Wednesday, September 29, 2004

An American Prayer

By Jim Morrison (and the Doors)

This album was recorded years after Jim's death, with the remaining members of the Doors putting new and old music to surviving recordings of Jim Morrison reciting his lyrics and poetry.

Some of it's a bit forgettable, but most of it's is pretty cool. My favorites are the Ghost Song, "The music and and voices are all around us, Choose, they croon, the ancient ones, the time has come again..." and Stoned Immaculate, "Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of God, Wandering, wandering in hopeless night, Out here on the perimeter there are no stars...".

The music's pretty good too, nice and understated, which makes sense considering that the musicians are supposed to be taking a backstage to Jim on this album, but it's still a little out of character for them. The backing music for Lament is especially nice, based around a very mellow bass riff, with the guitar playing sadly over the top of it.

Plus, this album has Jim's excellent astrology speech on it!

Jim: "I don't know how many of you believe in astrology..."
Random Chick in Audience: "JIM! JIM! I do!"
Jim: "Yeah baby, I'm a Sagittarius, the most philosphical of all the star signs..."
RCIA: "Me too Jim! I'm a Sagittarius too!"
J: "Well I don't believe in it myself."
RCIA: "Neither do I Jim!"
J: "I think it's a bunch of bullshit."


Good, that's that out of the way. Now tomorrow I can write about the new Jordan Reyne album, which just came in the mail today. I've only listened to half of it so far, but I can tell already that I'll have a lot to say about it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

A Perfect Circle

APC have a covers album called eMotive coming out on November 2, coincidentally the day of the presidential elections. I have to admit that I was skeptical about them doing a political album, I was afraid it would turn out to be incredibly shrill (not that I think there's anything wrong with being shrill about old GWB, but generally it doesn't make good music). But I just listened to their version of John Lennon's Imagine on their website, and it's pretty good.

OK, now I just saw the video for 'Count the Bodies Like Sheep', an original song (actually just a remix of 'Pet', from their last album) from the new album, and it's crap. Pet is an excellent song, I wish they hadn't touched it. The video isn't very good either, they don't like George Bush, no kidding. Six minutes of caricaturing him makes a pretty dull video when none of it is insightful or entertaining.

But you know I'll buy it the day it comes out anyway.

Tired Jonny and Coming Soon

Now I haven't posted anything for a few days, as I was out of town and drunk for most of the weekend, and I'm still rather exhausted now. But anyway, there are lots of things I want to post:

Coming soon:

Why Jeremy is wrong - he's replied to my post about WMDs in Iraq, and as soon as I have time to do a bit of research, I'll put him in his place. On the other hand, he's linked to something called Mr. Teapot, which is pretty amusing.

American Prayer - by the Doors. A fucking good album.

More SF short stories.

Some cool websites.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Miscellania 2

I remembered the other thing I wanted to post.

Classic Onion. Matchbox Twenty Finally Finishes Watering Down Long-Awaited New Album.

"There was a similar problem, band members said, with the guitar solos, some of which contained trace elements of what musicians call 'passion.'"


Good news everyone. Shihad have changed their name from 'Pacifier' back to 'Shihad'. Hopefully they have also decided to change their musical style from 'shit' back to 'good'.

This site has a whole lot of photoshop reproductions of Gary Larson cartoons. Some of them are pretty cool.

Cat Stevens gets deported from the US for being a Muslim.

There was something else but I've forgotten it. I'll let you know if I remember.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

No WMDs in Iraq

(From NoRightTurn)

So after 15 months of searching the Iraq Survey Group has concluded that there are absolutely no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, nor were there any signs that Saddam had plans to start on them any time soon.

As far as I can see, this is bad news. It's an undeniable fact that Saddam had chemical weapons at the end of the Gulf War (just ask the Kurds and the Iranians), that's why the inspectors were there in the first place. In fact, after doing a little searching I found that the UN inspectors destroyed samples of VX gas found in Iraqi labs as recently as 1999. (The Iraqi government claimed the Americans planted it there.) Now five years is a long time, but those that he had left over must have gone somewhere, and why would he have jerked the weapons inspectors around for so long if he wasn't hiding anything? I can't help but think that the jerking around was in order to buy time while he sold them, either to neighbouring nutcase dictators, or to some nutcase terrorists.

As far as I know no one knows just how much he had, but even a little bit is too much. That VX gas is pretty horrible stuff. I guess it's possible that he buried them out in the desert somewhere no one would ever look. That's probably the best case scenario...

Monday, September 20, 2004

The internet is full of scary people

Gamers With Jobs is a reasonable game review site, but this is an entertaining article they had about the bizarre search terms showing up in their Google referrals. I read this at work, which was a mistake, since a) it's quite sordid (well OK, that didn't really bother me), and b) it damn near made me piss myself laughing.

My favorites are 'gangsta way to tie my shoes' and 'how has vegemite helped society'. It makes me look forward to the day when people will find this site by searching for 'olsen twins scat movie big boobs'.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Village

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

I saw this movie on Friday night. While it was a reasonably agreeable way to spend the evening, I would probably have preferred to see something else. Not that it was a bad movie, it was well directed, had an original and engaging style and was quite suspenseful at times. But on the other hand the plot was very predictable, and at the end it came down with a bad case of Spielberg-itis.

Spielberg-itis is when a movie thinks it's much better than it actually is, and starts pulling out the ultra-cheesy swelling orchestral soundtrack, dialogue-free scenes of the protagonist running/walking/flying where ever (possibly in slow motion), and general all round pretentiousness. I find it especially grating when it only happens at the climax of an otherwise good film (see also Saving Private Ryan).

This is only the second of Shyamalan's films that I've seen (the other was The Sixth Sense), and in both cases I guessed what the big twist was going to be ten minutes into the movie. This inevitably makes it a bit of a disappointment when the twist is revealed, so that probably contributed to my dislike of the last part of the film.

Having said all that, I enjoyed most of the movie, and I don't regret seeing it at all.

Now Jon is very tired and needs to go to bed...

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Music! White Rabbit! 2

I lasted under 24 hours in Auckland before succumbing to the lure and visiting Real Groovy. Fortunately I managed to keep my purchases to a mere $40.

The Best of Jefferson Airplane: Somebody to Love

The only Jefferson Airplane song I knew before I got this album was White Rabbit, but listening to it made me realise that I actually like all this 60s folk rock. So I bought this album, and it's not too bad. The slower songs tend to bore me somewhat, but the faster more upbeat songs are all pretty good. I especially like 'Somebody to Love' and 'Today'.

My Iron Lung – Radiohead

Believe it or not, my Radiohead collection is nowhere near complete, so I grabbed this one because it was cheap, and because it had a nice acoustic version of 'Creep' on it. The rest of the album is all very good, basically just a lot of Bends era b-sides. The only thing wrong with it is that the songs are a bit samey, but seeing as the album is less than 40 minutes long, this doesn't bother me much. Favorite songs are the aforementioned 'Creep' and 'The Trickster'.

Random notes:

I couldn't find the new Dr. Kevorkian album there, damn their eyes. I'll have to go on a mission here, where I know the record stores like the back of my hand, next weekend.

New Rammstein album out in a week or so. I'll have to get that too. Damn you, credit card debt!

Friday, September 17, 2004

We All Live In America, Coca-Cola, Wonderbra

That new Rammstein song is tremendously catchy.

American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

So I've been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's graphic novels for years now, but I've only just gotten round to reading one of his written novels, and I have to say, it's pretty damn good. American Gods is the story of a man named Shadow, who, after his life falls apart (he gets sent to jail, his wife dies, etc), is hired by a mysterious man called Mr. Wednesday as a kind of personal assistant. Naturally Mr. Wednesday is much more than what he seems, and Shadow goes on to have all sorts of interesting adventures.

This book is brilliantly written, and I can't say enough good things about it. Plot, characters and writing style are all tremendously engaging, and I can say without hesitation that this is the best book I've read all year.

American Gods is about belief and sacredness in the modern western world. However it was written shortly before the World Trade Centre attacks (as far as I can tell), so what it has to say about America comes across as somewhat untopical. But as far as I'm concerned that's another plus, it makes a good counterpoint to reading about the war in Iraq, or the presidential elections.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Muse - Live in Concert

Well I'm completely exhausted now, but man was it worth it. We got in line an hour before the doors opened, and secured a spot right in front of the stage. The opening act was Pluto, who got a fews boos, but I thought they were quite good. They were probably the most suitable kiwi band to have as an opener.

I've written a song by song description of the show, but I may well have gotten the order of the songs wrong. I'm sure most of them are right though.

Hysteria: Well, they didn't keep us waiting for too long between sets. There was a big cheer as soon as the drum kit was unveiled, and an even bigger one when they took the cover off the piano. Then, after the usual roadie's shenanigans, the lights went out and the band came on. The deceptively mellow looking crowd immediately went completely mental.

New Born: More cheering when Matt walks up to the piano. After the initial quiet piano intro, Matt grabs his guitar and walks up to the edge of the stage to play an extended feral improvisation as a lead into the first chorus. Needless to say, more absolute madness in the mosh pit followed.

The Small Print: Another heavy song. This one's not really one of my favorites, but it still went off, of course.

Dead Star: This one is one of my favorites, but I got the impression not as many people knew it, probably because it's only on their live album. I tried to make up for them by going extra crazy for it myself, but I don't know if the people in front of me appreciated it...

Citizen Erased: I was hoping they would play a few more album tracks from Origin of Symmetry than they did at the big day out. Unfortunately this was the only one they played, but on the other hand it's one of my favorites. A very nice mood from the crowd during the soft outro, with everyone waving their arms and singing along.

Ruled by Secrecy: A bit of an odd choice I thought, since this is a fairly low key repetitive song. The audience didn't seem to be that into it either. At least it gave everyone a bit of a rest.

Muscle Museum: Not too much to say about this one. The only thing I can remember about it was that I kept getting the words wrong. How embarrassing!

Butterflies and Hurricanes: I had to bail for a glass of water during this one, so again I don't have much to add, other than that the chick working at the bar was hot and had nice dreads.

Bliss: One of my favorite songs, and apparently a popular one among the rest of the audience too. After seeing everyone bouncing up and down together in the middle of the theatre to the chorus of this song, I decided to forsake the mosh pit and join them. It was a good idea too. It was much more fun away from the sweaty face-in-armpit crowd. It looked to me like Matt was playing the arpeggio on his guitar, I'm not sure though, I was a bit too far away. Anyway, if he was, that's very impressive.

Time is Running Out: Another popular one. Matt pointed out that their bass player was playing with a broken wrist. Man, that guy is hardcore...

Sunburn: Another song I was really hoping to hear! Matt played the whole thing, including the bit that's a guitar solo on the album, on the piano.

Plug-In Baby: Last song of the main set, and one of their most popular. The audience went nuts, and Matt played the main riff like a madman, spinning around, jumping up and down, and not missing a note. Just awesome.


Apocalypse Please: The band walked off for all of thirty seconds, and then came back to the unique rhythm of this song. Everyone clapped and stomped along, it was pretty cool, but not as cool as...

Stockholm Syndrome: A kickass song that they just had to end with. During the soft gentle chorus, they fired a whole lot of confetti into the air and turned all the lights on, and during the heavy outro, they threw giant balloons filled with confetti out into the audience, and kept playing a long epic improvisation until all the balloons had been popped. It might sound a bit gimmicky, but I thought it was a pretty memorable and effective way of ending the show. Anyway, after that they walked off, and I left on a massive high.

Random notes:

Matt has a seven string. Hardcore.

After the show we walked past the entrance to the backstage area, which was for some reason left open with no security guards around. A slowly growing group of people began to congregate around it, peeking inside and wondering if we should go in. Then a security guard showed up, shut the door, and told us to piss off.

Sorry to whoever was standing behind me during Stockholm Syndrome. I realise you probably got a faceful of dreads more than once during that song.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Dr. Strangelove

I had a long afternoon with nothing to do in Hamilton, so I sat down and watched a DVD, something I normally don't have the patience for. Dr. Strangelove is one of Stanley Kubricks more famous movies and I’ve been meaning to watch it for ages, but never got around to it (despite having owned it on DVD for almost a year now).

Dr. Strangelove is an anti-war film from the 60s, concerned with the cold war and the prospect of a nuclear holocaust. Believe it or not, the film is a bit of a downer, but at the same time, it’s filled with a lot of dry humour. “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the war room!” While I didn’t like it as much as some of Kubrick’s other movies, it's still pretty good, and I’d put it above The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, but below Eyes Wide Shut and 2001.

Anyway, I’m feeling like shit at the moment. Fucking plane flights always seem to make me sick. I just hope I feel better in time to see Muse tomorrow night. And in a bit of a weird coincidence, I noticed that the set of Muse’s video for Time is Running Out is based on the war room set of Dr. Strangelove. How about that.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Chopping Block

Eddie sent me a link to this webcomic. I'm surprised I haven't heard of it before. It's been around for a while, it's on Keenspot (a popular webcomics site) and it's damned funny.

It's also all about serial killers, and it's generally pretty gruesome and disturbing. I love it.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Doom 3 and Random Bitching Pt 2

And lo and behold, as soon as I post that last post, I see that the doom post showed up after all. Duh...

Doom 3 and Random Bitching

So I spent half an hour or so wroting a huge big long post reviewing Doom 3 in detail last night, but blogger ate it. Bad blogger, bad! From now on I'll write posts in a word processor first, and then paste them into here, so this doesn't happen again. It has the added bonus of letting me use a spell checker that knows to let me put a 'u' into 'colour'.

Here's a summary of what I said about Doom anyway.

Graphics: Very good.
Sound: Absolutely brilliant.
Story: OK.
Gameplay: Way too repetitive. Try harder next time ID.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Doom 3

I finished Doom 3 the other day, and decided I had a bit more to say about it than I did in my two sentence review earlier.

I was a huge fan of the original Doom games when they first came out. Nothing could be cooler to a fourteen year old boy than a scary, violent video game. So I'd been looking forward to this one a lot, and like a good little nerd I ran down to the games shop the day it came out, and joined the queue of smelly unshaven geeks going "Nyeeh, nyeeh, gigabyte, megabyte, nyeeeh".

Now I'd just finished playing Thief 3, easily the scariest game I've ever played, so I didn't find Doom as scary as the reviews I read said it was, but after playing it for a few hours, I put down the mouse and realised I was shaking and I'd just let out a huge sigh of relief when I clicked exit. So, not scary, but immersive and intense. Here's a point by point critique.

Graphics: Fantastic, one of the best looking games I've ever played, the level of detail on the characters and the sets blew me away. Farcry looked almost as good, but doesn't run nearly as well on my machine. I expect id will make loads of money from licensing the engine.

Sound: Even better than the graphics. Once I get a real sound card and a surround setup, I'll play the game again just to properly appreciate it. Trent from Nine Inch Nails was originally supposed to do the sound, but he wasn't able to in the end, and it's probably just as well, because the guy who ended up doing it did a fucking awesome job. Except for a theme song by Tweaker at the title screen (which is pretty cool), there is no music in the game. Instead there is just ambient noise, sometimes mundane (the rhythmic hum of large electrical machinery), sometimes supernatural (the heavy thud of a heartbeat, or the sound of a someone repeatedly banging two bits of metal together) and always creepy. You never know if the sound is just an ambient effect, or if it's some new horrible monster around the corner. Anyway, I've never seen sound done so well in a game before.

Story: Id put a little more effort into the story than they usually do this time around. I thought it was quite adequate, but didn't really fit with the length of the game. There are lots of story scenes at the beginning and end, but the middle is basically just a long stretch of demon bashing. This probably doesn't bother most people, but I like a good story.

Gameplay: Pretty good. Faithful to the style of the original, but it gets old after a while, which brings me to my next point...

Level Design: A great big C-. Each level has a cool location, but always devolves into the same old routine of open door, kill monsters, search for health, kill more monsters, and so on. Considering the immersive atmosphere generated by the sound and graphics, the level designers should have tried to complement it with more original scripted events than 'more demons teleport in and attack you'. This is the only flaw in an otherwise excellent game, but it's a big one.

Overall, I give it eight chainsaws out of ten, it gets one extra for being so long, seeing as most FPSs nowadays are pathetically short.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Liberated Games

This site has a list of old games that have been liberated, that is they are either available for download for free or their source code has been released. Most of the newer games (Hexen, Quake) just have the source code available, with no game data, but there are a few old gems there, like Star Control 2 and a whole swag of old adventure games. As if I needed more time wasters...

Monday, September 06, 2004

Titus Groan

By Mervyn Peake

This is the first book of the Gormenghast trilogy, one of the earliest examples of fantasy literature. It was first published in the late 1940s, about the same time as the Lord of the Rings. I first read these books about six or seven years ago, but I couldn't really remember what they were like, so I decided to read the first one again.

Gormenghast is a huge ancient castle, where every inhabitant is enslaved to a complicated set of bizarre rules and traditions. Titus Groan is the male heir to the Earl of Gormenghast. Despite having the book named after him, he doesn't do much in it, as he is still only a year or so old by the end of the first book. In fact, not a lot happens at all in the first book, it mostly just introduces the main characters and sets up the oppressive atmosphere of the castle.

In some respects Titus Groan is a very good book, the author has a unique and evocative style of writing. The descriptions of the castle and it's environs are probably my favorite parts of the book. In a lot of ways the writing style resembles that of a children's book (Mervyn Peake wrote and illustrated a few children's books as well), but it's incredibly dark and twisted compared to the likes of Harry Potter. The characters are memorable, although creepy. The Duchess of Groan is a huge silent woman, who cares for a horde of white cats, and keeps a flock of birds in her chambers. The Earl's sisters are two malevolent but mindless identical twins, always dressed in purple and almost incapable of showing any kind of emotion.

On the other hand the book is very slow and often a bit of a chore to read. Also in some chapters the whimsical but warped style of the author goes right off the deep end into flowery pseudo-philosophical wankery (that reminds me, maybe I should write something about Ray Manzarek's book), leaving me wondering what the hell he was smoking.

In summation, while Titus Groan has some great writing, I found it too slow and boring most of the time. I might read the next book (I remember it being better than the first when I read it previously), but probably not any time soon.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Lottery of the Damned

I swear to God the chick who presents the Lotto is possessed by the devil. Those sunken eyes, the rictus grin, the mirthless attempts at TV presenter perkiness. The TV positively radiates hatred and evil whenever she's on screen. OK, it could be that she's just been smoking a little too much P. Either way, it's just another reason not to buy a lotto ticket.

Friday, September 03, 2004

More Science Fiction Short Stories

So Wednesday was big product delivery day at work. I had to trot along to our clients and hand them a CD of software that's hopefully finished and ready to go. So you know what that means, it's slack off time at work. Sure, I've been assigned another project to do, but I figure I should ease myself into it.

So this means I've read a few more of them there Hugo award nominees.

I'll start out by talking about the other short stories, which I read earlier, but didn't post about (because I didn't like them much).

'A Study in Emerald' by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is, in my opinion, one of the bestest writers ever, but while this story has a good, original concept (alternate history Sherlock Holmes), you really need to know a bit about Sherlock Holmes to get it. So while it was a reasonably entertaining read, I was left at the end having no idea at all what was going on.

'Paying it Forward' by Michael A. Burstein. Pretty average. A little too twee. OK, a lot too twee. And with a decidedly average SF idea behind it all.

'Robots Don't Cry' by Mike Resnick. This one has a very similar idea to 'The Tale of the Golden Eagle', but is basically a whole lot more cliched and predictable.

Those are the short stories, here are the novelettes:

'Hexagons' by Robert Reed. This is another alternate history story, I quite enjoyed it until the climax, which was a bit of, uh, an anticlimax. It probably could have done with more focus on the world rather than the characters, but I did like the little cameos from various real life historical figures.

'The Empire of Ice Cream' by Jeffrey Ford. I quite liked this one too. Very well written with a few twists that I never saw coming. It's about a guy who suffers from synesthesia, which means his senses don't work the way they're supposed to, and he smells sounds, hears textures, tastes colours, and so on. Apparently it's a real condition.

'Bernado's House' by James Patrick Kelly. I got about a quarter of the way through this one, before deciding it probably wasn't appropriate to be reading stories with graphic sex scenes at work. It's about a sentient house who is in love with her owner. The house has a humanoid avatar, which is good news for the owner, wink wink. Anyway, the first bit didn't grab me, so I doubt I'll read the rest.

'Legions in Time' by Michael Swanwick. I liked this one too. I felt that the author's prose style was quite amateurish, but the story and premise was pretty cool. It's starts out with a woman in the 1930s being paid to watch a closet door in an empty room for eight hours a day, and to alert her boss if anyone ever comes out of it, a concept that aroused my curiosity.

'Nightfall' by Charles Stross. A bit too clever for it's own good. Some very intelligent SF authors seem to release a huge torrent of mind boggling scientific ideas every time they set pen to paper. I'm usually completely lost by the third page, but if the author is good enough they keep me intrigued enough to make the extra effort to sort out what is actually happening. Greg Egan is a good example of an author like this. Stross' style reminds me a lot of Egan's, but unlike Egan he lost my attention about half way through. Sure, he's doing a good job of writing about post-singularity humans whose technology is so advanced that they are almost alien to us, but that's no good if the average reader (I'd like to think I'm an average reader) can't figure out what's going on half the time, and the characters aren't engaging enough to make us think it's worth the effort to try.

There's another novelette, 'Into the Gardens of Sweet Night', which I didn't read because you had to sign up to something before downloading it, and I couldn't be bothered, even though it looked interesting. I might read it later.

Now on to the novellas.

I've only read two of these so far, they're by two authors that I've never read before, but who I've heard a lot of good things about. One of them was OK, but not great, the other was pretty good, but slightly flawed.

'The Green Leopard Plague' by Walter Jon Williams. A couple of paragraphs into this one, I started thinking, 'Christ, not another post-singularity, humans-with-complete-control-over-their-bodies-and-reality type story!'. I guess it's just the trendy genre nowadays. Anyway, I quickly found myself engrossed in this story anyway, possibly because it has two intertwining plot threads, one of which is in the very far future, but one of which is in the not too distant future. Unfortunately the whole story didn't really come together for me. The character's seemed to be not much more than mouthpieces for the authors ideas, but to be fair, they were interesting ideas.

'The Cookie Monster' by Vernor Vinge. This one was very cleverly written, fun (despite a somewhat disturbing premise), and had a neat concept behind it. The only problem was that there were a few small plot holes. It's a slightly different take on a standard SF idea. Highly recommended.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll read the rest next week.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Angel Season 2 Part 1

As promised here is another Buffy related spiel.

I never liked Angel the TV show as much as Buffy the TV show, but I always found Angel the character much more interesting than Buffy the character. Buffy almost never makes mistakes, or does anything wrong, she's always super-competent and very rarely suffers from moral dilemmas. Despite being a bit too perfect and infallible as a hero (kind of like Superman*), she remained appealing to the audience by being perky and entertaining as a character. At least for the first four seasons. Part way through season 5 things changed, but I'll write about them at a later date.

Angel, in contrast, spends most of his free time brooding about the terrible misdeeds he's committed in the past. While the writers certainly overdo this from time to time, by and large it makes him a more interesting character. The second season of Angel is the one where they really bring out his dark side. At the start of the second season we've never seen Angel do anything bad (except in flashbacks to when he was evil, and I guess when he's been turned evil again by his gypsy curse), but in the second episode of this season we see him leave a hotel full of people at the mercy of a demon that encourages fear, paranoia and insanity. Sure, the people did just try to hang him, but they were under the influence of the demon, and the whole scene leaves the viewer thinking 'Hey, this isn't the mopey, puppy eyed Angel we're used to!'. Of course, this all occurs in a flashback, but as the season goes on we see him progressively get darker and more ruthless, until finally he locks a bunch of people in a room with a pair of hungry vampires. Sure, they were evil people, and it's not like he killed them himself, but it's not exactly heroic behaviour.

The first season of Angel wasn't especially great, there were occasional good episodes, but by and large it was all a little repetitive and obvious. The second season is a lot better, possibly because the writers introduced a real plot arc for the season, whereas the first one just meandered on from episode to episode.

Best episodes in this set: 'Guise will be Guise', Wesley (the dorky British guy) has to impersonate Angel while he's away.
'The Shroud of Rahmon', Angel infiltrates a gang of demons trying to steal an ancient artifact, unfortunately the artifact makes anyone in proximity go crazy...
'Reunion' The one where Angel locks the lawyers in with the vampires. Totally sweet.

Bad episodes: Most of the ones on the first disk. Possibly they were a few dull story ideas left over from the first season.

DVD extras: I didn't listen to the commentaries, but there are two featurettes on the last disk. They're pretty standard stuff. 'This is the guy that does the makeup. He's amazing!'. 'This is the guy who does the sets. He's amazing!'

Seven chainsaws out of ten.

* There was a good article in Time called 'The Problem With Superman', about how the Superman comics have not been very popular for years. After all, how many interesting stories can you tell about a guy who is almost omnipotent and doesn't have an immoral or flawed bone in his body? I'd link to the article but it appears to have vanished forever into Time's archive that you have to pay for.