Thursday, August 30, 2007

Frank Darabont's Adaptation of Stephen King's "The Mist"

How you like that Drew Struzan poster? Nice, huh?

Frank Darabont loves him some Stephen King. He's only directed three movies and two of them he adapted from Stephen King material. To those of you who didn't know, I'm happy to be the one to tell you: Frank's back with a new Stephen King adaptation.

This time it's straight horror with an early Stephen King novella called "The Mist". A lot of King fans consider this story one of King's best so if Darabont hits one out of the park, then we'll have not only another classic horror film, but another excellent King adaptation to help offset all of the really terrible adaptations folks have produced in the past. (Hearts in Atlantis, Needful Things, and anything Mick Garris has touched are all good examples).

The story's about a guy named David Drayton who happens to be in a grocery store with his son the moment a thick fog rolls into town. It isn't long before Drayton and the people inside the grocery store with him discover the mist is not a weather-related phenomenon, and that there are things inside of it. Really bad things.

Anyway, the first trailer for the film came out today.

"The Mist" isn't an epic like the other two Darabont/King films -- no grand helicopter shots to be seen in this trailer -- and the action is all close-up and the atmosphere is claustrophobic. When the You-Are-There approach works, it can make a film almost unbearably suspenseful, but if it doesn't work, if, for example, the acting isn't quite there, then the mistakes are magnified, and the not-quite-right moments seem tragically obvious; all that can kill a movie. I'm a little worried from the trailer that Darabont's lightning-fast shooting schedule might not have allowed him sufficient time to work with all those actors, but then again I don't want to prejudge too much on the basis of a trailer. Thomas Jane and Andre Braugher (not to mention Darabont regulars like William Sadler and Jeffrey DeMunn) look great, but Marcia Gay Harden's evil Bible-thumper worries me a little -- like maybe she wasn't quite up to making this character work. Anyway, like I said, not a lot to go on here. I'm still hyped to see it. Darabont hasn't made a bad King film yet, so the odds are in this movie's favor.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Larry Craig: Yet Another Member of the "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" Party Revealed

Mark Foley.

Ted Haggard.

David Vitter.

Conservative "Christian" men who have all recently been outed as "sexual deviants". Not my terminology of course, but if any of these guys had been asked what they thought of the "homosexual lifestyle" or prostitution and those who engage in it before their own "misdeeds" were publicized, I'm sure you could have gotten any of them to use just those words.

And now add US Senator Larry Craig from the great state of Idaho to that list of inveterate hypocrites. Three months ago, Craig was arrested in a Minneapolis airport for lewd conduct, a charge to which he pleaded guilty to. According to the police report, he solicited an undercover police officer for sex in the men's restroom at that airport. Craig, along with Foley, Vitter and Haggard, enthusiastically supported the impeachment of "naughty boy" President Bill Clinton Larry Craig's words), supported amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage, and opposed anti-discrimination laws that would punish people who discriminated against gays on the basis of their sexual orientation. And, to give you a real sense of who this guy is, when he was being arrested Craig reportedly took out a business card proclaiming his US Senator-ness, handed it to the cop and and asked him, "What do you think about that?"

Tony Perkins, the head of the conservative Christian organization the Family Research Council, was on Hardball today to essentially offer the Evangelical point of view on the Craig scandal. A little surprisingly, Perkins was only too happy to cop to the fact that this arrest reveals Craig's hypocrisy. When it comes to discussing issues with Christian evangelicals, getting them to state the obvious often feels like a triumph in and of itself, which is probably why Hardball host Chris Matthews didn't take it much further.

But at what point do these outings of pillars of the evangelical community cause Christian evangelical voters to question their own personal stance on homosexuality? After men like these are revealed to be homosexual men (Vitter excepted) can they still honestly say that homosexuality is a choice? Do they believe that Reverend Ted Haggard thought being a gay man seemed like a lot of fun and something he ought to try? Or that Larry Craig would jeopardize his career and good name in the world of conservative Christian politics just to try him out some anonymous gay sex? Obviously there's much that these so-called "values voters" believe that have very little to do with rational thought, but when does logic demand a person take stock and question long-held assumptions?

I was watching an episode of "Clean House" on the Style channel (my wife likes the show), and on that show, the "Clean House" crew visited two gay guys whose cluttered house had gotten out of control. One of the men, the younger of the two, told of how his family had disowned him and kicked him out of the house when he'd come out as a homosexual to his parents. Even though I know this sort of thing still goes on, it still kind of surprised me. The idea that something your preacher tells you can have more weight than the love you feel for your own flesh and blood is astonishing to me. I bring this "Clean House" story up because these backward, outmoded beliefs have real and terrible consequences for real people, and when supposed adherents to these harmful beliefs are revealed to be indulging their true selves while damning to hell anyone else who does so, I think that the degrading mugshots and the embarrassing questions are the very least these men deserve.

What's happening to Larry Craig now must be deeply humiliating, and is, in a way, kind of sad. But because this man, who is very probably homosexual, has so actively worked against the interests of those like him, and has so actively promoted the idea that homosexual men and women can anticipate an eternity in hell for being who they are, this public scourging seems much less like one man's story of public shaming and more like a necessary purging of one more dishonest politician.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Maybe the Best Song Ever Recorded

I've been annoying my wife with this video clip for a week or so now, ever since I saw the parodies it had inspired collected on an "Attack of the Show" segment. As it's had 7 million plus views, I'm guessing most internet addicts have already seen this, but in case you haven't, enjoy.

Alberto "I Don't Recall" Gonzales Has Left the Building

When I turned on CNN this morning, news that Alberto Gonzales had resigned was the top story, as it was the rest of the day. I'd read a rumor yesterday that Alberto's resignation might be happening today, but the crew at TPM made an Alberto-less Justice Department sound like a pretty far out-there rumor. After all Bush is hardheaded and, perhaps, none too bright, so why would he do something that would help him, you know, do his job?

So in that the far-out rumor turned out to be true I was surprised, and that Bush finally let go of the man in whom the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee had lost all confidence I was surprised, but in the end this wasn't the moment I thought I'd been waiting for. Sure, it's good he's gone, but good for Bush. Bush is notorious for putting personal loyalty over the good of the country; he's done that his whole tenure -- but now that he's proven himself willing to cut away some of the stinkier, greener patches of rot from the gangrenous arm that his administration has become (excepting, of course, the biggest and greenest patch he cannot excise, namely himself) by first accepting Rove's resignation earlier this month and today Gonzales' -- Bush is putting himself in a position to actually do something with his last 18 or so months in office. Not that I'm too worried Bush will manage to push something through a Democratic Congress, but I am worried that unencumbered Bush will be able to focus pushing some new policy initiative the Repubs can use to make the crop of Dem candidates for '08 look like either a.) Bush/Cheney Lite, or b.) bumbling Dukakisi. The Republicans may not be able to use the Executive to do anything but govern incompetently and strip civil rights with brutal efficiency, but they sure can use it as a destructive political tool.

I guess in this case, I'll have to content myself that enough evidence was uncovered in the US Attorney Firings Scandal that any reasonable person who decides to read about Gonzales, Alberto or Rove, Karl would conclude that these men committed impeachable crimes. All of that information is in the public record and will follow these "ends justifies the means" kind of guys for the rest of their lives. Even still, it's more than a little deflating that instead of spending well-earned time behind bars, these ethics-free "public" servants get to go out of their jobs hailed as "honest" and "honorable" men by the leader of the free world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Michael Vick

As an Atlanta resident and longtime fan of the Atlanta Falcons, I feel I ought to weigh in on the Michael Vick dogfighting case. I'm sure most everyone's heard about this case, given how disgusting it is, and how famous Michael Vick is. On Monday Vick pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, essentially guaranteeing Michael Vick will spend at least a year behind bars, possibly more.

As soon as I read the lowlights of the indictment last month, I knew that, for my own part, if Vick remained with the Atlanta Falcon this season, I would never watch another Falcons game so long as either Vick played or Arthur Blank owned the team. I'm quite positive that a sizable percentage of Falcons fans felt the same way, such was the rage people felt after reading the charges. Fortunately for Blank, the NFL never game him a choice as to what to do, promptly banning Vick from training camp until it decided what to do next. I'm not so sure that Blank, who a couple years ago signed Vick to a 10-year contract worth $130 million dollars, wouldn't have put aside the city's (and perhaps his own) disgust for their former football star's crimes in favor of recouping a bit more of his wacky, wrongheaded investment.

We knew from the incident at the airport with the weed and the water bottle that Vick was none to bright. Not a particularly damning charge to make against an NFL player. But this? This proves how little we can truly "know" people in public life. Not bright, kind of pompous, but a man who tortures animals to death? Though it might not be to others, it is a surprise to me just how disgusting a guy Michael Vick turned out to be. These charges, which Vick yesterday copped to, make me wonder what happened in Michael Vick's life that made him believe, like the rapist thug Sugar Ray in "L.A. Confidential", that "dogs ain't got no reason to live"? I don't mean to be flip by referencing what was, in context, a funny line from that movie. To the point, I remember when I saw that film and heard that line specifically, I thought to myself, "no one really thinks that." I thought a sensibility like that was just a flourish from the half-phony hard-boiled imagination of James Ellroy. I just couldn't imagine a person could bear such steadfast, unapologetic animus towards, of all animals, dogs. Now I know there are people like that in the world, and, up until a month ago, one of them played QB for the hometown team. What an embarrassment.

Who was it that instilled in him the idea that animals, specifically dogs, are not living things but insensate toys? Did his parents lead him to believe that? Was it more widespread in the culture that Vick came up in? While he was electrocuting, drowning, shooting, and beating pit bulls to death, did Vick understand that their howls and thrashings were more than just the product of synaptic messages sent from the brain into the body of the animal, but were in fact a product of a sentient animal feeling pain? Did he care? I'd ask what pleasure could Vick have possibly derived from making these animals suffer before extinguishing their lives, but I know already. You can see hints of that same glee in the photographs taken of soldiers humiliating detainees at Abu Ghraib, broad smiles and upward-turned thumbs while posing next to a detainee who was tortured to death, or a man quailing in terror from an attack dog. I don't mean to equate humans and animals here; I understand that the degradation and torture of an animal isn't comparable to that of a human, but by the same token, isn't this idea -- that animals are so much "less than" human beings -- what allows the animal-torturer (like Vick) to engage in this sort of behavior in the first place? If animals are, in fact, so much less than human beings, why give them any legal protections at all? Is it a convention of so-called polite society? Is it because "decent people" don't hurt animals? Is dogfighting outlawed because it's the sort of thing that's "just not done"? I don't know.

I think this case is so clear-cut because, at the end of the day, Vick was more than inhumane to these animals, he was cruel. And if there's anything our legal system abhors when it comes to how humans interact with animals, it's cruelty. Andrew Sullivan wrote this about Michael Vick today, and I think he says quite succinctly how a lot of people feel about this matter:

"... it seems obvious to me what is wrong about [what Michael Vick did]. In a word: cruelty. It's a vice we don't talk of much, but it is essentially the aspect of the human psyche that sees a vulnerable person, animal or thing, and exploits that vulnerability with further violence or power. It's evil. It's why I despise torture in every form. It is not just the absence of love or respect; it's the active presence of its opposite. And animals, creatures over which we have near total control or dominion, are more vulnerable to such cruelty than many humans. Vick is an inhumane bully, an exemplum of cruelty and arrogance."

Right now the NFL is deciding what to do with Michael Vick. Obviously, he can't play before or during his inevitable prison sentence, but what to do with him afterwards? My strong preference would be to ban Michael Vick from the NFL for life. I think he's earned that much.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Best and Worst Movies of Summer 2007

I saw "The Bourne Ultimatum" last night at our new local AMC here in Marietta, and as I walked out of the theater it occurred to me that the summer movie season of 2007 is basically over. Yeah, "Rush Hour 3" comes out this weekend, and though it seems a lot like a summer tentpole release, it's really just an opportunity for Chris Tucker to come out of retirement and collect a quick $20 million and for Ratner to continue to pretend he's a film director. So, it's over. As I saw most of the big movies this summer, and because I've been pretty lazy about posting up movie reviews on the blog, I thought I'd do a quick roll through the summer movies. Here we go.

1.) Spider Man 3. Yeah I did a review of this way back in early May, but reading back over it, I think I was too kind. This was a straight up bad movie. I think I may have been too shocked to believe it, considering how good the first two were. At least that's what I'm going with. Probably one of the worst studio films of the summer.

2.) 28 Weeks Later. Perfectly serviceable urban zombie movie. Not as good as "28 Days Later", but then again, it's perhaps unfair to expect the sequel to a movie that redefined the zombie movie to exceed the original. One funny quirk of the summer though: both this movie and "Grindhouse" featured helicopters used to chop up zombies. Weird.

3.) Oceans 13. Much more fun than the fairly awful "Oceans 12", and featured some really interesting film acting from Al Pacino, who's been too long in his Histrionic Al phase. He quiets down in this movie, plays it straight, and walks away with his scenes. Good stuff. The ultra-hip, self-aware schtick the "Ocean's" movies have been wallowing in has run its course I think, but probably only did so just as the end credits on this film went up. Good timing.

4.) Shrek 3. Same characters, same sense of humor -- but so middling and forgettable it actually made me look back at the previous two and wonder what there was exactly in those films that I enjoyed so much. I think I can remember two scenes from this film if I really try hard. But wait, I don't want to expend the energy.

5.) Pirates of the Carribean: World's End. So far, (and this is pretty easy), worst film of the year. I felt my tenuous hold on this life slipping while ships circled a giant bathtub drain. I nearly died watching this film.

6.) 1408. Frickin' great. Straight up horror from a crew of filmmakers who understand how important build is, and how excruciating suspense can be. Cusack shows everyone he can still act after disappointments like "Must Love Dogs" and whatever that one with him and BBT and Randy Quaid was. "1408" got into my head pretty good, and even though I can see where it could have been stronger, its minor imperfections couldn't put a dent in how much fun I had watching this movie.

7.) Live Free or Die Hard. Nah. The first one is still genius, but they've gotten worse with each subsequent film. This sequel launches the franchise many miles further into Worseville. The director, Les Wiseman, was not up to the task of resurrecting El Franchiso de Yippee Ki-Ay as it turns out, and though Bruce is both game and believable as a still-potent McClain, the script is too balls-out ridiculous to do much more than elicit a knowing smirk here and there. Too bad.

8.) Ratatouille. Read Craig's post for a great, short and sweet review of this film. I was worried about Pixar after the less-than-great "Cars", but this film, which is as good as any in the Pixar canon, restores my faith in the studio that doesn't seem capable of making a bad movie.

9.) Sicko. Good, moving but most importantly, entertaining, which is why we plunk down the money in the first place, nevermind the generally un-entertaining subject. I wish Moore had been a little more willing to show the other side of the argument (or at all willing), but I guess I'd be pretty dumb to go into a Michael Moore documentary expecting anything but a one-sided argument strenuously presented.

10.) Transformers. This was kind of an odd moviegoing experience. During this movie,I had to persuade myself more than once that I was actually enjoying myself. "But none of the jokes are working, and all Bay seems to want to do is tell jokes!" I exclaimed. But then I came back with: "Why is it so important that jokes have to be funny? Hmm?" So true. "They went to all the trouble to bring back Peter Cullen to voice Optimus Prime, and all they have him say are these ridiculous lines that sound like something Hasbro might have recorded for their pull-string Optimus Prime doll!" To this I retorted: "Shut up, Brian. It's a Michael Bay movie. It's supposed to be a piece of shit." I had a good point. Now that the weird imperative to enjoy myself at the movies is no longer in effect, I see that "Transformers" is a steaming pile. Not much at all to recommend it. A reviewer on Aintitcool had an excellent line in his beyond-scathing review of the film in which he criticizes what a lot of fans thought was the best thing about the movie: the robot fight scenes. They actually sucked. "Imagine you took apart a whole bunch of cars," reviewer Vern wrote, "mixed the parts up and welded them all together into a giant ball maybe 15 or 20 feet in diameter, then rolled it down a hill. Shoot that in closeup and you got every fight scene in this movie." He's exactly right. Whenever there was a shot of a Transformer in slow-mo, the movie had me. Unfortunately, there were about 4 shots like that, and they lasted a sum total of 30 seconds. That's not a good ratio. Anyway, a real disappointment, but silly me for expecting much more from a movie based on the toys I grew up with. My own self-written adventures featuring Starscream, Cobra Commander and Man-at-Arms were way better than this crap.

11.) Knocked Up. Very good. Not as tight or as funny as "40-Year Old Virgin", but what is? Though I laughed a lot, I kind of had a problem with how quickly the hot blonde chick whom the funny Jewish guy knocks up decides to settle for the funny self-described "ugly as fuck" Jewish guy and have his child. I thought it would have been more believable if she'd agreed Seth Rogan should "be a part of the child's life" and then slowly agree to have a real relationship, but for her to agree to give him a full, good-faith audition for the part of baby's father and mommy's hubby seemed too convenient and not at all realistic. Aside from that and being a little flabby in places, good times.

12.) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Best of the series so far. "Azkaban" was the most successful from an artistic point of view (and also a damn good movie), but this one, for me, succeeded in being the most exciting an engrossing of the series to date. Everyone's under duress, everyone's experiencing life-changing conflict, and the stage is set for what ought to be an amazing "Half-Blood Prince" (which "Phoenix" director Yates is also helming.)

13.) The Simpsons Movie. A hell of a lot of fun and well worth the wait. If you ever enjoyed an episode of "The Simpsons", you'll enjoy this film.

14.) The Bourne Ultimatum. I liked this film quite a bit, and part of the reason is because the production team behind the Bourne films were so committed to the idea of making the three films into an organic, continuous story. Same characters, same sensibility, hell even the same score (which is great). To some extent, this third film in the franchise has the feel of a prolonged third act, with all the heightened suspense but without feeling exhausting; Greengrass knows very well how to pace his action sequences by letting the audience take a breather. But if you thought the CIA was a nefarious organization in the first two movies, it essentially morphs into an office-chair death squad in this film. Some pretty gripping scenes happen in a non-descript office filled with computers and CIA techies. Though some of what Bourne manages in this film strains credulity much more than in the prior two films (there are a couple moments that might have been more at home in something like "T4"), I'd much rather an action movie raise a skeptical eyebrow than be boring, and "Ultimatum" is never that.

Anyway, those are the movies I saw this summer, or at least during Hollywood's definition of summer. All of August and a bit of September have to roll through before the studios start putting out the so-called "prestige pictures", and a handful of those are always good every year. Right now the only thing I'm hyped for (or the only thing I can think of that I'm hyped for) is "No Country for Old Men". I fully expect that film to herald the return of the Coen Brothers.

All right, folks. I'm out.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Comcast Sucks

Quick Sunday night Comcast update.

We have cancelled our service. From installation on Wednesday August 1 to cancellation on Sunday August 5th -- I'd say Comcast made pretty short work of a couple of new customers.

The wife returned from from Sunnyvale last night and this morning she began work on setting up a wireless network in the new apartment. Well, the modem Comcast gave us, unlike the modem we had with BellSouth (now AT&T), has no wireless capability. So either we'd have to buy a wireless router OR we could pay Comcast another $150 to get one of their modems with wireless capability. On top of which we'd have to pay another $5 a month. My wife began her call this afternoon shortly before her parents dropped by. I was sitting in the living room chatting with them while the wife was in my office, door closed, talking to Comcast about wireless. Twenty minutes go by and she opens the door and tells us we've just canceled with Comcast.

She said the guy she talked to that prompted her to end our brief but passionate affair with Comcast was straight out of "Idiocracy". His apology for the Nintendo DS imbroglio (referred to in the last post) was so stupid and insincere ("I'm really sorry that happened to you. I know I would hate it if someone said I was going to get a DS and I didn't get one, but there's nothing I can do" -- only imagine this spoken by someone with an IQ of 80 who thought parting one's lips to form a syllable was a hardship he wasn't going to inflict upon himself), that she felt she had no choice but to cancel. When she told the guy, "I'm going to go ahead and cancel." The customer service rep's response was a quick, "Okay." No "What can I do to address the problems you're having?" or "I'm sorry to hear that. What if I gave you three months for free, would that be of interest to you?" Just "okay". It's a wonder anyone stays with them. Did I mention Comcast sucks?

Thanks, all, by the way, for your comments on the last post. I guess it shows how easily influenced I am that, for as long as I was reading each comment, I was convinced I should to do what each commenter said, but then, gnat-like, I changed my mind as soon as I got to an opposing point of view. I am a vacillator, what can I say? I guess I needed my MBA wife to come home and make the right call. (sigh) Hang on one sec -- I think I left something in my wife's purse. Okay. Got 'em.

Also: Bubba Burgers. Good, huh?

Also: did anyone else watch the Republican debate this morning on ABC? My God. A scarier crew of politicians I never did meet. The scariest one of them all, and a real embarrassment to the Republican Party (and Jesus Christ is that saying something) is Tom Tancredo. He actually said the following, and though I'm paraphrasing, it's scarily close to what he said: "My job as Chief Executive is not to insure the nation's poor or educate the nation' children, it is to protect the nation's people from outside attack." Can you believe it? Leave it to a party that demonizes taxes, prefers faith to reason (and believes them to be mutually exclusive) and vilifies anyone who believes in the idea of a common national welfare to produce a character that virulently wrongheaded. I know the Democrats are embarrassed to have an elderly stoner like Mike Gravel in the debate, but the Republicans should be ashamed Tancredo can be counted as one of their number.

All in all, it was a thoroughly depressing exercise. Yeah, they're Republicans and anytime you watch a bunch of Republicans talk it's going to make a sane person feel down in the dumps, but these particular Republicans are so absolutely trapped by their craziest constituencies that it's as astonishing as it is demoralizing. For example, they can't say anything good about a strong separation of church and state or they'll offend their Jesus Camp constituency. And they can't be in favor of protecting civil liberties because they'll offend the screaming meemies who think the sky will fall if the NSA isn't listening to everyone's phone calls and reading everyone's emails and torturing all suspects without due process. And you can't say the obvious and announce to the whole world that the Bush administration has been nothing but a disaster for this country because you'll offend the mental ward residents who still approve of the job the President is doing. And with the groundrules thusly set, you hear statements like, "Say what you will about this administration but they've kept us safe for the last six years!" (Romney). "It took me 30 years before I realized Jesus Christ is my personal savior." (Tancredo). Or that to help insure our nation's children, we need to rely on "more market-based solutions" (Brownback). Or that in order to raise enough revenue to restore our crumbling infrastructure, we should cut taxes. (Giuliani). Bizarre.

And do we really need Presidents who think "strengthening families in America" should be a major priority of their administrations, as both Romney and Tancredo do? It's almost like these guys wish it was the '92 campaign all over again, back when Dan Quayle and George Bush lamented Murphy Brown's "child born out of wedlock" or whined nonsensically that the "nation needs to be closer to the Waltons than the Simpsons". Unfortunately, we have more pressing issues now than we did then, like the threat of terrorism and a failed war predicated on a lie, but mostly what these have in response to our new and sad reality is Romney's call to "triple Guantanmo!" or Tancredo's threat to bomb Mecca and Medina if we're attacked again, or McCain's view, untainted by reality, that democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq. I guess what I'm having trouble with is after two terms of Bush, how can anyone in this country take seriously any candidate who still calls themselves a Republican? Hasn't Bush proven that those who despise government can't actually run the thing? Why should we give them another shot?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's a Guy Got To Do To Get Hisself a Nintendo DS?

I had my cable installed yesterday by Comcast. As well as my internet and phone service. My phone works well, the cable works well, and aside from running a little slow, my internet connection's okay.

But after the surly Comcast installers left, I remembered the Nintendo DS owed me as part of the promotion Comcast is running for anyone who orders their service online. Though I ordered online, the order never went through because, unbeknowst to me, I had to "chat" with a "fulfillment agent" at the end of the process in order to finalize the order. Though it is true my online ordering process ended in a live chat screen, no agent, or anyone at all, appeared in it to speak with me for many a minute. Staring at a useless chat screen, I figured I'd navigated somewhere in error because I certainly didn't feel the need to speak with anyone at Comcast, and so exited out of the window and began the long wait for the Comcast man to come on July 30th. When, of course, no one showed, I called Comcast. The agent I spoke to apologized and sent someone out the very next day, which was yesterday. So yesterday post-installation and for about 3 hours today I'm on the phone trying like a 13-year old circa 2003 to procure for myself a free Nintendo DS. All of the people I spoke to on the phone are trying their best to get this shrill white man off the phone by saying the only way I can get what I want is to go straight to the website and "chat" with someone who knows what the hell I'm talking about, because no one on the phone did. So after I told my story 4 times to 4 different "service" reps, I decided further talk would be fruitless. I would have to take up the fight once more by chat.

Chat wasn't much better than actual talking. I was bounced around 3 times to 3 different "analysts" in our little chat room. The last one, Toby, "entered the room" and asked what he could do for me. I started typing my story. I was nearly through when Toby informed me he was ending this chat session due to inactivity. Before I could hit "Enter" and show that I was there, that there was no inactivity, that there was in fact, quite a bit of activity, Toby was gone. I admit it; I went a little crazy. There was no steering wheel to pound on, so my laptop and my desk took the brunt of my rage for a second or two. After I calmed, I got back into the "queue" to chat with an analyst again, and this time I got an analyst named Jeff. This is our conversation.

"user brian_ has entered room

Brian(Thu Aug 02 2007 15:57:55 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

nintendo DS online promotion problem
user brian_ has left room
user brian_ has entered room
analyst Jeff has entered room

(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:01:03 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>
Hello brian_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live
Chat Support. My name is Jeff.
Please give me one moment to review your information.

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:00:56 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>


Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:01:27 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

I will be happy to assist you, Brian. What exactly is the
issue you are having with the promotion?

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:01:40 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

I was told that I'm not eligible even though I did order
the bundled service online.

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:03:06 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

after I chose the three connection windows, I went to a
live chat that no one came into for about five minutes
or so. Since it was unclear why I needed to
chat with someone, I exited out of the window. I was
told later that it was in chat that the order's finalized,
which is not at all clear on the website. When
I called to say that

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:04:26 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

no technician had come by, the operator apologized and sent
someone out the following day. because the order went through
her desk and not online, customer service reps are telling me
I don't get the DS, and I'm writing to say I believe I
held up my end and shouldn't be denied the promotional item
because of Comcast's mistake

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:04:34 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

and that's my story

Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:06:17 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

One moment please.

Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:09:35 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

I am showing from the website that in order to get the
promotion you would need tosign up through I am
not able to make any changes to that to give you
that promotion, you may want to check the local Comcast
office to see if they can get that for you, since you did
try to sign up through

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:09:24 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

are you still there? I don't want the chat to end sudden;y
because I haven't written anything for awhile

Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:09:55 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

Yes, I am still here. Sorry for the delay.

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:11:17 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

I don't want to go to my local Comcast office. Everyone
I've talked to today said to go online and here I am. I
don't want to make a special trip to plead for
Comcast to give me what they promised in their offer. It's
a voucher. Comcast sends it out. Who do you need to contact
to get one of those vouchers out to me?

Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:13:21 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

I do not have access to send that voucher. That would have
been done only on the site.

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:14:29 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

Does your manager have access to that voucher? And if not
him, do you know who in the company would? As far as I
know I'm talking to you through the Comcast website, so
it's unclear to me how the voucher people are different
from where you are at.

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:16:14 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

Jeff, my goal here is not to be a jerk. I feel
badly used by the company so far, and I feel this is
a fairly clear case of bait and switch. I wonder if there is
something more you can do to help a Comcast customer

Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:17:20 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

I can only assist with existing services but when you
order online on you would reach an order
fulfillment agent who processes orders. Let me check
further if there is something else I can do for you.

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:17:18 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>


Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:23:52 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

I am told by a order fulfillment agent that the order
would need to be placed at Then when the
installer comes, they would give you a confirmation
number in order to get the Nintendo DS. But there is
no way for me to get you that confirmation number. You
may want to try at the local office, or cancel the order
and re-order from to chat with the order
fulfillment agent.

Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:24:24 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

I am very sorry for this inconvenience this has caused,
since the order was not completed online at

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:24:21 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

what would it cost me to cancel and re-order?

Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:25:42 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

There is a 30 day guarantee so you should not need to
pay anything. I suggest trying the local office as well
to see if they have access to give the Nintendo DS voucher.

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:25:54 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

all right Jeff. Thanks.

Jeff(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:26:51 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

You are welcome, Brian. Sorry again for all the
frustration. Is there anything else I can assist you
with at this time?

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:27:20 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>

A time machine to go back to when I decided to go
with Comcast, but short of that, I think we're all set.

brian_(Thu Aug 02 2007 16:27:28 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time))>


Yeah, I was a smart ass (especially with the dumb time travel joke at the end), but
I was pissed.

So I don't know. On one hand, what am I doing? I don't even really want a DS that
much,I just thought it would be fun to have one for, you know, free. So why keep
on with it? If I start thinking too much about "the principle of the thing" as a
reason to keep on with it, then that's a quick one-way street that takes me right
to Ass-hole Land, isn't it? It is bait and switch though, right? It seems like the
DS's are going to the few brainiacs who were able to psychically intuit what
Comcast wanted them to do with its Blank Chat Screen of Mystery.

So should I keep on with this or let it die? Do they really owe me a DS or is it
really my fault that I didn't know how Comcast wanted to finish the order? I think
Comcast has me beat here. I think a full-on, full-bore quest for the DS will end
with Comcast giving me not a DS, but an asterisk by my name for "Problem Customer".
Anyway, that's my bitchy blog post for the day.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Internet Connectivity Returns, and So Does the Inanities!

Hola readers! Happy August 2007.

I am now officially moved into the new apartment. OK, so I've been officially been moved in for a week, but I only got my Internet connection today, so here I am blogging again. Lucky you people. The place is in a lil' city called Marietta, which has been sitting on the west side of Atlanta all the time I've lived in this state but has remained, with few exceptions, unvisited by me. And now I live here. I also live within spitting distance of not just interstate 75, but of Dobbins Air Force Base, which is, as Air Force Bases go, extremely active. Most days it's big ole cargo planes roaring overhead. Today it was fighters. A whole mess of jet fighters going over once, circling around, and then coming over again. It's been a week and still, like a child, I fast-walk to the windows whenever I hear one approaching because I really like watching them go by. Maybe it's a symptom of being a self-hating liberal, but at the same time I want to frown at the show of military muscle and, by extension, everything that show of American military muscle implies, I also experience that dumb, lizard brain emotion that understands how American soldiers abroad could listen to "America! Fuck Yeah!" from the "Team America" soundtrack and enjoy it without irony.

I'd say more about the area but I haven't been out much. For the past 7 days I've been unpacking in my maddeningly inefficient way and the going has been slow. Mostly I unpack at commercial breaks, and even then I'm usually content to sit through the ads to wait for the next morsel of show. I've been living with an exclusively analog signal for 2 years and living with it again for another week wasn't too bad, particularly since there exists a TBS (which came in the best of all of the channels) to meet all of my TV-watching needs. Guilty pleasure TV shows? Check. (King of Queens). Classic TV shows? Check. (Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, Cosby Show). Shitty movies I always wanted to see but figured I'd wait until they came on free on TBS? Check. (Shanghai Knights). The list goes on, folks. I would have liked to have spent my time more wisely, say writing or drawing or even reading, but disorder of the kind I'm confronted with in this freshly unpacked apartment saps my will to do anything but stare blankly at a box that shows pretty pictures. The TV serves this purpose nicely. But some good news: the apartment is nearing orderliness. Right now, one of the bathrooms is essentially spotless and has just one unopened box in it.

Before this goes on too long, I do want to quickly direct your attention to a fascinating email sent out by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robert Olen Butler. In this email he describes the circumstances by which his wife, writer Elizabeth Dewberry, left Butler for Ted Turner. Yeah, that Ted Turner. Go here for the complete (and completely awesome) email. And then, if you're still interested, go here to listen to Butler talk to NPR about the email and the reaction to said email. Listen carefully (you won't need to) to hear Butler's nausea-inducing self-importance. I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure it's unseemly to mention your Pulitzer so many times.

And finally, I finished "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" a few days ago. My Spoiler Vigil of Death has now ended. I guess I have to go add Heath back to my Friends list on MySpace. (Sigh). More soon.