Archives » January 18th, 2007

January 18, 2007

Amazing Race Book Review: My Ox Is Broken

So, Amazing Race viewers, we’ve entered the dark time of the year. That bleak stretch between December and February when there are no new episodes of our favorite show. The new season doesn’t start until February 18, an entire month away. So what can we do during this time? You can watch reruns on GSN, or you can go out and buy the two seasons that have been released on DVD. You can download and watch The Amazing Race Asia, the international version of the show that’s currently airing in Singapore. You can even do the Race yourself at home with the board game and DVD board game.

Or if you’re ready for a refreshing change, you can pick up the new book “My Ox Is Broken!”: Detours, Roadblocks, Fast Forwards and Other Great Moments from TV’s The Amazing Race, by Adam-Troy Castro ($17.95 list). I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher a few weeks ago, and after reading through it I can honestly say this book deserves a prominent place on the bookshelf of any devoted Amazing Race fan.

My Ox Is Broken! is nothing less than an in-depth guide to the first nine seasons of The Amazing Race. It covers every episode, every elimination, every Roadblock and Detour. The author has obviously done his homework, spending countless hours watching and re-watching past seasons of the Race to catalog everything that happened, so he can bring it to you in encyclopedic detail. Over the course of its 458 pages, the book takes us through the history of the Race, season by season.

Every season of the Race gets its own chapter. The author starts by introducing us to the “Dramatis Personae”, the racers from the season. And one thing that set me off at first was that he gives each team a nickname. Some of the nicknames are ones that the racers gave themselves, and that were used on the show. Bill and Joe from the first season are “Team Guido”, of course. Ken and Gerard from Race 3 are “Team Oh, Brother”, and Linda and Karen from Race 5 are the Bowling Moms. This is all as it should be. But then he starts getting creative with the nicknames, like calling BJ and Tyler the “Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers”, and Meredith and Gretchen “Team Energizer Bunny”. Because they keep going and going, you see? And for some of the teams, it seems like he just got bored and used the first thing that popped into his mind. Like calling Charla and Mirna “Team Habibi”. Or “The Enthusiastic Tourists” for Chip and Kim. I mean, I can see where he got into the idea of giving each team a nickname and sticking with that name throughout the whole book, but it’s almost like once he started he kind of got shackled into it. He was probably cursing himself each time he had to type “The Constant Snipers” in place of the much more succinct “Tara and Wil”.

But once you get used to these nicknames he’s made up, you hardly even notice them. Although you do end up flipping the pages back and forth sometimes, asking “Who was ’Team Strategic’ again?” But once he’s introduced the teams for each season, he leads us right into an episode-by-episode breakdown. He recaps each episode; not the entire thing, of course, because he’d need to have published a 25-volume set for that. But he hits all the major events of each leg, all the Roadblocks, Detours, and Fast Forwards, and ends up with a list of what order the teams arrived in and who was eliminated. He even marks down the time they all arrived, so you can look back and see who got a big lead or who had a close finish. And he notes how much money the teams get at the start of each leg, so you can keep track at home. In all, he devotes about 25-30 pages to each season, ending with a breakdown of the final three teams and the winner.

Now, if you’re counting, that only adds up to about 250 pages. If that’s all there was to the book, it would be a handy reference guide, but it wouldn’t be worth much beyond that. Luckily, those episode recaps only take up about half of the book, and the rest of it is what makes “My Ox Is Broken!” a real keeper. In between the episode guides the author has sprinkled fun little chapters like “The Most Jaw-Dropping Errors Ever Made By Racers” and “The Most Endearing Racer Moments.” He brings us a list of moments that we see again and again, like the chaotic marketplaces, the crowded trains in India, and Phil pointing at the horizon. He spends some time giving a psychological evaluation of Flo’s behavior during the Race. He waxes on for ten pages about Colin’s run-in with the police in Tanzania. And he crowns one Racer as the best in the history of the show. I won’t spoil who it is, except to say that it’s not Boston Rob.

And then, to round out the book, and to make it more than just the ramblings of some guy sitting on his couch watching a lot of TV, he also includes interviews with several of the Racers. He interviews Bill and Joe, the famed Team Guido. He interviews Jonathan from Race 6, who would very much like you to know he is not a wife beater. He interviews Brennan, one half of the first-ever winning team. He interviews one of the Pizza Brothers, both of the Clowns, and the entire Gaghan family. He even got the Gaghan kids, Billy and Carissa, to write the foreword to the book. All of these interviews bring us into the world of the Race, and what it’s like to actually be out there for five weeks straight. They give us behind-the-scenes tidbits, and fill us in on things that happened that didn’t make the final cut.

He then caps off the whole book with an alphabetical list of every city and place in the world the Race has visited. That list goes on and on, and it takes up thirteen pages. It really makes you appreciate how sore Phil’s feet must be.

So when you add it all up, you’re left with a book that really captures the spirit of the race, really lets you relive the best moments, and really makes you want the next season the hurry up and start. And I think that if you love the Race, you’re going to love this book too. I know I do.

Title: “My Ox Is Broken!”: Detours, Roadblocks, Fast Forwards and Other Great Moments from TV’s The Amazing Race
Author: Adam-Troy Castro
Publisher: BenBella Books
List Price: $17.95

Playing Windows Media in Firefox on Vista

I’ve been running Vista full-time for about two months now, and I’ve really gotten into it. There are some compatibility problems, like printer drivers, that aren’t working well, but overall I like it, more than I liked Windows XP.

There was one bug, though, and that was that Firefox wasn’t picking up on the Windows Media plugin. So any websites that had embedded Windows Media videos (which are going away now that flash video is becoming popular) wouldn’t show up. There would just be a big blank box telling you to install the plugin, but the only way I knew of to install the Windows Media plugin is to install Windows Media Player, and the latest version is already installed on Vista. So I was kind of stuck, knowing there had to be a way to do it.

As I’ve learned, Google can be your friend in these situations. I found the answer on this site, and what you have to do is basically copy the WMP plugin files from XP over to your Vista installation. The files are npdrmv2.dll, npdsplay.dll, and npwmsdrm.dll, and on an XP machine they’re located in C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player. Vista doesn’t have them, though, so Firefox isn’t able to pick up on them. You have to grab them from an XP machine (or download them from the website I linked to) and copy them to C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\plugins on your Vista machine. After that, Firefox will see the plugins and everything will work fine.

Sounds like a Vista compatibility issue with Firefox, and hopefully a future update will fix it so you don’t have to jump through all these hoops.