Peace Like A River


It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Summer was yesterday this year

Oh, some glorious weather yesterday for Memorial Day. Sunny, blue skies, warm. I read somewhere May saw the least amount of solar radiation since they started measuring in 1960. Just a useless, cloudy, rainy month. But yesterday was supreme.

I took the kids swimming in the morning. Wasn't too busy, and the water was actually warm! Gasp. What a concept.

In the afternoon I took them to London Park, with the basketball and soccer ball. Kicked the soccer ball around a little bit. John enjoyed picking it up (handball!) and throwing it away from me, I chased it down and kicked it back to him.

Rhonda's mom was here over the weekend. Rhonda took her to the bus station very early this morning.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Gooooooooooooooooolllllll!!

The UEFA Champions League soccer final was played yesterday in Istanbul. Liverpool against AC Milan. (This is essentially the club championship of Europe) I taped it and watched last night. Quite the amazing game.

Milan was up 3-0 at halftime. They scored their first goal about 50 seconds into the match. Liverpool didn't look like they belonged in the tournmanet, let alone the championship game. One of the commentators said it looked like men against boys. Indeed, some thought Liverpool overachieved to get to this game.

But the game looked over at halftime. A 3-0 lead at this level is a huge, enormous lead. Yet, the tables reversed in the second half, and Liverpool was a different team. They scord 3 goals in six minutes to tie. The game eventually went to penalty kicks (after a couple of amazing close-in saves by Liverpool's goalie in the waning seconds of overtime) Liverpool won 3-2 on penalty kicks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

these things take time

I got the chess pieces out for the first time with John. He liked all the variety of pieces, seemed to get most of the names down. Still have work to do though. When I got the pieces set up, the first thing he said was "Can we knock them down with a ball?"(like bowling)

He did like the concept of capturing the other pieces, so I showed him how to capture with pawns, and he took one and said "haha, you'll never escape from me!" then he took a couple more and ran off with them and put them in prison somewhere.

baby steps.

Hanna seemed interested in the pieces as well. She especially liked the horsey! They are Russian, chess has gotta be in their genes, right?

I had a lot of fun staying home with the kids yesterday. It was John's last day of preschool, so we went there. They had a bike parade, so we decorated their bikes while we were there. There was a little program, John got a certificate. He was proud of that!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

24 Day 4 5:00 AM - 7:00 AM

A Review

And now, the end is here, and so we face the final curtain. My friends, Ill say it clear, Ill state my case, of which Im certain. Regrets, Ive had a few, but then again, way too many to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption. Yes, there were times, Im sure you knew when I bit off more than I could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate this show up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall, and wrote it this way.

One last fake warning of graphic violence, just for old times sake. CTU is certain they are chasing a female, even though they never actually saw who else was in the apt with the dead Fox News watcher guy.

Bill says CTU is getting low in manpower. No kidding, half the organization got blowed up today or shot or maimed or...

Audrey is having trouble locating the missile. Well, with all commercial air traffic apparently grounded, it would be the one and only thing currently streaking across American skies. If the air defenses in place can't pick that up, we might as well open the gates and let the Huns in. We're doomed anyway.

Mandy is looking at news stories of Tony's arrest, with photos of him and Michelle. Goodness, where'd she get ahold of those? Tony is shirtless, and pantless! I'm just a little unclear on Mandy's sexual and/or gender preference, so I'm not even going to guess at Mandy's motives in getting Tony down to his skivvies.

Mandy talks to Marwan. Marwan's arm seems to be doing pretty good, considering he took a bullet a short time ago. Whatever is in that hypo must be some good stuff.

And then, Mandy calls Michelle! (Just how did she get Michelle's number? Was Tony carrying around his cell with all these numbers in it?) Mandy has seen Season 3 of 24, as she wonders if Michelle is prepared to do for Tony what he did for her last season.

Audrey obviously doesn't have enough to do what with trying to find this stealthy missile, so Palmer has her gin up casualty projections for the 20 largest US cities. Good luck with that, Audrey.

And again for old times sake, a mention of yet another kind of protocol, this one an approach protocol.

Michelle starts down the road to treason. Will she do it? Will she? She calls Edgar on the Batphone, and Edgar answers with his usual chipper "Edgar Stiles!" With everything going on, that man is unflappable.

But, in a sign that there is some primitive activity in the brains of the writers, Michelle doesn't follow Tony's path in an uninspired copy of last season. She actually tells Bill about Mandy's call. CTU decides to try and trap Mandy. (After last season's disaster, CTU still hasn't learned its lesson at having supervisors in the office and agents in the field romantically linked.)

Jack says "we're a go." You don't normally think of go as a noun. But then, I'm one who doesn't understand using the word woman as an adjective, as in woman doctor.

Wow, Mandy tasers Tony! Eek, she'd make a good CTU agent the way she handles that thing. Mandy leaves Tony and goes to a nearby apartment, where she coldly guns down some schlump named Joz. It's hard to find good neighbors in an apartment building.

Down in the Bunker, there's tense discussion between Palmer and RunLoganRun. Logan is making some sense, saying there just isn't time to find Marwan. The missile has been in the air too long.

In a line of dialogue that could've been written by George Lucas, Palmer says "we will prevent the warhead from going off". yes, well. Then he says "demand nothing less than success from your people and you will get it". Thank you, Tony Robbins.

And now we see Agent Howie Bern is in San Diego! He's supposed to get to work fabricating an alibi. (Bern's lucky CTU is not going to have him executed like Chapelle in order to kowtow to the Chinese.)

Yikes, Bern is kimnapped by the Chinese! What are they doing there? And how did Consul Security Guy get down there so fast?!?! Bern left before he did. And the Chinese apparently knocked out two CTU agents and left them tied up by a building. You'd think that would be grounds to putting an end to this whole Chinese thread. The Chinese have attacked American agents on American soil? It's worse if those agents are dead. (And Security Guy did say no one would be around to tell CTU what happened to Bern.) So, I think it's time to tell the Chinese to take a flying leap. We're even.

Back at The Siege of Mandy, it starts to rain. This is strange. I don't think we've ever seen actual weather on 24. It must be in service to the plot. Mandy must be a sorceress, and conjured up the rain just when she needed it, for it stops soon after.

Looks like Mandy is sending out her remaining neighbors. And holy crikey, the car blows up! Did Mandy send the bomb out with them? Or was the car wired already? Is this standard bad guy planning, always have your car ready to blow up? Now everyone thinks Tony is dead. Michelle is distraught. Edgar again answers the Batphone in that gratingly chipper tone of voice. Dude, at least sound like you're sorry Tony is now a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Bill tells Michelle. He tries to supress giggles and smiles over the fact his chief rival is now out of the picture.

But Jack is not giving up. He keeps wanting to listen to tunes on the headphones. Curtis has to tell Jack that Tony is gone. (This is getting to be a habit with Curtis. He told Jack that Paul was gone.) Oh, now we see why the rain was necessary to the plot. There was no rain heard in the audio. It wasn't Tony and Mandy in the car. What a relief.

And there's Tony. He's obviously seen Die Hard, because he cuts his feet to leave a blood trail. We hear that there are men on every floor and the exits are covered, but obviously they forgot to post men in the stairwell, because Mandy walztes right out.

Jack catches up with Mandy in the parking garage. (A convenient indoor location so they could presumably film in the day hours.) Tony bravely urges Jack to waste Mandy, but Curtis uses his own stealth technology to sneak up and deck Mandy square in the face. She is out cold (and has no bloody nose or bruise. Curtis must be a wimp.)

Jack looks like he's about to kiss Tony. Tony asks if Michelle knows he's alive. For a moment, I thought he was going to say not to tell Michelle, so she'd continue to think he's dead and he could sneak off to another life free of her. Ironic, considering the ending, but we'll come to that.

The Chinese "interrogate" Bern, who cracks like a DDT-laden egg shell at the mere mention of a work camp near Siberia.

At the start of the final hour, CTU does what it does best and that is instantly arrange pardons for terrorists. Someone in the White House does their homework real real quick and discovers the gal CTU has in custody was the one who tried to assassinate Palmer in Season 2. You'd think they'd be a little curious who she was, and who she was working for then and now. But now, Palmer just grimly says they should go ahead and pardon her.

Mandy confirms it with her lawyer, apparently. I think this lawyer guy, representing a known terrorist and president-assassinator-wannabe, is going to receive a few visits from the government, don't you think? Mandy says Marwan is at the Global Center, and will be taking off shortly.

Edgar repositions a satellite to instantly see Marwan's chopper. Jack shouts "Now!", one of his favorite lines. Marwan sees CTU, and shoots something at his feet. Marwan escapes into a parking garage?! I thought this was some skyscraper, and they were 30 stories in the air. What are cars doing way up there? But then, it looks like this is just a parking garage. So the "Global Center" is just some fancy marketing name for a parking ramp? Marwan runs down into this parking ramp, another indoor location where they can film during normal day hours. Again, Marwan's bullet-ridden arm is doing just fine.

Jack shoots Marwan in the ankle. Marwan just about goes overboard, Jack grabs him by the hand as a helicopter hovers nearby Matrix-like. Marwan cuts Jack with a knife he conveniently had, and Marwan falls to a squooshy splattery death.

In the latest 24 Inside, Vosloo said he had initially been brought on for 4 episodes, as the writers weren't sure what they wanted to do with Marwan. It became another episode, and so on. In an interview with Charlie Rose, one of the producers admitted that this season they only thought two episodes ahead. If that isn't an indictment of the shoddy writing this season, nothing is. It sure explains the herky-jerky nature of the story, and lack seamlessness. They were just making stuff up as they went.

Well, Marwan is gone. Nothing to do but sit back and wait for the mushroom cloud. But wait! What light upon yon window breaks! Marwan's shot up doohickey has an intact drive platform, and CTU instantly expands parameters and correlates matrices to find it is a GPS device and it was tracking the missile. Glory be! Oh, cancel that, the missile is headed straight for....LA! And is almost there.

Now granted, Marwan is a psycho willing to kill millions. But, he was planning to escape. Yet, he was still on the ground in LA less than 30 minutes before the missile was going to strike, and Marwan knew when it was going to strike. So why did Marwan wait so long to get out of LA? He was cutting it a little close, don't ya think?

Some Air Force planes are in the air, they find the missile blah blah and shoot it down. Yay. We're all thrilled. Jack and Curtis watch like they're waiting for a star to fall, to carry them into each other's arm, that's where they belong in their arms baby yeah.

With a half hour still to go in the show, they can't just waste it with goodbyes and backslaps, so back to the Chinese. Apparently forgetting that with the Chinesenapping of Bern, the US and Chinese are even, the White House throws Jack to the wolves and agrees to hand him over to the Chinese. Sigh. I just don't have the strength to shred this silliness. I must make it to the end.

In a somewhat tasteless scene, Audrey talks on the phone near Paul's body bay, which has a tag with his name on it.

A bad ss agent is dispatched. Cummings tells Bad Guy Spaulding that Jack should be killed so he can't implicate the WH. Mike is Lurking Nearby, and hears this conversation, like something from a Victorian novel.

However, Palmer can't persuade Logan to call off the dogs, and Palmer takes it upon himself to warn Jack.

Having been so warned, in less than 60 seconds, Jack cooks up a plan to fake his death, and get revived with epinepharine. Ye gods. And Michelle and Chloe are brought into this plan. In less than 60 seconds. Did I mention this all took place in less than 60 seconds?

Tony tells Chloe to run interference with the coroner. That shouldn't be hard, as there are 150 bodies stacked up over there already. Tony just adds to the craziness by saying they'll just switch a body for Jack's and that there will be no autopsy.

After coming too with the obligatory wheeze and cough, Jack is ok. The final scene is Jack saying goodbye to Tony and Michelle, and Jack heads off into the sunset. Er, sunrise. And this Day comes to a close. Or just begins. Or something.

So, what can possibly happen next season? Jack can no longer operate in the open under his real name. Who is going to tell Kim what happened to Jack? Tony and Michelle are going to chuck it all in and just work at Walmart or something. Who's going to left in CTU? Chloe is going to be running the place.

And, in yet another testament to the writing, there was still no mention of the fate of Beiruts. In that same 24 Inside, Vosloo did say Beiruts never made it to Marwan, otherwise he'd be dead. It's sad when the actors have to let slip information that explains why major characters just disappeared.

(guest critic Paul Foth faked his own death to escape from the Bangladeshis, but I lost the antidote, and can't revive him. So, he leaves us with only these words...

***
Next season Tony and Michelle will be in prison together after someone discovers that Jack's body got switched for Lobell's (or any of the other stiffs CTU has in its huge, well used morgue). Unless, of course...

Bill: Tony, who's this? He looks Chinese.
Tony: Hoo.
Bill: The fella's name.
Tony: Hoo.
Bill: The guy on the floor.
Tony: Jack.
Bill: Bauer?
Tony: No, Hoo.
Bill: What's the name of the guy on the floor?
Tony: Jack Hoo.
Bill: I'm not talking about Jack!
Michelle: Tony, come here. We need to make out.
Tony: Make out a will?
Bill: Who's Will?
Tony: No. It's Will Ware. Jack's Hoo.
Bill: Just go home, the both of you.
***

Final Approximate Body Count: 151 (plus "many dead" near the nuclear plant, plus the Warhead Nonprotection team, plus whoever else was on Air Farce One, plus one mostly dead Jack Bauer)

<- 4:00 AM - 5:00 AM

Monday, May 23, 2005

The New and the Restless

On Friday night, Rhonda took John swimming, while I stayed home with Hanna and got the yard mowed. John was a little restless, and he needed to burn off some energy.

He asked me if I was going swimming too, and I said no, just you and Mommy. He then asked "Are you too old?", and I laughed and said yeah, I'm too old. Then John said "I'm new!", meaning "I'm young!". Ha.

That was the first time I mowed this year. Was getting a little long, but with all the rain we've had, I haven't been able to do it when I've had time. It's rained the past 2 or 3 Saturdays.

There was a big chess tournament in town, just ended yesterday. Made me wonder if John is ready to start learning the game. I wonder if it would be something he'd take to. He has a good mind. Just a matter if he's ready to be patient and learn.

I put their new hot wheels bike together for the kids. We had to put the seat way up so they could reach the pedals. They'll have to grow a bit more.

Tonight is the season finale of 24. My rantennae are already crackling.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Do Wookies ever hire carpet cleaners to take a bath?

Here is a rather amusing Christmas tune. Click on the Chewie pic. (It's a link to an mp3)

I'll wait awhile till the madness dies down in the theaters before I go see the latest Star Wars movie. The first two prequels were just not very good, so much so I hardly remember what happened in them, and what led up to this latest movie.

I need to get cracking on my project. Argh. Must..develop...iron...discipline...

I finished up Doom3. I played the last two-thirds of the game in god mode. There's no way I would've finished it otherwise. It's too hard, and time consuming. Visually it is the most stunning game out there, state of the art. Makes some of my older games look like pathetic, cheap garbage heaps.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Am half done with the ark

It's rained here 17 out of the last 24 days. Wwwaaaaahhhh. This ark is taking up too much of my driveway.

Deacons mtg tonight.

Here are some XM channels I've been listening to recently...

XM 43 XMU - new music...now
XM 52 Unsigned - unsigned bands only
XM 76 Fine Tuning - eclectic mix from celtic to the blues
XM 100 World Zone - world music (France to Indonesia in one song)
XM 129 Bloomberg News - business and finance coverage

XM often runs little promos by announcers or personalities on some of the channels they air. Like, some of the guys on ESPN Radio will do little spots for XM.

The other day on XM 76 (eclectic blend) I heard Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller do a little promo for XM!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

But then I'd need some khat-chewing technicals

Zoiks, getting to work as a pain in the patoosky this morning. It was raining, which always slows things down. (They're just little harmless drops of water, people! Keep moving!) Poor Dad, he's trying to get out of town, and he got slowed down. Same thing happened last time, too. I think I'll just mount a machine-gun in the back of the truck.

The kids had lots of fun with Grandpa. They were sad to see him go.

Here is something I bet most of you didn't know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Birth of a truck

Here is a page that has a link to a great photo album, with a lot of pics showing a Toyota Tacoma being built, from start to finish.

24 Day 4 4:00 AM - 5:00 AM

A Review

I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice. Shadows of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night.... but enough about me. Let's get to this week's episode.

Ray is leaving the house with golf clubs, and Debra asks him where he's going. Ray kinda sheepishly says "Nowhere." Debra again asks him where he's going, in the exact same tone of voice. Ray puts down the golf clubs and says "Upstairs to fix the leaky faucet". Frank says "Holy crap, you're such a weenie."

Oh, wait. Wrong show. Sorry.

More graphic violence! Goody! It's like crack.

The Previously on LA Law recaps show us the missile sitting on its launcher, smoking like the kind of thing that would land on Gilligan's Island. When it took off, its lame little poof-poof rocket looked like something from bad Japanese science fiction shows. (Even though it is 6 AM in Iowa, the missile launched in complete darkness. I wonder what time of the year it is.)

As we begin, CTU doesn't have a lock on the missile, and they have no idea where it is or where it's going. That's frightening. All the NORAD radars and military air defense systems can't pick up this missile? If not, the Mummy is right, we are way vulnerable. The baddies are just picking low-hanging fruit.

There's an order to prep the holding room at Gestapo HQ for the Mummy. They're bringing him in. Hmm, he's Middle Eastern, so maybe this time we'll go with a cinnamon scent, with just a hint of jasmine. Oh, this is going to be such a fun torture!

CTU thinks the missile is an "S-series" missile. Michelle refers to it as "Stealth" technology. Well, that goes without saying, as no one can detect this thing screaming across the sky. But this missile is just a round tube of steel. What's stealthy about it? Stealth technology involves radar-absorbing surfaces made from high-tech materials, and oddly angled flight surfaces to bounce radar signals away from the source. Did we see any of that on this round tube of steel? Hmm, no.

CTU surmises the baddies brought the missile into the country in pieces and assembled it. In the mountains of Iowa. Clever boys. The missile apparently has a range of 1800 miles, which means we can use the remaining hours of the season milking this threat of where oh where will the missile land.

I keep thinking though, what is, or was, the original intended target. I mean, Marwan hoped to melt down 100 reactors. What was going to be left? Marwan was going to tell the people of Earth, I mean, America that one of their weapons had been used against them. But where? To take out Swampwater, Arkansas? After the chaos of 100 nuclear plant meltdowns, who's going to care that Swampwater, population 2 bachelor brothers and a mule, is a target? Or was Marwan just going to make the rubble bounce in some formerly large city?

Logan keeps calling this missile a "cruise" missile. Sigh. What we saw was not a cruise missile. A cruise missile has flight surfaces, and navigates with some kind of engine. This thing was a plain jane vanilla ballistic missile. You lob it into the air with a rocket and physics brings it back to earth in a nice parabola.

Logan also wants to evacuate most of the country, apparently. Just where are these people going to go, and how are they going to get there in two hours? Can you imagine the gridlock on the roads when everyone in NY, Philly, Boston, DC, etc... is trying to get out of town at the same time?

At the same time, Palmer wants to make sure a government is still in place and able to function, so bigwigs are going to be hustled to safe locations. Palmer is probably hoping that bunker he's in was built solidly by patriotic American union workers, and not Chinese contractors, cuz he's sitting right under a prime target.

Jack has a nice little sitdown chat with the Mummy. After all that, I'm still unclear on just what Marwan was after. If he thinks the US is going to stay out of whatever country he's from after trying to melt 100 reactors and dropping a nuclear warhead on some city, he's rather mistaken. His country is going to look like the Borg got after it.

Well, lookee here, Stoner called Marwan a week ago!! Nice going, CTU, you had him a few hours earlier and you let him go. In CTU's defense, they didn't realize Stoner was the perfect terrorist tool. He's immune to the effects of drugs, and there's no mind to affect with the Mind Defragmentizer, so CTU wasn't able to break him in interrogation. (Every time I write the word "interrogation", I can't help but remember the funny way General Burkhalter on Hogan's Heroes pronounced it.)

(The name above Stoner's on Edgar's list was Keith Fett. Hmm, Boba must be undercover on Earth, chasing a bounty. Hey, maybe he's after Marwan and that's why he called Marwan's cell phone!)

More product placement. Audrey is seen working on a Dell computer.

Stoner is thought to be at his house in Van Nuys. (As we've seen before, Van Nuys is in the northern part of the vast LA megalopolis.)

Chloe checks the IP phone, and what luck, field teams are in the area. (What did the IP phone have to do with anything? She could just as easily have checked the waffle maker. Sounds like they just wanted to mention some cool tech.) Maybe the field teams are still looking for that mysterious sniper that killed Powell. Powell was getting on a helicopter in Van Nuys when he was conveniently removed from the plot.

Bill from Division (or was it Tony?) asks if Audrey knows Stoner is involved. Chloe, in her loveable way, says that is a management conversation. Heh.

Back at one of Marwan's many real estate holdings, they are preparing to transport Marwan to CTU, when.... a small army attacks! Oh, goodness. The Mummy escapes for a *fifth* time in the last 12 hours. This guy is the Col. Flagg of terrorists! He's the wind! CTU can't contain him!

(After Marwan was spirited away, why did the small army suddenly melt away? Why didn't they continue to attack the infidels that remained?)

Now what is CTU going to do? They're going to have to hope another terrorist has a naggy girlfriend who will call into the Chloe Hotline and rat out her boyfriend so they can go weed through the boyfriend's laptop to find emails from another Chinese guy, so they can go raid the Chinese Consulate one more time (which will be harder to do now that everyone is awake at the Consulate) and interrogate the guy to find out Marwan has yet another factory stashed away. Whew. That's a lot to hope for. Marwan might be gone for good this time.

With no Mummy to kick around, Jack opts for the next best thing, he'll go back to CTU and kick Stoner around. Jack says Stoner is in first position. Any violin player knows that means Stoner is sitting there with his index finger on the string a whole step above the open note. Apparently Jack is going to give Stoner some Suzuki lessons.

Logan addresses the assembled crowd of bigwigs. (Which included a female in an Air Force uniform, and a male Marine. They looked like they were about 23 years old. These "important" people are who, exactly? The casting director's college buddies?) Logan has thought a lot about not alerting the public. Hmm, I suppose less than 20 minutes constitutes a lot when things are moving this fast.

Tony and Michelle have a heart to heart while the This Is Beyond Belief Love Theme swells on the synths. Tony says "Look, it's nearly 5 am. Morning is just another day, happy people pass my way, and looking in their eyes, I see a memory and I never realized how happy you made me." This makes Michelle tear up. (as in "tier up", not that Michelle starts ripping up sheets of paper, or Tony's old love letters.)

Michelle says she's been doing this CTU thing for 12 years, the only thing she's ever done. Hmm? How old is she? If she finished college at, say, age 22, Michelle has got to be older than 34. I'd think they are in their 40s.

Stoner is here from Van Nuys already. Must have used the transporter beam. When Audrey hears Jack is going to conduct the interrogation (get out of my head, Burkhalter!) Audrey says "What?" in a most determined way. She wants to play the role of Inquisitor. Jack gives her 5 minutes.

Back in the Bunker on Level 5, the Speaker of the House wonders why Logan hasn't consulted the Cabinet for advice. Well, maybe because the Secretary of Agriculture is not the guy to turn to for anti-terrorism advice, Mr. Speaker. Now, can you go back to your Legislative branch, and let the Executive branch do its job?

Mike tells the Speaker RunLoganRun is in complete control, and then walks into the room just as Logan is cleaning up his own sick. Ok, I made up that last part.

Palmer, ever the pugilist, wants to show the Speaker who is in charger. (um, David? That would be Logan. I hope you're straight on this point.)

Hey, the SecDef slips into CTU! Sure wasn't much fanfare. Perhaps he was just embarrassed at having left the show for half the season without so much as a goodbye.

Audrey is just going to begin her five minutes now?? It's been a lot longer than five minutes since Jack gave her the ok to crank up her racks and iron maidens. I think her time is up already. But she goes in anyway, and tries the you can rely on your dear sister routine.

Stoner says he didn't make any phone calls last week. No phone calls? At all? Audrey says there is a guy, Jack, who will come in and he'll get the information! Audrey doesn't need to remind Stoner about how hideous the Mind Defragmentizer is.

Now, Dad steps in and tries to sort out this unseemly family squabble. He says CTU will use every piece of equipment they have to get Stoner to talk. Even the fax machine, and if necessary, the staplers! SecDef says "I mean it!" Yeek, now it sounds like a family on a long trip with unruly kids in the back seat.

Stoner says "go to hell". Oh, Stoner, that's the wrong response to give to a guy who has the authority to have you tortured.

And now the truth comes out. Stoner likes boys! The look on the SecDef's face when he hears this is just priceless. Bill, it was worth having you in the cast this season just for that moment.

Apparently a man and a woman made nice with Stoner, and while Stoner and the guy, um, well, yeah, the woman made a call on Stoner's cell. Edgar tells us this call activated a listen-in, and Marwan could then hear Stoner's calls. Curtis all but turns to the camera to tell us, the idiot audience, that this was how Marwan knew Heller would be visiting Stoner off the books.

Hmm. I would like to stop at this point and wonder just how Marwan intended his little plot to work. He had already been planning to kidnap the SecDef, or at least someone let's assume, for several years. Pa and Ma Araz had been working for 4 years, they said. Pa had that little import/export warehouse set up for the glorious broadcast of the trial from the Terrorist World Court of Justice. This trial was to cover up the attack with the Flux Capacitor. So, how did Marwan think he was going to get close to the SecDef to kimnap him? He couldn't have planned years earlier that SecDef Heller was going to go visit Stoner. So when did this plot to use Stoner get hatched?

In record time, even for CTU, they found the cab driver who drove this mystery man and woman away from Stoner's pad. He had dropped them off in Panorama City, which is pretty close to Van Nuys, actually.

So, it's a mystery why they needed a chopper to fly there, when the field teams got to CTU with Stoner within minutes.

Back in the bunker, Palmer plays Ashton. The Speaker is mollified simply by having a few planes fly laps around NY and DC. Well, that was easy.

Tony and Michelle have another heart to heart, this time while the Be Careful Love Theme swells on the synths. This is making me suspicious. Why two weepy talks in the same episode? Michelle tells Tony she is ready to leave it all behind, that she can't spend another day without him. She says "I'm standing on the edge of time, I walked away when love was mine. I'm caught up in a world of uphill climbing, the tears are in my mind and nothing is rhyming, oh Tony." Tony doesn't know what to say.

CTU is going to let Stoner go again! They just don't learn from past mistakes, do they? But first, Stoner is going to help identify the man the cabdriver dropped off in Panorama City. Stoner worked with a sketch artist to draw up a likeness of the man.

Eek, the guy looks like an alien! What is that? He also looks a lot like Stoner. Well, Stoner isn't very bright. He could've misunderstood and just described himself to the sketch artist.

(And this sketch never really gets used. What was the point? Stoner was going to identify the dead guy from the video feed anyway.)

Now, it's Jack and Audrey's turn to have a heart to heart, while the I Would've Been Happy To Skip Today Love Theme slowly tinkles on a piano.

Audrey is lost. Jack says "Yesterday is a dream, I face the morning. I'm crying on a breeze, and the pain is calling, oh Audrey". It's a wonder Audrey can hear Jack, since he's in a chopper, and those things tend to be rather loud. (Jack: I SAID, PLEASE PROMISE ME WE'LL TALK WHEN THIS IS OVER! Audrey: WHAT?)

Now, we cut to Panorama City, and we see the mysterious man and woman. And..... it's Mandy!!!!! AAAAAAAH! (I'm doing that crazy teenage girl dance thing where they jump up and down and shake their hands really fast and half cry half scream and say "ohmygawd! ohmygawd! really fast)

Mandy is by far my second most favorite female character that has ever been on this show, a close second behind Nina. (Sadly, Nina won't be in any more seasons, unless they do a holodeck episode.)

Mandy was a villainess extraordinaire at the beginning of the first season. She schtumped that German guy in the bathroom on a 747 to get his ID card, then jumped from the plane with a parachute and blew up the 747. Then, we also found out that Mandy likes girls. So, it's a little odd that she's here getting all slickery with this guy. But anything for the job, I suppose.

(In a strange twist, the actress who plays Mandy, Mia Kirshner, plays Jenny on The L Word.)

Mandy says there is still time to get to Marwan. I can't help but wonder though how Mandy hooked up with Marwan. At the end of Season 2, Mandy was the one who smeared Goo de Plague on Palmer. Mandy was working with a mysterious guy named Max on a boat, and we never did find out what that was all about.

Are all of these things related? Is there some S.P.E.C.T.R.E like organization out there committing all these terrorist acts? If Marwan phones a faceless guy who is stroking a white cat, I'll have a conniption.

Mandy hears the approaching chopper (subtle, CTU, subtle) and knows they're in danger. She says to the guy someone has to stay behind so it'll look like someone is there in the apt. Mandy points her gun at the guy, and he sputters "But, but, you kissed me and stopped from shaking, and I need you today! No, no, Mandy!"

She then shoots the guy, in typical cold Mandy fashion. It's not clear how a dead guy will make CTU think someone is still in the apt.

Jack says "we're a go". Well, I'm a stop! Stop and go are opposites! Can you show me four fingers? Good! Now, which of these colors is blue? (and etc... etc... I've seen too many preschool videos.)

Some gate is opened, and Jack says "I'm in", apparently forgetting that line is only to be used when hacking into computers.

There's yet another new CTU guy, Agent Macallan. Well, they call him Macallan, but I think he is Agent Baker's brother. Macallan whispers a "Go! Go!" just like dear brother Agent Baker did on his exciting missions to capture Saunders last season.

Tony and Agent Castle are stationed on the roof. At this point, I'm wondering if CTU remembered to surround the building. They have a little trouble with that whole surrounding thing.

Jack finds the dead guy in the apt, who is watching a tv tuned to Fox News. I wonder if dead guys are counted in the Nielsens.

On the roof, Castle is walking around and.... Mandy wings him! Oh, cold. When Tony doesn't move fast enough, she shoots Castle in the leg. I'm telling ya, Mandy is a dangerous one. She tells Castle to cuff Tony, and does a pretty good job of it considering he's been shot twice. For his trouble, Mandy then finishes off Castle. Cold cold cold. Mandy says "Agent Castle, you came and you gave without taking, but I blew you away, cuz I'm Mandy." Farewell, Agent Castle. All those exciting missions today, and you get your butt kicked by a girl.

The episode ends with Mandy taking Tony hostage. Well, now Michelle will have a chance to screw the country and rescue Tony and go to jail for him.

Strangely, the whole diplunacy thread with the Chinese was not mentioned. At all. Guess it's not that much of a threat.

Next week, in the two hour finale, this whole crazy exhilarating loveable mess of a season comes to its earthshaking conclusion. I mean literally earthshaking. The Chinese are back, and they dig clean through to, well, China, and release all that molten pressure in the center of the Earth, and the US is flooded with lava.

(and now, once again here's guest critic Paul Foth. When we last saw him, he blew up a 747, then parachuted out of it, and realized too late that was the wrong order. He landed a charred lump, and has taken him a couple of years to recover)

***
WE INTERRUPT OUR NORMALLY EPISODIC SCREED AND PULL BACK
TO LOOK AT SOME OF THE BIGGER PICTURE

We like Chloe; we really do. She was a breath of acerbic but fresh air when she first appeared, a truly unique mix of the stereotypical computer nerd with a sad lack of social skills, and someone who very much knows who she and what her talents are, and who doesn't suffer idiots (or anyone else) gladly. Her personality really stood out, no doubt because of the combination of the writers having fun with her, the talents of Mary Lynn Rajskub (who gave a keen interview in The Believer several issues back), and a lack of quirks in the rest of the supporting characters.

But to explain what I think has gone wrong with Chloe, I have to point to a TV character who was more abrasive-in-a-funny-way than she is: Albert, the medical examiner from Twin Peaks. (And there's a 24 connection: Kiefer gave a great performance as another odd medical examiner, Sam Stanley, in the theatrical release Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.). Albert arrived like the Tunguska comet, flaying people alive with his acid tongue, not the least apprehensive to let anyone know what he thought of the law enforcement and forensic (lack of) talent in what he saw as nothing more than a hick logging town (e.g., "I've got a lot of cutting and pasting to do, gentlemen, so why don't you please return to your porch rockers and resume whittling."). He crackled with a cynical energy that made him stand out in a show already populated with very strong characters.

Albert very easily could have devolved into what Chloe has become: an odd sort of comic relief, someone who occasionally drives the plot, but whose main function is to drop sarcastic one-liners and make other characters feel uneasy, embarrassed, or angry. He didn't do that, though, because about halfway through the run of Twin Peaks he told us the source of his vitriol, and it shone a completely new, completely unexpected light on him, and revitalized him in a way that demonstrated not for the first time that the writing on Twin Peaks was often nothing short of brilliant.

The writing. That's what I'm talking about. The acting on 24 is, I think, pretty good, and, as Jeff has pointed out several times, the actors often inject their scenes with some poignant emotion. But just think how much truer the emotion would be if it were motivated by a story that was 1) more attentive to being internally consistent, and 2) populated by characters who showed more recognizably human behavior.

The plotholes we bring up again and again aren't necessarily meant to
demonstrate that the stories 24 tells couldn't take place in the real world (and it most certainly couldn't; read the excellent Salon article, http://www.salon.com/ent/feature/2005/05/16/24/, in which Spencer Ackerman interviews experts on the sorts of things 24 snows over); the thriller genre has conventions that make it bigger, badder, and louder than reality. But, at the very least, the 24-verse should be consistent with itself. Remember the encrypted document Paul and Jack printed out at the MF building? Someone at CTU pulled a name out of the printout within seconds of receiving it (check Jeff's commentary on the 8:00 - 9:00 PM episode). Remember when Chloe went to Girlfriend's house after the "I think my boyfriend is a terrorist" phone call? She took one look at the extensions on some filenames and knew they'd been encrypted with the Blowfish Algorithm (check our commentary on the 1:00 - 2:00 AM episode). That's two examples of CTU being able to get a handle on encrypted information almost instantly. And yet, think back to the 3:00 - 4:00 AM episode. Jack and Co. are outside the abandoned factory where Marwan is holed up, but they don't yet know for sure he's there. There's a microwave dish on the wall or roof, but Chloe can't make sense of the information it's sending because "it's encrypted." She makes no attempt to break the encryption, when it's already been established that doing so is as simple as using your decoder ring to get the "Drink Ovaltine" message. Encryption has gone from being nothing more than a speedbump to being as impregnable as Fort Knox with absolutely no motivation from within the story. So are we dealing with a thriller anymore? The laws of reality in the 24-verse change from one episode to the next, so we have to posit that no, we're not dealing with a thriller. What we've got here is some kind of technomagical, metaphysical subgenre of fantasy (and look throughout our past commentaries for more evidence). Either that or writers who aren't paying attention.

One of the necessary conditions for a decent genre story is that its characters be recognizably human (leaving aside science fiction tales with nary a human to be seen), that they behave in ways, given the bending of reality necessary to incorporate the genre's tropes, we can understand and, in some cases, identify with. Does 24 do that? Given the monumental seriousness of the crisis CTU is dealing with, does it make sense that Tony and Michelle would put it on hold to talk about their relationship? Given that Sarah loves her country enough to go back to work after being tortured by her boss, does it make sense that she'd take the time to play office politics before returning to her station? Given that Maya was quite obviously a danger to herself and others, does it make sense that she was allowed (albeit passively) to get hold of a razor blade or scalpel or some other sharp object, and kill herself? Given that Marianne was a temp, does it make sense that she was granted a top level security clearance and invited to sit in on meetings with the top brass? Given that he wanted to save Li Jong's life (for at least as long as it'll take to find out where Marwan might be), does it make sense for Jack to hold a gun to the surgeon's head? Given that CTU is an elite organization in the nation's fight against terrorism, does it make sense that it comes off looking more like a dysfunctional family of hillbillies? (And all of this completely ignores the high jinks going on in Deep 13 with the Shakes and Palmer Show.) The physics of the 24-verse are technomagical; I guess we now have to admit that the cause and effect of human interaction also runs differently there. What someone does now isn't governed by what happened then and motivation is a mystery. Either everyone in the 24-verse has ADHD or the writers aren't paying attention.

I don't know how much of this season was planned before shooting on the first episode began, but the sudden departures of Maya, Erin, and Sarah, as well as the endless string of escapes Marwan manages to effect (which long ago became tedious rather than edge-of-the-seat frustrating), smack more of being made up as the story goes along than they do conscious forethought. It seems to me that if the show is going to build up legitimate suspense (by which I mean suspense that isn't short-circuited by the myriad gaffes, blunders, and unintended comedy Jeff and I (mostly Jeff, because he's made of stronger stuff than I and has managed to get through all of the episodes) have tried to bring to light in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 sort of way), the writers should do the kind of research Mr. Ackerman did for the Salon article I cited earlier. I for one would find a story about a terrorist plot that's based more on the physics of reality and the workings of the real American antiterrorist effort far more compelling, frightening, and suspenseful than the manipulative pabulum that constitutes much of the 24-verse. Published comments from the producers on past seasons imply that they don't know at the beginning of a season how it will end, that they wait until an arc of several episodes is in the can before nailing down the next arc in more than a general way. I don't know if that's the way this season is being done, but it sure seems that way--i.e., it doesn't feel like a story that's unfolding, but rather like it's being written as we watch it. We should feel like the CHARACTERS don't know what's going to happen next, not like the WRITERS don't.

All television writers should be forced to watch the entire run of Babylon 5, to see what a television show can be when its creator knows the story from beginning to end before the first frame is shot. B5 was a five-season televised novel that remained coherent and self-consistent despite switching broadcast networks (twice, if memory serves) and surviving the uncertainty over whether its final season would even air. Team 24 should aspire to doing the same thing for their one-season tales.

Despite all of the visual flash and loud noises, what we're looking for on 24 is a good story (as opposed to the marketers, who are looking for something to keep people watching between the commercials), and a good story starts with good writing. It's very difficult for good acting and explosions to cover for weak words, and I think that's the point Jeff and I have been trying to make all along without saying so. Or saying so in many different ways.

WE NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED RANT.

DUE TO SOME GRAPHIC VIOLINS, LISTENER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

The Mummwan escapes again, and we're supposed to be surprised? Hasn't it already been established that when two nameless CTYoopers do anything without one of the major good-guy stars within five feet of them that they're going to die? As soon as that yet another Dead Meat Team started escorting the Mummwan across the pavement, it was obviously only a matter of seconds before they shuffled off the mortal coil.

Commercial. When we come back--two minutes later--the Mummwan and his henchmen have gotten to the highway, changed vehicles, slipped through yet another of CTU's patented sieve perimeters, and disappeared into the night. Aside from the manipulation of time that once again jarringly pulls us out of the story, how can we be expected to take Jack seriously when he says of Mandy, "She couldn't have gotten past the perimeter teams."? What evidence does Jack have of this?! The baddies have been slipping through perimeters all day long! Hannibal with his army of elephants could slip through a CTU perimeter. If this is America's elite antiterrorism force, we're in a lot of trouble.

Oh, Mandy
Well you came with your glove and a handshake
But Palmer survived it, oh, Mandy

It's fun to see Mandy back in action, though it's amazing how well connected she is, with everyone from the Drazens to the Mummwan.

So what lesson are we to learn from the SecDef Jr. incident that led to Mandy, "Kids, if it's a choice between revealing to your dad that you're gay and a nuclear detonation, start singing those show tunes."? Still, it was really nice to see that for once the show didn't resort to torture to drag some information out of someone (see Mr. Ackerman's article for confirmation of what I've been saying all along about the reliability of information gleaned through torture), and I think there was some good, tense interaction between the three Hellers.

I don't know what to make of the fact that the guy Richard was in bed with when Mandy made the call looked like Richard himself. I'll leave it for those better versed in sexual politics to parse that one out.

Commercial. When we come back--two minutes later--CTU has tracked down not only the cab company that Mandy and Richard II used when they left Richard I's place, but also the cab driver! Huuuhhhhh?! How many cab companies are in Los Angeles? How many cab drivers are there in Los Angeles? I'm just...just...speechless. How is this good drama?

The Worst Dialog of the Episode Award has to go to Michelle and Tony for this little exchange about Jack and Diane--I mean, Audrey:

M: Every move he's made has been the right one.
T: Not if he wanted to be with her.

As Bill the Cat would say, "PPFFFFFPPPFFHHHTTT!" Nuclear power plants threatened with meltdown, Air Farce One shot down, the nuclear football stolen, the President in a coma, a nuclear missile stolen and launched, and Tony thinks Jack should've played it differently so he could keep his girlfriend?!!?! That thing about being speechless a few paragraphs back? Ditto.

Next week: the two-hour season finale, when the real question won't be whether America survives, but whether the viewers do.
***

Approximate Body Count: 146 (plus "many dead" near the nuclear plant, plus the Warhead Nonprotection team, plus whoever else was on Air Farce One)

<- 3:00 AM - 4:00 AM 5:00 AM - 7:00 AM ->

Monday, May 16, 2005

Can you top this?

On Saturday I drove over to the Truxstor in Rogers, and ordered my A.R.E. LSII hardtop tonneau for the Tacoma. Should get here in 2 or 3 weeks. They were nice folks.

So, I've got most of things now I initially wanted to get. What other toys should I get for the Toy? (For the uninitiated, Toyotas are sometimes affectionately known as Toys. And Tacomas are called Tacos. Hence, I own a Toy Taco!) I might like to get a cargo divider for the back. The truck came with a bed mat already, so that'll help keep things from slipping around back there, but the divider would really help do the trick, if needed.

Dad will be here tonight. The kids are excited. John said "Grandpa will be our company!"

Friday, May 13, 2005

I'll get a shiny quarter

Grades are out for this past semester, I got 2 A's and an A-. (Same as the first semester, although for the first semester one of those was just one credit for 4 seminars, we got an A just by showing up, essentially.) I probably got the A- by the slimmest of margins. The final was rather tricky, gave lots of people trouble. My score on that knocked my grade down a little bit. The questions were things we hadn't really practiced a whole lot in class, with clear examples, so I suppose a lot of people, including me, where a little unsure of what the questions were looking for.

Yesterday was a record low high. Aarrrgghhh. Can't..go...on. Must..move..to...San Diego... Cold and rainy today again. But temps are supposed to get to the 70s around Tuesday or so. Whee.

Tomorrow I want to go look at getting an A.R.E. LSII hardcover for the bed on the truck. I think they look better than the soft tonneau covers. Plus, I see some of the soft ones start to fray around the edges. This hard one, it locks, opens up on little hydraulic lifts.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Killing me coldly

It's the middle of the afternoon, May 12, and the temp is...36 degrees. GGGAAAHHH! It's been years since we've had a really warm May around here. What is going on?

The bookstore at Carleton has some license plate frames, for vehicles. I want to get a couple for the truck. They say Carleton College on the bottom, and on top they say either Alumni or Established 1866. I'd like to get one of each.

We got these little devices from the insurance company that I put in the vehicles last night. They attach to the OBD II port, that are in most cars made after 1996. Ours are down and to the left from the driver. Most cars should have it in that location. The device keeps track of driving habits, and we get a discount on the premium if we don't drive like maniacs. We have to periodically upload that data via the computer. It connects with a USB cable.

We go over to Johnsons house tonight.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Yyyeesss!

I've made my first short story sale! Actually, I suppose it's not technically a sale yet, it's an acceptance.

It's from a magazine called TOTU. It's a magazine produced here in the Twin Cities. A smaller magazine, but it is well known in the genre, and reaches good readers.

The only bad news is that the editor wants to use it in the issue slated for 2007. It only publishes once a year, and each issue generally has a theme. The editor wants to use it in the "Heroes" issue. They're looking at maybe publishing more often, but otherwise, will have to wait a bit to see it in print. (And hopefully I can make other sales before then.)

The story is entitled "King Under The Bed". It's about a boy, about fifth-grade age. He's not really a hero, in the superhero sense. But his imaginary world and the real world come together in unexpected ways.

Monday, May 09, 2005

24 Day 4 3:00 AM - 4:00 AM

A Review

More graphic violence. Yeah, sure, like I'm falling for that one again. I'm gonna go wake the kids and get 'em down here.

Old Doc Besson continues to work on Jong. Is he really the guy they want working on Jong, given his track record? And it's pretty sad when Curtis has to act as the voice of reason.

Jack has a difficult scene with Audrey. That kind of scene is hard for actors to do, but they handled it well. That's been one of the highlights of this season, the emotional scenes between Jack and Audrey. The actors have played them so well.

Audrey is having a tough time understanding it all. But the Vulcans showed us the way long ago; The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

But silly Jack presses his luck, and asks Audrey "what do you want me to do?" What did he possibly hope to accomplish with that question? Audrey takes that softball and knocks it into the Pacific. She replies "Leave."

Bill from Division is again woefully ignorant of what is going on under his nose in CTU. Jack came busting into CTU with a wounded Chinese he carried out of the Chinese Consulate like a sack of potatoes, he ordered CTU's doc to stop working on Paul at gunpoint, Paul died, and Bill had no idea any of this was going on.

Jack, still caught up in the emotional battle with Audrey, says "I'm sorry" to Bill. Jack, that's called "transference".

Hey, Novick has a secretary to answer his phone calls. Can't CTU get someone to answer the phones?

Jack tells him Jong is still in surgery. "Still"? It's been about 5 minutes! Jack also says "his men" weren't responsible for the catastrophe at the Consulate. What does he mean by "his men"? There was just Jack, Curtis and the anonymous cheek-scratching agent. (I assume Translator Rabb sat that one out.)

There's talk about getting people alibis for where they were. Oh dear, this cover-up thing is starting to look shaky already. Nice going, Palmer. You've been there an hour and you've already just about started a shooting war with a billion Chinese.

(Favorite exchange from the movie Red Dawn:
Well, who *is* on our side?
Six hundred million screamin' Chinamen.
Well, last I heard, there were a billion screamin' Chinamen.
There were.)

Chloe is sitting rather oddly, with her neck all scrinched up, like a junior high class of Vulcans were practicing their nerve pinches on her, and failing miserably. Ah, she's worried about that Cisco Security Response and that network traffic spike. CTU is actually aware that they are experiencing a Denial of Service attack. Too bad all the nuclear reactors didn't have decent network security.

Chloe is not very nice to Bill, and Bill dresses her down. So to speak. Bill says they are in an active code (what the hey is that?) and Chloe better get a grip on her personality disorder. Well, Bill, Driscoll is the one who brought her back, and she's gone, so what's stopping you from ditching Chloe? Bill rattles off terms like "Security Auditor Tool" like he has any clue what he's talking about.

We see yet another new terrorist. This one named "Yasir". Paul mentioned last week Norwegians were now involved. So, this guy must be Yasir Youbetcha. Thank you, thank you very much.

Ha! Yasir is using an "Alienware" laptop! No wonder these terrorists can't be stopped! They're aliens! (there really are such laptops, and this is more product placement) Yasir is having trouble jamming CTU's satellites, so Marwan decides to move the schedule up by an hour. OK, yet another indication that Marwan really did plan on having El Presidente fly around in Air Farce One for 20 hours, and then come to LA.

Palmer is still down in Level 5. He's having trouble getting past the Hell Knight and that silly, pointless jumping puzzle with the hamburger-patty-flattening poundy thingies.

Palmer and Novick worry that Logan will eventually find out about the fumbled, amateurish swoop and squat at the Consulate. Yeah, Logan will find out when Chinese nukes start raining down on the US.

Palmer still clings to his life vest that the US government can't be implicated. But Novick gets it. He points out they called the Consulate 30 minutes before the snatch.

And then, we see signs that ohmygawd, we're in the hands of a madman. Palmer starts burbling that things will be fine because the agents were masked. He's betting nuclear war on a ski mask? (And how did Palmer know masks were used? Masks were never discussed.)

And now we beat the whole mask meme to bloody death. Neat to see the Chinese have incredible intelligent resources, too. They capture the face of the anonymous cheek-scratching agent, and will search their files. They must have their own CTU (of course, Chinese Terrorist Unit, in this case.)

Whoa! Jack and Curtis are talking to two guys?! Two? Jack was only going to take one other agent with over to the Consulate. Who is this other guy? The director's brother-in-law? And then Jack tells Curtis to advise the "rest of the team". Rest of the team?! How many are there? Who else is in on this tightly held secret about the Consulate raid? Just Translator Rabb? Who else is there?

Marwan says they are looking for the warhead in "cities". Uh, but the warhead is in Iowa. Marwan, I know you're not a native, and maybe a little unfamiliar with the US Midwest, but unless you mean Des Moines or Cedar Rapids or nuclear-free Iowa City, what cities do you think they are looking in?

And oh my freaking stars. They have a missile. An honest to goodness missile. And the warhead is attached. How do the forces that are surely combing Iowa at this very moment (including the Army Reserve, remember) not see this thing? It's out in the open. It's smoking, the area is lit up like Vegas. Hello? Everyone must just be standing shoulder to shoulder at this 60 mile perimeter just waiting for something to go by them.

Poor Sabir. He's not qualified to work on this warhead, but it's not his fault Marwan put him in a position to fail. Marwan has made a number of questionable personnel decisions putting together his team, starting with Pa Araz.

But Sabir is finding out the hard way the dangers of striking up relationships with people he met on the Internet. I mean, there are a lot of sickos out there, there are many cases of 14 year old girls posing as male, middle-aged Chinese nuclear scientists in order to lure in their victims.

So Sabir learns everything he knows about screwing around with nuclear warheads from this stranger on the Net. A native Arabic or Turkish speaker communicating with a native Chinese speaker, in English, on the topic of nuclear warheads, a topic where there is a wide margin for error and miscommunication. Those must have been some fun emails to read. (And Marwan shouldn't be surprised if this all blows up in his face, literally.)

Sabir: So, do I cut the red wire or the blue wire?
Jong: No, no! No cut blue wire! No cut any wire! You go now!
Sabir: Well, I gotta do something. I put this thing back together and now I got all these extra parts lying around.

But I'll be danged if Sabir didn't go and get this warhead nailed to that missile somehow. Never mind that you can't just stick things onto any old missile. There is weight balancing to take into account, there are aerodynamic issues. There's the engineering for how the warhead is mated to the missile. The warhead has to be designed for that missile. So did the terrorists have a missile designed for that warhead? Did they steal that one too? How come nobody knows that such a missile went missing? Otherwise, when they launch, this missile is going to spiral into a spectacular nuclear Roman candle, and Iowa is going to be growing corn so big the Corn Nuts company is going to be salivating for ten thousand years.

Bill tells Jack to "prep all his databases". I wonder if he has to rekey them, too. Another scene with Inappropriate Chloe. Ya know, it was cute the first few hundred times, but it really is starting to seem a little forced. Chloe trots out the old, dusty wheezy "if you ever want to talk, as a friend, I'm here." Has anyone in the history of the known universe ever said that? And if so, has anyone actually ever taken them up on that?

There's going to be a large DoD block transfer, and Audrey needs to get Marcy to do something. Which means Jack has to talk to Audrey. And Jack just digs his hole a little deeper. Give it up, Jack.

A discussion of where the warhead might be. Curtis thinks it's likely the warhead is still on the ground, so that makes the area where the warhead might be a circle with a 300 mile radius. (The circle they showed on the screen looked more like a 300 mile *diameter*. Didn't these writers ever pay attention in geometry class?)

Plus, and this is getting really old having to grade the writers' remedial math homework, let's think about this. The warhead was snatched about 12:30 am. It's now about 3:30 am. Three hours. Distance equals rate times time. Three hours, three hundred miles, they think the terrorists have grabbed the warhead and have been doing a hundred miles an hour steady for the past three hours? With all the forces in Iowa out surely looking for this thing? I guess that 60-mile perimeter is kinda useless now, isn't it. Maybe they should've called in the Coast Guard Reserve, the Boy Scouts Reserve and the Knights of Columbus Reserve, too.

(Once I complete this crusade for better writing, I'm going to embark on my next crusade, accurate math on TV.)

Holy cow, the Chinese have good intel! They've figured out the anonymous cheek-scratching agent is named Howie Bern.

A little scene with Edgar and Michelle. Edgar must be getting really tired of having to filter all those markers. Plus, the phone rings and some guy says a Mr. Cheng wants to talk to Michelle. Well, this is a first! CTU has people to answer the phone? Last week Michelle was picking up phones. But why did they pipe the call to Edgar? He's the genius who prevented the reactors from melting down, and they've got nothing better for him to do than field calls? An insult to Edgar's abilities.

Still, it was a bit odd when the lights in CTU went down, and the followspot came up on Edgar, and he started singing (with apologies to Veggie Tales and Dr. Jiggle and Mr. Sly)...

Ever since I was a little boy
In widely tailored pants
My only aspiration was to
Be a gourd... who danced.

But for what it's worth
My portly girth
Only served to make folks giggle
'Cuz the more I moved
The more I proved
All I could do was... jiggle.

I want to dance!
I want to groove!
I need to feel
The rush!
Of the wind!
Under my shoes!

So Michelle talks to Cheng, and.... Michelle knows about the raid on the Consulate?! Good grief, how? This started out with Palmer telling just Jack, and Jack, Keeper of Secrets and Defender of the Holy Flame of Koth, immediately starts telling every warm body in CTU he can find! Cheng threatens to go to SecState Taylor to get some answers on how a Chinese national was spirited out of the Consulate, and how Consul Guy ended up as Someone's Ancestor Guy.

The krazy kaptions have Bill saying "All right, I'll tell him", but we hear nothing. Then, Bill comes over to Jack.

Another sign that Palmer has gone completely zooey. The master plan now entails looking for groups that may have attacked Chinese targets in the past. A possible one is found, the People's Freedom Coalition.

Mike, buddy, you've got some experience talking the Cabinet into deciding Palmer isn't fit to serve. For the good of the country, I suggest you get on the horn and start making some phone calls. Quick.

Palmer thinks this is a way for the Chinese to save face. Man, saving face is so 19th century.

Ah, RunLoganRun has found out. He's not happy. And rightly so. But he eventually lets Palmer continue on with this lunatic plan. Palmer says the US will have to get its hands dirty. Logan, that's a warning sign! Danger!

To Michelle's office. We hear SecState Taylor telling Michelle on the phone "All right, we're clear about this, correct?" Yet the krazy kaptions say "Tony: All right."

Ohmygawsh! Cheng has been authorized to come into the very heart of CTU?!? As head of Consulate security, he's almost certainly an intelligence agent. They're gonna let him into one of the most sensitive intelligence repositories in the country?? Has everyone gone completely lip-dribbling insane? Can't they just meet the guy at a Dennys? Doesn't CTU have an outer lobby? Never mind that diplomacy doesn't move this fast. You know the Director of CIA is going to give birth to a live cow when he hears about what the SecState just authorized. But oh, they're going to cover up screens, so they're fine. I'm going to weep.

Now, another touching scene with Tony and Michelle, this time as the Mr. Cheng's Here Love Theme tinkles on a piano. Tony continues to try and make sense of his feelings.

We've seen before that 24 has cribbed a number of things from Star Trek, starting with Trek's Security Manual, which is a coloring book about 3 pages in length. This season, the anonymous security guards even became red shirts. But at least CTU hasn't followed one of Next Generation's most annoying tics, and that was the cast's penchant for constantly putting on silly plays and giving each other acting lessons. It would be most silly if in the midst of the world coming to an end Tony and Michelle went half way up the stairs to Driscoll's old office and did scenes from Othello.

Tony (pointing at Michelle): "It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul, Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars! It is the cause.Yet I'll not shed her blood; Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow, And smooth as monumental alabaster. Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men."

Instead, Tony deals with his achy-breaky heart like every other man who's ever been toasted by someone he loved, he'll take all that rage and anger and pain and bottle it up real tight, till the burning bile eats holes in his spleen.

Oh please, they have to let Cheng into CTU to show they have nothing to hide. Nothing to hide?!? You have the nation's secrets to hide!?!?! So in comes Cheng. And I don't see a single screen covered. My Rantennae are just crackling.

Oh, we're told Heller is at the district office. And the fencing match with Cheng begins.

Bauer: We had nothing to do with the raid. En garde!
Cheng: We have a photo of Bern. Parry, sir!
Bauer: It must be the work of the dastardly PFC. Thrust!
Cheng: Bullcrap. Huzzah!
Bauer: (to himself - Oh #%#@, Bern has nothing better to do than stand around Chloe's desk in plain view)

So Jack makes his phone ring (is he so vain he has his own cell number on speed dial?) and has the presence of mind not to answer "Hello, me!" His ruse involves telling a Chinese intelligence agent they have a lead on Marwan. Man, nothing like making easy work for the other team.

In spectacularly quick fashion, Bern is thrown onto a helicopter. Why? Whhhyy? Can't they just stuff him in a back room for awhile? And where is he going? Neither the pilot nor Bern were told. Meanwhile, Curtis looks nervously at Cheng. Uh, uh, hi there.

Jong comes to, and discloses yet another Marwan location. No wonder real estate is so expensive in LA, terrorists are buying up absolutely everything. And this one comes complete with microwave uplink. It's at the corner of 6th and Alameda.

Jack tells Curtis to get a team together. Now, just who is left? CTU has lost a number of agents today, Bern was just sent into oblivion.

Speaking of losing agents, have you noticed how callous CTU has been all day about losing agents? They've lost perhaps as many as 8 or 9 agents, and no one has said a word about it, or expressed a modicum of sadness. There was Ronnie Lobell, who took some slugs in the chest early on. At least that did furrow an eyebrow or two, but he was the first, CTU hadn't become numb yet. But after that, there were the two agents with Curtis and Marianne, the one with Jack at Anderson's apt, the one with Jack in the desert, the two with Chloe, one or two were blown up when Joseph Fayed opted for his 72 crystal raisins and blew himself up, at least one got blowed up when Marianne's car blew up. Curtis was so concerned about that one he left the guy lying there in bits and immediately ran inside to talk to Driscoll about covering their butts. All this and not one word that mein gott, so many people we know and love have been killed on the job today.

Now Audrey is brought into the coverup! Yeesh, they think all these people are going to keep quiet at the Congressional Hearings? We see Audrey walking to Jack, and the krazy kaptions have her saying "Jack", even though we don't hear Audrey say anything. I don't know who did the kaptions this week, but they were smoking something not entirely legal.

The cover story has Audrey and Jack working together. The screen said they were working on "linear matrix cubes". So they were just playing with a Rubik's Cube for two hours?

Ah, Jack plays the "I saved your life earlier today" card! Finally! And what does it get him? Audrey now lies to a Chinese intelligence agent. Who surely has seen it all and is buying none of this.

Dang, even Edgar is drawn into this! Is there anyone left who doesn't know? Well, Chloe doesn't know yet.

Wait! She does know! Cheng, a Chinese intelligence agent, is somehow allowed to talk unaccompanied with Edgar, and Edgar spills the beans. Chloe calls him an idiot and tells him to shut up. Poor Edgar. He gets called an idiot and he has no idea why.

Back in the Bunker, Palmer is gotten up to speed on the cover up. He says "Crap, that mask thing is screwed." (well, that's a paraphrase)

Logan says the first smart thing he's said all night, and says "Yes. Yes it is."

The CTU team arrives at the factory. For those of you scoring at home (and if you are, congratulations) this is the *fifth* attempt to capture the Mummy. I hope it works, we're running out of season.

Even though they have no idea who is really in the factory, sniper Michaels shoots someone outside the factory. Sweet Mary, don't these people ever identify their targets? What if that was the janitor just going out back for a smoke?

The team enters the factory, baddies are dispatched, and GLORY BE HALLELUJAH!!! Marwan is finally captured.

He must be getting tired, though. Even though he was on his way out, he left behind his laptop, filled with all kinds of juicy intelligence. Marwan even helpfully blurts out the warhead is on a missile. Way to go Marwan! CTU had no idea the warhead is on a missile. They would never have found, but for your Mummy-rotted mouth and alien laptop.

In addition, more proof that the more you torture, the harder it is to stop, Jack shoots Marwan! Jack, bubeleh! You need Marwan alive! He has lots of valuable information. You're lucky you didn't hit an artery or something.

With 50 seconds to go, CTU tries to technobabble a solution. But the missile is launched.

I'm drained. But this will not beat me. I, I will survive. But from the looks of the previews of next week, this show can still bring it. (Hey, looks like SecDef Heller is finally back, and Stoner, too!)

(once again, here's guest critic Paul Foth. While conducting surgery in the trauma unit at the Bangladesh Cultural Center, he held the two pieces of Old Doc Besson's severed artery together with his left hand, stitched with his right, and in between curses flung at Jack Bauer for cutting the doc 'for Audrey,' and dictated this review to a nurse, who had nothing better to do after refilling that unlocked drawer with razor blades. He was speaking Chinese though, so I hope I got this translated right.)

***
DUE TO SOME VIEWER DISGRUNTLEMENT, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE IS ADVISED

I realized something about halfway through this episode, and--

Retractor. No, you don't need to write that down. Wait, are you still writ--

was hoping that it'd continue throughout: namely, that apart from a few cutaways to the Chinese Consulate and Deep 13 in DC, all of the story was taking place at Gestapo HQ, and they had some really good dramatic tension going. But, alas, the tension didn't last.

The two gentlemen who publish Wrapped In Plastic (a fanzine that started out being pretty much exclusively about Twin Peaks, but has long since branched out to keep tabs on just about everyone who's ever been involved with a David Lynch project) said way back in their review of the first season of 24 that one of the really great potentials the show had--and didn't live up to (and still hasn't)--is to constrain itself with time. When Jack needs to get a piece of information from someone, he just shoots them in the knee if they don't talk right away. Or they strap a helmet on Boy SecDef's head (it'll be interesting to see what happens with him next week--it's something of a pleasant surprise to see that he wasn't completely forgotten--although it seems as if the Mummwan has to remind CTU about him), or taser Sarah. But what would happen if CTU paid a bit more than lip service to the laws they're supposedly sworn to defend? What if they actually tried to get information from people without torture? Imagine an entire episode that revolved around a single interrogation, a verbal chess match between Jack and someone he's not entirely sure knows something vital. Lock the camera in the room with them and let the words act like velvet-encased bullets. It can be done. There was an extraordinary scene like that in the first season of Millennium, and countless others in Homicide.

There was a little of this kind of thing going on with this episode when the Chinese security head showed up, but CTU's bumbling cover up attempt deflated the drama faster than a spark did the Hindenberg.

Ah, yes, the cover up. Like Jeff, I did a double take when Jack talked to Curtis and Bern, and suddenly there was another guy who I sure don't remember seeing during the raid. Is he really a terrorist in a Cloak of Invisibility, and only the viwers can see him?

One thing that surprised me about the way they handled this is what didn't happen. I thought CTU would hang Bern out to dry, that they'd let the Chinese conclude that he was a member of the Judean People's Front and had infiltrated CTU--a story the Chinese would certainly buy, considering moles at CTU are pretty much a given. Something like this may still happen, but I suspect it's a little too LeCarr for this show. More likely is that CTU will strike a deal with the Chinese where the stink will end if Bern's location is revealed, and a Chinese sniper will shoot him while he's fishing.

I laughed out loud at Jack's look after Chloe's little "I'm here for you--as a friend" speech. He looked like he thought he was thinking, "Who are you and what have you done with Chloe?" Priceless.

But on to the nuke. Jeff's simple math lesson says much about the lack of thought that has gone into this story, but there's more. Let's assume that the 300-mile radius Tony mentioned is accurate, and not the 300-mile diameter circle some flunky slapped on a map of Iowa. Tony also said there were ~three~ metropolitan areas in that circle. Hmm. Well. The very rough route map we saw for the missile a few weeks ago showed it being convoyed through the Nuclear Free Zone of Iowa City, placing it in southeastern Iowa. I guess I don't know the official CTU definition of a
metropolitan area, but I think the three Tony meant are the Twin Cities, Chicago, and St. Louis. But what about Rochester, the Quad Cities, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Des Moines? Apparently these fairly good-sized Midwestern cities don't count, even though they're closer to where the missile was taken than the three major metro areas.

And then a little later Mike said something like, "Ten million people are in danger." Hmm. Population of Minnesota (that's the whole state, not just the Twin Cities): 5 million. Population of Iowa: 3 million. Population of Missouri: 5.6 million. Population of Illinois: 12.5 million, 3 million of whom are in Chicago. Does Mike think the bomb is going to blow up all of Illinois?

If they can't get the little things right, how can we viewers be expected to suspend our disbelief for the big things?

Suture. No, more! This thing is leaking like the Titanic.
***

Approximate Body Count: 142 (plus "many dead" near the nuclear plant, plus the Warhead Nonprotection team, plus whoever else was on Air Farce One)

<- 2:00 AM - 3:00 AM 4:00 AM - 5:00 AM ->

I'm now Jack Benny's age

A decent enough birthday weekend. John had a little carnival thing at his preschool Friday night, so we went to that. They had little kiddie games that John and Hanna enjoyed doing. And, they got to pick from piles of little toys after doing the game. They particularly liked the inflatable jumping pit. Oh, if we could only get one of those of our own, to keep in our backyard. John would never come in the house. I should look into how much a small one might cost.

Mom sent me the dvd of House of Flying Daggers. Am looking forward to that. She also sent Dobson's book Bringing Up Boys. I've been wanting to read that, too. The kids picked out a sea animal playset for me. I think they'll play with it more than I will. :) I did scavenge the orca from it, though. Also got an Orca story book.

Yesterday we went to Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat. They had the AC cranked up in there. We were shivering a bit after awhile. John snuggled up against me to keep warm.

I've been playing a little bit of Doom3, just to test out my stomping good new computer. Wow. An amazing visual and auditory experience. And scary. My spleen has nearly melted on several occasions. However, a very gory and violent game. The kids will not know of its existence. Candyland is fine, thank you very much. Next up, I'd like to get Half-life 2.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Allah *cough* *wheeze* *groan* Akhbar

Here is a rather amusing take on how the grand and glorious jihadi lifestyle may not be all it was cracked up to be.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Pet peeve alert

I hate it when people do this, and don't understand how Google works. In the article, the author says "As ubiquitous as Scotch tape is on desks and in junk drawers, it also has gained a foothold in cyberspace; a Google search for "Scotch tape" turns up 925,000 hits".

What he did was just put the words Scotch tape into Google, without quotes around them. That means, go search for a page that has the words Scotch and tape anywhere on the page, but not necessarily together. The page could say "I poured me a Scotch and put on my BeeGees 8-track tape", and the search would include it in that 925,000 number.

If you want to search on the words Scotch tape together, which is what this guy really meant to do, you have to put quotes around it, like this: "Scotch tape". Then, Google will look for pages where those words appear on the page together, next to each other. Doing so returns 232,000 hits. A lot, yes, but a far cry from 925,000.

Sam, where are my green eyeshades?

Happy Birthday, Dad!! (it was yesterday) Did you dust off the parka and get in some golf?

I recently came across a very neat site, Blogcritics. I've started putting my 24 reviews there. Eventually I'd like to get all my reviews from this season there.

Don't ya just love the term "forensic accounting"? I have visions of Quincy standing in a medical lab. Before him is a table covered with a white sheet. Cops are standing around. Quincy says "You are about to enter the exciting world of forensic accounting!" He throws back the sheet, and the table is covered with ledger books and double-entry logs. Cops start to lose their lunch and faint. Just as Quincy picks up an "Excel For Dummies" book, the last cop keels over.

Monday, May 02, 2005

24 Day 4 2:00 AM - 3:00 AM

A Review

If Spock were to mindmeld with this episode, as he did with the Horta in TOS episode "The Devil in the Dark", what would he say? Hmm, probably the same thing he said then, "Pain! Pain!"

What's the Trek tie in? Gregory Itzen, the actor who plays the wet noodle President Logan, was recently seen in the alternate universe episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. There, he was disintegrated by Evil Archer. Hmmm. Let's hope things go a bit better for him in the 24-verse.

We'll see more graphic violence. I think the producers just plain forgot that frame is in there, cuz this was another episode with very little shocking violence.

The previouslies remind us about the terrorist team in the mountains of Iowa. This team, if you recall, was minutes away from the warhead, once Marwan got the exact location from the pages from the football. This mean that team was already in place in Iowa. Did Marwan have teams all over the country all prepared to swipe a warhead if one was in their location? If Marwan knew a warhead was somewhere in the vicinity of Iowa, wouldn't it have been easier to use some of those 8 million terrorists they have in the country and keep a eye on Iowa highways for a military convoy going by, instead of going through all the trouble to shoot down Air Farce One? And I'll remind you again, the whole krazy plan would've gone into the crapper if that football had landed in a lake or a river. But we have this week's episode to get through. Steady on, mates.

Palmer greets ol' buddy Aaron the SS guy. Apparently Aaron's son just reupped in the service. See? SS guys are good, patriotic guys. Their kids serve our country well. We salute them.

Palmer emerges on Level 5. Goodness, what's holding the White House up, if everything underneath it was hollowed out for the Bunker? Logan thanks Palmer for coming so quickly. No kidding. Was Palmer across the street? Is he really a psycho, hanging around the White House thinking he's still President? Logan acknowledges that Palmer has some experience handling this sort of thing. Of course, it helps when you have a crazy wife and crazy brother helping you. Without them around this time, Palmer is going to have to stay on his toes.

Logan is going to be off in Conference Room B, preparing a statement for the press. Hmm, I suppose this is Logan's exit from the show, then? Palmer is taking it from here? Whenever we wonder where Logan is, someone will just say, "Oh, he's still back in Conference Room B." (Maybe they should do a nose count on the interns though, just in case.)

Palmer and Mike discuss old times. Palmer had a good line. "It's not something I believe. It's a fact." Ha. (Old fans will recall that Novick participated in the plot by the Veep and the Cabinet in Season 2 to decide that Palmer was unfit for office. Given that history, you'd think Palmer wouldn't be so quick to kinda sorta replace a President that has been declared "unfit to serve". Two Presidents, in a way.)

Apparently the Army Reserve can help with the search for the warhead in Iowa. Huh? The Reserve??? How about active duty personnel? How about the National Guard? Can we try those options before dragging accountants and teachers out of bed in the middle of the night? Yeek.

Palmer is shown photos of Marwan. Now just where in the bloody blue blazes did they get those photos? It looks like Vosloo's head shot! Just Marwan from chest up, staring straight ahead, against a blank background. What is that?

This being the 24-verse, hoards of cops have gotten to Girlfriend's house, where Plucky Chloe is dutifully banging away on Boyfriend's computer. Now, when Chloe was in trouble, she was told help from CTU was still 10 or 15 minutes away. (Never mind Chloe had got to the house from CTU in 5 minutes or so.) In the future, forget CTU. Just call the police! They're much faster than CTU!

Apparently Boyfriend, currently banging on the warhead with a mallet in the mountains of Iowa, doesn't have any experience with nuclear warheads! Well, there's a good hire, Marwan! Perhaps you should've firmed up that job description just a bit. So, CTU knows immediately that someone must be helping Sabir. And Chloe just as immediately finds emails sent from a false domain, MEM4XP. And just as immediately, Edgar traces it (uh, if it was false domain how did he trace it without getting several ISPs involved?) and they find a Chinaman named Lee Jong was the power behind Sabir's throne.

(Update: As far as I can tell, MEM4XP (dot anything) was a bogus domain. However, also looks like an outfit called Intertruss Internet Services registered mem4xp.com on May 2, presumably not long after the episode aired.)

Back at Gestapo HQ, yet another ralph-inducing scene with Audrey and Paul. Paul is going back east for care, and Audrey wants to go with.

Jack pops in, saying he'd been trying to get down to see Paul since he got out of surgery. Of course, Jack is too gentlemanly to mention the reason he couldn't get there sooner was that in the last 4 hours, Jack has been held captive in a warehouse, visited Anderson's apt, dashed out to the desert and shot his way into and out of an abandoned power station, broken Prado's finger, and raided a nightclub filled with grieving Americans. So, Paul, honey, forgive Jack if he didn't get there earlier.

CTU casts a Detect Chinaman spell in conjunction with a Dispel Time spell, and immediately discovers Lee Jong went to the Chinese Consulate an hour ago. Goodness, CTU has some kind of resources. Too bad they weren't any good detecting the army of terrorists that have been working in the US for years.

Jack, Curtis, yet another anonymous agent, and a translator named Rabb are going to head over to the Consulate. Bill from Division is right there, in on the discussion. Remember that for later.

On the videotape, Marwan is seen to be threatening more attacks. rnnnhuh? They've already shot down Air Farce One. Are they going to shoot down Air Farce Two, get the backup football, and locate another warhead?

A dude named Koo Yin is the Chinese Consul. (I am hardly an expert, but most of these names sounded Korean to me.) Consul Guy admits that Jong thought suspicion would fall on him, but it was a misunderstanding. Now hold the phone, he just admitted that Jong is involved. How else would Jong know that he might be under suspicion. Yin, baby, work on your Shield of Diplomacy (+2 to Deflecting Inquiries).

Palmer warns Consul Guy that he'll do a Swoop and Squat if Jong is not turned over.

Someone mentions that a 60-mile perimeter has been set up in Iowa to try and contain the warhead. Excuse me whilst I wet myself laughing. 60-mile perimeter? So there are people manning this entire perimeter so nothing slips through? Say, about, 60 quintillion people? Just how are they going to watch that big an area? At night yet.

Hey, Skanky Barmaid is back! And she can call directly into the very nerve center of CTU in the middle of the worst attacks on the American mainland in history. Not bad, barmaid!

Tony and Michelle trade listen-to-mes and whatevers while the Station 16 Love Theme tinkles on a piano.

Chloe is back in CTU already? I quit being surprised about 16 hours ago. As Chloe comes in, she passes the CTU Rapid Response Unit, on their way out to rescue Chloe.

The Bickersons exchange pleasantries. Edgar says "maybe you'll freak out in a few days" and Chloe says "I hope so". Ha!

Now everyone has their undies all bunched up because they think Marwan might detonate the warhead on the East Coast in a couple hours. Um, guys? The warhead is currently in the mountains of Iowa. How's it gonna get to the East Coast? Apparently all flights have been banned, as Audrey was seeking special permission from the FAA to get Paul back east.

As Mike and Palmer talk, in the background on the TV there is a Fox News Alert about the San Gabriel Island nuclear plant evacuation. It's a daytime shot. Well, it's the middle of the night. Fox must be rerunning old reports.

Now, we see a curious progression. Palmer starts off by saying the warhead might detonate before dawn. Then, he says in 2 hours. Then, he says at any moment. And there's one more to come.

Palmer talks to Jack, says no one connected to the government can know about the swoop and squat to nab Jong from the Consulate. Jack says ok, and then immediately calls Tony. Way to keep that information close to the vest, Jack. Besides, as we've seen, Bill from Division knows where Curtis and Jack are, too. I don't recall exactly, but I think Bill even gave the order to go. Remember that for later.

At the :30 mark, Audrey is *still* with Paul. Goodness, isn't there any liasing that needs to be done? On this, a most critical of days? She has 30 minutes to kill?

Tony has instantly gotten a schematic of the Chinese Consulate to send to Jack. CTU sure knows its buildings. Also, Tony has cast a Procure Infrared Satellite spell, and presto, there will be live imaging of this little attack that never happened. Tony is supposed to diddle some satellite logs to cover up tracks. Um, I bet most of those logs are not in CTU, but in some NSA or other government agency office. But never mind.

Jack hops out of the van. What happened to all those CTU SUVs? Lucky for Jack, there must not be anything monitoring the exterior of an important building like the Chinese Consulate, cuz Jack waltzes right up to the door. Jack scams the alarm and gets inside. The krazy kaptions have Jack saying "I'm in", even though we don't hear Jack say anything. An editor must have decided that immortal phrase should be reserved for breaking into computers, but forgot to remove it from the kaptions.

On Tony's live satellite looky-loo, we see all the Chinese inside in red (get it, "Red" Chinese? Ha!) yet Jack is in green! now how the heck did they do that? Did Jack cast a Lower Body Temperature spell, so he'd look different to the infrared satellite? Never mind. Also, most of the Chinese on the first floor are in the same room, apparently. Aw, we know how those China people are, all crammed into one room. It's probably a room with a dirt floor, a fire pit in the middle, laundary hanging from lines strung across the room. (Don't these people have homes, so they can just come to the Consulate during working hours?)

Jack is firing a dart gun?! What is this, Wild Kingdom?! Curtis once again hollers the immortal "Go! Go! Go!" Jack utters one of his favorites: "Now!" As Jack outruns trained soldiers with Jong slung over his shoulder, Jack escapes with Jong. Alas, Jong is hit, and the Consul is killed by friendly fire. Maybe those soldiers aren't so terribly well trained. Remarkably, the anonymous agent isn't killed! We just see him rubbing his cheek in a completely meaningless shot.

Paul starts cacking. I was watching this with Rhonda, a cardiac rehab nurse. She was watching the heart monitor, and said it looked like a cardiac tamponade. An instant later, Dr. Besson said Paul had a cardiac tamponade. Well. Cardiac rehab nurses come in handy sometimes. (As screwed up as this season as been, who knew that 24 would be so picky about having accurate heart monitor outputs?) A tamponade is where the heart is producing an electrical rythym, but it isn't pumping much. The sac is filled with blood.

Jack goes on for about two pages of dialogue, telling Rabb what to tell Jong. And Rabb speaks for 3 seconds. Um, Jack, maybe take it slower next time and in smaller chunks. She won't forget everything you said.

And just how does this Jong character know where Marwan is? Marwan didn't know where Marwan was going to be last episode. He was busy running through sewers. That can't have been in the plan. So did Marwan call Jong and tell him where he was? That would be an exceedingly stupid thing for Marwan to do.

Jong wants written immunity from the President. Hopefully Logan will be more honest about his written guarantees than Keeler was, who wanted his document to Beiruts to be, shall we say, flexible.

Palmer tells Jack that Bill from Division told him that Jong was in custody, and that Jong was wounded. We didn't see this conversation, but how else could Palmer have known this. Remember this for later.

Here, we see that again Palmer is getting carried away with his feelings of impending doom. Now, the use of the warhead is "imminent". Palmer said the repercussions from the Chinese could be as severe as the threats from the terrorists. Oh great, now we'll have hundreds of Chinese running around the country kimnapping SecDefs and shooting down government planes and blowing holes in the basement walls of dance clubs/grief centers.

Now, a key scene. Bill from Division is hopping up and down mad at Tony that he was left out of this whole Invasion China episode. Now, go back and reread the review up to this point. Have you caught my little clues that Bill from Division was well aware of where Jack and Curtis went? That Bill told Palmer about Jong's capture and wounds? SO WHAT IS BILL MAD ABOUT?? HE ALREADY KNEW!!! Rhonda thought that he was just using it as an excuse to get rid of Tony, that the writers wouldn't have missed something like that. I said um, yeah, it's entirely possible the writers missed something like that.

Let's assume that Bill did know that Jack and Curtis went to the Consulate, and Jong was there, and later knew that Jong was in custody and wounded. But, that Bill from Division didn't know that Jack had raided the Consulate and brought Jong out. Just how would Bill suppose that Jong came to be in custody, anyway? Would he think Jong just walked out of the Consulate, went over to CTU van and surrendered, and maybe got his hand caught in the door? Should I spend any more time thinking about this?

The episode closes with a very tense, gripping scene. Paul is dying, and is in surgery. Jack and Company come bursting in with Jong, who is also fading. In a scene ripped from A Bridge Too Far, where James Caan brought his buddy to a tent and forced a doctor at gunpoint to look at him, (and there was a similar incident in an episode of MASH, as well) Jack pulls a gun on the doc (the other docs that were there earlier in the day must have knocked off for the night, Besson is the night shift) and orders him to ignore Paul and save Jong. Millions of lives depended on it.

Speaking of docs, aside from the incompetence that led to Maya's suicide, Besson is obviously a quack. Paul was cleared to fly back east, yet Old Doc Besson somehow missed that Paul had a serious heart condition, that the sac around the heart was filling with blood. Oops.

A tought choice, to be sure. Curtis and Jack do what they can for Paul, as he slowly slips into the Undiscovered Country. The nurses in the room couldn't be bothered to help. Rhonda pointed out a number of medical things they did quite wrong. Like Curtis not checking for a pulse before giving CPR to Paul. If Paul was having trouble breathing, pushing on his chest was just going to make it worse.

But in the end, Paul is dead. Audrey is distraught. Obviously she'll be rethinking this whole relationship thing with Jack.

Now, the previews for next week. Excuse me?!?!! Excuse me!!! What is this!! The terrorists have a ballistic missile!! In Iowa?!? They're just going to glue the warhead onto it and hope it works?!? AAAAUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!

This show is like Argentina. SecDef Heller and Beiruts are part of the Disappeared. No mention in this episode either. Shouldn't a show at least attempt to explain the whereabouts of major characters who suddenly leave? Don't viewers tend to notice when major characters go away and don't come back?

(once again, here is guest critic Paul Foth. He cast a Divine Threat spell, and knew he would be under suspicion, so he hightailed it to the Bangladesh Cultural Center, where he wrote this review. I broke in, and liberated the review. I left Paul there.)

DUE TO A LACK OF GRAPHIC VIOLENCE,
THE CREATORS OF THIS DISCLAIMER HAVE BEEN SACKED.

As of this writing, the episode guide for this episode isn't online yet, so I'm going to assume the techie responsible stumbled on some code that told
him the entire Internet was about to be taken over and he's now lying in a
sewer somewhere. Or maybe he took too much ecstasy at last night's rave
and is now lying in a sewer somewhere.

HOW DO YOU GET YOUR NUKE SO CLEAN, MR. LI?
SHH...ANCIENT CHINESE SECRET
Here's what I wrote last week: "It'll be nice to get Palmer into the game again, so this crisis can snowball into something that could conceivably end with the sun going nova." I rest my case.

At some point in the procedings, people went from pronouncing Jong with a J sound to pronouncing it with a Y sound, which can only mean that Norwegians are now involved. Sabir has replaced the nuclear warhead with lutefisk, the piece of cod that passes all understanding. We may as well give up now.

The Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles is at 443 Shatto Place, which looks to be about three miles due west of Dodger Stadium. Of course, that's in the real world. In the 24-verse, it's out in the 'burbs, surrounded by lots of trees and vines and no surveillance equipment, so there are lots of hidey holes for covert operatives to hunker down in.

So Tony is, according to Jack, the ONLY person at CTU--other than those in Team ChinaGrab--who's to know of this operation. (And other than Bill, who is evidently exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, since he forgot Jack et al. were there by the time the operation was over.) As part of running "tactical," Tony gets realtime infrared data from a satellite. I wonder if it's the same one that took pictures of the terrorrist stealing the yellow truck earlier in the day. Or the same one Saunders used last season when he Code Nined the Baker Boys away from the door to his apartment complex. Anyway, Tony's not supposed to let anyone at Gestapo HQ know what he's doing. So, of course, the natural thing to do is put the schematic of the operation on a 36-inch overhead screen that people walk past and give Jack directions out loud over a clip-on phone. Tony must've dropped a Level 5 Dome of Forgetting around his workstation, so that anyone looking his direction wouldn't remember
anything about it as soon as they looked away. I wonder how the Dome would interact with Edgar's Memory Skill Rating of 20. It's a good thing he didn't look over there; the writers would've had aneurisms.

Jack sneaks in and bags his quarry while Marlon Perkins and Company stay back in the van drinking beer and listening to Zepplin. It was surprising to see the consul get shot, but not at all so to find out Li had also been shot. As they're racing back to CTU, Jack decides that he can't, um, encourage Li to talk. I guess that's why he's the field agent: he can decide when shooting
someone in the knee will work as an interrogation technique and when it won't, based on nothing more than dramatic convenience. And it's amazing that as he's chasing the dragon through an analgesic haze, Li has the presence of mind to say he won't talk until he gets a signed guarantee from the President protecting him from prosecution. But does he even know Mr. Kincaid isn't el Presidente anymore? Will he accept a fax from Shakes? But the real point in all of this is exactly the one Jeff already brought up: Why does Li even know where the Mummwan is in the first place? Mummwan may have been the one to hire him, but Sabir was the guy he worked with directly. What possible reason could Mummwan have for calling Li and telling him he's now at Hideout 17B?

Flash forward to the operating theater, where the night shift is hacking away at Paul. (When Audrey said they'd be on an 8:00 (or maybe it was 6:00; both times were involved in there somewhere) flight east, I thought Paul should've said, "That'll give me plenty of time to die!" Him dying was no surprise at all; what was was how quickly it happened.) Jack threatens Trapper John with his gun, likely spraying his saliva all over the place. But beyond that, what good does pulling the gun do? If he shoots Trapper, Paul ~and~ Li will die, Mummwan will launch his missile from George Hospodarsky's mom's cornfield, and "millions of people will die! (TM)" Surely Jack knows this. He must be relying on Trapper's innate fear of guns turning his higher order thinking processes to jello as soon as he's looking down a loaded barrel. But is a surgeon fearing for his life the kind of guy you want working on a gunshot wound like Li's?

It's all about misdirection. Keep the viewers overstimulated with gunfire, 'splosions, and yelling, and hopefully they won't notice nothing makes sense.

But at least they got that heart monitor reading right...

Approximate Body Count: 138 (plus "many dead" near the nuclear plant, plus the Warhead Nonprotection team, plus whoever else was on Air Farce One)

<- 1:00 AM - 2:00 AM 3:00 AM - 4:00 AM ->

Bread and Circuses

I got the new computer up and running last night. Ramsey was there too and helped. Oh, it is a sweet machine. 3.4 x 10^9 screaming horses under the hood, a digital flat panel monitor, a graphics card that would make Van Gogh cut off the other ear, weep, and then commit suicide over the feebleness of his medium, and a sound system like a mini-movie theater.

I put some games on it last night, just to see what it was like, and I thought I heard angels singing. Ramsey had Doom3, so I tried that out. Doom3 is the ultimate test of a gaming platform and I almost wept openly. I don't care much for the subject matter of the game, but I love exploring worlds like that. I tried out the oldie but greatie Halflife. On the old system, I could just about count polygons in places, but here it was all smooth and clear. Sigh.

I will get some work done on the machine from time to time as well. :) Hanna and John had fun playing Veggie Tales and Thomas on it.

And now to the weather. Crimineys. I went and bought a whole bunch of aerosol cans with CFCs in them and emptied them into the atmosphere. Why? In hopes of inducing global warming! It's been cold here. Yesterday we had snow flurries off and on! Auuuuggghhhh.