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Friday, May 07, 2004
Survivor Predictions, or My Secret Shame

I mentioned long ago, in my first TV post, that I watch one other show, but I was too embarrassed to talk about it at the time, or to include it in my weekly TV reviews.

At last, though, the truth must be told: I have become addicted to Survivor: All-Stars. The only time I'd ever watched Survivor prior to this Spring was to watch the latter half of a few first and second season shows when something horribly bad was on NBC after Friends. At that time, I couldn't get into it, and watched it more to make fun of it than anything else. However, I had seen enough episodes that when I stupidly left the TV on after the Superbowl in January, I recognized a few players, and my curiosity got the better of me. I've been addicted ever since.

Now you know my secret shame.

I almost got away with going the whole season without ever publicly admitting to watching it, but I have a strange compulsion to go on the record with my prediction as to who's going to win and why. I realize that most of the people frequenting this here coffee shop probably loathe the show and everything it stands for, and if you're one of those people, feel free to skip this post as the rest of it will seem like only so much gobbledy-gook to you. If you watch the show, feel free to tell me if I'm misunderstanding how things are going to work and to make your own predictions in the comments section.

As of last night, we're left with four competitors: Boston Rob, his girlfriend Amber, Rupert and Jenna L. Based on what little I know, here's how I think Sunday's finale is going to work:

There are going to be three Tribal Counsels (one to get the number down to three, the next to determine the final two, and the final for the jury to vote on the winner). It's possible that the winner is selected from the final two players by the Jury during the reunion special, but I don't think so.

If there's a tie vote at the four person Tribal Counsel, I suspect that the jury decides who should be voted off in that round (I'm really not sure about this, but it's my best guess at the moment).

Someone will have immunity at each of the Tribal Counsels except the final one. (Rob and Rupert are physically the strongest competitors, but the immunity challenges aren't always physical, so my predictions take into account most immunity scenarios).

As long as I'm understanding how the finale will work, and I'm not taking into account the "big twist" which could be anything and I don't know the show well enough to even consider what it might be, I predict Rupert will win. Here's how I see it shaking down:

No matter who wins immunity, the Jury has to decide the first Tribal Counsel (hereafter, TC) on Sunday. Either Rupert or Jenna would be stupid to vote with Rob and Amber, as that pretty much assures that whoever allies with them will be voted off at the second TC (I don't think either of them are stupid enough to think that they'll be able to sway Rob or Amber to vote against the other when it comes to the three person TC). So, no matter what happens (again, unless someone is a moron, or Rupert and Jenna don't vote together and one votes Rob, the other Amber), I see the first TC looking like this, depending on who has immunity:

*Rob has immunity: two votes Amber, two votes Rupert (I'm guessing that Rob and Amber will vote for Rupert as he's the stronger competitor and more likely to win immunity when it comes to the final three)

*Amber has immunity: two votes Rob, two votes Rupert (I choose Rob here by the same reasoning as I chose Rupert earlier: he's the stronger competitor, so they'll want to get rid of him first).

*Jenna has immunity: probably two votes Rob, two votes Rupert.

*Rupert has immunity: two votes Rob, two votes Jenna.

In the event that the jury breaks the tie, as long as he doesn't have immunity, I predict Rob goes, as he's pissed off way too many Jury members to stick around. If Rob has immunity, Amber will go. Either way, if the jury gets the tie-breaker vote, one of the power couple is gone.

That leaves one of the power couple left, along with Rupert and Jenna for the final three. However, we still have to consider immunity, and that could vary depending on whether it's Rob or Amber left. Let's look at the possibilities:

*Jenna wins immunity: she and Rupert will vote Amber or Rob off, to get rid of the power couple. (They'd be stupid not to, as Rob and Amber have been extraordinarily persuasive throughout the season, and there's every likelihood that they could sway the Jury to vote for whichever one of them makes it to the final two to win the money. I think Rupert and Jenna know that).

*Rupert wins immunity: he and Jenna vote Amber or Rob off, for the same reason as above.

*If Amber is left, and she wins immunity: she and Jenna will probably vote Rupert off, as he's probably the most liked player by the Jury members

*If Rob is left, and he wins immunity, he and Jenna vote Rupert off, for the same reason as above.

My bet, based on past performances (like the fact that Jenna hasn't won immunity the whole game) is that Rupert wins immunity if he's left with the ladies, and Rob wins it if he's still around.

Which leaves us with the final 2:

*If it's Rob and Jenna, Jenna wins. Even though she's annoyed some of the Jury members, they've almost all been betrayed by Rob and I don't think they'll let him win.

*If it's Amber and Jenna, Jenna wins. Amber doesn't have much credibility with the jurors as most of them seem to feel like Rob has carried her through the show.

*If it's Rob and Rupert, Rupert wins (not a likely scenario).

*If it's Amber and Rupert, Rupert wins (again, not very likely).

*If it's Rupert and Jenna, Rupert wins. As he is pretty easily the most well-liked player by his peers and Jenna has proven to be "annoying" to too many people (Shii Ann, Tom, Alisha).

Of course, I could be way off base, and either Rupert or Jenna could vote with Amber and Rob at the first TC, then get voted off themselves in the second, leaving Amber and Rob as the final two. In that case, I think Amber will win, as she's offended fewer Jury members than Rob has, and I don't think they'd give him the prize money.

In the final analysis, I don't think there's any way that Rob can win (which is a bit of a shame as, despite his cocky demeanor which put me off for a long time, he's certainly been the strongest competitor since day 1). Amber will only will if she's in the final two with Rob (not likely, as one or the other with probably be gone in the first TC). Jenna wins if she's up against Rob or Amber, which is actually pretty likely. And Rupert wins if he can make it to final two.

The way I've laid it out, the odds are best that the final two are Jenna and either Rob or Amber, so I'd say that the odds are in Jenna's favor to win. That said, my money's still on Rupert, as he's the better competitor and more likely to win immunity if Rob's gone.

Thursday, May 06, 2004
You can't go home again, or Pardon the Interruption

This weekend, I'm going to the wedding of a friend from high school whom I probably haven't seen in ten years. Last week, another friend I hadn't talked to in ten years googled me, found this blog, and sent me an email. I also reconnected with Brandon, with whom I had been out of regular contact since his wedding in 2000. Finally, last night I talked on the phone with yet another old friend, one I see or talk to about every two years or so these days. All this reconnecting business got me thinking about the smallish suburb of Kansas City in which I grew up, and that's rarely a good thing.

Growing up in a small Midwestern town, I had as close to an idyllic childhood and adolescence as one can get these days: two parents, upper middle class suburb, good friends, day long neighborhood games of cops and robbers, complete with walkie-talkies; you know the drill. And for as long as I can remember, I wanted to get out. I remember when the realization finally hit that I was going to have to go to the small college in town where my father taught: my stomach cramped up and it was all I could do to keep from crying. That said, I treated college like it was another world, at least when I first got there. I didn't call or see my friends who were still local until Thanksgiving, and I went "home" less frequently than almost anyone else at school. When a good friend showed up at my dorm looking positively skeletal as a result of depression stemming from a bad breakup, I felt horrible that I hadn't known that he needed a friend sooner.

When I spent my junior year abroad studying in Britain, whole worlds opened up to me. In many ways, I felt more at home there than I had in my home town for years. Returning from that year was a real eye-opener: I believed that I had changed, that my world had expanded, and I wanted to share it with everyone. Needless to say, I was smacked down. Hard. No one wanted to hear my endless stories about my year abroad (and really, can you blame them?); no one really even wanted to look at my pictures. I found myself quickly acclimating to my old life again, quickly becoming complacent, and I hated it. I remember one night sending an email to a friend who was studying abroad that next year and quoting lyrics from the Counting Crows song "Recovering the Satellites," which is more or less about people in a small town waiting for those who think they're bigger than the town to fall back down (pretty poncy, I know). I felt smothered. The only thing I knew for certain was that I couldn't stay there after I graduated. [Somehow, I was voted to give the commencement speech that year. My theme? You can't go home again. Go figure]

I ended up taking an internship in DC, and later moving to LA (where I felt at least as at home as I did in England). Luckily, my best friend moved with me to both places (thanks, J.), so I never lived anywhere completely alone. [I like to think that his world expanded beyond where it would have had he stayed in town; at the very least it provided him the opportunity to meet his now-wife]. Besides J., I really only kept in frequent contact with one other friend with whom I went to high school and college, one who also felt the urge to get out, though his urge drove him to Indiana, while mine drove me to the Big City. And whenever I went back to visit my parents, there were 4-5 other folks whom I also enjoyed seeing, but we rarely kept in touch when I wasn't in town. It's not that I didn't want to stay in touch with more people, I just didn't do it, maybe because I didn't want to be reminded too much of "home."

The ironic thing is (despite quoting the poncy Counting Crows lyrics), I didn't so much want to get out because I thought I was destined for greatness. If anything, I've learned that I'm probably happier in the Big City because it allows me a greater degree of anonymity. I don't have to worry about running into people who know me with every trip to the supermarket, video store, or local porn emporium. In the Big City, the whole town doesn't know about it when you get a speeding ticket, much less when you get "stung" buying booze for high school kids (yes, they actually publish that stuff in the local paper where I grew up in a section called "On the Record"). You also don't have to worry about how your every life decision reflects on your parents. Although I've been more than anonymous this year in Milwaukee (the only people outside my wife who know me are our apartment managers and my comics pushers), the area that we live in feels claustrophobic to me, like it wouldn't take too much to make yourself known for being the town drunk, the town pothead, or that "weird guy in apartment 2A."

I've found myself actively avoiding my home town more and more these days, like I still haven't made peace with whatever I'm trying to get away from. Trips are shorter than they've ever been, usually under 48 hours. I haven't even considered going to my five or ten year high school reunions. I'm missing seeing J.'s daughter grow up, and I haven't communicated with the few friends who still live there in well over a year.

All of that was just to say that it's been really nice reconnecting with old friends these past few weeks; I don't know what I've been afraid of these last ten years. The people I knew as kids are now "real people" with jobs, doctorates, M.D.'s, wives, kids, homes, bands, pets. And while success is a difficult thing to quantify, I certainly feel like these friends have been more successful than I in determining what they want to do when they grow up (I'm still struggling with that particular question). For the first time, maybe ever, I find myself wondering about other people I knew: are they married? have they found a career? do they struggle with fears of "home?" and, perhaps most importantly, how can I get in touch with them, and would they be interested in catching up with me?

While I don't think I would say that I've been running from my past (because, honestly, I don't have anything to be running from), I've certainly been repressing it more than I need to. The result of what I've been doing is a feeling of continually having only a present and a recent past, but not much more than that, and I'm not sure that's healthy. I think I'm going to try to stay a little more connected with friends from my past, or at least those with whom I still know how to stay in touch. If you somehow find this page and you knew me when, post a comment, or email me at the address at the top of this page. Let's reconnect, or at least trade emails once every six months.

Regular pop culture blogging will return later today or tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Need some eBay advice

I don't do much eBay shopping; it's entirely too stressful to watch things I'm bidding on get bought out from under me at the last minute. However, about once a year, I go on an eBay "binge" and win 5 or 6 auctions in the space of a month.

Last year, I used eBay to complete my collection of the 70s All Star Comics run, and the subsequent JSA run in Adventure comics. While I generally think I got good deals on the books, I lost a lot of auctions to last minute bidders, which was frustrating as I didn't have a computer at home, so I often wouldn't know if I had won or lost an auction until I got in to work the next day (auctions ending over the weekend were often too stressful for me to even consider bidding on).

More recently, I've been buying some out of print graphic novels (Captain America: The Classic Years v. 1, the X-Men AoA collections) and buying full runs of minis or short-lived series' that I had been interested in, but not interested enough to pay full price. I normally try to buy books for no more than the original cover price (including shipping), but I have gotten into a few bidding wars where I've foolishly paid more than something was worth.

About six weeks ago, I won two auctions for some comics (that I don't need) from the same seller. He had a Buy it Now option, but I came across the auctions shortly before they closed and, since they had no bids, I bid (and won) at the minimum opening bid. When I got notification that I won, I paid for both through PayPal and waited. After a month, I emailed the seller to check on the status (I know media mail usually takes less than a month, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially since he had a 99.6% feedback rating, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive). He replied almost immediately, apologized for the delay saying that "personal problems" had delayed shipment of the comics but that I should be getting them in "a few days."

Cut to yesterday, two more weeks later, still no comics. I logged into eBay and checked his feedback: still at 99.6%, but he had received over 400 additional comments since the last time. I combed through them and came across about 10 negative comments from people who said that they had never received their comics, and another 10 neutral comments from people who said that the shipping took a very long time. Oddly enough, all of the people who left negative or neutral comments had also won auctions for a fairly low bid, while the few positive comments that I looked into seemed to have been left by people who won using Buy it Now. So I wrote him again. And again, he wrote me back, very apologetic for the delay, and said that I'd be getting the books "soon." I wrote him back and asked if he would ship them Priority Mail, to make up for the delay, but he responded that he had already shipped them Media Mail.

So, here's the question: Am I being taken to town for my $13 (cost of both auctions plus shipping)? And if so, what is my recourse? Dispute the six week old charge with PayPal and leave the guy negative feedback? It's not really that big a deal, and I don't really care about the comics (in fact, I'm wishing now that I'd never ordered them), it's just kind of sticking in my craw that he has my money and I've got nothin'. Anyone have any ideas or suggestions?

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
The funniest thing I've read in a long time

You must read this. (courtesy Larry Young (scroll to the April 26 entry)).

I know you're tempted not to read it, but trust me, if you think crackheads are funny, it'll make you laugh.

Your Mighty Marvel Movie Minute

As part of it's Q1 2004 earnings report, Marvel announced it's upcoming movie releases (courtesy of Newsarama):

"Marvel also ran down its current production slate in its release, with Spider-Man 2, Man-Thing and Blade: Trinity being its three remaining film releases for 2004.

"The company anticipated the following films in 2005: Elektra (2/18/05); Fantastic Four (7/2/05); Iron Man (11/05); Luke Cage (listed as having a script at this point); and Punisher 2.

"For 2006 and beyond, Marvel listed the following films as being in development: X-Men 3 (5/06); Ghost Rider (summer 06); Black Widow (06 release), The Hulk 2; Deathlok; Spider-Man 3 (5/4/07); Black Panther, Captain America, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Nick Fury, and Thor."

Hmmm. While most of these releases don't particularly inspire me with excitement, I have a few comments, and some unsolicited advice to Marvel Studios:

Without a major star and a huge budget, Iron Man doesn't work. Mark my words: if Tom Cruise actually does attach himself to star, though, it'll get pushed out to summer 2006.

They could do a lot worse than getting Ron Perlman to star as Ben Grimm in the FF movie; his Hellboy pretty much was The Thing if, you know, he was a rocky orange guy instead of a spawn of Satan. I could really care less about any other casting in this movie.

The only way a Cap movie will work well is if it takes place in WWII and he fights the ratzis (for my money, there's no better villains in movies than ratzis). Base it on Ultimates 1, get a talented director, and it could work regardless of star power, just as long as he doesn't crack wise throughout.

I'm interested to see if Wesley Snipes follow up his Blade movies with Black Panther; I think he'd do well in the role as long as he and his fans can get over identifying him as two different comic characters. [For what it's worth, I enjoyed both Blade flicks, though I liked 2 better than 1. Blade 3 has a lot to live up to in terms of entertainment value.]

Do you think Nic Cage's head will be a skull by the time Ghost Rider actually gets filmed?

Elektra, Black Widow, Nick Fury and Deathlok could all be decent, or they could suck balls. To make them work, they need to do away with all superhero trappings (costumes, powers, witty banter) and try to stick as close to "real life" as possible.

Play Window as a former soviet spy looking to find her place in the world. I'd suggest a plot where she plays the US and the Russians against one another and the audience never knows which side she's actually on; basically a politically motivated caper flick.

Fury, of course, is an older, American James Bond who has seen war and will do whatever it takes to prevent it from happening again. I like the idea of casting Sam Jackson or George Clooney.

Oh, and no way does a Thor movie based on the comic work.

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