_s

Blog: http://struggles-with-donkeys.blogspot.com/

Classification:Eye-poking numbskull. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt Poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\30

Image Title: 3.png


Bayne's Note: My Avatar will be a little bigger at table then the other avatars but I am generally bigger at live tables as well.

_______________________



Name: Mary

Blog: http://423smith.com/

Classification: Ummm breakfast.

Instructions: Right click and choose "Save Picture As"

Save to: C:\Program Files\Full Tilt poker\Graphics\Table\Avatars\Public\0

Image Title: 2.png

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Goatttt Challenge

So I went and picked a fight with Michael Craig. I guess I figured it was time for a flame war. What can I say?

___________________

Like most of you, I am following two new developments in the wold of Full Tilt Poker with great interest. Unlike most of you, I am following it with nothing but two atrophied brain cells and a complete lack of fact checking as I write this, but I’m sure I am getting all the details correct, so just take my word for it, okay?

The first development is the now-famous “Durrrr Challenge” named after the young internet poker phenom Tom “Durrrr Dwan” Challenge, who first came to national prominence in a televised heads-up match with Phil Hellmuth, who accused him of using far too many of the letter “r” in a row.

Durrrrrecently threw down the high stakes internet poker gauntlet with resounding authority by announcing that he would take on all comers in at least $200/$400 PLO or NLHE for at least 50,000 hands. What makes this prop bet especially juicy is that if the challenger is ahead after the alloted number of hands by $1 or more, Dwan will ship $1.5 million. If Dwan is ahead by $1 or more, the challenger need only ship 500K. What this means, in essence, is that Dwan is saying to the world at large, “I am three times better than anybody else.” Cheeky bastard, no? Dwan may disagree with this characterization, justifiably pointing out that he’s trying to spice up the pot to generate some good games, but I’m using my 9th grade math for the first time in my life, so get out of my way.

The sole exception to this challenge is Durrrr’s good buddy Clay “OMGPhilGalfond” Aiken, who apparently knows a little bit too much about his playing style, or perhaps is too good a friend to want to take so much money from, or maybe Phil is really Dwan, having gone back in time through the Lost island and joined the Dharma Initiative somehow. In any event, Durrrr is now playing a promising young newcomer named Patrick Antonius, who is currently ahead.

[The rest of this article, including mean smack talk directed at Michael Craig, can be read at Poker From the Rail. Go give it love! Feed it links and clicks!]

Turbo MTTs: Staying Alive

I won another one of those 90 seaters on Tilt, which keeps me on my 15% win rate as well as a pretty sick 4 for 5 at final tables. It's a good run, and it has actually given me the sad delusion that I know what I'm doing in these things. If this continues, you may just keep getting the juice from my mind grapes on the topic.

So here's a thought: In a turbo on any of the poker sites, the conventional wisdom is to play a bit looser. The idea is that the blinds and antes go up so fast, it is best to get lots of chips or go home. The other idea is that everybody else is playing so loose that you should expand your range similarly to stay on top of your opponents' K2 pushfests.

I think this is true to a point. However I'd like to propose something a little bit different, at least on the double-stack tournaments that Tilt is running.

I think you should play tight for the first six levels or so, in fact just as tight as you would normally if your name were (say) Dan Harrington or (say) Poker Peaker. This is not to say that you should try to fold to the money, by any means. Still play based on position or odds, sure. But don't just take a poke with your KT because you've seen the donkey push with T7o. Wait. Play very few hands for the first hour.

The reasons are simple:

1) If everybody is playing loose, then you are likely to get paid just fine with your big pairs. There's really little reason to worry about getting a tight table image.

2) You have the ability to consider hand ranges? Cool. That doesn't put you alone in this group. But if you have patience? Oooh, now you are probably unique. Cultivate the habits nobody else has.

3) This is the big one: In the early to mid levels of a tournament (and especially in a turbo), survival is more important than chips.


Now, here's what I am not saying. I'm NOT saying that you don't greatly increase your chances of winning if you can amass a big chip stack. However, I most certainly AM saying that the bigness of a chip stack is a relative thing, and its value is very much on the sliding scale. An early chip stack is just not something that justifies risking early survival with the marginal hands you'd be playing if you widened your range. What's comprises a huge early chip stack? 7K? 12K? Great, so lets say you fall into that by skill or luck. By the time you near the bubble, that's simply not going to be much of a stack at all. In fact, you're probably going to have to put all your chips in the same as the player who has been patiently folding.

Here's another thing I am NOT saying. I'm NOT saying that you should continue this conservative attitude indefinitely. In fact, the only reason this would be worthwhile advice is if you: Think you can figure out when the blinds and antes are large enough to make your opponents tighten up, and shift gears accordingly. When you're down to 2 tables, you are going to want to have the skill to make weaker players pay with your aggression, and the luck to survive the inevitable confrontations. But you're not going to need that much more luck if you only have a little over your 3,000 starting stack than the person who is sitting on 8,000. 8,000 can crash and burn real quick, or can turn into a monster in a few hands late in a tourney. 3,000 can do the same. Obviously, eight is better than three, and you should play for chips throughout, but with only 90 runners to play through, you can find yourself pretty deep simply through patience and with a decent chance to make some noise.

What do you think? Have you found better results by loosening your range early in a tournament with wild play?

Heroes 015: Done

I didn't watch last night. It felt good. I'm done until I'm not. Suggestions for what I should be recapping instead?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

BBT4 Is Coming, Donkavatar Is Phat

So now, since I-AM-NOT-A-GEEK, I can ask, WTF was this all about?

Yes... I'm sorry to say, I am serious. I have no idea what you are all talkng about here.

You are making custom avatars for players on F/T?

How would one see them, to know if anyone at the table has one? I ask because, I don't think I've ever seen anything but the typical Tilt stuff.

You do not have to answer this. I'm just getting my total lack of geekyness, off my chest.


- Bam Bam


Explanation coming, Bam Bam. Or at least my attempt at one.

One of my favorite things about blogger tournaments these days is, every so often, sitting next to the Swedish chef. See, that is how Astin appears to me at the table, as long as he has his game face on. And so he might appear to you. He certainly can, if you want him to. I look like Groucho. $mokkee can, if he likes, look like Chris Tucker. Riggstad is an angry lemur. The list goes on.

You can find it all right here at Donkavatar, a blog started by Bayne and me as an attempt to break out of the stiffling mold of just 72 avatar options that Full Tilt has given us. I keep the request/explanation post at the top, so all you have to do is make your request in the comments, and I'll try to take care of business.

But Bam-Bam's question remains. What in the name of pickled herring am I talking about, anyway? How does this work.

Here we go:


1) The Full Tilt software saves all of its images, including avatar images, on your computer. So, when you see any avatar, it's because the software is telling your computer to look in a certain place, and then displaying what it sees.

2) When you select your avatar, you are simply choosing an attribute for your account which tells the software "look here for an image and display it." That's how every other player sees the same image as the one you chose.

3) There are around 300 different images available to the typical player (that's us, you and me - pros have access to their own special image location, which is why you can't be Phil Ivey). There's something like 70 different avatar "types" now, and 4 different "moods." Each of those "moods" is itself a separate image.

4) You can replace any of the images that Full Tilt installs on your computer with other images, and those will display just fine, as long as they are of the correct size.

5) Because the images you change are on your computer, these image changes will display ONLY on your computer. For example, if you replace Happy Dracula with an image of your favorite Care Bear, you will see that Care Bear for ANYBODY who decides to rock the Happy Dracula. Like, say, you. However, NOBODY ELSE will see Prozac Bear. Everybody else will only see Happy Dracula . . .

6) . . . UNLESS they have also downloaded the image of Prozac Bear, and put it in the Happy Dracula location.

7) So if there were a site that had new, custom-made images, for specific people within an online community (like, say, ours) with assigments to specific image locations for each image, then anybody in that community could just come in, save the image to their computer, and look at that! Astin is the Swedish Chef!

8) That's where Donkavatar comes in.


If this seems complex, it really isn't. It requires a little bit of work, and it is obviously very limited, but it's easy to do. If you can save a file to your computer, you can do this. Right now there are 25 donkavatars created, so if you wanted to get all of them (not necessary, btw), it might be 15 minutes of your time.


I WANT A DONKAVATAR! HOW DO I DO THIS?

1) Go to Donkavatar and request one in the comments. I'll do it up. I'm doing this for fun, so it may be a few days or a week, but I'll do it.

2) When it posts, go and save the image to the correct location.

3) Repeat for any other bloggers whose donkavatar you'd like to see (provided they are playing with the designated avatar and mood. If they aren't bug them to put their game face on).

4) That's all. You can also make your own if you know how.


SAVE THE IMAGE TO THE CORRECT WHAT NOW? HELP!

OK, this is pretty easy, but let's just go through it slow.

First, let's just go find those avatars so you see exactly where they are.

1) In the lower left hand corner of your screen, right-click on the "Start" button. (If you don't know what right-click is, I suspect that you have a Mac one-button fist-mashing mouse, and may God have mercy on your soul.)

2) Choose "Explore".

3) Find "Program Files" and double-click that bad boy to open it.

4) Find "Full Tilt Poker" and double-click.

5) Find "Graphics" and double-click.

6) Find "Table" and double-click.

7) Find "Avatars" and double-click.

8) Find "Public" and double-click.

9) You should now see a whole mess of files with sequential numbers as names. Congratulations! You've found where the avatars live!

10) Now that you know how to find the avatars, go to the button at the top of the screen called "Views" and select the option "Thumbnails", just to get a sense of which avatar is contained in which folder.

11) Now, double-click on any of those folders. This is just to see what the contents look like. Notice that the "normal" mood is image 0, the "happy" mood is image 1, the "angry" mood is image 2, and the "confused" mood is image 3.

So, when you switch your avatar from bulldog to Eskimo girl, you're just asking Full Tilt to stop looking at folder 12 and to start looking at folder 29. And when you switch your mood to happy, you're actually telling the software to stop looking at image 0 and start looking at image 1. Make sense? Raise your hand if this makes sense. Good, I'll continue.

OK, so now you know where the images are on your computer, you know how to look and see which folder number has which avatar, and you know how the images are named by mood.

Now let's go over how to get the images off Donkavatar and onto your computer.

1) Go to Donkavatar.

2) On the top post, note the slot position of the blogger whose avatar you'd like to save. Here's what I mean by that:

Confused Afro Dude: 0/3 (pvanharibo)

This means that pvanhairibo's avatar should be saved in avatar folder 0 (the one for Afro Dude) with image name 3 (the one for confused mood).

The reason for this is that pvanhairibo has agreed to rock the Confused Afro Dude in blogger tournies - at least if she wants her custom avatar to be viewed. We'll all save her particular image to her particular slot, and then we'll all see her particular donkavatar. That would be Eeyore with a massive chip stack.

3) From the master list on the right hand side of the page, select the blogger whose avatar you would like to save.

4) Right-click on that image and select "Save Picture As." This will open up a window that will ask you where you want to save it.

5) There will be a "Save In" drop-down. Select that drop-down menu and choose your main drive (this is usually the "C" drive).

6) Choose "Program Files" and then "Full Tilt Poker" and . . . you know what? You know the way to the avatars by now.

7) Go to the avatar folder that you made note of in step 2.

8) Save that sucka. Make sure that you save it as the proper file number.

9) That's it. That donkavatar will now display for the selected blogger (as long as they are on the avatar selected). Trust me, after you do a couple of these, all these steps will take about 30 seconds. Personally, I think it would be pretty fresh to have about 50 or more of these going during BBT4.


OK, Bam Bam. Ball's in your court, buddy. You want a Bam-Bam avatar or what?

LOST 028: Reunited And It Feels So Good

You want answers? You want answers? Well, that was a whole lot of answers we got from Eloise right at the start of the episode. Well, not right at the start, because the cold open was one of the more thrilling deja vu moments of the entire run.

Jack's eye.

Jack's eye opens.

Jack lying in the jungle. Hurley calling for help. All of this has happened before. Nice.

But back to the exposition. We found out the reason that the island is so hard to find -- it's ALWAYS moving, so not only is it (perhaps) protected by some kind of electro-magnetic/temporal distortion that makes it hard to find, but even if you can pierce that shroud, you're trying to hit a moving target. Getting to the island is a lot more like trying to land on Pluto than it is trying to land on Fiji.

So what does THAT mean? Let me suggest a few options.

1) It is moving in more of a temporal orbit, instead of a geographic one. In other words, it is constantly traveling throughout time in some kind of recurring, sequential, and predictable manner.

2) It is NOT moving. It stays still, the earth rotates past it.

3) It is a moon made out of dark matter, and thus passes THROUGH the earth as it orbits around earth's axis. In other words, because of its unique properties, it is actually able to orbit around earth's axis, but unlike most moons it can pass through the surface of the earth, surfacing at key locations off in Tunisia, the North Pole, the Pacific Ocean, etc.

4) All of the above.

OK? The first two theories are my own, the third is a VERY in-depth theory I once read (but I forget where) that used science and stuff to explain how a mini-planet could pass through earth and still have sunlight, and went on and on and on and ON about the properties of this theoretic dark matter, but I have to say, with the revelation that the island is always moving, I have to give that guy some credit for at least having a part of the answer.

By the way, kudos to everybody who had "the island is constantly moving" in the office pool. I don't think I ever wrote that possibility in this space, but it's been out there for sure.


Other things we learned from Eloise Exposition:

* Locke killed himself. Hung until dead. That's weird, I didn't even know he was in INXS.

* The island was discovered by some fella who postulated a formula to predict when and where the island would be.

* Those guys also built an unnecessarily huge pendulum-and-floor-map assembly to show the results of the formula, and from which I would love to swing. Was I the only person who was hoping that Desmond or Jack or somebody was just going to get housed by that thing as they walked across the floor with dramatic glowers?

* The next window is a flight to Guam on the same Indian Airline whose detritus the Island Six discovered, right before stealing some pontoon boats and getting shot at. Odds of the Island Six being shot at by the Oceanic Six rising, rising . . . falling . . . RISING! No pontoon boats and no bottled water make Jack something something. He'd give chase if some Others stole his boat. And remember, if that's the case . . . Juliet did shoot one of them.

* The reason that the whole O6 needs to go back is that they need to recreate their previous flight as nearly as they possibly can. Ooookay. That's kind of weird. Is that because the island needs all of their destinies, and the fewer of their destinies it gets, the more likely it is to just say, "You know what? Screw you destiny haters. I ALLOW YOU TO DIE." That's how I take it, anyway.

Other major items of note, random questions, and some surprising sloppiness:

- How did Hurley get out of the lockup? Even if he did get out of the lockup, how is he not on a "no fly" list? How is Kate not on a "no fly" list? Can you just transport a dead body to Guam that easily? I mean, I am pretty sure that's a stolen body Jack's got there. And how much do you have to tip the cabbie if he helps you get a coffin into the trunk? But for real, when Jack asked Hurley how he got there, and Hurley said "Isn't the important thing that I'm here?", my answer to that is "No! The important thing is HOW HOW HOW HOW." Anyway, my guess is it had something to do with Ben's fancy pants lawyers getting him out of the slam, and then the ghost of Charlie convincing him. But still, with the kind of security madness you get with airlines today, Hurley and Kate and Stolen Locke Body getting on is story-convenient sloppy.

- Where is Aaron? What convinced Kate to part ways with him? Is he dead? And, honestly, what do we make of Jack's decision to agree never ever to ask him where Aaron is? Jack is the First Emperor of Not Letting Things Go, but the location and health of his nephew seemed about as easy for him to drop as Kate's panties. I was SO hoping that on the island, as soon as she woke up, he would ask "Where's Aaron where's Aaron where's Aaron where's Aaron?" for about a minute. Anyway, my guess is that she gave him to his natural grandmother, and my guess is she was convinced by Claire, who is haunting her. Man, is that kid going to be screwed up.

- I expect that Sayid is in custody because of all the killing, but why is he being transported to Guam?

- Is Sun honestly not even a LITTLE bit torn about leaving her daughter behind, likely forever? Jin is going to be very pissed and joyful. He'll be poyful.

- Just as Widmore didn't seem as evil as we'd assumed when Desmond went to visit him, Eloise seemed more evil than we'd assumed in this episode, didn't she? Keep us on our toes, Lost writers. Keep us on our toes.

- Ben went to kill Penny, obviously, and now he's all busted up but still alive. What is the breathing status of our favorite island couple?

- Hurley buying up all the tickets so that lots of innocent people wouldn't die was a very moving touch, and made him a lot more human than Jack, who didn't even stop to consider it until he was aboard, Ben, who just didn't seem to care, and surprise guest pilot Frank Lapidus, who seemed a little excited and certainly perfectly happy to keep flying his plane straight into a temporal electro-magnetic event, innocent passengers be damned.

- OK, here's something I missed but my wife pointed out. In Season 4, the Oceanic Six were world-wide celebrities. Much was made about how they were among the most famous faces on the planet. I always hated this, because it made no sense. They'd be famous, for sure, but unless they made huge efforts to milk it, they wouldn't be more famous than the pilot who landed in the Hudson or maybe that guy who won Jeopardy! for about a year. In other words, famous for a minute, you've seen their face on People magazine's cover, but not Brangelina famous. But if they WERE really famous, wouldn't every other passenger take a look around, see EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of the O6 on board, and just quietly shuffle off the plane? It would be like getting on a cruise and finding the entire cast of "Titanic" or something. That would have been a great scene.

- Ben, I don't think that Jack was asking how you could read at a time like this. He was asking how could you read Ulysses at a time like this. I thought you preferred Stephen King. You're just trying to make us think you're smart.

- So, is Hurley traveling with one of Charlie's guitars?

- Jin filled out a Dharma application! Hey, that's great! This allows us to make a few educated guesses. First, James Ford and His Amazing Timeflash Jumpers probably stopped jumping after Locke straightened out the donkeywheel. At least the jumps became sparse enough to allow these poor people to actually get jobs. Second, since they were last seen at a time before the Orchid was built, they either took one last flash up to Dharma times, or they waited for Dharma to get there. If it is the latter, might they be as ageless as Richard? It may have been a while. Third, at least one of them (Jin) is in danger of being killed by a younger Ben and the original Others when the island gets gassed, OR ELSE at least one of them (Jin) is working with a younger Ben and the original Others to gas the island. There's a lot of ways this could go, but I like it. Fourth and finally, the bottled water did come from that Indian airline that provided the return flight, so we can probably (I say probably) fix the point in time when the Island Six had their little boat-on-boat paddle battle.

- What's happened now is that everybody is back on the island, while there are still things off-island that we don't know about them. This essentially means that we are back to the Season 1 structure again. Character by character, we'll interact with them newly returned to the island, while flashing "back" to before they returned to fill in the gaps. I will miss the timejumps, but that's neat.

- Did all of the returning O6 (and Locke and Lapidus, I presume) return to the same when, or are they scattered?

- Ah, Lapidus. I guess nobody told you what happens to pilots on this island.

- Why did the Oceanic plane crash, but this plane just flashed out of existance, I wonder? Or, at least, we haven't seen any wreckage. Hey, while I'm on the subject, where did the fuselage of Ocean 815 go, anyway? Was that ever covered? I mean, I know it got scavenged, but for serious, we haven't seen that big honking fuselage on the beach in forever. Did they dump it in the ocean? How? What? Why? I'm crazy now.

Join us next time, when I say:

"Wow, my karma really took a hit for that INXS joke."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Heroes 014: It's Gone From Suck To Blow

Well, that didn't take long to descend right back into the swamp of "what the hell?", did it? I'm not going to give this one much time, but still more than it deserves. This isn't done in fun or in good spirits. This is done in hate.

* Hiro and Ando are in India to fulfull their destiny. I'll just briefly mention that Hiro is once again a total emotionally stunted nitwit, who learns YET A-FREAKING-GAIN that you don't need powers to be a hero . . . just exactly how did they get to India? Aren't they wanted fugitives pursued by shadow forces from the U.S. Government? Didn't the U.S. government just capture them from Japan?

That means a plane is out. So did Peter fly them there, one at a time? Together? How much can he carry? Why not ALL go to India? MY GOD WHY NOT TAKE MOHINDER TO INDIA IF YOU'RE GOING???? Why does it stupid so much?

Also, I guess they just went because Matt drew it. If I was Matt, I would never stop taking advantage of this. I'd draw Hiro giving me all his money, his sister's phone number, fighting Ando, cleaning my house for me, etc. etc. This would never get old.

* Claire Bear I love you everything I do I do it for you the secrets I tell I Claire Bear I love you I do everything I do to keep you safe you can't know what I've done I love you I Claire Bear Dad you really care for me Oh I hate you you're evil you can't be trusted oh I see you really do care for me and are trying to keep me safe you're evil.

* Nikki, why did you kill that guy? Just out of spite? It certainly wasn't necessary. It certainly didn't help you, even given that you didn't know that somebody was about to pull funding until you froze that guy. Remember, you actually AREN'T a dangerous killer? Well, maybe you are. Let's just remember that in three episodes when the show decides you're a good guy.

The heat lamps keep you from freezing your chains by touch? But they don't set your poor flesh on fire? OK, whatever, comic book, right, I am nitpicking. Still, bwa hahahaha.

* At some point, there will be a history class taught that will examine the subtle ways that the constitutional abuses of the War on Terror impacted upon popular media. And, perhaps, there will be a class for the totally obvious and ham-fisted ways as well. If so, then there will be a place for Hereos.

In the meantime, I'm so glad to see the show falling right into the trap of framing the War On Terror as a disagreement between people who make ugly but tough realistic decisions, and people who are foolishly idealistic because they don't realize the true danger. News flash: I remember the danger. I'm not fuzzy on terror. If there was another attack, it would be horrible, but I would be just as opposed to relaxing civil liberties and curtailing our priciples in the name of safety. More so, perhaps, because it is precisely when the stakes are high that standing by our principles and safeguarding our civil rights becomes most important. Of course, as soon as Presidential Aide Flimsy Flopsalot sees that OMG THERE IS DANGER she totally changes course. Blech.

* Oh Sylar, you're so boring when you look for yet another daddy, and pretend you don't love your Robin.

Monday, February 16, 2009

LOST 027: Smokey and the One-Armed Bandit

Wow. I'm late with this, first because I was away on business and with horrible wireless service last week, and then because I'm still trying to figure out everything that we learned from this most recent episode. We've stayed fairly character-centric so far here. An episode for Jack, one for Hurley, one for Desmond/Faraday, one for Kate. Now we get one for the overall plot. I found it less emotionally engaging than you'd expect from an episode that features the death of a major-ish character, Jin sacrificing his happiness for his family's safety, and a pregnant lady shooting the father of her unborn child, mainly because it was the big picture, as opposed to character study, that was front and center. At least my brain hurts, in a good way.

OK, let's dig in.

The Really Big Stuff

- The Temple. Yep, it's the famed temple from Season 3, the one that the Others all left Locke behind for, the one that has gone unmentioned long enough that I'd forgotten it was a mystery. And we've learned that Smokey lives in this temple. Perhaps most importantly, we've learned that once it takes hold of people, it possesses them in some way, or exerts some form of influence over them. At first I thought it might have been Smokey posing as Robert in that showdown of former lovebirds on the beach, but then she sure enough shot him, so he seemed pretty solid to me. I'd say that Rousseau's paranoia was well-placed. But what does that mean? I'm not entirely sure, but I'd guess that it explains some of the more overt cultish religious-y overtones we've been getting from the Others. I think I would postulate that there are Others and then there are Others, and the higher-tier ones, like Ben and Richard, probably even Ethan and Tom, have been "chosen" by the island.

And John Locke? Let's remember a couple things about old Locke. First, he's been obsessed since nearly day one with protecting the island above nearly all other considerations. It's really the best interests of the island that has motivated him from the beginning, not any of his more temporary alignments. He blew up the submarine. He conked Sayid on the head. He lied to Jack about Boone to protect the secret of the hatch. So Locke's an island nut, seriously plugged in to the spirituality of the island. That's the first thing. The second thing is that, as I've mentioned in this space many times, Locke came face to face with Smokey very very early in the game . . . and we never saw what happened. Nor did he ever tell anybody about it.

What's very interesting to me is that the unfortunate Frenchman who got nabbed by Smokey got dragged along the ground like he was on some kind of winch. We haven't seen that trick from the beast since Season 1, when it grabbed . . . Locke. Who was ANGRY with Jack for saving him from it just as he was about to go underground. Locke seemed to understand even back then that he was being chosen for something, and he wanted in on it.

What I'm driving at is that I think that whatever happened to the Frenchmen, whatever gave them the indoctrination that turned them against Rousseau, which she interpreted as a sickness . . . I think that Locke has gotten at least a taste of it already. That's why he's more of the island than the rest.

Also . . . SMOKEY RIPPED THAT DUDE'S ARM OFF! HE RIPPED HIS ARM OFF! ARM! OFF! ARM OFF! Wow, that was awesome.


- Donkeywheel redux. Wow, Ben did not turn that wheel properly, did he? So now we are left to wonder if, when Locke set it back on its axis, the timejumpery stopped. If that is the case than I'm sure many fans may breathe a sigh of relief (and all the characters with nosebleeds certainly will), but not me. I was loving it. I mean, I'm sure we'll get a chance to see the island at other points in time, but it was just so clever and so perfect. Anyway, IF they are no longer jumping, then WHEN are they? The Orchid isn't there, and even the well has yet to be dug, so I am guessing the far past. Far enough even for our Heroes to be the progenitors of the original Others? That'd be sweet, wouldn't it?


- Christian. This is the episode that cemented Christian as a major player in all this. His nature is still a major mystery, but I think the fact that he can't help Locke and His Amazing Compound Fracture to stand indicates that he's incorporeal. A ghost, or spirit realm, or however that plays out. Now he's with Claire (safe to say, anyway) and Charlie and Eko and Ana Lucia and Tom and Boone and Shannon and Michael and Libby and Artz and Paulo and Nikki and MAN there have been a lot of deaths on this island. Some more thoughts on Christian. (1) He came to the island dead and in a coffin. Now the coffin is empty and he's walking around all Ghost World. Now . . . Locke is coming back to the island dead and in a coffin. I think Christian is giving us a few clues about what it is going to be like for Locke when he returns. (2) He's not Jacob, but he speaks for Jacob. Why won't Jacob speak to Locke? I think there is a pretty simple reason for that, actually, if you think about it. I've said it before, and the show is driving straight for it. I'm pretty sure that the rules of time travel preclude you from speaking to yourself.

Now how do the ghosts manage to appear to people when they are OFF the island?


- Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Quantum Theory. So do all the O6 need to go back, or will they just take who they can get? Huh? Does Des NEED to go back? If Penny and Charlie go back, does it screw things up? What about then in-utero Yi Juen? Can some go back now and then others later? We need answers. I think we'll get them, but right now it's all muddy. One thing that isn't muddy is the fact that Ben was VERY surprised to hear Desmond reveal that Hawking was Faraday's mother. Another stellar piece of acting by Michael Emerson, it was all right there on Ben's face. Also not muddy is how upset Desmond is going to be to find himself back on the island.


Things We Know

- Yep, Eloise Hawking is Faraday's mom.

- Yep, Charlotte was a Dharma kid. And now she's dead, Jim. Miles knew Charlotte had been on the island . . . why? Well, because he had been there with her, of course. But who was Charlotte's dad, the one they left behind? And how did she know about the well?

- Yep, Locke got off the island by turning the wheel.

- Yep, something happened with Sayid and Ben. I suspect we'll get an answer to what that is in a Sayid-centric episode shortly.



Things We Should Suspect If We Are Paying Attention

- Ben's status as Voice of Jacob and Leader of the Others is complex at least, given Christian's dismissal of him. Also it is very likely that he knew full well that it wasn't supposed to be him turning that wheel, but he had an agenda of his own and off-island revenge to plan.

- Hawking is probably related to Widmore in some way, since the clues are fairly hard to miss that she is the young Ellie on the island on the 50s with Widmore. So their relationship is more complicated than mere adversary, I imagine. Brother/sister, maybe. Husband/wife, maybe. Secret lovers, perhaps. It's fun that all the really major players (Hawking, Widmore, Richard, Ben, probably Abbadan) have been on the periphery, and most of the characters we've known and loved from the beginning are basically pawns -- though Locke and Desmond seem to have crossed to the far side of the board. It seems that these major players are less like separate and warring countries, and more like bitter factions, rivals from different political parties within the same government.

- Locke just keeps hurting his legs. It's a motif at this point. I bet he loses a toe at some point. Oh yeah.


Outstanding Questions

I'm just going to keep going with the questions. Whatever I can think of; all I can eat.

- So is this stuff happening because the O6 left, or because Locke let Ben move the island? I thought I knew the stakes and was starting to sense the rules, and now it's jumbled again.

- How are we going to get the remaining O4 (presuming that Sun and Jack and Desmond are in fact going to the island ahead of schedule) on the island, exactly? Because I thought if we couldn't, God save us all. Sayid is getting pretty stabby at the sight of Ben. Hurley would rather be in lock down. Kate scarpered with Aaron. It's all katty wampus and only a few more hours left. Let's give it up for Ben, though. The one person he is able to bring over is the one who had a gun pressed to his neck. And she's willing to leave her precious little girl behind, too, just for one more chance at craphole island.

- Where is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT?

- Why did Eko say "you're next"?

- Was Sawyer's greeting of Jin one of both character's finest moments ever?

- Who told Richard to meet Locke and give him a compass?

- Who made the donkey wheel in the first place?

- Why wasn't the wheel room freezing cold this time? I suspect it's because the island, still moving constantly through space (perhaps not moving as the earth rotates?) is not in a cold place right now.

- Who was shooting at the island crew?

- What is the magic box that Ben spoke of, out of which anything can come?

- Why do Dharma people arrive in a submarine?

- Why was there radio jamming equipment underwater?

- How many fibers are intertwined on a shredded wheat biscuit?

- Why doesn't Richard Alpert age?

- What was going on with the bomb and the Swan station?

- Where ARE Rose and Bernard?

- Which came first, the numbers or the hatch?

- Who was reading the numbers at the beginning of this latest episode Some say Hurley, but others say not Hurley.

- Do you think that Ben and Richard had such thick files on the Oceanic survivors because Richard had started compiling them back in the fifties?

- Do you think that Ben and Richard live together as wacky room-mates, and one is messy and one is neat?

- Do you think that Ben and Richard will ever double-date Mohinder and Parkman?

- Am I crazy yet?

Your Weekly Dose Of Crazy

I was gone, now I'm back. Lost post soon.

And now, Hasselhoff.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Heroes 013: Bury My Heart At Wounded Daphne

This was not a promising follow up to last week promising reboot, I gotta tell you.

OK, so Daphne is as dead as you get on Heroes (that would be Mostly Dead), and out of respect I will finally actually use her name. Then, because anger leads to hatred and hatred leads to fear and fear leads to the dark side, Parkman used his mind control powers to murder those responsible. Now, Heroes has killed so many characters that it honestly doesn't pack much of a punch anymore (especially since Claire's blood would have just brought her back, and, duh Claire, you were standing right there). But this scene really takes the cake for shooting yourself in the foot, dramatically. You know what really helps a scene like a major character's tragic death, followed by another character's quick shift to a very dark place? A split screen with yet another character on the phone, explaining what you are watching as though you can't see it yourself. That really puts you in the scene, doesn't it? Honestly, there's not a worse way to do that sequence, unless you rotoscoped some cartoon animals in there and cut to the salsa music.

And to what end? To further underscore the "Nathan talks on the phone to an undisclosed person" framing device? It's been done before, and the reason is always to reveal who is at the other end, usually a game-changing shocker. You know, you're supposed to think he's talking to one of his co-conspirators, i.e., his mother or President Warf, and then you find out . . . DA DA DUM! HE'S TALKING TO SYLAR! OMG! HE'S THE VICTIM OF SYLAR MIND CONTROL. Or you know, something like that. Nope, he's talking to his mom, one of the two obvious possibilities, and we find out that in fact his mom is NOT one of his co-conspirators (like she clearly and obviously was, um, last week), and she is in a snit about it, and won't help him with her resources (which all burned to the ground two episodes ago), oh, and she has a dossier on the bald psychopath who is running ground operations for Nathan. It all adds up to a big, "huh?" and that's about it.

Meanwhile, we discover that Nathan is conflicted, for reals, y'all. Because the thing is that Nathan is doing this to protect the supers from themselves, because Peter is just a dangerous idealist who was going to endanger everybody with his . . . idealism, which is . . . Peter is . . . uh, wasn't Peter just living a mild-mannered, low-key life as a paramedic until Nathan started nabbing everybody? Didn't he CREATE the situation he's trying to control by creating the situation he's controlling? I mean, that might be the point, I guess; the futility of fascist tactics, but if the show really wants us to see Nathan as doing what he's doing because he has to, I just can't find the logical thread.

Here's what was good. We have a super-team out there now. Peter, Mohinder, Matt, Hiro, and Ando. It's a bit of a sausage-fest, but I forgive it a thousand fold because THIS IS WHAT WE'VE WANTED ALL ALONG, HEROES! Don't you realize we are watching this show because we loved comic books and the Superfriends on Saturday morning. For crying out loud, finally! Now let's keep the team together a while and do something with it. Let's give them code names. Sponge Lad, Mindmelder, Supercharge, Professor Dumb, and Paperweight. That'll do it. Personally, I hope that Supercharge is destined to kill Paperweight because Paperweight won't stop yammering about his destiny, like he really mattered anymore. I'm sad. I really used to like Hiro.

Also, Peter lost his superpowers hard drive space. This is really good. First, it kills off my biggest problem with last week's show, which seemed to forget he could fly. Second, it allows Peter to be in a scene without killing any possible tension. Well played, Heroes.

Here's what is really, really, really bad. Draw the future power. This is a drama killer, and a silly power, and I don't want it anymore. It's such a lazy device to get people to do what you want them to do. And now, in order to keep it, they just GIFT it to Matt, which makes no damn sense at all. In fact, I hereby pledge to complain in every recap about this until it goes away. Hey, it got Peter's powers scaled back. That's right, I'm claiming credit.


Random Thoughts

* So Speedy is still "nemesis" to Ando, after helping him out for all but an episode and a half. Does he know what the word means? Does she run over water, like a whole ocean of water? How does she get to Japan otherwise? Also, "How did you find me?" "Hiro told me about your super secret hideout, where you aren't right now, you're just hanging out in Tokyo, one of the most population dense cities in the world. So knowing about your hideout tells me nothing." Quibble quibble.

* I enjoyed this bit of dialogue:

Mohinder: "You lost your ability? How?"

Hiro: "It's complicated. And idiotic."

I may have made some of that up.

* They still call Claire "the cheerleader," even when they know her name, and even when there is no reason that they would know of that aspect of her character. Is this for the benefit of new viewer, if any, who still recall the "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World" tag, or what? She hasn't been a cheerleader for a long time.

* "Yes! Hiro is still alive because I kill him!" Man. I was really hoping that was going on the "we'll never speak of it again" reboot boat.

* Does the whole Bennett family talk exclusively through clenched teeth?

* Either Claire (and Sylar) can never ever ever die, as Sylar said at the beginning of the Season, or it takes one shot to the back of the head to kill her. Let's decide, shall we? I am willing to accept that they just HOPE that this will do the trick, and it won't.

* After last week's rather trenchant conjuring of real world Gitmo imagery and habeas corpus infringement, they went for an utterly ham-fisted and confusing conflation of the mess around the crash site to Iraq. Just saying the words "greeted as liberators" doesn't mean you're making a statement.

* Aw, Ace found his Gary. The Ambiguously Psychotic Duo lives! And Mohinder and Parkman are back together again, probably holding hands while Mohinder gazes into Parkman's milky, translucent eyes. They occasionally worry about Molly, wherever she may be, and what might be happening to her in this superpower round up. Sometimes they kiss, softly, tenderly. I am quite sure this is all happening off-screen, of course, but the sexual tension is there. On the other hand, Nathan and Peter shared a scene and didn't hug for an awkwardly long time, so maybe we aren't totally committed to the "obvious gay subtext" for this chapter.

* So who is contacting Claire with the OH HAI U R POWERS I CAN HAS REVOLUTION text? Peter, maybe. That one lady who can control electronics from Season 1 and never seen again, mayhap? Micah? Probably Peter. Hopefully it isn't Linderman's ghost who is really an apparition.

* Where is the Haitian Sensation?

* Um, Nathan? PETER is unpredictable? You change your entire raison d'etre pretty much every show.

* I like Baldy MacGenocide. A genuinely threatening bad guy, and I bet he's got powers, too.

* Remember when Tracy had a conscience for like a minute? I actually don't mind this inconsistency. I think that's how people are a lot of the time. My point is, Tracy's a B. That's right, I said a B. Don't faint, I think harsh language was needed.

* I imagine the missile strike was to cover up the plane crash. Hilariously, the tail of the airplane still factors in prominently for the rest of the episode. Maybe Eko and Bernard and Ana Lucia are in there still.

* The Emmies are nonsense. Three years in and Zach Quinto still hasn't won Most Eyebrows.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stupid/System 012: Going Pro

A couple notes before we start.

1) Yep, this is a Poker From the Rail post, so I'm just excerpting it here. I know, not all of you can follow the link from work. I'm sorry about that. That's crappy. Give me your boss's email and I'll yell at him until he fires you. Hmmm. Never mind that one. But do try to remember to follow from home if you like this stuff, though. It helps. If you can't do it, I will post it in its entirety sometime down the road.

2) I haven't seen Heroes yet. I'll probably watch it tonight, but no recap today.

___________________________

If you’ve been following along with me, you now have a lot of the “tools” that you’ll need for long-term, online and live poker success. You know how to fire the third bullet with air, shove a double belly to represent the set, get the fish to double you when you’ve got the nuts, play ATC, abuse the bubble, and exploit the weak-tights with squeezes, overbets, underbets, brass knuckles, clarinet solos, the crane kick and other advanced moves.

So now you are asking yourself: Is it time for me to go pro?

Woah! Wait a second there, Sparky! Not so fast!

First of all, of COURSE you should go pro! You’re totally, lusciously, awesome! Read the first paragraph! You’re like the Bruce Lee of poker, and you’re getting your “Heeeeeeoooooooow!” on. The question you need to ask yourself is, what KIND of pro are you going to be? There’s more than just one kind, you know. I mean, if you don’t decide that, how are you going to know whether or not to buy a cowboy hat or a hoodie? Get with the program.


Other things you’ll want to ponder as you start your career as a top pro:

[Go to Poker From the Rail to read the rest of this article.]

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Late Stage Bet Sizing in 90 Seat MTT

I've been winning a bit lately. That's not really a brag; it's just something that is (quite happily and at long last) happening. It doesn't hurt that I've been racing well. Primarily I have been playing the $3.30 90 seat SNG KOs that run in the main tournament lobby over on Full Tilt Poker.. These are nice because:

1) The play is way too loose early.
2) The play is way too tight late.
3) Deep runs usually result in enough 50-cent bounties to offset the rake.

At this stage I've played about twenty and won three of them, and cashed one more. A small sample size to be sure, but with the 15% win rate I've managed to bring my bankroll back from the dead. So . . . yay! Party on, Garth.

An adjustment I've made that I think helps involves bet sizing near the bubble; say when the starting pot is 1,000 or more, and the short stacks are 3K to 5K. Hopefully at this point I am somewhere in the 12K - 20K range, so I have a few options besides all-in.

I'm not exactly telling you the news when I say that the key now is to steal blinds whenever you can. What I've discovered here is that it's not much good to range your stealing bets in the 2x-4x traditional size against mid-sized stacks, for the simple reason that almost every pot is contested and thus it is understood that your raise doesn't mean much. If you try to steal and your opponent has the opportunity to exercise any kind of fold equity at all, they're going to take that opportunity and beat you to death with it like it's a frozen leg of lamb. Moreover, they're going to do it with a very wide range.

As long as I have everybody fairly well covered, I've taken to simply putting small and mid-stacks all-in when I steal. So to steal (say) a 1350 starting pot, I'll pop it up to 10,000 if the stacks ahead of me are 10,000 or less. It's one thing to try re-stealing against me with an all-in shove while holding J9 or K5, knowing a) you are quite possibly ahead and b) you have some fold equity; but it is a much different proposition to actually call for your tournament life with those hands, even when you KNOW I am stealing. Maximum pressure for maximum steal success. Then when we get down to about five remaining at the final table, I count on everybody hoping to get into one of the top payoff spots and I steal with overbets mercilessly. I credit this tactic with getting me to 3 wins in just 4 final tables. In all my wins, by the time I got three handed, all the stealing has allowed me to get 70% or so of all the chips in play.

Now, I do have some rules. First, I really do have to have a decent enough stack, so even if I'm called and I lose, I still have enough chips to command respect with a shove. I don't tend to make this move much if there is somebody in the hand who has me covered or could totally cripple me, and I REALLY don't do it if there's somebody in the hand who has a mega mega stack and can pressure me off it even if I over-bet. I also have a very strict policy of sucking out if I do get called. Please remember to exercise the sucking out clause if you decide to employ this tip.

LOST 026: My Rousseau-Called Life

And now mein Schprockets is the time that we have a Kate episode.

Must we? I suppose we must. Kate if you recall is the character who was a ninja spy bank robber for one flashback before the writers decided that she wasn't. She was on the run for a crime she was TOTALLY INNOCENT of, which turned out to be blowing up her stepdad, who was abusive to her mom, but the real reason she blew him up was not for smacking mama around, it was because she found out her stepdad was her REAL dad, and she couldn't handle being the spawn of trash like him. So she blew him up real good. Oh yeah, and instead of being TOTALLY INNOCENT, she was something like the exact opposite of that, except that Kate went on believing that she was a really good person, and since nobody and nothing on the show ever corrected that, I suppose that we are supposed to think that about Kate as well.

Oh yes, and she once got her ex-boyfriend killed because she robbed a bank while a fugitive from the law, to get a little tiny toy airplane out of a safe-deposit box, because it had some sentimental value for her. That sentimental value was that it reminded her of her boyfriend. Who got killed because she went and got that damn airplane. And still we are expected to see Kate as the selfless hero.

Oh right, and also one time she married a policeman while still a fugitive from the law. She had to abandon him when the fuzz started closing in, doping him into unconsciousness and leaving him behind to face a broken heart and maybe even some fun accessory to the crime charges. And still we're expected to see Kate as the selfless hero.

Oh right, and this episode we are given the explanation for Kate keeping Aaron, who is NOT Kate's son (as Ben quite rightly pointed out) and who DOES have family somewhere out there in the world. The reason was that she had lost all her island friends, especially her cage-buddy Sawyer, and so she didn't want to lose anybody else. So basically, Aaron was her island souvenier. And STILL we're expected to see Kate as the selfless hero? Well, finally Ben called her on her crap, but Ben is the kind of bad guy who is awesome, so I don't know. In any event, we had Kate say something along the lines of "what kind of person do you think I AM?" to Sun when Sun suggested Kate "take out" the people who were after Aaron. Get off the high horse, Kate. Sun knows exactly the kind of person you are.

The Lost writers have had better moments than those surrounding Kate, that's my point. Thus, her episodes tend to be weak. Happily, the new structure means that we don't focus as much on Kate even during a Kate-heavy episode, and so my happiness is rekindled. This was relatively strong for what it was.

Random Thoughts and Wild Guesses

* Jin Lives! OK, this was not a huge surprise at this point. One of the show runners basically slipped during the Season 4 recap two weeks ago. I must say, when Jin "died" on the freighter, I thought it was a for real, as permanent as this show allows, type of death, and I further thought that bringing him back would be a bit of a cop out, robbing Sun's story of emtional weight. Nah, I don't care. I like Jin, and I want those two crazy kids to wind up together, dammit. JIN LIVES! On the other hand, our storytellers have a pretty big job to explain this. Let's put aside how he escaped the boat's explosion. If Jin was inside the influence of the island's time jumps and moved with them, then how would the helicopter not be? Because they were in the sky? I don't like it. Hey, and how does Sun know that it is Ben's fault the boat blew up? Did Locke tell her or something?

* Rousseauback! Again, not really a surprise, and certainly not a reveal when this young, dark haired, preganant French castaway revealed that she was Danielle Rousseau. Bringing her back was inevitable once the time-jumpery began, but making her so kind and fresh-faced and seemingly happy for a castaway just makes her all the more a tragic figure, as we've seen the broken, pschologically damaged, woman she becomes. No happy endings for this lady. Now, why didn't she recognize Jin way back in the day? Or did the Lost writers cleverly keep Jin from meeting Rousseau? I don't think that can be it, especially with Rousseau traveling with the Losties at the end of Season 3. For now I'll wait and see.

* Nosebleeds. Ouch. Looks like our Island Six need a sixpack of constants, toot-sweet. Oh, and it looks like we got a pretty major hint dropped that Miles is Marvin Candle's baby, seen in the opening moments of the season premire. Daniel suggests that those effected first have been on the island longest, or earliest. Seems pretty cut and dried to me. Who is Charlotte? Former Dharma kid? Ben's old schoolchum? Who who who?

* The Other Others. When an Other meets an Other who isn't his brother, and those Others are on water and they battle while they paddle and they shoot at one another, we call that an Other Brother Shooting Rooting Tooting Timejump Paddle Battle. So who are the people from this Indian airline? I can't take many more factions. My favorite theory that I read was it is the newly crashed Oceanic Six, returned to the island and wondering who the hell stole the boss pontoon boats that The Professor -- I mean, Sayid, just made for them.

* "No, Jack. It was me. I did it, Kate. Sorry." Looks like a perfectly plain-vanilla scrap of dialogue. Put it in Michael Emersons mouth and it's gold. I can see the writers now. "What should we have him say here?" "Oh, just have him say, 'that's my lawyer', and Emerson will make it sound seven different shades of hilarious and menacing, all without moving any facial muscles." Hats off to Emerson, your Lost MVP. Oh, and it's nice that they don't drag out Kate finding out it's Ben behind the lawyer menace. Not sure why he reveal that so early (in other words, before they were back on the island), but it was a nice touch.

* The Oceanic Six Reunion Tour. Well, on that dock, we have Sun, murderous, Aaron, backseat-eous, Kate, false-matronous, Jack, misguidicous, Sayid, badassicus rex . . . sooooo, how do we get Hurley (murder-is-the-case-that-they-gave-me-eous) out of lockup? I mean, the lawyer said their was no case against Hurley, but even if you accept that (I more accept the Ben-has-fancypants-lawyers theory), the judicial system hardly moves quickly. I guess I'm just saying, I want a jailbreak episode next week. I'll beg.


Join me next time, when I say:

"Hey! I just remembered about the Hurley-bird! What the hell was THAT thing about??"