Episode 108 – Get LOST

April 15, 2011

There’s two shows that people have repeatedly been at us to do an episode on since we started this podcast. One is Dr. Who and the other is Lost. No matter what we’ve said in the past, we honestly had no intention of doing either.

Then a series of fortuitous events occurred in which Lost made its way onto our TV-on-DVD pile in the basement. First, Elton McManus of the Rethinking Lost podcast sent us an audio comment which obliquely referenced Lost. Then the next day we saw Season 1 in the previously-viewed discount bin at our local Blockbastards. It was almost as if some malevolent force was manipulating our destiny.

Anyway, we watched the first six episodes (five by Mandi’s count) before recording our thoughts. Not to spoiler our own episode but we basically decided it’s a bad show that’s fairly entertaining despite being as ridiculous and subtle as starting a bonfire with jet-fuel. Perhaps I should actually say we found it fauxly entertaining.

What I mean by that is I’m not convinced it’s genuinely engaging. The writers are very good at keeping the audience guessing with intrigue and coming up with addictive cliff-hanger crack.

On one hand, you could ask what more we need to keep us engaged—if we want to watch the next episode, isn’t that the proof in the pudding?

But on the other hand, I would reply there’s a difference in being ensnared by matinée serial gimmicks and being genuinely engaged by a sophisticated, cohesive plot and rich characters who come to life on the screen.

It’s like the difference between masturbation and sex. Or a delicious slice of pizza from a street vendor and a 5-star gourmet meal. There’s something to be said for both options, but when people treat the former like it’s the latter, that’s where I begin to take issue.

Let’s be honest, Lost is street-meat (I’m going with the food analogy, not the sex analogy here). It’s tasty, it’s filling, it leaves you wanting more. But it’s also empty calories.

The characters—stereo- or arche- types depending on how forgiving you are—have little substance in themselves, but have been seasoned with so much dramatic-MSG they explode in your mouth. The situations they find themselves in look like a genuine chicken breast, but you know they’re made out of pressed-meat slurry. The plot is constantly being driven by characters’ bad decisions and random crises which superheats the ingredients like a microwave oven—a technique exploited by the similarily tiresome Battlestar Galactica. (Speaking of tiresome, this food analogy is getting out of hand).

Entertaining? Yes. Engaging? no. Just like that craving for another hotdog, once you wait it out, you’d rather have something more substantial instead.

So, yes we’ll be watching Season 1 to its fruition, but we’ll probably skip further servings in favour of something with less delicious, salty grease and more nutrients.

Episode 107 – TIM BURTON

April 8, 2011

When I was seventeen or so, I don’t think there could have been a director as hand-designed for me as Tim Burton. First he introduced me to my highschool celebrity crush, Winona Ryder, in Beetlejuice. Then he made Batman dark and interesting again. Then he topped it all in 1990 with Edward Scissorhands where her plumbed the misfit, underground alterna-goth psyche and produced a film that defined a generation of freaks.

Though Winona was (unfortunately) blonde this time out, 21 Jumpstreet’s 2nd-rate bubble-gum heart-throb, Johnny Depp, unexpectedly mezmerized us with his Robert Smith-meets-Frankenstein take on the titular role. And with Breakfast Club nerd Anthony Michael Hall playing a beefed-up, meat-head jock, it was a signal the ’80s were over and the ’90s were going to wash away the Reagan-era glitz and reveal the grungey underbelly of our consumerist society.

In 1990, in bummed-out bedrooms across the continent, you were guarunteed to find three things. A Jane’s Addiction tape, a Cure poster and a 2nd-generation VHS dub of Edward Scizzorhands.

So, for years afterwards, if you asked me if I liked Tim Burton movies, I’d say, “Yeah, I love Burton.” I say it without hesitation, without even thinking about it.

Bossom (and urethra?) buddies, Depp and Burton.

Then something funny happened. I thought about it. And I realized I kind of didn’t like Tim Burton movies. I could appreciate them for their uniqueness—the Tim Burton brand remained very defined and very specific over the years—but I couldn’t honestly say I enjoyed them much.

Even with old Edward, nostalgia only took me so far. His movies had taken on a cloying juvenile quality, somehow saccarine in their darkness. And worse, the newer films had a bit of a cookie-cutter feel to them. “Burton” had truly become a brand, like Disney or Pixar, simply rearranging the same elements in a different order in each film (i.e., Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter). The Burton brand had, what I would never have believed possible in 1990, become populist and boring. Burton movies remain unique, but they’re no longer original.

Here is the Stand Up For Your Gay Friends video from Ireland we talk about near the end.

Giant Tim Burton reccuring collaborators table after the cut (from Wikipedia).

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Ultimate Hurdle Round 2: Tron Vs. The Matrix

December 24, 2010

I’ve always had a problem with The Matrix.

The premise is simply too absurd. I don’t mean the idea that reality is a digital construct. That one I can buy. But the idea the titular “matrix” was designed only to keep the brains of billions of comatose prisoners alive so they can act as power generators for a race of intelligent robots throws a monkey wrench into my suspension of disbelief machine.

Certainly the amount of power needed just to keep their life-support pods active would use up the paltry amount of electricity the human brain produces. I can’t even reasonably believe a person could power their own pod. I just can’t do it. It’s preposterous. I spent a decade arguing it’s the stupidest sci-fi concept ever committed to film.

But then I saw Tron: Legacy. It makes The Matrix look like Shakespeare.

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Episode 93 – State of the Hurdle 2010

December 17, 2010

Graphic by impartial third party: Nick Thornton

As we enter our third year of hurdling, we pause to take stock of our successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses and the future of the podcast. We also address the hopes and concerns (letters) of stakeholders (you, the listeners) and perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis as we develop a plan for Nerd Hurdles in 2011.

2011 will see some changes in the podcast. Most notably, a new theme song which debuts in this episode. Also, by (relatively) popular demand, Igor and The Banana will return as semi-regular contributors to the show. And along with them, 2011 aims to see more guests in the Hurdle Hut.

But if you’re like Mandi and you don’t like change, feel free to send us some Richard Dawkins style hate mail. We’re ready. Bring it.

What will not change in 2011 is our propensity to tangent. As evidenced by our rambling on about inappropriate pizza men, Artoo beer shirts, “Droidels” and “Mr. E.T.”

Scientifically brewed specifically for Normies in the nerd closet.

Also, don’t forget Rob (who sent in his “State of the Nerd 2010/11” address on the episode) has music on tape available from Arachnidiscs.

Episode 90 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Borings

November 26, 2010


Let’s be honest. The film’s a bit shit. From missed oportunities to pacing issues, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is probably the sloppiest of the series.

The polyjuice transformation you’re cheated out of actually seeing happen.

In this episode of Nerd Hurdles we spoiler the hell out of the HP7 as we try to get to the meat of where it fails. So if you haven’t seen the film, or at least read the book, heed that caveat before you listen. Heed this caveat as well, the list below contains spoilers for the podcast episode as well as the film. We’ve gone spoiler crazy at the hurdle hut apparently.

6 reasons why Harry Patter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 wasn’t a good film.

1. Ralph Fiennes’ performance as Voldemort in the previous films had me impressed with his shedding of the Ralph Fiennes persona and perhaps actually doing some acting. But apparently that was only achieved by the fact he had two, maybe three, lines in each of those films. Given a sizable scene Ralphie falls back on his wet-noodle impersonation. It’s tough being the Dark Lord, apparently. First your wand doesn’t work anymore and then nobody understands what you’re going through. At least that’s what I got from the few words I was able to make out of the stream of whingy blubbering he was doing under his breath.

2. When you read Deathly Hallows, during the Bathilda Bagshot/ Nagini scene didn’t you just think to yourself, “Self, this is going to be freakin’ HARDCOAR in the movie.” But no. Instead of a giant snake bursting out the mouth of an old lady, you get Obi Wan Kenobi’s empty robes falling to the floor. The scene also made no sense to people who hadn’t read the book. I know because I asked them. They had no idea Hermione found Bathilda’s actual mutilated remains while Harry was upstairs. For a scene that should have been creepy, suspenseful and eerie, it made almost no impact.

3. Also lacking impact was the fumbling of the whole horcrux pendant episode. The teenaged trio wander aimlessly through the woods, sharing the load, and trying to evade the Snatchers. Who, by the way, aren’t really explained at all in the film. They seem more like random bandits than a nationwide terror. Nor is the significance of the underground radio station explained.

Anyway, I’m not griping about that, I’m griping about the horcrux right now. As we know, the horcrux makes the trio progressively more despondent and paranoid as they take turns wearing it to keep it secret, keep it safe. You know, just like Ring and Frodo. We know this because we read the book. From watching the film, you’d probably only get a vague idea of what was going on. And then only because you’d seen or read Lord of the Rings.

So of course Ron comes to believe there’s something romantic going on between Harry and Herminione and takes off in a huff. But unlike in the book, it seems to come out of nowhere since we barely see him wearing the thing. It also seems to happen after about fifteen minutes and not the slow burning tension in the book. Which might have actually been interesting to watch.

Instead it just felt like another scene marked off on a checklist. Which is what the whole film felt like, really. There was no time to give the appropriate treatment to scenes that needed a little breathing room because scenes that could have been cut (or drastically shortened) weren’t. As Mandi said, “Nothing happens but it felt rushed.”

4. Harry and Herminione slow dance (to Nick Cave of all things) in the tent after Ron takes off. Which does two things wrong. First, it suggests Ron was right to be jealous and it wasn’t all the horcrux’s fault. Second, there was no point to it if there isn’t something going on between them. And it also kind of sullies the whole Harry/Ginny thing.

5. The motivations of the Malfoys makes no sense. If you hadn’t read the book you might have actually been better off because I was trying to remember exactly why Lucius was suddenly hating on Voldemort and if they’d touched on that in the previous film. A little expository dialogue would have been nice.

6. The animated sequence when Hermione takes time (they can’t really spare) to read Harry and Ron the story of the Deathly Hallows from the Tales of Beadle the Bard was the best part of the film. It’s a bad sign when an entirely out-of-place vignette is the best part of your film.

Episode 88 – Diets

November 12, 2010


Garfield once said “Diet is just DIE with a T.”

But what’s the nerd perspective on diets? Eating a lot of “gamer goo” while playing 36 straight hours of WoW? That might not be the best weight-loss strategy.

It’s a timely topic since it’s time for NOvember™*, our annual post-Sugar Fest (aka Halloween) diet. It’s an easy diet to follow. Simply say NO to the following nasty foods.

  • NO refined sugar
  • NO dairy
  • NO processed meat
  • NO processed soy products
  • NO deep-fried foods
  • NO yeast
  • NO gluten
  • NO alcohol
  • NO caffeine

It’s actually not as hard as you might think to cut these foods out of your diet. Well, except for the last item (and this year we’ve been eating gluten in the form of wraps, but no other breads).

Another NO you might want to add is eggs. There isn’t on the list since I don’t eat eggs anyway (it’s a completely horrific concept), and the diet was designed to cut out the nasty foods I do eat.

I think next year I might go the full monty. Actually I should probably put salt on that list but let’s be reasonable. You have to draw the line somewhere and I’m drawing it at food still having flavour.

*Not to be confused with Movember, which is also a good thing to do.

Episode 87 – They Call Him Bruce

November 5, 2010


Sometimes they call him Brisco. Sometimes they call him Autolycus. Sometimes they call him Ash. But mostly people call Bruce Campbell campy, though that has nothing to do with his surname.

Kathie (from our episode on Internet Dating) joins us to talk about the man, the myth… the chin.

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