Saturday, September 27, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #5

Who was a bigger 80s icon? Alex P. Keaton (as portrayed by Michael J. Fox on the NBC sitcom Family Ties or Milo Bloom, the 10-year-old policy wonk/newspaper reporter in Berkeley Breathed's seminal newspaper strip Bloom County?

credit: www.larrybrownsports.com









That is today's question in this newest edition of Why Won't You Grow?!'s ongoing series "Football Counter-Programming."



credit: www.macleans.ca
Most of you are probably going to say Alex Keaton, because he was the mass market TV star of the decade. If you watched TV during the Reagan years, you know who Alex Keaton was--feathered hair, sweater vest and tie, penny loafers, Conservative social and fiscal values. Michael J. Fox's portrayal of this Reagan acolyte made him a star and jump started him into other vehicles--such as a certain time-travelling DeLorean. There is no denying that Keaton earned his status as an 80s icon. (Heck, he even lived in that most swingy of political swing states--Ohio. And you know that 's got to be a good thing.)



credit: Berkeley Breathed
But what about Milo Bloom? He wore the other fashion choice of the decade--chinos and suspenders. (Sometimes he even mixed it up with a bow tie. And he was definitely not afraid to wear a tie with those suspenders--no matter how long it might end up being.)He was also plugged into the politics of the 80s--he just might have been a bit more on the moderate (or even liberal) side of the spectrum. Milo's mound of blonde hair put Keaton's sensible cut to shame. But Milo's problem was that he wasn't a megastar like Alex's alter ego. And he held some controversial beliefs that probably didn't resonate with the people as the culture was really started to heat up.

Me?

Well, I liked them both. But as the 80s wore on and the 90s came, I became more of a Milo sort of guy. In the end, he's more my style . . . and the subversive nature of Bloom County helped shape me more--at least I WANT that to have been the case. Truthfully, I'm probably a lot more Alex P. Keaton than I'd like to be sometimes and not enough of a rabble-rouser like Milo Bloom.

But I'm not done growing and changing. I can STILL be whomever I want to be. And this version of me is hoping to be more and more like Milo as I get older.

What about you? Who do you like more? Who better defined the 1980s?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: What I'll be Watching

So, we've gone through the main networks and the cable offerings for this Fall television season.
Before we wrap it up finally for another year, I'll summarize the shows that I plan on watching.

credit: videohive.net


MONDAY is a day in which I honor every network.
Gotham on Fox will kick the week of superhero watching off with a slow burn of dourness.
I can counteract that with a bit of comedy on The Big Bang Theory, on CBS. And that will be followed by the insanity of Sleepy Hollow (also on Fox).
For something that is even remotely realistic in nature, I'm also watching Castle (ABC).
I'm also DVRing Star Wars Rebels (Disney XD) and watching that during odd moments throughout the week.

TUESDAY is superhero double-feature night.
There is a slight chance that I may give Marry Me (on NBC) a try. I guess I will let Dean try to convince me in the coming weeks. And speaking of giving things a try, I promised that I would do that with Selfie (ABC).
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) is already on my list from last year and it ticks off another slot on my superhero BINGO card. But don't forget about The Flash (The CW). And then there is New Girl (Fox). I hope it regains the funny groove that slipped a bit last season.

WEDNESDAY is a day when I should really catch up on my blogging.
Day 3 of superhero central stars Arrow (The CW). And I've decided to give black-ish (ABC) at least a few shots before I dismiss it out-of-hand. Other than that, there's nothing of interest to me on this night.

THURSDAY is surprisingly realistic in its show's settings.
I hope that Gracepoint (Fox) turns into an engaging show. Because by now even I am concerned about the amount of comic book stuff I've watched already this week. But if A to Z (NBC) turns into something fun, it'll help provide some roughage to my otherwise juvenile television diet. Not that Elementary (CBS) cares. Sherlock Holmes is something of a comic-book hero on his own. But I'll watch it anyway.

FRIDAY is a day when I get home from work and watch movies with my family.
Or if I'm lucky I might have a date with Lynda. No series television for me on this night.

SATURDAYis even more of a nonscheduled day.
Maybe I'll do lots of push ups and sit ups on this day?

SUNDAY is AMC day.
Starting next month I'll be watching The Walking Dead. And that's it. Later on, of course, I'll watch Games of Thrones. I'm doing my best to boycott any viewing of NFL games. (Though, to be obvious, I wasn't the biggest football viewer in my neighborhood. But I did watch some games at times on these days.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: NBC

And so, we come to the end of the network examinations with the last of our alphabetical listing--the National Broadcasting Company. Most people don't know, however, that for the last decade or so, NBC has actually stood for Never Becoming Cosby Again. (That last A is silent.)

It's no surprise that the Peacock network hasn't had a run of good shows: be they comedy or drama for a while. And even the ones that WERE good, like 30 Rock or Community just never generated enough consistent numbers to help pull the network out of the ratings swoon it has suffered in recent years. But enough about the past. What shows does the network have for us THIS fall?

State of Affairs (premieres Nov. 17): This show is an odd parallel to the CBS show Madam Secretary. Katherine Heigl makes her return to TV as a CIA analyst that assembles the White House's daily threat briefing. So this show is a drama. But won't it have a hard time walking in the last White House drama that was shepherded by NBC--The West Wing? It's just never going to be that and so it somehow seems diminished before it starts. But I'm just being critical for the sake of being critical, I guess.

Marry Me (premieres Oct. 14): It this show is lucky it won't be compared to The Michael J. Fox Show and if is REALLY lucky it might end up being good like Mad About You. The two main actors "meet cute" but Annie (Casey Wilson) scuttles the burgeoning relationship right before Jake (Wilson's real life husband Ken Marino) is to propose. You see . . . he didn't do it as fast as she wanted him to and yada yada yada. This is the kind of show that most likely will start slow and feel artificial and awkward. But if given the chance for decent acting and providing the writing staff time to work out the kinks, it could turn into something worth watching. Sure, its formula TV. But NBC needs some predictable success.

The Mysteries of Laura (just recently premiered): This is another show based on a Spanish TV premise (Jane the Virgin, Ugly Betty, Killer Women) but that is not what you need to take away from this show. The show is being blasted by critics because of its unfortunate premise that Debra Messing's ("Hi Grace! Where have YOU been?") character is noteworthy for trying to be a professional cop AND a mom! How can she handle BOTH?!!! It's even in the tag line promotional for the program:
credit: www.nbc.com




I don't really care whether this show is good or not, but I DO care about this parody theme for it that was created by NPR writer and blogger Linda Holmes. Click on this link to learn more about and listen to the wonderful song "copmom momcop".

Bad Judge (premieres Oct. 2): Because this post is full of NBC nostalgia. I wish that this show was something of a recurrence of Night Court. But it's not.

Speaking of NBC nostalgia . . . twenty years ago this week, the first episode of Friends premiered. Those were good days for this network. But back to the shows on tap for THIS year.

A to Z (premieres Oct. 2): First . . . what is going on at NBC that all of theie shows are premiering in October? Are they so used to being last that they want to premiere last as well? Anyway . . . this show features The Mother Criatin Miloti (the best thing about the last season of HIMYM) Änd it also has the tag line "Destiny has a funny way of finding you." So maybe this show might offer the thrills of the first few seasons of How I Met Your Mother. And so, on blind faith alone I think I will make this the one new NBC show that I will give a shot this year. Huzzah!

But wait, you're thinking right now. We must be nearing the end of this post and we haven't encountered ANY comic book-based shows? What is NBC thinking? Well, it turns out that NBC is thinking exactly what ABC, The CW, Fox, and even CBS is thinking . . . comic books are where its AT! And NBC's offering in this vein is Constantine (premieres Oct. 24). You might remember this story from the Keanu Reeves movie of recent years. I don't as I didn't see that movie.

And well, that is it I guess. (Except for the holiday event Peter Pan LIVE!)  As I said, I think that I'll give A to Z a try and  . . . maybe Marry Me? But probably that is it. Will any of these shows help NBC begin to pull things around? Have they built up enough good will (and ratings) with "established" shows such as The Biggest Loser, Blacklist, About a Boy, Grimm, Chicago P.D., or Law and Order: SVU to give cover to the fledgling shows? Only time will tell, but I imagine most people are skeptical of NBC.

What do you think? Have you seen anything on NBC that catches your eye? Sound off in the comments if you like.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: Fox

It seems that this year many of the networks are not going all out for the Fall season. I guess you can understand how a mini-network like The CW is barely offering anything new. But even the big boys who have been producing and broadcasting new shows for decades are seeming to skimp a bit for the end of 2014. And maybe that is a reflection of the shift toward an emphasis on new shows in Winter and even in Summer. The new show budget is being spread more and more across the year, rather than being concentrated in a big launch of new shows at the Fall only. And maybe this is a reflection of the simple fact that broadcast TV sucks and Cable is totally eating Mainstream's lunch.

But . . . even with all that said, Fox is out there putting out some fun shows. And it started LAST year with Sleepy Hollow. It was a bananas concept and it did well. I mean, just look at this promotional image for the start of season 2.

credit: fox.com
You've got Ichabod trying to grab hold of his fellow "Witness"Abbie as she is getting sucked into the netherworld. (Just trust me that this is what is being represented here.) Add the weird vines pulling at them and the echoes of the Sistine Chapel and you get the beginnings of what makes this show so insane.

And so, even though Sleepy Hollow (premieres 9/22) is not a NEW show, I had to start my Fox coverage with it. Any show that makes the Headless Horseman seem anticlimactic is fully committed to its own level of weirdness.

As for new shows? The most high profile is definitely Gotham (premieres 9/22). It is set in Batman's city and is set during his childhood. We don't really get to see how Bruce Wayne trains to take on the cowl, but rather we get lots of focus on the backstory behind the greatest armada of villains in the business: Catwoman, the Riddler, the Penguin, and others. Plus policeman Jim Gordan. The critical buzz for this show has been pretty high so I'm definitely planning to tune in tomorrow night and see how this show does. (Heck, I watched every single minute of Smallville back in the day, so there is no doubt that I'll be tuning into this show for a while.)

 Gracepoint (premieres Oct. 2): If you are a fan of BBC America, you may have already watched this show. But it was called Broadchurch then. And it still starred David Tennant. But watching this show is probably a better use of your time than trying to reconnect with The Following, so I'm recommending it.

Mulaney (premieres Oct. 5): This is a show about an up-and-coming star trying to make it work on his developing talk show. There promises to be behind-the-scenes jokes, a cast of quirky characters, and . . . gulp . . . Martin Short. I'm no fan of Martin Short, so that won't be helping me watch. And this seems like Larry Sanders did this show so much better over a decade ago.

Red Band Society (premiered Sept. 24--last week): This drama (and probably sometimes comedy) takes place in a cancer ward of a hospital. The cast is full of patients struggling with disease and terminal diagnoses. It is also featuring doctors who struggle to maintain their optimism and bring the kids to accept their lot in life. As with many hospital shows, lessons will be learned and Very Special Episodes will be experienced. (NOTE: This all sounds very cynical and the show is probably pretty good. So, if this show is your thing, you'll probably like it.)

As for shows that have to be "that sort of thing" then there is Utopia (already airing). This is very much a reality show and so it is definitely NOT my sort of show. But it is pretty aggressive in its concept--putting people together in a compound and filming them as they try to organize and run a "society".  And it adds a social component by swapping out cast members once a month (if the show lasts that long) and bringing in new people that apply from the viewership. But someone over on Grantland has already said quite enough about this show, so I'll just link you over there. (Hint: They are NOT fans.)

Shows I'm not certain about?

Backstrom (coming soon?) and starring Rainn Wilson. It is a police procedural with a comic element and set in the Pacific Northwest. I think the comedy comes from Wilson's oddities and so it makes me think a bit of Monk or maybe a bit of Columbo? Maybe we'll see?

The Last Man on Earth (coming soon?): This is from the writing of and stars SNL alumni Will Forte. So it has the potential to be funny. But the gag of him being the last person alive can't last long, right? And if it tries to last any amount of time, then the hard cold reality of trying to keep the modern world running with (literally) NO ONE to help you is so unrealistic that it seems a HUGE stumbling block to overcome. And how funny can the show be if there aren't any other people? I'm tentative on this one.

Wayward Pines (coming soon?): I was interested in this show and its Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet vibe. And then I read in the description that it is connected to M. Night Shyamalan. Oof. This show may NOT be coming soon to my television.

So . . . that is a quick look at Fox's slate of new shows. And while not all of them are getting ready to launch this Fall, at least this network is thinking and trying to do something new. (Except for Utopia, I guess.) I'll be giving Gotham a try for sure and hoping that Sleepy Hollow maintains its insane edge for its second season. And I might give Gracepoint a try as well.

What Fox shows are you interested in? Anything that you are looking forward to? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #4

Credit: www.nerdbaseball.com
The last few weeks, I've been re-examining my (slight) collection of comic books--ahem, GRAPHIC NOVELS. I've got all the one's you would expect a dilettante to have: The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, and a few others that I won't bore you with.

They are all Batman titles (well, except for Watchmen). When I collected these stories, back in the 1990s during my college years, I was much more interested in Batman than I was any other comic book hero. He had been getting all the movie-related press back in those days (the days before Marvel's series of tentpole movies and fifteen year to colonize Hollywood had not yet begun). I had been an unabashed fan of the original Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movie and experienced a steady decline in satisfaction as the subsequent sequels came out.

But I watched Batman The Animated Series on television and I watched its cousin spinoff about Superman. And later, Lynda and I even watched Batman Beyond and found that pretty good as well.

But I really enjoyed The Dark Knight Returns for all the same reasons that everyone else did. It helped revive the idea of Batman and re-established his hard-boiled credentials in the time that many people just enjoyed the campiness of Adam West. (Oddly enough, in the on-going "New 52" reboot of DC Comics, the "Batman 66" comic title that is heavily influenced by that Adam West television style is enjoying a lot of popularity, I think.)

Anyway, I'm no expert, so don't expect lots of insight from me. I'm just a fan that has been dabbling here and there.

And my latest dabbling is centered around the new "Batgirl" comic title that I think is launching next month. The new creators of the title have generated tons of interest in the work (as is evidenced by ME getting involved) because of the style they bring both to the character of Barbara Gordon and how that style is reflected in the book itself. Outwardly, there is a great deal of fan love for the new costume design--which is almost always the first and most polarizing part of any fan argument about a superhero. You start with the outward appearance and begin tunneling inward IF you remain interested.

So far as I can tell, fans are responding to the DIY-nature of Gordon's new Batgirl outfit, which gives the impression that you could knock it together in a weekend of careful shopping and a bit of home-ec driven customization. (Leather jacket, sewn on bat symbol, snap-on cape, Doc Marten boots, etc.) And the fact that this version of Barbara Gordon's outfit is still tied into the history of the character--both in other "Batgirl" books as well as in the 1966 Adam West show . . . well, these are all good things.

So . . . the interest generated is also driven by the obvious modern-ness of this twenty-something Barbara Gordon. And, since the new title has yet begun it's publishing run, it is almost ENTIRELY centered on the first promotional image of Batgirl, in new costume, taking a selfie with her camera phone while involved in her derring-do. (Check out that first Comics Alliance link again and you'll see what I mean.)

The selfie image also inspired a bit of time-travelling weirdness that I ran across recently as well. And that is just fun.

What will it all mean? Does this start me down a path of comics purchasing and reading that I never would have guessed? And what does it say that I'm starting this road with Batgirl? Is that wrong? (And there are so many things wrong with women depicted in comics. I GET that. The costuming is RIDICULOUS for sure and insane in most cases.)

So, I guess I'm opening myself up for TONS of criticism here. Let me have it. What are your thoughts?

Monday, September 15, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: Dean's Cable Essay

It’s been a running tradition for David to write up a Fall preview for the various broadcast shows. In the last few years, I've provided a corresponding preview for cable (and streaming, but henceforth I’ll just say cable)[1], because I watch too much TV, and want all of you out there to watch what I watch.  But this year, I must do something different.

In part because cable doesn't respect the traditional Fall/Spring release date of the broadcast networks, and in part because the Fall shows I’ve either pitched to you before look kind of terrible. So instead, I will give a general overview of the state of cable television today, which will surely go on too long and represent way more thought than anyone should give to something that appears on a glowing screen in your living room.[2]

I’ve divided my thoughts up into Drama, Comedy, and Animation, so you know, skip whatever doesn't interest you. Or skip the whole thing, it’s not my blog. I won’t be offended. I won’t even know.[3]

DRAMA

credit: media2.onsugar.com
Cable drama is in trouble, mostly. Its critical darlings are winding down or gone (Breaking Bad, Mad Men) and those that are rising up to replace them (True Detective, Fargo, the Leftovers), I find tiring. These shows all revel in being grim and mostly humorless. This holds true for the less critically acclaimed series as well [Sons of Anarchy has mistaken shock value for solid storytelling for at least 3 seasons. It learned the wrong lessons from The Shield, which was never shy about going for shock value, but always (well, OK, mostly) in the service of a larger story. Game of Thrones, a show I unabashedly love, has never met a situation that couldn’t get worse.  There is not a single happy character on Masters of Sex. I’m told the funniest parts of The Walking Dead tend to be unintentional (but that it’s gotten better?  I don’t watch it, so take my grumbling here with at least a grain of salt.)][4]

It’s not that I need or want happy, happy, happy all the time, but there needs to be some light in the darkness. Some reason to hope things will get better, rather than progressively worse until everything breaks. I’d love to see a drama on one of the bigger cable networks with a sense of fun and humor. Something like what Leverage used to do, or Castle (if I may intrude on David’s turf for a moment[5]) does now (maybe Monk is the originator of this specific style?). Even then the creators often forget what makes their shows tick and turn down the farce and up the grim.

These episodes are always the worst. I know I could turn on TNT or USA for an episode of Suits or something, but I’m not even sure if I have that programmed into my cable box. (Someone somewhere is yelling at me that I only have myself to blame for not tuning into these shows, but I also blame the AV Club. I set my schedule by their “What’s on Tonight,” and if it’s not there I won’t remember to DVR it.)

Of course this all ignores the glorious exception to the above: Orange is the New Black. How is a show about people with the least amount of control over their lives and the fewest options  the most optimistic, the most likely to find an unexpected laugh instead of finding another way to punch you in the gut (although it’s certainly not going to pull a punch if it comes to it)? Rectify is another show that breaks this pattern to an extent. It’s not going to make you laugh…ever. But its characters at least act human, and although their circumstances aren’t pleasant, they’re all working toward making what they’ve got better instead of tearing everything around them down (except in the episode Daniel tears down his mother’s kitchen, but that is not the point and stop pointing out flaws in my arguments).[6]

Another show that is good at mixing jokes with the more serious business is Justified (Just watch it David. It’s the final season. It won’t hurt you.) If you don’t believe me, tell anyone who watches it that Dewey Crowe has four kidneys and see how they react.[7] Also it managed to make Patton Oswalt hilarious and believably badass. (There is no way to describe his character without using that word, all other synonyms are inapt.)

And no essay would be complete without a final reversal. Sometimes adding lightness can go wrong. Levity is good, silliness is not. Which is why I finish this segment of the essay with Doctor Who. Steven Moffet is a very funny man. He brought the world the sock gap and the giggle loop. But the weakest parts of these shows are when they go too broad and veer into the silly (I’m looking at you first half hour of Capaladi’s premiere).[8] I could also throw in True Blood into this, but that’s maybe not silly so much as dumb. So in summation: Lighten up cable dramas, just, you know, not too much.

COMEDY

credit: popsugar.com
Whereas I’m down on cable when it comes to the overall state of its dramas, I have no such hesitation when it comes to the comedies. In fact I’m just going to list all the comedies I can think of that I’ve watched this year (that haven’t been canceled, although for some of them there is no news about yet) and then tell you something good about them, with one (quite notable) exception.

Archer: “This is how you get ants. “
Broad City: [Ed. note: Click this link to learn whatever it is Dean wants you to learn. And no, I haven't previewed it.]
Children’s Hospital: Clowns are a race on this show. So if you find them unsettling that makes you a racist.
Community: It’s on cable now! It’s been fixed from season 4! Donald Glover is gone! (Wait, that last one is bad. Come back Donald Glover, we love you!)
Cougar Town: RIP Big Carl
Girls: The latest season of Girls fixed some of the issues of the previous season, and also made me laugh.
Ground Floor: I think this one might be dead, but Briga Heelan is an absolute delight and John C. McGinley is an absolute pro when it comes to yelling at people.
Inside Amy Schumer: I find Amy’s willingness to make herself the butt of every joke endearing, especially since the jokes are so funny.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Dee looks like a bird.
Key and Peele: I hope they don’t bring back Luther the Anger Translator. I do hope they bring back A-a-ron.
Kroll Show: Nick Kroll specializes in parodying the exact type of show I do not watch. I still find his parodies to be hilarious.
Louie: I might be done with Louie. As it’s gone on it’s gone from side splitting comedy with occasional dramatic moments to a drama with all too fleeting comedic moments. I might quit this show and it makes me sad.[9]
The League: Batman Chalupa
Nathan For You: Dumb Starbucks: it’s exactly like Starbucks, but everything has dumb in front of it so parody law protects it.
NTSF:SD:SUV: I love that we got to see under Kove’s eye patch.   
Portlandia: Portland is a city ripe for gentle, loving, skewering and this show delivers. They need to fluoridate their water though. Also, they probably don’t vaccinate their kids as much as they should there. Get your vaccinations folks. Herd immunity is important.
Red Oaks: Technically this is not a show yet, it’s only an Amazon pilot. You should watch it and rate it on Amazon. I thought it was hilarious. It’s kind of Caddyshack the TV show (plus it’s got Paul Reiser who is making a welcome comeback to our TVs. )
Review: Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes was the funniest single episode of TV I’ve seen all year.
Rick and Morty: “Look at me, I’m Mr. Meseeks!”
Silicon Valley: While Review had my favorite overall episode, this show had the single funniest set piece I’ve seen all year. I would describe it, but it’s a) incredibly profane and b) half of the joy in it comes from the visuals. I will say a scientific paper by actual scientists was published on this scene. (Warning: Both math and profane topics at this link.)
Sirens: I couldn’t tell you why this show made me as consistently happy as it did, but I was always excited to watch an episode. It has a special sort of charm to it.
South Park: You know what you’re going to get with South Park, so I’m not going to waste my time thinking of something clever to say about it.
Veep: In Dean-runs-the-Emmy’s world, Veep won Best Comedy (Orange is the New Black was runner-up for Best Drama after Breaking Bad because it’s a dramedy, and dramadies go in the drama category under my iron-fisted rule).
You’re the Worst: “They’re everyone’s stars.” This line made me tear up a little. It was the saddest line. This show will probably not come back--no one is watching even though it’s by far the funniest thing on TV right now and it’s not even close--but its last episode is Thursday so there’s still time to catch up. It’s hilarious and also somehow makes you care about some awful people. Also there was a really emotional moment involving a food processor of all things. Really this show is the best.

ANIMATION (or rather kid-focused animation)

credit:www.outofoursystem.com
Cable is a gold mine for quality animation. Between The Legend of Korra, Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Gravity Falls there are four cartoons adults can watch with their kids and still be entertained. (Be forewarned all the shows contain scenes that may be too scary for younger viewers.)  These shows are all great and I recommend each without reservation. The only issue with cable animation is that the people who schedule these shows are some sort of madmen who schedule these shows on some sort of time table known only to them. Gravity Falls just began its season and has taken a random break after only three episodes. Nick stopped airing The Legend of Korra halfway through the season and began placing them online only.[10] You’d have to be a haruspex[11] to keep track of when new episodes air (or trust your DVR to sort new from old, which is beyond my DVR’s capabilities and wouldn’t work for Korra either way).

So, to sum up for those who saw a wall of text and just skipped to the bottom: Dramas: too dark, not enough light; Comedies: a cornucopia of riches. If you’re not watching any, pick one from my list and give it a shot; Animation: Great, but frustrating in its own right.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: The CW

We're going in alphabetical order with the networks this year, so after CBS comes The CW. What shows does this mini-network have in store for the Fall TV season?

credit: www.cwtv.com; NOT A FUNCTIONING VIDEO. JUST A SCREEN CAP OF A VIDEO. DO NOT CLICK!
The Flash (premieres Oct. 7): You're probably not surprised that this is my most anticipated show of this network's new season. I've been watch Arrow for a few years now on The CW and this is a spin-off of that show from a character introduced in the course of last year's episodes. And surprise, surprise, this is one of Entertainment Weekly's best shows of the season. (But that may be due to the fact that nerds and superhero fare drives so much of mainstream programming these days?) Anyway, I'm hopeful that this can be a decent show--and importantly, a more bright and cheerful superhero story than Arrow tends to be.

Jane the Virgin (premieres Oct. 13): This show tells the tale of what happens when an "inexperienced" young lady who loves telenovellas mistakenly gets artificially inseminated during a visit with her doctor. Now her views on life are thrown out of whack and the conflicting views of her mother and grandmother pull her in different directions. I'm not sure why this show feels less racially insensitive than some of the other shows offered on other networks. Maybe this is because this is an Americanized version of a show that has already been run in another country?

And . . . can that really be all the NEW shows that The CW is launching this Fall? That seems amazingly slight, even for this networks. I mean, last year they had Reign and The Tomorrow People  and The 100 and, maybe The Carrie Diaries? Was that new last season? Ah well, I guess I shouldn't act too surprised. I tried The Tomorrow People for a while last year and just gave up. It never gained any traction with me and I just couldn't keep it going. And in the past few years, the only show that I've liked and stuck with was Arrow. (So, I guess you can now see why I'm hoping that The Flash turns out to be something to watch.)

The CW does list some show called iZombie (premiere "Coming Soon") but I shudder to even speculate what THAT show might be about and I definitely won't be watching it.

Oh . . . alright . . . I looked to see what the show was all about. And, oddly enough, it seems a bit like the premise of Jane the Virgin. Well, if you swap out the TV-show loving Latina good girl for a driven, pre-med student named Olivia Moore. (Liv Moore . . . right? OH PLEASE TELL ME YOU GET IT!!!!!) And you flip the "accidentally got impregnated through medical mistake" with "unfortunately got bitten by a zombie hoard at a med school weekend party". Well, then you can see the parallels, right?

Anyway, Zombie Liv is somehow not totes a zombie yet, so she can somehow still "pass" as a breather, so . . .  um . . . wait is THIS ANOTHER WEIRD RACIAL SHOW?!!!

No . . . calm down. I've already put WAY too much thought into this show that doesn't even have a premiere date. I just went down this road because I wanted to help fill out the post length because the number of shows to consider was so slight. (And, apparently it is based off of an existing comic book story.)

So . . . yeah. That's it for the CW. And I've already stated that the only other show I'll be tuning into on this network is Arrow, which premieres on October 8.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #3

Credit: www.thechristiannerd.com
For week three of the Football Counter-Programming offensive, I'm going back to my roots a bit. Nothing directly new in the sense that I'm creating something off of the cuff today. But rather, I'm falling back on two common themes throughout this blog from its beginning just over ten years ago.

Anyone who takes a look at my tag cloud to the right of the screen will see that my two most written-about topics are FAMILY and TELEVISION. And that is what the source of today's post is all about.


First, we took a trip down the road to Lynd's Fruit Farm. We've gone there most falls to get some apples and spend the morning wandering around. This time Grace and I wandered around in the corn maze which was cut with an LotR theme. The map led you through various mazes paths shaped to evoke The Shire, Mordor, Lorien, Gondor, Rohan, and the rest. Grace and I were down in the maze for quite a while and didn't make it through the whole thing. But it was fun. Now we've got LOTS of Honeycrisp apples to eat and enjoy for weeks to come.

The OTHER theme for you today is that of Television. And if its Fall, that means I (and some of my willing friends) are writing posts for the Fall slate of new TV shows. In the last couple of days I've written some thoughts on ABC and CBS.  And if those items don't interest you, I've also added a new entry to my LOST Rewatch thread. (I'm still working to finish up season two. I've VERY far behind.)

So, why not ignore the football for a little while today and read about some other television programming.

2014 Fall TV Preview: CBS

The Fall TV Preview is underway for 2014. You can find the other 2014 posts here, along with the other posts I've written on the subject in past years.

In this post, we're going to take a look at CBS.

Wait . . . hold on. Am I reading this right? Are there only three new shows in this Fall season for CBS? Can that possibly be right? If so, then these three new shows are NCIS: New Orleans, The McCarthys, Scorpion, and Stalker. Oh, hold on. That is four shows. That's better . . . I guess? Or am I just not finding the correct listing of shows for CBS?

But why would that be hard? Is the trend for broadcast TV so downward that they can't even be bothered to promote their shows? Or is CBS so confident in their #1 mainstream status that they didn't green light lots of new shows because their old shows are relatively strong?

So many questions.

Well, let's take a look at these discovered new shows and then maybe I can find something else as I dig around.

NCIS: New Orleans (premieres Sept. 23): Police procedurals are the gifts that keep on giving year after year. They are the Swiss Army knife of television shows because they can fit anywhere and you came make them "fresh" by moving them to a new city and throwing together a new cast. This cast is centered around Scott Bacula. I can't think of anything witty to say about this show because it is not interested in being witty or flashy or different. Much like this paragraph, NCIS: New Orleans is content to simply take up space.

Credit: www.cbs.com

The McCarthys (premieres Oct. 30): Now, what do you think this show is about? I haven't done any research on it yet, so I know as much as you might. Let's make some guesses based on the photo that the Web site provided. Obviously . . . the dude standing up is the main focal point of the show. Let's suppose that his name is Ian McCarthy. And from the looks of it he and his dad, his (long-suffering) wife, his boorish (younger?) brother--and his wife, and their . . . um . . . work neighbor that lives nearby? Well, they all like to get together and watch . . . college football every weekend. And judging from the green shamrock (not pictures in the screen cap) to the left on the main page . . . they are Irish? Notre Dame fans? Living in Boston?

Let's see if I got ANY of that remotely close.
Well, I guess wrong about who was the main character and I didn't anticipate the homosexual angle. And I mixed up the mother by identifying her as a wife (I guess I misinterpreted older for long-suffering. AND . . . I got the relationship of the brother and sister wrong by making them husband and wife. BUT I did guess Boston and gathering for sports periodically correct! So . . . 30 imaginary points go to me.

Now . . . I'm not going to watch this show because ethnic humor is usually as tired and stereotypical as the semi-racist humor that was backed-away from in my ABC Preview. But, I'm wondering why this show is not premiering until late October? Is CBS broadcasting the World Series this year and I'm not aware of it? Anyway, let's not spend more time worrying about it.

Scorpion (premieres Sept. 22): Before you really start reading through this write up, click on the link to this show's page and take a hard look at the main photo. I recognize that trying to sum up a brand new show concept in a static image like this is challenging--as was proven by my previous exercise with The McCarthys. But WHAT is that lady in the background doing with the sparking electrical extension cords? Is she an electrician? A magician? WHY would you choose that pose as her defining moment to an unfamiliar public?

As to what the show is about? Well, as the chalkboard full of equations may suggest, the show collects several people of high IQ together to work for the government solving difficult cases. Maybe the government doesn't know how to fix their electrical problems? So, yeah .. . CBS is locking DOWN the police procedural corner of broadcast television.

Stalker (premieres Oct. 1): If you like one-word, S-construction names for you TV shows then CBS is for you! But if you like feel-good shows with uplifting messages this show is most-likely NOT for you, as the main image on the show page is a hoodied figure with no visible face. (Honestly, given the image resonance this has with Trayvon Martin I'm a bit surprised by that. But I guess that was a few years ago. Maybe I'm too sensitive.)

Based on some simple one-line statements on the show site, Stalker seems to be like a watered down version of an Arkham Asylum breakout or an amped up police procedural show. There are detectives (Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q) facing off against criminals. But the criminals seems more elaborate than just the sort of guys that get jailed on Castle each week. There is a definite horror element to the show. Maybe CBS learned something from FOX's Sleepy Hollow success last year?Speaking of learning from other success . . . hey CBS, do you like female-themed political shows?

Madam Secretary (premieres Sept. 21): Tea Leone is not Julia Louis Dreyfus. But Leone has been around the TV block several times like JLD and even has some experience in the television comedy. But I don't get the vibe that Madam Secretary is trying to be funny. If it were, the cover image would show a cast of wacky aides with ties askew, perhaps trying to prevent a tourist from spilling a soft drink on the Declaration of Independence. Rather, Madam Secretary looks more like CBS' version of The West Wing, a character-driven platform to allow the creators to speak about American foreign policy and such. And my supposition is definitely made more solid by the fact that the show is scheduled to be on Sunday nights--America's most serious night of television.

And so, I think that may be it for new Fall Shows. Another smallish bunch. But CBS has lots of solid stuff to keep its numbers up. There is Football on the weekend--both college and professional. And they've got critical favorites like The Good Wife and Revenge and Scandal coming back. And of course they've got The Big Bang Theory chugging along and racking up numbers and nominations every season.

As for me? On this network, I'll be looking forward to the return of Elementary and The Big Bang Theory. But what are your favorite shows on the Tiffany Network? Do any of these new shows look good to you? Do you think Stalker might become some sort of hit mid week? And how do actors like Dylan McDermott keep getting shows like clockwork year after year after year? Let me know down in the comments.

Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: ABC

Do you feel that bite in the air? Summer is going and Fall is returning and that can only mean that I am going to rapidly type up some hasty thoughts about this year's Fall TV lineup for the major broadcast networks.

I've been doing this since my blog began back in 2004--and I even forgot to commemorate my tenth year anniversary back on August 12, so very bad job by me. But I've realized that mistake now and have updated my header tag accordingly:
. . . but that is not why you  are here. You are here because I have actually  already started the posts for 2014 back at the start of the calendar year. Back when Dean guest blogged about the winter season shows worth caring about. And then Angie chimed in with her own thoughts on which returning post-Christmas shows you should continue watching.

But I'm here to talk about the NEW shows on broadcast. Are there any that are worth your time this year? Have you given up on mainstream TV as much as the major networks have? Is cable and Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Prime the only places to get quality entertainment beamed at you? Most critics have been saying yes for many years. And since I'm no professional, who am I to argue against people who are paid to watch TV for a living?

Credit: www.abc.go.com

Let's get things started with ABC--because it comes first in alphabetical order!

Selfie (premiere Sept. 30): I want this show to be funny and watchable mostly because I really like Karen Gillan. She played my favorite Companion on Doctor Who (Amy Pond) and I really like her beautiful red hair. (I HOPE that is the most shallow and useless thing that I mention on this series of posts.) Also, Karen is Scottish and that is great as well. But she won't be using her natural accent in the show--which is strike 1.

She plays Eliza Dooley (get it?) who has lots (less than 300,000 is lots?) of social media followers and decided that she is shallow and needs to change herself into a more well rounded person (are you getting it?). So she hires John Cho--of Harold and Kumar & Star Trek fame--to help her remake herself (really, honestly . . . are you GETTING IT?)

Can't I just enjoy watching Karen Gillan again?!!!!

Sigh . . . probably NOT.

Manhattan Love Story (premiere Sept. 30): The conceit of this show is that you are experiencing the unfiltered thoughts of people as they go through their days and knowing what they know . . . but won't say. You remember the other times this premise was done with overwhelming success, right? [Really, please . . . click on the first link. And if you are too young to know what that is, click here. I find it unfathomable that it lasted for four years?]

But, more about Manhattan Love Story. It just seems very cliched and stereotypical. It's lazy writing hung on a tired concept.


What's next? Well, if you were a fan of Ringer from a few years ago. And if you thought The Fantastic Four was a better comic book movie than everyone says it is. And . . . . if you thought what the world needs now is some sort of mash up between Dexter and The Vampire Diaries, then this next show is maybe for you? Fair warning, though . . .  there may only be ONE of you out there.

Forever (premieres Sept. 22 AND Sept. 23): Taking the concept of inexplicable immortality to new heights, this new show will premiere on two back-to-back nights. Ioan Gruffudd brings his many vowels to ABC to depict a doctor with a secret. He.Can't.Die. Which makes him so dedicated to his craft, as he tries to figure out what makes him different.

Perhaps the best thing about this show will be the character of Abe, portrayed by Judd Hirsch. He looks exactly the same as he did when portraying Jeff Goldblum's dad in Independence Day waaay back in the 1990s. Same rumpled hair, graying beard, slouchy clothes. Maybe, HE'S the immortal one?

And I love that his character is only identified with one name. Its like ABC is saying: "Let's see . . . clothes, hair, yeah. We know exactly who this dude is. No one needs to think much about him. So he only needs one name."

And speaking of not putting lots of thought into things . . .


Now I'm going to back away from these shows very quickly and try to forget that they are there.

How to Get Away with Murder (premieres Sept. 25): seems like a much better show. It's certainly a much more familiar show, so that is probably a good thing.Viola Davis is a reliable actor and Shonda Rhimes knows how to put together a reliable show. So . . . I guess this is the Ole Reliable of this season for ABC. And why not? It's a crime procedural, involving murder, and lots of dialogue. Feels like Castle to me.

And that is ALL for new shows with a hard premiere date. Other new ABC shows such as American Crime, Astronaut Wives Club, MARVEL's Agent Carter, Secrets and Lies, and The Whispers are all Coming Soon. Maybe they will premiere after Christmas, when some of these shows have been dropped? Or maybe they just aren't ready yet. Without looking at them any further and going by title and image card alone, I might further investigate Astronaut Wives Club, MARVEL's Agent Carter (a definite Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D spin-off that I would put on a very short leash), and Secrets and Lies 

Credit: abc.go.com
(I have no evidence of this but the imagery of this just makes me hope it is atmospheric and weird like Twin Peaks. But that is probably only wishful thinking.)

As for returning shows that I am interested in . . .  there isn't much on ABC. I only regularly watch Castle and MARVEL's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But some people might want to see how new seasons of The Goldbergs or The Middle or Modern Family are progressing. Or--heaven forbid--you are still watching Grey's Anatomy. I know people that enjoy watching Revenge and Scandal so maybe you might want to check those out? But they aren't for me. And if you really are watching The Neighbors, I don't have much to say to you.

For further investigation on your own for all the shows I have mentioned and many others I completely ignored, you can visit the ABC Web page and click around on your own.

So, now  . . . talk back to me? Which shows are you interested in that ABC has to offer? Anything look good? What looks especially terrible? Leave a comment, why don'tcha?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

LOST Rewatch: The Whole Truth

Credit: tle1lost.wordpress.com
When we last left the LOST Rewatch efforts, we were here. And yes, that was a LOOOOONG time ago. How long? Well, check your AppleWatch to help you determine the passage of time. (There, future digital anthro-historians . . . now you can accurately calibrate the cultural moment when I sat down to write this blog post in the early 21st century . . . when digital technology was still important and before we had implanted digital wetware into our biological systems. Funny how we joked about the "Resistance is futile" line from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but failed to recognize how futile was our own resistance to the coming digital singularity as engineered by our corporateConstitutional masters at Apple Computers? And how we scoffed at the Borg's own choice to digitize themselves in the search for perfection? When we didn't realize that we would soon begin to sell off our redundant organs to join the the Cult of JIves? Those were simpler, more organic-based times.)


****

AndbutSO. . . LOST, season 2.

When last we left . . . Henry Gale was still manipulating John Locke and Jack Shepherd and nursing their seething inner insecurities. He's also messing with Sayid and getting him all riled up. But he continues to maintain that he's just a simple hot air balloon enthusiast from Minnesota. (And we all know that Minnesotans are famously insidious and devious.)

And speaking of devious . . . how about an episode featuring Sun and Jin? Those two NEVER tell each other the truth, amirite? She's speaking English behind his back. He's going goonish dirty work for her father than he never owns up too. And who's dog IS that anyway?

Credit: images4.fanpop.com
But everything looks above board at the start of the Flashbacks. Certainly the slinky lingerie that Sun is sporting doesn't leave much fabric to hide anything . . . amirite again? But Jin ruins the SexyTimes by getting all clinical. I guess he'd much rather only enjoy marital relations with his beautiful wife if there is the guarantee of procreation involved. Or is Jin lying AGAIN about something else? We may never know because Mr. Thermometer has definitely ruined the mood. Sun is taking her satin nightgown and is going home.

As the Flashback progresses, we learn that the Kwons have consulted with a fertility doctor. The doctor informs them that Sun is infertile, so they won't be having any children anyway. This further drives a wedge in their shaky marriage and helps drive Sun to meet up with her former suitor, hotel heir Jae who is spending time with Sun teaching her English.

In news on the Island, the fun times of present-day Jin and Sun continue. She is trying to find relaxation and motivation in her garden of plants. But Jin is worried that she'll again be abducted by "the Others" (but really Charlie) and rips up her plants. The Island is full of other types of suspicion as Locke asks Ana Lucia to use her cop interrogation skills to investigate the veracity of Henry Gale's claims as to who he is and where he comes from. In the course of Ana's interrogation, she gets a map to where Henry claims his balloon is located. And so she and Sayid (and also Charlie--who as you may remember has been on the outs with everyone lately), head off to follow he map and see what they can see.

And so the episode ends with Henry Gale out of the gun locker cell, due to some sort of calculation of good behavior that he sold to Locke.  But Jack is also there with John and both of them are splitting time between giving suspicious side eyes to each other while also keeping a careful eye on Mr. Gale. But their careful gaze doesn't prevent them from giving Henry a nice bowl of Dharma Flakes to enjoy in the Hatch kitchenette.

Oh and yeah . . . that map that Henry gave to Sayid and Ana? It absolutely was just proof of his identify and his hot air balloon location. It definitely WAS NOT a prelude to a Other-driven trap on some secluded spot of the Island. Promise, you guys!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #2




A few days ago, I got tagged to list some books that have influenced me in the past. And so I came up with the list that you see. I thought that looking at this list a bit more carefully would serve as this week's anti-football post.

So, put down the remote, stop trying to understand what Cover-Two Defense means, and read up. It's this week's Football Counter-Programming!

credit: www.videogamesblogger.com

I listed these numbers in approximate chronological order to when I first read them. So take that into account. (For whatever that is worth, I guess.)

1. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
I knew that picking a volume of the Narnia books would be on the list. But I chose Magicians rather than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for a few reasons. First, I try to be iconoclastic when I can manage it. I also LIKE that book the best. But most importantly, I like that this book serves as a flashback that explains the origins or Narnia and how it all came to be. For, you see, my 1980s edition of the Narnia boxed set placed The Magician's Nephew at the sixth book in the seven book series. So, when I read it, it truly served as a FLASHBACK, semi-time travelling story that illuminated the history of Professor Kirke, the building of the wardrobe itself, the creation of Narnia, the "planting" of the lamppost, the arrival of the White Witch and everything else. It might have served as my first childhood mind-blowing moment. And it probably set me up to love all J.J. Abrams-related time-travel episodes and every other use of flashbacks ever.
I hear that most newly published editions of the series put The Magician's Nephew first now. And for all of the self-serving reasons listed above that makes me sad. It is a missed opportunity for surprising revelations for today's new readers.

2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
As with #1, I had to choose between  The Hobbit, the LotR series as a whole, and The Silmarillion (which is more and more my favorite as I age). But if we are going with the Facebook rules that I choose influential books, then I have to pick the first one that I read. If I hadn't liked The Hobbit, I might never have tried to read LotR and who knows what OTHER books and influences might have changed in my life as a result? Maybe I could have learned to whittle or might have learned to catch a football? Maybe I'd be an accountant with a head for numbers? We'll never know . . .

3. Watership Down by Richard Adams
This completes my childhood trilogy of English fantasy novels. This is the one that swaps hobbits tramping across mythical downs with rabbits that hop across the hilltops. But I'm (also) a sucker for novels that include a glossary in the back. [I could have included Frank Herbert's Dune on this list, but I decided to keep it at ten titles. That is also why Carl Sagan's Cosmos isn't on the list.]
My parents gave me a first edition of this book for my 18th birthday. One of the nicest, most thoughtful gifts I've ever gotten.

4. Magician by Raymond Feist
Other worlds, magic, castles, pretty princesses and unrequited love with the overlooked orphan boy. My middle school/freshman high school self LOVED this stuff. It spoke to the fearful part of me that was afraid to be authentic and bold and show myself to everyone else. It fed the prideful part of me that just knew that there was more to me than anyone else could ever guess. All you nerds who are disgruntled and afraid and inarticulate . . . give this book (and its sequels) a try.

5. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Let's give my high school self a moment of congratulatory applause for stepping outside of the fantasy cycle and reading something set in the real world for a change. (In this case 1960s Charleston, South Carolina . . . the Citadel military academy to be specific.)
Equal parts memoir, mystery, expose The Prince of Tides represents that period of my young reading life when I was trying to read more Southern literature--traditional stuff like Gone with the Wind, the John Jakes North and South Civil War series, Ferrol Sams, and some others. But I think I've liked Conroy's book the best. It is a really engaging and mysterious story about the military, the Southern culture, racism, and Conroy's own family tortures. I've read some of his other books, but this is his best. The move that also came out during these years was seen after I had read the book the first time and it wasn't as good.

6. A Supposedly Fun Think I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
I've written on WWYG?! many times about my appreciation of DFW and this book in particular. It was my first experience with his writing and easily the most accessible for a newbie. In fact, I've always liked his essay volumes more than his novels. They are more bite sized, more varied and engaging and infinitely more approachable.
This book also sort of marks the reemergence of fiction reading in my life, after many years of college-based nonfiction reading. I desperately wanted to enjoy reading again. And I'll always honor Wallace's book for helping me remember the variety and unexpectedness of fiction.

7. House of Leaves by Mark J. Danielewski
Again, if you search in the archives of WWYG?! you'll see me mention this book again and again. This was another book that helped reawaken my interest in fiction reading. And the story is mysterious and completely original, and just a trip to read. The book is formatted to come alive as you read it and it really excited my imagination and my admiration for the novelty of the work.

8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
You KNEW I'd list a Potter book on this list, right? But which one? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is my actual favorite of the seven, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows an extremely close second. In fact, I've said publicly before that OotP is one of my LEAST favorites. So, why. . . ?
Well, Year 5 represents my entrance into the HP fandom as a real-time participant. Prior to the summer of 2003, I was hearing about the series, reading news stories about it, hearing recommendations from people I trusted and borrowing previously published books from friends.
But Order of the Phoenix was the first one that I preordered, eagerly anticipated its mail arrival, and then devoured it in a matter of days. And it sparked my entry into the internet Web pages and podcasts and everything else that also shaped how I later became a fan/consumer of LOST and many, many movies during the early 2000s.
So, it may not be my most favorite STORY . . . but it was the most influential to my experience.

9. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs  by Chuck Klosterman
I enjoy Klosterman's writing because it is interesting and it is humorous and it speaks to many of my direct life experiences (or, really, events that happened contemporaneously to my life experiences).
But, to be really honest with you for a minute. I also like reading Klosterman because it makes me feel cool somehow.
I realize that that is an embarassing thing to say and you area all free to judge me for being idiotic and hopelessly naive. But go back and reread some of the things that I wrote about book #4 above.

That stuff never really goes away entirely, you know.

10. Looking for Alaska by John Green
One of John's books was for sure making it on this list and logically it had to be this one for all the same reasons that I picked The Hobbit over The Silmarillion.
Had I not liked LFA, I might not have tried to read An Abundance of Katherines or Paper Towns or Will Grayson, Will Grayson or  The Fault in Our Stars. And I might not have similarly enjoyed Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett series or her Shades of London series or enjoyed all of her tweeting.

Anyway . . . that's it.
Maybe you know a bit more about me now? And that was untimately the entire point of the exercise.

What books did YOU like as you grew up? Put some titles in the comments!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #1

As promised on Tumblr this morning I am attempting to provide some type of entertaining diversion during the Fall Saturdays that doesn't involve football. History shows us that this is a fool's errand--both because football has been popular for over a century in this country and because I never fulfill my blog-related promises.

But hey . . . Tide's gotta Roll, Buckeye's gotta Script, and David's gotta blog.

Now, don't assume that I hate football. I don't. I'm just not committed to it. I've never successfully scheduled my weekends around it. And while I keep up just to be conversational, I don't understand it or consider myself to be equipped to converse in it. But, I keep up appearances and do my best, much like an American travelling abroad. I try to exchange meaningless pleasantries in the local language to acknowledge the prevailing culture.

credit: cf.badassdigest.com


So. . . what to talk about instead? How about books?

I try to keep up with some interesting reading now and then. I usually have a stack of books in various degrees of completion near my bed. And last weekend I finally sat down long enough to finish two of them: a Barnes & Noble combo publication of Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Anansi Boys stories and David Foster Wallace's posthumous The Pale King.

Both of these books had been sitting on my bedside table for faaaarrr too long. I'd picked up the Gaiman book on a whim during a trip to B&N (probably when I was buying a Christmas present sketch pad for Sarah last season or even the year before that). Previously, I've always meant to read some stuff by Gaiman--especially his Sandman comics. But I've never gotten around to it. And someone suggested that I try American Gods. When I first tried to read it, it just didn't click. So my attempts faltered. But this next time around I pushed into the story and found that it was pretty interesting.

Probably because I get Gaiman mixed up with Michael Chabon (who wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) I thought American Gods was something about real-life superheroes in America. Rather, AG is literally true to its title. It's about gods in America and how they deal with modernity and technology and increasing secularism. But it's more dramatic and Percy Jackson-esque than that. I enjoyed it, even if it wasn't what I originally thought it might be.

The other half of that book, Anansi Boys, is something like a companion piece to AG. (Sort of how The Jeffersons was related to All in the Family, if you know what I mean. The roots of similar ideas are shared, but Anansi Boys is more down-to-earth and personalized, less grand in scope than the story American Gods tried to tell.) In many ways, I liked Anansi Boys even more.

David Foster Wallace's The Pale King is something else entirely. (I've written about DFW several different times on this blog. Use the search feature to find more random thoughts.) The Pale King was in progress when Wallace committed suicide several years ago. His publisher cobbled together the unfinished manuscripts and notes and scraps and tried to organize the story into something that might be what Wallace intended. All that was certain was that The Pale King was intended to be a story crafted around boredom and the possibility of achieving some sort of enlightenment through tedium.

Reading the book is certainly an exercise in tedium, to be sure. Wallace is always a challenge, even when reading a book he fully wrote, edited, and approved. I admit that I cling to reading Wallace because I want to be smarter. And I think that grappling with his stuff might make me smarter--or at least feel that I am smarter. (It's very hipster of me, for sure.) I've read through Infinite Jest more than twice, trying to piece it all together. I'm still trying to finish The Girl With Curious Hair. I've happily read his essay collections. And I've finally made it through TPK.

Does the finished book achieve some sort of examination of boredom? Maybe? It's just hard to read and some of it is hard to piece together. As usual Wallace ignores linear storytelling and throws multiple threads at you simultaneously. Are they supposed to all link? Maybe they do . . . but I might have missed it because I was only skimming those pages. Or maybe the linkage was in that footnote I chose not to read? I do know that focusing much of the book on the inner workings and bureaucratic struggles of an IRS office in Indiana was a good choice for a meditation on tedium. And Wallace's authorial choice to indulge in many digressions on the legality of tax code changes certainly fit the bill. The most obvious storyline that hit the boredom as enlightenment theme was near the end when two IRS agents were unwinding at an after work bar. One female agent began a very long and rambling discussion of how she met and married her husband when she was a teenager. Her story was told to a socially awkward colleague that presented as a borderline Asbergers candidate. As she force fed her story to him, pausing only to underline parts of her life story that she was sure he would not be able to understand, the Asbergers fellow began to slowly and imperceptibly levitate an inch or so above his bar stool.

Boredom as enlightenment, get it?

As you can see. . . I only got it because it was the most obvious part of the whole book. There's probably a lot more there, if I ever get up the gumption to open it up and try again.

So, now that those two books are off my table, I'm picking up the last in my trio of ignored novels--Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is not an exaggeration that I have been trying to finish this novel for five years. And I'm only slightly more than halfway done. It turns out that a novel about the resurrection of English magic, written as if it was being transcribed by the 19th centurians themselves is NOT Harry Potter 2.0.

There are parts of it that grab your attention and I do intend to finish reading all 782 pages. But it may get sidelined again for the foreseeable future. You see, Sarah's language arts teacher has assigned a parent/pupil project where she has to share the reading of a book of my choosing and then write a report on it.

My choice? It was easy really. Richard Adams Watership Down. Another favorite book of my youth--and one that she hasn't read yet. It has all the best elements of a fiction book--set in England, tells a journey story, provides a mystery, centers around a mysterious population, AND it has a glossary of unfamiliar terms in the back. (Tolkien and Herbert would certainly approve.)

I'll save thoughts on how that reading is going for another Saturday in the future.
Until then, here's hoping that none of your field goals are Wide Right.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Playing "What's In My Mouth"





The video is fairly self explanatory.



Some fun post-dinner fun to break up the endless stream of ice-bucket challenge videos.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Suburban Afternoon in the WVL

Sometimes my friends give me static because of my staid suburban life. I don't live in the hip areas of OTE or in the neoUrban areas around the Short North and [insert your favorite ethnic] Village. Nope, I live faaaaar away from the heart of it all in the northern suburb of Westerville. And what is exciting about that?

Well, HERE'S what is exciting about that . . .

After church today, I gathered up some of the kids and we set out to do something that I've been dreaming about accomplishing for months and months and months. We crossed the brand new bike/pedestrian bridge that spans County Line Road. I've been watching the construction of this bridge for so long and once the actual span was set above the road in May, I've really been hopeful. But still the construction drug on, ensuring safety and beautification and all that sort of thing. But on Friday, the ribbon cutting was done. And while I didn't fulfill my dream of being the first civilian to bike across the road, I did manage to enjoy my time walking up the bike patch to it this afternoon with Sarah and Hannah and standing up above the road and cars drove underneath.

It was a nice day--as so many nice days have been this summer. And we enjoyed our walk down the bike path, from over near Emerson school, through and behind industrial buildings and residential houses. And as we got closer to the bridge; as the bike path began to rise upward, my excitement mounted. Surely this was JUST as much fun as riding the Ferris wheel at the Ohio State fair? Surely nothing else that I might choose to do today could match this level of excitement.

So, yeah . . . we made it to the top of the bridge and I stood right above the double yellow line of the road. And I exulted in my achievement. And I wasn't the only one to realize the impact of the moment. As we walked, more and more bikers approached the span. And I knew from their shining eyes that they were also feeling the glory of the moment. And even when we were up there, other families stopped to see the achievement that we had all accomplished.

The Official Hat of Summer achieved another milestone today, high atop County Line Road.
After Sarah and Hannah and I calmed down from that achievement, we went over to the library and Hannah played a bit on the playground there. Sarah and I chatted about high school and stuff. It was good. After we got home, I finished reading American Gods and maybe I'll start reading Anansi Boys later tonight.

***

While I was walking around, I thought that if I had skill, I should have taken the opportunity to make a Thoughts from Places video about walking along the bike path and what I saw there. But I don't (yet) have the video making skills to make that happen. So I just took some photos and promised myself that I would sit down and blog a bit about it instead.

Some of the better images I decided not to wait on and threw them up on my Facebook page this afternoon.



And so then I saw some other things that were interesting during the rest of the day. Like these tree stump remnants that were growing in and amongst parts of a chain link fence. It probably would have been cooler if the tree itself was still there, but even so seeing these bits of tree suspended in the fence still kind of neat.


And after all of that, I came home and then we decided to order some pizza for dinner. And the girls wanted to try out Dough Boys Pizza in Uptown, a place we haven't been to before. So I drove over there and waited outside while they made the order.

The view was nice and the day continued to be great. Even though the pizza itself wasn't the best one I've ever had, I enjoyed the opportunity to try something new, support local people, and stretch out just a bit in a new direction.

Maybe I left just a little bit of my boring routine on the top of that bridge this afternoon? We can only hope so.