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March 2010 — Monthly Archive

Looking Forward to Lost’s Series Finale

A good TV show begins well, but a great TV show must end well. With a bang, not a whimper.

Many critically acclaimed shows would have a tough time with that definition. For example, Battlestar Galactica was a wildly uneven ride [Battlestar Galactica awesomeness sparkline]. It started extremely well (the mini series and the short first season). It lost a bit of steam in the 2nd season and by the middle of the 3rd I began to suspect that Ron D Moore didn’t really have a plan about how to end his story. Nevertheless, BSG’s mid-season and season finales remained very good, but they left the rest of the season looking like filler.

The mid-season finale for the fourth season, in particular, was excellent and would have been a perfect ending for the series. Instead we had to watch the actual ending, which I liked on first viewing but soured on as soon as I thought about it for two minutes (Note: Spoilers ahead). Not because of the more implausible plot points (“Let’s give up all our technology and go back to the stone age! Ooh, angels!”) but because of the giant deus ex machina planted in the middle of the story (“God did it!”). BSG often hit high notes that other shows struggled to achieve, but its flaws are hard to ignore.

By contrast, a lesser-known show called The Shield qualifies. It started reasonably — an interesting police procedural, not a bad series but not great either. But it improved over time [The Shield - awesomeness sparkline]. In later seasons, it cut the fat to an astonishing degree, becoming almost mini-series like. It also brought in excellent actors like Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker to beef up the already excellent cast. And the final episode was amazing. That is how you do a character-driven ending without sacrificing plot (Ron Moore take note). I was left wondering about the fate of a major character right upto the last few minutes.

Now, in a few weeks, Lost — another long-form TV series — will come to a close. It started with a very strong first season, but lost steam during the second and most of the third. Luckily the showrunners recognized this and trimmed the fat, and as a result season 3 ended on a high note and the shortened seasons 4 & 5 and what we’ve seen of season 6 have been better for their efforts [Lost awesomeness sparkline]. Lost’s innovative and complex narrative has served it well in episodes like Through the Looking Glass and The Constant, but will the story hold up under the weight of all the mystery? This week’s episode, Ab Aeterno, promises great things. I’m really hoping showrunners David Lindelof and Carlton Cuse don’t lose their way.

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28 March 2010 3:22 pm

Smart (curly) Quotes in MSN / Windows Live Messenger

Undocumented MSN / Windows Live Messenger “feature”: Shift+Ctrl+” (Shift+Ctrl+Quotation Mark) toggles smart or curly quotes in the Conversation Window. Unfortunately, not only does this completely undocumented keystroke not give any feedback to the user (and it’s easy to press this by mistake while IMing away) but also breaks some emoticons: [Weepie] produces a weepie [Weepie], but :‘( and :’( produce nothing.

Update: The shortcut is Shift+Ctrl+Quotation Mark on US keyboards only. On British keyboards the shortcut is Shift+Ctrl+~.

Update 2: This still happens in the latest version of Live Messenger (14.0.8089.726), which is why I’ve bumped this post to 2010 (I first wrote about this bug in 2004!).


9 March 2010 8:34 am

Ian McEwan’s “Solar”

Coming March 18. Can’t wait.

Solar, by Ian McEwan

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2 March 2010 12:24 am

Out of Process Plugins in Firefox trunk

Out-of-process plugins (from the Electrolysis project) have landed in the Firefox trunk. This means: no more Flash crashes. Yay!

Firefox handles Flash crashes gracefully with Out of process plugins

The trunk also has support for hardware-accelerated graphics and text.

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1 March 2010 11:54 pm


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