Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Deal! Part One: Introduction

On Monday, NBC debuted the next big thing in North American game show entertainment - "Deal or No Deal". Much like "The Weakest Link" before it, this is adapted from a program in Europe. As well, it is rather habit forming.

The premise is simple: A contestant is presented with a choice of 26 briefcases (numbered 1 to 26). There are 26 dollar values in those briefcases. They range from $0.01 to $1,000,000. Once the contestant has chosen a briefcase, it is their's for the rest of the "game". Then, they start choosing from the remaining briefcases and reveal the amounts that they did not win. There is a plasma screen that shows all of the possible amounts, and removes the amounts that have been revealed. Of course, just revealing each briefcase would be boring, so the show has a catch. That catch is "The Banker".

The Banker is a person who, at regularly scheduled intervals, makes a cash offer to "buy back" the contestant's chosen briefcase. This offer is based on the cash values that are remaining to be revealed (and possibly other factors, but that is likely to be another post). At this point, the contestant is given the choice: "Deal. Or No Deal." (Hence the name.) If they choose deal, then they get the cash offer and the game is over. If they choose no deal, then they have to reveal the next pre-set amount of briefcases until the banker's next offer. Of course, the offer amount will change based on what else has been knocked off the board. The game ends when the contestant accepts a deal, or has only one briefcase left to choose. If they do get down to only one briefcase, they receive the amount that is left in their briefcase.

Of course, the show isn't that simple. Howie Mandel acts as host and he does a great job of poking and prodding the contestants, adding to their stress level. To combat this, the producers bring in the contestant's friends and family to help with the decision. Of course, this also adds to the stress level, as you have your significant other yelling at you, tring to give you advice is not a calm inducing environment.

On the periphery are the models. They are the 26 beauties that have been selected to carry, and when called upon, open the briefcases. This is the best use of relatively pointless eye candy since The Price is Right started. 26 attractive women, who get maybe 5 words to say between them and yet it doesn't come across as completely sexist.

One other thing that I would like to mention is the casting department did a fantastic job in selecting contestants. Each of the contestants have shown a great personality, and they have different personalities. The families and friends have alos been gold, with at least one "go to" member for an amusing statement during the deal decision process.

All in all, Deal or No Deal is a very entertaining show, which will hopefully continue to return in week-long blocks, but staggered so that it does not become overexposed. In future posts, I'll look at the strategy of the game, as well as taking a stab at how The Banker decides on what his offer will be. There will also be some stats thrown in along the way.

If you wish to play a flash version of the game, go to this link. If you would like more information about the show, go to the the NBC website and click on the "Deal or No Deal" link. (Alternately, you can follow this link for direct access.

Friday, December 16, 2005

What Randall should have said

"Mr. Trump, I have already laid out the reasons why I feel Rebecca is not qualified to be your Apprentice.  I stand by those reasons, and I would not hire her."

Instead, he comes across as a preening jackass who's afraid that somebody is going to yank his moment in the sun away from him (if not, you know, out perform him again).  I can only imagine that he is already getting his first yelling at from The Donald, along the lines of "PLAY ALONG WITH THE SCRIPT AND DON'T EVER SECOND GUESS ME, OR YOU'LL BE THE FIRST APPRENTI THAT I FIRE BEFORE THEIR YEAR IS UP!"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Survivor: Guatemala Finale Recap

(I missed a large part of the reunion special, so I wanted to wait to post this until I had an opportunity to see it. Since my, um, sources have failed me in getting a good copy, I'll have to go with what I've seen.)

Well, at least I got the voting totals right. They got me with the Rafe tease. I guess I should have listened to the rumors that Danni was going to win after all.

And what a win. Danni capitalized on a lot of people who were rather bitter about getting outplayed by Stephanie and coasted to victory. As much as I don't want to denigrate Danni here, she is competing with Amber, Sandra and Vescepia as the worst winners of Survivor. Her big selling point? She was in the smaller tribe post-merge and managed to survive. Thing is, she won a key immunity challenge, but beyond that she shut up and let Rafe and Steph do what they had to do to make the final three.

The show started off well, with the sacrificing of a chicken as a part of a Mayan ritual. This led to a couple of funny quotes/situations:

- Steph asking Rafe if the chicken is dead, with Rafe responding "Steph, they just tore the head off that chicken. I'm pretty sure it's dead."
- Steph getting Lydia to ask the Mayans if it was okay to eat the sacrificed chicken, followed by a stern "No."
- Steph, Lydia and Danni eating the chicken anyway.
- After the chicken was eaten, the hardest rain of the series strikes, and the monkeys start to go crazy. I don't want to accuse Mark Burnett of anything, but how exactly does one person get the weather and nature to do what he wants it to do.

The sketch of Judd that they used for the "remember previous competitors" segment was gold. It captured his personality incredibly well.

And the immunity challenges? They were great as well. The final four challenge was an impressive visual, and you had a sense that it would be easy to get lost in the giant maze. Again, Rafe showed that he is a step ahead of everybody by looking for the markers at the top of the pyramid thingy where the challenge ended. And I think Lydia actually did something kinda smart along the way, as she just followed Steph, meaning that she wouldn't be too far behind when it came to the end and trying to solve the puzzle.

In the end, Rafe won, and Lydia went. I'm absolutely shocked that she used the "I'm not a threat" line in front of the jury. That was the final blow to her chances of winning the million. Having the jury think that in the back of their minds is one thing, but if she made it to the final 2 there was a chance that the jury could be convinced that she was a sneaky threat. Admitting that she wasn't a threat guaranteed her 2nd place at best.

Speaking of 2nd place at best, Steph seemed to realize that she stood very little chance of winning against Rafe or Danni, but still she didn't attempt to run the gambit of tying the vote. I don't know if it was confirmed what the method of breaking the tie would be - Purple Rock of Doom or a challenge of some sort - and Steph did claim to be attempting to save herself so I guess that's a fair move.

(BTW, should anybody at Burnett Productions stumble over this entry, would it be possible to make the rules to the game available at the beginning of each season? It'd be nice to know things like how ties would be broken, even if the situation never arises during the actual show.)

The final endurance challenge was well designed also. Starting it with an easy method to balance on a swing (while standing on said swing), then making it harder was interesting. Watching Rafe (ultimately) throw away $1 million by making a dumb error a la Rudy in the first Survivor was fun. And then watching Steph inevitably lose her grip and make her descent down the pole until she was out was heart wrenching. Good thing Rafe was there draw our attention to him. He sealed his third place spot by "releasing" Danni from any promise she had made to him previously. This brings us the first list of this post:

Top 5 Stupid Moves Ever in Survivor History:

5. Survivor 5 (Thailand): Shook Jai (led by Shii-Ann) conspires to throw an immunity challenge so they can vote out Jed, even though they have an advantage over Chauy Gahn. The 5 Chauy Gahn members that survive to the merge end up being the final 5.

They had Chauy Gahn on the ropes, with Chauy Gahn having lost the first two immunity challenges and in a lot of disarray. Instead of just continuing with the destrucion of Chauy Gahn, they got cute and cocky, thinking they could beat Chauy Gahn any time they wanted. As it turns out, they were really, really wrong.

4. Survivor 11 (Guatemala): Rafe throws away a guaranteed final 2 spot by "releasing" Danni from her promise.

Sure, it was an honourable thing to do, but really, Rafe knifed Judd in the back, kinda did the same to Jamie and gave Cindy the boot because she decided to keep a car to herself instead of giving everybody else one. The bout of "honour" is a bit questionable.

3. Survivor 2 (Australia): Colby throws away a guaranteed victory by bringing Tina to the final 2 ahead of Keith,

This isn't number one because it was an honourable move, and as best as I can tell he knew that it could cost him the win. So I'll give him a bit of credit for that. It was a dumb decision though.

2. Survivor 4 (Marqueasas): John, Rob D, Tammy and Zoe reveal their final four alliance in a reward challenge, then get Pagonged.

The reward challenge was the traditional trivia game where everybody has three strikes, and if you get a question right, you get to give someone a strike. John, Rob D, Tammy and Zoe chose to eliminate people from the reward challenge IN THE ORDER THEY WERE GOING TO VOTE THEM OUT! Ignoring the effect this would have on the eliminated people's final 2 vote, they did this with 9 people left. Meaning the 5 left saw a pattern. This gave Sean and Vescepia and opening to convince Kathy, Neleh and Paschal to start voting out the evil 4.

(Sure, John would get his revenge on Neleh by refusing to vote for her since she wouldn't admit to being deceitful or something. But he could have been winning the game if he had just thought ahead.)

1. Survivor 3 (Africa): Brandon decides to vote with Lex to eliminate Kelly, thus alienating his tribe.

I swear this has nothing to do with my opinion of Kelly. But this is kinda the same situation as the Thailand decision, only much, much worse. (At least Shook Jai had a chance to make their decision to work.) Brandon had two options: (1) Vote with his tribemates and Kelly to eliminate Kelly, setting his tribe up to run the table and be the final or (2) Vote with Lex to get rid of Kelly, and set him up to get voted out at the next tribal council. (1) is the easiest solution, and a guaranteed outcome. (2) is very difficult to pull off, and has no guarantee of working (what happens if Lex wins immunity?) Brandon, trying to prove himself to be the greatest player of Survivor ever or something, decided on (2). And to make matters worse, he FORGOT TO TELL HIS TRIBE WHAT HE WAS DOING!

So now his own tribe thinks that he is a traitor, and the other tribe is trying to get back their edge in numbers. Hmmm, I wonder what could happen next? Of course Brandon gets voted out. If he had just played it straight, we could be talking about Brandon as the Survivor: Africa winner. Instead, we refer to him and Kelly as the Survivors who wanted to be on the Amazing Race before Rob and Amber ever met. And for that, Brandon gets the top spot in stupid moves.

Moving back to the Finale at hand, of course Danni decided to bring Steph and get the guaranteed $1 Million. And then things went downhill. The jury segment was pretty boring. Danni and Steph both hit the main points they needed to in order to get votes. Judd attempted to be Sue Hawk, but failed miserably, coming across with the bitterness but not the sheer vitrol that Hawk had. And then everybody voted against somebody, instead of voting for somebody. Which left us with Danni being one of the worst winners ever, and Jeff Probst saying that Danni had made all the right moves at the right time and now she is a million dollars richer. ARGH!

Finishing it up, here's one final list. A list of the winners, in order of most deserving to least:

1. Tom (Survivor 10)
2. Brian (Survivor 5)
3. Rich (Survivor 1)
4. Tina (Survivor 2)
5. Chris (Survivor 8)
6. Jenna (Survivor 6)
7. Ethan (Survivor 3)
8. Sandra (Survivor 7)
9. Amber (Survivor 8 - All-Stars)
10. Danni (Survivor 11)
11. Vescepia (Survivor 4)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Survivor: Guatemala Episode 13 Recap

This is going to have to be a quick one due to time constraints.

Cindy did the absolute unthinkable and spat in the face of the Survivor Gods. Here's a quick list of things that will force the Survivor Gods to lash out against you:

  • Throwing a challenge to vote out a tribemate (See Survivor: Thailand and what happened to Shii-Ann and crew).

  • Becoming too arrogant about your place in the game. (The Gods will make sure that you ge struck down quickly. Best example is Survivor Marqueasas, though you can see a whole bunch of examples through out the years.)

  • Winning the car challenge

  • And now we can add...Winning the car challenge and turning down the opportunity to give up the car to have everybody else benefit.

Not that I blame Cindy for what she did. Knowing that she was kept out of the loop for the Judd elimination, she had to feel very unsafe. And that she was a challenge threat wasn't a helpful trait either. It was very likely that she would go before the final 2, so why not take the car and try to win immunity a couple of times?

So now, we've got the final 4. And for the love of god let Lydia be the one that's voted out first. She somehow made it to the final 4, and that's good enough. Anything further would be an insult to Danni, Steph and Rafe.

Who's the final 2? My pick is below, but it's a very tough call now. I could see any of Steph, Rafe and Danni making it. I'm also flip-flopping on whether Danni actually would be a deserving winner. On one hand, she worked her way into a pretty set alliance. On the other hand, it's not like she's actually won anything on her own. She's just been a stronger version of Lydia. And Steph? If she wins, then her opponent will have to have put up the most horrible Final Tribal Council showings ever. Somebody would give her the sympathy vote (Jamie?), but she is going to get beat horribly if she's in the final 2.

The lists follow:

Most likely to win if they make to win the Final 2:

1. 1. Rafe
2. 2. Danni
4. 3. Steph
5. 4. Lydia
3. -. Cindy

(Congrats again to Lydia on moving up on this list. Wait...)

Most likely to win:

1. 1. Rafe
2. 2. Danni
3. 3. Steph
5. 4. Lydia
4. -. Cindy

Who I want to win:

1. Steph
2. Rafe
3. Danni
4. Lydia

Final 2 prediction: Rafe over Steph (6-1)
(Ultimately, Rafe has this game figured out. He knows that the only way he doesn't make final 2 is if Danni wins the final immunity challenge. He also knows that Steph will take a fall, so he's got her all lined up for that final 2 seat.)

See you Sunday!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Burning Bush

Well, the Jays have finally made a move this winter that I don't like.  (To back up a bit, I think that the Burnett and Ryan deals are probably too long, but otherwise are smart moves.)  Getting Lyle Overbay for Dave Bush and Gabe Gross is acceptable.  While I think that Bush is going to be a good pitcher for the next 4 years or so, somebody along with Miguel Bautista was odd man out in the starting staff, and Ted Lilly is probably the better call for this year (which seems to be the Jays' main concern).  But Lyle Overbay and a PTBNL (edit: Ty Taubenheim is the PTBNL) for Dave Bush, Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson?  That's too much.

Overbay is a good hitter, and is a fine addition to a team that has one or two big bats.  But he's not a great bat.  And the Jays just traded a young pitcher who is currently a decent #4 or #5 starter with the potential to be a #2 or #3 starter (Bush), a very good prospect who's one year removed from being a first round draft pick (Jackson) and a one time prospect who's development seems to have stalled (Gross) in order to get him.  That's a bit much.  It's also not enough to improve the offense at all.  So the Jays (a) overpaid to get Overbay and (b) improved their offense but not by a lot.  Considering Ty Taubenheim isn't that highly regarded as a pitching prospect, that's not a lot.

With that said, rumours are swirling that the Jays aren't done.  My favourite rumour?  Javy Lopez for Eric Hinske and Miguel Bautista.  Granted, it's a second-hand thing (and the basis is a Buck Martinez interview), but please let this be true, and then all will be forgiven.  There is also talk about getting Brad Wilkerson from the Nationals Rangers, which is good.  The bad is that Orlando Hudson is front and center in those rumours.  C'mon Texas - you need pitching, not a second baseman!  Think of Ian Kinsler!  Or maybe we can offer another couple of shiny outfielders for your collection?

In other news, the Atlanta Braves traded top prospect Andy Marte to the Boston Red Sox for Edgar Renteria and a whole bunch of cash.  Does Boston have compromising photos of every GM in baseball (save Florida)?  Between this trade, the Mirabelli/Loretta deal and the Curt Schilling fiasco, that's a whole lot of pillaging.  Or is this the 2005 version of Millwood for Estrada?

(Side note: If Boston flips Marte and another player for Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo, I will add Tampa Bay to the "non-compromising photo" list.  Because that is sooo not good.  Also, it's not good for the Jays, because (a) it shows again that Tampa Bay is getting smarter and (b) it gives Tampa another impact young hitter.  If Tampa gets another 2-3 starters to go with Scott Kazmir they will be scary good.)

Finally, my sympathies go out to ex-Jay Jamie Vermilyea who, like most Boston Rule 5 picks, will come down with a tough to cure bout of tendinitis.  Or a quad pull.  Or whatever disease the Red Sox think of to keep him from having to be offered back to the Jays.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My DCBS Order for December, 2005

A new feature here at the 'Muse.  I thought that I would share my monthly order from the fine folks at

(BTW, if you are a comic book purchaser and are looking for an alternate to your local comic book store, I highly recommend using DCBS.  I live in Canada, and all of my orders have come packed extremely well.  And their customer service has been impeccible; my orders have had items that they have had in stock and they sent those items in a seperate order instead of waiting the 2-3 months for the other items to show.  They also offer weekly shipping within the US if you want to use them for your regular monthly purchases)

One thing I should explain is that I am only purchasing trades from DCBS.  The main reason for this is that I do not have the patience to wait for my regular monthly books.  This also has the nice side benefit of causing me to support my local comic store.  But I will purchase trades since (a) they are discounted very well, (b) convert very well to Canadian dollars right now and (c) are much, much cheaper than the Canadian cover price.

So, here's my order this month (for February's solicits):

  • Secret War HC - $14.99 (50% Discount)

Let's see...

    • Nick Fury organizing a group of (superstar) heroes for a mission against a secret conspiracy? Check.
    • Bendis writing the book? Check.
    • Bendis writing Spider-man dialouge? Check.

(Okay, that last one was a bit of a strecth.)

But seriously, this is something that I was interested in when it was first running, but the quarterly publishing made me wait until the trade (or HC) was available.

  • The Pulse Volume 1: Thin Air TP - $6.99 (50% Discount)
  • The Pulse Volume 2: Secret War TP - $7.79 (35% Discount)

These were on my list of trades that I want to pick up.  With Secret War coming out, I figure that picking up the Pulse companion TP wouldn't be a bad idea, and if that's the case then I should get volume 1.

  • House of M Spider-Man TP - $6.99 (50% Discount)

Everything that I've read about this is that the story was fantastic and worth the read.  So, I'll pick up the trade!

  • Birds of Prey: Between Dark and Dawn TP - $8.49 (50% Discount)

I've started picking up the monthly book of Birds of Prey, but it's after this trade falls.  Of course, this isn't a surprise, since DC's trade policy is only starting to get better.  Who knows, maybe there'll be more than one trade put out this year!

  • Squadron Supreme TP - $19.49 (35% Discount)

This consistently makes it's appearance on the list of "Trades you must read".  With Exiles getting ready to jump into the Squadron Supreme universe once the current New Universe arc is completed (ie next month), this seems to be as good of time as any to start reading a classic.

One that almost made my list was the Essential Moon Knight Volume 1.  At a price of $8.99, it was hard to pass up, but ultimately I figure that there are many different Essentials that I should pick up before Moon Knight so I will wait on it.

Obviously a part of the Department of Pastries

From Larry Millson's article on A.J. Burnett:

    "He also was known as the Marlins' Minister of Pies. He was the one who would shove a pie of shaving cream into the face of a teammate who had contributed to a victory and was being interviewed on TV after a game."

Good thing.  The Jays were pretty lacking last year in their shaving cream pie dishing out.
And from Jeff Blair's article, this made me laugh:

    Burnett called Arnsberg at 9:30 a.m. on Monday to inform him of his decision. At first, he made it sound like he was going to the St. Louis Cardinals, another suitor. Arnsberg told him he was "making a mistake," and that he "felt used."

    "Turns out I got punked," Arnsberg said.

It's not so much the joke that A.J. played on Arnsberg, it's more Arnsberg knowing what "Punk'd" is.  The image of Arnsberg watching MTV and saying "Oh that Ashton Kutcher, he got Mila Kunis but good!" is a bit bizarre.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Survivor Guatemala: Episode 12 Recap

I'd like to thank the editors that work hard on Survivor.  Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst might be the most visible of the faces of Survivor, but the editors are the true MVPs of this show.  They do an amazing job of putting a predominant storyline into each episode, but also interweaving larger storylines.

Case in point is this week.  The overriding storyline was that Judd was becoming a liability and might be going down the same path as Jamie.  The editors showed us Judd worrying about his position, then once he was reassured his position was safe, he took an attitude of "Nobody should complain, because everybody has to go home at some point".  This nicely led into the Tribal Council where Judd was blindsided by his getting voted out, and his subsequent outburst.  Very nicely done, and fun to watch.

What was also brought into the show were these plotlines, set up in previous episodes:


      a.      Danni was searching for a way to integrate herself into the Axis of Evil. 
      b.      Rafe and Judd have a rivalry. 

    With Judd and Steph away at the reward celebration, Danni takes her opportunity to make a move to get in Rafe's good graces, and Rafe sees an opportunity to get rid of Judd. 

2.      Steph's fall from grace continues.  She tells Judd's wife that she loves having Judd around, and then turns on him soon after finding out that he talked with Danni about making a move.  Ultimately she will have to "be punished" for her actions, and that in theory should come in the Final 2.  (I now have my doubts about this, but we'll get to this later.)

3.      Rafe acting as the puppeteer, using Steph as his front.  Rafe was the one who first suggested getting rid of Jamie, when Jamie began to look like a threat.  And then Rafe put the plan in motion to get Judd.  Also, note that he was very careful to tell Danni that she had to catch Judd and tell Steph.  While they needed to do this to get a majority of votes, it also allows Rafe to use Steph as his shelter against the repercussions of getting rid of his own alliance.  This is what Amber claimed she did during the horrible All-Stars season, only Rafe is clearly doing this, while we were left to question whether Amber actually pulled this off.

And we also get new threads started:

    1.      Are Danni and Rafe a secret final 2 pairing?
    2.      Why was Cindy left out of the loop on the decision to get rid of Judd?  Is she next on the chopping block?
    3.      Is Lydia back in the good graces of Steph?

This is why Survivor beats every other reality TV show: it combines competition with story line seamlessly.

Onto the lists:

Most likely to win if they make to win the Final 2:
LW   TW  
1.   1.      Rafe
2.   2.      Danni
3.   3.      Cindy
4.   4.      Steph
6.   5.      Lydia
5.   -       Judd

(Congrats to Lydia on moving up on this list.  Wait...)

Most likely to win:
LW   TW  
1.   1.      Rafe
2.   2.      Danni
3.   3.      Steph
4.   4.      Cindy
5.   5.      Lydia
6.   -       Judd

Who I want to win:
1.           Steph
2.           Rafe
3.           Danni
4.           Cindy
5.           Lydia

Final 2 prediction:  Rafe over Danni (4-3)
(I think that Rafe and Danni have already made a final 2 agreement, and are going to dump Steph in the final 3, in hopes of keeping her happy by calling her a guaranteed winner etc.  Will it work?  I don't know.)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Quick review of Aeon Flux

The good? Charlize Theron in tight clothing. The bad? Everthing else.